Bandwagons

Been on any bandwagons lately?

A bandwagon might be defined as a cause that has become popular and once the momentum has started, others jump on for the ride. 

Now, I’m all for public awareness. I have often written on my blog, posted on Facebook or tweeted on Twitter to raise awareness of an issue near and dear to my heart. But, what concerns me is how eager folks are to jump on the most decorated and currently noticed bandwagon of the day while overlooking the more serious issues that we are practically stumbling over. 

I have been pondering this matter and trying to make sense out of the senseless. I’ve lessened my activity on social media a number of times lately to lessen my tendency towards frustration with people so easily influenced, incensed and swayed. What are they thinking? I sometimes ask myself as I read their comments and rants. Myself answers back, that they aren’t thinking at all, their thinking is broken. 

Do you ever visualize a story scene that illustrates a situation? I guess that may just be the creative writer in me. I always enjoyed the parables that Jesus used to teach a truth. So, if I may, let’s consider this scenario. 

There is a great group of people and they are all on this journey. Most of them are on foot and plodding along as best they can. Some are sprinting along now and then when a burst of energy hits. Some have contrived methods to carry their belongings and their children, but they are the exception. 

Some could move along much faster but, they’re assisting others. You might see a tall strapping young man that were it not for the younger ones he is carrying could far out distance the group. You might see a strong determined woman who could obviously carry her own load but, has slowed her pace by relieving the load of those less able. At points they are greatly wearied and sometimes the drudgery of day in and day out discourages them all. Sometimes it seems like they’re getting no where fast. 

I am sorry to say that a great portion of the people begin to divert their eyes from the troubles surrounding them. They find it easier to step over the forgotten child or avoid the struggling elderly or criticize those who have stumbled. Look how much further we travel each day without the burdens of others is what they console themselves with at night. I’ll just mind my own business. That’s not my calling. How will I ever keep up my self-imposed pace if I am bothered with the needy, the broken, the abused, the neglected, the poor, the suffering? We all have our place in the world and mine is to keep moving forward lest I too get left behind. 

Occasionally the mundaneness will be interrupted by the arrival of a bandwagon. Oh the excitement! The fanfare! The colors! The opportunity to escape from doing what they can to make a difference and make a great noise and cause a great ruckus. 

And now you see what I see when people are aboard the latest bandwagon shouting at the top of their lungs about all of the wrongs that need righting in this world and on this journey. But, instead of actually doing something about the injustices they just talk and post and rant and yell and carry on something awful. 

How ludicrous as the hurting, the lonely, the rejected watch with haunted eyes as those who could make a difference ride off on the latest bandwagon with renewed conviction while abandoning them to their own means. They’re not as shocked as you might think, they have grown accustomed to being labeled as a lost cause. 

Of course, that bandwagon never goes far and never solves much of anything with its great noise. Sadly all of that energy that was invested into making a great impression was greatly wasted. 

Are you wasting your energy? Avoiding helping others? Diverting your eyes? Busy riding bandwagons? If so, stop. Just stop. Just hush. Look around, close at hand you will see opportunity to encourage, minister, help and make a difference. Then, when you go to bed at night you won’t have to try and convince yourself that you are living a life of purpose, you will know full well that you are. 

  

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Now, Do you Understand?

I don’t like to be misunderstood. But, it happens. When it does, I have to resist the urge to feel frustrated and aggravated. I try so hard. I choose my words very carefully and deliver them very clearly. Surely then, I tell myself, I can make sure that folks understand. But, sometimes, no matter how hard you strive for clarity, people just do not hear what you are saying. Jesus could relate. 

“This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”  ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When I sit down with someone I care about to discuss an important matter, I want them to hear what I’m saying. I want them to know I hear what they are saying. I am a big believer in open communication. I want to walk away from a discussion with understanding and being understood. Don’t you?  But, the truth is, too often, what is said is not heard and what is seen is not perceived. Jesus can relate. 

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As a parent I sometimes struggle with getting my kids to listen. They’re often distracted or disinterested.  Sometimes I make them stop and repeat back what I said to them in an attempt to make sure they heard me. Even then, there is a chance that they’ll return moments later and ask, “What did you say momma?” Or “I heard you say to go get something from my room but I didn’t hear you say what it was.”

