Dear World, You Make Me So Uncomfortable!

Dear World,

I have a confession to make.

Many of you people make me uncomfortable.

It’s true. But, I try hard to hide it for a million reasons.

Reason one: I don’t see Jesus ever being uncomfortable – ever. Read the gospels. He walked through this world like He owned it. (Okay, He did, but still.)

I don’t ever see Him dodge a situation, or stumble over words, or mumble an answer. He just related to other people. All kinds. Sinners and would-be saints. He loved them AND He said hard things to them without ever skipping a beat. That, alone, is enough reason to want to be like Him.

Since I represent Him, I figure I shouldn’t be uncomfortable either, but I’m still in process of becoming like Him.

So, sometimes, I am living and speaking from the new growth part of my soul; but other times, I’m sticking up a cardboard likeness of Jesus between myself and others hoping that will hold up until I can figure out what He would say or do in this situation. It’s not really working for me or the others in my conversations, so I must find a way of not doing that.

Reason two: It’s not okay to be uncomfortable in these times. We’re all supposed to know what to say to everyone all the time. If you don’t know what to say, hesitate a heartbeat too long, it’s a signal that you are suspect (of whatever is worst to be at any given time).

It’s especially bad from someone who works with words for a living. Of all people, I ought to have the patter down. But, you know, I just don’t.

And, it’s not for lack of trying. My goodness, I’m in my Bible every day. I watch the news (more than one station). I view Ted Talks and read writers who think differently than I do as well as heroes of my faith.

I’m honestly trying to be open to people who think and live in ways that I don’t, but still represent the bold truth of the Bible. I have to tell you, one thing I’m truly looking forward to in Heaven is a long, long nap.

I study people who articulate well the truth I live, and try to do what they do. But, it’s a lot harder in the lunchroom at work than it is from a stage surrounded by people who already agree with what you’re saying.

I listen hard to people who reject this truth and try to love them with my ears, with my attention, with my attempts at empathy, knowing full well that we may connect while I listen, but the moment I open my mouth to voice what I believe, they’re just as likely to feel that all my listening was a sham, a smokescreen, a baited hook, (and are they that wrong? for I am, after all, a fisher of men – make that men and women. Make that humans. Make that . . . never mind. You know what I’m trying to say.)

But, it’s not about catching fish to eat them, but about fishing people out of the drink, so they can be safe on deck when the storm comes because you want to be in Jesus’ boat as the lightning strikes.

You get this, right? I mean, I didn’t expect this struggle. I was always the kid in class with my hand up, the one who volunteered for the speaking parts, the girl most likely to have something to say,

but more and more I’m resembling a bad mime doing an imitation of a fish drowning in water. (Wonder if that’s the symbol I should have on my rear bumper? I mean, truth in advertising, right?)

Reason three: (Okay you knew there was a third because there’s nothing a Christian loves more than truth that comes in threes.) This reason is hard to say because you’re not likely to believe it, but it’s about the fact that I really love you.

You don’t believe that because there are so many things on which we don’t agree. And in these times, to disagree apparently means we must wish each other dead or into non-existence, but that’s not where I’m coming from, as ancient and archaic and retro as that makes me.

I love you and want you to live. I want you to live forever, in fact, but the only way I know for you to do that is through Jesus Christ and with Jesus comes this narrow road, hard truths, and transformation from the way we are to the way He is and that means change – not just for you, I’m changing, too, but I already know His love so it’s a different story, isn’t it? (When I get nervous, I forget to punctuate, I know, but bear with me.)

I think, for all our sakes, I’m going to have to just move this cardboard Jesus-poster I’ve been lugging around, own up to my own humanity, and start entering conversations like this: 

“Hey, it makes me wildly uncomfortable to engage in this conversation, because I know just from listening to you that my views aren’t likely to make us friends, but I feel like I’m being dishonest under this cover of silence.”

Or, if I have more time and some Holy Spirit gumption:

“Look, I want us to be at peace. I respect you and the boldness with which you share your views. I’m not looking to judge you or add to the challenges in your life, but you and I see things differently. I hold to ancient truths that have been shared by Bible-believing Jesus-followers for centuries, and I’m not ashamed of them. I’ve been quiet because I don’t want to hurt you (and I admit, I don’t want you to hurt me), but while times are changing, these truths have not. I’ve been building a closet of silence for my own protection, if I’m honest. But for your sake, it’s important for me to come out as a Jesus-loving, Bible believing, modern-day sinner saved by grace. You may choose not to share my views and I will still love you and want to live in peace. You may not feel the same about me.”

