Pondering today on Victory! Ok, yes, this pondering may have been inspired by my Atlanta Falcons and their inevitable Victory tonight in the Super Bowl! But, my pondering is about Jesus and His victory over sin and death!
If you have been reading these Ponderings for a while, you know that I grew up Baptist, then Pentecostal, then non-denominational mega church. At each stage of my journey, I proclaimed Jesus to be “Victorious” but the reality of my theology was that He was partially victorious but partially a “loser”. I know that sounds a little harsh but when you cut through all the flowery words, glorious anthems and emotional worship….I was left with questions?
God, if you are so great, why will ALL People not know it?
God, if you are perfect love, why will ALL people not feel it?
God, if you conquered death, why will ALL people not live?
God, if you are light, why do you not remove ALL darkness?
God, if you are the victorious King of Kings, how do you not win ALL battles?
For 45 of my 50 years on this journey so far…I believed a theology that praised a “win some/ lose some” God. The truth is, most western Christians believe this. Now, I know for some of you that are so entrenched in your theology (I was one of the most entrenched 🙋🏼), scriptures are popping into your head to support your theology. For goodness sake, I was in a “scripture memory” class! Here’s the thing, we ADD a lot of things to scripture that aren’t there. I’ll just give a couple of examples that the Holy Spirit enlightened for me. The word “saved”….doesn’t mean saved from hell”. The word “perish”…doesn’t mean “eternal torment”. The word “fire”…is a purifying word, not a destructive word. We could go on and on for centuries debating theology, (oh wait, we have) but at the end of the day, it comes down to this …DO YOU BELIVE GOD IS VICTORIOUS? DO YOU BELIEVE GOD IS A LOSER? DO YOU BELIEVE HE IS A LITTLE OF BOTH?
Interesting questions right? Are you brave enough to set your theology aside and really ponder them?
I am not here to tell you how or what to believe. We have enough people in the world trying to do that! I’m here to share my journey and to challenge you to ask the hard questions…you won’t be disappointed in the answers! The more you peel away the layers of man’s teachings and get through the thin, crumbly layers of religion to the heart of God…the more in awe you will be!
I believe God is ALL LOVING!
I believe God is ALL POWERFUL!
I believe God always WINS!
I believe that LOVE NEVER FAILS!
I believe that we don’t see the whole story when we look through mere earthly eyes.
I believe that EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God, our Father.
I believe every human spirit will one day look into the eyes of pure love and ALL the hurt, stinkin thinkin, indoctrination, anger, abuse, woundedness, cultural teachings, torment and hate will be burned up until only the pure creation remains. A pure creation captivated and in love with its perfect creator! I believe in VICTORY! Jesus never “converted” anyone, He loved them and called them friends.
Now In the words of our Atlanta Falcons…”In brotherhood we trust, in brotherhood we fight, in brotherhood we RISE!
Jesus said, “I came to seek and save the lost” (that’s ALL of us). Luke 19:10.
Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw ALL men to myself”. John 12:31-32.
Jesus said “I did not come to judge the world but to SAVE it!”
“The Shepherd goes in search of the one lost sheep and does not return UNTIL he finds it and puts it on his shoulders and takes it home.” Luke 15:1-2
Pondering today on being rigid or flexible.
RIGID (def.) – deficient in or devoid of flexibility.
FLEXIBLE (def.) – capable of bending easily without breaking.
For most of my adult life, I was the queen of “rigid”. I thought I had all the right answers when it came to just about everything. I grew up in a denomination that had all the right theological answers, my way of parenting was the right way, my political views were the right ones, my analysis of any situation I encountered was the right one. My views, my theology, my opinions were all the right ones. Oh, I masked my rigidness under words like “passionate “, “conviction”, “determination” but the truth is, I was “deficient in and devoid of flexibility” and the ugly root of all that rigidness was “control”. In a world that is full of chaos and uncertainty, we try to find our peace by controlling everyone and everything in our little corner of the world.
But here’s the rub….control never brings real peace… and Love is the tool God uses to “bend us without breaking us.”
The love of God does not snap our rigid selves in half, His love does not shatter us into a million pieces. The love of God is gentle, intentional and is softly rubbed into our rigidness. The process is often very time consuming but He is ever patient and steadfast in His work. As His healing oil is massaged into the dry, hard places, we slowly become more pliable, less resistant…softer.
