Monday, March 27, 2017

Word for the Day

I heard a *story recently about a pastor who was rebuked by a young congregant for wearing a suit and tie to church on Easter Sunday. The pastor unknowingly represented the harsh judgment this woman experienced in a church that viewed formality as mature spirituality. The casual nature of her new fellowship had been healing, so naturally to be reminded of a painful past seemed justifiably her mind her new pastor was guilty. Funny thing was, she was now guilty of placing as harsh a judgment on her new pastor by viewing IN-formality as mature spirituality.

What would have been different in her response to a suit and tie had she forgiven those who had judged her for dressing casually? Instead, she had condemned the people who had condemned her.
Then spewed the un-forgiveness onto her new pastor.
Reflecting on this story, has granted me fresh insight into why there is so much dissension in our country and in our churches. There is a word missing in the wrongs being addressed. It is a word for our times...a word for the day.
The word is: forgiveness.

Our culture is suffering the brutal consequences of widespread un-forgiveness.
Black and white
Left and right
Straight and gay
Male and female
Parent and child
Faithful and faithless

We are angry, bitter people; spewing out of our wounded beings and limited perceptions of God, distorted views on justice and love.
We all carry mantles as a way of sharing His Kingdom in this world. And with them often a sense of moral superiority. The causes of our day weigh on us: The refugee, the single-mom, the unborn baby, the poor, the sick, the widow, the neglected, the orphaned, the enslaved...
Does God call us to address injustice? Absolutely. As He does.
Is anger a motivating force that propels us into action, yes! As He is.
His anger serves to address the wrong for the purpose of restoring relationship...always.
And could any relationship be more devastated than the one between rebellious, sinful man and a Holy, perfect God?
Is there any greater line of distinction than Creator and created?
Jesus walked about, addressing the wrongs of His day...but ALWAYS for the sake of pointing people to His Father, to relationship with Him; NOT simply to relieve their suffering. Any believer must admit the power of suffering in leading us to Him...He is the only One able to fix all that is wrong through relationship with our Father in Heaven, through His sacrifice and victory and by the power of His Spirit.

Jesus, at the moment of  history's greatest injustice cried, "Father, forgive them...they do not understand"
So true, we think we understand but we do not understand...none of us fully understands.
What would be different if we introduced ourselves to the thought..."I might not fully understand"!
What would be different if we forgave those who have caused pain by their lack of understanding and by twisted perceptions of godliness, as we ourselves most assuredly have?


If men may wander
from their homes
and leave a wife
and children prone
to borrow, beg and steal...
who am I to say?

If wives, alone are
left to fend
and spend their time
with other men
whose wives are left as well...
who am I to say?

If children left to
raise themselves
and entertain
with lusts un-shelved
a fading, starving soul...
who am I to say?

If those who lead in
office, grand
with gross resource
at their command
wield their vice with heavy hand...
who am I to say?

If someone's wid'ning
emerald eyes
feast upon
another's prize-
to glut and then reclines...
who am I to say?

If enemies swing
guns and swords
they've divine support
to fight and maim and kill...
Who am I to say?

If all that's in a
hidden muse
Reeks rancid
poison to infuse-
blotting beauty from the world...
Who am I to say?

But there is One who may.

His heart was and is always for the sake of ALL...the sinning and the sinned-against, the oppressed AND the oppressor.
God does not wear a t-shirt spouting love for all on the front...and picturing a dissenter hanging from a noose on the back.
Could it be that in addressing what we define as hateful and judgmental, we are guilty of judgment and hatred?
It seems to me, that whatever political, spiritual or social side we find ourselves fighting, we are often fighting out of un-forgiveness.
As a result, no matter how good we believe our cause or how just our mantle, without forgiveness, we do NOT represent our Father, and we will ultimately NOT do good in this world.

