FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Crocodile Tears

When you’ve been in the “business” of education for as long as I have, you see (and dry) a few crocodile tears. Students, young and old, as well as adults, staff and parents, are apt to shed a few tears. While some are legitimate (true heartbreak or true regret over a poor decision), many are about as real as the Louis Vuitton handbags you can buy on Canal Street in New York’s Chinatown. Sorry.

For a period, I served as a mediator for special education disputes. I was called to facilitate the mediation process when parents and school systems found themselves at odds over services and supports for children identified under the federal law, IDEA. Mediation training prepared me for crocodile tears and lots of other drama and, possibly, physical altercations. During training I thought that this couldn’t possibly be real, but surprisingly, during my three years as a mediator, I saw it all.

Even today I have vivid images of the mother who set up a tri-fold display of photos of her daughter right in the middle of the table around which we, opposing sides and the mediator, were gathered. When I turned the photos face down (as we were taught to do in mediation training – no trying to muddy the waters with emotions, just stick to the facts), the mom immediately began to “cry.” I moved the process along, as I had been trained, without acknowledging her “tears.” So, she “cried” louder. I continued the process and pushed a box of Kleenex in her direction. (Prepared mediators always traveled with a box of Kleenex. THAT lesson was part of the training.) She added physical elements to her “crying,” groaning and body jerks. I continued the process. She laid her head on the table and pounded her fist while still “crying” and now gasping for air. I asked, “Do we need to take a break?”

Mom immediately sat up and turned her mascara-smeared face directly toward me and said, “No! You are a cold —– who obviously does not care about my beautiful daughter!” And in that very instance the “crying” stopped. She added, “Nothing works with you!”

Yep, crocodile tears!

As Christians, we cry our fair share of crocodile tears, too. We always have. The book of Judges bears testimony of such. Its chapters and verses reveal patterns of rebellion, punishment, repentance and deliverance – a cycle of apostasy. Indeed, the Old Testament relays several incidences when the children of Israel “cried” to the Lord (Judges 6:7, 3:9, 4:3; Jeremiah 9:1-3; Exodus 14:10, 3:7). Sometimes they, like the mom during mediation, “groaned” (Exodus 2:23). But as we read account after account of the people crying and groaning to the Lord and their liberation from enemies and deliverance from persecution, we must wonder about the sincerity of those “cries” and true remorse for their sin.

While we are wondering about the children of Israel, we might wonder about ourselves, too – our crying out for deliverance only to return ourselves to sinful situations, sinful thinking and sinful acts. Do we beg, plead, cry out to God offering “deals” and promises to “never do this again,” to “stop seeing this person” or “give up this bad habit” to be delivered and only return later to the place (pattern, habit, thinking, behavior) where we were before? How genuine is our grief and, even more importantly, our repentance? True repentance involves a change of heart and a change in purpose and, subsequently, a change in behavior.

As you wonder, are you truly repentant or just shedding crocodile tears?

 

Biblical Repentance:  https://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A330/what-is-biblical-repentance


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Something to Worry About

Yes, last post I wrote that worrying was for the birds, but as I continue to reflect upon the teaching of Matthew – and all the Scriptures, I realize there is something that you should worry about.

Your focus. That you have it wrong.  Your thinking.  That it’s misguided.

Admittedly, my own focus and my own thinking may have been off, too.  While I wrote that worrying was for the birds, was I making too light of it?  When we look at the teaching of Matthew 6, we are told several times not to worry.  Specifically, in Matthew 6:25 (CEB) we read, “I say to you, don’t worry about your life…”  Verse 28 asks, “Why do you worry about clothes?” and verse 31 says, “Don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?”  And if we missed or misunderstood any of those, verse 34 makes it crystal clear, “Stop worrying about tomorrow.”

Whether you read the Common English, New International, King James or some other translation, the teaching is the same.  Whether your Bible tells you not to worry, not to take thought or not to be anxious, the command is the same.  No translation offers suggestions; they all offer edicts.  Directives.  Decrees.  Commandments.  And this is where and how we get off base with our thinking and our focus.

Let me be clear.  Worrying is not just problematic.  Worrying is wrong.  Worrying is a sin.  At the risk of offending some readers, I will be bold.  Worrying is a sin just like stealing, killing and adultery.  OMG you say.  But if we disobey God’s word, we sin.  Hmm, you wonder.  Don’t just take my word, let’s consider examples.  Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:2-3).  Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:7 and Luke 17:32).  Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:25-33).  Jonah (Jonah 1:1-3).  While you are reading, read 1 John 2:3-6 which cautions us, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  Can it be any clearer?  If we do not keep the commandments of God – not just the ten, but all the commandments of His word, we sin.

And worrying is not somehow a little or a lesser sin.  That’s more of our “misthinking.”  Adultery is a BIG sin.  Stealing is a BIG sin.  Murder is a BIG sin.  Worrying is a little sin.  A cute sin.  A “I can’t help myself, and anyway we all do it” sin.  As my pastor says, we think people go to hell for the BIG sins and, perhaps, to an air conditioned hell for the little sins.  No. Sin is sin.  If you’re thinking otherwise, I caution you; your thinking is misguided.

