Posted in Forgiveness, Grace, Kindness, Leadership, Mercy, Patience, Perspective

No Pogo Sticks Either

We stepped out for an hour this past week to have a short meeting with some of our leaders at church. Since we would only be gone for about an hour, we allowed our youngest daughter to stay home alone. She has matured and we have begun allowing her to be at home for short periods of time as we run errands or hold short meetings. Our compound where we live in Bujumbura is safe; we have neighbors behind and beside us that are as concerned about the security of their homes as we are ours and we knew that she would be alright for an hour.

The security drill is as follows: keep the phone nearby at all times and answer every call or message we might send. The doors stay locked, no going outside, and no surfing the internet (we lock devices away). TV is allowed as is homework; almost torturous I know! Feeling satisfied that she hadn’t totally tuned us out during our “I know all this mom” discussion over rules and safety, we set out for our meeting.

After an hour, we made our way home and as we walked to the door, I saw her sweet little face greet us from a window as we entered, “I want to say that I had fun! I had fun!” My mommy senses were tingling, something was definitely up.

Sweet fingers nervously folded together she explained that the past hour she had played with water in the living room and created a slip and slide – the floors are perfect for sliding. My eyes betrayed my feelings, “I made a slip and slide! You’re mad aren’t you mommy?” Rewinding the tape of my own childhood antics in my brain, I briefly relived a few of my own moments. No sweet girl, I wasn’t angry I was actually impressed; I had never thought of making a slip and slide in the living room, nor had the three older ones ever come close to this level of ingenuity. Her eyes pleaded for leniency, she had tried to clean up after herself and she did have fun.

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Relieved that water hadn’t been spilled on electrical appliances or anything that could be damaged, her punishment was to dry the floor (we have a super clean floor right now) and endure the lectures that ensued for days afterward. While it seems she might have gotten off lightly, if ever there’s another slip and slide, there will definitely be greater consequences to face. She assured us, “I won’t ever do that again mommy!” But, the slip and slide will forever receive props from all of us and the memory of I had fun will endure in my parenting records and on into subsequent generations.

This afternoon she is playing with friends and again the house is a playground, we often say that this is Andreya’s world, we just live in it! I did end up sending them outside as the ruckus was getting beyond our ability to contain and now the party continues by the laundry line. Listening them makes me smile, the mess really doesn’t matter, it makes me so very happy to see her happy.

I think God must laugh at some of the messes we create, our slip and slides in the living room, that we thought would be fun to do but later created a bit of a mess to clean up. The effort of cleaning the mess is punishment enough, lesson learned – hopefully! Next time, it might not be so easy to escape the consequences.

Today, I had to step out for a few minutes and the usual run-down of rules had an additional item or two added just in case:

No slip and slides, no hot air ballooning, no flying trapeezes and no pogo-sticks either!

 

Posted in Change, Correction, Cross, Family, Forgiveness, Kindness, Kingdom, Missions

Be Nice

I remember one of my favorite things to say to my 3 older kids when they were growing up was:

“Be nice.”

Sometimes it felt nearly impossible to get through a day without a major crisis unfolding between 2 or all 3 of them. The oldest would pop the youngest over the head, the 2nd born (a daughter) would take great delight in getting her 2 brothers in trouble, and the 3rd born relished in the fact that he had it a bit easier than his 2 older siblings. Now, with a 4th one that came a full 15 years after our 3rd, you know there is a lot of “you didn’t do that for us” going around.

Well, I confess, there’s truth to that statement, but we learn as we go don’t we? While we were waiting for our first child to be born, I remember thinking how I would do everything better than everyone else (why I thought this I am not sure). I knew how I wanted to raise my child in a certain way that was better than everyone else’s. I was sure that my household would be quiet, peaceful, the laundry would always be folded, dinner on the table, and everyone would be nice.

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Fast forward 10 years and I found myself up to my neck in raising children, living abroad, and somehow working as a full-time missionary Africa. I honestly do not know how I made it through those days with my mind still somewhat intact. The amount of work that just goes into running a household here is stupefying; there is no fast food (thankfully), no quick place to shop (you go to the market which is an all-day ordeal), and keeping the house clean is a whole other blog for another day. All of this doesn’t take into account the work of the mission and church. At the end of every day (much like you wherever you are), both then and now, I wonder how I made it and continue to make it and follow my own counsel to “be nice.” Honestly, I wasn’t always as nice as I had hoped to be – but I always worked on it and am still working on it!

