Always Be Closing… Transactions for Good in the Human Heart

I was working on some new ideas…about Christians who have really stood out, the daunting rise of moral relativism, and the power of God’s love to transform our hearts and minds; I wanted to plant those flags where they were needed most – in the heat of the battle.

But after a tough week, it was clear the biggest battle was in my own heart.

It was raging with some tough decisions I was facing.  I was reminded of an important truth.  With every choice, territory is claimed; an advance is made in one direction or another.

A friend of mine loves the movie Boiler Room (sales movie about a bunch of stock broker guys).  He played it enough times that I memorized a few lines. If you’ve ever heard anyone say, “Always Be Closing,” its from this movie.  Another memorable line is this: “A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close? You or him?

A sale is made in every choice we make too – in our hearts. We are submitting to one voice or the other, the will of the flesh or the spirit.  Whether we are aware of it or not, transactions are being made constantly;  the question is, who is closing?   C.S. Lewis says it like this:

“Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.”

For me, I like to think I’m moving along in the right direction, but the enemy is clearly not ready to lay down arms. Pride, anger, and resentment are always waiting to appear in the path and push me back. I’m reminded that without staying alert and focused, that is exactly what will happen.

This week, I found myself making an argument in my head that I shouldn’t have to forgive a certain person anymore. I had forgiven so many times. I had reached my quota.

In my head, the extra mile had become a marathon.  Surely God couldn’t expect me to go any further –  I had forgiven enough.  Even if I did forgive again, I was taking a nice, long vacation.

It doesn’t matter that I know the verses.  About how we should forgive our brother 70 x 7 (no limit) and how if we do not freely forgive our brothers, we can not expect God to forgive us.

I was ready to rationalize all that away.  I was somehow able to convince myself that in my case, things were different.

I would have been the modern Pharisee who yanked a calculator out of her purse and stuck it in Jesus’s face. “Well maybe I’m not up to  70 x 7 EXACTLY, but look, I’m really getting up there, do you SEE?”  Shouldn’t I get extra credit for all this…..and this?

That’s not grace.

He didn’t forgive me like that.  He didn’t love me like that.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  John 13:34

 That means  unconditionally — without keeping any record or score.

I know that stuff.  Even so, It took reading a wonderful blog post to stop me in my tracks.

JS PARK – Question: Doesn’t Grace Make You Lazy? 

As J.S. points out, grace is about loving someone freely and without judgement for as long as it takes until God’s love breaks through.  It does not mean you have to trust them.  It does not mean you have to give them the deed to your house or the keys to your car. But forgive them? Yes.  Love them, pray for them, bless them? Always and without ceasing (minus the vacation) – no matter what; then trusting God to handle the rest.  That is His way, and it’s the only course that can melt the iron walls of deception to let His light shine through.

Lord, thank you for showing me how wrong I was through the words of your servant’s blog; Thank you for reminding me there is no number, no scorecard in unconditional love.  

Please help me be aware of the choices that affect the central part of me. Create in me a clean heart; renew a right spirit in me, so that I am always  “closing” in the direction of your loving grace and truth.

If you’d like to hear more about my testimony, visit trustingforpeace.com

Click here for my trustingforpeace blog.

My Date with a Missionary – A Night I Will Never Forget

Some dates are anything but memorable.  Other dates you would pay any price to forget.

The date I will remember for the rest of my life was with a missionary.

But it wasn’t for the reasons you probably wanted to read about. Maybe I’m wrong about that.  You be the judge.

When I was growing up, my  folks were very close with a missionary family; they were Bible translators who were working in Papua New Guinea.  Because they had a son about my age, they decided to sort of stick us together when we reached our early 20s, just to see what might happen (typical).  We were wise to their sneaky little scheme, realizing we would never dodge this thing, so we hatched out a plan for a nice dinner and movie to make it date-worthy and just have fun with it.   In the end we actually had a great time.

Over dinner, he kept me laughing trying to teach me some of the native tongue (If I had a video of this, we could be looking at some serious YouTube money… hysterical), and I only wish I could remember the bits he shared because I mastered a few lines, or maybe it was a few words, ha.

The thing that’s etched forever in my brain though, is the expression he had on his face during the ride home.

Truly, it was as if an 18-wheeler had flattened his beloved cocker spaniel.  He looked somber, deeply saddened even.  I kept pressing til he admitted it had been the movie; he said that it really disturbed him to see that type of thing portrayed on the screen, and it was even worse that it didn’t seem to bother anyone.  I was in shock.  The movie was House Sitter, with Goldie Hahn.  A comedy, PG or something…  She pretends she’s Steve Martin’s wife to try to gain closeness after a one-night stand and makes up all these crazy stories about them as if they had already been in a relationship.  OK, I could see that some aspects of it were anything but Christian, but it was a secular movie; we knew that going in, and it was at least marginally funny… Steve Martin, right?  Tame by today’s standards anyway…   To him?  Not so much.  It was extremely dishonest, immoral, and even repulsive.   I remember thinking, relax dude, really?  It was just silly, don’t take it so seriously, come on…  Pa LEASE!!   You need to get OUT more!

