Last Sunday, I had to stay home from church with our oldest daughter because she had a really horrible cough. We listened to a T.D. Jakes sermon on TV, and afterwards, she really wanted to watch Moana. We have seen this movie at least a dozen times since it first hit Netflix. While there are very obvious theological differences between the Polynesian and Christian beliefs, I have also found some really powerful teaching moments, within our own faith, to share with my children.
Last week we talked about the idea that we can just come to Jesus, as we are, and He will be there. We talked about how the church should embody this belief, welcoming with open arms, the brokenhearted, the weary, the hurting, the hungry, just as Jesus would.
Take, for example, when Moana discovers that Te Kā, the volcanic demon, is actually a heartless Te Fiti. Te Kā repeatedly attacks Maui and Moana on their journey. Fighting her, they are losing an uphill battle. Time and time again, she comes at them stronger. But then Moana notices the matching symbol on her chest, the spiral on the heart. What she does next is an inspiring lesson for our children.
She responds with grace, and instead of running in terror and fear, she welcomes Te Kā to her. She says, "let her come to me." Then, one of the most terrifying scenes ever to grace the Disney movie screen occurs, as this volcanic demon rushes across the ocean floor to Moana. It is pretty clear at first, that she is not coming in peace, but as she gets closer, something in her softens. As she realizes that she is welcomed in love, and seen for who she truly is. Moana is singing to her:
I have crossed the horizon to find you.
I know your name.
They have stolen the heart from inside you,
But this does not define you.
This is not who you are.
You know who you are.
Who you truly are.
We then watch as Moana restores the heart to Te Fiti, and full life is restored, where there once was death and darkness. The typical demise of a Disney villain is death. Here, Moana, becomes one of only two Disney princesses to defeat the villain, not with death, but with grace, restoration, and healing. It is one of the most terrifying and powerful scenes I've ever seen in a Disney movie.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
Come, as you are, in your brokenness, in your pain, in your anger. Satan will tell you that you're no good. Satan will tell you that you don't deserve grace. He will tell you that God would never accept you as you are. He will tell you that your past defines you. He will tell you that you can never change, so why not embrace it?
It is a LIE. Our God of grace knows your name. He knows who you truly are. He loves you. He wants you. And He will restore your heart, and crush Satan and his lies, under your feet. All you have to do is come to Him.
One of my favorite things about our church is that they welcome people, open arms, "Come as you are," and they mean it. There is no unspoken rule about how one should dress, behave, or feel, walking into our church. There is no membership rule about how long you should be in attendance to receive communion, or dedicate your baby, or get baptized.
When we first moved back to Buffalo, we had two very young children who had not yet been formally dedicated to the Lord. Due to multiple moves and the difficulties involving finding a new church with young babies, we just hadn't gotten to it. I will never forget that first conversation I had with our pastor, when I asked him, within a couple short weeks of attending, if we could have them dedicated. He smiled and said, "Of course!" I don't remember his exact words, but I remember, in that moment, the way he made me feel like we were already a part of the family; that there were no protocols or rules to our desires to follow Jesus and proclaim His love over our children. And I have repeatedly watched this same mentality in welcoming others there over the last 9 years. The hungry, the sick, the homeless, those with special needs, the crying babies, the single moms, the angry and hurting; Come as you ARE.
This shouldn't be completely shocking or even rare. This should be the norm. Yet I have witnessed many places where the rules are more important than the people; where protocols and expectations are placed above relationships.
That is not the God I love. It is made clear, throughout scripture, that Jesus meets the sinners right where they are. No protocols, no rules. The very pharisees would question why He would hang out with such people, they deemed unworthy, and His answer is so simple, yet so profound.
Out of shape people go to the gym to become healthier.
Sick people go to the doctor to become well.
Students go to school to become knowledgeable.
We recognize the help we need, and seek it. I can remember people telling me that they wanted to give their lives to Christ, but wanted to straighten up first. They felt that they needed to clean up their own act before coming to Him. Likewise, the church will sometimes behave in this way toward the sins of others, as though you should already be perfect upon attending. Lifestyles, fashions, behaviors, habits which don't align with the church's views or rules are often frowned upon, making the attendees feel unwelcome.
Listen, some of us might be better at hiding it than others. Maybe we don't all wear our sins on our sleeves, but not one of us is better than another! When Jesus would minister to prostitutes, touch and heal the lepers, even have chosen disciples among Him, sin against Him, who are we to pick and choose who can come to Him?
