Friday, June 29, 2012

Ungrateful - Who me?

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 James 4:1-3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Envy –  a longing to possess something awarded to or achieved by another
Covet – to desire wrongfully and without regard for the rights of others
Ungrateful – to not appreciate or be thankful; a disregard for blessing
Motive – something that leads, inspires or prompts a person to action

As I am reading thru James 4, I notice that this chapter opens with a rhetorical question; “what causes” is quickly followed up with some various answers.  James asks me the question, but then he gives me the correct answers without affording me the chance to offer up excuses, justifications, or explanations.  I do this with my kids from time to time.  I save it for those moments when I have come to the point where I don’t want us to “discover” truth together; instead it is a time when the truth just needs to be stated so that we can get past negotiate and move on to accept and embrace.

To envy, to covet, to be ungrateful – these are not things that please you God. Usually when these things trip me up it is because my focus is on others and not on you God. You know me God, so you know that it’s not the “stuff” that trips me up – I really don’t care much about cars, computers, or gadgets. It’s the relationship stuff that gets me every time.  I let Satan sit on my shoulder and whisper lies in my ear, and I listen instead of running to your truth. I let my feelings get hurt over things that do not matter, and I make things that are not at all about me morph into some strange type of personal attack or exclusion. I get possessive over things that were not mine to begin with. I start to use the word “I” a bunch. Why did that good friend of mine call that other good friend of mine and not me to share that burden? Why is that person in charge of that and not me? Why don’t I get to do this thing or that thing …for your kingdom God…any more? Why are You God, making me do this thing that is scary, new and uncomfortable when I could be doing that other thing…for You God…that is easy and unstressful for me?  

And then there is the whole motives thing…great.  It’s not about me; It’s not about what I want; It’s not about what I think would be best. Who am I?

Abba, I want you to be what motivates me. I want my actions, my thoughts, my words to be pleasing to you.  I want to trade my vision for yours, I want to pray “not my will but thine” and mean it. I want to be grateful for the blessings, the gifts and the opportunities that You have given to me for Your purpose. Help me to not focus on what you have given others that I do not have – turn my eyes toward You and the tasks You have created for me. Help me to sincerely rejoice in the blessings of those around me. Help me to see every “God moment” that you send my way. Silence the noise and make your voice clear. Make me bold for You. Make me an encourager to those You put on my path. Today I want to make You smile.    Amen

Monday, June 25, 2012

God Smart vs. World Smart

There is “God smart” and there is “World Smart” and they are not the same.

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life…

Honorable – Consistent with an untarnished reputation; honest; ethical; characterized by integrity;

…doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.

Humility – A correct view of myself, without contempt for God or others. My heart and mind are in agreement with God about who He is, and I have a correct understanding of my place in relation to that truth.

But if you are bitterly jealous…
Jealousy – Feeling of resentment because of another’s achievement or ability

 and there is selfish ambition in your heart…
Selfish Ambition –Self seeking, pride filled and always looking out for one’s own interests above the interests of anyone else. 

…don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.    James 3:13-16  (NLT)

With jealousy and selfish ambition present in my life, can I be in a productive, fruitful, loving relationship with my husband, my children, my family, or my church? My God is not a God of disorder, chaos or fear. My God is love, even when I don’t feel lovable. My God is peace, even in the midst of my storm. My God is joy, even when my heart is breaking. My God is a God of order, even when I can’t see the details or understand the plan.

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure…
Not corrupted or tainted with resentment or pride
…It is also peace loving…
Not looking for a fight or looking for credit (like the World)
But seeking unity in Christ
…gentle at all times…
Not beating, manipulating or bullying into submission (like the World)
 But with respect, guiding in loving relationship
…and willing to yield to others…
Not fighting for my right to always be the boss of me and others (like the World)
But accepting and respecting authority;
Not insisting that what’s best for me is what is in fact best (like the World)
But being sensitive and responsive to the needs of others
…It is full of mercy and good deeds…
Not judgmental, condemning and self serving (like the World)
But Compassionate and busy being the hands and feet of Jesus
…It shows no favoritism… and is always sincere.
No teachers pets and not fake (like the World)
And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
 James 3:17-18  (NLT)
To be a peacemaker is to plant and reap – it takes hard work and time. It doesn’t happen by accident. It is intentional. We were created uniquely individual but we are called to be unified in Christ. This takes effort. It’s focusing on God, His plan, His path, His will.

Which type of wisdom do I have? Which type of wisdom do I strive for? What’s tripping me up? Am I brave enough to say “now what God”? Am I willing to obey when He answers?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Make Me A Water Cooler

What's My Flavor Today???

 James chapter 3 starts with a bang and he isn't messing around. This is a great book to teach about, but when I transition from teaching others to self application it gets downright uncomfortable.

