Sunday Reflection: Rejoice

Rejoice

God has acted. How would worship change if we lived into that truth? Knowing that our God has already done. How would your heart sing, how would your mouth praise, how would your mind rejoice in the certainty that our God

Is a God of the right now.

He is an active, living force in this world.

And He loves you.

He loves me.

He loves this broken, imperfect world so much he actively works to bring His Kingdom of love into our present.

There isn’t a single thing we have to do to get him to act. He just does. Our worship doesn’t change that, our pleading, our holiness. He acts.

Which means: we can leave our hurts at his feet. We can leave our sadness. Anger. Guilt. Uncertainty. Distrust. Leave it all. Let him pick it up and redeem you. Today in worship, let your heart beat with certainty and rest in the truth that God has acted.

Go rejoice.

Be Glad.

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Forgiveness starts with Compassion

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to extend to ourselves and other people. It becomes something we know we should do, but can’t do. Aren’t we all called to forgive others like we have been forgiven? And how the world would change if we forgave more.

We don’t often do it, or when we do it is half-hearted and not really believed to make a difference.

Forgiveness starts with compassion. Compassion transforms our hearts and minds and allows God to do the forgiving. On our own we can’t. Our hearts grow hard, our minds busy with what the other person has done to not deserve our forgiveness. Sometimes people are really hard to forgive. Their actions hurt. Their words hurt. They are closed off to grace.

That is where compassion comes in.

Compassion softens the ground and allows forgiveness to take root. It reminds us that pain is a motivator for a lot of bad things that happen in this world. When we look at another person and see their misery we can cover forgiveness with love. A crazy, stupid love that leaves us vulnerable, but open to change. Not just change in our own life, but change in the life of the person we are forgiving. Forgiveness is powerful, which is why it is so important in our faith. It is what allows us to change, to let God work in our hearts, minds and lives.

But without compassion, we don’t see the person in front of us deserving of that forgiveness. We expect them to do something in order to earn it, when we should instead offer it open handed. Compassion allows us to see the pain, hurt and anger in the other person so we aren’t seeing just their actions, but who they are.

Compassion lets the other person know they are loved and chosen. We put a face to God’s love. When we keep compassion out of our lives, forgiveness doesn’t take root and the world suffers.

All of us has someone to forgive. Whether it is yourself, a friend, a church, or even family. Today, right now there is forgiveness to be extended. But it won’t help if we say I forgive you like a child who is forced to. Today, I challenge everyone to extend forgiveness bathed in compassion.

That is life changing.

That is world changing.

That is kingdom changing.

Compassion

 

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Friday Encouragement: 23

Psalm23

When you think of Psalm 23 don’t you think of death? It has become the Psalm associated with funerals and endings. But the more I read and hear Psalm 23, the more I believe it is a Psalm for right now. It is a Psalm that reminds us of how loved we are and because of that love, no matter what we walk through we are not alone. We have a shepherd who lovingly guides us. Who blesses us. Who anoints us with the oil of kings.

It doesn’t take away the fact there are days that defy description. Sometimes they aren’t just days, but weeks and months.

Possibly even years.

God is silent. The world is broken and only seems worse. People you love are hurting. People you love hurt you. It doesn’t ever seem like creation will catch up to God’s love.

We don’t want to fall to our knees and call out for help. Because this world tells us that pain is weakness or that there is no one there to answer your cry. God is there. Whether you call out or not. He is on his knees with you. In your grief, in your pain, your sorrow, your disbelief. He may already be working in this world, but he also sits with us. Loves us. Comforts us.

He isn’t a distant God. But a God of the right now.

The next time you hit that wall of desperation, don’t pick yourself up right away. Don’t think about the lessons you’ll learn or how you’ll grow. Acknowledge your pain or sadness. Sit in the discomfort and know you are not alone. This isn’t something you have to get through by yourself. Say out loud:

I-am-known-I-am-loved-IWe Christians do not believe in a distant God. We believe in a God who is right here with us. He is Emmanuel. A God who knows our struggles, grief and pain. A God who walks into the space we are prostrate in and lies down with us.

