I Beg to Differ….

It’s been difficult to write, read, speak, or think lately as polarizing opinions continue to wreak havoc on my country and my heart. God taught me the importance of differing differently this week.

As Christians, we are not supposed to be fused to a particular ideology, theology, doctrine, or opinion. We are simply to be who God created us to be. It is the sincerest form of praise to Him and the most beautiful witness of His creation and His love for us. As friends, we are supposed to love one another as we are without having to agree on everything. As family, we love unconditionally and without the need to control. Love is not about control; it is as natural as breathing when it is real. When it is controlled, it is like being on a ventilator. You may be breathing, but it isn’t natural or comfortable!

Each of us was created to be different by a Creator Who knows us better than we know ourselves. He could have made us all exactly the same, but He knew better. He could, and can, make us all love Him and one another as He desires; but He knows that would showcase His power rather than His love. God doesn’t want control because He already has it. He wants holiness. That word doesn’t mean perfect; it means maturity, ripeness, readiness to be who He created us to be. Self differentiation allows us to love as God loves.

Fusion is the easiest way to connect, so it is the way most connect. Individuals get lost, and polarization abounds. Our world is fusing and fighting in ways that break God’s heart. It’s bad enough to fuse, but to use His name as the agent of such fusing is inherently wrong. It’s getting more and more difficult to differ, and that hinders differentiation and creates division. God helped me see how differing differently can actually help with the process of differentiation.

I used to feel the need to be who those around me wanted me to be. That need caused me to adapt a Pollyanna approach to living and loving in community. Make everyone happy, and they will love you. All will be right in the world. The world around me will be much more pleasant, and life will be much simpler. That didn’t pan out, so I decided to try being myself and forgetting about whether or not others like me or not. That doesn’t mean being mean; it just means saying what I believe in a respectful way.

God gave me three loving sisters who have, do, and always will love me just as I am. They have surrounded and tried to protect me from the harsh realities of this world all of my life. Their love was a safe harbor for my heart, but God knew I needed more than a harbor. He sent a dear friend who heard my heart and helped me move away from the harbor and into the open sea. It was very scary at first, but my heart found its sea legs and eventually began to enjoy the freedom a non anxious loving presence brings.

I had a discussion with two folks this week about a subject I didn’t realize we disagreed upon. One showed grace, but the other showed rage. I was a bit unnerved by the anger, but I maintained my opinion while giving room for another opinion. When the conversation ended, two of us were still smiling, but one carried her anger with her. I felt our friendship may have been compromised by our difference of opinion, but I didn’t try to fix or convince. I’ve felt that way often during the past year.

I beg to differ because it is in our differing that we learn and grow and change. I long for the day when we can agree to disagree and move on with our lives. When we cannot disagree, we lose so much more than an argument. We lose the ability to self differentiate. Psychologists, medical doctors, guidance counselors, parents, teachers, and ministers will tell you the ability to be who we are created to be is at the heart of living a happy, healthy life.

God made His feelings about self differentiations very clear to Moses and to us. He is Who He is. He is not going to be who we want Him to be, and that is a beautiful lesson for all of us to follow.

God said to Moses, “IAM-WHO-IAM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘IAM sent me to you.’”(Exodus 3:14)

 

Holy, Holy, Holy

The word holy may evoke images of Mary and Moses, but it simply means readiness, ripeness, or maturity. Ripening is never an easy process, but the result is love that doesn’t depend upon circumstances for its sweetness. My son and daughter-in-law were raving about some peaches a friend had given them. They were from Georgia and tasted the way a peach should taste. The image reminded me of Christians who reflect Christ’s precious love. Like that Georgia peach, they are who God created them to be and delight those around them.

The world is filled with people and produce that are poor imitations of what they should be. Nothing is more bitter than an unripe persimmon, and sour grapes contort the countenance and the stomach. I hate buying beautiful fruit that tastes horrible when I take a bite.

