Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hosting A Banquet?

Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Luke 14:12-14

At church Sunday I was 100% convinced that Bro. Ken has been reading my ministry notes for speaking!  Every few minutes my heart was saying "AMEN!",  followed by my brain saying "that's what I've been saying all along!  Jeez - are you people EVER going to get it?". 

That was then followed up quickly by God reminding me - "Honey, you just think you got it!"

Bro. Ken actually focused on another scripture found in Matthew 16:24-28; "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."  The bottom line of the message is that these are easy words to say - hard words to live out.

He went on to talk about 'Casusal Christians'.  In my speaking messages I talk about a club called 'Comfy Christianity'.  In this club (which I have been a member) we say things like - 1) "I'll pray for you" and 2) "I'm here if you need me" and the very famous Southern 3) "Bless your heart!"

Which is all code for: 1) As soon as I walk away from you I'm going to forget your prayer request.  Truth is I'm super busy and I have a ton of my own requests!  2) Please don't need me, please don't need me - I have no idea how to work you into my schedule.  3) I hate that things are bad for you right now.  I don't mean to rub it in, but I'm just great and the Lord is blessing me left & right!

Everyone of you reading this (especially females) know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.

Two years ago during our UpWards basketball and cheer leading program – promoted to the community, we had around 400 children playing in our gym. Less than 100 of those were “our” church kids. I coached a cheer leading squad and out of my 14 girls, only 3 of those had a church home (and none of them were members of my church). All of my girls came from very poor and very rough backgrounds. One night I noticed on of my girls, her mother was very distressed. As I approached her I saw that her blue jeans were torn from her pocket nearly down to the bottom of her pants leg. She was trying to hide her tears and her torn jeans with her daughter’s jacket. When I asked her how she was doing that night --- I had no idea what I was getting myself into. She shared with me about the domestic assault that had happened moments earlier that lead to her torn jeans, she told me about the drug addictions that lead to her car being reposed, and the affair between her best friend and her husband (before the assault she had accidentally ran across a sex text).

I did not want to know all that. I went to church that night to teach a few cheers and maybe distribute a few hugs to some young girls with a questionable home life. I did not want to invest in this person and her life that was so different from mine..  I had a choice to make at that moment - to take up my cross and deny myself OR to say, “I’ll pray for you. I’m here if you need me. And, bless your heart.” 

As I mentioned, I went to church that night to teach a few cheers – but God intended for me to host a banquet.

Seeing desperation in the eyes of “the poor” who lived in my own backyard was a wake up call for me.  A life devoted to Christ also has a public and transforming relationship with the world. It’s hands on. It’s dirty. It’s heart breaking and I can guarantee that you will not be comfortable. So, have you hosted a banquet?  For me - it's been awhile.  On Sunday, thanks to Bro. Ken - I was reminded of that.  Will you be on the look out for opportunities to host along with me?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Are you weird too?

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Galatians 1:10

Please tell me that I’m not alone in this! Do you have a particular person in your life that always catches you at a weird time? For example when you have food on your face, toilet paper on your shoe or a stain on the back of your shorts from sitting in something at the ballpark --- all while your roots are weeks past a touch up!! This SAME person never seems to see you when you are in your best light. You know without a doubt they think you are the weirdest person in the world!

I have girls 10 & 8 who have some friends, another set of sisters ages 10 &8. When we moved into our subdivision a few years ago I just knew this was a match made in heaven. However, it seems that their mother is always hearing this sentence from my girls: “My parents don’t let us __________ (fill in the blank). Without a doubt she thinks we are the weirdest people in the world! I’m confident she feels that she never catches us in our best light ----- or does she?

Over the last year my girls have filled in the blank with the following: play with Bratz dolls, watch Bratz movies, have shorts that short, show our bellies, say that word (butt), say that other word (shut-up),watch Twilight, watch shows on Nickelodeon after supper, buy Teeny Bopper magazines, hang up posters of pop stars, have a TV in our room, wear fish net gloves because mom says it’s trashy, wear shirts that say I’m a princess or diva or boy crazy or I love vampires, buy clothes at Abercrombie, watch scary movies, play witch, dress like a dead bride, go to the movies with a boy, have a boyfriend, get kid drinks that look like that because they look like grown up drinks…… and trust me, the list goes on and on and on!

