If your tidy-whiteys fit perfectly, if all your ducks are lined up in a row, if life is a song and you’re just singing along- You are just annoying. But, hey, read this post anyway!

 

ducks in a row 2soulseeds.com

 

Maybe your day was just super-duper, peachy keen.

Maybe not.

Last week, I kind of took a nose dive into an all-that’s-rotten-about-me funk. Happens a lot. No matter how I fiddle with the dials on my self-esteem or how many patches I put on the rickety contraption known as my reputation, I know the truth.

I really stink way deep inside. Get to really know me and you wil catch more than a whiff of

  • Selfishness,
  • Whining,
  • What About Me Pettiness
  • and just plain Why Can’t I Be Like Everyone Else Jealousy.

Nasty stuff, this inner core. Doesn’t exactly scream “I’m an awesome Christian”.

Or does it?

Perhaps “Look what I can do in the name of Jesus” is nothing but a game immature believers play.  We, of all people, should know that there is one thing we can never be on our own.

Good. Completely good inside and out.

That’s the message I got slapped with this Sunday. Only God is good. Not you. Not me. Not anybody else.

I needed the smack in the kisser, the sting on the cheeks. Otherwise I’d probably have daydreamed my way through another Sunday Service. Obviously God’s got my number. He’s got your number too or you would not be smirking through this blog.

Sure, we want to do good things. We certainly try.  But, we are not the source of good. At our center, is the ugliness of humanity. The dank reality of our fallen nature.

Now God, He is good, through and through. Pure and righteous. Just and holy. 

Remember how He gave only Son to be sin for us? Only through God’s Son can we be truly good. Forget

  • the self image upgrades
  • or extremely painful methods of penance like hurting and hating and shaming ourselves a million times a day.

God’s not looking for a do-it-yourself plan. He wants to take His own glorious image and stamp it right on the messed up lives of you and me. 

Even though I’ve heard it all my life, it still sounds a bit crazy and shocking, almost too wild and wonderful to be true.

But, that’s what the gospel is all about.

God is good and He loves an ugly and broken world. 

Maybe you’ll never get those ducks in a row.  Maybe just crawling out of bed is about the best you can do.

You are not alone.

We are all undone in the end. Only God is good. Only His is love is pure. Only He can redeem us. That is what the Gospel is all about.

Growing up on the outskirts of Gloryland, Death the Musical and how I found God.

 

singing hymns

http://extoncommunitybaptistchurch.blogspot.ca/2011/01/why-do-christians-sing-hymns.html

Everybody wonders about life after death at some time or another.

But, if you were raised in the church you didn’t just wonder. You practically lived the musical. Seriously. We preach, we teach and we belt out like divas on Broadway that 

  • Jesus died for our sins.
  • When we die we will go to heaven.
  • We must die to sin
  • In death there is victory

Basically, nothing good happens until somebody dies. And, let’s face it, no song worth it’s notes leaves out the mystery and glory of life after death.

  1. Just over in the glory land,
  2. Some glad morning when this life is over
  3. I’ll meet you in the morning

were a few of the songs that practically screamed “See you later, sucker, I’m outta here”. 

Made me feel kind of left out, standing in the flesh all healthy and young. But, at the same time, I was afraid. Did I really know God? When it came time to die would He even know me? That’s why I loved the end of each Church service. I could go home and forget eternity for just a little while.

One Sunday afternoon, after a consuming a feast of roast beef and mashed potatoes, I got up to help my siblings with the dishes.

“Not this time,” Dad said, “You can sweep the floor when everyone else is done.”

After my siblings put away the last plate, I grabbed a broom and swept its bristles across the linoleum floor.  I swept until a long shaft of late afternoon sun slid from an upper window and fell across the floor. As dust particles swirled in the fading light, I soaked in the silence around me.

Absolute, amazing silence.

“Dad? Mom?” I yelled, “Anybody home?”

Not a sound.

“Hey, guys!” I called out again.

