Vengeance is Mine


Once upon a time I was mad and I wanted to exact revenge. I thought up all the ways I could do it, too. I’m talking Carrie Underwood-style “Before He Cheats” kind of revenge.

If you’re not familiar with the song, a few lyrics:

I dug my keys into the side of his pretty little suped-up four wheel drive / Carved my name into his leather seats / I took a Louisville Slugger to both headlights / Slashed a hole in all four tires

Like that.

 You know what they say, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” and I was feeling scorned.

But when I felt my imagination running just a little too wild in this direction I’d reign myself in with part-Scripture and part-adage

“Vengeance is mine says the Lord”

I “comforted” myself that God would get ’em, that God would exact my revenge.

And being God and all He’d fix ’em real good.

Not exactly a Christ-like attitude, is it?

So I’d just stop thinking about it all together until the mad feelings came up again and then the cycle would  repeat itself.

Until one day I had a break through.

“Vengeance is mine says the Lord” means God owns it, not just dishing out but determining who gets avenged.

Hmm.

I had already determined that this person needed to pay for how they hurt me and I would stop myself from exacting that hurt myself by saying “God will get ’em” when really it’s not even up to me to judge and condemn that someone needs to pay.

And even more than that, I beg for mercy when it comes to paying for the hurts I cause but I beg for just punishment when it’s me that’s being hurt, when the tables are turned.

Also not Christ-like.

We’re to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly.

Not condemn or desire (or exact) revenge.

Paul wrote to the church at Rome (12:19) “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

He is quoting here Deuteronomy (32:35) “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”

Who is he talking about here? Who’s foot will slip, and who’s day of disaster is near?

Well, if you read the whole chapter in Deuteronomy you’ll see that he’s talking about the neighboring nations to Israel, their “enemies” who turned their back on God and worshipped idols.

Who is he not talking about?

People who hurt us.

God’s not a mob boss ordering hits.

He’s patient and merciful, to me, to those hurt us, to us all.

And I’m so glad.

I’ve gotten over my hurt (well, mostly), and I no longer wish for revenge.

I had lots of un-Christ-like feelings and reactions, and that wasn’t right.

So you know what is Christ-like?

In his own words:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Book Review: The Gospel of Yes


What if we looked at God’s word and the Christian life as a series of yes’s instead of a list of “thou shalt not’s”?

This is the theme Mike Glenn explores in his book The Gospel of Yes.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group to review, but the reason I chose this title is because my pastor has preached for years “put your yes on the table,” meaning telling God yes to whatever he has for you instead of limiting God with fear-based no’s. But the book wasn’t really about us saying yes but about God saying yes.

This is a paradigm shift for those of us who grew up with our faith being about all the things we shouldn’t do — what I refer to as the “thou shalt not’s.” It is true that there some things God says no to. Glenn writes,

“God said ‘no’ to sin because it violates his holiness, but wanting us not to break his laws is not his number-one reason for opposing sin. He hates sin because it destroys the people he loves.”

Glenn’s point is that in a way even His “no” to sin can be looked at as a “yes” to something better.

But avoiding sin alone is not enough, is not true Christianity, i.e. following Christ. For one, we can’t avoid sin completely. We are born sinners and we will struggle with sin of all kinds as long as we are on this Earth, in Satan’s lair. So living a faith that’s based on performance of what we don’t do isn’t going to work.

Glenn turns that idea around and looks at the things to which God says “yes” and he finds yes’s in creation, in the cross, and to us.

God is never going to say yes to sin, so this isn’t a book that will leave believers thinking they can do whatever they want in the name of God being a yes-man. But it challenges us to look at God’s word in a new way and explore how God might be trying to give us a “yes.” This book will certainly challenge and expand your thoughts.

Nicaragua March


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In a matter of days, Nicaragua, Maybe turned into Nicaragua March.

As in, this coming March.

As in, 34 days from now March.

I had expressed interest in going in July, as part of a medical team, but I was also very interested in working with the women’s and children’s shelter that I wrote about previously. Several others were too, so my church added women’s shelter teams to teams already going in March and November, and I’m on the one for March.

So what are we going to be doing? Not sure yet. We’ll be staying at the missions compound which sounds a lot like the GA or Acteen’s camp that I went to as a young teen. We’ll have beds and indoor plumbing and someone to cook for us, unlike those who go into the village and have tents, outdoor bathrooms and beans and rice three times a day.

We’ll go to the shelter every day and may lead a Bible study or do a children’s Bible lesson, may do some sewing or other needle crafts … we don’t know; the details are still being worked out. But whatever we “do” it will all be with the purpose of showing love; to love on women and children who may not have felt loved in a while or ever and hopefully to show them the source of the love as God himself.

