Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘courage’

make a wayWe all were. Sent ahead. In some cases, that is more obvious than in others, but if you think about it, we can each lay a path or new ground for our descendants and loved ones.

But God sent me [Joseph] ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. [Genesis 45:7, NIV]

My mother and father left Europe and came to America and worked hard for the sake of their children and a new life. My mother’s mother left her village in Lithuania to go to Riga to experience city life. In my own life, bouncing from city to city, I eventually landed with a husband and a home here in Maryland and drew three orphaned children to us from Latvia and St. Petersburg, Russia, their lives forever changed.

We can each make a way. We can cut the brambles to the best of our ability so that others can walk behind.

But of course, some people refuse. The road ahead seems too difficult, too overwhelming. And so they sit in what small space they can carve out and wait. Reminds me of the parable of the “talents.” Three servants were entrusted with wealth to invest for the Master while he journeyed away. Two took risks and plunged ahead. But the one merely buried what he was given and although he returned it all, he had made not change or increase.

Humans are given gifts as well as challenges that make us who we are but also help make us what God intends. It is not about the money but about the attitude, the response to life’s events, accepting the truth of what is and making the very best of what that truth can contribute.

This process is true for organizations as well as individuals. Churches, in particular, have a mission to reach out to those stagnant souls who have lost their will or hope toward the next step. The Church, the Body of Christ, can do corporately what cannot always be done by the one. But it must be done in unity and love.

Look back: who is following you? Whose steps are landing in your footprints?

Read Full Post »

Art by Little-LadyBee

Art by Little-LadyBee

Reuben, eldest son of Jacob and Leah, has quite a sin in his past. There may be scholarly argument about it, but the NIV clearly states that Reuben slept with Bilhah, who was Rachel’s handmaid and concubine to Jacob and who bore two of the twelve tribal leaders of Israel (Jacob). What Reuben did was a slap in the face to his own father, and somehow, I think he intended it. For it was Reuben who also found the mandrakes for his mother (Leah) in hopes of helping her carve a more loving relationship with Jacob. It never happened. Reuben had some issues with his father.

And yet, it was also Reuben who tried to save his brother Joseph and his many-colored coat, despite his father’s favoritism.

When Reuben heard the plan, he tried to help Joseph.
Reuben: Let’s not kill him. We don’t need to shed any blood to be free of him. Let’s just toss him into some pit here in the wilderness. We don’t need to lay a hand on him.
Reuben thought perhaps he could secretly come back later and get Joseph out of the pit and take him home to their father before any more harm came to him.  The brothers agreed. [Genesis 32:21-22, The Voice]

Reuben had a bit of righteous indignation, whether toward his father, for the way he treated Leah or, in this case, about the impulsive decision of his brothers to kill Joseph. And yet, whether for good or for ill, Reuben was blinded by his own point of view.

This is a good warning for me. It’s a good warning for us all.

hero or villainWe have all sinned or made bad judgments/decisions along the way. That doesn’t mean we can’t choose rightly today or do a courageous and honorable thing. That thing in our past does work to keep us humble. And that’s not a bad thing really.

The hero act does not erase the past but it does give hope that we can change. All have a potential for good. But we must also take care how we view others: villain or hero?

Read Full Post »

women and storyAbraham protected himself by claiming that Sarah was his sister in the land of Abimelek (Abimilech) and here, Isaac does the same thing, in the same geographical area, with another king (perhaps a son?), also called Abimelek (Abimilech). Scholars are not in agreement about these accounts since they are mirror of one another in so many ways. But for my purposes, they cause a completely different resonance: one that makes my blood boil if you want to know the truth.

When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.” [Genesis 26:7, NIV, emphasis mine] (See Genesis 20 for Abraham’s version.)

In some quarters, commentators have said that these parallel stories show God’s protection over the patriarchs and the beauty of their women. How swell. But in neither story, as told by the Old Testament historians, is there much information about the women and the circumstances in which they found themselves as a result of their husbands clever misinformation (lies). The reason for their deception, in both cases, was to protect their own lives because the ruler might kill the husband to acquire the wife. But a sister? Piece of cake, just hand her over (with gifts from the household of the King to the patriarch, I’m sure).

