LAZINESS

 

I am a hard worker.  I like to put forth my best work when I’m teaching, performing, or writing.  When it comes to things that I know that other people will see, I want to make sure that I put forth my best work.  It’s the stuff behind the scenes that I can get really lazy with: making sure I’m eating right, exercising, sitting down to read.  Some of you may be like, “Tiffany, how can you be lazy about reading?  Reading is so relaxing and fun.”  To which I would reply, “Thanks for the insight, but I would rather veg out on the couch and watch TV than take effort to read and actually think.”

At times, laziness gets the best of me.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not always lazy in these areas.  I do put forth a lot of effort in my teaching inside and outside of my job as an educator, but there are areas of my life where at times I will have little to no effort.  For example, writing.  I love to write.  I’m sitting in my room writing right now.  Boom.  But, it’s Sunday afternoon, my kids are napping, and my husband is watching football.  I would love to be lazy right now and curl up on the couch under a huge, soft blanket and take a nap, which means I wouldn’t be writing.  Which also means I wouldn’t be doing what the Lord has called me to do.  Yes, God has called us to rest.  We need rest, but there is a difference between resting and rolling over away from what the Lord wants you to do.  

I have to fight against my lazy.  

In the Bible, Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet.  He spoke to the Israelites about turning away from their sin and returning to the Lord, yet no one listened.  For 40 years he preached a message of repentance, yet no one did.  They continued to sin.  I know God doesn’t rate sin, but people do.  Let me just tell you, they did bad sin.  Like sacrificed their own children in idol worship sin.  Like men having sex with their mothers sin.  Like worshiping all sorts of different gods in all sorts of weird ways sin, just to name a few.  The Israelites were giving their best over to idols instead of the Lord.  People mocked Jeremiah.  They had him beaten and put in the stocks.  Jeremiah had it bad.  In Jeremiah 20, the prophet starts to complain about how he is being treated and wants to give up, stop preaching to the people to repent, but then, Jeremiah speaks some sense in verse 9:

“But if I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name, His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

There are many times when I want to be lazy and not share what the Lord has been showing me.  There are many days when I want to be lazy and not get up early and spend my mornings in prayer and reading the Bible.  Many times I give into my laziness of not doing what I need to do in order to do nothing.  In those times, God reminds me of this verse and how Jeremiah had it way worse than me, yet he couldn’t keep in what God was wanting him to do.  It burned inside of him.  The Word of God burned more than any spicy food could ever do, so much so that not sharing made Jeremiah even more exhausted and weary.

It was the indigestion of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, I can be lazy about a lot of things, but I pray that I am not lazy when God wants me to move or to share.  I have to pray against my own laziness when it comes to things that really matter.  I need to do my best work even when it won’t be on a stage or seen by other people.  The truth of the matter is no matter what I do or don’t do in the early morning hours will come to light by mid-morning when I am interacting with other people.  I want to give my best to God, not to anything else.  Because, let’s face it, when I’m lazy and not being faithful, I can be worshiping the idol of self.

REST

 

I’m sitting here on my couch alone in my quiet house.  My husband is at work.  My kids are at school, and the only noise is the ticking of the clock.  Well, and my dog licking her feet.  Strange pup.  I called into work to tell them that I wasn’t going to come in because I’m… sick.  

Yes, sick.  

Not like throwing up sick, just not feeling good sick.  Not feeling good enough to take on going to teach a bunch of children under the age of 7 on a Friday, sick.  Out of the many roles of a woman and mom, being sick is not one that comes easy.  I will try to sike myself out to convince myself that I’m not really sick.  It’s the four letter word that no woman likes to admit to because there’s always too much to do to just take a day and recover from a virus or a case of the icky’s.  This isn’t written down in some woman-code book; rather, it’s in some job description that I made up for myself on how to be a good wife, mom, teacher, etc.

I almost feel a little guilty for not doing anything today. Almost.

There are dishes in my sink.  Dirty clothes in my laundry room.  Stuff at Target I really want to go buy, but I’m just sitting on the couch.  Should I get up and “do something”? Besides taking a shower and feeding myself, I really haven’t done much except play on Facebook.  However, I have been doing something.

I’ve been resting.

Ah, resting.  That thing I say that I do, but actually rarely get to do.  Even on the weekends, we have two kids that need to be fed and refereed.  (I say WE because my husband and I run a man to man defence on the kids.  It’s a team effort.)  There’s always laundry to be washed, dishes to be done, something could be getting cleaned at any given moment.  I personally feel like it’s hard to rest as a woman because we can’t stop thinking about the long list of things that “need” to get done.  But,

We actually need to rest.

