{re}fresh

Month: September, 2015

Barking at Wolves

by Wendy

Image by Shawn Kinkade CC BY-ND4.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/wsk/

Image by Shawn Kinkade CC BY-ND4.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/wsk/

I lay shivering in bed, frozen against the wall under the sloping eaves. The darkness haunted me as menacing shadows danced in the window, backlit through the white-sheet ruffled curtains and the pull-down shade.

Wolves, there were wolves there. I could hear them, sense them, feel them slinking across the floor to my bed. They hid there, daring my feet to dangle where razor-sharp teeth could snap. I pulled my toes further under the thin blanket, too scared to scream for Daddy. When my breath finally returned, I was as voiceless as in a dream. I waited an eternity until sleep smothered the fear.

Mommy was no help. She frowned her impatient morning-frown as she cracked eggs sharply and dropped them in the frying pan. Her eyes scolded me while her voice told me the wolves did not exist. Her words made me doubt myself, but my fears didn’t listen to logic. I shoved the questions down and waited. Perhaps Daddy would help in the evening?

I waited until he came home late and changed after work. Then he was in my room. I gulped. He wouldn’t believe me either, would he? His eyes were kind, though, and I tried my voice, surprised when this time there were sounds to go with my fears. I felt silly when I heard my own words. “I don’t want to go to bed. There are wolves under the bed! There are! They were there last night. I heard them, and I saw them in the window!”

“Wolves?” His blue eyes widened as he looked from the window to the bed with the green ruffled bedspread. “Wolves?” he repeated, as I nodded tentatively, feeling sheepish and even younger than my little girl age. I looked down at my toes, afraid of what he’d say.

“Well, we’ll have to get rid of them!” Then, suddenly, he was down on his hands and knees. Barking. Under the bed. At the wolves. Barking, until every last one of the grey monsters disappeared, vanished, slinking out the window and into the night.

“There,” he said as he rubbed his hands together with a satisfied grin. “We took care of THEM!”

And suddenly, I could breathe again. Laughter started to bubble. We giggled, sputtered, and he grabbed me in a hug, tucking me firmly into the bed. It wasn’t scary now, not with my Daddy there.

He understood. He chased the wolves away. He believed me.

I didn’t know Jesus then, I was too little and my Daddy didn’t know how to introduce us. But I learned something then that I know about Jesus now: He takes me seriously. He listens to my fears and my hurts, even if they don’t make sense in an adult world. He listens first, without telling me what I “should” feel, or why my fears are wrong.

And then he barks, and the wolves go away. Schedule wolves. Relationship wolves. Evaluating wolves. Deadline wolves. Money wolves. Worry wolves. Despair wolves. Shame wolves (especially shame wolves, my most vicious wolves of all).

Did you catch that? He listens first. He believes me. And then he barks at the wolves, so I can sleep.

What wolves did He scare for you today?

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How Does One Get Ready for the God of the Universe?

by Mike McKinniss

"Quiet and Calm" by nate2b used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Quiet and Calm” by nate2b used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:7a).

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been advised, as part of a congregation, “to prepare my heart for worship.” In most instances, this came to mean something like, “Everybody quiet for, like, 15 seconds, at least. This is church and its supposed to be serious business, you know.”

We would all dutifully bow our heads and observe a moment of silence, not unlike we used to do in grade school after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, a moment designed, I suspected, to give the teacher a moment of peace. Then, because you can’t lead with a downer, the worship band would rip into a full-blast up-tempo chorus to get us all moving and shaking in the Spirit.

The juxtaposition was jarring, and I began to wonder what this “preparation” was all about. Or, at least, I wanted to be able to prepare rightly. What did it mean to come to worship? And how does one get ready for that?

I decided to take on for myself a little experiment. Barring a catastrophe, I made every effort to get into the church sanctuary five to ten minutes before the service started. Often enough, this meant eschewing pre-church conversations with good friends and finding my seat quickly upon arrival. Once seated, with the hum of people still exiting the early service (to arrive early to the first service would have been too much), with the buzz of others still coming in, with the purposeful commotion of musicians up front getting their gear situated, I would quiet myself.

My goal was to focus on one thing. I had come to church that morning not for great sounding worship, nor for a positive and inspiring message, though I liked both of those things. I was not there to see friends, though we would likely go to lunch afterward and enjoy one another’s company. I was there, rather, to meet with the living God, who raised Jesus from the grave and promises to do the same for me, as a son in his family. I was there to encounter the Lord of creation, who is making all things new. I was there to be with Jesus, who is actively working to put all God’s enemies under his feet, even and especially death.

