Word Before World

I’m scrolling through Instagram when I wake up this morning and come across a hashtag that gets my mind rolling. #wordbeforeworld . Now, this isn’t the first time I had seen the hashtag. I have seen @wellwateredwomen posting it for several days now. But it was the first time I stopped and took note.

What is the first thing I do when I wake up? Usually grumble about the kids already being awake and lament how late I stayed up the night before. But the first thing I usually choose to do after pulling myself out of bed and getting ready for the day is grab my iPad and start checking social media. I choose to plunge into the world first. Always. The Word part normally comes when I’ve done everything else I need to do for the day. Sure, we get into the Word every morning during Morning Basket time, so I guess I could count that. But before I even do morning basket, I’m checking my social media accounts.

Of course, my mind went to Deuteronomy chapter 6. The people of God are being told not to forget who they are and what God has done for them. They are to teach their children, talk of them in their house, talk of God’s commands walking around going about their day. They are to write them on the doorposts of their houses. And they are to think of them when they lie down and when they rise up.

It got me thinking of the giving of the first fruits, something we remind ourselves when we tithe. We give God the first of what he has given to us. So, what is more valuable than our time? The days, hours, and minutes we have? Why wouldn’t we give the first of our time each day, too?

Essentially, when I choose social media before getting into the Word of God, I’m stating my priorities for the day. Connection, news, self-image- all those things we tie up in social media- I’m saying those are the most important for me. I’m saying that my FOMO (fear of missing out) on the world is more important than my FOMO on God.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with social media. I think we, as Christians, need to remain engaged in social media as a way to influence our culture. But as all our youth pastor’s warned us, we need to be careful of how we let it shape us. So, I’m not saying we should all pull away from social media. I think a host of evangelism can be done through a screen in our culture.

I am saying that I found myself guilty this morning. I realized I’ve not been putting first things first. I’ve been putting them last. When there is time. At the bottom of the to-do list. And those priorities will never stand. The Word will never shape me because I’m not letting it take the rightful place in my life. That is not anyone’s fault but mine.

I had thought of New Year’s Resolutions in abstract terms. I knew I needed more discipline in my spiritual life and my physical life, so I was just going to abstractly focus on discipline. I now realize an abstract one word focus isn’t going to get me where I need to be. Sure, it will help me think of where I need to be. But I need action steps. I need firm commitments to being disciplined.

So, with discipline as my word of the year, my first practical step is going to be Word before World. That is my first firm commitment to the process of being disciplined. Word before World. I will seek Him first.

How Else Will They Know?

no neutral

My brother and I used to do these goofy plays. Don’t think Shakespeare in the living room. This was more like SNL. Anyway, the big ending to one of our plays was, “Somebody must tell them!” said very dramatically to the audience with great pause. (Then my brother would say, “The Meme!” which we thought was oh so hilarious, but no one else got, which was what made it so funny! Note, this was not yet a thing, since this was 1996. Nonsense was the name of our game. But that bit doesn’t pertain to this right now.) We find ourselves at a place in our culture where we all yell, “Somebody must tell them!” We neglect to see that *we* are telling *them* every single day with every single interaction.

Have you ever thought about the above quote? That you will either build someone up or tear them down in each exchange you have with them? That is some heavy weight. That burden is not feeling light about now. But you know you’ve been there.

Sitting in a waiting room trying to wrangle all six kids to be quiet, don’t touch the fake plants, do not tear out all the cards from the magazines, don’t put their feet on the couches, dear Lord stay off the ground! A woman looks over and says not to you, but to the air, “Some people should not have kids!” And just like that- pfft. Punched in the gut. All your air is gone. Your struggle just ended in defeat. You’ll question what you could have done better. Then your humiliation will turn to anger. And you’ll be mad at that idiot. Mad at the world. Mad at your culture.

Sitting in a waiting room trying to wrangle all six kids to be quiet, don’t touch the fake plants, do not tear out all the cards from the magazines, don’t put their feet on the couches, dear Lord stay off the ground! A woman looks over and says, “You are doing a good job. They are well behaved and lucky to have you to teach them.” And just like that- you feel lighter. All that work and someone noticed! She said you’re doing a good job! She knows you are trying. She sees the kids really are trying and doing a really great job considered how long you’ve all been sitting here. You are happy. You are doing this hard work well! What a great community to build one another up.

I have literally had both of those things happen to me. Not on the same day, mind you. Different days. Different people. Different waiting room. Same me. Same kids. Same eternal struggle. And there were some people who said nothing, but gave me that judgy look. That unhappy to be sharing the same space with you look. And others that give you the “been there, done that” smile and nod. They’re with you. They understand.

