Embrace The Gift

10-Recovery-Gifts-800x588“. . .for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29, NIV

I slammed the car door, rested my head in my hands and moaned, “I can’t believe I did that.”

“You were a little rough,” my husband agreed as he drove out of the restaurant’s parking lot.

“I’m not going to church tonight.” I looked at my husband for a reaction. “I don’t deserve to teach and I’m going to stop.” Again, I waited for some sign of agreement, but my husband did not respond. We rode home in silence.

We had intended to extend a hand of friendship to a new associate minister in our church, but the opposite happened. Midway through lunch, the minister and I had a testy disagreement over doctrine. The statements I made were true but spoken without love. He left the restaurant humiliated, and I was thoroughly disappointed with my arrogant behavior.

After my family left for the evening service, I settled in my favorite chair. No sooner had I turned on the TV, than the electricity cut off. I wandered outside to see if my neighbors were having the same problem. They were, so I returned home.

We were in the midst of an extremely hot summer. If power wasn’t restored soon, the house would become an oven. As I pondered my next move, the fire alarm that had been strategically placed on a ten-foot ceiling began to buzz, loud and unceasing. I was too short to reach the alarm, so I grabbed the broom and proceeded to jab the alarm. My jabbing availed nothing. The noise was deafening and the house growing hotter by the minute. Suddenly the thought of attending an air-conditioned church service became appealing.

I didn’t want to face the minister I had humiliated at lunch, so I drove to a church my husband and I had visited in the past. Slipping into the service, which had already started, I settled on a seat in the back row. Then prayed no one would notice me as I wrestled to contain the frustrations of my day.

When the pastor stepped behind the pulpit, I opened my Bible anticipating the scripture reference for the message.

“I’ve been preparing a message all week,” the Pastor said, “but I can’t preach it. Shortly before the service started, the Lord gave me a different message.”

The Pastor explained how much it cost God to give us an anointing to minister. He described in vivid detail how Jesus’ life was crushed with suffering to produce the anointing oil that brings healing. Therefore, anyone God had given an anointing to teach should embrace it as precious. The Pastor concluded his message with a gentle rebuke to anyone who possessed a gift from God and took it lightly.

The Pastor’s message pierced my self-pity. Moments later, I knelt at the altar sobbing so loudly everyone in the church could not help but notice me. This Pastor had no knowledge of the events that transpired and my reaction to them. Only God knew that I didn’t need to stop teaching, I needed to embrace the precious gift God had given me.

When I arrived home, my husband said, “A peculiar thing happened when I got home from Church.”

“What was that,” I inquired.

“Well . . .,” he began thoughtfully, “as soon as I opened the door, the TV and all the lights in the house came on!”

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Art of the Critique

Southern Christian Writers February 2018 meeting at the Gospel Bookstore, New Orleans LA. Devotion by Linda Rodriguez. Teena Myers reveals the art of critiquing that nourishes great writing.

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They Have Obeyed

Jesus-prayingFailure is a difficult thing to live with. For most of my Christian life, which encompasses all of my life except the first fifteen years, I have obsessed over the things I failed to do. There were times my standards of obedience screamed failure. Three words became a balm that soothed my aching heart. I found those words in Jesus prayer before he died; not the prayer at Gethsemane when he asked God if there was another way to save humanity. The one he prayed after the last Passover supper he ate with them. During supper, he said Peter would disown him and all of them would abandon him (John 13:38 & 16:32).

Jesus concluded supper by lifting his eyes heavenward and declaring to God “they have obeyed” (John 17:6). What gave Jesus the audacity to tell his father that his disciples obeyed! His disciples quarreled with one another and forbid children from approaching the savior. They failed to heal the son of a desperate father and tried to silence blind Bartimaeus lest he disturbed the healer. James and John jockeyed for the number two spot in God’s kingdom, causing the rest of the disciples to be indignant. They gloried in the power to command spirits instead of glorying in God’s love for them. They wanted to destroy an entire city by calling fire down from heaven. None of them had a clue Jesus would die a tragic death, even though he told them how he would die more than once. All of them were heading for dramatic failures when Jesus needed them most. Yet, Jesus said, “they have obeyed your word.”

