Jesus

Delight

 

As I stood in front of the mirror rolling my hair, the early morning sun shining through the window behind me,  I noticed that my blue eyes looked exceptionally blue.  Must be the blue dress I’m wearing.

My mind went to the sixth graders to whom I spoke last week.  They were telling me what they like about their appearance and what they like about their inner qualities.  One of the girls said, “I like how my eyes change color.”

“According to the time of day and what you’re wearing, you mean?,” I asked.

“Yes,” she nodded.

“Your eyes are lovely,” I affirmed.

I affirm each child as they tell me what they like about themselves.

And as I rolled the last section of hair it occurred to me that that is precisely why sixth graders love my talk.

I am God for them.

More precisely I am the part of God who delights in them.

Later in the lesson, as I point out the land mines that are lurking in adolescence, I am God’s voice saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”

And they appreciate knowing what’s what.

Later this morning, the bearers of the cross, the giant gold Bible, and the lanterns processed midway down the aisle and stopped, just as they do every Sunday. The Bible was opened and the deacon read from the gospels. And I love it. I love that the procession into the aisle represents Jesus coming among us.  Jesus telling us His good news – not from afar, but from within our midst.

I jotted in my bulletin, “I want to bring an aspect of God whenever I speak – mercy, compassion, love, grace, guidance, delight.”

Wouldn’t that be something?

To bring God’s delight within a midst?

To leave each person with a sense that God finds him/her delightful?

Mr. Rogers was good at that.

I think I’ll make it my prayer.

For now, I’ll ask you what I always ask them:

What 3 things do you like most about your appearance?

What 3 things do you like most about your character/inner beauty?

 

 

 

 

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life

Traveling Light

A friend shared something kind of interesting yesterday morning: Researchers asked a sampling of people what three words they most wanted to hear. The most common response was, “I love you.”  The second most common response was, “I forgive you.” The third, “Dinner is ready.”

Those 3 phrases sum up the gospel:

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…”

Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

John 21:12: “Come and have breakfast.”

Later in the day my daughter and I were discussing her aversion to the word doctrine. Aware that there is nothing wrong with doctrine per se – it’s just a set of beliefs – she supposed the thing that makes it aversive is the way we Christians bog down our beliefs.

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My honey vanilla latte, her toasted coconut latte and sustenance.

She told me what her friend’s professor said about doctrine: “I used to try to carry all the church’s doctrine the way you would carry all your grocery bags into the house at the same time. But I kept dropping some.  Now I carry very few bags. Like three.”

Three is enough.

Bag 1: God loves us.

Inside the bag: He stepped into our mess of a world to show us what He’s really like.
He’s actively redeeming and restoring His creation.

Bag 2: God forgives us.

Inside the bag: The cross and three words: “It is finished.”

Bag 3: God has prepared a place for us.

Inside the bag: Our daily bread and an invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb.

I love that Jesus prepared breakfast for His friends after He was resurrected.  You’d think after such a glorious feat He’d do something a little more regal.

But nope.

He made them breakfast.

I’ve been teaching the Bible these last two years via an international Bible study. Next year they’ll be studying the book of Romans. And I’m not going to teach.  I don’t want to bog kids down with a heavy load of doctrine. I just want to carry three light bags.

Dinner is ready.

 

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Jesus, life, war on women

Purple Reign

I’ve been prompted to share an excerpt from my Bible study today, so go get your Bible.

Before you open it, answer this question:  Who was created first, Adam or Eve?

You said “Adam,” right? Everyone does.

Now read Genesis 1:26-27, 31.

Who was created first?

That’s right, they were both created AT THE SAME TIME!

Together. On the sixth day.

Why does almost everyone answer incorrectly?

This might shed some light:  Look at Genesis 1:11-13.  When were plants created?

Now read Genesis 2:1-7.  According to verses 4-7, when did the plants “spring up”?

Not until after man was placed in the garden to care for them.

I love to host Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  I spend many happy hours poring over recipes in order to create the perfect menu.  The menu is completed weeks before the meal is actually prepared.  Long before the first potato is mashed, I know exactly what will be on the table.

The point is, God created everything in those 6 days but some of what He created didn’t appear until later.  As soon as He speaks something into existence, it exists, even if it cannot yet be seen.   Take a minute to think of other things that God spoke into existence long before they appeared on the earth?  What comes to your mind?

