Sunday, November 4, 2012

Walk This Way

Have you ever had one of those days where every happening and every thought meld into one giant lesson by the time you hit the sack? That was my Saturday this week- yesterday. And today continued the trend, so now that I am finally getting the opportunity to sit and write all of this out, my brain and heart are thoroughly drenched, swimming in a crazy whirlpool of thoughts, feelings and discoveries. All good. I feel full, inspired, excited and expectant- but uneasy. I guess any time you find yourself at the brink of change there is some uneasiness- or there should be- Peter getting out the boat, skydivers before jumping out of the plane, repellers rounding the cliff peak...

To preface the "whirlpool," you should know that this week has been one of studying about the Holy Spirit. Kevin started the week with a lesson on "Coming Alive to the Holy Spirit," in which he discussed in general the working of the Spirit of in our lives and some common misconceptions of the Spirit. We continued studying this topic in our smaller groups Wednesday night, and our particular discussion focused on how the Spirit led the church in Acts 2 into a very organic devotion to each other, the teaching, praying, and communion with Christ to which God daily added more believers. A sampling of our thoughts were: "We may even do "good" things without the Spirit leading us- if we are just doing because we are "supposed to." Sometimes the Spirit does not lead us to comfortable places. The Spirit forcibly drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted for forty days. How might we hinder the work of the Spirit in our contriving church activities, etc... making our ministry more about us than God?"

So, Saturday comes around, and from the moment I wake up this is what I desire to do:

Pretty glorious, huh? But, because I'd planned to meet a friend at a coffee shop, I decided it would be best if I had my quiet time there, but she didn't show, and here's what I ended up doing: (Now, disclaimer about this following video- I'm totally grateful for facebook and think it can be used to accomplish much good, but this was not the time for me to get on. Enjoy the song, though; it's a riot.)

So, I did finally close the computer and journal, which helped, but then I was antsy to move, so I left to do a couple errands. Once I was home, laundry and boxes were calling out my name. (I'm currently packing up my apartment to move in with my new roomie, Mary at the end of the month because Liz moved back home a couple weeks ago.) And I was like, "Ugh...well, I'll put on a sermon while I fold laundry." Turns out this wasn't a bad idea, because I chose Francis Chan's "Cheetos and Treadmills: Grace to Become Who We Want to Be" sermon, which ended up being all about living in step with the Spirit, not gratifying the sinful nature- and really listening to God. If you can, it's well worth your time to listen. Halfway through, I paused it, changed clothes and drove to the park. FINALLY I decided to do something for my heart.

And it was good. Talk about a PERFECT day for a walk- a nice chilly breeze, clear skies...  :)

While walking the sandy paths of Halyburton, I mediated on things I'd learned from the lesson-1. That when you are keeping in step with the Spirit, you can't simultaneously indulge the flesh (Gal. 5:16). 2. That we don't need to pray for the Spirit to guide us, because that is his nature; we need to pray for the humility to listen and obey- or rather Trust and Obey. (If you are not familiar with the hymn "Trust and Obey," click here to listen to the back story and a nice acoustic version of the song.) So I mused and prayed for a while wondering what the Spirit is leading me to do while I'm here in Wilmington and what he might possibly be leading me toward in the future, what he would lead me to in the next hours...

On my last loop around the park I realized that they key I'd taken off my key ring to hold with me for my jaunt was not my car key but my apartment key. Oops. That was dumb. Locked myself out of the car. "Oh, well, no sweat. I guess God just wants me to meet the AAA guy who'll come to save me." So, with Mommy's help, I get the number for AAA and in about 20 minutes the van of salvation appears in the parking lot and finds me sitting cheerfully on the trunk of my car, enjoying the weather. Steven, my rescuer, finagled around with the passenger door for a while and eventually released the lock, leaving me still with enough time to get home and change before going to see The Color Purple at Thalian Hall with my friend, Brittany. Wohoo!