So today, with all the rigidness filling the airways, social media and conversations ….what will you do? Will you stand hard and firm and try to control those you don’t agree with OR will you allow love to bend you towards others so that you can actually get close enough to hear their heart beat?
Don’t be so RIGID about being right…that you loose the FLEXIBILITY to love. I have finally been softened enough to “bend without breaking” and I can stand on the other side of “control” and earnestly and honestly tell you that PEACE is far superior.
Here’s to loving well and bending to hear the heart of others. Happy Sunday my friends!
Pondering today on being a human.
I know as I type this, that some of you will “like” it and some will “unfollow” me. That’s ok. From the very first #sundaysheeppondering, my motive has been to bring life to those who read it. To bring life by telling you over and over how valuable and treasured you are by your creator and by exposing lies that others have heaped on you or you have heaped on yourself. Today will be no different.
Human beings are ALL made in the image of God, male and female, black and white, short and tall, creatives and analyticals. WHY, WHY, WHY are we so obsessed with our differences? It’s like we are talking out of both sides of our mouths. One side says, “I want equality. Everyone should be treated the same.” And the other side of our mouth says, “My people deserve special treatment because we are different.” Ok, I know that history has not been kind to women, blacks, certain social classes, certain religions. I hate that! I wish I could erase it! I wish I could right those wrongs!
Today, we have a constitution that clearly states that women have the same rights as men, Blacks have the same rights as whites. We have freedom of religion. Hard work and diligence has no social class barrier.
Are there some women who have encountered sexism? Yes! Are there some men who have encountered sexism? Yes! Are there some blacks who have encountered racism? Yes! Are there some whites who have encountered racism? Yes! Are there some Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. that have encountered religious persecution? Yes! Are there some Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. that have persecuted others faith or beliefs? Yes! Are there some who work hard and don’t see much in return? Yes! Are there some who barely lift a finger but seem to get all the breaks? Yes!
“Life is not fair” and “hurting people, hurt people”! BUT just because there are some ignorant, messed up thinking, hard hearted people in the world doesn’t mean ALL are that way! Stop generalizing entire people groups based on a few! Women and Blacks are just as guilty of sexism and racism as Men and Whites. Don’t repay evil with evil. Two wrongs don’t make a right. If you are not part of the solution, you may be the problem.
It’s time for people to take personal responsibility. It’s time for people to stop taking their personal hurts and projecting them on society. It’s time for healing! It’s time for serious personal analysis.
Are you just joining in with the crowd to yell, complain, vent your frustrations, vilify an entire group of people who are different than you? OR…..are you ready to take a stand for something that brings life?! Instead of telling republicans or democrats how bad they are….try listening! Instead of telling other religions how wrong they are…try understanding! Instead of measuring a person up by the amount of pigment in their skin…try seeing their heart! Instead of seeing the differences in male and female as a problem…try seeing the way they compliment each other!
We are ALL the same and yet so beautifully unique! We ALL are created in God’s image and likeness! We ALL have His life in our very breath! We ALL were knit together by Him in our mothers womb! We ALL are loved equally, fully and perfectly by Him! When you finally get that, When you finally see that, When you finally understand that…you don’t need the government, the schools, the religious leaders, the media, Hollywood or ANYONE else to determine your value. Then, YOU ARE FREE to love others as you love yourself. Then, YOU ARE FREE to treat others as you want to be treated. Then, YOU ARE FREE to value the differences in others while celebrating the “oneness” we have with all Gods creation.
Come on friends! Let’s shine! Let’s love well! Let’s be instruments or peace! Let’s join together in unity and sing the song of our Father’s heart. No more punches, digs or jabs. Let your compassion and kindness run like a river and let your words be salt that enhance and heal each person they fall on.
Pondering today on the process.
We’ve often heard things like, “I’m a work in progress” or “Be patient, God’s not finished with me yet”.
I’ve been working all week on growing a natural yeast starter for my homemade bread. I’ve had to feed and monitor my starter continuously and I’ve learned way more about the science of yeast than I care to know. While diligently going through the “process” of growing the yeast…I began to ponder.
