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Archive for September, 2010

Memory is a funny thing,

Subjective and dependent

On perspective.

We set up stones to portray the thought

With evidence that remains

Long after the memory fades.

The stories of recollection skewed

By time and perception….

By tellers who have heard stories

Of stones all their lives.

And after a while, one is cutting the end off a roast

As essential for success…

The way it’s always been done.

If stones could talk

They would tell a slightly different tale,

I think

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A House Divided

A House Divided

Like partisanship divides a nation, judgment causes disunity in the body of Christ.  I believe firmly in the ability to live out our faith amongst those who best represent our styles of worship and fellowship.  There is, however, a clear disconnect in the unity factor of the Body as a whole.  The central purposes Christ called us to have been lost among a sea of non-essentials. Our misappropriated focus has launched us into a mire of self-seeking righteousness.   Ultimately this clouds our witness to a lost world and negates Christ last plea in the garden –that we would be one like He and the Father are one.  The redemptive power of grace is overshadowed in its deliverance when the message is one of guilt and fear or anger and punishment.

It’s not about being right

It is very easy to get stoked and passionate about grievous sins but when we analyze the root cause of that anger what does it really represent?  I remember when my church did a study a few years back about grace.   Coming off the spiritual high of a really exciting study about our “purpose” I was a little let down –well, all right –miffed.  “Grace” I whined to my husband “I don’t need to learn anything more about grace—I am about as graceful as you could get” (Can you just anticipate the painful lesson I was about to learn).  Well, in the few months that ensued I went on a journey of discovering just how “un-grace-filled” I really was.

God slowly revealed to me the root causes of my “self defined” righteous anger towards the grievous sins of society.  First, I discovered that I was threatened by other people’s sin and secondly; I humbly admit, I had an incessant desire to be  right. Being wrong somehow shook the bedrock of my faith.   These lessons coincided with a presidential election; I was almost obsessed with the rhetoric being spewed by the opposing parties.  In my mind, I was convinced that the “other” party was wrong and I was right and that they were the enemy.  One day in my quiet time God whispered in my heart. “You know Ami, it’s not about being right.  The Pharisees were right, look where that got them—It is, however, about loving people into my Kingdom.”

Big silent pause—“Lord, am I being Pharisaical?”

I wasn’t feeling very loving, in fact love hadn’t even crossed my mind; but I was feeling very “right”. I had to surrender the notion of being right and replace it with the humility of love.  It is not my place to judge or convict.

Missing the Point

However we, as The Body, have a job to do and that is to show people the essence of Christ. We do this by confessing our own flaws and ruthlessly seeking to eliminate those elements in our characters by allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us.  We are to be vessels of God’s Glory and let the Spirit’s power do the work. Vessels work most efficiently when they are clean and empty.  When we are living examples of Christ in Spirit and Truth people take note.   Christ within us, draws others to us: they perceive something in us that is not like anything the world has ever given them and they want what we have.  The world today doesn’t have a lot of respect for the truth of Christ, not because it is not true, but because they are intimately aware of the flawed messengers who sit in judgment of a fallen world.  We have the right message, but sometimes the wrong delivery system.  If we continue to focus on the “sins of others” we miss out on the purpose of the gospel: to share the Good News of freedom that is found in Christ.

Who are we fighting anyway?

We not only alienate others by judgment, but we stymie our own growth while enhancing the territory of the true enemy.    My friend shared with me a powerful image of this very idea.  She said it’s like we are at war and there are two soldiers in two different foxholes but they are on the same side of the war.  They mercilessly shoot at each other because they do not recognize they are comrades, consequently the enemy is free to roam around and cause havoc among others in the division because of the ceaseless friendly fire going on.  We do not battle against the powers of this world but of the spiritual powers of darkness. Why do we insist on shooting at each other while the enemy gains ground?

So what do we do with the sin that abounds?  Do we feel that if we cannot judge sin we somehow lessen the holiness of God?  Or is it that we fear if we do not judge sin, we risk infection?  Or worse yet, do we surrender our ability to claim we are “right” if we defer judgment.  I cannot pretend to know the answers to the world’s motivations but I do know that God will not be mocked and that he will deal with sin in the most effective way. I do not need to defend the creator of the universe.    My response to other’s sin has to be the same as to my own sin—getting on my knees.  There is a powerful transformation that occurs when you replace judgment with a prayer.  And I don’t mean the prayer like the Pharisee gave in Luke– “Thank God I am not a sinner like him”.  The prayer must be a humble pivotal prayer, one where an attitude that began as judgment was surrendered to an earnest heartfelt desire for blessing and not cursing. “There but for the grace of God go I.”

