A couple of days ago while riding my bike at a rapid pace I hit a curb, lost control of the bike, and landed with a horrific thud on my head with my bike on top of me. Five staples later in the back of my head I left the emergency room vowing to change my ways and wear a helmet. I don’t like helmets. But bottom line . . Helmets protect. That ‘s their purpose. If they aren’t used, they can’t do what they are supposed to do. It’s the same way with prayer. Repeatedly the scriptures urge us to “Pray for one another. Pray without ceasing. ” Prayer places Perfect Love, Wisdom, and Power in our lives. If we don’t pray, prayer can’t do what it’s supposed to do. When we’re angry, confused, frustrated, hurt, overwhelmed, full of fear God’s provision is prayer. But, like a helmet, we don’t want to stop and use it. It’s inconvenient to put it on. It doesn’t really seem necessary. And it feels weird. Who wants to stop and pray with someone? It’s inconvenient. Why pray for our children relentlessly through the day? It doesn’t seem necessary. Who wants to pray in the midst of an argument? It feels weird. But His answer remains the same. Put on the helmet. Pray. “Pray for your children every night, every morning, every time they come to mind. Pray with each other wherever you are whenever you can. Pray. And prayer will do what it’s supposed to do. It will place perfect love, wisdom, and power in your life.” Lord, help us get low enough to know that we need you every minute of every day. Stir in us an unwillingness to forget about You and a passion to include You in everything we do, think, and say. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever.
God calls us to love our neighbor as ourself. Loving oneself is not as easy as it sounds. Like termites, our insecurities and inadequacies thrive unseen as they destroy our inner foundation. Self doubt hides behind a multitude of masks. Confusion. Pride. Arrogance. Stubbornness. Judgment. Failure. All of which falsely accuse and damage the body of Christ. We need pest control. I received a refreshing spray of Raid yesterday from the Lord. While worshipping in a wonderful church, full of people, programs, and outreach ministries, the too familiar voices of self doubt began taunting my soul. “You aren’t doing this at Luke, Leslie. You should be. You don’t know how to lead. You should quit. You’re just not good enough.” Immediately the Lord spoke to my soul. “Leslie, you are comparing apples with oranges. Stop! This church is an orange. It’s a great orange. Enjoy it for what it is. A delicious, ripe, and juicy orange. I called you to be an apple. You are to lead people in love. Luke is an amazing community of people who refuse to give up on learning how to love. They embrace intimacy, vulnerability, and flexibility. They are a delicious, ripe, and juicy apple. When you sit in another church and think, ‘I’m a terrible orange,’ you miss the joy of being an apple. Enjoy being what I created you to be. So you can enjoy how I created others to be.” The termites died. Comparing ourselves to others is one of the quickest ways to lose our joy and sense of direction. Lord God, free us to love ourselves as You love us. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
Recently I ran across a radical thought. “True community exists when the person you dislike most dies or moves away and someone worse takes that place.” Quaker proverb Many of us work hard at getting those problem people out of our lives. Feelings of anger, resentment, and frustration abound in their presence. We want peace, harmony, and tranquility. So what’s the best solution? We pray for, hope for, and deeply desire distance. But God sees it differently. What a surprise! When those problem people plop themselves into our lives as neighbors, coworkers, family members, or unavoidable acquaintances God’s telling you and me, “Get ready to sweat.” Problem people seem to be God’s exercise of choice for developing community. The grueling reps begin. Serve In love. Forgive them. Understand. Trust in Me. Again. Serve In love. Forgive them. Understand. Trust in Me. Again. Serve In love. Forgive them. Understand. Trust in Me. Hard work. Sweaty. Exhausting. But . . . slowly . . . steadily . . .the community is strengthened. And the Body of Christ becomes healthier. Lord God, forgive us when we become weary and wary of loving. Use us. Make us sweat, Lord. Teach us how to love the way You love. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever.
