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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Micah 6:8 Part Two- Love Mercy

This is part two of a three part series on Micah 6:8.
"He has shown you O mortal what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
 To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly before your God."

I have a confession to make. This part, the love mercy part, is tough.

Seek justice (piece of cake!)
Love mercy (for everyone?)
Walk humbly before your God. (I’ll try!)

That’s exactly what I think when I hear or read Micah 6:8.

I love the idea of mercy. It is essential to my faith. God gives me new mercy every. single. day.

But just because I receive it doesn’t mean I’m so good at doling it out. (There it is, my one, solitary Christian flaw.) (I wish there was a sarcasm font for such a time as this.)

Mercy can be defined as: the kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But Becky, you talk about being kind. And not being judgy. And not being a jerk.”  And I do believe all of that, but can I tell you something just between us? My Mercy Bone is broken.

I have big, big feelings about people in horrific circumstances. I hate to see anyone starving, or trafficked, or hurt in any way. Folks who have no control over their situation get ALLLLLL of my sympathy, empathy, and whatever else they need. I am willing to give it all up.

BUT, people who are in an unfortunate position because of the choices they’ve made? Choices that aren’t good for anyone?  I struggle. Especially when those decisions affect the people I love most.

I have a family member who is currently serving prison time. Lots of years of it. I struggle with forgiveness because I see how their absence affects my family. Nobody should ever have to grow up without their parent, and no mom should have to visit her child in prison. So, while I hate that person isn’t living a normal life, I have difficulty feeling sorry for them and showing grace. Even when an abundance of grace has been poured over me.  I pray for mercy to creep in and take away some of this anger, and slowly-but-surely, my heart is softening.

And isn’t that what God asks of us? He asks us to soften our hearts to those who deserve harsh treatment. To be gentle to those who should face stiff consequences.

In The Beatitudes, (Matthew 5:7) Jesus tells us:

“Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall receive mercy.”

I don’t know about you, but I know I’m in major need of God’s mercy.  Can you imagine if He gave us the same amount of mercy we show others? It would be detrimental to our existence. Even if we could live without it, our lives would be nothing compared to living in the fullness of His grace.

So, if you’re like me, with a broken Mercy Bone, how do we fix this?  I think I have two answers. Yeah, just two. But if we do them consistently, maybe we’ll start to figure things out?

One: pray for those who make you feel unmerciful.
Maybe it’s a once-abusive parent or a sibling who consistently makes poor choices. Maybe it’s a coworker or a homeless person you feel needs to get a job. Whoever you look at and fail to see mercy, just pray. It’s hard to stay mad or unsympathetic toward someone you’re praying for. Ask God to help you see the person the way He sees them. His perspective is always much more gentle than ours. 

(Let me tell you something. When I get real stubborn, and I want to be mad and unmerciful, I will skip this step because I know God will change my heart. I’m serious. I’m certain The Lord gives me the side-eye when I pull this.)  (I am sometimes the Christian equivalent of a selfish thirteen year old.)

Two: Intentionally reach out to people you struggle to show mercy to.
Being nice to someone who doesn’t deserve it is HARD.  Put yourself out there! Tell your sister who constantly needs a “loan” that her debt is forgiven. Slip the homeless guy on the corner five bucks. Respond with kindness when you should be seething. I know it’s crazy, and seems unnatural; but, trust me in this, your small acts of mercy start to add up. You become less hostile, less angry, and more loving.  (This paragraph is not code for being a doormat. Please don’t give your third cousin crack money. But if he needs diaper money for his kid, I think buying some diapers would be cool.)

See, the most important thing I’m learning about trying to show mercy isn’t that my mercy changes others, it changes me. Showing mercy, especially when I don’t want to, allows Jesus to capture one more piece of my heart. It allows me to be more like Him. Isn’t that the goal after all?

 Guys, I want to stay mad at people. I want to let them wallow in all their bad decisions, or the consequences they clearly deserve
. But how does withholding mercy from others make me more like Christ? It doesn’t. Jesus was more than merciful. He showed the ultimate act of mercy when He hung on the cross for my sins. If Jesus can do that for us, don’t you think we can show a fraction of that same mercy to His People? I promise to try.

How has receiving the mercy of another person changed your life? I’d love to read your story in the comments section below! 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

What A Warrior Looks Like

Lean in close, so I can whisper something to you.

 No really… get over here.

You, my friend. Yes, you. You are a warrior.

I know what you’re thinking. The kids have worn you down. Work has you running ragged. Family struggles are intense and emotionally draining. How are you a Warrior?

But you rocked today.

Today you got out of bed, put your feet on the floor and said “Bring it!” Sometimes that’s the only requirement to reach full Warrior status.

Maybe later in the day you’ll go to work. You’ll provide for your family, and maybe even make a little extra money to give to someone in need. Look at you go, Warrior.

This afternoon, you might read a book to your little one before his nap. You are awesome, Warrior. (Don’t forget to do the voices.)

