WWJD-First, Let Me…?

I had the immense honor and pleasure a bit ago of baptizing my mother-in-law. I’ll share the details of the day in a different post (one related to silly prayers), but I have to say..the feeling was incredible. The honor of being the one chosen to participate with the Holy Spirit is one that really is indescribable. It was my first baptism. And of course Satan beat me up before and after. 

Before is for that other post. After? You know what he beat me up about after? Pictures. There wasn’t some glorious picture to be shared. No one was standing around snapping photos for social media fame.

Yes. I am ashamed to admit THAT is what the devil used to make me feel inadequate for that entire week after. The fact that I didn’t have anyone cheering this honor on with me. Well, in terms of social media likes, anyway.

The week wore on. I battled the devilish monster some more. Considered myself inadequate alongside the pictures of others’ “honors.” Until I considered this: I thought about the time Jesus walked along this earth. I considered Jesus’ baptism.

After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” Matthew 3:16-17, NLT

Jesus. Baptized. We still talk about this day. Yet, it was never posted on any social media platform.

Jesus. Performed a number of miracles. He healed a leper. He brought sight to a blind man. He raised a man from the dead. We still talk about these events that took place long before any camera was even thought of.

Does the absence of any form of physical evidence make these occurrences any less powerful? The witnesses to the events any less honored?

Which leaves me wondering: What would Jesus do with social media? Would he be worried about being “famous?” Loved? Wanted? Accepted? Getting “likes?” “Shares?” A thumbs up? Prior to helping the lady who had the bleeding condition, would he say, “Wait. Let me get a selfie?” Or would he be more worried about “being about his Father’s business;” sharing the message of truth, and his Father’s love?

I would like to think Jesus’ Insta page would not be filled with heavily filtered selfies, but words of the Father’s love. Messages of hope and compassion for those that desperately need to know about true love, mercy and grace. That his Facebook page would not be filled with only his happy moments, but he would be telling others of the 40 days he fasted, and was tempted by the devil, so others would be aware of his prowling. Yes, even his prowling around on their Facebook feeds. The ways in which social media can become our fuel for affirmation, and not the Lord.

Case in point:

I saw the much anticipated envelope waiting for me. I ripped into it with excitement, holding my breath, hoping it really was what I thought was inside. The final piece of confirmation I needed as proof that all the years of work I had put into this long journey had finally paid off. “Here it is!” I said to my husband, commenting that I needed a frame to place it in, so it could be displayed each year once it was renewed. 

His response? “Don’t you want a picture? You know, to humble brag?”

Did I? Did I need one? If I didn’t post one for comments and likes, did it mean the time spent. The work put in. The effort. Did it mean it didn’t occur?

No, that’s not what it meant. It meant I didn’t need to post the picture to feel accomplished. I didn’t need to post the picture to feel honored. I didn’t need the likes to know I had made it.

Just like that baptism. It still occurred. Despite the lack of a picture. God was still witness to it. The Holy Spirit still showed up, even if social media never got to see it.

Perhaps you like to commemorate great moments to “celebrate” the milestones. That’s great. If that works for you. Wonderful. I do ask you take heed to one command from Paul as he writes to the church in Colossae: And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:17, NLT

Perhaps you like to scroll through all the accomplishments of others, and you don’t feel the need to compare yours to theirs. I applaud you. I wish I had that willpower at times. I wish the devil didn’t know this is a deep insecurity of mine and didn’t use this to beat on me. If you are an encourager: So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11, NLT

Or perhaps we could all be more like Jesus, and just let our accomplishments, our works, our efforts speak for themselves. Knowing that even if no one ever took a picture, God is looking down from heaven saying, “This one, this one right here. That is one with whom I am well pleased. That one brings me so much joy!”

WWJD: Pray for those who hurt you

I went to therapy the other day. I am not too proud to admit that I am a Christian. A mental health provider. A pastor. And I am in therapy. I can imagine that during this time of upheaval and isolation many people are. As a therapist, I can attest to the growing numbers. So yes, I am one of those numbers. I am also a diligent believer in its ability to bring about change if one does their part in the process.

As I sat in my session, discussing past hurts that played a part in my anxiety when starting new things, my therapist challenged me to pray for those who hurt me. This isn’t a new concept.

In fact, it’s biblical. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:44, “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”

The very next morning I woke up, made my coffee, and sat down. I opened my devotional, and then I saw it. A call to live at peace with everyone, and a prayer to release those for which we were still seeking justice for our hurts. The days assignment even requested that we list them by name.

