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Archive for the ‘Growing Faith’ Category

Sometimes life happens and I don’t make the time to write – even during a challenge. The next several posts are me catching up on the writing challenge with my friends who are linked at the bottom of the page. I’m not giving up and I’m glad you didn’t either. 🙂

At least one of my fellow challengers will roll their eyes at who I chose to write about for this one. We joke about being Jesus-juked, but I promise that’s not what this is. This has been a month of reminding myself who I am and why I am the person I am – the person I choose to be, and no one challenges me to be who I am more than Jesus and those who choose to follow Him. Please don’t stop reading this if you don’t identify with being a Christian or if the only Christians you know are jerks. This is not a ploy to shame you, guilt you, or convert you. It’s a short explanation of why I am who I am.

There’s a lot of discussion going on right now regarding how to handle the refugee crisis, who Americans will choose as our next president, what to do about gay marriage and transgender issues, and a whole slew of other hot topics. In every discussion, there are Jesus followers who are planted firmly on opposite sides of the issue. They hold their convictions in both fists, ready to use the power of the Lord to slay their perceived giants across from them…their brothers and sisters whom they’ve chosen to break fellowship with over differences of opinion and lack of decorum. It’s not safe to be close to people who don’t believe the same things you do…“Bad company corrupts good character” and all that. (Some would know that is a quote from Corinthians in the Bible, but it was actually the apostle Paul quoting a Greek playwright, not Jesus.)

“Don’t let anyone into our country from the Middle East because they might be terrorists. Fight Islam because they want to kill all of us ‘infidels’.” “Vote for ____ because we need to return to being a Christian nation.” “Shut out the gays and shun those who consider themselves transgender because the Bible contains verses regarding such filth and we need to stand on the Truth.” I have heard and read these asinine statements all over the internet in recent days. But that’s not me. That’s not Jesus.

love-one-another-john

Jesus challenges me to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. Jesus doesn’t endorse a certain candidate for the presidency. Jesus calls me to love everyone regardless of who they are, how they choose to live, what gender they identify with, who they are attracted to and love, what shameful things they’ve done in their past, or how harsh of a person they are now even though they wear the name of the most revolutionary pacifist in history. He calls me to feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, and take in those in need of shelter. I do all of those things not because of some future reward, but because of the reward I get now – the deep satisfaction of knowing that the space I occupy on this planet is better because I’m in it. I make a difference in THIS world. Who, where, what, why, and how I love makes a difference. And I am who I am because I follow Jesus.

love2

My fellow Christians challenge me to be who I am because I deeply love people on both sides – the ones who are ruthless in their “truth-telling” and the ones whose every move is motivated by a gentle love. I have been both. If I’m honest about it, I am both. I tend to save my ruthlessness for the J-holes who are the squeaky wheels in all the worst ways. It’s so much harder to love them when I want to slap them, but I’m learning to temper my fury as I remember they are not my enemy. Most of the time I am motivated by the gentle, forgiving, love-people-right-where-they-are kind of love I see Jesus expressing. This is the quote at the top of my Twitter page:

love people

I love people. It’s who I am. It’s what I do. I am a warrior and a child. I am fierce and a force to be reckoned with when the need arises – I fight for others, but I am also like a kid in a sandbox – that person you meet and become instant friends with after a brief chat.

I am challenged to be who I am by Jesus and how He loves me…how He loves everyone, including Christians who are so unlike me and people who don’t identify with Him at all. I want to love like that. Jesus said that’s how people will know I follow Him…by my love…and that is who I am.

Check out my fellow challengers:

Don at https://donhillson.wordpress.com/

Beckie at http://free2b2much.blogspot.com/

Tracy at https://countyroadchronicles.wordpress.com/

 

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It’s been a hard week, and it’s only Tuesday! My friend Heather called late last night and I shared a bit of my funk with her, but I still went to bed unable to escape the feeling of being crushed. People have failed me this week. I’ve failed myself. I’ve failed others, and it sucks. Like lava flowing through my veins, my anger has been an internal companion lately. I find myself getting irritated by things that wouldn’t bother me if I was feeling like myself, which I’m not.

Is this an identity crisis? Do I need to just pull up my big girl pants and get over myself?

I’m reading Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. I think she’d tell me I’m not being kind to myself. I wonder if I’m experiencing my mid-life unraveling? She describes it as a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live. I’m doing heart and soul work and like Brene describing her own journey, it’s a bit like slogging through mud on my journey to living wholehearted.

I’ve been focusing on all the times I HAVEN’T kept my word, said or done the kind thing, loved someone well, served with compassion, finished what I started, and lived like I wanted to. I’m caught in the sinkhole of wanting what I won’t ever have and feeling sorry for myself. But it’s not just a pity party; it’s a deep grieving for an impossible relationship. Most of the time it’s emotionally manageable, but in my current state, it cements me in the bottom of the sinkhole. I need a rope.

I woke up this morning to a text from my friend Cherie. As we messaged back and forth, she made me laugh and I felt a little sun. I shared a bit more of my funk with her, and she spoke my name back to me, reminding me who I am. I lay in bed for a while, crying to God about my life and the uncertainty I’m feeling. Pete must have crawled in our bed after Benny left for school this morning because he was curled up asleep on Benny’s side. As I was wiping my eyes, his little voice said, “What’s wrong mommy?”

“I’m just sad right now and I’m talking to God about it.”

