Friday, March 24, 2017

What Wondrous Love

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. There is no commandment greater than these."--Mark 12:30-31

With everything in me, I do my best to love my lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. But when it comes to loving my neighbors as myself, that is way harder because I'm not always good at loving myself fully. I too often compare myself to others and feel like I'm not worthy. She's prettier than I am. She's so much better at that than I am.

Yet the truth is I am worthy. I have been given wondrous gifts by God; gifts that are meant to be shared. The truth is when I truly am seen, known and loved, I can love my neighbors as I love myself much easier.

God sees us.
God knows us.
God loves us...
Which is why God sent God's son to die on the cross for each of us.

Oh what kind of wondrous love is that: the kind of wondrous love God calls us to share in this broken world.




Thursday, March 23, 2017

Embrace Who You Are

I am linking up for Five Minute Friday.  The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today's prompt is "embrace." I love spending time with this crew. They bless me beyond words. We'd love to have you join us.  Just hop onto Twitter on Thursday evenings and follow the #fmfparty. Hope to see you there! 

Tears fell from her eyes as she sat and told her story. Every time she begins to unlock this story and tell more people; tears fall from her eyes as she embraces telling her story. She cannot help but live out her new mantra; words from Brene Brown "The bravest thing you'll ever do is tell your story." In telling her story, she continues to embrace who she is.

Her fingers tap across the keyboard as she tells yet another story or writes another poem. Her soul is bursting as the words travel onto the page. Words are her love language and it is words that gives her so much life. In living out these gifts, she again is embracing who God created her to be; a writer--a bearer of the Word made flesh in this broken fractured world.

She wraps her arms around her friend's shoulders as she grieves. She isn't afraid to be the shoulder for her to cry on. She wont let go until she knows her friend is ok. In this loving embrace, she reminds her friend that she is not alone in her joy and her grief. Another of the gifts God gave her as she embraces this gift in her life.

There are so many communities that she embraces; that bring her such beauty and grace. She embraces each of them with their unique gifts. There is wine, gin and other beverages spread out on the table. Snacks also for her friends to enjoy. At the table, we sit and break bread. These are communities where we embrace each other in all of our uniqueness. They are places where we are all truly seen, known and loved! 

Convicted

"Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters."--Luke 11:23 (New Revised Standard Version)

"This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse."--Luke 11:23 (The Message) 

Convicting words, are they not? As I read this passage this morning, I found my body paralyzed by these very words. I have been guilty of being the one who scatters rather than gathers. I have been guilty of not helping. I have been guilty of sitting quietly and not saying a word. And how many of you are with me and feel very convicted by these words from Luke too?

Does God not call us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? Does God not call us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Does God not call us to live out the Gospel in this world? 

The Gospel is scandalous yet God calls us to trust in God's love for the world in the life, death and resurrection of his Son. Walter Brueggemann captures this well when he writes, "The Gospel is a very dangerous idea. We have to see how much of that dangerous idea we can perform in our own lives. There is nothing innocuous or safe about the Gospel. Jesus did not get crucified because he was a nice man." (Thanks for sharing this quote Slate Project)

Jesus was the first to sit with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus was the first to forgive. He washed Judas' feet knowing that Judas would betray him before evening was over. He still welcomed Peter at that same table and broke bread with him and washed his feet knowing that he would deny him three times. Jesus stood with the woman at the wall and offered her life giving water; the life giving water only Jesus could give. Jesus was all about turning over the tables and welcoming all especially those on the outside to the table.

In hearing these words today, I am convicted. I want to be the one who gathers God's people together. I want to help and not hinder the mission of God in this broken fractured world. I want to be on the side of love, and grace, and mercy and forgiveness! 

Yet it is because of my sins and the sins of all of us that Christ hung on that tree as he breathed his last. It is because of our actions and God's love for us that I am indeed convicted; convicted because of God's love for this broken fractured world.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

From Captivity into Freedom

Standing in front of the television, tears fell from his eyes as the wall separating east and west crumbled to the ground. His heart yearned to be with his family and friends yet this day found him miles away celebrating with his new American friends. 

This scene unfolded as one of our foreign exchange students watched as the wall between East and West Germany finally crumbled to the ground. He watched with joy-filled eyes as he watched his people freely walk between each side of what was once the wall. 

I remember this story well. It is a story that reminds me of the power of what it means to let people in and not keep people out. I find myself deeply yearning not to see a wall put up to keep people out. Our God calls us to welcome one another with open arms. Our God calls us to love one another and not fear one another. 

In Psalm 78, we hear the words that we are to teach our children; the next generations so they will set their hope in God and remember all the good works that God has done for us. Yet oh how easily, we forget the goodness of our God. We get sidetracked and derailed by the evil one. As I read this text, my heart sank as these words so easily capture what is happening in our broken sinful world today. We forget to trust in the hope of God. We forget to share the good deeds of God that have happened and will continue to happen.

What do we want the next generations to remember and be known for? Do we want them to love our LGBTQ friends with open arms and not question who they are in this world? Do we want the world to be known for proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter? Do we want those immigrants who have come for safety to not fear for their lives? I believe that every day God calls us to live out the words to Micah 6:8 "But what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness/mercy, and walk humbly with your God?" to the best of our ability. We will indeed fail. But we are called to pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off and try again tomorrow.

