Saturday, February 23, 2013

Letting Go

"I have started going to another church". "I can't worship here anymore". My heart sank. Not again, Lord, why are we losing another one? If I am honest, sometimes when I hear those words, I feel like Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, "Go, go, I would not have you back again!" But this time, the revolving church door was hitting me harder since these voices were my mentorees, my teammates, my "disciples" so to speak. How does a leader handle the letting go of those she has poured her heart and soul into?

In John 1:35-37, John the Baptist was just standing there with two of his disciples (John and Andrew). Jesus passed by and John B said "Look, the Lamb of God!" Immediately, the two disciples left John B and followed Jesus. Just like that! There was no going-away party, no thank you card, no explanations of why it was time to move on, no expressions of appreciation to John B for all the time and energy he had put into training, teaching and loving these two guys. They just up and left. And to top it off, Jesus took them without a word of acknowledgment to John B! He didn't even try to convince them to stay or care that he might be "stealing sheep".

Wow! How did John B handle that? I think the key was that he knew who Jesus was - the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the big cheese, the important one. John B was all about pointing his disciples to Jesus and preparing them to follow Jesus, not himself.

We catch more of the greatness of John B in John 3:23-30. This time, his disciples came to him and said, "Rabbi, that man who was with you - the one you testified about - he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him." In other words, "He's taking our people. We're losing followers. This isn't fair."

John B's reply reveals the amazing leader that he was. Not only did he know who Jesus was, he knew who he, himself, was and his purpose in life. "I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him." John B called himself the "friend who attends the bridegroom" - the best man. Any wedding is centered on the groom. He's the one who gets the bride, the prize, the attention. The best man's job is to wait for and listen for the groom and is "full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice." John B recognized Jesus' voice and rejoiced that Jesus had come and knew his job was complete.

Then comes John B's famous words, "He must become greater; I must become less." Amazing! He knew when his job was done. He didn't try to convince his disciples to stay with him. He didn't give ten reasons why they had such a good thing going and there was so much more they could do together. He knew when to bow out. He had prepared the way for Jesus and now it was time to fade from the scene. He could rejoice that his disciples had left him to follow the Messiah.

Letting go of one's "disciples" is hard. We invest so much by way of teaching, discipling, listening, advising, praying (not to mention cups of coffee and tea) into the lives of those we love. We see potential in them and we want them to mature and serve Jesus. But I know that deep down, I also want a return on my investment. I'd like them to stay and help me serve. I'd like credit for their success. I'd like to be able to keep influencing (controlling?). I want them to do it "my way".

Oh, Father, forgive me for holding too tightly to your disciples. Teach me to let them go as John B did. May I point them to you and point out you to them so that that when I hear your voice, I can say, "Go follow Jesus. He is the Lamb of God. He is the one who has eternal life." Show me when it is my time to bow out and fade from scene. May I rejoice that my friends are following you.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

For My Dating Sons

Today, I pulled out my old Bible, a dilapidated, well-loved and worn Living Bible from my youth. It is filled with markings, notes, papers and indications of my young faith in Christ. I was startled to find a piece of paper with notes about dating. This information is not for me anymore, so instead I pass this on to my sons, who both recently began to date. So to Lane and John-Mark (and their precious women), I pass on the “wisdom” of my youth (combined with some additions from my experienced “wisdom”).

What is a date?
Getting together exculsively with someone of the opposite sex to do something together.

What do you want to accomplish?
You need to be aware that you are laying a foundation for marriage. You are not just “having a good time”.

Have you set your dating standards?
Decide your standards before you date but, of course, it is never too late to set boundaries.
  • Plan first dates in group arenas. Double dates give you a chance to learn about each other before being totally alone.
  • Talk openly about your beliefs and standards.
  • Pray together. Invite God’s presence into your time together.
  • Avoid late nights when you are tired and alone.
  • Save sex for marriage (that includes anything sexual).
  • Concentrate on building the other up and not yourself.
Is sexual temptation wrong?
No. It’s what you do with it that leads to sin. Physical contact is an appetizer, not an after-dinner mint. “Love can wait to give, but lust can’t wait to get.” Real love is patient and waits for the protective frame that marriage provides sexual intimacy.

Why not just “be” together? Why marriage?

To become one. (Gen 2:24, Eph 5:31)
You are now getting to “know” each other. This “knowing” happens on many levels and grows deeper as you develop your relationship, perhaps ending in “knowing” each other intimately in marriage (Heb 13:4). Work toward building that oneness.

True love involves commitment. (Mark 10:9)
True commitment is for a lifetime. You can’t have love without trust and you can’t have trust without commitment.

Men and women need each other. (Gen 2:18, 20)
God said it was not good for man to be alone. Alone we become selfish beings caring only about ourselves and our comfort. Alone we are fearful and build fortresses around ourselves to keep out others. Alone we have no support when life gets hard and battles are insurmountable. Woman was created an equal counterpart, an ezer kenegdo, a complement, to man’s nature. In marriage, she is given to you to help you “rule and subdue the world” which for you means whatever God is calling you both to do for his kingdom. She is to be an “ally-warrior” at your side to help you fight life’s battles and fight for God’s kingdom. And she is given so that you might create more God-worshippers in this world. 

