Senka has a message, we can help her live it.

Senka July2013Serbia has come along way when it comes to the rights and support of people with disability, but it still has a long way to go. Several years ago I traveled twice to Serbia to see the conditions of people living with disabilities in Dom Veternik mental institution. An institution is no place for a person to live. Many of Eastern Europe’s institutionalized people were born with normal mental capacity, but were challenged with physical disabilities. They found themselves institutionalized anyway.

And then there’s Senka! On my second visit I was surprised to see a small woman with cerebral palsy at an event. I may even have scared her I was so eager to meet her! She is unique. Senka stood out in a society that has a limited population living with disabilities in public.

And what a joy! She had recently become a Christian and was eager to share the truth of Jesus with others. Her smile lit up the room, and there wasn’t a trace of self-pity in her conversation. She is an overcomer.Senka 2

But it’s not easy living with disabilities in Serbia. The government provides little assistance to people who need it. And while new buildings and transportation may be built to code for access, most buildings are still inaccessible. I watched Senka try to navigate life during my few days in Novi Sad, it was a slow, tedious process. She is determined, but it’s obvious she needs assistance.

I’m passionate about assisting Senka because I can’t decry the institutionalization of people like her, without supporting someone who has beaten the odds, who sets the example to her community every day!

I have set up a GoFund Me campaign to help Senka pay a personal assistant. She needs about $165 a month to pay someone to help her navigate her daily activities such as school, shopping, and social outings. Because assistance is limited for people like Senka she relies on the help of friends and her own creativity.

You can read more about Senka at her GoFund Me page. We love to talk about equality and helping others, and this is a great opportunity to do it! Senka is an example to her community that people with disability can and should be a part of society. Her message of joy and determination in the face of challenges is just what her community needs! I hope you’ll join me in helping Senka overcome her society’s obstacles! Any little bit helps!

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Lullaby – How My Mother Lived With Hope In spite of Cancer

One of the last clear sentences my mama said to us was “She wants to be free – unfettered.” A few days later she flew home to be with Jesus. She had been diagnosed with cancer almost three years before. The journey was long. On the way she wrote these words. They are a comfort to me. I hope they will be to you too as you journey home.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

Winter wrapped the rawness of a cold night around our small cabin. The crisp, stark evening fell hard. Beautiful in it’s severity. But the sturdy cabin stood brave against nature, protecting us. Tucked away in a crease of the giant hill our small home was shielded against the seeing eyes of the world, neighbors, or the passerby. And except for the telltale mail box and open mouth of the driveway there would not have been a hint that life was being lived in that fold of earth. The capable wood stove of our cabin glowed red, fighting off the threatening cold just outside, and warmed us as we observed our evening habits, our ritual falling into place, like every other night.

My husband had achieved reentry from his day of hard work, and time together had been well spent around the black stove as we enjoyed the remains of the day. Dinner had been satisfying, delicious in it’s life giving. And our chatter had been satisfying as well. Our conversation had not been of much importance or of great interest, but necessary in sustaining the relationship, keeping us in touch with each other, a little like taking a pulse. We used this time to familiarize ourselves with each other after the separation of the day. I washed up dishes looking out on a view I never tired of. The almost gone sun made leafless trees and pines, which edged the ridge, appear shadowy against a deep purple sky creating my rural skyline. The angle of the meadow right out my window was a very steep grade and it’s contrast with the horizontal tree line could sometimes make me dizzy. I gave thanks for it’s beauty again as I looked at it for the last time of the day.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

