Living Right

Yesterday, I attended a funeral for the father of a friend. He was 95 years old, and lived a wonderfully full life until his health rapidly declined. The memories that were shared about this precious man were incredible to hear. He truly was someone who “lived life right.” That isn’t to say that he didn’t make mistakes. We all do, including him. But he was described as someone who “believed everyone was as honest as he was.” He worked hard, he loved hard, he put others first, and he never harbored bitterness or negativity. I think a lot of that had to do with his faith, but a lot of it had to do with his character too. He never worried what others thought of him because he was always considerate and confident in his intent. His funeral was short and sweet, because his long life had already told the story of what a kind soul he was.

Shortly before arriving to the funeral, I received a Facebook message from someone with whom I once volunteered. I would consider this person an acquaintance; not really a friend since we had never done anything outside of events together. However, if I ran into this person around town, I would speak. I would ask how he’s doing and genuinely care about his response. His message was questioning why I had unfriended him on Facebook. He was immediately defensive and questioned what he had done wrong to cause my actions. He wanted to know what he could do to “fix our friendship.” After the funeral, I learned that a short 30 minutes after he contacted me, this individual had also posted a rant on his Facebook timeline. It stated something along the lines of “if you’re going to unfriend me… please be an adult and send me a message as to what the problem is.” He continued by stating that if “you’re not adult enough, you did not need to be on my friends list anyway.” It was full of bitterness and negativity, and self-consciousness.

Of course when I confronted my acquaintance, he explained that the rant was about someone else. I started to question if that was an honest statement… but I didn’t. All I could think about was the beautiful celebration of life that I had just witnessed, and how much society today puts more weight in social media friendships than they do about living life right. I can’t begin to imagine what someone sees and experiences in 95 years on earth, but I often wonder what previous generations must think about my generation and those that follow. When did unfriending someone on Facebook become the judgement of our character? When did bullying someone behind a computer screen become so acceptable? When did honesty and putting others before yourself become a thing of the past? Why are people so bitter and negative these days? When did we lose our dedication to do the right thing and be our best?

I haven’t been able to get my friend’s father off of my mind. What an incredible example this man was to his family and friends, and to his community. It really makes me think about my life as I enter into my 40s. If my health rapidly declined, would my funeral be short because my life was full? Or would I be remembered for my Facebook rants and my constant unhappiness? It is really something to consider, isn’t it?

When you work hard, love hard, and put others first… you don’t have to worry what people say about you. You can be confident that your life speaks volumes for your character. In my next 40 years, I want to live a life so full of love, kindness, honesty, and selflessness that the only words that need to be spoken at my funeral are “…until we see you again!”

Vulnerable Love

There is a lot of talk these days about issues like homosexuality, divorce, and abortion.  These are all extremely controversial issues that stir up quite a bit of debate and especially arguments.  Regardless of your opinion on each of these issues, no matter what scripture you base your feelings on; ultimately it is not our place to judge someone’s life path.  It is so easy to declare how someone should behave, react, or live their lives but honestly, why do we feel compelled to straighten up anybody?  Are we qualified to fix people?  Is it even our place to determine what needs to be fixed?  I suppose it keeps us from dealing with our own issues and faults.

In Mark 12 Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our passion, prayer, intelligence, and energy.  He explains that the second greatest commandment is to love others as we do ourselves.  That makes me wonder, do we love ourselves?  We spend our time picking apart the lives of others under the rouse of growing the Kingdom of God.  How much do we value our own lives if we treat others poorly, hiding behind judgment and condemnation?  If we spent our time loving the Lord with everything within us, we wouldn’t have time to put the lives of others under a microscope.  Do you want them to put your life under there?

Are we afraid to love unconditionally?  As humans, I don’t think we can ever come to a place of perfect love, but shouldn’t we at least try?  What would happen if we just loved everyone?  Maybe it would make us vulnerable?  Are we scared that we will have to allow others into our inner circle?  That they will see the real us, not the mask we wear?

If someone who does not have a relationship with the Lord spends time watching us, will they want what we have?  If all they see us doing is blasting people with scripture on Facebook, hearing us preach AT others—keeping track of everyone’s wrongdoings…would they even want to be Christ like?  That’s a lot of work, sounds like a job…a really miserable one.  Consider the experience of being around someone who doesn’t always get it right, but is really trying…someone who truly just shows love to everyone in their path…wouldn’t that be a much better reflection of Christ?

Instead of a group displaying signs with written words of hate toward gays and lesbians, what if we just loved them?  Instead of telling a coworker how wrong abortion is and anyone who has had one is going to hell, you just keep your mouth shut and offer a hug, because you didn’t know she was forced to have one as a teenager when she was raped.  Instead of ignoring your friend because they are going through a nasty divorce and you are uncomfortable, what if you invited them to dinner at your home and just let them breathe?

God didn’t ask us to save the world; He is pretty capable in that department.  He instructed us to love.  More accurately, He commanded us to love, period.  There is no chart that we have to measure someone’s life with to see how much or how little love we can give them.  We are not told to analyze our fellow human being’s life, determining what degree of sin they reside at so we know how to treat them.  That sounds a lot like the Pharisees & Sadducees.   Jesus reduced their laws to dust.  When we condemn others aren’t we saying that Jesus’ death was not enough to save them?

I wonder if a lot of the world’s problems would be resolved if those who proclaim to love God would just focus on Him?  We waste a lot of energy on complacency, apathy, and judging.  What would happen if we took all that negativity, pushed it to the side and loved the Lord fiercely and passionately?

