Are you Important?

There are some people who want to be important. I don’t think this is everyone, maybe it is. But, there is at least a fairly large group of people that has a great desire to be important. Sometimes this thrusts them into the woes of politics. Sometimes it thrusts them into higher education in order to teach. Sometimes it thrusts them into the business world, to reach the top of their game.

I know my desire, or more accurately, I know when I give into that desire wholly, it usually doesn’t end well. Actually, I don’t think it has ever ended well. My desire of importance cannot be internally fed. It has to be externally fed. Accolades, “at-a-boys,” and ladders to be climbed or the things I strive for. I am still tempted for those things. But I am not really desiring being important, at least not anymore.

Relationship, which is really what we are all desiring, has nothing with being important. Being important is when a group of people proclaim that you are important. It’s when a group of people give importance to something. But relationship, at least deep lasting relationship, isn’t based on being important.

Important is us striving to become and then maintain that level of being important. God does not view us that way, we aren’t important. No, we are something far greater than important. I’ll write more on that in the next post, but for now, know you don’t have to strive anymore. May you find freedom in that.

be blessed today

That Numb Feeling

I like the cold. I like to play in the snow, hike in the snow, be in the snow. And I do like it when my hands get so cold, I can barely feel them. You know what I hate? Pins and needles. I hate that feeling. Like constantly hitting your funny bone and it’s this awkward hurting yet annoying pain all at the same time. At my desk, sitting in a seminar or lecture, my leg will go to sleep and then I have to go through the annoying process of waking it up. Then there is the weird feeling of trying to walk when my foot is asleep…so weird. Like this rubber attached thing to my body that i know is there, I just can’t feel it.

And so it is with our feelings. Yes, feelings, I am talking about feelings again. I to, have had my ups and downs, days that I wish I was number to not feel the pain and hurt. And, days I was numb unable to feel, or at least unable to feel anything nice and enjoyable. Yet, there are times where I think feeling numb would feel better than what it feels like at that moment.

Thankfully, I have enough people around me to help me not go numb; to not let my heart or my head go to sleep, but to feel what is actually going on around me. Even if that means I feel the “negative” or “bad” emotions that much more intensely. To go completely numb is to not feel even the “good” and “positive.”

Jesus felt. He felt sad, shame, anger, lonely and glad. To push back the hard ones causes a dulling so that the welcomed feelings can’t be felt either. And sometimes they came together at the same moment. So,  he embraced them. He felt every one.

Many of these feelings, these emotions come from grief and loss. Loss of stability, reputation, identity, loss of the way things once were, loss of a loved one, loss of expectations, etc. Grief and loss are powerful. And they are feelings we need to feel. Jeremiah was feeling loss and grief so much that he wrote an entire book in the Bible about it. Yet, I cannot, for the life of me, remember ever hearing a sermon straight from Lamentations. Never. Why? Because we hate feeling this way and feeling has been shamed in our culture.

Feeling our feelings and allowing ourselves to feel, allows us to connect with our inner most beings in a deeper way, allows us to connect with others in a deeper way,  and allows us to connect with the Creator in a far deeper way than we had ever imagined. This is part of being human, the good part of being human, the part of being a human that God created-relationship. This allows connection with God on a level so deep, many don’t dare to travel. This is real relationship. I pray we all connect with him on that level ever deeper today.

be blessed today

Photo Credit: writerscafe.org

#Blessed

I looked at his high end sports car as it zoomed into the parking lot. He was always sharply dressed. His house, though not a mansion, was far more than what I had growing up. He had a manicured lawn complete with special sod for the putting green in the back which had it’s own separate, special lawn mower for the small 25 by 12 foot parcel of putting grass. He was a strong member of the church that he was a member of, which consequently, was directly across the street from his business which is where I was standing, ready for him to open the doors so I could start work. When asked, or a comment was made about his house, car, business (in general, his affluence), he would simply say “Praise the Lord, I’m just blessed.”And so used to be my thought of “blessing” and “being blessed.”

Used to be. Not anymore.

I’ve learned that I cannot truly sing the song, “Blessed Be Your Name” if I am not willing to accept that God does both give and take. And, I cannot read the beatitudes if I am not willing to believe that their is “blessing” in both the giving and the taking of God. This relates to what I wrote about last time. We’re screwed up in our thinking. I’m not sure if it’s just an American church thought, or it is all of Western Christianity. I’m not upset that the man in the story above had a sports car, nice house and manicured lawn. He gave me my first job out of college as I stayed in our college town waiting to marry Iris. I think that it was good for him and his life. God gives us all the freedom to chose, and he is enjoying some of the things of this world. He gave generously to the church and to me as I was going into ministry. But to call that blessing, is to then say that because I don’t have those things, I am not also blessed. To believe that only those who are wealthy or well off are more blessed than I, is to say that God has some sort of grading system wherein He has certain children he really loves and others he just, well, loves. But God never speaks of favoritism when it comes to His children.

