Monday, March 18, 2013

Looking After Each Other

"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." ~Romans 15:5-6

Today I was just minding my own business scrolling around on Facebook and checking my blog when I ran into the scripture listed above. I really wasn't planning on writing a blog post today because I have a lot going on and a to-do list as long as my arm. But this scripture gave me pause because it is one I've seen and read and thought about a little but today it was like reading it anew. The original thought behind it to me was, to put it in layman's terms, look after each other and encourage the people in your life. To have each other's backs, as it were. More or less.

Well, as it turns out, there is more. Much more that I have been overlooking and I wanted to share it with you, even though you are probably much wiser than I, and you've probably already figured all of this out for yourself. Still, I think it is so amazing that I can read or hear a scripture and get something new out of it in different seasons of my life. Kind of like that special bubble gum From Willie Wonka where you can chew the same piece of gum but get all kinds of different flavors out of it depending on your mood or desire. Kind of a weird comparison, I know, but as you have likely surmised by now...I'm a little weird. Stay with me anyway.

So, yesterday...another scripture crossed my path which was this:

"Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many."
~Hebrews 12:15

Sort of similar messages, right? The words that stick out for me in these two scriptures right off the bat are: 'look after each other' and 'watch out' and 'toward each other.' Doesn't take a brain surgeon to see what we are called to do. We are supposed to be taking care of each other. Loving our neighbor as ourselves. Doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Being a friend who sticks closer than a brother, etc. The first scripture tells us to encourage each other so that we may have endurance to run this so-called race of life.

The way I see it, the instructions are pretty specific. We are to do this with a Christ-like attitude...and here's the kicker: We are to be of one mind. One voice. The ultimate purpose of which is to glorify God. As God gives grace to us so freely, we are to spread it around unselfishly and unreservedly so that as ONE BODY, we reflect and glorify the love of God. I just love that. That is our purpose as believers. Our calling. Simply to love and serve one another in order to emulate the character and image of our creator, almighty God who is LOVE. Goosebumps.

But we have to be careful, don't we? There is a warning there. We have to watch out that we do not allow bitterness to take root in us. Why? Because a bitter root produces bitter fruit. Because as one body, one mind, one voice...we are contagious to one another. The scripture says that bitterness may grow to trouble you but it will end up corrupting many. We are all connected. Just as our joy and laughter can be infectious, so can our bitterness and criticisms.

As I write this today, I realize how important it really is, what a huge responsibility and privilege it be the hands and feet of Jesus. To keep 'washing' those hands and feet in the word of God, so that I will not contaminate others with my own negative stuff. I don't want to be a carrier of sin or a transmitter of hate. My desire is to carry the communicable, joyous, totally transmittable good news of Christ's salvation to every heart and mind I come in contact with.

I want you all to know that I will continue to encourage you every chance I get. Keep running your race. I've got your back as I hope you have mine. Don't get discouraged because as you know...if you've read to the end of The Book ...WE WIN. Glory to God!

I'm really grateful for this revelation and I wanted to pass it along to you. I hope and believe it will bear good, life-giving fruit. All my love to all of you.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Healthy Dose of Humility

I'm going to come right out and say it. Growing up up in an abusive household doesn't make me special. If it did most of us would think pretty highly of ourselves. It surely doesn't entitle me to extra sympathy or special attention from anyone. To beat a tired, over-used phrase...'it is what it is.' By the grace of God, I have overcome so much and have grown to recognize that triumph out of tragedy is a recurring theme God has used since the dawn of time to show Himself great in this world. With humility, I will say that the course my life illustrates that attribute of God's character perfectly. Humility. Such an important word that is somewhat lacking in our modern discourse. It is a quality that I strive for in my own life but occasionally...I fall short. And by occasionally, of course I mean daily.

They didn't talk to me much about humility when I was growing up but I was put down and dismissed quite frequently. That is what I thought humility meant. To be humiliated. I knew that feeling quite well. I was raised by very self-centered, self serving people. I mean no disrespect when I say that. I'm just being honest. The adults in my life (my mom and step-dad mostly) seemed to believe that children were bothersome and intrusive and were annoyances to be dealt with in whatever manner they deemed appropriate to what their mood was at the time. This is not to say I was not loved. I was. They did the best they could, I suppose. My dad loved me very much. Just never seemed to be able to stick around for long periods at a time.

I'd describe my life growing up sort of like being in a climate where volatile and violent changes in the weather patterns would take place constantly. Hard to know how to gear up appropriately day by day. I became a human barometer. My internal dialogue became something like "Prepare for the worst, expect heavy weather and remember to really enjoy the sunshine while it lasts."  I became both self protective and fiercely protective of others around me. It also created an unhealthy tendency to crave peace at any price, the end result being self taught to become a chronic people pleaser. This looks like humility on the surface but is really selfishness In disguise. ie: (If I can keep everybody happy and ok, I will feel better and safe and will have some semblance of control over my own environment). I know. That's deep, isn't it?
Fortunately, God has placed people in my path along the way that helped me to discover that I was not living on a hostile planet, so to speak. Aunts, uncles, amazing and loving grandparents and great- grandparents, even parents of my friends, who lavished love on me and gave me a glimpse of what a peaceful, loving home should feel like. People who put the needs of others before their own. True humility. I was determined that when the time came, I would never settle for anything less for my own children. And I haven't settled. My children live in a peaceful (most days), loving and God-centered, spirit-filled home. We are not perfect. We are messy and we are extremely goofy. We work together but mostly play together. We pray together. We enjoy each other. We like to hang out in our pajamas and be lazy together. My family works. We are functional. That, in and of itself, is a triumph of great magnitude in my eyes. Humbling, to say the least.
As parents, sometimes we swing too far in the opposite direction of our pain and try to build up our kids' self esteem, (which I believe to be vitally important, by the way), and we try to protect their egos too much. I've been guilty of this. But in a society of swagger and celebrity worship and 'me-ism' I have been trying to redirect my children's focus from themselves and their own desires onto God and to the needs of others. This requires vigilance on my part and I have been praying for direction in this area. There are teachable moments around every corner. The challenge? Recognizing and making the most of them. On this, I'm not willing to settle, either. I tell my kids every single day as they get out of the car to go to school:

"God loves you and I love you. You can do ALL things through Christ, who strengthens you. Now...go do great things with this day and be a blessing, not a burden to those God places in your path."

I get an occasional eyeroll and sometimes they say it along with me in a little sing-song voice but I don't let that stop me. I'm sowing precious seeds into this garden we call life and I intend to nurture them and care for them until we reap an amazing harvest. I declare our children will be mighty in the land. In order for that to take place, we must surrender, be obedient, trust in God's will for our lives and let our faith sustain us through the process. As for me and my house? We will serve the Lord. By His grace, we will serve him with a healthy dose of humility!

This verse says it all:

Philippians 2:3-11
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Speaking of teachable moments...we are watching The Bible series on the History Channel as a family. It has opened up incredible dialogue about so many biblical and general life topics. The kids even asked to watch it over again last night. I recommend this series (but not for younger viewers, as it has violent scenes, as you might expect) and we are all looking forward to upcoming episodes which air every Sunday night until the finale on Easter Sunday. My kids are getting out their Bibles to see what book the show is on and I've learned quite a bit myself. It is condensed, so we have to pause occasionally to get everyone up to speed, but overall it has been a great family experience so far. I'll share the link with you so you can get the details for yourselves.***