Big Judgement and Short Sticks

I opened up my tattered Oswald Chambers’ devotion early this morning for a little Holy Spirit self-examination. There is something about this old guy, some super-duper Jesus power he has to make me feel both wretched and sorely convicted every morning.

It’s my favorite masochistic book; I feel terrible and yet continue to come back for more.  Today’s lesson did not disappoint. It was on judgment, something I barely struggle with (yes that was sarcasm).

“Judge not, that ye not be judged.” (Matt. 7:1)

Whoa, now, slow down there Mr. Chambers, are you telling me God says the stick I measure others with will be used to measure my faults? Because I have a pretty short stick for those I deem to be idiots.

Now in my defense, my measuring stick has certainly grown over the years for family members and friends.  I am far more patient and loving then I used to be, but I must confess passing criticism on my enemies far too often then I would like.

“Sam, what sort of enemies do you have?” you ask. Generally, sweet pastor’s wives aren’t out marauding or pirating and making enemies.

And while this is true, I certainly don’t go looking for trouble, I do have opposition.  Every writer pisses someone off eventually. 

In my case, I have the atheists who hound me with nasty comments, the puritanical swim trouser folks who find me indecent, and a few random blokes who spam me incessantly. (Ok, maybe they aren’t true enemies, but I don’t like their evil antics.)

Then there are the worst offenders, those few who simply don’t like me for no reason that I know of. This is where my judgment button kicks in to high gear.  I don’t really care if they don’t approve of me, because in recourse, I simply write them off as having ridiculously poor taste. 


I’ve read the biggest reason people don’t like other people are because they sense the other person doesn’t like or appreciate them.  Yep, that rings a bell.

Oswald reminds me, “There is always one fact more in every man’s case in which we know nothing.”Basically, he’s saying to give them the benefit of doubt. This is so hard!

I can choose to give the atheists grace, because though their words are poison, it’s obvious I have been given grace far beyond measure. And the bikini bashers, I will choose to love them but not agree with them. (By the way, I’m not referring to the modesty crowd here, I’m talking about the over the top ones who steal my articles and insult me.)

But to give the haters mercy, well…this one is more tricky. I have to acknowledge most importantly, what an idiot I was until God picked me up out of the miry pit, delicately brushed me of, and set my feet back on solid ground.

I’m glad Judgement Day won’t be here until October now, because Oswald and me have got some more work to do.

The Onion

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There is a song that came out a few years that still makes me weep (It’s been played so many times on the FISH it might make you cry too).  It asks me to imagine what I will do when I am confronted with Jesus face to face.  Will I even be able to stand in his presence or will I fall to my knees overwhelmed by his grace?  It is a provocative question I don’t ask myself enough because I would rather envision Jesus pursuing me.  I am comfortable with an image of him walking alongside of me and holding my hand.  I am a little girl and he is a loving father.  But, the thought of coming boldly to the throne of God makes my knees wobble and my heart quake with fear.  Like Isaiah, I imagine calling out “woe to me, I am unworthy and inadequate.”[1]  I struggle to put together the image of God the Father with God the Son.  Jesus is accessible and near to me while the Father is Holy and immense. Somehow, I have associated God the Father with performance and Jesus with unmerited grace, forgetting all too often that they are one.  If spirituality is the means by which we develop an awareness of the Spirit of God in us and the processes, by which we keep that awareness alive and vital, then these questions and contemplations must not be avoided.[2]  My interior life demands examination if I am to minister effectively.  As the Father and the Son are not separate, my spirituality and service in ministry are also inexplicably tied together.

This last year has provided many opportunities for spiritual growth and transformation as my husband and I left our church after sixteen years to start a satellite church, under the umbrella of the mother church.  Because I have been immersed in almost every facet of the church plant, either directly or indirectly through my husband, a new obstacle has reared its ugly head…finding rest in the midst of exhaustive church planting.  Where is the line drawn from the demands of ministry and my own need to develop authentic spirituality?  How do you leave your work at the job if your church is the job?  Where do pastors and leaders go to replenish their spirits if they can’t do it at church?  Is this where the desert experience calls out to us?  Church used to be a safe and comforting setting where I could hide from the world and now, at times, it feels like a minefield of power struggles, mostly within my own heart.  It is a massive paradigm shift for me to move the church out of the place where I experience God to a place where I am simply doing God’s work.  The two don’t go together anymore.  I must encounter God on my own without the guidance or aid of an institution.  I think God allowed me to see the physical boundaries of Church as a safe stronghold while he built a firm foundation of his Word and Spirit within me.  Now, almost two decades into this journey, he has removed my attachment from the buildings I thought I needed to grow closer to him. My ability to minister effectively is dependent only on the depth of relationship I experience with him…a reflection of His transforming work in a willing spirit and my tiny mustard seed of faith.

If the extent one is willing to incorporate the spiritual disciplines or means of grace into one’s life will determine the effectiveness of their ministry,[3]  then I am forced to find rest amidst the chaos. This has meant intentional times of solitude, painful reflection and major adjustments as I look differently at the way I give back to God.  Once again, God is calling me to move out of my comfort zone and into a place of greater dependence.  Any ministry that is beyond our effort requires that we abandon ourselves to the mysterious action that God is able to work in us, and then through us.  But this involves a stripping away of the last vestige of hope that we can somehow accomplish the task on our own.[4] 

I believe the essence of spiritual growth is this-our journey is like an onion peeling.  Every time you pull off a good chunk there are more layers waiting to be uncovered.  At the core of the onion, is a tender childlike faith that has been covered over the years with wounds, pain and fear.   As we peel, tears sting our eyes, and we become raw, discarding the very things we have clung to for security apart from God.  But our reward is this…to see our Father clearly, without the veil of darkness hindering our vision, moving from blindness into His glorious light.

[1]Isaiah 6:5 NIV

[2]Norman Shawchuck and Roger Heuser, Leading the Congregation: Caring For Yourself While Serving the People(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993) 39.

[3]Ibid., p. 42.

[4]Ibid., p. 43.

Why Christian kids rebel…


Tim Kimmel, in his book, “Why Christian Kids Rebel,” explains the number one reason that children walk away from the faith is that they never see it make a real difference in the lives of their parents.

This inspires me to use my life as a curriculum…  tracing the hand of God in my past stories, but also constantly looking for ways to exemplify Jesus today in both my triumphs and failures. I point out answers to things we’ve prayed about. I show them the many ways God provides and make sure they know where credit is due. I live my faith out loud and up front so they cannot miss that Christ is at the center of our home. He has to become too real to deny.

Where I am challenged is in making sure my attitude doesn’t discredit the reality of Christ. Not that I feel the pressure to be perfect, but I do have to be on guard when I’m tired, drained, hormonal, or frustrated by something or dare I say someone? I must press into God, ask for His strength, and allow Him to fill my emotional gaps.  Oh yeah…and get enough rest (not so easy with three kids). Otherwise, it’s easy to respond in the flesh, leaving a wake of tears behind me. But even when I fail, the reality of Jesus can be seen in how I handle my failure. Oh here it comes…my favorite catch phrase, “It’s all about the rebound!” If I am quick to humble myself, ask for forgiveness and model redemption, it speaks volumes to my kids.

I hope that someday, the things my children remember – their stories – will resemble a parable reflecting God’s hand in their lives; the reality of Christ’s presence that can be shared with their own children in the years to come.

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