Settled in our favorite, respective chairs we read aloud together. Using someone else’s words to help put meaning and description to our own feelings and thoughts. We found comfort, pleasure and amusement in another’s creativity. It was an ordinary evening, exactly the same as other evenings. It was the sameness that made if feel secure, familiar, and comfortable. All seemed right with the world, especially in our secluded, private piece of it. Troubles seemed far away if not nonexistent. The grandfather clock dutifully counted off nine strikes signaling phase two of our evening, and our flow moved upstairs seeking deeper rest. Dependent pets were taken care of, their needs of food and warmth supplied, all lights were turned off, downstairs shades drawn, doors bolted securely against evening and anything unwelcome it might hold. I usually made it upstairs first, turning back covers, covering our canine companion on his bed, and beginning my relaxing, warm shower, ready for cozy covers. He lagged behind feeding the little black stove a heaping serving of logs. Guaranteeing warmth in the depths of the cold night. I was soon followed by him, where he took his place on his side of the bed, and he checked in on the cyber world while waiting for the last of the evening’s rituals to be complete. Being in a rhythm together had given peace, now for sweet, restorative sleep. Layers of covers insulated us and the nearness of another added to the warmth of our bed.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

The silence outside so filled our sheltered nook you could almost hear it. Any sound was amplified by the cove and by the crispness of a winter night. Stillness, the partner of silence, settled on us just as the heavy, black velvet of night blanketed us. All was hushed as if the earth had put her finger to her lips and issued a slow shhhh. It was easy to imagine us all alone on the planet, but being watched by the universe. As I had pulled the last shade against the dark, I glanced up at the seamless sky seeing it full of watching, twinkling eyes. Tucked in, sleep came easily and cocooned us. Soon after darkness was allowed into our room breathing slowed and deepened, movements became involuntary and our bodies worked on auto pilot having been programed for a night setting. Visions from unknown places, funny, weird, or relating to the events of the day played in our heads while the mystery of sleep was at work holding us captives in other worlds. Dreams became our reality and there we lay. The clocks in the cabin ticked in the night and the sands of time slipped away unnoticed. The night deepened and the world whispered.

Sometime in the night I woke to change my position, adjust overs. Something wasn’t right. Maybe this leg needed to move, or that pillow be shifted. Comfort had left me. Dread lay a heavy hand on me. I sensed it in the room. It moved from corner to corner and whispered uncertainty to my fear. The menacing spectral was glad to have me alone in the darkness, there it could fill me with worry. It offered me anxiousness, not of anything certain but made me guess while my fear grew. I recognized fear. The gripping you have when you smell smoke in your house but you can’t find it. It was present but wouldn’t identify itself. It laughed at me, making fun of the peace I had celebrated during the day. It lay close, up against my cheek, ridiculing the security I had found in The Faithful One. Spinning stories of failure, ruined finances, loneliness, disaster. Casting doubt on my belief in Forever, it hissed that the dark hole may be all that awaits. I felt suffocated, my heart rate increase, panic began in my chest but the darkness gave me nowhere to hide from my tormentor. A prayer formed in my heart and I cried out for reassurance.

Taken by Steve Morton

Taken by Steve Morton

I heard it faint and far off. A low, easy sound broke the spell encasing me. I reached over my head to raise the window allowing the cold air to usher in my comfort. Deep in the woods of the ridge a lone owl sang it’s night song. Who, who,who,who. It sliced through the darkness of night and my soul. I lay still, listening, willing it to sing again. Needing the sound of a fellow living creature. A companion song came from across the meadow. The same song, the same tune, it’s mate in one accord. The two owls created to endure the cold, to give life to the empty night, sang in duet and I heard their words given to them by their Creator. They sang to the One who had given them voice, and to me. They sang, “I will praise the One who made me, I will be the owl He knows, I will watch over the darkness, I am not alone. He is faithful to His creatures, He is watching over all. He sees you in your darkness, He does not sleep, He hears our song, He sees you weep.” The mountain walls vibrated with their worship, it rippled through all of the wood. As the praise of the night filled my room, the blackness that sought to fill the night and my heart could not stay. I joined in the praise to Him, along with the singers of the night, until I fell asleep. Peace had returned with the lullaby.

 

The unknown has become known to my mom. What she hoped, a reality. Her hope was not in a god of her making or imagining. But in the God made known through creation and the words of the Bible. How could I have let go of her if we hadn’t received the comfort that God was present with her, with us, keeping his promises to the very end?

