Just over a month ago (December 14, 2012), the holidays were fast approaching, and I was looking forward to several things. For instance, all of my kids would be home for Christmas, I was about to turn 50, and some much needed time off from work. On that particular day, the word grace had been on my mind. I was thinking about how “Grace” is God‘s unmerited favor. I don’t deserve His grace, and I definitely didn’t earn His grace. God gives me grace despite my weaknesses.
The morning of the 14th, I posted a simple picture about grace. It was only the definition.
Grace, n.: undeserved, unmerited, unearned, favor.
On the afternoon of the 14th, when I got home from school, I drove up to my house to find my son, my husband, my youngest daughter & her best friend, my mom, and the police…all outside of our house. I remember driving up and thinking that something was not right. As I got out, I was met by many, to say that there was a break in and we had probably been burglarized.
The two police officers, one off duty (Officer Prichard) who heard the call and responded first, and the reporting officer both entered the back of the house to see if it were safe to enter. The front door had been jammed so that no one could enter during the burglary. The burglars actually used our grill accessory to crash through the glass of the back door.
Upon announcing that the house was safe to enter, the officers asked if one of us would come inside with them to scan and make an initial report of what was taken. I volunteered, and as I was scanning the house…it seemed so surreal. While the officers were asking questions and taking pictures, I realized that things could have been so much worse. You see, my youngest has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and sometimes stays home with the pain. She is a high school freshman, and my mom lives across the street; therefore, I feel okay with her staying home if she needs to. Needless to say, her room was one of the rooms burglarized.
In fact, the downstairs bedrooms were pretty much the only rooms hit. Again, it could have been so much worse. The burglars only went for things that could possibly be put in a backpack and/or carry out with straps. The burglars pretty much took all the good jewelry I have ever owned…that I had collected over the last 35+ years. Some were heirlooms, and some semi-precious items. They took two laptops (one with our family photos), our family video camera, and some music and gaming devices. There were some other things; but, I was thankful that it wasn’t worse.
I need to make a side note here before I go any further. The last few years have been a big learning curve for our family. We have experienced many ups and downs…with different family members moving out and some returning home (that’s another story). The reason why I’m bringing this up, is that my youngest writes poetry (one which is on this site called “Beauty Is…”). She also writes stories (with great details), and creates art. She’s extremely talented, and yes…I’m biased. Anyway, her laptop was extremely important to her. Her inner most thoughts, trials & tribulations, and dreams were on that computer. It was also a way to stay in touch with her best friends that moved to Alabama, and her older sister that had gone off to college. It was really like a safe haven for her.
Once we made the initial report, I returned outside to talk to the others. Glancing to the side, I noticed that Jess had a metal pole in her hand. It’s used to turn the water off at the street, in case of emergency. I was talking with one of the officers, and my son and husband, when I heard this blood curdling scream. My first thought was that Jess had fallen on this metal pole, and it stabbed her.
It was probably one of the worst feelings that has ever come over me…except from a bad dream. After I realized she was not physically injured, I went over to her to see what was wrong. That was when Officer Prichard had told me that he had told Jess the rooms that had gotten burglarized, and that the laptops had been taken.
That blood curdling scream was the agony she felt by someone invading her space, and just snatching up her very intimate thoughts. I was just thankful that our cats were okay, or that would have just added to the injury.
I have never heard her say anything really bad. If you read her poem (‘Beauty Is…”), you will have a better understanding of where her heart truly lies. But, on this day she screamed a cry of disgust. She asked, “Why would someone do such a thing?” I thought I don’t know. I’m sure they were in need of some quick cash before the holidays; but, no one really knows the burglar’s heart (except for God). Maybe they needed money for something really important.
I remember that it was hard to console Jess. It’s hard to say you understand, and sorry to something like that, unless you have really experienced something like that. She’s young, and there is nothing I could immediately compare it too. We all felt a little helpless. She looked like an empty shell of a person. She left the house to go stay at her friend’s house, because we were missing most of the back door…and frankly it’s a little scary. You begin to wonder if the burglars might return for the rest of the items they left behind.
I realize some of you may be thinking that maybe she was being a little silly, and very dramatic; but, don’t judge her if you haven’t been in that situation.
I posted later that night about the coincidence of posting about grace earlier that day, and how humbling it was for me. That I, in turn, should show grace toward these burglars. I was thankful that no one, or cats, were hurt. I had to accept that things were going to be okay, and that God was good!
Now to the paying it forward part…Officer Prichard, the first officer to respond came over the next day to see how we were faring. What I’m about to tell you is so awesome. He told me that he had fought in Afghanistan for eight years and had seen homicides while being an officer; but, he told me that the yell of Jess’ pain and the grief she felt, really touched him. Officer Prichard went home and contacted some wonderful people. He told them about Jess’ story. He told them that she was a good student. He told them that she had experienced some ups and downs over the past year (some emotional and some physical). He told them about her laptop, and then many of those kind people he contacted, responded to his story of Jess.
With the Christmas season approaching, Officer Prichard, and another officer, came to our house a few nights before Christmas. Officer Prichard, being the Christian man he is, wanted to make a difference and remind Jess that yes there is bad in the world; but, that there is a lot of good, too. He emphasized the reason for the season was Christ, and how Jesus gave us the best gift of all. He died so that we could live. His grace covers our sins…and even the sins of the burglars.
After reminding us that grace covers much in us that is not deserved, he also said that it’s important to make a difference with our talents that God has given us. This is where he brought out a new laptop for Jess. He also presented her with a backpack to carry it in, a jump drive so that she could back up her talent, and a card to upgrade Microsoft office so that she could excel at her school work as well. He also presented me with a laptop, and a printer for the family.
Wow! I wish I had a camera to capture the look of our amazed astonishment on our faces as when we received our gifts. God had used this officer’s talent to respond to the cry of one of His children. He contacted others on her behalf, and others responded. What a blessing, and for many reasons. I will actually write more about this at a later time.
Now, it’s time to use our talents and pay it forward. Jess has continued to write and create art. I’m beginning to write again, and we are currently housing a young boy who needed a safe place to live. It is the least we could do, for what others had done for us…especially God.
