Rebellion

I’ve been thinking about rebellion lately.

The power it has to destroy us.

The glee it must cause satan to see it take us down.

The slow and slogging row we have to hoe when we rebel at every turn.

The way lives crumble, as long time supporters of good causes reject leadership initiatives meant to shake us out of our complacency and set us back on the path of spiritual progress.

Disclaimer:  I am a rebel and I’m married to a rebel, which is why rebellion is an important topic for me. 

I don’t think rebellion of every kind is necessarily bad, but I do think rebellion against God and changes He tries to bring into our lives can destroy us. We need to be awake and aware in order to avoid finding ourselves in rebellion’s snare.

GOOD REBELS

I believe there are good rebels in the world.

Good rebels are those who stand up to tyranny, and defend the weak among us.

Good rebels shout out their disagreement when deals are made that only serve the rich.

Good rebels ask penetrating questions that we sometimes don’t want to hear, like…

“Why do we have to do it that way?”

“What is wrong with doing it another way?”

“It seems to me that doing it this way is hurting more than it’s helping, don’t you agree?”

These are all good and valid questions good rebels ask.

BAD REBELS

Bad rebels take the good that good rebels have created and pervert it.

Bad rebels often have good reasons for why they do what they do, but they lack the insight to see that their motives are wrong, or that not everyone affected by their choices will benefit in the same way as they themselves will.

Bad rebels keep good people from getting where they need to go by virtue of the sour attitudes they bring to every conversation they have.  Their main desire is to be in charge, and to rebel against power structures not formed by them.

Bad rebels want constantly to upset the status quo. They are never happy with circumstances that don’t reflect their world view and their love of chaos.

WHEN GOOD PEOPLE REBEL IN BAD WAYS

The truth is that sometimes good people get sucked into bad head space. They think that if they rebel against what they currently find objectionable, everything will go back to “normal,” and they will once again be “happy” and “content,” (whatever that means).  What they fail to realize is that their actions are impacting someone else’s contentment, and their reluctance to accept change is born of fear.  Bad rebels hate change!

Fear is a factor for many of us. We need to turn it over to God.

What if life does change? What if everything we know as normal is upended? What if our comfort is fractured, broken into a million pieces by the unpredictability of life?  What if our solid rock of sameness tumbles down the mountainside of our comfort, and we’re left with quicksand beneath our feet? What will we do then?

Be careful in your hour of rebellion to act, speak, and believe in right ways.

Good rebels forcefully move the kingdom forward in positive, if somewhat uncomfortable, ways.

Be a good rebel for God!

When have you found yourself rebelling?  What was the outcome of your rebellion?

 

 

 

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stubborn donkey

Speaking of stubborn animals…

The story of Balaam’s donkey found in Numbers 22 in the Bible can be a pretty funny one on its face. For the uninitiated, it has some weird elements: a group of Rambo Moabites, a stubborn donkey, an invisible threat, and a Master who sees things others don’t and talks to his animals as if they were answering back.

If you weren’t seeing things from Balaam’s perspective in the story, you’d think him nuts, insane; a crazy kook of a man.

We’re not always good at pegging the origins of our opposition, and we’re not always good at seeing what God’s doing in and through us.

When you read the “rest of the story” concerning Balaam, you begin to see that indecision and greed were two confusing factors for the seer. They can be problems for us too. The bigger issue though, is a matter of spiritual acuity. Are we seeing God for who he really is, or is our image of Him muddled and confused by the trappings of this world?

When things get confusing and we’re struggling to understand, that’s when its time to create a little white space in our lives. We need to add some margin. We need to reevaluate our priorities, and we may need to get quiet before God for a minute or two.

We can do anything for a minute or two, right?

Stop. Breathe. Ponder. Meditate.

Ask!

God, “What’s going on here?”

Be still and know that He is God.

When your mind wanders gently move back to the task at hand-listening.
If a thought won’t leave, surrender it.
If a name has popped into your head, acknowledge it and say a quick prayer, then return.
Keep returning for that whole 60 seconds.
It’s just a minute, right?