*Story from Matt Chandlers video series "To Live is Christ"
**JCarnuccio 3/2015

Sunday, November 27, 2016

"I Wish..." - Reflections of a Republicrat

I am soon to enter my 50th year of life. For all of my voting history, I have called myself a Republican. This year I became officially “Non-affiliated”, or more specifically, a “Republicrat”.
The more I attempt to understand the differences the more I see that
both parties, contrary to the media, have much to admire and much to apologize for.
For a solid year my head has circled around the claims and shames of both parties until I concluded that I simply could not vote 2016...until election day came.
Then as every responsible and privileged citizen of our country, I got to the polls, agonizingly inked my oval and begged God for His mercy.
In the violent discord that has followed, my mind continues to cycle through repulsion and relief over which oval I inked November 8. The truth is, both figuratively and literally, we all lost at some level and I am so saddened by the hatred that has ensued.
So for my self-therapy, I offer this political essay, in the hopes that it might bring reconciliation to someone at some level even if it’s just my own circle.
Many Americans have come to define our form of government as a democracy ( “a system of government by the whole population or in which all eligible members of individual states make laws, typically through elected representatives”). In reality, the United States of America was designed to function as a Constitutional Republic ( a system of government in which elected representatives, and an elected “Commander in Chief”, make laws within constitutional limits).
Most local and state governments have the right to give voters a voice in passing laws, while on a national level those laws are strictly passed by the officials. Citizens have no way to directly make laws. At the inception of our nation, the  forefathers attempted to ensure our future against mob rule (society at the mercy of a fickle majority) on one side and tyranny on the other (society at the mercy of a dictator).
2016 has been a pathetic display of the continuing undoing of the founders’ best hopes for America, running the campaigns with bullying and ending them with riots.
Do you know what demagogue means? I didn’t!
“A political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than rational argument”. No wonder many of us were sick at the polls.
Demagogue vs. demagogue...and it was about as ugly as it gets and has removed the feeble finger of political correctness from the dam of public prejudice, resentment and malice. Every day our mailboxes filled with defamations, accusations and exaggerations.
Every day they infiltrated our homes and our minds and our relationships.
But anyway... can we maybe agree on a few points?
The Republicans are not all heartless, bigoted, supremacist nationalists. And the Democrats are not all immoral, irresponsible, atheistic anti-Americans.
This is what I have come to appreciate about both camps:
I appreciate the hearts of my liberal/democrat friends. They are impassioned to help the poor, the suffering, the alien, the marginalized...and not just here in America, but all over the world. My “L/D” friends have hearts that absolutely amaze me in their compassionate, inclusive expanse (obviously violent protesters, arrogant journalists, disrespectful entertainers excluded from this statement). The L/D’s that I personally know use their eyes and ears to keep us aware and alert. I am so thankful for their voices in my life and in their realms of influence. Theirs is a battle for “the common good” and “justice for all”.
AND I appreciate the common sense of my conservative Republican friends. They have an incredible ability to connect the pieces, let history inform our present and future, and seek to restore dignity to people through work and personal responsibility. The C/R’s  in my world are impassioned to keep America solvent and effective in the world.  I am so thankful for their voices in my life and in their realms of influence. Theirs is a battle to remain  “one nation under God” and protect “liberty for all”.
But be careful Republicans, or your fight for liberty may strangle love and be careful Democrats or your fight for love may strangle liberty.
Honoring both and offending both...I will now go by “Republicrat”. Because I want to live with a heart for people that empowers but does not enable. I want our family to continue to reach out to the needs of the world but not ignore the needs in front of us. I want the freedom to funnel the resources we’ve been given to the causes we care most about. And I want to live with the courage to share our thoughts and life experience without mocking others for theirs.
I want the heart and mind of Christ.  
Given the strengths that both sides have to offer...I wish the Demagogues would stop politicizing, propagandizing, defaming each other and exploiting the American public. If only the parties could replace their oppositional defiance disorder and filiblustering and begin dovetailing their strengths into leadership that is effective for the American public and spilling over into helping the world.
I wish those of us who call ourselves Christians would stop looking at each other in disbelief and spewing the accusatory “How can you call yourself a Christian and vote for…?”
Is God Himself not liberal in His love and forgiveness (Ephesians 2:3b-5 “Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath, but because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.”) AND a God who sets limits in the way to freedom and truth? (“Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life” John 14:6
I wish we could recognize God’s heart for and His image in every human being (however hidden we consider it to be), and appreciate what it brings to our world.
I wish we could forgive and pray for those who (often due to a lack of love in the church) are running the other way when they hear us call ourselves Christians.
I wish we would take out the log in our own eye.
My wish for Millennials is to be able to give thanks for the blessings of being American. Obviously, millions of others are anxious to live here.
My wish for X’ers is to keep the faith and smell the roses.
My wish for boomers and busters is to have peace and not fear the future.
God is on His throne.
But what I am describing is legitimately impossible without God’s work in our hearts…
Forgiveness and reconciliation begin and end with Him.
And that is why, before I fight anymore over who’s more deplorable in the 2016 election...I am asking Him to make good on His promise to set up His kingdom
in my own heart.
Republicrat for now and His child for always.
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
“It is for freedom, that Christ has set us free, stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”.

