A Price Tag for Perspective

I held a book parallel to the floor at his eye level, so that he couldn’t see the cover or spine or back cover, just white lines of pages at the top of the book.

“What book is this?” I asked.

He recognized the book by its size and shape and told me.

“Who is the author of this book?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered.

“Perhaps it would help if we changed our perspective,” I said, as I turned the book so that he could see the spine.

He read the author’s last name.

“What’s the author’s full name?”

“I don’t know,” he answered.

I turned the book again, this time so that he could see the front cover. He read the author’s whole name, and could now also tell me the full title and subtitle of the book.

One afternoon last week, this was how my son and I began a discussion about perspective.

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He was disappointed that there were things he couldn’t do until he finished the things he had to do. I talked about what the experiences of other children who are in school from 8:30 to 3:00 each day might be like. I talked about the things he had the privilege of doing every day that other kids couldn’t.

My goal wasn’t really a lesson in comparison. Ultimately, my goal was to help him see his situation from a different perspective.

I’ve commented before that self-pity is a dangerous bedfellow and if you let him, he’ll convince you that there are all these things that you need and deserve and ought not to have to deal with because you are you and somehow, you’re just entitled to get what you want and not get what you don’t want.

At the end of a week of not sleeping particularly well, I came down with an absolutely wretched sore throat that had me up in the night attempting to gargle salt water (that ended badly on this occasion…), and eventually sipping on hot water with honey and lemon into the wee hours of the morning.

Self-pity might be quick to whisper: Oh this is awful. You don’t deserve this. You have so much going on, why should this be happening to you?

But if I lean into the Truth a little harder, I’ll hear a very different message: The Lord is with you, even here in this circumstance. What a privilege it is that you live in  a place where you have access to excellent medical care if you need it, and you have the resources to pay for it. 

Self-pity is often quick to point out where things are going right for everyone else. While this whisper may not surface in words, it can give you the vague illusion that you’re the only one really suffering. Everyone else in your sleepy little town is fast asleep tonight at 4 am, while you are awake and miserable.

But lean a little closer to the Truth and you’ll remember: People are suffering all over the world. Within a few minutes online just today, I saw friends in the hospital with their children, a friend asking for prayer for a father who had a heart attack, and imagery from ReSurge International, requesting support for children around the world living in poverty who need access to plastic surgery that will change their lives forever. 

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You can’t put a price tag on perspective, can you?

When our circumstances feel less than ideal, it’s easy for us to dwell on what’s wrong and forget to give thanks for all that’s right.

Truthfully, there are thousands of gifts for the counting in our every day lives. And sometimes just choosing gratefulness for the good is enough to lift your eyes above the bad and change your perspective.

No, I didn’t want to be in bed sick that morning, but aren’t I so fortunate my husband works from home and is able to help with the children and let me rest?

Perhaps you can’t afford something you’ve been hoping for, even saving up for, for a long time — but how many other gifts are you surrounded by? Start counting and be amazed that it’s hard to stop.

Perhaps, like the Apostle Paul, there’s this ‘thorn in the flesh’ — this circumstance you feel trapped in, and you can’t see past it to any good possibilities. But after asking the Lord to take it away, Paul heard the Lord say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

We recently had a couple of days at the beach together with family visiting from far away. I wondered how our little two-year-old Belle might feel about the big, crashing waves, perhaps feeling a little cold in a wet bathing suit with a breeze. From her perspective, the waves crashing just twenty feet away are way above her head, and when one comes in quickly, it’s above her knees in just a moment.

But, she’s surprised me each and every time we’ve been to the beach. She wants to hold a hand, and head straight for the water. She is joyful and delighted to be at the beach. She gets knocked down, but she gets up again. She gets water in her eyes, but she recovers quickly and is ready to get back to splashing.

Something in her perspective tells her: this place is a gift. I’m happy to be here. I’m going to enjoy every moment of this place.

Oh, what the Lord can do, both in and through our souls when we truly see that our lives are so full of grace, so full of gifts!

Turn the book over today, friends. Try to see your circumstances from a different perspective. Look for reasons to give thanks, to be brave, to love with abundant grace, and just keep on saying thank you.

