On the Ache of Missing Children As They Grow Up

Josh is back at school, and has been for a while. Mike came home for a long weekend, and has been gone almost 2 weeks now. I have my 2 little guys, but they don't fill the empty place that each of my young adult sons leaves when they go back to their "real lives".

It is hard to believe that Josh graduates from college this year, and that Mike is fully self-supporting as a 2nd-year law school student. Mike has already accepted his first law-career job, and so I know he'll be hours away in Palo Alto when he's through with law school . . . but that's lots better than on the east coast, where he is now! And I alter between praying for God's best for Josh post-graduation and praying for God's best to mean something close to me.

It seems like just yesterday that Mike turned 10.

It seems like just yesterday that Josh last sat on my lap with his arms around my neck.

And beautiful Noah and Brooks -- my 7 and 6-y-o's -- are just as precious, but they are not my little boy Mike or my little boy Josh.

I am proud of them both. But I miss them terribly.

"I can cope with all things through Him who strengthens me" is close to Jim Birchfield's wonderful paraphrase of Philippians 4:13 . . . and it is true, but that doesn't make it easy!

I think the hardest thing any of us has to cope with is to cope with missing a loved one -- a loved one who has died, or one who has moved, or even simply one who has grown up.

But what a blessing to have had the opportunity to know intimately and to love!

I am grateful that I know what I am missing, and feel that ache of missing those incredible little boys and the incredible men they are becoming. Their presence in my life was and is one of God's sweetest gifts to me.

I am confident that God feels the same . . .

He delights in each one He created, and would rather feel the pain and ache of rejection than to not have created each and every one.

People are precious.

I recommend the sermons that Jim Birchfield preached on that theme last weekend and this. Here is the link to the one from last week: "Glimpses of Grace - Relentless Love 1" . The one from this week is at: "Glimpses of Grace - Relentless Love 2".

May I become a person who values the people around me the way our God does!


This is the Day!

"This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!"

My boys are in the bathtub playing as I begin to write this. We have a birthday party for 6-y-o Brooks at 9 a.m. today, and so I shouldn't be typing!

But this is life:
A "last" . . . the last birthday party for a 6-y-o son that I'll ever hostess . . .
An eagerness for some of the "firsts" of life that are still ahead of me . . .
And a marvel at what God has done in me and through me in spite of me!

I will have a whole room of parents to connect with, and I still marvel at how people open up to me these days. There is something about having the history I have that seems to provide a connection to many before there are any words spoken. And all my grief from so many years has dissipated, and I find each morning a fresh, bright morning.

I have things I am still hoping for and praying for . . . academic and career goals, relationship goals, hopes for grandchildren, and other hopes and prayers . . .

But today is full of joy, and I am grateful for the opportunity to live today in the joys it brings.

The Kingdom of God really can only be experienced RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!

So now to get those kids out of that bathtub!



"There's nothing we can do but pray."

I have heard people say that when a loved one is sick and not likely to recover. I have heard people say that when they are at the end of their options in some other situation, and are reduced to no alternative but prayer. And I've heard a few dear ones say this with a different meaning: that the starting place in such an important situation is prayer.

As I have written in earlier posts, my mother has lived a life of prayer, and taught us to pray in real ways as we grew up. She has always approached prayer as the starting point for all worthwhile projects and concerns, and has strong arms and great passion for action that grows out of her times of prayer. Through her I have come to know that we can converse with God and that He does respond in real ways to us. She taught me through her example and through active instruction, and I am deeply blessed.

As an adult, I have experienced solitary prayer, group prayer, intercessory prayer, repentant prayer, desperate prayer, and rejoicing prayer. I have learned that God does indeed do in response to prayer what He would not do otherwise, and I still marvel at that truth. Why would He care to have me participate in the story like that? And I have learned that there is huge power and authority in corporate prayer -- that is, in the united prayer of a group that is interceding for God to reveal His will and to accomplish His will in them and through them, and just as powerfully in the united prayer of a group that is asking God in faith to change some circumstance or situation.

