Today I'm praying for/about:

Today, (in no particular order) I'm praying for...
- Fresh ideas, inspiration and diligence to post regularly again

- My dad fighting mesothelioma too far away for me to hug him

- Children, parents, and teachers everywhere preparing to return to school

- My single friends as they seek God for His guidance in relationships

- Broken relationships; for grace to abound where grace has been withheld

- You; I'm praying for every single person who views this blog.

Thank you for standing in agreement with me for these precious souls!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Of Coffee and Passion

As we progress through what should be our most spiritually-focused time of year, Christ's Passion Week, I'm troubled.  There was a statement made by the CEO of Starbucks last week that has been, in my opinion, taken out of context and misconstrued.  It was a statement he made very diplomatically to one individual answering one question.  His response hasn't troubled me as much as the spin some conservative reporters have put on that statement, there is sadly a lynch-mob mentality "brewing" (pun intended) in the Christian community with a bandwagon boarding for Boycottville.

We cannot expect to hold accountable those who make NO remote claim to believe what we believe.  Stirring up a frenzy to exert fiscal power and lord over any who do not share our beliefs will do no more to bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ than it would do to shove a horse's head in a tub to convince him that he's thirsty.  We, as a body, are in the process of taking the bait that will allow a negative image of our faith community to be solidified.  Jesus sat down and dined with the likes of hookers, swindlers, and outcasts... How would He handle this situation?  We He repost the articles spinning Shultz's words into a lie?  Would He join the boycott?  Would He pat us on the back for standing our "holy grounds"? (yes, another coffee pun...)  Would He congratulate us for justifying our boycott by coming up with more righteous uses for $5?  (Which, let's be honest, many of us speak of but probably won't follow through on...)

This week should be the week we most deeply focus on WHY Christ submitted to the events that took place more than 2000 years ago.  It was to change us.  It was to show us, tangibly, what love looks like.  It was to show us what forgiveness and grace looks like.  If we join this angry mob then we missed it.  Further, we will be just the same as those who twisted and spun Dan Cathy's words out of context last year.  Do we want to be the same?  Do we want to play tit-for-tat?  Or, do we want to be different?  Do we want to be salt and light?  (Or, if we decide to take this stand, are we willing to face the hard truth that probably very few companies we patronize anymore share any shred of our convictions??  I think we will quickly run out of places to shop and eat if we do... )

If individuals feel Spirit-led to no longer patronize a particular company for moral reasons, so be it!  We must follow our convictions, however, we must not allow someone else to tell us what someone else said, take it at full face-value, then pass it on and get others to join us based on a lie.  That is bearing false witness and no matter the intentions, it is wrong.  We need to do our own research into what was actually said, in what manner and for what purpose before we grab our torches and pitchforks on the way to burning someone at the stake.  Discernment is something you can't borrow from someone else; you must find your own because each of us will ultimately be held accountable.   Once that day comes, we cannot pass responsibility off to whomever told us what we should believe, what we should (or shouldn't) do, or how to interact with this world we are passing through.

Please do not misunderstand, this is NOT to defend Starbucks, Mr. Shultz, or even liberal politics of the day.  It IS to encourage us all to be shrewd as vipers (as we make our decisions) and gentle as doves (as we carry them out and take our stand).    Hopefully our choices on where we put our passion this week will amount to more than a hill of (over-roasted) beans.  If Jesus was physically here today, I have the feeling He'd happily enjoy a whole-milk latte with honey and sit down to visit with anyone who cared to join Him, no matter who they were holding hands with, how big the gauge in their ear, or how much ink is in their skin.  Let us look past politics, policies, and propaganda...  Let us see with Christ's eyes how He would have us reach our lost world as effectively as possible.  Only then will we turn mere coffee into Holy Grounds...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Comes Before Blessings?

As I've mentioned in posts past we sometimes have some issues with our eldest son.  We've been discussing, almost ad nauseum lately, the fact that in the bible blessings typically only come after obedience.  Blessings cannot be stolen, pilfered, scammed, borrowed on credit, or bought with anything but the price tag of sacrifice that is obedience.  Today's issue:  In the course of five minutes I told him to put an X on the numbers of his math page that were the wrong numbers to use... He put a circle with a line through it.  (My reason for the X's on his math page?  To make the wrong answers very visually different than the correct answers that the directions said to circle...)  I then told him he could not put his iPod on the portable speaker because I was on the phone...  He told me he'd just put it on quietly (as he was turning it on).  Now, neither of these instances, in and of themselves, are big issues (and many of you are so far reading this probably thinking "wow mommy, lighten up!").  However, these are two examples of a very regular behavior pattern in our home that I hope to curb before our young men have their future families depending on them living a spirit of obedience.  Most everyone knows what a blessing it is to have someone complete a work order exactly rather than most of the way...  This applies in every area of customer service, big or small, and depending on the line of work, can mean as little as happy, repeat customers or as much as life and death.  Spiritually, it can mean a whole lot more so despite today's issue being "small stuff", it's symptomatic of a deeper, far-reaching heart condition.

