Tag: mercy

Now The Work of Christmas Begins

Those of you who subscribe to this blog know that it is my heart to create environments and resources that help us draw closer to Jesus and others. Often that sounds really good, but living it out? Ahh that’s the tough part!

Someone recently said that January is like the “Monday” of months. It may include the excitement of fresh starts, but also the “Ugh, it’s back to work…” Boy I hear that!

This morning I opened an email from a friend that included this poem.

 

If you’re like me, you read this and say, “YES! AMEN to that!” It sounds so right, so noble, so inspiring.

But then we ask, “But how? Little ol’ me? How am I going to do that?”

Yes, God may call us to BIG, DRAMATIC actions in order to achieve the work of Christmas and I want to be ready and willing for that.

But for most of us,

  • finding the lost may look like greeting a stranger at church
  • feeding the hungry may look like preparing care kits for the homeless with fast food gift cards
  • releasing the prisoner may look like extending grace to someone who has wronged you
  • rebuilding the nations may look like supporting refugees (check out renewproject.org or preemptivelove.org)

 

 

  • bringing peace among the people may look like reaching out and getting to know someone from a different faith, culture, or political party – asking questions and listening well. Or advocating with your congressperson.

Big or small, may we be open to doing the work of Christmas every day.

 

When You Don’t Have the Gift of Mercy

So, something you might need to know about me: I was born with a mercy handicap.  

Actually, we say that everyone in our family seems to be deficient in the mercy department.  When it was gift receiving time we got ones like “charging the hill” and “being really loud” and “often wrong, but never uncertain.”

Yesterday there was more evidence of the deficiency in my life.

Daughter Maggie who’s in grad school at Berkley has won all kinds of honors and scholarships.  She’s been chosen for organizations with names that sound like Most Brilliant World Dominators of Tomorrow and stuff like that.  But recently there was a big scholarship that she applied for.  Big, as in she and Austin could probably retire on the amount of money they were going to give her.  And she thought maybe she had it.  But then she didn’t.

Enter Mercy Mom! (Maggie is my ICE – “In Case of Emergency” fyi).  My response to her news is in the blue. Continue reading

Two Responses to What Lies Beneath

On my list of gifts, one that recurs often is “fresh snow” (Lou Malnati’s pizza is also a top runner).  Snow is as magical as fairy dust to me.  It’s a good thing I love it, because I live where there’s a lot of it.

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As I write this, here in Minnesota it’s snowing.  Again.  Like it does just about every three days for the six months we call winter.

It’s hard to believe, but a day is coming when it will start to melt.  And when it does we move from “Winter”, not to “Spring” as they do in North Carolina, for example, but to “Butt Ugly”.

While the cherry blossoms are exploding around the tidal basin in Washington D.C. and the Bluebonnets are dancing across the hills of Texas, the gorgeous white crystals that have been blanketing everything in Minnesota start to mushify (yes, that’s a thing), exposing trash from last fall, like gum wrappers and a single tennis shoe, and the mitten someone lost. I’m still hoping my keys that disappeared on a walk around Lake Harriet five years ago will turn up.

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I love snow when it’s new and fresh.  It’s always been a visual reminder to me of God’s grace, and grits in Louisiana.  It just comes.  Snow, like grace, is not something we work for or make happen.

But the “Butt Ugly” season is a visual reminder too. It’s a reminder that while I can receive the gift of forgiveness and mercy for the ugliness of sin in my life, I need to be careful that I don’t just bury it without dealing with it. Kind of like that email that’s going to be hard to respond to so you put it in a file to answer to later.

What do I do with the trash that lies beneath? Continue reading

Four Words That Can Change Your Day

The other day I was driving back home after dropping a friend at the airport.  On the highway someone merged in front of me into the right lane going about 30 mph.  There was another car in the left lane next to me so I had to slam on my brakes to avoid running into the creeper-merger.

I may have yelled the “i” word in frustration and anger.

As I eventually was able to pull into the left lane and speed past the offender I looked to my right and saw what appeared to be a young Somali woman hunched over the wheel, anxious, timid, and clearly unsure of where she was going.

