Difference

love

By Bill Forbes

As New Day has been thinking about our new mission statement, I have been encouraged and lifted up by the reflections on God’s love for me and for us, and the profound implications of the greatest force in the universe being Love – and not just a vague theoretical love, but a personal love for me and the people in my life.

And while I have found this to be inspiring and comforting, at the same time, I have felt a deep questioning rumble in my gut…something is gnawing at my sense of comfort in this message. And I think that uneasy feeling  is related to the implications of God loving EVERYONE this way.   If God LOVES everyone like this, everyone I walk by, everyone I see on the news, everyone I drive by….what does that mean for how I live my life?  If this is true, then the state of the world should make more than just uncomfortable. It should somehow stir me to live profoundly differently than the norm.

What does this mean in a society that seems to be increasingly shaped by division and fear?  We are constantly force-fed a diet of news and memes and blogs based on fears of other groups’ agendas, fears of potential threats and harm, and the importance of sticking together with your own people –people who think like us, look like us, act like us, and vote like us…so we divide ourselves and start by putting our group first—claiming that this is our right, this is the way the world works, this is how it must be.

But as I think about the truths of God’s love for everyone, I know in my heart that I have to think and live differently than this. If God truly loves everyone we see and hear about and blog about and shout about – then there are profound implications for me, and for us.

God, I think, declares that this is NOT the way the world needs to work, NOT how it must be. Jesus says our neighbor (love your neighbor as yourself) is the Samaritan (someone the world said should  be feared based on ethnic, religious, political and grounds) who we can look to for love and help, rather than threat or harm….Paul says again and again that one of the first and most fundamental implications of the Gospel is that these dividing walls have been destroyed, and that the Christian community needs to demonstrate a different way of living—in which man and woman (gender differences), slave and master (economic differences and historical oppression), Jew and Gentile (ethnic and cultural and religious differences) all now look into each other’s eyes and call each other sister, brother.

And Paul does not say we should just BELIEVE this, and worship God for it. He says we need to LIVE it. He challenged his congregations that how they ate, how they used their money, how they hosted, how they lived—needed to demonstrate that because of God’s love, they were different. As followers of this God who is love, fear and division do NOT define how we spend, how we vote, how we socialize, how we love, how we serve. God’s love for everyone around us does. Paul, I think, recognized that this could be one of the most compelling signs that Christianity is more than just another competing social or political club, not terribly distinguished from every other group which exists to serve it’s own. But we are community that knows that something far more fundamental exists than unity based on loyalty and sameness. Instead, there is the love of God for everyone, which redefines everything.

This is all very inspiring to me, until I start to wrestle with what does it really mean for how I live? Where is my life demonstrating this to the world? And how is New Day an actual living sign that we live by a different ethic, a more fundamental truth? Do I go beyond believing that God loves everyone, and actually demonstrate it? I fear that while I BELIEVE differently, my real, actual life is more like the norms we see in the rest of the world—mostly hanging with (and worshipping with) people who look, think, feel and act pretty similar to me.

I know some of you are heroically reaching across boundaries in your work, in your schools, in your neighborhoods. I know that some in New Day are living this out every day. But I struggle with this myself. I have dedicated my entire adult working life to serving the poor and oppressed, but still feel this sense that my life does not demonstrate that the love of God has “torn down the dividing walls of hostility”.

So out of our reflections on these things, Heather and I are starting a couples group in our neighborhood, of churched and unchurched, coming from different backgrounds, with different understandings of Christianity and even of marriage.  Because this is what our neighborhood looks like,  these are our neighbors. And we hope that through this we can in a small way learn about and demonstrate God’s love for all of us.  This is one small step in a lifetime of pressing forward to discover and demonstrate the truth that YES God does love me profoundly and intimately. And he also loves everyone else the same way.

Cinnamon Rolls

By Lisa Johnston

cinnamon

He delights in us;
He provides for our needs;
He forgives our sins;
He cares about our pain;
He disciplines us;
He desires our true good.

“Pick one that is the easiest for you to believe, and one that is the most difficult for you to believe,” says the pastor.

OK, piece of cake: ‘True good’–  check; ‘disciplines me’– maybe a check; ‘cares about my pain’– check; ‘forgives my sin’– check; woohoo! feeling pretty good at this point. Cruising through the list; I got this; ‘provides for me’– double check; ‘delights in me’– uh, uh, think I’ll go back to the others…. which one is easiest…. hmm…I’ve so got this I’m debating between which ones are easiest, ‘cause, shoot, I’ve believed this for a long time….

‘He delights in us” …. HE delights in ME?????? My mind won’t even let me go there. Before I can even really begin to process my inability to “go there”, I’m rescued- the service moves on, and the music minister comes up. What does he immediately begin to say: his one that’s toughest is, you guessed it, ‘He delights in us’. Fortunately, we have a song to sing, and folks to visit with before we all head out.

