Defending God. Or not.

Some of the Jews, however, refused to believe and they poisoned the minds of the Gentiles against the brothers. Acts 14:2

Some Jews refused to believe and poisoned the minds of those on the fence. Disbelief (or our petrified belief system) is threatened by possible conversion. It has to protect its boundaries and make sure belief cannot take root. It wears a face, it has a label and its brand must be preeminent. All other “competitors” must be abolished and ruined.

Unlike the God of heaven…

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…who lets other gods, or things take credit for the work he has done. He is so eager for the good of his creation, he waters it with rain, makes crops grow. God causes happiness. He doesn’t withhold goodness because he is not acknowledged. He offers such provision with the hope we will recognize him as the good and loving God he is when we come face to face with him.

…but even then he did not leave you without evidence of himself in the good things he does for you… Acts 14:17

Oh Lord, make me like you, ready to spread goodness and life indiscriminately, for the sake of keeping hope alive in the people you love. Let me rejoice when people acknowledge the good and let me be your face that helps them connect the dots between love shown and your heart. 

With you on the journey,

Debby

Shame off you!

Shame off you!

You have rejected the Word of God and do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life. Acts 13:44-52

Interesting. It’s not God’s judgement, but their own that separates them from eternal life.

Shame based identity, not worthy of good things

 

Debby and her cousin Paula

Debby and her cousin Paula

I have lived from a shame based identity my whole life. It is built into my DNA. Both my parents grew up in homes that were ruled by judgement. My dad’s angrily minimizing. My mom’s righteously rejecting. How could I not be rooted in shame? I remember the baby picture of my cousin and me at 6 weeks, she chubby, healthy looking, me scrawny and spidery looking. And the comments surrounding the comparison, “You weren’t as pretty as Paula, but you were ours.” I was less than, but loved.

The less-than mentality became my identity. Unconsciously I lived from a sense of unworthiness. Within the bubble of my family I was acceptable but outside of the confines of our family system, I didn’t measure up.

As a child when my friends and I would play with our Barbies, I insisted on playing the role of the maid. The servant, behind the scenes who would gather the clothing and the items the other’s needed to play out the scenes their imaginations invented.

This is not a foreshadowing of being a servant for the sake of putting other’s interests above my own. No, I remember the feeling of not being adequate, of not being worthy to join the play. I was less-than even at age seven.

How many times have I rejected the good offered me because I didn’t think I deserved it?

Out of the shame that binds

My less-than-ness had driven me to extremes, had broken me. I was desperate for hope and peace. Thank goodness God intervened! I heard the good news of God’s personal love for me when I was seventeen. My anguish had breached the wall that surrounded my less-than self and made a way for God’s eternal life to enter.

Like Lazarus, who had been given life at Jesus’ word, but was still wrapped in grave clothes, I too have the eternal life of Christ within me and yet am still bound by shame. To a much lesser degree than I once was, thank you Lord, but still tainted by the fear that I am not worthy.

Maybe you can relate to my experience.

How many times have you rejected the good offered to you because you don’t believe you are worthy of it? or it is too good to be true? or you are afraid of disappointment? Come on, let’s take God at God’s word.

Let me help unwrap the grave clothes that bind you.

“You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”

God is your perfect parent, there is no shame associated in belonging to this family.

You are beloved. Exactly as you are, no comparisons in God’s family photo album.

God is pleased with you. You are not a disappointment, you are invited to join the play.

With you on the journey,
Debby

You are God’s vineyard. How to be a good one.

You are God’s vineyard. How to be a good one.

Dear friend,

According to Jesus, you are God’s planted vineyard, fully equipped with all you need to produce a bounteous crop of grapes: A hedge marking your boundaries and protecting you from critters and thieves, a dug pit to make space for processing the produce of the vine, a tower granting oversight of the vineyard and a residence. God has provided you all you need to live a good and productive life. Be a good, respectful tenant.

What is the hedge God has built around you? God’s word is your protection, it’s truth holds you safe from predators. Connecting with God’s presence through prayer strengthens the wall that surrounds you. When you thoughtlessly forget God, when you willfully disobey God’s Spirit, the hedge is broken and you are vulnerable to forces that intend your harm. Take a word from God’s heart and carry it with you through the day. It will be your hedge and your returning point.

How do you make space to process God’s activity in your life? Practice what you’ve been taught. Do the good works God’s given you to do. Share God’s love. Remain constant. Transformation from grapes to wine happens in the small details done faithfully.

God has built a tower in your soul, a place where you can retreat and gain perspective. With God, in this place of residence, you more clearly see the big picture. You find rest from the urgency of life’s details and remember you are built for eternity. Today will pass and so will its deadlines. What are you doing that will last forever? How can you transform what you’re doing into eternal values? This is the perspective the tower gives. All is redeemable for eternity. Working with spiritual directees, sure. But feeding the dogs?

