Wednesday, September 7, 2016

And You Call Yourself a Christian?

I am of Irish descent. 

But I don't drink. Okay, I do like wine, but I don't drink in excess. And I hate beer. I'm not entirely sure what Jameson makes, but I think it's whiskey. I've been to the plant. It bored me. Does that change my DNA and make me any less Irish?

I'm also a woman. 

But I don't need a friend to accompany me to "powder my nose" in a restaurant. I'm perfectly capable of finding the rest room on my own. Lately, I have embraced a make-up free face. I prefer to play in the mud than to play house. I would never have made it in Victorian society where needlepoint, tea, and elocution were what defined a woman. I'd have preferred electrocution. Does that make me any less of a woman?

I'm sure that you'd agree that the answer to both, of course, is no.

But where do you stand on this?

I am a Christian. 

But I sometimes skip church for no reason. And I don't read my Bible every day. Worse, sometimes I swear or treat people poorly or act selfishly. Does that make me any less of a Christian?

Sadly, some will answer yes. 

If I had to count on my fingers the number of times I've heard, "And she/he calls herself/himself a Christian!" I would run out of fingers. People who don't fully comprehend the grace of Christianity have said it, believing perhaps that once a person puts their faith, hope, and life in Christ, he or she is somehow radically changed into a creature who never makes mistakes. Someone who is perfect.

Not-so-well-meaning Christians have also said it, expecting fellow Jesus-freaks to be radically changed into a creature who never makes mistakes (conveniently forgetting that they do). Someone who is perfect.

I can understand those who may not grasp the concept of grace. Once we declare ourselves to be "saved," we are instantly thrust under a microscope. Because we claim to aspire to be Christlike, we are expected to be like Him. What the "unsaved" may not be willing to acknowledge is that we, being human, are imperfect and always will be. Becoming a "Christian" doesn't change that. We are still human.

Only God is perfect. 

We aspire to that, knowing that we'll never attain it--which is why we realize that only the finished work of Jesus can make us perfect. When He said, "It is finished," He meant it.

Yes, I mess up. Just like you, my not-yet saved friend. I'm forgiven, not perfect. May I explain that to you?

The ones I have a problem with are those journeying next to me--the ones who are walking on the same path as I am with Jesus toward the glory of God--who are quick to judge and point fingers, and slow to forgive and extend mercy. These modern-day Pharisees would do well to observe the fingers pointing back at themselves.

Obviously, continuing to walk in blatant sin is not aspiring to be like Christ. But what about those of us who sincerely try--and fail, attempt to be kind--but are not, and fall short of (what we think are) the expectations of the more mature believers in our midst?

If God forgives us, then should others not forgive us?

But wait---am I not doing the same? Do I not judge and condemn? If not directly (or indirectly--as to someone else) to the person, then in my heart? You may not hear my disapproving tsk-tsk, but God does. The thought may not make it into a fully formed sentence in my brain, but God still hears my accusation:

And she calls herself a Christian?

Yes, I've been guilty of it. So have you.

It's called judgment and condemnation. And it's just as much of a sin as the one we are attempting to call out in another.

If God forgives me, and I am less than perfect, then what gives me the right to place myself above the One who is righteous and able to forgive sin? Who am I to judge another, heaping condemnation onto their perhaps already guilty heart? 

Tsk-tsk, Mary. Look at those fingers pointing back.

Oh, yeah, there's this. And the time I said that. And the ongoing struggle I have with this.

Last week, I mentioned my friend, Andrea's superpower--the ability to correct without condemnation. That's what Jesus did. We would do well to do the same.

Can we learn to overlook the sins of others and focus on our own? Can we practice the power of forgiveness and release others from the expectations we place on them? Can we do that for ourselves? 

Maybe not. Maybe that's why we need to call on the name of Jesus. Because sometimes, it's just too hard. Too hard to be perfect, and too hard to expect anything less from ourselves and from others. Too hard to open our clenched fist that points accusingly away with one finger and defensively back with three.