Ephesians 4:31,32 LB “Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.”

In the current supercharged world of “speaking our minds,” many have forgotten the need for those of us identifying as Christians to just be nice, be kind to each other. Everywhere we look these days be it online, TV, print, or in person there’s a strong negative current to “speak up for what is right.” We are ambassadors of the Kingdom and our righteous King, but we won’t convince anyone of their need for Christ if our righteousness is covered in ugliness. No matter the situation, Scripture is clear on the matter, we must be nice.

Society has always been ugly, humanity has always been divided, and the church can’t fulfill her mission when she looks, acts, and speaks like the world. Whatever happened to following Jesus advice to “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 NLT)

Have you ever noticed how exhausting it is to force change with anger or frustration? I wonder how many ulcers and troubles with high blood pressure could be averted by simply being nice. 

I learned this truth the hard way years ago serving here on the continent when I saw much hunger, injustice, and unnecessary death. I worked myself to the bone trying to bring change; no matter how hard I worked, no matter how many hungry and vulnerable children I fed, there were still more than needed feeding and despite my valiant efforts, people still went hungry. I became tired and bitter about my situation and the unfairness of it all – until one day, after sickness forced me to rest, I understood that anything pulling me from Jesus’ yoke that gives me rest is not His will for me. Over time I began to understand that this fallen world is full of sin and sin can’t be dealt with on our terms. Anger, frustration, overworking, and self-righteousness pull us away from His way to address man’s fallen nature by just being nice. The response of humanity to the message of the cross is not my responsibility; I am only responsible to bring the Good News. As long as there is sin in the world, there will be division, injustice, and pain.

This doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth for Scripture clearly instructs us to “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” (Ephesians 4:15 NLT) What is our motive for speaking out and what is our method? If love for those we see lost in sin is our motive, then our methods will line up with Scripture – otherwise we are only adding fuel to the fire of division instead of bringing Christ in to redeem the situation.

How has frustration over the sinfulness of this world worked for us thus far? How has being angry helped any situation? Jesus walked this fallen earth and seldom was seen showing outright anger and frustration to the world; He had come to save them, give Himself for them – He died for them. His frustration was seen in the temple, among the “righteous,” who were too bsuy enriching themselves to reach out to those who really needed help – those outside of the temple (for us this can be taken to mean the church).

My youngest daughter loves the movie, “Frozen” and the theme song, “Let it go.” I rarely spiritualize animated movies but today I will make an exception. Those things frustrating you, those unfair, unrighteous, unholy, difficult things that anger you – let them go. Take Jesus’ yoke on you, He is the only One qualified to measure out judgment. Now is the time to be the church in the world, speak in love, and simply put:

Be nice.

 

Posted in Contempt, Courage, Despair, Destiny, Dreams, Faithfulness, Forgiveness

From The Pit To The Palace

Apologies for the inactive link in the last post! The link is now working!

Today I’m connecting with our podcast, Africa & Beyond, so you can enjoy this amazing message that Jamie has been sharing with our church in Blantyre, Malawi.

It may seem life has settled into a pit or a prison – but be encouraged, there’s a palace in the future!

You can hear the message by clicking the link below.

https://leakpeters.podbean.com/e/from-the-pit-to-the-palace-1517497315/

Posted in Choices, Fasting, Forgiveness, Love

Day 12 – My Last Week At Home

Today our guest blogger is Jacqueline Nkunku. Mama Jackie as we know her is a true daughter to me in the faith. We have shared many amazing times together, our daughters grew up together, truly she is as close to me as any biological family could be. Today, she shares an intimate and powerful testimony of the healing power of love.

Mama Jackie has served alongside her husband pastoring our church in Bujumbura, Burundi. She has an amazing gift of wisdom and has been a powerful minister in the church for many years. May you be blessed by her words as I have already have. Her contact information is below.


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Jacqueline and her husband Emmanuel Nkunku
My father was in the military and my life as a child went like this: I was born in Camp X, grew up in Camp Y, and then we would move to Camp Z and start all over. We lived with most of our family belongings in boxes because we could move at any given moment. I made friends in the different military camps we moved to but lost those friendships each time we had to move. I hated it. I lived life as a nomad.