In the beginning, as that new habit of meditation is forming, remember:  it’s just one minute.

Today, let’s listen.

Wait. Agree. Obey.

It may be that you have an angel standing in your way, charged with protecting you from you.

Don’t beat the donkey that’s always faithfully served your needs.
Don’t resist the God who’s always loved you well.
Don’t push away the help that has been provided for you, sometimes by hurdles and frustrations.

How many tragic accidents on the highway have been avoided by batteries that were dead, tires that went flat, and starters that wouldn’t ignite?  Maybe delays and frustrations are for our good.

When have you been frustrated in your plans, only to find it a blessing in the end? What do you hate most about waiting?

 

mistake graphic

Mistakes!

We all make ‘em.
Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Maybe it’s simple human flailing–none of us are perfect, after all.
Maybe we’ve been tripped up by the evil one.
Maybe it’s just a matter of not thinking a situation through.
Maybe it’s the natural tendency of human flesh to screw up.

Oh, Lord, I pray it’s not that last one. As I get older, I’d like to think I’m also getting wiser.

For whatever reason, we all make mistakes.
What we do about them when we make them, is what determines if we land in the win or lose column of life.

What do you do when you make a mistake?

Do you circle back around?
Apologize?
Make restitution where it’s needed?
Quickly go to work cleaning your side of the street?

Do you actively surrender your stumbling and bumbling around to the One who can scrub you clean?

Or do you…

Persist in your error?
Justify what you’ve done?
Become so discouraged by yet another character defect showing up that you run and hide, pull the covers over your head, indulge in self-loathing and throw your hands in the air in defeat?

Last week I made a mistake.
I realized it, owned it, and addressed it.
It was hard, it was embarrassing, and the sting of it is still with me today, but I know that I did what I needed to do and that by and by, like the sting after a wasp attack, the pain will go away. Until then, I’m praying for clarity and depending on God’s grace to get me through.

How about you?

When have you made a mistake? Did you wait for an opportunity to make it right, or apologize right away?

Why I write and what it does for me

writing-poetry

As I was driving to work this morning, it hit me; how blessed I am to be a writer.

Since the angst of my adolescence, I have found solace in writing.  It is my passion, and the place where God shows up most vividly in my life.  It’s often a solitary pursuit, requiring hours of reading, meditation, prayer and grace to get it right, but when it is—WOW—there is nothing like it.  I’m thankful to God for giving me this balm for my soul, and for allowing me to share with others through writing what He reveals to me in those quiet moments of struggle and bliss I go through to get to the finished product.  He’s a good, good Father—it’s who He is—and I’m blessed by Him—it’s who I am. I offer this little bitty gift to Him today, as a heartfelt “thanks” for all the words He’s given me. I love you, Jesus!!

Some days it’s a lonely profession, this writing thing.

When power flows from my fingertips,

Yes, thrilling,

But isolating, too.

Honored, I take up the pen again.

What did I ever do to deserve such grace?

A moment to read.

A silent consent.

A Helpmate to guide me.

A gift that gives and gives and gives.

Revelation, with the phrasings,

Assurance, with the words.

Bliss over all.

An author gratefully acknowledging her Muse.

Grace

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, “Father, I’m grateful that you have listened to me. I know you always do listen, but on account of this crowd standing here I’ve spoken so that they might believe that you sent me.” 

Then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And he came out, a cadaver, wrapped from head to toe, and with a kerchief over his face. 

Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him loose.”  That was a turnaround for many of the Jews who were with Mary. They saw what Jesus did, and believed in him.   John 11:42-45 

Grace is shockingly personal.  Philip Yancy

Have you ever bungled a project?  Me, too.

Ever disappointed anyone?  Me, too.

Ever doubted, to the point of embarrassment, what the Lord could do for you? Me, too!

Expectations aren’t always our friends!

