Friday, February 28, 2014

Grace. It's something we talk about. We all admire it when we see it in others. We are all supposed to strive to exhibit it. But we often, so very often, fall very, very short.

I have been burdened by this ever since I answered a poll recently that an author posted asking what topic her readers would like to see her explore. I answered it: Grace. I want to know as much as I can about the elusive gift that, as a follower of the Author of Grace, is mine to claim. I want to own it. I want to embrace it. And I want to show it in every circumstance in every moment of every day. I want people to wonder what it is about me that makes me have this grace, so that they can KNOW it's JESUS!

John 1:16-17 Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness, for the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

But it is hard.

It's hard when we are surrounded by a world that has fallen so deeply away from anything resembling "grace." This world we are in is filled with people who want only to glorify themselves and to gain attention and a following, no matter how shallow or fleeting. And no matter the cost.

Recently I observed someone receive a gift from a person whom she had just treated very badly. The grace in that moment brought tears to my eyes, for the giver never acknowledged the wrong done to her, but neither did the recipient of the gift- the one who had been so cruel. What's wrong with us, sisters? What is happening to us? Are we really so concerned with how much we weigh and what we wear and who our friends are that we are cold and bitter to those who don't meet our "Requirement of the Month?" How dare we treat others with disrespect? How dare we treat others less than we would want to be treated? How dare we?

After I finished fuming, the Holy Spirit began to work on me. I thought about my own gift of salvation and how I have been so guilty of taking that gift as though I deserved it. I thought about how Christ must feel watching me take Him for granted. I ached at the thought. How dare I?

Even now, as I write, I fear that my words will not be received in the way they are intended. I want so badly to touch lives in a way that points people toward the One Who can guide them to grace and peace and love and joy and all of the rewards of heaven. I do not want to distance myself from people I care about, but I must answer to my Lord and I must, in some manner, share the thoughts that He leads me to develop. Even if it is a little cowardly, sitting in front of a computer in my family room.

I try so hard to remember to use "social media" in proper and appropriate ways. I try to take the advice that another admired author suggested and to write and then walk away. Let it rest. Let the Spirit work on my heart and then go back and re-read the words I have written.

 Do they glorify Him?
Do they hurt anyone?
Are they His?

This advice has caused me to practically wear out my Delete and Backspace buttons. I have at least five drafts in my blog queue waiting to be edited or deleted, written in haste and not quite ready for reading.

It's useful, too, this waiting and examining, in our simple posts and tweets, and picture postings. Today I saw a viral video of a child simply being... a Child. But because of the circumstance, people were laughing at her. Laughing. Who offered this to national media? No one. Someone simply posted it on YouTube and it no longer became their property. It belonged to everyone now, so this little girl is going to be embarrassed and laughed at by millions of people when all she was doing was...being free.

We take to social media when we are hurt, angry, frustrated. It's one thing when we do it and an adult is the victim; it's a whole different thing when it's a child. Where is the grace in that? What if Jesus (and this may get me in some trouble here) were to go on Facebook and complain to everyone about how we treat Him? What if He were to post pictures of the things we have done that have hurt Him? After all, He gave His life for us and we have not behaved the way He has instructed us to.
Are you following my point???

The very ones WE would give OUR lives for are not safe when they have "mouthed off" or have let a chore slide or have had a meltdown within range of a smartphone. Here's some free advice: blowing off steam about your teenager may get you a lot of "likes,' but it won't get you any closer to your kid. If you wouldn't post it about your boss or your mom or yourself, don't post it about your child. That's just not fair.

So yeah, this may lose me some friends or maybe get some negative feedback. That's ok. I can take it. I'm a grown up. And hopefully I'll handle it with grace.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Be mine.

