Hawks and Doves

 

Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge
Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

I was awakened Saturday morning by a beautiful, red-tailed hawk on a tree branch inches away from my open bedroom window.

I heard the screeching and did not know what it was at first. A bird I did not recognize.

Creeping silently to the window, I raised my head to see this wondrous creature yowling into the morning sun. And then I looked down.

The diet of hawks is about 85% rodent, which is what I expected to see. What I saw horrified me; in the claws of this great raptor was another bird, dead and limp.

These are the birds that usually waken me with soft songs of love and grace. Harmonies of hope and new beginnings. Not today.

“We are under the sad delusion our mission is to be hawks for Christ”

As I watched the hawk attempt to both feast and hang onto her prey, I was further disturbed as she plucked the feathers one by one seeming to ravage her quarry as she laid waste to the spoils.

I wholly recognize this was the hawk’s way of getting to the meat it needed to survive.

Yet, an hour later, as I sat down to write my Sunday poem of praise and love, the Spirit would not allow me to do so. He took me back to the image of that hawk and opened my eyes to the way we treat each other.

red-tailed_hawkWe aim our hawk-eye, judgmental sights on one another. We dive down and capture our prey. We pick and pluck and extricate each lapse, defect, mistake. We are under the sad delusion our mission is to be hawks for Christ and hunt down every sinning miscreant; pluck out each feather of iniquity so we can gorge on the intestines of ostracism.

We want to savor the spoils of our “success,” beat them into submission and walk away as we pat our self-righteous, hawkish backs, engorged with a meal of “I did it for Jesus.”

~                      ~                      ~

Here in my little corner of the world, I continue to beat the quiet drum of the dove.

The drum that says we are to love; we are to be peacemakers. The drum that says we are to show the grace and mercy of God; the compassion of Jesus, the outstretched arms of our Father.

We have two missions, if we choose to accept them, which I wrote about in Back to Basics 3 and Part 4.

We are to be the light and love of the Lord so people can see and experience Jesus through us, and to bring the Good News to people, creating an open door through which they might step and choose to be embraced by the Father.

It isn’t important what we say but how we are heard. If all we do is rant and screech, we are like fingernails on a blackboard, like clanging symbols.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Instead of focusing on what we want to say, let’s pay attention to what Jesus says, those red-lettered words. Let’s bang the drum of love:

“For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17 NASB)

“So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.” (John 13:34-35, The Voice)

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8 NLT)

We must not mistake accusation and condemnation for love. We must not mistake what we think of as brutal honesty as ministering in love. We must always test our own thinking and agendas with the Words of God. And we must always yield to love, abiding in the wisdom and fruit of the Spirit.

Following the Thread

But I am like a green olive tree, thriving in the house of God.

I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever. (Psalm 52:8)

OliveTree

On occasion I like to look at a verse revealed to me and follow the thread (those tiny, inside marginal notes) through my Bible until it leads right back to that verse again. My devotional this morning presented me with the verse above.

I do thrive when I spend time with God. There is nothing better than opening my heart and mind to the Spirit, allowing a mystery to be imparted from the Living Word. Sometimes, His hand, His love and grace travel deep into my core, and I feel Him surrounding me with His unfailing love. Which led me to the verses below.

goldthread.1The Lord once called you a green olive tree; beautiful with good fruit. (Jeremiah 11:16a)

And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There is no law against these things. (Galatians 5:22-23)

But some of the olive branches have been broken off, and you, a wild olive branch, have been grafted in their place. You get your nourishment from the roots of the olive tree. So don’t brag about being better than the other branches. If you brag, remember that you don’t support the root, the root supports you. (Romans 11:17-18)

As I respond to other people – people unlike me, who have different ways of being, contrasting points of view, I must recall His commands to love. They are not many and are not optional, but vital to my life under His domain. Instead of letting anger or fear control my mind and heart, I humble myself to the Spirit’s control.

