Gifts

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” -James 1:17 NKJV

Ask a child what their favorite part about Christmas is, and you’ll likely hear “presents!” (Okay, you can ask me, and I’ll give the same answer). I love presents. Big, small, chocolate, you name it. I just love the excitement of a gift- whether giving or receiving. It’s a thrill to find the perfect gift. It can also be a little nerve-wracking if you  have to follow up said perfect gift, but I digress.

We often say that Christmas isn’t about the gifts, and while it may not be about material presents, it is about the Gift, Jesus Christ. We celebrate His birth, because He came as a gift to us. Without the birth, there would be no death, and there would be no resurrection. He had to start somewhere. His birth was Hope to a hopeless world. We definitely have a lot to feel hopeless about these days, but His Hope sustains us. We know that this is not the end. I’m thankful for that gift.

I firmly believe that the Bible is a gift, too. One, it’s a gift in that we have the direct words of God at our fingertips. We have stories that tell us of God’s grace and love. We have commands that keep us in line with a Christ-like life. We have the hope of salvation, and we have godly examples of those who have gone before us. Two, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful”. It doesn’t change-ever- but it does show us different things at different times. I may read a passage of scripture ten times, and find something new on the eleventh read.

This Christmas season, I’ve been reading through the Gospels with several of my friends. Just today, I read Luke 23:6-12, which gives us an account of when Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, since He was from Galilee, and that was Herod’s district. I guess that means that Herod had jurisdiction over Jesus, rather than Pilate. Herod wanted to meet Jesus and see Him perform a miracle, yet he mocked Him and ended up sending Him back to Pilate. And then, get this, Pilate and Herod became friends, even though they had previously been enemies. Somehow, this entire chunk of Scripture has escaped me for thirty years. But even in a terrible situation, Jesus linked two enemies and brought peace. Isn’t that just like His character? Showing up in the most unexpected circumstances and bringing darkness to light.

Yesterday, I was reading a new book by Nika Maples, called Everyday Genesis, and she pointed out the connection between God hovering over the waters in the creation story, to Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33). Jesus walked on water like He had done it before, because he had! (Goosebumps and misty eyes!!) John 1:1-2 tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” The Word here means Jesus. He was with God as He hovered over the waters, and God was with Jesus when He walked on the water. Have I read those passages? Yes! Have I ever noticed the connection? Absolutely not. If that’s not a shiny wrapped package with six inch ribbon curls, I don’t know what is!

Finally, although I eagerly await more of these spiritual presents, let’s talk about The Christmas Story. Our Ladies Bible Study has been going through The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. You know what I realized? Elizabeth was not already pregnant with John when the angel appeared to Zechariah. It wasn’t a message of “your wife is pregnant”, it was “your wife will become pregnant”. No pressure when you leave here, Z. Oh yeah, and you can’t talk. I just felt like this added a new layer of faith demanded from Zechariah. The angel’s message was exciting, but it was still news of something to come. Zechariah had to trust that this angel was real and that he hadn’t gone crazy. I don’t know why that struck me, but it did. I saw the story in a new light. So, if that wasn’t enough, guess what. Mary wasn’t pregnant when the angel visited her either. Again, no wonder she was terrified. Not only was she being told she would have a baby without being married, the conception had not happened yet. Can you just see the wheels turning? When? Where? How? Yikes! Do you think she noticed a change right away? Do you think she knew when it happened? Since having children of my own, Mary has become one of my most revered women in Scripture. I know she’s probably everyone’s favorite, but I just love her obedience and trust. She knew how the story would end, but she was all in anyway. A new revelation about this treasured woman was possibly my favorite gift of the season. 

You may be reading this thinking “Um, yeah Maddie, I knew that already”, and that’s great! I think we understand Scripture at different paces, depending on where we are in our walks with God. What He reveals to me now is important for my life right now. Notice, the Bible isn’t changing. The words are not different for me, but the lightbulbs turn on in different patterns and times. His Word is forever.

What have you read lately that has new meaning? If you haven’t gained any new understanding, I encourage you to keep reading and/or read a book by a Christian author that helps you comprehend what He’s telling us. I hope you experience the excitement.  I truly value these moments as gifts from God.

