Of Serpents and Doves…


T’is the season for those that, some would consider, “condemnation” Christians, to come out of the woodwork. You know…the ones that put the ‘E’ in C(Christmas) M(Mother’s Day) E(Easter) Christians.

No judgment.  Honestly. I totally get it.  You want to make Momma and Grandma happy, and they will take your attendance to a church service, however they can get it. As a mom, I completely appreciate the desire to see your children attend church in the hopes of receiving more conviction than condemnation.  

Please understand…this is actually dedicated to the ones that make others feel like hot garbage, if they don’t, AT LEAST, go to church on certain holidays.  There is NOTHING saying if you don’t attend a church service regularly, that you will die and go to a burning Hell. The trouble is, the average Joe, that knows anything about the bible knows that…which is why the guilt trip rarely works.

Again, no judgment. Honestly.

So many people avoid church because they don’t want to be ‘preached’ to.  I know that you want to be a witness and share the love of God. And, I KNOW you don’t feel called to a ‘door knocking’ ministry. There has to be a way to share the Gospel with those around you, without beating them over the head with the bible.  Think about the people where you work, or the other parents in the PTA, or the neighbors on your block that you see when you are taking out the trash. Your heart is to give them the good news in a way that actually makes it seem like good news!

The struggle is not that people don’t necessarily know that they need God or a relationship with Him.  It’s more a point that they see Christians that seem unapproachable and their lifestyle unattainable. It’s like someone telling you what you already know: you’re pretty much screwed up and there’s not much you can do about it. It’s depressing knowing that there are people who  aren’t quite as screwed up as you. It’s even MORE depressing when it seems like they are holding their near perfection over YOUR head.  Nobody wants that. And, even when that’s not how we mean for it to look, that’s how it ends up appearing. Our reputations have preceded us.

It is into this kind of scenario that Jesus sent His disciples for, shall we say, “missionary” training. He sent them in as “sheep” to a den of wolves, instructing them to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. It was like giving them a ‘bad news, worse news,’ scenario.  You’re gonna look like sheep – lost, confused, air-headed, even flighty, but you have to be clever, crafty and even attractive, while maintaining an innocent, childlike trust in God and His plan for you…in the face of wolves.

Are you getting it, yet?

It’s as simple as it is complicated. We are not to lord our salvation over people. We are not to glorify our lifestyle by condemning that of another’s.  We have to be an honest representation of Salt and Light and Love.

Salt is tricky business.  In proper measure, it enhances the flavor and preserves what’s good in a thing. Too much can burn, like acid. Too little is perfectly useless.

Light, illumination, creates the same complication.  Too much, too fast can be painful and blinding. But, if presented like the dawn, it’s a gentle joyous revelation of what’s really around you, so that you may govern yourself accordingly, thus garnering an appropriate response.

Love SEEMS to be the easiest…on paper.  It’s in the practical demonstration of it, that people tend to get hurt the most. Part of the problem is that everyone has their own definition of love, based on their life experiences, that doesn’t always look like the biblical definition of it. Love, when properly displayed, can look mean, sometimes hateful. Sometimes, love makes you look stupid or naive.  Like serpents and doves.

It is in combining the forces of salt and light and love, that people become thirsty for what Christ has provided; aware of what the cost is of a life without Him as well of the benefits of a life with Him; and they become open to what true love will do in the life of an ordinary, human existence.

Then, and only then, will we see CME Christians become anchored members of the Family of God, devoted to a part of the Body of Christ and DISCIPLES. I mean, that was the original assignment, right?

Jesus did not say that hanging out with a bunch of people, just for the sake of pleasing our parents, would get us into heaven.  And, that is all a good guilt trip gets us. Reluctant attendees to a Sunrise Service and the subsequent brunch. We were never called to make congregants. We are called to make disciples…people who have active relationships with God, through Jesus Christ, that are supported by other branches who are also connected to the Vine.

So, at the close of this Good Friday, as we focus on the sacrifice of Jesus that made a way for us to be adopted into the Family of God, let us not get so wrapped up in who makes it to church this weekend.  Let’s start building relationships with the people in our communities that make them thirsty for a relationship with God, enlightened to the benefits of that relationship and fills them with the Love we’ve been given, so that they can freely ‘pay it forward.’