As I allow His Spirit to work in me and mature my faith, His strength uplifts me and enables me to embody His fruit when I alone cannot. He empowers me to love, to have patience, to be kind and generous, to be gentle and to have self-control.

I am the Vine and my Father is the Vinedresser. Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. A branch cannot bear fruit if it is disconnected from the vine, and neither will you if you are not connected to Me. I am the Vine, and you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear sweet fruit. Without Me, you will accomplish nothing. (John 15:2, 4-5)

What mysteries are revealed to me in the thread of these verses?

Do not adhere to ideologies; to not cling to law.

Do not hold fast to doctrine; do not grasp onto litmus tests.

Do not worship the word

Or let it become your god.

Instead, hold fast to Jesus; cling to the Father.

Worship God; give dignity to His name.

Gain nourishment from the roots of the Tree;

Obtain wisdom from the Vine.

Discern with clear eyes through truth and the Spirit.

Forgive, dispense grace and mercy; offer compassion and love.

Honor all life: the unborn; lgbtq; Christian, Jew and Muslim; Democrat and Republican; man and woman, white collar and blue collar, those from every nation, faces of every color, for God loves the heart.

Whenever possible, be a peacemaker.

Stay humble, open to the Spirit’s teaching.

We are here at His behest, His creation, all beloved children of our Father.

Isn’t it time we treat each other that way?

5 Positive Things that Occur When Disciples Leave Church

©theverybesttop10.com
©theverybesttop10.com

Numerous articles are published and posted listing reasons why Christians should go to church and the lousy excuses we make for avoiding church attendance on Sundays. We all pretty much know the reasons people leave, so I won’t list them here. Pastors and others in church leaderships make lots of assumptions about what happens to us Christians when we leave church. For their benefit, and for the benefit of those of us who do, I wanted to set the record straight.

1. We have the freedom to establish our own relationship with God without having to follow a pre-established, denominational set of rules.

In solitude, we are able to develop our listening ears for His voice without the stumbling block of anyone else telling us how we’re supposed to listen. We have the freedom to step outside of rules without the construct of an organization telling us what we’re supposed to do or not do in order to have God’s unique attention. We finally have the comfort of talking with God with ease, and telling Him everything we’ve wanted to say. We can talk and listen anytime, and simply be with Him any time of the day.

2. We ask the questions we’ve always wanted to ask.

Without being rebuffed, we have the opportunity to ask stupid questions, deep questions, and questions that relate directly to our own circumstances. We are finally at liberty to bring up questions of doubt, of contradiction, or lack of understanding and have them answered fully without regard for time. We can choose our own study Bible and look through it to help us understand God’s Word, going at our own pace.

3. We find other believers across the nation or world who are exactly where we are, establish relationships with them, and grow and mature our faith with them.

As we join in exploration of our faith together, we open our hearts and minds to different ways of perceiving and receiving the heart of God. We are able to allow more of His Spirit to work in us because we allow ourselves to know Him more deeply. We see a bigger God than we ever imagined, and begin to understand the amazing ways in which He lives and works through others across the world.

4. As we increasingly know God, we increasingly show more of Him.

Our heart and mind transforms. No longer do we live in the fear of doing the wrong thing. Instead, we live in the love of our Father’s embrace. We live in the knowledge there is no more condemnation, and nothing can separate us from the love of God as we live in Christ’s Spirit. We allow the light and love of Jesus to shine through us; this is the glory of God.

5. We begin making disciples.

The more we know God, about His heart for us and about His lavish love and grace, the more we desire to share it with others. We want to make Him known to those whose only experience of God is through those who would present Him as a God of wrath and condemnation.  The more we understand the vastness of God – that He isn’t only for one country or one denomination or one people group – the more we want to shout His name and glorify and honor the immeasurable height and width and depth of Who He is.

6. (Bonus) Some of us actually return to church.

