Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How Clean Do You Want to Be?

Daniel likes to be helpful. But he still requires supervision. Unless he's really hungry and especially likes what we're eating, he tends to take his time at dinner and is usually the last one left at the table. One night recently though he was the first one to finish and took his plate to the kitchen before the rest of us were done. After awhile, we could hear pots and pans banging around.

Daniel,” I called out to him. “What are you doing?

Put away,” he called back.

My mind immediately went to the dishwasher (which I have come to appreciate this year as one of the best inventions ever). I knew that the dishes inside were dirty. “No,” I told him as I quickly got up from the table. “Those dishes aren't clean.” There he was, our happy little helper, putting dirty dishes away in the cupboards.

Maybe they had looked “clean enough.”

I am blessed to have a team of four wise women who are walking with me through my sabbatical season. They challenged me to block out 1-2 hours every day during my two month Reflect and Refocus phase, to do some personal journaling and listening prayer. I started yesterday and it was helpful for me to process on paper some areas of frustration where I've been stuck.

Today though I must have glanced up at the clock five times, feeling like I was done and that one hour seemed painfully long to be looking so closely at myself. It's much easier to feel “clean enough,” like the dirty dishes in our cupboards. It's not really that difficult for me to pretend that everything looks fine, when the lights are dim and I do a quick check in the mirror. Today the mirror lights felt quite bright and exposing, as I ended my reflection time reading Matthew 23:25-28.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will also be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside they are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

I sure don't want to be a hypocrite. Or have Jesus call me a whitewashed tomb. I want to be clean from the inside out. And yet, I can relate with Peter. Give Jesus my dirty stinky feet to clean?

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.”
(John 13:8-10)

I want to be clean. Not just the I-believe-in-Jesus-so-I'm-already-saved-clean. But the daily throwing-out-the-dead-men's-bones-and-stuff-I-don't-really-want-to-see-clean. 

God, help me to overcome my resistance to your cleaning process.

How clean do you want to be?

Related posts:
Clean Windows

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Who Jesus Was Not and Who He Was

Jesus was not One who seriously considered the devil's temptations because He had resolved to single-heartedly follow His Father's commands regarding His speech and actions (John 8:28-29)

Jesus was not One who had to prove who He was because He knew where He came from and where He was going (John 8:14)

Jesus was not One who needed to receive authority over the kingdoms of the world because all things were made through Him (John 1:3)

Jesus was not One who would allow Himself to worship the deceiver because He was the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) and would only worship the Lord (Exodus 20:3)

Jesus was not One who would test His God, to see if angels would catch Him because He knew that He had 12 legions of angels at his disposal to save Him from death (Matthew 26:53) and because God had said not to put Him to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16)


Jesus was One who was filled with the Spirit of the Lord (not one who was seeking fulfillment elsewhere)

Jesus was One who was anointed to preach the good news to the poor (not one with a mission to the wealthy)

Jesus was One who was sent to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind (not one to place religious chains on people or to give a pat on the back to the self-righteous who thought they could see)

Jesus was One who was sent to release the oppressed (not one to load people down with more religious rules)

Jesus was One who came to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor (not one to establish Himself as a political Messiah)

from Luke 4:1-30

There was no question in Jesus’ mind about his identity and that people’s response to him would determine their eternal destiny.

It was only through Restraint that Jesus could Rescue.

There was no other way to completely fulfill the requirement of God's perfect justice.

As we draw near to Good Friday, may God help us to understand in a new and transforming way why Jesus came and what that means to us today. Help us to remember.

(Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the theme of Remember)

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
(Psalm 139:23-24)

A sincere longing by David, in this psalm, to be fully known by God. Asking Him to search what is hidden and bring it into the light. Desiring a relationship with Him that is unhindered by sin of any kind.

I was caught off guard last night while listening to Daniel read. He often pauses while he's sounding out words to comment on the picture in the book or to ask an unrelated question, but this time he paused in the middle of “Pam likes to nap” to make a confession.

