Monday, December 7, 2015

Take A Sip!

                                         “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7)
About four years ago, our Pastor asked all our ministry leaders to take turns serving soup outside on the lawn of our church.  I cannot even give you a good reason why I didn’t want to do it—it was pure selfishness, honestly.  I thought it was a waste of time.  I had better things to do on a Saturday.  I had Sunday school lessons to prepare, something around the house that needed taken care of. Or maybe I just wanted to meet a friend at a local coffee shop for some “girl chat”.
I was drawn back to the story of Jesus asking the Samaritan woman for a drink in John 4.  She immediately started questioning Jesus and making excuses.  Her first question challenged Jesus as a religious leader—Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans.  Then, she made another excuse as to why she couldn’t draw water for him–he had nothing to draw with and the well was too deep (John 4:11).  I began to realize that’s how I was thinking.  Often times I would make excuses, thinking I was too deep in sin for God to use me.  My selfishness, my pride, my unforgiving heart blocked my ability to see the goodness of Christ in all things we do.  I would hear God’s voice, and feel His Spirit, but I did not act on the instructions and guidance He gave me.
I made way to that street corner each Saturday for 4 weeks serving homemade soup and hot chocolate to anyone who would walk by.  Several months later I saw a woman in the grocery store who recognized me from that corner.  “Don’t you go to the church on that hill?”
I replied, “Yes, how are you?”  I didn’t recognize her but she knew something about me.  She went on to tell me how she had the best soup one afternoon and we prayed with her.  She went on to share her personal story and how she appreciated the prayer the Pastor had given her.  It was at that moment that God said, this is why I needed you to serve soup.  It wasn’t about the soup; it was about the living water that flows in and through all who believe in Him. It was about being light when people are living in darkness.

If I had let my selfishness prevent me from serving,  I would have missed the opportunity to be light.  In order for living water to flow in us and through us we have to rid ourselves of ourselves–release the selfishness, the resentment, and the unforgiveness.  We must led the Spirit lead us to what is sure to be something pure, perfect, and right because He is an awesome God!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Goodness in Good Friday

I have been on a pursuit to remove the religiosity I grew up believing because honestly it didn't really help me to stop sinning or disobeying; I knew of Jesus, and I would wander from church to church in my 20s knowing I needed to get right. I spent most of my 30s trying to make up for the time lost in my 20's until I laid everything on the altar. In my secret place I found that I really can't make up anything from my past. I can embrace the past and learn from it so I can share and teach others.  On this Good Friday, I am overwhelmed by the Goodness of Jesus. He died for me, and you.  He could have called the whole plan off you know. He could have said, “You know what, it’s not worth it, and they aren’t even worth it”

 But, He didn’t.  In fact, knowing what the end would be, He kept on going. He kept on teaching, he kept on serving and loving, right to the end; Why? Well, there is a song that simply says, "He did it to save my soul--all of our souls”; When I think about Good Friday my heart melts. I never knew a love so selfless. He asks us to have that same kind of love, to bestow that same kind of grace. I fall short daily. We all do. As I move in a constant pursuit of the Most High King, I want to walk like He walks, talk like He talks, love like He loves, and forgive like He forgives. This Good Friday, I want to rest in the Goodness of the attributes of Christ. I want to imitate His character traits, so when people see me, they don't see a church goer, but the see Jesus.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

His Triumphant Entry, Shows Us How......

Has Palm Sunday become one of those “Christian Rituals” that we often take for granted? Have you heard someone who doesn't frequently come to church say, “Bring me back a palm?”  What does that mean? What does the palm signify in your life?   Sometimes we do things because religious doctrine tells us its “time to do it” but we don’t really sit to meditate and appreciate the why factor.  Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was to make it clear that he was the Messiah, He was the King that was prophesied all throughout the Old Testament and now he has come to free the people of their hurt, burdens, and sin. 
 He in his royal highness has come to make everything right; and make fix everything wrong. He was beginning His final days on earth. He knew what He had to do, and He began his triumphant entry with boldness and obedience with The One who sent Him.

