Who I Am, A Prayer

Help me Lord to remember who I am and what I am supposed to be. You have called me to be a light in the darkness, a city on a hill, and that means I am to be a reflection of you. Help me, Lord, to be a mirror of your goodness, radiating your love into a world of brokenness and disillusionment, a world that’s lost and frightened, that needs you more than they can even know. Give me words to speak life, not destruction, words to lift others up and give them hope, to comfort and heal, not blame and accuse. In all that I do, fill my heart with your compassion that I may glorify your name, Lord, not take it in vain. ~ Amen

What About The Law

Many Christians today don’t think they should follow the law, because they reason, they are covered by the blood of the lamb, and therefore are not in need of the law. We don’t need to follow the “Jewish” laws, because that’s legalism, and isn’t legalism what Christ taught against, when he called the lawyers and teachers of his day hypocrites?

Is this, in fact, truth, or just something we want to be true, something we tell ourselves in order to justify our own idea of what God’s plan entails? What about the Ten Commandments? Christians certainly believe in those. Are they not a part of the law? Christ himself said that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17). In fact, he goes on to say that “not one pen stroke of it would pass away until God’s purposes were complete.”

So what about the law, and what does it mean to be under the law? I heard an excellent example the other day from Adam at The Parable of The Vineyard YouTube channel, and it went something like this:
When you drive your car down the street and you go the speed limit you are abiding by the law. But let’s say you roll through a 25 mph school zone at 35 mph and you get pulled over. The police officer gives you a ticket, and a summons to appear in court. You are now no longer abiding by the law, but are under it. You can only be under the law, when you violate it and a penalty has been assessed, in this case a fine.

So, let’s also say that when you get to court, a concerned parent from the school offers to pay your fine, and all he asks in return is that you abide by the law, and not speed in the school zone. The judge then releases you, and are once again living according to the law. Now, when you leave the court, do you immediately go out and race through a school zone again, or do you think of the concerned parent who paid your debt?
Here’s the paradox: If we live by the law, we are not under it. It is only when we break the law that we find ourselves under it, because breaking it, like living by it, has consequences.

This is how it is with Christ. We acknowledge that he paid the penalty for us, but does that mean we are free to ignore the law, say that it doesn’t matter, because Jesus paid and I don’t have to? He told the adulteress, when all her accusers had disappeared, “Go, and sin no more.”

God’s commandments are not an arbitrary set of rules that we can follow or not according to our own desires, but an expression of the attributes of love, God’s love for us. In total, he gave Israel, his set-apart people, 613 commands. Of those 613 rules to live by, He wrote the first 10 with his own hand, which suggests they must be pretty important. In fact, all 613 can be encapsulated in those first ten. They are how we show God our love, and how we can also reflect His love to others. And, the ten can also be subdivided into just two, the two Christ spoke of in Matthew 22, when he said all the law could be summed up by this: Love God, and love your neighbor.

“Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” One to four are all about loving God.

1. You shall have no other Gods before me. Number one is about loyalty: Love is Loyal.
2. You shall not make for yourself graven images, no idols that you might bow down to or serve. Number two is about faithfulness: Love is Faithful.
3. Don’t take the name of the Lord your God in vain, don’t misuse it, do not bring God’s name to naught. Number three is about reverence: Love is Revenant.
4. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. Time set-apart on a recurring and regular basis to spend with God. Number four is about intimacy: Love is Intimate.

“And the second is like unto it; love your neighbor as yourself.” Six to ten are about loving your neighbor.

5. Honor your mother and father. Show them you are grateful for all they have done for you, indeed given up for you, and that you value their guidance. Number five is about respect: Love is Respectful.
6. Do not commit murder. This one seems straight forward, right? But it’s not because it also applies to gossip as gossip is, in reality, a form of murder, since it assassinates character. Number six is about harmlessness: Love is Harmless.
7. You shall not commit adultery. Keeping sacred the special bond of marriage that is the foundation of the family unit. Number seven is about purity: Love is Pure.
8. You shall not steal. Taking what does not belong to you is the epitome of selfishness, and emphasizes getting rather than giving. Number eight is about generosity: Love is not selfish, but Generous.
9. You shall not bear false witness. Don’t speak falsely, lie, speak unjustly, or devise ways to deceive others. Number nine is about truthfulness: Love is Truthful.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or goods. We should not crave nor desire what is not ours. Number ten is about contentment: Love is Content.