The church body is full of imperfect people. We are all sinners in search of salvation. We are all broken in need of restoration. We are all sick, hoping to be made well. We are all students seeking knowledge. We don't go to church because we've got it all figured out. We don't go to church because we're perfect. We don't go to church because we're hypocrites. We go to church to meet with Jesus, and acknowledge that we are imperfect people in need of a Savior.
Allow Jesus to meet you, right where you are, and make sure you're not standing in the way of others, in need of the same thing.
Have you ever had a disagreement in which there was just absolutely no way of reaching a resolution? How did you go about handling that?
I will be honest. My first instinct it to continue to try to explain my side (or whatever side I feel is misunderstood or misrepresented). It often turns into beating a dead horse, and can get heated rather quickly. We often just keep circling the same points over and over again, and realize, much too late, what a futile waste of time the whole disagreement has been.
I believe that there are four key causes to our disagreements with people:
1. They are wrong.
It is possible that they are 100% incorrect. They could have the wrong information concerning a topic of discussion, and maybe you feel it is your duty to correct them.
Pray about it. We actually do not have to react to every incorrect person we encounter. If they aren't asking to be corrected (most people are not), or your correction is causing an escalated argument with someone convinced of their rightness, it is often best to walk away and pray.
2. You are wrong.
It is also possible that you are 100% incorrect. Maybe you've been given the wrong information. Maybe you don't remember something correctly. Whatever the reason may be, believe it or not, you could be wrong.
Pray about it. It is never good to engage in an argument ill-equipped with the facts. Do you really want to be the person convinced wrongly of their rightness? If it is a topic of importance, pray that God would show you the truth, and bring light to the subject. If it is not, why are you arguing about it?
3. You simply have different tastes.
I have known people in Buffalo who almost seem to take personal offense to those who dare to complain about winters. I don't mean to rag on them. They are a passionate and loyal bunch, but listen, it is ok for people to like and dislike different things, and to express that. If it really and truly upsets you, guess what?
Pray about it. Maybe you don't like their opinion on something. Maybe you don't like that they complain about it. Whatever the case may be, pray about whether or not you should address it. Better yet, pray for them. If they are complaining a lot about something they really don't like, or something which really makes them unhappy, pray that something would change for them. Sometimes just lending a kind and understanding ear, can add hope to an otherwise dreary situation, no argument needed.
4. You are each looking at completely different pieces of the same puzzle.
I hate to break it to you, but you could both be right and wrong, at the same time. It is possible that neither one of you has all of the pieces. In fact, I believe this is the most common of all the causes of disagreements.
Pray about it. When you have two (or more) people, 100% convinced of their rightness, when neither (or none) of them even have all of the pieces, it can make for a disagreement which escalates quickly. The trick here, is not in sharing your pieces. We are all very quick to say, "Well, this is what I've found!" No, the trick here is in being willing to look at the other pieces. Pray that God would give you the wisdom and the patience to not only acknowledge another possible viewpoint, but find how it actually aligns with yours.
These are areas of disagreement in which, I believe, everyone struggles, myself most definitely included. But do you notice a theme?
One of the greatest lessons God has ever taught me, is that it is nearly impossible to be impatient while praying. No, it is not impossible in the grand scheme of things. In the bigger picture we are often impatient for the things we are praying for.
What I mean, is that if you are actively taking time away from a frustrating, escalating, or even hostile situation, to pray, you have already exhibited a great amount of discipline and patience. That, right there, is about 90% of the battle. God will meet you where you are. Sometimes He may call you to a difficult or unpleasant conversation, but believe and pray that He will lead your way and your words, and soften the hearts of those He wishes to receive it. Other times, He may tell you to let it go.
I have seen coffee mugs and shirts, where it is written, "But first, coffee." Many of us acknowledge that we are not ready for the challenges of the day without our morning caffeine. We acknowledge that we are not yet ready to even be decent human beings to one another, without that jolt to awaken us. What if we applied this to our prayer life?
I challenge you to this; the next time you feel the need to correct someone, or argue your opinion or point of view with someone, pray first. You may be surprised at how much this simplifies your life. And by default, you will find yourself closer to God, and farther from conflict.
Yesterday, as we walked back to the house from the car, after church, my youngest was walking slowly. It was a slightly warmer day than normal, but the winds were high, and I was urging her to move faster as I shivered in just a light jacket. She seemed unmoved by the chill in the air. Instead, she was laughing into the wind, mouth open wide, as though she was trying to catch snowflakes on her tongue. But there was no snow; only wind.
