The Jesus you see in me is the direct reflection of the Jesus I saw in you.

The Jesus you see in me is a direct reflection of the Jesus you allowed me to see in you.  The Jesus you introduced me to, even when I was not aware.  You couldn’t help it.  He is as much of you as the air you breathe.  His power and influence drive your decisions.  Your wisdom.  The love the flows from your heart for his people, both lost and found.  I was just blessed to have crossed your path.

It must have been a mistake that you came into my restaurant that day.  I was 18 and newly married.  An assistant manager at KFC.  I was going places.  I likely knew everything there was to know about life.  You didn’t let that stop you.  Day after day, you and your wife came in about 2pm.  It was the quietest time of the day.  You would have the buffet and give me a hard time, or try and sell me your joke of the day. You would ask about my life.  Day after day, you really got to know me.  You invested in me.  I’m not sure when I realized when you were the pastor of a little country church, but I remember the day you came in to tell me you were headed to Russia for a week.  You went every two years for missions. When you came back you brought me a wall hanging native to Kostroma.  You shared stories.  You invited me to your Sunday evening service so I could see pictures and hear about your trip.  I remember making it a point to take off early so I could make it.  You meant as much to me as I meant to you.  I just didn’t see it at the time. I remember the day you told me I had to take responsibility for my own salvation.  It was my choice.  That stuck with me.  You later moved on to another community.  I couldn’t begin to know where to find you now, but I want you to know that I found him.  I accepted Christ to be my Lord and Savior.  I never miss church if I don’t have too.  My kids know him too.  Because I meant something too you.  You never pressured me about missing church.  Instead, you brought Jesus to me each and every day and introduced me to him over chicken, coleslaw and conversation.  The Jesus you see in me is a direct result of the message of salvation that you allowed him to carry through you.  I just wanted to say Thank you.

You were the patriarch.  You sat proudly at the head of the pew, dressed in your Sunday suit jacket and skirt.  Vintage broach and an cocky grin.  You were gentle spoken with a back bone of steel.  Most families attend church on Christmas and Easter.  Not us. When we attended, it was for Mothers day or your birthday.  Afterward, we would go out to the country club for lunch and a few good laughs.  I respected you so deeply.  You were the first one I told, after David, that we were going to have a baby.  You were so proud of her.  The first Sunday we attended church with her, you carried her around to every Sunday school class in the building.  The Jesus you see in me is a direct result of the love I saw flow through you.  Unconditional and deep.  You taught me that to love deeply is not weakness, but strength.  You taught me to strive for gentleness and wisdom in my home.  Your example makes me want to live God’s best everyday.

She was a physics professor at EIU. She saw potential in me during a women’s bible study that she led.  I was intimidated as heck.  She cruised up in her Chrysler convertible and bounced in with a basket of handouts and goodies.  I loved her oversized jewelry and bright style.  I never understood why she chose me to take under her wing.  She spoke life into me.  She encouraged me in my discovery of God’s word.  She told me to tuck his word away in my heart. She taught me how to apply God’s word to my life. She taught me to teach others.  She encouraged me to further myself and chase after my dreams.  She kept regular appointments with me.  Lunches.  Sunday afternoon picnics with my family.  She sent my husband care packages while he was over seas.  She sent me surprise letters of encouragement and DQ money while my kids and I were waiting at home for his return.  The Jesus I saw in a beautiful bible teacher showed me that my life has worth and meaning.   A purpose in his kingdom.  The Jesus you see in me lives, truly lives because of the Jesus I saw in her.  No more stinkin’ thinkin’.  Just baby steps of obedience in whatever direction he calls me to go.

The Jesus you see in me would never be without the influence of those who have followed him before.  Those who have stories to tell, love to give and applications to teach.  Those who invested their time, their prayers and their obedience to follow God in order to reach a girl who had big dreams, minimal resources and no confidence.

The Jesus you see in me is an investment of God’s willing people mixed with Gods word. His Holy Spirit and His perfect time.  He still has a long way to go in my life.  But I hope  the Jesus you see in me will be as profound and intentional as the Jesus I saw in them.

 

 

Who do I stand for?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Christians and their beliefs are seriously under attack.  There is a serious disconnect between Christian and culture right now.  Everyone has a verse they can pull out to defend their platform.  Everyone.  Even Christians.  Christians use the bible to live in the comfort seat of judgement while culture uses God’s word to point to hypocrisy that is alive and well within the church.

