Page 2 of 79

Neighboring Challenge, Day 2 – Who?

Jesus once told a story:

 “There was a teenage Latino junkie walking home in the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. On the way he was attacked by gang members. They took his phone, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a suburban woman, volunteering at a nearby homeless shelter, was on her way down the same street, but when she saw him she angled across to the other side, nervous about her own safety.

Then a  businessman showed up on his way to a meeting on community development for a non-profit organization; he also avoided the injured man because he was running late.

 Then a transvestite walking down the street came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave the teen first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his shoulders and took him to the ER, and made him comfortable.  To the hospital administrators he paid the bill and said, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’”

Jesus asked, “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”

“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.

Ok, that may be the Crosby Revised Version, but you get the idea.

Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

“Real friendship (or neighboring for our purposes) happens when we move toward the people we are most tempted to avoid.” Scott Sauls

Or as our friend Rich Stearns says, “Imagine Christians feeding Syrian Muslims while ISIS beheads Christians.”

As you walk through your day, notice who you’re most tempted to turn away from, and consider turning towards instead…

  • the person of a different race, religion, or sexual orientation
  • profane mom yelling at her kids on the bus,
  • the obnoxious businessman who cuts you off in line at Starbucks,
  • the intellectually challenged teen,
  • the bratty kid in Target
  • the homeless person on the corner

When I was teaching kids about meeting strangers, I used to tell them to pay attention to the color of the other person’s eyes as they shook hands. Afterwards I’d ask them, “What color was Mr. ________’s eyes?”

Jesus turned towards people and looked them in the eye.

Mark 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him.

Neighboring Challenge

  • Turn towards a neighbor different from you today. Look them in the eye and see the Imago Dei. Treat them as Jesus would.
  • Make a point of complimenting complete strangers. Look them in the eye.
  • Smile and say hi to everyone you pass today. Look them in the eye.
  • The next time you eat out, be sure to ask your server’s name, look them in the eye, and initiate a conversation with them NOT about the food. Like “Tell me about your tattoo.” or “What do you like best about this city?”
  • If you have kids, have them identify someone at school who is different from them or hard to love. Challenge them to talk to the person they identify and come home and tell you what color his or her eyes are.

Pray: Lord, help me to see as You see, to hear as You hear, to love as You love.

 

 

Neighboring Challenge, Day 1 – Fill Up

In my family I’m known for driving my car on fumes – going as long and as far as I possibly can without actually running out of gas. I seem to have an uncanny ability to drive my car that holds 15 gallons of gas, 15.8 gallons worth of miles.

I’m also prone to stretching my “tank” when it comes to hospitality. If I don’t first fill up with a Jesus heart and perspective, although I keep going, I notice 3 things can happen:

  1. It becomes about the externals – appearances, logistics, food…This can promote pride, or discouragement, neither of which please God.
  2. I am more focused on tasks than on being present to the people in my home.
  3. I am anxious because I want to be in control instead of letting the Spirit guide.

Most of us are super familiar with the story of Mary and Martha, but take another look.

Luke 10:38-42 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary,who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Ask yourself: What are you worried or upset about? Open your hands and give those things to Jesus.

Just a few thoughts about this passage to keep things in perspective:

  • Note, we tend to bash Martha and praise Mary for being so spiritual, but if Martha doesn’t open her home, Mary doesn’t have a place to sit and listen to Jesus.
  • Jesus admonished Martha for being “worried and upset”, not for serving.
  • Martha did what was expected of women. Mary did what was expected of men (sitting at the feet of a teacher). Jesus broke down the wall that divided men and women.
  • “Mary has chosen…” We always have choices! If it’s a choice between Jesus and jobs, choose Jesus first.

Neighboring Challenge: 

To neighbor well we need to fill up first.

  • Picture you car dashboard with the gas gauge. Do you feel spiritually, physically, emotionally full or empty? Somewhere in between? What changes is it possible for you to make in order to fill up? Is there a spiritual practice that might help? Consider joining me on Facebook Live at noon CST Monday to hear more about a resource I’m offering.
  • Walk through your home praying – dedicate each room to the Lord’s purposes.

I’d love to see and hear your responses throughout this challenge – in the comments or on Instagram, or Facebook! Use the hashtag #neighboring. (Follow on Instagram or like the FB page if you want it to show up in your feed)

Introducing a Neighboring Challenge

Is it just me or does it seem like the level of angry rhetoric, distrust, and division in our world has reached a level that looks a little like this?

via GIPHY

You might say righteous anger is warranted, and sometimes it is. But the next time you are criticizing another – whether someone across the political aisle or across your church aisle, notice the feeling that wells up in you.

Is there a little bit of satisfied self-righteousness? I confess, there is for me.

