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Posts Tagged ‘believer’

follower of ChristBecoming a follower of Christ was a choice. I did not choose under a haze of emotion or outside pressures or a well-meaning but overly enthusiastic “witness,” but upon completing my first cover to cover reading of the New Testament. The question that came to my mind was simple: Is Jesus the truth or a lie? And despite all my arguments, this one belief found root. Jesus is and was and is to come, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end [Revelation 22:13]. And when the chapter (and the book) ends with these words, “Even so, come Lord Jesus,” I accepted this Way. Put aside the gods that your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt and serve the Lord. But if it seems wrong in your opinion to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Choose the gods whom your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But my family and I will serve the Lord. [Joshua 24:14b-15, CEB] I cannot convince anyone of anything. I cannot “make” you or anyone believe what I believe. I can only speak of this core of Spirit that was born that day and has blossomed into an integral part of myself. Are there things I don’t understand? Of course. Do I ask for clarification? I do. And one day, I believe, though I “see through a glass darkly” still, I will have the fullness of wisdom. But for now, I will hold fast to my God, my Jesus. One of my beloved and venerated church mystics is Julian of Norwich. Some of her sayings capture my meaning today:

Julian of Norwich and her cat

Julian of Norwich and her cat

See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally. See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom and love with which I made it. How can anything be amiss?” and

“Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes a third, a holy and wonderful delight in God, who is love.” [from Revelations of Divine Love]
and most well known of all,
 “And all shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be exceeding well.”
So, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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surrenderIt’s an unpleasant word: bondage. It brings up all kinds of lascivious images of chains and whips and leather. It’s the new interpretation of the word; it’s the culture in which we live. But in this case, it’s about slavery and compulsion and captivity. It is the antithesis to freedom.

During the time before you knew God, you were slaves to powers that are not gods at all. But now, when you are just beginning to know the one True God—actually, He is showing how completely He knows you—how can you turn back to weak and worthless idols made by men, icons of these spiritual powers? Haven’t you endured enough bondage to these breathless idols? [Galatians 4:8-9; The Voice translation]

And the phrase that I keep hearing is “haven’t you endured enough bondage . . . ” How much more do I need to experience before I finally set free from my old self, my old habits, my old way?

I have read that a body, once overweight, believes that higher weight is the norm. As a result, despite conscientious diet and exercise, the body will continue to betray and crave. It wants the old me back again: indulgent and insatiable.

Haven’t you endured enough? Haven’t I endured enough? I have.

I want everything that God has for me.

When I was just a baby believer, trying to figure out what it even meant to follow Christ and how it would change me . . . or, did I even want to change? No, not back then. Truthfully? I wanted everything to stay the same, just add in the Jesus bit. I thought I could treat Jesus like a spice, just sprinkle it on top. That is not how it works. Not really. And especially not if I say the words and surrender.

And I did. I waved the white flag back then and again and again and again. Each time, each year, a new surrender, a new discovery.

That’s been the journey; two steps forward, one step back. But I feel as though I am coming to a new place, a fork in my road, a new terrain. It’s like the last push before reaching the top of the mountain.

Ready.

