It’s 4:30 on Sunday afternoon. “All I can smell is bacon,” I holler from my kitchen. It’s the same space that we had cooked the bacon almost 7 hours earlier. We had mostly recovered; only the smell lingered, but we had finally been able to close the windows. I used to get mad at people who cooked breakfasts on the weekends, and then left their windows open for all the neighborhood to be enticed. I felt it was elitist…. I never got bacon on the weekends, or any other time for that matter, except for a soggy experience at Shoney’s when my grandparents came to town. No one ever made me eggs, or waffles, or a mixed fruit bowl for the first meal of the day. But now that I try to create a “specialness” to the time my own family can eat breakfast together, I realize the windows of the houses with such accommodations were not to create envy, but to let out the smoke. The incredible amount of grease-smoke that came from making all the deliciousness of the morning items.
I guess that also goes to explain the grease smell at Waffle House, no matter what time of day (or night!) you pay them a visit. But I digress.
I wonder how often people experience our “Christianity” with the same heavy-scented, elitist-dripping, grace-filled, “too blessed to be stressed”, open window mentality. I am not saying let’s pretend that Christ did not die for us, or that we aren’t saved and redeemed by the grace of our Lord… But so is the rest of the neighborhood. Just because we have accepted the invitation of salvation and redemption doesn’t mean we should cook it up on the weekends for our own family, then slyly look across the fence at someone eating cold cereal and think, “Awe, if they only knew”.
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
If the law is bacon, then it should be obviously permeated through you for all who come in your contact. The “joy of the Lord” is not mine. It’s not yours. It is not for me to stifle in my own family’s home, only to waft to those who have not experienced it. This does not entice people to come to know the LORD. It only TICKS THEM OFF and gives you another reason to repent. Rather the joy that comes from the knowledge and security of the Love of God is For. Every. One. And instead of partaking of it “indoors”, it is high time that the church comes out of their own “homes” and makes a picnic for the neighborhood.
“Jesus answered, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
Still staying home? Yup. My daughter is even excited about planning her “Zoom” birthday party. “Normal” is just so far from normal.
These are troubling times, not just because of Covid, but also riots, complete standstill of government, and the obvious disregard for lives of people with a deeper skin tone. We either rise together or we fall together. There should not be an America in tiers. The God of all creation is …. God. Of. All. Creation.
But of course, with no prompting from visits of friends, my toilets are dirty. Again. Not that I don’t clean them regularly, but still. I have so many other priorities that sometimes my cleaning and structure of my week slips.
So, as I launch into contemplation about when I will get around to cleaning my bathroom, I was reminded of an old memory of one of my first retail management jobs. I was a new assistant manager of a store in Concord, NC, and I was green. So, with the visit of the company CEO quickly approaching, the store manager had a sit-down with me. I was prepared with all the company lines, standards of operational procedures, and a bit of flare of what I saw as ways I could contribute to our individual store’s bottom line. But instead of those items, she wanted to discuss just one. The bathroom. Seriously!
Turns out, in her many, many years with the company, she learned something invaluable. Mr. Cato’s first stop when making store visits was to the bathroom. And not always because he had to use it. You see, it was explained to me that, if, the bathroom was clean and in order (which the customer doesn’t see), then he could rest assured that the front of the house was in order (which is what should contribute to a great shopping experience). I took this single experience with me to ALL the stores which I was responsible for thereafter, and it served me well.
Well, there it is. How have I been taking care of my spiritual “back of house”? My heart, head, and speech. Because God isn’t interested in the “customer experience”. He doesn’t get impressed with all the awesome things we think we do in His name. His concern is for true relationship, and complete faithfulness to Him. That is not the type of “cleaning” we can do on our own. But, He in all his Mercy has given us a Helper (John 14:16-17), One that will reside in us as we walk in the love that God commanded (John 14:15).
Luke 11:24- 26
“When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it roams through waterless places looking for rest, and not finding rest, it then says, 'I'll go back to my house where I came from.' And returning, it finds [the house] swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that man's last condition is worse than the first."
The point isn’t to get the “house” clean before you invite the Spirit in, but it is to invite the Spirit to come into every inch and reside. And as junk gets cleared out, continue to allow the Spirit to move in those areas too. So how do we do that? Prayer, seeking God, following His Word (which means you have to know what it says…), and of course, INVITE the Spirit of God to dwell in you!
John 14:23. It is a PROMISE!
I am not a fan of Miley Cyrus. Now her dad, Billy Ray, is a different story. His song (you know the one!) came out when I was at cheerleading camp one summer, and it was quickly incorporated into a dance finale for all the girls. No, I was never any good at cheerleading. But in elementary school, in those days at least, you just showed up, waved pom poms, and learned life skills. Anywho… the point is, Miley came out with a song years ago called “the Climb”. Boy did I hate that song. It did not help that the radio was completely saturated with it. I particularly did not like the concept that it is “not about the destination, but the journey”. How dumb, I thought, what’s the point if you aren’t getting to your destination?
