A Lie Worth Noting:

October 13, 2012

We bring up sons and daughters to be brides and husbands

Perhaps I’m on a fault-finding roll. Or perhaps I’m just rebellious. But lately something that’s been bugging me for a long, long time, has finally come to the surface. Like a pimple. No longer a vague irritation, it’s burst through the skin for all to see.

It’s a lie, perhaps never spoken aloud, but never-the-less implied. It rages through the Body of Christ. Here it is:

My spouse should be my best friend.

I’ve heard it everywhere, from the pulpit, from the lips of guest speakers. In introductions, “Meet my wife. Stand up, honey. This is my best friend. . .”

And I want to stick my finger down my throat.

Now before you assign me to the cell for the blasphemous, let me explain what I perceive to be the dangers looming in that kind of statement. First, when a teacher or speaker says this, he implies that ALL husbands and wives SHOULD be one another’s best friends. That this is the ideal state of marriage. This implication is magnified by the kinds of promises and expectations foisted on us by well-meaning folks in Christian publishing and broadcasting. In an effort to strengthen relationships between husbands and wives, books paint pictures of rapturous hours spent together understanding and meeting one another’s deepest needs. Of husbands who completely understand their wives (an oxymoron at best), and of women who can fully relate to their man.

Publishers are pretty famous for making rash promises. Five ways to heal after adultery. Six steps to end pornography addictions. Ten steps to forgiveness. Seven ways to captivate your husband. We promise quick results at the end of a ten dollar investment and 220 pages.

And sometimes, by way of our words, we promise things that aren’t even scriptural.

By way of example. Can anyone site a scriptural admonition to be your spouse’s best friend? No? Sure, we have plenty of husband/wife admonitions. We are to mutually submit. Husbands are to love their wives. Wives are to respect their husbands. We are to care for and grow our sexual relationship together. We are to be faithful for a lifetime. Of course, all of the “one-another” commands of the New Testament apply to husbands and wives. Love one another. Pray for one another. Encourage one another.

And yes, these admonitions involve elements of friendship. But best friends? To the exclusion of others? I don’t think so. To imply that this is required of a good marriage is to “bend scripture to our own image.” It is saying far more than God himself was willing to say.

In truth, a few husbands and wives may actually be best friends. Or they may actually think they are best friends. I suspect many, many husbands and wives are good friends. My hubby is my most loyal supporter. We play well together. We talk. We share common goals. But is he my best friend? No. I am grateful to be surrounded by many good friends.

You can see that I’m not advocating an enemy status.

What I am saying is that men and women are very different. They enjoy different kinds of friendships. Men tend to do activities together. They tend to solve problems. They tend to use fewer words to express their issues. Women tend to just “be” together. They process problems rather than solve them. They tend to use many, many words in their processing. These are just some of our gender differences.

What I wonder is this: When we imply that a man should be his wife’s best friend, are we setting him up to fail in her eyes? Can he ever be the only friend she needs? The kind of friend she expects? Can he be a better friend than another woman? And when that expectation (that he should be my very best friend) is disappointed, doesn’t that set her up for the temptation of friendship offered by another man?

After all, any man can listen, empathize, praise, and flatter in the early stages of a relationship. By simply focusing on her, he promises the “friendship” she isn’t getting at home. His flattery fills the void left by unmet expectations. And the “friendship” at work grows into something clearly forbidden by scripture.

At the very least, a woman who believes that her husband “should” be her best friend, may isolate herself from the very fulfilling and healthy friendships of other women. In this way, she cuts herself off — not only from their understanding and support — but also from the support and wisdom she has available to offer other women. Instead, she may spend long hours wishing for, or waiting for more than her husband is able to provide — when what she needs is readily available to her.

The other reason this isolation is so important is that female friendships are most critical in women with difficult marriages. When a husband cannot identify with, support, or understand his wife, she can safely have those important needs met in the context of healthy female relationships. But to do so, she must have the wisdom to let go of her unreal expectations for her husband. And she must have permission to seek healthy support among safe friendships.