So much about God’s love was learned this season.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” ~Romans 12:9-10
God’s love is genuine! Hold fast to what is good. Show affection to others. God’s grace covers us all despite our weaknesses. God has shown/given unmerited favor to us. None of us are deserving, yet He gave His grace to us freely. He gave us His Son.
I know this isn’t much; but, at this time I want to personally thank those that were involved in paying forward and making a difference in our lives this season. There were some that didn’t want to be personally acknowledged for their charitable acts, and I respect that; but, know that we appreciate your gift, and we are most thankful. I know that God is adding jewels to your crown in Heaven. A big thank you goes to Officer Prichard, Patty, Cat, Susan & Jack, Al, Terry & Carolyn, and to the many others that responded and helped Officer Prichard make a difference in restoring a young girl’s faith. I also would like to thank the sweet teacher at my school who anonymously donated a grocery gift card to my family, and my Special Ed department at my school who bought each kid a gift card to help make their Christmas brighter. God bless you all.
What does it mean to celebrate Christ in Christmas? We can’t remain in “faith” and stay on the sideline of our life. IT’S TIME TO GET INTO THE GAME! Don’t be a bench warmer! Come to Jesus! Be one who takes His Light into the world with delight (and not because of duty)…for all to celebrate!
Don’t resist celebrating! Celebrate the Light of the World even when all other lights have gone out, and you remain sitting in the dark. You are never alone! Celebrate no matter what, or where you are. Enjoy celebrating Christ in Christmas everyday! ♥
God has party plans for us! He wants us to party like a rock star–for Christ! Celebrate the new you through Christ everlasting!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” ~ 2Corinthians 5:17
P.S. Thanks for reminding me to celebrate the real reason for the season…and you know who you are. God bless you!
I realize this blog is a little long; but, it’s important to raise our spiritual leader(s) up on a regular basis–by offering prayer and at times showing them some appreciation. In honor of Pastor Appreciation month, I would like to dedicate this blog to those who have given their time to tend their flocks. I know that my pastor’s compassion helped me to change my life. I was sexually abused as a child, and I had a lot of baggage. My pastor helped me to understand how to leave my past abuse behind while becoming more passionate for Christ.
So how can we show our appreciation to our spiritual leaders? Well, most pastors put a significant amount of their time into preparing sermons. I think one of the best ways to give encouragement to them is by being faithful participants in the congregation.
Many pastors pour their heart out, using God’s words, into a sermon to tell us the truth of His grace and love for us. These words spoken, allow us to understand the faith & hope we can have through Him so that we can live and have a passion for Him.
It seems to me that the life of a pastor might be one of the loneliest professions one could pick. It has the makings of a very tough, demanding – and lonely – occupation.
Frustrating? Some of the times, yes. Rewarding? Most times, yes. Spiritually fulfilling? I am most certain yes, and on many different levels.
To spend one’s “everyday” life to further the kingdom of God must be a great profession indeed.
We all have days where nothing seems to go right. Maybe days of immense stress with any number of things that could be contributing to a “bad day.” Maybe you’re having a “season” of bad days.
When that happens, it’s not uncommon for us to talk the situation over with a spouse, family member, friend, or peer. Those conversations can be a great relief. Maybe you might come up with some solutions that you had not considered.
Your pastor has probably had some of those same “bad” days; but, unlike the rest of us, they often don’t have the luxury of a sounding board.
Think about it. Most of us have jobs where we are faced with “performance” appraisals once, maybe twice a year. Pastors are continually being critiqued on a weekly basis. I’m sure there is someone sitting in the pews, on any given Sunday, who is thinking that the sermon could have been better, or that the music wasn’t to their liking, or that the service just wasn’t “good” enough.
It’s almost certain that at least some of the comments will make their way back to them. Who are they going to discuss their concerns with about the fact that no matter what they do…somebody seems to be unhappy?
Then there’s this role of counselor. We often speak to our spiritual leader in confidence. Things said, and seen, can weigh heavily on their heart. All along pondering how to deal with such difficult situations. Yet, where can they go when they are feeling emotionally drained themselves? Where can they go to receive advice about how to handle a particular situation? That could be a whole separate blog; but, at this time I want to share what one of my pastors did for me.
As a child I had been sexually abused by my stepfather from the ages of 7-15…becoming most intense from age 9 and on. I had no idea of how much the abuse really affected me. The following is an excerpt from my site “About Grace Desired”:
”My husband, Sam Hairston, had researched and found a church that taught reformed doctrine. We had been attending Redeemer Presbyterian Church for over a year. I have never been one to stand out at church. I have pretty much been a back row worshiper. I obviously lacked passion for His truth–because there was definitely a lack of knowledge.
As time went on, and due to the good leadership at the church, I began to understand more of the Bible–the truth of His Word. The senior pastor, Tom Gibbs, has a vision and a passion for furthering His kingdom by being compassionate toward His people. The church has a vision and passion as well. Together, the community of the whole church has a passion for wanting to further His kingdom within our city and beyond. For the first time, since I was in high school, I had begun to love a church.
At church it was spoken that the broken (being me) could be energized by the “grace of God”. Week after week, I began to hear that Jesus was for the brokenhearted. Tom preached, and I heard that Jesus could be my champion, and that I could be made new like the “Oaks of Righteousness“. I also heard that God took delight in me. I thought, who me? I am a broken and scarred sinner who is full of shame, guilt, fear, and contempt. How can that possibly be? I was a skeptic!
At the time, Pastor Tom Gibbs, and his wife Tara, believed something else. They had noticed the back row worshiper and her family. I was told that they had prayed for us prior to their time spent with me. I suppose they wanted us to become the front row family.
Anyway, they began to play an integral part in my life. They dedicated much of their time trying to help me see that His grace and love is the reality of my faith & hope; thus, I would learn that I have really received His grace for my past secrets. They helped me to begin to understand that my shame, guilt, fear, along with my contempt, were unnecessary–because Christ took all of that away when He was nailed to the cross. The path was becoming clearer. I was to begin my journey learning that God desired me for who I was…even if I was broken.
