After watching the morning news…

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…this became my prayer:

“Abba, I need Your eyes today to see the people who cross my path.
Your ears to hear not just their words but their hearts.
And I need Your heart to love them with YOUR love.
Not my faulty and feeble love.
But Yours.

I need Your eyes today to see past the behavior I dislike so that I can see that this is another person who is created in Your image, someone You desperately and dearly love, someone for whom Christ died.

I need Your ears to hear past the rhetoric – whether it matches my internal script or not – so that I can hear the person behind the words. Even the ugly, vile, disturbing words. I need to hear the cries for You that are woven through the words they choose. And I need to speak back Your Words – Words of Truth, life, health, peace, healing, love, understanding, grace, and kindness – regardless of what they have spoken.

I need Your heart for every person in my path today.
The ones that look like me.
And sound like me.
And dress like me.
And believe like me.
And the ones who don’t.

I need Your heart that encompasses eternity.
Mine is bound by time, space, and my finiteness.
Yours is unbound and recognizes how brief this day – this life – really is.
And how many of the people who will cross my path today do not know You.
And what their eternal life death will be like in a Christ-less reality.

You see.
You hear.
You understand.
And You love, without condition.
You offer hope.
You offer peace.
You offer life.

And you choose to use me to do it.
To make that offer to a lost, confused, wounded and dying world.
You left the task of showing YOU to the world to me.
To me – and every other person who claims to be Your follower.
“Go and make disciples”, You said.
But before I can make disciples, I must first be a disciple.
Learning from Jesus’ example.
And then doing life like He did.
Applying the things He taught to my everyday life.
And especially to the people I meet in the daily-ness of it all.
Living as He did in my
Conversations.
Politics.
Kind and unkind actions.
Friends and foes.
Happy times and sad ones.
Learning how He did it so I can be like Him.
So that others will see YOU in me.

In myself, a hopeless and helpless task.
But the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in me.
And I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

So God, here is my request this day:
Get me out of Your way.
Give me Your eyes, Your ears, Your heart.
For both the Black Lives Matter protestors and the police officers.
For both those who look like me and those who do not.
For both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
For both my friends and my foes.
For both the good drivers and the lousy ones.
For both those I agree with and those whose point of view I cannot comprehend.
And everyone in between.

Because they ALL need You.
And I know You.
And You have asked me to love them in Your name.
But I need You desperately.
Because the task is enormous.
Impossible on my own.
But Your love compels me.
So please give me Your eyes, Your ears and Your heart this day.
May I do to them as YOU have done for me.
Grace. Mercy. Kindness. Love. Compassion.

And, God, one more thing – please use me in spite of me.”

Amen.

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My Prayer for You Today…

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:14 NLT

Hmm…unpacking that a bit…what does it mean?  And, more importantly, what does it look like?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ…
Grace means getting what you don’t deserve.
So what does the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” look like?

How Jesus demonstrated grace: Seeing people from the inside, out. Focusing on the fact that she was a fellow creation of His Father before He saw her gender. Or her skin color. How she was dressed. Her occupation. Intentionally seeing first the eternal part of her. Like Jesus chose to see the woman at the well (John 4) or the woman caught in adultery (John 8).

(Grace Applied: Seeing the people in my life from the inside, out. Focusing on the fact that he is a fellow creation of the Great Creator before I see him. Regardless of his gender. His skin color. How he is dressed. His occupation. His politics. His habits. His sin. Like Jesus sees me.)

How Jesus demonstrated grace: Being patient with those in process, even when they drove Him over the edge with their lack of progress. Like the disciples. Over and over again. When James and John wanted Jesus to destroy a town because they were mean to Him – demonstrating that they didn’t comprehend His command to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Luke 9; Matthew 5) Like Jesus explaining over and over again His death was coming – but that resurrection would come, too – and being rebuked by the guy with the biggest mouth in the bunch for saying the wrong thing. (Matthew 16)

(Grace Applied: Being patient with those in process, even when they just don’t get it. Whether that is my Facebook friend, my neighbor across the street, my friend from church or myself. ALL works in progress. ALL wrong in some ways and right in others. ALL in the process of “becoming”.)