But, here's where the story gets sad. I disobeyed the Spirit. Even though I wanted to share with Steven and at least offer him and invitation to church, I let him walk away.  How could I do that when I'd spent the entire 10 minutes we had together prepping myself to share an invitation and hopefully more than that? Perhaps therein lies the problem. Maybe I was relying on myself. As I started the ignition I thought, "I could knock on the window (because he sat in the van a minute or so before pulling out), but I fought with myself instead. I drove away, realizing my error and asking for another opportunity.

So Brittany and I make it to The Color Purple in time- and WOW! What a show! This musical rendition of the epic story of a downtrodden woman finding love and life is now my second favorite show next to Les Mis. It paints such a full picture of life, struggles with who God is and how he works, and ultimately is a story of redemption. Beautiful. Here's a link to the opening number- "The Good Lord Works in Mysterious Ways," a perfect song, really, to wrap up the story. (And the last number soars with the refrain, "Look at what God has done.") I could write another post just on thoughts from this maybe another time.

After this, I got to share some special time of fellowship with my new brother, David Johnson and his friends Heather and Jonathan, whom I'd met a couple times but not gotten to speak with further. We had some dinner together and shared encouraging stories about how God has worked this week. It was truly encouraging. David especially had an awesome interaction with a guy who is now studying the Bible, all because David stopped in the middle of the road to pick up the cellphone of a motorcyclist and followed him to his place to give it back. Kevin shared the full story with the congregation today, and it will encourage you to hear it (and the whole sermon- it was great.) After talking, Jonathan pulled out his guitar and hymnal, and David pulled out youtube and we sang several songs- some new ones for each of us- all of which are, in David's words, very "Christ exalting." It was refreshing to sing with friends; I realized it had been a while since I'd gotten to have that joy outside the full church body meeting. I left with a more focused heart and two new friends. Definitely a good night. A Spirit-filled night. I look forward to having more times like it in our developing church culture here in Wilmington. today. Sunday! And Daylight Savings Time! I woke up feeling alive. And today I did indeed take a walk first thing. Then went down to the coffee shop again for the make-up time with the friend. We had a good talk. Our friendship is growing, and I'm praying to not fear bringing up Jesus with her. I know she's not interested in religion, but Jesus and religion are very different things. After our time talking she asked if I'd like to have a movie night with her, and of course I was like, "Of course!" I'm so happy that she's enthusiastic about building a friendship with me because I feel that most times I'm trying to reach out to people the relationship tends to be more one-sided. Anyway, I think she and her husband are really cool and they will be so much cooler when they have God!

Went home, cooked some butternut squash soup for the week and listened to another Francis Chan sermon, which also happened to be about the guiding of the Spirit- focusing more on the fruits of the Spirit. Main point that stuck out: We must live up to what we have already attained (Phil. 3:16). If we keep growing in knowledge without applying it, we are bringing judgement upon ourselves. Phew... the dangers of being raised around the church...the amount of spiritual books on my shelf means nothing. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1).

Let me now attempt to tie all of this together with thoughts from the time with the church this evening and Kevin's lesson (link above), which he titled, "The Antioch Effect." In short, the Antioch church was started by members of the church who had fled because of persecution and were sharing with Gentiles in Antioch- sowing seed left and right. They did not share as the Jews would have- first to Jews, so when word got out that a large number of believers existed in the city, Barnabas went to check it out. He was greatly encouraged to see such a strong contingency of Gentile believers and sent for Paul to come fill their need for teaching. Down the road, however, the Jewish Christians try to force circumcision upon the Gentiles to make them "real" believers, but the gospel prevails- to the great relief of the Gentiles! The points: We can get so focused on our systems, strategies, etc... especially those of us who have been around awhile, that we are no longer fools for Christ as the gospel calls us to be. The ability to teach and the spiritual maturity is wonderful and needed, but to an extent we are not to "know what we're doing." We are not be stuck in our comfortable patterns of... fill in the blank. Throw aside all those beating-around-the-bush ways to bring up the gospel and just bring it up! Speak of Jesus. In short, my heart was churning within me- desiring the abandon of being a fool for Christ- yet being reminded of the barriers I have hit in attempting to do so. Wondering, I guess, if it's possible for me to be as free and surrendered as I desire to be in my heart. Of course it is possible, but Satan tells me I'l never achieve the closeness and experience of Jesus that I desire to have. Again I return to the question, "What is the Spirit telling me to do? Am I listening? And am I ready to obey what I hear? To jump out of the boat? To give up or go out or _____? I don't know what that blank is for my near future, but for tonight it is to be self disciplined- go to bed on time and get up and really have a great study and prayer time in the morning! After that, we'll see.