Be mine. It's the simplest valentine there is. Asking someone to belong to you, to be yours. And for you to belong to him or her.
We all want to belong. From the moment we are very small, we want and need and crave acceptance and approval, which all lead to a sense of belonging.  As we grow, we create little secrets with our friends, whispered words shared quietly, creating a lasting bond of friendship through trust.
In young adulthood, we continue to join clubs and organizations and to strive to be invited to be a part of something. We want to belong. We want to know that we are important to someone. We try desperately to create and maintain relationships so that we...are someone's.
Belonging works both ways. As we belong to someone, they - we hope - belong to us. We care, we nurture, we love. By claiming that they are "mine" I pledge my loyalty, my energy, and my honor to them. I am not only mine any more; I am theirs and I owe it to them to be everything I should be. After all, they want me to be theirs.
Be Mine.
Isn't that exactly what Jesus is saying to us? Didn't He give us the greatest Valentine of all? After all, He sacrificed His own life so that we His.
He personally carried our sins
    in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
    and live for what is right.
By his wounds
    you are healed.
1 Peter 2:24 NLT
When we belong to Christ we experience a love that cannot be compared to any other on earth. Because it is the only True Love. And nothing can ever, ever separate us from Him and His love.
 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
Yet on Valentine's Day, a day that is now so far removed from its original meaning, we find ourselves rushing and fretting all the way to the card store to purchase someone else's expression of love. For $3.00. We try to express our love through boxes of candy, bouquets of flowers, and heart-shaped EVERYTHING.  Not that I am knocking those items as kind gestures, but I just think there can be so much more to a day that is set aside to show...Love.
In John 13:34-35 we read the words of Jesus: 
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”       
He wants, even commands us, to be His. His disciples. His students. His voice. His Love. He wants us to...Be Mine.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I like to "do" events. I enjoy the planning and preparation, but I mostly enjoy watching memories being made. I have been "doing" events since I was in my teens. School dances, talent shows, a high-school homecoming parade that actually shut down streets (with city permission). Now it's parties, auctions, banquets, weddings.  I looked back at some of the things I helped to organize and develop and I finally came to the conclusion that doing these events is a result of my spiritual gift of administration, not hospitality.

Because if it were hospitality I think I would be smiling at them more than I am. When the thing is underway, whatever it is, I am usually making my rounds to ensure that there is plenty of food and the beverage containers are full, trash is picked up, and no one is trapped by some of the complicated decorations (which happened once at a western event with prop fences and rope). I am also making sure that the amazing people - mostly my husband - who are there to help me haven't abandoned me, finally being pushed over the edge at the request of "can this table go away?" or, even worse, " I need that table back!"

Most recently I was part of planning and hosting a birthday party for a friend. A friend who also plans events. No pressure there. The party wasn't going to be a surprise, but I wanted to add something that would bring a smile to her face; something that would cause her to know that I had given her event an extra touch. Since the theme was "Winter Wonderland" I decided to throw in a white chocolate fountain. Fruit, cake, pretzels all coated in smooth, creamy white chocolate cascading down and landing in a pool surrounded by strawberries. Yum.

Now let me say that I have a true love/hate relationship with the chocolate fountain that our ministry has. It takes forever to warm up, has user-unfriendly buttons, and is...very functional-looking. But anything that streams melted chocolate can't be all bad.
Or can it?

At the appropriate time I constructed the beast and placed it in the center of the table that was solely dedicated to it. Featured, even. I added the chocolate pieces and tried to remember which button to press to heat the warmer. This machine, in addition to having non-descript buttons, also has a mechanism that causes them to blink. The trick is to remember whether they are blinking because they are READY or because they are NOT. Or because it is about to blow chocolate all over the table. That happens too. Really.

Now you may be thinking that I should just refer to the instructions. I would had they not been discarded years ago. Years.

I went about my business of preparing the treats to dip, checking the other food items I was responsible for, and enjoying the company of the ladies who had worked harder than I had and had decorated the room beautifully. We were very busy and time was racing by.

And the chocolate was actually melting! I had pressed the right button- Winter Wonderland indeed! The next step was to press another button to allow the chocolate to...flow up. Nothing happened. I stirred, melted more, did some pre-melting, added a little oil. Nothing. No flow. No matter what I did, I could not make the chocolate come up from deep inside the machine and emerge at the top, to flow down the sides. It was, most certainly, NOT going to be the lovely focal point of the room. Instead of oohs and aahs  this area was now just another food station.

Not to let the idea become a total failure (for no other reason than to NEVER WASTE CHOCOLATE),  I used a spare crock pot (yes, I had a spare crock pot) and it became the White Chocolate Fondue Experience. It was...okay. It served a purpose and it was still, after all, melted chocolate. But the effect was just not the same and I doubted it would bring a smile to her face and be the blessing I was hoping for.

During the cleanup process, and packing the beast back up, I noticed a false bottom in the box. There, under the cardboard was a long, gray piece of spiral-shaped plastic. The coil. The coil! THE COIL!!!!!

I had forgotten to put the one piece in the center that made the chocolate go from the very bottom of the pan to the top of the fountain. Without this key center piece, the solid that had now become moldable, pourable liquid could not perform how it was expected to. It had to be pulled upward in order to flow down. In order to be what it was supposed to be, the very center had to be just right.

So it is with us, dear friends. When we do not have Christ as our center, our core, we cannot flourish. Even as prepared and ready and moldable as we are, we cannot "pour out" until He is central and is pulling us upward.

Make sure you are completely constructed in Him and then be ready for His love to cascade down around you in a sweet, warm, and glorious way.

Why I Choose to be Southern Baptist

These have been tough days for those of us who call ourselves “Southern Baptists.” I won’t go into all the details. I don't think it’s S...