Did you leave somethiing or someone behind in 2014?
Did something or someone leave you behind in 2014?
Release with love.
When you release with love, you no longer look back with frustration,
regret, or resentment. You no longer ask these questions: "why did they do that?", "what were they thinking?", or "how can I get even", or "God, how could you allow that?"
When you release with love, you no longer need explanations.
When you release with love, you accept others as you accept yourself: imperfect, but striving; flawed, but still seeking; wounded, but still alive and growing.
Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He taught His followers to "turn the other cheek": release with love, go in a new direction, and trust Me to make it work out.
You can easily become the thing you fight. So do not fight unless you seek to become like your opponent. Instead of fighting: pray, plan, speak, and act.
Release with love.
(c) 2015 Deborah Evans
Recently, I viewed (for the second time) the D. Channsin Berry/Bill Duke documentary "Dark Girls." It was a painful view, but I felt compelled to watch and listen carefully because I could identify so deeply with much of what was said.
This message rang through the film: there is something ugly and unpleasant about being a "dark girl". This does not mean dark girls are ugly or unpleasant. Still, much of what is presented in this film shows how differently dark girls experience life. Generally speaking, these differences are not considered positive ones. I think there was much truth and painful honesty in this film, but a part of the story is missing.
Since Lupita Nyong'o won an Oscar, made a famous and well-documented speech, and appeared on several fashion magazine covers, I have listened and watched many women describe how triumphant Nyong'o's story is: she is the manifestation of dark beauty, her confidence and poise are enviable, her skill and preparation have won out over the color prejudices that dominate much of Hollywood. Many, many dark girls are cheering for Lupita.
No one says "I wished I looked like Lupita." I have yet to read or hear that comment.
It's hard to be different. Dark girls are a minority within a minority. We may have been the "original woman", but now we are often sidelined and rejected by those who gave birth to us, raised us, and shared our childhood homes. Society has labeled us as second class, and often we are not strong enough to resist and overcome that programming until we have lived much or most of our lives.
When I watched the film for the second time, I was able to see and absorb a lot of the spiritual pain expressed by the women interviewed. Most of these women were pretty, and some were very beautiful. A sadness lingered in the eyes of almost all of them, even those who stated they have grown into an appreciation and gratitude for their looks. The injury of rejection by family and friends--and society at large--did not fade away with increased awareness and personal growth. This pain seemed to be persistent across generations, classes, geography, and personality types.
Is there a remedy? I am always looking for a reason to hold hope close to my heart. Will dark girls have to wait for society to change before we can be happy, fulfilled, and joyful?
As I thought about the answer, I remembered the Bible verse that tells me: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2, NIV)
My default position is to be conformed to the world, to see myself as others who appear powerful choose to define me, to live within those limitations, and to fear moving beyond them. My default position is to absorb what is sent my way, even if that message is destructive and limiting to me, even if that message causes me to dislike my appearance or even my very existence
When I move from conformity to transforming renewal, I am embracing the God who is powerful enough and loving enough to smile at me and say "you are beautiful because you have been created in my image." New thoughts and images appear in my mind. When I live in transforming renewal, I am able to "test and approve" God's good, pleasing, and perfect will. In my own experience, God has never failed a test. In transforming renewal, I am expecting and approving of God's ability to bring into my life those who will also smile at me with loving kindness and joy.
In transforming renewal, I release and forgive those unable to see me as whole and lovely, because their short-sightedness does not limit what God will do in my life.
In transforming renewal, I remember God's will is good, pleasing, and perfect for me, not just for God alone.
In transforming renewal, I begin every day smiling at myself in the mirror, happy with what I see, knowing that I am an intentional creation of God and not a result of random chance. I no longer wish God had made me someone else, or something else. I approve of God's choice to form me as I am. I trust and know God has prepared something good for all creatures He has made.
In transforming renewal, I expect more than what I can see today.
For dark girls, and for all people, gratitude for self begins by knowing and living the truth that we are intentionally made by God, for his joy---and ours---and we can live in the transforming renewal that changes us from objects of scorn to beautiful channels of grace. That's the truth.
