Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

I have been studying the topic of Mercy for the last year. Prior to this, the last 4 years, most of my biblical studies have been about love, what scripture says about it, and how to walk it out. But sometimes God moves us on to new lessons and I just wanted to know how God feels about it. So I've been like a little archeologist and I've been digging in the scriptures to see what He says about it. I've also read other books on how modern day people walk it out, as well as listening to message after message about it. 
I was pondering Romans this morning and after reading the list of those that will suffer the wrath of God in Romans chapter one, I began reading chapter two, stopping at the end of the first paragraph. That's what grabbed my attention. I know I've read it before many times over the years but I'm not sure if I've ever connected what Paul was saying to the Roman church between the two chapters. 
I was so astounded at what it said, I had to examine how different the end of chapter one was to the second. I felt like I was stuck for a moment and the difference in "The wrath of God" and this kindness he was talking about. I suddenly remembered it was written as a letter. And that meant it wasn't separated by chapters. It was fluid from one paragraph to the next. 
The "You" that begins chapter two was strong to me. He says, "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else..." I went back and re-read the last paragraph of chapter one. 
Beginning in verse 28-32, "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."
Paul was speaking to the church. And I suspect they were very much like us today. Even though this was written in 57-58 a.d. it's still relevant in 2016. In 2 Timothy 3:16 it says, "All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness..." So we can count on it leading and guiding us in the here and now.
I imagine as each of us are able to look at this list and hang our heads in shame, knowing we've committed at least one of them. If you don't think you do, well you're in denial. Romans 3:23 says, "...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." In 1 John 1:8 tells us if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. So the reality is we all screw up. But that's not the issue here. Judging other's was the issue. Judging them for the doing the same thing they're doing! 
Isn't so easy to look on in disgust the blatant sins of other people? I know it used to be for me. I had no place of understanding of the struggles they were going through. I would say to myself, "I sure am glad I'm not like them." 
But then that made me just like one of them. See Jesus went on to explain in Luke 18 about a Pharisee and a Tax Collector. It begins in verse 9-14. 
"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable; 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector. I fact twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'"
But the tax collector stood at a distance, He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
The reality was when I would say to myself, "I sure am glad I'm not like them," it made me like a Pharisee! What an eye opener. Kinda just like when my eyes were opened to connecting the first and second chapter of Romans. 
See since I stumbled and fell flat on my face as a Christian, sinning with the like's of those listed in Romans chapter one, as well as Luke 18:11, I now know what it's like to be counted among sinners like that. I've felt their pain and shame because of it. 
I gotta take a little rabbit trail, over the last year, I've met quite a few interesting people. Many have colorful pasts. Much more colorful than mine. But what I've amounted to all the struggles they've encountered in their lives, so much of it is self-inflicted, it's just mis-guided love. And they're screaming for it by their poor choices, addiction, self-abuse, etc. Their actions are showing it by their behavior. Love me. Care for me. Am I worthy? Am I loved? 
I recently told someone that if their mother wasn't going to give them the love they needed, she had to love herself, fight for herself, because she was worth it and valuable and loved.
Now when I come across individuals like myself, like the tax collector, like those listed in Romans chapter one, I look at them lovingly, and I see the bottom line, not the thing they're doing. That's just the outward behavior of an inner problem. 
However when we judge people, we look at their behavior not their hearts. But that's what God sees. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, "...Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." He sees the "Why" behind the behavior. In Beth Moore's Breaking Free study she tells us "God sees exactly why we do the things we do." He sees and He knows. 
So what's the difference in God's wrath as opposed to "God's Righteous Judgement," which is the title of chapter two? Well when I consider God's judgment I think of harsh punishment and it's mean. But then Paul explains exactly what God's Righteous Judgement means. This is the NLT version. I like it a lot. 
"You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?"
Oh my goodness, "Can't you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?" Blown away!
God's Righteous Judgement is His kindness! Let me say that again, it's His kindness! 
My NIV says in verse 4, "Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance." 
Goodness gracious...I hardly can't believe what my eyes are seeing. 
Amanda Cook wrote a song called Mercy. It was my theme song last year. I desired it so greatly from my Christian community I sang it out daily, often many times. It was my heart crying out for mercy. But as we see even in the time that this letter was written to the Roman church, they weren't too good at showing mercy either. 
Here are some of the lyrics:

My past embraced
My sins forgiven
I'm blameless in Your sight
My history rewritten
You delight in showing mercy
Mercy triumphs over judgement.