No response.

A twinge of fear flexed its muscles until it grew strong enough to claw over the edge of my uneasiness and pull me into utter delusion.

“The Rapture,” I gasped, “It’s finally here.”

I’d dreaded this theological peril ever since I watched one of those so-scary-cause-it-could-actually-happen-to-you types of movie, a religious drama based on the belief that God would some day pluck all Christians off planet earth without warning.

Bits and pieces of the movie whirled through my adolescent mind. .

  • multiple plane crashes
  • carnage on the highways
  • drivers vanished
  • entire families missing
  • nurses and doctors gone
  • bus drivers, little babies disappeared without a trace

Soldiers rounded up people who decided to believe in God after all the other Christians were gone. they tracked one new believer along railway tracks.  A helicopter hovered overhead while the soldiers hunted her down.

“I don’t want to be left behind,” I sputtered. The broom slid to the floor and bounced off the edge of my dingy white sneakers. As I stood in the empty foyer, I asked God to forgive me for my sins, for ignoring my little brother, for teasing my older sister and shoving my dirty clothes under my bed and never pulling them back out. Most of all, I sobbed out my sorrow for not seeking God on my own.

The sound of a gunshot echoed through the hallway. I braced for what had to be a new world order swat team ripping off the screen door.

“Me first!”

“No, me first!”

I figured it was some kind of strange lingo for an attack. Then mom stepped into the hallway, my baby brother balanced on her hip.

I was so relieved I started to cry. Why not? Just seconds ago I’d thought the whole world was coming to an end.

Several weeks later, I took another important step of faith. In a baptismal tank the size of a large bathtub, I stood beside Dad. My pointed chin barely reached his waist. The unheated water sloshed across the front of my cotton dress.

“I baptize you, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” Dad intoned as he stood beside me in the water. The ancient words from the New Testament signified my readiness to follow God and his Son Jesus Christ.

Then dad lowered me into the water.

“Buried in the likeness of His death,” he said as the water closed over my face. 

“Raised in the likeness of His resurrection”, Dad finished when he lifted me up to the surface.

Trust me, ‘Left Behind” the seventies version was a bit creepy. What religious movie made back then was not?  And, I know my “death” doctrine was a bit convoluted. But, my dash to God was not in vain.

I still trust Him today.

The journey of a Christian is all about knowing God. Daring to trust Him. Learning to walk through the darkest of nights while speaking His name.

Messed up. Broken. Always Needing God -That’s how I roll.

pathetic

Pathetic. Sappy, sloppy needy.

That’s how my day started.

I was feeling all fragmented inside because I

  1. missed my kids
  2. felt guilty for not having the time nor the ability to do all I thought I should do,
  3. just wanted to plop down on the ground and sob it all out.

While sniffling around the house, I decided that I would never become the person I longed to be – successful,  competent, totally in control.

Better get all comfy. It’s time for one of those aren’t-you-glad-you’re-not-me confessions.

Lately, I’ve been buying into the illusion of fixer-upper perfection- literally. Every few weeks or so, I find myself punching in my credit card number to get the latest, greatest self-improvement program online. Any offer of social, psychological or even spiritual enhancement gets my attention. You can’t imagine what a hassle it is to cancel those miracle make-overs after you finally come to your senses. (Yikes. Wait until my husband tries to figure out our Visa bill.)

Truth is, we can’t buy our way out of  flawed humanity.

We can fake it. Been there, done that. We can even deceive ourselves  into thinking that we have somehow risen above all the scary, broken people around us.

But, in the end we all need Jesus.

That’s what surrender is all about. Letting go of our pitiful attempt to transform ourselves and letting God be everything. Our strength, our sanity,  our righteousness.

It sure beats hiding the truth about ourselves –

  • our struggling relationships,
  • battles with depression
  • the desperate loneliness that wakes us up in the middle of the night.

We are all messed up. Damaged in some way or another. No matter how hard we try to keep it all together, sometimes things just fall apart.