When given the opportunity, without judgment or condemnation, to spend a season outside the confines of church walls, some of us are moved by the Spirit to come back, perhaps in the hope we can make a difference in the lives of church leadership. Perhaps we return as a way to touch the lives of people in our former church. Maybe we come back because we miss group worship or Bible study. Conceivably the Spirit has sent us back to contribute in a way our gifting will benefit the church.

Either way, returning or not, I would ask you who write about those of us who leave church to open your outlook a bit and see it from a different perspective; rather than abandonment, view it as a season of growth.

The Need for Tuesday Christians

Tuesday’s Child is Full of Grace

Devonte Hart ©cbsnews
Devonte Hart ©cbsnews

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malicious behavior, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Be wise in the way you act toward those who are outside the Christian faith. Make the most of every opportunity. Everything you say should be gracious and kind, (seasoned with salt) so you respond to each person rightly.” (Colossians 3:8, 4:5-6)

Here I am, checking in. How have we fared since Good Friday, since Easter Sunday, only seven and five days passed?

Has our talk of grace waned like the phase of the moon? Have our gracious actions waned as well? Have we gone about our daily business without a thought about why we shared the bread and cup Moon phases.waninglast Friday? Have we passed up opportunities to offer grace to those we live or work with, forgetting the Grace offered us and the reason we celebrated on Sunday?

We walked into church in our Sunday best, smiled at those around us, and nodded at the pastor’s sermon. And some of us didn’t even make it to the parking lot before we got angry at something or someone. Many of us didn’t make it home to our front doors. Some of us didn’t make it through Monday at work.

Like that old nursery rhyme, I’m asking all of us to be Tuesday Christians, full of grace. Let’s try to carry the cross of love and mercy and grace with us throughout our week. Let’s meet folks where they are, just as Jesus did. Instead of thinking and talking and behaving the same old way, let’s allow the Spirit of the Lord to transform us. I mean, if we don’t allow the Spirit to make an impact upon us at Easter, when will we let him in?

So it’s only one week away from Good Friday; only five days away from Easter. Have we entirely forgotten the words Jesus spoke to us? Have we already chosen to turn our backs on him by justifying our own words and behavior?

As I listen to politicians, their mouths spewing words like, “moron,” “imbecile,” “loser,” and phrases like, “I’d love to punch him in the face,” I worry at their popularity among those calling ourselves Christians.  Are we really buying the lie that anger will lead us to right thinking? That anger will lead us toward a closer relationship with our God?

As you know, long ago God instructed Moses to tell His people, “Do not murder; those who murder will be judged and punished.” But here is the even harder truth: I tell you, anyone who is angry with his brother will be judged for his anger. Anyone who taunts his friend, speaks contemptuously toward him, or calls him “Loser” or “Fool” or “Idiot,” will have to answer to the high court. (Matthew 5:21-22)

I don’t know about you, but for me, it seems sometimes as though our words and actions have journeyed far from grace. They have traveled far from the Living Water they were meant to be. We cannot extend grace if our hearts and minds are intransigent, if our ideas have become frozen like cement, if our notions of what we are supposed to do have caused us to make them into new laws to follow. We cannot mature in our faith in frozen water, only in Living Water.

I think far too often, we confuse faith with religion. And faith with theology. And faith with denominations. And faith with doctrine. The moment we are no longer inviting to those who aren’t just like us, we begin to harden. Cement swells or shrinks with the temperature, while water flows into every parched crack of our souls. Maybe cement cannot be moved, but it is water that nourishes us and brings life to us all.” Steve Austin, Wrestling with Messy Grace

Angel’s Journal, First Entry: “Drama, Not Tragedy…”

Journal Entry:

Something very strange has been happening, and you can cut the tension with a knife. I wish I knew… I wish I understood… I wish I could see beyond the mist of time Our King has placed in our way. It is all very strange. Of course it has been so for “years”, as men call them.