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One day This DayThe difference between Joseph and me is acceptance of today, just the way it is (not the way I think it should be). Joseph went from “favored son” to “favored slave” to “favored prisoner.” Instead of focusing on the favored part, I’d be moaning and groaning about the other transmutations. I’d be comparing now with what used to be. I’d be comparing now with my dreams. Could this day be God too?
Genesis 39: 5a, 19-21
From the time he [Potiphar] put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. . . . When his master heard [believed] the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison . . . But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.
I remember when I turned thirty (back in the day) and I was sure it was the worst day of my life. I had a litany of accomplishments that I expected to have mastered by then: successful marriage, successful career, stable income, maybe a kid, fabulous apartment, and the perfect body. Instead, I was working as a cocktail waitress in a singles bar, living in a tiny one-room cabin back in my home town (having left New York), with no boyfriend (much less a husband), and totally out of shape. Plus, the one date I did have for my “big turning thirty day” stood me up. I was a mess. God? Surely not. This could not be in God’s plan!
Looking back, of course, I can see some incredible events that happened as a result of my circumstances: the people I met, the healing between my mom and me, but mostly the discovery that I could be alone. I needed to learn who that person was (since my nature had been to define myself by others). I see God in my rear view mirror, but I couldn’t see God then.
Joseph appears to have the gifted insight, at a young age, to trust God no matter what. He took what was given and did the best he could within the parameters he was given. He worked it.
It’s time to take my head out of the sand and really look around. Every neighbor, every acquaintance, every brief encounter at work, every pet (accidents and all), every loss, every gain, every child (adult or not), every married year, every relative, every hour, day, or minute: they are all God.
Last week, I learned that one of my oldest friends (from high school days) is in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. I was so angry, Mary, the happiest one of us all, the most content, the healthiest, the most well-centered in God–she was dying? No Fair! And yet, when I spoke to her, I was immediately arrested by her Today God. She was in the now and accepted this journey just like all the other journeys.
She put me to shame without even trying. Really. Today is God. Thanks. Really, thanks for today. God.

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stone altarThe erecting of pillars and altars and memorials was prevalent throughout the journeys of the ancients. Their milestones marked an event in their journeys that was valued, a testimony to the moment. And today, although we have statues and tributes of buildings, walls, and waterfalls to the wars and losses to be revered, there are no remembrances anymore for a life-changing experience with God.

Genesis 35:14-15
Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel [House of God].

In fact, if anything, most of us forget that moment when we cried out to God, “See me, hear me, oh Lord, help me!” And the cry was heard and our circumstances changed.

I am probably being harsh here. I suppose, if I had to recount some key moments when I was touched by God, I could recount them. But I built no memorial, nothing permanent.

Except the words.

I understood today, that these are where I have built my milestones. These are a memorial to my growth as a believer, a follower of Christ. These are the memories collected in digital ink, to help me remember.

It may be time to take this all a little more seriously. For this season, for this time in my life, this milestone, feels important. Perhaps it’s all the talk of apocalypse (even though we joked through the end of the Mayan calendar), there is a sense within me that challenges will come. This is a time of gathering: my thoughts, my devotion, my surrender, my commitment, my disciplines.

Today, God spoke: Remember who I am and where I dwell. Remember who fights the battles. Remember your promise.

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Although Abram could believe that God would provide him with descendants as numerous as the stars, he questioned God’s ability to give him the land. Perhaps there were enough loopholes in the promise to make a baby, but land was solid; land was imperishable; land was enduring. And in this case, the land was occupied.

Genesis 15:7-8; 18a
He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” . . . On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land . . .

Whereas the baby was a promise, the land became the end result of a contract, a covenant. It was formal and branded with the blood of animals. When blood is spilled over a promise, then it is unbreakable.

In some ways, this sign is still with us today; we hear of it in other cultures like blood oaths and blood rituals. These are done with the same intent, a promise, a loyalty, a trust, are exchanged.

There are a number of blood covenants in scripture and of course, the most important one to believers and Jesus followers, is the blood of the Christ, the Messiah, spilled once for all.

The Israelites gained and lost the land through poor judgment and sin. All through the history, kings fought over the land and by the time of Solomon, it had been taken back and restored to the people of the promise, the people of the covenant. And yet, in not so many generations later, the land was lost again. Today’s Israel is still fighting, for good or not, I do not know, but it is in their DNA to pursue the land that was lost.

The Christ, the very Son of a Holy God, spilled blood as a substitute for our own blood in place of those conscripted animals who annually paid the price in times long past for the sins and bad choices of Human. But just as the Israelites lost their land, despite the promise, Human is loosing everlasting life through distraction, unbelief, division, and tunnel vision.

