Monday, June 30, 2014

A Jesus-Kind-of-Love Doesn't Fear Submission

Every day, I see this little sign in my house...

...and, this one hangs over my desk...

...then, there's this one upstairs...

...all, in-your-face-admonitions for us aliens and strangers, that in order to love others and to "keep our behavior excellent (1 Peter 2:12)," we'll need to "submit ourselves for the Lord's sake...(vs. 13)."  Oh, that word!  Yet, Jesus-Kind-of-Lovers are willing to follow this exhortation in order to "follow in His steps (vs. 21)."  So, in spite of whether we want to ban that word, submit, from the dictionary, or our personal vocabulary, or not, we are to step up to the plate and yield.  In fact, we can't truly love one another if there's not a death-to-self, and a submission One-to-the-Other. This truth is not just a little blip on the biblical screen from one chapter in the New Testament, either. We see this concept of submission sprinkled in and throughout the entire Bible.

In spite of it's biblical fact, the concept of submission causes no small amount of angst inside me.  Then Peter, as well, has the nerve to say this " what is right without being frightened by any fear." Do what is right: SUBMIT. Without being frightened by any fear: NO FEAR!

How can I lose the fear? Another of the at-Jesus'-right-hand apostles, John, gives us the answer.  This apostle, known as the Disciple of Love, said this, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another...There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:11, 18, 19)."

Here is my reality: I fear losing myself in submission. I think that's the heart issue of all of us who find ourselves struggling with the word. If I submit, do I become something I am not? If I keep yielding, do I just become a puppet, a mere shadow of myself? Do I lose my personhood, or, possibly, disappear altogether? Am I simply a robotic Stepford woman (which, by the way, I have been accused of before)? You see, at the root, the major heart issue, of us who fear submission is a problem with worship. We have become very attached to our-self!

John's answer eliminates this fear, because when we, as believers, give ourselves to Jesus, we set self aside, in order to give the ONLY ONE worthy of worship a place in our hearts. There isn't room for me...and him. Any time, I'm filling my heart, of course there will be fear. I'm not a very trustworthy source when it comes to doing life.  However, when I gave my life to Jesus, I, by choice, hid myself, in the only Perfect Love who casts out fear. When I'm hidden in Jesus, under the shadow of His wings, no longer do I fear submission, because I have chosen a perfect place of protection. HOWEVER, here's the BIG DEAL of submission...When I chose to hide myself in Jesus, He gave me a new identity, a better identity, a Child-of-the-King identity. That new woman never needs to fear losing herself, because she becomes a better version of who she is.  I truly don't want any part of that old me; not any! Now, I know every once in a while, self still gets in the way, and my heart fills with fear. As soon as I recognize, fear's presence, that's an indicator I need to do a little throne replacement. Back to the altar, I go... So, if that means, I'm just a Stepford woman, then so be it! Though, I'd rather be seen as a Jesus-woman...

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Jesus-Kind-of-Love Does the Uncommon, Unordinary, Non-sensical

There’s nothing more precious, when in a foreign country, than one’s passport. I’ve done enough traveling to know this.  Not only do I carry my passport close to my heart  (in a little pouch) when I travel, so as to not lay it down, lose it, or have it stolen, but I carry extra copies of the first page of my passport with me at all times. My passport is the most reliable and valid source of identification I possess. Not only does it allow me to enter another country successfully; but, I can’t leave without it…and, could I, perchance, get out, it would be difficult to re-enter my home-country. My passport also gives me legal immunity when I travel, and protection from my government in case of any emergency. So, I hold tightly to that baby EvErY tRiP!

As I type this above paragraph, I’ll never forget being in Nairobi one evening with my husband, after a full day of shopping. We’d just had dinner, and were heading back to our car, when we heard a blood-curdling scream, and some shouts. A man was running as fast as his legs could carry him, another was chasing and yelling for help, while a woman stood frozen in place (except the escape of air from her lungs through her mouth at loud volume).  It was a classic case of what happens when tragedy hits: some freeze, some flee, some fight back. We were closest to the woman, and went directly to her aid. The young man fleeing had just stolen her bag (complete with all her travel documentation, money, and items purchased that day in the market). Her husband was trying to chase him down. However, the younger national knew the city streets and alleyways like the back of his hand, and was faster, so got away readily. By the time, hubby returned, the wife had melted into a puddle of tears, and little could be done to soothe her.  She was in a true predicament. Taking her to the local police would do no good. The best thing she could do at that point was contact her local embassy (she was British), and hope that they could rapidly re-produce her passport, so she’d be able to get back out of the country. Otherwise, they were stuck, until the first passport could be cancelled, and she could be re-issued a new one. Regardless, they were in for a miserable wait, while the whole process was sorted! By the time we left the couple at their hotel, I had determined I would never treat my passport casually – EVER! It really didn’t matter about the money, or the goods purchased; but losing a passport was nothing short of finding yourself on a stage in front of a large audience, naked.