 But, the fact that he came in on a borrowed donkey and that he wasn't dressed in royal robes or  the finest of linen but on the clothes of His disciples shows us that Jesus is available to anyone who seeks Him.  You don’t have to speak eloquently and know everything.  You don’t have to pronounce the words correctly and know the exact dates and times of every biblical story.  
 But what you should know is that the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ was and is accessible to all.  Palm Sunday reminds us that in everything we do we need to find the people.  We need to find the poor, the naked, the hungry, the lost, the hurt, and the least.  Palm Sunday reminds us that we must conquer the evils of the world with love.  Palm Sunday reminds us about servant-hood.  Palm Sunday is more than just picking your 5 extra palms, going home and making your cross figurine and placing it on your dashboard until next year. But, understanding that when you display your Palm Sunday Cross, is your heart willing to love the stranger?  Are you living on purpose and giving your gifts back to God?   We have a duty to not simple carry on Christian rituals but in everything we do, we must show people   Jesus. 

Suggested Readings:  (Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19).
Photo Cred. By: Rev. T. Denise Anderson...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

To My Friend....

What do you say to someone that just can’t seem to catch a break?   What do you say to someone that is hurting and feels that everything he or she does is WRONG?  I have been running this Christian race for some time now and the more I stay in the word, the more my faith is strengthen but I can’t give quick reference guide scripture passages to a young 20 year old who just feels lost. He feels that when he takes 3 steps forward something always goes wrong and he takes 2 steps back.   I can’t give him subtle analogies and rhetorical questions of self-evaluation that I give myself. 

When something goes wrong in my life,  I immediately do my own self-eval to determine if I had any part in any consequence that I am dealing with.  9 times out of 10,  I didn't yield enough, I didn't surrender completely,  I wasn't completely honest with the situation, or I didn't give my best effort,  I didn't make the best use of my time.  Usually most of my bad decisions are poor money management, so I take full responsibility for those consequences.  Yet, God always delivers.  But, when I hear the frustration in a dear friend’s voice I just simply for a moment ask God why?  Why does she have to go through all this?  God, I don’t think her faith or her son’s faith is strong enough to handle another setback.  I ask God; please give her one enjoyable holiday.  They sure do need it. 

I think about the story of Joseph and all throughout the story, through each misstep, each setback, scripture tells us, that “the Lord was with him”.     I have to believe that the Lord is with my friend and her family. 

 I think about David and all his issues, and even when he failed, he loved God and God loved him.  His Psalm 138:8 reminds me,  “ The Lord will perfect that which concerns me” .  I have to believe that the Lord will make perfect all things that concern my friend and her family.

I think about Job and how he lost everything, but never lost his faith in God.   And, so once again I have to believe that the Lord will replace all things lost.   All those things that were meant for evil, God will use them for good. 

As I stand on my faith, sometimes it’s hard to express that faith when someone is at their breaking point.  I can offer a kind word,  a prayer, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to vent, but none of them seem to be enough.  

To my friend, whatever you are going through, whatever you are facing, the Lord is with you, he has heard your cry, he has pitied your every moan.  
To my friend, you cannot for a second get off course; you have to stay in the race.  You have to fight for your faith.    The bible says that those that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.  
To my friend, remember that His grace is sufficient.    
To my friend, He loves you. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

She remembered what her Daddy taught her.......

One of my favorite childhood memories is watching my mother interact with her dad.  She called him “Daddy” in such a way that would make the strongest man melt to his knees.  Even as she aged she called him Daddy, and he answered so lovingly.  I see that same bond forming with my girls and their dad, and it makes my heart smile.  

I was born in Los Angeles, California.  My mother moved to the west coast in the late 60s and I came about 8 years later.  When I was six months old the car my mother was driving lost control and collided with oncoming car.  I was ejected from the vehicle and tore multiple ligaments in my legs.  My mother sued the automaker and after multiple continuances and trial date changes, the case was finally gone before a jury four and half years later.  Right before jury deliberations, the defendants came back with a settlement offer.   My mother’s lawyer advised her to reject the offer.   Six hours later the jury came back in favor of the car manufacturer.  Not liable. 