 

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Clean the Fence

It’s been a busy season. This morning, our yard was evidence of that. It had begun to look like remnants of Halloween decorations were hanging on by a thread. Except we did not decorate. This was all natural. Our garden was embarrassingly overgrown, our store room had suffered from “just throw it in there until we can figure out where to put it”, and our chain link fence was covered in weedy vines. But, I can proudly write all of those things in the past tense. We worked hard. My fingers are sore, I have various nicks and bruises, and oh, the dirt.

I’ve struggled with thinking of things to write about. God has definitely planted a few seeds of ideas, but I haven’t taken time to sit down and write. However, I had a spark this morning. I love that God continues to speak to me through gardening, even though I’m still not any good at it. God is definitely bigger than anything we can do. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by His power at work within us” (CEB). Imagine using something I’m terrible at to speak to me for His glory.

This morning I had the task of pulling the vines from the fence, and I had a lot of time to ponder. Our back yard is adjacent to the local middle school; we share a chain link fence, but other than the fact that the school put it up, we solely maintain it. Over the past year or so, some weeds began to climb it, and it was looking a little disheveled. I figured I would pull them right off and be back to a clean-looking fence in no time.

Unfortunately, a lot of these vines had woven themselves through the fence and had become terribly strong and thick. Some vines could be pulled completely out in one fell swoop, but others required me to break them out, piece by piece. Still, some were so strong, I needed the hedge clippers to cut them out.

I was thinking about the metaphor God gives us of Jesus being the true vine, and we are the branches. He helps us produce good fruit, if we remain in Him (see John 15). These vines on my fence were not of the true vine. They were imposters. They were weeds, aiming to choke out the good. You see, I already had a bone to pick with the weeds. They overtook our garden this year, and I believe our final tally for produce was about three zucchinis, a squash, and a cucumber. Our high hopes for peppermint, jalapeños, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and the like were over. No, these vines were not my friends. They were my bitter enemy. The fact that they made my yard look disgusting was the last straw. I pulled, I broke, I cut, I unwound. They felt the wrath of Maddie.

These vines are like our sin. Their name suggests good. Good things come from true vines. They are lifelines to grapes, tomatoes, and watermelons. We can be so deceived if we aren’t careful. Satan likes to sneak in like that. He knows how damaging he can be when we aren’t paying attention. Like I said, some of these vines had gone unnoticed and grown strong. They not only disguised themselves as good vines, they disguised themselves as the fence. They blended in so well, I didn’t notice all of them right away. Isn’t that just like sin? We allow ourselves “little” sins. We say “as long as I’m not doing this, I’ll be okay”. And we may feel good about our decision for a while, but eventually the Holy Spirit asks more of us. Eventually, those little sins grow, and they look pretty ugly. They may not always turn into something outrageous, but they add up. As we spend more time with God, we see the eyesore for what it is, and we can’t help but pull out the hedge trimmers. Cut. It. Out.

So, the more brambly weeds at the top were slightly thorny. They didn’t want to be pulled. They did everything they could to stay. Most of these came off pretty easily, though. They looked like they might have been some of the prettier weeds at one point. Today, they were dried up and ugly. These are like the sins that we stop doing, but we don’t let go of them. Sometimes God convicts us of our sin, so we stop, but we are resentful. We hold on to the idea that maybe we can go back to doing them someday. Maybe if we do a lot of service projects or we give money to the church, we can ease up on the convictions a little. Isn’t it a give/take relationship? As we grow closer to God, though, we want to get rid of our old ways. Our hearts change, and the sin just doesn’t seem as glamorous. Praise God.

I really did have to work at this task today. Just when I thought I was done I’d find another. Sometimes it would be a little, sneaky vine, other times, it would be this massive branch. How in the world did I miss that? If we relate these vines to sin, once again, God rarely asks us to get rid of all of our sins at one time. He slowly trims, sculpts, molds us into His image. I cleared away what I saw. I moved on to another section, and came back. When I finally cleared away all the vines, you know what I saw? Pine needles. A completely different beast. But they came off with very little effort. Once I had tackled the winding warriors, the pine needles were a piece of cake. When we weed out the sin in our lives, it becomes easier to recognize. It becomes easier to let go. We want our hearts (and our fences) to be clean. We see how unbecoming the rubbish is.