My relationship with my father was tied up, much like a bundle of ropes. I was always complaining about what he did or did not do. He once slapped me when I was in 3rd grade for telling him that I had done so well at school, that I knew I would be at the top of the class. He said I was a liar; it was impossible that I was that bright. I resented him for those words and concluded that my father was bad and mean person. He obviously did not love me so I decided I would not confide in him anymore about school and education. Not after that slapping. I was young but I remembered.

I finished high school at 17 but the year before my father said he would no longer be paying for my education. Somehow I was able to finish high school without his support. I was angry but what he said confirmed my perception of his lack of love and consideration for me.

I wanted to get a BA in education and that is what I worked on. I completed my studies and I started working but lived with my parents. My culture did not allow young women to live alone.

I fell in love with a young teacher, former classmate and after many years of pleading, my family accepted to receive the bride price from him (this is the custom in our part of the world).

The account of the last week I spent in my parents’ house is as follows:

My in-laws-to-be brought the bride price on the Tuesday afternoon, before the wedding. On Saturday morning, my fiancé and I went to the Mayor’s office for the civil ceremony (this is the legal procedure in our country) and then the church wedding was planned for that evening. However, between Tuesday and Saturday, something very unusual happened.

I came back from work on Wednesday evening; my father wasn’t in his recliner as he always was after coming home from work at 4:30 pm. Every day like clockwork, he would sit in his recliner and monitor all the comings and goings of our household.

To our friends and neighbors, my father was known as “The Leopard.” When The Leopard was at home, everyone knew to make himself or herself scarce. Everyone knew him to be a rigid, angry military man.

I had been working for an international airline and my schedule was tight; I had no time off before the wedding and would only go on leave for a week after the wedding. That Wednesday evening when I came home from work, I could not see my father at his self-assigned observation post. I went from room to room looking for him and I found him in my bedroom. He was listening to my favorite song and my father was CRYING. I had never seen that before. I was alarmed at this point and asked him what was wrong because I could not associate my father with tears. Impossible. The Leopard was crying?

He told me that he was so sad I was leaving home. Since my in-laws-to-be brought the bride price, he understood that he would not be seeing very much anymore, that I would be devoted to my future husband and my own family. Dad proceeded to tell me that he had always loved me but did not say it very often. He told me he had named me Jacqueline after his own name, James. He then opened up and told me how he had been forced into the military by the colonial powers of the time. He had been brought from a foreign country into a new and strange culture, traditions and languages. He had no one to turn to. Before his time in the military, he had been a businessman, and in one day that all changed when was forced to become a soldier in the military. He lived in frustration, unable to voice his own anger and pain. Dad talked to me about my heritage and explained that he was from a royal family. He said he missed home and could not even get news about his family – he felt lost and forsaken, he was hurting like a lost child in the wilderness.

I discovered a completely different person that night. Then it all came back. I remembered Dad and I taking long walks in the different camps where we had lived. He would carry me on his shoulders and we would have fun together. There were times we went to another camp for helicopter rides. The memories flooded back and the tears ran. That moment is when I realized that I had locked my father in a prison of hate and did not want to let the love flow.

We spent Wednesday night talking and talking and I realized that Dad never hated me. He did not know what to do with his own frustrations, hurts and challenges. We spent Thursday night talking some more. We spent Friday night together, still talking.

The wedding took place on Saturday evening. I went away with my husband but I was happy that Dad and I had had time to talk and mend. I had always loved my father.

I shared this story to explain that very often we judge things and people’s actions from our own perspective, our hurting selves, forgetting that we have to consider all aspects before drawing conclusions.

Jesus said:

I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken off] branch, and withers and dies; and they gather such branches and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:5-6 AMP)

The last week that Jesus spent with His disciples is full of insights and kingdom wisdom. He shared on perspectives, focus, vision, concentration, principles, the way forward, keeping up the fire, heaven, mansions… He could sense that His time was close and that His earthly ministry was drawing to an end. He wanted to pour out His soul, emotions, and feelings.