Christ tells us in John 14:15, “If you love, keep my commandments.” 1 John 2:5 says that if we keep doing what he (Jesus) says, then love for God has truly been brought to its goal in us, and we are also told in 1 John 5:3 that loving God means obeying his commands, and that his commands are not burdensome.

~SLM

Out of The Mouth

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When I was a young, my momma used to say, “you can think whatever you’d like, just don’t say whatever you think.” It was one of those sayings that are passed down from mother to daughter for generations. She had heard from her mother who had heard it from her mother, and along with it, she’d also say, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!” If you think about it, its pretty practical advice, sage even – what I like to call Kansas farm sense – and usually not what a teenage girl wants to hear, but wise council never-the-less, straight from the book of proverbs.

Proverbs 18:8 tells us that a “gossip’s words are like choice morsels, they sink into the inmost being,” and 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power over life and death; those who indulge it must eat it’s fruit.” Let that wash over you for just a moment. Let it penetrate and take hold. What are some of the things that come out of our mouths? Are our words bitter, sour, vile and nasty filled with outrage and hateful barbs, or are they sweet, tender, gentle and caring filled with hope and loving kindness? The things we say matter, and whether we speak praise or slander, truth or lies, those “choice morsels” are the fruit we must eat.

In Matthew 15:11, Jesus says, “It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth – this defiles a person,” and in verse 18 he explains that whatever comes out of the mouth precedes from the heart. Think about that for a minute. It’s what we have been holding dear, what we have filled ourselves with that we carelessly let fly out of our mouths. Our words have power, power to build up or power to tear down. They also have consequences, and that’s why it behooves us to measure them carefully, to think before we speak, to understand that what we say and how we say it will come back to us, if for no other reason than to continually examine what we’ve been holding dearest in our hearts, and to know that we’ll may have to eat those words – the fruit of our tongues, which springs from our hearts.
~SLM

 

Everything Beautiful

The other day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook this quotation by the father of analytical psychology, Carl Jung, and for some reason, I felt compelled to reply – the post and reply follow:

The Post;

jung

The reply;

Sally Mitschke Then feed your soul, love yourself and forgive yourself as you would do for all of these, for we are all imperfect beings striving to grow into the best versions of ourselves.

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This is not to say, go ahead and make excuses for yourself, but to understand that even though we make mistakes, take a wrong turn, or do things that, in retrospect, we’re not too proud of, we still need to nourish our souls, to feed them with wisdom and truth, with compassion and faith, with “good vibes” and friendship. We need, also, to give ourselves the gift of forgiveness, to recognize that we all have value, and that what we must do is “love” (as in accept) ourselves, everything about ourselves, the great and the not so great.

I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:11, which states,   “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  We are each a beautiful work of art; an abstract painting that changes with distance and light, a piece of clay being molded by the loving hands of a master potter, a woven cloth of individual threads, our strengths and weaknesses, embroidered together in such a way as to produce an exquisite tapestry of life, of kindness, of fallibility, and of love.

~SLM

Be Kind…, tenderhearted, forgiving…, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

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What Love is: A Litmus Test

It seems that the world is upside down right now, that everything is wrong side out and backwards. We want the madness to stop, but we’re at a loss as to how. We say we want to get along, that we want peace and love, but from the virulence and frequency of the bombastic and self-righteous screeds that are posted every day to facebook, twitter and any number of “social” forums, it is clear that most of us have no idea of what we’re doing or why. We want desperately for things to go differently, to head in a new direction, the direction of unity, but it seems we’ve lost our way. We don’t know anything about kindness, tolerance and love, or if we had ever learned, we’ve forgotten, developed a collective case of CRS (can’t remember shit), as if modern life has divorced us from knowing, understanding exactly what it means to love.

