Confession 438: Of Mountaintops and Restoration

I will strengthen the weary, and renew those who are weak. Jeremiah 31:25 (CEB)

IMG_3348“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth.” These are the words I quoted to my boys on our first morning in Breckenridge, Colorado. They politely ignored me and continued building a complicated structure of dominoes and Jenga blocks along the floor of our condo.

Basking in the glow of the mountains, I shrugged and walked to the porch with my Bible in hand, completing the Psalm silently as I gazed at the snow-capped peak in the distance.

I’ve always loved mountains. I find their firm presence comforting–a sign of quiet assurance, strength, and changelessness in a world that is often chaotic and unpredictable. When I was in college, I spent a summer working as a camp counselor in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Each night, as I closed my eyes to sleep, I felt secure knowing that I was enclosed on all sides by mighty rocks that had been there for millennia.

A few weeks ago, my husband, two boys, and I took a road trip to the Colorado Rockies. We stayed in beautiful Breckenridge, but took day trips to the Royal Gorge, Garden of the Gods, and Pike’s Peak. Before we left on our trip, I was a mess. Lots of deadlines meant long hours of writing. I was sleep-deprived, my muscles were tight, and my emotions were all over the place. My anxiety issues kicked into overdrive. I went to bed each night feeling worried and awoke each morning feeling dread. I was in deep need of some restoration.

IMG_3280

As we started our ascent into the mountains, I began to feel my anxiety falling away. I looked around at the great beauty of God’s wondrous creation. There was the vibrant cornflower blue sky contrasted with the deep green of the fir trees. There were the subtle shadows of puffy gray-white clouds falling over the mountains. There were even foam-topped mountain streams plunging down steep slopes as the snow continued to melt high above the tree line. It was glorious.

Peace came to me in the mountains like a soft breeze that cuts through the heat on an oppressive summer day. For the first time in a long time, I stopped doing and allowed myself to just be. I stood on a mountaintop and felt exultant, even though I was gasping for breath and covered in sweat. I listened to the wind blowing across the peaks, swelling  in a wonderful crescendo of timeless chords through the trees and falling still once more. I spent twenty minutes staring at an ugly goat, enthralled that it could thrive so far above the tree line where there are only craggy rocks and shrubs. And I gazed down at a world remarkably small thousands of feet below.

In those mountaintop moments, standing on rocks that were present long before humanity and that will remain when humanity is gone, God reminded me of my own insignificance. While it sounds strange, there is something greatly restorative in that knowledge. When you stand atop the mountain that was born millions of years ago, you understand that while the world focuses on this moment, God focuses on the eternal. There are processes and plans in place that reach into infinity, and we have a place in those plans. God’s eternal is our eternal, too. Our present moments don’t define us in God’s eyes; rather, he sees the bigger picture. He sees us as he created us, and he sees what we will be in his eternal kingdom.

Since we’ve returned from our Colorado adventure, I’ve tried to be more intentional about restoration. I sit on the dock and watch turtles swimming. I try to give all of my attention to conversations with others. I sit and read and think without feeling guilty about it. Sure, the anxiety is still there. Sure, there are still deadlines to meet. Sure, there are still the usual struggles, both internal and external. But, I’m working more intentionally on restoration and renewal.

This week, I would challenge you to consider finding some space in your schedule for restoration. Maybe you don’t have time for a mountain hike, but a walk through a park or rest in a quiet place can do wonders for the soul. God wants to restore you, so let him work to restore and renew your strength.

Blessings and Peace,

SaraIMG_3325

Advertisements

Confession 437: Dandelion Weeds

He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. John 15:2 (CEB)

dandelion 1

On a sunny, muggy, Monday morning, I looked out over our front gardens. The flowers were blooming nicely…vibrant purple, orange, white, and green. However, the weeds were growing nicely, too. They tend to do that, especially around our yard, as neither my husband nor I possess much gardening ability. Every so often, we go out and work for a few hours digging up weeds so that the plants have more room to grow and shine. But, inevitably, the weeds return.

As I looked at the weeds eclipsing the flowers, I decided it was time to pull. Most weeds come out with a firm twist and tug around the base of the stalk. But dandelion weeds…they grow deep. Dandelions are the perennial flower of spring and summer. They’re pretty and colorful, but they’re also invasive and pernicious. They grow over, under, and through other plants that were intentionally placed within a garden bed until they’ve overtaken the entire garden. In a sense, dandelions are the schoolyard bullies of flower beds.