Consider Job. That guy had everything.

  1. Family,
  2. Wealth,
  3. Respect of his fellow man.

Then, everything was gone. Just. Like. That.

Folks figured Job would just curse God and die. But, he was no fool.  Job knew where his strength came from.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return,” Job declared, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

So much for delusions of power and glory. It’s our desperation that drives us to God. When we cry out, He hears us.

That’s what matters.

Lest we forget–wrapping our heads around the unthinkable and making it our own

 

war

Today is a day of remembrance.

Not so easy when the horror of war means nothing more than drama on TV, the latest paperback thriller or the battlefield memories of an shriveled up grandpa. 

I was born in the United States, raised my children in Canada and now they a re spread throughout other peaceful countries such as the UK and New Zealand. 

Definitely war-free zones.

Can’t even imagine bombs exploding in my neighborhood, soldiers invading the downtown district or tanks rumbling down the freeways. Never dreamed that the rubble of an enemy’s attack would alter the skyline of the land of the free, the home of the brave.

9/11 changed that sense of safety.  For the first time, the rubble of an enemy attack desecrated our skyline.

On the day of this tragic event, a mid-eastern friend of mine came to me and expressed his outrage.

“Someone from that country (the one who claimed responsibility for the attack) lives a few doors down from me, “ he said, “I want to go and slit his throat right now. In my mother country that is what we do.”

That’s the thing about living in the land of the free. It is our responsibility to make it the home of the brave. We must have courage to fight the enemy without becoming just like the enemy ourselves.

It means fighting injustice, not just on a global scale but in our own communities, our neighborhoods, even our own home.

It all starts with remembrance. We must never forget the names of those who have been broken by the fingers of hate. Their memory calls for our nation to embrace integrity, courage and safety. 

Our tribute is to respond.

Hating in the name of Jesus, Tire Swings and Bullycide–What is the gospel really about?

 

tire swing 3

Tire swings.

Love those contraptions.  There is nothing like the thrill of whipping through the air on an old car tire.  

Of course, sometimes the rope breaks. Happened to me when I was a teenager. One minute I was high up in the air, laughing at all the folks held down by gravity. The next minute I lay flat on the ground wondering how I got there.

That’s what happened to me this afternoon. Now, I’m not talking about the whirl and twirl of homemade swings anymore.  

Imagine slamming into the cold hard face of reality.

It started with helping someone on a project for their class- basically about Bullycide. I know, it’s a sobering topic. No one wants to think that bullying could result in someone else taking their own life.

But, it happens.

What am I supposed to do, I wondered, just read about it and weep? I didn’t like that thought. So I googled the Church and Bullycide.

That’s when the rope broke.

I hit reality so fast, I just about lost my breath.  It happened when I  wandered onto a blog about a press conference at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Atlanta’s Old 4th Ward. The press conference was in response to the bullycide of 11 year old student Jaheem Herrera. The young boy had been a victim of anti-gay bullying even though he had not even expressed interest in this life style.

Now, before you start breathing fire and brimstone down my neck, I want you to listen to what Marissa Pendermine, Assistant Pastor of Unity Fellowship Church Atlanta, said at the conference.

“We have made it acceptable to hate some people,” she stated.

That’s what took my breath away. She was speaking to the church-

  • you and me,
  • brothers and sisters in Christ.

She was addressing  Christians who worship a loving God on Sunday morning but get downright hateful when it comes to certain subjects. There’s the big ones like homosexuality and politics. There’s the old festering matter of racism and there’s the everyday snubbing of people who are

  1. not presentable enough physically,
  2. too damaged emotionally
  3. or just plain too weird

to be fully welcomed into our community of love, acceptance and forgiveness.

Perhaps, that’s the problem.  We refuse to trust the wild ride that God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness will take us when we step out in faith.

Instead, we act surprised when we find ourselves holding hands with the darkness instead of spreading the light.

God loves people.