Looking at the Old Testament, or the part of our scripture that is pre-Christ, God would bestow massive wealth on those who were righteous. That is, they followed all customs, laws and rituals God ordained and they reserved the title and authority “Lord of all” to God. But And, when Christ came, he brought a more refined sense, a deeper understanding, a fuller perspective on what blessing was. It had nothing to do with wealth. That was a time that those who believed in God were under the law. In fact, it seems that wealth actually got in the way (see Ananias and Sapphira trying to hide their wealth and the early church selling all they had to name just two examples). Blessing from God post-Christ, seems to be all about relationship. So, why do we so often say we no longer live under the law, but still do in practice? Because we’re human and feel we have to earn something, achieve status, work on our own…towards a goal.

Looking at the beatitudes in Matthew 5, it lists several kinds of people-the meek, those who mourn, those who seek righteousness, etc. And with every single one of them, their blessing is about relationship-inherit the kingdom of God, seeing God, they shall be called children of God, the reward will be in heaven-it is all about having a relationship with and being in the presence of God. That is blessed.

Freedom from the law is realizing that we are already saved; we are already given grace; the relationship is their, waiting. We simply need to release the idea that if we work harder we will become more blessed, and give in to the Truth that God is blessing us with relationship (and I’m learning that simple does not equal easy). This is a daily, perhaps a moment by moment struggle for me. But when I do give in, I am reminded again and again of how valued, loved, cherished, and blessed I am. Perhaps today you need to give into this Truth as well.

be blessed today

 

 

The Blessed American Church

I’ve mentioned before that I think we in the American church have forgotten who we are as a people…foreigners. Peter mentions this in 1 Peter 2 and it is mentioned a few other places in the Bible as well. But, I feel we have gotten to a point where we as American Christians, have a “blessed complex.” And by “we” I mean a corporate, underlying, perhaps sub-conscious belief within the Church in America. Myself included. How so?

Let me first give some background. The Builder and Boomer generations were very much of similar mindsets. If you work hard, persevere and live a good moral life, you’ll not only be successful, you’ll also be able to enjoy living comfortably later on in life. To an extent, they were right. These two generations had gone through a lot. They had lived through the horrible Great Depression, had come to the aide of the Allies and ended up being hugely helpful in the winning of both World War 1 and World War 2 and the economy boomed afterwards. They had also seen great death- many of their countrymen in both World Wars, Vietnam as well as stopping “evil” in the Korean War. But America overcame. Being American meant being successful and being successful meant you were blessed. Having a house, picket fence, two cars and a 401k was the non verbal definition of being blessed. But is that really the true definition?

This blessed complex infiltrates our ambitions in that we feel we have the right to live out the rest of our days how we want, to live off of our “successes,” to sit back and relax because we’ve “earned it.” When we ask the question, “don’t we deserve it,” and have it answered with a resounding “YES,” I believe we have become too rooted to this world. By believing that we deserve it, we go on telling the rest of the world to do as we did-work hard, nose to the grindstone, believe in Jesus and they will be successful to. And I would agree…if we were citizens of this world. If we were nationals here we would surely be entitled to enjoy it for all it’s pleasures and to be rewarded by it’s man approved accolades. The Gospel is not based on what anyone deserves. Yet that is what we preach in our actions.

But we are not citizens, we are foreigners. We are not nationals, we are in fact in exile. We are not residents, we are strangers. Giving in to the notion that we work hard and therefore earn it, is not a ideology of the place where we are from. It is a notion of this place. This place is a place built on reward based on effort and work. When it becomes an internal belief , then we have moved it from a place of thought to a heart held belief. I believe we have become far to tied to this place and forgotten to Whom and where we really belong to. We Where we are from, we are only citizens by Grace.

This grace that we don’t deserve yet God gives out generously, is the definition of blessed we need to share with the world. This blessed is where we can truly live out Ephesians 2 where Paul writes that it is by grace we have been saved through faith, not by works so that not one of us can boast. This blessed has nothing to do with effort….simply submitting our control to God. That other definition, the lie, that not only holds others in oppression, it holds us in bondage as well.