Dandelion weeds are impossible to pull by hand. They’re roots are too deep and too strong. Usually, I have to dig them out, either by hand or with a small trowel. (Okay, I don’t have a small trowel because I’m not really a gardener. I just get the big shovel from the garage to dig them out.) They’re very resistant to removal, and they always find a way to come back.

dandelion rootAs I was hacking away at dandelion weeds, it occurred to me that we all carry dandelions within our being. You know, those anxieties, hurts, insecurities, or even negative patterns of behavior that persist even after we’ve pruned our hearts and grown as human beings. Our personal dandelion weeds are rooted so deeply within us that sometimes, we don’t even remember how they got there. And, removing them requires so much time, strength, and energy we sometimes feel it’s easier to just let them be. However, letting our dandelion weeds continue to grow and fester can suffocate the good fruit God is trying to grow in us.

For instance, one of my oldest and most stubborn dandelion weeds in insecurity. I’m constantly battling a litany of negative thoughts and feelings telling me that I’m not good enough. Some days, it’s body image. Other days, it’s decision-making skills. Still other days it’s worry that my own failures as a human being are going to somehow negatively influence my husband and children. These weeds wreck havoc in my life, causing me to feel anxious and depressed, and tempting me to just withdraw from the world around me.

God and I have been working on this particular set of weeds for decades. It’s a lot of mental and emotional work. It involves actively searching for the cause of my insecurity when I feel vulnerable, and making a conscious decision to either let the feeling go or do something about it. In other words, I have to actively burn the weed or turn it into something useful. Either option requires effort and a lot of help from God.

I share my own struggle with you not so that you’ll sympathize with me, but so that you’ll see we all have dandelion weeds that impact how we think and act. We all struggle with things buried deep within our souls. But, continuing to let those things grow is detrimental to the work God has called us to do. We can’t do what God calls us to do when we’re weighted down with weeds. If our soul is rooted with weeds, there’s no room for God’s good fruit. And God’s fruit is SO good!!

harvestGalatians 5 tells us that the fruit of God’s Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Imagine a life where these nine characteristics thrived within us. Imagine what we might do, what we might say, how our relationships might flourish, how much kingdom work might be done. This is what God wants to plant within us, but we have to make room. We have to prune. We have to self-assess. But, we can’t do it alone. We must ask for God’s guidance and revelation. We need to seek his wisdom and soul-tending expertise. And then, we need to use the tools he gives us to dig out those dandelion weeds so he can plant

the seeds of love,

the seeds of joy,

the seeds of peace,

the seeds of patience,

the seeds of kindness,

the seeds of goodness,

the seeds of faithfulness,

the seeds of gentleness,

the seeds of self-control.

This week, let’s commit do doing some soul-pruning. Together, let’s ask God to help us identify and begin the process of removing our dandelion weeds. Then, let’s ask God to give us his fruit for the glory of his kingdom.

Blessing and Peace,

Sara

Confession 436: Let the Children Come Unto Me

 He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing.  That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt. Revere the Lord your God, serve him, cling to him, swear by his name alone! Deuteronomy 10:18-20 (CEB)

Jesus and children
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I don’t engage much in politics. I believe faith in Jesus transcends our limited labels of Democrat or Republican. Politicizing our faith gives us a distorted and dishonest understanding of the nature of God and Jesus Christ. For example, consider the sanctity of life debate. One side uses Scripture to advocate the protection of life before birth. Another side uses Scripture to advocate the protection of life from capital punishment.

We get so entrenched in our political positions that we fail to see the greater and all-encompassing truth of the issue. Jesus preached sanctity of all life. So, as Christians, we should respect all life, regardless of what our political parties believe.

I am convinced that part of the church’s increasing irrelevancy is due to the fact that we are distorting God’s teaching in the name of politics on BOTH sides of the aisle. God’s truth is not in politics. Jesus understood this. Time and again he reminded his disciples that the kingdom he was building had nothing to do with man-made governments. Jesus didn’t come to Earth to depose Rome; rather, he came to Earth to depose Satan. But we are so stubborn and full of our own importance and significance that we continue to seek salvation in political ideology rather than the great theology of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Our insistence on being politically right or left rather than spiritually righteous is a hindrance to our faith, and the faith of others. Politicized faith does not make disciples of Jesus Christ. Love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and changed lives makes disciples of Jesus Christ, as Jesus showed us in the Gospels.

