Here’s the Deal

So I found out today that the cost to repair the transmission on my Jeep is $2700. I almost needed the smelling salts as I typed that sentence. I’ll be sans car for up to four weeks. Pass those smelling salts, please.

That’s a lot of money. All for some itty bitty parts that decided on their own without consulting me or anyone else to stop working. All for some unseen mechanical gears that I didn’t even know existed until they decided to break down. Rude.

A lot of life is like that. Things break, people die, situations change. What seemed like a sure thing vanishes like the morning mist and what you thought would last forever ends abruptly without any warning.

It’s easy to let those things make you cynical, believing that only the very worst scenarios will play out and that nothing good can ever happen and that people are only out to get you.

Or it drives you deeper into all the Mystery that is the Abba Father.

As big as my car bill is, God is bigger.

As big as the void that is left by the passing of a loved one is, God is bigger.

As big as the hurt caused by the rejection of a friend or a family member, God is bigger.

As big as the accumulation of scars and wounds from a broken relationship are, God is bigger.

God is bigger than anything you will face today or tomorrow or the next day or any day after that.

God is bigger than any problem that you will ever face.

God is bigger than your fears and your doubts and even your unbelief.

Whatever circumstances, God will prove that He is enough. Everything you could possibly desire or want or hold in your hands without God is less than holding onto nothing but God.

That’s a lesson that all of us learn eventually, whether that means losing everything in a literal sense or in coming to the end of your own schemes and plans.

God is enough. God will be enough.

That is enough.

 

You Are Not: A Reminder

I’m about to repeat myself. Again.

I find I keep returning to the same themes in my writing over and over, probably because I keep needing to hear them over and over. Here’s one more reminder for the road.

You are not your worst fears about yourself– that you’re essentially unemployable and that you will never find out what you’re good at and be able to make a living with it.

You are not your spotty employment background or your so-so credit score or your monumental mistakes in the past.

You are not your history of relationship failures (or your history of failure of relationships).

You are not your failed marriages or your broken relationships with your parents (or children).

You are not who you were and you are not yet who you will be.

You are the Beloved of your Abba Father, the apple of His eye.

You are Forgiven, with a blank slate as clean as if there were never any bad marks on it.

You are a child of the One True King, despite your questionable family history and your own long list of personal quirks.

You are exactly where God wants you to be and He knows where you are and where He’s taking you. And trust me, you will get there one day.

 

When Helping Hurts: My Take So Far

whh

My church life group recently started a new study on the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. So far, I give it two enthusiastic thumbs way up.

The premise of the book is that poverty around the world can be traced back to four broken relationships: relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation. The book then goes on to say that where most people go wrong is to treat poverty solely as a lack of resources with the solution being to give money, food, etc., and treat the symptoms without addressing the underlying ailment.

One of the most convicting parts for me was reading about how in this American middle-class mentality there is an almost subliminal “health and wealth gospel” belief that God rewards faith with prosperity, therefore these people are poor because they are sinful, much like the disciples questioning Jesus about the man born blind and how it must have been either him or his parents who sinned for him to be like that.

There is a sense sometimes where Americans have an implicit “god-complex” about serving the poor, as if I am condescending to serve the poor out of my benevolence from my lofty spiritual position, like the Pharisee who praised God that he was not like those other sinners. Sometimes, I personally need to be more like the tax collector who acknowledged his own sin and deep need for God.

The reality is that both those in need and those in position to meet that need are equally broken, just in different ways. One may have a better coping mechanisms for hiding his brokenness than the other, but they are both equally flawed and both need Jesus.

For me, the biggest revelation is that poverty brings about a sense of helplessness and hopelessness and the solution is to help people see their innate worth as those created, redeemed and loved by God as those who with God’s help don’t have to remain trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty.

I suppose at the end of the day, we are all poor in one sense or another. Jesus says that it is blessed to be poor in spirit, realizing that we have nothing in ourselves to offer God but ourselves, for to those belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.

Trust me. The book words all this far better than I have. I recommend it to anyone who has a heart for the poor or the least of these.