Regardless of what we are experiencing, God is present, he hears us, he will not leave us. And he desires the gift of our worship in those moments. It’s what all of his creatures were made for.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:1-2, 7, 14

The Promise of Abundance

Abundance1God has promised to provide in the here and now. He supplies all we need. He gives himself. But that doesn’t mean bad things don’t happen. How do we embrace abundance in the face of loss in this world?

Eternity. If God hadn’t promised to reconcile the whole earth to himself through Jesus sacrifice there would be no hope. But once we enter God’s kingdom our horizon broadens. If this life was all there was then no way, it wouldn’t be good enough. It would be a bum deal. But it’s not all there is.

The promise of abundance gives us hope.

Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. Ephesians 1 The Message

“Glorious living,” that sounds abundant, doesn’t it?! But what happens when the life you’re living feels less than glorious?

My daughter struggles with anxiety. The move we made this summer and the passing of my mother this fall didn’t help with that one bit. She has developed trichotillomania, a hair pulling condition often triggered by anxiety, although it can have other causes.

Her eyebrows are not abundant. Actually they’re patchy and thin, along with her eyelashes. She even pulls hair on her arms and legs. Thankfully she’s stayed away from the head but I’m always afraid I’m going to find a bald patch one day.

I’ve noticed in Maggie what I’ve noticed in a lot of people, including myself, a fear of scarcity. What if love doesn’t last? What if security dries up? What if there’s not a place for me, or I can’t make friends, or someone else is better, or I don’t get a turn.

From kids to adults those fears can plague us can’t they. What if there’s not enough. Thankfully in God’s kingdom there is always enough. Of course grandmas die and moves still happen. But my prayer for Maggie is that she begins to look past the veil of this world and catch a glimpse of the cosmic story, the eternal reality, we’re all a part of, but are so often unaware of. This life isn’t all there is. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Before it all began you were thought of. Before sin ruined what was perfect, there was a plan. After your last breath, the living’s still not over. For those who have trusted Jesus to be the hero of the story, the one to lead us home, there is full throttle living ahead.

I want Maggie to get that! I don’t know if it will change the hair pulling, but I know it will change her anxiety. If she, if all of us, can understand that we’ve been welcomed into a kingdom of abundance I think we would be joyful, whimsical, hopeful people. Not that it won’t hurt when bad things happen but our perspective will be so much bigger than the moment.

In those dark moments, or even seasons, we have to ask ourselves; do we believe the promises God has made in the Bible, to give us a life of abundance, are true? Sometimes the promise is all we have to hold on to.

I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband. I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.” Revelation 21 The Message

I’ve read these passages to Maggie many times. She loves them. Intuitively she knows she’s destined for another home, because this one is just not enough. Some seasons in our life do not reflect abundance materially, relationally, physically, even mentally, but God has made a promise. Abundance to all who come to him, now through his Spirit, and later face to face.

It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life. Ephesians 1 The Message

The Holy Spirit helps us to endure, to overcome this life. He doesn’t remove us from it, but his presence with us is the down payment, the assurance we will receive all the healing and restoring that’s been promised to us. There is abundance today, but there’s a lot more where that came from!

In Search of Abundance

Abundance1November seems to burst with abundance! Berries ripen, fat pumpkins line up in rows, hearts expand with thanks, communities begin the preparation of celebrating harvest, advent, and a new year. Abundance. We long for it. For fullness of health, of resources, of relationships, of opportunities, of freedom. We fear scarcity and ache for our lives to overflow.

I have had season’s full to the brim. And seasons sucked dry with want and emptiness. No doubt you have too. The last 12 to 18 months have been, to date, my deepest season of grief. At moments the bitter taste of my heart shrinking in on itself has left me gasping. I’ve feared my whole life and soul would stay shriveled up like a prune.

Season’s of drought and dead dreams can seem eternal. But a heart indwelt by the Holy Spirit has the capacity to soak in God’s goodness, and heal – even in lean times. Once we’ve been refreshed we won’t settle for the sour taste that comes from a fearful, unforgiving heart. We won’t settle for scarcity in the light of God’s promise of abundance.

