Intersecting Lives

My life is meant to intersect with the lives of others while walking in the world. Sometimes the intersection is only for a moment, and sometimes it’s for a lifetime. The place of intersection provides an opportunity to share my heart and hear the heart of another. Busyness and fear cause me to miss the connection if I am not careful. I am lucky to have friends and family whose love enables me to reach down and up in ways that change my heart. Love changes everything, and that makes each intersection an intercession if I’m heedful in the moment.

People will always come and go in my life, and some will connect in powerful ways. Those who allow me to be who I am stay near my heart even when they are no longer present because of geography or circumstance. Clinging is comfortable, and it’s natural to want to hold on to beautiful connections and moments. Allowing others to come and go is much more difficult. I’ve always done the best I knew how when it comes to connecting, and I believe that is true for most of us. It’s important to let others be who they are and be who God wants me to be. It’s the only way intersecting lives can become beautiful connections. If I stay the course God has in mind, my life will intersect the lives of many. If I veer off His path, I will miss opportunities to love as He desires.

Only God sees the way intersecting lives come together and produce the harvest He has in mind. I look forward to understanding it one day myself. For now, I can only rely on God to open doors and give me the courage to walk through them. Kindred hearts are what heaven is all about. The euphony of lives touching one another in love is sweet music to God’s ears. The clanging cacophony of discord breaks God’s heart, and it sometimes makes me want to run and hide. The sweet love I feel when my life intersects with another as God desires gives me hope and allows me to open the door to my own heart a little wider.

Intersecting Lives

Weeping Witness or Slick Sales?

Witnessing is opening my heart in a way that allows me to weep openly on the shoulder of another and let others weep openly on my own. It’s honest communion and loving in a way that the world cannot understand. It is about loving God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength and letting His love be the love in my own heart for others. As I’ve watched coverage of trials in the news this week, I’ve seen clearly the importance of a good witness. I’m not an attorney, but I can discern the difference between heart-felt testimony that simply states the truth with love and a witness with an agenda trying to sway the jury.

Witness isn’t about taking sides, pointing fingers, or making comparisons. God doesn’t need for me to defend Him, but He does want me to be a witness to His love. God doesn’t have to be sold as if He were the latest, greatest gadget guaranteed to fix all. Salesmen convince, cajole, and motivate others, and Satan is looking for slick sales representatives. God’s witnesses aren’t in the sales department although we often sound as though we are. Tracts, flyers, pitches, and pushing often take the place of a loving presence because it is much easier to sell than to witness.

There are a million ways to sell, but there is only one way to witness. Sales is about taking the truth and twisting it to benefit me and my agenda. It’s about bending, but not breaking the law. The same is true for sales when it comes to God. He’s been packaged and sold in so many ways that I couldn’t count them if I tried because new ways are constantly on the horizon. When I try to sell God, there is something in it for me. A sales commission in Christian ministry might be high contributions or large numbers in attendance. It may be a running list of those I’ve led to the Lord or an accounting of the hours I’ve spent working for God. When it comes to witness, all the credit and accolades go to God.

Measure is meaningless when it comes to witnessing. In a court of law, witnesses considered to be experts are paid for their time and effort. Many of God’s witnesses want the same reimbursement for their expertise. I want recognition, payment, compensation, or credit for my witness. I want others to know that I have gone out of my way, worked hard, and spent my valuable time winning souls for God. Those witnesses belong in sales.

God is love, and if I am to be His witness, I must be willing to be broken. Love breaks my heart in a beautiful way that allows me to be a loving presence, weep with those who are hurting, and let them hear me weep when I am hurt. Witnessing for God involves stripping away pretense, letting go of the need to be right, and being who God created me to be by loving myself and others as He does.

It’s not complicated, and I’m sure judges on this earth wished the same were true for witnesses in their courtrooms. God doesn’t need a courtroom here on earth because He knows the heart of everyone without having to hear any witnesses. God has a world filled with His children, and we are all in desperate need of Him. Witnessing is designed to feed, fill, and free all His children. Love shared in a way that glorifies Him changes everything as only an honest, loving witness can.  

