Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

First Annual Love-Your-Enemy Day 9/11/10

Matthew 5:43 and 44 You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate you enemy." But I[Jesus] tell you: LOVE your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

These words rolled off the lips of my beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the middle of one of his most famous, breathtakingly beautiful sermons, so I was completely confused and horrified yesterday when I learned through a news report that an individual in FL who claims to bear the name of Christ was attacking the Islamic faith by inviting his congregation to attend and participate in a ceremonial burning of copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the infamous World Trade Center terrorist attack. I do not know this man's private motivations, but it seems by the timing and nature of the event that he is acting in poorly aimed retaliation against the men who orchestrated these attacks. Now, I say, "poorly aimed," because he seems to be attacking any and everyone sharing the terrorist's proclaimed faith. I'm confident that, much like this situation, one or two strangely radical personalities in the Islamic faith acted on 9/11/01 without the support or consent of every or any other practicing Muslim! Its sad when the one looney in the bunch does something completely unrepresentative of the group to get recognized by the rest of the world! I fear that just as the poor choices and destorted reasoning of those few terrorists have become, for some, the face of Islam that the unbiblical actions of this one man proclaiming to be a minister of Christ will tarnish the already terribly misrepresented name of Christ Jesus! Anyway, what I want you to know is that Jesus doesn't want us to react to the persecution heaped on our country by teorrists in the past with hate, but rather, love and prayer! Now, folks, that's a biblical response, so what does love for your enemies look like in this situation? I guess it depends who you feel has become your enemy as a result of the events of 9/11/01. If as this minister in FL seems to feel, anyone who practices the Muslim faith fits that description, something as simple as picking up the litter you notice on the lawn of a local mosque might be considered a loving, Christ-honoring action, but for me, I would need to go so far as track down the families of the men who crashed those planes and help fill the gaps whether emotional, spiritual, or financial that have been left in their lives since the deaths of their sons, husbands, and fathers. Since this action is neither practical or logical, after having spoken with a minister at my church, I am considering participation to some extent in the Dearbourne, MI ministry project that strives to minister in all the above mentioned areas to the largest Muslim population in the United States, but I commit to praying for those men's families in an intentional and direct act of love for those terrorists themselves! Those words would catch in my throat if I were speaking them aloud because that is so against my human nature, but I love Christ, and he has called me to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me, so I will if only for the sake of representing him well to the world around me!:) My commitment to honoring Christ in not only my actions, but also, the attitudes of my heart leads me to proclaim that for my family 9/11 will always and forever be Love-Your-Enemies Day instead of my original thought Love-A-Muslim Day. I don't want the focus to be on Muslims specifically because I feel that identifying the religion as a whole as our enemy is dangerous and inaccurate, and I feel that Love-Your -Enemies gets to the heart of my original thought and intention. I want my Lili to always know how important it is to Jesus that she practice this behavior no matter how counter to her human nature it runs, so tomorrow celebrate with my family Love-Your-Enemies Day and take the time to examine your heart to the point that you are able to identify any people or groups that you classify as enemies or persecutors and take time to pray for them and intentionally love on them!:) Please, pass this thought along to all you know!:)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Roller Coaster Religion