So what do you think? Do you agree? Have you heard the lie? Can you see other unintended consequences of this message to husbands and wives?

Bette

An obvious trap:

September 25, 2012

Our granddaughter. The picture of innocence.

Last Thursday, I went for an early morning walk in a development not yet filled with houses. Though the streets are paved, the sidewalks are finished and streetlights dot the intersections, there is only one new home in the entire area. It’s almost as if the developer built a park just for the neighbors.

But on this last walk, I was surprised to discover a sight I’d never before encountered.

There, in the middle of a newly planted garden was the strangest contraption. It was built of wooden slats, shaped a little like a dog crate with a handle on the top. It had an open doorway, through which I could clearly see netting with openings the size of chicken wire. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to tell me; I was looking at a trap.

Now up in this area, I’ve seen wild deer, an occasional fox, and numerous coyote. A friend has been battling aggressive raccoons. I’m guessing the trap was for coyote. What surprised me was that the owner of the trap made no effort at all to hide or disguise the trap. There were no tree branches hiding it. It wasn’t gussied up, or made to look like anything other than a Plain. Old. Trap.

And seeing it made me wonder. What kind of stupid animal would voluntarily walk into what was such an obvious snare? Shouldn’t any reasonable coyote know better?

And that made me think about the traps our enemy lays for us. Are they any less obvious?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about sexual traps, the trap of infidelity, adultery, fornication. And as I ponder the idea, I realize that Satan is no more subtle than my neighbor’s coyote trap. Still, we fall in. Think of his lies:

No one will know.
No one will get hurt.
There won’t be any consequences.
You deserve to be loved.
Everyone else is doing it.
This is the way I was made.
The pull is too strong to resist.

Don’t those lies look a lot like a blatantly laid trap? I honestly wonder why we’re so willing to enter the snare? Why are we so blind? So foolish? Does having a sin nature make us just plain stupid as well?

Though it doesn’t help that the rest of the world has bought Satan’s lies, that certainly shouldn’t excuse those who belong to the King. But it makes you think, doesn’t it? Have you fallen victim to obvious traps? Should you know better?

Peter tells us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” How alert are you today?

 

My hero.

September 15, 2012

I must confess. My favorite biblical hero isn’t your ordinary prophet. I don’t swoon over David, or idolize Paul. Though I’m especially fond of Barnabas, he’s not the “cat’s meow.”

My favorite is Abigail.

I like her because she doesn’t fit the normal, acceptable 20th century standards of female behavior. Wise? More than David. Bold? More than Peter. Action oriented? More than Jonathan and his little servant. Honest? Enough to make a politician blush.

Nope. Abigail doesn’t fit in. But that’s okay; I’ve about had it with 20th century standards for femininity.

Where did all this emotion come from? Truthfully, it’s been bubbling away in my consciousness for a long time. But most recently, a friend of mine, doing research for some writing, asked his Facebook friends to comment on “femininity.” And suddenly, Vesuvius found its vent.

What surprised me were all the vague, mild, passive responses my friend received. It got me thinking. What is feminine? And frankly, why does it matter?

I’ve just finished reading 1st and 2nd Corinthians again. And when I think about all of the instructions, warnings and advice for believers in the New Testament, almost none is differentiated on the basis of gender. All of the gifts of the spirit seem to be equally available to both men and women. There is no line item which says, “Women may only teach children.” Neither is there a specification that pastoral, prophetic, discernment, or leadership gifts are given only to men.

As for myself, I don’t think of myself as a woman. I view myself as a soul. I possess traits of both men and women. In the context of “Men are like waffles,” I find that I too have the tendency to restrict my mind to waffle spaces. In many ways, I think like a man. At the same time, I emote like a woman. As to feminine, I don’t especially like dresses (which are never exclusively commanded in scripture). I dislike teas, perfumes and candles. For my birthday, I’d prefer skiing, biking, or rollerblading over some more traditional “girl’s activity.” I’ll never like camping; but I love to hike.

