Seeing “red”

“You better never wear that red suit again!” This is what my friend had told me after I came out of a meeting with my boss. A meeting in which I had been somewhat nasty. Probably insubordinate. Even uttered the words, “Well, just fire me then.” Apparently, I was out of character, because my friend attributed it to the red suit I was wearing.

The desire to speak up, demand something, or gain power summed up in one color?

Red has been defined in fashion circles as a “power” color. For those that study the meanings of colors, red is believed to symbolize motivation to change, and is said to “provide a sense of security and protection against fear and anxiety.”

Really? Just by seeing red?

Love. Safety. Protection. Motivation to change. Action. Courage. Familiarity.

The Bible is written at times in red. The words written as such to denote the spoken word of Jesus.

Lover. Protector. Motivator. A man of action. Courage. Familiarity.

Yes. There is power in the color red.

Then I read the red letters
And the ground began to shake
The prison walls started falling
And I became a free man that day. David Crowder, “Red Letters”

Those red letters have the power to provide freedom.

Freedom from the worries of this life: “Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs” (Luke 12:29-30)

Freedom from your hunger and thirst for earthly desires: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

Freedom from hatred: “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you” (John 14:12).

Freedom from condemnation: “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you? “No, Lord,” she said. “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:10-12)

Freedom from abandonment: “No, I will not abandon you as orphans-I will come to you.” (John 14:18).

Freedom from your sin: “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43)

And countless others that are written in the color of power, security, and protection. All His promises and instructions for peace, love, security. Action. Freedom.

Those letters written in “red.”

I do not own the rights to this video, music, or lyrics.

You can run…but you can’t hide

Rocks. I mentioned some of them in my last post. Those I threw into the ocean of surrender. And those I threw at cars when younger.

Yes. My brother and I were often bored on our little street growing up. If we were not yelling across the street for our cousins to come out and play, we would often pick up small rocks and throw them at cars. Just the tires. Or that was always our intention.

Want to know what happened when a rock was thrown where it wasn’t intended?

We hid. Why?

Because what was intended to be thrown at a tire, ended up on a windshield. And when those brake lights came on, and that car stopped? We ran. We hid.

Hoping if we hid long enough. Far away enough. We wouldn’t be found out.

Sounds like another story I know.

When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” Genesis 3:8-10, NLT

They felt naked. Exposed. They ran and hid. Hoping God didn’t see. God wouldn’t know. Wouldn’t find out.

But we can’t hide from God.

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. Luke 12:2, NIV

God sees it. He sees our comings and goings. He knows our thoughts, and though we may run, hide, hope we will not be found out-God knows.

He knows the thing we do behind closed doors we hope no one ever finds out. He knows the words we say to ourselves, and the thoughts that fill our heads. He knows the ways we have hurt others, even if we try to forget. He knows when we talk one way, and live another. He knows the things we do in the dark.

He knows.

He also knows our secret pains. Our deepest hurts. Our hearts desire. Our struggles. Those other things we hide.

He knows and He wants us to come out of hiding.

Not blame the “other,” as the first woman and man did, but confess what we have done. Our actions. Our sins. Our transgression. Our hurts. All the things we hope people don’t know.

He knows, and He still wants to give us His love. He wants us to run to him, instead of away.

And when we do, when we come out of hiding, we discover what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 121:

He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. Psalm 121:3, 7-8, NLT

You can’t hide from Him, and He won’t hide from you. Just as he knows the things you hope to keep hidden, if you seek His face and His salvation, He will walk with you daily. Protecting you. Keeping you from harm.

Are you ready to come out of hiding? Stop running? Stop pretending?

Stop hiding, and run to Him.

WWJD: Still casting stones?

Love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. 1 Corinthians 13:5, MSG

My husband and I have had to do some crawling back. Crawling back to the beginning of what we had at year one of a 15 year marriage. In doing so we read, and we began reading a devotion weekly that tackled some difficult junk.

Let’s jump back for a second. Read the header of this blog post. “Straight Up Messy Truth.” Does that give you a clue that I will not shy away from the mess? And folks, marriage? It is messy. This may not be what you thought you would hear today, but hang on-if your marriage is not messy, and you do not fight. You do not have a struggle, or have not had hardship-hold on…it is coming. Or, you are hiding something. Because straight up-we are human. We are messy. And every single one of our relationships will be, too. Even those we vow to remain in “til death do us part.”