Take off your shoes, remember: Your weakness creates a glorious space for His all-sufficient strength. Lean hard on Him.

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To Smile at the Good, and To Smile at the Bad

While enjoying new and different books with my children these first few years as a parent, I’ve rediscovered lots of favorite books from my childhood. One lovely rediscovery I enjoyed from the Bear’s kindergarten year at homeschool was Madeline.

Ludwig Bemelmans’ simple, rhyming narrative is wonderfully engaging, and his matching illustrations, which guide you through the streets of Paris are so charming:

In two straight lines
they broke their bread
and brushed their teeth
and went to bed.

They smiled at the good
and frowned at the bad
and sometimes they were very sad.

In the book, the twelve little girls who walk in those two straight lines smile at a nobleman caring for his horse, frown at a thief running off with a purse and are very sad at the sight of a wounded soldier walking on crutches in the snow.

Over the past few weeks, it seems like memories of a dozen different experiences in my life have come to mind, and I (mostly) smile at them now, seeing how good they were for my life, my soul, my walk with the Lord.

But at the time? There was a lot more frowning.

 

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When I finished my Masters’ degree and my first job was at a Pawn Shop, or when Hero Hubs and I were in our first year ministering in a new country together, and life was hard, and we felt isolated, and it was totally unclear how we were going to make it financially… I can furrow my brow just remembering what it felt like. Frown.

No one has the ability to completely step outside themselves and see their situation from an un-invested point of view, but once each challenging season has finished, and I’ve had a chance to regroup, perhaps heal a little and catch my breath, I’ve had the privilege of beginning to recognize a few of the incredible things that the Lord was doing in my life during that hard time.

A friend of mine lost her grandmother last week, and as she shared about how she was feeling and I talked with her about that long and strange journey called grief, the opportunity to remember and think about my own grief in losing my Dad arose. While I still frown at the thought of losing him, I can also smile in thinking about how near the Lord was to me in that brokenhearted season. He gave me so many gifts, as I heard important words I needed to hear from complete strangers at the hospital, or received smiles from my four-month-old baby girl who was a fountain of joy in a season of sorrow.

While none of us knows for sure what lies ahead on the path of our lives, if there is a lesson I could permanently seal on my heart (and perhaps yours?) from watching this pattern over the years, I’d remind myself of this truth:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord will give grace and glory.
No good thing will He withhold 
from those who walk uprightly. {Ps. 84:11}

Even though our walks with God may not be perfect, because we are covered in the upright walk of Christ, we can trust that God is a sun — giving us light — and a shield — giving us protection. He breathes grace and glory into every situation we will ever face.

And the things that we would initially want to frown at — a job that will teach us a lifetime of lessons, including humility, or a season that will teach us to trust Him — are actually good reasons to smile. He knows that the difficult seasons produce beautiful fruit in our souls — and, how beautiful!,  He does not want to withhold those good things from us.

So here’s the challenge in all this, for both your heart and mine: the next time we receive some bad news, what if we just tried to smile at the bad? And to breathe words of faith through those teeth that we’re gently bringing together — God, you don’t withhold good things from Your children. You breathe life, You give grace and You make hard places glorious. I trust You, right here.

Lord, help us all to see, in our lives, Your glory.

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For Erin and for Sydney

On the Other Side of Easter, When Things Still Aren’t Fixed

It was a week that didn’t feel particularly holy. The run-up to Easter Sunday was more like a stilted, slow limp — a week where I was already pulling a meal out of the freezer on Monday night because I was tired and I. just. couldn’t.

A wretched sore throat kept me awake past my bedtime Sunday night. The kids were out of sorts with sniffles and coughs, and even though we’ve been going to bed earlier than most of your grandparents probably do, dear reader, still the unusual nightly interruptions from the toddler who either just really needed a sip of water or had this dream about a puppy and there was a spider… it was enough to make a girl want to hit snooze twelve times when the alarm went off in the morning.

So, I wasn’t feeling great. The kids weren’t feeling great. Even the Hero Hubs, who is made of granite, marble and gloriously-dogged-consistency, felt, ya know, maybe 98% instead of his usual 100.

