Look at Them

It happened again, as it has more times than I can remember.  I stopped for a red light at a corner where one of those people were.  You know, the ones who are a bit disheveled, maybe gaunt, quite often looking much older than their chronological years, due to a hard life.  There is always a sign made from a broken box that says something like, “Down on luck.”  “Brain tumor.”  “Help my kids.”  “Anything helps.”  Without fail, though, the final words on the sign are, “God bless.”

My reaction this time came straight from the same pool (cesspool) as previously.  *I looked away.  *I felt guilty for having a car and home, with food on the table.  *I felt guilty for not wanting to give them anything.  *I felt manipulated.  *I felt condemned because I didn’t hear Holy Spirit telling me what to do.  *I added this person into the category of those who make a tax-free living from handouts on a street corner rather than getting a real job.  *I distrusted them and their sign completely.  *I felt sorry for them.  *I resented them for making me feel guilty for having what they don’t have.  *I resented them for trying to manipulate me with “God bless.”  *I heard that hated word should hammering at me in various statements.  “I should give them some of the cash I keep for just such possibilities.”  “As a follower of Christ, I should just give every time, no matter what.”  You get the picture.

Frustrated by the conflict recurring in my mind, I asked, “What do You want me to do, Daddy?  Not just with this one person, but from here on.”  I did not ask for a give / don’t give answer to apply every time, because I know He will lead me with each one – when I hear Him.  I was missing something, though, and it turned out to be an across-the-board answer after all, though it wasn’t financial.  It was an issue with my heart revealed as He spoke these words to me, “Look at them.”

“Look at them.”  So simple.  So clear.  “Look at them” through Daddy’s eyes instead of my own natural ones.  When I really look at them, it’s not hard to know what He would have me do for each person I encounter.  Look at them as He looks at them, in their current condition.  Without looking away.  Without looking askance.  Look at them as human beings, regardless of their reason for being on that street corner.   Look past the protective façade of hardness to see the sadness or pain or anger.  Look at them as Daddy does, with absolute love.  Just look at them.

In the short term, it seems much easier to look away, because nothing is required when I don’t look, when I don’t know.  Yet those are the very times I miss Jesus.  To look at their faces as Daddy does means I see them not as the enemy, but as one Jesus died for who is being hammered by the enemy.  When I look at a younger man begging for money as Daddy looks at him, my heart breaks at the shame he feels.  Or when I look with His eyes at the older ones – those who don’t remember much of life other than this – and I see them as babies and young children so full of life and hope.  Is this what their mothers and fathers envisioned for them as adults, a life seemingly without hope?  Again He says, “Look at them.”

“Look at them.” These words have changed my heart, but I still need reminding.  How thankful I am that Daddy keeps looking at me even when I turn away from those unlike me.  How thankful I am that He continues to work those words more deeply into my heart.  The actions that result from looking at people with His eyes vary.  That’s part of the joy of following His Spirit.  But the beginning point is always the same, for it is in my heart.  “Look at them.”

Happy New Day!

Isn’t the title wrong?  Shouldn’t it be Happy New Year?  Sometimes it seems like I’m the only one who doesn’t think so.  It’s not that I don’t want people to have a happy 2012.  But I think there is something people forget as they leave 2011 behind as a good riddance, while welcoming 2012 with declarations of how much better it will be.  Wasn’t it the same last year, and the year before that, and the year before that?  This 2011 we are so glad to leave is the very one we were so anxious to welcome only a year ago.

What we fail to consider in the midst of the excitement of a new year beginning is life continuing to happen in the new year, much as it did in the old.  Maybe not the exact same things, but we can be sure there will be challenges of many different kinds over the course of a year.  We tend to let those difficulties and challenges color our recollection of the old year.  We miss so much living this way, but we don’t have to.  While Jesus assured us we would have troubles in this world, He also gave us a different way to live in the midst of those troubles.  Take heart, I have overcome the world!1

It’s called a new mindset, with a focus not of this world.  It’s called living in God’s daily grace.  Many years ago, while caring for my aging father, I began to learn the only way to stay above being overwhelmed with all I had to do, for however many days upon days, months upon months, or years upon years it would continue.  Though my self-pitying prayer always concerned how much longer I would have to live this way, He guided me lovingly back to living in His grace for me . . . today.  That was all I needed for the situation and the day – His daily grace.

