Friday, January 15, 2010

Nations and Neighbors

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. Luke 10:34

I was reading Beth Moore's notes on Luke 10 last week. Beth took a 2nd look at these infamous travelers from Jerusalem to Jericho. First was a Priest. Next was a Levite. Last was a Samaritan. The thought was that the Priest and the Levite were, probably (though not recorded as so) traveling from Jerusalem and their worship in the temple there. They leave the worship of God to encounter a broken man…and ignore him. Their reasons are irrelevant as the result is irreversible: a man remains broken. The Priest and Levite’s worship was essential to know God; their response to human suffering was essential to make Him known. The rescue comes from a most unlikely source: the least liked is the most loving. Maybe righteousness is more about ripped robes than rehearsed rhetoric.

Here’s the other thing that stood out to me: the Samaritan was just walking the road. He wasn’t on a mission to help a group of suffering people; he wasn’t looking for a bloodied victim; but when he saw one he responded with everything he had. Response was not from religion; response was from his heart. He chose to respond before he arrived at the need.

We are sometimes called to go to where the need is – maybe taking in just a taste of everyday suffering through a mission or relief trip. God calls us to seek and to serve, and lives are forever impacted by obeying His call. At the same time, we are called to respond to the broken lives that surround us everyday. Maybe a smile and hello is the oil and wine needed to bandage a wounded heart; wounds we don’t even know exist. Maybe it’s a little off the top (tithe) that God multiplies in ways that we can’t begin to imagine (respond in faith before the need is in sight). Maybe it’s a cup of coffee or a moment of listening to a hurting friend. Look around on the road.

"Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." Isaiah 6:8 "Who will go for us?" It is not a question of God singling out a man and saying, "Now, you go." God did not lay a strong compulsion on Isaiah; Isaiah was in the presence of God and he overheard the call, and realized that there was nothing else for him but to say, in conscious freedom, "Here am I, send me." –Oswald Chambers

Here’s what got me: do I even ask what I can do? Do I even muster the courage to ask God “What do YOU want me to do; where do YOU want me to go?” Mostly, no. I respond when the need comes to my attention, but I usually don’t take the initiative to talk with God about my looking for broken people. My focus is distracted, as Martha was, instead of choosing the better, like Mary. Both worship and work are essential - worship first, then the work will follow. Just being in His love causes me to respond in love.

When I feel like "I'm not enough, He reminds me: "That's right, you are not enough, but I am." When I see Him as He is, then He’ll work through me as I am. Once I cast my eyes from my own hands to His holiness, then I see Him, I hear Him, and I'm passionate to serve Him. And so I ask, loving Him and loving others: “Who do you want me to be; what do you want me to do?” And He answers, perfectly.

Enjoy Him, Michelle

Love in Loss

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

I can live without understanding everything. –John Maxwell

Loss is loss. I know of people who have buried the “tents and times” of loved ones this week. When you experience loss yourself, this brings a horrific new perspective to the death toll that goes across a TV screen. Suddenly, it’s not a number, that’s a life. That loss is someone's mother, someone’s father, someone’s sister, someone’s brother. A life is gone; yet multiple lives remain in emotional, mental, and physical suffering of their own. We mourn millions at once; they mourn one in the millions.

I am blind and ignorant, but I can pray. I can pray for the healing of the suffering and the comfort over the mourning; and I trust God to be all. The Spirit speaks according to our faith, not our understanding or our experience. It’s about relationship.

Carry You to Jesus – Steven Curtis Chapman.
I will not pretend to feel the pain you’re going through

I know I cannot comprehend the hurt you’ve known
And I used to think it mattered if I understood...
But now I just don’t know
Well, I’ll admit sometimes I still wish I knew what to say and I keep looking for a way to fix it all
But we know we’re at the mercy of God’s higher ways and our ways are so small
But I will carry you to Jesus He is everything you need I will carry you to Jesus on my knees
And if you need to cry go on and I, I will cry along with you
I’ve given you what I have but still I know the best thing I can do is just pray for you

Whether an earthquake wipes out a nation or a car crash crushes a child, each is a loss to someone. Global suffering is reminder to those of us who remain: pray, help, cherish, and love in whatever opportunities we are given. One is no more important than the other; each life, mine included, has its own sufferings and struggles. Where there is suffering, may there be service. Constantly.

Just in the last few minutes: I read of one child suffering from brain cancer and her parents needing sanity and wisdom to save her precious life. I read of one woman who is preparing to be taken over by brain cancer and leaving her family for her Father. One of my own family members is suffering from cancer, and may be gone before Spring. That’s just in the cancer category. I have one friend who is filled with toxins and emptied of finances. I have another friend who is overflowing with grief that is ripping her heart to shreds. I read of a suicide attempt. I read of a slave shipped. There are thousands, one by one, that are without water, food, family, clothes, shelter…in dozens of countries across the globe; including, and not just the one, that is on the news.

How are we to survive under the weight of such suffering? Take it to the only One who can handle all of it. Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Matthew 26:39. He took on all of us for all of time; not just what we decide as “bad things;” He took on every lonliness, every hurt, every heartache, every cry, every pain, every death. Everything. He took on all so that I could give Him all.

Praise Him. Petition Him. Worship Him. Wait on Him. Work with Him. He leads us, not to crush us, but to have us experience Him in the depths of our own hearts to reach into the depths of our neighbors’ lives.

