Sunday, February 24, 2019

Grace Is Enough

Today’s learning centered on grace and kindness. In Sunday School we discussed denominational challenges. We talked about being kind to those we disagree with. Showing grace to people who are different. Holding firmly to our beliefs while not being mean- even if someone else is- particularly those we disagree with.


Then the reminder in today’s sermon of Gandi’s experience with discrimination by Christians in Calcutta, which led to the following oft quoted words of the famous activist:


“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ”.

To which I nodded, pondering the quandary of a word meaning “Christ-like” being applied to those who are, at times, very much unlike their Christ.


How many have been hurt by church people? Those who sing about the love of God but don’t live it? And...How easy is it to point the finger at others and forget that I fall short, too!



My own test came in unexpected ways...


SO many congratulations and exultations given regarding an upcoming change in position. I was overwhelmed, then uncomfortable with all the attention, and then downright embarrassed. After a day full of blessings sent my way, in the evening I reacted in a way that I later regretted, after which I felt more embarrassed and also mortified over my behavior.


I remembered a mentor of my husband’s saying, “Don’t pee on my flowers.” (Meaning to learn to accept compliments with grace.) A simple “thank you” would have sufficed but I got flustered and peed all over those flowers. Ugh. And then was filled with regret and anxiety.


Until... I began to pray over my mistake, and my Healer reminded me that Grace is for ME, too.

I’m not perfect (though I battle perfectionism). At times I am one of those Christians who is not acting like Christ.


What did Jesus do when encountering those who fall short? Forgive!! Unfailingly. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” In the midst of His worst suffering He cried out for the forgiveness of His tormentors.


It follows that don’t have to crucify myself for my mistakes! I don’t have to (over) analyze why I reacted the way I did. At the end of the day, the truth is: there’s room for more personal growth. I can’t go back and “fix” it. I can be more gracious moving forward. I can give myself permission to accept compliments. And I can give myself the same grace Jesus has already given when I fall short.


When I have messed up and my flaws are showing through, grace is enough.


My preschool class song is “Be kind to One Another.” 
I can be kind to myself, too. I can stop playing the incident over and over, examining the why’s and how’s. 

I can embrace self care by refusing to give space in my mind to the “should haves”. I can have a talk with Jesus, admit my mistakes and my feelings about them, and ask for the courage to look my messes in the eyes and say: 


It’s OK. I don’t have to be perfect. Grace covers all.


Grace is not just for the wrongs I see in the world, or in the church. Grace is for me, too.


~Just Me

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Climb



I've said it several times in recent days; sometimes helping those in need is challenging. Some wounds are so deep, so disturbing. Some needs are So Big.


I remember a song from childhood:

My God is So Big
So Strong and So Mighty
There's Nothing My God
Cannot do.


My class of 3 year olds love to point at each other (and me) and holler the final phrase:


FOR YOU!!


There is comfort in that long held truth, though I know that moving forward towards healing is daunting for some and others need a great deal of intervention to get free.


Setting foot on the path to wellness sometimes requires help from outside ourselves. Yet God IS capable of providing every resource needed. My role is to be the light- for there is only ONE who is the healer.



Perspective and self care is imperative when faced with the overwhelming and nature is a balm when I am troubled by what is beyond my scope.


Behind our neighborhood is an undeveloped area, and I burn off stress as I exercise in places where I have a clear view of trees and the hills beyond. I walk quickly, reciting Psalm 121:


I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.


Sometimes I speak the refrain over and over, until I can truly release and take a deep, cleansing breath.


My mindset in past seasons been to see challenges as a mountain to be scaled. Once I reached the top of the mountain, I thought, I would figure out how to find that magic formula for balancing family life, ministry, work, and self care.


Yet now, I see the goal is NOT finding the formula to make all things right. The goal is to walk with Jesus along the topsy turvy path.


I've been blessed to contribute to a few book projects by Jocelyn Green, the most recent of which is a reminder that life is unruly: Free To Lean: Making Peace With Your Lopsided Life.



A re-framing of my thought process is often necessary. My mug from Jocelyn says, "God never asked us to do it all."