Funny story: in December, at the end of a class on learning your spiritual gifts, my pastor had us fill out a survey of sorts where we listed our gifts, our personality tendencies and our passions, all with the purpose of helping us find a place to serve. My passions? I listed reading, writing, knitting, sewing, and working with the pregnancy test center. While I knew that God could and has used some or all of those passions, I thought my pastor is gonna look at this and laugh. Because he doesn’t need people who are passionate about sewing or reading; he needs people to teach Sunday School or serve meals or do building maintenance stuff.

I had the wrong mentality. That survey wasn’t about the pastor or what the pastor needed but about the one I really serve, which is God, and what he needs. I just find it ironic in that crazy way that God works, that the very passions I named, and that I felt so inadequate and useless for having, are the very things that we’ll be doing as part of this trip. It’s like God was saying “Joke’s on you, Heather.”

From the day that I committed to go, Finn, of his own volition, has been praying over this trip, and I’m so moved by his belief in prayer and the power of prayer to do something, that prayer matters, at such a young age and maturity. He’s asked me if we can take the kids there stuffed animals because a teacher at his school went on a mission trip and took stuffed animals to give to the children where she went. I don’t know if we can or will — I had the thought that maybe one of the things we do is sew stuffed animals once we get there — but I love that he is thinking about the people and the children there and wanting to show love too.

So, the ball is rolling. The passport has been applied for, the airline tickets purchased, the malaria medicine acquired.

To be continued …

 

Heal Me of Unbelief


“Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'” — Mark 9:24

Call me a pessimist, or maybe a realist, possibly “skeptical” is the best word for it, but I often have low expectations. Maybe I think this way so I won’t be disappointed; I’d rather be pleasantly surprised than disappointed.

But in spiritual matters — like when we pray for God to do something — I have come to realize that my tendency to be realistic is really unbelief.

It looks a little something like this.

My church is doing this big event called “Shop with a Hero” where we’re bringing in kids from the free/reduced lunch list at the local school and taking them shopping for Christmas gifts for themselves and their families. There’s a lot more to it than that but for my purpose here, here’s what you need to know: we collected money for Shop with a Hero in October and how much money was collected determined how many kids and families we could help.

The night before the amount was to be announced I had a dream that when the pastor stood in front of the church to announce the total, that with a down-trodden face he sadly explained that we only collected $100 and that wasn’t enough to make it worth doing the event so Shop with a Hero was cancelled.

It was just a dream, but it reveals what was in my subconscious.

That morning, when our youth minister stood in front of the church to announce the total, I sat in the choir loft half talking-to-myself and half praying: please don’t say it’s cancelled or that we only collected $100.

Boy was I wrong. The generosity of folks is making it possible for 300 kids to come to the event and have free Chik-fil-a breakfast, hear the real Christmas story, go shopping at Target, and just be loved on and cared for by our church.

The offering was in the thousands of dollars.

And I sat in the choir loft with my draw dropped open surprised. Why?

I think one reason is the human factor. The event depended on people getting behind the idea not just in spirit but financially, and I — for whatever reason — don’t have much faith in people. But my faith is not to be in people anyway, right? What does it say about my faith in God that I expect so little?

I walked into the pregnancy test center last week feeling convicted for expecting so little of God. We pray each morning, before we open, for so many things. We pray for miracles and when they happen we’re surprised. On the one hand, it’s good to carry so much awe for Almighty God than when something unexpected happens we’re reminded of just how big and powerful and good He is. On the other hand, I pray that I be healed of my unbelief, and that I walk a fine middle line of expecting great and mighty miracles and yet still celebrating in awe — though not necessarily in surprise — when God comes through.

“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

Book Review: The Fourth Fisherman


I don’t recall hearing about the lost and rescued fishermen in 2006. Articles on Christian Today and MSNBC tell the news at the time — three Mexican fishermen rescued after 10 months at sea. The Christian Today articles site the survivors’ faith in God as what sustained them and gave them hope during this hopeless time. But former television executive Joe Kissack heard and saw something more. He saw an amazing story of faith and survival and second chances, and he was drawn to tell it.

Kissack writes in The Fourth Fisherman about the fishermen’s story — how they started as a crew of five, how the ship got lost, how the other crewmen died and how the three survivors survived. But interwoven in the story is Kissack’s own story of faith and second chances. Not from a boat tossed in the stormy sea but from his own life tossed about by Kissack’s own poor choices. The stories are woven together because while vastily different in physical happenings, the stories mirror each other in matters of faith and hope.

The Fourth Fisherman is an interesting story of survival with details about the on-sea ordeal, including catching sharks and drinking turtles’ blood, but more than that are the themes of extreme faith and God’s sovereignty and His ability and desire to use anything and everything to the glory of Him.