We need to take those moments where can focus on ourselves by doing nothing at all.  In Psalm 23, David writes, “He [the Lord] makes me rest in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.” Why does God make David rest in green pastures?  Simply stated by Jesus, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).”  The Sabbath, or day of rest and worship, was given to us as a gift to renew our bodies and minds in order to serve and connect with the Lord.  In the Psalms, God has to make David rest.  In my mind, I think David had the same issue that we have today: there’s always just one more thing that needs to get done.  Convincing myself that I have one more thing that NEEDS to get done is a half truth,

which is a full lie.

There are things that will have to get done, but the key is eventually.  I can always make a trip to Target.  The laundry will get done; in the meantime, we have enough clothes to wear.  My dishes will get done eventually, probably sooner than later because they will start stinking.  Right now, God is making me rest.  How?  By catching one of the many colds that are flying around the elementary school I work at or my kids brought home.  God is making me lie down in His green pastures, which is on my couch, reading my Bible, and watching my puppy stretch in some pretty weird poses.  Seriously, this dog is odd.  Cute, but odd.

I need rest (see previous post “Overwhelmed”).  You need rest.  We all need rest, but resting is just preparation to take the next step of doing.  Like when you have a cold, our bodies and minds need to rest in order to recover.  The Lord makes us rest in green pastures and quiet waters, but David didn’t say God makes him set up camp and build a new castle to live there.  The Sabbath is one day a week to recover from pressing on hard for Jesus the other six days a week.  If we don’t rest, the ache and overwhelmed feels we get from life will wear us down.

Take a rest.

Rest in Lord before the 4 letter word of sick comes to visit.   Don’t feel guilty for doing what God wants for you to do.  Trust that the Lord will get it all done, and allow yourself to be refreshed amidst the quiet waters… or even quiet ticking clocks.

OVERWHELMED

 

So, It’s been a while.  I took a break over Christmas because, when you are a music teacher in charge of the annual Holiday concert, have two kids and a husband to shop for, and cookies to bake, things get crazy busy.  Plus, as if I didn’t have enough on my plate, my husband and I thought we needed to get a dog.  We realized that we like to have some sort of life change every 2 years. Since we are done having babies, a dog is the next best thing, right?  

Like many ladies, I have a lot to do in any given day.  It’s a schedule of go-go-go with barely enough time to stop and smell my lunch I have to inhale, let alone any roses that may come along the way.  I can’t complain about it because I do it to myself by adding just one more thing.  It’s like complaining that I’m fat after eating an entire sleeve of Oreos because, let’s face it, I’m not a quitter.  

But then it happens…

My schedule that is delicately sitting in the balance begins to tip.  I have my schedule down to a T, but then the principal at my school asks me to do just one more thing, which really isn’t that big of a deal. (The balance tips a little.)   My husband has to work a later than usual, so I don’t get relief from my children who are fighting over which PBS Kids show to watch.  (Tipping.)  I wake up on a Tuesday morning, which I like to call Monday’s revenge, only to find my new puppy has pooped in her kennel and has rolled in said poop, needing a bath before I can take my kids to school and before I can get to work, causing me to feel rushed to work and a little cranky.  (Everything in my world is splattered on the floor in one big hot mess, making me use everything in me to hold back tears of frustration.) Then, the final straw…

Insert the emotional breakdown over dinner being a little salty.

It’s not like just one thing made me feel overwhelmed with life.  It was the sum of all the little things that became a weight to heavy to bear.  

Thankfully, God knows me better than I know myself.

Psalm 142:3a reads: “When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.”  I’ve been in an emotional rut lately.  My life schedule has been busy, but situations causing me to guard my heart, making tough choices, and sitting in a period of waiting have been a little overwhelming.  I’m thankful to know that in the moments when I feel like life is too much, the Lord knows where I should turn.  

I turn to the Lord.

It doesn’t mean that all of my little issues will magically disappear.  Rather, the Lord provides prospective.  He allows me to see that in the grand scheme of everything going on around me, things aren’t so bad.  Other times, He provides an overwhelming peace to weather the storm.  He holds my heart and reminds me that I’m not alone, though the tough times seem lonely.  He is right there with me every step of the way because when it comes to loving His children,

God is not a quitter.