I’m not gonna lie, I fought those vines today. I hacked away with those hedge trimmers. I pulled with all my might, and I ripped those nasty little things to shreds. We have to hate our sin. We have to fight it with everything in us, and when we realize that’s not enough, we have to ask God for strength.

Ephesians 4:17-32 is a bit lengthy, but it biblically sums up what I’m trying to say with all this:

So I’m telling you this, and I insist on it in the Lord: you shouldn’t live your life like the Gentiles anymore. They base their lives on pointless thinking, 18 and they are in the dark in their reasoning. They are disconnected from God’s life because of their ignorance and their closed hearts. 19 They are people who lack all sense of right and wrong, and who have turned themselves over to doing whatever feels good and to practicing every sort of corruption along with greed.

20 But you didn’t learn that sort of thing from Christ. 21 Since you really listened to him and you were taught how the truth is in Jesus, 22 change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were, corrupted by deceitful desires. 23 Instead, renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit 24 and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.

25 Therefore, after you have gotten rid of lying, Each of you must tell the truth to your neighbor[b] because we are parts of each other in the same body. 26 Be angry without sinning.[c] Don’t let the sun set on your anger. 27 Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil. 28 Thieves should no longer steal. Instead, they should go to work, using their hands to do good so that they will have something to share with whoever is in need.

29 Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say.30 Don’t make the Holy Spirit of God unhappy—you were sealed by him for the day of redemption. 31 Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. 32 Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ. (CEB)

If you have nasty vines that need to be cut out, it’s time. It’s time to clean your fence, and start looking like the person God has created you to be. It’s not cute, it’s not attractive, and eventually, it will take over. I didn’t work alone today. I had my husband and my kids around to help when I needed it. Whether it was helping me find a tool, or bringing weeds to the burn pile, they jumped in when I needed a hand. Don’t try to rid yourself of sin by yourself. Find a friend who can be an accountability partner and a prayer partner. Continue to pray heartily that God will help you eliminate the displeasing behaviors. He won’t deny you that.

Don’t put it off any longer. Clean out those weeds. You will be glad you did.

I’m praying for all who read today.

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Book Five

“I DON’T CARE!” Harry yelled at them, snatching up a lunascope and throwing it into the fireplace. “I’VE HAD ENOUGH, I’VE SEEN ENOUGH, I WANT OUT, I WANT IT TO END, I DON’T CARE ANYMORE!”
“You do care,” said Dumbledore. He had not flinched or made a single move to stop Harry demolishing his office. His expression was calm, almost detached. “You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
First of all, let me say, I am not about to compare Harry Potter to the Bible. What I am about to do is tell you about some ideas that were sparked by a Harry Potter book today.

Also, I am doing my best to avoid spoilers. I hope I’m being discreet enough for those who have not read nor seen Harry Potter and want to uncover the story on their own. If you haven’t read the Bible, spoiler alert: Jesus dies, conquers death, comes back to life, and offers to save us all.

Carry on.

In addition to/conjunction with my PopSugar reading challenge this year, I am listening to all of the Harry Potter books on audiobook. I have read them all before, but the audio version has been a fun journey with a magnificent narrator. My least favorite book in the series is the fifth book, Order of the Phoenix. There are so many events and circumstances that just make my stomach turn. Injustice. Devastation. Betrayal. Chaos. Lies. It’s the longest book in the series, and, to me, it’s the hardest to read.

However, there is a conversation in the last few chapters between Harry and his school’s headmaster, Dumbledore. Dumbledore reveals his side of the story. He explains to Harry why things unfolded the way they did. He explains why he hid certain details from Harry in order to protect him.  Harry still has a difficult time swallowing the events of his fifth year at Hogwarts, but he sees them with clarity in hindsight.

It’s no secret that terrifying things are happening in our country and our world as a whole. It is seemingly impossible to pass a day without hearing gut-wrenching news. Our world is broken and we are weary. Our everyday life is book five. There is corruption within our leadership. People are dying. Evil is taking over.