Last month I wrote about kindness. I don’t know if I’ll write about abundance this whole month. But it’s what I’m writing about today. It’s what I want to think about right now.

The day my husband and I realized we had to sell the dream home we had bought only 12 months before, I cried. I asked God why he would give me a gift just to take it away. Through those tears the Holy Spirit whispered, a blessing is a blessing regardless of its duration.

And it’s true. A child, a good job, a parent, a home, health, love, financial security, respect, friends, freedom, all of these things are blessings no matter how long they last. A blessing brings joy to our lives, not merely because we enjoy the goodness of its presence, but because it originated in the heart of our true Love. Abundance flows from the heart of God, or not at all.

This fall the rain has poured down for days. Even now it is drenching the ground, washing, pounding, saturating the earth. But it will dry up in time. The earth will get hard, plants will whither. And after a while the rain will flow again. So it is in life. Some seasons are a fire hose to the mouth, we’re drowning in abundance. In others our tongue sticks to the roof of our mouth, parched with longing.

I don’t fully feel the blessings of the season I’m in yet. I want to live in my dream house again. I ache for a home of my own, and a dog, daily. Every day I want a place for my heart to unwind and feel safe and at ease. A place for my hands to create, my arms to welcome freely, a place that looks like me. Where people will know my heart more deeply when they walk through the doors because I’ve displayed it on the canvas of my home. Every day I long for this. I’m still mourning what I’ve lost.

Over the years I’ve learned to recognize that at the heart of it my longing for home is a reflection of my desire for heaven. But that doesn’t change what I hope for on this earth right now, a place of my own. I share this, not to elicit sympathy, but to say simply, we all have unfulfilled longings. I get it.

Through it all I pray for contentment. Even if I don’t feel it in this moment, I know God gives good gifts and I trust him. I want to hold out my hands in expectation of the rain and let his presence filter through my fingers, and drip down my lips, and saturate my heart. I want to find the true blessing there, abundance.

Who hasn’t felt weary, poured out, and lost at moments? Every one of us has been wrung out by life. Sometimes we look at our neighbor and think, “what have they done to be so blessed by God and I feel like Job.” But that’s a lie, every one of us has the capacity for abundance.

So what do we do in the lean moments? We put out our pots and bowls to collect the rain that’s coming. We get ready to contain blessing. We stretch our hearts out to a greater capacity to collect the truth and presence of God. He is sufficient. We have to be ready to contain the supply.

Ultimately it comes down to agreeing with his word. Submitting to it. And reciting it. Whether we feel like it or not. Because you know what? His word is amazing. It can take feelings, and broken thoughts, and turn them around. Seasons that once felt lean can suddenly gush out blessing, without any circumstances changing at all.

The secret is recognizing that Jesus is the true prize, having him is the real abundance. And as my mama always said, “we have as much Jesus as we want.” 

Sometimes Jesus gives us earthly homes that speak our language and warm our hearts. And sometimes he himself is our home. Sustaining us supernaturally through tough times.

Here is what we can do to get ready to receive abundance, and what I mean by abundance is a sense of well-being, of joy, of satisfaction and contentment. Abundance doesn’t necessarily have to do with material blessings.

  1. Learn God’s word. Be familiar with what he says is true. There’s nothing like believing a lie to suck joy right out of your life, even if you’re unaware it’s a lie and are sincere.
  2. Believe God’s word. It’s one thing to know what God says, it’s another thing to stake your life on it. An honest reliance that what God says is true will bring life.
  3. Praise God. Even when it’s hard, when you feel offended, or slighted, either by people or life in general. Worship God because he deserves it and it’s what you were made to do. Worship increases our heart capacity for more of God.
  4. Bless others. When we take our eyes off of ourselves, stop recounting our losses, and focus our care on someone hurting more than us, we realize how full our lives are. God blesses his people in order that they may be a blessing.
  5. Remember. It’s better to retell the ways God has been present and generous than to rehash the ways life has hurt us. When we look back at what God has done it gives us hope for the future and eyes to see good in the right now.