Too many times, we, Human, we act as though the covenant is failing or no longer powerful. But I know that is not so. I know this deep in my soul.

And so, forgive me Father, when I look elsewhere for the “solutions” to my problems, when I look elsewhere for direction, when I don’t look at all. Forgive me Covenant maker.

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Want to experience authentic Christ followership? It’s the opposite of everything imaginable: love enemies, serve to lead, sit to stand, humbleness for glory, just to name a few. The key to all faith paradoxes is trust and confidence in the God who operates outside of natural laws, basics, like gravity.

I Peter 5:6-7
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Grace is a paradox too.

I’ve been captivated by paradox within my faith for the last three years. I can’t seem to get away from it, as though this one understanding is waiting to be fully embraced, as though I am on the precipice of really “getting it.” Something inside me keeps saying, “once this truth is broken apart, I will be stepping into the deepest places where faith, trust, hope, and love are the norm.

It would be a spiritual Sadie Hawkins life when those seemingly opposite behaviors would be natural. Expectations would no longer drive my emotional responses; disappointment wouldn’t overpower faith; fear would be a memory; anger wouldn’t be a useful tool to get my way; and controlling words would be unfamiliar.

If I could “cast my anxieties” on Christ, there would be nothing to carry.

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Favoritism with ice cream is a lot different than favoritism with people. Oh I might try not to judge people on first impressions but I find it inescapable. Can I overcome these moments with intentional action?

James 2:1, 4
My brothers [and sisters], as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. . . . have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Some years ago when we still lived in Atlanta, we attended a small church composed mostly of fellow believers who had been asked to split away from a larger denominational church because of our bent toward the charismatic. One of our leaders, Jim, was a wonderful man, kind and dignified, smart and loving. I will never forget the day he taught about enthusiasm: “If you want to be enthusiastic, sometimes you just have to act enthusiastic to feel it.” And then he proceeded to stomp and cheer and pump his arms around like a lunatic. It was hysterical but his message stayed with me.

Personally, enthusiasm comes easily to me. In fact, when I’m excited about a project, I’m quite the cheerleader, almost nauseatingly so, I’m sure. But how can I take that passionate commitment to action and use it to break down my internal tendencies toward judging others through intentional choices to change?

Some people call it a “besetting sin.” When I looked that up, it can also mean a type of harassment, or being surrounded, or an obsession. I can certainly relate to my judging of others in that way. My time in confessional prayers is dominated by asking forgiveness for my judgments. And in my way of thinking, judgment and favoritism go hand in hand. I cannot “favor” one person above the other without having made a negative of judgment of the other.

What to do? I know I can’t just tell myself to stop. If that worked, I’d be golden by now. Should I treat it as a bad habit and follow these 29 Tips for Changing a behavior?

Here are some suggestions from Oprah.com (go figure) written by Tim Jarvis. At first I was going to make a joke about it, but perhaps I need to take a few of these ideas to heart:

  • Like the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, it may take a number of efforts to get to the “boiling point” or threshold when things happen. So, in my case, the more I tackle this issue, the more aware I am and the more opportunities to get over the hump.
  • I need to think more about the other side, what it would look like and feel like to “not” be a judge so much. Instead of looking back at my failures, look ahead.
  • One of the approaches for change is to engage in community. This is why groups like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous are so important: support and encouragement. Hmmm. Not sure how to translate my habit of the heart into a club of regenerated judges.

A friend of mine who struggles with food addiction says that this is one of the most difficult addictions to tackle. After all, unlike alcohol and drugs which can, to some degree be avoided, food is always with us. I think judging and dis-favoring others is similar. People are everywhere. I say that I love to “people watch,” but I wonder if that’s not just a buzz word for judging, mocking, and categorizing. Not a good thing.

What do you do? Honestly. Am I really alone out here?

Lord, forgive me again. Today. And right now, I’d appreciate it.

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