Now, back to that devotional…and another mess. In the beginning of this particular exercise the authors of the book Closer, Jim and Cathy Burns recall the story of the woman caught in adultery: “The woman was first brought to Jesus in shame. Jewish law was clear she could be stoned to death. (We still don’t know why the man involved in the sin was missing).”

I had never thought of that before. When I read it…wow, I became angry. Bitter. How dare she be dragged into the streets to be stoned, and he…he was just able to walk away. She had to stand before all these people, shamed for her sin. And where, where was he?

This was my husband’s response: “Probably holding a stone in the crowd.”

Possibly. And for a couple weeks I held onto that image. The woman. Dragged into the square. Everyone talking. Her shame and sin for all to see. The man hiding in the shadows, ready to throw the first stone.

Until I read the passage again, a month or so later. Read the conversation she had with Jesus as she knelt on the ground, and saw this as I had so many times before:

“Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11

He may have spoken it to that woman, but it applied to everyone in that crowd. Even the man. If we confess of our sins, we are then told to “go and sin no more.” We are given the opportunity to live a new life without shame. No one can cast a single stone because we no longer walk in that way. We no longer do those things. We no longer make those same choices. We hand him our sin. He forgives us, and we don’t do that thing ever again.

Woman. And man.

We all are given this opportuntiy because we could have stones cast at us. We could all look out at the crowd in guilt and shame. There may have been a woman kneeling there, but it could have easily been that man.

And Jesus would have offered him the same thing. Forgiveness. The opportunity to go and sin no more.

What’s that got to do with keeping records of wrongs? Well, think about it. Those people in the crowd couldn’t wait to stone that woman. And do we do this at times? Hold stones of judgment? Stones of all the things done against us, so we can throw them out at just the right time? Come on…admit it-we all throw stones like ammunition when we argue.

But Jesus doesn’t. He didn’t. He wanted to make sure no wrong could be held against the woman.

That she could leave that square without sin. Without shame.

When we throw stones, we shame all over again. And Jesus doesn’t do that. He doesn’t throw stones.

He offers us grace. Mercy. Forgiveness. A new way of life where sin lives “no more.”

To the woman. And yes…to the man.

Just see Jesus

Oh, I have days I lose the fight
Try my best but just don’t get it right
Well I talk a talk that I don’t walk
And miss the moments right before my eyes. -Zach Williams, Less Like Me

I know what that’s like. I aim daily to “fight the good fight.” But…there are days I fail. I may judge too critically. I may curse. I may cut someone off in traffic. I may fall. Oh, I may fall. I am human. I am trying to walk like Jesus, but I don’t get it right. There are days I miss the mark.

I was sitting in my telehealth space one morning contemplating this art of being an example of Jesus. Thinking about the ways I may not have been. How I could be better. Feeling like a failure in one moment, and remembering grace in another.

Why grace?

Well, I heard a song. Because if you remember He often speaks to me that way…and it was what I was thinking at that moment. The only thing I wanted people to see in me was Jesus. I wanted to set THAT example. And maybe I messed up, but grace gave me the opportunity to be Jesus to others.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Because His grace allows me to get up when I fall. To say, “Yes…I messed up. But God…He picks me back up. He sets my feet on the right path so I can get right with Him again. So I can reflect His image, and be more like His son. Be an example of His love. His goodness.”

Because that’s the thing. Sure, there are things here on earth that would be great to do. Accomplishments I would love to achieve. Things I would love to have. Applause is nice. Compliments feel good for a moment. And an award here and there is great for the ego. Success looks good on social media or a resume.

But…it fills for a moment. You may be remembered for a time. Your name may be dropped here and there. But for me-it doesn’t matter.

It’s not about me.

It’s about Jesus.

Because I can’t pick myself up. When I fall, I need Him to get me on track. It’s Him who gave me the talents that make me a success. And if no one remembers my name, I hope they say this: That woman…yeh, don’t remember her name, but with her, I knew I was with Jesus.