Abundance relies on God’s willingness to bless his people, and he is willing, and on our willingness to be satisfied by better things. Often what we think we want isn’t the best God has to offer. He can adjust our perspective and expectations, if we let him. It’s not an easy process. (I’ve been known to pitch fits, I’m ashamed to say.) But it will change us. Instead of living in the fear of scarcity, we will begin to live in the assurance of abundance. 

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:31-34

Once again, I find I’m preaching to myself. If you, by chance, needed to listen in too, I hope you found encouragement! God is not holding out on us! He offers his very best. Himself. Let’s put out our pots and get ready for the rainfall of his provision!

Goodbye

Two and a half years ago I wrote these words as part of Lisa Jo’s Five Minute Friday writing prompt (the word prompt was goodbye). It was April. Mom had been diagnosed with cancer for barely five months. Our conversations were deep and rich and filled with the meaning of things. We weren’t saying goodbye yet, but we were getting ready. 
Generations
Why does goodbye hurt so much? What makes it hard? Stretching thin the fibers of hearts, pulling the bond taught between them. So tight you could pluck and twang their cords. Goodbye. Relocation tests the metal of relationships. The fast paced frenzy of our culture, taking us hither and yon, has prompted creative ways to touch hearts and minds like never before. It’s amazing the ways we’ve found to stretch our goodbyes into long distance hellos.
But there’s a goodbye that hurts like a birth and won’t be satisfied. It burns and aches for decades. No connection prolongs that goodbye from a distance. Even though we celebrate and anticipate those leaving us for Heaven’s wonders, the ache still comes. Why, when we know we’ll see them again, do we grieve so long?

Unity. We were made for this. Separation is unnatural. Death speaks a final word. We were meant to be together. Meant to be joined at the heart to Father God, joined at the heart with brother man. Hear death’s warning: We were made for unity. The bride here and the bride there cannot be complete until we’re together, eternal, and we long and ache and twist until it’s done.

The Spirit and the Bride say come, unify us, Lord Jesus! My Mom and I have been talking about unity a lot lately. This week we talked about what death is saying to us, about unity in light of eternity. Death is calling out; embrace unity with God and each other, hold out unity while there is time. Death is God’s final warning. A reminder that we were made for unity with him. This life is an invitation. What will you do with the call to unity?

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:22-23
handsblackandwhite

There were times, especially toward the end, that it looked like mom was a victim. A victim of cancer. To an extent that may have been true. But the deeper truth is that she was an active, willing participant to reconciliation. One of mom’s favorite verses was 2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

Sometimes we stop too short though. If we keep reading we will realize the purpose of the new creation. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Her illness meant nothing if it didn’t participate in the work of reconciliation in her family, or community, or even the world around her. Reconciliation is the means to unity. Reconciliation says come home.

What broken areas of your life can you surrender to Jesus for him to use as the means of reconciliation? How have you responded to God’s call for unity?

I know God loves me because of you

“I know God loves me because he gave me you!” My mom used to say that to me, often. As a child I knew I was one of her gifts. An expression of God’s love. Because she told me so.

My husband and I have served in church ministry for fifteen years. We’ve experienced our share of joy and pain in church life. No doubt if you’ve hung out in churches for any length of time you have too. Sometimes I have dwelt too long on the hurts, allowing them to eclipse the amazing love that has been poured out on our lives.

But there are moments that bring me back to the joy of family life. Those seasons when I just know I couldn’t make it without my brothers and sisters, and I wouldn’t want to.

It takes all of us, filled with God’s Spirit, reflecting his nature, to make up the person of Jesus here on earth. And that’s exactly what’s happened in my life. Sure, occasionally we get out of sync with one another, sometimes we’re more focused on serving self than on worshiping Jesus. But the reality is, it’s with YOU, my brothers and sisters in the family of God, that I most experience Jesus.