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.
and no one can do it for you. No one "inherits" Christianity.
It cannot be passed down like money, property, or heirlooms.
You may inherit the practice of certain Christian traditions, but
you cannot inherit the status of Christian. As someone has said,
"God has no grandchildren, only children."
where you made a conscious choice to turn over
the reigns of your life to God, a time when you admitted you had
a sin problem you could not solve, a time when you asked God to
solve it for you. In most cases and barring certain illnesses,
we remember major events of our lives: finishing school,
getting that first job or joining military service, marriage,
It's perfectly reasonable that we remember turning over control
of our lives to God, the most important decision we will ever make.
Those can be positive experiences, but they do not substitute for salvation
because salvation is a totally personal "you and God" experience. Perhaps
you were baptized as an infant, in which case that baptism wasn't your choice.
Perhaps you joined a church because you were lonely, or liked certain social
activities the church offered, or because a spouse or parent belonged to that
church. Those aren't necessarily bad reasons to join a church, but those
reasons don't address your relationship with God.
prosperity, health, and what the world generally calls "success."
Trust me, it's not true because Scripture doesn't teach this and
history disproves it.
avoid Hell (which, by the way, I believe is a real place), but fear never
motivated anyone to consistent goodness or greatness. If Hell, or avoiding it,
is your focus, you have missed the entire reason why people have sought
a relationship with Jesus for over 2,000 years.
constantly taught against pride, judgment of others, and haughtiness.
He never invited anyone to follow Him based on feeling superior to others.
In fact, during His time here, He often sought out and embraced those
who were on the outskirts of society: the poor, the rejected,
the weak and the lonely.He had wealthy followers as
well---and still does--but they are not "better" followers
because of their material advantages.
you have received a glimpse of this truth: "Jesus, you are all compassion,
pure and wondrous love you are."
allegiance and faith.
It is only to someone like this should you hand over the reigns of your life.
Only God is powerful enough to be "all compassion" and only God is
generous enough to express to us "pure and wondrous love." Whoever you are, and in whatever condition you find yourself, Jesus waits to express these things to you and will wait for you as long as you live and will
never withdraw His offer of compassion and love.
That is the reason to become a Christian.
(c) Deborah Evans 2014
Why would anyone pray for someone who despitefully uses them?
You would do it because that prayer is your guarantee against the permanent soul damage that may result from the user's actions.
How does this work?
1) When you pray for that person, your mind and spirit free themselves from responsibility for that person's hostile actions and hostile energy. You have turned that person, and their state of mind, over to God. You no longer try to adjust your behavior to "fix" them and to "keep them happy."
2) When you pray for that person, you place yourself under God's protection. Your decision to obey this very challenging command is an affirmation of faith in God's judgment of how difficult people are to be handled. Your prayer is an affirmation of your obedience.
That affirmation of obedience directs your focus away from the "user" and back to God. Your thoughts are no longer tied to "what they did." Your thoughts are focused on "what God will do." Instead of uselessly expecting someone to "make things right", you look to God. This looking to God cancels disappointment. This opens your mind to faith and hope, and to new possibilities.
How many times have you heard speakers and teachers say "Energy follows focus"?
Ironically, when you pray for the despiteful user, your focus moves away from them.
3) Praying for someone who did not treat you well is your personal expression of freedom. You cannot hold the hurt and pain while you pray for them. At first, this will not "feel right." Stick with it! As you continue, you will notice you don't cry anymore when you think about them. Your fists don't ball up. You don't feel that tension in your shoulders. You remember facts, but you are no longer poisoned by negative energy.
If someone is abusing you and placing you in danger, you must take carefully planned steps to get away from them. Praying is not a substitute for rational action when your safety is at risk. Please see my post on the topic of "Why Do So Many Churches Tell Women To Stay In Abusive Marriages?"
Regardless of where you are physically located, you can pray for that person. You can begin the process of healing yourself. As is often the case, prayer is not about making a different outcome. Prayer is about making you a different person who is free and capable of creating God-willed outcomes.