He has never asked us to hate anyone. Anywhere. Sure, He hates sin. Little sins that bug us. Big ones that threaten to destroy us. But, God loves us.

So stop  with the hating. The jokes about Gays. The snickering about people’s weight or appearance. The shunning of people of another race, culture, political view or religious denomination.

I’m not saying you should never stand up for what you believe. Just do it with grace, love and dignity.

Don’t hate people. Don’t hate in big ways. Don’t hate in little aren’t-I so-funny-when-I-make-fun-of-people ways. Guess what? It’s not funny. It’s cruel.

Think about it long and hard.

Do you really want to be a role model to this generation of cyberbullies, playground sociopaths and random losers who run around beating the crap of out people just for fun?

I don’t think so.

So “man” up to the faith in God that you claim to have. Don’t let your actions or  your words make it “acceptable to hate some people.”  The message of the Gospel is all about God’s love for a lost and dying world. 

Speak it.

Live it.

Love people every single chance you get.

Freebee camping, rowdy neighbors and the grace of God

 

roasting-marshmallows

Some summers pass quickly. Others seem like they will never end. One summer in particular, my husband worked full time and went to seminary. Not exactly fun.

“Let’s go camping,” I suggested to my mom and sister after a particularly long week of dealing with three little kids, “It will be great.”

I might as well have said “why don’t we just climb into a grocery cart, put on blindfolds and ride down a steep hill?”

The effect is the same- the participant is left scared spitless and lucky to be alive.

Unfortunately, no one had explained to me the dangers of such an endeavor.  Although it was invented to get people off their butts and into the wilderness, it can really mess with the mind. 

Like I said, I had no idea. So,

  1. Mom slung ketchup, mustard and  hot dogs into the cooler.
  2. My sister grabbed blankets and towels and stacked them by the door.
  3. I shoved fistfuls of diapers in any extra crack and crevice I could find before

we headed out onto the open road.

After about 2o minutes of driving, we crossed the border from Canada into the United States.  I maneuvered our Honda down a side road until we came upon a tiny campground beside a shaded mountain stream. At the end of the road was a secluded little hill. Two camping spots sat atop the hill. Sunlight speckled through the trees and danced across the smooth rocks of the stream.

“Oh, yeah!” I smirked as we parked at the bottom of the slope, “this is paradise!”

While I unpacked the kids and the car, Mom started a campfire. My sister and I set up the two tents.  That evening we feasted on hot dogs and stuffed ourselves with charred marshmallows.  When we could not eat another bite, we crawled into our tents and fell asleep.

Then, all hell broke loose.

A couple of cars and trucks screeched to a stop below our campsite. Footsteps thundered up the slope. The sound of beer taps being pulled stopped the frogs in mid-croak.  

While I prayed for a miracle – for these guys to suddenly hate camping  and just go away – a column of flames shot up from their fire pit.

“More gasoline,” someone shouted.  The fire silhouetted several guys heaving boulders down the hill. The boulders were aimed straight for my car. 

At that moment I had an epiphany. Paid campgrounds were not just a scam to oppress the poor. They were a necessity to keep ordinary people from being killed in their sleep.

I stopped praying when the guys turned their attention to our tents. In between beers, they threatened to come and get us.

It was time to run.

We grabbed the kids and scrambled down the hill. I was certain that any moment we’d get smacked by a boulder. Somehow we made it to the car. In the pitch black of a wilderness night, we somehow got in and drove off.

All our belongings –

  • our  tents,
  • our food,
  • and clothes –

stayed behind.

At that moment, I didn’t care. What mattered is that we survived.

Funny how a sudden twist in circumstances can change our perspective. On an ordinary day, we don’t notice each and every breath we breathe. We often discount precious moments spent with the ones we love.

We just plain forget how good it is to be alive.

Scary camping trips are not fun. But, we all need to be reminded that life is a gift. 

Have you had something happen that made you forget your problems and just be glad to be alive?

Share it with me. I’d love to hear from you.