I began to realize that God was actually “wining and dining” me. God longed for my attention. I began to feel God’s love, and it was the kind of love that I subconsciously craved for years and did not know it. Many, many months went by, and little did we know that a volcanic eruption (in epic proportion) would follow after the completion of the workbook. It was very painful to recall the memories I had suppressed. I began to have nightmares. I had no idea of the emotions that were surfacing to the top (like the beach ball). These were emotions that I had harbored within my very soul for years.
My “season” of confusion, self-hatred, and fear became too complex… even to the point of a deep despair. I began to become so frustrated that I cut myself a couple of different times. Of course I never really wanted to die; but, that I just wanted to get the horrible shame, guilt, and fear out of my body.
My “season” of emotions turned into “seasons” gone bad; kind of like a really bad reality TV show.
I believe God puts people into our lives for a reason. I definitely believe God brought the Gibbs’ into my life for a reason.”
Sometimes we put our spiritual leaders on pedestals of sorts – and it’s got to be a little lonely up there. We might forget that they’re human beings just like we are. They have strengths, and they have weaknesses, just like us. They get tired. They get frustrated. They need a pat on the back every once in a while, too!
So while Pastor Appreciation Month is a great thing, remember it’s important to support them all year long with prayers and words of encouragement. If last week’s sermon had a particular impact on you, say so. Send your spiritual leader a note of appreciation. You can also support spiritual leaders by becoming more involved with the church.
If we are enthusiastic followers of God, it will mean something to God – and to His ordained servants. I’m thankful that my pastor showed compassion and saw more in me, than I saw in me. He saw that God was not finished with me yet. Through his compassion he helped me to leave my past abuse behind and helped me to become more passionate for Him. Thank you, Pastor!
My prayer for spiritual leaders would be: “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” ~Philippians 1:2
In honor of Pastor Appreciation month, I would like to thank the rest of the staff at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas. They are as follows: Tom Gibbs, Senior Pastor; Brandon Eggar, Associate Pastor; Victor Martinez, Assistant Pastor; Michael Novak, RUF Pastor; Brent Watkins, Music Ministry (BTW he also has his own jazz band “South Texas Jazz); Bekah McNeel, Children’s Director; Matt Beham, Youth Director (who has spent countless hours with my kids); Harriet Peavy, Office Administrator; Sarah Gill, Assistant Administrator. I would also like to thank the Elders, Deacons, and Deaconesses for their countless hours of service. There are so many others that play an integral part behind the scenes, and God bless you all for your time and efforts to further His kingdom.
I, personally, have a hard time focusing. Not only do I have ADD, I have trouble concentrating on what’s important at hand. I’m not exactly the best at seeing the “big” picture.
I teach school and we have been participating in Stephen Covey‘s program: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“. The first two habits talk about being proactive, and begin with the end in mind. One must start with a clear purpose in mind of where they might want to end up. I thought about this idea, and this is what I decided.
HHHMMM!!!! Begin with the end. Begin with Him! I should focus on the cross.
My purpose in life should be knowing Christ, and building a relationship with Him. Now, I have a bad habit of focusing on my self. I tend to deal with things that pretty much-well…include me. I don’t focus on the big picture–which should be Christ. I begin to day dream and get caught up in “self”; thus, losing sight of Jesus.
Part of my problem is my lack of organization. Other problems may include idol time, and lack of passion to set the goal of learning His word (which should be a high priority). I want things to come easily. I don’t necessarily want to put out the effort. I tend to look for shortcuts. Not that doing these things, or wanting them, are always bad; but when I begin not to see the necessity of the cross…then my faithfulness has become quite superficial. I need to stop taking the easy way. Sometimes the “road less traveled” may be lonely, but necessary. My pastor, Tom Gibbs, has made emphasis about these shortcuts before.
Covey talks about being proactive versus reactive. Proactive is when you define a clear purpose of what you are working toward…with the end in sight. Reactive is when people live in the past, or can’t get out of the present. Their purpose is kind of minimal. They may remember the old way, and seem to get stuck on only dealing with that type of situation. They really don’t look to the future, and what could happen in the long run if they focused.
My pastor, Tom Gibbs, says that we are called to be active in our faith. Even when we continue with the shortcut, Christ is taking the hard way to draw near to us. He is our champion! He is our Savior! It’s right to give Him thanks and praise–at all times.
Sometimes I think I test the sincerity of God. Is He really for me? Does He really have my best interest? I tend to do all of the talking. It’s a one way relationship between God and myself. I lose focus of His plan for me, and I just look ahead to my plan. Instead of talking all of the time, I should be listening to what God has to say. He does have some skills–hahahaha!
Part of being able to focus sometimes means I might need a “time out”. This past summer my pastor took a Sabbatical. Now, I haven’t actually talked to him in person, but he has told the congregation how great it was to renew his relationship with the Lord, his wife, and kids.
I consistently need to be renewed if I am to press on in this life. How can I expect to build a relationship with God, or any other person, if I don’t take a break. In this case, taking a break to become renewed in Christ may mean taking a break from the ways of the world. I may need to meditate and pray more on His words. I will need to do my best to really listen to Him.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” ~ 1 Peter 1:13
There are different ways to become renewed. Physical activity is a great way to become renewed. Eating right and exercising will give me strength and the energy I need to focus. With better focus, I could deepen my thoughts in my mind on His words. With the commitment of focusing on Him, it would touch the very core of my spirit. I would draw nearer to Him understanding that His grace and mercy is for not just for me…but for everyone. With having a renewed spirit, I might be able to begin to build relationships with others.
Building relationships means that I will have to build trust. When I build trust with another person, it gives me hope. I know that there is hope in Jesus. He is forever faithful to me. Because of Jesus’ faithfulness, I will be able to be more faithful to Him and to all that He commands of me.
