As I skimmed my Facebook newsfeed today, a quote from a homeschooling blog post caught my eye.
If our homeschool has any hope for success, I must maintain my heart for my children. ~ Jena Borah, At the Heart of Homeschooling.
This is wildly true of my relationship with each of my three children. While there are many things they need to learn during our years of schooling together, what they will take with them academically won’t impact their lives nearly so much as what they will take with them emotionally.
Like most parents, I find it fairly easy with intention to maintain my heart toward my children. I do not always find it as easy to do in my other relationships, with my spouse at times, certain family members, friends and acquaintances. Relationships can so easily become weighted down by disappointment, misunderstanding, and hurt.
Yet the quote could easily be rewritten to say that if my relationships are to have any hope of success, I must maintain my heart for the people in my life — even the difficult ones.
The Internet is full of advice about what to do when you discover someone in your life to be toxic or narcissistic — and the advice basically amounts to: RUN!
There may indeed be times when it is wise to run. But it’s difficult to maintain your heart for someone when you do.
Perhaps this is why the Father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son didn’t hide from the son who had brought such misery, worry and disappointment into his life — but ran toward him so the people of the community they shared might not shun him since they now saw not the son’s, but the father’s, shame.
Why the Shepherd in the Parable of the Lost Sheep didn’t stop searching for his renegade sheep.
Why Triune God birthed humanity permanently into its very heart and soul with full knowledge of all that it would entail.
Like the characters in the parables that paint pictures of them, they have never stopped maintaining their hearts for us. They never will. In so doing, they have not held our wrongs against us. They have never once turned their backs or waited for us to act correctly so they can act lovingly.
It’s a daunting example to follow because many of us have been seriously hurt by people in our lives and have learned to build barriers of self-protection. I don’t blame anyone for doing so.
But I have also seen cases where people who had every right to insulate themselves from individuals in their lives who caused them distress refused to do so because they truly loved them. The effects of their decisions may never be realised in this life, but I believe the ripples carry into eternity and will be realised there. May we all be so blessed as to be able to look back and see people in our lives who never gave up on us though we gave them every reason to.
Those are the people I aspire to be and while I would never downplay the pain endured by those who feel forced to keep a distance from those who have brought it into their lives, I also know how good it feels to let go of the garden variety grievances that most often plague my relationships and do the most harm.
The cross words. The criticisms. The failures to apologise. The over-stepping. The judgments. The not always being there.
These things sting, yes. But generally, if we’re honest, they don’t amount to much in the end. So often my interpretation of a series of events lacks critical information and my inability to read anyone’s mind.
It’s so much better to let them go and to grant a loved one a clean slate as often as necessary. Deserved by the individual in our human terms or not, it feels so good to do so because we were made for this. It’s in our DNA just as it is in the “DNA” of Triune God. When we refuse to forgive, we are fighting our God-given natures and this is why it burns us from the inside out.
Triune God has shown us through their actions that every human deserves a clean slate and a new beginning with no strings attached. They grant one to each of us with every sunrise, every heartbeat. By maintaining our hearts toward the people in our lives, we follow them in one of the best ways possible.
~ by Jeannine Buntrock
every little thing gonna be alright.
You’ve given me enough to eat,
and a place to sleep,
and people who love me.
And you’ve shown me how to follow you
and find the meaning of my life.
I’ve also had bad times,
and bad times
will come again,
but I won’t be afraid, just as long as you stand by me.
In the midst of all the anxiety and pain,
you give me bread and wine and oil,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
your life creating my life.
Surely, in light of all this,
I can believe that you are my everlasting home.
~ Jonathan Stepp
Are you wondering WHEN are you going to experience the treasures that come with knowing God?
In this Gospel Message entitled “Profit And Loss”, Pastor Richard Andrews of New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Proclaims the Good News and gives encouragement through The Apostle Paul and by exploring Philippians 3:4-14 and also by reading the Lectionary, 17th Sunday after Pentecost: That our Profit and Losses are not Fiscal Profit and Losses but Profit in the context of our trials – Treasures in heaven. The kind that are measured in our Blood and Jesus’s Blood. The kind that are measured in sweat and tears.
In this message hear how to see our trials and ourselves differently by learning:
~We need to start seeing Jesus and what HE wants differently.
~We need to start seeing the acts and works of our hands differently.
~We need to start seeing the things that come out of our mouths differently as we grow in Christ.
