Our Best Life might not be comfortable…

When I originally started this blog, I did not understand very much.  I still don’t understand a lot, but I think I am learning more about myself.

At the beginning there were times when I confused “comfortable life” with “best life”.  As I have continued on my journey this mistake is now so painfully clear that I am actually quite embarrassed to be typing this even though I wish instead of embarrassment I felt thankful for finally realizing this and humbled as I see how blessed I have been to be surrounded by so many comforts.

At the beginning of my search I kept asking questions about my cousin’s premature death…

  1. Why didn’t she get to graduate from college?
  2. Why didn’t she have a chance to fall in love?
  3. Why were we at her funeral instead of her wedding?
  4. Why did she miss out on the joy of motherhood?
  5. How could this have been her best life or part of our best life?

Then a few months ago I pondered the question of whether my cousin’s death was a gift of grace in disguise for our grandfather?

Maybe her life was a gift for our grandfather to finally find what he had been searching for his whole life?  Maybe her life was a gift for me to finally have my eyes opened, if even just a little, to see my own greed and selfishness?

I don’t know the answer to this, but if her death was our gift, then maybe she did live Our Best Life… His will!

What better life could one live than to follow so closely in the footsteps of our sweet Jesus, Who was sacrificed for all of us?

Turned around and upside down!

Whoever needs less should thank God and not be distressed, but whoever needs more should feel humble because of his weakness, not self important because of the kindness shown to him.

– The Rule of Saint Benedict

Our society builds up those with more making it difficult for those with more to truly feel humble.  This then leads many with less to not thank God, but instead covet more.

I think we need to keep Saint Benedict’s perspective in mind and always in sight, despite being constantly bombarded with the opposite belief by the cultural norms of our society.

Jesus please help us to keep looking at things upside down and turned around so that we won’t be swept away by the world.

Thank You

Almost every time I pray I ask for my family and friends to be blessed and kept safe, but what does keeping them safe really entail?  What does blessing them really entail?

Do I mean for them to be healthy and kept out of accidents?
Do I mean for them to be comfortable and happy?

Will keeping them safe and blessing them bring them closer to God?  I don’t know.

In Jeremiah 14:11-12
The Lord said to me: Do not pray for the welfare of this people.  Although they fast, I do not hear their cry, and although they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I do not accept them; but by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence I consume them.

Was the Lord asking Jeremiah to refrain from praying for the welfare of these people because He knew that safety, comfort and blessings are not what would bring these people closer to Him?  Is He saying that that they will only cry out to Him, present offerings from their hearts, and truly come closer to Him in times of war, famine and pestilence?

I am not sure, but reading this made me take a step back and wonder.

1.  How often do I cry out to God in true joy and thanksgiving when I am safe, comfortable and blessed?  Do these blessings help bring me closer to Him?

2.  How often do I cry out to God in times of sorrow or conflict?  Do these difficulties and challenges bring me closer to Him?

God wants us to cry out to Him regardless of whether it is in joy or misery.   He wants to be there for us, He wants to be close to us and maybe sometimes we won’t let Him in until the difficult times arise.

God please help us to pray with humility knowing that we don’t know what is best, and help us to have faith that You do know what is best for all of us and will do everything in Your power to help us cry out to You.

Maybe my new prayer should be, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

The first shall be last…

I have been thinking a lot about the following passage from the bible.

Mark 12:1-12
Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.

The first time I read this parable I didn’t get it, I skimmed over it and read on, but I just reread it yesterday and I finally understood it.

As many others have written and as I finally understood, in this parable Jesus is referencing God as the landowner, the Jewish leaders as the tenants, the prophets as the servants and then Himself, Jesus, as the landowners only son.

As I was thinking more about this today, I thought about all of the other spiritual beliefs and religions spread throughout the world.  I thought about how the core teaching of all of the major religions is the same as Jesus’ core teaching, The Golden Rule.

Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

Then I began to think about all of the other religions whose leaders could have also been considered tenants.  I thought about how these other religions have also had prophets come to share this message, The Golden Rule, and I started wondering what was the difference.

Did the leaders of these other religions, the tenants, actually listen to their prophets, the servants of the landowner, thus not requiring the landowner to send his only son?

If this is the case, then we have been quite lost for some time.  If this is the case, then we, the Christian children of our Jewish ancestors, appear to be among the last to follow God’s law and the one’s who required and took the most from God in order to listen and believe.  We wouldn’t take the word of His prophets/His servants, but required Him to sacrifice His only Son for us to finally listen and believe.

Thank you God for sacrificing Your only Son, Jesus, in order to bring us, Your chosen people, home.  Please help us to understand that You chose us not as a preference over our brothers and sisters throughout the world, but because You love us and refuse to abandon Your lost sheep even if it means sacrificing Your only Son.

Please help us to open our eyes and see that we may have been the lost sheep all along.

Please help us to open our eyes as we look on our brothers and sisters throughout this world and help us to see that there are so many who knew Your Son before you sent Him and so many who have loved You, lived by Your words, and attributed any goodness found within them back to You longer than we have.

Please help us to see that we might be among the last.

Warriors of Love!

I heard the song His Kind of Love by Group 1 Crew today on KSBJ in Houston (my favorite station)!  I am sure I have heard it many times, but I was planning to run today and the great beat struck me.  I drove home from dropping the girls off, bought it for my i-pod, put it on repeat, and ran out the door.