The command to "pray for those who despitefully use you" is definitely one of Jesus' "hard sayings." This saying seems counter-intuitive. As you practice this prayer, something happens in you, something you could not have anticipated or expected. It is called a miracle.
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
"Once upon a time, a visitor came to the monastery looking for the purpose and meaning of life.
'I know', said the visitor. 'To find Truth, I must have an overwhelming passion for it.'
'No", said the Teacher. 'In order to find Truth, you must have an unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong.' "
Why was it so difficult for the southern, white church to acknowledge segregation was wrong?
For some, this question may pose another question: why was it so difficult for southern white culture to acknowledge segregation was wrong?
My original question is based upon the assumption that the church does not accept without question or challenge the values and mores of the larger society. In this case, the church obviously did accept those values and mores. The few who spoke out for what was right were often labeled "enemy." Did the church lose its testimony because it refused to visibly and vocally challenge the violence that was needed to enforce segregation?
Was the southern church co-opted culturally by the larger society in which it lived and functioned? For the record, many elements in what was then called the southern Negro church did not support civil rights during its earliest days. Many conservative African-Americans feared the disruption and retribution that would come with a push for civil rights. Based on their (well-founded) fear, they also sat on the sidelines, or accused the civil rights workers of being trouble-makers and rabble-rousers.
Why was the southern white church also so afraid of change that those who spoke out for the righteousness of civil rights were excluded and ostracized?
How was it possible that southern white Christians did not see a brotherhood and sisterhood of faith in their African-American neighbors? Why was it so much easier to speak about "personal salvation in Jesus Christ" and "holiness and sanctification" that it was to say that all Americans should be treated as citizens? Who were "the least of these" in this situation? How many sermons on the Good Samaritan were preached in churches where African-Americans were not welcomed or even permitted?
How many ministers said "those people won't come to our churches anyway?" How many laypersons felt it was permissible to eat food and wear clothes prepared by women with whom they refused to worship? How many times did ministers preach on Lazarus and the Rich Man without considering how their actions appeared to an unredeemed world?
Why was so much pseudo-science accepted as reasonable explanations for legally and forcibly separating people who worshiped the same God, read from the same Bible, and looked forward to the same Heaven?
I suppose arguments could be made regarding social comfort and traditional practices. Still, I wonder how many of those outside of the church watched in wonder or mockery as church leaders and laypersons affirmed the right of the government to separate people based on race. I wonder how many atheists mocked the Gospel as so-called Christians remained silent while churches were bombed, busses were bombed, and peaceful demonstrators were set upon by police dogs and high powered fire hoses.
Why was it so difficult for the church to admit legal segregation was wrong? Can a testimony lost ever be regained?
Even Before Pentecost: Seeking and Finding Meaning in the Ascension
Ascension Sunday has fallen into obscurity and neglect in many denominations. I’ve posted about this previously, but I am still saddened by the trend.
I am beginning to create a small, at-home worship ritual celebrating the Ascension and based on meditative readings of Acts chapter one and Revelation chapters one and twenty-two.
The Ascension is important because it answers an important question: what happened to Jesus after his resurrection?
The answer matters.
The passage from Acts explains many things. One of them is this: Jesus is a supernatural person who arrived in an extraordinary manner and left in an extraordinary manner. Jesus will return in the same, extraordinary manner in which he left.
Also, Jesus told his disciples to wait before rushing off into “the next great thing.” He told them some things were not for them to know at that moment. Jesus did, however, give them a glimpse of their futures.
Jesus told his disciples they would receive power after the promised Holy Spirit came upon them and into them. Jesus told the disciples they would be his witnesses locally and, eventually, out and into the ends of the earth.
What is interesting is that Jesus did not tell his disciples what they asked him to tell them. Isn’t this the same Jesus who once said “ask, seek, and knock?” He didn’t tell them what they asked, but he did tell them what they needed to know. In the deepest way, he answered the question the disciples didn’t have the insight to ask.
He told them they would do something larger and more expansive than they’d imagined.
