We Are All Human

Human beings

Dedicated to my inspiration for this one: Purple Rain will never be the same.

Who are you?  What are you?  Are you rich, middle class, poor? What about the color of your skin?  What religion do you practice?  Republican or Democrat?   Gay, straight, transgender?    Are you a woman or a man?

I was talking with a friend the other day about community.  Said friend posed an honest, profound question. Why must it be the “Gay” community, the “Straight” community, the “Black” community or the “Christian” community?  Why can’t we just be one community?   Are we not all human?  The questions left me thinking.

So many things this day and age separate us: race, politics, socioeconomic class, religion, sex, and sexual preferences.   We fight, argue, slander, and tell others they are wrong if their opinions don’t match ours, we don’t reach out to others we feel are beneath our social standing.   We hate and discriminate due to skin color or sexual orientation.  And in the midst of it all we forget the simple truth that universally binds us.  We are all human beings.  Despite all the things that make us different at the end of every day, we are still human, the same at the cellular level.

The second greatest command in the bible is to love your neighbor as yourself.  Your neighbor isn’t simply the person living next to you, behind you, or in front of you.  It isn’t just the people you work with.  Your neighbor is every single one of your fellow humans.    We all suffer, have trials, joys, and pain, things that have broken us and put us back together.   So what if they believe different, so what if their sexual preference is different from yours.  So what if their skin color is different.   They are still human.  I would venture to guess that each and every one of us wants the same thing. To be loved and accepted unconditionally.

But we don’t, we let the shit get in the way.   It is time we shovel the shit out of the pasture of humanity and start loving our neighbor as we do ourselves.     Maybe, just maybe, then some of the shit killings, bullying, and hate will stop.   Martin Luther King once said “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  It’s up to us.

Human

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June 29, 2015. Tags: , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

A Goat and Contentment

Goat

A few years ago I decided to make a change from making New Year’s resolutions to making the year about focusing on a word or phrase.  Last year my word was “best”. I focused on being and giving the best in any and every situation.   Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I failed, but I always tried to give everything my best.  I decided my focus for 2015 was going to be contentment.  And it all started with a goat and a cell phone.

A few months ago I was having a fit about my cell phone not working properly.  Truthfully I was mad because I wasn’t able to get the phone I wanted. The phone worked just fine, the problem was me, not the phone.   In my fit of frustration my Pastors words from the previous Sunday came floating by in my mind.   He and some others had been on a recent mission trip to Haiti and had provided some goats to help families have a source of income.  The Haitians were grateful and happy about getting a goat to help their families.  A goat! And there I stood in my home complaining about a working cell phone.

It started me thinking about contentment. Why couldn’t I be content with the phone I had?  Why did I want something more when what I had was much more than people in Haiti, or even in the United States has?  Was I really letting material things define me? Was I discontent?  Oh boy.  The longer I spent pondering those questions the more I didn’t like the answers.

I am reluctant to admit it but yes, I do let material things define me to some degree.  I just feel better about myself when a label is attached to my clothes or handbag.  I have a lot of nice things, but it never seems to be enough. I frequently find myself wanting more, something different, something new.  The cold reality set in long before the last minute of 2014 counted down.  I am not content.

This spills over into other areas of my life.  Contentment isn’t confined to just material things, but relationships too.  People aren’t perfect, and relationships are hard and messy. It is easy to become discontent.    And discontentment leads to a lack of peace, about me, my relationships and life in general.   That isn’t how I want to live.

2015 is the year I learn to be content.    The last message I heard in 2014 was on Psalms 23. A well known biblical passage, but I was given a fresh perspective.    An underlying theme of that passage is contentment.   With the Lord as my shepherd I will never lack anything.   I will be led to quiet, peaceful, places of rest and refreshment.  I will be guided along the right paths for me. When I walk thru dark valleys the Lord will walk with me and comfort me.  When facing my enemies a table will be prepared for me.   I will be protected.   Goodness and mercy will follow me every single day of my life.  My cup will overflow.   The secret to the kind of contentment found in Psalms 23 is me.  The Lord is my shepherd as long as I make the choice to follow him.  Those things are mine when I choose to recognize them and be content in them.  My cup overflows when I am content with the things I have and my relationships.   Contentment is a choice and it is time I start choosing it.

content 2

January 15, 2015. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Called, loved, kept

Call, love, kept.  All four letter words, all with profound meaning.  I have for a long time understood that God “called” me for a purpose.  I have understood with my mind that I am deeply loved by God.  The idea of being “kept” by God is one I am just beginning to grasp.   I feel these are not just words but concepts that need to be not just “brain” knowledge but “heart” knowledge as well.   When it becomes “heart” knowledge that is the moment when it becomes an ingrained truth.