The Dark Ones have been cackling with a very self-satisfied (and disturbing) air of conspiratorial glee for months now. We see their obvious plotting. Of course, most of us have watched events breathlessly, and cheer every time The Master wins out over the clever traps of those who seek His defeat.

But beyond the general buzz here, (and of course, heaven doesn’t usually “buzz” at all), but these thirty three years have been altogether strange in our experience… but beyond that general buzz, there was that incredible flurry of excitement months ago when the plotting began in earnest. We hang on every word and thought around The Master, jostling to be the “messenger” when He gets apart to spend time with His Majesty on the mountainside… Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, one or two of us get to go there, alongside Him, as servant to comfort… or like when the escorts went with Moses and Elijah and The Master spoke with them face to face.

We have waited. Tensely, anxiously, hopefully… we have waited for the order. We just KNOW that His Majesty is working a plan, His will, with The Master that will bring all this to a great and triumphal climax! We just KNOW that! But… but… we have no idea HOW! Everything seems like it’s going from bad to worse. The Dark Ones are gaining ever more leverage among the authorities. People among whom The Master walks, even those He is with day in and day out, seem to miss the point of EVERYTHING He is saying. (All the time!)

Yes… the tension here is so great you can almost see it hang like a mist in the air! Last week it got so much worse. (Who would have thought it could?) But last week, beyond all belief, the herald angels blew their trumpets… the Great King, His Majesty, called ALL before Him to speak with us. His voice cut across the Cosmos, piercing every heart and mind assembled, as He spoke.

“My Children. Angels, Saints, Sleepers, Creation, I must tell you something hard for you to hear. Hard for you to bear. It will be hard for you to witness, but bear this you must…

“Your Master, My Son, My Beloved… whom you have watched over so diligently for what has seemed an eternity of man-time as He developed through His earthly life… will be coming home very soon now.”

At this there was a moment of great joy and adulation! Cheering nearly broke out, dampened only by the somber tones in which this announcement had been proclaimed. It sounded more like the pronouncement of a sentence, than the triumphal heralding of return. We were, again, confused.

“I must tell you, right here, right now… that all that is unfolding is My Will. You may not, you MUST not, interfere in anything you will see or hear. You will want to. You will know you could. My Son will even say something, soon, that you will want to interpret as permission to rescue Him. But it is NOT. Listen carefully to the words He says, and remember this assembly before Me. You may not move, you may not act, no matter what you see, hear, think or feel… until I give you specific permission to do so.

“Does EVERYONE here, clearly understand that?”

And His Majesty looked sadly and solemnly into the eyes of every being there, individually. (He can do that… it’s one of those odd… well… just trust me, He can do that.)

Each of us yielded and submitted to His command, as we spoke, “Yes, Father,” to Him. And we were dismissed.

Many of us looked around at one another, wondering what this could all mean. We looked at the Archangels, wondering if they knew more than we did. Their expressions gave nothing away, but for their hearts being filled with concern, sadness, and perhaps just a touch of anger. Gabriel, Raphael, Michael, angels of care, of death, of judgment, angels of ponds and pools, guardian angels, seraphim, cherubim, all the heavenly host… all drifted back to their assigned duties, filled with concern and readiness.

It is hard to say whether Michael or Gabriel were having the hardest time. Gabriel had always held The Master and His Mother in tender concern and care, ever since The Master left His throne here and incarnated. Michael, on the other hand, leader of The Master’s Host, just keeps polishing His sword, constantly tormented by all the threats of violence against the Master’s person that he overhears humans plotting… frustrated at being forbidden to deal with the miscreants himself.

So… we wait.

Something tremendous is happening. There is a sense of dread in the air. We have been warned and commanded, and clearly such an unusual assembly portends great and terrible events.

A drama unfolds… it is unfolding as we speak… but we KNOW somehow, that it is not a tragedy. But how can this be so?

We shall just wait and see… We have no obedient choice…

Journal Entry by – Makarion Nous, Angel 3rd Class, General Duties


Love’s Lost Light.

