Thursday, December 23, 2010

Suffering by Grace Trusting Today

Guest Blog:  Rachael Watson

Suffering by Grace: Trusting Today: "Eight months ago, God called me to have faith to believe that nothing is impossible with Him. And I believed. Seven months ago, God called..."

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Man In The Mirror

© 2010, Chantelle Henderson

*Be prepared for a book instead of a simple blog.  I did not set out to do this blog at all.  It started with two sentences and now 2 hours later I'm wrapping this up.*

I am sitting here watching the video at the end of this blog with my heart grieving and tears rolling down my face.  For some reason I've had more people than ever come to me lately and say, "I just wish I could be real" or "I just wish I could be myself." with other people.  My heart breaking right now because we must come to and understanding that if we are Christians we show it by our love one for another:

John 13:34-35  [The Message]

"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other."  

You would think that with today's teaching from various outlets such as Christian Television and church on the internet that Christians would be aware now more than ever about how deep our love should go towards the various backgrounds, races, sexual orientation, religions, etc. that we would simply love one another.  I don't know.  Maybe it's because years ago when I was jacked up (and still can be sometimes) just about everyone judged me in the church except one.  One woman who dared to step in and mentor me.  Because she saw me as a mighty woman of God, with each prayer, each dinner, each lesson she taught me, I slowly began evolving into what she saw with His eyes, instead of her own which would have screamed, "SHE'S A HOPELESS CAUSE!  

I was unaware until several years later that I was the topic of many discussions and not in a good way.  When Mary broke the alabaster box and anointed Jesus' feet with the content, the precious, rare, and expensive perfume (which is said to be worth a years salary) tears flowed down her cheeks and onto His feet.  She cried to the extent that there was enough to wash her tears with her hair.  

This woman had some MAJOR opposition.  She was not only NOT supposed to be there, but she could have been stoned.  She was known as a "sinful" woman who dared not belong in the presence of Jesus!  The people accompanying Him at dinner treated Him just like any old guest.  Their attitude was like, "No big deal.  So we're chillin' with Jesus." She, however, recognized that her need for His love and forgiveness far outweighed the opinions of others and the consequences she may have had to suffer.  ONLY because of her faith, she risked everything she had to come face to face with the Savior of her life - The Lover Of Her Soul.  

Luke 7:36-47 [New International Version]

 36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.  39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”  “Tell me, teacher,” he said.
   41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”  “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.  44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

I don't necessarily notice  99% of the time how people see me, seriously!  Like this woman, I have an "Excuse me.  I'm here to see Him and not you, so please get out of my way." attitude.  I do my very best not to become haughty with that gift.  It is a gift you know?  Maybe it's because that's what got me through.  That's what kept me going to church and getting the word when I could feel the stares of disapproval.  That's what still keeps me going; trying to constantly remember that were it not for His love and forgiveness, I would for sure still be left in my pit of despair.  Granted, it may be presented in a sharp, no-nonsense manner (which I'm REALLY working on), it doesn't matter what you used to be or what you used to do, where you've been.  I'm interested in seeing you through His eyes and celebrating with you on your own journey to gain access into the very heart of God, Papa.  This is what I whole heartily others to see in me:  I want them to see the love of Christ shining through me.  I want others to feel His love from my heart.  I want them to feel like no matter what they are the apple of God's eye.  I want them to see me in my spiritual, TRUE spiritual and natural condition so they can see the cracks being filled in as I am on The Potters Wheel being made and molded into what He purposed for me.  

In the same manner, even now, as we journey through our lives on this side of eternity while we are passing through this earthly realm, we all fall short, screw up, fail, and need HIS Mercy and Grace EVERY DAY.  As Christians we should be able to love and accept people right where they are.  We say it all the time, but rarely do it.  Many people stay the same simply because no one chooses to see what they could become.  The word of God says that “we are to bare one another’s burdens”, Again from The Message Bible.  ( I love how it just puts it out there!)