So I did. I pulled out my pen. I wrote down this verse: Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, but leave room for God’s wrath. Romans 12:17-19

And then I wrote down this prayer: Right now, by faith, I release every person from whom I feel entitled to demand justice. I release……

And after that blank, I wrote down the names of those for which I was still holding onto bitterness. The names of those who still caused me grief every time I simply heard their name. The names of those who I knew had caused this adult “first day of school” anxiety. And I asked God to bless them, and to change their ways so that they would hurt no one else any longer in the ways I had been hurt. And I asked that they would one day know Him as their own. 

It wasn’t easy. And it didn’t make my day easier. I still walked into that new school anxious. I cried all the way to work actually. But my meeting went well. I know that I may not find favor with everyone, for some I’m just not meant to. It’s ok, but with God I have, and I will be immensely blessed for putting aside the bitterness I feel for those who have chosen to take advantage or hurt me.

Maybe today you are holding onto something that someone has done to you. Maybe it even makes you anxious to walk into new rooms, too. I encourage you to try what I did above. Make a list. Write out those names and surrender them to God. Then pray a blessing of His favor over them. 

It’s not easy, but it’s exactly what Jesus would do. 

How about a little help over here?

We had prepared him for this day. Told him what exactly to expect. He knew just the number of pricks he was getting, and the shots he needed to get back into school for his 7th grade year. He knew just the time he needed to get up, and what they would require of him once he got there. He knew they MAY have an extra dose of vaccine, and he could get one prick extra. We had prepared him for every possible thing that could be expected.

“We have an extra dose of the vaccine, and he is scheduled for a weight and height check, too.”

Then it happened. Uh-oh.

“You did not tell me about height and weight! Two shots! I am only getting two shots! Because that is what you said!” Kicking. Yelling. Arms flailing. Looking more like a toddler, and less like a 12 year old (well, even more less like one, hence the height and weight check).

The meltdown he had certainly didn’t match the weight he wasn’t gaining. The meltdown he had was simply because Mommy forgot about that height and weight check. It was not on his “schedule.” Not what he was expecting. This is the norm when dealing with autism. Clearly I should know better.

“This is embarrassing. People are looking at us. I’m going to the Jeep.”

I get it. She, his older sister, had endured this just as long as we had. But she was 14. I am 43. My skin is tougher than hers. I had learned that no one was throwing you a bone, and they were going to stare, and he was still going to scream.

“Hun, I got a shot blocker. It makes it hurt less.”

There was my bone. Sweet Jesus. Where did this angel dressed as a nurse come from? And could there please be more like her? 

As we climbed back in our vehicle, my daughter spoke again about her embarrassment, and I proceeded to tell her this, about the girl she described as making faces and laughing:

“No one knows our situation. No one knows what he goes through. Or who he is. And after today they won’t see us again. They may even go home and be horrible to their parents. Or mean to their siblings. Or be big bullies in their neighborhoods or schools. I don’t care if they stare. What I care about is that you two know NOT to do that. You get and give shot blockers”

So. Which one are you? Because I know in the many years we have endured our son’s tantrums we have had some hand us a bone, and some just hand us stares. And I know many don’t know what to do, but a question asking us how to help is enough to make us feel less out of control, less incompetent, less wanting to melt into a puddle (or hide in cars).

On the way home, because I had bribed the kid with Starbucks just to get that weight and height checked without another meltdown (look, I gotta do what I gotta do), I heard from the backseat, “You want to try some?” At first I thought the sky could be falling. Was she being kind to her embarrassing, younger brother? 

As I questioned her character, because this is what “good” parents do when their kids are nice, this is what she told me: “Mom, he didn’t get his cake pop. I’m sharing some of my banana bread.” 

She had handed him a bone. 

Could you hand someone a dose of compassion instead of stares, snickers, and judgment that do nothing but add to the scorn they already feel? What bone could you hand out today to a person, a mom, or a desperate child in need? Do you have a shot blocker, a piece of banana bread, or a yummy cup of coffee to ease the burden for someone? It will not only make them feel a lot better, it’s guaranteed to lift you up too.

The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25, NLT

WWJD About My Tattoos?

Tattoos. Mention them, and a number of opinions are generated from one simple word. Tattoo.

“Oh, I could never.”

“You know what it says in Leviticus.”

I know what it says in Leviticus. I read the entire chapter. Every single word. It had much more to say than merely mentioning the abomination of people with tattoos.