My mind starts to hit the black ice of this thought on the ride home, and just skids away again- so much so, I almost went to the store to go buy cinnamon rolls.  I want “comfort food” rather than consider this: that my God loves me so much He takes JOY in me??????

Off and on throughout the day my mind keeps encountering and sliding away from this lack of my ability to even face that He delights in me. Along the way, I realize that it was so easy to say “check” to all the rest of the list was because I know those things to be true. And, at least for me, the revelation today is that knowing and believing are not actually synonymous.

So, what does it truly mean ‘to live out of being loved by God’ when being loved by Him is not something you know, but believe?   For one, it means not really being able to blithely say, “check,” to any of those. How would I live if I actually, truly, deep-down believed each one? Add to the list “He died for me.”  How about THAT one?

It’s quite a journey we’re all on at New Day. One I know AND believe I can’t do on my own. I find myself praying, “Please forgive my unbelief.”  I also know AND believe He’ll answer that prayer in ways I can’t even begin to imagine.

Just the same, cinnamon rolls won’t look the same anymore…

 

 

 

 

Learning to Love Myself

By Laurine Decker

When Jeff asked  me to share about living out of being loved by God, specifically, learning to love yourself, I felt profoundly inadequate because words can’t begin to touch what it means to be loved by God and to love yourself.  This is where the Spirit has to come in.  The Holy Spirit is the only one who can give the revelation that allows us to know and be known, loved and be loved.  I pray the Spirit gives you and me deeper revelation into the depth of love that’s there for us through Christ alone.

My life Psalm is Psalm 107, and I as I write those words, I begin to weep.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For his lovingkindness is everlasting.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary, and gathered from the lands,
from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region;
they did not find a way to an inhabited city.
They were hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses.
He led them also by a straight way to go to an inhabited city.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men.  For he has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul he has filled with what is good.

My life has been one of desperate longing, isolation, and a deep hunger that felt like it could never be filled.  I have been the wanderer in the desert region without an inhabited city.  I have been the hungry and thirsty soul; distressed, alone and untouchable.

Jesus promises that streams of living water will flow from us (John 7:38).  Jesus promises abundant life (John 10:10).  Jesus promises a remaining and full joy (John 15:11). Psalm 63:5 promises we will be fully satisfied.

About 10 years ago as I began to wrestle with the reality I was living in in light of some of those scriptures,  Jesus gently let me know there was more. He showed me that although I was pouring out, I was not able to take in.  I was empty and desperate and dissatisfied because I could not have my needs met.  My receptors were broken.  From a psychological standpoint, my neuronal pathways were totally wired to look for my needs to be met by things my needs could never be met by; performance, people pleasing, and ultimately when those things didn’t work, to wall myself off through using food or other coping mechanisms. My flight mechanism was finely tuned, and I was incapable of receiving a love that could truly satisfy by God, by myself or by others.

I want to take a minute to define love as I have now by God’s grace found it to be.  I have experienced this love now.  I am a work in progress, but I am experiencing it with more and more frequency.  It used to be I could only occasionally feel it with Monte, but this month alone I have experienced it with my mother, a dear friend from our church body, and through my twin sister.  This love feels like a sinking in. It feels like warmth surrounding every part of my being.  It feels like a deep saturation of my soul.  It feels like I am being lost in God or another person’s being.  It feels like comfort and beauty and richness,  It feels satisfying to the depth of my being. It feels like knowing and being known.  And by this I don’t mean understanding and being understood, I mean on a soul level being known, being accepted and being LOVED!  I don’t feel desperate in those moments, and I know deep satisfaction.  I have been brought to an inhabited city.

The Bible AND psychology say that we need to love and be loved, know and be known in order to be happy and satisfied.  Because I did not love myself, I couldn’t receive being loved by others. I couldn’t accept anything short of perfection in myself which made me constantly empty and the subject of a harsh critical voice.  It is so crazy, because as obvious as it probably is to you that perfection is impossible, I truly was chasing perfection.  I remember the moment in my living room five years ago when I realized that perfection was unattainable (really? and that somehow shocked my soul?) and I went into a depression.  It has taken some years of digging in, counseling, and the ministry of the Spirit to believe that there is satisfaction outside of perfection and to really taste the hope the God has promised.  I’m still a work in progress as my husband can definitely attest to, but there is the promise of more and I now know in my soul that it is for me!  I am meant to be known, I am meant to be loved, I am meant to be satisfied.

Praise be to God, we have Savior who walks with us.  When we, by His Grace, and His Grace alone, enter into His presence and take His yoke, He walks with us.  In His presence there is peace, rest and fullness of joy.  In His presence there is attachment, love and being known.

And after all that, that is the bottom line;  PRESENCE.  His presence first and foremost, and our presence in the reality and discomfort and stressors and agonies and irritations of our lives.  Our presence in the joys, the fun, the relationships and the ins and outs.  His presence and our presence.  Being grounded in His reality even when our flesh is screaming escape and distracted by the always pressing demands of our culture and ourselves.  Coming back again and again to drink from His well.