Galatians 6:1-5 [The Message]

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

So, we all have been there.  And especially because we’ve been there, we are called to encourage, lift up, and restore friends and strangers alike.  We have to answer the call to mentor the way someone took the time to do with us when we were in our muck and mire.  Our victories, and battle scars, and wisdom, and knowledge are not for us.  They are for the lives of others we pour into.  When we don’t love and accept people right where they are we add great weight to their feeling of inadequacy. We all have good intentions but you know what they say about intentions???  If not, look it up.

How about the man or woman who is sitting in a corner getting ready to pull the trigger because they have an attraction to the same sex, but knows from negative comments you’ve made in front of them before, or that the pastor just condemned them to hell at last Sunday's service "They will never understand.  I'd rather be dead than face the rejection of the very ones who are supposed to embrace me as I find my way on this side of eternity."

We hold up our signs with pride that say, MURDERER outside the abortion clinic.  We yell and scream at them and throw them "to the wolves".  Um, how about putting up some money to pay for her doctors' bill, put a roof over her head.  Be there at her doctors' appointments to hold her hands as she weighs the one decision that will forever change her life no matter which path she chooses.  Oh yeah, take one of your fancy cars out of the garage that sit there as a mere decoration that you "play with" once a year and put some gas in it and adorn it with a big red bow and hand her the keys.  I guess it's easier to tell someone they are a baby-killer, murderer, whore, slut, and many other words used to describe those who are about to walk in to the clinic than to actually take the time support them spiritually, physically, financially and socially.  Your attitude is "Keep it simple.  Just don't do it." and yet you don't make the time to mentor her.

How many times have we seen the man with stringy hair, torn shoes, the stench of not bathing for days, and rough, cracked hands from being outside in the cold with nothing to keep him warm.  You’re afraid to shake his hands because he may have a parasite.  Did you know that in that moment you may have very well been coming in contact with an angel unaware.  Yes.  Angels are real.  Just think, you've been honored with the presence of an angel and we dismissed them because “we were too good” and didn’t want to be defiled by showing any kind of compassion, or God forbid get to close physically.  What a blessing missed!  Just sit and soak in that for a minute.  WOW!

Hebrews 13:2 (New American Standard Bible)

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

You label someone as “crazy” because of their erratic and unbalanced behavior.  They are “different”.  Has it ever occurred to you that he or she may have been traumatized and the only way they could cope was to create an unrealistic world, where at times they still find security and solace?  There are days that they actually think to themselves, “I’m going to get out of the house today and actually take a step and spend time with another human being instead of isolate.”  When they do, you caught them outside of what they consider their safe place so yeah, they may be taking baby steps but you’ve written them off.  Instead, you could have empathized with that person, taken a little more time and energy than you’re used to and point them to a healthcare professional who may be able to give them a diagnosis that will give them understanding of why they behave the way they do.  For the first time in their life they have answers, may need to take medication (so what) but they feel more alive than the minutes, hours, and days of their life feeling numb and non-existent. 