This paradox was the topic of conversation as I sat in the latest of many tattoo chairs. The artist, who did not subscribe to a religion persay, was actually surprised I was a pastor. And we had an entire conversation about tattoos and the Bible. He had his co-worker come by, and even guess what I did for a living (which is putting it mildly, because well…I am not a paid pastor). Why was this such a big topic of conversation? Rituals? Laws? That had nothing to do with love? Nothing to do with Jesus?

So the question for today! What would Jesus do if he encountered someone with tattoos? Well, love them. He definitely would not judge the covering. Choose not to get to know their heart simply because they decided to tattoo one on their arm.

Take a listen and feel free to weigh in on what YOU think Jesus would do! 

WWJD: Make time or excuses?

There is this quote I often see circulating around on the internet. It goes something like this-“People make time for what they consider a priority,” or something of that nature. In essence, this is what that means: We make a priority, give our time to, and seek out what is essentially important to us.

For some, our work becomes number one. For others, it may be a hobby. A relationship. A family member. A habit we can’t put down.

Others may make the comfort of people a priority, abandoning their work, hobbies, relationships, and other obligations to run and help at a moment’s notice. Feeling the sting when it is not reciprocated.

When we decide to set some things as a priority, or not sacrifice our time, we may say these things-“I couldn’t come because…” “I didn’t call because…” “I didn’t finish because…”

We all do this. Sometimes we are just pulled in many directions. Our time really is scarce. Other times we are making excuses. Sending the message, “This/That/You are not a priority to me.”

When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! John 5:6-9, NLT

The man in this story was no different than we are at times. Did he want to get well? Make his healing a priority? Or was he making excuses to stay sick?

What about you? Do you want to get well?

Then it’s time to make the decision to get well. To stop making excuses. Excuses to skip church, or never go at all. Excuses not to pray. Not to read your Bible. Excuses to hold onto resentment, unforgiveness, and bitterness. Excuses not to find your source of peace. Real freedom. Real healing. Real love.

Do you truly want to get well?

The solution according to Jesus? “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

Put down your excuses. Pick up your mat. Finally choose Jesus. Choose to make Him a priority.

WWJD: Keep on loving

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7, NLT

Ever wanted to give up on someone? Just wave your hands in the air, accept defeat, and let them go on about their (usually destructive) business?

I know I have.

But something often stops me. Yes, I am a softy. My best friend tells me I am “too nice.” I have made it a personal goal to set some hard, fast boundaries around my limits and heart; but there are some things, God will not allow me to relinquish. Even though I want to just give up.

It reminds me of a story of another woman who was persistent in the saving. The Shunamite woman. Her story begins in 2 King 4, and she is not named, she is only listed in the King James Version as a “great woman,” and in other versions, as a “wealthy woman.” She had everything she needed, but one thing-a son. Elisha would come into town, and each time he did, he would come have dinner with the wealthy family, and the woman, knowing he was a man of God, made a place for him, a place for him to stay. She took such good care of him, she was promised a child; but then something happens to that child.

One day when her child was older, he went out to help his father, who was working with the harvesters. Suddenly he cried out, “My head hurts! My head hurts!” His father said to one of the servants, “Carry him home to his mother.” So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died. She carried him up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and left him there. 2 King 4:18-21, NLT

She wanted him to be saved. To be healed. She loved him dearly. And you must believe, so did God. And sometimes this is where we end up wanting to give up. The desire to save becomes too much. Too much to carry. It seems we want it more at times than the other person, and we can even grow resentful, angry, and bitter. There are also times when we give so much of ourselves we can enable others not to seek their own saving.

And don’t get me wrong here, I realize I am talking about love today. And I am writing about not giving up. Not losing hope, remaining faithful and steadfast in love. But we can do this, and let go. We can do this and give those people back to God.

Did the Shunamite woman not do this with her son? Did she not love him simply because she carried Him to the one who could truly save Him, and let him go. Let God do His work?

But how do we do this? How do we continue to be faithful, hopeful, and loving; yet not give up on the people we just can’t carry any longer? How do we lay our burdens, our “sons” at the feet of Jesus?

Prayer.

We love by praying.

We continue to remain hopeful that God hears our pleas for their salvation. We do not give up praying that they seek truth and wisdom from Him.

This is how we demonstrate faithfulness and perseverance in love to those we just have to let go.

Never stop praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Never stop. Don’t give up. Always remain hopeful that He hears you, and He cares about those you love.

WWJD: Just tell the truth already

Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 1 Corinthians 13:6, NLT

Have you known someone, then found out later that they hid things about themselves? Left you wondering if they were really who they seemed to be? Why they didn’t think you could hold space for their truth?

