We can thrive during September kick-off

Kevin and I were reading on our front porch last night when we realized it must be getting late; it was almost dark. Thinking we were heading to bed, we came in, pulled the curtains shut and discovered it was only 8 pm, not bedtime!

With summer-time evenings shrinking and the calendar flipping to September, we are off and running into fall. This time of year can feel like the horse races. With a shot, we’re running like pent-up horses at the track.

It’s not that we want to race our way through life, jostling to make it to the finish line. Fall is the kick-off time of year; school, projects, clubs, events; even churches get busier in the fall. And, if we are not careful we too can get caught up in a race that feels unwinnable; a race that feels more like death than life.

During the kick-off part of this busy season, it helps to remember who we really are. 1 John 3: 1-3 says,

What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to. But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.

IMG_6085That wonderful truth is often forgotten in the crush of the starting gate. The gun goes off, the doors open and without thinking we take off for the race of our lives. Not a good way to live life. What can we do instead?

Remember who we really are! We are children of God!

We are on a journey! We are not now what we will be come!

And what will we become? Like Jesus who is a model for us.

I took a few minutes this morning to remember what Jesus was like.

He loved tough and compassionately.

He confronted with wisdom and courage.

He changed people’s lives.

He didn’t worry; about what to wear, what to eat, where to sleep, or appearances.

He was humble, obedient, loyal, creative, unprejudiced.

He told stories but always spoke truth.

He was a leader, teacher, guide, friend.

He was an amazing communicator and took time to listen.

He prayed.

He spent time with the Father.

He practiced Sabbath not according to law but according to relationship.

My fall is very full. As Fall’s starting gate opens today and the gun goes off, I don’t want to live into a race for the finish line. I want to live into what God is inviting me to become. Like Jesus.

Do you think it is possible to take a list like the one above and use it as a grid to decide how to live into our busy, kicked-off lives? If we don’t take time to intentionally and prayerfully decide how we want to live this fall, we will find ourselves racing for the finish line without knowing where we are really going.

What do you think Jesus was like?

Do you see areas of your life that look like His?

Do you sense God inviting you to become more like Jesus? I do. I’m thankful that it is God who will transform me and you to be like Jesus. We get to partner with Him in that transformative process but He is the One Who will complete His good work in us…

Philippians 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion
until the day of Christ Jesus.

How we can respond to Europe’s refugee crisis

Every day, we hear the tragic news from Europe of refugees drowning at sea, dying in overstuffed trucks or being stuck in transition at a railway station. We also hear heartwarming stories of impoverished Greeks welcoming refugees to their homeland even though the don’t have much to offer. They are confronted with real people forced to flee their homes, businesses and productive lives because of terror and war and they are willing to give out of their poverty to help.

People who live in the States can feel very separated from the refugee crisis. Just last week, the US announced plans to take in 5,000-8000 refugees this year. That we can set this drop in the bucket number reveals how removed we feel.

My frustration at this meager response and my own confusion about what to do turned to relief when I learned there are missionaries with the Evangelical Covenant Church in France, Belgium, and Sweden who are positioned to help local churches prepare for and receive refugees. “Covenant missionaries working in France, Belgium and Sweden hope to build up and expand the local churches’ efforts to welcome people as they enter this new land…Missionaries and our ministry partners are providing many services for immigrants including counseling, tutoring, language and culture classes, job skills training and emergency care.” Because they are in Europe, the Covenant missionaries know the needs and resources and are able to make a difference in this crisis. And, because they are there, there is something practical you and I can do. 

DSC_0002We were once strangers- spiritual strangers. But God in His amazing Grace welcomed us. “That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building.” (Ephesians 2:19-20) Now, it’s our turn to participate with God as He reaches out to physical refugees who may also be spiritual refugees. Can we come alongside Him to care for the stranger?

God loves good people, protects strangers,
takes the side of orphans and widows,
but makes short work of the wicked. (Psalm 146:9 The Message) 

So often we are left uncertain about what we can do to help those who are suffering so far away from us. But, now we have no excuse. We know how we can help. Will you join me in giving so those who have been stripped of home can build a new one? We can give to support the work of Covenant Missionaries caring for the refugees. Please click here to learn more.

Don’t take advantage of a stranger. You know what it’s like to be a stranger; you were strangers in Egypt. Exodus 23:9

 

 

loving like Jesus in a confused world…

A call from home last night reminded me my family has real needs that I struggle knowing how to meet from 2000 plus miles away. The question facing me is, ‘How do I love in this complex situation?”

