Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Servant's Life

"It's not about you." 

It's become my mantra. 

"I don't feel like doing laundry."  It's not about you.  "I REALLY don't want to cook dinner tonight."  It's not about you.  "I don't want to be a teacher today."  It's not about you. 

Selfishness.  We live in a world that esteems self and stresses the importance of "taking care of you."  Even Christian leaders today fuel the idea that you must take time to invest in yourself.  I simply cannot find this advice anywhere in scripture.  The world says to take care of yourself.  Jesus says to take care of the orphans and widows.  The world says you are entitled to down time.  Jesus says lay down your life.  The world says to follow your heart.  The Bible says to take every thought captive.  The world says live for yourself.  The Bible says you have been crucified with Christ.  The world tells you your children are a burden.  The Bible says they are a blessing.  The kings of this world sit in a palace and are protected by servants.  Our King washed dirty feet, dined with thieves, touched lepers and healed prostitutes. 

Selfishness rears its ugly head in all of us.  It's the pride of self...the voice that tells us we are entitled to something.  It's easy to see it in someone else...a little harder to pinpoint in ourselves. 

My daughter yelled at her little sister today...over a lost toy she let her borrow.  My response? "What's more important: the toy or your sister's heart?" 


"I've told you a hundred times not to do that!"  What's more important?  "Why don't you listen to me?" Making your point? "Stop touching that!"  Demanding blind obedience? "Come here right now!"  Or their hearts?

Speak kindly.  Serve wholly.  Admonish gently.  Shepherd lovingly.  This is the life of a servant.  A life modeled after a King who came to show us what selflessness really looks like. 

We serve our families...and thus serve Jesus.  This is what turns our children's hearts toward the Savior.  This is what opens their soul to the loving, corrective wisdom that comes from the heart of God. 

Harsh words and selfish desire never won anyone to the Kingdom.

I pray God will bless me with a lap that is open, ears that are keen, eyes that are loving, and a smile that is turned toward the blessings in my home.  I pray for tireless hands, a selfless spirit, a pure heart, bent knees and raised hands.  

Thank goodness it's not about me.  I am sin and I forget all too often the call of selflessness.  I never want to forget the way it feels to look into the eyes of my Savior and say, "I will."  I will teach these children what it means to follow you.  I will love them every day.  I will lay down my life for the least of these.  I will work tirelessly doing Your work until You come back.  Because none of this is about me.  It's about You.  Redeemer.  King.  Messiah.  Servant.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Lord Speaks

"Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"  The people yell it and praise the King riding into town on a donkey.

We praise the same King in a pew on Sunday morning...with our hearts cleansed and our heads turned upward, we worship.

A short time later, the same crowd that waved the palm branches now shake their fists and cry, "Crucify Him!"

And hours after we leave our House of Worship, we blaspheme our God with our tongues and our actions.

We weep at the Cross and we mourn the tragic death of a King.  We rejoice in His resurrection and gaze deep into the eyes of the women at the empty tomb. 

Then we live like He's dead and we hammer the nails further and deeper as we serve ourselves and defile the empty tomb with our tongues of malice.

We crumble under the pressure and we cry out to a God we reject over and over.  We scream "Crucify Him!" and sing "Hosanna!" all in the same breath.  We look in the mirror and weep.

Then...the Lord speaks.  The nails can go no deeper.  The tomb cannot be defiled.  This is why I've come.  You can't.  I can.  It's not about you.  It's about Me.

We fall on our knees, weep...and give thanks.



Friday, October 21, 2011

The Beauty That Heals

We enjoyed a great day outside today.  The fresh air was soothing and the leaves crunching under my feet were therapeutic.  After a day (week) of failing, I finally feel refreshed and motivated. 

There is something about being outside that nourishes me.  It is essential for my growth and survival.  The air blows past me and carries with it my frustration and anxieties.  The birds chirp, echo my song and the stress dissipates.  The trees rustle in the wind and their music soothes.  The sun shines and reminds of all that is right in my life....the warmth covers me and I soar once more. 

And my grass is green.  In the midst of the the midst of an approaching the midst of a life of the midst of the storms...I see Jesus.  His sun shines and His wind blows and His birds sing...and I am caught up in the beauty of it all.  I hold my children and give thanks.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Growing Up...Part One

Earlier this month, I felt a stirring in my heart.  The one I feel when God is calling me to tell a story.  I argued.  Then relented.  I began the story and couldn't get it out fast enough.  Then it sat in my drafts for two weeks.  Obedience.  I'm learning.  I cannot figure out, for the life of me, why anyone else would want to read this.  Maybe it's the therapy for me...getting the story out.  But here it is.  Published.  Part one...