So, let us keep in step with the Spirit and not put out the Spirit's fire. I love you all. Thank you for your prayers.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Outside the Camp

Today in my continued study of David's life, I paused on consider the briefly featured foreigner, Ittai the Gittite, who appears only twice, in 2 Samuel 15:19-22 and 18:2, and two parallel characters, Ruth and Elisha
Background: Absalom is marching into Jerusalem to overtake it, and David and his entourage are taking the walk of shame out of the city.

The king said to Ittai the Gittite, "Why are you also going with us? Go back and stay with the king since you're both a foreigner and an exile from your homeland. Besides, you only arrived yesterday; should I make you wander around with us today while I go wherever I can? Go back and take your brothers with you. May the LORD show you kindness and faithfulness." But in response, Ittai vowed to the king, "As surely as the LORD lives and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king is, whether it means life or death, your servant will be there!" "March on," David replied to Ittai. So Ittai the Gittite marched past with all his men and the children who were with him. Everyone in the countryside was weeping loudly while all the people were marching past.
David reviewed his troops and appointed commanders of hundreds and of thousands over them. He then sent out hte troops, one third under Joab, one third under Joab's brother, Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one third under Ittai the Gittite.
David offered Ittai a comfortable out. "Go win favor under my son. Make a nice life for you and your people. Don't bother coming outonto a hard road with me- you've just finished a journey for goodness sake!" He knew Ittai had been exiled from Gath (for defecting to David, who had once served King Achish in pretense?), but Ittai refused to take it, and instead, offered a vow of incredible loyalty. Similar vows are those Ruth and Elisha offered Naomi and Elijah, respectively (Ruth 1:11-18; 2 Kings 2). Both Ruth and Elisha could have accepted the easy out as well- and perhaps without any sin on their parts (like Ruth's sister-in-law, Orpah, did), but their hearts were full of greater compassion and concern for their mentors/leaders than for themselves, and they were compelled by love to go with them no matter the cost.

Their choices hardly seem like sacrifices because they desired to be loyal, and, in so doing, they fully acknowledged the costs ahead of them. Ittai faced certain war and knew he would be subjecting his family and the families of his men that had journeyed with him from Gath to potential destruction. Ruth knew that leaving her home in Moab would mean a certain degree of isolation from the nation of Israel; she would be an outsider and would have to struggle to find a way to support not only herself but also her mother-in-law. Elisha traveled with Elijah from Gilgal to Bethel, Bethel to Jericho, and Jericho and the Jordan, continuing to prophecy with him and learn from him, I assume. At each location, prophets told him the discouraging news that Elijah would soon be taken from him, and he repeatedly told them to shut up. As Elijah's mentee, he'd already assumed the mantle of outsider, and was not going to lay it down for the world out of his love and respect for his teacher.
     Going outside the camp: 
Hebrews 13:11-13"For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy of holies by the high priest as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that He might sanctify the people by His own blood. Let us then go to Him outside the camp, bearing His disgrace. For here we do not have an enduring city; instead, we seek the one to come."
  1. David was forced "outside the camp"- away from his "City of David," Zion and the presence of the Ark of the Covenant. He walked a trail of tears- literally. People wept for him as he left; he was mocked and slightly stoned; and driven into the wilderness. He ascended the Mount of Olives crying. Sounds just a little like Jesus' walk to the cross. (Maybe Ittai could also be compared somewhat to Simon the Cyrene.) And Ittai and his people (foreigners!) bore that shame gladly with him. Ittai looked forward to the restoration of Israel to its rightful king.
  2. Naomi was already "outside the camp" as she and her family had emigrated from Israel to Moab because of famine, but they return to the camp as foreigners who had lost everything and needed a kinsman redeemer to preserve their very lives. Ruth looked forward to a happier day for her mother-in-law and herself.
  3. Elijah faced the partial isolation that is the lot of the traveling prophet of God, intermittently being hated and loved by the people because he spoke the truth. Elisha, by extension, accepted all that reputation's honor and disgrace. Elisha looked forward to being used for God like Elijah.