Relief. I can let myself off the hook. No perfection needed.


So I work to embrace climbing the metaphorical mountain, the goal being moment by moment closeness with God.


After all, I love a good hike. My most recent mountain trek took me off the beaten trail, in the Alaskan wilderness. I never did make it to the summit, yet I learned it's challenging and exciting to make a new path- as long your Guide knows where you're going.
There may be steep inclines, deep ditches of mud, and fallen trees. Places where I need help from outside myself. Yet if my Guide is True, and Wise, and Loving, then I have all I need.


So, when the climb is treacherous, and the hurdles difficult, I look to my Source, who finds joy in pouring all out that is needed, as I bring concerns to Him.


Psalm 28:7 in the NIV and Voice versions reflect the process:

The Eternal is my Source, my strength, and my shield in this chaotic world. Learning to release and rest in Him gives Him freedom to draw me- and those I seek to help-- towards deeper peace.


~Just Me

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Help In the Darkest Days

How are you doing today?" A simple question that can unleash struggles and trials and traumas beneath the surface.

I ask this question often, as there are those in my home who struggle with anxiety and depression. Sometimes the answer is, "Fine", when I know in my heart they are not fine- and I struggle, and pray, and wait until they are ready to share. Sometimes the answer is honest and heart wrenching all at once. And sometimes, the answer leads to an intense season of intervention, with support from those who are trained to help.

It is heart wrenching to see one you love more than life struggle to stay present in it. 

I can work off some of my own anxiety with the necessary medical response. Once an emergency doctor appointment has been scheduled, a counselor who is a good fit is found, and insurance approval has finally been given (after hours and days on the phone), there is a necessary stillness. A time to wait, and pray, and deal with my own feelings and emotions.

It takes courage to approach the fear. To confront it, rather than ignore it, or slap trite sayings over the top of it. It can be hard and heavy work to go to battle for your own wellness. 

Sometimes the hardest part is letting go. I can control (somewhat) when we see the doctor and who we see. I can work around the necessary insurance requirements, and oh, have I learned to jump through hoops! But what I cannot control is how one I love feels about themselves, their life, or their traumas.

Psalm 77:6 speaks of the struggle:

I call to remembrance my song in the night, I commune with my own heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. 

Sleepless nights, and anxious days can cause me to commune with my own heart, rather than diligently seek the One whose heart is for us. The first verses of this very same Psalm express where we can find sustenance for the hardest journeys:

"I cry up to heaven, 'My God, True God, and He hears. 
In my darkest days, I seek the Lord. 
Through the night my hands are raised up, 
stretched out, waiting...
my soul is uneasy."
(Psalm 77:1-2, The NKJV)

The NIV puts it this way: "at night I stretched out...[my] hands and I would not be comforted."

We have walked through dark seasons before, and I have prayed for rescue. When darkness strikes again, I feel so helpless. I cannot fix the one I love. I can only hold him while he falls apart and get him trained help-- once he is willing. The choice comes:

Will I hold myself apart from my Healer, or will I be comforted by the Eternal? 

When I finally release I can do healthy work:
Praying and grieving-- releasing pent up stress through tears, 
Aproaching the altar to surrender what I cannot control,
and
Working through each and every fear, holding tight to God's promises!


"Jesus will never leave you or forsake you."~ A. Marie Mitchell


 I do not have to be alone in this. Yes, there are seasons of struggle, and yes, there is heartache, but my own Healer stands ready to hold me and carry me through. I might be able to survive this season in my own strength, but I will never know peace until I lay down my pain and grab hold of the One whose heart is for my wholeness. 


Psalm 23 tells us,

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 
He provides for every need, nourishing my body and my soul. 
He soothes my fears and restores my soul. 
Even in the unending shadows of death's darkness, 
I do not have to be afraid, for He is with me. 

Because You are with me, O Eternal, 
Near with Your guidance and protection,
I am comforted. 