There was a beginning to my natural yeast growing process. The beginning was full of questions like, “Am I doing this right?”, “This doesn’t look like I thought it would” and “So what now?”. I think those are some of the same questions we ask ourselves when we embark on this process of “discovering God”. We have way more questions than answers and most of the time we wonder if we are doing it right. We are what they like to call, “spiritual babies”.
A few days into my yeast growing process, I had some setbacks, was pretty sure I was going to have to start over and really wanted to take the easy way out and go buy some processed, store bought yeast. Our journey, or process of discovering God, can feel the same way. We may fall short of “being a good Christian” or we may decide it is too hard to live up to these expectations we and others have put on us. We may feel like we will never get it right and we just quit. Challenges of life come along and we think to ourselves, “this isn’t working”. This is often referred to in religious circles as “spiritual backsliding” but it’s really a performance treadmill we were never meant to get on.
Four days into the process of growing my natural wheat yeast starter, I tried to use it to make a loaf of bread. It tasted ok but the texture and consistency was all wrong. It didn’t look like it was supposed to. It didn’t look like everyone else’s that were “experts”. How often do we compare our journey or our process with those around us? How often do we compare our “spiritual maturity” with others?
Six days into the process of growing my natural wheat yeast starter and I am so excited! I woke up this morning to a jar of beautifully bubbly yeast starter! It doubled in size while I was sleeping! We are finally ready to make some bread that not only taste delicious, but has a desirable consistency. The funny thing is…I feel like this is where I am personally in the process. I’ve learned to rest and let go of trying to “be” something. I fought the process for so long but now I embrace it. I don’t have to know all the answers anymore and as a matter of fact…the mystery is exciting! It’s like the yeast, I’m filled with life and it just oozes out without effort. God is living in me. He is doing the work of giving life. I “knew” that in my mind for a long time, I could quote the verses and I even had experiences that confirmed it …BUT it was still about me and my effort to be “like Him”.
Looking to the future, I hope to report that I finally have a loaf of delicious bread! I may be tempted to say things like “I stuck it out”, “I fought the good fight”, “I finished the race”. I may be feeling pretty proud of myself, a little cocky, and all together full of myself. “I did it!” Sound like some “Christians” you know? Well, I used to be one of those “spirituality arrogant” people. I thought I had finally done enough of the requirements, finally learned the “right” way of thinking and speaking to get closer to God and silence the enemy, I knew the scriptures inside and out, I taught classes, led the prayer team…I had “arrived”.
So what did I learn in the “process” of making my natural yeast? Well, I learned that “I” didn’t make anything. A natural process occurred between wheat flour and water. I learned that this process has been going on since the beginning of time and I just finally joined in on it. I learned that each step of the process was important. I learned that a lot of things were going on inside that mason jar that I didn’t understand or see. I learned that the process is actually fun and each step is really cool.
And that’s not the end! I get to feed my yeast everyday to keep it healthy and thriving. And that’s how it is with our spiritual journey. We don’t arrive at an end. We are continually growing, changing, learning, unlearning. The process is ongoing and the results are beautiful.
My friends, enjoy the process. It’s not a process of becoming something…it’s a process of discovering… who you really are and who He is that lives in you. You may not care about yeast, you may be learning a little about yeast, you may be trying to be perfect yeast, you may have given up on yeast, you may think you are an expert on yeast…it doesn’t matter where you are, because yeast “is what it is”, no matter where you are in the discovery process. God has always been, still is and will always be “God”. It is our JOY to discover His unconditional LOVE and then it is our DELIGHT to feel His LIFE bubble up inside of us!
Happy Sunday my dearly loved friends!
Happy New Years! Pondering today on “where you are”.
I had a dream several years ago and in this dream I am in a house. I’m in a large,open concept family/kitchen/dining room with lots and lots of people. It’s loud, crowded and a little overwhelming. I want to find a QUIET place, so I go wandering. I find myself in a long hallway with a door to the left and a door to the right. The door to the left leads to a standard square bedroom with beige walls, carpet and a pair of windows. The door to the right leads to a room that is light and bright with white painted wood walls, ceilings, and floors. It contains lots of unusual roof lines, nooks and architectural features. Both are blank slates.