This concept is key because many think God created man first and woman was an afterthought – someone created later to fulfill man’s need.

That misunderstanding has caused a lot of pain and suffering and is a big factor in sex trafficking.

The important truth is, we were created at the same time.   

If you’re still not convinced, look closely at the third phrase of Genesis 1:27.

What does it say?

What pronoun is used?

Yep, the pronoun is plural.  Them. Two were created.

According to Genesis 1:26-28, why was “man” (humankind) created?

See? Woman wasn’t created for man; man and woman were created together to represent God’s image. Stop and think about that for a minute.

List some words that describe God’s image:

One of the words on my list is royal.  After all, He is the King of Kings.

What is the royal color?

We were created purple.

What color do you get when you combine blue and pink?

It takes both male and female combined to represent His image.

Both pink and blue are an equal and integral part of God’s royal image.  Woman can never be purple alone and neither can man.  It takes both, working together, to fully represent the image of God.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NIV

Genesis 1:28a says, “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”

God blessed us and spoke His purposes for us as a unit – before we were separated.  These purposes were for purple, not for pink or blue alone.

Read the rest of Genesis 2.

In verse 15, the Hebrew word that has been translated “take care of” or “keep,” depending on your version, is shamar, which means “to keep, guard, keep watch and ward, protect.”

If everything God created was good, from what/whom did the garden need to be protected?

If you said, “Satan” then you are correct.

Hold that thought and move on to verse 18: “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” [emphasis added]

Why did things go from “very good” in Genesis 1:31 to “not good” here?

I wondered so I looked. And I discovered that a more accurate translation of verse 18a would be “It is not good for the man to be as one.”

The word for helper here is the Hebrew word ‘ezer.  ‘Ezer appears 19 times in the OT and in all but one occurrence it is used in reference to divine help, as in:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

So when did the church twist divine help into subservient help?

God is our helper, but He is certainly not our servant.

Some translations call woman a “suitable” helper, King James calls her a “help meet.”

The Hebrew word translated “suitable” or “help meet” is neged.  The definition:  “in front of, in the sight or presence of, before the eyes of, face to face.”

Man and woman existed together as part of the “mankind” God created on day 6 and formed in chapter 2, all wrapped up into one.

Now God was about to separate them out so they could see one another face to face.  They would no longer be as one. Now they would be two, representing God face-to-face, side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder.

(I’ll tell you about the fabled rib tomorrow.)

You’re not in a hurry are you, because I am about to pull it all together.

God created mankind in His image and His image is triune.  Three separate but equal parts.  Therefore it makes sense that man and woman would be separate but equal parts.

I love Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. I had it engraved on the inside of my first husband’s wedding band. (Oh well.)

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” Separate but entwined we are stronger than if we had remained as one.

I believe things went from “very good” to “not good” because there was an enemy lurking against whom we would have to defend ourselves.

Look back at Genesis 1:27-28 and 2:15.  God gave us two purposes – represent His image on earth and protect His garden (Genesis 2:15) by subduing His enemy (Genesis 1:28).

The word subdue in Genesis 1:28 is the Hebrew word kabash.  It means “to subject, force, bring into bondage, tread under foot.” If everything was good at that point, what on earth would need to be “forced, tread down, brought into bondage,” except His enemy?

So let’s recap: God created mankind purple. But there was an enemy lurking so He separated us out into pink and the blue and then what did He do at the end of the chapter?

He entwined us right back together again.

God entwined the wisdom of woman with the strength of man because two can defend better than one.  He intended for us to join arms and conquer the enemy – parents protecting their families, congregations protecting their communities, the church at large protecting the world.

We have a purpose people.

In what ways do you dream of joining arms with your present or future spouse (and/or church) to represent God in your community and keep the enemy at bay?