Galatians 5:1

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Whose letter is it anyway?

So, I've been trying to figure out some beautifully creative way to wrap up Hebrews but I can only think to end as I began...a rewrite. An "in my own words" book end.
There is much discussion on the identity of the authorship of is that it was written by one (Timothy?) and dictated by another (Paul?). Whose letter is this anyway?
So that would make me a third party transcriber? In other words: Don't take my word on it for yourself.
What we know for sure is to whom this letter was written...the Hebrews (the "Ones who have crossed over"). But it is also to all of us...a letter that has lasted for millennia so that we too may "cross over" to "dwell in the land" of His promise.

Chapter 13 (The point is...)

Do not get in the way of love! Live in love! Let's begin with showing love to complete don't know who they are or what they've been through! They could even be messengers from God Himself!
Live in love! Don't be so absorbed in yourself that you forget your brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith.
For some of you these outer circles of relationships are not a's the closest ones you neglect and abuse.
Live in love with your spouse. Marriage was God's idea to reveal the power and beauty of HIS love to everyone else. So He takes this relationship VERY seriously, and He will address our disregard for this holy foundation of humanity.
When I say "Live in love"...I'm talking about people NOT things...not the ability to get more things.
Loving things will hamper your ability to love God and people.
HE is enough for you!
That's what this whole letter is about! No amount of money, stuff, religious practice, self-preservation tactics...
nothing can add, nothing can top what He offers you!
You are not without examples of men and women who have lived this way, the way of love...the way of faith in Jesus Christ.
Since He never changes, you too may trust Him and follow those who've lived such love out.
But be many people think God's favor can be earned by working hard to follow the rules.
NOTHING garners God's favor except Jesus human life, death and divine resurrection as the perfect and completed and singular work for your life's redemption. He accomplished what we could never accomplish... GOD becoming/living a perfect human life of love.
When you live trusting His act of love as your only may be rejected by the people around you... just as He was!
That's OK, belong to a family and a home that IS and IS coming.
So be thankful! And...
Trust the leadership God has put around you. Sure, there are those from the past to be inspired by but guess what? You also have those who are present to help you now. Not perfect people... not flawless leaders but they are sincerely trying to love and guide you the best they can and they will answer to God for how they lead don't be a pain the neck! That accomplishes nothing and certainly doesn't help the cause of love!
Pray for us (who write this letter), we too are imperfect people but we want to honor God's work in us and we want to accomplish the purpose He has me in prison to do! Please...I hope through your prayers I can love well within these bars so that I may come out from them again and be with you!
Having said all this, the God who restores ALL relationships...the God of love,
who provided His Son for a secure and forever relationship with Him,
this is the God I trust to prepare and enable you to live in love...
this is His will, this is what pleases Him,
this is only possible because Jesus makes it possible.
I strongly encourage you to be patient and carefully consider all I've written...I've said it as succinctly as possible. Watch for Timothy's return from prison...and I hope the sooner you see him the sooner you will see me too!
Share my greetings with everyone
may you humbly enjoy God's rich, lavish favor as you walk through each day "crossing over" into all He has provided for you
in Jesus.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Hebrews 12...Running the Race