Very often we assume that the Lord our God does not love us, that He does not care about us because we did not have our bread with turkey ham. We are not even aware that there are people who have no bread at all and we complain about turkey ham!

The Lord wants us to understand that He does not hate us because we are going through hardship. He desires for us to understand that no matter the circumstance, He is with us. The Lord wants us to focus our attention and vision on Him alone. Our circumstances do not change Him, we cannot change our circumstances by our own strength but He can change our circumstances as long as we put our trust and faith in Him alone.

I had focused so much on the fact that my father had slapped me when I was in 3rd grade that I forgot about the years that he had paid for my education. I was the one who had decided that I would not inform him about school related issues.

I saw him through my eyes full of hate and misunderstanding. I was the judge and had sentenced him to life without my love.

There are times we focus so much on our problems, challenges and shortcomings that we put the blame on God because we feel He does not show concern and He does not provide solutions. That is how we look at Him through our biased lenses.

The Lord wants us to live a life filled with Him and thus we flourish and bear fruit. It makes no sense to lock the Lord out of our lives because we are going through difficulties.

Later on, my husband received my father as he visited his office. He would drop by to know how we were doing. Dad would come home whenever he felt like it. He would tell me that he had wanted to hug me and that is why he dropped by.

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My father pictured with my daughter, Axelle, in 1992. 
There was a time while he was in the military that my father hit the chaplain who was sharing Jesus with him. So great was the change in Dad that later on, my husband shared Jesus with my father. To our amazement, Dad bowed his head and received Jesus Christ as his Master and Saviour. A year later, he passed away.

We need to yield to God’s plans, vision and purpose for our lives. Remember the Lord’s conversation during His last week on earth – many things will come into order as your attention is drawn to what He wants you to see.

Do not think that the Lord does love you because you are going through difficult circumstances. Jesus does not hate you. Jesus loves you and He wants to see you through. Stick to Him. You will bear much fruit. You can do nothing on your own. You find your purpose and significance in Him alone. Everything else is an illusion or smokescreen.


Jacqueline Nkunku

Email: emmankay@gmail.com

Posted in Forgiveness, New Year, Obedience, Vision

Runaway Prophet

It’s almost 2017 and the internet is buzzing with words like “resolutions” and “vision.” Plenty of counsel abounds in books, articles, and sermons on how to be successful in reaching those goals. Its’ not that setting goals is bad; I personally set goals and trust that God is in my goal-setting.

I struggle not to have preconceived ideas about how God will help me bring my goals to pass. I have, all too often, failed in my attempts to allow God to work His plans out instead of me working my plans out. This began early in life for me. I assumed as a young child that I could excel at any sport or activity, until I actually tried and realised there was more to success than natural ability. No, I was not a gymnast, swimmer, runner, or celebrity. By the time I reached adulthood, I had an idea that I wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. But I still thought I knew enough to figure out how a situation would pan out. When I got married, I was sure that I would be a princess forever (for Jamie called me princess then) until I became a real-life Cinderella and toilets needed scrubbing! When I had children I thought I would be the patient, perfect parent and then found myself talking through my teeth. Things were not proceeding as planned…

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And I wondered after a few years of thinking I knew how things would turn out – what if I was wrong? What if, after all my fumbling around, there was something to be said in surrendering to God and His will when it made no sense? What if the problem wasn’t in my surroundings but in my own reactions and prideful thinking in the depths of my own heart? I found myself to be very much like the prophet Jonah of old.

One of the things I appreciate about Jonah of the Bible is that he’s real. There’s nothing hidden about Jonah. He wears it all on his sleeve and yet, God used him. To me, that meant as I read about Jonah, that there was hope for me!

We can read that God had sent Jonah to the ancient city of Nineveh for a special mission (Jonah 1). God wanted him to go on a three day trip inland from where he was and proclaim God’s message to the people of the city because God had better plans for them; He had better things in mind for them than what they were living. He loved even the people of that city.

The problem with this was the historical hatred that existed between the Jews and the Ninevites (who were Israel’s ancient enemy, the Assyrians). The Ninevites (Gentiles) were a warring people that periodically plundered Israel, destroying their villages, killing their people. So this command given to Jonah by God was more than his mind could grasp – and his solution was to flee.