We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.  And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish,  but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.  James 3:3-8 (NLT)

  Yeah, I have done that sometimes. The right word at the right time, and the whole world gets turned upside down. I've watched other people do it too. I start my own little fires when I tell my husband about my day and the antics and behaviors of his children...or when I make an overly critical comment about something someone else is doing...or when a pick a less than loving tone during a conversation with a person that I am not deeply invested in. Then there are those times I have told someone something that they really didn't need to know or hear about - and I labeled it "venting" or "sharing burdens." My Bible has this addition at the end of verse 9, "so shut your mouth Trish Wilson". I think James meant to write that...maybe it was lost in the Hebrew to English translation. 

Sometimes it (the tongue) praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.  And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?  Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.  James 3:9-11  (NLT)

Well, ok then. I don't curse or criticize God. God is God. He's bigger than me and smarter than me. His ways are not my ways. He is the infinite creator of all and He is, was, and always will be. I am a girl, and the older I get the more I learn how little I truly know or understand.  Things have happened I just didn't understand. I have been angry, hurt and confused - but there has never been a point for me when I wanted to curse or criticize God.  But verses 9 -11 aren't about that. These divine morsels are about the words I use in relation to other people. When I read this verses I think of the saying "do you kiss your mama with that mouth?" and I visualize all of the Obitz gum "dirty mouth" commercials.  Sometimes I use my words like a soda dispenser - I press the Sprite button for the words I use when talking with God, they are cool, crisp and refreshing; light with no aftertaste. I press Cherry Coke words for when I am at work; it's a little fun, but it still gets the job done.  Mr Pibb-perhaps the best drink ever invented, gets selected when talking with my family or close friends. And I would wrap up the possible choices with the worst flavor ever, Orange Crush would be chosen for those times when I need to talk with those people in my life who try really hard to be annoying, unfriendly and unlikable.

But if I look at what James is saying in these verses, it's clear that soda fountain language is not what God ever intended for me or any of His children. Make no mistake, this truth is directed to followers of Christ; that's why James specifically writes "my brothers and sisters."   Remember, as a Christ follower I am developing more of the character traits of my Creator, Savior and Lord. His will becomes my will, His ways become my ways. I think instead of behaving like a soda fountain talker, God wants me to be more like a water cooler. The temperature of my words may change based on the needs of the moment. But the make up of the drink should be constant, full of love, grace, mercy and truth. I need to be a water cooler. I can't do it myself. Lucky for me, God is on my side and He loves to transform things in me that I could never change on my own.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Don't Cry, Don't Cuss, What happens next really matters a lot

Hey God, I just love it when You give me the chance to experience and immediately apply what I am reading in your word and what I am living in the moment; God I think that is one of your coolest characteristics. You are active, Your word is applicable, and You are patient. For me, another read it/live it moment came on the Tuesday evening of NWIL Teen Camp 2012. I have really been enjoying our time together in James. I am not in a rush and neither are You. There is just so much you want me to learn from this.

James 3: 1-2 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly. Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.

Two verses…I know…it doesn’t seem like much. But God you and I have been talking a lot lately about what it means to be “a teacher in the church”. There is so much more on the line when I intentionally step into another believer’s life in this capacity. It’s not just about my walk anymore, now it’s also about how my walk and my words are influencing and impacting someone else’s journey. Am I pointing to You? To Your character? To Your truth? When they are spending time with me, are they getting to know You better?

It had been a great second day at teen camp and I was ready to leave the dining hall after another wonderful meal. I even managed to save a little bit of room for my favorite new tradition, a soft serve chocolate ice cream cone to take with me for the walk back to our dorms and meeting area.  It was a beautiful evening – and I started my leisurely walk thru the clustered groups of chatting teenagers as I looked across the hill at some young men from our home church skipping rocks across the pond. I clearly remember at this point that I smiled, pleased with all that I saw, and then as I went to take my first lick of chocolate bliss it all came crashing down. Literally. You see, as I was looking across the pond I WAS NOT looking at my feet and I stepped off of the smooth hill and into a giant uncovered drainage hole L  I fell face first onto the grass, the cone fell ice cream side down next to me, and a group of about a half dozen nearby Jr. High girls (one of which was the daughter of one of my dear friends) watched the whole thing and immediately started screaming “Oh No Ms Trish, Oh No Ms Trish!”  At that moment, you God clearly spoke these words to me “Don’t cry, don’t cuss, what happens next really matters a lot”.

I have never broken anything. Not an arm, or a leg, not even a finger or a toe. At that moment I truly thought I had broken my ankle. I saw stars, the world went quiet, there was searing pain from my toes to my knee, and I was surrounded by a group of young ladies watching in horror to see what would happen next.