A family member an ocean away passed away, and we felt far away, heavy-hearted, thinking of his wife, his daughters, the sad way things came to an end.

The week dragged on, and it was about Thursday — I am regularly willing to admit to you all that I am a slow-learner — it hit me: If I can turn my attention to Christ, I can identify with Christ, especially in my sufferings.

Yes, I read the Bible pretty much daily, and still — it was Thursday. The week before Easter.

I pondered these thoughts, twirled them around in my heart like a lock of hair around my finger, and tried to just keep turning my attention.

Of all weeks, Lord, yes — this is a good week, and, strange as it sounds to say it, it’s a good week for suffering.

This was the week of Your greatest suffering.

You lived out Your suffering with determination, knowing it had a world of purpose.

You saw the joy set before You, and so You endured the Cross.

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A dear friend called, who’d been going through some serious health issues and some significant suffering, and her voice beamed at the other end of the phone as she proclaimed that same revelation: we meet God in our sufferings, He uses our sufferings for our own good, and she added some powerful thoughts for me to keep twirling: “I love God so much, I just want to make sure that I am honoring Him, and pleasing Him, even in my suffering.”

When I don’t feel good? It’s probably fair to say I consider it a completely valid get-out-of-jail-free-card to kind of be a little bit of a brat. Sarcastic with my kids. Overly dramatic. Less than purposeful with my time, my thoughts, my words… my life.

But suffering is a Refiner’s fire, isn’t it? This place that draws these things out, from deep in our hearts. They bubble up to the surface, because the fire’s turned up under us, and, if we’ll let Him, the Refiner can skim that dross right off of us. If we’ll let Him.

If we’ll let Him.

I thought and listened and prayed. If I believe Your Word, my suffering has purpose, too. I can identify with you in Your sufferings and remember what You endured for me. I will find strength and purpose when I find You in my sufferings. They will produce endurance, perseverance, character, and so many good things in me. I am being made more like You.

Instead of presenting me with a glass of water and a fluffy pillow, life presented me with opportunities to give, to serve others, and to find joy in doing so.

For Jesus, the week that began with everyone crying Hosanna! quickly transitioned to behind-the-scenes schemes to capture Him, a mock trial, severe beatings, and eventually death on a Cross. But in His sufferings, He just kept serving.

He cleansed the temple. He kept teaching. He kept healing. He laid aside His garments and took a towel to wash His disciples’ feet.

The God who could’ve fought back in 1,000 ways took the beating, to serve the world by saving the world. He took the beating, stretched out His arms, put on our sin, and while Heaven looked away, when He’d given everything He was supposed to give, and taken everything He was supposed to take (for us) He gave His life, too.

The time between the Cross and the Resurrection must’ve been so hard for the disciples — when they could not yet see the purpose of the sufferings of Jesus. I imagine them, swallowed up by their own pain in losing Him. It was perhaps the longest, most miserable low point of their lives. They’d left everything to follow Jesus, and He was gone.

But hope was ahead!

And Sunday morning, the tomb was empty.

What did that mean? Jesus was Who He said He was and is Who He says He is. The Crux of the whole narrative of the Christian faith hinges on this very point: Jesus rose from the dead.

It changed everything. It renewed the disciples’ purpose, transformed their faith, and changed them from a motley band of unexpected choices to bold proclaimers of the Truth who turned the world upside down.

But what about us, two thousand years later?

We still live in a broken world, and we will suffer while we’re here. We watch the news and our hearts sink, thinking of the precious lives senselessly taken in Kenya. The refugees whose months are turning to years of displacement in Syria. A local boy lost his life in a farming accident and our town grieves this life cut short.

Easter has come, Jesus has risen — but everything isn’t fixed yet. This world still feels broken.

But we also live on a visited planet, walked by God’s Son, Who demonstrated the power to overcome evil, disease, sickness, storms and trials of every kind, and then, even death itself. This is where our story finds hope.

Where is hope without the Resurrection of Jesus? Where is hope if this is all there is?

Before He went to the cross Jesus warned His disciples that difficult roads lie ahead of them. {John 16} They’d be kicked out of the synagogues. People would kill them and genuinely think they were doing God a favor. Jesus explained that he wasn’t going to always be with them, He was going to the Father.