All that, to say this – right in the middle of the book I finished a while back (& referenced multiple times), A Loving Life, there is a chapter titled “Love Burns Its Passport.”  As I read the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz through the eyes of this author, and discover what a Jesus-Kind-of-Love looks like through the character of Ruth, it comes to my attention that Ruth did exactly that as she showed love to Naomi. When Ruth agreed to follow Naomi back to Israel, leaving her home country, and her family, in essence she "burned her passport."  She said, “Where you go, I will go…your people will be my people…where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried.”  Ruth made that commitment. What kind of love does that at all costs? It’s UNCOMMON! It's not ordinary! It makes no sense!

With my background regarding passports, and Peter’s admonition (see the following), I have wrestled with this concept that LOVE BURNS ITS PASSPORT:
“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul & keep your behavior excellent…(1 Peter 2:9, 11, 12a)”

Peter seems to be reminding us that our “passport” isn’t of this world; it’s from another country, a heavenly one. He seems to say, “Don’t lose your passport!” Not true, though, as I carefully examine in context. What he’s really telling me is that I’m to always remember my heavenly home for future reference, to help me persevere through trials, and to challenge my lifestyle in light of my calling right here where God has placed me…among my Naomi, or Naomis, in another country that’s not my home. However, I really am to burn my passport. I’m to live fully where I am, loving even those who are hard to love (Naomi wasn’t easy on Ruth; in fact, she often treated her like chopped liver…), and I’m to live out of a higher calling that reveals the Jesus-life & a Jesus-Kind-of-Love through me. Love is just that UNCOMMON. Love NEVER does the sensical-thing. Love is almost always extraordinary! No matter how one is treated, Love Commits. Love is all in!  Love never looks back. Love never wonders, "What if I had..." That’s the lesson of burning one’s passport.

Now, then, I won’t literally burn my passport…but spiritually speaking, I’m willing to be willing…

Monday, June 16, 2014

Love Sets the Prisoners Free!

These things I know:
1.  I have so much, in Christ, to be thankful for and to look forward to - PRAISE BE TO JESUS!
2.  God the Father, through Jesus, is writing my story (yours, too).
3.  That story isn't finished. This is worthy of another pause, and another praise proclamation!
4.  In the midst of the story, God wants to use us as instruments of redemption to a lost world.
5.  The best way to be instruments of His glory is to imitate His love (Good Samaritans).

I know these things, too:
1.  I don't love like Jesus.
2.  I want to...
3.  The best way to grow in that goal is to focus on the WORDS of The Lord, since they are a reflection of His heart.
4.  Time is short, only love every moment needs to count; it requires intentional space-making.

What's next now that I have this head knowlege?  As I sit in a Barnes & Noble Starbucks, anonymous & "alone," I pick up where I left off in 1 Peter.  Look at these words, and if conviction doesn't grip your heart, as it has mine sitting here in this corner, there's something wrong:

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander
1 Peter 2:1

Now that's a list.  Love can't fill a heart that's full of that "stuff."  In fact, we can't even be free to love, because that stuff traps us in an impenetrable prison cell! Here's the thing about this list. Everyone of those items are the result of anger and bitterness in the heart. Remember that entry where I mentioned how love "resets itself (May 26th)?" This is what happens when love doesn't reset; and, it's miserable and exhausting to live with Mr. Malice, Mrs. Deceit, and the triplets, Misses Hypocrisy, Envy and Slander in our hearts.

"Put away" is a mild translation. It really means, cast off (as despised), throw away, get rid of.  "Put away" sounds like something you would pack up and store for possible future use. Throw away is another story entirely! It means I bury it (just as the Lord does with the stuff he could hold against us, but doesn't) in the deepest ocean, never to retrieve it again.