I’d like to offer this thought for you to ponder today. Have you been listening lately? I mean truly hearing what God said? I mean understanding and perceiving what He is trying to communicate with you?  Has the Holy Spirit been attempting to get your attention to no avail? Are you distracted? Disinterested? 

As I read the parable of the sower and the seeds in Matthew 13 this morning I knew that too often the descriptions of unheslthy heart conditions listed there, applied to me and my heart. What about you?

“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.””

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:19-23‬ ‭NIV‬

Today and the days following I am going to start listening more carefully and go beyond the surface of the words I can often repeat without much effort. This week and the weeks to come I am going to attempt to settle in and put down some roots so I won’t be so easily scorched. This month and the months to come I am going to do a bit of weeding and soil preparation. And then, I’m going to look forward to a harvest of peace and joy and hope because I will have positioned myself to receive all that God has in mind for my life. Now, do you understand? 

  

Easy

Life can be fun and fulfilling and fabulous but, I’ll tell you one thing it isn’t, it isn’t easy. Even though our struggles may vary, the struggle is real. You know why? Well, lots of reasons but, the one that’s on my heart today is this. Life isn’t easy because people aren’t easy. It’s the truth. 

Whether you’re the mom of a toddler or a divorced woman feeling alienated from your friends or a foster-parent or the caretaker of your aging parent or a public school teacher or a nurse or a struggling college student or any other station in life! People aren’t easy. 

I’m the first to admit I’m not easy. If you’re honest you’ll admit the same about yourself. We all have our quirks and our faults and failings. We have our moments and our moods and our issues. People aren’t easy. 

And that means, relationships aren’t easy, ministry is not easy, parenting is not easy, nursing is not easy, teaching is not easy, caring is not easy, loving is not easy. And YET these are the places we find ourselves, right in the midst of people (who aren’t easy). Do you know why that is? I do. 

We were created for relationship, relationship with God first and foremost and then relationship with other people. 

I was pondering all of this and came across this quote in my notes from George MacDonald. I was encouraged and thought perhaps you would be as well, so I’m passing it on. 

If you are really trying to do what you must and be what you must and yet cannot, remember, you are not necessarily doing it wrong because it isn’t easy. Perhaps it is just the opposite. Maybe the struggles you are facing are because you are indeed trying to make a difference in the lives of others. Remember HE knows that people aren’t easy and life isn’t easy. He knows all about our being. He knows. We can take hope and courage. We can ‘faint not’ because we know that easy isn’t the goal. 

  

Stranger Danger

As an adoptive mom of several older children, which means they weren’t infants or toddlers when we adopted them, I had no control over the first years of their lives. By the time they legally became ours, there were some deep seated attitudes, beliefs and hurts. 

I could say to them that they were beautiful, valuable and cherished. I could say to them that they were safe and would not be rejected or abandoned. I could say to them that they could trust us. But, they didn’t recognize my voice. In the beginning, I was just another stranger and that meant danger. 

Now, the voices that were familiar to them were the ones that reminded them to trust no one, to keep a safe distance, to manipulate and lie, to be afraid, to be cautious and on guard. 

When you adopt an older child, there is often a lot that needs undoing before they are even able to hear what you are trying to say, certainly before they learn to recognize your voice. There can be frustrating times, times when you wonder if they will ever hear you, believe you, trust you. 

To tell you the truth, it would just be too much for me to face alone. I wouldn’t attempt it without a strong support structure in place. And as a Christian, Jesus is the strong foundation that I rely first and foremost upon. 

You see, He understands fully what it means to accept into your family those who have been battered and bruised. He knows all about what it means to reach out to those who don’t yet easily recognize your voice, trust you, obey you or appreciate you. He understands all about the other voices that haunt and taunt. He can love those who haven’t found their courage to love Him back in like manner. He is the Good Shepherd and He is an expert when it comes to shepherding broken hearts. 

Chances are, you are standing in one of these two places today if not both. Perhaps, like me, you are an apprentice shepherd, reaching out to the broken people in your life, your community and your world. Perhaps you are one of the broken-hearted and you’re struggling with the voices that have been destructive and loud, preventing you from hearing the voice of Jesus, your Good Shepherd. Perhaps the loudest and most destructive voice is that of your own. 