The Why in Witness

Witnessing is much more effective when it’s worry free. I’ve worried my entire life about what others think, and I still feel a twinge of hurt when others don’t respond as I want. In the past, I’ve worried about witnessing because I’ve seen it as winning people over. It’s what I’d always been taught. Winning folks over to Christianity or leading them to the Lord usually involves much effort and results more in wearing down or wearing out than winning over.

I’ve struggled with who, when, where, and what when it comes to witnessing, but the only thing that matters is why. Witness is not a process or a game, even though many keep a running tab of their conquests. Stories glorify the teller and sound more like a mini inquisitions or a personal crusades than a loving connections. The end result is a string of badges on a sash hung proudly around the neck.

Witness is about letting God open a door to conversation and relationship, and it doesn’t have anything to do with adding anyone to a roll, a list, or my personal merit badge sash. With the help of God, dear friends, and two faithful pastors, I’ve come to understand witness in a new light. Christ doesn’t pressure or instill fear as a witness to God’s love. He loves God in front of me, and loves me as I’ve never been loved before. The only tools required for witnessing are knowing and loving God with a depth that makes everyone want everyone to know and love Him too, understanding that it is always God’s work and never mine, and letting go of the need to please others. The why in witness is love, and I do understand that. I witness because I love God and others. Telling others that God’s love is for them is very personal and cannot be done on the fly. 

I was at the grocery store this morning having a pleasant conversation with a wonderful young man I taught in middle school. A rude man standing near enough to hear our conversation felt the need to interrupt and do his witness bit for the day. I was telling Cody, who is working very hard with his family to open a new restaurant in town, that nothing is harder than working for yourself. This obnoxious man said, in a very hateful tone, “Working for God is a lot harder! You should try it some time.” We looked at each other in shock and shook our heads as the man continued to spout out venom in God’s name as he walked away. I suppose he told his friends that he was out in the wicked world witnessing today. Cody loves God dearly as do I, but this man didn’t stop long enough to find that out about either of us. It’s like folks who leave tracts or flyers instead of tips when they are in a restaurant. Let me tell you something, that is not a good witness to God. A pleasant attitude, a caring conversation, or a very nice tip are much more effective when it comes to witnessing. Good intentions surely do lead down a terrible path.

If not careful, churches can become exclusive clubs, organizations, or even very close knit families when the work is theirs and not God’s. Christ included all and left the doors open for folks to enter or leave as they wished. He knew they needed to stay near to Him, but He also knew that it must be their choice. Without the right connections, His body would become His fan club or His country club. The living, breathing, loving body of Christ is not an organization. Knowing that changes the way I witness. I only have to love God and let Him open the doors of positive and healthy connection. That’s not difficult at all.

Witnessing the way I was witnessed to today is hard work, and I feel very sorry for the man who felt compelled to tell Cody and me that we should try working for God for a change. So thankful I know that isn’t the way God feels, but it’s sad to think that there are those who have his attitude who consider themselves to be God’s witnesses. I’m thankful Cody and I know and love God and shudder to think what someone would think of God if they heard about Him from someone like the man who crossed my path today. It breaks my heart, and I know it must break God’s. God gave a clear example of a fly by witness without any love. I’ll remember that fellow the next time God opens a door for me.

The Simple Life of Witness

Witness isn’t an intimidating process of finding the right person, the right verse, and the right time to present Christ’s love. It’s a life lived honestly in front of others so that Christ’s precious love manifests in the day to day.

Witness is honesty about brokenness not pretense about perfection or promises of prosperity. A life of witness is a simple life, but one that is far from easy. Nothing takes more courage than admitting you’re broken and in need of God’s love, but such honest communion opens the doors God provides and allows Christ’s precious love to fill and flow from my heart ♥

Ready to Dance

Further Than Following

Walking in God’s Spirit is a choice that has to be made at least once a day. Being led by God’s Spirit is about giving up the need to lead or even choosing to follow. The passiveness that comes from being led is going a step further than following. Following still has a hint of ego, and it’s that pesky ego that has to be monitored every day to keep flesh in check.  Living in the flesh isn’t just about the tug of my body; it’s about the need to be in charge, the “me, my, I” attitude.