Immature fruit and immature believers require time and love to ripen, but God knows holiness is worth the wait. Anyone who has eaten a peach picked in a Georgia orchard knows what a peach truly is. Those who come to the mountains of North Carolina in the fall for juicy, ripe apples understand what an apple should be. Watermelons from a field in South Carolina defy description. As a Christian, I am called to be holy; but I shy away from that call because I think it means I must be perfect. 2 Timothy 1:9 makes it clear that holiness isn’t about works or perfection. It is about God’s grace.

“who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,” (NASB)

No one ever grew a tomato as delicious as the ones my father grew in the little garden behind our house.  The taste of that first tomato sandwich in July was well worth the long wait, but daddy ruined me when it came to tomatoes because none meet his high standards. He saved the seeds from his tomatoes and planted them in the spring. They were seeds from his father’s farm and probably from his grandfather’s before that. Heirloom is the term used to describe such tomatoes, and that is precisely what they were. I knew my granddaddy’s tomatoes because I knew my daddy’s tomatoes, and I know God’s love because I know His Son’s precious love.

I fall short when it comes to being the Christian I should be, but I do try to love as Christ loved. I’ve stopped trying to be perfect because I know God wants me to be ready, not perfect. Perfection will only come when I am in His presence. I think the world is excessively hard on Christians, and no one bashes Christians more than those who call themselves Christians or use some other term that means the same thing. I imagine a bad experience caused the disdain, but I do wish they would stop bashing and start loving.

I’ve stopped expecting tomatoes to taste like daddy’s, but I do have a glimmer of hope each time I find an heirloom tomato that resembles one of daddy’s. I plan to keep on looking for that elusive tomato because the alternative is to stop eating tomatoes and go around talking about how much I miss the good old tomatoes of the past. I’m sure others would soon tire of my tirades just as I tire of the tirades against Christians. Watching those little seeds grow and waiting anxiously for them to ripen was a lot of what made them so special. I was invested in those tomatoes, and I knew them personally. The love daddy had for those tomatoes was a bigger part. Anyone who knew Foy Holden, knew how much he loved his tomatoes. I pray I will have the same love for God’s children, especially those who are not yet ripe.

I haven’t found a perfect Christian, and I’m not looking for one because I know God isn’t looking for one either.

Jesus Smiling

Selfishness is a Sieve

Water in a SieveTrying to satisfy selfish desires is like trying to fill a sieve with water. God used Lillyann to make that point last week. She was in a huff about the water in the water table being dirty because there were some tiny leaves in it. When we didn’t empty and refill it, she took matters into her own hands. She picked up a shark-shaped sieve and set out to fill the table. Refusing to heed our cries to get a bucket, she left a trail of water on the ground with each trip. She was going to do things her way, and I can relate 🙂

Trying to make selfish people happy is as futile as Lilly’s attempts to fill her water table. It won’t work no matter how hard I try. I’ve spent most of my life trying to fix and satisfy; I’ve gotten the same results and felt the same frustration Lilly did during her little mission. Seeing her carrying that sieve back and forth made me realize I need to let go of my way of loving and go with God’s plan.

Servants in the world’s kingdom spend a lifetime trying to satisfy selfish people. That leaves them and those they’re trying to please miserable. In God’s kingdom, servants love, listen, and let God transform hearts. If I choose the latter, my heart and the hearts of those I love and serve will grow nearer to God. Holiness is a beautiful maturity that simply means I am ripe and ready to be God’s servant. That means letting Christ’s precious love be the model for all the love in my life. It also means saying goodbye to pleasing and appeasing and hello to healthy, holy helping.

Proverbs 19:21 says it best.

“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” NLT

 

Holy Singing!

My studies took me to Isaiah this week. One word describes the prophet’s words about God. Holy. Eugene Peterson says it best in The Invitation, “We find ourselves in on the operations of God himself, not talking about them or reading about them. Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it. Holy, Holy, Holy is not needlepoint. It is the banner of a revolution, the revolution.” He goes on to say, “He (God) uses everything and everybody as material for his work, which is the remaking of the mess we have made of our lives.”

