Follow me

Image

I just got another email from Twitter, LinkedIn, and suggestions from Facebook to follow some “thought leader”, a friend on Twitter,  a page, a brand.   And it struck me that we receive so many requests these days to follow someone– and without too much thought because they seem familiar, we will “follow” them to where ever they want to take us. And with a click of a button, we are following a rabbit hole via a random thought on twitter, a new experience from a service provider, music from a new artist, or a provocative article or blog post on a subject we maybe interested in.

It gets even more interesting still, that information gatherers like Google, and social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are gathering data and making assumptions about YOU based on who you “follow” and what you may have clicked on no matter how random it is. Based on many of our half-hearted commitments to follow,  this information is sold to others to then draw you to “follow” them.  This is superficial.

But really following someone, some thing, some message takes a lot more commitment than pushing a button.  Really following someone is getting out of your seat, leaving your familiar places to pursue where the other person is going. It takes time. It takes action. It takes resources. It can be risky. It requires faith.   Sometimes you don’t even know where the other person is going, but really following has faith that where ever that destination is, is where YOU need to be.

John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

Well, Jesus was one of the first to say “Follow me”.  He called/beckoned His disciples using those words and they immediately left all to follow Him.  There doesn’t appear to be too much discussion, but somehow when He spoke, the words ignited a passion to leave all, risk all to have it all. Real following requires real discipleship.

Mark 10:28-30 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,  But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. 

Trust Peter to always speak up. In Matthew, he adds a question to his declaration of having left all to follow Christ.  He says “what do we get?”    But look at Jesus’ heart — He is always seeking to give  us exponentially  more than whatever we give up to follow Him in this life.   But even more telling is that the disciplines did not ask Him this when they first left all to follow Him.  In those first words Jesus spoke to them, “Follow Me”, they had already found everything worth living for.

Laissez les bon temps rouler! What shall I render

I am refreshing /updating this note I wrote after Ash Wednesday 2009.  It still blesses me because it refocuses my mind in the Lenten season as a dedication and cultivation of my relationship with Christ right before He paid the ultimate price for our salvation and ultimate reconciliation with our Heavenly Father.  

“Laissez les bon temps rouler!” Let the Good Times Roll right into Lent

As a native of Louisiana,  Ash Wednesday was a huge deal because of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) whose whole existence is based on the big day of revelry and excess before the Lenten season begins.  Let’s live it up, before we have to give up everything.  What shall I give up is really tired, old, deficit thinking. The Good Book says obedience is better than sacrifice.  Obedience is a forward looking act of your will – acting on a requirement.   All sacrifice should come from a place of obedience rather than convenience.    This Lenten season, I am challenged to think deliberately of how I will prioritize my time to honor and cultivate my relationship with God in every area.

what shall I render


Ps 116:12 says in the Amplified version: “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? [How can I repay Him for all His bountiful dealings?]” 

The Lenten journey is marked by sacrifice – in recognition of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness before he began his ministry, facing the temptations that could lead him to abandon his mission and calling. Christians today use this period of time for introspection, self examination, and repentance.

Many times we “give up” things, to sacrifice as Jesus did – to discipline our bodies and ultimately conquer it’s desires so we can focus on our purpose, goals etc. It’s very self-focused about getting ourselves right before God.

But this passage provokes me to ask the question ” What shall I GIVE, rather than “give up” — it is directed as an act of thanksgiving for God’s goodness rather than my own failures and struggles.  We don’t have stop having a good time during Lent, we can celebrate and honor our relationship with Him!

Of course, we can never repay God for what He has done for us – but psalmist offers a few suggestions in the following verses 13+. It’s a wonderful place to start

1. Thank God for His Blessings and partake of His saving grace

  • Ps 116:13 says: “I will lift up the cup of salvation and deliverance and call on the name of the Lord. Per one of the commentaries: To take the cup of salvation was in itself an act of worship, and it was accompanied with other forms of adoration, hence the Psalmist says, and call upon the name of the LORD. He means that he will utter blessings and thanksgivings and prayers, and then drink of the cup which the Lord had filled with his saving grace.

2. Boldly commit to do what you have vowed before God, and proclaim His goodness to others. 

  • Verse 14. “I will pay my vows to the Lord, yes, in the presence of all His people.
  • Another commentary writes: The Psalmist has already stated his resolution, to devote himself to the worship of God evermore, and here he commences the performance of that resolve. The vows which he had made in anguish, he now determines to fulfil. “I will pay my vows unto the Lord.” He does so at once, “now,” and that publicly, “in the presence of all his people.” Good resolutions cannot be carried out too speedily; vows become debts, and debts should be paid.