How can we make this stop?

I think the key is to stop telling culture what we stand against.  Instead, I think it is high time to tell them who we are standing for.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect…

1 Peter 3: 15

My story and experiences are different than yours.  My Christian walk is as unique as my D.N.A.  I am challenged by the Apostle Peter to know my story.  To be ready to give an account to the hope that I have-gently & respectfull. Here is an account of who Jesus is to me. Mind if I practice?

My Jesus is the son of God.  He was born a meager birth to a teenage mom in a stable.  He was raised in a blended working class family.  He was perfect.  Perfect.  He sat with teachers at the temple and at the beginning of his ministry, he spent 40 days enduring temptation in the wilderness.  He led a rag tag group of disciples.  He ate with prostitutes, adulterers, tax collectors and sinners.  He taught multitudes of people.  He was hated among religious leaders but sought after by the sick, the broken and the hopeless.

He was betrayed by one of his own.  Beaten, mocked and crucified in the worst imaginable way. A perfect man slain with a sinners death.  He was placed in a borrowed tomb.  Borrowed, because, he would not be staying for long.  After three days, he conquered death and rose again.  He revealed his resurrected body to his disciples and left them with further instruction to build the church. Their foundation? Not  bricks and mortar, but upon the mighty spirit of God. He left them with a promise to return.  In the meantime, our purpose to go out and proclaim his name while gathering his people in preparation to go home with him.

 Why?

Simply because I couldn’t pay the ransom for my life on my own.  There is nothing I can do to attain the perfection required to live in relationship with God.  He knows that.  So, he sent his only son to die for my sin.  What is sin? Simply every way I fall short of perfection.

He died for me while I was still a sinner.  There was nothing I physically had to do.  I simply admitted my need for him to fill my gaps. Believe that he died on the cross and defeated death to pay the ransom for my life.

In return, I receive his grace and mercy.  Think about this.  I serve a god who will hold an aborted baby cradled in one arm while holding the mother with his other.   Restoring her.  Healing her. Granting her opportunity for a second chance.  There is no sin too deep.  No life to messy.  His blood can make all things new.

I receive relationship with my savior.  The power of his Holy Spirit living within me.  Working on me from the inside out.  Smoothing out the rough spots.  Shining light into the darkest places of my heart.  Advocating on my behalf when I don’t even know what to say.  Perfect power in my weakness.

I receive a family of believers.  A rag tag group of people just trying to honor God.  Sometimes, we mess up.  A lot of times, we mess up.  His grace never runs out.  It is not a license to sin.  Not one bit.  It’s a bit like raising a toddler.  They are learning and growing.  Trying to find their way.  Sometimes gracefully.  A lot of times kicking and screaming.  However, regardless of behavior, they always know they have a loving parent they can fall back on.  One who draws them in with unconditional love.

I receive inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.  Unmerited and undeserved.  A place in his kingdom.  A place at his table.  Eternal life. I always knew I was a princess!

What if, instead of telling others what we are against, what if we told them who we are standing for?

What would happen then?

  How would our world change?

Could be bridge the disconnect between Christian and culture?

The cost of contentment

It was the second week of my very first bible study. Being a new member of our church, and the body of Christ, I was trying to learn and absorb as much as I possibly could. Last week, Judy, our bible teacher, asked us to write out our favorite verse. Mine was a no brainer.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13
 
Apparently, I was not the only one. Four of us wrote that as our life verse. The problem, as a new believer, is that I believed that calling on that verse was a sure sign of prosperity and blessing upon whatever project I was working on. It was my cure all verse to conquering whatever ailed me. Fear in making sales calls. Guaranteed success on whatever business venture I put my mind to. The trick to making me an amazing wife and mom. A sure fired verse that would help me accomplish getting the home of my dreams and a life of accomplishment. My error was when I made this verse all about me and how Jesus would serve me. How Christ could help me achieve my dreams and ambitions. How Christ could take me from the struggles of being a young, insecure wife and mom and transform me into a confident woman who could handle anything with success and ease. A woman that other women longed to be. It was not about Christ at all, but about me and my own selfish desires to succeed. It was a few years later when I discovered the verse in context:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or living in want.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phillipians 4:11-13)
 