I think the righteous anger of Jesus is accompanied by a deep sadness and desire for understanding and reconciliation. But is ours? Or are we more motivated by a “win”?

Our neighborhoods may look delightful but be divided.

Jesus calls each of us to be peacemakers. He is a welcoming God, a listening God, a connector, a reconciler and a restorer, and we should be too.

But “Peacemaker” sounds like such a big brave word – like CHANGE THE WORLD. NOW.

It sounds like it must involve world travel, high level contacts, or a job in the State Department, right?

“Too much”, you say.

“Not my job”, you say.

To that I respond, “Peace starts with a cup of coffee and a listening ear.”

The wisdom that comes from God is first utterly pure, then peace-loving, gentle, approachable, full of tolerant thoughts and kindly actions, with no breath of favouritism or hint of hypocrisy. And the wise are peace-makers who go on quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness—in other people and in themselves. James 3:18 Phillips

In the Bible, God talks a lot about our neighbors – the ones near, who we know, and the ones far away. We are called to love them all as we love ourselves. But how can we do that if we have no contact with them?

In order to neighbor we need to know.

Sooooo, I want to propose a week-long Neighboring Challenge. For each post I’ll share a passage of Scripture on neighboring and include an action step you may want to take.

Now I can just hear you young mama’s yelling “Nooooo! Not one more thing to DO!!!”

Settle down. I get it. No worries. This will not be a huge deal, and it will be a great way to model and include your kids in peacemaking. I’ll even try to include some stuff specifically for them.

I’d love to have you join in and share your experience in the comments or on Instagram with the hashtag #neighboring  so we can encourage each other. But if you just want read and watch, that’s fine too!

There have been several experiences recently that have prompted me to do this. One of them has been reading Scott Saul’s book, Befriend: Create Belonging in an age of Judgment, Isolation and Fear. If you want a good companion book for this neighboring challenge, I’d recommend it!

 

 

Why You Should Choose Smelly Friends

Walking to Starbucks early this morning the breeze carried the sweet smell of lilacs and honeysuckle bushes and made me wish that Instagram had a sensory button so I could share the delightful moment with all of you. It made me think of an experience I had years ago.

We have two other couples we’ve done life with for 25 years.  It started with a get-to-know-you dinner when we first moved to Minnesota. We held hands around a table to pray that night and have been holding hands ever since.  We’ve cried at gravesides together and danced the weddings of our children. We’ve laughed hysterically on boat rides, and hiked in Montana together. These are our table people.

One evening after I had experienced a particularly wounding encounter we were together and they asked how I was doing.  With them there was the safety of “home” and the love that encouraged all the ugly cry blubbering, bitter, wounded honesty I could pour out.

After they had listened for a long, long time, they gently surrounded me and anointed me and put their warm hands on my weary shoulders and prayed for me.  We hugged, and as John and I drove home I noticed that my clothes had absorbed the scent of perfume and after-shave from the hugs of my friends. The fragrance of Jesus they carried with them had rubbed off on me and strengthened my heart.  

I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.”

You will have all different kinds of relationships in your life. Some will be depleting; you’ll give more than you get. Others will be like sandpaper – uncomfortable, but helpful at smoothing your rough edges. Some will just come, like water the waiter pours at a restaurant; you have little choice when it comes to family or co-workers. But look for the people you will regularly gather around your table prayerfully.

Look for friends who can listen deeply, speak truth, and cheer for you always. Choose friends who will drop things at a moment’s notice show up for a crisis. They’ll do silly stuff with you, but also do the hard work of helping you paint the nursery in your new house. All that is important, but the most crucial thing to sniff for is the fragrance of Jesus on them. Because over the years around the table, holding hands and hugging and praying, it will rub off on you.

 

Why You Should Choose Smelly Friends

Walking to Starbucks early this morning the breeze carried the sweet smell of lilacs and honeysuckle bushes and made me wish that Instagram had a sensory button so I could share the delightful moment with all of you. It made me think of an experience I had years ago.

We have two other couples we’ve done life with for 25 years.  It started with a get-to-know-you dinner when we first moved to Minnesota. We held hands around a table to pray that night and have been holding hands ever since.  We’ve cried at gravesides together and danced the weddings of our children. We’ve laughed hysterically on boat rides, and hiked in Montana together. These are our table people.

One evening after I had experienced a particularly wounding encounter we were together and they asked how I was doing.  With them there was the safety of “home” and the love that encouraged all the ugly cry blubbering, bitter, wounded honesty I could pour out.

After they had listened for a long, long time, they gently surrounded me and anointed me and put their warm hands on my weary shoulders and prayed for me.  We hugged, and as John and I drove home I noticed that my clothes had absorbed the scent of perfume and after-shave from the hugs of my friends. The fragrance of Jesus they carried with them had rubbed off on me and strengthened my heart.  

I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.”

