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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

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scripture

take every thought captive

I could not win today, at least not for a period of time. That is how it felt after a very long day, but I am learning to let feelings come and go because once more…

“Feelings make terrible leaders.” – Mark Durniak

So now you and I both know that feelings cannot be fully trusted, but you know what? Your heart can. That is why my favorite nugget of wisdom of all time is Proverbs 4:23. When you guard your heart, you CAN trust it and part of that guarding means that you watch carefully and intentionally what comes in and what goes out.

Kind of like a filter or a net.

Guarding does not come with ease. It can actually be quite uncomfortable and truth be told, some days I am lazy. I don’t really care to show up to my post. I call in sick. I have a headache. I stayed up late. Work has me swamped. Whatever. Secretly, I must enjoy being buffeted by my feelings because surely if I didn’t, I would practice “Take every thought captive and obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

My friend Leslie read those words out loud last night and I swear Holy Spirit was whispering in her ear, “Say it. Out loud. So she can hear it.” He obviously knew I was there. That I was sitting smack behind her. He knew I would perk up in my seat and when she was finished, lean forward and close and ask, “Um, what scripture was that again? And did it just say EVERY?”

“Yes. Take every thought captive.”

Surely He can’t mean every as in ALL. I have A LOT of thoughts.

This whole thing is no longer fair. I felt like a three year-old child throwing herself down on the floor in the middle of the building. Sometimes it just sucks to love Jesus.

Let me tell you why.

There are days, hard days, where people and I don’t necessarily mesh. I could give you a list, I could feed you from the smorgsaboard of why’s and what’s and I can make it sound good and appetizing. You would likely eat the crap I’d serve you and call it nutritious AND delicious because I know how to plead my case. Yes, people and life WITH people is challenging. But here’s the thing…

I am finding I cannot afford to have a single not good thought in my head about someone. Even the woman today who ran my red lights at a bus stop as I drove one of our school buses. The very woman who endangered the life of one of my students and then laughingly waved hello and goodbye as she looked up at my window. I could not afford to call her the names I wanted to in my head.

I. Could. Not.

I know what it does to ME. It makes me angry and angry makes me say, out loud, not nice things. It tempts me to go home to my family, all worn thin like paper and grumpy, and transfer my bad day to those who innocently say, “Hello Mom! How was your day?”

They have learned over time there are days where it’s best NOT to ask Mom anything and those days are very hard pills for me to swallow when it is all said and done. Regret is not a friend. But this whole things goes much further than me. If I do not take every thought captive and I allow just one nasty thought, that for a moment I believe is justifiable, take up space in my head, I might as well charge rent and make some money. One thought leads to two. And two leads to four. Get my point? I was not created to be critical, especially of others. That is NOT the mind of Christ. I was created to be loving and encouraging and to see correctly, as in originally. Though rightful blame can be assigned when wrong is done, I need to position myself to think the best of others so not to separate them from my heart. Even if I don’t ever see them again, as in the woman from this afternoon at the bus stop, I want to champion FOR them in the spirit and believe they are doing the very best they can.

Every thought.

That means, every one. Because sooner or later, every one leads to a thought about EVERYONE. I personally cannot afford to think less than the best about my neighbor because there are days that I need my neighbor to think the best about me. Days where I screw up and get lazy. Days where I forget, days where I need someone to remind me once more, “August…you are good.”

“For as a man thinks in his heart, he is.” Proverbs 23:7

Likewise…”For as a man thinks in his heart about his neighbor, he will call his neighbor up to be.”

That one’s from me. You are welcome.

Think well of others.

Much Love,

August

 

the word became flesh

I do not accept challenges nor do I play games. I do not cut and paste and then post. If it’s not personal, I’ll be honest, I just don’t have time nor do I want to make it, but when my friend Noel tagged me in a 10-day challenge to share my favorite scriptures, I looked at it as an opportunity. You want to know what my favorite ones are? Great. But let me tell you WHY they are my favorite.

Here we go.

I grew up Presbyterian. I also think there was a time we were Luthern too, but at this point, it’s all blurred. Church meant we went at Christmas and Easter, but I did go on and off as a child for a period of time with my mother who wanted my sister and I to have a firm foundation. The people were nice and our pastor was a African American woman named Myrtle. I loved Myrtle for many reasons but now, as a adult, I really have come to appreciate her. Myrtle was a pioneer.