It is one thing to affirm the above as a "statement of faith", and it is a wholly different thing to know it by repeated experience. When I am still just affirming the truth of the power of prayer, I have to exercise discipline to be faithful in prayer and to take the time to participate in corporate prayer. When I have accummulated enough personal experience that my very core knows that I have God's ear and that He responds to my requests by doing things differently than He would do them if I didn't talk to Him about them, no discipline in prayer is required! And when I have felt the power of the Holy Spirit as I pray in the midst of a faithful group, and then have seen repeated the amazing answers to prayer that God brings in response to the prayers of that kind of group, the choice to participate in a praying group or to use my time "more productively" just isn't a choice.

St. Andrew's has people who know that power that I know, and for whom it is not a choice to pray or not. They are the people in our church that I respect most deeply, and I know that they actually have far more influence over our lives together than do the handful who are "powerful" but who show their real beliefs and values by the choices they make in front of us over time. That handful do not know what they are missing, and have my prayers that their ways of managing their time and influence (that have worked well enough for them so that they are still able to prioritize prayer as less important than some other things) will stop working for them, so that they get to experience the joy of knowing Him as fully as they might through a shifting of their starting point.

Those who really pray never just pray. Through prayer, God also changes them and empowers them, and uses them to address the situations for which they are praying. And action that grows out of prayer is the only lasting effective effort any of us can make. All other effort is the effort of the "religious" who think they can create a good world around them by using God as their tool for their purposes.

"There is a way that seems right to a man, and the end thereof is death" plays out most dramatically in the lives of those in religious cliques who are working together to bring about that little world around them that they together find comfortable. Corporate evil thrives in the self-congratulatory institutions of "good" like hospitals and churches and schools.

As we see instances of people or groups protecting their own control and comfort at the expense of the safety and life and peace of others, our first response must not be to try to fix it, or to confront it. Our first response must be prayer. Our second response must be obedience to the ways in prayer God leads us to minister His love as His grace and truth. When we are faithful in both of these responses, God shows His Kingdom and we live in it, here and now.

Have you tasted enough of the power of group prayer that your life is full of times of such prayer, and you choose it over many other options?

Have you tasted enough of the wonder and intimacy and response of the Living God to your private times of prayer with Him that such time is your first choice when you can choose what to do next?

If not, you don't know what you are missing, and I hope you will be so spurred by what you see in scripture and in history and in the stories of others and in my life that you will be motivated to choose prayer as your starting point in everything you do, and only do anything else as it grows out of prayer.

No, actually, I don't hope that. I have a responsibility to pray for that, and I will.


Daily Routines and Growing Up in Him

Well, I must have someone praying for my evening routine . . . because I had the boys in bed by eight tonight and when I closed the book a few minutes ago Noah had been sleeping for 15 minutes and Brooks for 5. And now I can have the kind of evening that I enjoyed many of the nights of these last few years.

In I.T. we had written procedures and schedules for people to follow who didn't really understand a system, and we who did understand systems varied from those procedures and schedules as indicated by the reality of a situation. My goal with Noah and Brooks is that they develop a good understanding of "how things work" so that they can do what Mike and Josh do (manage their own lives on a day to day basis and accomplish what matters to them), but to get there they need routines and order.

God teaches me the same way. He is the Good Shepherd Who causes me to rest when I need rest and causes me to graze on good food and drink from safe water. He restores my soul.

Although He doesn't want me to "grow up and become independent" and be able to do it all without Him (which I do want for my boys!), He does want me to become more and more able to minister to others and to respond to Him. He teaches me TRUTH -- not just cognitive truth, but the kind of truth that trains my hands and mind and heart for the abundant life He desires to give me.

I am learning how to stop setting my goals and schedule and tasks out of my own agenda, and rest in His. And He offers me healthy routines to meet my needs, just as I do my boys. I am learning not to resist, but to use my drive to hold myself in His Presence even when I am feeling like something else is more compelling.

