Embracing slow


We all value fast.
Fast internet.

Fast service.

Fast travel.

Fast responses.

We have people to see and places to go, work to be done. Productivity and ingenuity travels at light speed.

I am beginning to see more awareness and appreciation for slow. I see more articles and news media about the health benefits of slowing down, taking a moment, and embracing rest for the benefit of our minds and bodies.

What I don’t see, yet, is media and awareness about slowing down in another way – slowing down our words.

Some of us, like myself, have a lot to say and it all just comes gushing out. This seems to be encouraged in our culture, particularly with the advent of the social media posting platform-

Say what you feel!

Get it off your chest!

You’ll feel so much better!

I have had the devil whispering these very things in my ear. He placates our consciences to shove thoughts about how to say it well, how to speak considerately down deep. These false promises are keeping us from looking for the best perspective, speaking in love, and with the listener in mind. Until the deed is done and the words are out and the guilt and shame begin. He pours that on thick too.

James gives us a simple and direct suggestion, that we would be wise to heed.

We can be bold, to stand up for what matters, but we also need to slow down.

Let’s start with James 1:19-20 and hear James’s simple command:

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…

Look at the order of the words in the text. We often start with a simple discussion. We are listening and sharing. Then the discussion gets going and the words come faster. We hear less, we speak more. Then our blood starts to boil.

Slow to is such a simple concept, we could miss it. God also shows us slow to by the very compilation of Scripture. The words of the Bible, were offered slowly, over the sands of time, not hastily through one individual. Our God does everything perfect, completely righteous. James’s words are part of that Holy Book, breathed out by the Trinity.

What other wisdom on this does James offer us then? Let’s look through a few more passages in James, keeping them in the context of slow to.

James 2:16

…and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

How is it helpful at times to not always rush to mercy in the moment, but to think for a minute about what we can and are willing to offer? Slow to

James 3:2-5,8-9

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things…but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.

How is so much in our lives driven by our tongues? How can it affect big decisions and close relationships? How can it impact even the smallest decision and brief relationships?

James 4:11a

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.

When have you seen it words poison and when have you seen them bless? How has social media and our rapid communication abilities impacted and amplified the consequences of this?

James 5:12-13

 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

How can we slow our yes-s and no-s? What benefit might there be in that? How do prayers and praises affect our speech and our perspective?

Slow to…

may look a little different from the world around us, but isn’t God’s way always like that?

May your ways be slow and your words be filled with His praise today!

 

Discussion:

Which passage sticks out to you the most? Choose one segment, from what we just went through, and reflect on the questions.

Let’s pray for one another today and ask for guidance for our words and actions. Any prayer requests in particular?

All or Nothing Faith

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Day 4 – All or nothing faith

Our youth Sunday School class decided to do something different this year. We wanted to open our Bibles, and to some extent our hearts, a little wider than might feel comfortable. It started out all fun. We laid our Bibles on our laps and I had the youth holler out words that stuck out to them in Scripture, as they flipped through the pages. I asked them to look for big words, exciting words, sad words, confusing words, hard words, and encouraging words. Sometimes I think we take for granted the words of the Bible because they have become commonplace to us. As a believer of many years and an avid reader of Scripture, I’m constantly looking for Law and Gospel, guilt and grace, sin and salvation. When I was young, I had no idea what to look for. Goodness, half the time now, that’s still true. I might read a passage about ransom, but have no idea what the word itself means.

Likewise, our study here is designed so that we glean something new from something we otherwise would have skipped over. Sometimes those things are desperately encouraging. Other times, I feel overwhelmed and perplexed by God’s language and thoughts. And that’s ok.

The Word was meant to be opened, whether comfortable or uncomfortable, understood or perplexing. God will always show us something. He is the Light.

Would we rather remain in darkness?

And still…Pandora’s Box. Sometimes that’s what we get when we open the Bible. Questions, questions, and more questions come pouring out.

Today’s study deals again with a difficult topic, from the Levitical law of the Old Testament. But we would be remiss to skip over it. I believe that God has something to reveal to us, even if only in part and confusing at face value. That said, let’s dive in. Please read Leviticus 27:28-29:

“But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the Lord, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the Lord. No one devoted, who is to be devoted for destruction from mankind, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.