So I know I have a choice to make. Which room do I want to enter? I could go with the traditional room or I could try something “unique”.
I IMMEDIATELY know that I want the “unique” room. The creativity and potential flood my senses. I get giddy inside! BUT… I can’t go in yet. Either the room is not ready for me, I am not ready for the room, or both.
I must wait in the hallway. Really? There was nothing in the hallway. No pictures, no seating, no windows…just a hallway. Dream ends.
This dream was given to me at a time that I was in a leadership position at a mega church and world wide ministry (the large crowded room). I had been serving long hours, lots of people and with all my heart. I had experienced many moments of joy and purpose. BUT I knew in my “knower” that the season was changing and that still small voice was calling me away to a quiet place. So as I leave the large room (the mega ministry), I go searching for a new room, the next season. And while I’m given a glimpse of what the next season could be (behind the doors), I can’t yet go…I must wait in the hallway until the doors are opened.
My friends, I lived in the hallway for a couple of years. At first, it was super frustrating….no purpose, no vision, no one but me. I was confused and even disappointed. Why would He lead me from a place of such influence and purpose to a place of “nothingness”? And then it started to happen, the hallway started to feel more comfortable. It was quiet, no distractions, no outside voices, no jobs to do, no windows, no mirrors, no people, no books, no demands, no performance, no internal politics, no striving…just me, alone with my Father. He began to teach me, or in my case, “unteach” me. He began to strip away all the layers of influence and thinking that the world, religion and others had heaped on me. The hallway had become a safe haven for my mind, my heart and my very spirit. It was truly a place of transition and transformation. It was exactly where I needed to be.
Today, I am in the “unique” room. It is a room filled with curiosity, creativity, dreams, potential, passion, giddiness and most importantly…peace. It is a pure place. It is home. It’s a place that I was always searching for but couldn’t seem to find.
My dearly loved friends, as we enter this new year of 2017, you may find yourself thriving in a bustling family room, you may find yourself in a quiet, isolated hallway, you may find yourself in a place you always longed for ….or even a place I haven’t mentioned; a wide open field, a warm bathtub, a dining table filled with wonderful food, a library filled with books, a valley filled with obstacles or a mountain top with an amazing view. WHEREVER you find yourself this year, you can KNOW this…your Father is with you. You may not understand and it may feel uncomfortable but He is with you. He is in you. He loves you. Try to resist the human urge to run to the next place, the next season, the next stop on your journey. Spend some time in the hallway. Stop along the path and rest. Hide away for a bit in His arms. Get quiet and listen as He whispers in your ear….words of life, sweet affections, mysteries revealed. The hallway can be more than you ever imagined or dreamed of.
I will share about how each of you are a part of the wonderful, “unique” room I am in now but that’s enough pondering for today.
My hope for myself, my family and for all of you that I consider friends is this….may you always know that you are loved, valued and treasured by the One who thought you up, created you and lives in you. May you stop striving to be accepted or blessed but may you find rest in knowing you are His and nothing and no one (even you) can ever separate you from that love. (Romans 8:38-39)
Happy New Year! 🎊
Pondering today on “SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT”. From what I can tell, humanity, has had a real problem with “stinkin thinkin” since the beginning. “Stinkin Thinkin” is not dirty thoughts but wrong, confused, untruthful thoughts. It seems to me, that starting in the garden, and all the way through to today, we just can’t seem to understand who God is. All religions of the world seem to be the result of a need that we humans have to “make things right”, “settle the score”, “even the playing field”. We’ve created gods that can only offer a vicious cycle of falling short, hating ourselves, needing guilt relief and offering sacrifice to appease. Some gods required a guilt sacrifice, some an animal sacrifice and some even human sacrifice. These gods were distant, controlling and required justice at any price. As I am typing this and pondering on the words, I even see traces of this sacrifice mentality in my beloved Christianity. My heart breaks when I see how my PERFECT, LOVING FATHER has been reduced to look like the other gods humanity has dreamed up and how I have participated in this sacrificial system. He has been portrayed through human writings, human understanding of their circumstances and human traditions as a god who required guilt, demanded justice and accepted all sacrifice…guilt, animal and finally human.