Once Jonah fled, God had a two-fold problem on His hands: an unrepentant city and a runaway prophet. Jonah took refuge on a ship sailing for far-away lands and hid, but he ended up being thrown overboard and then swallowed by a “large fish.” What living in a fish’s gut is like is not something I care to think of – the very lightest whiff of “fish smell” makes my stomach turn.

God held on to Jonah in the belly of that fish and He holds on to us – He holds on to you. He used a lot of adverse circumstances to “corner” the runaway prophet and get his attention. Had Jonah just obeyed he could’ve avoided a lot of trouble. Just like me. I could’ve, in my lifetime, avoided a lot of adverse circumstances by just obeying. Instead, I found myself wrapped up in attention-getters of my own making.

It took a lot for Jonah to respond to God. Even when he finally did respond to God and go to Nineveh to give Nineveh God’s message – He did so with an attitude.

Nineveh was a huge city, in Jonah 3:3 it says that the city was so large that it took 3 days to travel across it. What that really means in actual mileage is uncertain, but we can be pretty sure it was of substantial size. This meant that Jonah had a big job to proclaim God’s message. He couldn’t just say it quietly at a corner in an obscure neighborhood – it had to be preached.

As I think of it, he must have had to take several days to get the word out that unless the city repented, the city would be overthrown (Jonah 3:4). Can you imagine him looking at the people in that place. We might think that Jonah was just disobedient simply because of how the Ninevites had plundered his people. Have you ever considered that he might have lived through some of the raids of Nineveh on his people and it might even be that Jonah himself lost some family members to this warring group of people? The Bible doesn’t record more than Jonah’s anger against the people for all the atrocities they had committed, but one wonders, had Jonah been hurt? Had he lost loved ones? Friends? It was to these people that he hated that he was called.

As Jonah was, so are we. We are called to this world. The unforgiving, unashamed, hard-hearted, hurtful, mixed up, and angry world. Those who have hurt us, those who don’t help us, those who oppose our beliefs, those who don’t care when we are wronged – these are the ones we are called to.

And just like with Jonah the choice is ours – do we choose the school of the storms and fish or the school of God’s aggressive love?

Let’s pick up the story here in Jonah 3 when Jonah had finally come to his senses and decided to obey God:

Jonah 3:5-10 NKJ “So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, ‘But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away form His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?’ Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Why is it that God is so forgiving? Here in the Old Testament, to a group of people that were pagan, the Assyrians by descent who were ancient enemies of Israel, noncovenant people! And to this people, He extends the opportunity to repent and turn to Him. So much for God loving one group of people over another; He has always loved this world and has sought to bring His message to all who would hear.

Even having gone through the school of “storms and fish” Jonah begrudges God’s love for the people of Nineveh:

Jonah 4:1-4 NKJ “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, ‘Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!’ Then the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’”

The chapter goes on to account God teaching Jonah about forgiveness and compassion. From this scene, Jonah stomps off to a distant part of the city to see what would happen (maybe he was hoping God would relent and destroy the people anyway). God planted some kind of plant/tree to give him shade – but then sent an insect or worm to destroy it. So Jonah was angry over the death of the tree. God questions Jonah if it was right to be angry over something like the tree, and Jonah says, “Yes! Even angry enough to die!”

God cornered Jonah by saying if Jonah had pity on a plant he hadn’t planted and had withered in a night, why not pity people who are of much greater value?

Jonah 4:11 NKJ “And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left – and much livestock?”

God’s love is so powerful, so aggressive that nothing can stop it. No one can stand in its way. But Jonah’s life compass was off and couldn’t get a grip on the love of God. He was so wound up in his hate of this group of people that his sense of direction was gone. It was then that God had to “erase his hard drive” and start all over with him. This is the power of God’s great love: He loved Nineveh, that reprobate city, and He loved Jonah, the unforgiving, runaway prophet.

I once had a laptop that had been infected by viruses and for those of you who have even a small understanding of computers, you understand how devastating viruses can be.  The very mention of the words “computer virus” strikes fear in the hearts of those who work at their laptops. Well, I was able to remove the virus that had struck the computer but had to reformat the hard drive (a very scary process for me, this was my only computer). Everything was erased from it and I started over installing all programs and backed up information. I succeeded! PTL!

