It’s a Good Day to Help Someone

The past six months have been rough for me. There have been days I didn’t want to get out of bed. I have struggled with hurt, anger, and betrayal. I have felt torn apart and fractured, yet in an odd twist, I’ve also focused: I’ve focused on God. And through Him, I’ve focused on others. I’ve prayed a lot. Sometimes for myself, but most the time for others. Because, really, this life isn’t about me. There’s healing in trusting God and seeking His truth. There are so many statements we hear that we want to be true, we long to be true. We respond as if they are true. We build upon them as truth, yet these statements and standards are often not true statements and standards. Our wishful thinking doesn’t make something true. God doesn’t say we deserve to be happy by our own preferences and feelings. God doesn’t say relationships that seem to be hard work should be tossed aside. God says to love Him and love others. It’s easier said than done at times. We twist what we believe love should be. We reframe what we believe God wants so that it is more palatable to us. We don’t like a love that steps on our toes, that prompts us to humbly change, that’s inconvenient to our schedules. We want to be secure, to be safe, to feel good. Just after dark, I walked by a young couple with a broken down car. I made a little bit of small talk as I walked by, then God tapped me on the shoulder: “Hey! Remember that prayer...

Does Your Life Have Good Lighting?

Evening passed, and morning came. This was the third day. Then God said, “Let there be lights in the sky to separate day from night. These lights will be used for signs, seasons, days, and years.They will be in the sky to give light to the earth.” And it happened. Genesis 1:13-15 While we each experience seasons differently because of where we live, consider the four seasons of the year. What’s your favorite, and why? According to Genesis, seasons are inextricably linked with the lights that separate the night from the day. Isn’t that what often seems to separate our spiritual seasons as well? Consider it from an experiential perspective. Winter is seen as the most depressing and depraved season. There’s a lack of direct sunlight as well as less sunlit hours through the day. Our spiritual winters feel dark. The clouds seem oppressive. The damp cold chills us. We long for direct sunlight to part the skies and shine directly on us for warmth and refreshment. Knowing the depressing effects of shortened days and lengthened darkness through the winter months, some people opt for light therapy or strategic vacations to help them sustain a balance of mental and emotional health. On the other hand, summer’s extended daylight hours and direct sunshine invite us into increased energy and opportunities to stay active through outside work and play. Bleakness is shoved aside by illumination. Chill is blown away by breezes warmed by sunlight. We fully experience life, taking our hats off to feel the sun’s warmth and digging our bare toes into soft grass and sparkling sand. How would you...

Don’t Judge Me!

Judging is an interesting phenomena. It’s taken a lot of heat in our culture. We’re told not to judge, and we’re judged when we do so. And not all judging seems to be under fire. It seems acceptable to offend some through judgment but not others. People say, “I don’t want to be judged,” “That person has no right to judge me,” or “I know they’re going to judge me,” not realizing or accepting that they’re making judgments with their statements. When people judge, they assume and they often attack, or at least it feels that way. Judging can harm people and relationships. And can we actually accurately judge with the limited information we have? We use phrases such as “use your judgment” but if we’re relying on our own judgment (and values), we’re likely going to get it wrong. Judgments, even when we try to focus on the facts, involve assumptions, personal experiences, and bias. What we know and even observe is limited. However, we have access to insights beyond our understanding. When we replace judgment with discernment, it involves seeking and yielding to God. It takes the heat off of us and trusts God. We’re still responsible, but the responsibility comes by obeying God, trusting how he guides is the best option, and following him even when we don’t understand why he would have us be silent when we see the perfect opportunity to confront someone or why he would have us speak up when we feel the situation is too heated. We see the immediate need or concern, but God sees how a long string of...

