Blessed is the peacemaker

There is division all around us. It’s almost everywhere. You can find it in politics, friendships, and churches, affecting almost every area of life. Families are torn apart over smaller doctrinal issues. Whole groups of people are at odds because they have different opinions and instead of respectfully disagreeing ,words loaded with hate and anger are thrown from both directions. Our country is split in half, blue and red, left and right, democrat and republican. I am left feeling deflated and exhausted because how oh how do I learn to love in a world so rife with hate? How do I unify or be unified when noone can seem to agree, or at the very least just agree to disagree but still love. How do I be a peacemaker when peace just seems so far away? How do I share my opinion without being aggressive, and without pushing people away? How do I (we) engage culture without engaging the culture wars that stir around us like a hurricane?

Those are the many questions currently flying around my mind after the whole World Vision debacle. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you can find the articles here and here. But all I can see in that situation is that everyone is losing. I can’t help but think, where is the love? Where is the grace? As the war wages on, the casualties steadily increase and I am beginning to wonder where are the people (gay or straight, black or white, charismatic or traditional) who take Jesus seriously. Matthew 22:37-40 says, “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets.” He didn’t say, “Only love your neighbor if he believes exactly like you believe, and does only the things you want.” He told us all to love our neighbors as ourselves, unconditionally. Now friends, I’m well aware that I’m oversimplifying, and that as you read this you’re probably coming up with exceptions to this commandment. But what if we truly, genuinely, without condition loved our neighbor as we love ourselves. How would that change people? How would that change our world? But perhaps, most importantly how would that change, me (you)? Change begins at home, it begins with you and me.

Last night I had a mini breakdown with my husband, because my heart was so heavy. Not just about the hate I saw being spewed from both sides over WV, but because I look around and I see so much division and anger and hate coming from so many places in this world and my heart is breaking into a hundred tiny pieces. I just want to scream “CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG”. I’m know that’s a simplistic thought, and I’m not saying that we all have to agree with one another, but does that mean we can’t get along? Does that mean we have to call each other names, and play the blame game? Do we have to publicly blast people on social media? As I tried to explain to that dear husband o’ mine the feelings I was experiencing, I started to get choked up, because guys I really love God, and He really loves people, and thus so do I. All people, no strings attached. And when I see and hear all the hate, I hear the father whisper, “love dear ones, love.” That means love for your gay neighbor, love for your evangelical neighbor, love for your black neighbor, love for your white neighbor. It means love for your sons and daughters who just won’t listen to you. Love for your parents who are driving you cuckoo for cuckoo puffs. Love for your husband who forgot to put his dirty clothes in the laundry, and love for your wife who had another emotional breakdown because people just refuse to get along (that one’s for you Steve).

But as I continued to break down I went to sit with Steve and he reminded me that we have to be the change that we want to see. So I have to be the one who loves in a revolutionary way, and hope that a domino effect happens, and that together we will all love a little better, and that together we can change the world.So if you see what I’m saying, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down, and if you’re tracking with me (and I hope you are) than lets be the change we want to see.

Recently protesters picketed a Switchfoot concert. Jon Foreman had two options for how he could react, either with hate or love. He decided to choose the latter. He announced the protesting from the stage, encouraging everyone to love them, and to welcome them. Then, he went outside to the protesters with bottled water for them and attempted to start a dialogue. You might read that and ask why he would even bother trying to dialogue with people that would protest a Christian rock show, but Jon believes that we all have commonalities, and that we have to look for the things we have in common instead of the things that make us different. So maybe that’s just step one. Maybe, when we disagree with someone we have to do whats harder, and try to find the one thing we have in common, even if it’s just having the same favorite color.

It’s easier to spread hate, but the effects of love are better and last longer. Remember the words of 1 Corinthians 13:13, “But now faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

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I am Sarah, hear me roar!