You could say the Apostle Paul, then Saul, was on the fast track before Christ caught his attention. But on that road to Damascus, everything changed. Paul was willing to sacrifice everything to proclaim the name of Christ. His life work. His good name among peers. His comfort. And he did it all through Christ who strengthened him. He was humble in riches and peaceful in poverty. Oh, that I could achieve Paul’s belief that no matter what, Christ will give me strength.  I challenged myself to rewrite this verse in a way that applies to my own life.  Here is what I came up with:

I am not saying this because I am in need, because you have something I covet or envy. I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances, even when they don’t make sense to me, or line up with what I think should be the promises of God. I know what it is to be in need. To be empty and lonely in my deepest places. To not have enough to cover all the bills for the month. To be without the wisdom I need for the moment. To feel lacking and incomplete. And, I have known what it is to live in plenty. Moments when I can’t lose. Money in the bank. Time spent well. Everything rolling exactly as I would expect it. Perfection. I have learned the secret to being content in every situation. Whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I used to think I could use that verse as a magic wand to pull out for a tough situation. Abracadabra- I closed that sale. Abracadabra- Super balanced Super Mom. Abracadabra- selfish plans and motives instantly transformed into God’s will and plan for my life. But that isn’t it at all. It’s a commitment to contentment. It’s me, surrendering my life like a blank page, handing the pen to God and saying, “It’s all yours.” It’s leaning on Christ to step out in faith, intentionally and passionately, to pursue the calling he has for me. Even if I’m stepping into places I don’t want to go. Seeking only God’s face. Letting go of my selfish pride and ambition. At times, making choices that don’t make a lick of sense to those around me. Trusting God to be there when I step. He promises to be the light in my darkness. He promises his power will be made perfect in my weakness. The cost for contentment is death to self and rebirth in the promise of my Savior. Lack of concern for my life, while passionately and intentionally pursuing his purpose in the time he has given me on this earth.
Lord, in this moment, may my life be an open book in which you can write my story. Lord, grant me the strength and courage to pursue my purpose passionately and intentionally. In Jesus name, Amen.

Will the Real Slim Shady PUH-LEEZE stand up?

I am a closet rap fan.  Okay, so I’m not in the closet anymore.  There is something about Bass that sets things right in my world.  It’s quite possible that this love stems from being rocked to sleep by it in student housing as a baby.  When the song in my title, produced by Eminem, debuted, I recall an interview he did with one of the major morning shows.  The talking heads asked him,” What is the meaning of your song?”  To this he replied that we all have two egos that live within us.  We have one side that we want the world to see.  The good, loving, wonderful side.  But we also have a “Slim Shady” that lives within us.  This is the ego that causes us to flip someone off in a fit of road rage. (His words, not mine!)  I remember his words resonating with me.  I can completely relate.  NO!  I have not flipped anyone off in traffic, but I do have a two year old that lives inside of me when things don’t go exactly my way.  Turns out, I’m not the only one.  Take note from Paul in Romans 7: 18-20:

“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t.  I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one who is doing wrong; it is the sin living in me that does it.”

As “good” Christians (this IS an oxymoron), we tend to believe that we are born as “good” people.  In reality, the bible says there is no such thing!  In original creation, we are born to the “flesh”.  This not only means our skin, but more importantly, human nature!  This is the earthly nature of a man apart from divine influence, therefore, prone to sin and opposed to God.  So God decided we needed some training wheels.  He sent Moses to the mountain and created “The Law”.  Believers of God were so excited about “The Law” they forgot God’s promise of a Savior.  Many still believe, to this day, that through their own “good” actions, they can get to heaven.   But, the bible say’s we have to be born again, to the spirit;  The disposition, or influence that fills and governs the soul of anyone.  In my mind, I know God sent his son to the cross to die for my sins.  I fully accept that I cannot get to Heaven on my own.  But my dilemma comes in when I try to live up to “The Law” and transform myself into who I think God wants me to be.   This was not God’s design, at all!  In Galatians 3:3b, Paul reminds us, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Okay, so when you say it out loud, it sounds scary!

I leave with this thought.  When my “Slim Shady” is trying to come out to play, I will remember that I am “under construction.”  If God had made himself perfect in me, I would be blogging from Heaven.   God produces good  fruit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.  If the fruit I produce is anything other than these character traits, I am commiting Galatians 5:24-25 to heart:

“For those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed their passions & desires of their sinful nature to the cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the spirit, let us follow the Spirits leading in every part of our lives.”