(The Voice and NIV Translations)

Prayer:
God, you are my Rock, my Fortress, my Deliverer (Ps. 18:2)
I choose to cling to you.
I pray you will deliver the ones I love from the lies of the enemy.
Train my own heart to KNOW your Truth.
Hold me close and comfort me in the dark days.
Be my Source, my strength, and my Hope.

Give us Life and not death, and wellness in spirit, soul, and body,
Both now, and forever more.

~Just Me












Monday, August 21, 2017

Truth, Love, and Listening

Last weekend, events in Charlottesville, Virginia proved that hate and prejudice have devastating consequences. We are making strides, but there is more work to do. Yesterday, our guest speaker at church, Travis Burdett, encouraged us to:

Stand against hate and stand for love. 

To look within and identify our own prejudices- and let God change them. 

He challenged us to spend some time with someone very different from us. Someone we would not normally speak to. Someone we might judge harshly if we did not take a moment to truly see and understand. He challenged us to have a conversation and Listen. Really listen. With an open mind and loving heart. He said,

"Listening is Revolutionary in a world where everyone is yelling at one another." 


Jesus himself was an avid listener- and all who encountered him were challenged. Many were transformed simply by encountering Living Grace. What would Jesus do in light of recent events? Well, take a look at what Jesus actually did.


Jesus taught: 

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your strength and all your mind- and love your neighbor as yourself." 


Then, Jesus defined "your neighbor" as a people that his own race saw as enemies. And Jesus did not just tell stories about showing kindness to your enemies. He went into enemy territory himself and lived out love.  

Jesus taught his shocked and surprised followers to put aside prejudices and hatred that went back generations, and get to know the Samaritans. To minister to them and show love. 


Jesus bridged the gap of hatred, prejudice, fear, and racism.  



Jesus also stood against evil.  He called evil out and named it. (Matthew 3:7 and Matthew 23:27 )


So what would Jesus have to say about last weekend's events? I think he'd speak against the evil that ran rampant and offer hope to those devastated and victimized. (Check out  Matthew 21:12-13 and notice how Jesus responded when salesmen were victimizing the poor, in God's house, no less.)


So in the spirit of what Jesus would do, let's get this clear:  Carrying a flag associated with hatred and prejudice is evil.

Spreading messages of racism, prejudice, oppression, or hatred is evil.

The Nazi Flag is a symbol of an evil man who brutally and horrifically slaughtered millions. His regime was demonic, as were his prejudiced beliefs.

Jesus opposed such evil. He taught his followers to "love their enemies". He set the example of lavish love. 


1 John 4:7-8 urges, 

Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God, and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God. He who does not love, does not know God. 


God is the embodiment of love. Anyone who seeks to connect God to a message of hate does not have the truth of God in them. Prejudice is from the enemy of our souls and not of God


So, in light of recent events, what can we do?

We can examine ourselves before God and resist falling for the subtler temptation of judging others by what they wear, how they live, or even, how they present themselves.

We can recognize that God loves diversity,  and take the opportunity to learn from those who, from outer appearances, seem different from us.

We can throw out prejudices and be enriched by our differences.



In Psalm 27: 5 David, God's chosen King says, 

The Eternal is my light against my darkness
So whom shall I fear? 


Oh, how we need God's light!! Especially in the face of darkness.

There are legitimate fears we must battle. It's natural to be afraid for loved ones and friends who may be persecuted.  Yet we overcome that hatred if we stand for truth. We, too, can be a light against darkness, if God's love is the spark that fuels. 


It's important to remember that our very saving comes through Jesus,whose race was among the labelled and targeted last weekend. 


Jesus--whose human heritage was Jewish. Jesus, who was raised in a Jewish home and a Jewish culture. Jesus, who studied the Torah diligently, and lived and taught its principals. Jesus, whose goal was not to stamp out Judaism, but complete it.

Jesus who was Jewish, in and out, through and through. The Savior of a broken world was, and is Jewish. We must remember what Jesus taught his disciples: 



All races, all heritages, all peoples 
are precious in God's sight. 


 The antidote to hatred is the all covering Love of Jesus. He is our saving, day by day. From the darkness within and the darkness without. Let's work to spread awareness. Let's make a point to stand against hatred, while standing FOR love. 