Tonight, you may curl up with your spouse and talk. Maybe you’ll have a difficult conversation. One you’ve been putting off for a while. Warrior, you are brave.

Before you doze off this evening, maybe you’ll pray. You’ll pray on your knees, face pressed against that cold floor you put your feet on this morning. You’ll pray for cancer to go away, or your spouse to love you, or your hurting child, or simply for the strength to wake up tomorrow. Keep praying, Warrior.

You may be wondering why I chose the word Warrior to describe you. You’re an ordinary person doing ordinary things. I get that, because I am ordinary too.  But I think sometimes being ordinary requires an enormous amount of strength.

There’s a beauty in the “every day,” but there’s also pain, doubt, struggle, and even boredom. And you fight those every minute simply by letting your strength, kindness, and joy overpower the junk. You get to be a Warrior simply by doing the best you can.

Is your best always good enough? Maybe not to you. But what about those who are watching? When they witness your sacrifice, your joy in times of pain, your faith, your smile through tears, they see a Warrior. They see someone who refuses to let the stuff of today turn them into a wreck. And even when you’re a disaster, they know you’re trying.

I find Warriors all around: Moms in Target trying to keep babies in the cart, elderly men helping their wives into cars, customer service reps kindly dealing with less-than-friendly customers, friends battling crippling depression.  All Warriors. All of them simply putting one foot in front of the other.

You may be wondering why I chose to call you a Warrior.  Honestly, I just love the word. It’s got a quiet dignity that goes along with the strength. Warriors don’t brag about their accomplishments, they let their actions speak for themselves.  You, Warrior, do the “every day” quietly, allowing your actions to reflect your heart; letting your love and kindness tell others who you are. Quiet Strength is beautiful and unpretentious. It tells its story without pontificating.

Warrior, I stand in awe. You do serious battle each and every moment of your waking hours. Sometimes it isn’t pretty, but it’s always perfectly you. Keep pressing on. We need you. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

When Freedom Doesn't Require Fireworks

This weekend, all of America will be lining sidewalks, gathering in backyards, and amassing in large, open (hopefully damp and nonflammable) spaces, to celebrate our freedom. Kids will be scurrying to round up candy thrown from parade floats, neighbors will host BBQs, and community members will collectively “oooh” and “aaah” over fireworks displays.

I absolutely love Independence Day. As a child, the Fourth meant swimming in my grandparents’ pool, eating a hot dog or two, then lighting off fireworks in the field across the street from their house. It’s a parking lot now, but it was a decent-sized field back then. It meant spending time with my cousin Brooke, who I loved (and still love) so dearly, and screaming together with each snap and pop of a bottle rocket.

After I married a soldier, I began to understand freedom in a new way. You hear the phrase “freedom isn’t free” all the time, but when your family is one that pays the price for it, you begin to truly understand the cost. Upon looking into the eyes of a woman whose husband paid the ultimate price, well, you pray freedom could come a little bit cheaper.

Now that I’m a Christ follower, freedom has once again taken on new meaning. Freedom now means things I once feared, or hurtful things I held on to, no longer get to control my life. I’m free of things that held me captive because I trust in God’s plan for me. This doesn’t mean I’m not afraid of stuff; it simply means that I allow my faith to overcome fear when it pops up. It also doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly become perfect, but that I have the choice to be like Jesus, or to be like Becky. And y’all, you’d rather meet Jesus. I promise.

As a recovering People Pleaser, I’ve found a huge sense of relief in worrying about what makes God happy instead of what makes others more comfortable. I can’t even begin to describe how freeing it is to concern myself with God instead of busying myself with things that don’t honor Him. Not always easy, but definitely freeing.

The song “Amazing Grace” has a beautiful line:
My chains are gone,
I’ve been set free
My God, my savior has ransomed me

I love this, because there’s so much truth spoken in a simple way. Jesus’ death and resurrection breaks the chain of sin and frees us from it. Once we hold that in our hearts, we’re free in a new way.  Our hearts are no longer captive slaves to the things that kept us from Him. My favorite part about this is that Jesus doesn’t require us to be perfect before we come to Him, but that He comes to us wherever we are. He frees us! We don’t have to try and liberate ourselves!

This weekend, as The United States celebrates its independence from England, I’ll be rejoicing, too. I’ll eat my hot dog, gather with friends, and snuggle with my kids as the fireworks explode around us. I’ll also say a prayer of thanksgiving for the freedom that rescued my soul, for the chains that have been broken, and for the gift of heaven.

 The freedom we experience here in the United States is beautiful. We have the ability to do (or not do) just about anything we want. But, as I am still learning, the freedom we find in knowing Jesus and living for Him is beyond description and isn’t confined to the borders of this precious country.

**I’m curious! What is one way your relationship with Jesus has freed you this year?**

My answer is definitely being a God Pleaser instead of a People Pleaser.

I’d love to read your responses in the comments box below!!