We all have this power. Every day. Every interaction. I can build this person up. I can make their day a little brighter. I can be a little bit of sunshine. OR I can tear them down. I can make their day a little darker. I can be the rain on their parade. That is a lot of power. A lot of power in the small things.

John 13:34-35 I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.

I have a funny t-shirt that I still wear that was The Pastor’s in college. It says, “They will know we are Christians by our t-shirts.” And it was funny tongue-in-cheek poking fun at the Christian culture of the day. Wear your Jesus shirt, slap an ichthus on your car, burn your secular CDs and we all know you love Jesus, right? I don’t know what our modern equivalent is. Maybe tell everyone how perfectly broken you are, Instagram your devo time, and talk about how authentic you are? Maybe that isn’t fair. The point is, the WAY to know we are Christians is by our LOVE for each other. So simple. We haven’t grown past this. This is basic. God loves us. He LOVES us. Like, love loves us. We are loved. And what do we do? We love!

This common courtesy is honey. It draws people in. It builds them up. It plants seeds in their life that will grow when the soil is ready.

“Healing becomes the opportunity to pass off to another human being what I have received from the Lord Jesus.” -Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

But WHY? I don’t have time. I am busy. Can’t I just ignore everyone and keep my head down and get through? (1) Where is the victory in that? (2) No. Sorry. This isn’t about you. If you are too busy to show some common courtesy, you need to reevaluate your calendar. If you are too busy to be kind, you need to evaluate your priorities. If you need more reason…

“According to that mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian, what we do to one another we do to Jesus.” -Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

 Galatians 5:13 You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.

“Lodged in your heart is the power to walk into somebody’s life and give him or her what the bright Paul Tillich called “the courage to be.” Can you fathom that? You have the power to give someone the courage to be simply by the touch of your affirmation.” – Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

I’d like to leave you with the following challenge. go in love

Affirm Their Worth

So, what is this common courtesy business? Well, I consider it a spiritual discipline. In fact, this spiritual discipline is more difficult for me than prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, hospitality- anything else. When God first started working on my heart about common grace, you could feel my soul yelling, “Anything but this!” Seriously. Some people find this sort of thing easy. I do not. A punk rock teen grew up to be a punk in adult’s clothing. Polite is almost the opposite of my core. To me, polite felt like a lie. It felt wrong. Chit-chat seemed like wasted meaningless words. A waste of the limited time we are given! Oh how wrong I was. I mean, I thought I was right. My logic made sense. But God has a way of taking those things we hold as true and exposing them to light, and we see that we only saw a shadow of the issue at hand.

“Once we get over our egocentric arrogance about the fact that people don’t really want to know how we are when they say “How are you?” we can see that it is just an American way of acknowledging our presence. We can wave and acknowledge their presence too without feeling the need to give a prognosis on our latest headache.” – Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Did that hit you as it hit me? Honestly, that single concept took me years to master. Years. And I still think I struggle with it from time to time. My brutal and completely open honesty struggles with this concept.

“The specific acts will vary from culture to culture, but the purpose is always the same: to acknowledge others and affirm their worth.” -Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

You read that? Read it again. Let that sink in. Does my need for this ideal of brutal honesty mean more than the worth of the person in front of me? No. Does my internal punk screaming for truth matter more than this moment to affirm this person’s worth? No. In these seemingly small moments, we make people. We breathe into them that thing we find in our Great God- worth. We shine a light into their darkness and say, “Hey, you! You’re worth my time and my attention.”

Titus 3:2 (CEB) They shouldn’t speak disrespectfully about anyone, but they should be peaceful, kind, and show complete courtesy toward everyone.

pip handYears ago, the thought of someone touching my baby would have sent me into a tizzy. You’ve seen that Steve Harvey video? No, not the Miss Universe one, the one about the woman who didn’t want strangers touching her baby. (I linked that for ya, just in case you somehow haven’t seen it.) Well, that is the world’s wisdom. And years ago, I would have been the first person and the loudest person saying, “If you want to touch a baby, have your own baby!” But you know how God works in ways different than the world? And you know how God changes us sometimes, even those pieces we didn’t think needed to be changed? Well, that is what He did to me.