She yelled over the winds, "Mommy! I'm catching the wind!" and then opened her mouth wider, giggling as the wind rushed over her face.
The irony of this moment, was that the second it happened it was done. This precious moment was gone, as fast as it came; just like the wind.
This may seem an odd, even depressing verse to choose for an uplifting Monday message. But I do have encouraging words to share. While this particular verse is in reference to not boasting about tomorrow, because we can't claim to know God's plans, I want to explore what happens when our mist vanishes.
As moms, or parents in general, we are often encouraged and advised to hang on to each moment, treasure every second, enjoy every minute. Young adults heading off to college for the first time are often equipped with the same advice. It is a lot of pressure in a life filled with moments that are not always treasure-able. Like the wind, our moments can't be caught. They can't be held, even the ones we wish to cling to forever. Moments are fleeting. Sure, we can preserve some with video and pictures to look back on. We can retell stories we never want to forget. But once that moment is gone, it is gone, replaced by new ones right behind it.
These days, almost everyone shares their moments on social media. You can't go out with friends or family without someone capturing the event. Many are even live-streaming their moments directly to their friends and family that couldn't be there. And don't get me wrong. I love that we can connect to our friends and family from afar! I even love that Facebook stores our memories up for us to look back on. But we have become so obsessed with these moments, that sometimes I wonder if we're forgetting to live them.
As I watched my daughter, catching the wind, I realized what a metaphor this was. No matter how many videos or pictures we shoot, we cannot keep moments. They keep moving. All we can do is be in them, catch them as they come, knowing another one is right behind it. We can allow ourselves to be wrapped up in those moments, as they circle, and careful about what we put into them.
Because like the wind, those moments have great power. They hold power over our memories; how we will be remembered, and how we will remember others. The wind has the power to give life or create destruction. Our moments can plant seeds of life and love, or cause great conflict and chaos.
One day, when you are done collecting all your moments, what you've been able to preserve in pictures and videos, and on social media, will be passed down to your loved ones. What will they see in these captured glimpses of you? Will they see your heart for Jesus? Your love for people? When the moments end, what traces of you will be found? Will we find seeds of love and life? Or destruction and chaos?
Life will always be full of imperfect moments. Even the wind kicks up dust as it disperses new life. What story will your wind leave behind?
I have spent at least half of my life in competition. At a very early age, I learned how to compete with myself. This taught me a great deal of self-discipline, and it helped me to improve my basketball skills daily. When I was older, this competition spilled over to other areas of my life. I competed in tennis, basketball, and I also competed academically.
Competition was a driving force in my life. I thrived on it, but not in an unhealthy way. I respected the competition. I loved competing against the best. Winning tough games was that much more satisfying, and losing tough games came with lessons which made us better. I have always believed that competition taught in a healthy way, is good for our children, and I believe they should learn how to work hard to win, and they should learn how to take a loss.
Sometimes a love for competition can make for a rough transition into adulthood, business, and life in general. People find themselves competing at work, as parents, friends, family; who is the best at all the things?
What becomes lost is the idea of a team. Competition is nothing without teamwork, and often we jump into adulthood competing in all the wrong areas. We've forgotten about building up our team.
This has created the idea that we can do everything by ourselves. We've stopped taking help from the village. We want good teachers, but they shouldn't be too involved. Don't tell me how to raise my child. We want good mommy friends, but don't discipline my kid. Don't tell me how to raise my child. We continue to create this island in our lives, and then complain about exclusion. We then complain when things get hard, and no one shows up. We have created a society of people afraid to step on toes, and offer help where it wasn't asked for.
.This verse isn't about all of us agreeing with everyone, all the time. It is about coming together. It is about harmony. Harmony cannot be done alone. We may not always do things in the same exact way, but we all play an important role.
This is a lesson I recently learned in the handmade community; community over competition. We all have a common goal. We are all trying to grow, and we can't do that by tearing each other down, or pushing others away. We can't do it all by ourselves.
It is easy to get caught up in competition. I have gotten caught up in this too! My heart has fallen a bit, in frustration, when I've seen another artist get to an idea that I had, before I did. This is futile! I have learned that it is better to team up, than to cause conflict. It is better to accept help, offer advice, and cultivate a community of friends, than to make enemies.
As early as Genesis, when God created Eve, He did so saying, "Man should not be alone." We weren't designed to do it ourselves. We were meant for teamwork. Reach out to your church. Reach out to your friends, your family, even your competition, and get off your island.
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
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