Slapped by a Spelling Word

My second grader is learning the value of spelling words.  I am learning the value of using my time wisely to help him be ready for his weekly tests!  A few weeks ago his class was focusing on prefixes.  Some of his words were “redo”, “rework”, and “undo”.  Each of these words implies that an action has already taken place and energy is then spent repeating the action.

By the end of the week it was like a slap in the face.  God has done THE work and we spend countless days, years, and lifetimes trying to “redo” the gift of salvation.  One of the most quoted verses is John 3:16, “For God loved the world so much that He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”  The Son gave His life and the only action on our part is to believe.  That’s it…believe.

We are not instructed to create a denomination.  We are not told to depend on religion.  Nothing man has rewritten, reworked, or undone can offer us the precious gift of salvation.  We waste so much time doing things that someone else says we must perform before God will accept us.  We spend our numbered days taking this message of love apart and putting it back together in a way we can manage it.  (If we could manage it on our own, we wouldn’t need it to start with because it would eventually fail from being human.)

We don’t realize that when we create more rules or change the Gospel that we are saying that Jesus’ death was not enough to save us.  Yeah, that hurts a little.  We tell our creator He didn’t do it right.

Let’s strip away all the “re’s” and “un’s” and simply accept the love of God.  Allow yourself to open your personal gift of salvation.  What does a present mean if you never open it—never receive it?  The Ultimate Gift Giver had you in mind when He gave His life on the cross.  His gift fits you perfectly.  It will never wear out, never has to be exchanged, and allows an eternity you could never earn on your own.

Stop Being Disappointed

Have you ever been disappointed by family or friends? Do you have someone in your life who just isn’t doing the best that you know they can? Are you burdened by wanting to guide them down an easier path?

I tend to carry heavy loads on behalf of these people. I get frustrated when they won’t heed my advice. After all, I have walked the path already. I’ve learned how to rely on God and I’m willing to share shortcuts. Why won’t these people listen to me? Why do they make things so difficult?

Recently, I found myself becoming bitter because of this disappointment. I worried over the situation, letting my negative feelings fester, until I came to the point of proclaiming, “I am done with them.” Then I quietly said, “God, they’re in Your hands. I give up.” God immediately replied, “You disappoint me every day, but I am not done with you.  …and it never really was in your hands.” Some of you may think that is a harsh response but I would disagree. Although God disciplines His children (Hebrews 12:6), I knew this was the Father’s loving way of reminding His daughter that we are ALL sinners, and that many of us try too often to do His job. I was quite guilty of both at that very moment.

For one, getting angry with those who disappoint me – calling them stubborn, or uncooperative, or rude – isn’t in the best interest of my own Christian walk. Although it is necessary at times to be salt of the earth, it is just as important to be the light. (Matthew 5:13-16) Having just admitted that I have traveled the same path, I am no better than anyone else. Instead, this is my time to shine and show how Jesus didn’t give up on me. He didn’t call me ugly names and tell me He was done when I wouldn’t listen to Him. He patiently walked beside me while I stumbled my way around off-course, leading me back on the right track. No matter how disappointed I get, I have to remember to share His love. In doing so, those who are stumbling now will soon realize that Jesus is walking with them too.

1 Peter 5:6-7 reads, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Yes, ALL of your anxiety… not just some.  I have to stop trying to handle things for God. He doesn’t need my help! Some people need to stumble down a difficult path in order to come to these realization on their own. Not everyone learns the same way. Some can listen and get it. Others, like myself, have to try and fail before we understand. I guarantee someone had a burden of sharing shortcuts with me, but I was too stubborn and uncooperative to listen. It was through my disappointment and failures that I learned to rely on the Lord and trust His full control. He lifted me in due time – His time – and I have to believe that He will lift up those who disappoint me too.

Are there really shortcuts in life anyway? I am beginning to see that there aren’t. Well, none with positive outcomes. I want to help people, maybe you do too, but doing things for them can actually make matters worse. Instead of wanting to tell them the easy way out, we may need to show them through the hard times. We should focus on being the lantern to God’s light and find comfort in knowing the Lord will bring them to the same place of understanding that we, ourselves, have been brought to by Him.

Restrained in Freedom

The definition of “captured” is to take by force, to take prisoner or seize.  It also means to gain control of or exert influence over.

It is ironic that when talking about God we often use the phrases “captured by grace” or “You’ve captured me with Your love”.  So, I guess you could say we are restrained in freedom.  I suppose that is an oxymoron, but isn’t that often how God works?  His ways are supernatural and I for one am glad.  I’m thrilled that His ways are higher than mine because that means He knows my future, He can see the bigger picture and best of all, I don’t have to have all the answers.  I can take that responsibility off my shoulders and leave it to God.

We all have those days our momma’s told us about.  We have a bad day at work and come home only to take it out on our families.  Our husbands didn’t fold the laundry right, so we bust through it like the Tasmanian Devil so we can show him how it is supposed to be done.  What about the days or even weeks that the bills outnumber the junk mail?  Even in the despair of death or loss, God is influencing us with His love, mercy and grace.

It’s hard for some people to contemplate a relationship with God because they feel like they can’t be themselves or there will be strings attached to a puppeteer.  God is the complete opposite of controlling.  A life with Him is freeing and empowering.  Does that mean that everything is easy and laid in your lap?  I wish I could say it was, but we are all familiar with that little thing called reality.  I guess that is why it is so hard for us to trust God—we can’t see the bigger picture and none of us have all the answers.  Thank goodness we don’t have to!  Life certainly has its ups and downs, but it’s not that bad being held prisoner by genuine, sincere love from your creator.