A little more like mercy, a little more like grace
A little more like kindness, goodness, love, and faith
A little more like patience, a little more like peace
A little more like Jesus, oh, a little less like me
A little more of living everything I preach
A little more like Jesus, a little less like me

I don’t need them to see or remember me, only Jesus. Let them just see Jesus.

*I do not own rights to music/songs, or lyrics.

To be known

I walked in the room, knowing I needed to apologize. Dinner in our home is definitely a time of interesting, and fiery conversation. The fiery ones center mostly on the state of virtual school. On any given night, one parent ends up being the bad cop, the good cop, or we both end up just being lame. Tonight, it was me.

I wasn’t “bad.” I hadn’t yelled. We hadn’t had the dreaded school discussion that ends in stomping to rooms, but I hadn’t set a “good” example. Not one sprinkled with grace and acceptance.

I had mocked someone we knew at the dinner table. Judged a situation, and judged the person in the situation.

And any of you who haven’t committed this sin, be the first to cast a stone. I’ll wait.

While I wait…and wait, I’ll explain my apology. If I feel my example has not been one of Christlike-ness; or let’s just say, if I KNOW, because the Spirit tells me it hasn’t, I will apologize. This means I will also apologize to my kids.

Now, I know some don’t believe in this. But, the Bible is clear about how humble we must become to enter His kingdom:

Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:3, NLT

Like children. So I’m not above apologizing to a child. Especially if I know that one is watching and learning from me.

“I shouldn’t have said what I did tonight. Made fun of what happened. It was wrong. I am not going to justify my behavior. I should have explained my thoughts differently. It was wrong. I didn’t set an example, and it wasn’t kind.”

The apology opened up a conversation about authenticity and belonging.

See…I had left a space earlier that day feeling shunned and unwelcome. Like I was an intrusion. And I let it fester all day. To the point that I let the inauthentic response of another trigger me into anger, and a mean-spirited response.

When I should have explained at dinner the importance of making others feel comfortable in all spaces. Allow others to be free to be themselves, so they don’t have to constantly “shape-shift,” and be less than themselves. To be inclusive to all. To make others feel a little less self-conscious, but rather accepted, seen, loved, and known.

“I don’t want you to be 42 years old, and just figuring this out like I am.”

As I sat typing out the words to this post, I reached for my phone to locate a verse I needed and found this…a note I had typed out in my phone over a year ago. A short “letter” I had written to the younger me.

Dear Younger me,

Choose your circle wisely. You should be loved by your peeps for who you are, not for who you pretend to be. If you have to change who you were made to be to fit into a space, that isn’t your space.

And as I read it, I realized…though she thought it “cringy…” I had just said these exact same words, without my even knowing to a pretty spot-on, younger version of 13 year-old me.

And no…I didn’t want her to have to figure all this out in another 30 years.

And goodness, I am still trying to figure out many days who it is that God sees in me.

Because that is what I want her to see: who God sees. Not what anyone in any room she may walk into may see. Because more often than not…they may not see ALL that God has given her. ALL her talent. ALL her gifts. ALL that makes her so uniquely special, and set apart.

And it’s the same for you. There will be rooms you walk into where you may be known by name, but in which people still just don’t see you. You still don’t feel known. You will move in circles with people who don’t know who you really are, because you feel as if you have to cover up the real you. Play pretend. You may waste years and years trying to fit into spaces that will just never “fit” you, and who you are.

Know this. Embrace it today.

You are always seen and intimately known by God. He knows everything about you, and He still loves you. He has a place for you, and you never have to pretend, cover up; nor will you feel all alone.

He sees the real you. The broken you. The insecure you. The too loud you. The shy you. The you trying to fit into spaces that make you cringe.

He knows your name. He sees you. He loves you. He accepts you. You are known. You belong.

Praying: It’s not silly, it’s serious

And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. 1 John 5:14-15, NLT

Think you can’t be delivered from anything? Think God doesn’t care about the small things? Even the small sins in your life? Think again.

“Mommy’s favorite word is the “s” word.” That would be my youngest son. Telling everyone who will listen about his mother’s favorite word. And, I do mean everyone. And, he didn’t mean “sugar,” “sweet,” “shopping,” or even “Starbucks.” He meant one that begins with “s,” and ends with “t.” Oh, yes. That “s” word. A swear word.