I wasn’t really into the Bible as a child. My father’s mother Helen however was and she gave me a tiny, white leather bound Bible with my name etched in gold lettering. Her home was dimly lit and quiet and she often spent time reading hers and I think she had hoped I would do the same. I did not like reading and I dreaded memorizing scripture and Sunday school class so when I was called on, I’d pick at my shoe or at the braid of the girl beside me to create a distraction. I’d do anything to get out of reciting verses because that is what it felt like to me. Recital. On some stage, regurgitating words that I had no understanding of and then getting graded. Would I receive a sticker this week? Likely not. Why? I had no relationship with this Jesus who seemed so far off and I didn’t know how to relate to Him through a book. Head knowledge has always been a nemesis. I wanted to KNOW the Word Himself and that was WHO I wanted, the very person of Jesus. I wanted real. I wanted relationship.

“So the Word became flesh and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” John 1:14

These words still sit humbly in my spirit. The Word became flesh. He made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. We are loved, THAT much.The Word did not just come as a baby, a book or a house guest who would leave. He came to reside IN me, the actual person of Jesus.

10 years ago I couldn’t fathom some far-off God being so hands-on present. I sat at a ladies retreat, done. I showed up because showing up is what I did and was in the midst of ruining the entirety of my life as I knew it. I was far removed from reality, but I do remember sitting in that chair, knuckles white to the bone from gripping the edges. I wanted to be anywhere but there when I heard a voice pop into my conciousness. It sounded much like my own and it said, “If you would just come to me, I would help you with all this.”

Envision a juggler and a poor one at that. That was me. Poorly juggling…

That voice. I would not say those things to myself, would I? Was it my conscience? I decided to take a chance that THAT voice WAS Jesus. Why not? I WAS at a ladies retreat and at that point, I had nothing to lose. Overtime, I have learned to distinguish His voice from my own and from others. I am learning still.

I have invited you here because I’m more of an outpost, meaning I relate better to people who are kind of on the fence when it comes to religion and church. I have an evangelistic, empathetic heart and don’t really know what to do with it besides wake up each day and LIVE. I believe God is everywhere and in everyone. I believe He is in it all and can use it all…both the good and the not great and is continuously present. When we choose to SEE and HEAR, I believe we can encounter a supernatural God in our every day lives. He is boundless and full of mystery and wonder and I will not place the limits of my knowledge of Him to the confines of a book. I will however hold the Bible in high regard and esteem. I do not think you can fully know the Father without having an overall understanding of it because the many pages that lie within it pour the foundational framework of His heart from which we walk forward. He is consistent and multi-facited and His nature and character are continuously revealed while inviting the reader into a new discovery and another conversation. I for one, am indebted to its teaching but my Bible is not the One I worship.

The very Word of God Himself is.

One thing that has become glaringly obvious to me is that there are certain things you just don’t mess with when it comes to people: Money, Politics and Religion. It no wonder why Jesus continuously challenged the leaders of His day. Want to see everything on the inside of someone rise to the surface? Talk about one of these three subjects. You don’t have spend a lot of time on social media to watch a newsfeed fill fast with arguments and debates when it comes to theology. Everyone thinks what they believe is THE way; we respond to be right instead of responding to better understand and when we do, we build walls instead of bridges. We all live in some shade of gray and don’t even know it.

Jesus, the true Way, please show us. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:13

In my 20’s, I was not a fan of religion and not because of God, but because of an experience where someone vehemently picked and chose scriptures to win and prove their point about my choices. They bypassed a relationship WITH me in order to stand firmly in what they believed in and only wanted a relationship when I saw their light. I remember thinking, “If THIS is Christianity, I want nothing to do with it.” I think we can easily contradict the gospel if we do not carefully guard how we present it. The Bible was meant to be used in the context of relationship, a door that opens up conversations not only WITH God but WITH others. We close those doors before they have a chance to fully widen by the way in which we present the message. We lose our ability to influence when doors are closed and in my opinion, too many doors are shut tight.  

Then I think of Jesus on the cross. I think of Him whispering these words after greatly suffering, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” Luke 23:34.  Those words shift the posture of my heart. If He could be rejected, humiliated, tortured and abandoned and still choose forgiveness, why can’t I? Forgiveness…asking for it and extending it is the CORE of Christianity. We often don’t know what we are doing; we rarely seek to understand our own motives.

Are we motivated by fear or love? Answering that question is key.

I hope we can take an intentional step back and see one another as He sees us. Wonderfully, thoughtfully and intentionally made. I hope that we can see His original design for mankind and understand that indeed, the Word HAS been made flesh. Maybe we would treat each other differently if we looked for Jesus in each other instead of focusing on the mud and the muck that often forms the heavy film of distraction.

So friends, I encourage you to listen. I encourage you to dig deep. I encourage you to guard your heart. Lift your head up and SEE. Open your ears and HEAR; walk by the Spirit. Let living Love lead you into a deep and meaningful relationship that surpasses the bound book you have been beaten by or that you hold your hands so closely to.

There is more.

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