In a way, it’s become sort of a joke between Russ and me. When the girls come home from an afternoon of play time - the first thing we ask is, “Well, what could you not do this time?”

What’s funny is that I don’t think of myself as a strict parent (until they come home –ha). And, the girls don’t mind NOT doing any of the things that I’ve mentioned. I have been very proud of how they sincerely don’t want to ___________ (fill in the blank w/any of the above). Well, I take that back – out of everything so far the only thing that caused a fuss was the fish net gloves. Go figure???

When I say “We don’t _________” then explain it’s because: Abercrombie has inappropriate pictures in their store/ads, shorts this length are not modest, we need to keep our minds on things above so we don’t have TV’s in our bedrooms or purchase teen magazines, etc…. And, I follow it with – “Now, your friends might do/have X, Y & Z but that’s not what God wants for our family” the girls have been very cool with it all.

If God’s cool with that, my girls are cool with that --- why do I feel so weird? I’ve recently realized the reason. This family, from what I can see (and we are too look for fruit aren’t we?) are not believers in Christ. What better strategy for Satan than to say to this family: “Look how weird those people are! You don’t want to be like that do you? How silly is that to not let your kids ___________” (fill in the blank). And He says to me: “You really are weird. Don’t you know your silly “stands” are doing more harm than good. Seriously, what’s the big deal.”

It’s a struggle to authentically live Galatians 1:10. The root of my problem is I want to “please” this mother. I want her to like me, like my children, like our choices so that – in my mind – she will like God.

I’m reminded that God’s Word says this again in 1 Thes. 2:4 “…We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.” As well as the entire book of 1 John! Be a light, be set apart, don’t be exactly like the world and so on. As difficult as it is – I’m resolved to continue in making what the world feels are silly stands. Any one standing with me? Are people seeing you in your best light?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Goodlettsville, TN + Coast Guard = STRANGE

“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.”
John 4:39

I’m telling you --- the words Goodlettsville and Coast Guard should not be used in the same sentence. It’s totally appropriate to say, “Umm – God?” Yet, Monday morning in my neighborhood, I watched the Coast Guard in their small boats bring families from one side of my subdivision to the other. I know those who lost their homes and I know those who only received water damage on their lawn because the water stopped justa few feet from their house. Both sets of families having stories to share of how God was with them.

If you are a believer – you have a story to tell. God has done something amazing in your life. Often, we think of a "God story" as something huge --- miracle size, if you will.  Tragedies like the Nashville flood, tornado's, accidents, illnesses, etc.... and how God protected, provided and so on.  Would it be STRANGE to think that before the Coast Guard came to Goodlettsville - if Monday had been an ordinary day; would we still have a "God story" to tell?
In church lingo – we often use the word “testimony” when we want others to share a story of what the Lord has done for them. When we tell what God has done for us we testify to His existence, to His greatness and that God is in deed who He says He is.

Growing up in the church - I remember looking at the church bulletin, seeing that someone was giving a testimony and knowing 1 of 2 things were about to happen. 1) somebody was about to share way to much information about themselves or others and then the other extreme 2) somebody was about to read scripture for 45 minutes straight with a few phrases like "this verse was important to me too" tossed in the mix a handful of times.
My question for you today is --- do you have a daily testimony to share of what God is doing in your life?  Have you ever sat and thought over the "coincidences" that have occurred in your life in just the last week alone!!?? 
In John 4:39, we see that this woman had a VERBAL testimony to share.  It wasn't too much personal info and it wasn't full of memorized head knowledge.  It was a simple story of how she had seen Jesus.  I encourage you to become comfortable in sharing verbal testimony's of how God is at work in your life.  Feel free to post them here!