Here's the problem. I think I've done that when people have hurt me in the past. I tell myself often that is exactly what I've done with those wounds. Truth is that scrambling around inside my heart are little bits and pieces of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, & all manners of slander. Truth is that I'm all about Team Peg, and getting others on my "side". Truth is that in ways I haven't realized, I've wanted to eliminate the problem people from my world, so I lock them up in a prison of my own, inside my heart, and then guard the prison cells. I've never eliminated them at all! The Lord showed me that picture, and whispered the words, "Set them free." Then, as if on cue, pictures of specific faces began popping in my mind (believe me, if you're reading this, you aren't one of those faces). The best way to set a prisoner free is to pray a blessing over them (with most of these folks forgiveness has already been asked, and offered; or, forgiveness has been sought, and there has been some semblance of relationship restored...yet, trust, and fear, are the main issues). So, I walked down the halls of my prison, opened the doors, threw away the key, and let each one walk out as I prayed a prayer of blessing over them. Oddly enough, if there was someone I forgot, it seemed the Lord either brought them to mind, or I crossed paths with them at the local grocery or hardware store. Yet, when I got to the end of the line, can you guess who was in the last prison cell? Oh yeah, me! I threw away that key, too, and even prayed a blessing over myself!

My life is much less stressful since giving up my "other job" as guard dog. My heart feels less burdened, and I sense more energy that I know the Lord would have me turn into proactive loving...I wonder if you're holding onto an extra job you need to eliminate? I highly recommend putting it away, casting it off, throwing it away, getting rid of it by burying it in the deepest part of the sea...!!!!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Love Creates Margin for Magic to Happen

I started my blog for this week....yesterday.  I've been wrestling with just stopping mid-stream and starting over, BUT, I have a P.S. to add to last week's entry.  So, I'll save what's done; stop; start again with what is normally an ending.  Here's to the P.S. and, then, a story to follow.

P.S. Not only must we take advantage of the NOW and love to the fullest, because time is short; Christians must be intentional and create space to do love in the NOW.

Paul goes on in Ephesians 5 and tells us, as believers, to "be careful how you live, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:15-16)." The need to love is great, not only because time is short, but the days can be hurtful (another way to translate that word, evil). We never know what the day ahead will bring.  Life is full of hurts, trials of a various nature, and there must be intentionality to our time, allowing room for margin, so we can stop, when necessary and do love.

My story.

Yesterday, I experienced a Good Samaritan moment. It was HUGE for me; I just wish this were a story where I was the hero, where I came through as the lover; but alas...

I was in the Big City for a wedding. When in the Big City, you do Big City things, like go to Costco. So, that's exactly what I did. I went with my list - a long list (Have I ever mentioned how much I hate to shop? I'd rather brush my teeth with vinegar.) However, I got all my shopping finished. I'd checked out. Things were going smoothly, and I was hitting my target time to leave, so I'd be back in Pagosa before dark. All was good, but you can probably tell there is a "however" to come...

One of the items on our list was a new barbecue/smoker thingy. We'd called ahead and ordered it; so, it was shrink wrapped and waiting at the front of the store. The lady had promised Costco-men would not only load it for me, they'd make sure it was tied down and safe for the 4 hour drive back to Pagosa. Not so. When we got to the truck, the three young men who picked it up and planted it in the back of my truck said, "Oh no! Once we put it on your vehicle, we can't touch it. It's the LAW (well, they used the words, "Against our policy.")  Let me add here, they were supposed to lay it down on it's back, as well; but NO, they couldn't do that, either.  So, here I am, needing to tie this thing down, so it won't blow out of the back of my truck on the long, winding, mountain road home. I've never been a good tie-it-down-girl. Everything in me resisted. I didn't even know where to begin, and I didn't want to start. Those words "I didn't want to" are key...I  didn't want any part of any of it. So, I pushed back. I didn't get angry; I just wallowed. Wallowed is mild. I simply shut down.

Somehow, I moved my feet, and made my hands work, but the rest of me was totally uninvolved, and I remember tears leaked down my face (it could have been sweat, but, naw, it was tears...and I'm really not a cry-over-something-like-this person). Somewhere I found the sense to cut into a package of heavy duty ratchet straps that was on the list for Bay. I'd never used a ratchet strap before, but somehow I made one work. After 1 1/2 hours, in 96 degree heat, in the back of my truck, in wedding-dress-attire, I had the barbecue "set." That's when a Good Samaritan walked by...  He took one look at my load, asked where I was headed, and said, "Lady, that will never stay put for your drive."  So, Mr. Good Samaritan, stopped on his Saturday afternoon, climbed in the back of my Ridgeline, and undid everything I had just done (Twice! Twice I'd tied down, and re-tied that grill! The first go around was my education. Second time, I thought I did fairly well. Obviously, I failed.)