In either case, take courage. Listen as often and as intently to the voice of the Shepherd until His voice is raised above the din and then run to him, no longer afraid. 

  

Free Indeed

Folks everywhere are celebrating the Fourth of July this weekend.
Independence Day is worth celebrating. Freedom is worth celebrating.

There’s lots of talking and blogging and fussing about freedom to live our lives as we choose going on these past weeks. Here are a couple of things to consider that may give you a few new thoughts to think.

As an American my freedom has its limits. Sound a bit contradictory? A bit of an oxymoron? Perhaps so, but, let’s ponder this a bit, shall we? We are free to own property for instance, but, we are not free to take another person’s property and they are not free to take ours. That is called theft, burglary, robbery and it is against the law. Our freedoms as an American are indeed limited to the boundaries of the law. I am free to own a vehicle, licensed to drive that vehicle and permitted to use the road ways. I am not free to drive at any speed I choose, text while I drive or drive without a seatbelt. Our freedom is limited by the law. I am free to have children, a spouse and even a pet. I am not free to mistreat or abuse them however because of laws that protect them. I am free to attend a church of my choice, open a business, speak my mind, and have lots of opinions. I am not free to threaten others or prevent them from these same freedoms. My freedom does not permit me to harm another person. In other words, my freedom ends when it violates the freedom of another person’s freedom.

Now, as a Christian I am free indeed. I’m given freedoms beyond the laws of the land. What I mean by that is, my faith frees me in ways that a government could never do. I am free from the penalty of my sins. I am forgiven. I am freed from the weight of my heaviest burdens. I am free to experience joy in the midst of terrible circumstances. I am free to approach the throne of Grace and make my petitions known. I am free to live my life in a way that pleases and brings glory to my Jesus. I am free to share my faith, blog my scripture studies and pray the blessing over our food right in a public place. I am free. But, guess what?

Our spiritual freedoms have limits too. Before you panic and rebuke me, hear me out. When we choose to forfeit our freedoms by doing things our own way, that’s one limit. God’s Word is our authoritative guide for how to walk in and enjoy our spiritual freedom. That simply means, the Bible has the right to tell us how to live our lives if we are Christians. It has a lot to say about it. A lot. Just as there are consequences for breaking the law of the land, there are consequences for breaking God’s law. Freedom has its limits.

I can almost hear you asking, “What if the two contradict? What then?” I heard a favorite preacher speak concerning this earlier this week, T.D. jakes said that we better not be forgetting that we, as Christians, will be held to the higher standard of the God’s law. I agree. I agree whole-heatedly, I agree without compromise. If you are a believer, a disciple of Christ, then we can never use our freedom as a cover-up for evil.

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 1Peter 2:16

I watched a video this week of a young lady breaking the law to follow her convictions. I was moved to tears as I heard her say she was prepared to be arrested and then she began to quote scriptures. “Of whom shall I be afraid?” rang in my ears. I wonder, if the day will come when we too must stand up for our convictions and be prepared to face the consequences? If I ever do, I pray that I will do so with the grace and dignity at she exhibited.

I remember this old song I used to sing as a girl.

Lock me up in a prison
And throw away the keys
Take away the vision
From these eyes that now, now can see
Deprive me of the food I eat
And even bind my hands and my feet
But just just as long as I have Jesus
Then, I shall still go free

On one of my first times to visit our state prison for women with a ministry group, they gave each of the volunteers a few moments to say hello. I was without words of my own, a rare moment indeed. I was so overcome with emotion as I looked into the faces of women who had been stripped of their freedom and sat before me waiting to hear a word of encouragement. I opened my mouth and out came the words to that old song. I belted it out with all the gusto I could manage and they stood and applauded with tears streaming down their cheeks. That applause was not for my impromptu singing but for the the truth of the words in that old gospel song. Even in their present situation of despair and incarceration, they could still be free.

Today, so can you. No matter your personal state or the state of the union, no matter the mistakes of your past, no matter the mistakes of others, you can be free, free indeed because of Jesus. As we celebrate freedom this weekend, why not let it be the celebration of a new found freedom in Christ? I can not begin to explain the joy that is available to you by doing so. Even as I type these words I am flooded with joy at the very thought. May God Bless You and may God Bless the USA!

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