Matthew 6:33 (CEB) tells us that we should “desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness.”  In other words, our focus should be God, His kingdom and His righteousness rather than worrying about our lives, our clothes, what we will eat or drink or about tomorrow.  Further, Matthew teaches, when God is first, all those things will be ours, too!

THIS WEEK reassess your thinking and your focus.  What are you choosing to worry about?  Understand that worry steals your strength and buries your blessings.  Search the Scriptures for examples of those who worried and disobeyed God and those who cast their cares upon Him.  Decide which group you want to be associated with.


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Broken Crayons Still Color

It’s February…the month of love! Valentines have been in the stores since the after-Christmas sales. It’s funny how retail runs all the holidays together – Valentines on the shelves while Christmas decorations are still on the end caps; wait another couple of weeks, and we’ll be inundated with Easter flowers and bunnies even though it will still be February. Oh well, I digress. This is NOT what this post is about.

It’s about February, love and heart break.

It’s also about understanding that Broken Crayons Still Color!

Research from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that emotional pain may be more closely linked to physical pain than scientists previously realized, and heart break specifically registers in the same part of the brain that responds to physical pain. Further, heart break registers sensations much akin to broken limbs. Ever had a broken heart? Then, you didn’t need a study to tell you – it hurts!

Heart break changes you, consumes you. It drains and weakens, crushes and kills – joy and spirit. It separates and isolates. Yes, true heart break leaves you feeling out of sorts, depleted and alone. And were this not enough, heart break leaves you feeling imprisoned in a jail of sorts that surely you will never be able to leave.

But guess who has the key? Yes, our Father, God Himself. He, our King, who sits high and looks low knows what it is to have a broken heart! We (humans) have broken his heart for ages, and we continue to do so on a regular basis much like Gomer in the Book of Hosea (read the first three chapters; Hosea 1:1 – 3:5). Gomer repeatedly breaks Hosea’s heart, yet he loves her against logic and redeems her by taking her back. If you don’t know it, you’ve got to read the story and how Gomer leaves a man who loves her and passes from man to man until she ends up naked on the slave block to be sold!

And who buys her back?

You guessed it – Homer, her husband! But even that is not the BEST part of the story. Hosea pledges his love anew to his newly purchased wife – his wife the betrayer and prostitute, his wife the dregs of society, his wife who was broken. Now, the best part…Hosea’s love broke Gomer’s heart anew AND from this time on Gomer was faithful to Hosea. Gomer was restored!

Are you broken?

Have you loved someone only to realize that they don’t love you in return? Has a love betrayed you? Deserted you?

In your brokenness have you stopped “coloring?” There is a color that only you can paint in this world.  But have you ceased to be you? Ceased contributing positively to your work place, to your family, to your friends, to your home?  You may be a broken crayon, but you can still color!

Hosea paints for us an image of God’s love for us. We have broken His heart, strayed, turned from Him and sought other loves and lovers, yet He loves us and redeems us from the enslavement of sin. He sees our brokenness and calls us to come to Him in the midst of it. Our inclination is often to run from God and to seek worldly repairs for our broken hearts – drink, work, drugs, social networks. At best, they are temporary. There is no repair, but God. His love is true love – love that will not desert, betray or deny. His love is a love that has a plan for your good (Jeremiah 29:11), that stems from a desire to make you whole, that knows though you are as a broken crayon, you can still color and, thus, it is a love that redeems and restores.

THIS WEEK read Hosea 1:1 – 3:5. Who or what has broken your heart? (It doesn’t matter if the leaving was intentional, accidental or unavoidable as because of death, you may still experience heart break.)  Whose heart have you broken? What has been the impact of your brokenness? What temporary repairs have you sought? Your first step is to turn to God; only He can restore you. Ask Him to help you identify the next steps after that.


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Cleaning House

My parents were Neatniks – especially when it came to housekeeping.  Saturday mornings began with my dad inspecting our closets, our drawers and under our beds.  Everything had better be hanging (and in order) or folded (and sorted into the right drawer).  And, in his words, “There shouldn’t be anything under your bed except the floor!”  If just one piece was found not properly folded or in the wrong drawer, he dumped the entire contents of the drawer into the center of the bed and you folded everything again.  Sometimes he would “help,” but I really think that was more about keeping an eye out to make sure the work was done to his satisfaction.  Seems to reason that I soon learned to be organized.

My maternal grandmother was likewise organized and one of my aunts was fanatically neat.  Following in their footsteps (and fearing my dad would appear out of nowhere with a dust mop or broom in hand), I became a super neat housekeeper.  But I didn’t last.