And four words smacked me upside the head: Continue reading

Afraid of Getting it Wrong and Getting it Right

It’s Fearless Friday and the half-marathon is tomorrow.  I have a lot to be afraid about.  You may too.  But I also have lots to celebrate.  Among my blessings are so many of you who have supported, encouraged and prayed for me.  Thank you to the moon!   Since the half-marathon is about raising money for clean water through World Vision, today I want to share a related fear and some good news.

I’m a first born.  A Rule Follower.  I hate “getting it wrong”!  I get so embarrassed by my mistakes.

When someone dies, I’m scared to death of saying the wrong thing, inadvertently being “that person” who was somehow insensitive or oblivious.

When helping those in need it’s the same.  Over the years I’ve found that there are so many ways that well-meaning folks (Read: “me”) can cause more problems than they solve, creating dependency, or taking away dignity, or upsetting the country’s economy or…

Also, poverty is overwhelming.  Injustice seems intractable.  Often I just want to cover my ears, shut my eyes and yell “Lalalalala…”  The problems are so big it’s hard to know where to start.  When we do DO something we don’t want to hear it’s the wrong thing!  So it was with fear and trepidation that I started reading the book, Toxic Charity recently.

One of the criticisms the author, Robert Lupton levels is at organizations who create dependency instead of equipping and empowering those in need.  We need to do with and not just for others.

As I read this terrific book, yes, there were some little things that I hadn’t thought about that I need to change, but there was good news too. Continue reading

Kingdom Come

We all long to be inspired.

My favorite movies are the ones where I walk out with an uplifting sound track for my life, reassured that God is good and all things are possible.  There really is still nobility and there are kingdom-bringers in the world. Think Shawshank and The Natural, and The Blindside.

So I loved it when we heard the story, years ago, of a friend of ours, John Dellenback, who was a congressman from Oregon. When he turned 81 he gathered his children and grandchildren together and gave each of them $81, instructing them to prayerfully invest it in a kingdom venture during the year and report back.

Sadly, John died before the his next birthday.  At his funeral, each of his children and grandchildren came forward, one by one, telling what happened with their kingdom investments.  Kingdom inspiration was part of his legacy.

I soaked up some inspiration this week, too, when I heard a similar story from our friend, Erik.  Erik’s parents-in-law are also friends, and last Christmas they gave each of their grown children and spouses, a hundred dollar bill with the assignment to pray and be on the lookout for a place to invest it in something of the kingdom of God here on earth.

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Over a year had passed and Erik still had the $100 in his wallet.  This past week he was in San Francisco for a conference.   San Francisco, where, it’s hard not to go a block without encountering a homeless person asking for help.

As Erik walked to and from meetings, he felt guilty, hearing Jesus whisper, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

After a sleepless night and further reminders about how Jesus, fully God, had become a servant to love others, he said to himself with conviction…”Today is the day I am going to give my $100. I’m going to give to the first person who asks!”

I’ll let him tell the rest in his own words…

I had a meeting with a potential client at 8 AM at a breakfast cafe. This was someone I’d never met, only spoke on the phone and someone I needed to impress.

I left my hotel at 7:30 to walk 6 blocks through Union Square Park where I anticipated passing people lying on the ground or holding a cup. Surprisingly I didn’t pass a single person fitting my “profile.”

At 8 AM, the client arrived, we ordered our breakfast and had just sat down to eat. Before I said more than five words a woman approached our table towards the back of the restaurant. She was clearly who God had sent. She was 40+, snarly short blond hair, wore a dirty jacket and didn’t have it together. Clearly embarrassed, she asked the man I was meeting with for $5 to go to Denny’s around the corner for breakfast. He said, “I’m sorry, ma’m but I can’t.”

She then looked at me and with emotion in her eyes said, “Please sir, can you help me out?” I got up, and motioned for her to walk with me outside.

As I reached into my pocket for the $100, I tried to say something, but before I could she said, “I know…Jesus loves me.” I nearly broke down. I pulled the money out of my pocket put it in her hand and said, “Yes, Jesus loves you!