The Labor Day weekend found me in a couple situations during which I was able to observe people of all ages riding roller coasters of all sizes. First, at Holiday World, a small theme park in southern Indiana that offers some of the world's best wooden coasters and second, at a local Labor Day carnival near our home. As I watched the riders I saw varied responses to the danger and excitement the rides presented. Some threw their hands into the air with great abandon hoping to heighten the exhileration of flying down a steep hill embracing the belly-thieving feeling of lost control, while others, clung to the seat with white knuckles having boarded the ride just to say they had or to placate their pleading companions. These pictures reminded me of the scene I have viewed on many a weekend at evangelical Christian churches during the group worship time. Some throw their hands in the air with great abandon reaching out to God and saying, "I'm all in. Take me on a spiritual adventure while others clutch the pew in front of them with white knuckles as they inch away from the obviously crazy holy-roller beside them who must be experiencing a hallucination during which she is headed down a steep hill on a roller coaster with her hands extended high into the air. In this same pew is another individual who raises her hands only so she isn't the only one who isn't. I mean, she doesn't want to appear to be a heathen in the presence of all these saints who seem to be so much closer to God than herself, and next to her is standing a person who raises her hands simply to portray that she is a saint although she knows that if anyone had seen her interacting with her family before church he would have known otherwise. This post is not about whether you ever raise your hands in worship or not because, honestly, as this scenario makes obvious, the raising of hands during a worship song during weekend services can reflect several different spiritual motivations some sincere and others not so much, only God and the individual who owns said hands knows which motivation is behind the supposedly worshipful posture, so I mention my roller coaster observations to ask you not, "what is your posture during worship songs, but what is your posture as you live your life?" Do you live your life as the first person in the pew embracing God's will for your life as if it were your own, fully submitted to abandoning the desires of your flesh in a manner that, at times, is terrifying to both you and those around you, or do you cling white knuckled to your own desires like my Lili did on her first and second solo ride on the kiddie, dragon roller coaster at the Labor day carnival, but I did notice that she relaxed a little with each lap around the track as if her mounting experience gradually convinced her that she was safe even though it felt scary and that if she allowed herself to fully enjoy every aspect of the experience it could be completely amazing and breathtakingly enjoyable:) I relate to her experience in my spiritual life as stated in 1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. The second part of this verse is where I draw a connection to Lili's roller coaster experience. Once we taste and see that the Lord is good we begin to trust and adore him in a whole new way that allows us to assume a posture of complete disregard for ourselves before him! When we obey God even when his advice doesn't make sence to us, we find out that His wisdim, his advice, his intentions, are GOOD, and it becomes a little easier for us to relax into allowing him to fill the role of LORD of our lives, which in all honesty, is the spirit's true equivalent of throwing your hands in the air in worship. God doesn't care what you do with your hands when you sing songs to him, but he is intimately invested in the posture of our spirits as we live our lives, so ask yourself, "Am I holding white-knuckled onto aspects of my life in an attempt to maintain full control, or do I daily throw my figurative hands in the air in total submission to God's will for my life?" If you don't know, here's a test for you to measure your true level of submission to God's authority in your life. Read Matthew 5:39-41 But I [Jesus] tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Now, before you bust your computer monitor tryng to reach through the screen to strangle me for these words I have typed, stop to consider that these are the recorded words from the good and holy lips of Jesus Christ, you know, the one, you likely say is Lord of your life if you label yourself a Christian, so why do these words irritate us so and raise our hackles? I really don't need you to answer that question because I am well aware of the answer from my own personal reaction that the thought of living life this way makes me feel vulnerable and unprotected and likely to end up as the world's doormat, and then, my question for myself is, "Why, Cori?" You have tasted and seen that the Lord is good! You have story after story that you share through your writing and speech that ooze with praise and commendations for the yumminess(beyond goodness) of living life with Jesus Christ as Lord (Boss), so why do you question him here on whether he knows what he's talking about in these scary potentially hurtful situations? What does this reveal concerning how submitted you truely are to him? You've experienced that life Christ's way is AWESOME as you have pried one white-knuckle loose at a time, and with each freed finger you KNOW the ride that life is just got BETTER and BETTER and BETTER and BETTER, so why not just let go COMPLETELY and stand before the Lord with both hands raised in complete submission to his will and make it possible to experience the heightened enjoyment and excitement of riding hands-free? I'm sharing my deepest thoughts with you here in hopes that it will get you thinking deeply about your own walk with Christ because I truely have tasted and seen that the Lord is excellent, and I totally think its worth it to follow his advice in everything even when its scary because from my personal experience it ALWAYS leads to blessing and joy beyond compare!:)
Another observation that stands out to me as I consider the experience I had over the weekend is that as I stood among the throng that had formed near the roller coaster entrance at a location that offered a good vantage point of some of the rides most frightening assests, I couldn't help but overhear the conversations of those around me that reflected admiration for the members of their group who had chosen to ride, and maybe even, a little regret that they hadn't joined them. Another common thread to the conversations was a recognition of the fun the riders wer having and possibly a little vicarious enjoyment as well:) I couldn't help but wonder why these individuals didn't just get in line and ride, so they could experience the fun for themselves. In sharing this, I am further extending Jesus' oringinal invite by inviting you to join me in enjoying life in a committment to FULL submission to Jesus Christ. Please, don't just stand and watch me enjoy the ride wishing you could experience it also!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Strike A Pose!