I found I needed this preparation. Why? Because it was so easy to sing along with everyone else, and think about whether the guitar is out of tune, or I am. Because it was so easy to listen to another sermon, critiquing the style and delivery, or, frequently, to not listen at all. Because there are literally hundreds of other people around me who have interesting faces and clothes and hair. Because it is too easy to come to church and miss the thing I need most there.

So I would prepare by asking the Lord to send his Spirit into the room. I would invite God to come to church and do whatever he wanted to do. And I would say to him, “Please, God, don’t let me miss it.”

Invariably, I discovered I was indeed prepared. I knew why I was there in the sanctuary with hundreds of other worshippers. I was confident and expectant that the Lord had heard my prayers and that he would show himself that morning.

And then, most times, having been duly prepared, God would go and do something completely unexpected and surprise us all.

This Is Amazing Grace!

by Rob Dunne

Holga, Fuji Acros, "When ghosts collide..." CC BY-ND 4.0

Holga, Fuji Acros, “When ghosts collide…” CC BY-ND 4.0

“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10

Convincing a jury that the car with the flat tire was at fault was one of my toughest cases I had ever tried. This vehicle stopped in the travel lane of the highway. The person directly behind her was able to safely stop her vehicle, but my client wasn’t so lucky. She attempted to slow down and swerve left, but still rear-ended the vehicle in front of her.

The jury was asked to determine if the broken down vehicle violated the law by allowing her vehicle to remain in the travel portion of the highway. They were also asked to decide if my client acted reasonably under the circumstances. Even though she was traveling below the speed limit, she could be found at fault if her response differed from that of the reasonably prudent person.

My client was victorious but the jury cut her damages in half due to her comparative negligence. I think it was a fair result.

Long before I entered the practice of law, I was a legalist. I prided myself on the fact that I was better than others because I lived a holier life than them. To this day, I am quick to render judge when I observe someone violating the law. It is funny how quickly I forget the numerous laws that I have broken while judging others.

This self-righteous attitude is what causes me to wrestle with the concept of grace. There is literally nothing that any person can do to earn God’s forgiveness. We don’t live as holy as we can and then trust that Jesus will fill in the gaps. Either we believe by faith that Jesus paid it all or we try to become our own savior.

Unlike my client’s situation, there is no comparative fault with God. Either you follow the law perfectly or you are guilty of violating all of it. God knew that no one would ever be able to keep the law perfectly. That is why He sent Jesus. Jesus was able to fulfill the entire law and live a sinless life. As He hung on the cross, He became sin so that we might become righteous. Our part is to simply believe by faith that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. That act of faith restores our relationship with God and the promise of eternity with Him.

There are many people who argue that abandoning the law and living under grace gives people liberty to sin. Nothing could be further from the truth. Understanding God’s grace and the love that He has for us sets us free from the requirements of the law. As His love is poured out in our hearts, we simply lose our desire to engage in sinful behavior. The holier we live, the deeper we are able to go in our relationship with God, thereby allowing Him to pour out even more love over us. In turn, we stop judging others and extend the same grace to them that God has given to us. It is quite liberating.

It is impossible for us to earn God’s love or our entrance in to heaven. Accept His free gift of grace today and allow the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus to set you free from the law of sin and death. I promise you will experience inexpressible joy in the freedom that His amazing grace provides!

The shocking truth about love

by mandyade

heartimage

Christianity is often very different than we expect… it’s really all about receiving. Yep, our faith journey has a lot more to with receiving than it has to do with giving.

You see Jesus first loved us. Until we catch the beautiful revelation of His love we will be unable to love God back. We can only love Him as a response.We can’t initiate love for God, God alone initiates love by loving us…like a hurricane!

 If we can receive such a radical love,

 If we can believe we are so beautiful to Him,

 If we can accept that we are His darling,

Then we will respond as lovers respond to each other.

We were not created to love on command; that is impossible for us. When we strive to love God we create a religion. When we let Him love us and simply respond we create a relationship.

The greatest, most extraordinary works done by the church were done in response to love, not in response to law. The world needs another extraordinary work from heaven.

Religion will choke the world, but a people who know how loved they are will water the world.  And all we need is to be watered by His love more than anything else. We are all loved by God, but those who know it will live it!

We love because He first loved us.“1 John 4:19

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