In this age of lack of commitment and betraying on ones word, “Do what you said you would do – no excuses, and don’t be ashamed of witnesses.” It’s liberating to live out your faith, to you and those around you. 

3. Rededicate your service to God, and as we do this we are free AND stay free

  • vs: 16 says: “O Lord, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid; You have loosed my bonds .   As explained, David in paying his vows rededicates himself unto God; the offering which he brings is himself, as he cries, O LORD, truly I am thy servant. We are liberated when we declare that we belong to an all mighty, all knowing, omni-present God. We can really boldly say, ” I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me”

4: Continue to give thanks to God for everything and seek Him on ALL things. 

  • vs: 17 says “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call on the name of the Lord.”   This posture reminds me that there is always a reason to give thanks even if I’m not feeling any gratitude at the present time. It is not about me but who God is. Think of how we teach our children to say thank you – many times because they are so focused on the gift. But acknowledging the giver is just as important. That’s why sometimes its a sacrifice, not conditional on how we feel at the moment but always celebrating the sovereignty and graciousness of God.

As Matthew 6:33 reminds us, as we seek Him first, everything else is taken care of. 

There will be times for introspection in this Lenten journey, that’s a necessary part of our daily walk. But God always encourages us that He is also focused on our destiny, our future, the limitless possibilities of walking with Him.

What shall I render means that I  ALWAYS have something to GIVE. In Christ, we are earthen vessels of HIS limitless GRACE, unsurpassed PEACE, unspeakable JOY. – conduits of His Love. Let this Lenten season be filled with the awesomeness of and gratitude for Christ’s great sacrifice, His ministry to others – especially the least of these, His great love for us. 

So over the next week as many of us will be celebrating Mardi Gras or not,  also plan for your Lenten journey.  And while sugar may be off the menu for the next 46 days,  giving our time, service, and thanksgiving to God is going to be the best sugar substitute.  

Unmerited Favor (Musings from Spring of 2009)

This a re-post from a note I penned in Facebook in late Spring 2009.  (you can find the original post Here 

Found a brief note I had written to myself on the back of an ATM receipt immediately after arriving home from my trip to the Middle East in mid February of this year 2009. It was entitled “ The Grace of God” – unmerited favor.

I jotted down 2 distinct times in my life where I experienced a profound sense of God’s grace – a distinct knowing or acknowledgement in my heart that I was the recipient of favor that was unmerited, unearned, unsolicited and feeing greatly humbled and unworthy of it. It was a knowing that I was profoundly loved and cared for by God Himself and wondering why.

My first remembrance was when I was 16 yrs old at a retreat that my Catholic all-girl school required for rising seniors. Unbeknownst to us, they had asked our parents (one or both) to write letters to us, which we then read during a one on one reflection time with the priest. Because I was not Catholic, and not particularly religious other than singing sometimes in my church’s youth choir (AME Church)- it was more of a discussion.

The retreat was held at a beautiful simple place in the woods and we were in a peaceful contemplative room. I can’t remember how the conversation started but I remember being handed my letters – my Mom and Dad wrote separate letters as requested. The letters were not lengthy, but they packed all the love they had in every sentence. As I read the letters I was overwhelmed with the feeling of being blessed. Not in the trite way that Christian folks say it now, because I really felt that I had literally been touched by God Himself. Tears started to well up in my eyes and the priest gently asked about what was going on. I told him that I was not worthy to be so blessed but I knew I was. I told him that I didn’t have a perfect life, but that I knew I had a great life with generous, wonderful parents who loved me unconditionally. I felt unworthy of this blessing – understanding that most folks don’t have this life. I knew I didn’t deserve any of it, but for some reason God had placed me in this environment just because. Everybody knows their parents love them, but somehow I KNEW it was from GOD. Before this time, my only thoughts about God were making sure He knew I didn’t need a personal visitation from the Virgin Mary. (That was really popular back then –No thank you. )

Fast forward to 2009

The second time of experiencing a profound sense of God’s unmerited favor was just a few months ago as I traveled to the airport leaving Dubai UAE. I knew that God had arranged the trip when I least expected it, did nothing to earn it, was completely unsolicited, and yet He wanted me to go. In fact, I entered into the New Year with huge challenges before me: drying up contracts, promising job interviews that the economy shut down, finishing up school applications for my kids for next year wondering how it was going to be paid and really REALLY missing my mother. Out of the blue, I was asked by a friend to attend this conference with her in Kuwait which was starting in 3 weeks with a few days afterward to see Dubai – I thought she was joking. Did she remember that I studied the subject matter in grad school? No – God just laid it on her heart to ask me to go.

