“Haves and the Have Nots”
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29.
It’s easy to get caught up in the have nots of life. Instead of the haves. We have an abundant life of first world problems. Most of the worse case scenarios in the U.S. are a cake walk compared to other countries. Yet its still a struggle I would never down play. I have lived a life with very little and I have lived a life with plenty. If you were about to stop reading because you thought this was coming from someone who had polished hands and easy life, you can rest easy that’s not the case.
We are always in a place to look upon those that have more or those that have less than us. In a sense it is like we spend our life in the middle of a hill. We look up the hill and we become the Have Nots. Yet if we turn our gaze down the hill we become the Haves. It’s a struggle. In a world where anything can be purchased with the swipe of a finger, we have a constant flow of what we can or cannot have in front of our faces.
We recently got a new couch. The old one was in pretty rough shape. The fake leather was peeling, the cushions sagging, and rather unsupportive. I was sitting on the floor in front of the couch for months. I covered it with blankets hoping guests wouldn’t see the large holes in the leather.
We spent a while deciding if it was time to buy the new one. We do have a toddler, and who in their right mind buys a new couch while having a marker yielding toddler running around? End of story, we did. The idea of us all sitting together on the couch won out over the exhausting discipline of putting markers in designated areas.
The topic came up of what to do with the old one. Easy route obviously is the burn pile. Other route (not my idea) Marketplace for really cheap. The reasoning being someone may find this old unsupportive couch better than what they have. Haves and Have nots. Somewhere in my brain this resonated. I lived in a world once where that old couch I despised would have been a dream. I listed it. Responses immediately. A young man was the most eager and kind regarding it, so he was the recipient. I told him about the rips in the fabric and his response was profound. “Not a problem. A couple of nice sheets and no one will know! That couch is so much nicer than what I have now! I am so excited! Thank you!”
The Haves and the Have nots.
Let’s go a more serious and personal route. I was recently stressing all the cupcakes I needed to make for my son’s 15th birthday celebration during band class at school. 120 cupcakes if anyone was curious. I was baking them the day before. I may have been grumpy thinking how little he would appreciate all the work I was doing. However, that day just so happens to be the same day my friend was spending her daughter’s 15th birthday without her daughter. She had passed away in Feb. in a tragic accident. We always sent birthday wishes to each other’s kids on their birthdays. Mid cupcake I was struck with the stark differences in our lives this year. . I stood holding cupcakes to celebrate while she sat and looked at an empty chair. No parent should ever have that as their reality.
And I thought how am I here and you are there? How is my life this and yours that? That in all my battles on the hill of haves and have nots, I was looking the wrong way. That my focus should never be on people and things. Never. But rather on the One who holds all things. The One who promises to make all things right, who will wipe every tear from our eyes. That it has never been about gratitude for stuff but rather gratitude for the One who will never change and can never be taken from us. He promises to make all things right. Promises. And while I say no parent should ever have to bury their child, I realize that no human was ever intended for any of this awful pain we can have touch our lives. We were never intended to know want, death, disease, fear, illness… the list goes on. God promises to change it back.
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise- the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:15-16.
So back to that hill. I think it leveled out. It was never a hill after all. We all face the same fears, the same worries and the same things we can’t control. We also all have the same Creator who loves us and promises to make all things right in the end. So, give thanks in all circumstances. Keep doing good. Give to those in need. Share your blessings. We are all on the same plain.
My old neighbor was a retired Navy Vet. He was a cranky old man but I loved spending time sitting on his back porch talking. One of our favorite past times was going to breakfast. He would always say, “I’ll meet you there and I will save you a seat.” That seat made me feel valuable. Loved. Special. I knew there could be a ton of people that amazingly grumpy and wise old man could have saved a seat for. He saved one for me. At that time in my life, I felt there weren’t many seats saved for me yet there I was in the prime real estate of seats.
The gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are considered the first textbooks for the History of Christianity. The author was a historian writing down the facts for his friend. Luke’s historical Jesus is in my opinion the most beautiful of the all the gospels. Throughout these two books, Jesus’ and God’s true mission is fully seen. So often we find churches built around power people, wealthy or important. In the church themselves it is this type of person that is in leadership and makes decisions and whose voice is heard. The marginalized, poor and unwanted simply remain the “ministry” aspect of the church.
It is surprising to see the opposite in Luke and Acts. Jesus builds his core leadership from the marginalized and outcast. His closest companions are poor, unliked and ignored in general society. Jesus went out of his way to interact with the unwanted. Children were welcomed, beggars given special treatment, women of questionable behavior forgiven and stood up for.
How very opposite of the church we see today. How very opposite of so called, claimed Jesus followers of today.
What does this mean for us? Well if you have ever felt like you didn’t “belong’ in a church, trust me that didn’t come from Jesus. And if you have ever felt like you were being stared at or talked about, well that didn’t come from Jesus either. But if you have felt loved, remembered and important, that was from someone who really knows Jesus.
I know what it’s like to not be welcomed in a church, to not fit, to not be “good” enough. And trust me, that isn’t the Jesus I know. The Jesus I know says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” He came for the sick, the broken and the lost. Yes, to save you. Not as a charity case. No, because he knows you, he made you and he sees so much more in you than this world ever could. So, don’t believe the people that make you feel like you’re not worth it or there aren’t any chances left. Jesus came for us. The broken, the lost and the marginalized. His Kingdom and church are led by the misfits of this world. Find your purpose and live for the God who loves you enough to die for you.
My good friend passed a few years back. He had seen a lot of this world including WWII and Normandy beach. One of his favorite past times was sitting on the porch and talking to the “preacher girl” from next door. All I could think of at his funeral was of his face smiling at me saying he was saving me a seat. I do believe when I die I will have the pleasure of seeing that smile again and hearing him say he saved me a seat. There is power in feeling like you belong. It is life changing. Jesus gives us that belonging. He came for us. We have a seat.
Thoughts for this week…
I woke up tired today. Not just the tired but will wake up soon tired. I’m talking the tired, how many cups of coffee CAN I drink today in order to survive, how many hours till bedtime again, please no more extras for today, type of tired. In the 3 minutes that I zoned out in the garage after getting kids to school, I tried to remember the last time I wasn’t tired. I know there were days but perhaps due to the exhaustion they are far from my ability to recollect. One more cup of coffee it is.
So where is God in all this exhaustion. I know He wants more for our lives then catching up, making do and surviving. I know He is better than all this coffee. Why am I so tired?
“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Those who hope in the Lord…. It’s not a lack of sleep here. Well maybe sometimes. But sometimes it is much deeper than that.
What makes a person feel tired? A couple things and surprisingly it’s not the amount of sleep all the time. Stress will do it to you. Fear/anxiety/worry will do it. Having too much of the wrong thing will do it to you. Now I could spend the rest of this time telling you some key ways to relax and de-stress and how to take a nap, but I think you already know all that stuff. I mean let’s be honest here, I know all that stuff and how many cups of coffee are we at again????? Better not to say.
So I will divulge into a healthy dose of reality. I think Isaiah was right on when he wrote this. Our problem isn’t solved with more naps or an escape from the stress/reality.
It never will be. After the vacation you still come back to the same stuff. After the full 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep (say what?) you still wake up to the same pressures of life.
And that’s it. Sometimes life CAN be too hard to handle. Sometimes we are down in the trenches digging ourselves out over and over again. Sometimes we lean heavily on the people around us. That is reality. More sleep won’t change that. It may help but definitely not change.
But those who hope in the Lord…. They renew their strength. That means they had lost it or drained it down quite a bit… Soar like an eagle, that means live life. Don’t hide and be scared. Run and jump and dive and soar, He will give you the strength for that! Run and not grow weary, I run a lot. Not the healthy kind either... Not grow weary. Walk and not be faint. Think of Psalm 23. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…. That kind of walking. I won’t be afraid, I won’t pass out. God has me.