I’ve been in Galatians for five weeks, and the lessons have been just what I needed. The powerful truth in Galatians 5:16-17 brought home the lessons God had for me last week.But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” NASB

Paul makes it clear that flesh and Spirit will always be at odds. Flesh is more about ego than body, but Spirit is all God. If I set myself up as God, Satan will gladly give me anything and help me rationalize everything. Living in God’s Spirit is an all or nothing proposition as Paul reminds those at the church in Galatia. You cannot be led by the Spirit and lead at the same time.

My heart came full circle last week, and I am very happy to say that it was a spiral upward because I decided to go with His Spirit instead of my wants. God used the image of a spoiled child who says they will die if they don’t get what they want to teach a lesson with humor. He made it clear that I will have to die every day if I am to be led by His Spirit. Dying daily isn’t possible unless I let the Holy Spirit lead. The ego doesn’t die without a fight; but I’ve finally learned Whose fight it is, and that changes everything:)

Happy Endings & Happy Father’s Day :)

Today would be daddy’s 97th birthday if he were still alive. Foy Hart Holden was a man who lived his life with a determination to be more than a farmer in the mountains of western North Carolina. While gardening was something daddy loved to do, he did not want it to be his occupation. Like his father, Flave, daddy loved making things grow, but he was not going to live on a farm for the rest of his life. Foy was the oldest of nine children, and he often went along on his father’s trips to Greenville, South Carolina to sell vegetables at the market. He loved the trips, and I’m sure they fueled his desire to leave the mountains.

Daddy, mama, and Ann did move to Atlanta as soon as he got out of the army. Mama hated Atlanta and cried for a year after they moved. Daddy would not return to the mountains, so they ended up settling in Hickory, North Carolina. Mama could see her beloved mountains, and daddy could have his city life, even if it wasn’t a big city as he would have preferred. Once, on a visit to see me in the mountains, daddy told me that he worked his tail off to get out of the mountains, and I ran right back to up to them. He asked me what that said about me, and I told him that it said I was smarter than he was. I could see a little grin on his face as he realized I might be right, for once:)

Daddy was discontent much of the time, and I believe his angst was about always wanting more. There’s nothing wrong with ambition, but dreams were deferred in both his and mama’s life. When I read the poem, “Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes, I think of my parents. Mama’s did “crust and sugar – over like a syrupy sweet” and daddy’s would “explode” on occasion when he turned to alcohol to relieve his stress. I bore the brunt of those explosions, but I remember and thank God for is the happy ending He gave to daddy and me.

Tyler and I were in Hickory for a visit when daddy had a stroke. Mother didn’t wake me up when it happened because she wasn’t sure what was happening. I immediately called the hospital when I saw him, and they told me it would be best for me to bring him in rather than call an ambulance. He was calm and had been up most of the night talking nonsense. We didn’t want to scare him, so I told him we were going for a ride. I’ve never been more afraid in my life.

The hospital was being renovated, and they had given me directions for navigating the construction. It turned out that daddy and I had to walk a distance to get where we needed to go, and I wasn’t sure he could make it. I was shocked at his childlike manner. He did whatever I asked him to do without complaint or his usual colorful vocabulary. I knew something was terribly wrong, and that was verified when we saw the doctor.

I was surprised by the calm demeanor of the doctor. He began a conversation with daddy and acted as though we were all sitting on the porch sipping lemonade. I expected more rushing around and thought they would whisk daddy away as soon as we walked in. I listened and kept quiet while the doctor asked daddy questions about the date, the president, the news, and his family. I did my best not to let daddy see the shock on my face as his answers showed serious problems with his thought process. I’d never seen anything quiet so confusing, but the doctor seemed to know what he was doing. He looked at me, smiled, and said calmly that daddy was fine, but they wanted to keep him overnight so he could rest. He sure didn’t seem fine to me, but I breathed a sign of relief at the news and left when they said they needed to get him ready.

My nephew, Steven, was at the hospital by the time the interview was over, and I told him what the doctor had just told me. He quickly went to call my sister and her husband who were at the beach on vacation. As soon as Steven came back from making the calls, the doctor came out of the room where the interview had taken place. He looked directly at me and said in a very different tone that daddy had suffered a massive hemorrhaging stroke at the base of his brain, and he should be dead. Steven and I were shocked and realized the conversation in front of daddy was simply to keep him calm. Now that he wasn’t in the room, the doctor’s calm dissipated, and he was clearly rushing to find answers in regard to treatment. Steven returned to the hallway to make new calls, and I called my other two sisters with the news. I decided to tell mother the candy-coated version until my sisters arrived.