They will know we are Christians by our….?

Christ didn’t say they will know you belong to me by your doctrine or by your definition of the communion table.  He didn’t say if you sing loud or pray silently you are sure to be found as a true disciple.  We are not known by the day in which we worship the clothes that we wear.   He did say though, that the world would know us by how we love each other.

Real love comes from pure motivation, the source of love.  We lessen our efficacy to each other in the Body and in the world as a whole when we attempt “Kingdom building” by dethroning God with our own self-gratifying judgment.  God’s eternal purposes will not be thwarted.   However, we may miss out on the great blessings if we do not put our full focus on the three most important commands that Christ gave us:  1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and strength, 2.Love your neighbor as yourself.  3. Go and make disciples.  It really is a simple message.  We just complicate it when we get caught up trying to “judge” people into holiness instead of letting God’s Spirit work they way God’s Spirit works best, by flowing freely in a self-giving, non- judgmental, humble and loving vessel.

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Preachin another Jesus

They told me

The line is between

Truth and Error.

Pride and Humility

Light or the masqueradin of it?

Yes, they yell

And tell

Me,

I am a sinner.

No woman can talk before men,

Can’t be a preacher girl

It ain’t right

It ain’t holy

It ain’t proper

“Sit down shut up and just keep

Your trap closed.”

“Were tryin to teach people about the Love of God

And God said, “Man is the Head”

“He said it; we believe it, that’s final!”

But, I am confused….

It sounds familiar, yet not….

I don’t know if we are talking about the same one…

Must be a different Jesus than the one I know

I am talking about….

The one who freed the Woman of Blood?

Nurtured the Samaritan

The one who called Mary by name?

Who wept with Martha?

The one who cast no stone?

No, your God doesn’t sound like mine.

But I’d be happy to introduce you.

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I have been blessed to live in the home where my husband’s grandmother lived and when she passed, his mother moved in and when she decided to move to California she did not want to sell this family jewel so she asked my husband and I and our two children (we now have three) if we would consider moving in to take over this beautiful house and eventually keep it as our own.  There is history in this home.  Generations have lived here.

It is rich with the traditions of my husband’s family, the pictures that line the long hallway in the entrance boast of governors, Mayflower descendants and colonial dames.   The highboy in the living room belonged to somebody important a very long time ago.  The desk in the attic is where my husband’s great grandfather sat as a little boy to write his ABC’s from the inkwell that was once perched in the top right corner, now  it is just a hole where my daughter slips her treasures

But in the backyard there is a place that I treasure, a garden was planted and it was very mature when I moved in. Years of toil and sweat hid behind the bright blue hydrangea.   And the Lilly’s, like faithful friends, return year after year, to mark to borders of the expansive beds. There are dozens of flowers which after 13 years I am still slowly learning their names, the generic of course, for I am terrible in Latin much to my mother in laws dismay.

When I moved in there was the unwritten, unspoken yet loud and clear assumption that I would maintain the garden. It was understood as part of the package deal.  This garden was as important to the heritage and tradition as the name that hung on the front door, it was and is part of who this family was and is.

Well I have a confession to make.  I love gardens.  I just don’t really like to get dirty.  And I really hate weeds, so there is a problem; because gardens do not tend themselves….  But I find that purpose lies behind each problem… and there is so much that God teaches me when I listen.  He orchestrates places in creation as a classroom to reveal truth to me….  If I am willing to listen, to learn, the tasks that I am called to do each day… to keep order….. speak to me in profound ways.

Here are some of the lessons I have learned from dirt:

Small weeds are easier to pick than large ones.

Weeds in my garden are like sin. I am reminded each spring as my garden emerges from slumber, it is much easier to deal with sins while they are still small- once mature, their roots grow deep, they are more difficult to pull. When I do finally get around to pulling them a huge chunk of dirt comes out disrupting the plants nearby. Sometimes if not tamed, they break off into seed, spreading more weeds.  I think of the things in my life that are weeds: worry, discontent, and fear: small unsuspecting things that if left unnoticed could be, unruly and out of control.