I listened to Brian Zahnd's message called Mercy Please. He shares, "The one who calls on the Mercy of God will never be refused." As I heard these words they were like water to my thirsty soul. 
He warns us, "Of all the sins to avoid, avoid the one where you aren't merciful. Avoid it like the plague."
Jesus declares in Matthew 25:36, "I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
It's not punishment or wrath that turn people from poor behavior, or as Brian Zahnd describes it, "We are not saved by our moral development, but by the mercy of God." 
It's God's kindness that leads us toward repentance. 
And We have an opportunity to show His kindness to others as well. And that kind of kindness is mercy. 
Jesus showed us who to and how to in Matthew 25:36, 40. The blueprint has already been drawn up for us. How easy is that? 
However, if I'm being honest, it's not so easy. Cause loving your neighbor, your enemy, the sick, the poor, the imprisoned, it takes us out of our comfort zones. 
Consider this though, Jesus went way out of His way to reach us at our lowest. He left glory and took on the nature of a servant, endured torture, and hung on a cross for our sins. Way out of His comfort zone! So much so He cried out to the Father, "Father, if it be Your will take this cup from me; not my will but Yours be done." 
Maybe we could all do the same, be honest with Him and let Him know how hard it is for you. I understand, it's scary.  
But if we can look at it like Matthew 25:40, "...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
I am the least of these, you are the least of these, we all are the least of these. Let's show mercy to each other. 
"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" James 2:12-13

Peace and Love,
Julie

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Nothing's Wasted

A little disclaimer on this one, I wrote this one back in May.

Over the spring, I was invited to be a guest Blogger for a website and through a get to known me session they found out that I had read almost all of Rob Bell's books. They asked if I could choose one that was my favorite, which would it be. I chose Drops Like Stars.

Well I found out earlier in the day that they were focusing on another project and unfortunately had to put their website ideas on hold for an indefinite amount of time.

But hey, c'este la vie! Such is life.

So just to reassure you all, I'm no speed racer when it comes to reading, since I just posted yesterday about Finding God in the Ruins.

Get ready to learn about another amazing book!

Last year was not the greatest.  

Emotionally, I felt like I had been pummeled to the ground.

My dear friend Sue suggested we read a book together called Drops Like Stars. 


Now I had been listening to Rob on his weekly podcasts...yet it’s called robcasts.  Funny, quirky, catchy. Love it!

This was of course recommended by my same friend.  

Listening to his robcast gave me the language for my wounded heart.   

I listened to every single one that touched on suffering. Because that’s in fact on how I felt, like I was suffering, grieving, losing, and all the above.   

After agreeing to read Drops Like Stars, we decided to read a chapter at a time and share truths that touched us personally.  

Once I began it was like an insatiable thirst that could not be quenched.   

I simply could not put it down.  

The solace I felt reading each word touched my soul. It felt as if my pain was being validated with every line.  

Now the book starts out letting the reader know that sometimes in life things don’t always go the way we planned.  

Hence my life in a nutshell.  

We don’t always get the Hollywood ending. Tragedies happen. We make poor choices or maybe someone else in our lives has made a poor choice that impacts us.  

Impacts us greatly.  

THIS is what jumped off the pages…  


“Some things never get resolved.”  

  

That was it!

Life doesn’t always pan out like we planned.  

How freaking validating is that?!!   

Well at least it was for me. 
It meant Someone else understood the deep agony my heart felt…no matter how that ache got there.   


Drops Like Stars speaks to ANYONE who has had a twinge of pain in their lives.  



Rob shares this MIND BLOWING truth…I can hardly stand it, it’s so great!  

He says, “Now it’s absolutely necessary for us to own and name and claim and make amends for our failures and mistakes and sins and wrongs where others are concerned.

But to stop there is tragic.
It isn’t just a failure, a mistake, a sin, a wrong…
It’s also an opportunity to grow, expand, evolve, learn.”
Isn’t that magical?!?!

See this book isn’t just about suffering, loss, or failure but it’s about taking that pain and re-using it…kinda like cow patties.  

*Gosh seems like such an OFFENSIVE image but I like it.

I like it cause it fits.  When we fall or screw-up or make a huge mess of things, that’s how you feel, like a big pile of shisky.  My nice, made-up word for…well you know. 

But the ONLY way we get manure, the stinky stuff that makes gardens grow into lush, healthy, plentiful, producing gardens, is what’s originally considered as waste.

See… God wastes nothing.



Something beautiful. 
‘Cause it’s deep in you now. It’s apart of your DNA.  

“So in the end every major disaster, every tiny error, every wrong turning, every fragment of discarded clay, all the blood, sweat and tears-everything has meaning. I give it meaning. I reuse, reshape, recast all that goes wrong so that in the end nothing is wasted and nothing is without significance and nothing ceases to be precious to me.”

This is good news for those of us feel like our lives are a swirly-churly mess.  
*Cough-mine.
Your heart is the ground that’s been toiled and broken and I can’t wait to see the beauty that springs forth.

AGH! I wish you could just know what I’ve read already because it’s beautiful and raw and authentic and it gives hope…hope for a brighter tomorrow.

It's been nearly a year since I originally read this book, this side of it, my life, I can see little buds beginning to grow.  

But I couldn’t have gotten here without you. You came along side of me and said, “Me too.”

So no matter where you are at in this journey, remember this, you are not alone. 

Love and Peace,
Julie Dixon













Sunday, August 14, 2016

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

I'm onto my next book...