I want to encourage you today.  If you are going through an emotional rut, no matter how deep the rut may be, know that you are not alone.  You can complain to God.  Really.  Like all on complain.  Psalm 142:2 says, “I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles.”  Your hardships may take you by surprise, but it God saw it coming.  That’s the beauty of His sovereignty.  He literally knows all.  If we read the verses in order, we can pour our complaints before the Lord, feel overwhelmed with everything going on, and God will show us the way we should turn.  Pretty epic.

Take heart, my friend.  Not to sound like a 90’s Michael Jackson song, but you are not alone, so don’t try to handle your overwhelmed-ness by yourself.  It’s amazing how even 5 minutes with the Lord can change your day. Pause and be with Jesus.  


 

If you like it, please share this post.

CHRISTMAS SHEEP

As I might have mentioned once or twice before, I am currently reading through the One-Year Bible.  For the past few weeks, I have been reading through the book of Ezekiel.  Ezekiel, like the other prophets, told Israel how they were sinning, and God was really mad about it.  They needed to turn from their evil ways.  God would give Ezekiel a lot of visuals in order to get His point across, and Ezekiel would share with the Israelites (God’s chosen people) and other nations (not God’s chosen people) what the Lord had said.  

Not only are the prophetic books applicable to the people for which they were written, the writings also would foreshadow what was to come in the distant future.  My Old Testament professor in seminary would get mad at us if we would draw everything into the New Testament. Dr. Mosley would tell us, “the prophets had to speak to the people in front of them before they could speak the generations after them.”  Deep thought.  

Getting back to Ezekiel.  God is telling the Israelites that they are still loved by Him, even though they keep messing up time and time again.  God says starting in Ezekiel 34:11:

“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep.  I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock.  I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day.  I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations.  I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers and in all the places where people live… I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord.  I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again.” (34:11-13, 15-16a)

Notice, God didn’t say, “you, Ezekiel, are going to bring all my people back.”  God said I.  God Himself was going to save His sheep.  True, as Dr. Mosley would say, this does first apply to the Israelite people in that time.  However, I feel like Linus from the Peanuts gang when I say, this is what Christmas is all about.  The Lord came to find His sheep.  He came HIMSELF to gather us and to give us peace, rest, and to bring us home.  He came and tended us when we were lost and without hope.  He showed us how to live for the Lord.  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God Himself made a way for us to go home.  The Holy Spirit searches for us, though we don’t know we are lost.  Sheep are dumb animals who need a shepherd to look after them.  Praise the Lord for Jesus, our Good Shepherd (John 10).

As you go about this Christmas season, remember that we are a sheep in need of a Shepherd.  God didn’t send some dude to come find you.  No, He sent Himself to find us, to search for us, to bring us home. And like the old song says, there is no place like home for the holidays.  

Merry Christmas, little sheep.

———

If you like it, share it!

BUT GOD…

Have you ever been driving an everyday route and noticed a business for the first time.  You get all excited about this new gem you’ve discovered, only to find out that it’s been there for 10 years, or something crazy like that?  When I drive, I don’t see the businesses that line either side of the busy road.  I notice the other people on the road with me.  I’m in focus mode because I value the safety of me and my fellow passengers, usually my family.  I have the steering wheel in my hands and my eyes constantly moving from windshield to mirrors, checking to make sure some idiot driving 80 mph and texting doesn’t hit me.  I try not to be a distracted driver, which is difficult when I have two really cute kids in my backseat who will argue with one another and/or a hottie of a husband next to me who occasionally likes to pretend there is a break on his side of the car.   All this is going on within my vicinity, so I don’t take time to notice what buildings are on route until there is no one else around me on the road or I give up control (ride in the passenger seat… my turn for the imaginary break!)   The businesses are always there; I just haven’t stopped to notice or been made aware of them. Truth be told, I’m unable to be made aware of anything when I’m in survival mode, dodging drivers who are preoccupied with a tweet or their cheeseburger.  I just want to make it…

It was a Sunday morning.  The music, media, and pastoral teams were meeting backstage before our 9am service to pray.  We would typically pray for those attending service, those serving, and other needs that came up.  This one particular morning, we were challenged by our pastor to pray for heightened awareness of the presence of God.  We knew God was with us because God is everywhere, but were we ready to honestly be more aware of God?

