Hide and Seek

 

God of My Steps and Missteps

Hide me in THE ROCK!

In our neighborhood when I was a child, one of the favorite games of the kids on my end of the street was hide and seek. Our house was on the corner, and anywhere in the front yards of the eight houses was fair game for hiding.  The object, of course, was NOT to be found by “it.” It was much more fun hiding than seeking to most of us.

In some ways, I think we carry this game into adulthood when it comes to our flubs, mistakes, and outright sins, regarding God and even others as “it” and aggressively  hiding anything that  would reveal our true, simply flawed human, identity. God/They might look down on me and reject me  if  they knew I  ________________.  It’s as childish as that childhood game, for  certainly Almighty God knows even what we effectively conceal from other people – even what we try to conceal from ourselves!

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13 NIV

Jesus also said to them, “Does anyone bring in a lamp so he can place it under a basket or under a bed? Doesn’t he set it on a lampstand? For everything hidden is meant to be revealed, and everything concealed is meant to be brought to light. Mark 4: 21-22 NIV

“Uh-oh,” we think, “here comes God’s flyswatter …..” That thought is based in, bluntly, a lie. yes, God is holy, and yes,  sin is abominable  and separates us from a  righteous God, as  well as each other, BUT God is not waiting to gleefully lower the boom on fallen humanity.To believe that is to NOT know God, not know his heart, not know his love.

I had  in mind  to write this post today on my way home from church, and lo and behold, when I opened a letter  from Charles Stanley, he was speaking to exactly the same thought I had.  Charles Stanley writes,” Parents are appointed by the Lord to represent Him to their children. A child’s first concept of God comes from the example of his/her parents. If a father or mother is harsh and hard to please, the  child realizes that no matter how good  he/she tries to be, he/she can never measure up to his/her parents’ standards. Then when he/she learns about God, he/she  sees Him in the same way – as a disapproving authority figure whom he/she can never please…. God never intends for His children to live under a cloud of condemnation.He clearly says in Romans 8:1, ‘Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ To be condemned means that a sentence of guilty has been pronounced and punishment is imminent. If we have received Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, then we are ‘in Christ Jesus’ and are not under God’s condemnation.”

There is a condition in that last sentence:  IF we  have received Jesus Christ as our Savior and  Lord,  THEN ….

Truth is threefold here: 1)yes, we all are naturally self-seeking, self-preserving, self-serving:

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,  as it is written:“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3: 9-12 NIV

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53: 5-6 NIV

Well, if that’s true, then why does God care  when we  blow it? He cares because blowing it separates our heart from his, leads us to hide from him and from each other, and, truth 2)  that  denies his desire to be in intimate relationship with every one of us as our loving, HOLY Creator Father. “He who covers his sins will not prosper, BUT whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Proverbs  28:13 NIV

Hiding from God isn’t healthy!

“But I can’t help myself,” we assert, and that is painfully all too true. We can’t help ourselves in our human,flesh-driven nature, BUT God made a way to give us a brand-new nature, truth 3) God continually seeks us, despite our sin, not to punish us, but to  welcome us into his family, IF we don’t try to live in our sins and hide from him so we can.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5: 17 NIV

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 3:5-9 NIV

This morning in our Bible study we contrasted the Old Covenant, the law God gave to his people through Moses, with the New Covenant of the Holy Spirit. given by Jesus. The law wasn’t inherently bad; it pointed us in the  direction of right living and right relationship, but it couldn’t change our hearts. The New Covenant,  the covenant God made with us through the atoning death of Jesus, is a vitally living covenant with the power to truly change  our hearts.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4: 12-16 NIV

Wow, is THAT a relief to me! Back to Romans 8, the verses following verse 1  are REAL FREEDOM!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans  8: 1-6 NIV

Jesus didn’t come to save the already perfect (which would have been none of us!) “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” When the tax collector Zacchaeus met Jesus, he was changed from the inside out.

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”Matthew 19: 8-10 NIV

God doesn’t seek us to condemn us; God seeks us to FIND us, and for us to FIND HIM, and in that  finding, find a new birth and freedom to live what’s  right, in right relationship with God and each other, from our heart, because God has great purposes and desires FOR us.   Quoting Ralph Wilkerson:

“’For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness’ (1 Thessalonians 4:7). God has not called us just to salvation, or to heaven, or to receive His pardon. Rather, these are benefits of our one true call — which is to be holy as He is holy.
Every believer in Jesus Christ is called to be holy — to be pure and blameless in God’s sight. So, if you have been born again, holiness must be the cry of your heart: “God, I want to be like Jesus. I truly want to walk holy before You all the days of my life.”

In this”game” I WANT TO BE FOUND BY GOD, even though and precisely because it means coming clean about my  flubs, goofs, mistakes, deceit, and outright thoughtless, selfish meanness, because I WANT to live a life that glorifies and honors God and  blesses others  to hopefully want the same for themselves.

Here goes, then, publicly, to  live out what  I’m writing: once in the past I was shopping at an outlet  store, found a dress I liked in blue,  but saw it was marked $3 more than the same dress in  orange  and pink. Did I ask the clerk about the price difference? No, I  swapped the tag and paid the lower price for the blue dress. Did I feel a great  victory in saving $3? NO, in fact I could never wear that dress without feeling a pang of conscience, and I ended up repenting  to God big-time and giving it to a non-profit that helped the poor. I blew it, and God’s grace is so great that even as I confess  this deed I’m ashamed of now, I rejoice  that  the Blood of Jesus has cleansed me  from ALL unrighteousness. God so changed my heart that after that, when I discovered the page of stickers I’d just bought was  actually two pages stuck together, I gladly hustled back into the store and gave the cashier the extra sheet.

“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning fromthe beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”  1 John 3:8-9

It feels WRONG, it doesn’t fit  with my God-given heart andGod’s desire for my holiness, for a Christian to willfully sin. It does feel SO much better to be and live in right relationship with God and  with others!  That means living rightly  myself, and it also means not condemning, but forgiving,  others for their  flubs,  goofs, and sometimes outright meanness. It means seeking to live like  Jesus. Charles Stanley’s letter, once  more, notes, “Based on Micah 7:19, Corrie ten Boom  once said, ‘God takes  our sins – the past, present, and future,and dumps  them in the sea and puts up a sign that says NO FISHING ALLOWED.’Once  we  have confessed our sins, we have no business digging them up  and letting guilt hang over us like an oppressive blanket.”

