Monday, April 2, 2018

Cleaning Out and Saving Stuff


An aluminum double boiler, hand-embroidered tea towels, pocket knives, Papua New Guinea weapons, army metal ammunition boxes, 50 gallon drums, vintage suitcases, antique cameras in pristine condition, melamine dishes we used as children, a Samurai sword my father brought back from Japan, the 1953 Better Homes and Gardens cookbook my mother fed us from—all things that caught my eye among my parents’ possessions as I helped sort, distribute and clean out their home last week. 
Some were from childhood daysmelamine dishes. Some were newer acquisitionsGrandpa’s handmade bookcase. Some brought back vivid memoriesa jar candle that sat in our bathroom unlit. Others I had no idea even existedarmy rings from Manila. Others were curiositiesa 1911 manual on “Nature’s Secrets”. And some made us laughgourds from PNG village men.

But it was the volume of letters, cards and photos that my mother saved from her children, family and friends that truly blew me away. These pieces of paper were the only means of connection we had with loved ones who served God so far away. They represented hours and hours of time invested in handwriting and typing letters that took two weeks to cross the ocean. And so mom painstakingly folded, catalogued and stored each one.
And then of course there were the nick nacks, kitchen utensils, clothing and unwanted furniture we carted to Goodwill. And then finally the stuff to be thrown away. Large items on the front curb and small stuff in trash bags. Dusty, dried flower arrangements, costume jewelry, magazines, things dad said he was going to fix one day, and every cardboard box ever received and every used. Junk, really. But as the adage goes, "one man’s junk...."

We will never know what it all really meant to them. Why did they save the things they did? I ponder what this teaches me about what they valued?

The saved correspondence tells me my mother valued connection with loved ones. The many translation materials and Bible-helps speaks to their value of the Scriptures, the Word of God. The memorabilia from Papua New Guinea, the suitcases and the drums depict the value of serving God as missionaries. And the saved boxes, jars, plastic items, magazines fairly shouts of their value to never throw anything away, to repurpose whatever they could and to accept any gift that was given to them.

Honoring ones parents is a strange thing. Suddenly they are gone and the stuff, the material stuff, stays here. What was collected over a life time, used, treasured and stored is now touched, remembered, laughed at, kept or tossed by the ones left behind. My siblings and I seemed to keep the things that brought either an emotional or a practical response. So what does this say about our values?

Dad’s pocket watch had meaning because it came from his grandfather and he played with it as a boy. Their wedding rings symbolized the love and oneness that created our whole household. Mom's good silverware set reminded me of her gift of hospitality and the many meals I helped her prepare for guests. We valued the items that were loved by my parents.
So as I reflect on last week, I wonder what Jesus valued? He tells us in the Gospel of Matthew:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (22:36-40)
Jesus valued his Father, love and relationships. When we value someone, we value the things they value. I experienced that last week.

Do you value what Jesus valued? 

Do you retain what meant the world to him or do you hang onto things that he would throw away?

PRAYER
Thank you Lord, for my parents, for my siblings and for my heritage you blessed us with. Going through mom and dad's belongings was hard work but it provided reminders of love, home, friendship, the Word of God and service to you. Help me to put the physical stuff in it's rightful place and value what You value.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Help Them Be Christlike

This week a childhood acquaintance lost a close friend because she publicly expressed her anger at injustice. Hearing this reinforces my fears. I fear going more public with my writing because I know someone will inevitably disagree with me. And some folks are very disagreeable in how they disagree. 

Like most people, I gravitate toward folks who think the same way I do. Sadly, I’d rather have a complaining session with someone who agrees with me than with someone who may challenge me to think or question my reasoning. And questioning someone’s reasoning in a reasonable manner does not mean we are disobeying Paul’s injunction to be of the same mind (Philippians 4:2).