I’m 24 years old, and I think I’m really just now starting to learn who I really am. I’m spent most of my life allowing my decisions and happiness to be dictated by my people pleasing tendencies, and as I learn to break free from those, little by little, I’m starting to meet myself. And believe it or not, I think I kind of like me. Not always mind you. I don’t like me when I’m short with my husband, or when I give attitude to someone ( I am from Jersey after all). I don’t like me when I’m a negative nancy, or when I get jealous, or when my cray cray emotions take control of the wheel. But overall, I’m starting to like this Sarah. The girl who has been hiding under the years of pleasing people, diets, and self loathing. I spent so much wasted time wishing I was someone that I wasn’t. Wishing I was softer, more delicate, more lady like and put together. You know the women I’m talking about? The ones who never yell, never cry, have perfect hair, and never cause their husband to ask why there is flour on the floor. (side note: that happened in my real life this week… clean kitchens are obviously not my strong point) I look at those women and I think, “Can I please be you, even just be a fraction of you?” Because being them looks easier than being me. Because having perfectly curled locks looks better than the ball of frizz I’m currently sporting. Because whisper talking seems more lady like than the witty (or not so witty) sarcasm that often spews from my mouth.

But here is what I’m learning lately… I can’t be them, and that is A-OK! I am Sarah, I am good at other things, but holding back tears is just not one of them. And neither is knowing how to use a curling iron, or cooking without making my kitchen look like a bomb legitimately exploded. But I am good at compassion and empathy. I am good at crying at videos about kids in foster care, I did that this week… twice. Sometimes my heart feels so filled with love and pain for people, that I don’t even know what to do. I feel things deeply, I always have. I love people, it’s true! I think they’re great. And I’m slowly learning to love even the ones I don’t want to love, and I’m learning what that looks like. I’m good at saying “I’m sorry”… most of the time. Seriously though, I’m not afraid of those 2 little words, and while my spirit isn’t always teachable, forgiveness is something I seek. I’m good at encouragement, in fact I’ve made it my life mission. I think because my heart swells so much with love for the peoples, that I want them to know how awesome they are. Just ask Steven, I send that dude so many encouratexts that it’s a tad (and by that I mean super) out of control. But if that man is going to know anything about me, he’s going to know that his wife loves him and respects who he is deeply. There are time when I feel all mushy and thankful for a friend, and I text them or tell them when I see them, because goshdangit they’re gonna know how great they are. And guys, that’s who I am. It’s not all I am, but it’s some of my favorite parts! Sure, I’ll probably get dinner all over the counter, and last night I almost burned our kitchen up, but that’s because I was loving that husband o’ mine, by making him dinner and I mean really, who has time to make sure that there isn’t something in the burner on the stove that might catch on fire? (I should) I may never be the woman who we all imagine when we read Proverbs 31, you know the one who never sits on the couch and watches Law and Order, the one who never raises her voice, or has a hair out of place.That will probably never be me, and you know what God says about that? It is good.

My humor is sarcastic, I talk a lot, and laugh loudly. I’m a mess 98.8% of the time, and I’m really quite excellent at making messes. I used to look at those things and think, why am I that way? I need to change. I need to be more like her (whoever her is). But I’m learning that those things are me. Sarcasm is my love language, and I talk because I want to understand people better, and because I just like to. Because God made me that way, and I’m tired of fighting who He made me to be. Because when I stifle those things, I’m hiding bits and pieces of who I am.

Now, let me be clear here, before you have a myocardial infarction (that’s sciencey talk for a heart attack) because you think I am saying we just just need to be who we are without thinking about whether or not we’re pleasing God. I assure you, that’s not what I’m saying. I think it’s SO important to seek God, and to seek him with our whole heart, and to let Him change us into people who look more like Him. I think pursuing holiness and righteousness are an important part of our walk with Him. I want to change in the ways He wants to change me! There is a difference between character and personality. I think there are certain character traits I would assume to be Christian character traits, but not necessarily “Christian” personality traits. And it’s important for us to be able to discern between what is a character trait that might need improvement, and a personality trait that God gave me. So, when I lose my temper, that’s a character flaw. When I double a banana bread recipe, but forget to double the flour… well that’s just a part of my personality (the part of my personality that is scatterbrained).