Sin brings conviction from God’s Holy Spirit, the mid-course  correction and redirection we need, but Satan uses it to bring condemnation and tell us we’ll never be “good enough” to merit God’s love. That lie puts the whole truth backwards! We  can’t earn God’s love, which he freely gives to us out of HIS  loving goodness, but we can and are meant to confess and lay our sin down at the Cross of Jesus and receive in that repentance a new heart and new life, the seed of God’s nature birthed in us through Jesus.

For believers in Jesus, a sense of condemnation for sins we’ve confessed and repented of (meaning thought differently about and no longer want to do) is a feeling, not a fact, and a feeling that is invalid. Repentance is FREEDOM, confession is FREEDOM, being found by God is FREEDOM because of the forgiving, cleansing, redeeming love God  pours out on us through Jesus.

The Apostle Paul had a lot to  be proud of, AND yet he had a lot  to feel ashamed of and certainly repented of. He wrote to the Christ followers in Philippi: But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. Philippians 3: 7-9 NIV

Pretend I’m someone I’m not so people will like me? Pretend I’m flawless? Hide from God? NO!

Real? Revealing myself? Sought? Found? Made someone new? Given a new heart? YES, PLEASE  GOD, FIND ME IN MY FLAWED HUMANITY! YOU LOVE ME PASSIONATELY DESPITE  ALL OF  THAT! HELP ME TO LIVE CLEAN BECAUSE OF JESUS, OPENLY AND FREELY FORGIVEN BY YOU, BEFORE YOU AND EVERYONE, FOR YOUR PLEASURE AND WILL AND GLORY!

Ah, it feels SO GOOD to be FOUND! And where DO we get to “hide” then? “Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 17: 8

A”…BUT…” to pray: Father God,no more hiding. I admit  that I __________________ BUT I receive  Your forgiveness in and through  Jesus and I know you see me as clean, pure, good, beloved and wanted and cherished by you, and you say to me ________________. I choose to believe that YOU speak the truth over me, about me,  and I  run to you to be found by you,Father God! Thank you, Jesus, for making me new!

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“Always take a baggie with you…”

When my two sons were young, I got into the habit of putting a plastic bag in my pocket or in my purse when we went for walks or on a picnic or camping, because I knew for certain  a son would find SOMETHING he absolutely had to pick up, take home, and keep as a treasure in a box:  rock, stick, bottle  cap, flower…. I remember making this analogy back in the 1990’s, again at Community Church of Joy (now Dream City Church) that we ought to approach each day with expectation that God would show up somehow  with something we’d  want to keep and remember as “treasure.”

This morning in the worship intercession group I’m an eager part of on Mondays, a group of  15-20 women  from 8-10 different churches who meet weekly, and have met for 14 years, to sing worship songs as intercession, read from the Bible as the Holy Spirit gives them a nudge,  and pray intercession over the unsaved.  I’d guess almost  every woman there has an unsaved loved one she holds dear to her heart and sings over for them to come to know the precious love God has for them in Jesus.  Today Libby “saw” in her spirit a treasure box, and  as that took on meaning both as our Lord’s treasure of relationship in our lives and God’s giftings that he wants each of us to boldly, lovingly use,  I thought again of what a treasure this weekly meeting and these wonderful women are in my life.

I started attending nearly two years ago,and  the conection that led me to the group was a  “treasure” I picked up one Sunday morning at church,  speaking to the couple sitting in front of us after the service was over.Cate asked me if  I knew about the group, and it  was in this “serendipitous” moment  that God deposited a truly wonderful treasure in the”baggie” of my life.

Yesterday I hiked up the hill to get some aerobic exercise, and as I walked back down,I saw  that the gravel heart God had lovingly arranged in the asphalt a month ago had indeed been washed away by rains,convincing me all the more  that the Lord himself artfully, intentionally, lovingly arranged that gravel in a place I’d notice after seeing the heart-shaped prickly pear cactus pads on my way uphill, obligingly carved by a javelina who took a strategically placed bite out of each one, turning them into the shape of a heart.

IMG_1479

The cactus and gravel are in my “baggie” now. So is the beautiful cloud I saw at sunset over a year ago, one”angel” facing south blowing a trumpet,and one, as my grandson observed,”on skateboard”heading north.  So is the amazing blessing I received in 2010 when simple”girls’night out” card-making evening at a conference in Thailand turned into an everybody-blessing day-before-Valentine’s  Day blessing to about 50 men, women and children,  bringing more joy to others than I’d ever envisioned when my girlfriends back home had helped me pre-cut and pre-stamp  and package up the card  supplies.

In fact, if I’d journaled every  blessing God has poured into my life in the past ten years, I know I’d  need a much bigger “baggie”to hold  them all.  A huge part of the joy I feel in receiving these treasures is being able to share them with you, so my “baggie” isn’t the  zipper lock kind, and the “box” of my heart that I put these treasures into isn’t hidden or locked. When I can share some of the truth of what a loving, caring, kind, graciously giving God we serve and heavenly Father we have honestly it blesses me  all over again, so maybe my sharing isn’t as “selfless” as you may think. I love it when God tells me or shows me He loves me, all the more given the dark valley the Good Shepherd has been leading me through in the last eight years (admittedly I made some detours  I didn’t need to make that led me into some darker gullies than I needed to, or the Lord wanted me to, enter). STILL, and here’s that …BUT…, God has sprinkled and poured His goodness, love and kindness into my life. I know enough about God’s character to brazenly suggest He wants to do the same for you!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure…. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:1-3, 16-18 NIV

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12 NIV

The corollary to this truth (yep, I minored in math) is that God has a “treasure box,” too, and if you love Him, know Jesus as your Savior and God as your Heavenly Father, YOU are in GOD’S treasure box!

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 37-39

Can I encourage you to “take a baggie” into your life today, tomorrow, and every day to collect the love God wants to surprise you with, and keep it open to share with others? Gosh, if we all did that un-selfconsciously, can you imagine the joy we’d spread and receive?

 

A “…BUT…” to pray: Oh, gracious,loving Father,I’ll bet I’vewalked by treasures you had in my life many times.  BUT that doesn’t stopyour love, your heart to reveal yourself to me, so  help me bring a baggie into this day, and I’ll eagerly look for the treasure you have for me to see,hear, feel,know, keep  close to my heart and share. Holy Spirit,bring one to my remembrance even now __________________________________ In Jesus’ name, amen and thanks, my loving, giving God!