The disciples wanted to know if Jesus was ready to liberate Israel from Roman control and restore the nation to its historical independence.
Jesus responded by telling the disciples they would receive power—as opposed to waiting for him to do something in the earth. They would be his witnesses to people who had never heard of him.
In response to the disciples’ questioning of what Jesus would do next, Jesus tells them what they would do next. Then he leaves. He left them to do something bigger than they’d expected. In fact, he left them to do something no one had ever done, something
no one was expecting, and something many people we not ready to accept. He knew they needed supernatural empowerment.
I love this account of Jesus’ final “in person” words to his disciples because he reverses their question while at the same time telling them what they really wanted to know.
They wanted to know this: “what’s next”? That’s the question we often ask after a mountaintop experience.
Jesus’ answer to them—and to us—was, and is, this: 1) Wait to become empowered through God, and 2) After becoming empowered through God, think and act more expansively than you ever have!
Living as an authentic witness of God’s power and presence is the most important thing a Christian can do.
As we leave the details of the time, the place, and the circumstance of our witnessing up to God, we are enabled and prepared to do more than we had imagined. Witnessing means showing and telling what we have experienced in a way to points directly to the goodness of God, not to our own skills, willpower, or abilities. That type of witnessing cannot be done apart from the Holy Spirit’s leading, guidance, and empowerment.
This is the promise and the meaning of the Ascension.
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
Several Sundays ago, we had a last minute emergency regarding a guest minister and I was asked to preach if the guest was unable to make it. I agreed, and began to think about what I would say to the congregation.
I meditated on what is the most important reminder the church universal needs regarding who we are and why we are here.
I was led to this passage from 2 Timothy 1:12:
“…I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
Here are the words of a man about to face execution, a man who has been abandoned by his associates and betrayed by those who thought he could rely upon. This man, Paul the apostle, is facing death because of his testimony for and about Jesus Christ.
Paul, a man who was widely regarded as a powerhouse intellectual in his day and time, had been cajoled and laughed at for believing in fairy tales and false truths as he traveled, taught, and preached the gospel. Still, Paul says he is not ashamed because of one fact:
“I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
What does this mean?
First, it means that for Paul, Jesus was not a concept, or an idea. Jesus was a person Paul knew, loved, trusted, communed with, was led by, and looked forward to seeing in eternity. Paul says he knew this One In Whom He Believed. How often have you been ashamed of someone you have known, loved, trusted, and found friendship in?
Second, Paul says he knew Jesus was able to guard what Paul entrusted to Jesus. This means Paul knew his earthly life and eternal self were secure because Paul trusted Jesus completely. Why so much trust in the unseen? Paul believed in Jesus because Jesus had kept Paul safe in his earthly life.
How much safety did Paul need? Paul faced stoning, beatings, legal troubles, jailing, nasty church politics, loneliness, constant travels under rough conditions, a mysterious physical ailment, religious controversies, and outright hostile opposition to his message and to his life. At the end of his life, Paul could look back and reflect upon how Jesus had kept him secure and on message through all of these experiences.
Third, Paul says he’s entrusted himself to Jesus “for that day.” “That day” or “in that day” is a phrase that appears throughout the Old and New Testaments, referring to that final re-arranging of reality, the final judgment, or the complete restoration of God’s original plan for humanity.
What Paul is saying here is that he sees himself as an eternal spiritual being that will live somewhere forever. He can’t anticipate everything about that future life, but Paul says that all he’s ever been is safe in Jesus’ care, and even after Paul’s physical body is destroyed, his life will be kept and restored fully in God’s will and on God’s schedule.
I didn’t need to preach this sermon that morning. The guest preacher arrived just in time.
I think Paul’s farewell message is one we can never hear too often: have no shame or silence regarding the greatest gift to humanity---God’s salvation from our failing selves and our failing world. Reflect upon what God has done for you through your fellowship with Jesus Christ. Finally, be the person who is not afraid to share who you are and what you know to be true. Every day, some event or person will challenge you to say or show who you are and why you are here. The answer should always begin with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(c) 2014 Deborah Evans
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