But He spoke words of hope to His disciples: “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

Like Jesus’ disciples, in the time between the Savior hanging on the Cross and the Resurrection, we live in an in-between. The Resurrection has taken place and Jesus has overcome. The world is still broken, but He is coming again. He is making all things new. In the meantime, we will have tribulation, trials and suffering, but now, He is with us.

Whether you’ve experienced a great and terrible loss or you’re just trying to keep putting one foot in front of the other in your day to day life, the gloriously good news of Jesus overcoming death is the hope we’ve all been waiting for.

This world feels very broken right now, but this world isn’t all there is, and the story’s not over yet.

Your story is not over yet — and you have the daily opportunity to make this place a better place to be. When you suffer, know that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and He saves those who are crushed in Spirit. {Ps. 34:18}

He is our hope, and He is near.

We can find purpose, we can find redemption, we can even find joy in those trials. He has overcome, and an entire world of people who believe His story can declare this Good News together: this story isn’t over yet!

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When Your Six-Year-Old Schools You About Fruits and Roots

There’s this thing about the childlike faith thing that unravels me a little bit — I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. Maybe it’s because I see my children as just a little wild, just a little spontaneous… just a little too young for me to figure out how faith like a child can get it — the grand and glorious goodness of a humble and holy God.

Does it take wisdom to take Jesus to heart?

Doesn’t it?

For all my sensibilities, I would’ve thought so.

But a little child shall lead them…

An impromptu prompting came to my mind on a homeschooling Monday morning. Our sweet little Tiger Tank safely dropped off at preschool, the Belle beside me crunching a few crumbs at the table, the Bear and I sat down to begin our day, and I laid my big Bible on the table, and turned to Galatians.

Can you read chapter 6, verse 7 for me?

I helped him find the way.

He began: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he reap.”

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We talked about the big words in this verse, and then about sowing seeds and reaping harvests. If I sow an apple seed, will an orange tree grow? No. Since the beginning, God created the world so that the seeds we sow will reap a harvest according to the seed. And if someone says I can plant these apple seeds and grow orange trees? They are deceiving me. (Or trying to.) We talked and questioned and talked a bit more.

We’ll be planting our garden soon. And we talked it out: our cucumber seeds will give us cucumber plants. Our tomato seeds will give us tomato plants.

But what other kinds of seeds can we sow?

We looked back at the adjacent page, laid open for the reading, and remembered something we talked about last year: the fruits of the Spirit. We can sow seeds of kindness. If you are kind to your brother, he is likely to be more kind to you. We can sow seeds of gentleness. We can sow seeds of patience, goodness, self-control. 

And can we sow bad seeds? And what happens if we do? What will we reap if we hurt? If we’re mean? Don’t you receive your own discipline if you hurt your brother or sister? These are different seeds that grow different fruits.

He took the concept to heart, and ran with it. It took him a moment to put it into words, but then I was so struck my jaw hung open, hearing his observation:

“The bad roots tangle the good roots and pull the good roots, and they break off the good roots so that they can’t find water.”

I hadn’t even mentioned the word “roots” — or thought about roots yet, for that matter.

Wide-eyed at his observation, wondering about his understanding, I quickly wrote down what he’d said.

Isn’t this true: There is no fruit if there is no root.

And isn’t this a truth about life? For all the good we might be attempting to sow, if we are also sowing bad seeds — we only have this one life, this one garden to plant in — and we can’t think that the one will not affect the other.

If we keep sowing seeds of anger, and we protect that plant, and allow it to flourish instead of pulling it up like the weed that it truly is — won’t that anger affect the rest of our lives? Deep underneath the soil, those roots will strangle the good things trying to take root, find water and grow.

We might find a convenient tomato cage to put around our bitterness, try to keep it to its own little corner of the garden — but those roots will stretch out under the ground in any direction they choose. And they’ll hinder the growth and flourishing of the good seeds we’re sowing. Deep under the soil, things are happening we can’t see and don’t always understand.

We discovered it quickly in our garden last year: it’s hard to grow good things. It’s easy to grow weeds.