 

 

WHY SETTLE FOR THE SKYLIGHT WHEN YOU’RE DESTINED FOR THE SKY?

 

img_0808Rose M. Jack200440345-001son © 1994

This is a very old message, first given 24 years ago,  to the women of Community Church of Joy. I had no idea how prophetic this would be for my own journey into a “dis-comfort zone” that has stretched my understanding and trust in the incredible love and hidden purposes of God Almighty.  I never imagined in 1994 that I would be in this place in my life, and it still feels like the “wrong fit” for someone  who often feels more like a canary than an eagle on  many days, but God has proved to me he is  with me every step of the way. My next post will be another early thought, but today I need to remind myself, and very likely someone else  out there, that God is the wind beneath the wings he  gave you and wants you to try as he lifts you up to the purpose He created you for.

 

I heard a bird chirping as I cruised through the mall early one morning on my two-mile walking circuit. It startled me, for though this mall – like most – is landscaped with Ficus and Pothos and other requisite ornamental plants to give the place a quasi-rainforest feel (minus real rainforest bugs, of course) it’s hardly the place you expect to find living creatures. Looking up, I spied a sparrow perched on a mauve concrete ledge just below the skylights illuminating the courtyard in front of a big department store. I speculated that the bird, like me, found its way in, on an early morning. The plant man or the cleaning staff or some delivery person probably had left the doors wide open and empty long enough for the sparrow, fooled by the adjacent windows’ reflections of the world outside, to sail unsuspectingly inside.

Well, I asked myself, was that such a tragedy? Wasn’t it in fact serendipity for the bird? I did a quick mental tally of what the mall provided:

1) It’s climate-controlled. That is, after all, one of the main reasons I walk there. The temperature is always a comfortable 75 in summer, 80 in winter. There’s no pelting rain or, here in the desert, dry, parching wind to deal with. It’s always in the comfort zone in the mall.

2) There aren’t any predators – another reason I myself walk there.   There are no obvious threats. Sparrows don’t need to worry about the occasional purse snatcher anyway, and I’ve never noticed anyone even paying any attention to the birds, much less trying to harm them.

3) There are trees to nest in. They may not grow very large, and there may not be many to choose from, but they’re there, limbs artfully pruned to be up out of reach, carefully tended to stay green and healthy.

4) There is a reliable water and food supply. Gardeners are there every day to water the plants. Small children, in particular, are certain to trail cookie crumbs, popcorn kernels, bits of French fry, and the occasional entire slice of pizza. The enticement to eat is designed into every mall (don’t I well know, and why is it that I always park so that I have to exit past the cinnamon roll stand as I end my walks?). A food supply – even if not real nourishment – is guaranteed.

5) There is the ever-present elevator music to provide a pleasant ambience and set up a mind-numbing alpha-wave state in the brain. I don’t know if that matters to birds, but it does to mall designers; I suspect it puts customers in a pleasantly detached mental state conducive to spending money without realizing you’re doing it. I use it as “white noise” to help me focus and filter out distractions on my walks, because I use my walking time to do my intercessory praying.

6) There are lots of skylights, double-paned and insulated, to let the sunshine in, so people and birds have a view of the clouds and sun (but not the stars because the lights are never all turned off in the mall). You can see the sky without the bother of direct sun to fade your feathers.

All in all, I reflected, the mall could be a pretty good place for a vegetarian bird. All the basics seemed to be there, with no worrisome predators. To be objective, though, on my second lap I asked myself what wasn’t in the mall. On deeper inspection, I found lacking:

1) The natural cycle of the seasons. Even in a place with moderate winters, like here in Arizona, a bird needs to know when to do what. Certain bird behaviors, notably nesting, are triggered by the change in seasons. Does it leave a bird with a false sense of eternal spring, and upset biorhythms, to live in the mall?

2) The meaningful company of other birds. There are just not that many birds in the mall. I’ve never seen a group of birds perched on a pediment. I’ve never seen a nest tucked into any of the “o’s” or “e’s” of store signs, the way you always see them outside of grocery stores. Meaningful companionship seems hard to come by in a mall. Which leads me to:

3) Limited options. In mates, in only the ubiquitous Ficus Mallius to call home, in room to fly, in diet, all options in the mall are sorely limited. What you see is all you get. If you develop a craving for a nice earthworm in the middle of the night, forget it. Organic food is out of the question. There may be two health food stores in the mall, but, for a bird, healthy food is hard to come by. Nourishment, emotional and physical, is sorely lacking for a bird in the mall.

4) Purpose. In the natural world, birds serve a purpose, whether it is controlling insects, spreading seeds, or, even in death, feeding other animals. Without natural food to search for, predators to evade, and changing seasons to guide it, how could a baby sparrow ever learn to be the bird it is supposed to be? What purpose do birds serve in the mall, other than to arouse the curiosity of people like me? They certainly aren’t filling their God-given niche, or serving their God-given purpose in life. But – here’s the real sadness – do they even know they aren’t truly in the world?

5) Sensitivity. That anesthetized state of “pleasant” induced by elevator music does have its dangers. I discovered this first-hand one morning when, immersed in my own praying, I clipped a corner on a jewelry store too close and gashed my hand, not even realizing I was bleeding until half a lap later. What it does to birds, I don’t know, but persistent “pleasant” de-sensitizes us to danger and pain.

6) An easy way out. Though a wide-open door is a fairly easy way into the mall, there is no easy way back out. A bird has to wait for, and, more importantly, recognize, another open door in order to find its way out of the mall. Someone has to leave the door wide open. Then a bird has to risk closeness to people, the very people who frighten it, to take advantage of an open door out.

7) Sky. In the mall there are none of the risks of the sky, but there is also none of the freedom of the sky, none of the possibilities that exist only within that risky freedom. Outside, the winds may buffet it, the rain may soak its feathers, it will have to spend its days searching for food and water, and someone may even eat it. But outside, a bird will have the winds to soar on, trees and eaves and letters on store signs to shelter in, and a host of its own kind to find companionship with. A skylight is a poor substitute for the real sky.

