Saturday, November 4, 2017

When We're Too Busy to Be Still but Rest Isn't Optional

I've grown as accustomed to writing about my daily life as my online friends and family have to reading about it. It felt strange to maintain digital silence on my recent trip, especially when I'm so dependent on your prayers. It still does. Because of security reasons, however, I had no choice. I still don't.

Although I can't share the details of the trip online, I can share what I've learned. The first lesson was the importance of rest. I can't believe those words are coming from a workaholic, but it's true.

Travel time from here to there was about twenty-eight hours. I never sleep on planes, but managed four hours straight of good sleep, plus napping after that. It was the longest (and probably the best) sleep I'd had in months, which says a lot about the weeks leading up to my trip. 

I wanted to hit the ground running. I arrived to find the plan was for me to take some time to rest. After my sleep on the plane, I felt more rested than I had for so long, I didn't think I needed to be still, but I did. 

I spent my first day at rest. I sorted through what I'd packed, read my Bible, and prayed. Uninterrupted quiet time, with no needs to meet other than my own, was precious and restorative. 

One of the families there observes Shabbat and the Sabbath, and I was invited to join them. On Friday evenings, we met for a brief service. We always had a time of personal examination of our actions over the last week, followed by confession and forgiveness. It was beautiful to listen to children confess being unkind to a sibling, parents confess to children, children to parents, followed by the offended one offering forgiveness. 

A time of communion served as the beginning of a full day of rest. For once, I didn't clean house, do laundry, write, or sort through anything. I read books, took walks, and rested.

Two paintings hung in the bedroom I used. One said, "Be still," the other, "And know that I am God." 

For the last three weeks, despite both hard times, many hours of work, and breathtakingly beautiful moments, I've been still. I've known, in a deeper way than ever before, that He is God and He's in charge of every detail.

I intend to continue the ritual of Shabbat and Sabbath now that I'm home. Yesterday didn't turn out like I'd planned, but I still managed a very modified evening of reflection, Scripture, and stillness. Tomorrow will be my day of rest. It's already planned.

Being still isn't popular in this country. We're a busy people, and we leave little room for rest, but that doesn't mean our busyness isn't sin. In fact, it puts the emphasis on our ability to work hard to accomplish our goals, and robs of us a deeper understanding of the sovereignty of God and His ability to work in our lives.

Are we too busy to be still? 

If so, why not stop, confess, repent, and change. It's not easy, but it's also not optional if we want the relationship with God He intended for us. 

My experience of stillness over the last few weeks left me wondering how much more we could accomplish if we did things God's way. What would He do in our six days if we truly gave Him the seventh? How might He expand our reach? Extend our efforts? I don't know yet, but I intend to find out. Why not join me?

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God." Exodus 20:8,9

Today, I'm leading two workshops on what Jesus says about prayer at the Global Outreach Mission Conference being held at Harrisburg Baptist Church. The first sessions start at 3 o'clock, and I hope you'll join us. 
In case you missed the most recent post, here's the link: Making Room in Our Hearts for Love

If you feel led to partner with this ministry, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

You can also mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Making Room in Our Hearts for Love

The letters of Paul are growing on me, but 2 Corinthians has been a hard book. In this letter, Paul defended himself against all kinds of murmurings, not from his enemies, but from the body of Christ. How pitiful is that? This man, who endured every kind of hardship to serve Christ and carry the gospel around the world, also endured criticism and plain old meanness from the very ones he served.

I came across this plea today, and it's struck a cord. "Make room for us in your hearts," Paul begged. (2 Cor. 7:2) Making room to love others is a choice we make. We can choose to hate, reject, and be mean or choose to accept, love, and embrace.

I hate to admit this, but I've chosen not to make room in my heart for a few people. As a result, I've unwittingly chosen to reject and think the worst of them, instead. 

I've seen my heart today, and I'm ashamed of it.

Who am I to reject someone in the body of Christ because they're different from me? How dare I indulge in the kind of pride that sorts people out according to how similar they are to me?

Forgive me, Lord.

Disciples who follow Jesus are all the body of Christ, whether or not they look like us, worship like us, or live like us. Jesus was very clear. His love is fierce and deep and strong. It carried Him to the cross and out the tomb, and we are to love each other as He has loved us. 

What's truly hard is that Jesus doesn't reserve this massive love for those who follow Him. He loves everyone, no matter what kind of sin they prefer, and we're supposed to love them, too, even when their sin preference is different from ours.

We're to love with that same fierce, deep, strong, never-giving-up kind of love, and it's supposed to be our default love.

Chew on that for a while.

I'm sorry to say I don't love with Christ's love, at least not often enough.  