Thankfully, in our lowest moments–when it seems nothing will ever change with us or that we’ll never “get it right”–the God of grace breaks through.  Granted a moment of divine sight, we’re able to see our struggles and failures in a new way.  We are not lost. We are not forgotten. We might have been flailing for a little while, but not anymore.

Seeing things differently, we realize we are valued, we are redeemed, and we are most certainly shocked by grace. Grace extended to us!

What has happened is this: God has taken our mess and turned it into something glorious.

Our flop has been flipped and is now turned into a stepping stone for the next phase of our faith journey.  Our weakness has become His strength. Praise Him!

Today, if you know someone who is having a hard time being human, would you pray for them? 

Ask Papa God to grant them a slice of divine insight.

Ask Him to minister to their failing confidence.

Ask Him to swoop in and be the answer to their dilemma, and then thank Him, thank Him, thank Him for his just-in-time solutions.

Our God is amazing and powerful, and Lord.  Hallelujah, praise His name!

When has personal grace extended to you left you shocked?  When have you become an agent of God’s grace to others?  

 

 

From Groans to Growth

Growing-Pains-300x300

Have you ever experienced growing pains?  My boys both got them when they were pre-teens…bouts of leg pain that the doctor said was associated with fast growth in that big bone that supports the leg.  I don’t remember going through that myself, but I sure remember going through it with my kids.

More than once they laid in bed and moaned from the pain.

More than once we gave them Tylenol and put warm compresses on their shins.

The pain was unpleasant, but not as bad as the outcome would have been had those bones not grown strong and long.

Growth involves pain, but also fuels victory!

I wasn’t saved, sanctified, and perfect all in one fell swoop.  It took time for me to grown into an adult version of grace, and it took lots and lots of chiseling on God’s part.  I resisted, of course, because who likes pain? But in the end, the work God did through painful processes taught me the importance of trusting Him, checking in with Him before moving out into the world, and keeping myself in check through His power at work in me.

If you’re like me, having experienced your own growing pains with Jesus, say Amen.

If you’ve been stubborn, bone-headed, abrupt or completely out of line and had to have Jesus set you right again, praise Him.

If you’re right now struggling with the refinement of your soul, and feeling the pain that process involves, be glad!

For God is about a mighty work in his church in these days.  He’ll get us where we need to go, but we might feel some pain along the way.  It’s okay to cry when the pain comes, but don’t you dare quit on the Lord or His church.  In the end, you’ll be happy that you stayed the course and finished the race.

Always Remember:  God knows what he’s doing and He does it very, very well.

…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Roman’s 5:3-5 ESV

 

Says Easy, Does Hard

Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Matthew 19:19 

This whole “love your neighbor as yourself” business says easy, but does hard, and there’s a reason for that.  Jesus regularly taught principles that rankled people and caused a shift in their perspective.  Jesus’ own disciples, upon hearing him proclaim in the temple that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood if they wanted to be one with him, said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”  Many didn’t, and the herd was thinned that day.

Truth:  There are times when living for Jesus says easy, but does hard!

We often face a struggle of the will when trying to put self in a bottle.  Being creatures with egos, we find it difficult to live out the fullness of this hard teaching about love. This week, though, Jesus has opened my eyes to see the contrast between how we help one another and how the world does it.  In the world, help denotes payback.  Few people who live without Jesus in their heart freely give either love or possessions. Some, but not many. Whereas inside the church, we’re all striving to share selfless love on a daily basis, and not just with church members.  Be it generosity, kindness, toys, or tools—we regularly share with others in ways that meet or exceed the way we take care of ourselves.

Today, if you are finding it hard to love others on the same level as you love you, know, you’re not alone.  We’re all finding it hard, given the day. Here is what I know: The only thing that stretches our Jesus muscles, is lifting Jesus weights.

What part of the Christian journey do you find says easy, but does hard?