I'll take a minute to describe Mr. Good Samaritan. Just like the story in Luke's gospel, I was passed multiple times by Priests and Levites (metaphorically speaking). Just like the story, they all walked to the other side of the road to avoid my plight. No, it was the unexpected man who helped me... This guy swore like a sailor (actually, I don't know how sailors swear, or if they really do, but since I've heard that expression, it seems appropriate here). He was "rough" to say the least. I just prayed he wouldn't get upset, and use the big chain he wore on his low-slung pants, to take out his frustration on me. I think you get the picture. When he was through, the barbecue was more secure than it had been. When he was through, I felt like we were family (odd, how trials bind people). Even his girl friend hugged me.  It took him an extra 45 minutes out of his day, his FREE AFTERNOON, to come to my aid.

There's still more to the story. Oh no, the saga didn't end here, but this is enough to get my point across. My typical scenario is rush-rush. My time is generally scheduled to the fullest. I rarely leave any room for asking the Jesus questions, "Is there someone I can show love to in my world right here, right now?" "Is there someone who is lonely? Is there anyone who doesn't fit in?" I'm seldom in a position where I can be helpful, because I haven't planned any room in my time for margin, in order to be a Good Samaritan. Bob Goff has a book entitled, Love Does. That's the thing about love, it is a VERB. The days bring hardship, and trials, to all of us. We need each other. Love does. When we DO love, we are being Jesus.

Goff also says that love leaves room for whimsy.  I like that word.  Probably, I like it, because there is something magical about it. Whimsy isn't really intentional. Whimsy simply happens. I miss a lot of whimsical moments in my life. I miss them, because I don't make room for them. That's where planning ahead helps whimsy take place.  When I create space for Good Samaritan moments, I allow for the magical to transform someone else's day, and who knows, maybe their life! For sure, we help create family. Some might call that community.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Why of Love!

Yesterday was our 40th anniversary. What a great day of memory making! We've saved for some time, and finally bought an anniversary gift for ourselves that's serviceable, but fun, too: a Polaris Ranger. Daily, Bay uses it for working around "The Property," running back and forth from barn to home. However, yesterday, we hauled it to a parking spot near the national forest and did a little touring to places you can't normally take a car. We'd hoped to make it an overnight trip, but the possibility of increment weather & an evening prayer time we wanted to make, curtailed that thought. Didn't matter. It was a gorgeous day, after all, and we were spellbound. Along the way, we stopped to picnic, to hike, to share our dreams, to enjoy the views & the sun, to read, and even to nap. It was a PERFECT way to celebrate 40 years!

Forty years! Where has the time gone? That was the thought that incessantly swirled around through my brain. It simply feels like I only just turned around, and the time has passed. I know it must be true, we have three adult-children, over a dozen "babes" that call us Nana & Papa; and a host of pictures that prove time has passed. Over night, the toil of life has taken over, and here we are. Wowser!

As I continue reading in 1 Peter, I think the man must have felt the same way, when he wrote the following:
All flesh is like grass, and all it's glory like the flower of the fields. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord abides forever (1:24-25).

Peter's quoting the Psalmist & the Prophet Isaiah, speaking of the life of man (Ps. 90:4-6).
A thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night. You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep.  In the morning, they are like grass which sprouts anew.  In the morning it flourishes, and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades, and withers away.

Yes, that's how it feels to look back over 40 years!  Like a piece of grass fresh in the morning, fading in the evening.  We're fading, as we move toward evening.

This isn't meant to be morbid.  It has caused me to be reflective, as is typical.  The Psalmist goes on (vs 12):  So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a  heart of wisdom!

I've had a lot of years to number my days.  Gotta admit, not every day do I make count.  So, as I continue to meander toward evening, I really do want to make my days matter.  I want to engage in that which abides; only that which is truly lasting.  Peter says it's THE WORD OF THE LORD.  Paul says, these things remain: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor 13:13); which are all active.  The Word is the noun; but faith, hope, and love - these are the verbs that result from knowing the noun.  

The greatest of these is love!  Peter would agree.  He's just built that case all through chapter 1.  Because we've been so loved, he tells us -  live loved.  I mentioned what that looks like last week.  Now, I understand "the why" he is so adamant about, fervently and earnestly, living out love.  Time is too short!  Like a blade of grass we sprout, we wither, we're gone...but the actions of the Truth never die. They remain.  They abide.  They go on, through the lives of those we've loved well.

Indeed, the Lord has been planting seeds of new ideas, new ways, that I can do this more effectively until evening has come.  He's not through with this blade of grass....not yet! I'm looking forward, with renewed enthusiasm, for the remainder of the day!