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Category Archives: Mercy

Peace with everyone

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Do all that you can to live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

For years I have tried to determine the best way to read, reflect, and write what God has spoken to me as I sit with Him each day. There has been quite a learning curve along the way. Many a planner bought. Many a planner tossed. Until finally the system that works for me was born.

It involves reading a passage of Scripture, noting the particular verse that speaks to me, and writing down what He says to me.

I also then pencil in a verse of the day.

Sometimes I read the rest of the passage. Most days I don’t.

Until this particular day. Only because it had been the second time in two weeks I had been directed to this very one.

Live at peace with everyone.

Really, God…everyone?

When I picked this particular plan on peace. My hope was that God would reveal that “peace that surpasses all understanding” in some of the areas where I just didn’t have any. Where situations still remained a little chaotic, and there were still some weeds in my garden to tend to…some I wasn’t sure if they were even mine to “weed out.”

I wasn’t expecting this to be his first plea! I definitely wasn’t expecting it to show up again a few short weeks later.

So what does the rest of the passage say? How does God expect us to live in peace with everyone?

Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Romans 12:19-20, MSG

By doing. By loving. By buying my enemy lunch and a drink. Now, do I have to sit with them and eat? Not. Nothing says we have to be the best of friends. However, will there come a time this person needs to be shown compassion? Maybe. Who should they see? A bitter ole hag, still dragging around old baggage? Or a kind and loving Jesus?

Peace comes when we relinquish the need to harbor hate towards those who have plotted evil against us. When we can wish them well from “over there.” When we can move about our day, knowing that God will judge the integrity of those who lie and scheme. We don’t have to. It’s too much for us to bear.

We just have to do good. Even to those who hurt us. Even to those we don’t like.

Even to those who yes (human emotion, here)…we really do hope tumble for all the pain they have caused.

But, He will take care of that. We simply take care of doing good.

Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. Romans 12:21

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Posted by on August 16, 2018 in Loving Others, Mercy

 

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It’s lonely out here…

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are already doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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“In ministry, I have found that our own thoughts can be quite dangerous. We start second-guessing what we should have done, what should have been said, what could have been changed, or why we did one thing over another. The quiet times mulling over our thoughts can create sadness, discouragement, and sometimes even anger.”

This. From a fellow student of ministry in an ordination class I am taking. A class that for several weeks I have struggled to keep up with honestly. I’ll admit it. A class I am struggling not to fail.

This student had described exactly what I had been wrestling: loneliness, worry that I had goofed up, doubt. This need to have it all together. And, then the desperate want to just fall apart.

As pastors and shepherds, we are called to encourage. To guide. To lead others to know Jesus and His love in a way they have never known.

Yet, there are days I feel deeply discouraged and terrified that if I say the wrong thing I’ll guide and lead someone astray.

As His ambassadors of love, we are givers of grace, forgiveness, and apologies that we often have to swallow to give when we are the ones who have been hurt, because after all we are that “Christian pastor.” When what we want to do is scream at the abuser, lash out at the persecutor, or just plain scream at God for allowing the hurt at all.

We love even when it doesn’t make sense. And, most of the time it doesn’t make sense. Because it didn’t make sense for Jesus, either. And, we desperately want others to know this kind of love.

We follow His will despite doubt, fear, intimidation, and the flaming arrows of Satan.

And, on top of that we worry about every conversation. The devil beats us down about every flaw. He does one heck of a number on our heads. And, we often have very few we can talk to, because most look to us for the wisdom.

It’s lonely out here.

So, we offer the encouragement we so need ourselves.

For me…it’s twofold. Not only am I a shepherd. I also have the role as a counselor to children as my “day job.” I am looked to as their guide. The one to provide sound advice. Steer them in the right direction. Provide them with the “right” tools. Be an encourager. Sometimes even just safety, security, and even love.

But, I agonize over whether that guidance was right? What triggered that meltdown that I didn’t catch in time? Did I make a decision that may have caused hurt? Said something that triggered some emotional response?

Worried that one misstep could royally mess them all up.

It’s lonely out here.

But, the children still need guidance. Safety. Security. Love.

So, the encourager uses the words she needs to hear herself.

Can I offer a little advice? From a pastor? A counselor? A never-ending encourager?

If you have a champion in your life, throw that champion a floatie. Offer some words of encouragement for all those times they have saved you.