However, I couldn’t stop thinking about it afterwards, and I am struck to this day at what a hidden truth that reveals about our skewed perceptions. I couldn’t help think about what is a horror to God in comparison to what seems relatively harmless to us. Here we live in a world that is in direct conflict with his laws, but we are constantly being desensitized; day after day for years, those messages are bombarded at us.  For a missionary who has been overseas working to translate an obscure language for years, spending all his hours sweating away witnessing to natives, he was sheltered from that relentless onslaught, and so he was duly and quite appropriately shocked.   That is the bottom line when you spell it out. It’s the shock that is right, not the acceptance.  We have it all backwards, but are too blind to even blink in awareness of that truth.

I have noticed in my life that just by going through my big valley, or “journey from fear to faith”, that during that time, I stepped back from the TV, social activities, and everything else that used to distract me, and started digging into God’s word instead.  I had never come close to reaching for God at that level before; I was spending literally hours a day in study, sometimes morning til night saturating myself with input from various sources. I couldn’t get enough and still can’t. I never thought I would even want all that, and that’s a testimony all its own.  I started understanding things which led to wanting more, feeling more peace and freedom, and more puzzle pieces starting coming together.  The fascinating thing that relates to my date story is the way it’s changed my perspective, not just closeness to God, but that my sensitivity to my surroundings has dramatically increased.  Sensitivity to my sin, and to the stuff that previously didn’t used to make me even pause for thought. I’m not in my missionary friend’s class by a very long shot yet, but how ironic to look back at that experience from 17 or so years ago and finally get a better picture of what he was feeling?  I sat down to a movie a friend wanted to watch a few weeks back and I even couldn’t sit through it; it just wasn’t funny to me anymore. I was seeing it through a different filter;  I knew too much, and it actually saddened me.

The “smushed cocker spaniel face” was now mine. 

Don’t misinterpret me; I’m not planning to sell all my stuff and move to zimbabwe  to escape “the dark culture of america” just yet, but a shift has definitely taken place.  I am careful not to surrender that ground.  I see the benefit it’s had in my life and I also see how easily I could stray back.  I already know how easily I still submit to anger, pride, greed, and self focus, and I know what it’s cost me and worse, what it’s cost God to bring me here.  I am not my own, so sliding backwards is not an option I am ready to leave out on the table.

The answer?  Focus on his word, focus on Him.  

Jesus said,  “I am the bread of life…. (John 6:35)   We gotta eat – daily.

The chorus from a favorite hymn from my youth also comes to mind:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Lord, help me to stay focused on you, and remain rooted in your word.  Help me discern the light from the darkness and never lose sight of the sacrifice you made to bring us life more abundantly. Amen.

If you’d like to hear more about my testimony, visit trustingforpeace.com
If I can pray for you or offer you encouragement, connect with me!

Pondering the question of contrast in the Christian life

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 What exactly is Contrast? 

According to our good friends at Google, it’s

“The state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition or close association.

I’m a graphic designer/advertising gal by trade. In my business, if you want more pop –more impact, you increase the contrast.  Simply put, if you want to stand out from the rest of the stuff your audience sees, your object is simple – Increase difference between light and dark.  Less yawn, more wow.  Pretty basic stuff, so what’s the point?

I’m saying that’s how we should seem to others as Christians, strikingly different, but most of us well…. don’t. So, Why not? If one of the central messages of Christianity is that of becoming a new creation once we are “in Christ”, why don’t the majority of us look strikingly different from everybody else?  How different is enough?  What constitutes genuine change, and when does it have real life-altering impact that’s capable of producing the effects spoken of throughout gospel? I’ve thought of many questions and I could keep going… But don’t worry, I won’t.

I don’t pretend to have all the expertise needed to “unpack” this in blog entry numero uno or later for that matter; I’m no theologian or spiritual teacher. I’m just an ordinary woman who has had to go through some valleys to see how neutral I had become in my life. That said, I made a renewed commitment to jump off the fence and take my Christian walk due north, and not long after I thought it would be interesting and challenging to ask those questions, and many others through the lens of personal experience (in the light of God’s word of course) as I stumble along down the narrow road. 

As I share my own personal thoughts and inspiration along that course, I hope you are willing to offer some of your own. It would be more encouraging (and fun) to go forward with the advice of some friends and for me, half the battle is making myself accountable to my own convictions anyway, especially after some of the harder lessons fade and distractions multiply.  Together, I’m certain we could move the slider in the right direction, toward His light.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12-1-2: 

Lord, please help me increase the contrast in my Christian life, and help me through the words of this blog, bring honor and glory to your Holy Name.  Amen.

If I can pray for you or offer you encouragement, connect with me!