If being of the same mind doesn’t mean we have to become cookie-cutter Christians, then we will (and do) have disagreements. We could use help. In Philippians 4:3, the Apostle Paul asked someone to help Euodia and Syntyche. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women [be of the same mind]

Perhaps this companion was an elder or family member—who knows—but nonetheless, this person was someone Paul felt could help them be Christlike. If I were Euodia or Snytyche, Christlikeness would not be my goal. My goal would be to get this companion to see my side and declare me to be right. And then to get him or her to convince everyone else! 

Note that the companion was asked. He did not choose of his own accord to “get involved in another man’s quarrel” (Pr 26:17) or “stir up conflict” (Pr 16:28). When anyone uses extreme persuasion, manipulation, triangulating and projection as methods to try to convince another they are right and that we should be of “the same mind”, this is unhealthy and not what Paul's intent.

On the other hand, the companion was also not asked to simply pacify, appease and keep the ladies from getting upset. Peter Scazzero says that “when, out of fear, we avoid conflict and appease people, we are false peacemakers.” His or her job was to help each one understand the other, respect and value the other, not necessarily to make them agree on every point. In other words, to be Christlike (Philippians 2:5). 

We have lost the art of purposeful debate, of gentle questioning, of lively discussion. We take everything so personally. We think that if someone voted for a different candidate or they practice a different mode of baptism or want women to have a more prominent role in the church that we cannot be friends or that they are against us. 

I still loved my father even though we disagreed. I can still sit down and have coffee with a friend who voted differently than I did. I accept that my sons are making choices I would not make. Where I fall short is that I don't take it a step further and truly listen to them — to dig deeper and ask them why they feel that way or how they justify their decision. I have a hard time concealing my judgment or disapproval in my facial expressions. 

I need to practice what I have learned to do in a debriefing or mentoring setting. When a friend shares they are questioning their faith or no longer believe God is good, I don’t recoil in horror. I listen, nod, and affirm their feelings. I acknowledge how they landed at this point and only as they ask for guidance, gently point them in search of something else. And I know my limits — when it is time to “call in the big guns”, as my husband says  and refer them to professional counselors and peacemakers. 

This assumes a certain level of emotional health. According to Peter Scazzero, an effective companion must "have their own beliefs, convictions, directions, goals, and values apart from the pressures around them. They can choose before God, how they want to be without being controlled by the approval or disapproval of others. Intensity of feelings, high stress or the anxiety of others around them does not overwhelm their capacity to think intelligently. I may not agree with you or you with me. Yet I can remain in relationship with you. I don’t have to detach from you, reject you, avoid you, or criticize you to validate myself. I can be myself apart from you.” (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality)

So what does this look like? How do we help others be "of the same mind"? 
  • We listen to all sides without bias.
  • We do not assign judgment.
  • We remind them what Jesus was like — the traits we can imitate, not the parts of Jesus that only he could fulfill such as rightly seeing into a person’s heart, judging motive, and displaying pure righteous anger.
  • We encourage them to talk (using "I" statements) and listen to each other (repeat back what they hear).
  • We protect them from harmful manipulation and badgering. 
  • We allow them to fail, flounder or reach a different conclusion.
  • We let them go, if necessary.
  • We are gentle (see next post).
  • We are emotionally healthy. We can differentiate. We have appropriate boundaries.
How are you being called to help others work it out?

PRAYER
Lord God, when I am asked to help another work it out, give me wisdom. This is truly a hard task and I may not be up to it. Help me to step aside if I am not ready and grow me in Christlikeness first before I attempt to help others.


Suggested Reading: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero

Also in this series:

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Sacred Touch

I carry my tension in my neck. Computers and iPads make it worse yet. To help with this, I started going to a massage therapist. Her strong fingers find knots and kinks in my neck and shoulders I don't know I have. Her touch brings relief and my physical tension dissipates. But more than that, I realize I also I feel comforted, loved and cared for.

One day she told me she was leaving the practice so that she could devote her entire time to the care of cancer patients — patients who simply long for relief from their pain. She explained that these ones don't get enough touch because others shy away from them not knowing what to do or how to help. 