      Risking it All:
Like David, Naomi, and Elijah, God never compels us to follow against our will. He gives us the option to follow or to live in relative comfort, tending to ourselves. He doesn't tell us to go home and tend to our own needs; (Or maybe- if he does at all, he does so as a bit of a test to determine the extent of our faith. See his words to the Canaanite woman in Mark 7:27-30.) but he is upfront about the shame to be borne along his side:
Lk 9:23, 62 If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lost it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it...No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God. 
Lk. 14:26-27, 33 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yes, and even his own life- he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross an come after Me cannot be My disciple... In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say  good-bye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple. 
Jn. 15:18 If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you...Remember the world I spoke  to you: 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. But they will do all these things to you on account of My name, because they don't know the One who sent Me.
But what if Ittai had gone home? What if Ruth had remained in Moab or Elisha had stayed put like Elijah told him to? Their vows of loyalty won them glimpses of God's glory, treasures in heaven far greater than any comfort they could have received by tending to their own interests as they were encouraged to do. Ittai saw David's army defeat Absalom's and the kingdom restored to David. I'm sure he and his people were well rewarded also. Ruth won favor and a noble husband, bore a son that would father the line of David and Christ, had all her needs met, and saw- at long last- the bitter Naomi filled with joy. And Elisha- phew!- saw with his earthly eyes a firey chariot and heavenly horses descend to take Elijah away in a whirlwind, and then he received, as Elijah had promised him, a DOUBLE portion of Elijah's spirit. Had they not chosen to risk everything, this dramatic story-book material would not exists and we'd be left with a dull history. I love the drama and the FAITH and the reward, and how I want it for my life!                                     
   Leaning on the Promises:
Jn. 14:12-14 I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
Ro. 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.
2 Cor. 3:7-18 Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel were not able to look directly at Moses' face because of the glory from his face- a fading glory- how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of the condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness overflows with even more glory. In fact, what had been glorious is not glorious in this case because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was fading away was glorious, what endures will be even more glorious. Therefore having such a  hope, we use great boldness- not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel could not look at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were closed...but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Oh, Joab!

Mid-August, 2012. Wow. Once September 13th rolls around, I will have been in Wilmington a full year! But, I will save recapping time gone by for later. For the present, I thought it'd be fun to post a cool discovery I had the other while researching a curiosity about the relationships among King David, his politically savvy commander Joab, and his son, Absalom.


Now Joab is a really interesting character, to put the description kindly. Sometimes he's quite noble and loyal to David and at other times he leaves us to assume his only interests are his own. Often his good action will follow a bad, as if he were struggling to justify himself by clinging to a moral compass all his own. Here's some background before we pick up where I was reading in 2 Sam. 14.

The unfortunate man on the left is the noble Abner, commander of Saul's army, who had just committed himself to David's side to end the civil war between the two houses, and David had sent him home in peace and friendship. As you can see, he didn't make it. (2 Sam 3:26-30.) Joab actually killed him by striking him in the stomach, and he had the help of his brother Abishai, but you get the picture. The motivation? Abner had killed their brother Asahel in battle (fair and square.) Personally I prefer the visual characterization of Joab in the picture below:

David mourns Abner, but then things seem to fall out in David's favor. Two miscreants behead Saul's son, King Ish-bosheth, so David is anointed King over Israel, thus uniting the two nations. They defeat the Philistines and bring the Ark back to Jerusalem. Joab surely helped with that. David brings back his first wife, Michal from her second marriage. God makes his promise to David and grants him a string of military successes. Both Joab and David are kept busy...until David chooses not go out to battle one day, and we get the famous affair of chapter 11. 