We grabbed our Bibles out of the backseat and began walking.  Slowly, deliberately we ambled into a large, old brick building.  We were greeted, given bulletins and a handshake.  In front of us, the entryway opened up into a large room full of men, women and children.  Strangers.  The plaster was separated from the brick walls and the stability of the building, in general, seemed...shaky.  People from all walks of life milled about.  They walked, talked and congregated together.  A congregation.  A family.  The first one I would know as an adult.

There were two aisles, both sloping downward toward the stage.  The room, having been built in a time when teachers taught with no sound equipment, echoed.  The walking, talking and clamoring for seats filled my ears.  Something behind the pulpit caught my eye.  A dove.  Wooden and mounted on the wall.  I made a mental note to look into its meaning.  Two, now archaic, tv screens sat on opposite ends of the 100-year-old sanctuary, where the lyrics to worship songs would scroll.  The pews were shallow, the seats of which had recently been upholstered with green.  The aisle creaked when we walked upon it...down to an arbitrarily chosen pew.  I opened my bulletin and the words stared back at and printed...etched from this day forward onto the surface of my heart:
  • We are not a denominational church, nor are we opposed to denominations as such, only their over-emphasis of the doctrinal differences that have led to the division of the Body of Christ.

  • We believe that the only true basis of Christian fellowship is His (Agape) love, which is greater than any differences we possess and without which we have no right to claim ourselves Christians.

  • We believe worship of God should be spiritual. Therefore, we remain flexible and yielded to the leading of the Holy Spirit to direct our worship.

  • We believe worship of God should be inspirational. Therefore, we give a great place to music in our worship.

  • We believe worship of God should be intelligent. Therefore, our services are designed with great emphasis upon teaching the Word of God that He might instruct us how He should be worshiped.

  • We believe worship of God is fruitful. Therefore, we look for His love in our lives as the supreme manifestation that we have truly been worshiping Him.

My breath caught.  My heart lurched.  Tears welled.  As a new believer, I didn't know much.  But I knew these disctinctives were Biblical Truth.  I knew God was here.  This old building with the uncomfortable seats and the echoing and the amazingly wonderful beliefs felt right.  It felt real.  It felt like home.  We sang.  We worshipped.  Spirit-filled worship, complete with an acoustic guitar.  (I'm of the belief that NO worship is worthy of the name unless it includes an acoustic guitar.)  We opened our Bibles and I was taught the Word of God differently than I had been taught anywhere else.  The book of verse at a time.  Deeper.  A sinner teacher...not perfect...but gifted.  And my new husband and I...sinners...not perfect...but touched.  I began to sprout.

The strangers became family.  Some of them, close family.  We became fixtures in this delapitating church and we grew together.

Things changed throughout the next couple of years.  The tv screens were replaced with a big screen on the wall above the pulpit and speakers and a projector were suspended from the very high ceiling.  I worried about the safety of such a placement until someone informed me that a brave soul had hung from it and, therefore, it had to be perfectly safe.  I was never fully convinced but as far as I know, it has never fallen.  Two small buildings were purchased across the street for further use and we were working on obtaining an FM radio station to take the gospel to people who couldn't come to us.

I loved my church.  I loved everything we stood for, everything we were about, everything that was so much different from the more "traditional" churches in town.  I loved that a man could walk in off the street in flip-flops and cut off jeans and hear the gospel.  I loved that the tattooed sat with the straight-laced and that the redeemed drug addict was no different from the redeemed man of pride.  I loved seeing the alcoholic rub elbows with the counselor and the business man shake hands with the prison inmate.  I loved to see the evidence of a redemptive God at every turn.  I loved the worship.  I loved how alive my Bible was becoming.  And I loved my family.

Through a series of events, it all began to unravel.  The believers were at odds with each other.  People were angry.  Hurt.  Sad.  Frustrated.  The family began to split up.  Finding new homes.  New families.  It felt like divorce to me.  And I, desperate to cling to what I knew to be true and real, hung on for dear life.  My husband, who is steadfast in his demeanor and scarcely quits anything, hung on for dear life.  We prayed.  And prayed.

One rainy morning, we grabbed our Bibles from the backseat along with the children I had birthed in the last 5 years.  We walked up the sidewalk...into the old building...through the entryway and into the large room with all the people.  We marched down the oh-so-familiar staircase, transporting two girls to Sunday School.  We climbed the stairs again.  Back into the room...we sat down...third baby in my arms...and a lump in my throat.  We glanced around the room and were faced with a stunning realization.  This place...the creaks, the smell, the speakers hanging from the ceiling, the uncomfortable 100-year-old was home.  Here we our home filled with people.  But our family was gone.  Almost entirely gone.  Divorced from this place as we still sat waiting, in futility, for someone to come home.