Will you stand with me? 




Monday, April 10, 2017

Why Jesus Would Shop at Target

I personally am of the opinion that Jesus would shop at Target. 

He'd be there encouraging Mamas with full hands, speaking words of kindness as they try to grab milk and eggs while wrestling fussy youngsters who are throwing fits because she did not buy them candy, or allow them to run amok in the toy aisle. He'd offer words to fill hearts, and a genuine understanding of the truth that parenting is hard and while Mamas may not "enjoy every moment" we do purpose to find moments to connect with the hearts of our children and enjoy who they are, and who they are becoming--even if they exhaust our ever lovin' patience at times (like when we are in Target).

Jesus would be taking time out for the older, lonely folks- He would help them reach the products they have a hard time getting to, and then he would walk WITH them for a good long while, tarrying. Knowing that He could be the only one all week to treat them with respect and truly listen to them, un-rushed, for as long as needed. 

Jesus would spend some of his time at Target talking to the young man that asks for handouts outside the location near the highway, seeking to heal his heart, save him from addictions, and probably giving him something to eat as well. He'd be loving on those who are different, and building relationships with the hurting, the marginalized, the depressed, and the overlooked. He'd make eye contact with those others don't tend to truly "see". He'd seek out the very people His followers often avoid. 

Jesus would also be mingling with the owners, whether or not He supported their every belief. He would understand that we human beings grow by learning from those who are very, very different from us, and He'd invite them into relationship- because rules don't heal hearts, but relationship with our Healer truly does.

My Jesus would be showing kindness to the store service clerks, who often get treated poorly--even by "christian" customers. He'd be patient if the cashier was slow to ring up the items He was buying (for the homeless teen outside) and He would make eye contact with that person, showing them with loving kindness that He really, really sees them- and not just as someone to wait on Him. 

My Jesus would comfort the cashier who just got reemed by an angry, impatient customer.  He'd help her unwind from the verbal attack, but he would not stop there. He'd invite her to embrace a life altering love and find meaning in knowing His love daily- and showing it to others. Even the ones who are hardest to love.

Jesus would give grace to the angry customer who just mistreated the poor clerk-- but he would most certainly invite him to understand the God sees temper flares the same way as He sees murder- only crushing the soul, rather than the body.  (It is man who rates sin, not God.)


Now, my Jesus would not just stay at Target, mind you. He'd make his way over to the bridge and chat with the homeless people (treating them with respect, and as real, flesh and blood people). He'd camp with them for the night, and then head over to the Women's Shelter and love on all the children torn from their homes in the middle of the night. He'd comfort the women fleeing violence, showing them REAL love that does not harm, but heals. 

Jesus would also head to the mall and chill with the teens. He'd listen to their hearts- he'd seek out the kids whose parents brush them off or don't get them, or even don't  truly like them. My Jesus would lavish teenagers with time-- and Jesus would offer understanding to even the most misunderstood.   

Jesus would make his way to the churches and give some lessons like he gave the Pharisees, and the many others who followed Him carrying secret agendas and needs.
Lessons like: 
Love people more than laws (or power). 
Get to quiet places and talk to God.
Let God's healing into the deep, dark places in your lives (not just the "white washed" exteriors)
Love unselfishly and remember you are not perfect either. 

Most of all, Jesus would love people who struggle with identity and don't seem to fit in. Whether from being told, "You can't do that, you're a girl." or "Why can't you be more like 'xyz'..." Jesus would have tender compassion on the confused, the hurting, and on those who don't fit the proposed mold. 

Jesus gets it. He, himself was not what His tribe expected.  

So if you are confused or hurting, or struggling for acceptance just the way you are, you have a friend in Jesus. 

He loves you as you are, 
Accepts you UNCONDITIONALLY 
And, with time and through those trained to help,
Jesus WILL heal every wound you allow him access to. 
 
In the midst of all the complicated, confusing, and confounding issues in this world, I have found one thing to be certain, and that is the complete and unconditional love of Jesus. 

I am so glad we do not have to be perfect, because Jesus covers ALL.