Not long ago, in a coffee shop, I had Pip all wrapped up snug. It wasn’t cold out, and his feet are so dang fat socks are just not an option unless he really might freeze without them. So, I am standing and waiting on my café au lait, and a woman approaches me. She says, “Oh! Those feet!” Now, the judgement police sirens are going off in my head. I am sure I am about to get a lecture about how he will certainly catch pneumonia and die in 70 degree weather. I smile and mention that his feet are too fat for socks. She says, “May I?” Nodding to his fat little foot poking out of the carrier. I say, “Sure.” The lady proceeds to just hold and rub Pip’s foot for a minute. She has this sad kind of smile while she does. Pip is just grinning at her, because that is what Pip does. She then says, “Thank you so much for sharing him with me today. You have no idea how much holding that fat foot meant to me.” And then she walks off.

Now, five years ago, I would have in no polite way told her that she may not touch his foot! I would have likely acted like I couldn’t hear her when she first spoke to me, since I assumed she was just being Judgy McJudgyPants. But God was working on me. And in this moment, I chose to just show simple kindness. We’re not talking about some incredible heroic act. I was simply kind and polite. I shared my baby’s foot with a stranger for a minute. I’ll never know what that woman was going through. And I will never know what that moment meant to her. But to me, it seems Pip and I were there as an act of grace to her that day. We simply acknowledged her, and somehow we brought a little light.

Common courtesy is a simple act of compassion. It is a small act of service. Are you like I was, unable to small talk because of your own ideals? Perhaps those assumptions of others are keeping you from the smallest kindness? Will you acknowledge others and affirm their worth? Will you pray for opportunities to practice small kindnesses to strangers?

Common Courtesy

Common courtesy. Small talk. A smile. Giving a little of your time to make the day of a stranger a little better. On the one hand, we gravitate toward stories of the small “random acts of kindness”. We post them on social media. They might bring a tear to our eye. But when it is us in a situation where we could use a little common courtesy, how often do we find ourselves showing that small grace?

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Usually our reasons to not be courteous seem valid.

We’re busy! We need to get home and get dinner started or we won’t have time to feed the kids before they need to be at the ball field. We have a ticking clock in our heads telling us there are not enough hours in the day to make our obligations. We certainly have no time for chit chat. We certainly have too much on our plate for patience.

We’re stressed! All those million things that jam pack our schedule full all fall on us my shoulders right this second. If the kids are late, my fault. If their homework isn’t done to perfection, my fault. If their dinner isn’t healthy & nutritious enough, my fault. It all falls on me and it is all bearing down every second of every day. Stressed seems too tame a word for what we feel!

We’re tired! Burning the candle at both ends, trying to make all of this work. Kids finally get in bed and we’ve still get a few hours worth of work before we can tuck in. And just as we do, someone is crying in the night needing us. We haven’t slept in a decade and that never seems to be ending soon!

We’re selfish! Let’s stop pretending. We don’t want to chit chat when we could be reading our e-mails or playing Candy Crush in a moment of zoned out peace. We like to talk about “me” time and try to sneak it any way we can.

We feel judged! Usually because we judge ourselves. We feel like every statement is somehow a commentary on our lives. We may find we are quick to judge others, and assume the same. And yes, sometimes this really is the truth, but so are all the other things I listed.

We’re oblivious! You might say, “Well, this belongs under selfish!” Stop judging me and let me talk! (Ha! JK) This is when the selfishness gets so engrained, that it literally doesn’t even occur to us to think of someone else. You might argue, but we’re parents, we are always thinking of others! Thinking of your kids and thinking of complete strangers are two completely different things. But too often we get so into our own lives that we are completely oblivious to the lives of others.

I have absolutely been there. God has been working on me with this issue for years. Honestly. You can ask some of my small group peoples. I don’t do common courtesy. Until this past year or so, that is. This anti-chit-chat girl has become friendly to strangers. It didn’t happen overnight. And I still have to actively force myself into this common courtesy business. But I think this is something we all need to hear. I think this is something God is calling us back to in our culture. I’m not talking about online. Redeeming social media is another discussion completely. I’m talking about real life. We’re talking about loving the neighbor right in front of you right now.

I’m breaking this down into smaller bites, because what I have to say may get long. And you may need time to digest each piece. I know I did. This is also written to Christians. I don’t expect the World to live like Christ. I expect that of Christians. So, my secular readers, read on if you find interest in the inner workings of Christian life, but know where I am coming from, The Cross.

Fruit of The Spirit Family Devotional: Week One: Love

fruit of the spirit verseRead Galations 5:22-23 at least once during the week. Read it daily if you’d like! We’re wanting the kids to memorize The Fruit of The Spirit.

love verse of the weekDeuteronomy 6:4-5 is the memory verse this week. These verses are also know as the Shema Yisrael. Read these verses at the beginning of each devotion time. The goal is to have each member of the family memorize these verses this week. You can print out the image above or make your own with the verse on it to place somewhere in your house. (Image is sized to be printed 5×7.)