Like driving a familiar road, the idea that God is always with you can become almost autopilot.  God is always with us, but to be aware that His presence is with you is another story.  Okay, I know I might sound a little repetitive, but hear me out.  I can get so fixated on getting to my destination, holding onto the idol of control, that I miss the awareness of the presence of God.  Like that cool spot that’s been along my everyday route for 10 years, I simply pass by the familiar because I’m so preoccupied to all the other stuff around me.  Is it all bad stuff? No, not necessarily, but if I miss the main point, then, what’s the point?

We tell God, “I want more of You,” but God will only give us as much of Himself as we can handle. We think about Moses and how he walked to the top of the mountain to meet with God. He didn’t go up carrying the idols of the day, but he came empty handed saying, “God, I just want to see Your glory.”  God knew that Moses could not handle seeing the Lord in His whole glory, so He put Moses into the cleft of the mountain and passed showing only His back (Exodus 33: 12-23).  Not only could Moses not have a direct view of God, he couldn’t even see the face of God; Moses could only see the backside of the Most Holy. Imagine what would have happened to Moses if he would have looked directly at God. Well, you don’t have to imagine.  God told him.  Moses would have died. Not injured. Dead.  We can’t even look at the sun, even during a solar eclipse, for 30 seconds without going blind.  The glory of God shone so bright that it made the face of Moses glow, let alone not burning his retinas (Exodus 34).  

The reason we don’t have more of God is not because God doesn’t want to give more of Himself.  The reason is that we can’t handle more of Him.  It would be like looking for that local gem of a business while driving down that busy road with screaming kids in the back seat, hipsters riding their bikes in and out of traffic while teenage drivers all around you are catching up on their Instagram selfies.  There are too many distractions; too many things vying for our attention.  We couldn’t handle having more.  We can’t handle having more of God because we come up to Him with all of our idols and distractions in our hands and say, “Look at all this cool stuff I bought, oh, and I want You, too.”  But God is not of in the business of “I want God and…”  He is in the business of “I have all of this, BUT God…” I have all of these problems; I have all of this baggage; I have all of these distractions, sins, and fake idols in my life, BUT GOD can redeem me from it; BUT GOD can help me to let go of all the things in my past; BUT GOD can cleanse me, so I can let go of those distractions, sins, and idols and cling onto Him.  We aren’t meant to have everything “and God”; we have everything because we have God.

“But God” are some of the two most powerful words in the Bible.

“When they had carried out all that was written about Him (Jesus), they took Him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.  But God raised Him from the dead.” Acts 13:29-30

“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” Psalms 66:18-19

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love for us in this ”while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:7-8

These are only three examples, but there are many more in Scripture.  The book of Psalms and Paul’s letters are filled with “but God”s.  It really is the theme of the Bible.  We were horrible sinners, dead in our sin, but God didn’t give up on us and made a way by sending Himself to die on the cross for our sin.  Pretty epic.  

I want to be more aware of the presence of God, Who is always with me and around me.  You know the best way to not have to deal with crazy drivers?  Don’t drive.  Ha. Ha. No really.  When I would walk the neighborhood, I would be able to see more of what was around me.  I could be more aware of the businesses and nature that I simply drove by any other day.  I would explore my neighborhood in Chicago on foot rather than car because I could be more aware of the hole in the wall places (like the cleft for Moses?).  In our lives, we have to slow down.  Take moments to pause and be aware of the presence of God, to let go of control and sin.  Because He is a good Father, the Lord won’t give us what we can’t handle.  Excuses start with “but I”; redemption starts with “but God”.  Put it in park, lay it all down, and allow the Lord to create a “but God” in the middle of your commute.

 


 

If you like it, share it!

 

THANKFULNESS

 

This past Thursday was my favorite holiday of all: Thanksgiving.  I love the idea of taking a day to reflect and be grateful for all the blessings in our lives, all while eating super yummy and overly carby food.  Sometimes, it’s easy to find things to be thankful for.  The food before us; the great weather; the family around us.  Other times it can be hard to find things to be thankful for.  The food before us has some weird smell and looks gross; the weather is super cold and nasty; the family is hard to be around and trying a lot of the time… some of them also have a weird smell.  Finding things to be thankful for is like trying to scrape the last bit of peanut butter out of the jar.  You know it’s in there, but man it’s a lot of work for just a little bit of goodness.  