The hub and I dream of owning a lodge where we can host retreats and minister to anyone who needs spiritual refreshment.  (He would do that by taking them fishing.) The lodge would have a large kitchen where I would cook for our guests, nourishing them physically as well as spiritually.  I dream of it being a place where young adults can learn to eat well and love well.  I see it as God’s peaceful presence in whatever community He sets it.  Excuse me while I create some menus…

  • Excerpted from Spider Lake © 2010 Julie Hintz

#purple

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Light, restoration, the friends

Broken Offering

It’s Sanctity of Life Sunday and I was asked to preach the sermon at my church.  So there at the podium I stood with a large, painful sty forming in my left eye and with a mind so exhausted from grief that it couldn’t hold a thought.

This is what I said:

Last month, down in fellowship hall, Tim asked me a few questions about crisis pregnancies. He was writing a paper for seminary.  He wanted to know who puts the greatest pressure on a woman to abort.

“It’s not always a who,” I said, “sometimes it’s a what, and that person or thing is different for every woman.”

For the recent high school graduate sitting across from me in the counseling room it was her reputation in the eyes of her younger siblings.  She had always been a “good girl” and they had always looked up to her.  She wept at the thought of letting them down.

For the young waitress, who had recently moved to Michigan from Oregon, it was her abusive live-in boyfriend.

For a distraught sixteen year old it was her harsh grandma who said “you can only have the baby it if it is a boy.” An ultrasound revealed she wasn’t.

For the married woman carrying an anencephalic baby it was a team of doctors talking at her around a conference table.  They convinced her that aborting her 7 month fetus would be easier than giving birth and watching him die. It wasn’t. “Why couldn’t he have died in my arms?” she cried in group. Deciding how and when someone will die is a decision way too heavy for us humans.

For a co-worker, back in my social work days, the pressure was a what.  She was booked to go on a party cruise when she found out she was pregnant.  The cruise was already paid for and she wanted to get her money’s worth – and that meant drinking. Fairly heavily.  She was also newly engaged and she wanted to look slim and trim and not-pregnant in her wedding gown.  She thought she’d just get rid of this baby, conceived at an inconvenient time, and have another, later.

Tim also wanted to know what pastors can do to help women in these crisis situations.  What can a pastor do? What can a church do? What can you do?

In the case of the good girl, you can help her re-frame what it means to set a good example.  Instead of modeling perfect behavior, she can model perfect love.  You can help her show her younger siblings what it means to take responsibility for a mistake.  To lay down one’s reputation, one’s immediate plans, one’s life for the good of another. Jesus said greater love has no one than this.

The woman with the abusive boyfriend needs a dose of logic and some practical help.  Logic because her boyfriend threatened to take the baby if she didn’t abort, and keep him from her.  The abused are often so beaten down by their abusers that they believe their ridiculous threats.  “Joni,” I asked, “why would he take the baby when he doesn’t even want the baby?” With that question her sobbing ceased.  Helping her meant teaching her to take abusive thoughts captive to God – and it meant putting her up in a hotel for a couple of nights until she could arrange to get back to her family in Oregon.

I didn’t know how to help the cruise-bound co-worker back then, back before I became involved with the crisis pregnancy ministry. I knew that she had grown up in a Christian home and that she already knew that abortion would harm her spiritually, so I didn’t say anything.

And I didn’t say anything several months later when she plopped down in a chair in my office and asked, “Now what am I supposed to do?”  Three of us in the foster care agency had gotten pregnant since her abortion – two of us were about to go on permanent maternity leave and one, the first of us to deliver, had just visited the agency that day to show off her newly born daughter.

I began volunteering at a pregnancy help center two years later mainly to educate myself so I would know what to say next time.

I became acquainted with the many ways abortion can do harm – spiritually, physically, emotionally and psychologically. I learned things that may or may not have made a difference in that co-worker’s decision. That crafty serpent was promising her that abortion would be no big deal and oh how she wanted to believe him.

I’ve led several groups of women – and even a couple of groups of men – through a post-abortion Bible study, and I’ve witnessed how healing takes place.

So now, if a post-abortive co-worker were to plop down in my office and ask, “Now what am I supposed to do?,”

I would listen to her story with nonjudgmental ears.

I would help her name all the players in her decision to abort and assign an appropriate portion of the blame to each.

I would gently help her put a slice – no matter how big or small – on her own plate.

And if, after all the excuses and justifications, she could recognize that none of them were worth the price of a life – her child’s life – healing would begin.

And if she could name her child, acknowledge his or her existence, claim him or her as her own, her child would finally have a mother.