Hope in the Lord.
Ok so back to my morning. I sit for the 3 minutes in my car and reflect that yeah there are some valleys of the shadow of death I have to walk through right now but I won’t faint. He will give me what I need. I just need to hope.
And I’ve had to take a lot of hits lately. My strength is drained. I am needing support of those who love me and man they are giving it, but my strength is depleted. God will renew it. Hope renews it.
Soar. That’s how I’m supposed to live. Not with my coffee drip barely dragging by. Soar….
Hope in the Lord. He has great plans for that start now. They start today. Even if you’re in the trench. It’s a now you can have hope.
I like to take bike rides. Now keep in mind I like bike rides, but I’m not meaning bike pants and those curved handle bars and 50 miles a day kind of bike riding. I’m meaning a basket on the front, tag a long bike on the back (complete with a cheerful 5 year old talking to birdies as we ride along) kind of bike ride. Now that you have a clear picture let me continue.
The trail that is taken daily in nice weather consists of a couple of impressive hills. Hills that without that extra 80 lbs. on the back I could possibly get passed a lot easier. Needless to say these hills I anticipate. And now that I know of them, I attempt to plan for them.
“Ok now around the curve, keep up the speed then shoot up the hill, downshift halfway and push the rest.” I have a system. It helps me get over the hill. It wasn’t always like that though. In fact that hill surprised me, bothered me and defeated me. If there was another route as cheerful I would have taken it to avoid it. Coming upon that hill I got halfway up then wondered if I would ever see the top. I was exhausted. I was beyond tired. I was defeated. I walked the bike up.
Not being one to give up (and also it being such a nice and cheerful route despite the hill of death) I found myself facing that hill again. This time I knew the top was up there. I also knew how long it would take for me to get there and also the exact point I was defeated last time. So I had a better strategy. Also, I was not alone. There was this cheerful voice behind me that shouted out when I got to the point I gave up the last time, saying “We can do it Mama! Push we can do it!”
Cramping legs and beating heart I gave it all I had. I wasn’t going to let that cheerful encourager down. We made it. We don’t walk that hill anymore because I learned an important lesson. I can do it. I wasn’t alone and I can do it. It took work, it took trying and not giving up but there was a top and I could make it.
Hebrews 12:1 tells we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses and we should throw off everything that hinders and run the race with endurance.
To be clear though I shared how I don’t walk THAT hill anymore. There are still hills I come across that defeat me and leave me walking. Sometimes I avoid that route. Sometimes I take it head on and keep trying. Sometimes hills pop up where I least expect them. I’m not perfect and I’m definitely not an extreme bicyclist (bless their souls) so the hills get me. The more I bike though, the bigger the hill it takes to defeat me.
I have a lot of hills in my life. When I face them, I can feel defeated, I may give up, I may avoid it. But hopefully what I’ll eventually do is listen to the great cloud of witnesses shouting “Don’t give up! We are here with you! Give it all you’ve got!” And I won’t let that crowd down. I’ll give it all I’ve got and learn an important lesson. That God is working all things to my good and I can make it up that hill. It won’t defeat me because it can’t defeat God. Others have made it and I can too!
So if you’re on a hill, look up. The hill ends. Don’t give up. God is building your muscles and training you for bigger hills. This one will not defeat you and neither will the next one. “We can do it! Keep Trying!”
My car has rust. A big obvious rust spot in its otherwise smooth and shiny black exterior. I ignored it as long as I could. It would only bother me when I washed my car and saw the rusty lumpiness just sitting there like a cancer longing to eat my whole car. Then it kept eating. Man that little rust bucket has an appetite. Eating, eating, eating. My wheel well never looked so lumpy. Then I started to worry just a bit. If it keeps eating this way the only thing left will be the seats, wheels and windows. Won’t that be a funny sight on the highway?!?
What to do? Well I could sell and buy something without rust or high mileage or that tear in the seat. That would be sweet. Something new to replace the old. Something that doesn’t need fixed. Shiny. No lump!
