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People I Can’t Stand

Be able to cite three good qualities of every relative or acquaintance that you dislike. ~Marilyn vos Savant

I’m about to make several people nervous.

I spend time with people I don’t like. I also spend time with people I do like, so now you’ll (hopefully) never know which you are.

Why would I spend time with people who annoy me, are rude and ugly, or cling to me like static electricity? Because I can always find something to like about others if I spend time with them.

When I was little I was told, “You don’t have to like everyone, but you do have to love them.”

The only thing is, I can’t seem to separate the two.

No matter how much I love you, if I don’t like you, I won’t care that your spouse is deployed and you need a sitter.

If I don’t like you, I won’t offer you a ride to the store even while professing to love you.

If I “love” you, but I don’t like you, I will take too much joy in your current predicament.

John tells us that we can’t even see this sort of hatred. We’ll fall in a hole and never find our way out.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. 1 John 2:9-11 NIV

So spend some time with people you don’t like. God loves them and you will, too.

The Light of Darkness

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. ~Plato

There is a common misconception that the Bible is about good people, and its purpose is to make us better than we already are. But most of us feel pretty good about where we’re at. In other words, the Bible was written for the rest of the world.

I remember the first time I felt I was the outsider for whom the Bible was written.

I was 18 and attended a Bible study with similarly-aged Christians. We read a passage about people loving the darkness, and the teacher asked why that might be.

The room was silent, so I spoke up.

“I like darkness because I can hide in it. I can do all of the things that I want to do and no one sees. Darkness is safe.”

Thirty pairs of eyes stared. Every possible sin was written across my shirt as their minds raced. The teacher blinked, bit his lip, and then tried to steer the conversation back to what he had hoped to hear.

John tells us that we can’t walk in darkness and be part of God’s world. He is light and light will always overcome darkness. We are supposed to put away the deeds of darkness and go toward the light.

Do you avoid the town prostitute but hide in your closet indulging in Halloween candy? We can “pray” to many gods in a closet.

Maybe you know whose daughter had an abortion and think it serves her right when later she and her husband are infertile. Your lack of compassion is hatred.

Are you impatient with others who waste their money but your expenses go unchecked and justified in your own eyes?

John knew that we would want to place ourselves on pedestals, so he added a reminder:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 NIV

The Bible is filled with stories of people who screwed up – murderers, rebels, swindlers, bigots – and people who weren’t so bad in their own eyes.

Which of the two groups were unable to see when the Light shone on them?

Come into the Light.

Who’s In Charge?

Roll on, deep and dark blue ocean, roll. Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain. Man marks the earth with ruin, but his control stops with the shore.
~ Lord Byron

Confession: I am a control addict.

In high school I took control of the one thing no one else could- what I ate.

I drank apple juice for breakfast, skipped lunch or sometimes had a small salad, apple juice for a snack after school, and then a pick-it-apart dinner at home. I didn’t consciously say to myself that this was the way I was practicing being in control. That was something I wouldn’t figure out for many years.

I had a goal: weigh 100 pounds at graduation. I’m 5’6” tall.

I still remember the disappointment graduation day when I weighed myself: 103 pounds. Obviously I had no self-control, I thought.

I continued the search for control over my own life.

Having trouble securing a job after college, I worked two jobs. After getting a full-time teaching job, I continued the second job because I didn’t want to be jobless ever again.

I tried to have control over my body, my money, my future.

Many years have passed since high school and college. Now I’m waiting on a house to sell, a new business to take off, and a new home to settle. I still want control, but I’m a little more generous with it.

God assures me that he knows how it will all work out. He can see the obstacles, the road construction, the other drivers, and He is still in control. And the final destination is within reach as long as I let Him drive.

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.” Psalm 73:23-24

Hope and Peace

Hope is patience with the lamp lit. Tertullian

When my boys were younger one of them wanted to know what the saying, “Just enough hope to hang yourself” meant.

After laughing and correcting the idiom, I realized he might be on to something.

I’ve heard many college-aged adults talk about how much money they’re going to make when they get out. Hope hangs slack around their necks waiting to tighten after graduation.

I know women who stare down the calendar, turning each childless month into an obsessive hopeful regimen that ruins a marriage.

Children hope for pets, teens hope for cars, and adults hope for fulfillment. And disappointment swings in the wind.

I live in God’s presence. Creator of the universe. Father of all mankind.

I don’t live in the hope of his presence. I am surrounded by his presence.

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; John 14:16 NIV

A battle rages for the souls of people I love and people I have never heard of. A war is being fought for the hearts and minds of my children and my students. There is a struggle to gain power over politicians, church leaders, and little old ladies.

I participate in that battle, helping turn the tide in favor of righteousness, holiness, and goodness.

But hope says the battles are already won – even while I fight.

I have just enough hope to hang myself . . .

next to the one who hung for me and offered peace.


Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5 NET

The Widening Sea

Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

My son has several artist friends. They go to galleries and visit art districts in other cities. Amos gets frustrated because they walk slowly through each exhibit hall until they reach the end.

He would rather walk quickly and then return to the parts he liked and spend time in those.

I don’t know much about art. But, like Amos, I do know when I enjoy a picture or sculpture.

I’ll stand or sit in front of a particularly great work – in my opinion – for half an hour or more.

Several years ago, while visiting the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee, I experienced one of those stop and stare moments. It was an oil painting called Widening Sea by Frederick Judd Waugh.

No matter which way I looked, the sea appeared to be coming at me. Light danced. Waves washed. Clouds scattered.

Sometimes I think of life in oceanic moments: marrying, birthing sons, the first house.

But life swims in all the moments between the waves.

Relaxing under a hot shower. Twisting a perfect peach off its stone. Sharing laughter with a friend. Weeping with another. Watching the sunset. Smelling fresh bread on a cold winter’s evening.