I don’t deny my gender. It just isn’t the center of my attention. That is, until I hear for the fiftieth time that I must embrace some arbitrary version of “femininity” as an expression of my faith. (no kidding; in the 1980s, I attended a class that said wearing flannel to bed was a sin!) And much worse, it becomes the center of my attention when I discover that my gift isn’t welcome in the church because it comes in a female package.

Femininity has become the “subject du jour” of women’s meetings. What it means to be a woman. What it means to have a woman’s ministry. What it means to use our feminine gifts. How much passion the speaker has for women and women’s ministry. And while I understand the scriptural admonition, “Let the older women teach the younger how to love their husbands. . .” I wonder if the reason so many young women are fleeing—in record numbers—from women’s events is because of this endless discussion of what are considered “approved feminine topics.” Approved, but in the larger scope of our battle, incredibly unimportant. It’s a little like the Japanese debating the color of their military uniforms after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

I have a secret almost antiestablishment question: Is what we discuss in women’s meetings banal, boring and unimportant because we—as women—are not encouraged/allowed/empowered to think about deeper issues?

Is it, as a recent blogger once said, because “Bibles are for boys?”

You see, Abigail would have been kicked out of most women’s meetings. When her husband made the wildly stupid decision to ignore David’s contribution to his sheep “harvest,” her husband’s servants went to Abigail for help. They must have trusted her judgment, must have known she would take action to save them all. She had history with the servants.

Scripture says, “Abigail lost no time. She quickly. . .” She was no shrinking violet. She didn’t go to her husband for advice. She took command.  She had a plan and she executed it. In fact, scripture says that she didn’t even tell her husband what she was doing.

When Abigail spoke to David, she made no effort to cover for her husband’s foolishness. In fact, Abigail called a spade a spade. Like Peter, she may have been the kind of woman who occasionally found her foot firmly planted in her mouth. But she told the truth as she saw it.

And she was a woman who took responsibility. “I accept all blame in this matter,” she said. Her husband’s foolishness was a weakness. It looks, from scripture, as if she regularly protected him from himself. “But I never even saw the messengers you sent.” If she’d seen David’s men first, she implies, she would have diverted this crisis.

Abigail is a woman of words. In a cleverly crafted speech worthy of Churchill, she reminds David of his relationship with the LORD, of God’s care for him, of God’s promises toward David. When she is finished, even David is impressed. “Praise the LORD the God of Israel, who has sent you to meet me today . . . Bless you for keeping me from murdering the man. . . “

Abigail didn’t stay in the background. She didn’t worry about her husband’s “covering.” She wasn’t afraid to speak to a man, to correct a man, to remind a man of God’s promises (whoa, sounds a bit like teaching, doesn’t it?). Abigail knew exactly who she was. She wasn’t ashamed of herself, or of her wisdom. She was not afraid to engage her world, to use her gifts, to change the course of the men around her.

My hero.

This may be the real definition of feminine. “To fully embrace all that I am—without apology, shame, pride, or ridicule—in the presence of both men and women, so that everything I do brings glory to the One who made me.” If that’s what it is to be feminine (please note: no use of fabrics, style, makeup, language, coyness, or seduction –as in Eldridge’s book, Captivating), if it means being honest, real, having integrity, and as Roman’s inspires us, having “sound judgement” about ourselves, then fellas, I’m all girl!

Thanks Abigail

Lost

August 18, 2012
Boats Afloat

Sunset in the Gulf Islands

Another life lesson here:

I’ve been out of town for a couple of weeks. My husband and I were in British Columbia on our boat. This summer, we made it as far north as Princess Louisa Inlet, and Chatterbox falls, with a visit to Malibu Young Life Camp. On the way back, we stopped at Ganges (Salt Spring Island) and then put down an anchor in Royal Cove, at Portland Island. There, at the suggestion of a fellow boater, we went for a short hike. “It’s a little 1.6 KM trail right through the middle,” he said. “You can’t go wrong.”