~Just Me


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Light

Loss. It can come quietly, in expected waves, or suddenly, in a single blinding moment. It can leave debris scattered across city blocks, charred remains of ash and steel, blood and soul. Some days we've never forgotten. 

"The grief does not go away," one victim whispered. Such loss. So much trauma.  In the days that followed, shock and grief carved caverns which are unquantifiable. The families of the victims do not remember only today. They carry aching chasms, never again feeling quite whole. 

In times like these, the question comes: Where is God when the unspeakable happens? 

Images seared in my mind, I offer up a question in response, "Who would do such a thing?" It was my first coherent thought after the madness. In the days that came, my husband packed his military gear, and I watched footage after work. Hope for survivors waned, and carnage evoked the reality of war come home. The question reeled- "Who would do such a thing?" 

As the years have passed and I reflect on the horror, the shock of those moments, I am certain-the attacks that took the lives of so many men and women, those acts do not bear the fingerprints of One who is only, and always love. No. Those are marks of the enemy, hateful slashes from the one who comes only to steal, kill and destroy. 

Yet in the face of such destruction, the evil in the hearts of the perpetrators could not rob us of our humanity.

How many stories have I read of people who helped others? The heroes who ran into the fray, and the heroes who lent a helping hand to a stranger during evacuation. Many once separated by religion or status or busy-ness joined together in the wake of gaping loss to pray, light candles, and even sing, united in heart and in spirit. No evil can take that away.


Standing among the debris, there was a cross that inspired many. Yet I see more than a cross. I see love- shining through compassion, unity, and hope. There was light that day, amidst the choking ash.  In the touch of a hand, in the hearts who helped, in the many who ministered to the souls digging through debris of heart and steel. 

Because we do not grieve as those without hope, I also see a pure and holy light streaming from "the vast Above", as Jesus gathered up souls and carried them to a place where there is no more pain, no more tears.

There was much light on 9/11. More than our finite minds can grasp. And there is resounding hope, for while the grief does not fade away into nothingness, no act of hate can rob us of connection to Jehovah Rapha, our healer. 

Where was God? God was there, every moment- and still is. Inviting us to a place of greater wellness. Grief may be a life long companion, but our Comforter will be too, if we return the invitation and let Love in. (1 John 4:7-8)
 

~Just Me Mama

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Recovery from Chaos

Chaos exploded across my life last week- unexpected, though I try to be aware that there is more at work in this world than what I can see. In the mornings, in the moments of quiet, I am working to purposely chose to connect to the Voice of Truth, drawing me back from the brink. 

Sometimes I believe I am on my own in this journey, but Truth reminds me that, even when my help-mate is traveling, I am still not alone. 

In the cool of the morning, I get out into the beauty of nature, and find stress relief through exercise, while being soothed by the lush green wilderness bordering our neighborhood park. I needed the endorphins and the spiritual connection badly after being mired in a fiery battle last week.
 
After a time of release and recovery, of refocus and refreshing,  today I am: 
 
Grateful- for cool weather for my morning run/walk, and a new week with a fresh start. 
Prayerful- that the week ahead will bring me to a place of greater wellness. 
Mindful-that if chaos explodes across my life again this week there is Help, because:

When the Eternal is my shepherd I lack nothing I truly need.
The Eternal teaches me to REST and recover and Nourishes me in spirit, soul and body, as I draw near.

The Eternal restores me- over and over,soothing my fears, making me whole- over and over again, as often as I need it!

The Voice shows me the way, leading me to roads "where Truth echos His name."

Even in the shadow of death- life threatening illnesses, family members battling depression and self harm, and attacks from dark places, I will not be afraid, for You are with me, near with your protection and guidance.

When I am under attack, You provide for me, filling me up, protecting me, equipping me as I draw near to Your presence.

Your faithful protection and Loving provision PURSUES me, - always, every where I go - no matter what.

I choose to dwell in the Eternal for all of my days- every crazy moment, in the Chaos, and the calm. 
 
Psalm 23, paraphrased (but heavily influence by The Voice version) 

~Just Me