What in the world does a bird in the mall have to do with you and me? Well, as if you hadn’t noticed, the world is trying to sell us on life in “the mall,” and we are only too willing to buy into that philosophy. I don’t mean the literal mall – though more and more of us seem to spend more and more of our time there – but the attitude that life in the comfort “happy” zone should be our highest goal. This is the state of mind that equates stuff with security. Peace means nothing beyond achieving a mental state of perpetual “pleasant,” undisturbed by pain or anxiety (our own or anyone else’s).   That’s even the first definition of “comfort” in the dictionary: “A state of mental or physical ease, especially one free from pain, want, or other afflictions.”Adversity is to be avoided at all costs. “Sounds good to me,” we reflect, and ask where we go to sign up.

We long for a life with no threats, no changes unless they’re positive, no risks, no unmet needs or desires, and no surprises – unless they’re to our benefit. We want nothing to jar us from our externally and circumstantially induced reverie. But, as wistfully as I yearn for it, is such a “controlled climate” existence the same thing as a life of peace, happiness, contentment, security, and purpose? With a “climate controlled” mind-set, how do I respond when the mall door opens, something threatening or unsettling rolls in, and I realize “pleasant ambience” won’t take care of it? Do I ever consider what will happen to my “peace” when there’s a power failure in “the mall”?

Birds get into the mall by accident, but people long for and actively look for a way into the perpetual comfort zone that I’ll refer to as “the mall.” We long to wake up in an ever balmy, no-sweat life, where the only one who notices changes is the maintenance person (God’s new job description) who makes the seasonal thermostat adjustments needed to keep us in our comfort zone. As for “seasons” in our lives, we’ll stick to the changing window displays that give us fair warning of Christmas four months in advance. We’d prefer a superficial seasonal change something like changing window displays – new furniture, the latest development in plastic surgery, or a new place to vacation – to those nasty seasons of failure and frustration, thank you, and don’t even mention the wrinkles on my face or silver “snow” in my hair unless I have some guarantee that the winter of my life will be as blissful as a Bing Crosby musical!

How hard we work to maintain some sort of permanent “white noise” to help us screen out the rest of the world and focus on ourselves! In the world of “the mall,” we covet the meaningful company of others only if they’re as carefree as we are, with their messier or more demanding needs already met. I admit, though not to my credit, that I draw back before pursuing relationships that may demand too much of my time or energy. Sometimes it is honestly because I recognize my time and resources are limited, and I want to live up to the commitments I do make, but my reasons aren’t always so honorable. Sometimes I simply don’t want to be bothered. Sometimes I’m just afraid that my own deficiencies will be revealed. I pull back from people who have significantly less money and education than I do – good grief, I even pull back from relationships with people who have significantly more!

I was shocked to discover how severely my comfort zones can limit my blessings shortly after we moved to a new town. The first people we met at church were a friendly couple, Jack and Kathleen, newcomers themselves, who were starting a small group in their home. Our son had a chorus concert on the evening of the group’s first meeting, so I went to the concert while my husband represented us at the small group. When we both got home that evening, my husband said he’d had a good time. He told me nothing about Jack and Kathleen’s house, except to note that they didn’t have a swimming pool. We did have a pool, and since Jack and Kathleen had two children, my husband thought it would be nice if we’d invite them over for a cookout and a swim.

“Sure, that would be great,” I replied, excited to have new friends to share with, so Jack and Kathleen and their two children came over for hamburgers and a swim. I gave them the tour of our house and told them to make themselves at home.   We really enjoyed getting to know them better, and I could tell Kathleen and I could be good friends.

A week later we went to the second small group meeting at their house – and I was horrified. You could put our house on the first floor of their house and still have room leftover! I felt so embarrassed, thinking of how I’d given them “the tour” of our modest house when theirs was palatial by comparison. Why hadn’t my husband told me before we invited them over? Why had he let me “make a fool of myself”? Then I realized – even more horrified by my shallowness – that if he had told me they had a lot more money than we did, I never would have felt comfortable opening our home to them. The difference in our income levels and my desire not to look “poor” by comparison would have kept me from experiencing the depth of friendship we soon came to share with them as we honestly opened our lives to each other. Staying in my “comfort zone” would have walled me off from so much goodness! I have to wonder how many significant friendships I miss in every direction when I’m uncomfortable with economic and ethnic differences.

How much we miss out on when we restrict our life to “the mall”! Does such a place really exist, and what would I lose from spending my time there?   Would it be a healthy place for me to live and grow?

I’d find no meaningful interaction and relationships with others – in short, no real love. No changes in my life would mean no growth. Now before you tell me I’m sounding like your mother and “growth” is just a euphemism for “unpleasant and painful”, consider this honestly:

No growth means I’d never develop discernment, wisdom, good judgment, or faith, or compassion for others that comes when my life doesn’t go the way I want it to.

I’d find no true peace, for genuine peace doesn’t come from the absence of conflict or fear.

I’d never learn endurance, and I’d never exult in victory, for victory implies a contest and the possibility of defeat.   I’d never fulfill my purpose, with all the unlimited-in-God possibilities my life could hold.

We can learn that from the life of Jesus. Knowing the cruel ordeal he was about to face, Jesus nevertheless assured his disciples during their last meal together:

 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

With the dread and anguish of heart and mind that must have warred within him, recognizing what must come, how could Christ possibly have peace for himself, much less peace enough to give away? Yet he did. It came from something other than his circumstances. It came from the presence of God in him in his circumstances.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.                                                                               Psalm 29:11

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”                                                                                                    Isaiah 26:3

The peace and confidence Jesus had and gives to us doesn’t depend on living within some white-noised, “there is no pain in this world” problem-free zone where we always look like we have life together. Peace and security don’t come from our circumstances. The peace of Christ that “passes all understanding,” understands and trusts in the faithfulness, goodness, mercy and power of God to give peace within our circumstances.

True security doesn’t come from how much stuff I can amass as a shield about me, or from sailing through life with no troubles, or from surrounding myself with “happiness” and only people who “make me happy”, or from projecting the image that I have my life together. Stuff can disappear overnight, as Jesus pointed out to the crowd listening to him on a mountaintop, and problems are part of the reality of life.   If our security is in our portfolio, then we have no security.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust to not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”                                                                                       Matthew 6:19-21

Besides moths, rust, and thieves, today Jesus could add to the list downsizing, layoffs, identity theft, and plunges in the stock market. But if stuff isn’t security, then what is? What, or who, won’t leave us?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”                                                                                                                                            John 16: 33

Real security is anchored in the promise that Jesus is bigger than our problems, that it’s who we are in him that matters, and that he will never leave us.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’”                                                                                              Psalm 91:1-2

What better security can we have than knowing that God is always present with us, the victor for us?