I am a non-runner. Though surrounded by friends and family who push themselves over every manner of terrain, I will never join their least not at a jog or sprint. I have learned from watching my husband run his courses though. His success is a process of training, discipline, pain, sacrifice, motivation, inspiration, many pieces to a finished race. He could never do well in his efforts all alone. He would never run again, if the rewards were not worth it all. This is why the writer of Hebrews uses the analogy of a race for the life of faith. It is a strenuous exercise with many pieces. But,
we are not alone. Like a condensed mass looming over us, those who've experienced God's faithfulness to His promises, should be an encouragement to keep on in faith. We need to be refreshed by the truth that falls from the gathering of the their testimonies...
Even more than that, we need to look to the ultimate inspiration...Jesus! Faith is His brainchild...from birth to death to eternity. Jesus, remained centered on His ultimate destiny of life with His Father and future with us. He endured more pain, more rejection, more temptation than any of us ever will...and He persevered on to His reward, His place of authority. It's Jesus' example that motivates our perseverance. It is His love that strengthens, His presence that encourages, His promise that propels us on to our finish line.
How can we expect to avoid pain or rejection when the Son of God subjected himself to this human experience? How can we give up in the battle against sin when He secured the victory? How can we lose heart when what we have waiting for us is so incredibly worth it all?
And what is awaiting us?
"22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus...
28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire."

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hebrews 11: FAITH

Faith is as old as the most ancient human stories.
Historic humanity has always believed in what we cannot see. The question is never: "Are you a person of faith?" but "What/whom is your faith in?".
So this is the question I pose: "What has formed your faith?
Since my foundation is faith in a loving and sovereign Creator, my interpretation of life works through the filter of His love and matter what happens. I started life out in an extremely loving and protected environment so the seeds of this faith were "faithfully" formed.
And since faith is faith has built on itself; but that is not to say it is never challenged. You only have to have eyes and ears to wonder..."Is God real? Is He in control? Is He loving?". Life challenges faith.
So what is the process of evaluation when faith is becoming crippled by life experience?
My own process begins with God's Word.

The more I dig into the grounds of my faith, the more I am convinced of the truth of it. Just as light "exploded into light", faith explodes into faith. I am not a scientist; but astronomy, geology, chemistry, biology, physics (etc.) in and of themselves provide few conclusions.... they only lead to more questions. It is not science alone that proves or disproves God and is faith. It is where you find your beginning. My beginning is "in the beginning God"...from there, I am amazed and overwhelmed 
at the proof of Him. (Like an Artist-5/21/14)

Faith says: "I have confidence that what I hope for is a true reality even though I am not fully experiencing it now. I am utterly persuaded of this reality, though there is not always visual evidence of it." Hebrews 11:1 (my own words)

My life has been a continual searching out and weighing out of God's Word...and I am convinced of this: God IS real. He IS loving. He is pursuing all of us in that love and wants to help us make sense of life.
Over the years, we've heard and experienced many challenges to faith in a loving, all-powerful God. I think that is why God graciously includes Hebrews Chapter 11 in the Bible. This chapter is loaded with testimonies of real people who lived through all kinds of challenges to faith: life and death, victory and defeat, wealth and poverty, joy and sorrow, happiness and pain, success and failure...
"and all these, having gained approval through their faith," Heb. 11:39
What this chapter says to me is that faith is never impossible, no matter what your circumstances. It says that the gift of faith is offered to ALL kinds of people. This Letter to the Hebrews is a call to faith, a bold invitation to join the ranks of those who believe that we are part of something much bigger than what we see in the here and now.
Faith is a reward for responding to God's pursuit of will also be rewarded by God in fulfilling all of His promises to you.
And what are those promises?
For starters, He promises us His approval, an eternal home and life with Him, adoption into His family, victory over our destructive behaviors and a transformed heart and mind.
A life of faith is a life filled with increasing understanding, courage, humility, perseverance...
 In faith, we worship in the every day stuff, we are protected and provided for in God's purposes for us. We are blessed in order to bless others... given to, so that we may give.
This is the beauty, hope and power of faith.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Burnt toast and dog breath... Hebrews 10

