Replace my envy with Love

Thoughts on Mark 9:38-40

Today’s reading continues yesterday’s theme…John, the beloved disciple, tells you about forbidding a man from using your name to do mighty works because he was not one who was part of the crew following you. And you correct his thinking. “Let people outside your enclave, who do good in my name be. Good done is good.” Lord, dismiss my parochial thinking about good being done, ministry taking place. Bless all who minister in your name or for your name. Even the ones who carry your name only in theory.

Replace my envy with love. Amen.

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MM 7/4/15 dive into love

Hello dear ones, It’s been a long time. I have been (and still am) unpacking boxes and settling into our new home. It’s been a very different experience than previous transitions, I don’t feel giddy, I feel stable and move through the tasks of the day with calm and patience. I expected to feel silly with newness. And my soul has felt flat. But I continue to trust that God is good and this home is good and my life is good. Pray for me as I do you, that we will know the joy of the Lord in our every day.

MM 7/4/15 dive into love from Debby Bellingham on Vimeo.

Making Room for Relationships

John 15:7-17

Jesus tells us we can have whatever we ask on one condition: that we abide in his love. Abiding in his love means to dwell within the shelter of his loving character. His love is our home, the place we are welcomed, safe and our needs are met. From this place of being totally encompassed by the love of Jesus, what could possible be missing from our life that we would need to ask for? The answer: relationships.

The relationship Jesus experienced with his father is the model for our relationships, with God and with one another. Our scripture today paints a picture of such friendships.

Healthy and fruitful relationships require a connection to a source of love that is greater than our human affections. When we are convinced that we are completely loved and totally provided for, we are free to love the other without a hidden agenda. We can offer ourselves in love to the other for who they are, not who we need them to be. Love abounds. How can you ground yourself in God’s great and abiding love for you? Make the conscious decision to offer yourself in love to someone today, without expectation of return. How does this feel?

Jesus’ love led him to lay down his life for his friends. That probably won’t be the case in our relationships, but sacrifices will need to be made. Putting another’s interest above our own (Phil 2) means we may not get our way. Ouch. But we love in the same manner of Jesus when we suffer such self denial. In what way can you lay down your life for your friend? (Letting them choose the restaurant, giving them the comfortable chair.) Practice this today and notice how it impacts the nature of your friendship.

Jesus shared with his friends all he had heard from his Father, we should also share with one another the way God is working in our hearts. Take the risk of moving a casual conversation to a deeper level, tell a friend what God is teaching you about the life of the Kingdom. This is the path to deeper, more fruitful friendships.

We are not God, we do not have the capacity to love all people equally; but we can choose a few friends who we can commit to loving as best we can, offering them a physical reminder of God’s tender and present love. As has been said, we can be “Jesus with skin on.” Who can you choose to love?

Jesus said, “This is my commandment that you love one another.” Such loving relationships produce fruit that will last throughout eternity.

With you on the journey,

Debby

Written for CBC’s weekly devotional thought.

Is faith in Jesus necessary?

Jesus gives what is needed, part one

Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take heart, Son. Your sins are forgiven.” Matt 9:2

Jesus observed some men carrying a paralytic and was impressed by their faith.

When I hear the word faith, I usually think “the faith”, a faith in God and God’s powerful love. But the faith these men exhibited was not in Jesus, they weren’t bringing their friend to him for healing. They were just on their way from one place to another, and if their friend was going to be part of the journey, he would have to be carried. They were willing to do so, they didn’t want to leave him behind.

Somehow, carrying him demonstrated faith. Faith is a complete trust and confidence in something or someone. Their faith rested on the relationship and love they shared with one another. They would be the legs of this friend, he could count on that.

This commitment to loving their friend is what impressed Jesus. This man didn’t need physical healing, he would always be carried in love. Jesus instead gave him an inner healing – hope, a sense of belonging to God’s family and a spiritual cleansing.

Whose legs are you?

Does your faith carry wounded people as you go, just so they won’t be left behind?

Who are your legs?

Will you trust God to give what is needed, not what you think is needed?

Jesus gives what is needed, part two

But Jesus, perceiving (the scribes) thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he then said to the paralytic—’stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. Matthew 9:4-7

The paralytic needed spiritual healing, Jesus gave it. He then offered the scribes what they needed, proof of his authority to forgive sins through his healing power.

Notice the efficiency of God, in offering the scribes what they needed, the paralyzed man received his legs! Everybody can win!

Do you live in the house of love?