Bathsheba just so happened to be the daughter of one of his fighting men and the granddaughter of Ahithophel, his adviser. (Thanks Francine Rivers for pointing out that factoid.) Most likely, she grew up traveling with his band of miscreants and was very familiar with his leadership. As if these close ties weren't sufficient enough to complicate the attraction, Bathsheba was married to Uriah the Hittie, a loyal friend to David and one of his warriors. She gets pregnant, David tries to cover it up, fails, and has Uriah murdered. 
Picture note- I never realized how many movie versions we have made of this crazy love story! I'd like to think the million evidences of grace within it have made it's popularity so enduring...well...indulge me.

Grace Point 1: God is not happy to say the least, but because of his promise to David to bring a king that will reign forever from him house, he forgives the sin and lets him live, though he sternly tells him his house will face the sword. And it does- both literally and metaphorically.

  • 1ST BIG SWORD BLOW- One son down. Bathsheba's baby dies.

David repents, and Solomon is born. Meanwhile, Joab captures Rabah and threatens to take it over himself unless David gets his butt down there to claim it. He does.

Joab capturing Ramah's citadel.
(Don't you just love these lego pictures? Here's the original site, if you're interested.)

After a brief respite from sin's consequences, the sword falls again.
  • 2ND BIG SWORD BLOW- Another son down. David and Ahinoam's son, Amnon, rapes David's daughter Tamar, daughter of Maacah (sister of Absalom). David is furious and mortified, but does nothing to avenge the wrong. Tamar takes refuge in Absalom's house and lives the rest of her days like a widow. Daughter down.
  • 3RD BIG SWORD BLOW- Son in exile. Meanwhile, Absalom, taking the wrong as a personal injury, kills Amnon at a dinner party with all the king's son's in attendance and then escapes to live with his grandpa, King Talmai, of Geshur for three years. "And the spirit of the king longed to go out to Absalom..." (2 Sam. 13).

So, Joab noticed that David’s heart longed for Absalom and came up with a scheme. He hired the "wise woman" of Tekoa to present a crafty story to David in order to secure his order to return Absalom to the kingdom. 
My big question on reading this section was, “WHY would Joab go to such lengths?" So, we surmise….
1. Joab surely was fond of David after so many years- perhaps like a brother- and he admired him, but did not always agree with his judgments. He noticed how David’s heart pined for Absalom. Awwww. But that can’t be all.  2. He knew he was guilty of Abner's wrongful murder and thought perhaps by preventing political disaster with Absalom, he could begin to soften David's treatment toward himself. 3. He could sense the tone of the nation and wanted to avoid any ensuing turmoil for the sake of the nation and the ruling household. 

Joab concocts a story for the Wise woman to tell the king which goes something like this: “I’m a widow and I had two sons to carry on my husband’s name and care for me in my age. But, one of them killed the other! Now, the townspeople want to kill my remaining son in vengeance, but if they do, I will have nothing! Please help.” Then, before relating the story to Absalom, she secures the king’s word in a three-step process, which seems  to foreshadow Peters tri-fold denial and statement of love- (all of which are followed by a personal discovery- Peter’s facing of his guilt after the rooster crows, Peter’s hearing of how he will die, and in this case…well, we’ll get there.) David says, “I will issue a command on your behalf.” She presses further, he says, “If anyone gives you trouble, bring them directly to me.” She demands for him to swear by God’s name and he says, “As the LORD lives, not a hair of your son will fall to the ground.” David then hears from her mouth the parallel to his life. The woman argues that the guilty son in her story is Absalom. The stories don’t really add up- David had others heirs, she did not…. but she has already secured his pardon for the son by the name of God and piqued his emotional interest. She takes Absalom’s absence as a personal wrong against the nation, “For we will certainly die and be like water poured out on the ground, which can’t be recovered…I’ve come to the king to present this matter because the people have made me afraid…” Perhaps David was losing favor already or becoming disconnected with the sentiments of the people.  Perhaps he also hoped to pacify Absalom, whom he most likely knew could not react favorably toward the nation while in exile. 

