Celebrate life

Celebrate lifeSo, I found a new show to watch on Netflix and it has rocked my world. No, it’s not Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy; nothing that gritty, nothing that would get tweeted about or invent new words. This show is about something more precious and less celebrated… life.

Call the Midwife is a BBC production based in London’s poor East End in the 1950s. It chronicles the lives of young nurse midwives and the women and families they tirelessly served. Never have I seen a show more full of love and committed to life. These young women were so passionate about helping babies into the world, and they had such high regard for life. Sad to say, I don’t imagine a show like that taking off in this country where we are obsessed with making things as convenient and hassle-free as possible.

But these midwives cared deeply. They cared about the new babies and the frightened mamas and the freaked-out husbands and the overbearing mothers-in-law. They held the hands and wiped the brow of all involved. And they did it in love and in expectant honor of the life that was coming into the world, no matter the circumstances.

I imagine that’s how God looks at us… each one precious, each one worth saving, each one loved, no matter what. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Oh, to demonstrate just a fraction of that love. He died for us and we didn’t deserve it. He honors us with His love, even when we are jerks. He lifts us out of our troubles, even when the mess is entirely of our own making. God loves each and every one of us… for no other reason than we are His children, created by Him, and worth loving.

Tough love

Love is the principal thingNo one wants to read the love chapter. It’s not fun. It’s not warm and fuzzy. It’s really hard. And if you read it closely, line by line, it’s even harder. So here’s your opportunity to read it… with me… and let’s feel how difficult this is, together.

Love is patient and kind.

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

It does not demand its own way.

It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

That’s 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT). And it’s not even the whole chapter… just six lines. Talk about tough love… geez.

Love, forgive, move on. I’m working on it.

Your mess isn’t too big

chemical-spillYes, you may be in trouble, or in some kind of mess, but God specializes in getting us out of messes and making things even better than they were before. Honestly, just look at the life of Jesus. Try to see it from the disciples’ eyes. They had been going around with their teacher, they had been hearing the Word of the Living God that burned like fire in their souls, seeing incredible miracles, having the time of their lives when one night they sit down to dinner and Jesus tells them He’s going to die. These men had laid down their lives to follow him… left their homes and jobs and devoted their lives to Jesus’ ministry. Can you imagine what they must have been thinking when they watched Jesus’ words come to pass? When they saw Him on that cross?

We think about the disciples being these great men of faith and wisdom, but these guys were just regular people. They must have been horrified! Can you imagine the hopelessness they would have felt when Jesus died? They did not have the benefit of the bigger picture that we have. We know that Jesus had to die to redeem us from sin, but they didn’t know that. They didn’t know squat. But just look at how God took that seemingly unfixable mess and changed the course of mankind.

Talk about making things better than they were before… what would it be like if we still had to sacrifice animals to cleanse us from sin? PETA would not like that at all.

Your mess isn’t too big for God to clean up. You’re not too deep in your sea of troubles that He can’t fish you out. As long as your heart still has room for Him, He has answers for you.

He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.(Psalm 91:15 NIV)

Woe to me?

Woe to meHave you ever read something in the Bible that made you think, “Oh, crap. That’s harsh?” Have you ever slammed the Book shut and just said, “I cannot even handle that right now?” Well, I just did.

Matthew 18:7 says, Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

Woe to that man by whom the offense comes? Woe to the person who does the offending? Do you even know what that word means? Some synonyms for woe are: Misery, sorrow, distress, wretchedness, sadness, unhappiness, heartache, heartbreak, despondency, despair, depression, regret, gloom, and melancholy.

This scripture does not make me feel good! I have zero warm fuzzies!

I have learned a lot about getting over being offended, but being the one who caused the offense? I have to admit, I’ve not given that much thought. Have I caused someone to be offended? Then the Bible says woe to me. Wretchedness, unhappiness, despair? No thank you! Even from a purely selfish standpoint, I don’t want to cause someone to be offended because I don’t want the woe to me!

So, what now?