My first feeble attempt at poetry :P.

 

Seeing now what’s always been,

another sight too blind for sin.

How it goes we’ve always seen,

repeat it does in hand-built scheme.

 

Insisting now the bottom found,

of love that never has had bound.

Yet words found state works are right,

still hasten on that darker night.

 

Joy is now as pain will sing,

lonely solace, tortured king.

Outside the inner wall was built,

strong enough to hold the guilt.

 

Safe is not where questions dwell,

reversed, did judge, the Hades’ hell.

For in was out and out was in,

though still insisting hatred’s sin.

 

Words of spirit read by soul,

spoken loud from blinded hole.

Spirit sees what soul will hide,

deceptive curse of selfish pride.

 

Perceive the tale whose meaning hid,

of those who plot of others rid.

While bids are lain for hope to end,

lines in sand will proud defend.

 

And words hold true when all approve,

but tortured king has made the move.

Love’s pure light was found and lost,

repeat again forsaken’s cost.

I’m sorry

“Then Nathan said to David: You are the man.” 2 Samuel 12:7 (NAB Revised Edition)

“I’ve lost the use of my heart
But I’m still alive
Still looking for the light
And the endless pool on the other side
It’s the wild wild west
I’m doing my best
I’m at the borderline of my faith
I’m at the hinterland of my devotion
I’m in the front line of this battle of mine
But i’m still alive”

Soldier of Love, Sade

The words of Nathan stung as I woke up this morning . They were the first I read. I felt the small twinge of a spiritual knife cut into me. I sat with those words, tossed them around and waited, waited for some deeper message to emerge. But the deeper message was already there behind those simple words, “You are the man.” But the words, they were not directed at David, they were directed at me.

Yesterday, after God told me to remain in what I refer to as my “inner convent” I wrote anyway. I couldn’t stop myself. Sometimes the pain of heart runs deep, so deep that the words have to come out. For me, it is through my writing. I have been refined enough to know to hold my tongue, to take it to prayer. I have succeeded spiritually in not feeling anger towards the other person, but sorrow. And writing for me, like many is a gift that God has given me. That gift was buried deep within me for over twenty years, until the Lord said it was time. It took another year after I found Jesus, or rather Jesus found me that I was able to write. And my words, my words are at His direction, never anything I write myself. But there are sometimes I write, when I shouldn’t, and yesterday was one of them.

I appreciate so much this community of faith. This community of loving believers who offer correction and reproof or just some subtle words that say it all to me. Part of this journey involves being exposed and honest. Being vulnerable before people who I know, and those that I don’t. I am beyond imperfect. But I am eager and hungry to learn and be refined in the fire. So I picked up my cross yesterday and this morning was crucified. How else will I learn?

I am willing to be transparent for the God I love and serve. I am more than sure I have disappointed Him on many occasions. Empathy is something that for the most part I do not struggle with, but others do and I have to understand that. I have a lot of emotional depth and breath to me. Some people do not. I have to respect the way God made them and that God is working on them too, as He is working on me. And it is not my job or position to judge them, but to love them in their imperfect state. Father forgive them for they know not what they do…

And it’s always about me. It’s always about you. If we are willing to be vulnerable and humble and exposed, that crucifixion in our hearts will be all the more sweet. My sin- judgment, maybe yours lack of love. I am humbly sorry to anyone I may have offended. I am also a sinner saved by God’s grace. He chose me to carry His message. And sometimes I am imperfect.

And maybe it’s a message for all of us that write. We are messengers sent to bring a certain message, not our own. God maybe pointing to you and saying, “You are the man.” It is a good time to sit and reflect, to examine your conscience and say, “Yes, Yes I am that man, ” and be refined.

Thank you for allowing me to expose myself, to share my message, for keeping me accountable. May God’s love reign in your hearts always, and may you continue to walk in the light of His love.