But the difference is that Harry Potter doesn’t know the ending. As Christians, we know that Jesus wins. As Christians, we know that this world is not our home. As Christians our faith lies in Jesus Christ as our Savior. We may…we will suffer. We will continue to see death and destruction. But we can rest assured that the end will be victorious, because the moment we leave this earth, we will rejoice with God in heaven. As it says in the Bible:

““O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-58 NKJV)

 

I have always imagined that when we get to heaven, we will get to see a playback of our lives. Sometimes that thought makes me cringe, but other times I think about how my iPhone sized view of my world will be placed into the big picture of what God has seen in my life. I will see how all the pieces connected and how things I didn’t see shaped what I did. I will see how each decision built up the next and how “a sudden turn of events” was the orchestration of an all-knowing God.

No, Dumbledore is certainly not God. Dumbledore blamed himself for the way things unfolded in Harry’s life. He had regrets about things he kept hidden from Harry. He made mistakes. God doesn’t make mistakes. We do. The evil in this world is a result of a sinful man who passed that sin from generation to generation. We are broken, and no magic spells or wands or potions can fix us. Only God can. The bad in this world sends us running to Him. Until He comes back, may we pray for peace, may we pray for boldness to speak His name, and may we trust that all of this will make sense when we reach eternity.

Be near, Jesus.

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The Saga of Maddie at the Mall

Never have I been so sure of my status as a sojourner than I was today at the mall. I honestly felt a little culture shock in my own city. I don’t spend a lot of time at the mall, if you can’t tell. I had a very specific errand to run, which was to pick up a cookie cake for a No Mo Chemo party at work; otherwise, I would have ordered whatever it was I needed on Amazon– I am all about my Prime membership.

So, I was walking as fast as I could to get the cookie cake, and this woman at a kiosk asked if I wanted a sample. I knew enough to say “No, thanks!” and keep walking. But she got me with “Can I ask you a question?”. I was sure she wanted to talk about my Texas Forever t-shirt, so I obliged. Nope. Before I knew it, she’s rubbing something that came out of a syringe under my eye. Just one. And she’s fanning me with a paper fan, explaining that it’s from stem cells-from plants not from babies (Umm WHAT?!).

If you know me, you know that I am low maintenance in the make up department. I wash my face with the off-brand of Clean and Clear. I have a St. Ives exfoliator that I’ve used since high school, and my make up is easy, breezy, and beautiful. Or, maybe I’m born with it? Either way, she’s asking me about my face routine, and she’s obviously appalled. While my eye is setting, she puts an exfoliator on my hand, and proceeds to ask “When was the last time you had a bath? Last month?” This morning. Thanks. I’m ready to run for the hills. At this point, I was halfway sitting on her stool, purse on my shoulder, explaining that I had a very tight timeline, and I needed to run. She decides to start telling me all the prices of what she’s just used on my face, showing me a mirror multiple times to compare my two eyes. All the while, I’m waiting for her to just do the second eye so I can move on with my life. Fifteen minutes later, I left with less wrinkles(?), and her business card. She wasn’t concerned about the money, she just wants to know I’m taking care of my face. I told her I would keep that in mind when I purchase my next pack of Biore strips. (Just kidding!)

Y’all. I love to smile at people as they walk by. We are all in this together! It’s nice to give a little encouragement! But I kept my face down for the duration of my mall trip. I walked so fast, I rubbed a blister on the bottom of my foot. Never again.

The Message translation of 1 Peter 2:11-12 tells us “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul.” I’m not about to go on a rant about how it’s bad to spend money on your looks or that botox is evil. You do you. What I do know, is that I was uncomfortable in the mall today. I am okay without the things it has to offer. God uses us in different places on this earth, but we are not home right now. Our home is in heaven with Him, and one day very soon, those of us who are believers, will all get there, and I feel confident my eye wrinkles will not matter one iota.

Until then, we must evaluate what we are doing with an eternal perspective. Spend time on what matters. For some of you, a good skincare routine is what matters. Maybe you use it as a ministry. Maybe you truly enjoy learning about contouring and highlighting. That’s great. It’s just not what matters to me. My time might be spent reading or baking cookies. Could some of that time be better spent? Absolutely. I’m a work in progress. We get the opportunity to grow on earth so we will be ready to spend eternity with God.

I pray for more opportunities to see this world as temporary and not my home because I can focus on Him even more. When I’m tied down to earthly treasures, I’m putting my heart in those, rather than heaven (see Matthew 6:19).