It started out innocently enough. At 4:30 PM we docked our dingy and found the trail which passes directly through the center (from north to south) of this 1322 acre, deeply forested island. The wide, needle covered trail was easy and well marked. We made good time, arriving at the other side of the island without any trouble. There, we found a sign pointing to “Shell Beach.”

We’d seen the same sign at our dingy dock, and realized that if we wanted, we could follow this second trail to describe a clockwise circle around the west side of the island eventually arriving back at our dingy. On this warm sunny day, with lots of daylight, we decided to give it a go.

At Shell Beach, we discovered a young family camping from their little ski boat. We visited with them and reminisced about the years we’d vacationed in just the same way. Those were great memories for our kids, and we encouraged them to treasure the moments.

With the sun dropping in the sky, we began to look for the trail back to our boat. Because we’d circumnavigated the island by boat, we knew where we wanted to go. However, no amount of hunting would reveal the trail (or the sign) leading us back.

Eventually, we returned to the beach, looking until we found a small pathway climbing north. With no other choices, we followed it. As we walked the trail became more and more narrow, frequently blocked by downed logs and thick underbrush. Before long the trail petered out, and Kim announced what we both knew. “This isn’t a trail, it’s a deer path.”

Believing that we knew where the boat was, and with the setting sun giving us a constant reminder of our cardinal directions, we fought onward, hoping to find the trail again. Deeper and deeper into the woods we progressed, the salal and vines and blackberries clinging to our bare legs. We had gone out for an easy hike. We had no water. No food. No shelter.

And before long we realized we were lost. All the trees began to look alike. We climbed one hill only to discover a sheer cliff on the other side. We meandered along the rocks, looking for a way to avoid the dangerous underbrush.

We weren’t lost in the traditional sense. We knew where we wanted to be. We had an idea of where the boat was — in relationship to us (remember the sun was setting in the west). But as the minutes passed, sunset loomed. In the dark, we would have no such clues. I began to imagine spending the night in that dark wood. Knowing that we would survive the ordeal, even if we came out covered in mosquito bites, I calmed myself. Still, anxiety clawed inside.

My husband wanted me to sit still and let him go on looking for the trail. I hated to be separated. Being lost together is one problem. Being both separated and lost is two.

I finally said, “I think it’s time for some prayer here. And I don’t mean some bless me Jesus prayer. We need to do some serious praying or we’re going to spend the night in the woods.” We did pray, and I reminded the Lord that he’s the shepherd of the lost sheep. At that moment in time, there were no more lost sheep than we two!

After one or two more probing but false starts, Kim stumbled onto a trail. We had discovered our way out — though we both know who helped us find it. At 9 PM, exhausted and thirsty, we climbed back onto our own boat. In the dark, we stripped down and washed our wounded extremities with antibiotic soap and warm water. We found some dinner and fell into bed, completely spent. It was a hike I won’t soon forget.

We both are full of self-blame about that trip. But what I remember is how promising that trail looked as it headed away from Shell Beach. It seemed right, but it was deceptive. It reminded me of the scripture, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death.”

We should have turned back. But we thought we knew better. We soldiered on.

My question, friends: Are you on the right path? Is there some where in your life that you need to turn back? Have you lost your way? Do you need the savior to show you the way back to the narrow way?

Don’t spend the night in the woods alone. Ask. Turn Back. As for us? We won’t hike unprepared again. And yes, the scratches are healing!

Roadblocks

July 18, 2012

Perhaps you’ve experienced it, waking from a particularly vivid dream still harboring the emotions you felt the night before. It happened to me this morning. This time though, I wonder if the dream were part of what I call Jesus Meddling — a term I use to describe his work in my life.