It’s Time to Move On

Sometimes we think we’re done. It’s time to move on, or so we believe. We’re ready to be done with a season because we’re exhausted or we see a better offer. Things aren’t going well, or things are going exceptionally well. For whatever reason, we assess (or rationalize) that God is prompting us to take a step away from where we are and move on to something else. Especially if it takes time for us to adjust to the idea of moving on, it’s hard when God says, “Wait just a minute.” Jesus did it to Simon in Luke 5. Simon and other fishermen had been trying to catch fish all night. They were done. In fact, they were washing their nets, which wasn’t a simple task. They definitely did not want to dirty them again and restart the clean-up process. It’s like having everything wrapped up for the day, all accounts reconciled, notes written, reports submitted, electronics shut down, doors locked, then someone asking you to open up and get everything started again. Only Jesus didn’t ask. He stepped into the boat, began teaching, and told Simon to fish. Simon felt the need to report to Jesus what a waste of time fishing would be based on what was going on. I can hear our similar responses: “But God, these people just don’t respect me any longer. In fact, I’m not sure if they ever liked me. Don’t ask me to stay. It’s just not going to work.” “I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do. I finally find myself wrapping everything up. It seems like it’s time...

Who Do You Follow, and Why?

With the technological ease of “following” people, we have access to all kinds of resources and individuals. We don’t just read someone’s books; we’re “friends” with them. We tweet a quote, and they favorite it, or better yet, retweet or reply. We get to know their families through Instagram photos. We follow their journeys of celebrations and heartaches. We live life alongside them…or at least, that’s what it feels like. We pray when they announce they have cancer. We grieve when their marriage falls apart. We get defensive when a critic attacks them. We don’t have to wait for the new book to come out; we sat through the writing process with them as they blogged. We preorder every book they write. We attend a conference because they are speaking. We listen to their messages online. Is that so wrong? It’s not just the “famous” people we follow. Look around. Who do you follow at church? Work? In your community? In your family? Who carries significant weight in your life? Not sure? Ask, “Of all the people who ask me to do something, who am I most likely to say ‘yes’ to without hesitation? Of all the people who give me information, who am I most likely to believe without question?” Following people isn’t wrong. God uses others to teach, challenge, and hold us accountable. However, we can become disciples of the wrong people, or of the right people for the wrong reasons. Take an inventory of how healthy your following is. Who would you support no matter what? Do you have a difficult time believing anything bad, especially...

The First

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Some firsts are exciting. 1st day of kindergarten. (I really liked my pink pleated skirt!) 1st paycheck. (Even if I got sun poisoning lifeguarding that summer.) 1st dorm room. (Cleaning the floor with furniture polish was not a great idea.) 1st plane ride. (And the grandest view of a sunset in my life.) 1st cell phone. (Even if it didn’t fit in my pocket!) Some firsts aren’t so exciting. 1st speeding ticket. 1st overdraft notice. 1st surgery. 1st perm. My first date was boring. My first kiss was sloppy. My first bridesmaid dress was hideous. Firsts can be thrilling, frightening, or disastrous. The first is always a beginning. We don’t stay in the first. We grow from it. We shouldn’t steep in it; we should step out of it. It’s a journey. You experience a first every day of your life. You have a choice to live today in a way that sets the foundation for tomorrow. Hopefully, many of the days leading up to this one have set firm foundations on which you’re now building. The firsts of today set the pace and priorities of tomorrow. You can wait until tomorrow’s today to make changes, but why waste today? I remember the “today” I decided to live all other todays of my life for God. I appreciate the memory of that day, but I’m not going to reside in it. I don’t want to lose today and the opportunity to choose to live for God in the details of my new today. I haven’t filled every today...

An Open Letter (Invitation, Apology, Plea) to Young Women

To the young women at church (and those who are considering church), Please don’t rule us out just because we’re older than you. We might wear different clothes and talk about different things, but we not all that different from you. We have some of the same hurts, questions, and longings. Please give us a second chance…and a third and fourth. We might not reach out right away or remember your name, but it doesn’t mean we don’t care. Sometimes, we’re just as insecure and uncertain as you are about reaching out to new people. Please be persistent and share your ideas, hearts, and hands. We need you. It might look like we’ve fallen into a rut at times, and to be honest, sometimes we have, but we know your enthusiasm and energy can help propel us forward. We need you. Please don’t think we have all the answers, but realize we do have some. When we share our experiences with you, we’re not trying to tell you how to do things. We just want to share life with you, and that requires give and take by all of us. Please know we’re not perfect. You’ll see some hypocrisy in our lives, but as you get to know us better, you’ll also see us authentically struggling through our issues in order to grow. We can all struggle together. Please don’t reject an idea just because it’s not exactly what you would choose. We have a lot more in common than not. Let’s listen to each, respect each other, and try each other’s ideas. We’ll likely discover some fun along...