"Burnt toast and dog breath",
this was the answer my son gave to the following college orientation question: "What smells remind you of home?"!
Does that mean he'll miss us?
I had to get in two more parental warnings before we left him there in that sad little dorm room;
and two more how-tos...
and two more becauses...
followed up with two more hugs;
and two more "I'm proud of and I love you(s)..."
and one big fat kiss.
As the concerns of what we failed and forgot to prepare him for set in, I am reading Hebrews 10.
This chapter (vv. 19-39) strikes me similarly.
Like a last minute parental list, these warnings, how-tos and ultimate whys of a godly life are spelled out for us:
- Sincerely draw near to God
- Hold fast to the truth of your faith
- Consider how to encourage others in their walk of faith
- Consistently spend time with the people who encourage your faith (vv.22-25)
- Because Christ made a way for us to draw near to God (v.19)
- Because God has a reward for you if you persevere in faith (vv. 35-36)
- Because it pleases the only One who is worth pleasing (vv. 37-38)
- Because the eternal destiny of your soul depends on the perseverance of your faith in His grace and forgiveness ( v. 39)
(v.26-27) "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin, but a terrifying expectation of judgment...
(v.29) "How much severer  punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God..."
(v.31) "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

At times during the last two decades of parenting we've had to spell out the consequences of behaviors very specifically; some of the warnings made no impact at all. Sometimes a child's hope of the imagined outcome far outweighed the pain of a consequence. It has been our responsibility as loving parents to increase the intensity of the warning based on the danger of the behavior. We have found that the confidence our children have in our love and good desires for them greatly impacts their consideration of our warnings. If they doubted us, they ran to destruction faster than we could say... "I told you so!"
It is not different with our Heavenly Father. His warnings to walk in faith are dire because His love and good desires for us are so intense. But if we doubt that love and good intention, His warnings seem more like threats from an angry, vengeful, Theo-egomaniac...and we want to run away faster than He can say..."I showed you so."
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it is the way of death..." Proverbs 14:12
and so He died, that in the end He made a way to life.
If your life is not pointing you to this truth: "God loves me and has a good plan for my life", sincerely draw near by asking Him to show you. I am confident in answer, you will feel the reassurance of His "I'm proud of you and I love you(s)" and they will begin to make you miss Him...
 not run the other way.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hebrews 8-9: Re-lig-ion

Within the context of my spiritual upbringing, "religion" has been a dirty word for as long as I can remember. After all, "'s not about religion! It's about relationship!"
But "religion" is just a word; a word that describes making a practice of something to increase our understanding.
"lig"- grasp
"ion"- action
...and when we do something over and over again to try to understand or grasp hold of it, we might say we do it "religiously".
Religious motivation comes from a catalytic belief.
Hebrews 8-9 refers to the religious practices of the Hebrew priests.
Practices of apparel, washings, structures, sanctified objects, sacrifices...
practices ordered by God for the Hebrews to do
and over again.
...Practices set up by God to help them understand that they would never sufficiently grasp hold of Him
by what they wore or what they did or what they said.
The Hebrews understood that they needed to live in relationship with their God; so they tried
" and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshipper perfect in conscience," (9:9)
Nothing they practiced "religiously" was enough to wipe out their awareness that they would fail
And they would have to seek atonement
When Jesus was sent to die on the cross, the shedding of His blood signified that God offered them the gift of himself
What was lost of relationship at the intrusion of sin, was being restored.
His perfect life, lived-lost-resurrected, became the all-sufficient, once and final offering for a secured relationship with God.
"but now ONCE at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." (9:26b)
It's true. I am a religious person.
I have practices of reading my Bible, praying, going to church...
I want to understand Him better!
But I do so because He already "grasped hold" of me
through Christ.