In my absence from writing the past several weeks I have started a diet on which I have already dropped 8+ pounds. Knowing my husband is the most honest, straight-forward person that God placed on this earth, I dared to strike a pose this mornig right before stepping into the shower while questioning him in a sing-song little girl voice, "Am I skinny yet?" Not surprisingly, just as I had hoped, he answered honestly, "You're skinnier than you were!" Why am I pleased with this answer that implies I'm still on the wrong side of chubby with more than a few pounds to go before my ideal weight will be attained? Because I know, just as I am sure you do, that weight loss is a process that requires time and effort. One doesn't miraculously drop from nearly 200 pounds to 150 with the first sip of Coke Zero! I am pleased that my husband recognized a noticeable and measurable difference in my size and shape this morning although I am well aware that I haven't yet met my goal! As I was completing my morning routine my stroke-ravaged brain made a connection from that incident to a moment that occurred during yet another new development since the last time I wrote. Yesterday, I began teaching/leading a women's Bible study entitled, "Living Victoriously In Difficult Times." During the introductory lesson, we began an overview of the spiritual benchmarks or milestones I have identified from personal experience that are necessary to have reached in order to be victorious when life stinks. By definition, benchmark and milestone are both words that describe a marker that identifies a specific distance traveled on a journey. In order to progress on said journey, one must pass the progressive milestones to reach a further location. Just as I must lose 10 pounds before I can boast having lost 50, I must grow in my relationship with God through Jesus Christ past certain understandings in order to experience true VICTORY in life no matter the circumstance. Making spiritual progress requires discipline and effort just as progressing in a weight loss program does. While abstaining from fatty and sugar-filled yum-yums seems to be the key attaining my goal weight, gorging on God's word and regularly enjoying ooey-gooey, sweet time in God's presence through prayer, worship and fellowship with other believers are key to spiritual growth. I share this because sometimes we can become discouraged and even question our salvation when we witness other Christians who are farther down the road with God, and once again, just as in weight loss, it not really about where you are but instead about whether you are making recognizable progress on your spiritual journey or not, so strike a pose before the most honest person you know and ask, "Do you see a difference in me? Do I look more like Jesus (our behavioral and spiritual goal as Christians)?" On this note, I remember watching the minister at our church as a teenager and thinking, "That's what I want! I want to love God with that intensity, passion, dedication, and committment! Well, today as a 30 -year-old woman who still treasures that minister and his family, knowing intimately who I was as a teenager, I know I have progressed farther and farther along the path to those characteristics I admired in his spirit...spiritually, I am a different size and shape than I was, and although I have not finished my journey and there is still room for plenty of growth, I am near to giddy over the results I see, so I will continue seeking to grow in the Lord as long as I live, and one day, when I get the privelage of finally meeting Jesus(and not a second before!) I will finally be made perfect (completely reflecting Jesus in everyway). I find this comparison of weight loss and spiritual growth interesting because one is about losing and shrinking while the other is about gaining everything and growing while both are important to health and quality of life (just in different areas). Take some time to evaluate your spiritual progress once in awhile just as you might step on the scale or ask your husband's opinion occassionally when you are dieting to evaluate how you are doing and determine if you need to make a change in your program. If you don't have a brutally honest individual in your life to ask, dig into God's word because as 2 Timothy 3: 16 says All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so the man of God may be thouroughly equipped for every good work. Sounds like the equilvalent to a spiritual scale to me!:D Another glowing recommendation for God's word as a tool for spiritual growth is found in Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

If you are curious about the spiritual milestones I eluded to early on in this post, you are welcome to join me next Wednesday at Crossroads Christian Church in Evansville, IN for my class which is part of a larger women's ministry called Daughter's of the King (DOK). The program in its entirety runs from 9AM-11AM with my class portion beginning at 10AM being preceeded by a large group worship and learning time. One can pre-register at Child care is provided, so no excuses;)