I’m thankful for my kids.  Both my kids are super bright, but they are both at the age that they know everything (from what I understand, this happens a lot when kids are growing up… thinking they know everything).  My two-year-old is 2 going on 14.  To put a positive spin on it, she knows what she wants and will not accept anything less, even if it is cookies for breakfast.  I love cookies too and would go to town on some Oreos for breakfast, but I have to set a good example or something.   My four-year-old is super smart.  I’m not just saying this because I’m his mom; I’ve had other educational professionals tell me he’s smart.  It’s great that he’s bright, but his intelligence, height, and size aide in my forgetfulness that he’s only four.  Since I teach young elementary students, which my son is bigger than, I have a tendency to hold my kid to emotional standards that he is not capable of meeting.  You know, like not freaking out when I tell him it’s time to take a nap or that he can’t watch some PBS kids show.  I love my kids, but I have to remind myself to be thankful that they are bright and still learning how to control their determination and drive.  Instead of getting angry about their independence, I have to remind myself to pray that they will continue to be independent thinkers when the enemy tries to lure them away from the Lord.   

I’m thankful for my husband.  He’s super supportive of me, even when I have my crazy moments of being overwhelmed with life.  He lets me just talk things out without interrupting, so I can hear my own thoughts.  Does he have flaws?  Yes, as do I, but we made a deal early in our marriage to only talk good about each other to our friends and family.  There’s no need to bring other people into our marriage, especially through the path of drama.  

I’m thankful for strength.  In this season of my life, my thankfulness may seem a little shallow to some, but the backstory makes the sincerity.  I recently had to make some tough choices that may not be popular, but I know it’s what’s best for my family.  I had to say goodbye to some toxic relationships that were on life-support in order to protect my kids.  I’m thankful for my family, but I’m also thankful for the wisdom and insight to know when to say no to certain people.  It’s not a popular choice, but after much prayer and tears, I had to let go.  

Psalm 118 has been my psalm recently.  It starts off with, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” (Thanks Chris Tomlin for making this into a song; now, everytime I read this passage, I start singing in my head.)  The psalm continues talking about the faithfulness of the love of the Lord. In good and bad times, we can find refuge and strength in Him.  The author talks about various highs and lows, yet God remained faithful.  The last verse in the psalm is the same as the first, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! He faithful love endures forever.”

You may enduring a time in life where everything is good and giving thanks is easy, but you may not.  It may be hard to scrape the peanut butter of thanks off the side of the jar, but I can assure you there is at least one thing to be thankful for: the love of the Lord has never and will never leave you.  People may come and go, situations will change, food will be gross, but God’s faithful love endures forever, which is way better than any carb-filled meal.  

 

IDENTITY CRISIS

I’ve only been blogging for about two months now, and I’m already having an identity crisis about how I should be blogging.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved sharing with you what God has been showing me over the past two months, but I feel like in some ways I haven’t been writing a blog that  would want to read.

My posts have been REALLY long.

That’s not always a bad thing, but if you are a super busy person like I am, there isn’t enough time in the week to sit down and read another essay about how to live a better life.  I’m a wife and a mom, and a full-time music teacher.  Also, I lead a moms group Bible study, sing with our church’s praise team, and volunteer for other church events.  I try to be a good friend and actually spend time with the people I like (crazy thought) all while trying to manage a household and go to the gym, since I actually pay to be a member there.  Oh, and occasionally I like to sleep or watch “This Is Us”.  Usually, I do the latter because who really needs sleep?  Never mind the fact that I am also wanting to spend quality time with the Lord everyday through daily Bible reading and prayer.  There’s a lot going on.  Reading, let alone writing, a long blog entry is a lot to ask of a person.

So, last week I didn’t post.  I took a week off to soul search and figure out what I want to post and what would I want to read? I’ve come up with something that may or may not surprise you: short honesty.  I want to be able to share my past and current struggles in a short, concise way, so that you, the reader, can either relate to or know how to relate to for the sake of others.  We aren’t all going to have the same stories in our lives, but every so often it’s nice to hear that we aren’t alone.  On the flip side, it’s also nice to hear the victory stories of how God brought me through something, so He can bring you too.  Yay!  Hope!!!

That’s about it.  Hopefully, I can post more often since they will be shorter and more honest, but life gets busy.  I make no promises.  Comment or share any insights you may have.  I would love to know who is actually reading this thing.  🙂

SPEAK FOR YOURSELF

 

I’d like to think that I am a pretty loyal and dedicated friend.  I may not be as close to some friends as I once was, which happens as people grow up and move away, but when I do reunite with those I was once close to, it is like we never left one another.  I like that about me, and I hope other people like it too.  It makes for far less awkward moments. One part of being a loyal and dedicated friend is that I will stand up for my friends and plead their case.  In some ways this can be a good thing, say if my cohort is defenseless and needs someone to speak on her behalf, but most times this just gets me in trouble.  