What else would I miss in a climate-controlled life? I’ve noticed that malls offer plenty of stores to choose from, but they tend to offer just numerous variations on the same theme, whether shoes, jewelry, books, clothing, or fast food. Despite a veritable glut of stuff, often I’m unable to find what I really want in the mall, and I have to settle instead for something that only partially satisfies my need or is approximately what I want to find.   The same is true of life in our comfort zones: it’s an approximation of joy and freedom, superficially close to the real thing, but not at all what we really need. Jesus, on the other hand, offers us what we truly need and want to long for, if we trust him enough to fly out of “the mall”:

“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance – to the full, till it overflows. ”                                John 10:10 (Amplified Bible)

Abundance, breadth, broadness, completeness, entirety, profusion, totality, vastness, and wholeness: these are a few synonyms for fullness. That hardly sounds like the narrow “everything going my way” constraint I mistakenly think I’d like to impose on my life.   Have you ever muttered, “Lord, I didn’t ask for this,” only to recognize that you have, in fact, asked God for strength, compassion, purpose, and victory? The very word “victory” implies overcoming an obstacle, threat, or challenge. My problem is that I want victory without the battle, meaning without the challenge! But Paul’s’ words remind me that God desires more than pseudo-abundance for me:

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”                                                       Ephesians 4:1

What is the life “worthy of the calling you have received”? It is:

“. . . that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”  Colossians 1:10-12

This is what a life worthy of the calling of Christ looks like.   How does that stress-free, planter-boxed happy artificial scenery compare? As a friend of mine bluntly phrased it, God is more interested in our character than in our comfort. After I wince, I examine that truth and realize it is a loving truth, because the character of Christ is what I really need to fill the landscape of my life with exciting, meaningful, overflowing abundance.

I do want more from life than my own ease and pleasure – or at least part of me does. Another part of me gets very nervous when I feel the draft from the door God’s just opened. Let me clarify that I’m not talking about God calling me to dig wells in Africa. No, I hide in comfort zones much closer to home. I am appalled, in fact, to recognize how narrow my comfort zone truly is and how slight a shift it takes to make me anxious. The two “malls” that most often entrap me are “What will people think of me?” and “I don’t want any interruptions in today’s schedule.” Do you regularly visit to either of these?

Not long ago God challenged me to pray for people on the spot, as soon as I learn they have a need, even if it is in public. My first thought was, “But God, what will people think of me? They’ll think I’m a nut or some kind of religious fanatic.” The breeze was unmistakably blowing, though, so I mentally committed to pray out loud, in public, the very next time someone told me they had a need.

It happened the next week in the check-out line at Wal-Mat, and you can’t get much more public than that. When I politely asked, “How are you?” the clerk told me her husband was in a nursing home, recovering from serious surgery. She deeply longed to bring him home for Christmas but was afraid she wouldn’t be able to take care of him, even for a few days. My usual response would have been, “I’ll pray for you,” but I sensed it would be a shallow blessing if that was all I offered. Instead, I nervously asked, “Would you like me to pray for you right now?” My stomach knotted when she sighed, “Oh, yes.”   “Oh, no!” was my instant gut response, but I took a deep breath, willed myself to ignore the line of shoppers behind me, and prayed out loud for the clerk and her husband right there.

The look of peace that spread across her face told me Jesus was there for her with strength and peace in that very moment – and to see that, I didn’t care what the people behind me thought. She was encouraged, and I was free and flying!

Similar things happen consistently when I “fly with” interruptions in my days. In my normal “mall” state of mind, interruptions destroy my peace along with my schedule. Recently I had my busy day neatly arranged when the phone rang. “Oh, no,” I thought – my internal red flag that my comfort zone is about to be breached. I considered just letting the phone ring, but picked it up anyway. On the line was a friend from church who had moved out-of-town, just calling to say hello. At least that’s what we both initially thought the call was about. I still don’t know how the conversation shifted, but she was struggling with a painful issue that she had no idea I had also experienced in my life. The Holy Spirit suddenly powerfully filled my living room – at least that’s how it felt as we talked and prayed together. I was stunned once again with the realization that God moves across miles and through minutes to bring healing and hope, and if I cooperate instead of nesting stubbornly in “the mall” of my own agenda, I get to be part of his powerful purposes. I confess that I still cringe initially when the phone rings or a neighbor knocks on my door, but feeling God’s hand in mine as I take part in his purpose in each encounter refreshes and renews me.

I do (I think…) want to try my “wings” to find my purpose and fulfill it fruitfully, to grow in my knowledge of God, to be strong and persevering through all the seasons and circumstances of my life, to be a thankful, joyful, patient overcomer, no matter what comes my way. That means moving outside of the skylight world to a place where challenges will come. When I face that open door out of the mall and begin to see God’s world outside my own contentment, convenience, competence and complacency, sometimes I get nervous. No, let me be honest: I get scared, because it’s not a “safe” place out there. People who reject or abuse my efforts to love them can hurt me.   I can attempt an avenue of ministry or a challenge I’ve never tried before and fail. I may stand up for Christ and be cut down by people who scorn Christianity. It may cost me. The truth is, I usually feel more like a sparrow than an eagle. But like a bird in the mall, I won’t find the room to become more than I am now, or the place that’s truly my home if I never leave my comfort zones. I won’t learn what God is capable of if I never dare beyond what I know I can achieve myself.

But does that mean I must live without comfort? Not at all, and this is where the other definitions of comfort apply: “Relief from sorrow, distress, etc.; solace, consolation. One who brings ease or consolation. Help or support;” The Counselor whom Jesus said God would send, the Holy Spirit, is our Parakletos, which is Greek for intercessor, consoler, advocate, and comforter.