What I’m about to type…when my eyes were opened to see it for the first time…I screamed “NO”…this messes with all I have ever believed…and yet…at my very core, the center of my being, my “knower”….it all finally made sense and peace flooded my soul, my mind and my heart.
Perhaps, I was even seeing my Christian God, through a “stinkin thinkin” mindset. Hmmm…I’m guessing we could all do some deeper pondering on that.
And so, we arrive at Christmas! We read the traditional nativity story and we celebrate that our God has finally made a way to be appeased. That he will finally be able to look past our failures and love us. That justice will be served to a scapegoat, this little baby in a manger and He wrath will be satisfied. That the harsh Old Testament God will finally become the nice New Testament God.
Yet, I wonder. Did God send Jesus because HE NEEDED JUSTICE or ….was it because WE did? Could it be that humanity’s “stinkin thinkin” needed to be corrected? Could it be that Jesus was God’s way to SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT? Could it be that WE needed a sacrifice to feel loved and accepted? Could it be that God stooped down to our needs and met them? Could it be that man’s need for sacrifice even contaminated the message of Jesus? Caused his suffering?
Jesus did set the record straight. He said I have come to give you life, I have come to find and save the lost, I have come to destroy your enemy (your stinkin thinkin)….I AM the Prince of PEACE! I AM the WONDERFUL Counselor! I AM your EVERLASTING FATHER! I AM the one and only mighty GOD of love! I AM like no other god you have formed or created. I AM SET APART, I AM OTHER, I AM …..LOVE.
So in the words of the angel messengers….FEAR NOT! There is GLORIOUSLY GOOD NEWS for…ALL PEOPLE! The record has been set straight! God is finally revealed as He is truly is and YOU can get rid of that “stinkin thinkin” and KNOW that you are EXTRAVAGANTLY, UNCONDITIONALLY, PERFECTLY LOVED! Merry Christmas my so loved friends! REJOICE! Emmanuel, God is WITH us!
Pondering today on shepherds. There is so much in the scriptures about shepherds but I’m going to focus on two specific occurrences in the Good News according to Luke…one a parable and one an announcement.
In the parable, the Shepherd was on the giving end of the message. He shares that a GOOD SHEPHERD will leave the 99 safe Sheep to graze on the hill and He will go find the ONE that is lost. He will search UNTIL he finds them and WHEN He rescues them, He will rejoice! Now that my friends is such good news!
There are many among us that stay with the shepherd in calm, safe pastures. They enjoy the peace, comfort and joy of being in safe arms of their shepherd. But we all know those, and maybe we are one of those, who wander off, loose their way, get hurt, or lured away by promises of a “better” pasture or a better shepherd.
Oh, the JOY of KNOWING that our good shepherd will NOT leave them lost! He will search UNTIL He finds them! Not even death will keep Him from finding His sheep and bringing them back home! They may run, they may fight Him, they may spit in His face BUT HIS LOVE AND KINDNESS will lead them to turn and fall into His safe arms once again!
In the announcement, the shepherds were on the receiving end of the message. Contrast them with the Pharisees. They were uneducated, lowly and spent their life protecting sheep in lonely, dangerous pastures rather than standing on a platform and preaching down to the people “below” them. It is no wonder that the message to them was “Fear not! We have GOOD news that will be for ALL PEOPLE”!!!! Shepherds, you have spent your life protecting others but today, YOU will have a Shepherd and He is the Christ! The Son of God! The PERFECT SHEPHERD that never looses His sheep! You are safe now! You are loved! You are the focus of His affection and the purpose for His existence! You will not have to go to the temple to find this Shepherd, you will find Him here, in the lonely, dangerous places…He lives among you!
So as we approach this final week of the Christmas season, my message to you is the same as the message to the Shepherds. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, whether you are in green pastures or lost in the woods, your Shepherd knows your name, will never abandon you and has GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY for YOU!!!
Merriest of Christmases my dearly loved fellow sheep! 🎄❤️🐏
(Adding reference scriptures for those who need them)
“What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost ONE of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost UNTIL he finds it? WHEN he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing!”
“For the Son of man has come to save that which was lost.”
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
“So it is NOT THE WILL of your Father who is in the heavens that ONE of these little ones should perish.”
“For I am convinced that neither DEATH nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, NOR ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”