Tag Archives: church

I Chose Love

There seems to be so much in the world that divides us these days. I guess it’s always been that way. Even within groups there are divisions. But I’ve always been one to seek common ground and find ways we can all get along.

The common ground I find is Jesus’ command to love. In 1 Corinthians 12 Jesus is speaking about our gifts and the many members of the body of Christ. He speaks about the greatest of the gifts – love.

Starting at verse 31 He tells us that He is going to show us the most excellent way:

And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self- seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

There are many mysteries in life. Jesus tells me  when I see Him face to face I will fully understand. Clearly I don’t understand it all right now. And I am OK with that and I accept that. Within the church there are differences of opinions about how to respond to what is happening in the world.  I have faith and hope that I will understand when I see Him face to face. But the greatest thing I can show now is love.

Advertisements

When Your Old Self Shows Up – Again

Wooden Christian Cross

I am finding it very interesting and very humbling how easy it is for me to fall back into my old ways. It tells me that I need to stay on my knees and prayed up – even regarding the areas of my life that I thought had been conquered.

Let me explain. I once had a bit of a short fuse – apparently I still have it. I am not one to blow up and create a ruckus. But I am easily annoyed and I will cop an attitude and release a snide comment or two and even perhaps walk out of the room and commence the complaining. You won’t hear me raging, yelling or slamming and banging doors or anything like that. But my mother always knew when I was super annoyed about something because she said my jaw muscle got tight. That may have been my way of trying to keep my mouth shut. I’m not really sure. But I know lately I am having a hard time keeping my mouth shut and taking my annoyances to Lord in prayer. I have tried avoiding situations that have the potential to annoy me but I can’t avoid every situation. And I can give you a whole laundry list of things that annoy me.

Now I’ve tried to examine the things annoy me and understand why I find them annoying. But the only explanation is that I am a sinner and if not kept in check, I can be a bit unpleasant to be around. And I don’t mean to be unpleasant. I will complain and I will be critical of others. The irony is that I will be one of those people that even I would find annoying. I don’t believe it is wrong to be annoyed. I think it’s normal to find things annoying from time to time but our behavior and reaction to being annoyed is the problem.

So, I have found myself lately falling back into that ‘Critical Kara’ behavior. So, when my old self shows up again, I am asking the Lord to soften my heart of those things I find annoying and look at them with compassion. I am asking the Lord to capture every wicked thought and to harness my tongue. And to stop complaining – again.

Philippians 2:14-16

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life–in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.

Whose Praise Do You Want?

Man Praise

It is a daily task to remind myself that I can’t think like the world or get praise from the world and call myself a child of God at the same time. The two cannot coexist in any peaceful manner within me. One or the other is going to get the short end of the stick.

I was reading John 12 the other day. It is a familiar part of scripture where Jesus is teaching and performing miracles. The time frame was right before the crucifixion. Many people in the land were starting to believe and to follow Christ. The many included some Jewish leaders too. However, they were afraid to openly confess that they were following Christ. They were afraid of being put out of the synagogue.

The scripture says: for they loved praise from men more than praise from God. John 12:43

Have you ever been in that situation? Afraid to speak up for God, afraid to publicly say you follow Christ. I recall a friend saying once, “I believe in Jesus but I’m not some Jesus freak.” I chuckled at that. I never explored fully what the friend meant. My guess is that the friend was worried about what people would say about him. He was more interested in the praise of people.

In my mind, to be totally sold out, wholeheartedly following Jesus, you would be seen as a freak. To live wholeheartedly for Christ means you aren’t following the world. That alone makes you the odd man out. It is an every day, every moment commitment to follow Him wholeheartedly. I don’t know about you but the things of the world have a strong and familiar attraction to them. And as creatures of habit, aren’t we comforted by the things that are familiar? Stepping outside our comfort zone takes work and effort. I have to work at it and I don’t always get it right. But I try.

I have faced the challenge of how I am viewed among friends and acquaintances. I believe right now those who have known me for years – friends and family included – are probably thinking I’ve gone off the deep end. But I have seen and I have experienced His love first hand like no other kind of love. Not even the love from my parents – and I know they loved me. They put up with a bull-headed (my mother’s term for me) child.

So whose praise would you rather have – man’s praise or God’s praise?

Remember Gran

Mom

Yesterday marked the eighth anniversary of the passing of my dear mother. In my head I think that it’s hard to believe she has been gone that long. But in my heart I feel like she’s been gone for a long time. I miss her terribly. We talked every day – often several times a day.

She loved deeply and fiercely her family. It was at her house that we always gathered for holidays. And it was at her house that everyone gravitated toward to hang out. She had a very natural way to make you feel very comfortable. She loved to entertain. We had many parties in her back yard and I recall at least one New Year’s Eve party. To her any occasion was a reason to have a party – whether it was a holiday, a graduation, a baby shower, a wedding or even just a long weekend. And she dressed the table for the celebration. It may not have been fine china but she set out plates, flatware, water glasses and cloth napkins.

She spoke her mind but she wasn’t mean spirited. She didn’t offer up her opinion unsolicited but if you asked, she would tell you exactly what she thought.