~Our Prize is to move forward, to press on through trials, to see the heavenly calls. (Isaiah 55-1)
~To count it all as a period of cleansing – Our “Pressure Cooker Period”
~To ask ourselves: AM I READY TO LET GO OF ME? AM I TIRED OF WORKING THINGS MY WAY?
~To see trials as a way of melting/weakening of the flesh/ humbling us.
~To see trials as pointing us to THE ONE IN WHOM ALL ANSWERS ARE FOUND!
~To see trials not just as losing self but GAINING JESUS CHRIST, growing in his righteousness!
In this message we understand that:
~There is NO WAY to share in Jesus’s suffering without US SUFFERING! To know Christ is to know him in his suffering!
~Our Father is saying, STAND UP as a Community in the LOVE of God and WALK as a Community to help other Communities. We are never in a vacuum but rather, US TOGETHER with FATHER SON and SPIRIT embracing us all. We stand in the name and power of Jesus Christ who lives in and through us!
*photo compliments http://www.libertynews.com
Answer: The Bible is a conversation. But where THE VIEW has Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg, the Bible has Father, Son, Spirit, and Every Human Who Has Ever Lived. Plus a donkey or two.
It makes sense that the Bible is a conversation. It comes, first of all, from an inherently relational God. However the “divine mind” works, we know it’s not about ideas forming inside an individual spiritual skull. The mind of God – also known as “Truth” – consists in the mutual knowing of Father, Son, and Spirit. A recent addition to that divine mind is you. And everybody else. That conversation of 3 voices has grown to, well, a lot more voices. And out of that human participation in the Triune Conversation has come the written artifacts we call the Holy Scriptures.
It used to annoy me that the Bible was not a single voice telling me what’s what. That’s the kind of Scripture you’d expect from an all-powerful individual Omni-God. A Single Booming Voice. In fact, we’re so fond of that idea, we spend a lot of energy trying to imagine that this is in fact what the Scriptures are. We pay our preachers to explain problematic verses away, to mimic for us that imagined solitary Voice – anything to aid our denial of the disturbingly multiple voices of Scripture.
We are quite determined to turn the Bible God gave us into the Bible he should have given us.
And what God gave us is a conversation.
And even more disturbingly, that conversation is sometimes an argument.
If you’re wondering what the point of this post is, it’s that. That the Bible consists of multiple voices that come from diverse minds that disagree on some things. And sometimes these arguments don’t get resolved. The whole Bible is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, and what God has breathed to us is not a list of truth statements for us to merely submit to, but a complicated and difficult conversation for us to participate in.
Let’s try this on for size…
First of all, there are different voices in different texts which live in tension with each other. A Jewish-trained mind has no problem with this. Us Greek-ish thinkers, not so much… Proverbs teaches us, among other things, that doing the right thing leads to success and good health. Job, on the other hand, is mainly a story about how Proverbs isn’t the full story. Some texts describe Yahweh as a typical violent tribal deity – the god who is for us and against them. Our Calvinist brothers and sisters have latched onto that God, to sad effect. But there are other texts depicting a very different kind of deity – One who is Lord of all people, all nations, who elects the few for the universal good of all. Some texts love sacrifices. For other texts, sacrifices make them want to puke. Some texts command us to kill our enemies. Others tell us to love them and lay down our lives for them.
Not only does the Bible argue with itself, but it also models for us a kind of piety that involves arguing with God. When Yahweh reveals his intentions to destroy Sodom, Abraham challenges the morality of that decision (Gen 18.20-33). Later, when Yahweh intends to annihilate the idolatrous Israelites, Moses goes so far as to call his plan “evil,” leading the Lord of All to “repent of the evil he had planned for his people” (Ex. 32.12-14). (And by the way, the word “evil” there is the same word used to describe Sodom’s behavior, so there’s no wiggling around that one, disturbing though it is). Even Jesus has his point of view challenged by a Canaanite woman, who eventually converts him to her way of thinking, resulting in him shifting his whole ministry focus from Jews to Gentiles (Matt. 15.22-28).
These are not “contradictions” of the sort that our atheist friends are so fond of pointing out. These are artifacts of a conversational God who reveals himself in conversations shared by disputatious and gloriously free-thinking human beings. A God who values our input surprisingly much.
I’ll end with what is a scary question for me, and will probably be scary for you too:
Does faithfulness to the Bible sometimes require us to argue with it?