You will have all different kinds of relationships in your life. Some will be depleting; you’ll give more than you get. Others will be like sandpaper – uncomfortable, but helpful at smoothing your rough edges. Some will just come, like water the waiter pours at a restaurant; you have little choice when it comes to family or co-workers. But look for the people you will regularly gather around your table prayerfully.

Look for friends who can listen deeply, speak truth, and cheer for you always. Choose friends who will drop things at a moment’s notice show up for a crisis. They’ll do silly stuff with you, but also do the hard work of helping you paint the nursery in your new house. All that is important, but the most crucial thing to sniff for is the fragrance of Jesus on them. Because over the years around the table, holding hands and hugging and praying, it will rub off on you.

 

The Six Hardest Words to Say to Each Other

In our marriage, John and I agree the six hardest words for us to say to each other are, “You were right.” (and even worse) “I was wrong.”

Or even “We were both right and we were both wrong.”

The thing is, not only are those words hard to say, it’s brutal work facing our own misperceptions and listening and getting to the place of being able to truly own the humility behind them.

A few people I know are in a bad spot right now. They are angry and hurt and sure that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They are so sure of their rightness, that they are not willing to talk or listen to anyone with a differing viewpoint.

If you’re reading this and your heart is racing, thinking “Is she writing about me???!!” The answer is yes. I’m writing about you (whoever you are). And me. And all of us.

Because who of us haven’t been in this spot from time to time – like a toddler with eyes squeezed shut and fists clenched, desperately in need of a “Settle down and take a time out until you’re yourself again.”

A few weeks ago I read the account of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9 in my devotional time and I have not been able to get one thought out of my mind.

Saul was PASSIONATELY religious. He was POSITIVE he was right and righteous and obedient to God as he persecuted Christians – eyes squeezed shut, fists clenched. Ironically he had to literally be blinded before he could recognize how spiritually blind he was. It was only when Jesus entered the picture that eventually his eyes were opened and he saw things differently. Slowly his hands and his heart opened to something new.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about. What things are we SO SURE OF? Are there perceptions or judgments that, if we invited Jesus in, He might change our minds, and uncover blind spots? That feels scary and vulnerable and really uncomfortable.

I LOVE being right! There are times when I gather my righteous indignation around me like a comfy blanket on a cold dark night. I don’t like the thought that I might be wrong!

So….What do you feel self-righteous about? Who is someone you disagree with? What questions could you ask to better understand their perspective?

Today I pray: Lord your Word says our hearts are deceitful above all things. Only You can uncover my blind spots, my impure motives, my misperceptions, my self-righteousness. I desire to humble myself before You today. Search me and show me where I’m wrong…where I need to ask forgiveness…where I need new eyes to see.

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

What’s Your Super-power?

“If you could have any ‘super-power’ what would it be?”

That was the ice-breaker question posed at a women’s gathering I attended. Peals of laughter could be heard from different small groups around the room as women shared a desire for everything from a “Bewitched” nose twitch to clean their kids’ mess, to a cloaking devise, to the ability to be “beamed up” out of uncomfortable situations.

It’s a fun question to think about, but unfortunately we often seriously compare ourselves to others and think “Oh…I wish I had THAT ‘super-power’!” The gifts and talents others have can seem so “SUPERior” in light of our own that can feel so ordinary.

There are two reasons comparison is so dangerous. When we compare, the result is either pride or despair. Neither are pleasing to God, right? 

As women, I think we’re more prone to the despair end of the spectrum. Satan’s kryptonite seems to be that diabolical little word “as”.

He whispers,

“Not as pretty as…”

Not as good a mom as…”

“Not as popular as…”

“Not as smart as…”

Recently, my small group did a book study, and there is one line from Genesis 3:11 that we have gotten in the habit of repeating to one another when we feel discouraged or “less than”,

This is from Genesis 3: 9-11  when God is talking to Adam:

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked;so I hid.”

 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked?

God knows HE  didn’t tell Adam he was naked.

Is the message you’re hearing really from God? Or is it from someone else? 

After all, God is the One who said you are fearfully and wonderfully made, the One who said He has created good plans in advance for you to do, the One who said He has called you by name, you are His – His chosen, His beloved, the one He sings over…

So today, instead of comparing, let’s remember this…

Four Words About One Word and Spiritual Growth

 I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first dayuntil now,  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6

Are you ever a little spiritually ADD?

Feel like it’s one step forward and two steps back in terms of spiritual growth?

Have you forgotten your One Word ? The one you prayed about and was sure God was going to use to make 2017 the year of AMAZING JESUS AWESOMENESS?

Well sister, here are my three words for you. YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE.

I checked in with some from our blog community about how their “One Word” focus is going this year and thought I’d share their thoughts with you.