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On the way home from a photo session that evening, the Hubs and I were chatting, and I shared about the Bear’s significant comments on that Bible verse that morning. Then a professional athlete came up in conversation who was once the premier player in his sport. He won and won and won, and changed the face of the sport he represented, and then it all came crashing down when a big bright light was shone on his personal life. A mistress, an affair, infidelity — it seemed like all the world had front row seats to watch his world, falling apart.

And we thought long and observed: the roots were all planted in the same soil. For all the care and discipline and focus and effort he showed in excelling in his sport, still the lack of care and focus and discipline in his personal life meant tangled up roots — the bad seeds he sowed in his personal life produced bad fruit, and the good fruit of his professional life was a casualty when it came time to harvest.

For all our efforts, we are still only human at the best of times. We get angry. We get bitter. We get hurt and we react.

What hope is there for any of us, who will only ever fall short?

Paul wrote about it to the Romans, {see ch. 7} his observation about how he did what he did not want to do, and did not do what he did want to do. Sin dwells in me, he wrote. Oh wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?

I thank God — through Jesus Christ Our Lord! 

Here is the hope for all of us: Jesus, who died to sin and died for sin, so that we could be freed from sin to live a new life in Him.

Paul continued this theme in chapter 8 with the glorious news:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We know we fall short. We know we sow amiss. But the law is fulfilled for us in Him — for us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Left to our own devices, we will always only ever be a mess. But if we yield our lives to the Spirit of God, Who can dwell in us, and Whose fruit is kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control… there is hope for us still.

We can sow kindness, and reap it. Sow gentleness and receive it in return.

The gardens of our hearts will not likely be weed-free until some glad morning when we’re called to our forever home in Him… but there is hope that even in this life, we can find help to get some weeds out of our hearts, to sow good seeds, and bear good fruit.

The afternoon of our great conversation, there was a marked difference in the Bear’s behavior. He was carefully choosing to say “Yes ma’am.” To listen and immediately do what I’d asked. To be respectful and polite and to share.

You’re being such a thoughtful boy today! I thanked him and praised his efforts.

He quickly replied as if it must’ve been obvious: “I want to sow good seeds.”

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Get Back Up

It’s unfortunate. It’s painful. It’s lousy. It hurts.

Life knocks you down.

You know what I mean?

The thing happens that you were praying wouldn’t.

Those words are said and they cut you so deep your heart physically hurts for a while.

He is sick or she is sick or you are sick and it is scary and it is hard and it hurts.

You’re forced to say goodbye way before you expected, and you just weren’t ready.

One way or another, one cause or another, sometimes you’re on your back, looking at the ceiling. And sometimes, you’re not even completely sure how you got there.

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At first, it hurts to be on the floor. It hurts to be down. It hurts to be laid low, and it hurts to feel it affect how you live. The light in your eyes is gone. The joie de vivre is missing. Your hope grew feathers and flew away without you.

After a while, you wonder how long you can stay down. And, sometimes, you think… maybe I should just stay down. Big dreams end with big heartache, so I’m staying small, you think. It’s not so bad laying low, being close to the ground. Less likely getting hurt down here anyway.

You’re still breathing, sure, but sometimes, you kind of stop living.

A few decades late to the punch, I devoured the Rocky films a few years ago. I loved the portrayal of the inner fight so much more than anything happening in the ring. The story (in Rocky I) of somebody who felt like a nobody pouring every ounce of himself into a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change his destiny — it was a story about heart that someone who didn’t care an ounce for boxing could still relate to.

We’ve all at some stage felt like a nobody who believed they had more inside of them to live for and to give to the world, than just this.

But the most compelling aspect of the story (for me) at nearly every turn, was watching Rocky’s decision to get back up.

When he faced a super-trained Soviet giant, (Rocky IV) and all the odds were against him, and he was outmatched in size and strength and he had nothing but his own determination to avenge the death of an old friend, he got in the ring. He took the hits that came his way, and sure, steady, consistently, he fought round after round after round, winning a crowd who began the match completely against him — simply because they were amazed by how he fought with heart. How he got back up.

What compelled him to get up again and again, what compelled him to keep going, every time he was clocked or decked or nearly knocked out?