A minute later, my phone beeped. It was a Facebook message from an old high school friend. Stephen shared a video of his lesson from last Sunday, telling me that somewhere in the middle of his talk about Grace, he told the story of a time in high school when I called him out. It’s a story he has shared several times because for him it was a rooster’s crow…a call for a new beginning. A call to remember the grace we live in. He thanked me again for allowing God to use me to get through to him. I cried some more. The year I met and knew Stephen, my senior year, is one I’ve always referred to as my year from hell. But God used me in that hell and He gave me a few good friends. Stephen reminded me of that today of all days.

I guess that’s three rooster crows. Heather. Cherie. Stephen.

I’m still in my pajamas, and I may stay that way today. That’s okay. In my core, I know who I am. On the outside, sometimes I forget. My face is dry now, but my heart still hurts and I’m crying out to God. He’s the only one who hears the things I don’t feel safe enough to share with other people. He doesn’t hand me my big girl pants and tell me to snap out of it. He’s the one who sends three friends to speak life to me and remind me who I am, and then He holds me while I cry.

Watch the whole thing, but minutes 16-20 are about the rooster crowing. Good stuff! Here’s the link:

Undeniable Grace

P.S. My memory surrounding the letter I gave to Stephen is a bit hazy. I’m a wordy girl, so I’m sure the song lyrics weren’t the only thing I wrote, but I can’t remember what else I said. I only remember how nervous I was giving it to him, prepared for the possibility of it being the end of any friendship we did have. Lucky for both of us, we weren’t close enough friends for me to make him a whole guilt-inducing mix tape. Imagine slogging through that! 😉

And Stephen, if you read this, I’m humbled I’m part of your story. My heart is the same, but my methods have changed, and like you, I’m all about God’s grace! Thank you for messaging me today. Your timing was perfect.

I shared some thoughts a few months ago on Peter and the rooster crowing:  Jesus, Peter, Me, and the Number Three.

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“I don’t want to do it.”

“It’ll be okay. This is the next step for you. Trust me.”

“But I waited a long time to get away from my childhood of rough people and hopelessness. I thought those days were behind me. Now you want it in my face every day? Why, Lord?”

“Do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord. You know I love you.”

“Then feed my sheep.”

“But what does that even mean? Aren’t I already feeding your sheep? Isn’t that what we’ve been doing for the last 9 years in youth ministry?”

“I have a different flock in mind for you. Trust me. Do you love me?

“Yes, of course I do. You know that I love you.”

“Then tend my lambs.”

“But Lord, I’m not sure I can. I’ve never been homeless. Why would they listen to me? What if I say the wrong things?”

“Do you love me?”

“Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Feed my sheep. I chose you for this moment. You have what it takes, and I went before you and prepared the way. Just follow me.”

 

I lived this conversation nine years ago, before leaving traditional youth ministry. Like Peter falling back on fishing, youth ministry was my place of relative comfort. I knew what to expect. I was familiar with the tug of the net and the weight of a good haul as well as the frustration of being…fishless.

Oh yes, I get Peter. He and I have a lot in common.

I’ve gleaned many truths from the Bible story in John 21:

  • When we throw our net in where Jesus tells us too, even working as a team we won’t be strong enough to pull in our catch, and our net won’t rip. I like the sound of that.
  • Sometimes we provide the catch and sometimes Jesus does. (He was already cooking fish and bread over a fire before the disciples reached the shore and He asked them to bring more fish for the meal.)
  • When Peter saw Jesus, he jumped in the water to head for shore. I’m guessing he was still trying to get his head around Jesus’ resurrection and was eager to be with Him as much as possible. I wonder if just for a moment, he thought it a second chance to walk on water. Would I?
  • At the end of this passage when Peter asked about Jesus’ plan for John, Jesus told him not to worry about anyone else, just to follow Him. Now there’s a lesson I need to embrace!

Here’s my favorite part of the story:

The Bible tells us Peter was hurt and probably frustrated when Jesus asked him the same question three times. Yes, it takes some of us longer to catch on than others, but I think it was more than that. Three is one of the numbers that repeats throughout the Bible, especially in Peter’s life:

  • Peter spent three years with Jesus before this story takes place.
  • He was one of the three people in Jesus’ inner circle, and present at the transfiguration.
  • He had denied Jesus three times.
  • Jesus came back to life three days after His death and Peter was one of the first people He pursued.
  • The fishing story in John 21 was the third time Jesus had appeared since His resurrection.
  • Going back to the beginning, the third day of creation was when the water parted and earth rose up creating land. That same day there was vegetation (growth) and it spread. Can you see the parallels between creation and the resurrection?

I’m fascinated by numbers – it’s no accident that our ministry is called SEVENS. Numbers create beautiful patterns and focal points to help us understand order and importance in the stories of our Christ, the Bible, and our lives today.

Like my friend Chris pointed out in his post on Sacred Margins earlier this week, Peter’s job changed when Jesus took him from being a fisherman to being a fisher of men. Peter owned a fishing business, which means the man had skills and potential, a mighty combination which Jesus used to plant and grow His Church. He still works that way, you know.

It wasn’t Jesus, but Peter who needed this confirming conversation of the triple confession of love. Jesus knew who Peter was and where he was headed, but I think He also knew that in the back of Peter’s mind, he hadn’t let go of the triple denial. By asking about his love, it made Peter think a little and open himself up for healing of that wound. It was further confirmation that Peter was getting a second chance. It also provided an opportunity for Jesus to give him his mission, not once, or twice, but three times.

I too required more than one charge about the mission Jesus gave ME to feed His sheep. My concentration was on the flock of teenagers in my life and God moved me, literally, changing my flock to the homeless, broken-hearted, and captives in the Denver and Boulder area. New flock, new mission, new confirmation that Yes, I love Jesus and He’s building something with me. I’m part of His plan. He’ll keep welcoming me back when I drift and doubt, giving me direction…as many times as it takes.

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