Or, you know, maybe I’ll come up with a shorter version.

Either way. This silence isn’t working for me. And there will come a day when you’ll realize my silence was no kindness to you, either.

Thank you for listening. I hope you’re still around after I start talking,

Love, The Jesus-follower in your life.

“If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” Jeremiah 20:9

Awkward Evangelists, Bumbling Missionaries

nerd-294045_640Hey, pssst, you there – yes, you. We need to chat. This isn’t a post for someone else. Yes, I know you think I’m not aware it’s you reading this but I am. You’re precisely the one I mean to reach.

God’s not messing around, you know that, don’t you?

And by God, I’m not talking about the god who is so popular in certain circles. I’m talking about the God you and I know. The God of the Bible. The God who created the world. The God who deeply, passionately loves us. The God who talks about sin like it’s a really bad thing. So bad, He had to sacrifice His only Son to pay the price for ours. Sin is that bad. He loves us that much. The God who is Jesus. Yeah, that Jesus.

God is serious that there is no way to Him except through Jesus. He’s serious about how lethal unrepentant sin is for humans. It’s life-threatening and you and I know this because we’ve received the cure by grace, purely by grace. We aren’t smarter or more special than anyone else. But, really, no one needs to tell us that because we look into the mirror of His Word daily. We find love there. Forgiveness. Grace. Peace. But, we also find challenge. Exhortation. Confrontation. Sanctification. Hard truth. And a constant call to repentance. Continue Reading →

Why Don’t You Just Give Up, Old Woman?

writer-1342524_640

The old woman lived in a village filled with people. She loved them all (well, she tried to love them all. She succeeded with some more than the others; but then, she was a woman who needed Jesus every day. And, she never did stop trying.)

So, every day, she studied the Book of truth about Jesus and every day she spoke with Him in prayer and then listened very hard for His still, small voice. Through reading the Book and listening to Him, she understood that His powerful truth wasn’t just her truth; it was a truth for everyone in the village (because after all, if a thing is true, it is The Truth, even a little child can know this). Someone had once told her the truth and now she had the wondrous adventure of knowing Jesus. She knew what Jesus wanted was for her to tell the truth to the people of the village.

So, she did. Continue Reading →

Trying to Tone Down Jesus

summer-1174997_640I gave Him the once over.

Me:     “Okay, fine. You can come with me when I meet these people for dinner but you need to wear clothes designed in this century – something simple like jeans and a T-shirt. And, I don’t know, can you handle a hat?”

J:         “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”

Me:     “Nothing. I mean, I like it, but that’s me. It’s a little dated, that’s all.”

J:         “Are your friends into fashion?”

Me:     “No, I just want them to like you and it will help if you show up looking like you fit in. Why make your clothes a stumbling block? Is it that big a deal to wear something more culturally relevant?”

J:         “Not at all. I’d be happy to update the wardrobe.”

Me:     “Good, and, okay, don’t get offended but . . .”

J:         “Something else?” Continue Reading →

Are You Sleeping with a Beautiful Liar?

girl-1339696_640The best liars are the heartbreaking ones. The liars we desperately want to believe. The ones we allow close enough to drive the dagger deep into our exposed hearts.

I’ve changed.

I’m done with alcohol, pot, coke, that way of life, that guy, that gang, those women, that vice.

Yes, I’m taking my medication, of course, why? You can test me. I’ll do a test right now.

I’ll work with the therapist, the courts, my children, my family, this budget, your rules, of course, I’ll work, I want this to work. I’m ready for a new way this time. Last time, I just wasn’t ready but now I am.

No, of course, I’m not using again, cheating again, hearing voices again, drinking again, gambling anymore, going to that place, seeing that guy, visiting that site, missing appointments.

I know I said I’d go last week but you wouldn’t believe what happened. This week I’ll get to church, find a job, show up for therapy, be home for dinner, call that counselor, go to a meeting.

With every fiber, you want to believe their words over your gut, their story over those busybodies, their explanation over the photo, the text, the evidence in your hand. You want to believe them over your own eyes, your own bruises, your empty bank account, your Internet history, the acid in your stomach, the alarm bell in your soul that has never been wrong before. You know the plummet, like an elevator sliced from its cable that drops within you until you’re almost longing for the moment you hit bottom – but you never do.