I will say that a big obstacle of my focusing on His faithfulness, is meditating on His words. I’m a pretty decent prayer warrior; but the meditating on His words is tough for me to focus on. That’s where coming together as a community of believers to worship is great for people like me. The service at my church is like a “full meal deal”. There is so much going on, and it touches all aspects of a great worship service. We have meditation, prayers, music, greetings of peace, the sermon, communion, and a benediction. It just goes on and on–in a good way. My needs are definitely met, and I feel quite full of the Spirit when I leave.
Drawing near to Him, and being able to draw on all my resources of renewal, allows me to become uplifted. Being uplifted allows me to focus on Him without being distracted. Therefore, focusing would allow me to concentrate not only the uniqueness of myself, but others; thus possibly making a difference in how I see the big picture.
Christ shall be the focus of my renewal of my mind. I will be proactive with my faithfulness for Him by drawing near to Him. I will build trust in my relationship with God by becoming a better listener. I should begin with the end. I should begin with Him…keeping my eyes focused on the cross. Amen!
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ~ Romans 12:2
Who would like Shalom? <with hand raised high, while saying, “I do. I do.”>
Shalom is no ordinary peace. Shalom is a greater, more complete peace. It is the ultimate peace! My Pastor Tom Gibbs describes Shalom as a “wholeness within all of the world”. I love that thought. A peaceful, wholeness within all the world to share His Light.
The Hebrew word “Shalav” means to be at rest.
To me, Shalom is a greater kind of peace…a peaceful rest that can only come from my Father in Heaven.
As Pastor Tim Keller says, “Shalom is like a fabric that has been interwoven together and is beautiful.” I can picture this beautiful fabric that is quite intricate with lots of details.
I found a needlepoint work of art at Goodwill. Someone had donated it; but inside the mounted frame, and delicately woven into the fabric, was the word Shalom. Someone spent a lot of time working on this beautiful piece of art. BTW, I gave this piece of art to my daughter, Erica Hairston from which the blog “Teach Me To Walk” was written. She has a beautiful peace about her, and I thought she would love it. I had thought of writing about Shalom back in April, and after finding this beautiful piece of art…I felt I had to share these thoughts.
Relationships, like this piece of art, are delicate. We have many pieces of fabric that are interwoven together. Sometimes the fabric becomes unraveled…much like our brokenness within our lives. The fabric then must become “re” woven so that we as Christians will be able to bring about witness for Him.
We all seem to long for Shalom at some point in our lives. We want to live in Shalom and search for it; but, the place has already been created by God. It is called Heaven. Here on Earth there is no lasting place, or city to dwell in; but there is one city that can last (and it has yet to come).
How do we seek this place of Shalom? We have to engage in the practice of loving our neighbor. Love should be our action…after all, it was His action.
I’m the worst at becoming judgmental of others especially when I think they have wronged me. The truth is…I’m not in charge of justice; but, I am in charge of my actions. God is in charge of justice; but, His justice is different from what mine looks like. God’s justice is love…in action. Being able to forgive, be thankful, not moan for what I think I may deserve. Not becoming an “idol” worshiper of my own desires.
I’m reminded of the Christian band Luminate. They have a song called “Shine“. The lyrics go as follows:
“And though it starts with one, There will be a million candles.
There will be millions more, Singing with the tongues of angels.
The Light of Heaven falling down, Spreading love to the darkest places.
I want to strike a match, and watch it bring salvation.
Shine, Love is an action.
Shine, Oh it starts with a passion.
We want to be a heart that’s pure
So all will see that we are Yours…
In order to spread His love, by shining His Light, we may have to meet the needs of others through sacrificial love. We should try to make a difference in other’s lives, besides our own. In fact, we are not our own…we are His. If we don’t love the least of these, then we do not love Him. In the Bible it states, “He who is kind to the poor…loves Me!”
God is for us. He has walked in our shoes. He knows how to identify with us as poor, broken, and oppressed. After all, He was born in a manger, died on a cross, and buried in a tomb. He knows exactly what’s it is like to suffer the consequences of others. I’m reminded daily that my sins pinned Him on the cross. I was one of the many who stood in the crowd and did nothing to show love to my neighbor as he died a heinous death.
By His death on the cross, He has vindicated our sins, and we have been saved by His grace. With such grace, we are able to find Shalom and live the life of Shalav that He has intended for us to live.
God’s justice for us was shown through His love in action. It was His promise of Shalom. He tells us not to worry. He gives us Shalav…a place to rest. In fact, He asks us to rest upon His yoke. It’s not just for me to rest but for all who are weary and burdened. God gives us a peaceful rest, isn’t that awesome! We are to take advantage of that rest, so that we will become better equipped to shine His Light for others to know of His salvation.
Yes, we all get worn out from our daily living, and that’s why we need to take a break. We may need to renew our faith; like the wings of eagles. We must soar with great passion from within ourselves, and the community of the church, to be able to turn this passion into an action.
The good news is that we have been forgiven and there is a future for us…a future in Heaven. We are reminded of this future when we worship with our church community. As a community we become that fabric that has become “re” woven together so that we can become a community of believers that bring about the fruits of His Spirit. We will begin to proclaim the reality that the love we show was His action taken when He died on the cross.
Slowly, we can begin to make a difference…striking His match. The journey He took for us will begin to shine through us, and we will begin to let His Light be seen throughout many dark places.
The whole earth is full of His glory! Let His love be the action that obtains Shalom: a greater kind of peace that dwells within us for the whole earth to see!
Shalom, and may you go in peace by making a difference…by shining His Light in dark places when all other lights go out!
Recently I began to think about what a generous community of believers should look like?
I thought that maybe their mission statement might say:
We, as a community of believers, feel that kindness and love should be shown toward others with special attention being given to mercy, truth, faith and hope. Because we all fall short, there will be times that members will need to be treated, and respected, with special attention. Grace will only arrive from within a generous community from which attention is given to the ‘needy”. Grace will also arrive when His characteristics flow abundantly within and begin to pour out from the community. No one should be left behind; thus, making a difference in others.
The RUF Pastor at my church, Mike Novak, said, “Community begins and ends with Jesus. Jesus was so passionate about community that He was willing to be severed from His community of believers so that He could be in community with us.”