Lord grant us eyes that see eternity in the dog chow.

With you on the journey,

Debby

What is your pentecost experience? Fire or whisper?

What is your pentecost experience? Fire or whisper?

Thoughts on John 20:19-23

Peace can replace fear, resulting in gladness.

There’s the fiery, showy descent of the Holy Spirit as described in Acts 2, then there’s the quiet gift of the Spirit Jesus breathes on his disciples in John 20. My experience is more akin to the latter.

Like the disciples I lived in hiding because of fear. They were afraid of the wrath of the religious, I was afraid of rejection by peers. They sought safety behind closed doors. Me, I hid behind the pretense of verbosity. We were all afraid of being found and punished.

I was a constant talker, empty words poured from my mouth. I annoyed teachers and friends alike, and didn’t know I even needed to stop. I wasn’t self aware enough to know there was an issue. In fact I took some pride in being called ‘motormouth’ by my teachers. It gained me attention, a point of interface with peers. I thought it connected me with others, but words kept me isolated.

Thank God, Jesus sought me in my hiding place. He found me cowering and offered me peace instead of fear. He drew near and breathed on me, the Spirit entered and I began my journey out of fear into peace and gladness.

What are you hiding from? Maybe, like I was, you are hiding from yourself, or your fears about yourself. Maybe you fear if you were known you would be disliked or rejected. Maybe you assume the roles and the faces friends and society expects of you, all the while shrinking up like a raisin within your soul.

I pray that Jesus will enter your hiding place, find you in the shadow, reach out his hand to you, draw you into an embrace and whisper: Do not be afraid. I have found you, I give you my peace. Walk with me into the light. All will be well.

With you on the journey,

Debby

A Lenten fast is not about saying no…

Thoughts on Isaiah 58:1-9

To fast in body is not acceptable to the Lord. Maintaining an outward ritual that suggests I am submitted to the Lord while inwardly plotting to satisfy my own pleasures, figuring out a way to make sure I get my way and proudly sticking to my own way of thinking, dismissing yours, shuts God’s eyes to my fasting posture. Unless what’s happening inside my heart matches the posture of my body, my cries do not reach God’s ears.

God defines the fast that is acceptable, that causes light to break forth upon the earth, healing to be dispensed and safety secured. I want these things, Lord. So teach me how to loose the bonds of wickedness, undo heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free and break the yokes; to share my bread with the hungry, house the homeless poor, clothe the naked and be good to my family.

Eight actions of heart and body that is an acceptable fast. Basically to look at the world and all people in the world with your eyes and then to treat them as would have them treated. Begin with me, Lord. Let me receive your loosening, lifting and freeing through my lenten discipline of fasting from sugar. When I crave it, let me turn the craving into prayer or an act that promotes your righteousness in the world.

Yes, Lord….remind me the point of fasting is not the surface no, it is the deep yes to your love and righteousness. Thank you and amen.

The promise and the fine print

Thoughts on Mark 10:28-31

The rich young man, who chose his many possessions over following you got the disciples questioning the possibility of entering the Kingdom of heaven. You assure them, “God makes the impossible, possible.” But Peter still needed clarification, he spoke for all the disciples when he described how they had left everything behind to follow you; businesses, fathers, political causes all now seen in the rear view mirror. Your tone sounds gentle and reassuring as you acknowledge their sacrifices and promise a sure future both now and in eternity. In this life the Kingdom will provide homes, families and lands beyond their limited, parochial world view. All who know and love you become family members, my home is theirs, theirs is mine. Letting go of earthly ties, frees me to receive eternal connections and provisions.

But there is a fine print on the promise: I’ll receive a hundred-fold return on my sacrifices, but I’ll receive it with persecutions. This word is used 10 times in the NT, each time associated with trouble received because of the Word of God. It is what Paul was carrying out on Christians as he was bound for Damascus. Jesus gives the disciples hope, they will be abundantly provided for in this life, but he gives it in the context of reality, they will suffer.

Wow. What does this mean to me, Lord? First of all, hold your belongings loosely, and be absolutely generous with them. All I have is loaned to me, I am a steward; my house, my husband, my kids, my work, my time, my money, all available to serve the Kingdom. And in some ways, an even harder lesson, I am to be willing to receive from others of their abundance when I am in need. Ouch, a lesson in humility.

Second, expect to suffer. What? The world will not understand or appreciate the nature of the Kingdom life and Satan, the great deceiver will stir up trouble. Don’t be surprised when troubles arise, worries lift their head, fear threatens. As Jesus said, “in the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I’ve overcome the world.” Troubles will pass, persecutions will end, but eternal life is  mine and it is increasing and is forever. Thank you and amen.