How might you ask?  I’m so glad you did.  I have noticed over the years that when people see that you will plead their case, they are more vocal about things they don’t like with you.  Bring on the personal example… When I lived in Chicago, I taught at this small, and amazing, private school.  The school only had one class per grade level which gave students, teachers, and families a close knit relationship.  For the staff, it was encouraged to eat lunch in the teachers’ lounge in order to bond with your fellow co-workers.  My classroom was right next to the teacher’s lounge, so it was easy for me to pop my head in during lunch and any other free time I had.  It was the meeting spot for all of the staff at the school, which was only like 30 people.  Again, it was a small school.  Diverse personalities would blend together and opinions about how leadership was handling certain situations or upcoming changes would come out.   Grant it, it was not every lunch, but we all know those people who when given the chance will complain to anyone who will listen. For some reason, I would become that person.  I would have the concerns and complaints of my co-workers, who were like my family in the city, running through my head, stirring up emotions concerning topics that I didn’t have an opinion about until my lunchtime discussion group.  It was all well and good until we came to our staff meeting.  Our principal would want to discuss upcoming decisions concerning the future of our school and ask for our input.  I would boldly proclaim what some of my complaining co-workers had just said in the teacher’s lounge, yet NO ONE else would back me up.  What?  I would feel like a great General leading the troops into battle only to look back and see no one was following me.  Yeah.  I was a sitting duck.  Then, to make matters worse, when the survey would go out to the whole staff about how the meeting went, I found out from my principal that my fellow staff-mates said I was pushy and overbearing – even too opinionated.  Too opinionated?!  I was sharing the opinions stated by others in the teacher’s lounge.  I was passively berated with insults concerning my character by speaking the words of others, as my principal read every mean thing my peers said in confidence on the anonymous survey.  She read off 14 of the 30 staff member’s comments, yet no one approached me face to face.  I pleaded the case of others, and instead of being thanked and applauded, I felt betrayed and hurt.  Apparently, some people want to voice their complaints about someone or something but have no desire to stand up for themselves.  I wasn’t thrown under the bus.  I was left out to rot.  

Other times I have been on the flip side of this example.  I’ve gone to coffee with someone I look up to, someone that I admire and have utmost respect for.  The conversation is going great, until it takes a turn.  I’ve said or done something that offended someone, and this person I admire is bringing someone else’s grievances to my attention.  I know I can come across as brash, but I honestly don’t mean to.  I am quite aware of my shortcomings and areas in my life that I need to work on.  This is not to say that if someone doesn’t like something about me, I need to change it, but I am aware of the sinful areas in my life the Lord has shown me and with Him we are working on it.  One of these things is how my tone can come across as rude, especially if you don’t know me.  I have struggled with realizing my tone since I was 16; I’m aware it is an area of improvement for me, which HAS gotten better.  Well, here’s the thing: the relationship between the person I admire and me was not injured; it was the relationship between me and this unnamed, third person who is not having coffee with us.  At that moment, I feel defenseless.  How can I explain my actions?  How can I explain how God is working on me in this area and I apologize for being offensive?  How can I restore this broken relationship with this someone unless I meet with him or her face to face?  While drinking that cup of joe the third person lobbed a grenade and ran away instead of sitting at a table to create a treaty.  Yes, the battle is over either way, but the first creates relational casualties while the latter restores relationship.   

Crazy thing is, maybe not crazy but awesome, is Jesus speaks to this in the Bible.  Jesus says in Matthew 18:15-17:

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector.” (emphasis added)

To be honest, this passage of scripture encourages me and frustrates me all at the same time.  It is encouraging that Jesus knows that believers are going to sin against one another.  It’s going to happen.  We are sinners who are saved by grace and try as we might, there will be times when someone will be offended by something we said or did.  But Jesus is all about the relationship.  He wants to squash the issue before things get out of control.  That’s why He says “just between the two of you”.  No one else needs to get involved unless it can’t get solved between the two of you.  Relationship restored.  However, if the relationship cannot be restored between the two of you, then and only then, do you have outside people come along.  Not fight your battles for you.  Not go talk to Tiffany and let her know that she hurt my feelings, if the person who hurt you is named Tiffany.  Just saying.  No, Jesus tells us to bring another person to support the grievance of the sin with you and confront the sinner, not send on your behalf.  If steps one and two don’t work, then and only then do you go to church leadership and ask for their support in handling the sin issue.  Not personality issue.  Not style or dress issue.  Sin issue.  