…the love of God…
That would be “agape” in the Greek.
Unconditional, never-ending, sacrificial love.
So what does the “love of God” look like?

How God loves: Choosing to love even the most unlovable simply because they have value as an eternal being, a creature created by Love Himself. Choosing to believe the best about her because “love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance”. (I Corinthians 13) Choosing to love her even if – or when- she does not love Him.

(Love Applied: Choosing to choose. Decision overcoming emotion. Choosing to believe the best. Choosing to consider another’s needs before my own. (Philippians 2) Choosing to lay down my life for another. (John 15) Giving up my rights. My right for retribution. My right to be loved in return. My right to be understood. My right to have rights. Choosing to love without strings, without condition, without reservation.)
“…and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

“Fellowship” is also translated “communion” in other versions.
Some translations use the word “friendship.”
Paul put it this way in Galatians: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Keeping in step with the Spirit: Allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and direct, bearing fruit as He chooses (Galatians 5), obeying Him every time, being sure to not quench whatever it is He wants to do. (I Thessalonians 5).

(Keeping in step with the Spirit applied: Listening to that still, small voice that says, “You are not being like Jesus at the moment” – and then changing my behavior. Guarding my tongue. Looking away from that temptation. Fleeing that tempter.
Or, obeying the inner prompting that says, “Go over and do this kind deed.” Buy the lunch for the stranger. Stop to help the person on the side of the road. Sponsor the child in another land. Smile at my mean neighbor. Not running ahead of His Spirit. Not lagging behind in disobedience. Keeping in step. Each step. One at a time.)

What would happen if we lived this prayer, this benediction?

What would happen if we truly believed what it said and then lived out what it means?
If we truly gave grace like Jesus does?
If we chose to love as God loves?
And if we kept our lives in step with the Holy Spirit, day by day and heartbeat to heartbeat? What would happen?
How different our world would look!
How different we would look!

So, today, my prayer for you (and me) is this:

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

On Doing the To-Do’s…

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I like lists.
I like to make them.
It helps me to organize my thoughts.
And the older I get, the more necessary they become.

I like checking things off my lists, too.
Particularly my to-do lists.
And yes, I am one of “those people”: if I do a task that wasn’t already on the list, I will add it to the list just so I can check it off.

So most days – or at least most weeks – you will find a list somewhere in my life. On my desk. On my phone. On my desktop. On a scrap of paper.

And, like most days, today’s To Do List ranges from the mundane to the marvelous.
It includes the gross – cleaning the cat’s box – and ranges all the way to the divine – spending time in the Word of God, sharing my heart in this blog, communing with sisters in Christ.
As well as a little bit if everything in between.

But today’s To Do List has one thing in common with the every other day’s list.
Whether the list is in my busiest season or my slowest.
If it is during the holidays or while I am on vacation.
Whether I am in the US or traveling elsewhere.
There is a common thread the weaves through every list.

Or it should.
And on good days, it does.

Paul said it this way: “Whatever you do, do everything to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10)

According to God’s Word, that should be the overarching theme of my to-do list – and the list of every Christ-follower.
Whatever I do today – from the marvelous to the mundane – should be done for the glory of God.
In other words, everything I do today should serve to point either myself or others to HIS greatness, HIS goodness, HIS character, HIS heart.

It is easy to see how preparing the lesson for Sunday or writing this blog can be done for the glory of God. (It is also easy for both of those things to be about MY glory, not His.)

But how can I clean the cat’s box for the glory of God??
And what about all those other ordinary things that fill my days – like dishes and taking out the trash, answering e-mails and sitting in meetings, driving to and from work, running errands – how can I do those things for the glory of God?

There may be many answers, but, for me, the key is to invite Him in to each item on the list, being mindful of His presence that is with me everywhere I go, giving thanks in ALL of my circumstances, continuously talking to Him as I go through my day.

“God, I have to answer this e-mail and I am not sure what to say. Please guide my words.”

“God, the phone is ringing AGAIN. Help me to be pleasant even though I certainly don’t feel that way at the moment!”

“God, I cannot open this jar. Can You please help me?”

“God, I need a creative idea for this lesson. Whatcha got that’s good?”