You see, our Jesus is always with us – present tense – and His grace is always with us in the present, not the future.  So, regarding this calendar year, listen to the prophetic voices if you want.  Let Holy Spirit stir your hope and give you direction in the midst of it.  Just remember, He won’t show you everything you will face this year because He knows it’s more than you can handle.2  But He will walk with you through every hour of every day, and His grace will be sufficient.

It’s amazing how much less power the negative stuff of life has over you when you choose to live with this daily grace mindset.  You will find yourself looking up to Jesus and His grace in that peace that passes all natural understanding, even in the midst of unforeseen and severe troubles.

Because of the daily grace of our God in Christ Jesus, we can daily declare Psalm 118:24, regardless of what we face:  This is the day the Lord has made; that’s why I will rejoice and be glad in it. (KPV – Kay’s personal version)

Happy New Day! 

1 John 16:33 
2 John 16:12

Freedom to Be

I am a spirit being with a soul (mind, will, and emotions) and a body.  If I really know and understand this, why do I continue to allow my mind to compartmentalize what I do as either spiritual or non-spiritual, as either of value to God or as keeping me from things that are of value to Him?

This is not the first time I’ve battled this issue, but it’s time to settle it for good.  When Jesus ministered on this earth in His physical body, having received the same Holy Spirit now living in me, His whole life was spiritual.  Think about it.  When He paid taxes to the government, a spiritual principle was at work – paying taxes to whom taxes were due.  He ate physical food as sustenance for His physical body, taking time away from the “important” things of life.  He walked, physically, from one place to the next, probably spending some of that valuable time simply laughing and living with the disciples, rather than teaching or preaching “spiritual” things. At the same time, He was the most relaxed, worry-free, anxiety-free, stress-free person to have lived, which means He was never separated from His Father in Spirit or action until the cross!  Because He remained in the secret place at all times, regardless of where He was physically, all He did was spiritual – for the glory of God.

Psalm 91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. AMP

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. NIV

Jesus Christ lives in me by His Spirit.  If Jesus didn’t struggle with this, why do I continue to go back to this old mindset?  It only causes frustration.  When I do those things that are required for basic living – cooking, cleaning, shopping, exercising, washing the car or the dog, etc. – a nagging thought goes on in the back of my mind that I’m being kept from the spiritual.  Then, I feel guilty for not doing those “spiritual” things, and I don’t live fully in the now.  Like Paul said, “Who will rescue me from this body?  Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25) That’s not how Jesus lived then, and it’s not how He lives in me now.

Jesus’ Spirit is alive in me.  That is where I choose to dwell.  In this place, whether I eat, sleep, exercise, shop, pray, read the Bible, teach, or whatever else, there is no condemnation, no imaginary line of separation between spiritual and non-spiritual.  My life is hidden with Christ in God.1 It is all for His purposes and glory.  If I live and move and have my being in Him,2 what part of me is not included?  None!

So, today I’m slamming that door on guilt and condemnation,3 locking it, and throwing away the key.  It was for freedom that Christ set me free, no longer to be subject to any yoke of slavery,4 so that’s what I choose going forward.  I rejoice in His freedom to be the one He’s called me to be, all facets included: child of Abba Daddy, wife, mother, teacher, grandmother, cook, writer, book reader, pray-er, exerciser, praiser, friend, housecleaner, dog owner, student of God’s Word, etc.

Won’t you join me in this glorious freedom to be5 in Christ – all day, every day?

1 Colossians 3:3
2 Acts 17:28
3 Romans 8:1-2
4 Galatians 5:1
5 Romans 8:21

Whose Plans?