God calls each and every one of us to guide with a tender upright heart just like David guided his people. As God's people, we are also called to do our best to love and serve our neighbors and pass on faith and values from generation to generation. I am reminded of the words from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

For every time we love God's people, the wall crumbles and another soul is able to walk freely from captivity into freedom. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

To Forgive and Be Forgiven

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." It is not at all easy to forgive those who have done wrong to us; who have harmed us. As a little girl, as I had mean words hurled at me, my heart broke. I was not going to easily forgive those individuals who were teasing me. Yet when we forgive others there is a holiness that happens; a holiness that comes only in the forgiveness given to us by God.

Several years ago, I was serving on a synod council when one of our synod employees was caught embezzling money. It took everything in me to not hate this man. I finally can admit that this man was a broken sinful man who made a choice that has consequences. Yet I will never forget a story that happened in the beginning days of this case. His neighbors invited this man and his wife over for dinner. They sat and broke bread together. These neighbors wanted this man and his wife to know they still loved him despite what he had done. They knew it was the sin and not the sinner. I don't know if I could have sat at that table knowing what this man had done. Yet there is a beauty in this forgiveness.

Jesus himself sat and broke bread with Judas and Peter knowing full well what was yet to come. Judas would betray him. Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed and Jesus breathed his last. Despite his unfaithfulness to Jesus, Jesus still washed Judas' feet; the ultimate example of love and sacrifice in this world. In these moments, we are once again reminded of the power of forgiveness.

Forgiveness takes everything we have in ourselves. I think of the text from Matthew where Peter asks, "How many times shall I forgive a brother or sister; seven times? To which Jesus responds, "No seventy times seven." In other words, we are constantly going to be asked to forgive others and to also be forgiven for our own sins. We will fail, but we must continue to try again and again.

On the cross, Jesus cried out, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing." In those words, God's people are freed to forgive, not seven times but seventy times seven times. We are freed to forgive and be forgiven.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Who Are We?

Do you ever wonder if you are being deceived OR that you are deceiving others by not fully being who God created you to be? There are many days when it seems part of me aren't being unveiled; that I'm holding back who I am with the world. And it hurts. It hurts to deceive and be deceived by others; to keep locked inside huge pieces of who I am. I want to be known for my gentleness but I also want to be known for the broken pieces of my heart too.

And then I wonder, am I alone or are there others who are hurting and feeling deceived or that they are deceiving others? Sometimes that deception comes because we are afraid. Afraid of how we will be perceived. Afraid of showing the vulnerable pieces of our heart. The thing is we all yearn to be loved and known as your beloved children--complete in who you have created us to be.

There is a holiness and freeness that comes when we are known and loved; when we don't hold back any pieces of ourselves. When we are loved because of and not inspite of who God calls us to be, there is an openness and beauty to being known by the world. Yet it's not at all easy to sell ourselves and our gifts with the world.

Love opens our hearts to love each other for all we are created to be; to not hold back those damaged pieces of our soul; to not be someone we are not; to lean in to the fullness of who we are created to be. God loved us so much that God sent God's Son into the world to "save the world and not condemn it."

Is this the kind of love we are willing to fully lean into and embrace as 100% of who God calls us to be? I believe so with every fiber of my being knowing and trusting that love will open my heart, soul, and mind to be everything God calls me to be and calls you to be too!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Justified

As a good Lutheran, I can fully proclaim these words about our faith; "You are justified by faith." Justified by God's love for us by sending God's son into the world for our sins. In that act, we are reminded that we are justified by faith indeed.

Sometimes we do things that God sees as sin; in the way we treat (or don't) treat one another.  We think our own actions are justified. But a lot of times they are not justified at all. We don't "love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us." God wants us to treat each other with love and respect; to show each other we are loved and known. 

In the midst of life's trials, we know that we are not alone; that we are justified by faith in God who promises to never leave us or forsake us. In Romans 5, we are reminded "And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." (Romans 5: 3-5) 

These words always hit me straight in the gut. I have a feeling each and everyone of us has suffered in our lifetimes. At the time, it seems impossible; that we won't get through it. But when we see the other side, we see that those moments make us stronger and change us. I wouldn't be who I am if I didn't share a huge piece of my story; living as the daughter of a woman who daily lives with a mental illness. 

Suffering does produce endurance. And endurance does produce character and character indeed produces hope. Hope had this power; this way of absolutely changing us. Hope hangs on the tree of Calvary as Jesus cries out "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing." Hope is found in the empty tomb. Hope is raised on Easter morning as a declare "Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!"

In God's love for the world, Gods love is justified by faith; a faith we trust in through Jesus' life, death and ultimately resurrection. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Depths of the Sea

Have you ever found yourself on a cruise or on a boat on a body of water? I remember the first time I saw the ocean. It was so gigantic to me. But it also was a beautiful sight to behold. The vastness of the water reminded me of the power of water.

If you've ever lived through a flood, you understand how quickly water can overtake our possessions: homes etc. So the story of Noah makes a lot of sense. God was protecting Noah, his family and the animals. God knew how quickly the land would be flooded.

God is a God of compassion. God is all about forgiving us of our sins. It's why God sent Gods son to die on the cross for our sins. God casts all of our sins into the depths of the sea. At the very bottom of the sea, lie the sins God has casted aside for us. They will not be easy to find and for that I'm thankful for our God who loves us so deeply.

Yet water also can be holy. In the waters of Baptism, we are washed clean and claimed as beloved children of God. These waters remind us that on their own, they are just water until the words are spoken at baptism.