So there you have it. The Saga of Maddie at the Mall. Here’s to hoping there will not be a sequel. And for the record, I could write a sequel to God’s Green Earth for the price of the eye cream.

 

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And the Rain Keeps Falling

Noah and the Ark was a lesson I really enjoyed in Sunday School as a child. It had all the makings of a good story: a hero and his family, good winning over evil, animals, and a rainbow. 

I grew up in the Houston area, and a nearby community suffered flooding anytime we had a big storm. I distinctly remember questioning the flooding, since God promised not to ever flood the earth again. But I kept it to myself. I didn’t want to argue with God, after all. As I got a little older, I realized His promise was to never flood the whole earth again,  nor destroy every living thing (Genesis 8:21). 

I think about this passage of Scripture as the rains continue to fall on my hometown. And my prayer time this morning led me to a thought. 

When Baton Rouge suffered The Great Flood last year, it came on the heels of a terrible wave of racial tension. We had experienced great loss, racism, fear, and acts of hatred. And then, in what seemed like moments, all of that literally washed away. As many quoted, we no longer saw black or white, just dry or wet. 

We move to the present, where our our nation has been portrayed as divided by color, once again. Two sides, very publicly, calling each other every name in the book and physically harming one another. Tensions have risen, sides have been taken, mouths have spewed hatred, and those who should have spoken have remained silent. 

It’s almost like God said, “I must not have made myself clear. I said to love one another.” We saw our beloved Baton Rouge under water. We are just a dot on the map compared to Houston. Everything is bigger in Texas, even the floods. 

I see the familiar pictures of all shades bringing families of all shades through the murky waters. I see the same panic on rooftops and the same determination of rescuers in boats. I see dry and wet. 

Do I believe this flood is meant to punish? No, but I do believe that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NKJV‬‬). I believe that until we love one another as God has commanded us (see John 13:34-35), we will see devastation as a direct and indirect result of our hatred. 

Please join me in praying for the waters to evaporate, for the rain to stop, for homes and lives to be spared, and for all of us to sincerely love our brothers and sisters.

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world. 

 

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This is Not Famous to Me…

One time, when I was a freshman in high school, my mom was driving my sister and me home from dance class. This happened several times a week, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary, but this particular time stands out. Back then, in our community, we could safely pick up people who needed a ride. Typically it was an elderly gentleman with Alzheimer’s who lived near us, but this one night sticks out because it was a woman and her son who we picked up. It was dark, and they were walking on the side of the road, a few bags of groceries in hand. We couldn’t just leave them–they looked terrified. My mom asked if they wanted a ride, and the woman accepted. When we asked where they were going, it was clear that English was not her first language. “Blackberry nine”. Her address*. Where I grew up, most of the street names had something to do with nature. I had ridden the bus for a few years, and the street name sounded familiar from my bus route, but I couldn’t quite pin it down to an exact neighborhood-there were dozens of streets named after berries. We headed in that general direction, but when we got there, this woman’s reaction became a household quote: “This is not famous to me.” What she knew in the light was not enough to help her in the dark. After a few more tries, we found it. Relief swept through the car. We found Blackberry nine!

I say this to highlight the importance of truly knowing something. This woman knew what her street looked like. She probably left for the store in daylight, and felt prepared to get home. But she didn’t know the surrounding areas with enough confidence to actually bring her to her front door. I will never forget her huge grin as she ran with her precious little boy to her house. Her fear subsided, and she was back to the “famous”.

Familiarity in prayer is a beautiful thing. I was recently asked how I just pray out loud and know what to say. As I have come to understand, prayer is an ongoing conversation with God. I’m just picking up where I left off with my Father. The more time I spend in prayer, the more I understand His character and the more confident I feel in His presence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m learning each and every day. I’m learning  how to pray scripture. I’m learning to pray out loud. I’m learning to write my prayers. It’s a beautiful thing, and it comes with time.

Look at it like this: The way I talk to my husband is different than the way I talk to a person at they gym. The way I talk to my coworker is different than how I talk to a new patient’s mother. How I converse with my sister is…well different than anyone.(Mostly in movie quotes, voices, and emoji-worthy facial expressions) It’s the familiarity that turns “God is great, God is good” to “Father God, You are beautiful”.