Here’s the frustrating side of this Scripture. Reading it, I know what Jesus tells us to do (Notice I said us, since I’m guilty of doing this too), but we like to skip step one and immediately get someone else involved.  “Can you just talk to her for me?”  “I don’t want to offend her, so I’m going to talk to everyone except the person that hurt me.”   “It’s not that big of a deal to handle it Biblically, but it is enough of a deal that I’m going to get my respectable friend to handle it for me.”  Clearly, we don’t say these things out loud, but as the old saying goes: actions speak louder than words.  

Jesus tells us to handle conflict a certain way because He knows what will restore the relationship the best and fastest.  Skipping steps hurts the relationship more than just being honest and speaking for ourselves from our own hearts to the ones who have hurt us.  Yes, it is not easy nor comfortable to make yourself vulnerable to someone who hurt you, but if you really value the relationship, you are willing to make that sacrifice.  If you aren’t willing to approach the person, the truth of the matter is you don’t value the relationship with a fellow believer in Christ as much as Jesus does.  When we remember that it is a sin issue or concern, not just a personal preference, our thought moves from us receiving justification of our hurt to genuinely caring about the heart condition of our brother or sister in Christ.  The motive changes.  We are showing love to our neighbor, which is the second greatest command behind loving the the Lord your God (Matthew 22: 37-40).  If you are that person who will plead the case of others (if you could see me, I’m frantically raising my hand for this one), when someone wants you to fight their battles, ask if he or she has done step one and gone to the person who has sinned.  If not, send the complainer away to discuss the issue just between the two of them.  Hard as it may be, don’t allow your friend/co-worker to skip steps and bring in outside voices too early. It only causes embarrassment and hurt, destroying the fraction of a relationship that may be there.  

Satan wants to divide the Church.  He loves to see us fighting with one another instead of uniting for the sake of the Gospel.  Yes, we will sin against one another, but thankfully Jesus gave us step by step instructions as to how we should handle it.  Jesus is perfect.  His ways are perfect, even the step by step ways.  Don’t skip steps.  Don’t just vent in the staff lounge hoping someone will fight your battles.  Be brave.  Be loving. Speak for yourself.  

 

THROUGH THE STORM?

Yesterday, I participated in my second half marathon.  Last year I was able to run most of the 13.1 miles, but due to injury, this year I walked the race.  The concern of having the race cancelled was on a lot of people’s minds.  Forecasters predicted rain with a chance of lightning.  The rain wasn’t so much the big deal as was the risk of being hit with an electrical volt from above, so even the threat of nearby lightning  would shut everything down.  I get it.  You don’t want anyone to get fried on the course, but man, did I want to finish.

As my friend and I briskly walked through Detroit into Canada and back, we would pick up the pace in order to finish just in case the race would get called.  I would look around the sky, seeing if the clouds were getting darker or if the storm was moving in faster.  To my surprise, the rainstorm never came.  In fact, at one point the sun would peek out from the clouds as if to say, “The threat is gone.  There was never any real danger.  It was just a threat.”  Another point, the wind would pick up, the dark clouds would move in, and a sea of used water cups would roll down the road, but there wasn’t any rain or hint of lightning.

There was more of a threat in the actions that I was doing than what the sky was going to bring down.  I power walked my little heart out so much that I got blisters on the bottoms and sides of my toes.  Yes, blisters on my toes, but we finished the race and celebrated with amazing tacos.  Yum!

The threat of the storm was just that: a threat.  Until it actually happened, I wasn’t in danger.  That storm was a threat, but as much as the clouds grew dark and I thought it was going to be bad, it didn’t have any power.  There wasn’t any electricity in the clouds that could cause me from crossing that finish line.  Yes, I had injuries and it was hard on my body, but I crossed the finish line and received a reward worthy of the race. (In my mind, Mexican food is a worthy reward of any race.)