Kissack never did get the fisherman’s story turned into a movie, although he’s still trying. But the journey of them and him has resulted in changed lives, which may have just been the point all along.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

The Fourth Fisherman
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Read Chapter One
Author Bio

Struggling to Surrender


My high school Latin teacher Mrs. O’brien used to stand at the front of the classroom and read a devotional each day before class. (Note: I attended a Christian high school.) Her favorite was a devotion called “Let Go, Let God.”

She was sincere and at times seemed to be pleading with us to grasp the concept of letting go and letting God.

I didn’t get it.

I still don’t, not completely at least.

As a teen, I didn’t even know what she meant. It seemed like the sentence was missing something. Let go of what? Let God what?

Now, I at least get that I’m to let go of my life, my wants, my selfishness, my _____ and my ______ and my ______. Let go of the word “my” even. And I’m to let God handle it.

But finally getting that what Mrs. O’brien was trying to teach us was surrender doesn’t mean I have any clue how to actually successfully do it.

Years ago a Bible study teacher talked about taking all of our mess, our sins, our worries, our everything and laying at Christ’s feet. That’s part of surrender. But  as this teacher pointed out, what a lot of us do is pick it all back up and keep carrying it around with us. That what’s I do, apparently.

I’m struggling right now with surrender, with truly surrendering my preferences, my expectations and my wants into God’s hands to do as He pleases. I want Him to do what I want Him to do and I want to help him do it. He doesn’t need my help, and really anything I do outside of what He tells me just gets in the way and messes things up even more.

I often come up with things I can “do” or “say” to help God do what I want. I’m a fixer; I want to fix it rather than wait for it be fixed. And I’m constantly feeling his Spirit tell me “no,” “wait” “let me handle it.” When I don’t listen, things get all squirrelly and I find myself thinking shoulda listened, shoulda waited, shoulda, shoulda, shoulda ….

Surrender is hard, thus why I’m struggling with it.

It sounds so simple, summed up in four short words — Let Go, Let God — and it’s a good thing when I make the choice to do it and stick with it. So why then is it no easy to do.

In the Civil War, at the Battle for Fort Pulaski, Confederate Colonel Charles H. Olmstead, surrendered the fort to the Northern troops in the interest of saving the fort and saving the lives of himself and his men. He had the wisdom and intellect to know he couldn’t win and to know that a loss would be more devastating than a surrender. What he gained with surrender was greater than what he would lose if he didn’t.

Now if only I can put that consistently into practice in my own life.

I’m trying. I’m struggling, but I’m trying.

Book Review: MOMumental


Do you ever feel like your kids are the only ones hiding in the clothing racks at Target or having to be bribed with fruit snacks to behave just long enough for you to get the grocery essentials? We’re talking just the milk and bread here.

Well, you’re not alone, which I think is something most of us moms know but that we need to be reminded of.

The book MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family gives a good reminder that motherhood is not easy, even for those that somehow make it look like they have it all together. It’s a light read chocked full of funny mommy tales that I found  easy to relate to because either I’ve had a similar experience or I’m thankful that’s never happened to me. The stories in the book are good reminders to all us moms that we’re not alone and there’s no wrong way to mother.

Author and mother-of-four Jennifer Grant promises in her introduction to share stories about family life and how she’s come to appreciate the mess of it. Her book delivers on that claim while also reminding moms about the importance of things like simplicity, friendship and “me” time at helping us manage our crazy lives.

The experiences and anecdotes Garner shares encourage moms to keep perspective on what’s really important and know that they’ll never be perfect,  and that’s OK.

“I no longer think I can flutter above conflict like a fairy godmother.  I no longer think I can raise my children without every letting them down, misunderstanding them, or failing them. I know they’ll argue, I’ll lose my temper, and sometimes we’ll have to retreat again to the other room to repair our relationships. I no longer worry that every bad day is the beginning of the end for us as a family. Kids will argue …. I will sometimes lose my temper and want to jump up and down like a child. I will make the mistake of looking too far into the future …. When one of the kids is sick I will lose perspective, tumble into despair, and believe that I’ll never have another night of undisturbed sleep again. I will be inconsistent.  I will take things personally even when I know I shouldn’t. I will get involved in my children’s arguments instead of remembering to let them try to work things out. Now at least, I can regain my equilibrium a lot sooner than I could a decade ago. So that’s progress, right?”

In style and purpose, Momumental reminds me of When Did I Get Like This (review), but with the addition of a Christian perspective. Garner authored Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter and is a regular contributor to hermeneutics, Christianity Today magazine’s blog for women.

I received this book for free from Worthy Publishing for this review.