I think that when I make a joke God laughs, and when I am laughing my head off like a hyena, I think He smiles at me, and when my hair is six inches deep in frizz, well I think then He sends rain to make it worse because He has a sense of humor. (disclaimer: I don’t know of any bible verses about frizz, and God laughing with me, but I do know His character, and so I imagine He would do those things) I think God loves my awkward and silly and funny quirks because He made them. I think He loves when I cry over His people, because He made them too. I think He loves my capacity for compassion, and for being completely nutzo. He knew me before I was even a twinkle in my parents eye, and He knows me still. And yet, He loves me… He loves you…. in your quirks and the things your perceive to be your weaknesses and worst parts. He loves them. He loves you. May we not forget that, and may we receive the freedom that is brought when we remember that we are fully known and fully loved by the creator of the world, and the lover of our souls.

The post where I quote relient k and an old hymn

I want to talk to you about something that I think is very important and very sad. Something that I think is becoming a problem in our culture due to the anonymity and voice that social media provides. People like to hate other people. Maybe hate is a strong word, but it seems that the emotions that people are feeling towards other humans are pretty strong. And they don’t just hate people they know, or people that they feel have wronged them. They hate people that they don’t even know. People they’ve never met or had any type of real conversation with. This isn’t constructive criticism, it’s just straight up hatred. And they’re loud about it.

Recently I’ve witnessed Facebook and Twitter being used as a way to defame and harm people’s reputation. I’ve seen it done to people I actually know and care about dearly. And I’ve seen it done towards those I don’t really know, but I respect. We think that because we have a social media account it gives us the right to tell EVERYONE what we think about people. But I have some news for all of use. We don’t. We don’t have the right to speak that into peoples lives. And we shouldn’t want to anyway!

I’ve been watching Steven Furtick’s latest sermon series called “Crash the Chatterbox”. It’s based on his latest book with the same title. It’s been really rocking my world, in a positive way, and reminding me of the truth of the Lord. I understand that his style of preaching isn’t for everyone, but obviously it is for some people because he leads and ever growing mega church in Charlotte, NC. Lately there has been some controversy surrounding him and surrounding the practices of his church. He bought a big, expensive house. People don’t like it, and they think he’s bad because of it. They don’t like the way the church practices baptism. They think the church makes it all about emotions, instead of genuine change. But I have to say, who cares? Yes, he spent a lot on house, yes he makes a lot of money. But the man isn’t just a pastor, he writes books too, and makes money off of those. And he also gives a lot back to the church. Not only does his family give their money, but they they sacrifice so much of their time and energy to the church. Why do we think that we should get to decide if he should be able to buy a big house? Why should we be the ones to judge His church (which is producing tons of fruit I might add) Why do we think we should be the one to cast that stone. And more importantly, why do we think we have the right to blast it all over Facebook? What is productive or beneficial about that? When we blast one of our own (and by that I mean a fellow believer) for all our friends to read (believers AND non-believers), what message does that send? There is a Relient K Song that I think captures this sentiment very well. The song is called Down In Flames, and the second part of the verse goes like this, “We’re cannibals we watch our brothers fall, we eat our own the bones and all”. And friends, aint that the truth. My Christian friends on social media seem to be the most negative, the most angry, and the loudest bunch I know. We know how to kick or brotha or sista when they’re down. We certainly have an opinion about what a horrible Christian they are, and obviously the whole world needs to know about it.

That being said, I want you to follow me for a moment to Matthew 22:7-9. “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Who is your neighbor? Steven Furtick. He’s is your neighbor. And so is that couple on Facebook, who posts mushy statuses (full disclosure: I am that couple). And so is the most unlikeable person you know. So is your enemy. I think you get the picture. The world is full of your neighbors and are to love them as you love yourself! Now follow me to 1 John 4:11, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” There isn’t really anything to add to that, but to summarize, God loves you, so that means you’re called to love everyone!

