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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Joy Greater Than Mean People

            I was recently touched by a post of one of my Facebook friends.  Kelly was talking about taking the time to do good to others and how he especially goes out of his way to say “Thank You” to Veterans.  He shared about a conversation he had with a Korean War Veteran and the man was brought to tears through the encounter.  He had a story to tell and he got a chance to tell a small part of it.
           Everybody has a story – and sometimes they want to tell it.  But everybody also has a story they don’t want to tell.  It is too filled with pain, disappointment, shame or regret.  So, we hold it in, hidden – or so we think.  It’s hidden until we get mean and then the story starts to come out, but not in a good way.
            We all have known mean people in our lives.  And, if we are perfectly honest, we would admit we’ve been the mean one at times, too.  When we encounter mean people it is easy to start taking it personally.  One time I was driving to San Jose, looked to my left and the guy in the pick-up truck was flipping me off.  My immediate reaction was to get mad and defensive!  But I honestly had not a clue what I had done to deserve his attention.  Was I going 70 mph instead of 75?  Who knows?  And it was then it dawned on me that it wasn’t about me.  What that guy did was about him and what was going on in his life.  I just happened to be in the vicinity of his anger.
            Mean people steal joy because they drag us into their mud hole.  And, if you wrestle with pigs, you’re going to smell bad and get dirty.  There’s no way around it.

            But there is a way out of it that will keep our clothes clean and our heart intact.  That way is to see others with the eyes of Jesus and have compassion.  Admittedly, this is not an easy thing to do when someone may be screaming obscenities at you but we have to start by remembering, it’s not about me.  Mean people encounters are opportunities to trust more deeply in Jesus.  They are the chance to pray for someone else.
            Mean people encounters are a reminder there is a story that hasn’t been told in that person’s life that is showing up in destructive ways.  So, the next time you have one of these encounters, take a deep breath, tell yourself “it’s not about me”, pray for them and if you have the chance, do something nice for them.  Perhaps they will begin to see Jesus and his story will intersect their story so a new story can begin to be told.

Peace and grace,

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” ~ Jesus  (Matthew 5:44, ESV)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Joy Greater Than Broken Families and Lives

          “No Perfect People.”  “Brilliant!”, I thought. 
            These were the words that formed the tag line of a church I saw somewhere.  I don’t remember the church’s name but I definitely remember what they stood for.  They were speaking directly against the perception that people who go to church are “the perfect people.”  Church People have perfect lives, perfect families, perfect children, perfect jobs, perfect friends, perfect marriages.  This church knew many, many people wouldn’t ever darken the doors of a church because they just don’t feel like they measure up.  They aren’t perfect enough.
            A saying of Cold Springs Church written on our worship center wall is a little more wordy – “Free to be who we are, being transformed into all God wants us to be” – but seeks to communicate a similar sentiment.  We are messy, broken people (whether we care to admit it or not) and it is Jesus’ business to restore and strengthen our lives.  We not only shouldn’t act perfect when we come to church, we can’t be perfect.  If you are perfect, you have no need for grace.  Perfect people don’t need God. 

We strive to be a place of grace where all of us can encounter the God of grace.  He is the only one who has the power to take what is broken and bring about beauty.
Where are you not perfect in your life?  Where are you sensing loss, brokenness and need?  Where are you comparing yourself to others and feeling like you don’t measure up?  Your need is the opportunity for God’s grace. 
            This is God’s story - entering into the story of our lives with all it is and all it isn’t and bringing redemption.  So today, when you recognized a piece of your brokenness see it as the invitation it was meant to be.  Don’t run from it, don’t hide from it, don’t put on the “Perfect Church People Mask.”  Instead invite Jesus in to begin doing his work of restoration.  Instead of hiding, tell a friend about your need so Jesus can do what he does best, show his mercy, grace and love through others.
            As you look around today, know there are no perfect people.  There are just people like you in need of the grace of God.  Let’s be that grace to each other.

Peace and grace,