This passage tells us that there are things that are not to be ransomed, not to be saved from destruction, because why? Because they are God’s.

In the Old Testament God devoted some things to destruction. Some things were absolutely not meant to be redeemed. This conversation is related to concerns we probably have all had about Old Testament warfare, namely, that there is so much of it! Goodness, but they fought a lot back in the day. It is a culture we are so removed from, it’s hard to wrap our heads around. To begin to understand it all we need to understand the Hebrew concept brought up in Leviticus- charam or cherem – “that which is to be given over to the Lord by destruction.”*

Let it sink in and flash forward to your own life to grasp the concept.

Sometimes we need a little cherem in our own lives. Sometimes there are jobs or material possessions or even relationships with others that should be utterly destroyed, that is to say removed from us, sent away, put on the trash heap- in order to honor the Lord. The scene from the movie Fireproof comes to mind. The main character struggled to overcome his pornography addiction. He dealt with it in a pretty cavalier manner until his eyes were opened and he recognized that it was destroying everything he held dear. On that day, in the film, he carries his computer out into the driveway and smashes it to bits with a baseball bat. A perfectly good computer, but better off as cherem devoted to destruction for the Lord.

In the Old Testament, things that were “devoted to destruction” were absolutely not to be ransomed. This was God’s command. Cut and dry. But that computer just seems so darn useful, you see…

The Israelites also felt the same. Instead of heeding God’s command, they often saved treasures, and sometimes people, that God did not intend to survive. You can see how it would be complicated. Just as in yesterday’s study we talked about the sacrifice of the Egyptian army, likewise, the Israelites would go to battle with real people, people with families and homes.

However, the cherem was created in the Old Testament to keep the Israelites set apart. The people that came against them in war, or those God sent them against, were slowly destroying them. They introduced them to idols, led them to all manners of adultery, utterly destroying children and families in one swoop or over time. At the very least these nations created complacency in their faith, and at worst turned them from the Triune God.

Here’s the deal: God values us enough to demand better.

The book of Isaiah can gives us some answers and some peace. Turn to Isaiah 43:11-13:

I, I am the Lord,
    and besides me there is no savior.
12 I declared and saved and proclaimed,
    when there was no strange god among you;
    and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God.
13 Also henceforth I am he;
    there is none who can deliver from my hand;
    I work, and who can turn it back?”

My Study Bible notation states, “As in the past, so also in the future, God’s plans will be unstoppable.”

God gets to be God and we don’t get to steal that from Him.

In the fullness of time, our God sent his own cherem. A redeemer, a ransom – Christ Jesus, our Lord.

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  (Hebrews 10:10)

Jesus came and offered Himself for total destruction. It was confusing and hard for the disciples and the people who had to watch it. It invigorates and warms our hearts with grace, this sacrifice. But complacency, it does not create. God has set us apart with His ransom. Jesus has given His life, for our salvation, and now we live in a New Covenant. We can offer grace and forgiveness at times when we could not see it without Him. There are definitely still times we need to send some stuff, that which leaves us complacent, to the trash heap – things and relationships that lead us away from Him – but we see it with a new mind. The mind of Christ.

And so we keep studying, we keep opening the Word to understand, when it feels dark and confusing. This new covenant calls us to go and Live. Read John 17:15-17:

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,that they also may be sanctified in truth.

We are different than the Israelites. We are called to go fully and unabashedly into the world and to do it with Bibles open. We give Jesus our all, because He gave us every single bit of Himself.

All in, girls. Lift high the Ransom for all people. Share the message that destruction may last for a night, but resurrection comes in a sweet, sweet Savior.

 

Exploration:

Let’s converse freely. This is a difficult topic. Please share any questions or thoughts you have about today’s study.

 

*The Lutheran Study Bible, Concordia Publishing House

 

Sports, kids, Jesus, and trying to make it all work

 

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Hockey is kind of an important thing in our family. It’s our jam. We own giant bags to hold the gear. I may or may not have a hockey mom emblem for my van. I may or may not own a giant button with my goalie’s picture on it. Last year at one point we had three out of four on the ice at the same time. I am a pro at lacing skates and have sweat-soaked laundry down to a science.

