Sticks and Stones . . .

imageSticks and stones may break my bones but words . . .

Have you ever thought about the effect your words have on people? I was entering an event venue at the invitation of an acquaintance. When entering, I saw this person and was greeted warmly but with the look that says ‘I know I should know you but’, you know the one, right?  It did not bother me in the slightest. Reflecting, however, on our original meeting and invitation, I expected a different response. Though some time has passed and life gets busy, what was clear is that her words had impacted me more than our original meeting had impacted her. Again, I was not hurt or disappointed, it just struck me how causally we use words. We speak and communicate but we are never certain how those words impact or influence the receiver. There is a children’s song that has as a verse,

 ‘O be careful little mouth what you say . . . for the Father up above is looking down with love, O be careful little mouth what you say.’

What we say even in a small group setting impacts and influences others, either negatively or positively. We judge something simple like appearances and comment even jokingly, and these seemingly benign words are received and have consequences. We talk about others, even in Christian circles and even if the person is not present, the hearers of those words forms opinions and thoughts. These thoughts inform behavior and attitudes toward others. Interestingly, when judging another, we typically attribute their deficiencies to character flaws, but when we judge ourselves we attribute those flaws to circumstances. We judge with incomplete information. We do not know everything, or why choices were made. We assume, but we do not know what we do not know. What would happen, especially in Christian circles, where the world is certainly listening and observing, if we guarded our words with as much care as we guard our money or our children.

 John 13:35 says that all people will know we are followers of Jesus Christ when they observe how we love one another.

 Not by how much we give, or stand in opposition to issues and not even how we love the world. The world will know that we follow Christ by how we demonstrate love within our Christian community towards one another. Jesus says in John 12:32 ‘If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.’ The process seems to be we love in community, lifting up Christ by word and deeds and Jesus will draw men to him. People will come to know him.   Words matter whether the person being talked about is present or not. Words impact and influence. I have done my share of damage in this area, but by the grace of God through this insignificant reunion with an acquaintance, I will be careful what I say.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words have lasting consequences that can destroy.

Does Jesus really get me?

IMG_0225I’ve been reading through Matthew, observing the movement of Jesus through a social context; placing myself, as much as possible within the cultural mindset of his time. I may be  lacking in a comprehensive cultural perspective but trust in the instructional leading of the Holy Spirit, crossing the bridge of interpretation to life application.

Matthew 4 begins with what we know about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. My favorite words are in the beginning verses where Jesus comes out of a 40 day/40 night fast and scripture records these words ‘he was hungry’. Seriously, I have always thought these were a  wasted of words; a redundant statement. Who would not be hungry after fasting for that long, right? But believing that all scripture is inspired and profitable for reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness, I began to look more closely at these words.

This event in the life of Jesus is often connected to the words in Hebrew 4:14 that say ‘he, speaking of Jesus,  was tempted in all manner as we are, yet without sin.’ Certainly Jesus faced other temptations in his ministry/life but these three were head-on full frontal conflict with the devil and have significance for not only our behaviors but perceptions and thoughts as well.

Jesus was hungry. This was a felt, real need. Few of us know real hunger especially if we live in the United States. But this was 40 days without food. I can barely go a meal before I whine about being hungry let alone 40 day and nights.  The devil’s solution for his hunger was turn objects into substance to meet a need. When I sat with that for a bit, I realized the devil tempts me with the same thing. Turn things into something that meets a felt need. For example, my felt need for security I feed with food or spending or controlling behaviors. A ‘no-thing’to satisfy a felt need. Note too, the devil suggested he make more than he needed. ‘Stones to loaves of bread’, where one loaf would have met his felt need of hunger. How many times do we over-indulge and stockpile rather than simply meet the need? In a world of over-stimulation, we hardly know where need ends and indulgence begins. Everything in this world primes us to over-indulge, to satisfy ourselves after all we are entitled.

Next, look what happens after Jesus counters the devil with the word of God in Matthew 4:11.  After the devil left him, God met his need through his angels, his messengers; a method out of Jesus’s control. Jesus has to wait. I think this speak to delayed gratification which is an element of spiritual discipline.