We have this store in my hometown that has been around for years. I love it. One, it’s cheap. Two, you can find anything AND everything. They also have the best home decor, and I love to fill my house with sayings, and signs with sayings. This store has the best. A ton of faith-filled signs. And on one of my trips here, I found it. The last one. Just waiting for me-“I love Jesus, but I cuss a little.”

Problem was…I hadn’t been cussing a little, I had been cussing a lot. And I had graduated from my favorite “s” word, to a few other words.

And I knew better…His Word told me so. It told me that my “old life was dead.”

And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk. Colossians 3:5-8, The Message

I knew better. God had delivered me from many a thing, but anger, bitterness, and hurt had reared it’s ugly head again. Satan used them all to make me mean. Irritable. And curse like a sailor. Yes, the “s” word came out every once in a while. I had even been delivered from my road rage. I didn’t want to go back there again.

And, it may seem silly, but that sign became a place I checked my spirit, and my bank account, and set up a swear jar.

Until, I confessed it in a Bible Study. Confessed in front of everyone that I, a pastor, was not perfect. Knew better, but sometimes, just didn’t do better. Loved Jesus, but cussed a little. And, maybe these days…a little too much.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16, NLT

Oh, we must pray right now! You have brought up something I bet someone else needs deliverance from, and I am glad you were bold enough to share it. I want to pray specifically for you!”

Say what? She was gonna pray for my cussing? Now, I trusted her sweet soul. I loved this lady. She was my accountability partner. She knew what I had been struggling with, but really…of all those things, cussing?

And, she did. In front of the people I had preached before. In front of those I was called to lead, she prayed for my “sin.” That I would leave that day, and not have to place another nickel in my swear jar.

I left that night and said to my husband, “I can’t believe she prayed for my cussing. It’s just the “s” word” See, she takes her prayers seriously. When she knows something displeases God, and he wants one of His own to turn away from something that may cause them to stumble, she fervently prays. Shouldn’t we all be this way? About even what we consider to be silly things?

A couple days ago, my youngest at the dinner table tried to do it again: “Well, we all know Mommy’s favorite word.” To which I replied…“Nope. Do you? Because since I was prayed for a few Wednesday nights ago, I haven’t said that word, and that sign has been moved.”

Yes…moved. And in it’s place is this. A reminder of the “s” word I am supposed to be living out this year: Surrender.

So back to Colossians 3…I urge you to take a look at the entire chapter. Because maybe there are some “s” words (sins) in there you need to surrender to God in prayer, too. Maybe cussing isn’t your thing. Maybe it isn’t the thing you know not to do, but do it anyway. Maybe for you it’s anger. A bad temper. Unforgiveness. Or maybe it’s lying. Hiding things because you think no one will find out. Or a lustful nature you feed, and feed, and feed.

He takes ALL of it seriously, just like my precious accountability partner, and He wants you to have a “new life.” I want that for you, too. So “confess to each other.” Feel free to comment, and I will surely carry your burden, take it seriously, and pray that you are delivered, too.

Give yourself permission

I’m a helper. An empath. A person who moves in compassion, and this only becomes more apparent in times of crisis.

I also like naps. Netflix. But I don’t like feeling helpless. I don’t know how to respond when the world says to stop moving . When before it’s all I’ve ever known to do. Move. Act. Respond.

As I’m standing in my kitchen, making phone calls. Some that go unanswered, leaving me wondering how to move. How to act. How to respond. I glance over at the Bible I have placed on my kitchen counter. Glaring at me in bold print are these words: Permission to Rest.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. Mark 1:32-34

I can relate. Now, I am not Jesus. I am not driving out demons. But I have moved, acted and responded at the drop of a hat. Moving to crisis after crisis. Acting on behalf of those who couldn’t for themselves. Responding to needs, even when I had my own.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

He gave himself permission to just stop. To rest. To not move. To not act. To not respond. to simply be in his Father’s presence.

And today…it’s OK if I do the same.

While I may feel helpless. My heart may be telling me I should do something. Maybe what I really need to do is just give myself permission.

Permission to rest.

Permission to move in living room dance parties, and nature walks with the people who love me.

Permission to be silly. To perform acts of love, in small doses. A little at a time, but maybe just not right now. Not right away.