Now when I first heard about this book I was in the midst of my own Ruins, still trying to get my bearings. I basically refused to read it. I mean what does he know about pain? If I'm going to be honest, I was scared of what I might find within the pages and I was convinced there was no way he could offer me any solace to what I was going through.

Man, was I flat out wrong.

It's blowing my freaking mind! It's like reading MY pain but in HIS book.

See I've known of Matt for many years, well known of him. We used to attend the same church. He was new on staff and we were basically on our way out. Plus I had a bad taste in my mouth for the leaders in that church and unbeknownst to him I had categorized him as one of them, even though I didn't know him. Shame on me.

Putting all that history aside, I discovered a treasure in Finding God in the Ruins. It's like God was pointing an imaginary, bright blinking arrow to X marks the spot. And it was mine for the taking if I wanted it. Maybe that's why I resisted so badly because I knew it'd open up an old wound that I had buried a long time ago. "You look at them and instantly recognize...their pain--just like yours."

In all my years of reading books like this, I don't think I've ever read anything so raw, beautiful and brave.

He openly shares about family abuse, sexual abuse, from the head of the family down to the bottom. He also shares about the suffering you endure growing up with the weight of that kind of bull-shit put on you. He becomes a pastor at a young age, and even though he knows all that bible stuff, all the pain, shame, running, hiding, takes it toll and it's time to pay the piper. Many of us try to find an "outward solution to an internal problem," and as a pastor he wasn't immune. But as he sorts through the rubble of his ruins he finds hope and resurrection.

Here's an excerpt that struck a cord in me, "I used to look down on those who had set their life's GPS just two degrees shy of hell, but after my own personal trip there, I realized our enemy punches in the coordinates for us. Yes, we might have followed every ding we heard, but we didn't know where we were headed or how to override the system. The day always comes when the jig is up, and when it does, we will have to punch in new coordinates for a new destination if we want a new life. The temptation to follow the rerouting prompts is powerful, though not too powerful to ignore. And if we want a life that isn't driven by our past hurts, we must squeeze ourselves onto a tiny dirt road and trust that it will lead us somewhere good."

See I took a personal trip there as well. Beaten and battered from the journey, I had almost given up any kind of hope. But I stumbled upon a tiny dirt road, cause I sure as hell wasn't gonna listen to them dings anymore, it was gonna be old-school traveling, with map in hand and follow the yellow brick road. Low and behold, what do I find along the way, Finding God in the Ruins.

So let me just say, IF you've gone through any pain, or shame, or felt like you've failed as a human being, let alone Christian, Finding God in the Ruins will rock your world.

His final exhortation before diving in, "And finally, to whoever reads this book ---let the healing begin.

For me, it already has.

You, like me, may have been swallowed up in so much pain throughout your life that you couldn't care less about somebody else's story of recovery or overcoming. But I'm telling ya -- you do not want to miss out on this one. Your gonna be throwing down the popcorn, sitting on the edge of your seat! "Our stories can deliver hope to others only if they are able to see a bit of who we once were."

I love you all!

Much Peace and Love,
Julie

P.S. Just so you know Matt Bays did not ask me to promote his book in anyway, but when I'm impacted so profoundly I want to share it with the world! ...At least those in my sphere.

However, if you are interested in reading Finding God in the Ruins for yourself, you'll consider it a God send.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Deep in My Bones

It's been awhile since I've written you all. But this is something I had to share.

When I do post on here many of my topics are about the things I'm struggling with, which love is at the top of the list. However, I saw something today on Instagram from L.R. Knost. The things she shares are inspiring and challenging, and although I don't know her personally, I feel a kindred heart to hers.

Today her post was about Fear, and as I my eyes were taking in each line it resonated so deeply within me I felt it deep in my bones. It's like I haven't been able escape it. It seriously has stayed with me all day long.

Please go look her up, she has many valuable posts about life and love and parenting, AGH and so much more.  But I simply can't wait for that so I must share it here as well.


"Punishment, or the threat of punishment, may produce better behaviors, at least temporarily, but does it produce better humans?
The driving force behind threats and punishments is fear...
fear of being hurt, fear of being isolated, fear of being rejected, fear of being confined, fear of loss, fear of being unloved.
But fear deactivates the executive functions of the brain where higher forms of thought such as logic, self-control, and reason are processed.
Fear activates the primal function of the brain which is instinctual instead of intentional, driven by the survival instinct into the fight, freeze, or flight response.
Fear strips the humanity from humans, leaving only base self-preservation as the driving life-force.
Stripping the humanity from humans does not create better humans.
At all stages of life, no matter the circumstance, no matter the problem being faced, better treatment produces better humans.
Human kindness begets human kindness. Human goodness begets goodness. Peace begets peace.
At its roots, human nature is an elegantly simple equation. Input equals output." L.R.Knost

Isn't that amazing?!?! This speaks volumes of truth.

It validates every single person that has felt any kind of inhumane treatment. Thank you for validating us. Thank you for showing us that kindness, goodness, and peace are the true pathways to better humans.

In the lingo of my teenage daughter, Goals.

Peace and Love,
Julie