Pause for a quick character question- Why did the people care so much about Absalom? There is nothing in the chapters beforehand to suggest he had any special connection with them. He makes no notable appeals to the people until he returns and steals their hearts by intercepting their needs at the gate before they could bring them before David. All we know about Absalom’s character is that it was not as noteworthy as his looks. 

He was handsome. 

In fact, he was extraordinarily handsome, as was the rest of his family.  His mother, Maacah was a princess of Geshur, a small nation landlocked by Israelite terrirtory, and was also very beautiful; His sister Tamar was beautiful, and his daughter, whom he names after his sister (perhaps showing his soft spot), was again- very beautiful. His hair was so lush that he had to shave it off every year because it got too heavy for him, and then he had it weighed. 5 pounds. That’s a lot of hair. So, perhaps his debonair looks won him the people’s hearts and made them feel personally wronged at his banishment. Maybe they judged his vengeance against Amnon justified. Maybe they wanted him to be cut some slack because he was just so darn cute. It would not be the first time men had made judgements based more on appearance. Even Samuel on his errand to anoint the king after Saul assumed one of David’s brothers would be God’s choice for their stature and look, and maybe David himself had a softer spot for Absalom because of his physical appearance. 

Whatever the case, the woman’s appeal, “God would not take away a life; He would devise plans so that the one banished from Him does not remain banished.” Has its effect and he gives the order for Joab to bring Absalom home. However, he places Absalom under house arrest- basically- as if to say, you’re home, but I haven’t forgotten what you did. "And Asalom did not see David’s face for two years." 

Grace Point 2- God’s love for the banished. We have all committed acts worthy of death, but God shows mercy, bringing us back from exile. Not because we deserved it. 

Absalom lives in pseudo house-arrest for two years and gets sick of it. I can understand this. He might have thought- “Go ahead and kill me for my wrong or grant me total pardon—this half-business isn’t cutting it. And, most likely he knew David wouldn’t kill him, so he makes his own plans to “make amends” with David. But, he needs Joab to intercede for him. He tries twice to contact Joab, but Joab “was unwilling to come.” (Hm….why?) Absalom’s response, Burn the Barley! A very Samson-like way to get attention…but it worked. 

So Joab acts as intermediary himself, and Absalom receives a kiss of pardon from the king. Joab as Christ prefigure! Who would have thought?

Grace Point 3- Absalom certainly didn’t deserve full pardon, not even the ½ pardon of house arrest. Yet, David granted it. How does Absalom react? He gathers an entourage and schemes to take over the kingdom. He goes to war with his dad. He takes advantage of the grace granted him and then later finds his judgment by the hand of the very one who interceded for him. Again, Joab as Christ figure- sort of.  And David still mourns for him. As little as Absalom deserved pity, David’s heart broke for his son, as God’s heart does for us. 


Joab murders Absalom while he hangs in a tree, his head caught in the branches.

Solomon becomes king, as God had promised. 

And Solomon pays back Joab for his murder of Abner...among other sending Benaniah to strike him down in the temple where he'd attempted to flee for refuge. 


Titus 2:12-14 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

John 8:11 Jesus to the adulterous woman, "Then neither do I condemn you. Go now, and leave your life of sin."

Romans 6:1-2 Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Luke 13:1-5 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

David, Absalom and Joab…adultery, murder, backstabbing and after all is said and done...grace. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Behavior Management

...something I am having to learn a lot about as a new teacher.  The other day, in one of our actually rather enjoyable pre-school workshops, the quotation of the day was,

"The more you pay attention to it, the more it increases." 

They showed one of the most hysterical videos I've ever seen: watch and ponder...What will you do for attention??


Ha! So, lesson is- the more I pay attention to negative behavior in my students, the worse it will get. Encourage the good behavior more- focus on it- don't neglect to correct the bad, but don't make it more than it is.