I’d help her ask forgiveness – of her child, of God, of herself.  Forgiving one’s self is always the hardest.

A young girl was walking through the woods on a glorious early spring day.  Suddenly a snake appeared in her path…

Forgiving ourselves means recognizing that we’ve been duped by the enemy of our souls; betrayed by the faux friend who offered us a way out and then slithered away hissing “Sucker.”

Men suffer in the aftermath of abortion, too.  Sometimes it’s the father who failed to protect, or who was lied to or who wasn’t given any say in the matter.  Sometimes it’s the man who drove his friend to the clinic, thinking he was doing the helpful thing, only to be smacked in the face by the full realization of what it was he helped her to do.

The pressure to abort almost always involves some sort of fear.  But as long as we have a powerful God to help us, the right solution to a fearful situation is never the taking of an innocent life. Perfect love drives out fear.

Mother Teresa said, “There is no love in abortion.” She was right.  I’ve looked at abortion from every angle and I’ve yet to find any love.

The solution to any crisis pregnancy is Love.

When a woman comes into your pastoral office or your living room or your cubicle contemplating abortion, help her look for the love in it, and when she can’t find any, help her find another solution.  Inspire her towards love.

And when a woman plops down in your office and says, “The serpent deceived me and I ate,” lead her back to love.  Because that’s what God does.

All life is sacred.  The sanctity of life doesn’t only apply to humans.  God is the Good Shepherd of all of His creation.  Jesus told us that not a sparrow falls to the ground outside our Father’s care.

I’ve encountered Christians recently who scoff at praying for a pet. They seem to think having dominion over animals means it’s okay to treat them harshly or callously.  But that’s not how God exercises His dominion over us.   He came into our doghouse and camped out with us for thirty-three years.

As I cared for my dying little beagle these past 3 months, I saw up-close what a Good Shepherd He is.  As I carried her home from a walk too long, holding her little heart to mine, as I cooked for her and prayed for her, anointed her soft little head with oil and measured out medications,  as I showered her with a depth of love I hadn’t previously known, I realized that I am not kinder or more loving or more compassionate than God. As deep as my love for the Be, His was deeper.

Upholding the sanctity of life is not about judgment, upholding the sanctity of life is about Love.

After the Be died on Wednesday I had nothing for today.  I knew I should sit down and gather my thoughts but my mind was numb.  I just needed to grieve.

I tried again on Thursday but to absolutely no avail.  I just needed to be quiet all day.

All of Friday was spent preparing for a Saturday morning deadline.

And then, after an early morning meeting yesterday, the words finally came.  I knew they would be delivered in weakness today, but at least I had them to deliver.

And I think perhaps that was God’s exquisite desire all along – that today’s message be written and delivered from a place of deep grief.

#exquisite

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life, Light

A House of Worship Where Worshipers Arise

The first thing I noticed when the hub and I walked into church Sunday morning was the joy. The place was abuzz with joyful greetings and  joyful conversations.

We were visiting the church affiliated with the Christian school at which the hub is an administrator.  It was their first Sunday in their newly remodeled worship center so we went in support.

The second thing I noticed was the diversity.

Diversity of color, diversity of socioeconomic status, and I suppose diversity of political opinions.

But I heard absolutely no political talk.

And that was refreshingly welcome.

The words, “I’m blessed” came from the lips of those who have a lot, materially speaking, and from the lips of those who have little.

It reminded me of the wonderful diversity at Saturday morning BSF leaders’ meetings.  Everyone is “blessed” there, too.

How is it that both these diverse groups can meet on Sundays – and brutally early on Saturdays – black, white, comfortable, struggling, liberal, conservative – with such joy?

I pondered and concluded that the joyful gather around a person – a Savior – rather than an ideology.

Or a need.

Studying John 6 these past few weeks, I noticed that some who were following Jesus wanted a political leader, they wanted to make him king. Others wanted free bread and fish.

They wanted Jesus to provide for their political and physical needs while all He wanted to talk about was their spiritual needs. So they started grumbling.

And many quit following.

“You don’t want to leave, too, do you?,” Jesus asked the Twelve.

“Where else would we go?,” responded Peter, “You have the words of life.”

Ah, to spend a couple of hours worshiping with those who want nothing from Jesus except life.