Are you hurrying through the gallery to stare at the moments you think are best?

Or are you taking the time to experience each masterpiece?


When times are good, be happy;
    but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
    as well as the other. Ecclesiastes 7:14 NIV

Who Is My Enemy?

When we can see the image of God where we don’t want to see the image of God, then we see with eyes not our own. ~Richard Rohr

God said love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.

I’m confident in my ability to love my neighbors. They’re good people who mow their grass, play with their kids, and only play loud music on New Year’s Eve.

A scribe asked how much of his neighborhood’s loud music he had to endure. Jesus answered with the story of the Good Samaritan.

But he didn’t stop there. Jesus also told us to love and pray for our enemies.

America has enemies. Terrorists who want to rid us from the earth only because we are Americans. But mostly we only have neighbors. We live in a safe place, surrounded by good people.

I think a better question for our insulated American lives is who is my enemy?

Is my “enemy” the one who lives her life in direct disobedience to God, flashing her promiscuous lifestyle in my face? Do I wrinkle my nose when I talk about her?

Perhaps my enemy is a politician who votes for federal abortion clinics. Or convenience store owners who push gambling hot spots. Maybe my enemy leads the education system that says all children need gender training.

Possibly my enemy is a high ranking officer who gets away with sexual harassment. Or a professor who practices racial discrimination. Or a wealthy family that enters college unfairly.

What if one of these enemies came to church on Sunday? Would I sit beside them, clasp their hand in mine, and pray together?

Would I clean their wounds, pay for their lunch?

Who is my enemy, Lord?

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:19-21 ESV

What Does Your Seal Say?

Scalded cats fear even cold water. ~Thomas Fuller

Our church received a business letter from a seal company. They make the little gold stickers that identify the real thing. Annual lotteries, book clubs, and magazines use these stickers, or seals, on their letters. It shows that this is real, important, authentic.

The seal company wanted us to purchase and distribute seals to our members so they  can feel proud of themselves, of our church, of what we have accomplished. We can post publicity shots of our seals and get people to come to our special church.

Seriously?

How is a seal going to promote our church? It’s the people in our church who are going to do the promoting – positively and negatively.

Is this a church that welcomes convicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, drug addicts, embezzlers, and bigots with forgiveness and guidance? Does this church hug the rich man, the homeless man, and the mentally ill man exactly the same? Does my church reach out in service to the elderly, the handicapped, the divorcee, the orphan, and the poor?

There is only one seal that will show that our church has a proven record of success.

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV

The media does not often favorably portray Christians, but in reality, in a country largely populated with Christians, where churches can be found in every city, town, and village, their perception probably comes from experience.

So I ask you: What is your church doing to show the seal of approval?

Are you known for your good works, compassion, and love? I’m not talking about how many shoe boxes you pack. I’m not talking about how many children attend your concerts and programs. I’m not even talking about how many dinners you have taken to the domestic abuse shelter.

How many people have you touched in a healing way?

Because only when people find healing will they ever take time to look at your seal.


Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7 ESV

Complete

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. ~Newt Gingrich

Sunday was a challenging day for us. My husband and I have made a difficult decision. We are leaving full-time, paid ministry in order to move back home near our parents.

Last fall and winter, our parents struggled with several major health issues. I spent a couple of months there taking care of things. My husband felt helpless so far away from his parents.

Now they are doing much better, but we are afraid it was a warning. It is time to go home.

We don’t have another job that we are going to. The plan is to open a Christian business where we can minister among the people.

Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” Colossians 4:17 NIV

Some say we are courageous to step out in such faith. Others say it is true love to be so devoted to our families.

I say it is another step in completing the ministry God has called us to.

Nearly thirty years ago, we started ministering to people from a variety of backgrounds. As time went on, we discovered God also gifted us with perseverance and tenacity. Now we are stepping deeper into the waters of diversity.

It will take devotion. Commitment. Faithfulness. Hard work.

But more than anything . . . it will take God.

What has God called you to do?

Are you still working toward the goal?

Will you complete it?

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 2 Corinthians 8:11 NIV

Dress Yourselves

The kind of young woman who can be a terrific torchbearer has high standards all the time, not just in her prom dress, but every, ordinary day. ~Margaret D. Nadauld

It’s here again: Prom Time.

My social media feed started highlighting girls in dresses in late-March and it will continue until mid-May.

I attended my high school proms, but that was before the glitz and glamour of the 21st century. Back in the “Old Days” we painted our own nails, had our moms help with our hair, and dresses came from the JC Penny Catalog.

Now American teenagers spend lots of their parents’ money on fashion and finishing touches.

Because it’s a very important dance.

Paul has his own fashion advice in Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV):

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Can you imagine it?

You rise in the morning to brush your teeth with compassion and kindness. You slip humility over your head and fix your hair with the brush of gentleness. The diamond of patience glitters around your neck. Both legs slide into forgiveness and your shoes are sturdy for bearing with each other’s burdens.

You put on your overcoat of love and head out the door with your friends in unity.

You’re glamorous, you’re beautiful, you’re the queen of the ball.

Dressed like that you’ll dance all night.

Because it’s the most important event of your life.

It is . . . Life in Christ.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18 ESV

Dead or Alive

There are only three events in a man’s life; birth, life, and death; he is not conscious of being born, he dies in pain, and he forgets to live. ~Jean de la Bruyere

Death is so final. No more conversations, no more laughter, no more birthday parties, cake, or candles.

Death separates, isolates, penetrates.

Death brings tears, anger, depression, and great, great sadness.

I’ve lost count of the number of deaths I’ve witnessed in the last year.

Everyone dies.

But not everyone lives.

Continue reading “Dead or Alive”