Or maybe you were the one hiding the truth. Maybe you were hiding the truth about a situation because you wanted to protect the parties involved. Thought telling the whole story would protect the ones you loved from getting hurt. Or even protect you from the consequences. Protect you from the hurt. From damage.

Does anything good come from withholding the truth?

The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. Luke 12:2, NLT

Well, God’s Word says in Proverbs 19:9 that the one who hides the truth will get caught, and that all secrets will be known; and from my own experience-His Word holds true.

Let me share the quickest version I can of a story for you skeptics.

My view was different. My methods for moving people towards change are different, and sometimes for that, I don’t see eye to eye with people. In working with kids, one thing I have learned is that not one is to be treated in my space the exact same. Sure, there are treatment plans that are written with the same language, but one method I may use with one, isn’t going to work in the next session with another. I also know that treatment plans are, well….”plans.” Plans are usually wrecked when working with kids. Fluid. And each session I have with one, is just that-fluid. In counseling-plans are for insurance billing and goal-setting. I am for the client.

This is why I don’t often see eye to eye with everyone. If I don’t think it will help the mental health of my client, I won’t do it. But, I haven’t always had the luxury of telling this truth, or to the other parties involved. And it was for a time brutal. In my desire to protect, I didn’t reveal all that occurred (nor, will I here-it could fill a book). The withholding. The hiding. It bred anger and bitterness. That was outwardly expressed. Until I finally just told the truth.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32, NLT

Healing began once the truth was told. It wasn’t anything I could really explain. But change occurred. God breathes life into relationships when truth is revealed in kindness and love, only for the purpose of mending and healing.

I haven’t always been an example of this since that time, but it’s an example I try to be each time I think back to that time. “Always. Always be an example of truth. Even if it’s messy. Even if it hurts.”

Need a further reference for how hiding the truth is the opposite of love? In 1992, the movie A Few Good Men became a box office hit. Starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson, and many others, it told the story of two lawyers defending two Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine who had fell out of favor with the others, mainly for breaking the chain of command, reporting inappropriate actions, and requesting a transfer. The murder had reportedly been ordered by the commanding Colonel, played by Jack Nicholson.

Two men. Two very different truths. One truth is based on a code of honor, dignity, and what is believed to be right from a governing force or institution. The other truth? Based on common character, integrity, truth, justice, and beliefs about what is right and fair provided by the general preservation of lives. One was searching for the truth. One was hiding it.

In the movie’s famous interrogation scene comes the most remembered line from Nicholson, “You can’t handle the truth!” Right before admitting the cold-hard truth.

It actually sounds a lot like my story…without the murder and court trial.

It’s common. We lie. We withhold the details because we can’t handle the truth. We can’t handle the consequences that the truth will create. The feelings. The ways in which the truth will affect others.

But the truth is freeing. The truth is necessary. The truth is healing. Speaking the truth is not done in an effort to limit or to judge. It is done to create change that can build character, dismantle oppression, address injustice, protect others from future hurt, teach others how to stand up in the future, and build integrity.

We teach when we reveal truth. We stand for something when we reveal truth.

We love when we reveal truth.

WWJD: Kindness

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
    Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
    Write them deep within your heart. Proverbs 3:3, NLT

Kindness. What do we often think of when we think of random acts of kindness? Pretty words? Random gifts?

The second portion of 1 Corinthians 13:4 states that LOVE is kind. But think about it…can someone give really good gifts, and speak charming and prettied up words, and not have any loving motive behind them? Of course they can. Paul addresses this in the first three verses of that famous chapter, when he says: If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. 1 Corinthians 13:1,3, MSG

Yes. We can speak beautifully. We can give great gifts. And not be loving, or even very kind.

So then…what is kindness? What does it mean to express kindness in ways that show love to others?

According to Stephen and Alex Kendrick, authors of the book The Love Dare, “Kindness is love in action.” Action. How we SHOW kindness. Yes, it is how we speak, and what we give, but it is more than those things. It is how we make others feel. How we express love to others in what we DO. And it encompasses a number of things that sometimes have nothing to do with the words we say, or the things we can give with our money.

Kindness is also tenderness, which in other words is the care and concern for the welfare of another person. It is sensitivity to their needs. Compassion and warmth. We are not harsh when we speak, even if we have to correct. And let’s be real-kind people do have to correct, but they do so with a soft tone of voice; while speaking the truth.