The song got me really pumped up for a run, and as I running I was really listening to the words and feeling His love, praying for understanding His love, and wanting to share His love.  I made it home and as I was stepping into the house I was listening to the line in the song, “Is reckless for us” and do you know who I thought of?  I thought of women in abusive relationships and marriages.

I thought to myself these women understand reckless love.  They stay with their partner or husband through the beatings, through the verbal abuse, through the humiliation.  They love their partners and they wait out the bad times and hope for the good times to return. They haven’t forgotten the glimmer of Jesus that they saw in their spouses eyes when they first met and they probably see Jesus again every morning after the storm in the apologies, hugs, kisses and promises that it will never happen again.  They lose friends and family who don’t understand why they won’t leave.  In the end others give up on them or even start to hate them for their weakness for staying… just as Jesus was despised by so many.  The bruises, scars, and pain are their battles wounds showing us that they know a lot about loving as Jesus loves.  They know about Reckless Love.

I am in no way suggesting these women stay in these relationships or continue to put up with abuse. I don’t want that for them or anyone!

However since realizing this, I will never again look upon these women with pity.  I will see them as Warriors of Love!  I will want to kiss their battle wounds and pray for a quick recovery.  I will want to ask how to help them and not take the assumption that I know how to help them.  I will want to thank them for showing me that it is possible in our world to love recklessly as Jesus loves us.  I will want to ask them how they do it (not as a put down or to embarrass them, but as a student would ask a teacher)  so that I can humbly try to spread the love that they are spreading through this one lost individual that they have been appointed to care for, teach and love!

Jesus please help us to love as these women love and help us to change our perspective and see these women as You want them to be seen, as Your Warriors of Love!

What would you do?

Imagine that someone close to you (Jay) took the blame for something that a friend of his did (Evan).  Imagine that Jay got into big trouble at school and Evan took none of the blame.

If you were Jay’s parent or guardian would Evan be welcome in your house after this?

  • Would your answer change if you could see that Jay truly loved Evan regardless of how Evan felt?
  • Would your answer change if you could see that Jay truly loved Evan and you could see that Evan truly loved Jay?
  • Would your answer change if Evan apologized to both you and Jay for what he had done?
  • Would your answer change if Evan confessed his guilt at school and was give the same punishment that Jay already received?

How far must Evan go in order to be welcomed back into your house?

Thinking about this scenario really helps me put into perspective why I think we are only welcome in God the Father’s house through Jesus.  Jesus loves us, but God loves Jesus so much that he is willing to open His door only to those who truly love His Son.

Maybe our own personal answers to the above questions will help us see what God’s answer would be for us to enter His house?

Thank you Jesus for taking all of the blame and loving us so much!

The only thing good in me is Jesus!

I heard the song, The Only Thing, by Ronnie Freeman for the first time tonight while listening to Pandora.

I loved hearing this song, and it was yet another reminder for the importance of humility. I know my heart and I know that I have proudly accepted many undeserved compliments (from others and from myself) throughout my life.  No matter what my life looks like to myself or others, I have to remember that I am still the least of thieves and yet Jesus still loves me and is in me. The more I superficially build myself up from these good deeds and compliments, the further I push Jesus away, but once I remember or realize that everything thing good in me is because of Jesus I pull closer to Him.

Ephesians (2:8-9) “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”

Jesus please keep reminding me to be humble so that I can pass Your glory on to You!

It is Our Best Life… let’s pass it on!

The Gates

Back in high school there was a party one weekend that some friends and I had been invited to and we were planning to attend.  My best friend’s mom dropped us off and as we were walking towards the front door we caught a glimpse of one of the cool and intimidating girls in our class.  In an instant the four of us made a decision not to attend the party, we turned around and ran back to the car.  That night we instead had a slumber party together and laughed at ourselves and had a really good time.  I haven’t thought about this night since then, but for some reason listening to a song tonight made me think of it.  I wondered about the feelings my friend’s mom must have experienced that night.  I think she was probably sad to see us exclude ourselves from a party out of fear and intimidation.  I would have been very sad to see this happen to my girls.  As a parent it is one thing to see your children excluded by others, but to see them exclude themselves leaves you completely helpless.

In the gospel of St. Matthew 7:7

Jesus said ” Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Thinking about this tonight made me wonder

  • Am I humble enough to realize that the gates of heaven will not be standing wide open for me when I arrive?
  • Am I fearless enough to have the courage to knock on those enormous, beautiful and radiant gates?

In the gospel of St. Matthew 15:22 – 28

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”  Jesus did not answer a word.  So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.  He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”  “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Finally thinking about this next passage in conjunction made me wonder

  • Am I humbly persistent enough to keep knocking until the gates are opened?

I want to teach my children to be humble, fearless and persistent.  I want to teach them to include others and themselves.

Include yourself!  God is our Father and if it pains me to see my children exclude themselves then imagine how painful it is for Him to see billions of His children exclude themselves everyday.

Jesus wants ALL of us, He is preparing the rooms and He told us to knock when we arrive just as any friend inviting us to His parents home would ask us to knock when we arrived!

It is Our Best Life!  Let’s believe it together and it will be for all of us!