Love is a lifestyle. It’s practiced in the huge and in the tiny moments of life. Faith without works is dead James 2:20. So is love without life. Know love. Show love. You will always live as you truly believe.

Enjoy Him, Michelle

Monday, January 11, 2010


"And He walks with me and He talks with me; and He tells me I am His own." C. Austin Miles

In less than two months, I will take a trip that will have me walking all over creation (or at least the hometown of the Creator). I really need to get in shape for this. Running in the airport alone may do me in. So I’ll be power-walking over the next couple of months. Of course, it had to be in the winter. Brace up and lace up; here I go!

Stand. New shoes were an absolute must. Walking hurts more than it helps, of course, if I don’t have the right shoes. It’s more than useless, it’s damaging. In prayer, I need the right attitude of the heart. If I don’t walk (or run) to God, Holy and Awesome and Powerful Creator, with the humility of heart and respect of reverence when I stand before Him, them my prayers are not only not heard, they are as damaging as a Pharisee who believes that he is doing the right thing by His choice, not by God’s conviction. (Long sentence; longer conviction). Prideful prayer is a deceptive death.

Start. The hardest thing to do is to actually start, especially in the most undesirable conditions. For me in walking, it’s cold outside. For others in prayer, it’s a hurricane inside. Procrastinating in walking will be a future pain to my feet! Procrastinating in prayer is a present pain to my life. If I can be persuaded to keep silent in my praise and petitions – hour by hour and day by day, I will never know the benefits of God in me. It takes effort and it takes sacrifice, but it’s everything. Then He said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Many times we have no idea how to get started in prayer. We have every desire, but no idea. Beth Moore notes, “What to do when you don’t know what to do: Praise God.” First, we are to begin the approach to the King with praise. Then Queen Esther answered, "If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life—this is my petition." Esther 7:3

Second, we are to begin our battles with praises to God. After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: "Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever. As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” 2 Chronicles 20:21-22

Third, praises to God silences the accuser. Psalm 8:2 “From the lips of children and infants, you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” If you don’t know how to begin, come as a child. If you don’t know how to come as child, ask God…and in that question, you just began to pray.

God sent reminders along the way. I saw a police car and thanked Him for His constant protection. I saw homes and thanked Him for His constant provision. I felt the wind and asked for His Presence in a friend’s difficult and dark night. “Lord Jesus, be with my friend. Her face is now against the wind. Tears stream down, set her face toward Yours. Wipe away her tears, hold her in your arms.”

Stop not. Part of my goal was to be consistent. I didn’t want to push so much in beginning that I lost momentum on the return. My father simply stated, “Discipline is when you don’t stop.” Prayer is a continual conversation. Prayer is not a grand statement at the beginning of the day, but many conversations throughout the day, both talking to and listening to God.

Oswald Chambers notes:
The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with Him. Rush is wrong every time, there is always plenty of time to worship God. Quiet days with God may be a snare. We have to pitch our tents (live our lives) where we shall always have quiet times with God, however noisy our times with the world may be.

He is more interested in our relationship than our rhetoric. For the One who knows our hearts, He wants us to know His heart. Constantly. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

Focus. "...but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead," Philippians 3:13. Breath by breath, step by step, I am always looking and walking in one direction or another. May it always be toward Home; always toward Him.

Enjoy Him, Michelle

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wisdom with Wrinkles

...and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:3-5

Party: The best Christmas present this year was having my own personal shoppers for a day. I loved it! My sister is looking for bargains. My step-mom is looking for style. I’m only looking pants that fit! Four pairs of pants, three shirts, and one jacket later – I have style again! It was quite the adventure and I adored every minute of it! This Christmas joy was in Tampa, where my sister lives. So, the clothes stayed in their bags for a couple of days before emerging again in my home in West Palm Beach. Which means that ironing was sure to come!

Reality: They looked and felt so perfect in the store. Now, when I try to make them perfectly presentable, the imperfections start to show. A pulled thread here. A loose button there. A mark on the cuff. Why didn’t I see these before? Would I have said “no, thanks” had I known then what I know now? Is it fixable? Should I return it? If hadn’t noticed in the store, maybe no one else would notice on the street?

Then I began to see relationships. They looked and felt so perfect when we first met. There were wrinkles here and there, but the more I tried to make them perfect, the more the imperfections emerged. A ripped heart. A loose past. A stained mind. Why didn’t I see these before? (pride) Would I have turned from the relationship had I known (prejudice)? Should I consider fixing (more pride)? Should I refuse and return (more prejudice)? What will others think of my choice? (pride, pride, pride)?

Then I saw me on the other side of pride: fear that I would be the one rejected for my imperfections, hoping that no one notices. What of those who are allowed close enough to see my imperfections? Common wrinkles are one thing, stains are quite another.

There is wisdom in exercising discernment, but there is devastation in exercising pride and prejudice. Especially against ourselves. How then shall we live? Pray for said discernment: first in ourselves and also in others. Everyone has loose threads, and some have fabrics that are completely unraveling. All need to be brought to God – however closely we are knit together. Some are to be kept (in the light of God’s Truth), some are to be tossed (in cases of abuse). God will lead us from there…always as the only One who is worthy of smoothing out the wrinkles (which will always return for perfection's pressing).

By the way, the clothes (and the relationships) are off the ironing board and worn well! And…I think I’ll ask for “personal shopper day” as a new tradition!

Enjoy Him, Michelle