“I'm sorry that I made a face,” he said in Chinese. I turned to look at him. My mind was completely blank as to what he was talking about; he had never initiated an apology out of the blue before. So he repeated his confession and added that he didn't show respect to me when I told him it was time for him to practice reading, when he wanted to listen to The Magic School Bus recording. “I forgive you,” I told him. “Thank you for telling me.”

I confess that I am not a very good model for apologizing, so I knew that Daniel hadn't learned this from me. I think his example must have been David. A few weeks ago he had apologized in the middle of working on his homework, that he hadn't been trying hard and wasn't respectful in his attitude to me. Would I forgive him? Yes. And it completely changed our interaction the rest of that day.

Confession brings what is wrong into the light. And asks to make the relationship right again. Restoration. Redemption. All things made new.

A friend shared with Charly and me this week about how God had used Isaiah 42 to change his life. Verses 6-7 about opening the eyes of the blind were affirming for him to see that God would use him as an instrument to minister to those in need of the Good News. But then, verse 19: “Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the Lord?” Ouch.

The truth is that I am the one who is blind and deaf. I am the one who needs my eyes opened and my ears unclogged. I need God's forgiveness and cleansing. To receive His mercy that is new every day.

What sin do I need to confess?

Search me, God. And lead me in the way everlasting.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fully Known and Fully Loved

This was the end of a beautiful and powerful message on Rest that we heard at Pulpit Rock Church last Sunday:

Dare to believe and let it sit in your heart. You are fully known. You are fully loved. And you have no need to fear rejection. That is enough.

Fully known. God has watched you your whole life. He understands you. He understands the ways that you struggle. He understands the ways that you deceive yourself. He understands the ways that you're unique, the ways that you're special. Your strengths, your brokenness, your sin. He knows every inch of your heart.

And you're fully loved. Every part of you is loved by your Heavenly Father. Those things that make you weird to all of us, make God smile. He likes those things about you. He loves to hear you laugh. He loves who you are. He grieved with you, loved you in those moments when you were hurt. He loved you in those moments you were sinning. Even as you faced that gut-wrenching disappointment, His love was there.

Because of that you have no need to ever fear rejection by Him. You will always be His daughter. You will always be His son. Doesn't matter how far you run. How much you ignore Him. How personally you reject Him.There is no moment coming where He is tired of calling you His. That is enough.

That is enough. Listen, I know you. I know you want to add something to it. You try so hard. And He sees how desperately you want to add your effort. But it is enough to be loved. Nothing more is needed.

Rest. You are fully known. Fully loved. No need to fear rejection. That is enough.

God, we come to you today and we would just ask that you would convince our hearts. Now we pray for our hearts. It's easy to pray for other people, God. But we need you to convince us that we are your sons and daughters. And that is enough.

You can listen to the whole sermon by Jonathan Cleveland here:  And I highly recommend the entire series on Rest.

Daniel brought home this school picture yesterday. I find it hard to look at his face and not smile with him. This picture captures the genuine joy that Daniel has in just being who he is, a beloved son.

“Identity does not depend on the role we play or the power it gives us over others. It depends only on the simple fact that we are children of God, valued in and for ourselves.” (Parker Palmer)

“I want my life to be integrated in the one true reality of a God who knows everything about me and desires only the good. I want to view all the distractions of my day from the perspective of eternity. I want to abandon myself to a God who can elevate me beyond the tyranny of myself. I will never be free from evil, or from distractions, but I pray that I can be freed from the anxiety and unrest that crowd in with them...Transformation comes, in the end, not from an act of will, but an act of grace.” (Philip Yancey)

You are fully known. You are fully loved. And you have no need to fear rejection. That is enough. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

What We Do with What We Have

I'm sitting here this morning feeling privileged. And wondering what that means.

Last weekend Jordan and I had the opportunity to travel to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We listened to several first generation college students share about the significant people in their lives who believed in them and helped to open doors for their future. Students who are becoming confident servant leaders within the supportive, growth-building community of the Perkins Leadership Fellowship. One student shared that she would have never considered herself a leader a year ago. But now she does. And she's looking for ways that she can impact the world with the gifts God has uniquely blessed her with.