 

 

 

 

 

Live, Love, Lead

…temptation to get stuck in fear and self-pity reinforces why we must pause only long enough to restore our proper vision.  Many times, the external obstacles in our path are not as heavy as the internal ones. When we’re struggling with life’s challenges, the great limitation we face may come from the issues of our heart. If we’re not guarding and protecting what God has placed within our hearts, then we lose our vision and find it difficult to persevere. The vision you have for your life must be protected in your heart. When you encounter a difficult path, you must keep your eyes on the prize. –Brian Houston’s Live, Love, Lead

Loving this book!

Be a Jonah…try, try again!

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.  Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”  The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.   Jonah 3:1-5 

There are several things about today’s Bible passage that pique my interest.

First, Nineveh was a large city. Large enough that it took THREE days to walk through it. That’s Big!

Also of interest is the fact that the Ninevites believed Jonah when he finally got around to speaking to them about God and the destruction that was coming. They believed him so thoroughly that they prepared their hearts for punishment, even as they hoped for mercy.

The Ninevites quick decision to take action is impressive, I think. Once they heard what God was planning for them, they immediately stopped their evils ways, confessed their wrongs, and fasted and prayed, going several days without food, nor water.  The king of Nineveh even ordered that the cattle go on a fast with the rest of the city.  Everyone in Nineveh stopped what they were doing and prayed, prayed earnestly, to the God of Jonah, Yahweh.

Can you imagine the noise the cattle made when they’d gone just one day without food or water? The wailing that must have produced–I bet the commotion put goose bumps on arms all over town–and I bet it only intensified after the sun went down!  No sleep for anyone in Nineveh until this sitch had been dealt with properly.  No sleep!

The most amazing thing about this passage for me, though, is the fact that…

God gave Jonah a second chance!

 A second change, people!!!!  How good is our God!

Like Jonah, we let the Lord down, don’t we?

Like Jonah, we run in the opposite direction from His will for us, sometimes.

Like Jonah, we care about our own skin before we care about other’s.

Like Jonah, we find serving God in ways that are relevant to him, troublesome for us.

Like Jonah, we’ve failed God when he’s called us the first time, and like Jonah, we need that second chance. 

Today, if you know anyone like Jonah, will you pray for him or her? Will you ask God to give them a second chance?  Will you ask Him to put them in a spot where they’re motivated to do what He wants them to do, even if that means rough times for them?

Will you pray for their inner fortitude, strength, and faith in the only true God?  If you will, you’ll need fortification to do that job, right?  A touch from God?!  Let’s pray…

Who do you know that is a Jonah, in need of a second chance?  When have you been in need of the same?

 

 

Healing Words Speaking Grace

The following is an excerpt from Cyndy Sherwood’s devotional, Healing Words.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9a

“I have hung my hope on this truth more times than I can count. When I was remembering the horrible abuse of my childhood, his grace was sufficient. Later, when my step-daughter took her life, his grace was sufficient. When my husband had no work, his grace was sufficient. 

It is in the hard times we can most easily see his unlimited resources and his tender heart toward us.  He delights in taking care of us during adversity.  It also gives God pleasure to do great things through unlikely people.  When he accomplishes his work through weak people it reveals his unlimited power.”

Cyndy goes on to talk about grace as “a dynamic expression of the divine personality, rather than as a static attribute of God’s nature,” which is The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible’s definition of grace.  Cyndy believes that when God transfers His power into our lives, then, we get a glimpse of His grace as it was meant to operate in our world.  “When God is working in and through us,” she says, “that is His grace.”

I love Cyndy’s description of grace in her devotional.  It speaks to partnership, and intimacy, and the give-and-take that accompanies demonstrations of God’s grace in my life.

We give our weakness to God and He fills us with His power!

Today, if you’re facing a lion, a bear, or a shadow of fear…so that you’re not sure whether you can finish what God’s given you to do or not, won’t you reach out to Him and ask for a little grace to get you through?

He’s a good, good father, and he love, love, love, loves his kids.  Today, let’s trust God a little bit more in our weakness.

What do you think about grace? How do you define grace in your life?