I can only think that he kept getting back up because he still believed he had a chance at victory. He fought to win. And he always fought with everything he had in him.

We get knocked to the mat in life, too. And it can feel like we’ve got an opponent standing over us, willing us to stay down.

And the truth is, we do.

Paul warned the Corinthians — Our enemy will try to take advantage of us. We cannot afford to be ignorant of his devices. (2 Cor. 2:11)

It would suit our enemy well for us to get knocked down and to stay down.

To choose safe over brave.

To choose comfortable over purposeful.

To choose to keep breathing, but to kind of stop living.

But what a wild thought is this: could the victory be the thing that gets us off the mat?

Could hope be the thing that challenges us to forsake safe and dare to be dangerous?

And don’t we have the victory already?

It was two years ago today, when I said that hard goodbye to my Dad — a heart-heavy see you on the other side.

And I remember the haunting words of that song about Home — the ones that felt like a God-whisper:

The trouble, it might drag you down,
if you get lost, you can always be found…

And I see fresh truth: the troubles we experience in this life can literally drag us down. Pin us to the mat. Convince us it’s okay to stop living and just keep breathing.

I’ve walked that road a time or two.

We can get lost, wandering through those troubles. Grief, and hurt, and heartache — they can be winding paths that feel like labyrinths we can’t find a way out of.

Sometimes the decision not to cry anymore is also a decision not to laugh anymore. Numb is the easy route.

But friends, there is always hope. With God, nothing is impossible. Do you believe that deep down, in your soul?

When the odds seemed completely stacked against us, when the Saviour of the World was crucified, dead and laid in a tomb, when anyone who believed would’ve been sure the Light of the World had been extinguished — and when it seemed like hope was completely foolish — by the power of God, the Spirit of God brought about a Resurrection.

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“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” {Romans 8:11}

There is a power at work in us — there is a hope that we can hold onto. Because we are not just the servants of the Crucified King — we are also those who worship the Risen Lord.

There is nothing too hard for God and there is no reason for His children to live pinned to the mat.

Have you let a place in your soul give up and lay down?

Get Back Up.

Have you decided to stick with safe at the expense of stupendous, stellar, spectacular?

Get Back Up.

Is there any place in your heart that has been given to despair?  Or just quietly resigned to the fact that “this is how I’m always gonna feel, and this is how it’s always gonna be?”

Get. Back. Up.

It’s written in Black & White: If His Spirit lives in you, He can give you LIFE.

He came to give you LIFE, and give it to you MORE ABUNDANTLY.

And? He is the way, the truth, and the LIFE.

Troubles might drag you down, but if you get lost, you can ALWAYS be FOUND.

Because you can never be separated from the love of God, poured out for us in Christ Jesus.

Find yourself in Him today, and there you will find the strength — no matter what — to get back up.

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— For Missy

Who are the People of the Cross?

It was just a few days before Lent – a season for Christians around the world to humble themselves, focus more deeply with a hope of understanding the message of the Cross – when a “Message Signed With Blood for the People of the Cross” went out. Twenty-one Egyptian Christians were beheaded in a mass killing, intended to be a message to Christians around the world.

Who are the people of the Cross?

When Jesus arrived on the scene some 2,000 years ago, He was rejected by Israel — the very nation He arrived to share the Good News with first.

Israel’s rejection of the Gospel was not a flippant “Mmmm… I don’t think I really like what this Jesus guy is saying” kind of response — His words and His ways were turning their worlds upside down and it was more than they could handle.

While the Jews saw riches as the blessing of the Lord, Jesus told the rich young ruler who approached Him to give it all away and follow Him to find eternal life. (Mark 10)

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While the Jews had kept the Passover faithfully for more than a thousand years — this mark and preservation and remembrance of their entire nation being delivered from 400 years of bondage in Egypt — Jesus turned the Passover tradition upside by breaking the bread and saying “I am this bread” and by taking the wine and saying “I am this wine.” This is and always has been symbolic of Me, and I will be broken and poured out for you.