As I said I know I have been called by God for a purpose, a “calling” in my life.  I have limited that to my vocation or what I do with my time.  I have frequently missed the first and most important part of this calling.   Jude chapter 1 verse 1 is addressed to all who are called, loved, and kept by God.  I don’t believe the ordering of the words is random.  I am of the belief that calling is listed first because in order to know we are loved and kept by God we must first enter into relationship with him.

I have always known God loves me, but it was merely something I knew in my mind, not something that had taken root in my heart.  I didn’t think I was worth loving by anybody much less the God of the universe.  I didn’t love myself, how could anybody else love me?  Something has happened though. As I have entered more and more into relationship with God, and the more I have learned to love myself, the more I KNOW God loves me.  I don’t just understand it, I KNOW it.  I don’t doubt it.  Whatever I do, no matter how I might fail or how I might succeed God LOVES me.   Just like God loves you too.  No matter what, God loves you too.

What does being “kept” by God mean?  I think about the crown jewels of England. They are kept under protection and constant surveillance.  This is what being kept by God means.  We are never out of his sight, never out of the realm of his protection.  This doesn’t mean bad things will never happen.  I’m sure the crown jewels have been dropped a few times, and needed repairs.  So it is with us. Life happens, we get dropped, and we need repairs.  God makes a way for healing to happen. That doesn’t mean we are any less protected by God.  He sees us, he knows us, and we are always, always in his loving care.

It is my earnest prayer that first and foremost you would answer the call to enter into relationship with God.  I won’t sugar coat it and tell you it will fix everything, and life will be rainbows and roses from now on. It won’t.  But, I can promise you will be loved. And I pray that you will begin to know how deeply loved by God you are.  That you won’t just understand it as a concept in your mind, but that your heart will grasp it and you will know beyond all doubt, you are loved.  Lastly, I pray you will know that you are kept in God’s care.  Even when you are damaged, get hurt, and need repairs, you are always in God’s sight, never out of the reach of his hand.

Click here to listen to the sermon, “Someone’s Calling” by Pastor Jan

June 6, 2014. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Grace and Grits

           I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the doors of “Grace and Grits”. I certainly had never been closer to a homeless person than handing them a dollar or bottle of water out of my car window. I was nervous, and maybe a tad bit scared. Serving the homeless was well out of my zone of comfort, but serving isn’t about being comfortable.

       I admit it. I was a bit judgmental before last night.   In my selfish little middle class mind a homeless person really didn’t have an identity beyond that of “homeless”. I mean surely they were drug addicted alcoholic dead beats whose bad choices led to them being homeless. Oh how the mighty fell last night.

Pastor Jan reminded us before serving that these people were people just like ourselves. They have a name too, and an identity beyond that of “homeless”.   These were people whom deserved my respect as much as any stranger I come across in a day. They deserved my smiles, and my kindness. More than that, they deserved the love of Christ.   And last night the love of Christ was the hands and feet of those serving.   Christ love was literally in my hands and the steps of my feet.   I was humbled.

       I saw a lot that made my heart break. I saw mommies walking in with their hungry babies and kids. I saw young women, old women, younger men, and old men.   Homelessness and hunger affects young and old. Here is the odd thing. These people who had nothing smiled back at me. Me, who has a home, a car, food (probably too much) in my belly, and clothes (nice ones) on my back; I have everything. Again I was humbled. Being the hands and feet of Christ, and really realizing just how blessed I am, wasn’t what affected me most. No. It was the difference between their brokenness and mine.

         In MY eyes there is but one difference between their brokenness and mine. Theirs is evident, mine is not. I see their dirty clothes, their signs as they stand on the corners of my streets. I don’t know how they got to such a broken place. Maybe they made poor decisions that led to their homelessness. I may not be homeless, but I have made poor decisions with dire consequences. I have strongholds in my life, things that have kept me from living a life of joy. You can’t see it, but the fact remains. I am just as broken as they are.   And I am humbled again.

         Christ loves those homeless people just as much as he loves me. In HIS eyes, our brokenness is the same.   We have the same identity in him. We were all “Knit together in our mother’s womb. Fearfully and wonderfully made, a wonderful work, whose days were all ordained for us before one of them came to be. His thoughts about each one of us so vast, they outnumber the grains of sand.” (Psalms 139) In the eyes of Christ we are all the same. Precious and loved.  

       I went to serve but came away with a changed heart. I will now look upon the homeless person on the street corner as a person, with a name and an identity. A person loved just as much as I am, with great worth, despite our brokenness.

   “ Oh how he loves us”( David Crowder)….

April 24, 2014. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 4 comments.

Easter Sunday

     I admit it. I went to church this morning jaded but desperate. I have long been used to “Easter Sermons”. You know the ones; “Jesus died on the cross for your sins, rose again, accept Jesus as you Savior.” Now, there is NOTHING wrong with those kinds of sermons, those are needed and necessary. I was just desperate to hear something new. I went to church this morning and felt the shackles fall off. It was an amazing feeling.

   I have long believed a lie. The lie that I somehow had to “maintain” my salvation. That my relationship with Jesus was based on how much I read my bible, prayed, how many hours of worship music I listened to every week, and whether or not I felt “close” to Jesus.   That lie was shattered this morning when I heard my pastor say “Jesus maintains the relationship. He did the work on the cross. It isn’t about your perception or how you feel. It is about reading your bible, praying, because you LOVE him.” Mind blown. WHAT!? I thought I HAD to do all this “stuff”, and when I didn’t Jesus and I weren’t close. LIE.

               Salvation is utterly dependent on what Jesus did on the cross. It was grace given I didn’t earn, and mercy extended that I didn’t deserve.   The work of salvation was completed when Jesus died and rose again; anything I do or don’t do doesn’t add or take away from that. He doesn’t change. My feelings ebb and flow. I am human I fail miserably and often. It doesn’t matter because he is unchanging, constant in his steadfast love and righteousness (see Jeremiah 9:24).

                 Realizing this today was FREEDOM!! Now, I have a choice. I do things for my husband out of love for him not because I feel some sense of obligation as a wife. I talk to him because I want to know him better. It is after all thru communication that our hearts become intertwined into one.  So it is with my relationship with Jesus. I can talk to him, read his words to me, no longer because I feel a sense of obligation, or because I feel like it is necessary to maintain my salvation. No. I can do those things simply because I love him, and I want my heart to be intertwined with his heart. And on those days when I don’t “feel” close to him? I understand now that is ok. It doesn’t change my salvation or take away from it. There are days I don’t “feel” as close to my husband either, but the fact we are still married and very much in love remains. So it is with my salvation. It remains.

   I left church no longer jaded and with a much lighter heart. That is what Easter Sunday is all about, freedom, and a new life. I hope you find it.

   “ Oh precious is the blood…..”        

******  For the podcast of Easter Sunday’s sermon please visit  lifepointchurch.com , it usually posted by mid week!

April 20, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Me, Religion, and Jesus

   Last week something was said to me that gave me pause. I was told I would not have been liked due to my being religious.   I’m not sure how this person defines religion, but I know how I define it and I am not religious. Do I believe in God and Jesus? Absolutely. That doesn’t make me religious. Allow me to explain.                

   I would define religion as following a list of “can”, “cannot”, “should”, and “should not”.   Let me be clear, I understand the Ten Commandments are exactly what I just described.    I agree those commandments should be followed, as does most laws and governments. Religion goes beyond those commandments. It tells you how to dress, what your beliefs are, what you cannot eat, how to pray the “right way”, and tells you not to question what you are told. The list of rules to be followed is endless. Religion keeps you bound, and allows you to hide behind excuses. Religion is life lived from a sense of obligation rather than of love. It prevents true relationship with Jesus because it is a mask that is put on. It keeps you from being real and honest about life and faith.

           I used to be religious. I have felt the shame of committing yet another sin, and the guilt of missing church. I have questioned whether my prayers were good enough, and if I was even praying in the right manner. I believed the lie that if I didn’t pray perfectly my prayers wouldn’t be heard nor answered. Religion left me confused, frustrated, and wanting.  Because of religion I walked away from church for a good long while. I was tired of the game.

             I have since discovered a life changing truth. Jesus wasn’t religious. Jesus went against everything that was religious. Jesus was real, and he had an honest relationship with his heavenly father. It was a relationship of mutual love, not obligation.  He was emotional and expressed those emotions. He asked if it was God’s will to let the pain of the cross pass from him, and then willingly endured it. He had friends, and knew what it was to be both loved and rejected. He slept, ate, partied (the wedding at Canaan), and drank wine. He ministered to those in need. He didn’t judge, he took people as they were and loved them in spite of their frailty. He lived an authentic, honest, no mask life.  That’s relationship.

               I am thru with religion. I desire to be like Jesus. And that means I pursue relationship. Notice the word “real” can be extrapolated from “relationship”. If I want a relationship with Jesus I have to be real.   I can take him my questions, my fears, my hopes, my dreams. I can love and care for others without abandon because he takes care of me. I no longer feel the weight of shame and guilt over missing church or yet another sin. I am human and a work in progress. I accept the forgiveness offered to me, and do my best to change my ways. I do this not because I feel obligated, but because I love Jesus and want to be more like him.   That is why Jesus died on the cross- not so we would feel obligated to him and follow a list of rules. No. He came so we can enjoy the freedom of a relationship with him. That relationship with him frees us and allows us to become the best versions of our true self.

   If I would have been disliked because I love Jesus and pursue relationship with him?  Then I am absolutely ok with that.   Because that isn’t religious- Jesus wasn’t and I won’t be either

March 27, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Habakkuk Looks Back

    We are always told not to look back.  To keep our eyes forward because looking back can only hamper our progress; make us yearn for what was instead of what is to be.  I agree, but there are exceptions to every “rule”.   There are times looking back is essential in order for us to face what is ahead.

          God had just finished giving the prophecy of what was to come to Habakkuk.  I can’t imagine the weight of the burden he was carrying. The answer was hard, and suffering was coming.  If I were Habakkuk I probably would have cowered in worry, wondering how I was going to survive.  Habakkuk did no such thing.  He started looking back.   Habakkuk began singing a song of praise about all the things God had delivered his people from.  He spoke of many things including the deliverance from Egypt and when God helped Gideon defeat the Midianites. These were stories Habakkuk had heard because they had been handed down thru the generations.    The bible doesn’t tell us, but I imagine Habakkuk praised God for some things God had done in his own life as well.    I believe nothing would have brought more comfort to Habakkuk’s heart than remembering what God had done for him personally.  Habakkuk stood there in awe of all God’s deeds.

     There have been many times in my own journey that I can only move forward by looking back.     Not only have I looked at the difficult things God has brought me through but I have remembered stories told to me of difficult things God has brought family or friends through.   In those moments I have felt that I haven’t had any strength, faith, or courage left to move on.  But when I look back? I have managed to take a deep breath and forge ahead. 

    Want to move forward? Take a look, just a look, back. 

Scripture reference:  Habakkuk 3: 1-16

March 6, 2014. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Hard answers

     When Habakkuk poured out his heart to God I wonder what his expectations might have been.  Did he hope for a specific answer from God or simply any answer at all?  The answer he received was a doozy.  It was a hard to swallow answer.  God told him he was going to allow Judah to be turned over to the Babylonians.   History, as well as the bible, tells us how cruel and violent the Babylonians were.  I don’t think this was the answer Habakkuk was hoping for.  I feel his pain.

     I have had many answers to prayer that I haven’t liked because they were hard anwers.  The answers have elicited such responses as: “Really God?”, “Are you kidding me?”, and my personal favorite, “Why do I have to do all the changing?” While I haven’t been handed over to any Babylonians, my answers have been a battle. Why? Because when I get an answer I don’t like, it usually means I have to change or give up something.   This essentially was the reason God was allowing the Babylonians to have their way with Judah.  Judah needed to changed their ways and turn their heart back to God.  Habakkuk might not have liked the answer, nor have I, but the answer was necessary.

           I have found a great amount of suffering usually accompanies the hard answers, and as a result we grow into the person God is making us to be.  I know had God not given me some hard answers I would still be stuck in some very painful places.   I thought the pain of the answer might be worse than any current pain I was feeling, and for a while it was.  Once the suffering ended, however, I found I had peace and a healed place.   I have come to understand that is why the hard answers and suffering are necessary.  That can sometimes be the only way we can grow and heal, and ultimately find peace.

             I don’t want to miss a key point in the hard answers and suffering- God’s mercy.  Habakkuk died before he saw an end to the suffering of Judah God was allowing.  That begs the question how did he not give up and curse God?  I think it is because in the midst of the suffering he saw God’s mercy.   The bible doesn’t tell us whether he did or not, but his contemporary Jeremiah wrote this in Lamentations 3:22-23 “The unfailing love of the Lord never ends.  By his mercies we are kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies are new every morning.”     I believe those words with all my heart.  I have seen God’s mercy in the midst of my suffering many, many times.   And that is why I have never given up in the midst of my own hard answers. 

        God might be giving you some hard answers right now.   It is uncomfortable, scary, and hard.  Keep going on your journey, remembering God has a new mercy for you every day, and that the peace and freedom you will find at the end of this road is well worth it

February 9, 2014. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Habakkuk and Anger

                     Habakkuk paced the floor of his watch tower.  Arms crossed, brow furrowed, one finger tapping his lip.  Destruction, violence, fighting, corruption in the government, and perversion was running rampant.    The law God had previously laid down was useless and paralyzed.   God seemed oblivious, absent.    Why wasn’t God intervening?  Surely God, being all seeing and all knowing, was aware of it all.  Habakkuk could stand it no longer.   The anger and questions in his heart began to spew forth in verbal prayer to his God.  “Don’t you see God!? How long must I cry for help? But you do not listen?  The wicked outnumber the righteous!”   Sound familiar?

                      The things going on in our world today seem very similar to what Habakkuk described in his day.  Violence is abundant – murder, child abuse, children being killed in schools, corruption in the government, and the law seems useless sometimes.   God seems absent.   Do we have right to be angry and question God? Absolutely.    What do we do with our questions and our anger?   Like Habakkuk did, we take it to God.

                       I will never forget the session in which my therapist told me to take my anger and my questions to God.  I believe I looked at him and said “What?”  It was my belief that I could pray to God, but showing him my anger and questions was not allowed.  My therapist told me “God can handle it Mindy. In fact, God is the only one who can truly handle it. He’s a big man; he can take whatever you want to give him. You have to take it to him.”   So I did, I took all my anger and all my questions to God.  I told him all about what I thought was unfair in my situation, what I hated, I asked why, I screamed, I cried,  I told him I hated what he was making me suffer. I let it all out, not all at once, but every time the emotions and anger would begin to overwhelm me I let it all out to God.

                     God created us in his image, which means he created us to have a myriad of emotions including anger, and he created us to have questions.   He wants us to bring it all to him.  His word tells us to bring it to him in Lamentations 3:18-19:  “Cry aloud before the Lord, O walls of Jerusalem! Let your tears flow like a river. Give yourselves no rest from weeping day or night.  Rise during the night and cry out.  Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord.”   If you pour water out of a pitcher you pour till it is empty.  God wants the same thing from us. To pour out our hearts till they are empty of all our tears, anger, questions, and all that is in there.

                      A relationship with God means being real, and in order to be real we have to give him our anger and questions too.   Habakkuk got real with God, I got real with God.   Will you get real with God?  Take your heart with all your questions and anger, whether they are about the state of our world today or a situation in your own life, and pour it out to God.   He can take it.

                       

 

          

January 16, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Being the Best

I gave up on having a list of resolutions for the New Year last year. Instead, I chose to start letting each year be about a word. Something I would focus on that would grow me in some way.  Last year as you may know my word was “Dream”.  And learn to dream I did.  This year my word is “best”.

    The idea for this began percolating in my heart a few months ago when during a conversation with a good friend she said “I just want to do the best I can with what I have been given. “  I have meditated and meditated on that very statement ever since until I knew that was what this year was to be about for me.  Doing the very best I can with what I have been given.

      This of course means doing the best I can with my finances, my time, my talents, my work, the things most people think about when considering this.  But it also goes much deeper for me.  It means loving the people God has given me in my life the very best I can.  It means accepting them for who they are and where they are in life.  Not a hard thing to do with the people in my life who are my favorites and easy to love.   This of course will be much harder with the porcupines in my life. We all have them- the people who are difficult to love.  The thing I must remember is God has placed them in my life for a reason so I must do the best job I can with loving them.            

                    I have been given so much grace and mercy that I want to give it to the best of my ability.  I struggle here.  I have blogged about it before.  They are my favorite toys and I don’t want to share.  That isn’t doing the best I can with what I have been given.  I vow to give the grace and mercy I have been given. Not begrudgingly, but freely.

                     I have been extended kindness, joy, peace, forgiveness, and acceptance.  God has given me these gifts at various times over the course of my life.  I do give these gifts to others, but I am not sure I do it to the best of my ability or even with a sincere heart.   I want to give these gifts away. They are the gifts that can truly make a difference in someone’s day or life.  I want to give them in very best way I can, with all my heart.

                    Finally, I want to do the best I can in each and every moment to stay present and be in the moment.  I don’t want to worry about the future, or agonize over a mistake I may or may not have made.  I want to do my best to stay in and absorb the now.  We are given each moment of our life for a reason and I want to be in the moment so I can know what the reason is.  I want to feel every joy, every laugh, every pain, and every tear, to the core of my soul.   I will do the best I can to absorb and be in every single moment I am given. 

                    What might be your word for this year? One friend shared with me that her word is “balance”.   I am not sure what yours might be, but I encourage you to think of one.  If you don’t that is certainly ok too.   The same friend who inspired me to be about my best this year also said something profound on the first day of this New Year.  She said “Let’s make it count.”  Absolutely.   Whether you have a word or not doesn’t matter.  Whatever you do, make this year and your life count. 

January 7, 2014. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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