“Godly leadership is not about attaining recognition or glory; it’s about serving others.”
—John M. Perkins

 “To affirm a person is to see the good in them that they cannot see in themselves and to repeat it in spite of appearances to the contrary.” (Brennan Manning)

“Open yourself to God's blessing by dreaming the dream God has for you. He is your Maker, and he made you as a unique being with attributes and abilities that make you different from any other person ever created. He made you this way because he has a function for you to fulfill that you can do better than any other person on earth. He wants to bless you by putting you in a place where you can fulfill it.” (Michael W. Smith)

Jordan is interested in pursuing social work, and at Calvin we were able to sit in on an Intro to Social Work class. The professor challenged the students to think about what would make them different from the client sitting across the desk from them. Would they think that they had worked harder? Made better decisions? Were actually better people?

He said that it would be easy to think of themselves as “better than.” But it really was a matter of Grace. Not as in being favored by God. But as in Amazing Grace.

We all make mistakes in life, he said. But if you're living in poverty one mistake can put you over the edge a lot quicker than if you are middle or upper class. He urged them to look across the desk at their clients as people, not “less than” but like them in more ways than they might imagine.

“The one truth that would help us begin to solve our ethical and political problems (is) that we are all more or less wrong, that we are all at fault, all limited and obstructed by our mixed motives, our self-deception, our greed, our self-righteousness, and our tendency to aggression and hypocrisy.” (Thomas Merton)

The professor asked the students to think about the idea of burnout, and what would keep them going when they faced more failures than successes in their jobs. He wanted them to imagine how they would feel when the people they had tried so hard to help didn't even want their help. And continued to make bad choices. He said that belief in a BIG sovereign God would help them to know that God deeply loves and cares for the people they are trying to help. God could help them get a glimpse of the bigger story He is writing, so as not to take their “failures” personally and give up.

“We must identify a hope that has the power to do something truly wonderful when the dark night descends and we see nothing but pain and disappointment in this life, a hope that does exactly the same thing when the sky is sunny.” (Larry Crabb)

The professor asked the students to consider their motivations for pursuing the challenging field of social work. If it was out of a sense of obligation, for Christian service, burnout would most likely be a struggle they would face sooner rather than later. If they believed that God was leading them into this field as an opportunity to be a blessing, to grow through the difficulties, and to learn from those they encounter, they would be more likely to persevere.

“Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us.” (Brene Brown)

What does responding with compassion look like?

Chuck Swindoll says that we can look at the parable of the Good Samaritan, and “to use today's terms, ask not 'Is my neighbor really lost and therefore needy?' But is my neighbor's neighbor—namely me—really saved and therefore compassionate?”

And so I am wondering...Am I using my position of privilege as a pedestal from which to look down on the less privileged? Or do I actually believe that I have as much to learn and gain from them as they might have to learn and gain from me? What would it mean for me to reach out across the line separating the haves from the have nots in a way that is uplifting and affirming, not condescending and self-righteous?

Grace is amazing, and compassion is the means through which we can both share it and receive it.

Denzel Washington says, “If you ask me, being successful means helping others. I look around at people who have accomplished all kinds of great and worthwhile things, and I think, 'OK, so what have you done with what you have?' We all know about the awards you've won and riches you've received, but at the end of the day it's not about what you have or even what you've accomplished. It's about what you've done with those accomplishments. It's about who you've lifted up, who you've made better. It's about what you've given back.”

It's about what we do with what we have.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Seeking the Easy Yoke

From Paul W. Chappell's excellent book, The Burden Bearer:

How is it that we who personally know the One who invites us to cast our cares upon Him still stagger on bearing our own loads?

How is it that we who have chosen Christ's easy yoke persist in carrying our lopsided weights on our shoulders rather than hitching them to our shared yoke with Christ?

