Mighty To Save

Has the Lord placed a troubled child in your path? Maybe a step child – grandchild – neighbor’s child – your child. Their needs are beyond you. Their behavior frustrates you. You want to ease their pain, but you can’t. Short term or long term, their problem poses a problem in your life. Guilt holds your heart. Heavy rides your back. And confusion clouds your mind. That’s how I went to bed last night. Aching for a child I love, but cannot help. All night I tossed. All night I turned. And, all night I heard the same six words sung over and over again in my sleepy soul. “Our God is mighty to save.” “Our God is mighty to save.” “Our God is mighty to save.” It’s true He is. We aren’t. But there is one thing we can do that He can’t. We can bring the children to Him. He already knows them. He already loves them. But He needs us to let go of them and leave them with the One who knows and loves them perfectly. If God has placed a child with a problem in your path, as He has mine, believe it or not, it’s a privilege. He’s trusting you and He’s trusting me to persistently, insistently “Let the children come to me.” How? When our eyes look into theirs, PRAY. When our hands fold their clothes, PRAY. When our hearts hear their name, PRAY. Why? He is able to do what we can’t. “My Savior, He can move the mountains, My God is Mighty to save, He is Mighty to save.” Move the mountains, Lord. Ease our children’s pain. Help us flee fear. And give us the courage to leave the ones we love with the One who loves them most. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever. Amen.

Loving Those Who Don’t Love Us

A question grabs my soul and refuses to let go: How do we love those who don’t love us? Like hugging a  prickly porcupine there’s no easy way to do it.  It’s going to hurt.  It would be much easier to avoid the barbed beast than embrace its unembraceable self.   Who wants to be kind to one who speaks unkindly about us?  Who wants to keep no record of wrong doing with one who insists on keeping us in a box?  Who wants to stop judging one who judges us unfairly? Not me. But we follow  a Lord who has this thing about loving the unlovable.  We can ask Peter, the one with foot in mouth disease. Or Mary Magdalene, the one with seven demons . Or Zacchaeus, the one who stole hard- earned wages.  Or the Roman soldier who drove nails into His hands.  They will all tell us the same thing.  “I don’t know why He loves me, but He does.  And because He does, I’m different.” That’s why being a Christian isn’t for wimps.  It takes guts to grab a pointy porcupine. Our Lord and Savior says to you and me,  “Surround the ‘enemy’s’ presence with peace.  Refuse to fight spike to spike.   When you see them, see Me.   I’m there, believe it or not.  I created them in my image.  Find Me in their face.  Keep looking.  Don’t give up.  Call on Me.  I will help you see what I see, and  I will help them be who I made them to be.” Lord God, heal our hurt hearts.  Free us from attaching strings and expecting things. Give us renewed courage to reengage in the battle to love as You love.  We adore You, O Christ, now and forever.  Amen.

Change

C-H-A-N-G-E! Boldly in four inch letters I printed the word across the brochure declaring to its readers that the United Methodist charge conferences were  going to be different.  As Conference Council Director I eagerly  placed it in the hands of the bishop for final approval before it was distributed to all Louisiana pastors.  His response was immediate.  “Consider using a different word, Leslie.  Most people don’t like that word.” But God sure does.  He loves change.  His creation declares it.  Our bodies refuse to deny it. Change teaches us flexibility.  Through change we learn to let go and trust what is to come. However, If that trust has been violated too many times in our lives we find ourselves resistant to change.   We seek  comfort in keeping things as they’ve always been.  Like a flailing trapeze artist refusing the bar swung her way we hang mid air holding on to what’s familiar unable to go anywhere. So, go for it.  If God is nudging you to make a change in your life, do it.   Jump!  Leap!  Resist the temptation to figure it all out .  Remember His promise, “I will never leave or forsake you.” You can’t have a better safety net than that! Lord, our “What if” looms large.  What if this isn’t you?  What if this is the wrong thing to do?  Help us Lord to trust you to send signs to point us in the right direction.  Turn our panic to peace so that we may see Your signs and hear Your voice. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever.  Amen. P.S.  I find this fascinating.  I thought I was writing this article to tell you I was going to stop Leslie’s Learnings while beginning my next doctoral course.  That’s not where He led me.  Guess He thinks I can handle what feels impossible to me.  Definitely didn’t anticipate that sign! Swinging mid air with you, Leslie

Who’s In Charge

My dad loves food. Like an artist with a pallet of colors he scans the table and decides what belongs on his plate.   Before the first bite is taken he carefully parts his potato and lavishly bathes it in butter, salt and pepper.  Patiently, diligently he carves succulent steak  into delectable bites.  Green beans are smothered with butter and seasonings.  Broiled bread is rebuttered and topped with mounds of strawberry jam.  Finally, the artist is ready to view his work.  Bravissimo!  The masterpiece is complete.  The bite is savored.  Contentment spreads across his face.    And he begins what we have just finished . . Dinner. That’s the way it is with us and our time. Too often we say, “I know I should do it but I don’t have the time.” I want to pray.  But . . . I don’t have the time.  I want to read the scriptures.   But . . . I don’t have the time.   I want to spend time with my family.  But, I don’t have the time. But here’s the bottom line . . . We make time for what matters. We scan the options of our day, and we decide what to put on our plate. No one does it for us.  We do it. The problem is that often we forget who’s in charge. Absolutely no one but my dad is going to decide what belongs on that palatable plate.  And he alone will decide how and when he is going to devour every delicious bite. That’s how much control we have over our time.  We decide.  We decide what.  We decide how.  We decide when. But when we forget to decide . . time manages us,  because we failed to manage time. As Christians we have an amazing meal planner available to us.  The Holy Spirit.  Each morning He hopes we’ll  sit long enough to talk with Him about what belongs on our plate and what doesn’t.   Each morning He hopes we’ll follow His meal plan, not ours.  Each morning He hopes we’ll be His  Kingdom builders waiting for “Bravissimo!  The masterpiece is complete!” Help us, Lord,  to hear Your heart as we plan our day.  Free us for joyful obedience. We adore You, O Christ, now and forever.

Put On The Helmet

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.

Apples & Oranges

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.

Get Ready To Sweat

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

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.