So this is what happened next: First I said “crap” – which is not a cuss word. Next I rolled over and gingerly lifted my foot out of the hole and onto the grassy hillside, and I checked my new capri’s for grass stains. I called the girls over, asked one of them to please throw away my no longer eatable ice cream cone (very sad) and asked the rest of the group to sit with me on the hill for a minute while I caught my breath. So they did – in complete silence…which I didn’t know Jr. High girls could do…and they looked at me with the biggest, most uncertain eyes I have ever seen. If there is one thing that I know about this age group of women it is this - they are sponges and mirrors - they soak up everything around them and then reflect it back. As I tried to process evening that was happening, I kept hearing in my mind, “don’t cry, don’t cuss, what happens next really matters” So what did I do?  I began to laugh, and then I said “wow, did you see that? If someone had a video camera we could totally post that graceful landing on You Tube!” And then they laughed too. One girl even said “I was really scared that you were hurt bad, but that is the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life!” I said “you’re welcome” and we laughed some more. Then we talked about the first 2 days of camp, all the stuff we loved and all the stuff we were still excited to do later. After a few minutes those charming young women helped me hobble the rest of the way back to our dorm and the nurses’ station. My foot wasn’t broken, just twisted very nicely…nothing that a good ankle brace, Tylenol, ice and elevation and some common sense couldn’t handle. Did my foot change my camp experience – sure, but it was still a great camp. I did what I could and let go of the other stuff.

The girls looked after me the rest of the week. When we would see eachother they asked how I was feeling and made sure I wasn’t doing too much. On the last day at lunch we were able to meet up one last time to talk about camp. A few of them had the customary scrapes, bruises and bites –and we talked about how they made the choice (just like me) to choose their words, their attitude and the amount of fun they would continue to have in spite of their aches and pains.

Thanks God, for talking loud enough for me to hear. I am so glad that this time anyway, I was able to handle life as it happened in a way that reflects the work you are continuing to do in me.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Christian Corpse

The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse. James 2:26  The Message

Today is an anniversary of sorts for me. It is the start of teen camp on my local district, and it is a marker for me in the way that God began to really rock my world a couple of years ago. You see God and I (mostly me on my part) had come to this very friendly agreement about what I would and wouldn't do for His kingdom. I am aware of my gifts, and have worked to learn to use them wisely in ministry over the last 20 years and I am comfortable with the way I do things. I know the group of people I am meant to invest in. I know the types of things I can and should do. And I very clearly know the areas of need and the groups of people that are NOT my calling. There are a lot of things that I can do on's almost like God doesn't even have to show up.  I....I....I.... DANGER DANGER DANGER This was the point where God and I met two summers ago.

And then God and I had a couple of crazy weeks, that turned into a couple of crazy months, that turned into an amazing couple of years. 

One blessing in my life is Kids Camp...if you have never done one your really should! Please understand, God showed up and did amazing things. But that particular year was a tough camp from a leadership perspective. Challenges I had never faced in 8 years of camps came up. And it wasn't little stuff like "she took my hairbrush" or "he isn't playing fair" or "I miss my mamma" was the "life can be cruel and not always fair" stuff that kids bring with them to camp, and it broke my heart and tested every skill as a leader I had tried to develop. When I pulled into the church parking lot that Friday night, my Sr. Pastor was there to great me and let me know that I had missed 3 important phone calls that afternoon at the church...and then I burst into tears. Not exactly the reaction he expected, but in true shepherd fashion he took me to his office with Matt and we cried together and we prayed together and my load was put at the foot of the cross where it had belonged the whole time.

Then we went home, did laundry and left 48 hours later for teen camp, me and a dozen teens from our church for week of hormonal, emotional, teen drama bliss. Me and 10 Jr. High girls, with all their lotions and potions and hair products - in a room together for 5 full days and 4 long nights. Do you know I have three sons and I am pretty sure I know exactly why God blessed us like that! Can you sense my level of excitement going into that week? Teens were not my thing (even tho I lived with two at the time, and had ministered to all of those kids in children's ministry). I could not be useful here. I would not be useful here. What was God thinking?!?! Then God showed up. Again. Like stuff you read about in the Bible but it doesn't really happen that way these days showed up. It brought me to my knees, literally. It humbled me, greatly. I was reminded again that when I come into the presence of God, one of us changes, and it's not Him. God said stuff to me like "your limits are not my limits, your limits are where my power really gets going", and "if you love me, you'll love all my people, even the hormonal and irrational ones. Even the ones that don't fit in nice little columns on your list. Even the one's who take lots of energy. Even the ones who have hurt you. Even the ones who you don't understand. Even the ones who you have decided someone else can reach".

So how does all of this tie into  "The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse," good question. Before, my works did not require much faith - I could, and sometimes did, do life and ministry without God and on autopilot. There were times when I think I was a Christian Corpse. Not because what I did wasn't about God, but because I wasn't with God, at least not all of the time. I was doing ministry, but not doing life with my Lord. I believe that God's first desire is for me to just be - for me to be in constant relationship with Him, and not be so wrapped up in the "doing for Him". When we are in communion together, well everything else is just more what it was intended to be in the first place. Now, it's seems like what God inspires is all on faith with my obedient action. Because of my faith and my love for my ABBA I am prompted to act.

So, I will finish my coffee. I will spend some good face time talking with my Abba. Then I will load up my van and head out for an AMAZING week at teen camp. God will show up. He always does. I am ready - and I am smiling :-)