Jesus is also an important thing in our family. He’s so important that we focus all of our life on Him, as Christians. We aim to walk the walk and talk the talk, and make everything revolve around Him.  We’re so into Jesus that we chose jobs that let us spend 24 hours a day helping other people know Him. In fact, Jesus is our life.

Here in lies the difference. Hockey is part of our life.
Jesus is Life.

You’d think that knowing this difference would make it all magically easier. You’d think it would make things cut and dry. Always choose Jesus first, then hockey.

But what does it mean to choose Jesus first? Does it mean choosing church first? Does it mean opening my Bible at the hockey rink? Does it mean showing up in the pew every Sunday? Does it mean having conversations with my hockey parent friends about someone I know who changed my life- Jesus?

Can you see how complicated it can get very quickly?

And honestly, it’s not about hockey either. Our kids do any number of things – guitar, soccer, violin, lego club, etc. What makes something worthy of missing church or midweek or whatever church activity?

Add in the factor that my husband is the pastor. That’s fun. Are we held to a different standard? Are we models for putting church first? What is expected of me and what am I willing to give?

This blog won’t provide answers. I’m convinced that blanket rules and statements only push children from the church, push members from the church. When we push with the law, especially without a conversation, we push away from Jesus rather than towards Him, which was never our intention.

So, here are three very basic suggestions from me to you, from my perspective as a hockey mom, pastor’s wife, therapist, and, yep, Jesus freak –

1. Honesty in the struggle.

Every home is different. What works in my context for my family, my home, and my church, will not necessarily work in yours. There is no easy answer, but there is good conversation. I am convinced that this is what will help our children see Jesus living and walking in our lives – the hashing it out, the discussing it around the table, the sharing of concerns and frustration and figuring it out together.

One day this burden was so heavy on me that I stood in front of our church and told them, wringing my hands, “Hockey is a Sunday morning sport. Jonah’s the only goalie. If he’s not there, they can’t play. We decided he should miss practices for church, but if it’s a game, he should be there. This was a hard decision for us. During hockey season, we may be coming to church late, or leaving early. Very occasionally, when he’s supposed to play during church, we’ll go to a Thursday night service nearby. Sports and kids are hard. If you have ideas that have worked for you. Please let me know. Jesus always comes first, always. We love Him in a way that we could never even begin to care about hockey, but it’s not as simple as yes or no.”

I had whole families come up to me after church and tell me how grateful they were for the honesty. That they were in the struggle too. Honest is the beginning of real life together.

2. Figuring it out around the Word together

Open your Bible. Pray about it as a family. Pray with those who have gone before you and those who are in the trenches now. As a ministry wife, there was a another layer between my husband and I about missing church. That had to be hashed out too. It’s hard conversation. We don’t always agree, and I’m glad we have our Bibles open for it.

Ask, seek, and knock. “God, what would you have us do in this situation?” He will answer through His Word. This is His promise to us.

Matthew 7:7-12: 

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

He is our Father and He wants to hear from us. He is faithful in responding.

Sometimes we will have to make hard decisions that make people unhappy. This includes ourselves, our children, the people at our churches, and the coaches of our teams. Sometimes hard boundaries are called for. At other times we can go with the flow and take it as it comes.

3. Get creative!

If you have more than one church service, pick another one. Some churches have services during the week or on a Saturday, when Sunday morning doesn’t work. Talk to the coach about the fact that church is important to you. Some are hard and fast. Many are kind and understanding. Most leagues have rules that players can not be penalized for missing practice or even games for their faith. Consider recreational sports over travel, to have more time available for other things.

Last year, our goalie was blessed to be on a team with two goalies. We showed up when we could and the team was extremely supportive. When Jonah missed a playoff game so that we could be in worship, one hockey parent came up to me later that day at the rink – “We knew you all were praying for us.” The team families knew what mattered to us most – Jesus and the people He loves, including them. Throw in a little hockey and it’s like icing on the cake of life.

No easy answers my friend, just authentic Faith, and a whole lot of Jesus.

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