This got me thinking today about grace. Let me back up to last night to confess something. I have recently come to realize that, like most Western women of our age, I am afflicted with an over-sensitivity to my appearance and I have battled with myself for several years with trying to develop healthy habits- eat more healthily, lose weight, get more muscle tone without becoming obsessive. BUT I was always at war with myself- never satisfied with how I was in the present. Only looking back- (because I'm not as toned right now as I was a year ago and would like to be, let's just be honest)- do I see that I had no reason to not just be healthy and enjoy how I was. Anyhow- I think in focusing too much on the habits and the guilt I'd feel when I messed up in my discipline, I may have caused myself to develop a tendency of binging, which has been ongoing in waves for probably two years. I'm not talking eating two trays of brownies, but mindless, senseless eating that lasts beyond the point of getting full. Last night, (I've been trying not to eat at night, but last night I was up late, got hungry) I decided have a small snack that could have well satisfied the hunger had I let it settle and gone to sleep like I planned, but I went back to the kitchen to get a little more to eat- and then a little more, and I did this six times total until I finally felt full...and guilty. Oh boy. Guilt. And this lovely guilt cycle has overrun its course in my life. I am sick of it. I have focused on it- it has gotten worse. And now you know it. No use hiding it. Hopefully throwing it out there to the world like this will do good for someone with a similar struggle who reads this to know we are not intended to think or live in such an oppressive state of mind.

So why do I belabor my sin when God does not?  He firmly deals with negative behavior, yes, but he encourages the positive more. He is gracious. He is forgiving. He separates sin from the sinner as far as the east is from the west- so that, in his mind, the two never meet again (Ps.103)! As in the classroom, hope and encouragement produce better results than accusations or stating disappointment in student performance over and over. God does not accuse, but Satan is called "the accuser." PHEW--if I could replay for you the tracks that circulate in my head, you'd think the record would have broken by now. Our society sure doesn't help much either- goodness. Most of the people in this world lack easy access to necessities; corrupt social structures need to be reformed; love needs to be given, and here we are obsessing over the sacks of flesh our souls inhabit as if improving their looks will imbibe life into our souls. I'm so grateful we are meant for more- for life to the full- to re-gift the grace God gives so amply.

Jesus said to the woman at the well, "To him who believes in me I will give living water so that he will never thirst again." He let her know that he knew of her sin in having five "husbands" and living unlawfully with the most recent of them, but he didn't condemn her; he offered her something better. Something refreshing to drink-forever. I love the way she leaves that conversation- running back into the town to call out everyone she could to "come see the man who told me everything I ever did! He might just be the Messiah!" He called her to change, but he met her where she was- drawing water- going through the normal grind. He stopped to grant compassion. Our God- our perfect teacher- has set high expectations for us- for each of us- and he will help each student to rise to those expectations without lowering them for anyone. (Jn. 4)

I'd like to close with a reminder from Paul, who, like me, was really fed up with a "thorn in his flesh."

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:8-10).

I'm so grateful God has set me to work at CFCI so I can learn more about his nature. Maybe I'm destined to be a teacher after all- maybe at least until I fumble along long enough in the profession to  learn that He really does love me. Grace Grace Grace. It really is amazing. Thanks for reading. Please pray for me, that I may see and know and give God's grace abundantly.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bring It, 2012!