How is it that we who have dedicated ourselves to the service of the Burden Bearer so often find ourselves feeling heavy, burdened, weighted, and exhausted?...

Somewhere in the process of our busy schedules, we forgot the surrender-all-to-Jesus mindset and we developed a do-it-all-for Jesus philosophy. One problem. Jesus never created—nor expects—us to do it all. In fact, He will never equip us to do it all...

One of the truths the Lord used in my life to lift the load of stress from my shoulders is summed up in this statement: A sacrificial life will always be unfinished...

There is a fine line between diligence and drivenness. At least on the the surface. Underneath, there is a chasm. Driven Christians carry the stress of trying to do God's work for Him. Diligent Christians fully give themselves to the Lord and trust Him to do His work through them...

We release the burden of stress when we release the responsibilities for the outcome to the Lord...

When we worry, we fret that we are not enough, that our resources are inadequate, that the demands on us are overwhelming, that eventually, we will be unable to sustain the pressures and burdens we are carrying...

Too often we carry the burden that surpasses our strength rather than resting in the peace that surpasses our understanding...

Discipline is vital to the Christian life. But sometimes we must step back and ask the tough questions: Why am I willing to carry this load? And for whom am I bearing it? Is it for God's glory? Or for mine?

The loads we impose on ourselves to please our own egos or to impress our peers are never worth the pain they produce...

We know little of God's grace—in our dealings with others and in our relationship with God. And because we don't understand grace, we just keep trying harder.

We try harder to try to explain the unexplainable.

We try harder to make our lives work out.

We try harder to exceed the expectations of others.

And we push others to try harder too.

In fact, often we're trying so hard to carry our loads and prod others to carry theirs, that when the Burden Bearer, who already bore our load, calls, “Cast your cares on Me; I care for you,” we don't even hear Him. Or we don't believe Him...

Do you glory in the cross? Or in your strength to carry heavy loads?..

Perhaps the heaviest burden Christians carry is loneliness. When we are sure of sympathy and supported by encouragement, we can go further, longer, and faster. Alone, however, we become disheartened and desolate.

But a yoke signifies unity. To accept Christ's offer to take His yoke means that we will never carry our burdens alone again. The Burden Bearer whom we serve never leaves His own...

Included in Jesus' invitation to share His yoke is the call to learn from Him. Not only does He offer to teach us how to pull properly, but He recognizes that we don't have it all together before we start: He gives us room to grow...

He invites, “learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls.” Our way is exhausting, Jesus' way is refreshing. Our way is weakening; Jesus' way is strengthening...

In Bible times, there were two kinds of yokes used for animals. The first kind was designed to divide the load so that the two animals yoked together would equally share the weight. The second yoke was a training yoke, designed so a younger, less-experienced animal would learn the unity of a yoke while the trained animal actually pulled the weight of the burden.

It is this second yoke that Jesus offers us. He carries the load and burden; we learn to walk in unity with Him...

When we serve for others' acceptance, we find ourselves overloaded, resentful, and disillusioned. But when we pour our energy into serving the Lord, we find that He replenishes and reinvigorates us by His grace...

“Carrier, believe Me. I know the way. I am not counting your steps, but your surrender. Not how fast, but how faithful. Not your tasks, but your trust.”...

God's callings are always larger than human ability. In calling us to serve others and to help bear their burdens, God enlarges our hearts and stretches our capacities...

Yet, our tendency is to get so enamored with the calling itself that we enlarge the burden that comes with it. We heap pain upon ourselves by assuming added burdens God never intended for us to carry. God calls us to labor in a field larger than our resources so that He will get the glory. But we sabotage His glory (and discourage ourselves in the process) when we carry the burden rather than serving in the yoke.

It all boils down to where we look for help when we realize that we are in over our heads. Do we join our voices with the Lifters, echoing their anthem, “Try harder, try harder”? Or do we remember where our help is found?

“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5)

“God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:5-7)

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)


Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the theme of "Yoke."


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