If you believe them, if you just believe them, then the evening won’t be interrupted, the meeting can be positive, dinner will go as planned, no one has to change or turn down the path of change – that narrow, rocky, blistering, steep, lonely path of change. Continue Reading →

Catch-and-Release Evangelism

Lori 2016Do you know people who spread the gospel for sport?

I’ve been guilty of this.

Practicing a sort of catch and release mentality in the process of fishing for men. A process whereby one snags a live one, reels it in, weighs it, adds it to the tally, but then tosses it back. The soul valued only for the mark on the catch column, a bragging right, a blog post, a testimony meant to direct the spotlight toward the apostle-for-sport. Continue Reading →

How a Vegetarian Set Me Free to Share My Faith

She cornered me at the gym.
There was no graceful way to escape the torrent of words racing toward me.
Passionate words, yes,
Compelling words, maybe,
Condemning words, definitely.
Apparently, I’d been wrong about some basic stuff my whole life
and this woman had the answer
the only answer
to every problem I’d ever known
and she pressed me to convert on the spot.
She was persistent.
She made her case, illustrating with examples from her own life.
Oh yes, she walked the walk.
She was once as lost as I
but no more.
No, now she was such an devoted disciple,
she felt compelled to share the truth with everyone
at every opportunity
and I should be prepared
because she would
follow up with me tomorrow.
Not to be a pain but because she cares about me.
Now, I had a problem.
I liked this gym
but how would I ever enjoy it again
knowing I was being targeted for conversion
by a
vegetarian?!
Suddenly, though,
as the ardent woman listed
all the downfalls of my unreformed ways,
the long-term devastation my current eating habits would create,
and the countless benefits of become a disciple of vegetarianism,
a light went on inside my head.
Not an old fashioned incandescent light-bulb,
more like a search light or laser beam,
an idea so startling and simple
it revolutionized my life.
As I listened to the vegetarian woman,
well, more like allowed her words to land on my ears,
I surveyed the room and
thought about the man who’d spoken with me earlier
about all I’m doing wrong with my money
and how I should live like him.
And the liberal Democrat on the rower who
shares freely what’s wrong with anyone in the room
who prescribes to an opposing political philosophy
and the Muslim woman who requested (and received) special permission
to accommodate her modesty needs in the pool and workout room
and who graciously turns down offers of magazines
she finds immodest or spouting ideas contrary to her beliefs.
As I considered these individuals
it occurred to me that I have been a fool to hesitate to share my faith.
I’ve allowed others to cow me to silence
with cautions that no one wants to be told their way of life is wrong
or be pressured to change their ways
and I don’t want to any of that,
I just want to talk freely about my perspective on life,
a perspective informed by my love for Jesus Christ.
And I am free to do that.
The vegetarian freed me that day.
The light that went on showed me that we live in a culture
where passionate people speak openly about their passions,
where boldness abounds,
strong opinions are aired,
and lifestyles are displayed in the open marketplace without apology.
Why not mine?
And so, then, uncharacteristically for me,
I turned to the vegetarian and said,
“Thank you for sharing your passion with me.
I’ll give some thought to adapting my ways.
I wonder if you have a minute to hear about the passion that’s
Revolutionized my life?
Have you ever considered following Jesus?
You have more in common with Him than you know – He freed me once
And you’ve freed me again.”
The vegetarian was intrigued.
And so, I exercised my new freedom to speak my heart and mind
and haven’t stopped since.
We live in a culture of passionate lifestyle sharers.
Jesus freed us so we are free.
If we don’t speak up now – when?
(What did one domino say to the other? We don’t have to fall.)
What has freed you to speak up about Jesus? Tell us.