Day One: What is Love?

What is love? It is easy to say what love is not. But what is it? Is it simply intense affection? Is it liking someone a lot? The Bible teaches us the God is love. In 1 John 4, we’re told that not only is love from God, but God Himself is Love. In a great act of love shown to man, God sent His only Son to become one of us. He loved us so much, He died for us. He died for you. That is bigger than affection. That is bigger than just liking you. He loves you. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ” Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Jesus came in love to drive sin away. He came for you. He came for me. He came for each man because of His love.

Activity: Coloring Page

Day Two: Love My Neighbor

Read Matthew 22:34-40.

Who is your neighbor? Your neighbor is the person in front of you and the next person you see. Your mom is your neighbor. Your sister is your neighbor. Your friend is your neighbor. The kid down the street is your neighbor. Your neighbor is any person you see or talk to. Jesus said we should love our neighbor as ourselves. How can you do that? How could you show the person in front of you the love of Jesus? St. Francis of Assissi said, “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” Let’s practice showing one another the love of Jesus this week, and all the weeks that follow. Mother Teresa once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Activity: Show some love! Think of something to do for those in your house to show them love. Make your brother’s bed. Help your Mom with laundry. Pick up someone else’s mess. Do small things with great love.

Day Three: The Greatest is Love

Read 1 Corinthians 13.

Why is love so great? How does it feel to be loved? It is nice, isn’t it? Knowing someone loves you. Knowing your Mom or your Dad care deeply for you. You always know you can turn to them. You always know you can count on them to be there. Why? They love you. Mother Teresa said, “I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, “How many good things have you done in your life?” rather He will ask, “How much love did you put into what you did?” Do you remember a time when someone did something for you with love? Do that for others!

Activity: Making cards. Today, let’s make a card for someone who lives far from us that we want to show some love.

Day Four: Heart and Soul

Read Joshua 22:5.

What does it mean to walk in the way of the Lord? If God is love, then I should walk in love. One way we know how to walk in the way of the Lord, is to look at the life of Jesus. When Jesus encountered Zacchaeus (in Luke 19), a man the rest of the world hated, did Jesus do what everyone else did and ignore and push Zacchaeus to the side? Nope. Jesus showed Zacchaeus love and friendship. When they came to Jesus with the woman they were going to stone in John 8, did Jesus throw a stone? Nope. Jesus offered forgiveness for the wrong she had done. Let’s walk like Jesus and cling to Him. Let’s show the world the love He has shown to us. You may be the only Jesus the world sees.

Activity: Coloring page.

Activity 2: Raining Hearts. Get a dowel/stick, various paper (wrapping paper, scrapbook paper, colored paper), string/yarn, scissors, and glue. Cut little hearts of all size from the paper. Glue each heart onto the string, gluing multiple hearts along the length of the string. Tie each string to the stick. It is now raining love!

Day 5: In Love

Read 1 Corinthians 16:14

Everyday you do things. You see people. You talk to people. You do your school work. You play on the playground. You go to dance class or baseball practice. Everyday you have the chance to show those around you love. How could you show the love of Jesus in the things you do? Should you do different things? Should you just do the things you do with more love? You make a mark on every person you meet- make a mark of love.

Activity: Memory verse day! Who learned their memory verse this week? What did you learn about love?

The Prayer Of Love

We do not reciprocate… hatred and contention, although [our enemies] would like it better if we did, and so sink to their own level. And how is the battle to be fought? Soon the time will come when we shall pray, not as isolated individuals, but as a corporate body, a congregation, a church; we shall pray in multitudes (albeit small multitudes) and among the thousands of and thousands of apostates we shall loudly praise and confess the Lord who was crucified and is risen and shall come again. And what prayer, what confession, what hymn of praise will it be? It will be the prayer of earnest love for these very children of perdition who stand around and gaze at us with eyes aflame with hatred, and who have perhaps already raised their hands to kill us. It will be prayer for the peace of these erring, devastated, and bewildered souls, a prayer which will penetrate to the depths of their souls and rend their hearts more grievously than anything they can do to us. Yes, the church which is really waiting for its Lord, and which discerns the signs of the times of decision, must fling itself with its utmost power and with the panoply of its holy life into this prayer of love.

– from A Testament To Freedom 320 by Dietrich Bonhoeffer