So how do I break free from that skylight-deluded mindset? A bird in the mall may have to wait a long time before it recognizes an open door. My problem isn’t the open door; I usually don’t have to wait long to feel the whoosh of God opening an opportunity to move me out of my comfort zones. “Donate cans of food for the food bank? Sure! But help serve a meal in a dining room for the homeless? Now wait a minute, God! It didn’t feel as weird as I expected the day the homeless lady hugged me outside the grocery store after I bought her some food, but do you actually want me to get to know one of these people?” No, my problem isn’t in finding an opened door; my problem lies in recognizing the emptiness of a climate-controlled life, the fullness and purpose of living in God’s daily call on my life, and God’s faithfulness to me when I do “fly out the door”.

You can not only trust Jesus to hold that mall door open for you – you can trust him to be the door for you, offering you the freedom to trust in him and “fly.” He wants us living freely and fully the broad, vast, whole life he promised – not captive to the counterfeit of the mall and the skylight. Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus is what God surely desires for us all:

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. . . .”                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Ephesians 1:18-19

The “skylight life” is a poor imitation; genuine life is in God’s abundant, risky, exhilarating, liberating adventure for us when we’re willing to fly out into the open skies. Will you take a deep breath, look afresh through the eyes of your heart, and trust God to be faithful in the adventure to which he’s calling you? Don’t settle for the skylight when YOU are destined for the sky!

Questions for you to  ponder with the Holy Spirit:

1) What defines your “comfort zones”? What stresses, misconceptions, or deceptions tempt you to wish for or actually head for the “climate controlled” life?

2) From time to time we all do need a place of rest, but  is the absence of stress the same as the presence of peace and rest?

3) God asked Moses to move WAY beyond his comfort zone. Read Exodus 33:12-17. Where can you find real peace and rest? ( also see Matthew 11:28-30 and Psalm 116:5-7)

4) Why does God call us out of our comfort zones?

Philippians 1: 3-6

Ephesians 2:8-10 3:16-19

5) Do you need to be afraid of what’s outside “the mall” of what the world calls safety, peace and meaning?

John 16:33

Jeremiah 29: 11

Romans 8:28, 38-39

Now the  big question:

6) In what area do you hear God calling you to “fly out” of your comfort zone this day, this week, this month and fly free in his calling?

 

A  “…BUT…” to pray today:

Litany of Wings

Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,

For my soul takes refuge in you;

And in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, Psalm 57:1

For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. Psalm 63:7

For it is you who deliver me from the snare of the trapper,

and from the deadly pestilence.

You will cover me with your feathers,

and under your wings I may seek refuge. Psalm 91:3-4

You make the clouds your chariot and ride upon the wings of the wind;

you make winds your messengers Psalm 104:3b

Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;

I will mount up with wings like an eagle,

I will run and not get tired,

I will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you Psalm 116: 7

Be at peace as you fly free in his calling

 

Funk & Wagnalls+ Standard College Dictionary, Funk & Wagnalls, a Division of Reader’s Digest Books, New York: 1966, 270.

Ibid.

 

“I Know How Much It Costs”

There I was at six in the morning, our two dogs Jenga and Katie ahead of me tugging at their leashes, eager to blaze a trail down the neighborhood sidewalks. I used the otherwise mindless time for intercessory prayer for lots of people and nations on my heart list, but I wasn’t expecting God to speak over and into ME.

Two years earlier I’d said a hug-filled, tearful goodbye to my older son, daughter-in-love, and their two-year-old son, my only grandchild, as they left to follow their calling, at the end of eleven years of higher education, literally on the other side of the world. I was proud of them both,  but that didn’t make it any easier in knowing that it would be years before I’d see them again. Would my grandson even know me?

Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, we were  able to video call them, but that wasn’tanywhere nearly the  same as holding my grandson in my arms or giving his mom and dad big hugs and sharing time with them in parks, at  the zoo, camping  together, or  baking  them cakes for their  birthdays. I had so many questions for God over those two years, but still  that morning I stopped in my tracks when in my spirit I heard the Holy Spirit quietly, simply say, “I know how much it costs you.”

The rush of love I felt lifted me and lifted at least a big part of the burden of loss I’d carried. After hearing those seven simple words, it was so much easier for me to live with the ongoing separation. God DID know and God DID care about how much it cost me, cost them,and cost my daughter-in-law’s family,too. Just knowing God valued our community sacrifice placed a  fresh peace in my heart.

Little did I know  that would be the easiest loss I’d have to bear in the next eleven years. Two even more painful,  permanent losses were ahead of me. NOTE:  I’m not writing today to gain anyone’s “sympathy,”  but to consider a question we don’t  generally hear God asking us: “Do you know how much it cost me to send my Son Jesus to die in your place on the cross?”

I think we skillfully skirt the question by thinking, “Well, God is God, after  all, and he doesn’t feel the  things I feel. Besides, he knew Jesus would be back in Heaven with him when it  was all over. And Jesus was God as  well as man, so it  didn’t hurt him like it  would have hurt a real human being ….”

Don’t kid yourself! Where do you think we get our capacity to love, to care, and  to feel emotional pain and loss, if not from the very core and nature and essence of God, placed  by God within us? I suspect our tendency when  life pierces us with grief, pain, disappointments and loss is to put the blame on God. Really? Does God make you choose your choices? If you freely make your  choices, then so does  every other  human being on the planet, including those people who through loss or wounding in their  own lives or, yes, through the influence of evil – which DOES  exist  and has a mindful, intentional source hell-bent on perverting God’s creation.

The two painful losses  I’ve  felt since then came through wounded people who sought some kind of balm for their pain apart from the  healing and deliverance and love God himself wanted and still wants to give them. Their projected pain  destroyed two marriages, one by divorce, and one by death. Neither loss was “easy”  to bear.so the  question to me became where I would  “lay blame” and what I would do with my grief  and pain. I’ve decided, and frankly, this has been an ongoing act of my will (okay, stubbornness, because I WILL choose love) and my hope in God’s transforming goodness, that  I WILL NOT swallow Satan’s baited hook of offense and let bitterness poison my heart toward those who made destructive  choices OR toward God.