And -- like I do with Noah and Brooks -- even when I find something else compelling and resist His good routines and care, He uses wisdom in choosing when He scoops me up and compels me toward peace and health and in choosing when He allows me to play the prodigal. He is a flexible Father . . . just as good systems analysts are flexible and not stuck on elementary procedures and schedules, because they know the truth of how things work.

So tonight I will rest in His generosity and in His wisdom and in His control.


You're All I Need . . . Creator, Lover, Savior, Friend!

My friend Elon Miller sent me a link to the video below, which is powerful. It's just a skit performed at a large church . . . a YWAM skit that has been performed many times in many places. But turn on the sound so you have the background music as you watch it. If you don't "get it" the first time, watch it again. We have an absolutely amazing God!

Knowing It and Living It . . . His Commandment: Agape LOVE

Jesus came with a gospel of love and peace . . . the gospel of the Kingdom of God at hand, the Kingdom of God among us now!

Our church, as I have written in earlier posts, is in a process of reinventing itself -- a process of evaluating who we are and what our mission is as we go forward. In our last "family meeting" we had two discussion questions, and one was about how we can do more in outreach to the community around us. That's a fair enough question, and I'd love to see more done to reach out in kindness and love by all of us together as "St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach". But a programmatic response is not enough.

I used to go out with the "Wheaton Evangelism Team" when I was a student at Wheaton College and minister on the streets around the old water tower in downtown Chicago. (It was there that my first husband and I fell in love, and my wedding present to him was actually a framed print of the old water tower.) We set up a stage and sang and had a preacher with a brief message, and then we went out on the streets talking to people and giving out tracts. That is bold outreach, and it was an effective way of sharing the gospel as we understood it and of offering love to the people we encountered. That was part of my idea of evangelism and outreach, and it still is.

The other part of my idea of outreach is much less dramatic, but is much more effective. I have learned to make real friends, and to love them. And in that, it is normal to share my view of life and Jesus and of the church. It is normal to invite people to church with me. It is also normal to keep loving them no matter what their response is! After all, that's what God does with me!

People are highly intuitive. They know what I am after. They know what you are after. And there is a big difference between loving someone and wanting someone to become another "notch on my belt" to show that I am an effective evangelist. And Jesus' way was to speak the truth in love, and to invite people to friendship with Him. It worked, and it works now too.

People are hungry for love and friendship. If that's what I am after, and that's what I have to offer, my life is full to overflowing with friends of all sorts of beliefs and styles. Jesus calls me to love people the way He does -- the "while we were yet sinners" kind of love -- and He also calls me to never forget that I am still just as big a sinner as any of the people "out there", and that I am just as big a sinner as any of the people "in here" with me in my church community. Because if I forget that I need a Savior just as much as anyone else does, it twists my friendships and twists my life, and evangelism becomes something other than the "one beggar showing another beggar where to get bread" that my grandma used to talk about.

A friend asked me once if I didn't find it hard to really get to know people in the Newport Beach area . . . if it wasn't really hard to actually get into their lives. And I kind of went off on him, I'm afraid. But it triggered all my frustrations with our community that can be so pharisaical. The only reason he finds it hard to get into people's lives is because he doesn't make time to really love the people whose lives he wants to get into . . . regardless of whether they ever change. Jesus' words to the disciples that He sent out to preach the gospel -- His words about leaving and shaking the dust off their sandals as witness against them -- were words to be effective when they were not welcomed and listened to. As long as they were welcomed, they were to stay and keep speaking the truth.

People will keep welcoming any one of us as long as we keep loving them right where they are today . . . and that welcome will include permission to speak the TRUTH of Jesus' Kingdom. But it will cost you. It will cost you your time. It will cost you other priorities. It will cost you the ability to plan and execute programs. It will cost you the ability to achieve the things you wanted to achieve. It will cost you the ability to manage your own time and life and relationships.