Sometimes that is what happens to us. We’re infected with a virus from this world and the hard drive needs reformatting. God wants to keep us on His track but for some reason, our internal guidance system has been corrupted and has to be reformatted. How this happens has a lot to do with our surrender. God wanted to send Jonah without trouble – but Jonah chose to flee. This brought him to disaster, but God’s aggressive love brought him back because God had something better in mind for the runaway prophet.

Our plans don’t always pan out in the way we foresee. Often this is because we’ve not surrendered our will and our plans to God. Once our plans become His, we are set onto a playing field that God can use! God knows what is happening when we don’t!

Jeremiah 29:11 NLT “‘For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”

This is a very well known verse; many of us can even quote it. However, as we quote, we’re often so busy trying to map out our paths that we have forgotten that the Director knows the way. We reckon that with our wisdom we know the way – but more often than not, we don’t!

As a parent, there have been many times I’ve tried to instruct my kids to do various chores or help with homework. Often, my assistance has come at their request. When I do roust myself from my “unimportant” chores like paying bills or cooking dinner to help them, I am met with “Oh I know, I know Mom.” Bewildered, I’ll pull back and ask, “If you already knew then why are you asking for my help?”

Math has been a subject for my kids whose logic has often eluded them. I would do everything to try and help when things became frustrating for them. What it came down to most of the time wasn’t their inability to count, add, or subtract, but their rushing through the work so they could do what they thought was more important. When their papers would get marked with many corrections, tears and anger would result. Sad to see them sad, I would try to help them and in their frustration they would shoo me away saying, “I know Mom, I know!”

There’s nothing like being told you know nothing when you know that you know something.

Without doubt, my children had some knowledge about their math assignments but that knowledge wasn’t proving sufficient to get the correct answer. Knowledge without the right process of applying it won’t produce needed results. Besides, no one likes a “know it all.”

1 Corinthians 8:1b NLT “…Yes, we all know that ‘we all have knowledge’ about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.”

We are so like our own kids in our relationship with our Father God! I can picture me in the middle of a “life test” and failing miserably and not understanding why. In my frustration I call on my Father and as He tries to help me, I push Him away saying defiantly, “I know, I know!” Then I picture Him standing back, like me with my own kids, wishing I would let Him help!

The wonder of living life in the love of God is knowing that He will hold the pieces together – and we don’t have to! We don’t have to know everything because He is our Father and always has our best interests at heart. He is capable of guiding us when we don’t understand, He is capable of saving us when no one (not even ourselves) can. He really does know a whole lot more than we do!

Hebrews 11:40 NLT Because God had provided something better in mind for us, so they would not reach perfection without us.”

The crux of the matter is this: God, our Father, has something so much better in mind for us – it’s better than our best! God supersedes everyone in that not only does He promise to give us the best (because He is the best), but He also has the power to deliver the best.

In fact, what God has in mind is so good that those heroes of faith mentioned in the earlier portion of Hebrews 11 couldn’t reach perfection (or completion) without our cooperation with the plans and mind of God for our lives.

Consider this gallery of faith-mentors cheering for us from the grandstands of heaven: Moses, David, Samson, Rahab, Gideon, Samuel, Barak, the list goes on and their perfection or completion is seen in us – in our aligning ourselves with His plans and not our own because God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom that is always expanding. We’ve just picked up where those who have gone before us left off.

Hebrews 12 goes on to say that because all these are cheering for us, since they “surround us,” we need to run with endurance. We need to bear up with the correcting of our course, with that discipline when it comes. They are shouting, “Don’t run away to the school of storms and fish!” Their lessons, and Jonah’s, teach us to 0bey at the first word, don’t wait or we will learn like they did – the hard way!

Hebrews 12:12,13 NLT “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” 

It’s time to shake off the pain, put a little band aid on there, and get a new grip. As it was with Jonah, that fierce love, that aggressive love of God is meant to flow through you and not sit stagnant within you. This aggressive love will bring the expansion of the Kingdom to those who remain outside; to those of Nineveh. Perhaps they will repent. Perhaps they will turn from their sin and to God. Perhaps, just perhaps, through our surrender we can see God’s plan for them (what He has in mind that is so much better for them) unfold.