Then, 1 Corinthians 16:14 says, “Let all that you do be done in love.” So I must ask you and myself, is calling out people on Facebook, and defaming them on Twitter being done in love? Because when Paul says “let all that you do”, he really means all. It extends to social media, it extends to the conversations you have with friends. It extends to even the interactions you have with the people who have wronged you. Man, that is so convicting to me. Because if I’m being really honest with you, I would have to say I fall so very short in that area. Sometimes I hate people, sometimes I say not so nice things about people. Sometimes I do something that is the opposite of loving. To my husband. To a friend. To my family. Sometimes bitterness fills my heart, and I forget what love even looks like. And it’s in those times, when we forget who we are and what we’re called to do and be, that we break the second greatest commandment. It’s in those moments where we sit in our cubicles and talk about how bad of a person Steven Furtick is because he bought a big house, or because we disagree with the way he does baptisms. Or it’s those moments where we blast Mark Driscoll, because we believe that he’s made mistakes in the way he leads. We make excuses for ourselves when we mess up, or spend money, but when someone else does, it’s not worthy of grace. Love goes out the window. But I’m reminded of John 13:35, which says, “By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Do you remember that old Hymn, “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love”? I remember singing it in church when I was little, and going back to read the lyrics is so convicting! It speaks about a time where we’ll be united as believers, working side by side, and where people will know who we represent because of the way we love. “Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” Do they know we are Christians by the way be love one another? Or do we just look like everyone else.

So, in those moments where we are tempted to choose hate instead of love, when we are tempted to fight evil with more evil, when we are tempted to trash talk someone because of their choices, in those those moments may we instead choose love. May we remember the love we show, or lack there of, is a reflection on the creator we serve. That we have the ability to either draw people closer to Him, or push them away. And friends, I need to add one thing. This blog post was written to me more than it was written to you. I’m the guiltiest, and the chief of sinners. I’m not trying to preach at you, but instead I’m inviting you to join me in pursuing a life that looks more like Jesus. A life that looks more like love. I think that when we do that people will see Him, instead of me, and they will want to know Him. When our lives looks more like love, it looks more like the lover of our souls. Will you join me? We may fall and fail at times, but His grace is sufficient for us, it’s sufficient for Steven Furtick, it’s sufficient for Mark Driscoll, it’s sufficient for me, and it’s sufficient for you.

p.s. Just in case you’re tempted to hate on me because you think I’m oversimplifying or saying that we should just forget it if someone does something wrong, please be assured that’s not what I’m saying. I’m simply saying, don’t use social media as a way to hate on people, whether they’re christian or not. Not every opinion needs to be shared. And maybe we need to learn to love people first before we call them out. May everything we do be covered and coated in love. The end.

The Good Shepherd

Follow me for a moment to John 10:1-21. I’ve been following IF:Equip, and guys, seriously it’s been so good. We’re reading through John, and it’s all stuff I’ve read before, but I’m coming at it with new eyes, and being able to see input from other women has shown me things I’ve missed every other time. It’s been so great. So today’s reading was John 10:1-21. It’s the one where Jesus does basically 3 things. First, He tells us that He is the good shepherd, and that His sheep know His voice. Second, He reminds us that Satan is a thief, and the he is here to seek, destroy, steal, and kill. Pretty heavy, and serious stuff, and I think a warning for us. And third, He says that He is the one way to heaven. He is the door, and the only way to enter eternity with the father. That He offers abundant life for us. Those are 3 awesome, heavy, great, intense, wonderful, and scary things. But this what God was telling me through this:

1. He wants me to listen to His voice, and He wants me to ignore the voice of the devil. He is the good shepherd, and I am His sheep. Sheep trust their shepherd, and they follow Him. He knows what’s best, and He is trying to tell me the right thing to do. He is that still small voice, and when I slow down to listen I hear Him. When I read the word, I hear Him. And when I am listening to Him above all others, this is what I’ll hear, “You are new, you are free, you are not the mistakes you make. Your identity is found in me alone. You are my child, and my heir, and I have made you righteous! I died for you, because you are dearly loved, I know you by name and you. are. mine.” I hear the sweet whisperings of a loving God. But, if I don’t take the time out to be in the word, to talk to Him, to listen to Him, then the voice I hear is satan. The voice I hear is my own negative thoughts towards myself. “You are the worst. You will never learn, you always mess up. You are a mess up, and controlling. You can’t do anything right.” And unfortunately, so often that voice is the loudest. So instead of listening to the voice of the good shepherd, I listen to the voice of the deceiver and accuser. But Jesus wants to lead me out of my self-made prison, He’s just asking me to trust, and obey, and follow. John 10:3 says, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” He will lead me out, I need only listen for His voice. He knows us. He laid His life down for us, and He is trustworthy, so so trustworthy.