Because real love -- real friendship -- is available and enthusiastic. Real love responds to people with eagerness and not with reluctance and regret for all the things that are being neglected in order to spend the time and attention on a friend. Real love builds treasure in Heaven, but it doesn't build any treasure on earth, or achieve any status. Real love costs my whole life.

If I could change any one thing about my church, it would be this: that friends that come to church with me would be enthusiastically and warmly welcomed, no matter what. They would be welcome if they came "dressed inappropriately". They would be welcomed if they came smelling like too much beer, or like they needed a bath. They would be welcomed if they felt the need to chase down one of our members who'd nicked another car in a small parking lot accident. (Yep, there's a story there.) They would even be welcomed if they were gay or lesbian and came boldly holding hands with their sexual partner. And by "welcomed" I don't just mean not kicked out or treated rudely. I mean that they would be able to sense intuitively that they were loved, and that many of us would want to build real friendships with them, even if they never changed.

If the church is really a place of forgiven sinners, it needs to be a place of both TRUTH and GRACE. And if I know the truth that I am no less screwed up than my lesbian friend, but also the truth that there is One who can show both of us a way through the confusion and mess of real life, then I will be able to minister God's grace to her in real love.

But in our church, even someone who talks too much or too little or shows poor social skills in other ways is treated to a sense of "let other people minister to you . . . not me." That's certainly not an indictment of every single one of us -- there are many gracious, loving people here -- but it is an indictment of the community as a whole. If we communicate any kind of "norming" clues as to what is not acceptable and needs to change, we should be communicating that anything judgmental of the "seeker" is not okay.

There is TRUTH. We do need accountability to move forward toward the abundant life that Jesus promised, rather than be mired in our own sin and mess. I am not suggesting that we alter what we believe about sin or about righteousness or about any of the essentials of our faith.

I am suggesting that we take seriously this statement by Jesus:

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)

and also His command that we love our neighbor as much as we each love our own self (illustrating "who is my neighbor?" with the story of the good Samaritan to show that "my neighbor" is any stranger that my path brings me past.)

His call that we make disciples of all the nations and teach them to do what He commanded us was a command to love them and teach them to love each other. That doesn't mean that we teach love apart from truth or apart from Jesus, of course. But it certainly doesn't mean that we teach truth and call men and women to join us in following Jesus and forget that His commandment was no more and no less than love both for the stranger and for our intimate friends and our enemies.

If you can't get it, may I at least get it. And may it be "catching"!


In Search of Solitude and Connection

I worked full-time in I.T. for many years, and before that worked full-time in accounting. I was also a full-time mom . . . because moms don't get to stop being moms just because they walk through the door at work. At 40 I quit the job I'd had for the previous almost-5-years, in I.T. at Fremont Investment and Loan, supporting and managing the predictive dialer and other residential lending software systems, and supporting and managing all the applications and systems in our retail banking environment. It was a major shock to step out of the adrenalin of 24/7 responsibility for systems critical to the ability of so many people to do their jobs. It was a major shock to step out of the satisfaction of seeing new releases tested and approved and rolling them into production successfully each quarter. I still miss it. (I think I've finally gotten over missing the identity of not being "just a mom" . . . but the reality of our culture's attitude there was a shock at first!)

But the last 3+ years have given me time to learn what it is to really connect with God and to really connect with people, and I find that so much more satisfying than I found the whole rat-race that our culture says is the key to lasting significance. The protestant work ethic has it's merits -- if that is what drives us, rather than mere greed and ego -- but it also has the shortcoming that it doesn't acknowledge that both Jesus' words and Paul's words were more about relationship and kindness than about achievement of any sort. (Since it isn't fair to give you a link here to the whole of the New Testament, I'll just repeat my links to John 14-16 and to II Corinthians 12:8-10, and add one to The Sermon on the Mount.)