Hmm… But I really love my car. I love how it drives. I know how to drive it and the most important part is I know what it looked like before the rust and man it looked good. I know how to make it look that way again. And even though it may take a lot of work and patience, I’m willing to do that because I love my car. I know my car. It is a little bit a part of me.
If I was a car, I’d have a lot of rust spots. We as humans have a lot of lumpy rust spots that just eat us away and make us look awful. Blasted sin. It just keeps eating. And not just directly but indirectly too. (I’m not just talking about the effects of sins we commit but also the general effects of sin as a whole) Sin has wrecked havoc on our bodies and it will not stop. We are so damaged. We are so broken. If someone tells us we are damaged or messed up, we get upset, offended. It hurts us and bothers us. But it’s true. In fact I am damaged. I am a rusted out old car that needs some repair. I need a grinder for some spots.
I am so thankful God loves renewing old stuff. While He loves creating new, He loves repairing the broken too. Nothing should be lost. God doesn’t do junk yards. I’ll say it again in case that didn’t sink in. God doesn’t do junk yards.
So take heart. While the world may not want to deal with your brokenness, your God does. While the world may feel you aren’t worth the time, your Creator does. That there is nothing too broke that He can’t fix. And don’t despair there is no damage too big for Him. He made you. He can fix you and thank goodness He knows what you’re supposed to be like.
"Be still and know that I am God"
Has He met me? Being still isn’t exactly my forte you know. It isn’t. I am moving. Always. And if for some reason my body is restricted to being still I can promise you my brain is far from it. Move, move, move, think, think, think. I’m not really sure why either. Some suggest it’s a fear of stopping. A worry that things aren’t ok if I do. Not sure if it’s that or energy that has to get out somewhere. Maybe a mix between the two. Somehow an idea that if I let up then I will let go and who knows what will happen then.
I read Bible story after Bible story where heroes of the faith stand firm in a fiery furnace, patiently wait in prison being falsely accused for their God to rescue them, and watch the complete destruction of everything they have even known and still “Be still and know that He is God”. It’s amazing really. That kind of faith. That kind of pause.
Sometimes I can do that. My life has never had such huge leaps of faith in them, but fears and dark times I have known. The “will it ever just let up a bit” or “Really? Again? Why me? Why now?” moments I’ve known. And at times things get dark. Real dark. And after a bit you start to wonder, is God there? Does He hear me? Is He coming to the rescue this time?
And I’m reminded of prophets like Elijah who just had enough and ran off in the desert. God’s response? A ministering angel to give him some food and water and just listen to the guy complain a bit. Did God zap him like a French fry and condemn him for his lack of faith? Not at all. He comforts him, helps him and assures him that this too will pass and God will triumph. Letting Elijah know that He knew what was going on all along and He can take care of it. To just trust.
I need that sometimes. That ministering angel that so often comes in the form of a person that gives a reminder of who God is and who I am. So that no matter how dark things can get, there is always light that breaks through. That no matter how tough it is or how sad and lonely you may feel, you are never alone. That when you literally can’t take anymore and you can’t think it through anymore, that God never stops thinking it through for you. That He is always working all things (even the bad) to our good. Always. To the point that the idea of “Being still and knowing that He is God” makes sense. In other words, You can’t make this better. You don’t have the stuff to do it. Try and work at it but some things are beyond your control and you can think and busy yourself as much as you want but you have no control. But God does. God sees the past, present and future. He knows all things and the thoughts of all people. He loves you. Created you for great things and sometimes you need to just chill. Stop. Pause. Realize He is God and you are not. He has proven it over and over to you. You can know it and if you don’t He will prove it again and hopefully this time you’ll get it.
He is God.
He loves you.
He’s got this too.