Permission to respond…but later. And know that if I don’t, well it’s OK.

Today, I give myself permission.

As much as it takes…

“They just don’t listen. Seriously. I am trying, but they just don’t want to hear it.”

I don’t know how many times over the years I have said this. Been discouraged that messages of love and kindness are rejected. Disillusioned by watching those I’ve tried to guide make unwise choice after unwise choice. Been treated poorly in the process.

Even as I sit here writing this, we are just home from church, and I’ve endured a litany of ungratefulness, disrespect, and sass from two that just left the place in which they are supposed to be learning to be His “light.”

I sit here reflecting on the many times I’ve been yelled at for simply discussing alternate choices, and the consequences of not making them.

The times kindness has been rejected.

The times wisdom has been scoffed at.

The times when love has not felt like enough.

I wonder in those times what I am doing wrong? Why they don’t hear the message? Why I continue to suffer for doing good?

“The Son of Man must suffer terribly and be rejected by this generation.” Luke 17:25

That generation rejected wisdom, guidance, and love.

And so does this one.

Because not much has changed over the years. No one wants a Savior, because our false belief has us convinced we can save ourselves.

Just like the Pharisees that wanted Jesus killed, because they rejected His teaching, we all want to believe our way is best. That we have it all figured out.

We don’t desire truth, because we look to media and other worldly things to define it.

Yet as Jesus lay dying, rejected, suffering on a cross-He was still able to utter these words: “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

And if He could-the One who suffered, who was despised much more than I…

So can I.

So I can pray that I can keep loving.

Even when it’s hard. Even when I am exhausted. When it’s rejected. Taken advantage of, or simply not good enough. Even through suffering.

I can pray that as I ask God, How much do I allow? How many times do I have to forgive? How long do I suffer?

He will tell me this: As much as it takes. As many times as it takes. As long as it takes. Until they see love and kindness in you, and finally know Me.

What you wished you’d said….

Ugh! Go away! Get out of here! You are so annoying.

A day in the life of sibling rivalry. And it seems to happen a lot here while both deal with the changes that come with growing up.

“You go back in there. She is going to fix how she just spoke to you.” It’s what I ask each to do when they repeat things that are often hurtful.

But children are not the only ones who can hurt. Adults often do, too.

And what is it about us that has this tendency to get into a battle of words? Misspoken words.

Anger. Frustration. We feel ignored. Not taken seriously. Our emotions take over and eventually the spirit we asked to come guide us through our words. To help us choose them wisely, often don’t come out the way He intended.

They come out because we feel a need to fight back. And they come out all wrong.

They sometimes hurt.

So, like I tell my kids. How do we go back and fix it?

Sometimes, it takes simply being honest. Being sincere and saying the words you wished you had said instead. The ones He directed you to say.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Maybe what was said wasn’t of benefit in the moment. Maybe what was meant to come out was something so different.

Something like this:

I pray for you everyday. All day long, actually. I pray that you will be kind and loving. I pray that I can model these characteristics for you. I pray that you will be you and not everyone else. I pray that you have everything you need. I’m sorry. I love you.

Better than yesterday

Yesterday.

Yesterday was tough.

Yesterday you lost your temper. Yesterday you failed as a mom. Yelled at your kids. Snapped at your husband. A co-worker. A friend.

Yesterday you slipped. You fell back into old habits. Looking for anything to take away the pain, grief, sadness, loneliness you feel.

Yesterday you didn’t meet all the goals you set out to meet.

Yesterday you were a little less loving. A little more angry. Said things you didn’t mean, and wish you could take back.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23

Yesterday is over. Today provides new mercies. Today is a new day.

Today you are better than yesterday.

Today God has given you a new morning to start all over.

Today you will use your strategies to avoid losing your temper. Let go of little things, and focus on the good stuff.

Today you will be a bit more patient with your kids. Whisper, gently when they mess up. Take time to just hang out with them.

Today you will think before your speak. Thank your husband for all he does. Show appreciation to others as well.

Today you will intentionally work on that goal. Make steps to stay motivated.

Today you will show love and kindness to those in your presence. Talk it out instead of getting angry.

Today is a new day.

And if for some reason, you still fall today. Tomorrow will be new, too.