How is huge love possible? We begin by making room in our hearts to love them. We'll have to remove the not-love mess in us to do it, but making more room for love is easier than we might think. 

Is there someone we haven't made room for? Ask God to remove what's blocking space for them in our hearts, invite love in, then allow that love to take action. Even if it's a small action, that first step of reaching out can begin a cascade of love that changes our lives. 

It's hard to change into a room-making lover of the world, but it's not optional. Jesus, the best world-lover of all, has commanded us to do it, so let's start making room to love the way He loves. 

"Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Make room for us in your hearts..." 2 Corinthians 7:1-2 nasb
In case you missed the most recent post, here's the link: Remembering My Friend: Dean C. Lamb

If you feel led to partner with this ministry, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

You can also mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Remembering My Friend: Dean C. Lamb

This isn't my usual kind of blog. I'm writing from loss and sorrow, and to tell you about my friend, Dean Lamb. I'm also writing to ask you to help, just like you always do. 

We first met when I was dating a friend of his. I was young and blind and infatuated. What I didn't know was that the person I thought I was dating wasn't the "real" guy. It was an image he'd adopted. The truth was dark and ugly. 

Dean was a gentleman to the core of his being, and he couldn't stand by and watch. He tried to protect me and help me to see truth, and, in the process, we became friends. For a while, we were even more. He was a total romantic and held me to a pedestal that was far too high up for me. 

In the end, the romance fizzled, but the friendship remained. 

We both married and had careers. His wife was the soulmate he'd long to find. Dean was a writer and a teacher. He taught inner city kids and loved them well. He also loved Alabama football and Coach Bear Bryant, politics, and a good story well-told. 

He was the first writer I ever knew. He wrote with an intense passion that drew his readers into his stories in a way I'd never experienced before. I still have every story he wrote for me. Every poem. Every sketch. I didn't save them because of a lost love for which I pined, but because they were powerful and well-written. 

I wanted to write like Dean wrote.

He seemed like an average guy, until he put pen to paper. Then, he held power in his hand and wielded it like a sword. Somewhere along the way, I tried my hand at writing, too. Dean encouraged me and celebrated my meager attempts. He was too much of a gentleman to do anything else.

When I started my blog, he was one of the first to become a fan. He read my blogs every day. He often commented, encouraged, celebrated because that's the kind of friend he was. 

Dean was my first guest blogger in December 2013. His story about Christmas lights is still being read today. My introduction to his story said, "He is that most mysterious of souls, for he is a writer who writers from his heart." I remember writing those words and hoping that, one day, people would say that about me.

His wife died a while back and it was the hardest thing Dean ever survived. She was his soulmate and the love of his life. After she died, he had one medical problem after another. He retired this past May because of his health, but hoped to do some adjunct teaching soon. 

Two weeks before I left the country, Dean emailed me about some articles he was writing. He had several opportunities that could have propelled his writing to a national platform, where I'd always thought it should be. 

He wrote his heart, as always, and the words were so beautiful that I'm sharing them with you today. 

"I know who my Rock and Foundation is, and I have many blessings during these oft-troubling times: I woke up today and feeling well; I have a roof over my head, food in the pantry and freezer, and a vehicle in good shape. I also know God has new purposes for me in this transitory period." 

Dean rediscovered his faith a number of years ago, and it changed his life, his purpose, and his direction. Like everything he did, his faith was deep and personal and powerful.

He lived several hours away. We hadn't spent time together in person in many years, but I looked forward to shared stories and shared writing when I got home. Dean always encouraged me to be more, to write better, dig deeper, because that's how he wrote. 

On October 23, I awakened to a message that broke my heart. 

"Wanted to make sure you knew about Dean Lamb. He was found dead in his apartment this afternoon."

We were friends for thirty-seven years and few losses have struck deeper. He believed in me in a way no one else ever has. My life is poorer for the loss. 

Dean lived well and loved well. He invested his life in the inner-city kids he taught. When his health deteriorated, his finances did, too, and he struggled financially toward the end. 

He didn't have family, but he did have friends who loved him. One of his friends has set up a GoFundMe account to help with the expenses of burial. The goal is $1,000 but that's not enough to pay for cremation (which he'd wanted so that his ashes could be mingled with those of his wife) or for a memorial service. 

If you'd like to help with a donation of a few dollars, we, the ones who loved this sweet man, would appreciate your support. Here's the link: GoFundMe: Dean Lamb

Whatever's raised over the cost of burial will be used to establish a scholarship fund in his name. I can't think of anything that would please him more.

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17 nasb
In case you missed the most recent post, here's the link: How Much Is Enough?

If you feel led to partner with this ministry, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

You can also mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.