As I completed things on my to-do list of preparations for the next visit to Tom’s mother, I realized how little stress was in evidence as I readied dog, home, writing, and myself.  How different from the last time!  Not only was the time leading up to that departure extra stressful, the visit itself was hard, though I couldn’t point to anything as a reason.

Though the dog was to be boarded again, the anxious and sad feelings were not there – where they weighed heavily before.  The pre-trip cleaning wasn’t so overwhelming, and was completed in plenty of time to pack without pressure.  Even the inspiration for writing I had wanted to complete ahead of the trip came to me in a timely and stress-free fashion.

I know Holy Spirit pointed this peaceful state of mind out to me so I would notice the obvious difference the lesson from my “hard trip” had made in my life.  What was the lesson?  He hadn’t told me to go on that trip.  (Note to self . . . ask the Lord before making plans.)  Could it get any clearer?

Romans 12:2 AMP  Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

It is so much easier simply to ask what His will is for me all the time, than trying to follow my natural reasoning.  Now I’ve had the experience of not being in His will and of being in His will in the same situation at a different time.  The difference was a matter of peace or no peace, and the latter is not something I want to repeat – ever again!  So, I choose to pursue His will for me from here on out.  How about you?

What I Learned from a Garbage Bin

Romans 15:2, 3 2 Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.  3 For even Christ did not please himself . . .

Romans 15:17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God.

In our community, everyone has the same large, green garbage bins – the kind the trucks can pick up and dump without a human leaving the truck.  In addition, we have recycling bins that are emptied the same day as the garbage.  Most people dutifully remove both their bins from the street within a day of their emptying.  There are a few, however, who aren’t so prompt in the pick-up, and, frankly, it irritates me.

There was one neighbor who began leaving his bins streetside throughout the week, though it hadn’t always been this way.  At first, I was irritated week after week, seeing the green “decoration” every time I passed that way.  Then I remembered how much of a struggle this man has now with his own physical limitations and his wife in a wheelchair; so, I began to lug those bins down the driveway to their keeping places when I walked the dog.  (Please, don’t start thinking how thoughtful I am, for I’ll quickly prove you wrong. :))

I honestly don’t think I would have done anything about it if it didn’t bother me.  My motivation was not, as Christ’s, completely for the benefit of my neighbor.  While it wasn’t to make me feel good about myself for helping someone who could use the help, it was for personal benefit in a different way – to make me feel better by not having to look at the big green garbage cans.

Add to my wrong motive the fact that there is a grown granddaughter living in this home who is fully capable of helping with things such as the garbage, and any good attitude was gone.  I didn’t grouse (in my mind) while doing this “act of kindness” because of the elderly couple.  My grousing was about the granddaughter who should take on the responsibility, or on other nearby neighbors who could pitch in.  While entertaining all these thoughts, I did try to tell myself it must only bother me, so just find personal satisfaction in doing it.  I praise God that He wasn’t willing to leave me in this messy state!

In my regular Bible reading, the verses of Romans 15 began to minister to me about my garbage can attitude.  I know this is not what Paul had in mind with these verses, but the Lord used them that way for me.  It was time to get rid of the stinking attitude for good, not to stop being a helpful neighbor.  While I understood immediately, I wondered how to break out of this attitude until I came to the phrase, “in my service to God.”  There it was, plain and simple.  The reason for doing whatever I do is to serve my Lord and glorify Him.  It’s not up to me to determine other people’s motivations, or lack thereof.  It’s only my place to do what He gives me to do, serving Him while I serve others – regardless of who else might be able to do it.

There is a possibility that the Lord has crafted me in such a way as to be bothered by things like garbage cans still by the street long after pickup, knowing it will attract my attention to help a neighbor, ultimately serving and glorifying Him in the process.  I needed these verses to expose the ugly motives (for I had definitely seen them), but to root them out and return my focus to Him.  Oh, the glorious transforming power of His Word!  I’ll bet the next time I do whatever the Lord shows me, I will find much greater joy because it will be another opportunity to serve Him – all because of His Word.