It is a new year upon us yet again. The sound of new year’s resolutions ring through the social media world and I find myself debating the ever challenging debate, “to resolve or not to resolve.” That is a very good question I must add. I could resolve to lose some weight, eh let’s not word it that way, I could resolve to become more healthy this year. That’s much better. It frees me up to not necessarily lose weight yet not abandon my resolution at the same time. I can just eat a couple extra carrots and I achieved my resolution while still guilt free eating some fries! Woohoo! I could resolve to drive slower, to take more time to enjoy the scenery around but I know the first time I’m late that resolution is out the window.
Have you ever noticed how there is a lot of hype about what our new year’s resolution is going to be at the first of the year but a month or two later you never really hear many, “Hey how’s that resolution going?”
I think we all know.
Call it human nature. Call it our distracted culture. Call it lack of devotion but please don’t call it a calculated decision.
I just don’t think us humans are good at making ourselves resolve to do much of anything. Let me clarify. We can’t make ourselves have resolve unless we FEEL the need for the change. I don’t know about you, but January 1st holds no special magic feeling of need to resolve for me. It lacks a bit of passion for me and I think that is the key behind resolutions. When passion and initiative meet, we have some resolution coming, no doubt about it.
Here’s an example. I always wanted to play a violin. From the very first moment I heard a violin, I knew that was my instrument. Fast forward to now, the age where your brain doesn’t easily accept new info about instruments and your hands refuse to bend “that” way. My loving husband, being loving, desired to aid me in my dream of violin playing. He gifted me with a very awesome violin, a bow and some strings. A very good start! So I, eager to show this is the instrument destined for my hands, pick it up and play the most horrendous sound ever known to man. In addition, my neck cricks and my hand hurts from awkwardly holding that stick thing (the wrong way of course). I’m slightly disenchanted but not defeated. My next attempt I wait till no one is in ear shot. Still awful. I’m hurting my own ears now. Humph. Well that violin catches some dust. I have no resolve to improve that. A surprising thing happens though. I was shown how to hold the violin and play a note. A real note, one that is not only audible to dogs and sick cats either. A good note. The kind I had been dreaming of. And after being shown, I play it again and again and again. And it sounds good. Then something peculiar happens. The passion I felt as a kid creeps back up again and takes ahold of me. I have resolve to learn to play the violin because my passion was ignited.
With all this in mind, I came up with a plan that may help this whole resolution fiasco. Tie your resolution to something you care about. For instance you may not care if you drop those 10 lbs. or not. The doctor will get over it and you can get some super cool new elastic pants. But you may be passionate about watching your grandkids grow up. If you’re passionate about the one then it can drive the other. Open up your mind a bit and feel free to see where God leads you. You know never what might happen. You may learn to play the ukulele.
It’s that time of year again. The hustle and the bustle gets us moving and planning and very excited for the holiday season. We plot and plan. We get ideas to have big gifts, we have grand ideas to have small gifts. We come up with creative ways to celebrate but not be excessive, ways to eat and bake but not gain weight. There are more choir practices, more lights to see, more places to go and experiences to hold dear. The elf on the shelf needs moved, the family Christmas pictures need taken (do we all have to wear a matching sweater that Aunt Sue picks out?), and who is bringing the eggnog for the gathering? Did we get invited to the ugly sweater party? I really hope my cookies win this year at the annual cookie exchange by the way.
And in it all we strive. We stress. We push to have an encounter, for something special, to be noticed or to notice something. But what are we striving for? What is it our hearts so yearn for at Christmas? Is it the warmth of a fire, the endearment of family, the special moment where our funny elf placement gets 50 likes on Facebook? When do we accomplish a successful holiday season? What does it take? Will a good time with family accomplish the task?
It’s a very different picture then the original story isn’t it? In fact its hard to recognize it as the celebration of Jesus’ birth no matter how often we plaster the sticker of Jesus is the Reason for the Season on our Christmas cards and Facebook page. But I wonder, is Jesus really the reason for the season? Is he? I feel like Cindy Lou asking “where are you Christmas? Why cant I find you?” I would like to instead ask, Where are you Jesus? Why can’t I find you amidst the tinsel or the by elf? Why aren’t you on the cookie shelf or in the wrappings? Are you hiding in the light display? Maybe the never ending yearning and striving for something is because we are hustling and bustling over so much that there’s no room for Jesus.