Knowing that Christ was the most generous community member, we can begin to acknowledge that because He gave up His own life–we can now live abundantly through His grace which was made sufficient for us!
So why don’t we show grace and encourage each other within the community more often? Is there a limit to how much one should be encouraged? Should you only be generous because we are told in the Bible to be generous? Should generosity and servitude come out of the hearts who have been adopted by Him? It’s definitely something to ponder.
It’s time that communities get caught up with the freedom of the new testament covenant. Let Grace Arrive! Grace does not depend on whether or not one is adequate to show it, or be shown it; but to put someone else forward, or to lift them up. Being a servant of grace does not always mean thinking about self; but, really thinking about how to encourage someone else. Maybe rather than treating others like they are a part of the “projects”, lets make them feel as if they are part of the “community”.
Recently, as I was preparing for the worship service, and the “Order of Worship” had a quote from Tim Keller:
“Christians commonly say they want a relationship with Jesus; that they want to ‘get to know Jesus better.’ You will never be able to do it by yourself. You must be deeply involved in the church, in the Christian community, with strong relationships of love, and accountability. Only if you are part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus will you ever get to know Him and grow into His likeness”
Pastor Mike said that a common bond, a common goal, and our Savior is the key to building great communities within the body of Christ.
The community of the church can be a great resource for helping build relationships. This common act of community allows for sharing, praying, and encouraging each other…essentially making a difference in each other’s lives. It not only can be a blessing to the one receiving; but, for the one giving. That’s the way the community should roll!
Maybe within our church communities a little more time could be spent on improving personal relationships…and not just with each other; but with God, Himself. Think about what’s more important…balancing His truth and grace in personal relationships to be more like Him, or deciding to build a personal relationship with yourself, and only for yourself. I know which one I prefer. I have a passion, and desire, to be more like Him with my growing faith and the help of accountability from my community
Because we don’t live in a perfect world, let’s step back and analyze some potential problems that may arise when commonality is not included in the community.
What if there were some believers in the community who had been sheltered, or may have not “experienced” certain situations? What if they were not accepting of another’s brokenness? For the one who is dealing with the pain of brokenness, they may feel as though they are being judged. They may feel abandoned, and not included. In most cases, the broken person desires to know that His grace is real, and merely wants to be accepted within the community despite their heinous secret—or past mistakes. Sometimes, not knowing what to do, the community may ignore the warning signs rather than aggressively seeking to help heal the believer that is needing the help; but, these are very rare instances.
Grace and truth is a “must have”, and is needed to be made known to all believers within the community, so that the healing of the brokenness may begin. Pastor Mike talked about how community is built around honesty and His grace. We all need His grace…all day, every day. “By loving others with discernment, we can achieve the ultimate loving community.”
Grace is not for the elite; but for everyone!
I feel that we often need help from others to make sense of what is going on within our inner-selves, and to help us break out of patterns of sin and brokenness…to be held in some type of accountability. Such freedom to discuss our inner-selves with another person creates a bond whose acceptance is not based on performance but on unconditional love.
Having an actual community that will share (or is able to share) their experience(s) of how they believe and experience the hope and love of God’s grace is what is needed for a “close” community. Belonging to a group that understands one’s particular needs, lifting each other up in prayer, and holding each other accountable, is vital to making a difference in each other’s lives…becoming more like the image of Christ.
I desire to bond together with a community of believers, and to have an intimate relationship with Him. God intends for us to live a life that is authentic, and that life includes Him. Pastor Mike also said that community is designed around the Gospel.
FYI: Brandon Eggar (another pastor), once told me that, “The Gospel are God’s words that are God breathed.” I loved that analogy! I envision His words coming to life, and me feeling alive.
Going back to topic…did God design us to want to be with others in a community? I say, “Yes, He did! I, personally, have an inner longing, in my heart, to want to belong to such a group. Pastor Mike also emphasized this same feeling in his sermon the other day.
The Bible says that people are of great significance because of being made in the image of God—which is for His glory. We have become adopted into God’s family. We must learn that it is not what we’ve done to deserve to be a part of His family; but, what He did for us. Christ’s death is the reason for our acceptance–by God, and through God. He promises to never abandon us, or let us go!
In searching for our true identities within a community, we want to know if we are of equal value as any other human within the group. Despite our weaknesses, or brokenness, we all desire and need to understand that we are valued as a person. Sometimes we don’t value ourselves; but if some value is felt by others…we may become strong enough to help build meaningful relationships with others…helping each other…and all for God’s glory.
We are all unique, and each one brings a different gift to the table. In fact, we all probably want to be a blessing to the community, and have different gifts to offer. Therefore, by sharing our gifts and working together, we can become His body, or community, that represents the very image of God.
Pastor Mike says community is like a team sport. No one should be left behind. He said, “What one does could affect the fruits of others. In essence, the community becomes as strong as there weakest link. Helping others should be the focus of the community.”
For people like me, because of the “hidden secrets” within our community, I may think that others do not have problems, and that they have it “all together”. I found that often times the ones that are struggling–try to become more hidden, or withdraw, from the community because they also fear that their secrets may be “found out”.
There is truth to making individuals feel safe in a community…through restoration. Sometimes sharing our “secrets” can be a little scary. But, being safe doesn’t always have to mean to feel safe to fail; it can also mean to feel safe to succeed. I think most of us want to be encouraged. The Biblical truth is that it should be okay to feel safe within a community to succeed or fail. The important thing is to focus on Him, and to remember who is the judge.
Brokenness doesn’t always have to mean weakness either; but, being able to show strength in our weakness by God’s cleansing power, and to know His truth. That’s where encouragement from the community can be such a blessing. That’s where the healing can begin. Knowing that the only thing that can wash my sins away is the cleansing blood of The Lamb.
It’s also important to learn the process of helping each other by praying for one another. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ~Matthew 18:20
As I close, I am reminded of the three common designs that Pastor Mike said were needed to build a great community: a common bond, a common goal, and our Savior. Without the design and foundation of these building blocks, the structure of the community has the potential to be demolished. Keep in mind though that renovations can always take place.