Oh, Holy Spirit, search my heart. Search down deep in the dark corners where I’ve swept away my secrets and show me when I’ve been the offender. I repent of sin and ask You to forgive me. I ask You to show me when I’m causing offense in someone’s life, when I’m doing something that hurts them, whether it’s intentional or not. And I ask You to help me be more sensitive to what You may be trying to accomplish in someone else’s life.

I know I don’t have it all together and I’m a work in progress, but each time I get these little course corrections from my Father God, I’m getting better. If I weren’t growing, and if I didn’t have things to accomplish for Him, why would He waste His time?

A redeemer redeems

RedeemerGod is a redeemer. That means He redeems.

He redeems us from sin, cleans us up, and sets us back on our feet.

He is also the redeemer of situations. That doesn’t mean just fix our situation, but make it even better than it was before.

How does He do it?

It’s different every time.

He’s God.

He’s smarter than us.

Ask Him into your situation. Ask Him to redeem it. Repent of your sin and receive His forgiveness.

Let the guilt go.

Don’t focus on the mess; focus on the Redeemer.

Thank God.

Move on.

Wash off that turkey

Have you ever painstakingly set a lovely table only to see the dog jump up on it and start licking the turkey? Is the day ruined? Do you scream bloody murder, beat the dog, and sink into a puddle of disastrously dashed dreams?

Or it is possible you could wash off the turkey and stick it under the broiler for a few minutes? I mean really, we don’t have to let things get destroyed. We can fix what we can fix and we can enjoy the rest of the meal. Why let those lovely mashed potatoes go to waste? Why let the perfectly seasoned stuffing for which you chopped onions and celery for an hour be spoiled? And what about the lovely cranberry sauce that only makes one sensational appearance a year? Does it have to be trashed too?

I say, wash off the turkey and keep going. Crap happens. Such is life. We don’t have to let it conquer us.

God has mercy on us, shouldn’t we have mercy on ourselves? God gives us second chances, why don’t we extend that grace to ourselves? I think we beat ourselves up far more than our loving Heavenly Father ever does or would. Jesus already died for our sins, He doesn’t need to punish us to make His point.

But what we do have to do is repent and accept His forgiveness… even if we know we don’t deserve it. And let’s face it, we really don’t deserve it. But the good news is, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, and great is His faithfulness.

He is faithful, even when we’re not. He is there when the dog licks the turkey. He is there when we drop the gravy boat and it shatters and we drop a verbal bomb. He is there when we burn the biscuits.

He is always there, lovingly picking us up and pushing us along, making our crooked way straight and wrapping us in His tender mercy. He doesn’t throw us out when we mess up, let’s try doing it His way.

A question of mercy

I have a question: We want God to have mercy on us when we screw up, right? Why don’t we want Him to have mercy on others, especially those who hurt us? Why do we want bad things to come to them? Why do we refuse to see the fact that God loves those people the same as He loves us, and He’s not willing that any should perish (II Peter 3:9)?

Revenge is human nature, it’s very difficult to break free from the desire to see it land on our enemies’ heads. And somehow we think we must be God’s favorite and He will spare us and gather us into His loving forgiveness, but we are just sure that He’s closed His arms to others, others that we deem unforgivable.

This is just not so.

If I try to count up all the times that I have messed up, I’d be here all week. And do you know how many of those times God has forgiven me? All of them; all that I’ve repented of and asked forgiveness for, that is. And even when I don’t realize what I’ve done, I know that God’s goodness and mercy have followed me around, cleaning up my messes. Psalm 23:6 promises me that. So why do we find it hard to imagine that God does that for others too? God loves His children, all of them. He is rich in mercy and loving-kindness. We should be too.

I stumbled upon an online forum where people were talking about a shared experience from years ago. The forum could have been a place where they reminisce about funny things and easier times, but sadly it gave many the opportunity to simply prove themselves bitter and stuck in the past.

God isn’t in the business of going backwards, He is always in forward motion. He has plans for us, He has a future and a hope for us (Jeremiah 29:11). He doesn’t live in the past. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). How can we fulfill God’s plans for our lives if we can’t get out of the past? We must accept God’s mercy for ourselves, we must show God’s mercy to others, and we must get on with life!