She taught me about service to your community. She was always quick to volunteer. She had a flair for decorating and fashion. She spent many hours at her church – the last several years she was in charge of the kitchen at church. For church anniversary, funerals, pastor anniversary and many other celebrations, she was in the kitchen cooking up dinner and directing traffic.

Although she had a sad start to her life. Her parents died when she was a very young and she was raised by an aunt and uncle, but she never let it get her down. There was no official adoption, but they raised her as their own. Her cousins became her brothers and they were her parents. We called them Mama and Bop – our names for our grandparents. She often saw her biological brothers and sister. It was a big extended family that kept the kids close. Living in a small town you can remain close.

She lived in an era where there were ladies who did what she called “days’ work.” They were housekeepers in the homes of the rich, white families in town. She and her mother would work the dinner parties too. She didn’t finish high school but she did manage to get a GED. She was a hard worker and probably the smartest person even without a college degree. I recall cleaning house with her on the weekends and I had to beg her to sit down and take a break. She was old school and cooked starch to press her curtains into crisp, stiff attention. She baked from scratch and collected cookbooks. She was the quintessential church hat lady. She owned so many hats – big hats, little hats, home-style hats. And almost until her passing she was wearing high heel shoes. She was a classy, sassy grandmother. The grandkids called her Gran.

She was a teenage smoker who developed a two-pack a day smoking habit. By the time she stopped smoking she had developed emphysema and congestive heart trouble. But she didn’t let it slow her down. We had talked early that week about Thanksgiving and planning the big feast. It was going to be a big family affair with my sister coming into town and my brothers joining us too. But because she got winded easily, we decided to host it at my house. She just didn’t think she could manage getting her house ready for the day.

As the years have passed, I often think about how much she would have loved seeing her grandchildren come into their own and enjoying success and to meet more of her great grandchildren.

Life marches on. More babies join the family and we lose more family members. And it’s near Thanksgiving eight years later. I don’t have any plans for the day. I’ll probably cook dinner for me and my son and we will honor my mother. We will remember Gran.

Be An Encouragement and You Will Be Encouraged

Illuminated Bible

I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend. As we sat over coffee we poured our hearts out to each other – our worries, our cares and our concerns for family, marriages and careers. We sat there in the coffeehouse just shaking our heads. We were nearly in tears several times.

When I left the coffeehouse, I went home with a very heavy heart. It was well into the wee morning hours when I finally settled down to sleep. It is so easy to look at what is wrong in our lives and in the world. Children following the crowds, unfulfilled careers, the pressure in marriages, the reality of the aging body and more can be burdens we all struggle with. And the world is polluted with crime, war, disease, greed and so many despicable things.

But it was good to see my friend. It was good to sit across from her and see another sister in Christ who would be so open with me and someone I could be open with too.

When we ended our time together, I told her that I now know how to pray for her and she knows how to pray for me. We drew strength from each other and strength from our faith.

Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another –and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Don’t Give God a To-Do List, Give God Your Heart

Chrysanthemum

Journaling is all the rage these days. And keeping a prayer journal helps Christians keep track of pray requests. But we need to be very careful that prayer journals don’t become our ‘to-do’ for God.

I started a prayer journal about this time last year. Each morning I would have my prayer and devotional time and then commence writing in my prayer journal. It became a task for me. I wanted to have the correct sentence structure. I worried about spelling and I worried about punctuation.

Part of me thought that it could be a lasting legacy for my son and his children beyond him. My topics in my prayer journal were legitimate prayers and concerns that I brought to the Lord. But my focus in the journal was misplaced.

When I decided to just sit quietly, speak with God from my heart and listen with my heart, I heard so much more in my prayer life and saw so much more happening on my prayer list. And then there was the discussion with my son about answered prayers and even unanswered prayers. That is the lasting legacy, my spoken word about the goodness of God.

Luke 11:9-10 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Stop Complaining

My workstation sits out in the open a bit. I am surrounded by people all day. I can hear conversations, I can hear coughing and sneezing and I can hear people shuffling their feet as they walk by.

All three of those are things make working in an open environment a challenge for me. I try to stay focused and mentally block it out. But I miss the days of having my own private office.

This week was the triune of the things that annoy me. I heard all three on one particular day. I cringed when I heard the cough and sneeze determining not to catch a cold. And I let out heavy sighs at loud conversations that interrupt my focus. I can remember my father always telling me to pick up my feet when I walk. And he would tell me to walk with a purpose – head up, shoulders back. He would say ‘Walk like you’re going somewhere.’

All of it got me to thinking. And that made me think about my walk – my Christian walk. I was reading one of my favorite books of devotions and that particular day was so appropriate. I have learned that those messages are always very appropriate and timely.

The devotional message was commending me for staying close to Jesus but it also reminded me that I have a tendency to complain. OUCH! Nail on the head!

My complaining spirit about my workstation is not flattering or pleasing God in any way. The passage encouraged me to take my cares to the Lord because it will temper my thoughts and help me see things from His perspective.

Philippians 2:14-15 says “Do everything without complaining or arguing. So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like the stars in the universe.”

I am thankful to have a job when so many do not. I am thankful I live in a country where health care and medical supplies are easily accessible – there are so many places in the world without adequate health care. And I am thankful I have shoes on my feet – whether they are shuffling or not – because so many do not.

Scripture stops me in my tracks and reminds me to be thankful. That should be my focus.

Be Joyful