To confirm that God has a sense of humor, she looked in her hands and when she realized it was a $100 bill, look at me and said, “Holy S#@*T!” and gave me a huge hug.

I then turned and walked back into the restaurant now needing to explain myself to this guy I had just met. I told him about the kingdom challenge and that I had committed to giving my $100 to the first person who asked and apologized if I had embarrassed myself.

We had a great discussion and as we finished I went to the counter to get a refill on my coffee and he walked out the front door. I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw him reaching out and giving money to a homeless man right then and there.

I smiled and thanked God for revealing Himself to me today. I don’t deserve to be loved so unconditionally, so gracefully forgiven and to be to so incredibly blessed.

I know…all kinds of “What if’s” and “Yeah, buts” may spring to mind as you read this.

But what if this was just about one person showing the lavish over-the-top abundance of the kingdom to someone in need?  And another person being inspired to do the same.

Kingdom come.

When has God presented you with a “kingdom come” opportunity to be His hands and feet in the world?  What’s inspired you lately?

The Most Brilliant Investment You Can Make

Those who know me know I am NOT a money person.  I’m not a good budgeter.  In fact, I don’t even have a budget. (gasp!)

I’m generous, but not particularly responsible.  I don’t understand what a “short sale” is, and I’ve never done my own taxes.

Once a year when John and I meet for lunch with our financial advisor, Jay, my eyes glaze over unless he uses the silverware and cups and plates as visuals to try to explain the state of our finances.  Note to Jay: Cartoon characters would be helpful as would talking fruits and vegetables.

A couple of years ago, though, I got super excited because I had always really wanted to try my hand at the stock market and the guys said, ok.  I was sure this was my ticket to the promised land of limitless generosity, and, let’s be honest, a limitless clothes budget.

So, I asked a friend who’s a whiz in this area and excitedly bought 500 shares of a stock that I was assured would do great (because it was “diversifying” – my new stock word).  I put the “stock tracker” app on my iphone and was thrilled as I watched it go up and up and up.

Around that time I was in a worship gathering focused on Micah 6:8 “He has shown all you people what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

And in addition to high-lighting the needs around the world, they suggested a lot of ways to respond and bring the kingdom – the world that God desires, like back in Eden before we messed up.  Where everyone has justice and all the hungry are fed and all the thirsty have clean water and everyone cares about everyone else.

In what I felt was a moment of divine inspiration I thought, “Aha!  My stock!  My vibrant, up and up stock!  Before I know it, it will earn enough for me to buy a well!  It’s Yours, Lord, all Yours!  Clean water for people who need it!  Bam, done!”

That was in early April 2010.

On April 21st, we awoke to the news of the BP oil spill and my up and up stock went down and down

And SERIOUSLY down.

Yep, that’s my stock.  BP.  And I was like “Um, Lord, did You miss the ‘It’s all Yours‘ prayer?  Do you not want kids in Africa to have water?  What’s the deal here?  I was down with being part of the ‘Your kingdom come’ plan!”

What do we do when we invest time or money in something that we think is of God, for His kingdom, and it just doesn’t work out the way we anticipate?  The way WE plan?

The passages that I read in the Bible about the kingdom of God are filled with weeds and stones, and pesky birds, and delinquent workers and some imagery I don’t fully understand.  It’s not all easy-peasy “Occupy Garden of Eden.”

But here’s the important thing I see over an over again.

We’re told to invest in kingdom stuff no matter what.  The stuff that makes the world more like heaven on earth.  No matter how crazy or hopeless it seems.

You may be a kingdom-bringer serving, in your cafeteria or a courtroom, or on Capitol Hill, or in Congo but never see the eternal dividends this side of heaven.

And there’s the outer kingdom that we can see, where justice is restored and the hungry are fed, but there’s another kingdom to be restored.  This inner kingdom where we’re on the throne and we need to hop down and let the true king take His rightful place and transform our character.

Maybe I thought I was investing in the outer kingdom, bringing water relief, but God wanted to invest in refining my inner kingdom, allowing me to be in a position to trust Him and His ways when I don’t understand.