I’ve been spending a lot of time in 1 John which teaches that the way we live and love reveals our hearts’ condition. Are we obeying God? The answer lies in how we love. Are we walking in the light? Not if we don’t love our brothers and sisters.

Recently, a friend lost a loved one. We are not real close, though I love her dearly. I sent a text that I would like to come over and just be with her. Eventually, a few days later, she responded with  yes, please come. So, I went, taking a few food items with me. Later, I learned, she would have preferred I just come, right away, without checking. To me, that would have felt like barging in on a family’s private period of mourning so I didn’t do that. Instead I loved in a way that felt right/comfortable to me. I unknowingly did not love her well. I responded to her grief in a way that didn’t feel like love to her.

Each of us probably has at least one sticky situation where our love is absent, or stretched, or confused. Sometimes love looks tough. Sometimes it feels strong but distant. Love can be messy and hard to practice. I think mine sometimes looks too careful~ not just for my sake but for those I think I’m caring for.

IMG_6081How do we love like Jesus? 1 John 2:6 says, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” I’m still figuring that out and have to admit I often miss the mark. Still, John says in this chapter…. “I have written to you because you are strong and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the evil one.” Each time we love like Jesus, we show these words are true. Each time we ask Him, “How do I love like You?” we prove these words to be true.

Maybe some clarifying questions I can ask when I’m unsure how to love would be: “What would Jesus do? How would He love?” Maybe some additional ones could be, “Where is the light greatest in this situation? What would shine the greatest light?”

we are label removers….

thLabels of all kinds
are slung around our necks
like numbers on a prisoner’s necklace
used to place us
categorize us
but what they really do is
distance us from each other

Tall
white
on the plus side of middle-aged
middle-class
pastor’s kid
pastor’s wife
daughter sister mom grandma
spiritual leader writer speaker
are labels that skim the surface of me
but do not name who I really am

Labels set expectations
high or low
and either way
we miss

Labels pressure us to prove
we are or we’re not
put us in boxes
freeze us in time
stick our history to us

Even labels that seem nice
like “successful”
or
“still”
hold potential for threat
or
insecurity
while other labels hold
political grenades
that can divide people
faster than lightning parting the sky

Talk about labels… we thought about what the Bible says about homosexuality in church today. People wear this label, or point to those who wear this label in many different ways and usually with lots of passioned emotion. But, this label is like all labels- it de-person-ifies (I don’t really think that is a word) the individual into a behavior, a life-style, a category which makes  the individual much easier to talk about, judge or walk away from.

We have so many labels; racial, economic, health, marital status, education, age…. You label it, we’ve got it! The problem? Labels dehumanize the labeled and the labeler.

Have people labeled you and not discovered who you really are?
Do those labels feel like a prisoner’s necklace keeping you from being who you really are?

Jesus came to break down barriers. In Him there are no labels, no categories, no boxes to put people in and leave them there. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. We are all loved by God. Thankfully, Jesus is reconciling all of us to Himself. (Col. 1:20). Our first part in that reconciliation process is to be honest about our behavior that displeases God, confess and repent, and go on to live our best possible lives with God’s help. When we do this we remove labels. Our second role in the reconciliation process is to free others from the labels they are wearing because no one is what they’ve been labeled.

I am so much more than
a grey haired older woman
soft around the edges
ditzy
sometimes anxious
often homesick for family
a confessing chocoholic
with a dry sense of humor

I am Linda
set free from labels
because I’m loved by God

You, too… you are so much more than whatever category you’ve been relegated to. You are loved by God.

Have your labels been removed? If not- it’s well past time to be set free by Jesus to be all He created you to be.

John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.

Reconciling

When I was a bank teller
many lives ago
I never
reconciled
my end of day
pluses and minuses
on the very first try

Numbers were inverted
transposed
skipped over
reversed
until finally
my adding machine’s tape
matched the cash in my banker’s drawer

I still have problems reconciling
troubles on the minus side
with victories on the plus
Yin and yang
dualities
supposedly create harmony
but they often
feel like
unfair opposites
of life and death to me

Jesus came to
reconcile
all things to God
that’s what Colossians 1:20 says….

Through the Son, God also reconciled all things to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, thereby making peace through the blood of his cross

When life’s out of balance reality
collides with hopes and dreams
with God’s help
reconciliation IS possible
and leads to
harmony
peace
hope
joy

Which is where I am now. Over the last few weeks my heart has migrated from lament to reconciliation. My heart is reconcilled~which, it is important to note, is different from resigned.