Isaiah means “God saves,” and his poetry brings, according to Peterson, “Messages of Judgment (chapters 1-39), Messages of Comfort (chapters 40-55), and Messages of Hope (chapters 56-66). Holiness is the goal on this journey, and I’m finding that love leads to praying, and praying leads to singing. Singing is wonderful for my soul and brings me into God’s presence in a powerful way.The songs have been interesting this week, but I realize they were meant to make me to think about falling in love and singing a new song as a result of that love. To know God is to love Him, and my heart cannot do less than sing when I love and pray to Him.

I realized this week that I’ve lusted after God more than I’ve loved Him. Give me this. Help me do this. Fix this. Heal me. Heal others. Praying and loving are so much more than I understood before, and that is where the singing comes in. John describes the song I will sing when I come into God’s presence. I am learning I can sing it now if I allow love to give my heart wings.

And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.’ And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.’”Revelation 4:8-11 NASB

Those beautiful words have inspired many songs, and two of my favorites are “Holy Holy Holy” by Reginald Heber and “Holy Holy” by Nathan Fellingham. Both touch my heart in the same beautiful place, where God resides. Holy simply means mature, ripe, and ready to be picked. I used to think it meant perfect. Silly me! I’m learning that holy is much more than being who I think God wants me to be. Isaiah helped me come to the place of understanding John’s beautiful words. I can sing those favorite songs of mine with a new vigor knowing my heart is ripening a little more each time I sing out to the God I love more than life itself.

Holy Holy Holy

Reginald Heber

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy Holy

Written By: Nathan Fellingham

Holy, holy, 

Holy is the Lord God Almighty.

Holy, holy,

Holy is the Lord God Almighty.

Who was and is and is to come,

Who was and is and is to come.

Lift up His name with the sound of singing,

Lift up His name in all the earth.

Lift up Your voice and give Him glory

For He is worthy to be praised.

Jesus, Jesus,

Jesus is the Lord God Almighty.

Jesus, Jesus,

Jesus is the Lord God Almighty.

Who was and is and is to come,

Who was and is and is to come.

Lift up His name with the sound of singing,

Lift up His name in all the earth.

Lift up Your voice and give Him glory

For He is worthy to be praised.

I am closer to God and to those in my path as a result of the lessons this week, and I am lifting my heart in a new way and singing a new song because of it!

therealmimi.files.wordpress.com

therealmimi.files.wordpress.com

Wholeness and Holiness

The scriptures this morning are about being one, and the lessons this week have been about wholeness. Holiness and wholeness go hand in hand. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 are beautiful verses that describe the oneness God desires.

“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” NASB

The image of drinking from one Spirit struck me this morning. Sharing a drink with someone is very intimate, and I don’t usually drink from the same cup as others. The scripture clearly says that we were made to drink of one Spirit. God made us for the intimacy of oneness, and holiness is about experiencing the unity Paul describes.

Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God are all one, and it is His desire for us to be one with Christ and so become one with Him through the Holy Spirit. The church is a poor example of oneness, and I know that breaks God’s heart. As we are apart, so is His heart. It is humbling to realize that I have the power to break the Creator’s heart, but I know I do. So do we all, and that should cause us to lay aside differences and come together.

I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again. Satan loves individuals, and God loves unity. I pray that we all will truly hear the words spoken to the church at Corinth and know that they apply more today than ever before. So much division exists in the body of Christ that He becomes an unrecognizable pile of pieces.

What a beautiful world this would be if all Christians came together as one! It would truly be His Kingdom come, and His will would be done in a way that would make us all wonder what took us so long to figure out that being whole is much better than being broken. Our brokenness is healed by the wholeness Christ affords. Thanks be to God:)

Healed Holes

The way to find my way is to open my eyes. The way to find God’s way is to open my heart. That means hearing and having faith when I can’t see my way. Not seeing my way is a prerequisite for seeing His:) I always take the long way around when it comes to learning, and that convoluted path gets frustrating at times; but it’s worth the extra miles when I finally get it:)

On Monday evening, the sunset was the most beautiful I have ever seen. The day was a cold, dreary, and very rainy one. I had a funeral in the afternoon, and a visitation in the evening. Around 5:30, I noticed a beautiful glow and turned to look out my kitchen window. What I saw, took my breath away. I quickly turned off the lights and stood by the window to watch God. In an hour, a dense fog descended. Visibility was terrible as I made my way to the visitation. It was a difficult two-hour ordeal that left my heart aching. I know the glimpse of God was there earlier to remind me that He was with me, and I held on to that thought throughout the evening.