Finally, Jesus’ antidote for the devil in this temptation back in Matthew 4:4 is ‘man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’. My take on this defense is first, when the choice is trust your feelings, real, as in Jesus hunger or imagined, as in my insecurity, trust what God says in his word. If you don’t know what that is, go search for it, find a mentor, coach or spiritual director but seek out God’s truth. Feelings are based in situations and environments and are not very trustworthy.  What we know about feelings is that often they drive behaviors and for many of us those may be self-destructive or at a minimum self-defeating. Your perception may not be reality but like Jesus, the devil wants you to believe it is reality and wants you to fix it for yourself.  Second, wait on God. Trust his word. While you wait and pray for wisdom and examine your feelings. Is the devil tempting you to substitute objects or activities or relationships to meet a need only God can fill completely? A need God longs to fill if you’ll just wait on him?

Does Jesus really get me? I think he understand what it means to be tempted to meet my own needs with anything other than God. He had the chance to do the same but  he chose to wait and trust; to press through the tension of his felt need and believe his Father had a plan and purpose. He was tempted with the same things we’re tempted with, yet without sin. Like the ultimate coach who has been there and succeeded, we can follow his example and trust him.

Be blessed.

 

The Paradigm Shift Continues . . .Body Life

. . . Body Life at Work

I am member of the body of Christ and with that membership comes gifts to be exercised within the body . . . what I like to call body life. In my brain, the use of those gifts has been confined to the context of the Church (capital ‘C’) and I mean bricks and mortar, as well as the church (lower case ‘c’) represented by small groups, areas of service or the community in which I worship. I think this view is shared by many even if by verbal acquiescence they state otherwise. Almost every pulpit under whose shadow I sat has used the ideas surrounding body life in terms of use within the Church / church often to encourage service. Certainly there is truth and application there. Christ certainly died for the Church. But if (since) my Christian life is to be missional (sent out daily) as we address and interact with others, how do our spiritual gifts come into play, say for example in our work environments? How does body life look for Christians in the work environment with other believers? More importantly perhaps, how does the operation of our spiritual gifts, of lack thereof, look to those outside the faith? Scripture supports the idea of body life outside the ‘Church’ in Matthew 18: 20 when Jesus speaks of his presence in and among groups of believers. Therefore, we are the body of Christ endowed with spiritual gifts in the workplace as well as the Church/church.

I don’t know about you but sometime,( and some of you are laughing in agreement at this statement), I do not always play well with others. I am opinionated and often resistant to change. Some would even say, (and you know who you are), I have issues with authority. That’s enough transparency for me right now…. But I suspect there are a great deal of people like me out there, maybe even you. In my experience and by observations in the work environment, it is hard to tell believers from unbelievers when we gossip, lie, cheat, steal, judge, are unforgiving, and give less than 100% on the job. One could hardly follow our example and certainly these behaviors do not even nod to our relationship to Christ.  Relax your bristled hair now . . . I have a point and it is not to brow beat I promise.

Most people spend more time at work than at home and certainly more than at Church/church. In reading I Corinthians 1:26 – 2:7 (ESV), I was struck by the word ‘lowly’. James 4:1 talks about quarrels among believers and the harm. There is nothing lowly, servant-like about quarreling with your brother or sister in Christ, especially in the work context. Yet more times than not, we leave our Spiritual gifts at Church and exclude the body life at our 9-5 for which they were also intended. How would work environments change if those who call the name of Christ operated like Jesus, lowly and humble, serving in love for others?  How would my gifts of hospitality and generosity used in the context of body life among co-workers change that environment? How would that change the perspective of those outside the faith? Would they be willing to engage in that kind of place with that kind of believer? Twelve guys through the power of the Holy Spirit changed the world with this concept. It’s not new.

I was given this poem many years ago as a Pastor’s wife by a sweet friend in Wishram, Washington.