It takes time to get to know God. It takes time to get to know any person. And time living with them and working with them -- focused on things together rather than focused on each other -- is part of that equation. But you can't leave out real time spent together, focused on each other. And while I always had a daily "quiet time" of prayer and Bible reading, that just doesn't compare to real hours where I can learn to listen to God's voice and know Him in new ways that satisfy unlike any other person or any achievement. And the same is true with my little boys and with my friends: love requires time and attention spent upon each other. "Love" can keep a relationship going without that time, but to grow in love and intimacy (instead of merely adding years to the count of how long the relationship has survived) requires time spent together enjoying each other and enjoying the things we have in common, and learning to enjoy the things that are not common passions but only passions to one of us.

For a long time my "time with God" could be in the early mornings and late evenings -- 6 a.m. or earlier, and at 9 or 10 p.m. -- but these days that is time spent on Noah and Brooks, so I am having to adjust my routine so that I don't miss out on my time with Him. (We leave for Noah's tutoring at 6:15 on Tuesdays and Thursdays this year, and for baseball skills training at 7 a.m. on Fridays -- which means I am focused on the boys from before 6 until after I get home from their school between 9 and 9:30 a.m. And our evenings are spent reading together with them in bed listening -- a huge joy of mothering! -- until they fall asleep, which sometimes means until after 10 p.m. and always means until after 9:30 these days.) I do need hours of solitude to pay attention to God alone, and I can't sacrifice the whole core of my day to have them (fulfilling responsibility is certainly part of obedience and intimacy!) . . . so I am struggling to settle into something where I feel the satisfaction of connection with God that I knew for the last few years. I know all my time spent connecting with my boys or with anyone else will break down and become less effective without my real time alone with God.

I have noticed how much of our evangelical literature and consciousness is focused on either strengthening our marriages and child-rearing or upon "fulfilling the mission of the church", and how little of the current stuff is focused upon simply KNOWING GOD. I suspect we'd need a lot less instruction in these big themes of ours -- and be a lot more effective at living out what we "know" -- if we spent more time teaching ourselves and each other to enjoy God's presence, both individually and corporately. Because God is a person, and He does speak to those who listen, and He does empower us for action . . . both the action of a call to mission and the action of continuing in long-term obedience even when it is tedious.

And the "tedious" ceases to be tedious when it is compelled by love for One Who pours out love and intimacy any time I take time to sit down and listen.

So He is my first thing on my priority list, even when He can't be first on my calendar or task list . . .

Because God can be known, and nothing else satisfies our need to know Him.


Spiritual Formation

I love Wikipedia. Someone started a "Christian alternative" to Wikipedia, because they thought it was "too liberal", but that completely ignores the fact that they could themselves edit any Wikipedia article that was "too liberal" to make it less biased.

Anyway, there is a good start to a treatment of Christian Spiritual Formation on Wikipedia, in their article Spiritual formation. I'd applaud anyone who could flesh it out effectively.

My life theme seems to be "figuring out how it all works", and that pragmatism and curiosity extend to Spiritual Formation. There is evidence medically that prayer and meditation make a real physical change in brain wiring and chemistry. There is definite anecdotal support for personal spiritual formation changing communities. And there is historical support for the idea that communities -- such as the Quakers -- who sought deliberate practice of the spiritual disciplines brought change on three planes: individual, person-to-person, and in community -- large and small communities.

As I read through Jesus' words in all 4 gospels about THE KINGDOM and about ABIDING in Him and about AGAPE of one's neighbor and one's brother being the evidence of our love for Jesus, it is obvious to me that the first goal of Christian spiritual formation is to be so highly connected to Jesus and to my brother and to my neighbor that I prioritize their desires and concerns as highly as I prioritize my own. Through this connectedness God makes me into the person He desires me to be, and God uses me in the ways that most satisfy my yearning for the significance that He created me to seek, as I play my role in His Kingdom. This goal results in knowing and loving the real individuals who come my way each day, and in becoming an active force behind a community of Christians who reach out deliberately to meet the needs of a hurting world.