Therefore, I cannot in good conscience remain silent while political leaders attempt to distort the truth of God’s Word to justify actions that Jesus did ever condone. I feel a bit like Isaiah with a hot coal burning inside my mouth.

The government’s position on illegal immigrant children is immoral and unjust. While I understand the complexity of legalism, I cannot believe that what is being done in the name of the law to illegal immigrants and their children is justifiable by any means. Imagine the psychological turmoil these children must be experiencing. The entire situation, from crossing the border to being separated from their parents by strangers in uniform and placed in an unfamiliar environment is absolutely traumatizing. And then to justify the practice with Scripture–with the Holy Word of God?

As Jesus followers, we should be outraged. Regardless of our political beliefs about immigration, the use of Scripture to justify detaining children is abhorrent. And, it cheapens God’s Word and makes the Gospel inaccessible to others.

Jesus said, “Let the children come unto me.” If we want to spread the Gospel, we have to stop politicizing it. Instead, we must practice the truth of God’s love as evidenced in the witness of Jesus Christ. Jesus went to the unlovable, he touched the untouchable, he embraced the sinners, he called out the religious hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders.

My friends, our faith should never be in man-made institutions. They will fail us–every time. But God, the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, reigns through eternity.

This week, let us practice love. Let us practice grace. Let us extend mercy. Let us extend compassion. And let us proclaim the Gospel message that God sent his son to offer us salvation.

Merton Quote

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Confession 435: If You Need Some Inspiration

oleary

Today, I am linking out to one of my favorite authors and motivational speakers–John O’Leary. My brother-in-law introduced me to O’Leary’s book, On Fire, a couple of years ago. It was amazing. O’Leary’s story is a remarkable tale of strength, endurance, and perseverance. He inspires us to work to become our best selves, and to always stay positive in the midst of challenging circumstance.

O’Leary has a weekly inspirational blog I love. The messages are always encouraging and convicting at the same time! Today, I’d like to share this week’s inspirational message: “Rediscover the Canvas”.

O’Leary writes:

“…the freedom, genius and vibrancy that was searing within us as children remains alive within us today.”

To read more, use the link here.

Consider becoming a part of John O’Leary’s “Live Inspired” movement.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Confession 434: When you Want to Break up With Winter, but it Just Won’t Take the Hint

My friends, be patient until the Lord returns. Think of farmers who wait patiently for the spring and summer rains to make their valuable crops grow.  Be patient like those farmers and don’t give up. The Lord will soon be here! James 5:7-8 (CEV)

images-33

It snowed on Easter. Big, fat, wet flakes fell from the sky onto budding lilies, blooming daffodils, and just-greening grass. The birds squawked angrily in protest, flying from tree to tree and deck to deck in a vain attempt to find some warmth. A lone crane flew silently to the roof of a dock and stood glaring at the unwelcome precipitation for hours. As winter choked spring in it’s iron fist once more and we re-buried ourselves under downy blankets, my husband asked the question, “How do you break up with winter?”

I considered for a moment and began drafting a mental response. It went something like this:

Dear Winter,

We’ve had a lot of fun these past several months. I’ve greatly enjoyed the moments we’ve spent together, walking across the frozen lake, playing in the snow, and curling up with blankets and hot cocoa on long, dark nights. But, I’m just not in the same place I was when we first met. I need more than you can give right now. I want to see other seasons. It’s not you, it’s me. Hoping we can still be friends???

Needless to say, Winter did not oblige. As much as I am ready to move into the jubilation of Spring, to bask in the glow of the sun while cool breezes brush my cheeks, to dig my fingers deep into the moist, soft earth and plant small seedlings of hope and promise, Winter is not ready to move on. Apparently, there is work still to be done. And so, we wait…and wait…and wait…

Winter is not just something we experience in the climatological realm; we are seasonal in our souls, too. There are moments in our lives that are spring-like, full of joy, hope, and promise. But then, there are seasons of winter–weeks, months, or years when our hearts are wrapped in an iron fist of sorrow, anxiety, or fear. It could be an unexpected job loss that leads to financial turmoil. It could be a long-term illness that exhausts our spiritual and financial resources. It could be the demise of a relationship, or the death of a loved one that plunges us into a state of grief and change.