It’s not that I have become a slob (those who know otherwise, Shhh), but I just shifted priorities along the way and determined a level of neatness and a level of messiness that I can live with.  I also learned some secrets to making your house appear cleaner than it really is when guests visit.  My mother told me to buy lower wattage light bulbs and to use lamps instead of overhead light.  A friend told me to boil a little cinnamon and water on the stovetop – you get that “fresh baked goods” aroma.  A colleague taught me to drag the edge of a book across the carpet to simulate vacuum cleaner marks and to keep an empty basket available for collecting miscellaneous small items like magazines and phone chargers then all the items can easily be stashed inside a closet or (forgive me Daddy) under the bed.  And finally, someone told me that you don’t let guests stay longer than 30 minutes because the longer they stay, the more they notice.

Isn’t this just what some people do with their lives?  They clean up the outside and focus on outward appearances.  Or they know secrets to making their lives look clean.  A lot of stuff (sin) gets swept under rugs, stashed in closets and stored under beds.  But we read in 1 Samuel 16 that the Lord looks at the heart.  It does no good to “look like” a Christian or even to “act like” a Christian if the heart is not clean.  Consider the cries of the psalmist, first in Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV) – “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” and then in Psalm 51:7 (KJV) – “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Your Heavenly Father will, just as my earthly father did, show you the places in your life that need cleaning. He will also help you, washing you whiter than snow.


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Weebles Wobble

But they don’t fall down!

Now, if you think I’ve lost my mind, then you are way older than I am or you are what my great grandmother used to call “a young’un.” If you don’t remember Weebles, you’re either too old or too young.

Weebles is a trademark for several lines of roly-poly toys that were launched as part of Hasbro’s Playskool division in 1971. I was already well past the Playskool age, but the commercial jingle for these egg-shaped toys was so catchy that everyone repeated it. Besides, they were everywhere. There were Weeble Pals who rode a Weehicle and went to Weeschool and afterwards played together in the Weebly Wobbly Treehouse or went to a Weebles Barn Dance in Weebleville Town Center! It was a wonderful world because – Weebles Wobble but they don’t fall down!

If only our world could be that simple.

Contrary to what some believe, Christians are not perfect. The Bible does not teach that Christians never fail, never stumble, never wobble. But the Scriptures do teach that Christians get back up – guess you could say we wobble, but we don’t fall down! I will even be so bold to say that if one falls down (and stays down), then that one was not a true believer.

Now, before you get upset with me, click away from this page or turn your computer off altogether, look at the Scriptures for yourself. 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

Here’s the deal. Christians are human. Christians wobble. But Christians are miserable in their wobbling (SIN) and cannot continue in that way.

Consider Abraham. Called of God. Friend of God. But he wobbled. And not just once! He told Sarai, his wife, to lie and tell the Egyptians she was his sister (Genesis 12:10-13). Fast forward to Genesis 20 and we see Abraham lying to Abimilek, King of Gerar, telling him that Sarah (name changed, same wife) was his sister. In Genesis 16:4 he slept with Hagar, his wife’s maidservant because he either doubted God’s promise, was impatient to wait or thought he knew better than God.  Either way – big wobble!

Consider Moses. He killed an Egyptian and tried to hide the body. He later lost faith, grieved God and was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. He wobbled.

Consider David. He committed adultery with Bathsheeba and arranged for her husband, Uriah to be on the front line of battle since a cover up scheme fell through (2 Samuel). He wobbled.

But when you read the Scriptures, Abraham is known as Father of Many Nations (Genesis 17:5), and God calls to Moses while he is out tending sheep (having killed the Egyptian and fled). God talks to him again at the burning bush and chooses him to bring redemption to His people, the Israelites (Exodus 3). And David? We read in 1 Samuel that the Lord sought out a man after his own heart – David, the adulterer, the one who omitted some of God’s instructions on how to transport the Ark resulting in Uzzah’s death, the schemer who tried to hide his affair with Bathsheeba and the one who did not attend to his own household and children.

Abraham, Moses, David.  They wobbled, but they did not fall down.

You’ll wobble.

You’ll fall short, miss the mark, behave contrary to the nature and will of God. Wobble, wobble, wobble. But when a Christian sins, relationship is unchanged. Position is unchanged. You are still God’s child. You are still covered by the precious blood of Jesus. But fellowship is broken. You lose your joy. You lose your praise. You lose your peace.

Understanding that there are no BIG sins and little sins, I think we can agree that David’s sin was horrendous! But when confronted, look at David’s response in Psalm 51. Notice what he does and what he does not do. He confesses his sin. He seeks forgiveness. He humbles himself before the Lord. He asks for restoration. He doesn’t make promises. He doesn’t try to strike any deals. He doesn’t make excuses.

If you are wobbling or if you have wobbled, don’t fall down but do go down – on your knees. Pray.  Acknowledge your sinfulness – and that is what it is. Don’t try to “dress it up.” Acknowledge your sinfulness to the Lord asking Him to take control of your life and seal it afresh with His precious Holy Spirit.

He will!  And you can get back up again!

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