8:24 grace through service

Morning routines are easier when I think of myself as one who serves.

Even my smallest acts of service (pack lunch, find socks, fluff up shirt, sign homework, fix hair) can be substantial in terms of the impact they have on others in my family. God gives us different gifts and different seasons to administer those gifts to those around us.  .    

Is your tendency to be someone who serves?  This week, consider some of the small acts of service that you perform each day in terms of a way to bring God’s love to others. Making your child’s bed, getting a cup of coffee for a co-worker, holding the door open, or making someone’s life a little easier by dropping a meal off at dinner time. Think of other ways that might stretch you a little more by considering some of the gifts that God has given you and how you might use them to serve those who are in the greatest place of neediness.

Consider this Scripture that encourages us to use our gifts to serve:

 1 Peter 4:10

10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

God’s word tells us that our acts of service will administer grace to others.  Ask God to bring to mind the people in your life who could use an extra measure of God’s grace this week and then find a way to serve them! We are responsible for using our gifts not only to live a life of great purpose, but also to bring God’s love and grace to the world around us.

5:27

I don’t know if this ever happens to you, but sometimes the Holy Spirit seems to wake me up consistently at the same hour of the early morning to tell me something or answer something. This morning I heard and saw a path for church life, family life, community life that was titled in my mind ” Making space for God”. This was no doubt prompted by my bedtime reading of Jen Hatmakers book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. My friend Teri recommended this book to me as I was sharing with her some of the ways God was refining my ideas about money and the value of time. A phrase that I use to describe this season is that we have half the money but twice the time with my husband since he lost his job a month ago. This answers all of our prayers on so many levels… Prayers to live more simply, to be more present with God and each other, to stand in solidarity with the larger population of mankind who live on pennies a day,

This book demonstrates the way our excess can absolutely be eliminated if we ask ourselves some questions and put into practice the discipline of poverty or simplicity:

1. Do I have space for God in my daily life?
2. Do I stand in solidarity with those who live in poverty? How?
3.Am I willing to fast in the areas of my life that I use to fill my hunger for God (food, shopping, activities)?
4. Do the many unused items in my home that have to be cleaned, maintained, and stored keep me in bondage rather than bring joy and gratitude?

I am not asking these questions as much as God is asking them, pressing them, burning them into me. Our lovely little family of six has lived quite nicely and happily in a 900 square foot beach bungalow. One bathroom, one closet, three bedrooms. It is something that has presented itself as a challenge-yes- but mostly a gift as I consider the many ways it has been a boundary to how much we can consume. Even so, when we find we have too many items to fit comfortably in our home, off my daughters run around the neighborhood like Santa elves delivering lovely toys and clothing to the littler girls in my neighborhood.

But this question, this book I am reading, Hatmaker’s references to Shane Claiborne… All of this dialogue makes me acutely aware of my need to remember,daily, what God cares about… And how I can make space for that. How I remember is by writing, but I don’t always allow space for that.

May God give me a year of creating daily space for God’s direction, a year of eliminating distractions and pursuits, a year of listening to the quiet voice that invites me to live from my true self.

freedom from slavery: thoughts on Martin Luther King

On a day when some of us will be home from work or school because of the commemoration of Martin Luther King, it came to mind as I was reading this verse how much King preached a message of living life for the sake of others. His messages, although tending to address racial equality, was more about embracing a quality of life for others that we would expect for ourselves and for those we love.Out of this expectation, we will become free.

But free from what? While it is true that not all of us have tasted the effects of socio-political oppression of slavery, racism, discrimination, we may live with the continuing nag that we are not truly free from forces and relationships that oppress us. All of this turmoil comes not only from oppressive systems out there but from something oppressive within each of us.

The Message Bible says it this way:

19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.

22-23But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

So it is not enough to have lofty ideals about freedom and equality and peace… there is something more to be done inside of our own souls.  My own confession is that too many times I begin and end each day in slavery to my own self focused paradigm. I pray today for a shift in me more and more toward the One who frees us completely from that to which we are enslaved.

soul bold

I stood on the edge of the jagged rocks and peered down into the dark swirling ocean waves below.  I had no plans to jump off of this cliff like many of my friends had done before me, but I had fun watching them and taking their pictures from my safe perch at the top.  I didn’t care if this was Hawaii and what a once in a lifetime opportunity this might be. I had never been on an upside down roller caster, never liked the Matterhorn at Disneyland, and in general avoided all thrill seeking activities.

The second preventative measure that kept me on the cliff was my absolute avoidance of the possibility of pain or injury.  The phrase “no pain, no gain” was nowhere in my life experience. I chose cheerleading over track, ballet over baseball, and when the stakes got too high and I had to put on those point shoes, the pain was too much and I quit.

But the longer I took snapshots of other peoples thrilling plunge off the cliff into the depths of moving water below, something inside of me began to ask: What if I have what it takes to jump?  If these girls can do it, then surely I can!  So jump I did, with a picture to prove it and a memory of myself behaving boldly.

This is the role of the Holy Spirit when I sit on the cliffs of my life, peering into the unknown waters.  In my early 30’s I was asked by a pastor to share my testimony at a large Sanctity of Life Service. Nowhere within me did I find the courage to stand on a stage and share my pain with a room full of strangers. Instead, the Holy Spirit inspired boldness in me as I pictured the many women who God wanted to heal from a life of shame and guilt.  As I spoke from that stage, it was similar to the jump I had taken years before, with a recording to prove it and a memory of the Holy Spirit inspiring boldness.

Let this be a year for us to find the Holy Spirit inspiring each one of us in our own degree of boldness.