I went looking for daddy and found him lying on a gurney in the hallway. I saw something I had never seen before, fear in my daddy’s eyes. This mountain of a man who put fear into me for so much of my life was suddenly looking at me with eyes that spoke volumes, but his mind and mouth forbid communicating. I didn’t need to hear his words; I saw love and sorrow in his eyes and knew without hearing what he was thinking in that brief moment of clarity God provided for our hearts. I held his hand and told him that I loved him and that I knew he had loved me the best way he knew how. I told him I had no hard feelings and would not leave him alone. I wish I could explain the exquisite feeling of freedom his look and my words brought to my heart, but there aren’t words that describe the peace that surrounded both of us for a beautiful moment before he was whisked away. 

Daddy healed physically, but his mind was never the same. He was confused about so very much, but he always knew who I was and brightened up when he saw me. He was a die-hard Democrat before the stroke, but all he talked about after his stroke was George and Barbara Bush. He was convinced they came to see him on a regular basis. I think he might have had a crush on Barbara because he talked about her the most. I agreed with everything daddy said and enjoyed our new relationship and our interesting conversations. It was the happy ending my heart needed, and I thank God for the healing and the love that took place between daddy and me.

Life is very short, but love goes on forever. When I think of daddy now, I think of those silly conversations about George and Barbara Bush or the fact that he thought he was in charge of the rehabilitation home where he spent his last days walking up and down the hallway making sure everyone was okay. Daddy was a worker, and he taught me much about working and about making a living. I thought of him on Thursday when God made me decide if I was going to live in His Spirit or in my flesh.

God reminded me that He and daddy agreed on who I was and what was best for my heart. I had to smile because I could see daddy in the background with a big smile on his face, shaking his head in agreement with our heavenly Father. That made the decision much easier, and the image of my daddy and my Father will help me if I ever forget to see myself as they do. Both want me to live and love in God’s Holy Spirit, and I want the same thing. I did inherit my daddy’s stubbornness, and that’s handy when it comes to making a decision and sticking to it. I pray it will help me remember that I want my daddy and my Father to be proud of me, and I want to be proud of myself too. As Pastor Jeff reminded me this morning. He is my God and I am His daughter. It was nice to learn that I’m also my daddy’s girl, and he was proud of me this week:)

Happy Father’s Day daddy!! I love you and thank you and my heavenly Father for helping me take a very big step this week. I know I can live and love in God’s Spirit with the help of both my fathers:)

To Know is to Love

I can approach God’s Word as a scholar or a lover, but only one will lead to an intimate relationship with His Holy Spirit and a connection unlike anything the world has to offer. To know God’s Word is to love Him. If the point is simply to acquire information and apply it as I desire, an abusive relationship forms. Unfortunately, that creates widespread damage and causes many to turn from the love God offers.

Nothing breaks God’s heart more than having His Word used to inflict injury and insult. The same is true for us when others take what we say out of context and turn it for their own purposes. It’s so frustrating to see my words twisted and turned, but it is far more painful to hear God’s Word used in ways that inflict hurt rather than share love.

I believe 1 John 2:1-6 describes the relationship God desires for us to have with His Word.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” NASB

As John beautifully reminds me, knowing is an important part of loving when it comes to God’s Word, but it is much more than scholarly information. I respect Bible scholars and believe they bring light to a dark world when they deeply know and love His Word. Keeping is the key when it comes to a loving relationship of any kind. Keeping is a deep intimacy, and it brings God’s Word to my life in a way that allows me to witness and share Christ’s love. Only He perfected the Word as He fulfilled it. I am not perfect, but I do my best to keep His commandments, especially the two He makes clear are the most important ones in Matthew 22:36-40

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” NASB

Knowing that loving is the key to God’s kingdom allows me to have a close and intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, and that allows me to live in God’s world in a different way. I pray I will keep my focus upon Christ’s precious love and use God’s powerful Word to get ever nearer to His precious side. God forbid that I, or anyone else, should abuse His love by using His Word in a way that doesn’t reflect His loving heart.