God literally took me out of my circumstances and sent me half way around the world to relax with a skyline view in Dubai – no conditions. Like the first time when I was 16, tears welled up in my eyes because I knew that God had chosen me. In every view of the Arabian Gulf in Kuwait and then the Dubai skyline, I saw the hand of God in the gift of my friend. Through her willingness to obey God’s voice, I heard His voice saying I was very dear to Him, and that He wanted to show me so in a deliberately profound way. It also wasn’t just about me either – others were blessed to by this favor toward me.

What I know for sure it that God uses us as the vessels to bless others. We go day in and day out ignoring, discounting, and sometimes berating the conduits of God’s blessings in our lives and the lives of those around us. We need to cherish and honor these relationships, everyone that we come in contact with. We need so see them for the gift from God that they are and seek to share that gift to others. Grace comes in the smile of stranger, the hug of a child, a beautiful bloom in an unexpected place, a random compliment from your spouse. It is really all around us, if we have eyes to see.

Jesus did not wait till we deserved salvation to give His life for us – He extended grace when we needed it. Unlike Will Smith’s character in Seven Pounds, He is not going through our records and proving our character to see if we deserve the gift of life, grace, healing, provision. No- He says come to Him as you are, where ever you are, however you are.—and He’lll do the work in you as we allow Him access. In fact, He says “Come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy in the time of need”

And sometimes, when you are least expecting it – He sends a fresh breeze of His grace and perhaps a fresh rain, to water and cool the dry places of our souls. Just because He can.

On the Arabian Gulf at dusk

On the Arabian Gulf at dusk

70 x 7 is more than just a number

Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It’s a permanent attitude. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On my morning drive back from taking my daughter to school, I saw this MLK post on Facebook ( I was waiting at the light, I promise) and then almost immediately afterward heard on the radio a song on forgiveness.  I definitely thought this must be my admonition for the day.    And as I often do on my morning drive back from drop off my thoughts went to my mother.    In the last 3 years of my mother’s life, it was my ritual to call her almost everyday or every other day when I finished dropping the kids off to school.  It was my time of uninterrupted conversation with her, before I transitioned to work or other errands.   Most often, the conversations were mundane.

My thoughts went to her because forgiveness was her way of life.   It was not what she said, but what she did that spoke loudly to everyone.  Somehow, she intrinsically internalized the truth that forgiveness is empowering and liberating, because she was not shackled by past hurts, defined by other’s people’s frailties and insecurities.  She frequently gave up her right to penalize others for their thoughtlessness, neglect, lack of social skills, and just plain cruelty.  By releasing others, she kept her self free to move forward.

She was not perfect.  She would complain briefly, but move on.  She might answer in anger, but would not stay there.  Most of the times she completely overlooked the intended offence, not as “beneath” her, but because she had more important things to do.   When she was really ready to transition in her final weeks on this earth,  she was relentless in reaching out to others who she felt harbored guilt for some offense against her.  She had forgiven them long ago, but in her heart she wanted THEM to be free from guilt or shame.  She didn’t just want the liberating power of forgiveness for herself – she wanted to share it with everyone.

In our dealings with others, life should not be lived like  baseball: three strikes and you’re out — or like Peter in Matthew 18: 21  looking for a set number of times, seven,  to extend grace to those who offend us.    Interestingly, the number 7 can mean divine perfection and completion in biblical times which is probably why Peter tried to manipulate Jesus using this number.  But Jesus responded (in verse 22)  in multiplications of the number 7  by 70 which means perfect order, and the multiplication meant amplification of forgiveness – a way of life.  It was the essence of divine grace, an integral part of God’s character,  and one of the last things that He did before He died. Forgiveness frees and positions you to both receive and dispense grace.   The root of bitterness cannot survive in the rivers of grace.

This word of forgiveness is personally liberating, because it became the inspiration of my inaugural blog post, breaking through years of intention.  So I’m walking this road of forgiveness one day at  a time.  Won’t you join me?!