When winter comes to our souls, we want to break up with it as soon as possible. But, like the weather, we have no ability to make it move. James 5 reminds us that, when we are faced with the relentlessness of winter in our lives, we must “wait patiently for the spring and summer rains.” Because just as Spring will arrive in all its glory one fine and unsuspecting day, so God will arrive in all of his glory when we least expect him to come.

images-34

“Don’t give up,” James reminds the early Christians who were persecuted and despised. “The Lord will come!” This, then, is the great promise of our faith–the Lord will come. Time and again, from the Old Testament to New, prophets and apostles have proclaimed this message: The Lord Will Come! This promise isn’t just about the final restoration of God’s kingdom on Earth, it is a promise for the here and now. It is a reminder that, no matter how tightly Winter holds our hearts in its cold, gray grip, God is with us. God is working in our lives to bring about his glory. Although we may not see his work, we trust that it is being done. And, when it is ready, God will reveal it to us.

I wish I could give you a sure-fire easy way to break up with Winter when it just won’t let go. I wish I could tell you that Spring is just around the corner, and everything will be fine. But, that’s not the way our broken world works. Winter hangs on. Storms wreak havoc. We suffer. We mourn. We are afraid. However…there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Winter cannot last forever. Spring is waiting on the wing. And though we might shed tears for a time, we will laugh again. In the meantime, we must be patient and wait through the Winter for God to come. Because we know that he always keeps his promises.

God will carry us through the pain and sorrow of an unimaginable loss. God will strengthen and walk with us through the course of a long-term illness. God will provide and open doors for us when employment and finances become unstable. God will give us wisdom and guidance when faced with a difficult decision. We might not see him right away. There might be some “dark nights of the soul” to face. But, even in those long, dark, nights, he is there working. And, he will come.

cherry blossom 2

I don’t know what season of life you’re facing right now, but if you’re in the midst of Winter–take heart! Remember that the Lord will come.

  • Genesis 18:10: “I will come back!”
  • Isaiah 29:6: I, the Lord All-Powerful, will come to your rescue with a thundering earthquake and a fiery whirlwind.
  • Isaiah 41:17: When the poor and needy are dying of thirst and cannot find water, I, the Lord God of Israel, will come to their rescue. I won’t forget them.
  • Isaiah 56:1 Soon I will come to save you; my saving power will be seen everywhere on earth.
  • Malachi 3:17: Then the Lord All-Powerful said: You people are precious to me, and when I come to bring justice, I will protect you, just as parents protect an obedient child.
  • Acts 3:20 Then that time will come when the Lord will give you fresh strength. He will send you Jesus, his chosen Messiah.
  • Romans 10: 13 All who call out to the Lord will be saved.
  • Romans 12:12: Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying.
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:16: God our Father loves us. He is kind and has given us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope. We pray that our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father.
  • Titus 2:13: We are filled with hope, as we wait for the glorious return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • Hebrews 10:23: We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us.
  • 1 Peter 1:3: Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is so good, and by raising Jesus from death, he has given us new life and a hope that lives on.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Confession 433: Love That Surpasses All Understanding

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge… Ephesians 3:18-19 (NIV)

Confession 274: A Monday Meditation

This morning, on the eve of Maundy Thursday, I was reading Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning Devotional” at biblegateway.com. As I was looking for some wisdom to pull me into the sacred that should be Holy Week, these words spoke to me.

Spurgeon writes of Christ’s journey to the cross:

“To be a man was something, to be a man of sorrows was far more; to bleed, and die, and suffer, these were much for him who was the Son of God; but to suffer such unparalleled agony–to endure a death of shame and desertion by his Father, this is a depth of condescending love which the most inspired mind must utterly fail to fathom. Herein is love! and truly it is love that “passeth knowledge.” O let this love fill our hearts with adoring gratitude, and lead us to practical manifestations of its power.”

When I consider God’s love that passes all understanding, I’m usually thinking of myself. God loves me, God sacrificed his son for me, God’s love will never leave me. The love that surpasses all understanding is like a warm, fuzzy blanket I can pull over myself when the world gets too cold, too big, too confusing, too frightening. When life goes wrong, I remember that God loves me anyway.

But Spurgeon’s words reveal a deeper truth to God’s love than my own selfish understanding. They remind us that the incomprehensible nature of this love isn’t about a feeling of warmth or security; rather, the incomprehensible nature of this love is that Jesus endured humiliation, torture, and an agonizing death so that we might be reconciled to God. And that incomprehensible truth should pull us out of our beds each morning and propel us first to our knees, and then forward into a world that is desperate for reconciliation carrying the banner of God’s truth and love.