The disciples were far from perfect, just like we are today, but they were willing to follow Jesus even when their humanity got in the way. Jesus told us in his prayer what gave him the audacity to say his disciples obeyed. They accepted the things Jesus taught and they believed that God sent him. Using Jesus standard, I have obeyed as well. Have you?


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Southern Christian Writers

If you are interested in writing and live in the New Orleans area join us.

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Don’t Waste God’s Time

January 2018 meeting of the Southern Christian Writers. Rod Myers, board member of SCW gives a Christian writers devotion, Bill Roper, manager of the Gospel Bookstore gives tips or working with a bookstore. Teena Myer, Chairman of SCW explains how the Westbank Chapter is established and introduces the board members. Marlaine Peachey, Chairman of the Northshore Chapter challenges writers to stop wasting God’s time. If God has told you to write, just do it.

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A Matter of Dignity

I am a MemberI suppose it was inevitable. Sooner or later someone was bound to ask, “Why haven’t you become members of the church?” My husband would not have a problem satisfying the requirements to become members. I do. Therefore, when the inquirer posed his question, my husband deferred answering the question to me.

We were asked an honest question. I gave an honest response which included two of many reasons I no longer have an interest in satisfying church membership requirements.

“You shouldn’t hold a grudge,” said the inquirer.

Sigh. I should have known better than to condense thirty years into two events. It’s not a matter of bitterness and a grudge. It’s a matter of dignity. There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule. Apparently, I’m really dense. I had to be kicked six times in a row before I learned what I should have learned the first time a mule kicked.

When I began my Christian walk, I loved the church and wanted nothing more than to be included in its activities. I even desired to spend my life serving God in the church. But the path God led me down caused “in the church” to fall by the wayside. There are more ways of serving God than being included in activities within a church building.

Yes, I am a credentialed minister, but God calls people to ministry, not a committee. Ministers can do no more than recognize a calling on a person’s life and confirm it. My calling has been recognized and confirmed numerous times, and I have fulfilled the man-made requirements mandated to hold ministerial credentials in my church. The individual churches within my fellowship are self-governed and have additional man-made requirements to become a member. I would consider joining a church again if I could be sure another mule wasn’t waiting to kick the life out of me. Church membership works well for some. It simply has not worked for me.

The people who sit on church pews have been kind and loving to me. Some of the people who stand behind pulpits have not. Years and tears taught me their hateful actions were rooted in fear and insecurity. My anger with them eventually dissolved into pity and pity blossomed into compassion. But compassion must be tempered by wisdom or you will find yourself in a never-ending abusive relationship. The Apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthian Christians for gladly putting up with ministers who enslave you, exploit you, take advantage of you, push themselves forward, slap you in the face (2 Corinthians 11:19-10). I have gladly put up with such ministers in the past, but, at some point, you have to develop some respect for yourself and simply say, “Enough.”

There is nothing that has shaken my faith in God more than church leaders. If I had taken my eyes off of Jesus, the good shepherd, I seriously doubt I would be a Christian today. The first time I walked away from the church, a dramatic encounter with God brought me back. The second time I found myself on the outside looking in; I had been driven out of the church along with two-thirds of the congregation by a pastor’s cruel insensitivity. I had no plans to return, but the sheep that remained pleaded with me until I relented.

Gospel LukeShortly after I returned, God led my family to an independent church and me to a Bible study on the Gospel of Luke. I had an epiphany while studying Luke’s gospel. Church leaders acknowledged God was with Jesus, yet they hated him. In their eyes, Jesus did everything wrong. Church leaders fasted. Jesus ate and drank. Church leaders mourned. Jesus laughed. They expected Jesus to dance to their tune. Jesus refused.

I know how it feels to be out of step with church leaders. Every pastor who treated me hateful had first acknowledged they recognized the call of God on my life. Their behavior can be traced in the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. Hatred has been in the church from the day Cain worshipped by Abel’s side and then murdered him in the field. Abel paid a high price for God’s approval. The price I paid was not as costly as Abel’s but it was painful.