Kindness is willingness, or goodwill and a desire to serve another to meet their needs, the ones we are sensitive to. It is going out of ones way to provide assistance, even if it may mean we have to put our desires to the side. It is not just giving money or material things, but giving of one’s time and attention.

Kindness moves. It doesn’t sit around and wait for someone to act first. To make the first move. “Well, I will show compassion and take care of his/her needs, when mine are taken care of.” It sees a need, and takes the initiative to meet it, whether that person asks or not. It hears of someone’s strife or heartache, and lends an ear whether that person seeks you out first or not. It gets off the couch and moves towards the hurting. Towards the broken. Towards the suffering. Towards the object of one’s concern and love-not away.

It’s like this story we have probably heard many times, one found in Luke 10:25-27. It’s the story of the Good Samaritan. We know the gist of the story. The headline today would read: “Jewish man harmed in vicious attack, and left for dead.” Two men walked by him. Upstanding men. One a priest, the other an assistant in the temple. Neither stopped to take care of him because it would inconvenience them. Surely thinking, “Oh, poor thing. He’s hurt. Sorry about that. But…it’s really not my concern. Nothing I can really do about it. Moving on with what I got to do today. Don’t really have time for this.”

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.” Luke 10: 34-35, NLT

A despised man. Who wasn’t even supposed to talk to a Jew. He was the example of kindness. Tenderness. Willingness. Initiative. Action.

Love.

So now the question is-which one are we? The one not willing to be inconvenienced or bothered with someone else’s trouble; or the one moving to act? To show kindness? To show love?

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” 1 John 3:18

Let’s not be rusty gates with what we believe are the words people want to hear, then doing the opposite. Lets move in love. Act in love. Show our love.

Remember-“Kindness is love in action,” so as that song mentioned long ago…perhaps it’s time for a little less talk and a lot more action. A lot more love. A lot more kindness.

WWJD: Patience

Love is patient. 1 Corinthians 13:4

Ever heard this? “Don’t pray for patience. If you do God will give you a reason to be patient.”

Well, if you haven’t, then I don’t suggest you start praying for patience. I do suggest you hang out with kids a bit. The toddler kind. The school-age kind. The teenage kind. The grown folk kind. You will be learning lessons on patience in a hot minute.

But, let’s be real. We could learn some patience in many of life’s situations and relationships.

Case in point. When I think of patience, I think of this example.

She is standing in line. The grocery line. She intended to come in to get only a few things, and ended up with a few more than she could carry. She scurries to the express lane to find that the patron in front is writing a check. Really? A check? Like, who does that anymore? And…do you not realize, hon…they gonna hand that check you are taking oh-so-long to write back to you?

Then it starts. The huffing. The foot-tapping. The eye rolling. The death stare at the check-writing lady. Impatience. Lack of love simply because she is inconvenienced. Because she didn’t pick up a hand basket.

She is me.

Oh, I am not the check-writer. I am sure that lady is sweet as tea.

I am the huffing, impatient, foot-tapper. Supposed to be representing light and love like Jesus. But I am anything but.

Oh, and I know I am not the only one; because I have been in front of the foot tappers. In need of some patience. In need of some love when my kids have been a screaming mess. In need of the light and love of Jesus. So surely, I could have been it that day.

So, how do we exercise this “love is patient” stuff in our homes, communities, jobs…well, everywhere?

Stop. Think. Before we act or speak.

Not easy. No. Not easy at all. But it’s what we are called to do.

James 1:19 instructs us, Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry; and in Proverbs 15:18 we learn what occurs when conflict is the go to strategy: A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,
but the one who is patient calms a quarrel
.


God desires for us to remain calm. To seek peace. To wait.

This means that at times we don’t get the last word, or even the first one. That when our teen gives us a snarky response about schoolwork, we listen more and speak less. When we have to wait in that grocery line behind a check-writer…well, we just simply wait; and breathe instead of tapping our foot and rolling our eyes.

That when we have asked our tween to bring the dishes for the fifth time, we take a moment. Take a break, slowly speak it for the 6th time, with a consequence calmly added to the end, and then slowly shut the door behind us. No angry slamming.

We give time. We give space. We give soft, compassionate words, and not ones spoken out of retaliation and anger.

Because this is what Jesus would do.

He would not be huffing and foot-tapping. Slamming doors and yelling about dirty dishes. Creating conflict and raising his voice to demand others listen.

No, he would be providing calm instruction. Recognize that people are human and need time and distance to correct mistakes and make amends. Demonstrating patience, and in turn love.