In the dream I was at a cabin of some sort, and we (though I don’t know who exactly were the “we” of the dream) were trying to barricade the cabin from some outside evil. It was dark out, with a full moon. I felt the fear and helplessness of the situation. At some point, I went down into the basement of this house and discovered two windows, both wide open, the moonlight streaming in. And I knew.

There was no use barricading the house from evil. The evil was already inside.

I’ve spent the last few days contemplating a quote from evangelist Charles Finney that I first heard during our weekend church service. I’ll paraphrase for you: God WANTS to answer your prayer. But sometimes, he waits for you to remove the roadblocks.

Roadblocks? I think Finney meant that some of our own sinful behavior and attitudes and wants and cravings and ego can keep us from answered prayer. In fact, were God to grant the desires of our hearts, He would betray His nature, which is to do that which is best for us. I’ve been thinking a lot about that.

This week, while I ran, I asked God about the roadblocks in my life. I asked him to make me aware of the things that block my prayers. I can’t remove a roadblock I don’t know about. It has changed my prayers these past days. Instead of asking for things, I’m asking about roadblocks.

My dream reminds me of something Jesus said over and over: Evil is inside of you. Don’t focus so much on what comes in from the outside, as you focus on what goes OUT from the INSIDE. He said it like this:

17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”

Roadblocks. Anything come to mind for you? Care to share?

The Long Haul

June 21, 2012

Maggie and Bette finish the Mom’s Day 5 K

If you’ve been following me lately, you know that I’ve been trying to teach myself to run. It isn’t easy getting a hippopotamus moving! I’ve been stuck at about 2.5 miles. I can do that without too much trouble. Once a week, I run 3.68 miles. I’m trying here, people. Really trying!

This week, I thought I’d switch it up — my run that is. I did the shorter distance in a backwards loop. What I hadn’t planned on, and what nearly killed me, was that this new arrangement put my longest most difficult hill at the very END of my run.

I wasn’t even half way up the hill before I regretted my choice. Gasping for air, stumbling up the hill, I vowed that I would never do it that way again.

The whole event got me to thinking. You see, I know lots of folks who are — in terms of their lives — running their last hills. One is caring for his wife who no longer recognizes him. Another is coping with a series of tiny strokes, each one taking away her independence, tiny bit by tiny bit. Someone I love dearly is battling a new and critical cancer diagnosis. Unless God intervenes in a most miraculous way, this may be her last hill.

It occurs to me that in life, our toughest hills, the longest, steepest climbs often come at the end of our lives. When some might feel we’ve earned a rest. When we might think we’ve found our “pace.” When all we want to do is move on to our home in heaven, we may suddenly find ourselves struggling for breath as we put one heavy foot in front of the other. Just as we think we’ve crested the worst of it, the hill turns upward again.

And  that makes me think about training.

You see, the only thing that will ever help me conquer that hill is training. I prepare for that hill by running other smaller hills — frequently, faithfully, dutifully, deliberately. I must work up to that big hill at the end of my run. I can’t expect to sit around my family room watching television in order to prepare for that monstrous hill. Instead, I must train for it.

I wonder if much of life is God’s way of preparing us for that last hill?

Are we dutiful? Diligent? Purposeful? Are we growing the faithfulness and grace that will see us through to the end of our earthly race? Maybe I should be thinking about my spiritual race with the same determination and training that I apply to my weekly run schedule?

What do you think?

Bette

The Power of Owning It

June 2, 2012

I had a great weekend, two weeks ago, as the speaker for the women’s retreat of Snohomish Community Church. In one of our discussion sessions, I joined a group where the women were just getting to know one another. One lady, a tall, slim blond, introduced herself saying, “I’m a runner.” Now that isn’t all she said, but those words caught my attention. You see, I’ve been trying to teach myself to run.