“Whenever I put my hands on someone's body”, she said, “it is a sacred act, a healing act, a chance for me to bring relief and comfort to someone who is hurting.”

Today as I lay on the massage table (yes, I found a new therapist) receiving that same sacred touch, I thought of Jesus the rabbi, who broke all cultural and religious rules and touched the diseased, the blind, the deaf, the terrified. Jesus who brought comfort and healing through his touch. 
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. (Matthew 8:3)
Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. (Matthew 20:34)
Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!” ). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. (Mark 7:34-35)
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 17:5-7)
And I wonder who can I touch today? And when I do, may I remember that I am touching God  "For this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.'" (Zechariah 2:8) 

How might you be able to give a sacred touch to another today?

PRAYER
Lord, I know that touch has also been a devastating thing to many people and sometimes my attempt to help brings more hurt. Give me wisdom to know when and how to extend a sacred touch to a fellow traveler. Help me to point them to you, the true healer and comforter.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Mindset of Christ

Dorothy sat on our couch weeping. “I am so hurt. I feel betrayed. We were like family. Why would they put strategy and culture above me and my future?” She and her team leader had a huge disagreement. This clash of opinions meant a slammed door on her hopes and dreams. She wanted to forgive them. She wanted to have a restored relationship, but it didn’t look possible. 

How does this minister of the Gospel obey the Apostle Paul’s directive to “be of the same mind” (Philippians 4:2)? What do ministry partners do when they clash? When Paul told Euodia & Syntyche to be of the same mind, he was using the same verb (phroneo) that he used in chapter two when he told them to have the mindset of Christ.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind...In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Philippians 2:1, 2, 5

Because of this, I believe being of the same mind means we are to have the mindset of Christ—to be Christlike.

So, what does this look like?

1. The mindset of Christ is humble.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5b

2. The mindset of Christ thinks of others first.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Phil 2:6-7

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Phil 2:3-4

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

3. The mindset of Christ loves others by being kind, compassionate, patient, gentle.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

4. The mindset of Christ overlooks faults and forgives hurts. 

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:13-14

5. The mindset of Christ accepts others where they are and does not judge their actions and motives.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. Romans 14:10

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. Romans 14:1

6. The mindset of Christ serves others.

just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

7. The mindset of Christ leads to peace.

[Jesus said,] “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”. Matthew 5:9

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14:19

8. The mindset of Christ is NOT conceited or jealous or bent on arguing.

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:26

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 1 Corinthians 3:3

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. Romans 14:1

Dorothy and her team leader should consider setting aside some time for self-examination asking the Holy Spirit to guide and teach. Some questions to ponder may be:
  1. How might pride and personal gain be governing my words and responses?
  2. Is my attitude “my way or the highway”, or am I willing to entertain other opinions? How so?
  3. How am I showing humility?
  4. Have I listened—really listened—to the other side (doesn’t mean I have to agree, only that I seek to understand)? Without interruption? Without defensiveness? Without justifying?
  5. How is my style of leadership—or following—working out for everyone concerned? Do I need to reconsider my style?
  6. How have I communicated my perspective with kindness and grace, without defensiveness and deflection?
  7. Am I expecting the other party to acknowledge that I am right? Have I used persuasive and manipulative words to get them to see “my side”? Identify them.
  8. How can I consider and communicate that I care about the needs of the other party?
  9. Am I quarreling over nonessential matters? What is this quarrel really about?
  10. Am I giving allowance for a “weaker” believer? What faults or weaknesses can I overlook?
  11. Am I jealous or envious of the other party? How so?
  12. How can I pursue an outcome that will lead to peace—not necessarily uniformity?
  13. How can I best serve the other party? Show love and compassion?
  14. What/Who do I need to forgive?
  15. In what ways am I judging the other party for their actions and beliefs?
PRAYER
Father, help me to put on the mindset of Christ in all my relationships. I cannot do this on my own. I need your Holy Spirit to reveal to me the ways that I am acting in selfishness and defensiveness. And I need Him to help me to act as Christ did in love, compassion, humility, thinking of others above myself. Lord, restore broken relationships, in Jesus' name.