And so the women, beautiful they may have been, were thrust into the households of foreigners. Nice. Convenient and cunning.

I am more than aware that culturally, in those days, women were a type of property or chattel. They were owned by their husbands and subservient to the lord of the house. Despite these restraints, many women of that period still accomplished great things and often, with courage, they turned their world, the Esthers and Abigails and for all we know, many who went unnamed. But these accounts are few and far between.

Women are a often strong and flexible and most tenacious. They can take a bad situation and make it better. They can tolerate much. They are survivors. But not all women. Too many other women fall in the face of men who strike with force to gain their will. Other women self-medicate to beat back emotional pain. And still others eat until their bodies betray them altogether and beauty is no longer apparent.

I suppose Abraham and Isaac could be commended for their clever little deception. They both gained immeasurably by it and found much favor from the Abimileks in their sojourns. But for the women, it was a sacrifice. And I want to remember that.

As a contemporary reader of scripture, I often remind myself that it’s critical to look between the lines, to pray and contemplate the untold story. So often, scripture time is compressed into a single phrase but it’s really months or years. And in those time frames, there are women living, crying, hoping, and maintaining their faith, often in the face of trial. whats_your_story

For my sisters in faith today, I challenge you, don’t read like a man. Read from your unique femaleness. For it may only be us who hear and see and can recognize those underlying truths. In the centuries since those days, many women’s stories have been lost. We need to remember and we need to repeat our own narratives, to our daughters, to our nieces, to our girlfriends.

Tell your story. No one else is more qualified than you.

Read Full Post »

I have already written about seeing the invisible as well as the Invisible God. Hebrews 12 prescribes another piece of the process: Holiness.

Hebrews 12:14
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

I think it’s a little like being color blind. The closer I come to holiness, the more expansive my color wheel, my prism. When my eyes are clouded by 3-D things, problem mentality, and “what about me?” syndrome, I’m putting myself into a black and white world.

The movie Pleasantville, or even the Wizard of Oz, dramatically captured this difference. Colors look more vivid when they are juxtaposed against shades of gray. Don’t get me wrong, artistically, I love black and white, whether its movies or photographs, but I am talking about a different kind of non-color here. I’m referring to a non-holy world that is flat with unrelenting sameness.

To see God through the lens of holiness, we are promised the universe and that is hinted at through the glory. In American Sign Language, the gesture for holiness is a large arch over the head with the fingers fluttering.

But of course, the real challenge is entering the holy place. I’d say there is a type of nakedness this is a prerequisite for entry, not just the shedding of our outer layer of clothing, but also the skin of expectations and labels and the outer muscles of self-determination. We started walking away from the holy place the first time we said, “No, I want to do it myself.”

I cannot touch the holy because it’s not here in this world.

Holiness is wholeness (completeness, synchronization, transparency); it’s the paradox of loving those who should not be loved, living from inside out, choosing peace over violence, forgiving the unforgivable, mirroring Jesus, and echoing the Holy Spirit.

Wholeness is also brokenness. What is broken? the hard heart, the frozen spirit, the rigid memory, the fear of death.

Holy seeing is not for the faint-hearted. It takes courage and imagination to see what we do not recognize, to see and not identify, to see and embrace.

Read Full Post »

Painting by N.S.G.

It takes a lot of courage, actually, to continue to hope in something or someone, both unseen and yet promised for a time in a future we cannot know. There must be persistence too, but often, it takes plain courage and a type of audacity to believe despite it all.

Hebrews 3:6
But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.
[NIV 1984]

For some people, this tenacity has to have something more substantial to sustain it and so they latch on to a concrete idea still in the future to uphold their courage. Like a date. Apparently, there is a groundswell of believers who are putting their hope and their courage into May 21, 2011 as “judgment day” and the end of the world. These folks are the antithesis of Rob Bell’s stance in Love Wins. Where Bell’s hell is already manifesting here on earth and our battle is in the now for the power of the Kingdom to take hold; these folks are predicting the great rapture for the enlightened and a fiery hell for everyone else; the only winners in their minds are “people like them.”