You’re living a lesson each moment you live

Your example is a trail

That others will follow for good or for ill

Will you help them or cause them to fail?

Author Unknown

Emmanuel, God with us . . .

I recently enjoyed a trip to Oregon to play with my Grandson’s Noah and Liam.  Typically northbound trips include other agendas, but this trip was specifically to enjoy these two treasured gifts from God. If raising my children was a cupcake from God, then having influence in the lives of my grandchildren is the icing and the cherry on top. I suppose in my mind, it gives me opportunities for a do-over, in the places of my greatest deficit with my children. Though I raised them to have faith in God, my life choices often reflected a god other than the living God. Perhaps that is God’s grand design for grand parenting; the opportunity to slow down and enjoy the very things I rushed over when I was younger.

Sharing my heart for grandchildren, a dear friend gave me a wonderful book of devotional readings for children by Susan Lloyd-Jones & Jago entitled Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing. It is atypical and void of the list of dos and don’ts, rather it focuses on the relationship God desires to enjoy with His children. It is profoundly simple and beautifully illustrated and will speak into the heart of any truth seeker, regardless of age.

I had prayed for opportunity with the boys that was unforced and conversation that was meaningfully and God provided. I chose a devotional that reinforced the truth that is profoundly difficult to accept in our culture and read about the three word God was us to always remember, ‘I love you’. Satan’s crafty temptation of Eve in the garden was in the form of a lie; one he continues to use today, ‘God does NOT love you’. His example was the exclusion of a desired fruit on the tree in the center of their God-given paradise. The truth that became crystal clear to me as I read to my grandsons was I often still believe that lie. ‘God does not love me if he does not . . .’ you can fill in the blank with anything from denial of something most desired to loss of what is most highly treasured.  In our consumer mentality where enough is never enough and satisfaction seems elusive, Satan’s lie reduces God to a genie in a magic bottle rather than the lover and salvation of our very souls and the purpose for our existence.  As I pondered this for the remainder of my time with the boys, God began to move me towards a deeper understanding of Emmanuel, God with us. Satan wants us to believe God is against us because God does not respond as we desire. Rather God’s truth is He is with us, not just in the sense of His presence, but in a synergistic way. The picture that comes to mind is of team rowing or sculling. There is a beauty in the synchronized motion of this sport. Imagine if you will, what it would look like if a rowing team were facing in the same direction and rowing in opposite ones.  I think you can grasp the idea. Emmanuel, God with us, is not only attendance, it is movement, originated by him in which we join and follow, like rowing.  God is with us! God is for us! God loves us!

Are there places you, as a follower of Christ, are living like God is against you, believing Satan’s lie? God wants to rewrite that for you and me.  Three simple words God wants us to believe to counteract the lie of Satan, ‘I love you.’ What we believe informs our behaviors, not what we say we believe.

Treasure these words of mine in your heart and in your soul. Deuteronomy 11:18

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21

 

Be Blessed

Emmanuel, God with us.

Emmanuel, God with us.

Movements . . .

Yesterday was an interesting day. What began with great enthusiasm and focus, ended with a full range of emotions. Yes I did watch the National championship football game and watch my beloved Oregon Duck, get their tail feathers handed to them, but in the midst of that event, I received a text message from my cousin informing me my Dad’s younger brother had died peacefully in his sleep. Instant perspective shift! From investing time in a child’s game (at my age, 21 something is a child,  no offense), to remembering my precious Uncle. From being frustrated, to being grateful for his contribution to my life. I was overwhelmed by loneliness and empathy for my cousin, an only child like myself. Remembering the day both my parents were gone and my feelings that day. Feeling sad for the last Morrison brother as well, who might feel abandoned and alone as I did.
As I sit and write this, I am grateful that our loss is heaven’s gain. I remember the day Uncle Bob turned his life over to Christ. I remember the conversations at the house on Ellsworth, where he lived in a small apartment in my maternal grandmother’s house. We lived there as well so I had daily interactions with Uncle Bob. I remember him sharing in family events, meals, trips and business. I remember when He married his wife, Marilyn, when Robert was born, just weeks before my oldest daughter. I remember their joy at his arrival. For so much of my life, Uncle Bob was a significant part. Then I moved away.
Movement …
It seems life stands still much of the time, but moments of great emotion, either loss or gain punctuate movement.
Yesterday in Matthew 5:1, I was struck by the transitions, the movements in that first verse.
He saw the crowd –He went up into the mountain – When he sat down – The disciple came to him – He opened his mouth – He taught them.
Not only was Jesus’ movement intentional it was observable, even his stillness, and his wait for his disciples to respond. There is no verbal instruction or signaling mentioned here but I suppose it could have happened. However, I think not. I think he waited for them to realign themselves with him. They had observed his movements because Matthew records each of them. Now it was their turn to move towards him. And when they did, when they re-positioned themselves, when they aligned themselves with him, he taught them. The teaching that follows is and was counter intuitive. It would require them to do the exact opposite of what they would do naturally. So they needed to be taught, in order to understand, how he wanted them to live their lives. What their choice to follow was going to require and how it would transform everything, particularly how they thought, behaved and measured.
Two parts, His and theirs.
What do you find yourself watching? Whose movements take up your thought processes? Who will you follow?
My precious Uncle, Robert Lee Morrison, choose to follow Christ. He followed his movement and responded accordingly. Today He’s celebrating in heaven with the object of his focus, Jesus Christ.
You will be missed. Still deeply loved.

Consistency . . .

Consistency……

I have been thinking a great deal about the meaning of this word and how I live it out in my life.  A couple of things my current course in Psychology has taught me is 1) Behavior is purposeful and connected  to my thoughts and 2) I often believe my own faulty story. Being an all-or-nothing thinker, consistency is defined as perfection. Whatever I try to accomplish must be perfect and for me, almost instantaneous. This makes it difficult to observe or celebrate any forward movement as positive progress. First, because it is not finished….perfected and it takes too long.  OK, It does not surprise me if about now you are thinking I’m slightly warped. Or you could be nodding your head in agreement because this sounds very familiar. There are a great deal of people who struggle with this idea of progress versus perfection thought process.
My heart’s desire  is to be consistent because I believe it to be the engine that drives behavioral change. Even small movements practiced consistently over time  will produce change. I have a coach with Precision  Nutrition that has been gently living that process out with me since April, 2014. My measuring system is flawed and I recognize that now.
I was reading in Matthew 4:18-25 today and imagining what kind of thought processes Andrew, Peter, James and John were engaged in when they meet Jesus by the sea of Galilee. He extends a simple, but we now know, profound invitation to these sets of brothers. “Come follow me and I will . . .”. When I imagine myself in this situation as one of these men, fishing, doing life as usual, and  then this mysterious newcomer extends an intriguing invitation, I would be thinking, ‘sure I’ll leave my fishing for a day. No big deal.’ But days turn into weeks, months and years. The word used in all  the gospel accounts of this event was ‘immediately’ they left what they were doing a followed Jesus. They observe him, listen to him, perhaps attend to him and this simple invitation and their consistent, in-the -moment attention changed the world.
An AH HA moment for me. Yes I realize I’m a slow learner….Consistently was measured in small movements, small steps of obedience and over time it was their life pattern; one for which they were willing to die. They had prophetic words that informed them ow what was to come, but initially they followed the man, Jesus, trusting he was who he claimed to be. First intrigued, then they believed his words  and  were transformed one small step of belief at a time, over time.
Consistency is accomplished daily, measured with teaspoons not gallons and each day provides new opportunities to  be proactive, to choose, even to fail and  then regroup and re-engage.  Consistency is bathed in grace and only fully understood in a backwards look marking the place of beginning and movement toward the defined goal. For the brothers it was learning to fish for men by first getting out of their boats, leaving the known for the unknown, being willing to trust the one who invited them.
The invitation is the same today, “Come follow me and I will…..”
Will your response be immediate?
To what is Jesus inviting you?
How will you measure consistency?
Be Blessed . . .