The old "can Jesus be Savior if He isn't Lord" and the old "social Gospel vs personal salvation" break down in the face of a true study of scripture and a commitment to walking each day after the Jesus I encounter there. "Salvation" is no less than His Kingdom Come through me, both in personal devotion to a Jesus I know and accept as my master, and in active service of all those whom I see and even all those whom I can't see but whom I know of through our world-wide communication in these days of a global village.

It isn't complicated at all. I decide to follow Jesus. I decide to join with other followers of Jesus in a local community of faith that fits me. I practice the disciplines -- private, public, and communal -- that are listed so many places (like in that Wikipedia article above) and that are taught by Jesus in scripture. And He does the rest. I just keep showing up each moment, each day, and train my hands and heart for Him as He acts as personal trainer in the "gym" that is my house, or the grocery store, or work, or school, or church, or my car, or the local Starbucks.

Whether I am committed to following Him, or whether I am secretly or openly committed to doing my own thing or to pleasing someone else . . . I am being formed each day. Who I will be tomorrow and next year and for eternity is set by the trajectory I choose this moment by my next action.

Spiritual formation happens, like it or not. I become more and more like the person God imagines and desires for me to be, or I become more and more set in all the character defects that cause pain to me and pain to others. I get to choose my passions, and then my passions create my character.

The only change I can control happens this moment . . . right here, right now. Do I want to be the person I am shown to be by my thoughts, actions, and interactions in the last 24 hours? What am I doing this minute? Is it what Jesus is asking me to do this minute?

"Spiritual Formation" and "Stewardship" and "Obedience" all boil down to learning to follow Him as closely as my boys followed me when they were tiny. He isn't trying to teach me to grow up and do it without His constant presence and instruction, as we try to teach our growing children increasing independence and self-sufficiency. He is trying to teach me constant intimacy and constant connection and constant love expressed in immediate action.

As I follow Him, I grow in character and wisdom and in discipline and effectiveness . . . but not in independence!

As I follow Him, I grow in my inter-dependence with those other followers of Him that are in my life today, and I grow in my complete dependence upon the Triune God. This is evident from the words of Jesus and in the words of Paul, and is full of joy and peace!


"Contempt" -- The Real Definition of Agape?

I am on a whole bunch of "reformed theology" and "emergent church" email groups, and read through the threads quickly each morning to see if anything useful or new comes my way. The posts are mostly written by pastors and full-time Christian workers of one sort or another, and so it is a convenient way of making sure I expose myself to more of "Christendom" than I get from my own congregation or from reading Christianity Today and Time and watching CNN.

My conclusion over 3 years is this: "Christian" has a whole bunch of meanings, even among those who would buy into my own definition of discipleship and share a place in the orthodox / evangelical world. People care passionately about what they believe to be true, and feel anger at those who claim to be Christians but believe things that seem to others to be outside the camp of sound belief or practice. And most of us are much more invested in "being right" than in obeying Jesus' words in all Jesus' words in John 13-16, summed up in these two verses: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)

Recently a couple of blogs have been publishing satirical "posters" criticizing each other. They are funny, and if you want to see them all, go to these two blogs: Pyromaniacs and Verum Serum. (I will post a few of the better ones below, but full credit for them needs to go to the authors of the blogs I reference above.) But I wish I had time to create one of my own today! (Maybe someone out there has time to do the creative work for me?) It would have a picture of two angry men spewing words at each other, and the caption in bold "Contempt" and under it in smaller print "the real definition of "agape" in John 13:35" and then in smaller print the text of John 13:35.

(Thanks to John Sexton of Verum Serum for doing this for me in "penance" as a response to this post! Here it is:

Verum Serum)

Anyway, here are a few of the posters I do like, with credit underneath each to its source:

Verum Serum

Verum Serum

Verum Serum

Verum Serum



I like the creativity in all the posters above. I like hearing a passionate discussion of issues of theology and practice when the passion is focused on the issues and on all of us moving toward a better understanding of what is TRUE and of what obedience means. I wish we could all move away from showing contempt that is directed toward our brothers and sisters in Christ -- even when we feel they are way off in either their teaching or practice.