I wanted more information. “You’ve probably run all your life — track, cross-country, marathons. Right?”

“No. I’ve never run before.”

My astounded face must have asked for explanation. “I lost ninety pounds, and I started by running.” She looked at another woman on the couch beside her, “I was pretty fat when I joined the church, right?”

“And you ARE a runner? You like it?”

She looked like maybe I’d blown a gasket in my brain. “I love it. I can’t go through a day without it.” Turns out, she runs five to seven miles every day. Her body looks like a long distance runner.

“Did you always love it?”

“No. I hated it when I started. Hated it.”

I could identify with that. I start every run with this phrase, “I hate running. I hate it. I do it because I want to learn. I want to get better. I want to be more lean. But I hate it.”  I started in January with three minute segments on a treadmill. I added one minute to my segments every week. I tell you, it’s a VERY SLOW way to progress. Very slow. I finally made it to outside running, only to discover that I couldn’t even run four minutes outside at a local park. It was crazy. I could do 20 minutes on the treadmill, and NOTHING outside. But I persevered.

Yesterday, I ran 3.68 miles outside without stopping. It was hard. But it was good. I did it.

But would I consider myself a runner? Not hardly. I’d never introduce myself that way. Not today.

And it made me think. What would happen to my running if I stopped hating it and started viewing myself as a runner? And what would happen if I stopped telling myself that I must pray, (and dragging myself into my prayer closet) and started declaring myself to be a prayer warrior? And what would happen if I stopped making myself read the Bible and started seeing myself as a Bible Student? Do you see the power of the phrasing?

Instead of I do this, my friend had chosen to say, “I AM THIS.” The change of wording is more than semantics. It describes identification, commitment, and declares that the thing (prayer, student, runner) has become completely inseparable from the ME.

It has me wondering. Could changing the way I view myself change the way I behave? Could it change the success I experience? Now wouldn’t that be something? Let me know what you think!

Bette

Context is Everything. . .

April 13, 2012

When I taught drama, I used to come to class with a little vignette, something I’d act out for my students. As an exercise, they were to tell me what had happened in my little “story.” It was usually something I’d seen on the street, or in a store. Without using a single word, my students could tell what was going on. They accurately guessed the emotions involved. The action portrayed the whole event. It was a simple matter of interpretation.

Not so with the Bible.

When I started this project, this blog through the Bible, I noticed that there was a lot of talk about the Bible and Jesus on the Internet, but very few bloggers who actually used the words of the Bible to analyze its content. I wanted to change that. I guess I thought I could contribute something healthy to what might be a very dark world.

Big Ambition.

Recently someone I know was ranting about moral failure in our world. She felt strongly that “people” should know better than to make this particularly aggravating and wrong moral choice. I nearly corrected her. The Bible, I would have said, tells us not to judge the world. That got me to thinking. Pondering. Wondering. What about believers? Who are we to judge? And in my own little quiet time, I found myself in Romans.

Here is a little puzzle for you:

In Romans 14, it says, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls…” and, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore. . .” The message is clearly that we are NOT to judge our brothers in faith (who are servants of Christ, not our own servants). Then, in Romans 5, Paul says, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?” Hmmmmmm.

Those two contradictory ideas might be baffling. An unbeliever would proclaim, “I TOLD YOU SO. The Bible is full of contradiction. You can’t trust it.”

Clearly, the meanings of those two ideas — that we don’t judge our fellow Christians and that we do — are revealed in the context of the passages where they are found. When do we judge? And when do we judge not?

You tell me.

And as you think about these two passages, consider how many times you have blithely rattled off what you “know” to be a Biblical truth. At the time, were you aware of the context of the passage you so confidently quoted? Have you caught yourself giving advice without context?

Think about these ideas: Divorce. Remarriage. Judgement. Correction. Comfort. Have you heard “absolutes” declared in the absence of context? Or, as equally confusing have you heard context (amplification and excuses) added to “principles” which are clearly absent from the passages themselves?