Also in this series:

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Tribute to Another Friend

It was our first big conference at Christar. And Mark was standing at the back of the room talking to some guy — a rather shaggy looking guy named Brian. Turns out that guy had lived in the place of my birth and governed my high school alma mater. He spoke Pidgin English and knew people I knew. On top of that, his wife was a counselor (as is my husband) and they were involved in missionary member care. Needless to say, the guys hit it off and began meeting for coffee and lunch. Soon they realized their wives should be included and that is how I met Patty McGeever.

My husband and I had recently moved to Texas to take a new ministry role and we needed friends. We had also just said goodbye to a wonderful couple friendship that we knew would never be the same because dear Lori had terminal cancer. Patty and Brian quickly filled that hole.

We started making the trek across the metroplex to sit on each other’s patio or meeting half way at a restaurant. We talked missions, member care, counseling, Papua New Guinea, MKs. We discussed church, women’s roles, beer, millennials, grandchildren. We clicked on so many levels. And we laughed and laughed. It was a delight to be together.

And then, after only about a year of building our friendship, Patty was diagnosed with ALS — a horrible, debilitating disease. It felt like Lori all over again. In fact, Patty reminded me of Lori. Both were rays of sunshine to everyone they met, they smiled and laughed easily, befriended many and endured their suffering without complaint.  And both responded with, “Why not me?” when folks wondered why they had been struck with such suffering. Oh, of course they weren’t perfect. Those closest to them know the deep valleys and doubts and struggles. But they never stayed there. Their overarching faith in Jesus and his love overshadowed their pain.

Patty visited me right after she participated
in a speech research study on June 8, 2016.
While still in the early stages of the disease, Patty visited me. I can still see her sitting on my couch. She didn’t mince words. “I know that at some point, I will not be able to do anything for myself. I will need to depend on others for everything. I don’t know what that will be like.”

Very quickly, that’s what exactly what happened. Family members and friends lovingly did everything for Patty for two years. And then Patty danced into glory. Now she can use all her limbs again and talk, sing and shout. She is free.

I am honored to have known Patty if only for a short while. Her care for others through counseling and member care was exceptional and challenges me to follow her example. Her smile, laughter and wit lightened the load we all carried as care givers. Her influence has been wide and deep and I am simply grateful to fall under it. 

So today I am reminded to be present, dig deep, care lavishly, and give grace. Don’t shy away from relationships out of fear of loss and hurt, but appreciate my friends for what they bring to my life right now.

I smile to think that as Patty is walking, running, and jumping on the streets of heaven that maybe — just maybe — she has met my Lori. I rejoice that I will have eternity to spend with both of them.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Of the Same Mind

"I can't wait to graduate and leave this house", I cried to my mother. My eighteen-year-old self was upset with my father. I don't remember the specific complaint, but I often disagreed with my dad. I loved my father very much, but we did not see eye to eye on everything. And as I continued to grow, I developed more opinions that were my own and theological views that differed from him.

The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:2 to be "of the same mind”. I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life (Phil 4:2-3).

I am learning to read references to women in Scripture with new eyes. Rather than see Euodia and Syntyche as arguing teammates, I choose to see them as teammates! Paul’s co-workers! Paul thanked God for those who labored with him from the first day (Phil 1:5). This would include the women in the beachside prayer group that birthed the church in Philippi (Acts 16) as well Euodia and Syntyche. Somewhere along the way, they too struggled with Paul to spread the gospel and to make disciples. In his commentary on Philippians, Gerald F. Hawthorne says,
“Paul wishes to say that these women are not in any way to be degraded for their disagreements, but to be respected highly for their energetic cooperation with him, working at this side as esteemed members of his team...equal in importance to Clement and the rest of Paul’s fellow laborers.” (Word Biblical Commentary)
Because Paul mentions them by name, they must have played a prominent role in the church which meant it was especially crucial that they worked out their differences. Other translations describe this phrase as live in harmony (NASB), come to an agreement (CEB), iron out their differences and make up (MSG). 