When The Good News Gets Easy

We boil it down to the basics: Love Jesus. Help others love Him, too. But we have different approaches: Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words. Help people. And if you can’t help, at least, don’t hurt them. Give what you can, and you will receive more. Helping others achieve their dreams will help you achieve yours. We like to boil things down to the simplest form. We like quips that affirm and encourage us. If it sounds good, we think it is good. If we can’t readily see how something contradicts Scripture, we assume it’s consistent with Scripture. That’s not always the case. We have to know Scripture well in order to find what is consistent and what isn’t. In many cases, we can find or recall a verse that supports just about any perspective we want. That approach only affirms us; it’s not a reliable approach to a faith-filled life. That kind of life requires humility, which we don’t always like because it makes us feel vulnerable and gets us out of our comfort zone. Vulnerability and discomfort often describe living out the gospel, too. We prefer living out and sharing the gospel in more comfortable and convenient ways. Lifestyle evangelism—living out the good news in our everyday lives—is an excellent approach to sharing Jesus with others, because we have established influence on those in our immediate circles and regular routines. However, we can sometimes fall back on a distortion of lifestyle evangelism as if we’re falling into a comfortable couch. It feels good. We don’t have to do much more than what would...

A Lame Christmas

Christmas celebrations and seasons have changed throughout the years, but one thing in my childhood home has remained the same: the nativity. It is one of my favorite parts of Christmas, but also a favorite part of “home.” As a child, I stared at the details of the nativity for hours. When I was old enough to touch it, I would rearrange it, deciding which king should present his gift or how far away the shepherds might stand. One flaw to the nativity has been there as long as I can remember. The lamb is missing a leg. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s missing the plaster on the leg. The wire frame is there, so it can stand up on its own…with a bit of teetering. My mom knows how special the nativity is to me, and she was thrilled to come across a old-looking sheep that was about the same size as this one and would fit well with the other figures. She bought it without hesitation. When she got home, she discovered something. Somewhere between the store and home, the sheep’s leg was broken. It, too, was lame. I took it home to incorporate into my own nativity as a reminder. We don’t have to be perfect to approach Jesus. We need to come as we are. Humility is difficult, because it reveals our weaknesses. But that’s where He meets us. That’s where He serves us. That’s where He saves us. He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: “When you are invited by...

What If Church Was More Like a Hospital?

I made several trips to the hospital with my dad while he battled cancer, sometimes in emergencies and other times for regular appointments and treatments. He received exceptional care. My mom received generous support. And I got to witness much of it. As I did, I wondered what made this hospital and its staff so special. What if the church was more like it? People are always welcome. I saw people in a variety of conditions—physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally—enter the doctors’ offices and hospital, whether it was a planned or emergency situation. Everyone received the same warm welcome. Each person was treated as a valuable person: not a project, nuisance, or uncomfortable inconvenience. People have time to talk—in plain English. Doctors and nurses rarely rush in and out of rooms. They sit down, look people in the eye, and speak in a language others can understand. They listen to questions and are patient through confusion and off-topic stories. One of dad’s doctors didn’t know dad had been admitted on a weekend, but stopped by once he heard the news and talked for a half hour. We’ve been approached by doctors we didn’t know, when we apparently looked lost roaming hallways and staring at elevator panels, and asked if we needed help getting somewhere. People followed up. Not once did we have to follow up with anybody who said they would call, make an appointment, or give more information. Many times, doctors and others went above and beyond even when they hadn’t obligated themselves to contact us. The head of a department, who didn’t even treat my dad any...