IMG_6066The lament of the last months is cleared from my system. I reached reconciliation through the hard work of being present with God in the state I was really in, telling Him my needs and asking for my desires. Starting this way brought me into God’s Truth and led me to holy worship over and over again until one day I realized reconciliation had happened. Now, I’m dancing in harmony with God and my reality while receiving His peace, hope and joy. It took awhile… but now I am here….. hallelujah!

Is “reconciled” a good word to you? It is to me. Right now I’m “balanced.” The columns add up. God has reconciled what had been my transition struggle to Himself and that is Very Good!

There will be more life things to be reconciled in the future. There always is. There will always be things around us in our broken world that will need His reconciliation. How about you? Do you sense He is reconciling Himself to you? Reconciling your world to Himself? I hope so….

 

Serve God Save the Planet

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 7.26.02 PMYears ago, our son introduced Kevin and me to a very influential and recently renamed and updated book, Serving God Saving the Planet, by Dr Matthew Sleeth. What we read in these well-written pages convinced us to make some changes to our life style.

We dry most of our loads of wash by air not by machine. We recycle as much as we can and try to consume less- hence we’re a one car family who drive a 14 year-old car.

Before I read this book, I struggled to buy organic because it was so expensive and I thought buying organic would only benefit us. Matthew’s book convinced us that there are more good reasons to buy organic and local than just our own health. He turned our focus from being environmentally conscious for just our good to a greater focus on how our choices impact farmers and the land, as well as people around the world.

IMG_6064On Sunday at our church, Kevin spoke on creation care in his message, “Course Correction.” He gave many reasons and ideas for a lifestyle that cares for God’s creation. (You can listen HERE.) I realized, as I listened, that we made these lifestyle changes years ago and have been kind of coasting ever since. I want to re-read the book and look for new ways we can continue to make a difference and fulfill God’s charge to us to care for His creation.

Would you like to read with me? You can purchase the book from our favorite independent bookseller- Inklings Bookshop.

Thankful to be living the Cultivated Life

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 3.31.45 PM

Kevin taught at our two church services yesterday morning and then met with a few individuals afterwards. He got home for lunch just about 3 pm and then returned to work at 5:30 to meet with a couple who are planning their wedding in two weekends. It was a wonderful yet full day- a typical Sunday schedule though he usually only preaches about once a month. Yesterday was a perfect example of why we do not take our Sabbath Rest on Sundays but on Mondays.

Today, we are off to Governor’s Island in NYC. We are carrying our Sabbath Supplies- Bibles, good books, my journal and colored pencils for praying in color. Our Sabbath is one of our wonderful spiritual discipines that makes it possible for us to live the very rich life God has given us. We Sabbath on Mondays to rest, connect with God and prepare for the next 6 days. When do you take your Sabbath Rest?

The Cultivated Life, by Susan Phillips, is a wonderful introduction to spiritual disciplines. With the imagery of a garden, Susan asserts our lives are always being cultivated by the influences of culture, other people, life style and many other factors. The produce our gardens yield is impacted by how they’ve been cultivated.

Susan also uses circus imagery to describe how we often live in show-stopping chaos, performing daring acts requiring impeccable timing, balance and courage. Always aware of our audience, we strive to master how we’re perceived and valiantly strain to be applauded. When circus life overwhelms us, we exchange the three-ring-life-madness for the bleachers and become spectators of life rather than full participants.

Many of us recognize the circus quality of our lives and long for the quiet of a garden. In this book, each chapter invites the reader to reflect and discover the rich, cultivated garden life God has for us and how we can best live in it.

IMG_6041 (1)

Part of cultivating my life is taking time to paint. This was painted at our church’s open studio for worshiping artists.

Another helpful imagery Susan uses is “walking trees.” Can you imagine “walking trees?” When I try to visualize walking trees, my mind flashes to the walking trees in Lord of the Rings. For her use of this imagery, Susan points us to the scriptures (like Colossians 2:6-7) that describe us as trees and teach us about our faith walk. “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

I love this visual of us being “walking trees” though I’m sure I don’t fully understand what that looks like in real life. Thankfully, Susan’s book helps me understand the potential of the abundant life God sent Jesus to give us and provides tools to cultivate the possibility of being a walking tree.

Spiritual Disciplines help us grow our faith from our mind to our heart. They teach and train us so that faith is not just theory but lived out in daily life. I hope you are practicing spiritual disciplines and I’d love to hear which ones are transformative in your life.

(You can order this book from my favorite independent bookshop, Inklings, and they will ship it to you no matter where in the world you are a walking tree! Click Here)