Well, this morning I had to reconsider. I was reading John 4, where it talks about Jesus traveling from Judea and his destination being Galilee. During the travel, he had to cross through Samaria. There he takes a break by the well (Jacob’s) and the disciples go into town to buy food. He proceeds to have the conversation with the Samaritan woman who was also at the well, and reveals himself to her as being the Messiah. A fantastically interesting read in of itself, however what struck me today, was how Jesus took every opportunity on his journeys to be accessible to others. Whether speaking to one, or many, healing crowds of people, or individuals coming directly for his touch, he often took pause to meet needs. And why did he know there were needs? Because he walked.
The concept that Jesus and his disciples walked pretty much everywhere was not new for me. But I never really gave it much thought until today. When your purpose is to get where you are going, your mindset follows that anything that deters or hinders timely completion of your goal is a distraction, and therefore should be shut down and ignored. I don’t mean this as a distinction between “goal oriented” people and “task oriented” ones, this is something else entirely. If Jesus saw a need, I do not recall reading that he ever responded with, “Not now, I gotta keep on schedule to get to my destination”. Sometimes his disciples gave pushback, but not Jesus. And he certainly didn’t see someone who needed healing and retort, “This will have to wait, I’ve got to keep pace to hit the next town. I’ll catch you on the journey back”. Yet far too often, those have been my internal lines when I see a need.
Now actually seeing needs is also something that bears a good time of pondering. You know that whole eyes to see and ears to hear thing? Well it is worth considering here too. If I am not looking, I won’t see. That seems stupid to say, but I think you get what I mean. When I get caught up going somewhere, I seldom look around on the way. And even if I do, I rationalize that my “calling” is to get to where God told me to go. Or even more “everyday moment” is a trip to Target. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen needs all around me on my wait at the stoplight in front of the store and thought, “Well If it still looks like this when I’m on my way back, I might try to help out”. Unless I have somewhere else to go afterwards. Then it just clearly isn’t for me to mess with… or is it?
If we are Jesus’s hands and feet, then we should do what he did. Not when or if it is convenient, not scheduled like a service project, not when it’s comfortable or when we have the proper supplies. Every day, in all situations, in all settings. THAT is how Jesus loved. THAT is what our Lord commands of us too. The verse below references Jesus – we should take it to heart and heed what it implores. Daily.
The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of our God's vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord, to glorify Him.
I’ll admit it. I used to think anxiety was a bit of a joke. And I never thought “panic attacks” were real. That was, until I was diagnosed with them, and it hit me that all those times that I thought I was dying of a heart attack based on my very real, very intense physical symptoms that I was wrong. Now that’s humbling. Kind of like how I thought that when people had a screaming baby in the grocery store that they were obviously bad parents and should just leave. That was until I had a child of my own, and found myself in those situation. “Sorry everyone in the store that I am getting the stink-eye from because I my child is screaming so loudly that even people in their cars outside can probably hear. If I don’t stay and get this food, we won’t eat. And then she’ll NEVER stop screaming.” Why does it seem to take going through the same experience to see someone with compassion? Shouldn’t we look through they eyes of Jesus and give the same grace and compassion he gives us even if we can’t understand their situation? But I digress.
This morning I had a flare up of anxiety and started going through my memorized verses.
Phil. 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
1 Jn 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
So what gives? I’ve been dealing with having a mantra of these verses for years. I cast my cares. I try to humble myself (clearly I still need God’s continued grace with that!). I try NOT to be anxious. I pray, give thanksgiving, and I even started writing out my petitions to God. But the no fear in love thing? Completely failed. I just couldn’t understand why, if I love God with my whole heart, did I still have fear? We are all hard-wired with fear. It is a built-in fight or flight mechanism, to be of use in specific situations. But I couldn’t see how I could just “drive” it out when it came upon me.
Reality – I am not the one who was supposed to driving. It’s not even my car. I was looking at this verse entirely backwards and it seems to be the key connection for both the verses above, and sooooo many others in the bible.
It is not the love I have, but yet the love God has for me. And through understanding and truly believing, trusting, in that love, I can understand that I don’t need to be afraid. But this is not a one time thing, probably why it is mention everywhere in the bible how much God really loves us.
This in turn made me take another look at my perspective of the other verses. Yes, I am to be humble, but the flip of that is to know who I am, but more so remember who God is, and how great a love he has for me. The context of all these verses talk about compassion, God’s love, and pride in verses that come before.
Fear is real. Anxiety is real. But so is compassion, pride, and humbling. But most of all, love is real. And it is in recognizing just how big and mighty of a God we serve that can send the fear packing.
what is "spark"?
Its a small thing - like the flash on a spark plug that hopefully ignites something bigger to propel you forward.
Niki is a wife and mother of 2 children. She lives in Charlotte, NC where she enjoys everyday moments that ignite her relationship with our Lord and Savior.