Yes, all of us sin. Even perfectly imperfect followers of Jesus. Even those of us who dare to call ourselves, "Christian."

But that's the wonderful thing about grace. Jesus extends it to each one of us--while we are still sinners (and while we continue to be sinners)--even though we don't deserve it. Ought we not do the same?

So, let us unclench our fists, uncurl our pointing fingers, and reserve our judgment. Instead, let us open our palms toward heaven to receive what is good:

To act justly
To love mercy
And to walk humbly with [y]our God
Micah 6:8

Bail รณ Dhia ort
(The blessing of God on you)


Sharing this blog with some of these lovelies 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Are Superpowers Transferable?

I invited my wheelchair bound physically challenged friend over to my house recently for an event I was hosting, but because my home is not ADA accessible, I wasn't sure if she would be able to come. 

The reason I crossed out the phrase, "wheelchair bound," is because that's the one I used in my message to her, and she corrected me. 

You see, Andrea has a superpower. 

This is something that I didn't know before. Something that I need. Are superpowers transferable? I hope so, because I think she's willing to share hers, and I want some.

Andrea has spinal bifida, a birth condition that affects the spinal nerves. What I didn't know is that she uses braces and crutches to get around as well as a wheelchair. She is anything but wheelchair-bound. She is more joy-bound. Happiness-bound. Encouragement-bound. Kindness-bound. Compassion-bound. Positive-thoughts-bound. Inspiring-bound. Anything but limited.

Rather than tell you about our conversation, I'd like to share parts of it. Some names have been changed (mine) to protect the stupid. 

Ignoramus: I do have three steps in the front. Are you completely wheelchair bound, where that would be impossible, or would you be able to do something like that?

Andrea: No on the climbing stairs...

Andrea: P.S...If you use the phrase wheelchair bound with other crippies besides me, you'll need protection, because they'll beat the crap out of you.

(Ignoramus had no idea!)

Ignoramus: I am so sorry! What should I say?

Andrea: Well, if you need to ask somebody if they can actually physically get out of their wheelchair just ask them that.

(Ignoramus did the "I coulda had a V8!" head slap. Well, duh!)

Andrea (continuing): If you are referring to somebody having a handicap, you can say physically challenged.

Ignoramus: Got it. Thank you for setting me straight. I'm glad you didn't take offense at my ignorance.

Andrea: I know you didn't mean it in a bad way. I'm just protecting you from somebody who might misinterpret it.

Ignoramus: God bless you, love.

Andrea: Preventing bloodshed...Is there no end to my superpowers?

What I realized from this conversation--in addition to my ignorance--was that Andrea's superpowers go far beyond the physical. Preventing bloodshed was said in fun. Her reproof was done with humor. Her real superpower was in the delivery. 

She could have told me that I should say this and should never say that. But words like that tend to offend, which typically leads to both parties feeling hurt. 

Instead, she chose affirming phrases and words, like "you can say," and "Just ask them that." 

Andrea's real superpower is the ability to use correction without condemnation.

What I told her was this:

There are many ways to rescue people and the superpower you possess is mightier than any physical one.You have a way of rebuking with kindness (She called it a reproof rather than a rebuke--see how kind she is?).

Instead of allowing me to fall into guilt and shame--which is so common--you informed me in the kindest way. That is not only a superpower, but a rare gift.


Granted, I really didn't know I was saying anything wrong. But too many people just leave it at that. They get offended and turn away, often leaving a befuddled accuser to wonder, "What did I say?" 

A less powerful woman may have taken offense at my less than compassionate words. But a woman with the superpower of kindness and compassion cares enough not to leave her friends in a ditch. 

She corrects without condemning. 

Andrea's legs may not work as well as mine do, but her brain-to-mouth/brain-to-keyboard reflex sure has mine beat by a longshot. I could use me some of that!

Blessings Along the Path,

What's your superpower? Think you don't have one? Think again. Think hard if necessary. And share in the comments below. 

Read Andrea's story and discover more about her superpowers at