Walking in Freedom

Miscellaneous musings along the way

Little is Much August 26, 2011

Filed under: Faith,School — songofjoy88 @ 8:59 am
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The anticipation builds… on Monday, I’ll meet some of my students at orientation and then I’ll see all 153 of my students on Tuesday!  It’s kind of crazy to think back to a year ago and realize how much my Lord has graciously taught me.  I had no idea what to expect a year ago.  Since I student taught 7th and 8th graders, it was quite a jump for me to have a classroom full of 10-12th graders for six periods every day!  On top of all this, I was still recovering from my jaw surgery and eating mushy/soft foods.  It wasn’t all bad (I discovered the deliciousness of vanilla protein powder!), but it was a nuisance to plan around this different diet.  Also, the shift from college dorm/apartment living to having an apartment all to myself was quite an adjustment.

 

To compensate, I tried to exert more effort, especially at school.  School became my life.  Throughout the year, though, God began to reveal to me that my job was a lot less about anything I could teach or offer my students and more about me trusting God to use me as His vessel of truth and love…  You know that hissing sound when you run cold water over a pressure cooker that has all that steam built up inside?  That’s what this gradual realization was like- a release of all the pressure that I had internally put on myself.

 

I began to understand (and continue to learn now) that I have so little to offer these students.  Students coming from broken homes, evicted because of a parent’s drug addiction, caring for a 2-yr old son, dealing with abuse at home, experimenting with drugs, struggling with depression… the list goes on- so lost and desperate for love.  What can I bring?  How can I possibly have an impact?

 

The answer to these questions is simple.  Nothing.   And, I can’t… at least not if I’m the only one in the picture.  But thankfully I’m not!  There is work to be done, and with the power of God in me, I can press forward.  And the cool thing is I don’t even have to ask God to give me opportunities to show people grace.  He has already prepared the work for me and equipped me for the task.  Let’s get to work as we proclaim with our lives that, because of Christ, little really is MUCH!

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

Hebrews 13:20-21

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen

 

Little is much when God’s in it
And no one can fathom the plans He holds
Little is much when God’s in it
He changes the world with the seeds we sow
Little is much, little is much

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Hard Rock Café August 4, 2011

Filed under: Faith,Relationships — songofjoy88 @ 4:27 pm
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I wrote this about two and a half years ago and just stumbled on it.  Hope you like it!

 

The message was simple enough, but it was in the most unexpected place.  A brown paper bag from the Hard Rock Café- really?  Below the store’s name, there it was, simply stated: “Love all.  Serve all.”

How could it be that a plain paper bag communicates part of Christ’s message more clearly than the church?  Sometimes we’re all too eager- I’m all too eager- to revert to our “highlighter Bible,” in which we’ve underlined all the passages that we like.  We focus on the verses that speak to us, while inadvertently neglecting everything else.  But, Jesus’ message is not for us to edit.  He meant what he said and we had better start living like we believe that.  Yes, we need to narrow our focus on specific aspects of following God throughout our lives, and in that sense our “highlighter Bible” serves us well.  However, we cannot turn our eyes from the all-encompassing nature of Jesus’ message.

Love All

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expounds on the Old Testament teaching to “love your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18) by instructing the crowds to “love your enemies” (Matthew 9:43).  Jesus explains that loving the people who love you is not remarkable because anybody can do that.  But what will make people take notice is the way Christians love all– especially our enemies.

Rather than preaching Christ’s message to love all, sometimes it seems as if the church communicates a message of “scrutinize all.”  We are hesitant to love all, because some people just aren’t too loveable (at least by our messed up human evaluation of them).  So, we look for reasons why we maybe don’t really have to love everyone.  We condescendingly look down on people who are gay or women who even consider abortion.  We vocally oppose homosexuality and rally against abortion with cries of pro-life.  But where are our cries for pro-love?  We toss around the cliché of “love the sinner, hate the sin,” but we’re looking so intently at the sin that we can’t even see the sinner!!  Jesus acknowledges our tendency to scrutinize others in the Sermon on the Mount when he told the crowd: “do not judge.”  He seems to express that this tendency comes from our eagerness to ignore the plank in our own eye, by pointing the finger at someone else.  Perhaps we need to “take the plank out of [our] own eye” so that the sin of our brothers appears as only a speck and we can see the person for who he or she really is (Matthew 7:1-5).  Only when we can see people, not just their sin, will we be able to love them.