Get a grip! Lift up your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees and take courage! God also has better things in mind than for us than to sit angry under a tree that will wither. Our destinies have farther-reaching implications than we ever thought. We’re all more like Jonah than we think – but the good news is this: he, together with many others who’ve crossed that boundary before us, are cheering for us. Jonah made it, and so will we!

Posted in Forgiveness, Judgment

Don’t Draw on the Walls!

I remember once being caught by my parents for drawing on the walls. I couldn’t deny it. I have a vivid memory, I think  I was about 5 years old, of holding a crayon at shoulder-level and walking along and drawing a long line the entire length of a hallway in our home. Something about drawing on walls fascinated me; I was a virtual Picasso at home in my younger years.

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I’ve seen a trend in decorating these days where families will actually mount a frame around the drawings that their kids have scrawled on their homes’ walls. Had this been a trend when I was a child, well, there wouldn’t have been enough frames to take care of all my drawings!

While my art was, in my opinion, of art gallery quality, my parents had another opinion on the matter. There were consequences to my actions and, in time, I did figure out that ending my career as an in-home artist was the best thing for me to do.

I’ve noticed in our daily lives that we aren’t as forgiving with one another as we are with children when they draw on the walls. We are far more prone to paint over our own drawings  than we are to forgive the faults of others who have failed to make “the grade” in our opinion; after all, they drew on our walls!

Why are we so quick to throw stones at those who have drawn on our walls?

The problem we face when we throw stones of judgment at those who wrong us or who don’t conform to our standards is that in so doing we restrict the power of God from flowing from us to others.

Does this mean that we don’t confront sin or have standards? Not at all. However, when we face those who have sinned or fallen short of standards, we would do well to first examine what is our end-goal in dealing with that person? Is it to shame them into conformity or is it to love them back into the family? God’s design from the beginning was to build a family, how have we gotten so far from His initial intention?

Jesus has a habit of doing things other than throwing stones at people. When confronted with a woman in sin, those bringing her tried to use God’s standard against sin as a reason to stone her. Jesus, so wise in His response, said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7).

The woman’s act was sinful, that was not in dispute. The judgmental attitude of those wanting to stone her, those whose walls had been drawn on, was what Jesus challenged. Why is it so important to cast stones when we have all been guilty at one time or another of missing the mark?

Jesus won this challenge of His authority by forgiving, not stoning.

If we really want to win our families, friends, and the world for Jesus we would do well to remember that the One Who had the right to throw stones didn’t: He forgave and told her to move on and “sin no more.”

As we end this year, we would all do well to  remember that our Father never throws stones, He rolls them, or takes them, away!

Remember Lazarus? He commanded the stone to be “taken away” (John 11:39).

Remember His resurrection? The stone was also “taken away” (John 20:1).

Those stones are, in one sense, hindrances, judgments, sin, that keep people from the Father. The problem of throwing stones at those we find fault in is that as we close our hearts to the possibility of God working in them, we roll stones in front of our own relationships with God. It is a tangled web that we weave when we step into the shoes of both Judge and Jury.

Let’s not throw stones this coming year; let’s roll them, let’s take them away with soft hearts of forgiveness.  Instead of throwing stones, why not draw signs with our crayons pointing people to the place where no stones will be thrown at them?

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Posted in Courage, Forgiveness

Cluttered Places

I am burdened with the need to put things in order and generally keep things clean and clear of clutter. Why is this a burden? Because I see clutter and mess as it’s happening, I even foresee messes and do what I can to avoid them. There are times that I wish I could just “not see” the clutter, the mess. No matter how hard I try to ignore a mess, I simply cannot and I find myself succumbing to keeping the house clean. While this is my way of keeping things in order for the most part, there are places that I, knowingly, omit from my cleaning obsession.

Take, for example, the silverware drawer. I don’t have a good holder for silverware. The holder that I have in the drawer is in two separate pieces and even though it is meant to be that way, it comes apart and holds everything precariously. It isn’t uncommon to see spoons mingling with forks and so on. When I realised that there was no way to get my silverware holder to work properly, I adjusted and now live with it the way it is. Yes, it irritates me but I can close the drawer and forget about it!

Even though I can close that drawer and temporarily forget the mess that lies within, there are still times that I have to confront the silverware drawer. Strange things have a way of finding their way to this drawer that shouldn’t be there: toothbrushes, pens, and pencils. Unless I confront that silverware drawer and clean it up, it will never get done.