Space is a rare commodity. Especially in relationships. Something of great value. Full of grace. Space allows others to be who they are . Space says, “I take you as you are. Not as I want you to be. I want you to be kinder. More thoughtful. Drink less. Weigh less. Pray more. Do more . . . But I refuse to restrict you with my expectations. I love you as you are. Warts and all.” Space requires tenacity, trust and self love. It refuses to give up, insists on trusting God to fix what feels unfixable, and focuses on accepting oneself – warts and all. Once one knows how to give space serenity happens. I’m watching serenity happen as I write. And it is glorious. Frank and I are spending three days with Frank’s best friend of seventy years and his family. We are nineteen people living in one large home on the beach. I am fascinated, enthralled, awed at their capacity to let one another be. Control, manipulation, and judgment are non existent! It is beautiful, easy, sweet. It is serenity. Their dad, Vic, would be the first to tell you that he is a recovering alcoholic of twenty seven years. And his wife has become a sought after mentor and teacher for Al Anon. As they celebrate fifty years of marriage today they are surrounded with the fruit of space . . .serenity. And it is a magnificent work of art to behold. May we all pray the prayer of St. Francis as we live into a brand new day: Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. We adore you, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
Have you read Psalm 19 lately? It’s a magnificent message about God revealing Himself to His creation. This morning, when my heart was overflowing with gratitude to the Lord for our softball team, I didn’t understand why I kept hearing Psalm 19. So I read it. And immediately I understood. David, the author of the psalm, is about to burst with wisdom and insight. He gets how God makes Himself known to humanity and it practically undoes him. With arms wide open he shouts, “You go God. I love how You use the mind boggling splendor of the stars and sun to expose Your excellence. I totally get how You make Your nature known through Your law. You are awesome . . . amazing!” And then suddenly without any warning a painful awareness silences the praise. An incredulous thought crosses his mind. “Humanity knows You because of Your heavens, because of Your law . . . and because of me?! You want to use me to reveal Yourself to Your creation?!” Weak knees wobble. Holy hands tremble. An outstretched body bends. And a humbled soul confesses. “Help me, Lord. I am a sinner.” And, the praiser pleads to the One he loves. “Please, Lord, help me. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, my strength and my Redeemer.” My heart felt “strangely warmed”. Three thousand years collapsed into one moment with a realization. God delights in revealing Himself to His creation through ten men and women on a softball field. With their favorite scripture shouting from their backs and words of encouragement pouring from their mouths the Apostles softball team declare the reality of the One they love. It’s what God wants to do with each of us. He yearns to use our words and our actions to make Himself known to His creation. Love. Grace. Mercy. They are ours to give that others may live. Please, Lord, help us. May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to You, our strength and our Redeemer.” We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.
My precious Frank and I were frustrated with each other. Deep down I knew my pathology of control was in full swing. But, when you’re ticked off with someone, self-reflection is the last activity in which you want to engage. Blame and judgment are far more enjoyable companions. So, I thoroughly enjoyed their company. As I confessed the error of my ways during my sermon the following morning my eight-year-old grandson’s hand shot like an arrow into the air. Knowing that he was within hearing distance of our disagreement I trembled at the thought of what he might say. So, I chose to ignore the waving request with “We’ll talk about it later, Walker, okay bud?” The congregation chuckled, and we moved on. Quickly. Shortly following our worship service I received a phone call. “Leslie, I was sitting in front of Walker and I thought you might want to know what I heard him say.” My mind raced fearfully. “When you didn’t call on him he turned to his buddy next to him and said, ‘I wanted to tell Laelae that I want to be baptized.’” I couldn’t speak. The lump in my throat was too big. We think we know what someone else is thinking. I was certain Walker wanted to bear witness to my mistakes. He just wanted to bear witness to God’s grace. Amazing. Lord, save us from ourselves. Save us from thinking that we know what others are thinking. Have mercy on us, most merciful Savior. Have mercy.
When someone hurts us we want to hurt back. It’s a natural instinct. Animalistic actually. A dog is bitten. A dog bites back. A dog is beaten. A dog fights back. But when a dog is beaten until it’s broken, the dog cowers in fear hurting itself more than the assailant. Naturally we humans view this behavior as normal. People hurt us. We hurt them. With our words. Our actions. We want them to hurt. And we want it now. But we have an amazing God who is asking us to fight, not others, but our own natural instincts. To let love become our natural response to hate. To separate ourselves in the animal kingdom. Behave differently. Refuse to attack. Refuse to cower. Remain constant in patience and kindness. Trash the records of others’ wrong doings. He knows it’s against our nature. And He knows we need Him – the One whose name is Love – to help us fight right. We are His wounded warriors. We reject revenge. We relinquish it to our Captain. (Romans 12:19) We bend low in love. And hold on valiantly to the hope for His Kingdom. So, onward Lord!!! Lead us into a land where love lives triumphantly! We are Yours now and forever! So be it!