He grieves with us. He comforts us. He sits with us.

I used to think being a Christian meant the pain wouldn’t bother me. Or I wouldn’t even have pain. Now I still have pain and the pain still hurts. But I don’t sit there alone, I have someone with me. Someone who doesn’t leave, someone who is steadfast and an anchor to true hope. Someone who’s love is unfailing. Someone who takes my pain and mourns with me.

So when I call out to the Lord, it isn’t in vain. My voice is heard, my cry is heeded and I am wrapped up in grace.

This Friday, call out to God not matter what you face. Call out and know he has answered. He answered before the call even left your lips. He is already with you. On the ground, head to the floor in prayer.

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Your story

Niequist quote

 

We all have a story. A story of where we have been, where we are going, and how we get there. Our stories are as unique as our fingerprints. No one has lived life the way you have. Your life speaks to someone.

So tell your story.

As Christians we often think our story has to lead people to Christ. It is like an elevator pitch to convince someone of something they don’t want to be convinced of. To sell to someone who isn’t buying.

Your story isn’t a marketing tool, your story is a road map to transformation. Not everyone will understand your landmarks, construction zones, or detours. But the ones who need to read it will. That is who your story is for, but you won’t know who it’s for

Unless you tell it.

All of us has a story. They all start different. They all have different forks in the road.

They are all worth telling.

The thing about stories is you don’t know who needs to hear it. So you have to tell it, because no one will ask for it. It may not seem life changing for you, but it is life changing for the listener.

So open your mouth and breathe life into your story.

I have a story that I told to my church. When I was asked, I didn’t think I had anything to share. But I did. If you want, you can hear my story. (starting at minute 14:20, but the stuff before that is good too. It’s just Israel’s story)

Catalyst_06Oct2013 from Catalyst Worship on Vimeo.

Tell your story. Because it matters. It matters to you, to the people who hear it. It matters to God.

Like Shauna says, when we tell our stories, lives change. Share yours. You can start today, in the comments below or simply saying it out loud to God.

Your story matters.

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A guest missing from the table

Yesterday I had the opportunity to be a part of a conference that brought together Doctors and literacy organizations to help start a dialog about how each of these sectors of our city can work together to ensure the success of every child in Cleveland.

I came as a volunteer in a medical center literacy program, but also as a person who is considering dipping her toes into the non-profit world and combining a love for literacy with a love for the kids of Cleveland.

I listened to speaker after speaker discuss the programs they have to ensure school readiness for children who are often ignored, and I listened to doctors who want to make sure they get parents the information they need so their kids can succeed at school.

And then one of the speakers said, we have representations from the business world, non-profit world and healthcare industry,

But where is the faith community? 

I looked around me and saw everyone nodding their heads in agreement. There is a partner who hasn’t shown up in Cleveland and for a second I wanted to scold that group as well.

Until I remembered I was one of them.

I didn’t go to that meeting representing my church or my faith. I went as a community member. Someone who sees such injustice in this city that I want to do something about it.  But I have that feeling despite being a part of the church.

Not as the church.

And much like Kristin Welch who went into the darkest parts of Kenya and asked God why he isn’t doing anything, I looked up and started to mutter the same words. And God answered me the same way he did Kristin.

Why aren’t you doing anything about this Jessica?

At the end of the day I walked away feeling disrupted. I thought I was going for one reason, and like God always does he lifts a sheet and I see the world completely different. It’s not that there aren’t churches doing good things, but they aren’t a part of the dialog of change. Its unique and precious voice isn’t being heard in the city. Its voice is hidden behind doors and programs that wait for people to come to them.

The church doesn’t need to make the community louder with programs. It needs to make the community loud with love.

The keynote speaker said  the biggest problem facing kids in poverty is toxic stress and it is one of the reasons poverty is passed through generations. It’s a stress that impacts development, learning and outcomes. It’s a stress that despite the best learning techniques possible is difficult to overcome. It’s a stress that is produced when a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t have food, doesn’t have a home.