I never thought I would use Will Ferrell in a blog post, but there’s a time for everything, right? Remember in Elf, when Buddy sees Santa, and yells “I know him!!!”, only to realize it’s a fake? How did he know the Santa in the store was fake? He knew the real deal. He was so confident in his relationship with Santa, that he spotted a fake right away. That is how our relationship with God should be. That familiarity allows us not only to come into His presence with a deeper understanding of who He is, but it also allows us to recognize when something doesn’t line up with His word.

On the flip side, just think about how familiar our Creator is with us. Psalm 139 is a beautiful song of God’s love for us. Verses 1-6 say:

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it. (NKJV)

I would definitely urge you to read the chapter in its entirety-it’s short, but so full! I love this passage because it shows us the understanding God has of us, and it displays an awesome example of familiarity with God from the writer, David’s perspective. How did David write such an intimate song? He knew his Maker. God put that understanding in David’s heart through a lifetime of prayer and devotion. As David has been considered to be a man after God’s own heart, we should also aspire for the same closeness.

Know your Bible so well that you could navigate scripture in the dark. When you’re troubled, know where to turn. When you’re rejoicing, sing the songs of David (see James 5:13). When you hear someone speak about the Bible in a way that seems unsettling, know the Scripture so well that you can refute it if it’s wrong, or wrestle with it if it’s true. God (and His word) should be “famous” to you.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV)

 

 

*Changed for her protection, on the off chance you are a stalker, and she still lives there.

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Rejected

Today I got rejected. It was just a little rejection, but it immediately triggered memories of past rejections. Book proposal refusals, not making a dance team, Twitter unfollowers, not receiving a solo in a choir show– we’re talking “way back when” here. Healthy, right? Thankfully, I now know how to stop that thinking dead in its tracks (Jesus), but for a moment, I felt a little crushed.

You see, I was running errands, and I figured I would ask the manager of a local store if he could carry my book. I know this store is a small part of a large chain, and I know the decision to carry a book could be a corporate decision, but it never hurts to ask. Except when it does. The manager was very nice, and he suggested I ask my book rep to contact their corporate office. The slight problem with this is that as a self-published author, I am my book rep. I smiled and nodded, and thanked him for his time, but I could feel myself deflate. Rejection is hard. And it’s hard to get back up and try again.

This past Sunday, I had an opportunity to see my church family welcome a prodigal son of sorts into worship. We have several “prodigal children” within our church family, and I can say without hesitation that we welcome each and every one back. Are we disappointed in the decisions they make? Yes. Do we let them know we are disappointed? Yes. But do we hug them when they return? Always. And almost always with happy tears in our eyes. I love that our church is a safe haven for those who have lost their ways. It’s home base. Yesterday, our returning member came back, and he brought friends. He came to worship, acknowledging that God was more important than circumstances.

There could have been drama, there could have been rejection; he’s experienced both, yet he came back. Remember when I said I knew how to stop that rejection mentality? It’s Jesus. Yes, the most basic, Sunday School answer there ever was: Jesus. And this man knew it.

Unfortunately, the church does a lot of rejecting. This isn’t new. For goodness sake, we rejected Jesus. In Luke 4:14-30, Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth to preach. He was literally “thrust out of the city”. Praise God, Jesus didn’t stop at rejection. We reject those who aren’t like us, those who sin- but really just sin differently than us, those who speak differently than us, those who look like someone who did something terrible, those who hurt our feelings, etc. But that isn’t what Jesus modeled for us. Jesus did not reject the rejectors, and He gave us the perfect example of how to handle rejection: We look to the Father.

Today, instead of having an all out meltdown, I can bring my disappointment to God. I can pray for Him to restore my courage and my emotions, I can thank Him for future opportunities and for comfort. I will continue to shop at this store, because there is no reason to hold a grudge. I was not wronged in any way, I simply did not get the answer I wanted. God gave me the avenue of words to prayerfully process, and maybe have a milkshake on the side.

I’m grateful for His truths, and I’m grateful for a body of believers who gracefully models what it is to give second and twenty-seventh chances. Whether you are feeling rejected, or maybe you are the rejector, your answer is Jesus. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 NKJV)

 

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