More to come….

Live in Grace today

be blessed today

Photo Credit: dailymail.co.uk

So Here I Am Again

After being away from what you know or grew up with (like us living overseas), you have these expectations of what things will be like when you return. Some of these are serious and heavy expectations, realistic or not, like how you will interact with your family, old friends,  or even the Church. Some of these are far more light such as driving down the main street in your hometown, going past an old hang out joint, or even what the  Chicken Vino Bianco at Olive Garden tastes like (it’s no longer on the menu, but I can usually persuade the chef to make it with my “overseas, haven’t had this in years, it’s my favorite” story). These things are familiar. They are known. Like riding a bike, we have eaten these things, done these things or were a part of these things for so long, we can recognize them with a smell, the viewpoint of a certain tree or curve in the road.

I’ve been writing about the inward, upward path that God seems to lead us on as we follow him. Part of this, at least from my experience, has been having those moments of no clarity or those times of really having no clue what comes next. In my life, these moments have been crisis due to medical things, personal conflict feeling the world is against me, a major bombshell leaving no idea what happened to my plan, or God leading me away from something but not leading me to anything, at least not yet. I’ve had a lot of them. As I’ve mentioned before in these posts, we have an incredible support system of people in our lives that are constantly speaking Truth in and over us. Even, at times, we I don’t want to hear it. I have learned over time, and this is a hard lesson I continue to learn, that when this starts to happen, to lean into community and Christ even greater.

And yet, here I am again. I have come so used to my crisis cycle, that I can pinpoint exactly where I am. In a very small nutshell, when whatever happens happens, I first start my becoming more of an information seeker and more introspective. I try to figure out with all my human resources, what is going on…and why. As the fog starts to settle, I become more desperate and reach out to Christ, to my support system. This can go on for a while. but eventually, I become more at home with where I am. And that means more accepting of where God has me. Eventually, the fog lifts, and I can start to see the next step or two in front of me on my path. God may or may not speak to me during these times. But He is ever present. I can say that now. I haven’t always been able to. But like I said, I’ve become more comfortable in the fog than I used to be. I’m learning to be present with my feelings and emotions in the fog.  I’m learning to be more vulnerable in the fog. God continues to build trust into me. And if you lean into Him, I believe He will do the same for you.

So what about you? Are you becoming more comfortable in the fog God has us in from time to time? And when you lean into Him through it, what is the result? Do you have a support system? When will you start to build one? Your vulnerability brings hope.

be blessed today

And Round and Round We Go

I decided to run it this time. I had been here to this place three or four times and simply loved it. Looking out over the Mediterranean from our hotel room was just incredible at sunset. But he view from the mountain across the street was far better. I’ve walked to the top several times, but this time…this time I was going to run it. A radio tower sat at the top and the road up had two switchbacks and then spiraled up to the top. The run up was hard…very hard. It didn’t help that it was below freezing when I left my home a few days before and flew here,  a few miles from the Biblical town of Ephesus it was pushing 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

But. That. View.

As I went round and round, I would get the feeling like I had been in that spot before. Mainly, because I had, five minutes before when I was on this side of the mountain. Only five minutes ago, I was about 50 or vertical feet lower than I was at that moment. But I was getting closer to the middle center of the mountain, and I was getting closer to the top.

When we decide to live our lives with Christ, our lives are a lot like this spiral upward. Last time, I mentioned how as we live our lives, God is constantly removing layers of sin, dysfunction, untruths and our fallen nature. And that’s true. As we move upward towards Christ, we are also moving inward, closer to the center of our souls. It’s like running up that mountain. Things I thought were long and over, are back again. It seems that way. But it is God inviting us to move upward towards Him and in return we are also moving deeper into our souls, into our own hearts, deeper into our sinful nature and dysfunction. Which means, it may seem like we’re dealing with a particular issue again, when we’re actually working deeper at the roots of that issue.

A constant journey of inward and upward. I dare say we cannot move upward, at least not fully, unless we’re also willing to move inward. Move deeper into the scary parts, the dark parts of our hearts. Why scary? Because the deeper we go, the less room there is to hide from God. It’s scary being exposed, vulnerable, totally out there. And what may be scarier about this place than exposing ourselves to God, is that we are exposing ourselves to…well, ourselves. But it is the place where God desires we go….with Him.

Are you willing to move not just upward, but inward as well? What is holding you back? Are you willing to bring what’s holding you back before God?

be blessed today

Photo Credit: http://www.bradjgoldberg.com/photography/italy/