2. Satan is a big stupid head. That’s right, I said it. He stinks. In fact that’s putting it lightly, because verse 10 says, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” He isn’t your friend, he isn’t trying to help you, he’s trying to deceive you and accuse you. He’s trying to steal your joy, kill you spirit, and destroy you. This isn’t light, this is heavy stuff my friends. If we don’t take his ability to try to work evil out in our lives as a threat, then we will be surprised and taken off guard when it happens. So we need to prepare, we need to have a defense. We need to spend time with God, we need to pray for strength, and we need to spend time in His word. We need to put on the full armor of God. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” So we prepare, not to fight against flesh and bloods, but to fight against the ultimate thief. He wants us to be unprepared, but the good shepherd wants to prepare us!

3. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the one door, and the one shepherd of the one flock. Am I living like it? Am I living with the urgency that that knowledge should give me? If I’m honest, no, probably not. But I should be! As believers we have this incredible knowledge, the medicine that can make our culture and our world well. The saving grace of a loving father. But I keep it inside so often. But that needs to change, I need to live out the love that God so freely gives me, and when people notice, I need to tell them where it comes from, and that they can have it too, and that He is the one and only way. And that the one and only way loves them and wants them. That the good shepherd wants them in His one flock.

Guys, this is so exciting. WE GET TO BE IN THE FLOCK OF JESUS! He wants us there, and He is calling to us, speaking gently to us. Will you follow Him, through the door, into the abundant life that He promises? It won’t be easy, He doesn’t promise that, but it will be abundant.

p.s. I’ve provided John 10:1-21 for you! Read, think, follow Him, and BE CHANGED!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” “

Redemption and Freedom (2 of my favorite words)

Confession time. I would like you all to know that I’m a recovering control freak, people pleaser, with a knack for bossiness. I’m extra sensitive, about a lot… I have many buttons that can be pushed. Just ask my husband. I hold onto hurts, and sometimes allow bitterness to grow. But I’m learning, I’m learning that isn’t who I have to be. Those words don’t have to define me.

I live out Roman 7:15. “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” I often find myself in that place. I got frustrated… again. I overreacted… again. I tried to tell my husband what to do… again. I allowed the words and actions of another person to hurt me and haunt me… again. Oh how I do the things I hate, far more often than I would like to admit. But I will admit it here, for you to read. Because I think vulnerability is important. Because I think authenticity is important. Because maybe you struggle with those things and I don’t want you to think you’re alone.

It’s easy for me to beat myself up when I do or say something I wish I hadn’t. When I feel like I’m not enough… or maybe just too much. Too much emotion, not enough self-discipline. Too much sensitivity, not enough understanding. I am my own worst enemy. I do the things I shouldn’t, and I don’t do the things I know I should. In those moments I hear, “there you go again, you’re always messing up”, or “do you never learn?” or “you’re too emotional” or “how is God ever going to be able to use you when you say/do stuff like that?”. As you can tell, my self-talk isn’t the nicest.

But what if all the things I tell myself are true. I bet you didn’t see that one coming. But seriously, what if I really am too emotional? What if I really do mess up a lot? And what if God wants to use those weaknesses to work in my life and show His power? What if He wants to use my emotions to give me the ability to empathize and sympathize with people. Maybe He wants to take that which I deem negative, and make it positive, so that it can be used for good. What if, in Him, I am enough? What if, through Him, I am enough? What if the voices in my head that tell me I am broken, are lying?

God is in the business of redemption, and He has redeemed me (and you!). He has redeemed my weaknesses, and made them something new. My worth is not dependent upon whether or not I can keep my emotions under control, and it isn’t found in whether or not I can make the whole world happy. My worth is found in what my savior thinks about me, and this is what He says… “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine!… since you are precious in my sight; since you are honored and I love you… Do not fear for I am with you.” (Isaiah 43:1b, 4a, 5 a) We are justified by grace (Romans 3:24), and we are His children (John 1:12). We have been crucified with Christ, and no longer controlled or enslaved by our sins, we have the power over them through the blood of Jesus (Romans 6:6). We are accepted (Romans 15:7) and have become a new creation through Him (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

So when the voice in your head tries to kick you when you’re down, when it tries to tell you you’re a mess up and you’ll never be better, you remind it of who you are! You remind it that you have been redeemed and made new!