Because, it’s lonely out there. And, well…sometimes the encouragers need a little saving, too.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2018 in Mercy, Ministry and Education

 

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But with God…it’s all OK

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Summer has for the past several years been a time for renewal. It has been a time to focus on relaxing, self-care, and spending time setting long forgotten priorities back into balance. For the past two years the beginning of summer has not began in a mode of peace, and I have had to really seek God’s leading each morning as I read His Word. I have always found comfort in the verses and passages of Isaiah as I have hunted and pecked through my Bible over the years. Such messages as “do not be afraid;” or “I have chosen you, and not rejected you” (Isaiah 41:9); and “I will hold you in my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10) have all provided me with comfort. And, I thought these messages would be fitting as I navigated new, unknown territory in ministry, and a new school assignment. Because, at times I have been fearful. Uncertain. Afraid.

Then as I began to study all the chapters of Isaiah, I read that it’s central theme was “God as Savior,” and “redemption from Egypt.” Well, since I had felt like I had been trapped in Egypt for some time…well, it seemed perfect to me.

For the past two days I have asked God this question many times: Why?

Because, I can’t understand over the course of the last few months why some things happened the way they did. Why my heart remains heavy at times. Why I have cried myself to sleep asking this question, and hearing no answer. Why I still feel like I have failed in some way to fulfill whatever He called me to.

Today as I sat on my porch reading over my daily assigned passage in Isaiah, I was directed to also read one from Matthew:

“Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove. Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, they will smear your reputation-just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you-and me-a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.” (Matthew 10:16-20, MSG)

I wasn’t arrested. I never stood trial. But, there were days I felt like I was whipped, branded a liar, and some crazy person for doing what God wanted me to do. Mocked in front of others because I “prayed about it.” And in the end, not able to speak the truths I knew. Those that still haunted me at times.

But God…he had more to show me on that porch:

But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. Matthew 10:22-23

I stopped. Looked up. And simply said: “God, I have found favor in you, haven’t I?”

See, He hadn’t left me. He had given me a way out.

And while I wept, I knew in that moment…everything was going to be OK.

“The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” Exodus 14:14

Maybe I wasn’t able to fight an earthly battle for truth and justice, but God…He was fighting. Truth and justice would win eventually. And, it was all going to be OK.

Maybe I had to be broken, beaten, whipped, and bruised in order to be made new and victorious. But with God, it was all going to be OK.

I had been as gentle as a sheep. As harmless as a dove. I had shown God’s love, and not wavered. I had endured to the end, and done what he had instructed. not leaving Him. And, God…He certainly never left me. And, it is all going to be OK.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2018 in Mercy

 

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When prayers turn to screams

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I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted to heaven, but my soul was not comforted. Psalm 77:1-2

There are times when life is seamless. When all the chips fall into place, and all the requests uttered to our Father are granted. Each day feels like a smooth sail into the Promised Land.

But, there are those other times when that sailboat begins to take a turn into stormy seas.  Each day is more like swimming in a raging current without a life vest. The ride is bumpy. You are pretty sure you are going to drown, and there seems to be no one coming to rescue you.

I have had too many of these moments. The desperately keeping myself from drowning clutching to a useless life vest moments.

It is in these moments I want to scream at God. Sometimes in my choked-out, sobbing prayers…I actually do. I scream out in anger, because I feel like He has left me. I scream out in pain, because I don’t understand why I am constantly the one who is hurt for doing His will. I scream out in confusion, because I thought I did what He had asked.

My cries often sound a lot like this:

If you are so loving, and you care so much, Lord…why are you leaving me here like this? Why are you letting me stay here in this storm saying nothing?

I want to believe He can make something out of this mess. That from the screams, the sobs, the hurt, ache, and pain. All that makes life bumpy, that something beautiful can grow.

My God, My God, Why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:1-3

I’m David in hiding when my storms rage. I’m filled with tangled emotions, moving between praise and cursing. Moving between surrender and wanting to give up.

But, the good news? The great news? Is that God can handle all these emotions.

Because, let’s face it. This world can’t. If I am being honest, our feelings and emotions as Christians scare others. Messy people scare us. We praise over our woes, and give pat answers, instead of digging trenches and sitting with someone else in their messy place. We, as flawed humans, just can’t handle our all over the place messes. So, we leave those messes in the storm clinging to a life vest. Steer clear. Either don’t express any emotion, or leave the ones who do feeling lonely.

We are all messes. Dealing with life’s many storms. Hoping someone will throw us a life vest.

God can handle us at our screaming worst. He hears us when our prayers are nothing but choking sobs.

He offers us grace even when we may be angry at him. Throwing us a vest while the storms rage. Encouraging us to hold on a while longer, even when we become to much for the world to handle.

He will hear us. Even when our prayers turn to angry, sobbing screams.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2018 in Mercy

 

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