Serve All

In most cases, serving others is not viewed as a desirable thing to do.  Sure it might be cute to visit people at a nursing home or serve at a soup kitchen once or twice.  But in those situations, we’re serving on our own terms.  We choose a date on our calendar that fits conveniently with our schedule.  We decide where and who we want to serve.  We clock in for our two hours of service, serve, and then we’re done.  And then we give service awards to people to commend them for serving, communicating that we view service as an exception rather than the norm.

Even as we serve others, we want people to take notice.  So, we total up the hours we’ve put in or accumulate a list of different organizations we’ve volunteered with.  It’s ironic that our efforts to serve others all too often turn into an issue of pride.  Simply serving others is not enough; we want to be recognized and commended.  We want to be great.

It’s somewhat reassuring to know that we’re not the first to desire greatness.  The Bible tells us that Jesus’ disciples argued with each other about who was the greatest.  To this, Jesus replied, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  Perhaps part of the problem with our view of service is that we have separated it from humility.  To us, service has become about being noticed and making ourselves feel good.  But the words of Jesus convey that we must humble ourselves.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he urges them to humbly consider others better than themselves and to look to the interests of others.  Then, Paul provides the perfect model of humble service in Jesus Christ.  Though he was God, he “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant… he humbled himself and became obedient to death –even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:3-8).  Bringing it back to Jesus, we see how humility and service are closely intertwined.

Furthermore, when we embrace humility, we will be better able to serve all.  Not just the people we like.  Not just the people who are easy to serve.  Not just the people who are convenient to serve.  Humbly, we can undertake Christ’s non-discriminatory instruction to “serve all.”

So, maybe Hard Rock Café has more to offer than decent food and a montage of music memorabilia.  Perhaps we would do well to heed the 4 simple words printed on that brown paper bag: “Love all.  Serve all.”

 

We Must Go July 30, 2011

Filed under: Faith — songofjoy88 @ 10:26 pm
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In my everyday life, I don’t see hunger much.  Does that mean that hunger isn’t a problem in America, or that there’s a problem with my everyday life?  Consider these facts* and decide for yourself:

  • 14.6% of U.S. households struggle to put enough food on the table. More than 49 million Americans—including 16.7 million children—live in these households.
  • Nearly one in four children is at risk of hunger. Among African-Americans and Latinos, one in three children is at risk of hunger.
  • Most Americans (51.4 percent) will live in poverty at some point before age 65.

 

And this is just in America!!  (look for info about world hunger in a future post)  While I may not want to admit it, it looks like I need to make some changes to my everyday life.  In a parable recorded in Matthew 25, Jesus says, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

 

As you read the rest of the post, listen to this song called “God of Justice” by Tim Hughes:

 

As God is gently bringing these things to the surface, he is restructuring “my” everyday life.  (When did I get the idea that my life belonged to me anyway? Check out Luke 9:23).  The past two Wednesdays I’ve headed to the inner city to serve at a choice food pantry.  Through the course of the morning, about one hundred people/families choose groceries from our shelves to carry home- enough to eat, at least for now.  We’ve had to fill out paperwork where we record how many seniors, adults and children live in the household.  It amazes me and angers me how many single mothers there are!  Where are the men?  Where are the dads??!  Issues of broken families and generational poverty that I’ve wrestled with before are resurfacing and through the roar of chaos, I hear God’s gentle voice calling me to go – To dive into the mess, into the darkness, shining as a beacon of light that comes from the hope and love and grace that my God has shown me.

 

There’s so much more I could write, but I’ll leave you with one question.  Where is God calling you to go?

*All facts are from www.bread.org.  You may also be interested in checking out www.stopthehunger.com.