Meghann: My word for the year was, “NARRATIVE.”  I really regret it now because this looks like it’s going to be a long road to travel, to trust, and really listen to a different narrative about myself.
 
I know the truth is that I’m not “weak and pathetic” because I’m really broken down, and I’m not “making it worse” by not just pushing past it.  But, ugh.  Would be nice if I could just wake up one morning and say, “What was that?  Moving on…”

 

A reader who lives in the mountains in the middle of Jamaica sent me a note after my last post on my “one word” .

“My 2017 word is LIGHT and I am not doing too badly with it, trying to be intentional at least once weekly.
I chose to use a separate journal and am glad I did. Using the word in my centered prayer practice which I’m just learning, is helpful too. He is truly the Light and brings light to my understanding as I seek Him.”

Heather: My word is BRAVE – learning what brave looks like when I need to say “no” even to good things or when it means disappointing someone…Learning that brave looks and feels different than I sometimes think it will/does, and learning how to be brave in situations that are beyond ME.

Carrie: My word(S) (because you know I can never choose just one) is “YOU WILL”. I need to be steadfast in that God will provide, God will fight for me, God will lavish love on me and those around me, God will move among our students and our church, God will meet me wherever I’m at.

To me, it is more than “God can“. I need to believe and live out of the truth that he will because he is FOR me and good to me. I’ve struggled with believing that over the years. I’ve thought He was good in nature and good to other people and good for me but not always good to me. The verses that I was drawn to on this were Mark 11:22-25 and Ephesians 3:20-21.

Theresa: I couldn’t decide on a word…I’m in such a period of survival. But I do feel now like I’m almost to the top of this mountain and looking forward to what God has in store!

 Molly: I got a pretty notebook and I chose a word but I don’t remember what it was! 

Jesus is about infinity do-overs!

So you see?? You are not alone! It’s ok if you didn’t choose a word and it’s ok if you want to start now! It’s ok if you’ve stumbled a bit this week.
 
 What about the rest of you? Share your experience in the comments.

Use Your Words

We make a lot of runs to our Twin Cities airport, so I’m used to passing the sign that says:

This is a caution…a warning we’re all familiar with since 9/11.

If you see something suspicious, say something and keep us all safe, right? Speak up!

“Use your words.” as we say to toddlers.

But I thought of that sign yesterday as I was leaving Starbucks. The barista paid me a compliment and I was beaming.

He didn’t need to say anything, and it cost him nothing. It made my day.

I thought of all the times I see someone wearing a top I think is cute, or I observe a teen being kind and polite, or a mom being uber patient with her littles… I want to be the person who always speaks up.  The one who says something positive to a stranger or a friend.

I heard a wonderful story the other day about Mohamed Sanu, an Atlanta Falcons football player who received this note from someone who took the time to speak up –  a family sitting behind him on a flight:

This family used their words to affirm someone they would never see again.

Life is hard. There is so much to discourage us out there, right? Let’s use our words to be each other’s best cheerleaders!

If you see something (positive), say something today.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thes. 5:11

What Does God Have to Say to You Today?

I’m a lake girl. I grew up learning to swim in a lake in Wisconsin that was big and deep and dark blue and often the wind whipped the waves into a frenzy. But it was a place I felt safe, treading water or diving under into the silent calm beneath the surface.

Friday I was not on a lake, but by the Pacific Ocean.

I walk along the beach wrapped the early morning air, cool and damp. The spray of crashing waves reaches out to tickle me every once in awhile. Fog shrouds the mountains encircling the bay, making them look like a watercolor painting or a dream – fuzzy in the distance.

My prayer is one common to me on my walks.

“Lord, what do you have to teach me about myself and Yourself today?”

There’s rarely an immediate answer, but rather, like an old-school photo developing in a water tray, something gradually emerges.

Usually.

I’m encouraged by this promise as I walk:

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

Sometimes the picture that develops is heart-warming… encouraging. Sometimes it’s convicting.

Sometimes it feels profound, but often, like today, it’s just a series of small reminders as I reflect on the power of the ocean before me.

The Lord whispers, “You can let the waves wreck you or refine you.”

Lord, how powerful is your love!

The waves of Your grace relentlessly pour over me like the tide coming in.

Help me not to resist the waters of Your correction that smooth my rough edges like polished sea glass on the shore.

Your faithfulness teaches me I can remain safe in storms.

Do you not realize who I am? Do you not fear Me? Do you not shake in the presence of the Eternal, the Creator of all things? 

It is I who has drawn for all time the boundaries of the sea.

The waves may crash and roar against the sand, But the waters do not cross the lines I have drawn. Jeremiah 5:22 (Voice)

“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.” Psalm 46:1-3

When we are mature – attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ – “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” Ephesians 4:14 (NIV)

What are you learning about yourself and God today?

 

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2017 Laura Crosby

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