Accepting that corruption in the church is nothing new and should even be expected was a small consolation for the suffering I had endured. Nor did it compensate for the opportunities I lost as I struggled with sinful men. I searched for a reason God tolerates Cain at the expense of people he approves. I found my answer in a difficult scripture:

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Hebrews 12:4-6, NIV

The sin Jesus struggled with is the same sin Christians struggle with today. The sin produced by modern-day Cains’ who hate us because they know God approves of us. Their hatred teaches us to worship God instead of his shepherds.

dignityIt no longer hurts that some church leaders loved me in words but not in deeds. God made right any wrong, real or imagined, committed against me when he opened the door for me to write NOLA.com’s faith blog. Cains’ robbed me of the opportunity to address a few hundred in the church. NOLA’s high traffic website allows me to speak to thousands.

The day will come when God separates the sheep from the goats and the chaff from the wheat. I am willing to wait and even die in faith believing God will have a place for me when his kingdom comes to planet earth. I am a member of the church, but not the edifices built by men and ruled by their whims.  My membership resides in the church Jesus is building where people are treated with dignity because Cains’ are not allowed.

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Green Tea and an Open Bible

Green TeaMy day starts with a cup of Green Tea and an open Bible. I love searching for God’s presence in its pages. Now that my children are grown, this time is rarely interrupted, and I seldom miss my morning devotion. After thirty years of diligent Bible study, I’ve learned enough about God to know he would not be offended if I failed to give him my full attention for a few days. While packing for vacation, I excluded my Bible. A week in a hotel room with a seven-year-old would make quiet meditation impossible. I purposed to devote myself to my husband and granddaughter but quickly learned God’s presence transcends green tea and an open Bible.

The first day at Magic Kingdom, my granddaughter would lapse into a foul mood and announce, “I hate Disney!” A child’s way of saying I’m hungry and tired. When she became difficult, we stopped to eat and let her rest. The Starlight Café in Tomorrow Land provided an adequate place to renew her energy and zeal. As I waited for my husband to return with cheeseburgers and a vegetable wrap for me, I spotted a young girl wearing a camouflaged shirt with “GOD WANTS YOU IN HIS ARMY” emblazoned across the back.

The following day, we were returning from Downtown Disney in the crowded bus provided for Disney patrons. The excited children sitting next me were having difficulty keeping their bottoms in their seats. After a young girl bounced out of her seat for the third time, I heard a stern voice say, “CHURCH BEHAVIOR!”

Monday afternoon, I followed my husband and granddaughter out of Disney’s Animal Kingdom hoping the bus to the Coronado would be waiting to rescue me from one more minute on throbbing feet. No such luck. I leaned against the green rail at the bus stop in a feeble attempt to relieve the pressure on my blisters. When I looked up, I saw a G and an O in the sky. As the skywriter circled his plane around to begin the next letter, my husband and I debated what the letter would be. “T,” I smugly announced. “I bet it’s an advertisement for some product. He’s gonna write “GOT.” The next letter was “D”, followed by a plus sign, and then “U” followed by an equal sign, and finally a happy face. GOD PLUS YOU EQUALS A HAPPY FACE.

I dragged myself into the hotel room and flopped on the bed. “No, I’m not going swimming,” I mumbled to my swimsuit-clad husband. An hour later, the phone rang. “There was an unscheduled cleaning at the pool and your husband has moved to the pool in the Casitas area.” I hung up the phone pondering why a strange woman delivered a message about MY husband.

When he returned I inquired what was wrong with the Lost City of Cibola pool. “Someone pooped in the pool,” he said. “The woman who called you is the children’s pastors at her church. Alicia wanted to play with her daughter, so we moved to another pool.”

The last day of our vacation, we pulled our bags the twenty minute walk around the Coronado’s lagoon to luggage pick up. The moleskins I applied to my blisters were worthless. I sat on a bench in front of the Café Rix and refused to budge. Rod pulled our bags to the waiting area alone. As I rubbed my sore feet I looked up at the clear blue sky to see a faded “JESUS LOVES U.” The sky writerhad just completed “PRAISE” and was working on a “J”, which became “PRAISE JESUS!”

Messages about God in the sky and Christians everywhere we went. I thought I had left God’s presence at home by an empty cup and Bible. Almost daily, I was reminded that his presence is everywhere because his people are everywhere.

Psalm 139:1-7 (TEV)
LORD, you have examined me and you know me.
You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts.
You see me, whether I am working or resting;
you know all my actions.
Even before I speak,
you already know what I will say.
You are all around me on every side;
you protect me with your power.
Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding.
Where could I go to escape from you?
Where could I get away from your presence?



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