While other rabbis only selected the best of the best who approached them and sought to become their disciples, Jesus was the Rabbi who went out looking for, and chose men every other rabbi would’ve rejected. Men for whom the door of discipleship had long been shut, for whom their religious education was finished, for whom the only open door was continuing in the trade of their fathers before them.

While other rabbis wouldn’t be caught dead teaching a woman, Jesus invited Mary and Martha to sit at His feet and learn from Him.

While those other rabbis prided themselves in the heavy yokes they and their disciples carried for the sake of keeping the law, Jesus said, “Come to me. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

While the Jews saw greatness as sitting at the head of the table and being served, Jesus equated greatness with service and said, “Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. Even I didn’t come here to be served — I am here to serve and give My life up for many.” {Mark 10:43-45, my paraphrase)

After 1,500 long, heavy years of being identified as the people of God, steeped in tradition and history, carrying the burden of making sure the legacy was passed to the next generation so that their entire race would not be wiped from the face of the Earth — it seemed too much to ask, for the Jews to allow someone to arrive on the scene and turn it all upside down.

It was too counter-cultural. Too radical. Too difficult for those who loved and celebrated tradition and hard work and earning righteousness. How could it be a gift now?

And who are the people of the Cross?

While many of the people of Israel rejected Jesus — to the point that they downright crucified Him — still, a faithful remnant understood Him to be the Messiah, the Christ they’d been looking for, waiting for.

And it all seemed turned upside down again, when they realized Jesus was not just a light to the Jews, but the Savior of the Gentiles as well. He came to seek and save the lost — and there was no one on Earth who didn’t fall into that category.

The Son is the Gift, and together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He is also the Giver.

Today — 2,000 years later — on one end of the Earth Christians are standing up for their faith, at the peril of losing their lives. Thousands of miles away, what could we do to say “I’m in, no matter what. Jesus, You can turn my world upside-down, too.”

Who are the people of the Cross?

What would it mean for Christians on this side of the world to live in solidarity with our faraway brothers and sisters being persecuted, even killed for their faith?

What would it mean for us, the wealthiest, most privileged, most educated, most capable generation of Christians who ever lived to decide we will stand together with the world’s poor, the way Jesus told us to?

What would it mean for us to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, to walk into dark places where people are being abused, women and children are being trafficked, lives are being enslaved, and every ounce of hope seems to be extinguished?

What if we’re not called to keep building comfortable homes and comfortable lives? What if we’re not called to keep finding comfortable jobs with comfortable salaries in comfortable areas where our children can receive an education that will help them stay comfortable too?

Who, who, who are the people of the Cross?

Many of us are going. Many of us are doing. Many of us are laying down comfort and convenience, counting the cost and following a Savior who dove into the darkness to turn on the Light.

But we are capable of so much more. Financially, we are able to eradicate extreme poverty. Yes, truly we are. In this generation.*

Strategically, we have the man power and brain power to stop human trafficking dead in its tracks. We are so incredibly well educated and resourced. This is SO possible.

We can support the widows, care for the orphans, love the least of these fully and wholeheartedly.

We could change the face of the planet.

What should we do in the face of extreme evil? How should we respond, as the people of the Cross?

In the face of evil, we should keep on doing good. Keep on shining light in dark places. Down the street from us, and around the world. To widows. To orphans. In the rough part of the towns we live in, and in the slums of Rio and the townships of South Africa.

What will the world see? And what will the world say?

What will we do with the opportunities in front of us?

How will we say yes to the God who loves us so deeply, so dearly, and still has a mission for us beyond what we are expecting or imagining, for the brief moments we have on this Earth? Will we say yes?

What can we say yes to? What can we say yes to today?

Will we answer the message to the People of the Cross, by choosing to truly be the People of the Cross?

Paul wrote it to the Ephesians nearly 2,000 years ago: Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. {Eph. 5:15-16, NIV}

Let’s respond by making the most of every opportunity, saying yes to the Gift and the Giver — if we are the people of the Cross, we will keep on taking up the Cross, keep on laying down our lives, keep on doing good.

xCC

 

 

 

 

 

* See Richard Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel, if you’d like to more deeply understand how little we’re doing in comparison to how much we are capable of.  {Available on Amazon: The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World – affiliate link}