Let us encourage one another, be balanced in His truth and grace, and the building of believers will be strong and stand strong…because His love endures forever! If we share our gifts with other believers, then grace should arrive within our generous community. None will be needy, nor left behind, and it will thrive!
“The community of believers was of one heart and one mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.” ~ Acts 4:32
We all have some kind of God given talent. Why is it so hard for others (including myself) to recognize our talent? Even worse, why don’t others knowing they have one…just don’t want to share it? Isn’t the purpose of the body of Christ for us to come together as a community of believers to share, grow, and pray with each other? Shouldn’t we be lifting each other up to Him, and all for the glory of Him?
Maybe there is more? Maybe we are more? There are so many people who have great talents to share, and in many different kinds of ways; such as through poetry, good communicated thoughts, through art and music, and even from experiences or intuition that allow for sharing of wisdom. People might begin to realize that they have the potential to be more than they think they are…or even more than what others might expect.
I love Tenth Avenue North‘s song, “You Are More“! The making of the video (http://tenthavenuenorth.com/videos) is a testimony in and of itself. The band members are lighthearted in the making of the video; but, definitely get their points across. The making of the video and the song should both be viewed. Below is a portion of their song:
“‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done,
But what’s been done for you.
This is not about where you’ve been,
But where your brokenness brings you to.,
This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you loved.
You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.”
~ Tenth Avenue North ”You Are More”
The band, and the producers, had people write in words and/or phrases that might include mistakes they have made, things they may have been labeled as, or painful experiences or secrets wanting to hide.
The lead vocal, Mike, reassures us that we all make mistakes. No one is perfect (but Christ). He also reaffirms that the good news from the gospel tells us that despite our mistakes…and because of the blood of Jesus…we are made new. Do you hear that! We are made new! We are made in His image. We can be forgiven for our past mistakes, our heinous secrets, or whatever lies the devil wants us to believe.
The fact they used real people in the video made it more apparently real to me. Also, at the end when the water flows over the chalkboard, like art or a beautiful poem, I hold a visual in my head of these mistakes being washed away. I can have a clean slate because of what He did for me!
…going back to the wisdom from others. Not all wisdom needs to be taken as the “only” way. That is why we have the good news of the Gospel. We also have learned and trained pastors to help us better understand the wisdom that has been bestowed upon us—through His words.
So if we have good news to share why is there a lack of sharing it? Could one person do all the “reaching out”—trying to make a difference? Of course not. The problem may be that others don’t have the confidence to share. More sadly, others may have not found their strength to share. Sometimes a strength may come about from a weakness made known. It could be right under their noses, and they not even realize it.
There is an exception to this rule. The only One that could reach to everyone–did just that for us. Jesus took it upon Himself to make a difference in our lives, and for our lives, by letting us pin Him to the cross. In essence, we abused and neglected Christ by standing by, and doing nothing, watching Him suffer. He gladly did this for us.
There is so much pain and affliction in this world. I could not even make a dent in the list; but, one very dear, and close to my heart, is that of abuse and neglect. I realize this topic can be very broad with many different types; but, nevertheless…abuse is abuse…no matter how you look at it.
It is also a topic most don’t like to acknowledge because it is dark, and holds many secrets.
Lots of people don’t understand abuse; because frankly, unless they have experienced it…they can’t comprehend it.
The sad thing is that many have been abused, and don’t even know it. I have had people tell me that they have never been abused. After getting to know them, I may hear them tell a story of an incident that happened to them. In all aspects, it sounds like abuse to me.
There are no criteria, or levels, one experiences in order for it to be known as “abuse”. It looks different to each individual; however, some abuses are blatant and are definitely noticeable. I would hope others might learn the warning signs, and try to reach out to those that have experienced such things rather than looking upon them as if they were a leper. This may compound the issue, and break trust within the person needing help.
There are different coping skills for different circumstances. Finding a healthy coping skill is important for healing to begin. There are lots of resources; but, it is a matter of being able to utilize some of those resources.
The community of church is a great resource for helping survivors of abuse. This allows for sharing, praying, and encouraging. It not only can be a blessing to the one receiving; but, for the one giving.
The problem that arises from this situation is that some, who have been sheltered, may not be as accepting of the brokenness as the one whom it involves. The one, who is dealing with the pain of the abuse, may feel as though they are being judged. In most cases, the abused person desires to know that His grace is real, and to be accepted despite their heinous secret—their brokenness.
Trust needs to be made, so that healing may begin.
There are lots of Biblical resources that are accessible to those needing encouragement. I would hope that His body might utilize some of those resources to help the afflicted. Sometimes, not knowing what to do, the body may ignore the warning signs rather than aggressively seeking to help heal the part that is ill. But, these are very rare instances.
Other resources may be groups that have people who have survived particular abuses. They have the knowledge, and experience, to help with coping skills, give encouragement, and direct further—if further direction is needed. There are many books, blogs, websites, etc. with a plethora of information. It could be as easy as a click away to get some of the help needed.
Reading books about surviving abuse is great; but, having an actual human that will share (or is able to share) their experience of how they found hope and changed their coping skills, is vital to the process of healing. That is why a need for a “close” community is important. One wouldn’t go to a Chemistry class if British Literature was what was needed to be learned. The same goes for a group that understands the abused person’s particular needs.
I realize that I [one person] can’t inform the people of the world, nor do I desire this; but, I do desire that we bond together, and gather as a community to inform. Who knows, we might begin to make a difference in each other’s lives…and maybe that would help us in the community of the people of the world.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ~Matthew 18:20
It is that time of year…getting close to high school graduation. There is a lot of excitement, anticipation, and relief that leads up to and follows this important milestone in life. When I checked the mail today,we received an invitation to one such event. My mind wandered and I couldn’t help but to remember my high school graduation…many, many years ago.
I was thinking about how we voted for “Most Likely to Succeed”, “The Funniest”, and of course the “Class Song”. It seems our class was a little divided at the time on what should be the class song. There were several who wanted Pink Floyd’s, “Another Brick in the Wall” and others that wanted the theme song to Lavergne and Shirley, “Making Our Dreams Come True”. I will tell which one was chosen in a bit.
Today, while I was laying in my hammock, I was listening to the K-Love radio station, and Natalie Grant‘s song “Human” came on. All at once all of these emotions and thoughts came swirling into my head. They were actually interrupting my hammock time; therefore, I got up and thought I should write this before I forgot some important points…because I am getting to the age that I forget lots of things.
Now where was I? Oh yeah, Natalie Grant’s song. I have heard this song many times; but, I don’t think it ever made as big impression on me as it did today. I am including part of the lyrics because it leads up to a thought I had.
Natalie Grant’s “Human“
Every life has a choice to rise up to fill the void.
Every heart has a mission and we are called to be human.
We gotta do better than this ’cause we only got one chance to make a difference.
We gotta do better than this ’cause we only got one life that we’ve been given.
A little love, a little kindness, a little light in this time of darkness.
It’ll be what makes us different. It’ll be what makes us human.
I’m human, you’re human, we are human.
We are marked with His image and we are scarred with indifference.
Maybe now we should listen; hear the cry of God‘s children.
It’ll be what makes the difference. It’ll be what makes us human.
Wow! Isn’t this wonderful that God has given us life, we are made in His image, and we all have a chance to make a difference…because we are human. Will it hurt us show a little love and kindness toward others? What about those (like me) who have sinned? What about those who have been sinned against due to sexual abuse,domestic violence, addiction, or maybe made fun of because they are different? Would it hurt us to give a little of His Light to shine in a time of darkness for others?
Survivors, of any type of brokenness, often seek answers to spiritual questions from non-spiritual sources. Most often this happens because they have been pushed away by people who said they were Christians (like me). I am guilty of raining down on someone rather than being a ray of sunshine. Sometimes pushing one away is easier than acknowledging the pain that another may have experienced. This may cause more wounds which prolongs the healing process. Sometimes the scarring for the survivor covers much of their body, and they may begin to hide their goodness deep inside.
You know I claim to be an okay Christian, but guess what? I sin and make mistakes all the time. I’M HUMAN! I don’t always reach out when I should. But, on the flip side, I am also a survivor. In some ways, we all are survivors of some sort of battle that may be unbeknown to us.
Because we are human we are in constant battle with the prince of darkness, and we need to remember to put on the full armor of God for protection. God provides us with many pieces of armor; but, the belt of truth is an important place to start.
The definition of “truth” is the state of being sincere, in accordance with fact and/or reality. We all desire to know the truth…especially His truth. We want to know that His mercy and grace is real no matter what secret we may have. We want to know that we will not be rejected by Him even when our past comes to Light in this present darkness.
Others may claim that they understand what you have been through and how you feel– even though they may have never been through anything like that. But, remembering that we are all human, each of our experiences are unique to us and the situation. We all have a certain degree of understanding of each other’s pain. Nobody’s experiences should be taken lightly.
Being human, we all have many different strengths and weaknesses. The good news is that co-habiting in this world together, we are able to share them with each other. Unfortunately, some may not appreciate other’s weaknesses over their own strengths…but that usually means they may be overlooking their own weakness.
I believe God places people in our lives to help bring out these strengths. Sometimes, others may have to work hard to bring them out…more like pulling, and sometimes it can be as little as a word of encouragement, or prayer. I will say that establishing a trusting relationship can help; but not always necessary. Either way, one can make a difference in another person’s life by doing as little as random acts of kindness.
Know that “Trust can take years to build, but only a second to break.” When trust is broken one, or both parties, may feel that they have been betrayed. A person can be good, and still betray the matter of someone’s heart; for instance, look at Peter denying Christ.
Betrayal is devastating; but, when those you thought to love you betray your trust…the pain is always worse!
When we become wounded we want to retreat and hide rather than facing our fears. We become (pardon the cliche’) “another brick in the wall.” That is where the darkness wants us to hide. He wants us to join him in the wall just blending and having no confidence. The darkness begins to make the wound worse by telling us lies. He wants us to crumble and fall.
This was when I began thinking about Pink Floyd’s song and thinking…in a way we could use the words of his song as a rebuke to Satan. Think about it, we could change the lyrics to make our rebuke.
“…We don’t need no thought control! We don’t need your sarcasm!” So, Satan leave those who are wounded alone! All and all, you are nothing compared to Him. ”All and all, you are just another brick in the wall!”
“When someone betrays you, it can become their problem as well because they probably betrayed their own conscience.” Being wounded we must go to God to cry out for healing; but, there comes a time to go back to the betrayer and confront them. Time doesn’t heal all wounds; so, if we don’t act “quickly’”, we give Satan a foothold causing the wound to fester. The only thing that really heals wounds is the soothing salve of His forgiveness.
This led me to think about the Gimble/Fox song “Making Our Dreams Come True” We could take the words of this song to make new matters of our heart. ”Nothing’s gonna turn us back now. Straight ahead and on the track now. We’re gonna make our dreams come true. Doin’ it our way.”
BTW, if you were wondering what became our class song, it was “Making Our Dreams Come True” by Gimble and Fox. We took a chance and made it. Go ahead and take a chance trying to make dreams come true. But, instead of “doin’ it our way”, how about we try doin’ it His way!
His way is to put on His full armor of protection, and not let those words of deceit pierce us when we are wounded. We should try being a little “human” and make a difference in the life of others. Don’t be “another brick in the wall”! Allow His Light to shine through you by showing a little love and kindness on someone’s brick in the wall!
Oh to be young again and to have the kind faith that only a child can have when they look up to their family. In the early years the child really depends on their family a lot. While growing up the child can be quite dependent on certain members of the family, asking lots of questions. Usually a child seems to know what family member can be trusted, and is willing to listen to their many questions. The other family members should not be offended. The child will grow up and become more dependent learning to love all of the members of the family.
Having the privilege of being a parent and a teacher, I have witnessed children asking many questions of “Why?” or “How come?” There are days I love those little inquisitive minds, and other days I just don’t have the patience. I try to answer their questions with a smile, and take their questions seriously; but, I have been known to give sarcastic answers on occasion. No one can be perfectly happy answering all questions asked, nor is it expected.
When it comes to the Bible, I often ask questions of clarification…because frankly, I don’t understand a lot of what I am reading, hearing, or maybe I am interpreting it wrong. If I am unsure of what His word is trying to reveal to me, I think–go ahead and ask questions. Didn’t Jesus say, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these…”?
Dare I say that Jesus was calling us not to only rely on “blind” faith, but to ask questions, seek answers, and find evidence of His truth within His word?
Lately, I have wondered that if I did not ask questions and get clarification, what kind of case for Christ would I be able to make to others. Could possibly the same questions I had–be one day asked, from those of this world, to me? Would I be well equipped to answer such questions?
It seems to me that there may not be enough encouragement for this question-asking and answer-seeking process within the family of the church. I am not knocking the church at all. Most of the time, she does the best she can with those “little rascals” (like me) who tend to get off task. But, could the family possibly lack the understanding as to why the child may want an answer to their particular question asked? Could it be the family is only confident answering the child’s obvious questions, and not their “super inquisitive” questions? I fear some family members may think them not appropriate to the learning process.
The problem with choosing which questions to answer, and not answer, is that the child will leave their family and go out into the world. If the child’s family has not prepared them with a solid biblical foundation, they might encounter others that could quickly convince them that His truth does not set anyone free at all. The world may also say there is no grace or mercy in forgiveness of shame and guilt the child might have in their heart…for whatever reason they carry this burden.
Satan is always putting obstacles in the way of the child so that they will fall down. Without the proper nurturing of their spiritual growth, the family may see another soul fall away. I would hope that the family would feel great sorrow for the loss of their child, if this were to happen.
At the same time the child should take some responsibility on their own; listening to their family, heeding what they say, and becoming passionate about learning His truth and grace. Along with the growing passion of the child–the family may also grow to be confident in answering the child’s many questions, and not just the obvious questions. By not ignoring the child’s questions—the child will become better equipped for the challenges of this world, rather than having the world challenge them.
Pardon the cliche’… but it definitely takes a whole family to raise a child. Why take the time to answer the child’s “Why”? Because if the child can learn the Truth of God’s Word early on and put on the full armor of God, then they will be better equipped to make a case for Christ when they enter the world. Having that prior knowledge from having caring family could make the whole difference for survival in the world. They will be confident knowing that their faith and hope is found in Christ. All it might take on the family’s part is a little childlike faith. His Kingdom could be furthered by taking into account the innocence of the child’s questions, and taking the time to answer them.
“…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…“ ~ 1 Peter 3:15
I have worked at a summer camp for many years. In fact, this summer will be my 30th year to work at the camp. There is a beautiful place called Church Mountain that the campers and counselors hike up to every Sunday. The camp director, and good friend, Nan Manning tells a story about two unlikely friends. She begins the story something like the following…
“Just up the road from my cabin is the corral. Next to it is a field with two horses in it. From a distance each horse looks like any other horse. But, when you walk by the field going up to the corral, you will notice something quite amazing. Looking into the eyes of one of the horses they will disclose that he is blind. They have a milky looking film over them; thus, the name given…Milky Way. The camp owners have decided not to have Milky Way ‘put down’ and they have made a good home for him.
This alone is truly amazing!
If you stand nearby the field and listen, you will hear the sound of a bell ringing in the distance. Looking around to see where the sound is coming from, you will see that it comes from a great horse, Vindicator, for whom all the campers want the honor of riding.
Along with the other horses, Vindicator is let loose in the field to rest at the end of the day’s activities. The small bell attached to Vindicator’s collar allows his blind friend knows where he is, so that he can follow him to the food and be able to eat.
As I was watching these two friends, l noticed that Vindicator, the one with the bell, is always looking behind for his unlikely blind friend Milky Way. Vindicator is making sure that Milky Way hears the bell and is able to follow him. Milky Way does respond to Vindicator’s bell by walking slowly toward him…trusting that he will not lead him astray.
After eating, Vindicator returns to the barn for the evening to rest. He is always looking over his shoulder for his friend Milky Way to make sure he is following him.”
Like the camp owner of the horses, God does not throw us away just because we are not perfect…or because we are broken. He watches over us and brings others into our lives to help us when we are in need. Sometimes we are blind like Milky Way and need to be guided by the bell of those who God has put into our lives to lead us. Other times, we are like Vindicator able to guide others and help them get to a point where they might not have made without the proper guidance.
Every one of us has the power to make a difference by reaching out to other. We should take a vested interest in the care of others. We need to get involved and be a part of another person’s world. We all have challenges and struggles. We all have some kind of brokenness and pain that we have experienced at some time or another. The biggest lesson we have to learn is that our choices can hurt or help others; therefore, learning to recognize those who may be blind may be difficult. Yet, don’t give up. We all have different strengths and weaknesses; but, the good news is that our weaknesses are sufficient through His strength. There are some who are gifted and are able to recognize when others are broken.
We must all think, “What can we do to help others overcome their brokenness, and reach their potential?” Making a difference may be being able to bring out someone’s weakness and help them turn it into strength. The strength is not to be advantageous for one’s self; but, to be advantageous in furthering His kingdom while helping others.
Establishing good relationships with others is a great start in helping others. Although we may not always “see” these relationships, it’s nice to know that they may be near. Sometimes it’s the hope that gives us faith in what we don’t see.
I have a friend who sends me surprise notes telling me how much I mean to her. That random act of kindness goes a long way with me. It’s like the “Golden Rule” that they remind of us so much at the camp, “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you”.
Let’s try to “Do unto others” and make a difference by listening out for each other’s bells. We really don’t know what kind of brokenness that another person is experiencing. Your bell may be the only bell they can hear and may follow.
So look over your shoulder, and try not to leave anyone behind. You may be an unlikely friend that someone is following to His pasture.
…Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest… ~Matthew 11:28