Of course, this isn’t just in the Christian world; there’s still 2012 to face as well. With the “end” of the Mayan calendar, some people believe and predict, the end of the world as we know it is next year.

To what or in what do these eschatological folks hope? Mostly, it’s “hope nothin’ bad happens to me” and “just in case,” let’s look into some “fire” insurance . . . or assurance, and join this or that bandwagon.

Here’s the rub: hope implies a good end. And it takes courage to hold onto this kind of hope because our world is full of dark things, dark people, dark rulers and “principalities.” [For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12]

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. . . . ” Matthew 10:28a

Courage cannot be built on a 3D world; there are no guarantees here. Courage and hope can only be built on our faith in the truth of a Christ whose Holy Spirit defies logic and protects the Human Spirit from eternal death and separation from the Creator. Nothing more.

To become a believer in the Christ is a statement of hope. For the words of Christ promise that all will turn out for the best. Courage is the ability to face a different world that mocks hope, questions the supernatural, and defies paradox with proofs and logic. To stand. That’s the key. Whether it’s May 21st or 2012, whether it’s sickness or sorrow or disappointment that have been meted out in large doses, we are called to stand on the solid rock of faith.

And if I fall off that rock because my faith was too small or my fears too great? There is still grace.

“But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.” [Acts 27:22]

Read Full Post »

Us. Not just Paul and not just Timothy, us. And just like those two followers of old, we can’t earn a place in the “holy club” either. If God has a purpose and a willingness, then there is also enough grace, because of the work of the Christ, we’re in. And all of this happens “outside of time.”


II Timothy 1:9
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, . . .

I know this verse doesn’t really say “outside” of time, but Paul does write “before the beginning of time,” and I ask, what’s the difference? Because if something is before time, then it’s beyond the control and increments of time. It could be happening “now.” Call is not part of time. That’s amazing!

And if call is not part of time, then service to the Christ is also unhampered by the march of the years of my life. I can be used by God when I am 15 or 90. I can manifest the holy life for a minute, a day, or a lifetime. Those moments are not about me and more than likely, no one will necessarily point at my life’s work or example and say, “oh look, a holy life.” My holy life is in the hands of God’s purpose and grace.

I have skipped the previous verse that articulates the importance of suffering as a portion of the call. This aspect is always a challenge to me. Is suffering a testimony to holiness? I know there are some I can attest it’s true, friends who have walked the suffering pain of cancer and many to their death. Their courage and their abiding love for God during their illnesses humble me still today.

Is that time still to come? I don’t know. Will I choose with courage? If I can just hold on to one truth: suffering in time is finite while the holy life is eternal.

Read Full Post »

No matter what we do, we are admonished to do it all in love. It is unfortunate that the “love” message has gotten so watered down by our current culture. That’s so simplistic, we might think. It’s so 60’s. It’s so “new age.” We miss the power.

I Corinthians 16:13-14
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.

The more I study, the more sure I am that love is the bottom line. If there was love in our words and actions, so much would come out differently.

Intending to love and actually loving are different. The first one doesn’t really count.

I keep reminding myself that love is about “other.” Love is not just a soft feeling. As the saying goes, “love is a verb.” It might only take a moment to ask myself the question, how are my words and actions speaking and demonstrating love? Is it in my voice quality? Is it in my facial expression. Is it in my touch? Is in my choice of words? Is it in my heart?

Is love in my work?

In verse 16:13, Paul has a string of encouragements about strength and courage. Isn’t it interesting that these would be partnered with doing everything in love? Apparently, these qualities are part of the love quotient.

To love in the face of “no love” is far more difficult than any other human act.

Will I stand for love today? Will I be strong? Will I have courage to love? And harder still, can I love without payback? Like everyone else, I want to be loved too. I want to be cared for and appreciated and nurtured. I want to be complimented and admired. I want to be known.

But we’re back to paradox. I’m sure of it. To be loved, I must love…. in everything. So simple.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: