Making waves


I love the ocean’s roll.

Sitting on the beach, with my feet dug into the sand, the waves reaching up to lap my toes. Waves are calming and predictable – coursing in and out, in and out.

Waves aren’t just pillowy and pretty. They are powerful and majestic. They are driven by an unseen force, governed by gravity and the laws of physics. However, we’ve all seen instances where even the laws of physics can’t contain the ocean’s power. They are ruled by Someone greater. Someone who even the wind and waves obey.

Let’s explore what waves have to do with James.

Open to James 3:2-5:

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.

If you peek at James 3:1 in your own Bible, you’ll note that these instructions from James are actually given to those who teach the Word in the church. I didn’t include this verse because I didn’t want to trip you up. It’s easy when instructions are given to one group to think – “Eh, I don’t teach, so I’m just going to skip over that part.” But let’s be honest – we all have someone to “teach”, someone to influence, someone with whom we share wisdom, life experiences, and God’s Word.

James never actually talks about waves, he actually talks about rudders. Rudders make waves. Ships make waves. When boats pass through the water they churn up all kinds of stuff. We are foolish if we believe that we impact no one as we move through life. Your impact, my friend, I guarantee you is bigger than you think!

We each have reach and possibility and many relationships in our lives. Our tongue guides so much of it. How do we even begin to steer it in the right direction? How do we find a direction that creates safety and spreads the message of Hope, instead of fear and the message of judgment?

The question is not, are we making waves with our lives and words? Rather, it’s –

What kind of waves are we making?

Are we drowning others? Are we saying what we want, when we want? Are we letting emotions of the moment and satisfaction in our “rightness” steal hope from someone else’s soul? Are we ruled by our tongue, or do we let the Spirit guide our words, even when we are hurt, angry, tired, or hungry?

Are we slowly eroding the beach? Are our words not often harsh, but edgy, sarcastic enough, selfish enough, to tear down rather than build up, over time? Do we avoid, rather than seek opportunities to speak up for others?

Or are we moving change in a dark world? Do we give care, affection, or grace, through our words? Do we let the Spirit speak to whomever He brings into our life? Do our words roll up and reach out to someone’s shore, lapping their feet with the warmth and love of Christ?

We won’t be perfect. Our words won’t be perfect. But we are learning to entrust the refining to Him along the journey.

Lord, show us where You are leading us and show us where our ship is plunging ahead without Your mercy and grace. Thank You for Your wisdom and truth, as well as Your forgiveness, always there for us.  Fill us with Your Spirit, for the adventure of each day. In Christ, we give all our words to You. Use them for Your glory alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

*photo credit to pexels.com

Redefining Good

We all want good. Bad is, well…bad.

But what is good? Is it universal or different for everyone? Is there a secret to getting what is really “good”?

More importantly, what does God say is good and is it the same as what I think is good?

In this week’s video lesson we’ll dig in to Scripture so we can begin to redefine what is good, based on God’s Word, rather than our own fleeting feelings and opinions.

You can find the video link for the lesson here:

 Good Gifts Live Week 1 Video Link

Share the following meme with friends on social media, during your church announcements, or through a method that is private to share the burdens of life together and offer them up through the Good Gift of prayer.

Good Gifts from a Good, Good Father

A Good, Good Father…It’s who He is.

Chris Tomlin wasn’t joking around when he identified that we have a good, good father, but he also wasn’t the first to identify it.

The Psalmist cries out in Psalm 136:1:

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.

Moses asked for God’s glory and what did he get? God showed Moses all His goodness instead, and it’s goodness overload. Goodness so good that Moses couldn’t be allowed to see the frontside of it, or else it would literally kill him with goodness and God loved Him too much for that. You can read the full account of this in Exodus 33:13-23. I’ll highlight verses 19 and 20 here:

And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Jesus, in great humility, without revealing his position as God-in-human-flesh, clarifies that goodness can only come in and through God the Father, in Mark 10:17-18:

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

Aka – “…you won’t find goodness elsewhere, kind sir. What exactly is it, you’re really looking for?”

What are we really looking for when we look for good?

Do we want stuff that’s good?

Do we want to feel good?

Do we want a good reputation or good job, good health, a good future?

All these things are nice, but they aren’t necessarily good, because good only comes from the Good, Good Father. We know this because we have the gift of the book of James, which will be our course of study over the next six weeks.

Let’s dig in to James chapter 1. If you have your Bible out, read the whole chapter. It’s a gem and we’ll be resting there all week long, so you can get a bookmark for it and get cozy. Here I will focus in on James 1:16-17 for today’s study:

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James connects some dots for us. God’s not just Good, he’s a Father to us, and He’s not just a Father to us, He’s a Good one. God’s goodness is wrapped in Fatherly affection and His Fatherly affection is all kinds of goodness.

The devil wants to deceive us on two accounts.

First, God is Who He says He is.

The devil would have us believe that because of our earthly experience, God can not be good and He surely can not be a good father. This is particularly hard for anyone with an extremely imperfect or even terrible father. God, is perfect in every way, including in His role as our Heavenly Father. There are many things in life that feel less than good. It’s easy to piece those things together and make-up in our head a God that isn’t for our good- disease, shootings, poverty, bankruptcy, family turmoil, and life turmoil all demand accounting for.

We can rest in the Truth of Scripture that tells us over and over, in the midst of chaos, in the seasons we are pummeled by storms, that He is Good. He is the Father of lights, not the Father of darkness.

“…do not be deceived, beloved brothers.” Trust in His Good Word.

Second, He is steadfast.

The devil is the shifty one, not our Good Father. God is unchanging in nature. This is attached to his goodness in the book of James. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He isn’t a shifting shadow of darkness. The devil aims to deceive us into believing that God is unsure, unsafe, because it’s more damaging that way- it pulls and stretches us to our limits, it leaves us feeling doubtful and questioning, but God is in the questions too.

“…with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth…”

He is steadfast, no variation. The Greek root word for variation in James 1:17 is parallage, which can mean a change, variation, or mutation. God does not mutate. The devil may make himself into a snake to fool us, but God does not try to trick us. James tells us that it’s not in His nature. God has His own will and He is subject to no one. He lays His Will out for us in the Word, particularly in the saving work of Jesus Christ. In Christ, all goodness is ours – redemption, forgiveness, life, and eternity.

As we study James, this will be our foundation:

A Good, Good Father, steadfast and true, with many-a gift for us to discover as we spend time with Him and in His Good, Good Word.

Good Gifts Study Scripture Engagement Tool, designed by Victoria Weaver

 

Discussion –

What do you think people want, when they want good?

How does God offer us good and then something more?

How have you seen the Good, Good Father work in your life, or when has it been hard to see Him working good in your life?

For every Lutheran teacher – Thank You!

Kindergarten is a big transition for any kid. For our littlest, it was an epic transition.

I’m not sure who was more scared- me or him. But, you know, some things in life you bite the big one and suck it up. You hold on to your hats and pack that Star Wars backpack and say jolly things like,

“It’ll be great!”

“You’ll make so many friends!”

“I hear there are markers, and snacks, and three recesses!”

You’re over-happy-words fall flat, receiving only the grouchy look of a 5-year-old barely containing his rage at a world that is too noisy, too scratchy, and just a lot of work.

Enter Ms. Tinkey, and Mr. Kumm, and Mrs. Leonard, and Mrs. Baer and all the people who make the world a better place to be, one child at a time.

Zeke wasn’t just unsure of new places and new faces. For him, this was torture. Going to a new place, having a new routine, was like signing up to listen to nails scraping down the walls of the chalkboard, the sound of dial up internet stinging your eardrums, every moment, every day for the first month and a half of school.

This is sensory overload on steroids.

And I came with my delightful checklist.

“So, he’s gluten free and we try to avoid food dyes, especially the red ones. Sorry.”

“He hates holding a pencil, so if there’s an assignment he can use a marker on sometimes, that helps a lot. Sorry.”

“Sometimes he just needs a moment. Or 12 moments. Or 42 moments. I’m so sorry.”

And to everything I recited, Ms. Tinkey smiled and said, “Yes! We can work on that!” with actual joy. Not just fake niceties, but compassion and perseverance shining through. You see, some kids don’t receive services or have special classrooms, but they need a little extra touch of care. Teachers and helpers throughout the building made it their personal mission to turn that scared, grouchy face into a smiling, happy boy, who wanted to be there. A smile, a high five, the ability to turn down a high five if desired, persistent affection…all these things go a long way for spectrum kids, indeed, for any kid.

This, my friends, is the Lutheran School difference. The staff at Zeke’s school don’t get up to teach and shape the world every day.

They get up to show Jesus to every child every day as well. 

I’m pretty sure that they get tired. I’m sure they get frustrated. I’m sure they wonder if it makes any difference at all.

This blog would simply like to say yes, yes it does.

Your work in reaching in to little hearts, to growing hearts, is vital for my family and for countless other families out there. The world is a better place not because you showed up to work, but because you showed up in their lives. You are woven into the fabric of who they are becoming as teachers and leaders and workers in the kingdom of God and the body of Christ.

You make an eternal mark by being you.

Thank you.

A special kindergarten teacher once taught us this fun little song, that fits perfectly here…

Keep loving on those kids. Keep supporting those families. Keep sharing Jesus. Keep being you.

Happy National Lutheran School’s Week!
*as always, no Zeke’s were hurt in the making of this blog. His permission was asked and granted to share his story.

To our friends and our church family on Moving Eve

Packing up over a decade of your life into boxes with tape and marked with sharpies seems oversimplified. Staring out at the sea of boxes you wonder where all those years flew by, where you put all the meals and all the laughter, all those shared tears, and the days that seemed to be to mediocre to remember before, but now you feel desperate to never forget.

You can’t box up twelve years of your life. You can only box up possessions: photos, a few greeting cards, a special coffee mug, little pieces of memories of a life shared together.

You can’t box up people and take them with you. I promise you that if this were a possibility I would have duct taped and labeled more than a few individuals with a tag that said “Living Room: friends, must enjoy more often!”

So, instead as we transition to something new, a new day, a new challenge, a new journey, I will only say these few words for our church and our friends. We have lived life well together, in close proximity, and we will live a life well, though there be miles between.

First, Love one another.

Not just love a little. It’s so tempting.

It’s so tempting to show care and concern and stop short of deep and meaningful love. This Love is wonderful and painful. We avoid it because it means knitting little pieces of ourself into others and they into us. The stitching involves recognizing where we have failed, where we are imperfect. It means confession and forgiveness, recognizing what they know and do better than us, and rejoicing that we don’t know everything, that we need one another.

Loving also means listening, really listening. I do this utterly imperfectly. I like my words, but every day I learn a little more what it means to listen to understand rather listen to be heard. By listening, we hear who people really are, not who we think they are, or who we’d like them to be. This is Christ’s perfect love for us in action. While we were still sinners, He walked among us, loved wholeheartedly, and chose the cross rather than losing us in eternity.

Second, be kind.

In 12+ years of ministry I am shocked by the absolute care and affection that God shares through His people. Our body of believers in our local congregation and communities really is family. We have been cared for and loved on and have been blessed to share in life’s greatest moments of joy and sorrow with you all.

That said, I am also shocked by people’s ability to say hurtful things. The human person’s desperation that runs so deep as to destroy another standing right in front of them. Speak well of each other. Speak well to one another. Please speak well of us as we leave. Speak well of the next pastor and their family. We’re all in this together. Those outside the Church on Earth do not know what they are missing in this beautiful Family of God, but they will never know if we only show them our grouchies. Be kind.

And lastly, invite one another in.

It’s so tempting to be private. To keep our dark stuff and our hard stuff to ourselves, and even life’s everyday joys tucked in. If we don’t share, then it might be less embarrassing, less intimidating, but guess what, life doesn’t actually hurt any less. It hurts more. We were intended to share the burden. To walk together. Don’t keep it to yourself. Share it with the person sitting next to you, share it with your pastor, share it with your sister. Going it alone works for a very little while, but if we had known the struggles and gifts and joys that we know after twelve years with one another, imagine what God could do with that! It robs each of us of time and energy, hiding our best and our worst selves.

Let people know you are hurting, you’re sick, or you’re disappointed, in your family, at your work, at church. Don’t hold it all in. Don’t try to manage. This, my friends, this is what the family of God is for – confession, forgiveness, life together, life testifying where in the world Christ is at in the middle of it all, with and for one another.

If I could pack you all up with me, I would. If I could have all those I love in one small commune in the middle of the cornfields, with Ohio sunsets and Nebraska hills, I would. But He has other plans, so I will embrace them wholeheartedly, when it hurts, and when it’s good…and when it’s all of the above, boxed together, closed with packing tape, and marked up with a sharpie.