On Tuesday afternoon, the funeral for my sweet former student who took his own life was a time of healing. As I heard God’s Word, I felt the ragged edges of my heart begin to come together. As I found myself surrounded by so many loved ones, I felt God”s presence in a powerful way. Immanuel! God with us. What a beautiful plan! His way became clear as I let go of my grief and let Him fill those holes with His love.

Grief opens the heart as nothing else if allowed to run God’s course. God helps me feel the hurt, absorb it, and let the holes in my heart stay open. Those healed holes, as I call them, allow love to flow more freely. It’s like having an ear pierced; the hole heals, and I can put in an earring. Without God’s help, the holes in my heart remain raw and ragged and sore.

I think holiness is having healed holes that open my heart in a wonderful way. Last night, as I listened to the sweet voices of children singing songs about Christmas, I felt whole and holy indeed. I was surrounded by little ones yesterday, and God blessed as love poured in and out of my heart as it only can when I am with children. Tears are part of healing, but so is laughter:)

Grief will always be part of my life if I plan to love, and God certainly has loving at the top of His list when it comes to living. Laughter will always be part of my life because no one has a better sense of humor than God. He designed us to love, and that means both tears and laughter.  I need both, and God is always there to cry and laugh with me.  Those who truly love me do the same.

God shares my journey and shows me His way. He knows it and me by heart:) I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a picture of the sunset, but God has another sweet former student do that for me. Here’s Stacy’s photo, and it captures just what I saw on Monday evening.

Sunset

God’s Timing:)

God’s timing has more to do with my readiness than His delaying. I often say that God’s timing is perfect, and it is. I usually mean that He’s making me wait for some reason, helping me grow, or teaching me patience. That’s true also, but I’m learning that God’s timing is directly related to the state of my heart’s readiness. He’s always ready to teach, guide, and give me the wonderful things He has in store. I am not, so He’s the one who’s doing the waiting! Knowing that puts me in a different state of mind and heart:)

As I think of all God put before me this week, I am humbled. Jeremiah 33 has blessed me over and over, and verse 9 grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let it go last night.

“It will be to Me a name of joy, praise and glory before all the nations of the earth which will hear of all the good that I do for them, and they will fear and tremble because of all the good and all the peace that I make for it.’” NASB

God’s love has demanded my attention this week, and I have literally trembled at all the good and all the peace He has made for me. These words from “The Wonderful Cross” say it perfectly, and Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin sing it beautifully!

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.” 

God doesn’t just bid me come, His love demands my soul and my attention in a way that makes me tremble in wonder and stop what I’m doing and look to Him. I’ve found that when I do that, He will show me who He is and who He believes I can be. It causes me to see myself as He sees me, and that brings me to my knees in gratitude for His grace.

Knowing I am loved is a mirror that allows me to look deeply at His love and express it to Him, myself, and those in my path. His love is so different from mine. I understood enabling, fixing, pitying, and waiting upon, but I never knew true love until God planted its seed in my heart three years ago. It grew, flourished, and has ripened to the point of readiness.

Readiness is one definition of the Greek word translated as holiness, and that simple truth helps me see love in a new light. Knowing that God is waiting for that readiness in my heart changes the way I live and love. I’ve been waiting for Him to do something. God’s lessons this week have been amazing. I’ve long since stopped using the word coincidental because I know that nothing is coincidental when it comes to God. He does wait for me, but He also knows when I’m going to be ready. He knew the seed He planted on December 1st three years ago would be ready yesterday. Amazing:)