January 3, 2012

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850

I think in terms of the day’s resolutions, not the year’s.
-Henry Moore

To My Dear Friends and Family,

The year began with the good news of my good friend from college, Ariana’s baptism- YAY, Piedmont!- and a three-week fast with the Athens congregation about all topics under the sun. In brief, I prayed for direction, the campus ministry prayed for depth, and my parents prayed for a home in the country.
From January to April, I worked as an intern with the Athens Church of Christ Campus Ministry and was in constant learning mode: learning better how to study the Bible with others, practicing sharing my faith with a variety of people, learning to lead other women, building closer friendships… It was a very special few months. To those of you who fought battles with me, prayed with me, gave your hearts to me- thank you. You know who you are. To Cathy, Whitney, Anna, Cali, Emma…I am so grateful we are now sisters. We had struggles and we saw victories, and I thank God that I was able – after college- to experience both as a part of a campus ministry.
During these months, the Sawhill family prepared our house of eight years for market, and I proceeded to clean out and pack my things for my inevitable though indiscriminate move out. My brother Jeff made plans to transfer to SCAD Atlanta to study animation, and Chris continued to plug away in Exercise and Sports Science at UGA. The house sold in May, and we moved into an apartment near to the mall in June.
April-July: I played Rosalind in As You Like It with the Rose Theatre of Athens, a truly wonderful company with a lot of heart. This show was a joy because the people were a joy- and to all of you- I miss you and hope we’ll get to work together again- or at very least further our acquaintance and conversations by what means we have.
July-August: We hosted the ICMC (International Campus Ministry Conference) “DEEPER” in Athens, and as I was a part of the planning and worship teams, I was honored to see the fruition of so many prayers and so much hard work when it “went off” with the power and impact only God can enact. I left with a yearning in my heart to discover what deeper step of faith God was calling me to take. Not even a month later, my year long prayer for a “strong leaning” about where to go was answered in the two minutes it took for the elders to announce intentions to plant a church in Wilmington, NC.
Meanwhile on the professional front, Byron Thompson finished editing my one-woman show, Last Nights of the King, which he had filmed at the end of 2010. With DVD in hand, deliberations began on how to proceed, and a whole host of amazingly supportive people from Athens to New York assisted with their thoughts and encouragement. I built a website (without knowing what I was getting into!), made writing plans for supplementary devotional material, printed business cards, and made plans to attend the 2011 Arts and Entertainment conference in Atlanta. I also drafted, with the considerable help of my parents, an itinerary for a month long trip through LA, New York, and Chicago (And also San Fran, costal Cali, and Eugene Oregon as it turned out), which I fondly nicknamed the “Tour for Vision.”
While traveling, I experienced God’s provision through people — particularly through the friendship of Jessica, my travel-buddy, and the hospitality I was honored to enjoy constantly. To all of you who took me in though I was a stranger to you and you to me, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You shared meals (and nice meals at that), free tours, gifts, and most importantly, your personalities, time, stories, knowledge and advice, and friendship. Counting it up, let’s see… I owe no less than thirty-two people my sincerest thanks for taking care of my physical needs and then a good twenty more at least for helping with everything else. I am truly very rich indeed.
Thank you also to all of you who shared in conversation with me in airports, subways, trains, and in other random locations or situations. It was interacting with you that made each day of my travels exciting, and I am very grateful that we are still in contact, even if that contact is only occasional. When I review the list I made of people I have met this year, I am dumbfounded as to why I should have been so privileged to meet so many and so varied persons willing to share themselves with me in return for however brief our time speaking may have been.
Less than two weeks after the Tour, I hopped in the car and drove to Wilmington to interview for a part-time musical theatre teaching job. I got the job that day and stayed, enjoying more hospitality — this time on account of Lindsey, Erika, and Olivia, the three college girls who have been the planting up to this point and who have set wonderful examples for everyone around them of what it means to love each other. The following weekend I moved into an apartment, and the long string of events that is learning a new place and getting established began to unfold in rapid succession. Despite the minor ups and downs associated with transition, I have never in my life seen God’s provision more clearly or felt more certain that I’m where I need to be at this particular time. For this I am very grateful.
I auditioned for a show again in mid September and was honored to be cast as Maria in Sound of Music with the Thalian Association. Now through teaching and the play, I’ve met quite a lot of people and am feeling a little more “established” in the sense that helps one be purposeful.
Back in GA my parents bought the farmhouse (!!!) and moved in right before Thanksgiving, we believe in response to a prayer from the beginning of the year that we would all be in the house for the holiday. By Christmas most of the boxes were unpacked and the settling into had more thoroughly begun. The joy and peace the country brings my parents makes me so happy. And it’s no downer to now come home to pretty land under starry skies for family times, either! The Sawhills moved a total of seven times this year- including my brothers’ moves- and I think that’s a record for us we’re all hoping not to top.
And the good news continues, but this letter is intended for brevity (“Ah, well,” she says 3 pages later…) Suffice it to say, God is alive, moving, and increasing the faith of those who ask! 2012 is going to be quite a year, and I’m excited.
Thanks again to you all for being a part of my life. I pray the New Year brings new life, new conviction, new purpose, new perspective, and new vision to all of us.

With love,