In this Gospel Message entitled ” Partnering With Jesus In Planting Disciple-Making Communities!”, Pastor Timothy Brassell of New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, shares with us the Mission of GCI and NLF with Jesus which is: Living and Sharing the Gospel! Seeing Jesus revealed in Matt 9:27-38, He Proclaims The GOOD NEWS that we are called to be GOSPEL PROCLAIMERS who participate with Jesus and other disciples, forming disciple-making communities that also proclaim this GOOD NEWS!
In this message we learn that when we see Jesus we see the God, Father and Spirit acting as One in Jesus! What we see coming out of the heart of Jesus is the heart of the Father, Son and Spirit! In Christ God is active in our humanity, BEing, DOing, ACTing, and SPEAKing in Relationship as He saves, heals and redeems His fallen creation!
Listen in as Pastor Tim explores the following questions:
Do you see God, Father Son and Spirit in Jesus?
Do you see God, Father Son and Spirit Committed to His plan of Adoption?
Do you see the humbling of God in Jesus Christ?
Do you see the capability of man in Jesus Christ?
Can you feel the Fierce wrath and Fiery Love of God, Father Son and Spirit?
Do you see the faces of all of the Lord’s children?
Can you discern the whole God inside the whole man Jesus?
Can you see that God the Father desires to be known? Now!?
Can you look at Jesus and see how God deals with the confusion that has entered the human race and creation?
Can you see that Jesus calls disciples to participate with Him in the loving labor of prayer and disciple-making?
Recently my wife and I had the opportunity to take our daughters to see Disney’s Frozen on Ice. It was a marvelous experience. As a parent I can think of no greater joy that to see my children’s faces light up with wonder and amazement. My older daughter is in her first year of Middle School yet I saw resurrected in her the little girl that first captured my heart. My younger daughter was so overwhelmed by the show that several times she hugged my arm and looked at me as though I was the greatest dad in the world for taking her to see it.
So when we got there (one hour early) my wife and I gave each other a knowing look. A few minutes after we’d settled in our seats we both noticed something. There was plenty of noise in the arena and we were two seats apart because as most parents do we’d bracketed our kids in for safety. Though the place was awash in the noise of thousands of conversations taking place at once- even though we were too far apart to really talk about it- I knew what Davina was thinking or rather I knew what she had sensed in that arena.
Among the thousands of families, moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and children there was a familiar spirit that could be felt. At times I almost thought I could have reached into the air and put some of it in my pocket… it was that tangible. The spirit was of love and joy, unbridled happiness and innocence. Little boys and little girls waited in anticipation for what would, for some, be the experience of a lifetime.
Disney’s Frozen is the old fairy tale The Ice Queen and it is a story about mutual other-centered love and I can tell you that in that arena the Holy Spirit was not only present but manifest in a very noticeable and powerful way.
In Acts 2:17 Peter told the assembly on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit had been poured out on all flesh. The Holy Spirit is present in and with every single human being. Paul the Apostle said that the Holy Spirit is in each of us calling out “Abba Father”. Abba Father! The love song of the Father and his eternal faithful Son that is held together in the communion of the Holy Spirit is being sung inside each of us.
Is it any wonder then that this song of mutual other-centered love would come to expression whether those through whom it is expressed know it or not?
And is it any wonder that the Holy Spirit would be noticeably manifest among thousands of families basking in the joy of it all? I’d venture a guess that the Father, Son, and Spirit, who have included humanity in their very circle of love and life, were glorified as we sang along with every song!
In this Gospel Message entitled ” Fresh Hot Soup,” visiting Pastor to New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Pastor Joe Heilman, introduces us to his book “FRIAR TUCK’S TALES For The Common Outlaw,” a collection of stories meant to help people understand the Gospel better as they transition from one part of life to another.
By reading one of his stories, “Fresh Hot Soup” Pastor Heilman shows:
1) That people think the gospel is a spiritual equation where God will LOVE ME, FORGIVE ME, CLEANSE ME, HEAL ME…ETC…..IF I HAVE ENOUGH…….FAITH, REPENTANCE, BAPTISM,…ETC.
2) That the Gospel is NOT a Self Maledictory Oath signed sealed and delivered (Genesis 15:18).
3) By exploring Romans 5-8 he shows that God’s covenant is not a transaction between us and God but rather a RELATIONSHIP we are INCLUDED in with FATHER, SON and SPIRIT.
A new puppy has entered my world, thanks to my husband who cannot be trusted alone in a pet store. Luna Consuela Kuhlman, a fawn and white chihuahua, was his Father’s Day gift, he says, but in reality, my service of housebreaking and tending to the new pup are his real present.