And Thou Shalt Be Like Wile E Coyote

Why do the seasons catch us all off guard?
All through the long winter, we anticipate the spring
we watch for it, longing for the signs
but one morning, we wake up, and it’s as if spring suddenly burst forth
and we wonder when the buds appeared and how forsythia exploded spontaneously.
All over New England, the coffee shops are riddled with customers complaining about the high cost of heat over breakfast and then rushing to the big box stores for air conditioner units by dinner. Next morning over coffee, all the talk will be amazement over the sudden, unexpected heat.
We marvel at cold in winter and at high temps in July as though there were no order to it all, as if we weren’t subjected to the same progression of seasons year after year.
We’re such a strange lot.
For a race created to grow and transform from cradle to grave and set down in the midst of a bubbling earth teeming with plant life and all manner of reproduction, transition, and development,
we resist change like a walk over hot coals.
Which is why I’m always late to evangelistic opportunities with the people around me.
Yesterday, I was having an everyday conversation with a woman in my life
one for whom I’ve prayed for salvation,
one for whom I’ve asked others to pray,
one to whom I’ve intentionally witnessed through words and actions for over a year
but somehow
I almost missed it when she turned an everyday chat into a confession of her awareness of spiritual poverty in her own life.
Still bent on my own conversational agenda, I kept trucking a few miles down the road of our chat before slamming on my mental brakes and thinking,
Wait. Did she just say she’s becoming aware of spiritual needs on a whole new level and wondering about her own life?
The buds on that tree appeared overnight.
And I almost missed it because I was focused on my own voice in our conversation, not hers.
Fortunately, the Holy Spirit often appears like the roadrunner in my life and sets off ACME explosives in my tracks to garner my attention and I tuned in before the conversation took an exit off the transformation highway.
whew, nearly missed the signs.
That conversation was a bucket of cold water for me. A reminder to PAY ATTENTION.
I get so focused on planting seeds, I forget the point of the planting is to produce new life
and I freak out a little at the first sign of green poking it’s tentative stem up out of the ground as a waking soul begins to climb out of the grave Satan had planned for its eternal interment.
Maybe that’s because I sow seeds on such hard, unyielding soil,
but still,
I need to watch myself that I stop expecting some of them to take root
lest I carelessly trample a tiny plant as it emerges, stretching to receive the light.
How about you?
Do you stop anticipating change in those around you?
Do you plant with expectation or have you just started planting because you know it’s what you’re supposed to do but you’ve stopped searching the brown patch of dirt for signs of life?
How do we stay aware, alert, and anticipatory? How do we stay awake with Him in the garden?
What do you think?
“And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.  He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.  The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29

What if the Road to Redemption Passes through Hollywood

james-dean-397027_640I don’t know about you
but I worry about people
who haven’t heard the truth of Jesus Christ
presented well.
But recently I’ve come to see that
our culture proclaims the gospel every day in a million ways
unwittingly, yes, but it’s there.
Which confirms what it says in the book of Romans
that what can be known about God is plain to them (us),
because God has shown it to them (us).
God’s invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature,
have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made.
So, they (us) are without excuse.” Romans 1:18-20
But when I read that, I feel confused
 because what the Bible says is plainly clear
is missed by so many people I love.
Still, I have to admit, it is there.
God has made Himself obviously evident through His amazing work of creation,
and I can even see that our own fallen creative minds
retell the truth of scripture
again and again
in our stories, our songs, our movies, our media.
Not just on PBS but everywhere.
Every drama, even our comedies, center on a character
in conflict with either him or herself
or others
or the elements
or unseen forces.
As if every storyteller from Grimm to Hollywood, knows the truth of Romans 5:3-5a “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame”
We accept, even in our fiction, that conflict is necessary
to bring us to our greater selves.
We affirm the truth of scripture when we say that without conflict, there is no story.
And then, the characters of our fictional culture frantically search for love and redemption.
In story after story,
our creative minds (or hearts?) retell the horror of the Fall,
the subsequent bondage of slavery to sin,
the attempts to create our own escape, to manufacture our own salvation
and our need for a hero
be it Batman, true love, acquittal, or a band of brothers.
We know we need to be rescued and our hearts long to find that place we can call home.
No one imagines that Hollywood or network television execs are trying to express a Biblical worldview
but still it emerges from our creative soup like truth that is so powerful
it can be masked, twisted, suppressed, oppressed, submerged, denied, and rebelled against
but it cannot be confounded
as surely as Gibbs and Monk aren’t confounded by criminal minds,
and it cannot be destroyed
anymore than Inspector Javert can destroy Jean Valjean,
it seeks to be heard as desperately and as persistently
as any American Idol
and it will infiltrate enemy lines more expertly than the team of Argo.
And a believer who is paying attention,
can use these stories
just as Paul used the statue to the unknown God in Athens
to point out to those who are lost
that what they seek is nearer than they thought;
like Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tinman
what they need is within reach,
the truth has been with them the entire journey
only hidden
and masked
from eyes that would not see.
Are you paying attention?
In martial arts, we learned to use
not just our feet and fists in a battle
but also our minds,
our opponent’s weaknesses
and our environment.
Believers are in a battle for souls.
Look around.
There is a lot of trash out there
masquerading as art and literature
but before you toss it aside,
ask God how
even the work of fallen creative hearts
can be used in the war
for souls.
What it reveals of our shared longing,
our desperation for redemption worked into a stand-up routine,
our confessions disguised as fiction,
our search for a savior expressed in poetic form,
our bondage to a merciless evil one screamed out in the chords of electric guitars,
the SOS of our drumbeats, our heartbeats, our secretly coded cries from within imprisoned hearts voicing the truth that we know we’ve taken a wrong turn
and we need a hero to guide us home.
Turn over the soft underbelly of our creative culture
and you will see the racing heart of a needy people
who only need to hear
the name of the hero they seek is
Jesus.
What if our stories have already revealed our sin, our shame, our longing for something we cannot name?
What if all you have left to do is to tell them what (who) that is?
I challenge you to look at the plots of the big box office movies this week-end, the most watched shows this week, the songs that top the billboard charts and ask God to show you what they reveal about what His lost children are seeking
then ask Him how He wants you to respond.  Then, do it.