It makes you think, doesn’t it? Context is everything!

A Bad Rap

January 24, 2012

Okay, so it’s taken me a while. Two years to be exact. But on January first, two years ago, I decided to obey what I thought was the Holy Spirit. My job was to outline all four gospels.

Finishing up this morning, I noticed this unusual detail in Matthew’s gospel (chapter 27) which made me think about an old story in a new way. The detail appears in the story of Judas, the betrayer, who — for thirty pieces of silver — agreed to lead the religious Big Shots to Jesus.

At most Easter observances, if anyone mentions Judas, it is with disdain. The fool. Greedy louse. I’ve heard it said, “He obviously never repented, because he killed himself.” If he had truly repented for his betrayal, then of course the story would have ended “happily ever after.” Right?

Another good example of folks who have to have all the answers. Frankly, I’m not convinced. Who knows how Judas and Father God interacted in those last minutes. Father God knows his heart. I do not. But back to my revelation. . .

In my version, I read this, “When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse…” Reading into the meaning of this sentence, I don’t think that Judas ever believed that his betrayal would end in Jesus’ death. To misquote a contemporary country song, “What was he thinking?”

Did he think that by having Jesus arrested, Jesus might be forced to take his place as the rightful King of the Jews? Was Judas’ move a political one? Did he foresee a nation free of the Romans? Did he think the arrest would widen Jesus audience? Would this play finally convince the leading priests and teachers that Jesus was who he said he was?

We can’t know what Judas was thinking. We can only speculate. But the passage does tell us he was filled with remorse. Sadness. Sorrow. He’d done the unthinkable, and now, it was out of his hands. It was his fault and his alone. There was no turning back.

If only Judas could have hung on for three more days. He might have gained a new perspective. Just three days would have been enough. The grave would be empty, and the Son of God would have proven his identity. All would be nothing more than a bad memory.

And here was my “ah-ha” moment: How often do we find ourselves caught in that moment of remorse? Of sorrow. Of loss. Or guilt. Or hopelessness. And how often do we give up just THREE DAYS before the whole picture begins to make sense?

If you are in the process of holding on, I beg you to think of our friend Judas. Just three days would have made all the difference. He gave up too soon. Will you?

Using your gift?

January 9, 2012

Today, a phrase I’ve often read struck me with new meaning. I found it in Matthew 25 where Jesus teaches about the kingdom of heaven. You know the story. A man is going away on a business trip. Before he leaves, he gives each of his servants gold to invest for him while he is away. The amounts given, we are told in the passage, correspond to each servant’s ability.

Two of the servants immediately go to work investing the gold. In the process, they earn more for their master. But one servant buries his gift, unwilling to risk his master’s wrath. When the master returns, he commends the two who have invested their gold. But he condemns the one who has done nothing.

The remarkable line is this. The servant defends himself with these telling words, “I WAS AFRAID.”

He was. Afraid the master wouldn’t approve. Afraid he wouldn’t be successful. Afraid that he didn’t have the skills to turn a profit for the master. And his fear was so profound that it immobilized him. This poor servant had the ability — we know that from the text. But  he let fear make his decisions for him.

What struck me was how often most people let fear incapacitate them. Yes, we do it when we refuse to serve in our churches (what if I fail? What if people think badly of me?). But we do it too when we refuse to do the things we know are right. I do it, when I refuse to bare my heart in the midst of a misunderstanding. (What if this person uses something I say against me?) I do it when I’m afraid to invest time in the lives of others. (What if I don’t have enough time to do the things I need to get done?) I do it when I refuse to give away my finances (What if I don’t have enough resources for my own needs?)

Even though I don’t think of myself as a fearful person. Sometimes, fear keeps me from obedience. I don’t ever want to be the servant who responds, “BUT  I WAS AFRAID!”

How about you? Does fear ever make you shake in your boots?