Oh yes,  I’ve asked God WHY countless times, and he’s heard my cries of anguish. I go back again to those seven words I heard twelve years  ago, “I know how much it costs you.”I know this, too:  part of my pain from the first loss comes from my own human weakness in not being able to totally surrender the process and outcome to God much,much earlier in the journey.  And on God’s behalf, he has continually  told me what he told me on December 6, 2012,”You’re worth fighting for,” three months later”You are my chosen child,” and after that, “Do not fear what man tries to do to you,” and “I’m trying to bless you. You have to LET me,”  and God showed me through the many  “coincidences” I’ve written about on this blog, that he is  still with me, he still  loves me, and he has, somehow, redemptive transforming plans and redemptive purposes for goodness greater than I can see now. Satan does plan to kill,steal anddestroy, but Jesus more powerfully cameandcomes with abundant life. I remind myself that Satan has absolutely no reason to harrass and hassle people who already belong to/got hooked and deceived by him. He has plenty of reason to try to dislodge God’s  people who live out their God-given purposes  from believing that God truly  does love them and has plans to turn what Satan ploanned for evil for their good. (Romans 8:28) I personalize that – in all things God IS WORKING for my good as his child who loves him, is deeply loved by him and is  called by his purposes.

It often boils down to “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” That and the knowledge that yes, it  cost God more than any of us can begin  to fathom or grasp to send Jesus  here, God in the flesh, to live out the healing, deliverance,  and life-infusing purpose and love  ABBA God wants to give to each person on Earth.

That, and the knowledge that it grieves God, wounds God, pains God when we  reject  his gift of transforming love and eternal life  and  forever  relationship with him through accepting Jesus’ sacrifice  in our place. Grace is free, but don’t ever think that it came cheap. It cost Almighty God more  than we can begin to fathom. And don’t think that you can  receive that gift  without a cost to you: recognizing, through genuine fact-facing surrender of your self-righteousness that yes, you are  sinful by nature,  then through repentance, that you could never be pure or righteous enough or do enough “good deeds” to EARN  relationship with an unimaginably holy, pure, righteous, powerful, just God,andthen receivingthe  gift of  salvation Jesus paid for FOR you. Oh,how that grates on  our American  “I can pull myself up by my bootstraps” self-sufficiency and self-determination. God is love, but/and/while he is all of that, he is likewise perfect, fiery holiness, purity, righteousness, authority, and justice as well. He satisfied all of his nature without compromise when Jesus  took the punishment andpaid the penalty  for our sins, and that means MINE as well as YOURS.

The justice I seek is against my real enemy, Satan, the abuser and wounder and liar of  all liars and  perverter of all that is  good and holy and kind and loving and true. For  that reason I have given up “seeking justice”  on my own. If you’ve seen the recent movie”The Shack,” you  heard this, and I echo the truth that I DON’T WANT TO BE ANYBODY’S JUDGE! I save that for God alone, and I pray for  the true revelation of the price of God’s love and for true repentance that will lead the people who’ve  hurt  me straight into the Cross and arms and transforming love of Jesus.

Yes, it cost me. It  costs the price of living  with injustice even as I try to live out of and live out the love that God has lavishly given me. Expanded hearts  can feel more pain, but they can also receive,contain, and pour out more love.  Jesus did it first,  for YOU and me!

I heard Jason Gray sing this song live seven years ago just two miles from my house, in, yes, FREE concert tickets God gave me. Do you think HE knew I’d need to remember and cling onto this truth? I know I need to fearlessly run into the loving arms of the ONE who knows how much it costs me, and run to him fearlessly because I know how much it costs HIM to love me.

And yeah, absolutely, if you’d like to pray for me today, go for it! I admittedly,honestly need to be able to hear the Holy Spirit more clearly and trust God more fervently than I  do, and joyfully love while I’m waiting on HIS outcomes, knowing his desire for me is  to live in joy and hope in him! He paid for this, and I want to receive it fully!

Short and simple: To God be the Glory

In reverential “fear and trembling,” KVOA’s Sam Salzwedel interviewed me today, one year after Ken’s accident. The story will be on the Channel 4 news at ten, and I imagine on the kvoanews4 website next week. May God be glorified – that’s all I wanted to do and say, to point people to His great grace in the face of deep loss. Love to you all, my friends! And Ken, save us room at the Banquet Table of the Wedding Supper of the Lamb of God, our Bridegroom and Savior Jesus.

But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit […]

via “If You Only Understood…” Using History as an Excuse for Sin — A Cry For Justice

The Everyday, Anytime Guide to Christian Leadership

LEADERSHIP. What is the essence of true, biblical leadership?

“Walt Kallestad talks about leadership in the sense of influence, asserting that such virtues as love, grace, and an affirming spirit are more powerful tools than authority and command.”  (Review on Amazon.com)

Robert Schuller calls it “A fresh perspective from an outstanding leader!” Lyle Schaller says, “For those who agree that leadership is the key to the future, this is the book they should read and heed.” And Bill Hybels adds, “This book will make a significant contribution to leaders who practice its principles.” Discover how to become a more effective leader by following Kallestad’s ten principles of Christian leadership. The book’s concise, motivational message, easy- to-read format, and entertaining cartoons get to the heart of what Christian leadership is all about. (augsburgfortress.org)51qv2ripldl-_sx322_bo1204203200_              Holy cow, can it really be 24 years since Walt, my pastor,  asked me to help him write this book? It was the first of five I was  blessed beyond words to work on with him, and literally the answer to a prayer I’d prayed one morning as I dropped my younger son off at the bus for Kindergarten,”Lord, you know I want to write, but I have no way to get into publishing. I’m nobody. Show me a way to use what you put in me!” Two weeks later, sitting in Walt’s  office getting the next quarter’s sermon titles to pass out to the Message Research Team, Walt paused and said, “You and I think a lot alike. You’ve never wanted to write, have you?”

This post is not to pat myself on the back, no way, no how.  Rather, it’s about God’s perspective on leadership. One thing I’ve always believed is that leadership means being a servant of others, not a lord or boss over others, not a controller of others, not top person on the totem pole, but a servant of those you work with, and yes, where the buck frequently stops. As such, it’s a role or responsibility demanding integrity, good judgment, and teamwork ethic regarding others as equally important and essential to accomplishing the group goal.

I’ve never sought to be  the leader of anything, but sometimes  I’ve  been voted in or  asked to lead, which was the case with the Message Research Team. The coordinator had moved, and the pastors needed someone to get the message topics and hand them out to the other  volunteers on the team; thus  I became coordinator of the team by being asked, not by seeking out acclaim. I saw myself pretty much as a funnel, not a “commander,” and that suited me just fine.