God’s love isn’t a security blanket to soothe our wounded souls. God’s love is a powerful force in motion that is meant to save the world. God’s love brings peace. God’s love brings reconciliation. God’s love brings equity. God’s love brings justice.

Over the next few days, as you begin the journey toward Resurrection Sunday, I would invite you to spend some time with Jesus as he makes his way to Calvary. See him as he agonizes in the garden. Watch as his friends betray him. Listen as he is falsely accused of trumped up crimes. Cringe as he is beaten, stripped, flogged, and humiliated in the palace and in the streets of Jerusalem. Pause as his last breath leaves his broken body and he is unceremoniously left in a dark and cold tomb. And remember…this is God’s love. God sacrificed a part of himself to bring reconciliation to the world.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Confession 432: Spring Cleaning

If we say that we share in life with God and keep on living in the dark, we are lying and are not living by the truth.  But if we live in the light, as God does, we share in life with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus washes all our sins away.  If we say that we have not sinned, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth isn’t in our hearts. 1 John 1:6-8 (CEV)

flowers

This weekend, my husband and I worked together to do some much-needed spring cleaning. I tackled the upstairs while he worked on our boys’ basement lair. It’s amazing what a solid hour and a half of picking up, sorting, organizing and sweeping can do! If you know me at all, you know that cleaning is not one of my fortes. I joke that it’s not a “spiritual gift” I was given. That said, I do really enjoy vacuuming.

We got a new vacuum cleaner last year, a Shark DuoClean upright vacuum, and this baby does it all. It’s lightweight, works on both carpet and hardwood/linoleum, tackles pet hair and children, has bright LED lights on the front so you can see into dark corners, is flat enough to sneak under furniture, and easily detaches from the base so you can vacuum anything, anywhere.  As my boys like to quip, the Shark vacuum really “sucks”.

vacuumI think the think I love most above vacuuming is that you see an immediate difference, especially when you have light carpets. What was dingy and flat moments before is suddenly bright and full-bodied once again. As I vacuumed this weekend, I started thinking about the fact that sometimes we need to do some spring cleaning in our souls. Like our carpets, our souls can gather dust and dirt that corrodes our spirit and draws us away from God. We hold onto things like anger, bitterness, disappointment, and despair. We focus on the acquisition and consumption of material things, building a desire for bigger, better, and more that turns our attention from the work God calls us to. We embed fears and anxieties, always nervously looking to the potential “what ifs” rather than the present “what is”. We also sprinkle onto our souls our own negative self-talk; those internal voices that scream we’re not good enough, pretty enough, popular enough,  smart enough, skinny enough, kind enough, etc.

This is not the way God designed our souls to be. God doesn’t want us to live with souls that are dingy and flat with the weight of all the world’s negativity. Rather, God wants to infuse our souls with his light. God wants to use his grace and love to restore our souls to the bright and full-bodied condition they were in when he formed us. But to do that, we’ve got to do some spring cleaning ourselves. Note what John says in the Scripture above: If we live in the light, we share in life with each other. There’s a two-fold process here. First, we live in the light. This means that we follow God’s law, as revealed to us through Jesus Christ. We practice love, we worship God, we stand up for those who are oppressed, we speak in truth and kindness, we practice humility, we forgive. John says that if we do these things, then we share in life with each other. The Christian journey is not a solitary experience. God wants us to share it with others. But, to have that experience of a shared faith, we need to practice our faith. The Message puts it this way:

If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin.

God has already redeemed us from our sin. Jesus’ death on the cross washed our souls, and his resurrection from the grave gave us new life. But, we have to choose to walk the path of light and life instead of continuing to stumble around in the dark.

This week, I challenge you to spend some time engaged in soul cleaning. Identify those things you’re holding onto that keep you from fully living in the light of God’s love and grace. Then, ask God to help you remove them from your life, so that you can experience spiritual renewal this Eastertide.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Confession 431: Love is Inclusive

The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. Some of us are Jews, and others are Gentiles. Some of us are slaves, and others are free. But God’s Spirit baptized each of us and made us part of the body of Christ. Now we each drink from that same Spirit. Our bodies don’t have just one part. They have many parts. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (CEV)

tree

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love movies. I was about 10 when I began really studying film, watching classic movies and reading movie star biographies. To me, film is art in motion. I love the stories that are developed using light and shadow, music, dialogue, and camera techniques. A good film always shares a theme that resonates beyond the screen and touches some facet of our lives.