Another area that tries to escape my craving for order is the kitchen pantry. My people at home have an obsession with looking in the pantry and examining if anything has changed in the past ten minutes since they looked at it last. Originally, my pantry was organized (much like my silverware drawer) and it looked amazing. When I had organized it for the first time, I stood back feeling like a professional and declared there was no pantry organized like mine.

Fast-forward three months. I am happy if the door opens and closes without a box falling out. My people.

Unless I confront the pantry and its contents, it will never get put in order.

“You cannot conquer what you will not confront.” Chris Hill

When it comes to the word “confront” we immediately get a negative vibe in our gut. The kind of confronting I’m talking about today concerns confronting the cluttered closets of our souls. If we won’t confront those things cluttering us inside, we’ll never overcome them.

It might seem that the solution is to forget it – but if it keeps eating at you, then you need to confront it.

Maybe you need to forgive someone?

Maybe you need to apologise to someone?

Maybe you have allowed life to push God out of your daily routine?

Cleaning up and organising the clutter may take some humility, bravery, and willingness to “face” whatever music may come with cleaning the clutter. Just ignoring it, though, won’t help it go away. There will come a day that the clutter will overflow and demand attention.

I prefer clearing the clutter, no matter what the “music” may be.

 

Posted in Forgiveness

Time to Clean Up!

Forgiveness is one of those Christian words that we all are used to hearing. Forgiving others for the wrongs they have done is difficult; the effects of not forgiving someone for their wrongs can have lifelong – even eternal – effects. Those of us who have been around a church or group of believers for any length of time have heard the “forgiveness message.” We’ve heard how important it is and have learned that we don’t always “feel” forgiveness; we’re making that forgiveness journey with others.

But what about forgiving ourselves?

Everyone comes to the Lord with his/her own set of baggage and little by little the Father begins working in our lives to relieve us from carrying that heavy load. He begins by offering His forgiveness to us. Then, He challenges us to forgive others. While that step of forgiving others might be difficult, for the most part, we eventually “get it” and begin the process of forgiving those who have wronged us.

But what about forgiving ourselves?

There’s a deep sense of shame that accompanies recognizing our sin. God has offered His forgiveness to us – which we accept but on the condition that we live in self-condemnation over the lives we lived outside of His grace. Somehow we feel obliged to live in shame and unforgiveness toward ourselves. This becomes a real bondage in our lives as we steel ourselves against actually receiving the forgiveness of God for how could He really forgive all the wrongs we have done? He must require us to live in the shadows of shame.

It’s a crushing feeling – to feel as if you aren’t good enough to be loved fully by the Father.

My youngest daughter is now experimenting with cooking (she made me a snack of chips, peas, raw onions, an apple, and sliced cheese). I have no problem with her making “snacks” within a few boundaries: don’t use knives and clean up after yourself. She obeys not using knives – but cleaning! Cleaning isn’t my little girl’s favorite thing to do. Her toys are regularly piled where they aren’t supposed to be. On occasion she will feel guilty for not cleaning and say, “I’m bad for not cleaning” and we have to chat about receiving forgiveness. I forgive her, she’s my child and my forgiveness of her not cleaning is ongoing for I know she will fail to clean properly for years to come. My goal is just to teach her and that’s what I tell her. Once she understands Mama is not angry, just teaching, she cheers up and even begins cleaning up her mess (until I’m not watching or something more interesting catches her attention).

Receiving forgiveness for the wrongs we have done and not holding them over our own heads is a huge step in going farther in our faith. If we don’t receive forgiveness and forgive ourselves, we live under the crushing weight of that sin. Thank God, Jesus has made a way for us!

 Luke 4:18 Aramaic translation “The Spirit of THE LORD JEHOVAH is upon me, and because of this he has anointed me to preach The Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal broken hearts and to proclaim liberty to captives, vision to the blind, and to restore the crushed with forgiveness.”

Don’t live one more day “crushed” under the weight and shame of sin. You’re loved, cherished and forgiven. It’s time to forgive yourself and allow the Father to love you – He’s not holding that mess you left behind against you. He wants to help you clean it up. Why not let Him?