PS Here’s a link if you want to buy the book. The cover is different than mine, but the content is the same. I’d go so far as to say this is a must-read for any individuals or organizations who want to work toward alleviating poverty in the most effective manner.

http://www.amazon.com/When-Helping-Hurts-Alleviate-Yourself/dp/0802409989/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424978877&sr=1-1&keywords=when+helping+hurts

 

Forgiveness and Grace in January

image

“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family” Henri J.M. Nouwen).

Have you royally messed up with a friend (or at least felt like you have)? Have you ever had someone “let you have it,” verbally blasting you with a post or a text?

Maybe you deserved it. Maybe not.

image

Or maybe you’re the one who did the telling off. Maybe you got way upset with someone and spoke in pure anger and frustration. Maybe that person deserved it.

I have some questions for you and me.

1) Since when is the life of a believer about giving people what they deserve? Isn’t it supposed to be about giving those in your life the benefit of the doubt and extending grace?

Which leads to my second question:

2) Would I want Jesus treating me as I deserve? Would I even stand a chance?

I know the answers to the second question are: no, not long, and a snowball’s chance in hell.

Maybe I need to drop that stone in my hand and look in the mirror. I may look just like that person I intend to cast that proverbial first stone at. I may not struggle with the same sins, but my sins would make me just as guilty in the eyes of a holy God if not for grace and Jesus.

It’s one thing to call out a person in love when their actions don’t match their professed beliefs. It’s another to blast someone and assume sinful motives, which I’ve done too many times. And in this case, once is one time too many.

You will lose friendships through misundestandings. You will have “friends” who show their true colors when you act in the slightest unloving way or slip in the least. You will have those who will stick with you even when you yourself would have bailed on you.

I’m glad God doesn’t ever give me what I have coming to me or treat me as my sins deserve. Even on my best days, I’d still be in trouble. Because of my favorite word– grace– God looks at my filthy rags of good intentions and best efforts and sees the perfection of Jesus.

image

Gosh, I do so love grace!

PS You will need to forgive yourself at some point. All of the above still applies if it’s you needing the forgiveness from yourself.

Have You Ever. . . ?

Just a hypothetical question or two for you to chew over.

Have you ever messed up a relationship at work so badly that you can’t see how it will ever be put right again? Where it just seems like the other person doesn’t like you at all and nothing you do makes it any better, but only makes it worse?

Maybe you’ve been there. You’ve thought to yourself, “I couldn’t have screwed this up any worse if I had done it on purpose.”

Isn’t it good to know that your self-worth doesn’t come from those relationships? Isn’t it good to know that you are not defined by your success at getting people to like you? Doesn’t it change everything when you fully and deeply grasp that the only opinion that truly matters comes from the God who already approved of you?

As far as that relationship goes, I can’t really help you. I’m not the world’s best at dealing with people who don’t like me. I’m far better than I used to be, but I do still have a ways to go.

But I do know that God is very fond of me. He’s very fond of you. And even if that relationship miraculously revived and grew into friendship, it would still pale in comparison with how much the God of the universe loves you. Is in love with you.

My suggestion is to be Jesus to those people. Treat them as you would want them to treat you and pray for them for God’s peace and joy and salvation. It’s really hard to hate someone you’re praying for.

Again, this doesn’t come down from the mountain of some great person who’s figured it all out and has decided to let you in on his awesome wisdom. This comes from a fellow traveler on the road who’s learned far more from failing and falling down than from success.

Let the love of God tell you who you are, not the judgments of other people. Love is definitely the better way.

 

 

My prayer for tonight

God, I don’t understand why things happen the way they do, but You do.

I don’t understand why I should be so blessed when all I seem to do is complain about what I lack, but You know why and love me anyway.

I don’t understand why people act the way they do, but You do and You call me to forgive them as You have forgiven them.

I don’t understand many times why I act the way I do, but You do and You forgive me.

I can’t fix my brokenness, but You can because You took it upon Yourself at Calvary.

I can’t mend broken relationships, but You can because You make all things new.

I can never be a man of God on my own, but in You I am one because You are in me.

I can never die to my way of doing things and say, Thy will be done,” but You did. And Your power and resurrected life are in me.

I can’t change the world or eradicate injustice, poverty, wrong and evil, but one day You will.

All the things I long to be in my best moments and all I ever dreamed I could be, You are.

To all that I have needed or will ever need, You say, “I AM!”