Other stress can be overcome because a person feels a part of something bigger. And then I thought is toxic stress a stress,

from not being known, loved, or chosen.

That is the phrase that keeps rolling through my mind as I think through all the dialog from yesterday. It mixes with all those kids I knew from my days as an inner city librarian. The ones who came to me everyday just to check in, because they knew I cared where they were. It reminded me of an 11 year old girl who I taught to knit, who always had a smile on her face, who was killed by a stray bullet when she walked home from the corner store with a bag of candy. It reminded me of two brothers who were always in trouble, but always at the library because they had no where else to be and an empty stomach. It reminded me of the boy who once asked me why I was so nice to him, why did I care about him.

And all I could say was because I just did. It wasn’t anything he did or didn’t do. I just did. All those kids I knew and interacted with. All they wanted was someone to know them. To care where they were and who they were with. Someone to tell them they mattered in this world.

I think that is what the church brings to the table when we show up. Because we understand what it means to be loved when we don’t think we deserve it. The confidence we have to get through pain and suffering when we know we don’t walk it alone.

If the church showed up, could we show these kids that they are known, they are not forgotten, They are loved, even though they don’t always see it. That they are chosen to be who they are. And who they are is important.

They matter in this world. They are not insignificant.

My heart aches when I think about all those kids out there who don’t think they matter.

I went into that conference yesterday hoping to make a connection to start the literacy organization I’ve always dreamed of starting. But today, I’m wondering how I can get the church at the community table, spreading the circle of love wider and wider.

The one commandment we Christians are supposed to live out everyday, every breath and with every person is love. Isn’t that the best antidote to the toxic stress that keeps kids from experiencing transformation.

That is what we bring that other organizations don’t. We wrap all those good things they do up in love.

That’s how lives are changed.

That is how the world is changed.

So church? How are you going to show up today?

 

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Friday Encouragement: What we do matters

1JohnI read this verse in two separate places today. And I just finished a book called Love Does.

All right. I’m listening.

Our world is about saying things. The universe is loud with people’s thoughts, words, speeches, bumper stickers, blog posts :) But words are only words. It can’t be the only way we show people love.

I can say I love my kids, but what I do matters.

I can say I love my husband, but what I do matters.

I can say I love my neighbor, but what I do matters.

The church can say it’s a place for broken people, but what it does matters.

If we believe what we say, then our words become action. Love puts on a face, hands, feet and goes out into the world and does. It doesn’t just hide behind words. We need both to make this world a better place.

Today I encourage you to go out and do. Love the people you are with like its kingdom changing, and it just might be for that person. Don’t just tell them you love them, show it. To the stranger on the bus, the children in front of you, maybe, even yourself.

Show someone they are known, loved and chosen.

That is how we Christians should live.

Bob Goff, love like a sign language

 

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Choosing the eternal

We all have a choice everyday on how we are going to live. We can skim the surface, be distracted, and live life the world says it’s okay to live.

Or we can live every moment like it matters.

Sometimes I think we Christians get it wrong. We equate eternal life with a reward for living the “right way.” More and more I am seeing that eternal life can be lived right now. It is a life that takes every interaction, every breath, every movement as an act of the divine. A meal is no longer just a meal. A conversation with a loved one is no longer just a conversation. Waking up is no longer just getting out of bed.

Because all of those moments are lived  like it matters.

For a long time I lived life in the shallow end. Only tiptoeing through the waters instead of diving in deep. I can do cool tricks in the shallow end, but they are only distractions. Diving in deep isn’t fancy, but it is transforming. Diving in deep takes faith that you won’t get lost. It takes courage you will make it back up. It takes belief that you are anchored to a force that doesn’t let go.

It keeps you tethered to the present.

How are you going to live today? Will you bob along in the shallow end, or will you take a deep breath and plunge into the eternal?

Love Does

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