So how do we know what love is? It sounds like a simplistic question, but is it really? We think we know what it is; we think love is about the sentiments reflected in a popular song, quotes by the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa, a warm and fuzzy feeling about our friends and family, or a heart shaped emoji we use to react to our friend’s posts. But, love is so much more than these, greater than our trivialities. It is the one thing that never fails, and is perhaps the most challenging feet we could attempt in our lives. And, we do know what it looks like, because we’ve been given a litmus test for love, a laundry list by which to check our actions. The test goes like this:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

We must test everything against this standard, continually asking ourselves; is it patience or is it pride, is it kindness or cattiness, is it truth or rumor parading as truth, does it persistently hope for the best or is it flip and conceited, is if faith-filled or self-filled? If the words we speak (or type) cannot pass this test, if they are unkind, conceited, ill-mannered, selfish, proud, a diatribe of what’s wrong, we are not speaking from a place of love.

Here’s what else we’ve been told about love:

Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Leviticus 19:18

But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45

If we are jealous, act impatiently, are brutish, or delight in situations that prompt us to say “ain’t karma a bitch,” we do not know love. If we take it upon ourselves to “get even” with those who would do us harm, we are not coming from a place of love, but of darkness and hate. What then, do we do with hate? There is no reasoning with it, any brute force or mighty action that can stop it, because hate is not the cure for itself. There is only one antidote to hate, only one power mighty enough to stop it in its tracks: Love.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

If we love one another, we don’t give up on each other. We aren’t gleeful or smug when evil things happen to others, even when they are our enemies. We continue to hope for the very best with all the patience in the universe, because that is what we have been called to do, what we’ve been commanded to do,  and the example we are expected to set as a follower of Christ.

~SLM

I heard this on the radio this morning and thought it appropriate for this post – thank you Danny Gokey for this beautiful song!

Shemitah

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Sometimes, what we need doesn’t exactly line up with what we think we need. Our lives are filled with highs and lows, with straight paths and twisting, rock-strewn passages that take more stamina and fortitude than we are even aware we possess. It brings to mind Ecclesiastes chapter 3. The one that starts with “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time…” 2015, for me, was a time to be silent, to be reflective, in short, Shemitah.

As we count down the end to 2015 and look forward to the New Year, I’d like to share a few thoughts on my time-out, my Shemitah year.

  • When you promise God that you’ll do something, it’s best to be faithful to that promise lest he force you to keep that promise by any means necessary.
  • True forgiveness is a very hard pill to swallow, but once you’ve choked it down, I mean really let it go, there is such freedom in it, compassion, love, and joyous peace.
  • Trusting in God is something that has to be actively practiced EVERY day. It’s hard sometimes to give it over, but every time you do, it turns out to be soooo much more than you could ever have imagined.
  • Actively loving others is hard, very hard, and without God’s help, we pretty much suck at it!

Shemitah is a time of respite from your labors, a sabbatical; it’s about the space in between, the quiet void that speaks more loudly than the words that surround it, about what we learn through contemplation rather than action, about faith in God rather than our own earthly wiles and abilities, and why we are needed instead of what we need.

I look forward to resuming my postings in the coming months, and wish all a happy and fruitful new year, and may your 2016 be blessed beyond measure.

Shalom

~SLM

When in Rome Part 1: According to His Purpose

Sometimes it’s hard to see the purpose in the world around us. We aren’t able to understand how all the pieces fit together, and what we can comprehend, doesn’t make any sense to us, yet in Romans 8:28 Paul says this: “And we know in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Who is to say that the trials we face cannot be for the betterment of ourselves or someone else. We learn so much more about whom we are and the nature of life through our difficulties, our struggles. We cannot know how our burdens and triumphs may influence others, and likewise, we cannot know how our words or actions affect those with whom we interact.  If we know not sorrow, how can we know what true joy looks like? How can we be grateful for all that we are given, our mental and spiritual gifts as well as the physical, if we have not known hunger? And, if we are certain that God’s plan is good, we can go down that road, the one that’s uncertain and unsettling, where dangers may lurk and sorrow may live, facing incredible odds. We can walk through the fiery furnace with peace in our hearts, and praise on our lips, knowing that:

“Lord is our keeper, we have everything we need. He lets us rest in fertile fields of green and leads us to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives us new strength, and guides us to the right paths, as he has promised. Even if we go through the deepest darkness, we need not be afraid, for the Lord is with us, His shepherd’s rod and staff protect us.” (Psalm 23)

No matter what happens in life, what joys or sorrows besot us, we can rest assured that what we face is what God has intended so that He may accomplish His good purpose.

~SLM