He Who Saves One Life, Saves the World

earth-683436_640There’s something God is asking you to do.
 

But you’re hesitating.

You’re not sure.

Maybe you didn’t hear him correctly.

And certainly, He’s got the wrong person, right?

I mean, there are better Christians than you and He hasn’t asked them to do this.

You know how mixed your motives are. Maybe this isn’t from God. Maybe you’re just looking for attention for yourself.

If it was something that God wants done, certainly others would have seen it, too. Smarter people. People who have known God longer. Braver, more talented people. I mean, who are you, right?

But, there it is again. That little voice. You know that voice. It’s Him.

But this is crazy. People aren’t going to understand this. And it’s not like you to do something based on a quiet urging, a sign, a desire, a call.

Still. There it is, again.

In the days of Marco Polo, Kublai Khan, the great leader of Ancient China, opened the door of his nation to the adventurer’s God. He told Marco that he would like to learn about this God and requested he bring back with him one hundred Christians to teach his people about Jesus Christ.

Two priests answered the call to go.

Two.

But even these two, when they encountered hardship and difficulty crossing the great mountains separating east from west, turned back.

They turned back.

No one but God can know how the world would be different today if Polo could have found one hundred Christians willing to go or if the two he did find had not turned back.

If even ONE had stayed the course.

It was a pretty crazy notion and it would have taken great courage and determination to carry it through

but they had an open door.

There are open doors all over the place right now.

 To borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis, “Aslan is on the move.” God is at work. Something is afoot.

Is it the beginning of the end? I don’t know the answer to that but I know there are open doors everywhere – opportunities, moments to seize, conversations to start, risks to be taken.

You agree with me or you wouldn’t still be reading.

Jesus said: “See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” Revelation 3:8

Are you looking at an open door thinking you’re the last person you would choose to walk through it? Are you thinking you don’t even have the strength to think about having the strength? Go back and read that verse again. He’s trying to tell you that none of that matters.

Aren’t you weary of living life with your silencer on? These days call for bold moves. I’m not a bold mover, but there is the seed of boldness gestating deep inside me and it’s ready to bloom.

I’ve read the Bible. I’ve seen Jesus at work. I’ve witnessed men and women changed, transformed by a power that is greater than any other in this world.

Don’t you want to be fully part of it?

The people who followed Jesus in the past and those who follow Him now must walk away from everything they once knew and be willing to move forward no matter the risk.

People thought they were crazy. Loved ones thought they were wrong, misguided, irresponsible, off their rails. You don’t go fishing for men, right? That’s not normal.

But it is. In the kingdom that arrived when Jesus ushered it in, that is normal. And if you’re a citizen of that kingdom, risking everything is something you do before breakfast in the morning.

If not now, when?

You hear Him talking to you. You know you want to respond. You know you’re tired of pushing that urge back down. You know the stakes. You hear Him getting closer every day. So why wait any longer? Why hold back another day?

At the end of Schindler’s List, when the war is over, Schindler stands with all of the men and women he managed to save from destruction by the Nazi’s.

But in that moment, rather than feeling pride, it’s as if Schindler suddenly realizes how real the war actually was.

In some ways, he had only been playing a game of “how many  can I save?” But now, when the war is won, the realization of all those dead, the reality of what had happened, comes racing at him.

This was no game. All he can see now is how much more he could have done, how many more he could have saved. He suddenly sees the value of even One More Person.

There is a day like that waiting for all of us.

What if the risk you’re hesitating to take could save just One More Person?

After any great war, children ask those who were there “What did you do during the war?” 

What will be your answer when it’s all over one day and someone asks you, “What did you do during the war?

 
What did you risk in the days of Elijah for One More Person?”