Last night, as we watched the 90th presentation of the Academy Awards, I was really struck by the continuous reference to diversity. Time and again presenters and award winners spoke of the need for diversity and equality within the film industry, and society. As I watched the call for diversity be made over and over again, I thought to myself, “Why are we still talking about diversity in 2018?” Of course, I know why. It’s because in 2018, people are still treated differently based on their color, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and even political and religious beliefs.

It’s disheartening, really, to think about how far we’ve come in technological advancements, but how little we’ve progressed when it comes to inclusivity. But even as I type that statement, I can’t help thinking about my boys. My boys are 9 and 11 years old. Like many boys, they love superhero movies. When the Black Panther was first introduced as a primary character in the Marvel movie universe a few years ago, my boys were thrilled. They thought the Black Panther was everything a superhero should be–cool, wise, just, tough, and adept at witty repartee. They couldn’t wait for Black Panther to get his own movie, and my oldest gave it almost 5 stars after he saw it.

My boys had no real concept that Black Panther was the first black superhero given a full-length feature film. I’m not sure they even thought about the fact that the Black Panther featured a predominately black cast. They had the same reaction when Wonder Woman first hit screens this summer. Wonder Woman’s gender was a non-issue for them. They simply liked her character.

You see, somewhere along the line my boys have come to understand that people are people, no matter the labels the world so eagerly plasters on each of us, and that understanding gives me hope.

heart on path

My husband is preaching a Lenten series titled “What Love Does”, and as I reflect on the actions of love this morning, it comes to me that Love is inclusive.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I’m not talking about the political dynamics of inclusivity. Inclusivity isn’t a political principle for Democrats and Republicans to square off on, although as humans we’ve probably turned it into that. Rather, inclusivity is an intentional practice of love that shows others a part of God’s nature and character.

As Paul notes in 1 Corinthians, we all drink from the same Spirit, no matter our background. God’s love is inclusive. Therefore, Love is inclusive.

Jesus modeled the practice of inclusivity in his earthly ministry. Jesus:

  • called disciples from diverse backgrounds
  • offered salvation to a Samaritan woman outcast in her own society
  • touched both those who were ceremonially unclean and contagious
  • healed the daughter of a Roman soldier
  • dined with Zacchaeus, a tax collector, and other people considered to be highly sinful
  • allowed an unidentified woman to anoint his feet with oil in the middle of a fancy dinner
  • offered the gifts of salvation and forgiveness to a Pharisee
  • allowed children to come into his presence and be blessed
  • forgave the sins of anyone who came to him, regardless of their way of life
  • redeemed a thief hanging beside him on a cross

Paul continued the practice of inclusivity in his work. He ministered to both Greeks and Romans, fought against traditional laws that inhibited faith development, allowed women to be in some sort of leadership position, lived with those considered unclean, and ministered to a diverse array of people.

Jesus spoke to Peter about inclusivity, as well. When Peter was confronted with the prospect of eating unclean food with a Gentile, Jesus showed Peter that nothing God makes is unclean. Rather, it is humanity that defiles the goodness of God.

diversityInclusivity is not easy; unfortunately, it seems to go against our human nature. I see this in myself, in those times when I want to shut out people who hold vastly different views, beliefs, or opinions than I have. Sometimes, when I engage in a conversation with someone who thinks or believes differently than I do, I find myself thinking, “So, we’re not ever going to be friends.” Then I feel a light push in the small of my back and hear the gentle, but firm whisper of God saying, “Don’t be a hypocrite.” Love is inclusive.

The world tells us that it’s easier to be in relationship with like-minded people. The world tells us that different is dangerous; different means less wealth, less power, less status, less room for us. But that’s a lie that comes straight from the enemy’s mouth.

The truth is, inclusivity is not hard. But to practice inclusivity, we have to be willing to understand the heart of people, not just the surface. And understanding the heart takes time and effort. I think it also takes grace.

This week, as you go through you day to day routines, I would challenge you to think about inclusivity. Where is God calling you to step out of your comfort zone and show his love to someone who is “other” than you? How is God calling you to confront your own prejudices and exclusivity? How can you work this week to show the world that Love is inclusive?

Blessings and Peace,

Sara