“God, I forgot to print my grocery list AGAIN. Please help me to remember what’s on it.”

“God, I hate cleaning the cat’s box. But I am thankful for the cats and the joy they bring me. And I am thankful that they are healthy. Grateful that You have given me stewardship over them. And You said in Proverbs that the godly take care of their animals so I am cleaning this box as an act of worship – even though it is a really gross job.”

(Some items take more effort than others.)

“God, the way people drive around here makes me crazy! Did You see what that guy just did?! Please protect me from him – and protect him from himself. And God – whatever is happening in his heart and mind that is making him drive like that – would you intervene? Because I know YOU love him even though I really don’t!”

(And others take more effort still.)

And so on.

Because the bottom line is that life is not about me.
Not even a little bit.
I was created by God for His good pleasure, for HIS glory.
I was created to reflect Him in everything I do.
Because He left the BIG Job (His choice for the priority item on any Christ-follower’s to –do list) to me – and to the rest of His followers.
He intentionally designed our Daily Priority One to be this: “Go into all the world and make disciples…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.” (Matthew 28)

And that might be a stated bullet point on my to-do list today – “share Jesus with so-and-so”.
But it is far more likely that the items on my to-do list are more daily, more mundane, more ordinary – and seemingly way less spiritual – than that.
Like cleaning the cat’s box.
Or driving to work.

But when I choose to do the ordinary things in step with my extraordinary God, He gets the glory.
And others notice.
And begin to ask “Why?”
And a conversation begins – that leads to the BIG Job getting done.
When I do everything for the glory of God.

(And, by the way, when I choose to do everything for the glory of God, I end up getting the blessing. Even though I am actively pointing to Him. Because He is good like that. Amazing grace, indeed!)

When God Doesn’t Do What He Can Do

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You can…but you won’t.
Why won’t you, God?

You are able to heal my friend.
But so far, You have not.
Why not?

You are able to change my financial circumstances.
But You are choosing not to – at least, so far.
What’s up with that?

You are able to heal the marriage.
Keep the baby from miscarrying.
Cure the cancer.
Provide the money.
Send that godly husband to the lonely, godly girl.

I know You are able because You have done it before.
It’s recorded in the pages of Your Word.
Miracles.
Lots of them.

And I know because You have done it in the 2,000 years since Jesus walked the earth.
I have read the testimonies.
Heard them with my own ears.
Seen them with my own eyes.

So where are you now, God?
Because You can.
I know You can.
But You aren’t.
You haven’t.
And it feels like You won’t.

And in the midst of the swirling waters, the crashing waves, the skies split with lightning and the roar of thunder, I am broken.
I am small.
I am in pieces.
Shattered on the rocks.

Until I hear within the tumult the still, small Voice that whispers Truth.
As I lean in to hear the whisper, it gets louder.
And as the volume increases, I begin to think that the storm is over.

But then I realize it is not.
It is still raging.
I am still broken.
But the Voice now carries above the wind, in spite of the thunder, over the crashing of the waves.

As I lean in, The Voice of Truth says:
“My Name is I AM.
Not “I was.”
Not “I will be”.
But I AM.
I AM, who created you.
I AM, who knew you before the first cell split in your mother’s womb.
I AM, who has a glorious plan for you. For your life. For each of your days.
I AM, who is completely and utterly good.
I AM, who is the One and Only True God, the Sovereign Lord of the Universe.
I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the One who IS the beginning from the end of all things.
I AM the Creator of the storm and, therefore, the Master of it.
I AM the lover of your soul, who cries with you as you mourn, who collects your tears in a bottle and records them on my scroll.
I AM your Daddy and I will carry you in My arms every day that you will allow it.
I AM the peace that goes beyond what you can comprehend, beyond what you can see, beyond what you can know.
I AM the One who directs your paths.

And though the road feels long, it is actually very short.
The storm feels eternal but is truly very finite.
And the pain is overwhelming but there is purpose in it.

Will you trust Me?
Will you believe the best about Me?
Will you choose Me?
Even when you cannot figure Me out, will you choose faith over sight?
Faith over feeling?
I will not make you choose.
But, I AM here.
I AM waiting for you.
I AM yours.
Will you choose Me?”