Being of the same mind doesn’t refer to politics or lifestyle choices and even ministry preferences. It doesn't mean we have to agree on the color of the carpet or the song choice or whether it is okay to drink alcohol. Differences in these areas are actually beneficial to the Body of Christ as they help ensure that all manner of peoples are cared for and all methods are tried to disciple and preach the gospel. How about theologically? Do we have to agree on how we interpret the Bible or whose podcast we follow? 

Paul spoke to this when he called out the Corinthians for quarreling over him or Apollos (I Corinthians 3:3-5). Saying that we are followers of Calvin or Piper or Jen Hatmaker is not what we are going for here. A clue to Paul's real meaning is found earlier in his letter where he says: 
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (2:3-5).
Being of the same mind means we have Christ's mind—we are Christlike! He set aside his own desires and rights and became a servant (2:6-8). St. Francis said it well in his prayer:

O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.


Paul doesn’t ask for uniformity, just unity. He wants us to have "the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had so that with one mind and one voice [we] may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6). I am of the same mind with my family when I think of their needs before my own, when I work at living in peace, when I put on love above all things—when I can agree to disagree—agreeably.

Are you one of the women in this passage? Do you need to work it out with a fellow laborer?

How can you be of the “same mind” with another and yet still have your own opinions?

PRAYER

Lord God, in my frequent attempt to avoid conflict, I either keep my mouth shut or push the differing one away and cut off relationship with them. Or I just never seek to understand their side or why they think as they do. I don’t go the extra mile to reach over and hear them out. And then I get offended when someone disagrees with me. I take it personally rather than realizing we can still be friends even if we don’t see eye to eye. Teach me to put on the mind of Christ and think of their needs above my own.

Also in this series:

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Make It So

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” 
Luke 1:38

Mary’s response to the angel’s commission to give birth to the Savior of the mankind is nothing short of extraordinary and deserves digging into. While I am not a Greek scholar, a little internet searching reveals a rich gold mine of truth. 

This simple phrase “let it be to me”, genoito (ginomai) in Greek, means "to become, and signifies a change of condition, state or place" (Vine, Unger, White, NT, 109). It is written in the voluntary mood indicating a wish and the middle voice meaning it was done to her. Putting these together, we get something like this: This is my voluntary wish that this be done to me—that my condition change to be what you say.

Mary was giving a firm, binding “Yes” to God. She was, in effect, saying, “I see what you are doing, Lord, and I give myself heart and soul to your plan. I voluntary sign up”.

The depth of Mary’s response is further emphasized when we look at the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 6:1-2. Here, he used me genoito, the opposite form of “let it be to me”: What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means (me genoito)! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Further internet searching reveals how vehement Paul was. To demonstrate how much he refused to accept this idea, he used the strongest word possibleakin to a swear word. By no means! May it never be! Absolutely not! God forbid! No way! In outrageous indignation, Paul exclaimed "h-e-double-hockey-sticks...NO!"

With that insight, we can surmise that Mary’s response was just as forceful. She was saying “Absolutely, unequivocally, [strong expression]...YES!” 

I am brought up short by Mary’s quick surrender of her will and future to God’s plan. Too many times, I respond to God’s call with a timid, "Ok, if you want me to, I’ll try" or "Well, if you insist, I don't think I can do it, but...." Mary gave no list of buts, no conditions, no hesitation...just yes! And that yes went without any explanation of the details, guarantee of the results or assurance of other’s reactions.

When I read Mary’s response, my mind immediately jumps to a well-known phrase spoken by Captain Pickard of Star Trek fame. Whenever he wished for something to happen, he simply said, “Make it so”. With complete faith in her God, Mary replied, “Make it so”. And following her example, so do I. 

What is God asking you to do? How will you respond?

PRAYER
Lord, as I look to the New Year, would you "make it so"? I surrender my will and believe that your plans are best. Sign me up for whatever you wish. H-e-double-hockey-sticks, YES.