Like the storm, Satan doesn’t have any power.  As a friend of mine has said, “The only weapon the enemy has is lies.”  Lies can be debunked and rendered useless if you go seek out the Truth (John 14:6).  Satan can threaten all he wants, but Jesus has already told us that we have the victory in John 16:33: “I  have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Yes, we will have injuries and shortcoming.  We will have moments when we think that we can’t go on, when the storms around us seem like they will come crashing in.  Blisters will form from walking through hard times in faith, but blisters happen because you don’t sit and give up.  Injuries are for those who have pushed themselves beyond what they thought possible.  You don’t realize you have a shortcoming unless you are aiming at something greater.

Don’t let Satan lie to you and make you think his clouds of fiery have power.  It’s only a rainstorm, and those do come to an end.  We press on, keeping the faith to the end to earn our crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:7-8), which though it may seem crazy, is so much better than tacos.


Photo courtesy of 昊昊US

FORTY-FIVE

There is something beautiful about listening to music on a 45.

Now, I may not be old enough to remember when 45’s came out (for those of you who don’t know what a 45 is, it’s a record that was listened to at 45 revolutions per minute… KNOW YOUR ROOTS!!!), but I can appreciate the beauty of listening to music on a record.  Growing up, my mom would get out her old 45’s from when she was a high school student, spread them out on the living room floor, and we would listen for hours as the record needle went around.  There was something about the rawness of that music recording that I loved and would move me.  

Time for your rock history lesson.  In the recording industry, when records were the only way to go, music was recorded using an analogue system. There wasn’t any studio work to enhance the music. What they actually did in the studio is what was heard. In some instances, there have been various noises in the background of songs that couldn’t be edited out. Some examples: breaking of drum sticks, shoe tapping, and the occasional coke machine (this happened on multiple Elvis 45’s).  It’s beautiful to listen to. You hear the little mistakes and technical tendencies of the musicians. It’s not fake. It’s raw and authentic. It may have taken a few tries to get the song to that point, but none the less, it was what it was.

Today, we live in a culture of digitally enhanced, perfected music. Good looking people are able to have “music” careers because they have computer geniuses making them sound good. Their songs are flawless, not a hint of error. The pitches and rhythms of every “musician” lines up flawlessly. You listen to their albums for hours upon hours only to find out they are terrible in concert or they have to lip sync everything. In other words, the perfection created in the studio is, well, fake.  As a musician, it’s frustrating and heart-breaking to see pretty faces get signed before actual talent.  Heart-breaking and ear-hurting. Any who…   

As I was saying, there is a something beautiful about listening to music on a 45, and following the Lord is no different.

Jesus says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9a)

Think about it.

He doesn’t want us to have it all together when we come to Him. He wants us to come with all our flaws and imperfections, so He can be more glorified through us. This isn’t to say we should aim to make mistakes over and over again. No, that would be a waste of time and resources.  You would have never heard one of the Beatles doing that in the studio, so why would act that way in life?  We offer our best because we want to perfect our craft. We’re going to mess up, but the authenticity of presenting who we really are before God and man is something beautiful.  We don’t quit because of a flaw.  We make the next go around better, not making the same mistakes.  When we manufacture our lives to look perfect, to have every note and rhythm line up exactly, it’s not real. Hard times happen. Mistakes will be made. Perfection is a goal that cannot be met, though it is the goal of both musicians and believers.   

In verses 12:7-8 in 2 Corinthians, Paul shares how he has a thorn in his side. He never states what the thorn is, but Paul has stuff in his life that causes him to mess up, to not live the perfect Christian life, and he’s Paul.  He wrote most of the New Testament.  Talk about a rock star!  Okay, the thing is, he doesn’t hide the FACT that he is a sinner and messes up. He has flaws. He makes mistakes. He gets off pitch a little bit. Paul responds to Christ,

“Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for CHRIST’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, THEN I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9b-10, emphasis added)

Crazy thought, huh? Coming honestly and openly before God with mess ups, hang ups, and occasional Coke machines in the background actually allows Christ to show off more. It’s not a digitally mastered life. It is a life that is authentic, raw, and well… beautiful. When the hard times come in front of other people, like those concerts, it matches up . The work done in the studio of private devotion comes out on the stage for the world to see. Hopefully, we aren’t so tweaked and disingenuous in the studio, that we are found majoring lacking in concert.  It think that’s why there has been this big push in the music industry for records over digital music.  It’s real and honest. Let’s face it, that’s what people are looking for: honesty. 

Sit back. Listen to a 45. Meditate on who God is and how gracious He is. It’s freeing to know we don’t have to have it all together. Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Wait. Perfect? Not seems to be perfect, but actually perfect.  Broken sticks and all.