Besides bringing extra work into my household, Luna has opened my eyes to the wonder and mystery of the world around me, much the same way a toddler would. When I take her out to potty, she stops to sniff a dandelion and to chase a moth. Observing her as she experiences this world helps me to see the beauty that I take for granted because I have labeled and categorized it, perhaps even read about it in a book. I know, for example, that moths have different antennae than butterflies, but having this knowledge doesn’t fill my heart with wonder and joy, perhaps even a lightness, as does watching a moth flit through my yard and garden.
When I feel I have learned everything there is to learn (or that I want to learn) about a topic, I’ve found that I start to take it for granted and stop noticing the subtle nuances. I think this premise can also pertain to our perception of God. When we begin to label and categorize God, we most likely feel that we are understanding the Father, Son, and Spirit better. But I believe we need to be watchful we don’t get to the place where we feel comfortable with our knowledge of God, believing we have everything figured out.
Poet Mary Oliver captures this in her poem “Mysteries, Yes,” where she begins, “Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.” While it is important to know fully and deeply that we are loved and held by Someone greater than ourselves, the danger comes from resting our belief in what we have figured out or in what someone else has figured out for us. We forget how limited our human minds are, how incapable of comprehending spiritual truths that are outside our senses. We become comfortable with our limited view of God, and when that view is shaken, we feel uncertain and afraid. Even worse, we become immune to the miracles and beauty that surround us every day, constantly revealing the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit for all creation.
Our job is to become comfortable with mystery, living with the uncertainty joyfully by noticing the “I love yous” sprinkled throughout our everyday existence. As Oliver concludes her poem:
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment
and bow their heads.
Our puppy Luna says to me, “Look!” in her own puppy way, showing me something old that I’m seeing as if for the first time, making me laugh and then bow my head, recognizing that God is greater and more wonderful than anything I could ever fathom.
~by Nan Kuhlman
Has anyone ever built you up in their minds to be someone you are not?
I had this happen to me recently — not just to me, but to someone I love as well. This certainly isn’t the first time this has happened to me, but it was the first time I was alongside someone else and could see clearly that the person this individual was seeing when he looked at my loved one was not the person I saw and knew at all. It didn’t matter what I said in our defense and I knew better than to try, honestly — he was so lost in his mythology of who we were that my words bounced off unheard. As it so happens, I truly love that person as well. He is unable to see it; in his eyes, I am a monster who despises him, judges him, looks down on him and would take away the things he loves if I could.
This is not who I am at all. I love him. I genuinely worry about him. I am afraid for him in this life while trusting God implicitly with him in the next. But there is no convincing him of that at this time at least.
I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences with a loved one — a child, a sibling, a parent, a friend.
And I wonder, how often do all of us do this when we look at, or consider, God? How often do we see a monster instead of the unconditionally loving person cradling us? How often are we so lost in our own mythologies when it comes to God that all his attempts to reach us by standing always not just before us, but lovingly sharing the very space we occupy, fail because we don’t see it? How often do his loving words to and thoughts toward us bounce off us unheard as we continue through life, feeling alone and vulnerable, in an unseeing haze?
This is some of what trinitarian theologian Baxter Kruger refers to as “making agreements with darkness.”
Over the last several years the Holy Spirit has been revealing himself to me in profoundly personal ways, awakening me, loving me, revealing to me who I am in Jesus, and encouraging my heart. Thank you, Holy Spirit, I will have more please. Brothers and sisters we are in a war. We have an enemy, cowardly as he is. He knows he has been defeated in Jesus, and he knows that we don’t know much of Jesus’ victory. The enemy deceives us, and then hides his deception, so that we don’t know that we have made agreements with him and his darkness. As we get hints of his schemes we are attacked with accusations and assaults. The picture that the Holy Spirit has given to me is of a beaver dam, with hundreds of limbs and twigs interwoven on top of large logs at the bottom. This beaver dam is formed by the agreements we have made with darkness throughout our lives. (Simply ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the agreements that you have made, and then break them in the name of Jesus). This beaver dam holds back the river of living water, the great, overflowing fountain of the trinitarian life of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that is already at the core of our beings because of Jesus’ union with us. ~ C. Baxter Kruger, Baxter’s Ongoing Thoughts (blog), Oct 7, 2013.
No wonder it is so hard for us to break free of the agreements we have all unwittingly made with darkness — these agreements are far more than a shackle, but, as Baxter describes so well, an intricate, twisted, strong, nearly watertight mass!