Walt created  acronym for the word “LEADERSHIP” with one chapter filling out each thought:

Love Unconditionally

Envision the Future Exceptionally

Affirm Continuously

Discipline with Determination (as in be  disciplined, not mete out discipline)

Energize Others Enthusiastically

Risk Boldly

Serve Selflessly

Hope  Relentlessly

Imagine Immeasurably

Pray Persistently

Nowhere in the book  did Walt suggest cracking the whip, making sure  everybody knew YOU were the boss, seeking your own way and will and imposing it on others, or expecting to be continually affirmed and validated unquestioningly by everyone else. The model we as Christians ought to take – without question – for leadership is our Lord Jesus. Jesus made his authority over blindness, deafness, lameness, leprosy, winds, waves, and even death VERY clear, and he was King of Kings before he came to Earth, while he was here, and is today and always, and yet he told his disciples:

But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,  even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20: 25-27 ESV

Yes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 ESV

And “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:8

And yet as Paul wrote to the  Philippians:

“In his very nature he was God. Jesus was equal with God. But Jesus didn’t take advantage of that fact. Instead, he made himself nothing. He did this by taking on the nature of a servant. He was made just like human beings. He appeared as a man. He was humble and obeyed God completely. He did this even though it led to his death. Even worse, he died on a cross!”  Philipians 2: 5-8 NIRV

Again, Jesus modeled a life of loving, sacrificial service to show us what true leadership is.

Matthew 23:11
The greatest among you shall be your servant.

Mark 9:35
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all.”

The well-known Psalm that even non-Christians have probably heard and know the first lines by heart gives a word picture of true leadership: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me  in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff comfort me.  You prepare.a table before me in the presence of my enemies.You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

A shepherd is a leader, but he leads in order to protect and help his sheep grow in health, safely, free from danger and lack of what they need. When threat comes from lions or bears, the shepherd risks his own life for his sheep – he doesn’t consider his sheep expendable and use his sheep as a shield to protect his own life!

That doesn’t seem to leave much room for,”Hey, listen up! I’m the boss, and you’ll respect me just because I’m the boss and do as I say, because you are here for ME” in Christian leadership. Honestly, does anyone, whether in Christian work or secular work, enjoy working for someone who has an attitude of entitlement? I’ve experienced that, and I’m guessing you have too, and it doesn’t make getting up for work every morning a delightful, positive, hopeful prospect.

In the 13 years I worked as a substitute teacher, often the first question children in classes asked me was, “Are you a nice sub or a mean sub?”  I replied that it depended upon them, but of course my true attitude was that I was there to serve those children, follow the lesson plans of the absent teacher as closely as I could (if I even could find plans to follow) and give the children a positive day of real learning, attending to their needs, answering their questions, helping them with difficulties, and hopefully  adding some fun to help install in them a love of learning. Yes, I was the”boss” of the classroom that day,  but that meant I was there to serve  those students, not myself. I heard about subs who would come into the classroom, tell the students, “read this, do that,” put their feet up on the desk and read the newspaper, and act miffed when a student asked a question.

Even, especially, in families, dictatorial expectations and attitudes of entitlement have no place. Yes, the military is an exception, where people’s lives depend on executing orders from above without discussion, but our families and our  relationships and churches and even our workplaces aren’t meant to be regiments, but teams led, or more appropriately shepherded,  by servant-hearted, Jesus-modeling leaders who truly know and follow Jesus’ words:

” You call Me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, because I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example so that you should do as I have done for you.…” John 13:13-15

The full text of Paul’s admonition and encouragement to the Philippians shows that servant-hearted leadership is not without value in God’s sight:

Don’t do anything only to get ahead. Don’t do it because you are proud. Instead, be humble. Value others more than yourselves. None of you should look out just for your own good. Each of you should also look out for the good of others.

As you deal with one another, you should think and act as Jesus did.

In his very nature he was God.
Jesus was equal with God. But Jesus didn’t take advantage of that fact.
Instead, he made himself nothing.
He did this by taking on the nature of a servant.
He was made just like human beings.
He appeared as a man.
He was humble and obeyed God completely.
He did this even though it led to his death.
Even worse, he died on a cross!
So God lifted him up to the highest place.
God gave him the name that is above every name.
When the name of Jesus is spoken, everyone will kneel down to worship him.
Everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will kneel down to worship him.  Philippians 2: 3-10  Berean Study Bible

I hope, then, I’ve been on track in seeing any leadership position I’ve been “elevated to”  as actually lowering myself to serve the people who were doing the job  with me, counting on me to keep people informed, picking up the slack when someone couldn’t fulfill their role.

Honestly, I’ve always preferred to be just a team member,and I’m VERY glad to see myself as  simply a team member and collaborator, that is, co-labor-ator , in God’sKingdom work  that he calls  each of us to join our leader and head,Jesus,in pursuing on Earth so His Kingdom CAN come, and His will BE done on Earth as it is in Heaven.  I do remember learning The Great Commission in my college fellowship Campus Crusade days, and I’ve never regarded it as”optional”  or “not my job” for me as a Holy Spirit-filled for a reason follower of Jesus:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

Yes, you matter, no matter what your gifting or calling, and yes, in some way, then, you are a leader. to the person who needs to see Jesus in you.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27 ESV

I think both Jesu sand Paul would add, “Now live like a LEADER and the servant of all.”

No, I don’t get any royalties from the book,so I can freely encourage you to buy a copy and let me know if any part of it speaks to you. It  was Walt’s idea and vision, me filling in details, and enormously cognizant, yea verily fearful with reverential fear and a bit of “What was I thinking?” stark terror, of my responsibility to Christ as I was writing. All I  can say these many years later is thank you, Walt, for trusting me, thank you to the guy who moved us to Community Church of Joy, and thank you, Jesus, for hearing and answering my prayer and entrusting me with a bit of your work to do. (Please hear my prayers for him, too)

 

A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord, sometimesI’ve wanted to be a leader,sometimes I’vewished peoplewould see my capabilities, BUT I know you know how you made me,who you made me,and what  purposes you mademefor.So GodAlmighty, loving Father, please show me  where I fit in the Body of Christ  and give me the courage to walk out your purposes for me with  the same attitude Jesus had: that of a gladly serving servant. Give me an attitude adjustment if  and where I need it, and I know when you do, it  will be out of  your Father love for me. Holy Spirit, I’m listening ___________________________________________________ In Jesus’ name, amen!