The pastor, who was reared in Africa – the son of medical missionaries – lived and served 22 years of his adult life as a church planter and leadership developer in Uganda.

“Worshipers in Uganda wouldn’t like these screwed down seats,” he said, “they’d want to be able to push them aside and dance.”

He was preaching Psalm 100:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

He pointed out that the Hebrew word for “Know” here is not restricted to mental activity. It is a visceral knowledge that goes deep into the emotions, into the “deepest stomach.”

That’s the kind of knowledge that elicits push-those-chairs-aside-and-dance worship.

The kind of knowing that the Lord is God that causes a diverse people to all feel blessed. To stand together joyfully.

In peace.

Toward the end of the sermon the pastor mentioned his little granddaughter.

What kind of a world will she grow up in?, he wondered.

And worried.

But then he caught himself.

She’ll grow up in a world with God.

God never changes – even as the world changes.

The same God who was with him and his family while they were living and ministering amidst wars in Uganda will be with her, too.

She’ll experience God in ways that he has not because she’ll experience Him in a different culture, a different context.

I liked that thought.

I like the idea that the same God is moving just as faithfully and just as powerfully in every generation, but in new and different ways, come what may.

It’s His story, not ours.

His story.

So why are we demanding, grabbing, protesting, threatening, terrorizing, accusing, slandering, backbiting, worrying, panicking when it’s His story?

May we simply gather in church and, God help us, as a nation around the One who created us all.

P.S. Spent a couple of hours this morning cleaning gum off the bottom of lab tables.  Ew. Don’t stick your gum under your desk/table, youngsters, ‘cuz one day somebody’s momma is gonna’ have to scrape it off.

#elicit

 

 

 

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church nonsense, Jesus

Manipulators of Men

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I read a short, encouraging article today. It reminded me of a scene from Blue Like Jazz. I hope you have a minute to read it.

It kinda’ goes along with what I was thinking about after church yesterday.

I used to be a member of a conservative church. Everyone, as far as I knew, was like-minded. So much so that I assumed all Christians were like-minded.

Because everyone was like-minded, the pastor thought nothing of inserting political commentary into his sermons. He didn’t mention anyone by name or violate tax-exempt laws in any way, he just assumed everyone agreed.

From there I began attending a politically diverse church. The pastor may have leaned liberal but the large congregation seemed to be a fairly equal mix of Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Centrists and Conservatives. There were Independents who lean left, Independents who lean right (me) and Libertarians scattered about, too.

Discussions in the Thursday morning women’s Bible study were uplifting. Because we were aware of the diversity of viewpoints, all political comments were made carefully and with respect. As a result we were able to actually hear one another and even broaden our perspectives. It was easy to love those women – even the ones with whom I disagreed – because their respectfulness loved me back, because it was obvious that our Christian sisterhood was more important than our viewpoints. I miss them.

These days I attend a mostly liberal church.

Sitting in the pew yesterday I thought of any liberal-leaning people who may have been in the audience of that first church years ago. And as I sat in their shoes (shoes that probably walked far away) I missed the mix of the second church.

I missed being where a diversity of opinions was assumed and even appreciated. I missed knowing that at least half the congregation saw what I saw.

As I was walking the beagle the other day God reminded me that half the country sees what I see. He brought to mind the county by county map of the US I saw on election night – the one that was almost completely colored red.

When one half of the country is yelling f- you, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the minority.

When you sit in church and hear a faint f-you from the pulpit and feel a silent f-you in the pew next to you, it’s easy to wonder if you are in the wrong family.

I know the incoming administration wants to make changes to the Johnson Amendment to the tax code, but that could become a nightmare for the church.

Fishers of men could become manipulators of men.

I hope not. I think I might do a little research, weigh the pros and cons.

In the meantime my pastoral friends, a sermon that indulges in even the slightest bit of partisan commentary is a sermon that has just lost its power; a sermon that has just clogged the flow of the Spirit.

At our ritual after-church lunch my daughter shared that one of her friends resurrected his LiveJournal account back when they were in college just to post a rant about this very thing. He ended by saying how much he appreciated that his pastor back home just said what Jesus said and left it at that.

Amen.

#aconservativefishinaliberalsea

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