Today I asked him to tell me what God told Moses to do in the desert to get water for His people... He said "touch the rock with his hand".  I asked him what Moses did instead and he answered "Hit the rock with his staff".  I asked him what the consequence was for Moses' choice and he replied "He died on the mountain and never got to see the Promised Land".  As he was answering all my questions I remembered several more stories including Saul, David, and others, who chose to obey God most of the way but not fully.  In every case of only partial obedience, there was severe consequences (Saul's reign ended with him, David's son died, etc.) and was able to explain to him that as far as God is concerned, partial obedience equals disobedience.  There is no half-way with God.  In fact, there is not even a 99% with God.  He wants our all.  He reminds us that we cannot serve two masters, not even a tiny bit, because then we become divided in our thoughts and allow ourselves to become confused.

Take, as a physical illustration, the building of a railway...  If two teams begin at opposite ends and work towards each other, their calculations must be exact.  (We are currently watching a similar project take place in the Tampa area as a section of an expressway is being constructed to connect two other, parallel highways)  If either team is off by even minor calculations then entire project could be a disaster and not align the way its meant to.  Over a long project, just a single, half-inch miscalculation can offset the ultimate alignment by feet or even miles.  So too with our actions.  Whether it's a school assignment, an employer's instructions, or God's directives for us, if we veer off by just a little, we will miss the ultimate goal.  Very few parents I know ever give their children instructions or a task that does not have a reason; so too with God.  He always directs us in ways that will refine us, use us in the lives of others, lead us to blessing.    Occasionally, blessing is given out of complete grace but is also generally withheld from those who choose a regular pattern of disobedience.

Now the tough part of all this...  How many of us struggle with the exact same issue??  Partial obedience...  How often do we rationalize that our sacrifice is "good enough" rather than our best?  How often have we been prompted by the Holy Spirit to do something out of our comfort zone, thrown a bit of ourselves at the situation, then backed away slowly (or even turned and full-out ran!)?  It's like feeling the prompting to sit down with a cup of coffee next to a beggar and find out their story but instead handing them a $5 and going on your way.  It's like finding out there's a need, whether local or collective, within the body of the church and just adding a little to your tithe check assuming someone else will step up.  It's like knowing someone has a problem but instead of coming along side and helping, you offer to pray for someone else to.

God is calling us all to a greater level of obedience and sacrifice.  It involves hard work, getting our hands dirty, answering up EVERY time.  Because, if all of us answer up every time all the time, we will emulate the early church.  We will be a family that thrives and grows.  We will be tired but in a blessed contentment sort of way, not a burned-out-from-obligation sort of way.  I'll be honest, I struggle deeply with this myself.  I'm blessed with a home that, by American standards is modest, but by world standards, is nothing short of opulent!  Do I feel motivated to keep it clean and beautiful?  No.  Do I want to iron my husband's shirts and make his lunch as a quiet blessing to send him off to work with?  No.  Do I want to change diapers in the nursery at church?  No.  Is it what God is telling me to do?  Yes.  Will I?  Ah... that's where the rubber meets the road...  Will we choose the momentary comfort of selfishness?  Or, will we choose blessings immeasurable and unknown that follow obedience?

We recently got to meet a young family who are preparing to join a team in Scotland and launch a church.  They have sold much of their belongings and are packing up what remains to venture across the Atlantic and do what most of us would never dare.  We would find good reasons for it too... "We can't afford to", "It would traumatize our kids", "I'm needed here (whether work, family, church, etc.)", "We can't afford to", and "We can't afford to" are very often the main reason we all think of when we're backing up the thought popping into our heads that says either "I wish we could do that but..." or "That would be exciting but...".  That same young pastor, however, convicted me today with this Facebook status update:  "The more I observe others lives, and my own heart I have come to believe that one of the greatest enemies to the mission of God is our own entitlement. #denyself".

Now... if you will excuse me, I have a floor to clean, shirts to iron, and some seeds to plant... because I also know that my sons will learn a little from my words, but a lot from my actions.