You are God's loved garden

Depending on emotional/relational fig leaves to keep ourselves safe is not a very good strategy. First off, they don’t provide much protection and when they die, they dry up and crumble apart, leaving us vulnerable to the pain, shame and hurt they were intended to guard against. What then can be done? Does God have a plan to protect and keep us?

Yes, thank God, there is a means of getting back to the garden. “God clothed Adam and Eve in garments of flesh.” Genesis 3:21 God replaced their fig leaves with the soft, supple, warm skin of an animal. God did not leave them naked and vulnerable to cold and hurt. (Sadly, though, an animal had to die to provide this covering, a foreshadowing of the crucifixion.)

Returning to the Garden, being restored to community, leaving the house of fear and entering the house of love requires us to give up our paltry attempts at self-protection and to trust God to be our covering. We can choose nakedness; we can be ourselves without pretense or fear (see here for a discussion of trust vs fear).

Such vulnerability does need wisdom, though. Jesus said in Matthew 7:6 that you should “not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” Don’t give what is precious and valuable (your very self) to someone who is not going to honor and respect you. This is not to say you should be “hiding” your self in such situations, just use discretion in what truth you offer to the other. Jesus would not want you to be abused and trampled upon.

Living in the house of love, we choose dependent obedience; we obey God’s command to love and serve one another while depending upon the covering of Christ’s victory to be our protection. Remember the others we are in community with will (like us) tend to “clothe themselves in fig leaves.” It is not ours to force their “nakedness,” one must choose “nakedness.” It is ours to do unto them as Christ has done unto us. Such love-born actions alone can lead to trust and vulnerability.

We began these posts with a thought from St. Teresa of Avila. Let’s end them by making her thought our own.

As I pray, I am making a garden in which my Lord delights. But the soil of my garden is unfruitful and full of weeds. So Jesus uproots the weeds and plants good herbs…so that he may come often for his pleasure and to delight himself in the virtues growing in me.

This concludes the series of posts on God’s tending of us, a garden in whom our Lord delights. You can read them from the beginning by going to “How does your Garden Grow.” The thoughts were taken from the retreat Shaped at the Garden. You can contact me for more information about this retreat.

Lies are useful…

Lies are sometimes preferred over the truth.

Dear Elle,

In my last few letters, we’ve been talking about the death dealing lies that keep us from the life God created us to experience. These lies have been cast as truth by our culture and our family upbringing. It will be your ministry to uproot these insidious and life-threatening lies. In Jesus-talk this is what he called “Casting out demons!” This is difficult work and only the Spirit can provide the power to accomplish the task. Love must be the tool you use to dig out the false and plant the real.

One reason this is not an easy assignment is because lies are sometimes preferred over truth. Lies maintain the status quo. Lies provide a guaranteed pleasure. Lies deny pain. Who wants to rock the boat? or relinquish the high? or feel the loss? On some level we know that to let go of the lies would ultimately be a good thing. But even though we know that hanging on to these thoughts and habits moves us toward death, we let them linger; they are so comforting, familiar, and momentarily enjoyable.

Think about your own life. A message that informed your self knowledge as you were growing up was that you were too much – too verbal, too curvy, too active, too emotional. “God loves quiet, submissive and demure girls. Boys aren’t attracted to girls who talk too much and have strong opinions.” Lies! Yet believed as true since they were lovingly communicated to you by the parents you trusted. The falsehood that became your governing truth was that you must not be you in order to be accepted and loved.

This lie determined how you felt about yourself, how you related to others, how you experienced God. You became comfortable hating yourself. Hating yourself gave you energy and explained why life wasn’t good. You deserved bad grades because you couldn’t sit still in class. You were attracted to “bad boys” because you were a “bad girl.”  You needed to change so God would be pleased with you.

To trust the Biblical truth that God created you according to his plan for you, complete with your temperament, your inquisitive mind and your exotic looks would cause you to go against your family’s standards and values. For the sake of peace and to fit in with the ones you loved, it was better to live according to the lie.

You get the picture, lies often are preferred over truth.

Elle, your job is to enter relationships armed with truth and with love. Through you, Love’s persistent presence will weed out the lies that choke the garden’s life. Through you, Love’s unremitting whispers of truth will eventually drown out the voice of the demons. Jesus needs you to proclaim the good news – the kingdom of heaven is near. It brings life and truth. We can begin to take God at God’s word. We are the beloved children of God and with us God is well pleased.

With you on the journey,

Debby