That’s what this weekend is all about, anyway.

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The Trouble With Jonah


Ok, so…you may have noticed that I did not make any effort to mention Mother’s Day in any way recently.  That’s because I have an unnatural aversion to the holiday.  Unlike with Father’s Day where I could pull together familial references to create an image of what might have been, I don’t have to wonder with my women folk.  While I can count the positive matriarchal references in my family on one hand, I have LOTS of negative ones.  The killing part is they are some of my most immediate kin.  There are visions I can scarce escape of indentured and unappreciated servitude, prophetic words of encouragement coupled with justified reasons why I will never see those prophecies come to pass, tools and tricks of their power wielded equally against those most loved and loathed.  I have been victorious over such influence, by the Gracious hand of God. But the second Sunday in May is the one day where their presence still overwhelms me. I’m always so grateful to be on the other side of it.

This particular holiday was further complicated by an intrusive call by one of those women.  There was a message left on my pastor’s phone.  It made sense, as there is no other way for her to contact me (good fences make good neighbors)…I still didn’t appreciate it.  The timing, however, was questionable at best. Wanting nothing more than to find out why it was so imperative that I be contacted, I returned the call as soon as possible. While ascertaining that there was absolutely NO real purpose for communication, the call lasted all of about 45 seconds.  I spent the better part of the afternoon seething.  That is, until I got home from church where I had waiting for me a pot of home-made chili that was accompanied by an extra large chocolate ice cream float.(Did I tell you how FANTASTIC my sons are?)  I went to bed as soon as I was able.

Spending an entire day under the influence of 150 proof rage leaves one with a MASSIVE hangover! I woke up Monday desperate to go back to bed, knowing that it was not an option.

This is why I LOVE working at a ministry like PASS network for life!  I got compassion and friendship from women that get God and get me.  I got unsolicited words of kindness and kinship from men in that same frame of mind.  It was better than aspirin or any other hangover remedy. Somewhere in the middle of my 12 hour day, I realize…I’m okay. I actually had a FUN day at work that ended with a few answered prayers and everything.

Still, it wasn’t until Tuesday that I got my resolution; the consolation and challenge that gave me rest that I will take with me from this Mother’s Day into every holiday or challenging ‘relative’ encounter from this day forward.

The nice thing about looking for God everywhere is you’re not surprised when He shows up…you’re just tickled.

God showed up on Tuesday in the form of a volunteer-in-training by the name of Mary.  Sweetest young lady you ever want to meet! And it wasn’t anything she said that day.  It was her presence that reminded me of a conversation we were having a week before.

We were manning the phones at the front desk, talking about something… (What I love about people with whom I enjoy chatting…we talk in random and varied trains of thought.  Nobody gets offended if the other goes off and jumps a track.  If we get back to the original conversation, it’s cool.  If we don’t, that’s cool, too!) and for some reason, we got on the subject of a bible study she had just been a part of.

Mary sits back in her chair and announces in this matter-of-fact voice, “You know, the trouble with Jonah is that Jonah thought the story of Jonah was all about Jonah.”

I fell out laughing.

That was something that had never occurred to me!  The thing that infuriated Jonah about the prophetic assignment he had been given is that He KNEW God’s intention was to correct and forgive the people of Nineveh. Jonah wanted Nineveh to FRY.  And when they didn’t, he got so hacked off (Pastor Andrew J. Willis, I borrowed your phrase) at God that he threw one temper tantrum after another. God still didn’t let Him off the hook. He even gave Jonah shade, so he wouldn’t stroke out while he was acting like a new fool. Even THEN the point was not about Jonah!  To the very last chapter of HIS book, He was merely a force, NOT A FACTOR!!!

So, that is how I shall perceive the women in my immediate family (along with a few other people), from this point on.  They were merely a force, a catalyst if you will, to push me to a place where God would get the glory and enable me to make a difference in the lives of many others. And I will not become like Jonah and demand some sense of justice or vengeance for self-satisfaction.  They are God’s children, just like me.  My fences are secure…they cannot cross them without my permission.  IT’S NOT ABOUT ME, ANYWAY! Whatever God does to them or for them is His business.  I’m gonna bless Him by blessing them (from a safe distance) and move on with my life.

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