I would invite you to pray with me for the ministry of His Spirit and for His presence and our presence as we journey.  That we will allow ourselves to know and be known, love and be loved by God, by ourselves and by others.

Note to Self

live

This anonymous post was written by a member of the congregation as a reminder to himself that he could refer to often.

So….. What difference would it make in MY life if I lived out of being loved by God? I think it would mean that a lot of things that I perceive as being important, really aren’t. I know in my mind that I am loved by God, but do my everyday actions show that to others?

For me, the answer is no, sometimes yes, but mostly no. How do I get from point A to point B? I think that the answer is growth…… step by step.

This is what I need to do: First is a commitment to God that I really do want to grow. I know that I can’t do it alone, so I’ll need to stay in contact with Him through prayer every day…. sometimes every minute of every day.

Next, I need to hear what He has to say to me by reading His word often. I believe that I will receive the encouragement I need from Him.

Third, I need to let go, and let God! Easily said, right? I know that all things are possible with Him. He can even make changes in my life if I am willing.

A Soundtrack for the Series

From Betsy Coffey

Tonight at the Women’s Study we were talking about “Living Out of Being Loved by God.”  It was a great discussion!  Jenny Meredith shared that every time lately when she’s flipping through radio stations, she hears this song on one of the Christian stations and it was really resonating with her.  We watched the video during our time together and thought it was pretty cool and fit so in line with our discussion.  “Cuz mercy has called you by your name / Don’t be afraid to live in that grace”

Hesitation

See Mark 12:41-44

Two copper coins
Just enough to rub together
And wonder
If I should give them up

I am young enough to think
I have not cost Him much

Unlike the widow
Who will rest well tonight
Empty handed
Unafraid

She is old
and knows
how extravagant He can be

          – Karin Peabody

The Goal

By Jennie Kind

My goal is God Himself,
not  joy,
nor peace,
nor even blessings,
but my God, Himself.

-Lettie Cowman

I have been pondering this phrase for a while now. It seems simple at first glance, but after wrassling around with it I am finding it deep and complex and hard.  So I am adopting it. I will give Lettie all the credit for the first penning of it, but I am borrowing it for me and for my heart.

I started the year with a big, fat chip on my shoulder. Even in some of my worse years where you might think hope would come harder I found myself more expectantly hopeful, more eagerly joyful, more trusting of God. This year I began snippy and sullen and cynical. I am not naturally any of those things, which is maybe why I noticed.  So, I rallied…this is not how to start a new year I told myself. C’mon!! You love New Years, muster up something hopeful. The most hopeful thing I could muster, which I daresay did not come from me, is having God as my goal.

It seems like such a funny word choice…”goal” when used with God. I have never before thought of making God a “goal”.  Goals around New Years Day sound like this, my goal is to lose 25 pounds by June or my goal is to clean out the garage so I can park my car in it or my goal is to train for and complete a marathon by my birthday…things like that. Not God, right? The definition of “goal” is, “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed.”  God is my goal (result, achievement) because my effort is directed toward him. Yes, perhaps not such a funny word choice after all.

I was telling Shannon of my new goal, sort of trying it out on her, the concept of it. Her initial response was something I had not yet thought of. She said, “yes because there can be no higher goal, right?” Yes, exactly. Marathons and clean garages are great and worthy goals, but God himself? A lofty goal indeed. And…for crying out loud…could you ever be disappointed by that goal?  The answer is no. I could never be disappointed by directing my effort toward God and having the result, the achievement be God.

Not joy, nor peace, nor even blessings.  We want these things too, they are in fact good gifts that delight the Father to give to us, but they are not the goal itself. The only way I can make God my goal is to surrender all my other “goals” and to trust him. I can trust him because he loves me and that is how I am living out of being loved by God.

No Small Thing

By Kerrie Green

This concept does not seem small at all, not to me anyway. One of the biggest “aha” moments in my life happened when the concept of God’s love and the fact that there truly is no condemnation with Christ actually hit home.

Being a gal who’s done just about everything in the world you can think of that’s not good for you privacy is important. I was driving in my car with a girlfriend, an accountability partner, and I didn’t want anyone to hear what I was sharing. I’d done something I felt was terrible. It was a mistake and I was paying for it with every waking moment.

I told my friend that I felt irredeemable. How could anyone love me? My husband shouldn’t. My kids definitely shouldn’t. And she, this wonderful sister-in-Christ, stopped me in my tracks. Stop, she said, right now. Listen, Kerrie, there is absolutely no condemnation in Christ Jesus. He loves you, He is not surprised by what you’ve done nor is He shocked. Nothing can stop His love for you.

I can’t tell you how freeing that was. I remind myself of that moment all the time. The concept and weight of just knowing I’m loved by Him is the most freeing thing in my life. Living like I believe that, well, that’s no small thing.