If it’s a kingdom investment it’s a good investment, seen or unseen.  The Lord reminds me with 1 Cor. 15:58 “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

What are some of  the (even little) ways you’re investing in (or SEEING) the outside/inside kingdom of God?

EGR People

We’ve been vacationing in Florida and I’ve come to a conclusion.  You’ve heard the the acronym, EGR?  Well, I’ve concluded that old people are EGR people.

Extra. Grace. Required.

They walk slowly.  And they walk slowly in the bike lane.  And they walk slowly in the bike lane going the wrong direction!  And the other day “they” were walking across a street in front of a line of cars trying to turn, and me on my bike waiting for them in the middle of an intersection and I smiled and said “Go ahead” cheerily as all of us waited and they tottered, oblivious to the traffic jam.

But here’s the thing… Even though I was all “no problem” smiley, I’m sure there must have been the tiniest edge to my voice because how I really felt was impatient and inconvenienced.  And, you know…”Out of the heart the mouth speaks…”  Ugh.  There, now you know what a truly horrible, small-minded person I am.

And then at different points during my day I thought, “Boy, kids require a lot of grace!”

And “Drivers require a lot of grace!”

And “John requires a lot of grace!”

And finally… “I require a lot of grace.”

I’m someone’s EGR person!

I wonder what tone of voice God has with all us EGR people?  What tone of voice does love have?  What tone does grace have?

How do I purify my heart so not only the words and actions are there, but the tone is the tone of Jesus’ voice too?  Lord have mercy.

I was doing a Bible study this week that reminded me “We love because He first loved us.”  And then we were asked to fill in the blank.  “I love __________  because God first loved me.”

I can be gracious only because God was first gracious to me.  When I made a wrong turn.  Or held up traffic.  Or cut someone off.  Or mowed someone down.  Or broke the law in a million ways.  When I turned to Him, He said, “Go ahead now” and the tone of His voice was pure love.

Today I’m trying to be patient and not mow down old people, thanking God for His infinite patience with me.

What’s your experience with the EGR people in your life?

Not Kim Kardashian

Last week I felt pretty good.  Maybe you did too.

I was thinking, “Boy I’m glad I’m not Kim Kardashian, Rick Perry, or Joe Paterno!”  And then there’s Jerry Sandusky who, this week admitted to “Horsing around” with kids.  Each of them has had their mistakes broadcast, ridiculed, autopsied.  Their intellect, integrity, and wisdom were brought into question.

My response?  “Phew!  Glad I dodged those bullets!”

“Can’t BELIEVE they were so stupid, evil, clueless, out-of-control…”

“I would NEVER have…”

I may even have thought, “I’m thankful I’ve never pulled a “Rick Perry” on national TV, bless his heart.”

And I felt just a little better about myself, focusing on THEM.  You know THEM.  All the others who I compare myself to who are much worse than I am.

Or not.  Maybe my sins are just…different.

And more easily hidden.

What if the ugly stuff of my life (or yours) was replayed (over, and over, and over again) on the Today Show for millions to dissect and comment on what they would have done differently?

All this his has prompted me to return to an ancient prayer practice called the Jesus Prayer or the prayer of the heart.

Each time I hear something about someone else’s sin, I’m trying to use it as a prompt to pray the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Have you tried this prayer practice?  I resisted it initially.  How does this help our quest to have a better self-image??  And who likes using the word SINNER??!!  But I am (and I hate to draw attention to this, but there’s a chance you might be too) And in praying this it’s a reminder that I’m dependent on the reconciling work of Jesus.  Just like Kim.  Stretching muscles of humility, centering, worship…

I haven’t bailed on my marriage, but I’ve bailed on other commitments.  Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

I haven’t forgotten key components of my economic strategy on national television, but I’ve gotten tons of other stuff wrong.  Lord have mercy.

I haven’t covered up sexual sin, but I haven’t always confronted injustice.  Lord have mercy.

Thankfully, at least this week, my sins aren’t being played on national television, but I’m just as in need of God’s mercy and Psalm 103:11-12 reassures me and all of us.  “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

What do you think of this?  Is the Jesus prayer easy or hard for you?

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