My sons, I conclude with one last word to you as men. If God gives you the gift of a wife (Pr 18:22 says that is a good thing), you are to be her kephale (head). This doesn’t mean that you lord it over her or have the right to tell her what to do. This means that she is joined to you as a head and a body are joined together. Because of this, you should seek to do whatever benefits her and builds her up. You should help her discover herself and be all that she was created by God to be. This means that daily you sacrifice yourself for her and put her needs above your own. This is a tall order but with God's help, it can be done. Begin now to treat your girlfriend as better than yourself, as the gift that she is to you.

May God bless you both,

PS. For those who are single, please do not take this to mean that without a spouse you will be a selfish, fearful and guarded person. Men and women need each other in every sphere of life. We are all called to fight for God's kingdom together. May God guide you to find that special way that you can "rule and subdue" the earth and provide relationships so that you will not be "alone".

Friday, February 1, 2013


A bollard is a short vertical post. Originally it meant a post used on a ship or a quay, principally for mooring. The word now also describes a variety of structures to control or direct road traffic, such as posts arranged in a line to obstruct the passage of motor vehicles. In addition, bollards are used in the lighting industry to describe short, post-like light fixtures.

I was recently introduced to bollards and I immediately didn’t like them. In fact they made me afraid. I am a new bicycle rider, taking up riding on rail trails with my husband. I am gaining confidence but when I saw the row of bollards in front of me, I was afraid. I had to navigate to make sure I rode between these poles placed about 3 feet apart. I was sure I would miss and hit the pole. Because I was so careful the first few times, I managed to slow down and timidly make it through the poles. Then just as I thought I was getting better, I actually ran right into one of them! Yes, my husband laughed at me!

My plight with the bollards made me think about fear. People are afraid of many things. We call them phobias. Some fears are common, like the fear of heights (acrophobia) and fear of speaking in public (glossophobia). Some are understandable like the fear of snakes (ophidiophobia) or the fear of high speeds (tachophobia) or the fear of crossing streets (agyrophobia). Some make us smile like testophia (the fear of taking tests) or hobophobia (the fear of homeless people) or hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia (the fear of the number 666).

I am not generally a fearful person. I don’t usually let fear disarm me. After all, I am not afraid to stand up in front of a large group of people to speak about almost anything or fly half way around the world in an airplane. Maybe that is why the bollard was so startling to me. It forced me to acknowlege that there might be other areas of fear in my life that I am avoiding. For example, I fear driving in a busy city or getting lost driving in a place I am unfamiliar with. I fear taking a road trip by myself to another state. Hence, I do not go unless I can find someone else to do the driving. I avoid making phone calls. I avoid heights. I avoid filling out the fafsa form. Yes, I avoid the things I fear. 
David Benner in Surrender to Love says, “Fearful people live within restrictive boundaries. They may appear quite cautious and conservative. Or they may narrow the horizons of their life by avoidance and compulsion. They also tend to be highly vigilant, ever guarding against life’s moving out of the bounds within which they feel the most comfortable.”

Controlling our world usually backfires. My fear of driving has kept me from going some places I would like to go. My fear of the bollards could lead me to avoid bicycle riding all together. Or I might only ride on trails that have no bollards. If I let my fear of the bollards keep me from riding, I will miss out on many things - precious time with my spouse, the beautiful outdoors, a great way to exercise.

My fear of bollards is only a small thing. But I must start by recognizing and overcoming the small fears. 2 Corinthians 3:5 reminds me that We don't have the right to claim that we have done anything on our own. God gives us what it takes to do all that we do.

Even if I have to get off my bike and push it through the bollards, I will not let this irrational fear stop me from enjoying the beauties of God’s creation and the intimacy of time with my spouse. Instead, I will depend on the power of God to give me what it takes to face my fears and not avoid them.

What are you afraid of? Snakes? Losing a child? Being alone? Flying on a plane? Intimacy? Loss of control? Attention? Neglect? Death? Pleasure? Pain? Rejection? What are you missing out on because you are avoiding facing your fear?

Lord, give me what it takes to do what I need to do to face my fears and not avoid them. I praise you and trust that you are big enough to walk with me through my fear, help me stand and face it and take the next step.

Meditation on Isaiah 32:1-8

See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. The fearful heart will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear. No longer will the fool be called noble nor the scoundrel be highly respected. For fools speak folly, their hearts are bent on evil: They practice ungodliness and spread error concerning the Lord; the hungry they leave empty and from the thirsty they withhold water. Scoundrels use wicked methods, they make up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just. But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand.

I may not be a king, but I am a leader and I can be a righteous person. A righteous person is like a shelter, a refuge, a stream, or shade to help people see the truth and hear it. Giving others the truth will help fearful people know and understand what is keeping them in fear. Truth will also help those who stammer to speak fluently and clearly.

The righteous is then contrasted with the fool. Those we consider our heroes (the nobles) are actually fools. In this world today, we respect scoundrels. They contradict the truth with  lies. Their methods are slander, evil, keeping needy people hungry, unsatisfied and thirsty. In other words, they withhold what people need. Generosity is the opposite of this foolish behavior.

Help me be this kind of leader, Lord. Generous with your truth so others are fed and given shelter. Help me not withhold the living water and the truth that will set them free. Teach me to be a righteous leader rather than a fool and help me to recognize fools when I encounter them.

My child, don't leave your people hungry or without spiritual water. Give them what they need. Be a shelter to them. Help them discern the truth and be able to articulate what they believe. Be generous. Give freely of ME and of your knowledge.