Looking back it’s easy to see now that in every church I’ve shown up to, Jesus was there waiting on me, he was in each of you! I know God loves me because he gave me you!

So many times I have been loved by Jesus through the skin of humans. I’ve been forgiven, corrected, encouraged, enjoyed, cared for, prayed over, taught, celebrated, embraced. In every single season of my life.

I’m convinced, and I believe the book of Ephesians agrees, that we cannot fully love God or experience his love without the relationship of fellow followers of Christ. When we’re hurt it’s easy to pull back from the church and want to do our own God thing independently. But that’s not actually a viable option left open for us in God’s word.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:2-6

I’m amazed when I look at each of you and find Jesus smiling back at me through your eyes! That is truly a gift!

I’ve found it to be especially true over these last weeks that have been so hard. As my family has said goodbye to my precious mama, Jesus, through the church, has wrapped his arms around us. You have prayed, and written, and sent food, and showed up, and prayed, and encouraged, and cried with us, and prayed. And I’ve known Jesus more deeply because of you all. I truly know God loves me because he gave me you. Thank you.

Do you take your role in the body of Christ seriously? Without your presence people are missing out.

Just some thoughts rattling in my head

Ok, so you know how I sometimes go places I shouldn’t in thought land and stick my neck out even when I know it’s risky? I’ve been pondering some things lately, and I asked myself this question: “Why, as Christians, do we feel the need to point out our disagreement with some people’s life styles?” And by people I in particular mean gay people. Although the thought applies in general. I mean I don’t walk up to an overweight acquaintance or friend and say – God condemns gluttony, I don’t condone your lifestyle but I still love you. So why in the world do we find it necessary to say that to a gay acquaintance? (And honestly few things have done more damage to holiness, the family, or marriage than greedy attitudes. Certainly, so called gay marriage isn’t nearly the risk that greed is for eroding the family.)

Are we so afraid that if we don’t let everyone know the things we’re against they’ll think we ‘condone’ them? Life change happens best in relationship. We only get to talk about people’s personal lives when we have the permission born of intimate relationship. We really need to understand that. If we want to speak to the ‘issue’ of homosexuality then we need to be friends with gay people and earn the right to speak (says the woman writing a book with a gay protagonist, I struggle with following my own advice – often).

That applies to every area of life. How many children someone has, whether a mom works or stays home, people’s eating, drinking, smoking habits, etc., those conversations happen best in a close personal relationship. Which is why community is so important.

I’m not saying that in the church we shouldn’t hold others accountable or be held accountable. Holiness is God’s desire and plan for us. He’s committed to making us holy people. Certainly we should engage one another in conversations that challenge and stimulate obedience to God’s word. But that requires discernment, humility, and gentleness.

I feel so terribly raw lately. It seems my ears have a lifetime of critical words clogged in them. And honestly my own mouth has uttered a grotesque amount of my own.

I long for kindness. I long for gentle attitudes toward one another in the church. I’m guilty, I confess, of harsh thoughts. But I want “I understand” conversations, instead of “you ought” judgments. And for the world – what if we bathed the wounds of people who are different than us, like the good Samaritan did, rather than pass by like the pharisee because we don’t ‘agree’ with who they are. What if our mercy convicted? Because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen proclaimed moral rectitude change a heart.

How we as Christians relate to each other is different than how we relate to the world. But the truth is I think as Christians we are often more concerned with a code of conduct and behavior than with a high view of Jesus. But a high view of who Jesus is produces a humble understanding of who we are, a desire to be holy, and overflows in mercy to everyone. Those who live pure lives in winsome ways are the most compelling.

The truth is, my biggest fear in life, as a laborer in the church, is religiosity. The force of religiosity breeds judgement that quite frankly is deadly. I fear a love for religion taking up residence in my own heart. I know the consequences. Religion kills grace, promotes self righteous judgement, and breeds a fear of others.

But grace. It’s the antidote to religion. Oh it’s so hard to live in. But it heals the heart!