Maybe we should seriously ask ourselves if our priorities really show Jesus as the focus of this season. Lets just be honest with ourselves and if Jesus isn’t what we’re looking for we should clear out the tinsel, put the elf on the shelf (literally) and seek an encounter with our God who does everything to make that encounter possible.
Have a blessed season and may you find Jesus amidst the chaos!
Have you ever just stopped and said “Thanks”? Now I’m not meaning the general thanks that we say all the time. The kind of thanks you handed me the coffee I ordered, or thanks you opened the door, or thanks you didn’t hit me with your shopping cart. I mean the kind of thanks because you’re blown away that someone else did that for you. The surprise, shocked thanks that hits you right in your heart because an act of kindness was so far beyond the expected that you didn’t know what to say.
This kind of thanks can hit us every day. I see it in my son who takes a lot of what we do for him for granted. I understand though. I took stuff my mom did for granted too. But once in a while, you can see it come across his face, this look of shock and awe that someone would do something that he didn’t deserve. When that happens he runs over and gives a huge hug, sometime accompanied with some tears, and says, “THANKS!”
I think that’s really what thanks comes down to, a thought of what we deserve. In our amazing country of so much blessing we have some entitlement ideas. We think we deserve a lot of things and so we don’t say thanks. We expect to receive what we have always received and instead of saying thanks, our response is usually complaint if we don’t get what we want.
It’s when we stop receiving that we start realizing what we had, what to be thankful for. I’ve been reading a lot of Holocaust survival stories lately. Stories of families that had everything taken from them and I mean everything. They were thankful to the people who protected them, who risked their lives to give them a piece of bread or hide them so they wouldn’t be killed. Things they use to take for granted. Things we take for granted.
So for thanksgiving, let’s try something new. Let’s imagine the “withouts”, meaning, lets imagine life without safety. Then be thankful for it. Imagine life without a car and be thankful for it. Imagine life without your house, then be thankful for it. Imagine life without a hot water tank, and be thankful for it. And at the end of it all look up to the heavens and thank the God who created you and holds your life in his hands and say “THANKS” . You may not have realized all He does for you.
Jesus came for us. He came for the broken, the down hearted, the lost. Like the blind man on the side of the word, Jesus goes out of his way to find those that society feels just aren’t worth it. When he finds them he heals them. He prioritizes them. He not only searches out the half breeds, the socially unaccepted, the excluded but after he finds them he goes to the worse part of their lives and he starts cleaning it up. Jesus is not like anyone else.
He came for the lost. He came for us. Every single one of us. Despite our mess. Despite our sin. He wants us. .
You know the story of the Zacchaeus was a wee little man… he climbed up the sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.
Luke 19 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and greceived him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since lhe also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Now we see in vs. 2 that Zacchaeus was chief tax collector and rich man. This mean Zacchaeus was not a well-liked man among his own people. He would have been one of the guys stealing from the people. And he was rich didn’t help matter. He was a man of compromise. A man of sin. However he had justified it that was just the truth.
This story should make sense to us in some way because we have all done this. We have all compromised in some way. But thankfully Jesus still walks into our lives and finds us.
Now we see a bit of a plot twist. In this story Zacchaeus is looking for Jesus. HE had heard about him and wanted to find him. But the problem was he was too short to see him. The crowd was too big the difficulties too much. But he doesn’t give up. IN fact he improvises. He does whatever it takes to see Jesus. So he climbs a tree. Now let’s just be safe in assuming Jesus knew who he was and he was in the tree. He stops right by the tree and invites himself over to Zacchaeus’ house. And so he hurries down and preps for Jesus and receives him joyfully. People grumble over Jesus’ choice of friends and dinner guests but see what happens here in vs 8 and 9.
Total transformation. Total abandonment. And this is why.
While we spend so much time feeling lost and alone, not good enough, there is a God who loves you. Who will do anything to find you. And the result? Total change…. Never the same.