After all, if I am going to err in whom I consider to be a believer and in whom I consider to be "outside the camp", Jesus' words about the weeds growing among the crops until the harvest seem to apply.

And if I am going to err in showing agape love to too many people or too few, I say we let the agape we are to show our brothers and sisters pour out on some who may not be our brothers and sisters at the final judgment.

But if I am going to speak what I believe to be true, may I speak it. And may I let you contradict me openly when you believe I am in error. That is agape too, isn't it?

But perhaps we can remember that "contempt" is not in Paul's list of "the fruit of the Spirit" any more than it is in John 13-16 or in Matthew 5-7.

What do you think?


Saboba Medical Centre

I spoke of my friend Marita Gladson last year, in this post: On Being Odd and Other Bits of Joy. (It is about my acceptance of my own "oddness", not about any way that she is odd.) She is one of my inspirations in life. She is a great example of the results of simple obedience to Jesus in the "right here, right now" part of life.

She was interviewed by TimeWarner Cable, and the clip appeared on CNN's Headline News locally.

Click on it below to watch it.

Then, if this project interests you, contact Marita via her website at Marita's Contact Info.

Daily obedience will produce the pattern to our lives that is designed by God the Father, and will be much more beautiful than anything you or I could design by our own visions or ambitions. In Marita I see evidence of His creativity!


Showing Agape to Even Fake-Nice Christians

I love the media aids available to churches from WorshipHouse Media. They present truth in ways that grab the emotions of the audience, and thereby actually communicate the truth cognitively in a much more lasting way. Take a look at this one: An Unspoken Plea

We are called to live authentic lives as disciples. See my post way at the beginning of this blog again to recall exactly what I mean by that: Discipleship Defined

This walk is hard. I have come to a place where I do wake up remembering God and an eternal perspective as my first thoughts each morning . . . but I have not come to a place where my emotions always reflect that reality. I wake up tired and ache-y, and wishing that I was 26 instead of 43 and that I didn't have to work so hard at being able to wake up with some energy physically each day. I wake up angry at various people. I wake up with all the emotions that TRUTH changes as it brings me to face the reality of all that He has given me in this moment, and all that I have promised to me for eternity.

Sharing our faith shouldn't be hard. It doesn't take pretending that things are okay when they aren't. It just takes sharing the reality of day-in, day-out life with all its joys and all its messy-ness, and at the same time sharing the TRUTH we know from Jesus and the ways that impacts our joyful, messy lives.

But walking with difficult people is hard. I'm glad to see evidence in the gospels of Jesus' anger at the Pharisees, His anger at the merchants in the Temple, His anger occasionally at His disciples, and even His anger at a fig tree. I'm glad to see his tears at Lazarus' grave, and read in the New Living Translation of His anger then too. All those stories allow me to come to Him and feel free to be honest to Him and myself about my anger, and allow Him to move me from there to a sincere "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." He loves me enough to hear my anger before He heals it by bringing forgiveness in its place.

I loved to read at the end of Job how first God rebuked the friends who had offered such poor comfort in their lectures to sick, grieving Job . . . and then how He commanded Job to pray for them as they offered sacrifices of repentance. And out of that ritual of forgiveness, Job walked on to a restoration of all the blessings God delighted to give him . . . and in freedom to really enjoy them, because he wasn't harboring anger.

It makes me angry to watch the video I link to in my first paragraph, because my church is full of people who put on an act of being nice Christians but who aren't willing to sustain loving, honest relationships with nasty people . . .

And God points me back to all the nasty fake-nice Christians that He's calling me to model authentic agape love to today. And He forgives me for the ways I failed yesterday and already today. And He gives me His love for them. Because He does love them, enough to die for them and keep loving them even if they never get it.

May I get it.