You can take a woman who has a beautiful home, a brand new car, two kids, a great husband, and the life she’s always dreamed of……and yet, she feels as empty as the woman in a one bedroom apartment, living off welfare, while trying to make it from day to day.  How many times have we rolled our eyes at the woman who is buying steaks with her food stamps and goes outside and gets in a new car.  You know what.  That was me 18 years ago.  I got steak because I lived in a household of 5 people and it was nice every once in a while to show my appreciation of not having to pay rent or childcare because my mother and father were helping me out.  I was scoffed on one of those days that I bought a steak and got in my PARENT’S new Cadillac.  I was driving it because the car I was driving from buy-here pay-here lot was breaking down and not safe for me to drive.  Heck, I’ll even admit that with many of these things I’m addressing I am guilty of doing myself and I should know better!  Being a former adult entertainer who wore stilettos to church with a skirt that could be mistaken for me forgetting to put on anything at all.  I’d come right through the church doors right off of a shift.  Was I greeted with the love of God?  Anything but. … And yet again I have caught myself being on the other side of the road with promises of NEVER doing to them or treating them the way I was.  But here she comes.  Her hair is disheveled.  She looks like she’s been partying all night.  Her breath even smells like she’s been drinking.  I arrogantly greet her with a smile and my name while thinking, “Dear Lord woman.  God put on some clothes and look presentable.”  Then there were the ones around me who saw her and didn’t even acknowledge her presence.  How dare I?  You could not have paid me $1 million dollars to believe I would ever think that way.  If I don’t watch it, I’ll be honest and tell you that I am still capable of it.
Yesterday, I heard a story that hit waaaaay to close to home as it involved someone that I know and love very deeply.  On the outside that person may seem to act happy and look content in their life, but I know for a fact that they are tortured in their mind and spirit because they just want someone…..just ONE person to love them unconditionally, to hold them when they cry, and listen when they need to talk.  After my conversation with this person I posted this as my status.  I admit.  I was angry and fired up!  How dare you treat this person like that?  You are absolutely no better than they are and I know it because I’ve seen how you live your life when you’re on the other side of town thinking no one is going to see you go into the very places you preach are “the devil’s playground” where the “whores who have lost souls” need to get right with Jesus.  Here is my quote:

"2 all the self-righteous-sanctimonious-pious-holier-than-thou people out there who call themselves Christians. SHUT IT & quit acting like U R better. That's not it. U just haven't been caught YET. Were it not 4 the blood of Jesus, we'd ALL B LOST! It's the same blood, no more or no less that saved U, that saves some1 who is caught N their sin & needs restoration. Do not call yourself a Christian if U can't do this!"

While I will not apologize for confronting the issue head on which is what gets and keeps me in trouble most of the time, I will say that it did not come, at that moment, from a place of love.  It came from a place of being utterly pissed off and bitter.  I started typing this blog you are reading right now as a sentence or two for a video I posted that gets in the face of our lack of love and compassion; our fake smiles and “picture perfect” lives.  My fingers could not stop typing.  It’s just all flowing through my heart.  Again, it started out as me watching the video for one of my favorite songs and it turned into this; for all intents and purposes a book J.

As I pour out each word this serves as a stern reminder TO ME that I need to practice what I preach.  I am a hypocrite if there ever was one and I truly repent.  I recognize that if I get too puffed up with knowledge and forget all that He has brought me through, I am still capable of doing the opposite of living out His greatest command only second to loving and serving Him-To love our neighbors as ourselves.  We try to live perfect lives and expect others to do the same, when He is saying, "I just want you to love others with the same love I have shown you.  Otherwise, your works, ministries, degrees, titles, and posessions mean nothing to me."  Well, actually He's the reason you have them, so He's not impressed with any of it to begin with.  Maybe men are, but not Him.

Matthew 22:32-38

When the crowds heard him, they were astounded at his teaching. But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”  Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.

I'll be honest, artistically I’m not a huge Michael Jackson fan.  He did sing a song years ago that paints a beautiful picture of where the change needs to begin - with ourselves.  The song is "The Man In The Mirror" and the main chorus:

"I'm starting with the man in the mirror.
I'm asking him to change his ways.
No message could have been any clearer.
If want the world to be a better place,
Take a look at yourself, and then
Make the change."

Just like getting out of the shower, many of us have just walked out the door not giving any thought to the blurred condition of the mirror.  If we’d stayed a little bit longer the fogginess would disappear to reveal what remains.  May the “fogginess” of ignorance, judgment, and fear of letting other people see who you really are dissipate to reveal a beautiful child of God.  A reflection of someone who is loved and able to give love in return no matter what they look like, do in life, or what background they come from.  Let’s look at that man or woman in the mirror and repent for past judgments and outright dismissal of someone based on what we see rather than their true reflection as a child of God.  Maybe if we just believed the best in a person, they would see their own reflection of what they really could be in life.  They may behold (for the first time in their life) that once the mist of lies and confusion, and hope for healing, lifted it would leave only reflection of who they really are and will become in Christ.