Some weeds are covered with thorns and when I try to pull them they hurt.  These are voracious weeds that boast with flower, but they will kill tender plants in their path. These weeds are the kinds that break off into three splits when I pull them and unless they are dealt with diligently…. they will rule.  In order to get rid of them I have to dig deep down into the dirt to get the base of the root.

These are things that not only hurt, but they spread like a cancer in the garden, choking out the good plants.  Busyness is that unsuspecting cancer in my life.

I have found the only remedy for these weeds is constant care from the gardener pulling, prodding, poking until the roots are exposed and pulled out and I sit exhausted before Him bare and exposed like the ground that is left by the gaping thorny leaves.

It is always easier to pull weeds after the rain.

Rain is like the blood of Jesus,   The soil is moist and ready to let go of the stubborn root if soaked.  There is a freshness, a newness, after the rain, the garden is ready to grow the plants are fed, and weeds come out easily.

The Perennial plants are like God’s grace

They come up every year and when they are shared with others in the garden they can’t help but spread.

Wisteria is like Pride in my giftedness.

If left unattended it gets way out of control, it may produce beautiful flowers but it will impede the growth of others with its voracious nature.  It is best to keep it way cut back and contained.

Mulch is the faith of those in the garden before.

It provides nourishment, blankets the garden and covers a multitude of weeds, gives visual clarity, helps keep the moisture in…   Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses

It helps me to view this tedious work in the light of the spiritual lessons I learn as I obey the necessities of care.  I don’t like the work, but when it is done, it is beautiful.  The color each season brings is both a surprise and a comfort of tradition.  My memory tends to forget the little crocus that first pops on the edge of the bed or the daffodils that are comprised of over twenty varieties: yellow, gold, and white.  Each season brings with it the delight of knowing it is a generational endeavor this garden, working and worked to retain this beauty called life.  And when fall comes and the final mums have bloomed and the cold air of November presses down on the last vestiges  of green and crimson I am reminded,  and  I am humbled in that reminder,  that when all is said and done and the  flowers and the seeds and the weeds have come and gone,

There is only dirt that remains.

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it……   Matthew 13:23

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Temporary Eternity

There are things that I see…

A tornado killed 14 people while they slept in their bed

A virus outbreak left thousands dead

Gas is expensive

Homes are cheap, yet sit unsold

Pollsters and pundits and other lies told

A woman watches as the uniformed men approach

With a child on her hip and one in her groin,

She falls to her knees

Wonders how will she do it alone.

It seems so unfair…

How could it be?

“Where is your God” she yells

Then whimpers…

Where is that savior?

Eternal perspectives seem trite in the face of pain

But there are things that I know….

The hand extended,

The people who pick up debris,

The doctors who aid,

The clerk who smiles

The men who continue to fight

Even when they lose a friend.

Yes there are things that I know

Even when I do not see

God is Good.

God is Merciful.

God is Gracious.

God is Just

But fair was never part of the equation

If it were

Why the Tree?

We live by Faith not by Sight.

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Amen Is Spoken… to the Glory of God

Beyond devotion or holiness

Beyond saved or chosen

Beyond good works,

Good words

Paul says

Don’t be uninformed,

Or ignorant of the trials.

It is going to hurt,

But not necessarily in the ways we’ve imagined.

Persecution is now driven by apathy

More than aggression.

By disgust, disdain,

Contempt

What do you do with a world…

That sees the church as Obsolete? Archaic? Hypocritical?

Somehow forty lashes minus one

Would hurt less

Seem more justifiable,

Than indifference.

Yet still I hope,

Like Paul

Who laments, yet…

Ends with Christ…

And the power behind the name

Not just any power,

But resurrection power

And not just the power that resurrects

But the power

That endlessly pursues

His People

Because He loves them

Because He died for them.

What would the Church look like today

If when faced with apathy and indifference

Derision and contempt, Responded with Power?

Resurrection Power?

It rings in my ear…

Pierces my soul….

You are the church…

You are the church

 

Be the church….

 

Be who you are….

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