My mother was distraught.  She thought she was going to win her case.  She had plans with that settlement.  Perhaps, start a college fund for me, or pays off her bills, or take a vacation.   The money was spent in her head.  Often times we all make plans in haste before actually having exact facts.  Now, this blog really isn't about my mother’s reaction but the advice her daddy gave her when she made that defeated call back home to tell her parents she had lost the case. 

My grandmother and mom were on the phone for hours, probably replaying the events of the trial, both having an opinion of what transpired.  My mother probably felt she should have taken the settlement offer, because hindsight is always 20/20.   But, when my granddaddy got on the phone, he said, “Patsy, don’t count on anything, until it’s in your hand.  Here is your mother.”   13 words.   One small sentence.  My mother remembered that for the next 30 years.  In fact, that was the only thing she remembered of that phone call that day.  It was the advice that her Daddy gave, that she passed down to me, and that I shared with my family and friends.   As I told the story the other day to my husband Michael, I was reminded how my grandfather truly was meek and lowly, yet full of wisdom and strength.  I wish I could have seen then what I see now in my memories of him.  A lot of his traits came from Jesus.  My grandfather was a just man.   He was a good man.  I am sure he had flaws, for we all do.  But, if there was any one that tried  to always do good works, it was Raymond.    
Jesus loves us.  He loves everything about it.  He wants us to look at Him like we look and admire and respect the fathers in our lives.   God wants to be our counsel in every aspect of our lives.   The same advice that my mother kept close to her heart for years to come from her earthly father, He wants to give us daily.  

Having faith that God truly has our best interest at heart should always be in our minds.  He isn't going to take us down the wrong path.   The bible has plenty of promises of just the opposite.   He comforts us, loves us, restores us, molds us, and protects us.  

It is my hope that some of the advice I learn through walking and talking with Jesus; I can pass on to my children and they can share a story 30 years from now.  It is my hope that they feel inspired like I do now. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sharing my mess, becomes a Message: Transforming...

Sharing my mess, becomes a Message: Transforming...: I taught my first bible study lesson a few weeks ago! Wow! It was a journey to get there. I have been the Sunday school teacher for the you...


I taught my first bible study lesson a few weeks ago! Wow! It was a journey to get there. I have been the Sunday school teacher for the youth for a while now, purely by default. I reluctantly took on that task because I didn't think I would be able to plant seeds and nurture children so when they leave they have something to hold on to. I was sharing my fears with a friend who has recently rededicated her life back to Christ and is opening up the mysteries of His word and His goal for us. She too, could not remember much of anything from our Sunday school experience. I remember learning the memory verse, getting the gold star, singing in the Christmas pageant, and doing it all over again year after year.

 At some point that ritualistic approach wears off. There was nothing that caught my attention when deciding to study James. I just said his name. My first month in preparation, I was reminded of the awesome power of the Holy Spirit. I couldn't believe how I was going through almost every test found in this book all at once! Even as I was going through trials, He is still teaching and revealing himself to me. I believed I had to study James so in depth so I could understand why I was going through all my mess. A book I was commanded to finish by Easter was not done, the problems escalating in my marriage had not been addressed. I had to lose the one thing that I thought I needed to completely yield to His will. We had to go through some mess before we could appreciate the test! It was painful but necessary.

What I also learned in that period of testing and holding on to my faith is that my reluctance in teaching the youth was holding me back. Sometimes God puts us in positions to prepare us. During that season of preparation he is strengthening us. I would find myself heading to scripture to address any concern the kids brought up from week to week. I wanted to make the bible relevant to their lives so they didn't end up like me or Heather, feeling like Sunday school was a bunch of boring rituals.

By August it became clear to me that I was missing something from this entire Christian experience. I was missing the relationship part. I was missing the part that Jesus, in his power and might, simply wants to walk with me and talk to me like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. These two men traveling back home after the crucifixion stunned and in disbelief of all that had transpired, almost missed the opportunity. Jesus was walking with them home and they didn't even recognize him.

We become distracted by so many things that we miss the opportunity to build our relationship. We have to stay focused on him. All he simply wants to do is share every moment of our lives. Years ago Cotton Incorporated had a slogan “Making cotton the fabric of our lives”. Jesus wants to be that fabric, carefully crafted and designed to receive the best prize----eternal life.