The great news is that just as it takes only the tiniest ray of light to begin to dispel any darkness, so does our just cracking our eyelids open to the light begin to break up the dam of darkness and trigger the lifelong process of releasing the stranglehold it has had on us within.
The Holy Spirit whispers to my heart that Triune God doesn’t despise us or anyone. That while he certainly knows right from wrong and holds us accountable to it for our own good and for the good of those around us, he doesn’t judge us in a harsh, punitive way when we fail — he wants us to learn and to grow — to be better people because he has given us all that potential and capacity for good. That he celebrates the tiniest baby step. That he doesn’t look down on us as worthless or insufficient — but sees inestimable worth in every human being, and with him in us as he is in all, we are all sufficient for the moment. That life is a journey of growth. That he doesn’t seek to take away the things we love or withhold from us the things we desire. Like you, I don’t know why life has to be the way it is sometimes — but I trust the process since it is his process. All will work together for good in the end even if it sure doesn’t feel like it in the moment.
I can’t force my loved one to see me for who I am. God chooses not to force us to see him as who he is either. But what joy we miss out on when we refuse to open our eyes.
An interesting note about beaver dams is that they are often referred to as the “earth’s kidneys” since, once broken even a little so that water issues forth, they cleanse that water of debris and impurities. The dams that we create act in the same way once broken even a little — they tend to collect the earthly debris and baggage that come downstream. So even they serve a purpose.
Let’s all take Baxter’s advice and ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we have made agreements with darkness, and to break them in Jesus’ name. Let’s take Jesus’ lead and disagree wholeheartedly, with every breath, with the dark.
~ by Jeannine Buntrock
Can you imagine how successful a fast-food chain would be if they marketed these words as their slogan? Almost appears “Un-American” doesn’t it?
Scripture refers to this phrase in a single word, “submission.” Submission is also known as an outward spiritual discipline, or an act or habit that draws us closer in relationship to God, and specifically, in this case, others.
Our oldest son recently announced that he and his fiancée were going to move their wedding date up by eight months before graduating college, with plans to transfer credits to another university. That’s not what we had talked about. It isn’t the commitment that he made to us to obtain his degree before marriage. Internally I came unglued.
Why do we so easily bury our heels into the ground in a way that can polarize relationships?
The next day, Nan kept telling me I needed to get over it, and that it wasn’t our choice. We needed to respect and support his decision even though the timing may not appear to us to be the best choice. I couldn’t accept it. Then a small miracle happened. Through the back and forth discussion with Nan and a close friend, I gained clarity. I literally felt my heart change in a moment’s notice.
What happened? It became clear to me that the issue was tied to long-held values and commitments. The primary value was the fact that I wanted him to finish college without the risk of anything getting in the way. I wanted that for him and his own family’s security and success. Secondly, he had made a commitment when he became engaged that he wouldn’t speed up the timetable on marriage until he had graduated.
Values and commitments are generally a good thing. They are good until we place them before and above relationships. Values and commitments are something that if held long enough can literally be felt as if they are woven into our very own being. How many times had I shared with him that his mom and I didn’t get married until four days after my graduation. How many doors had I witnessed being opened due to education over the years?
Keep in mind, the value can be anything that is held and cherished long enough. How many wars have been fought over religion, or politics? How many churches have split over theology?
In my mind, college and preparation before marriage had become part of my being until the small miracle and clarity occurred. Through that discussion, I was reminded that I had no intentions of going to college when I was in high school. Further, I had talked my girlfriend out of going to college so that we could get married right after graduating high school. Her parents had always envisioned her going to college, and I thought that was unnecessary. How the tables had turned over these past thirty-five years! The passing years seemed as if they were my whole life, but upon reflection at that moment I saw how temporal my values were. They weren’t part of my natural DNA. They simply became engrained over time.
As I reflected, the thought occurred that if I could have held those same prior values (although my son clarified that he never once considered dropping out of college), what was the big deal? Should I really let something temporary get in the way of my relationship with my son? How many times had I told him “there is nothing you could ever do that would keep me from loving you forever?” Isn’t that the kind of relationship I have with my heavenly Father? How could I go back on that value? One that is eternal, not temporal.
Submission is a spiritual discipline, because humanly speaking we can’t do it and the Holy Spirit reminds us that not having it our way is usually the best when it comes to healing relationships and changing our hearts.
~by Craig Kuhlman
photo courtesy of 123RF Royalty free stock photos