Spiritually Lost?

Shame on me for dissing on Moses last week. He wasn’t ‘lost’ for 40 years. Quite the opposite. Yes, asking for directions is anathema to most men. However, Moses was the exception – at least in his older years. I’d say his desert time was actually the 40 years growing up in Pharaoh’s house followed by an additional 40 years as a fugitive in Midian prior to beginning His trip towards...

Follow the Leader

I read with interest an announcement for the upcoming Global Leadership Summit, August 10-11, hosted by the Willow Creek Association, an international ministry. Due to popular demand, the conference is being simulcast at over 600 churches, organizations, and convention centers across the country. The website boasts an impressive and diverse line-up of leaders from...

Peace of the Rock

Peace of the Rock

I'm blessed to be writing this back at my perch overlooking the ocean. My soul is once again soothed by the sounds of summer that call me back every year – particularly the constant rhythm of the waves, lulling me to sleep each night and welcoming me each morning. I’ve dubbed this place...

Dad's Day

by Joanie Butman

A few weeks ago, I was honored with an invitation into my little friend Grace’s preschool class. The finale of her All About Me week: crafts with Momma Joanie. As it was the Friday before Mother's Day, I decided to have them make beaded bracelets for their moms. I opened with the question, “Does anyone know what’s special about Sunday?” With enthusiasm rarely seen in a boy confined to a desk being asked to do a craft, Henry nearly jumped out of his seat while pumping his hand in the air wildly. “It’s the day Dad doesn’t have to go to work, and I get to spend the day with him.” While not the response I was seeking, I applauded his heartfelt reply before specifying that I actually meant this particular Sunday. Even so, his answer was precious and held an even deeper spiritual truth that's stayed with me.

While God doesn’t take days off, He still instituted a Sabbath. Why? As with all of His decrees, it’s for our benefit of course. He’s always working on our behalf, and the creation of the Sabbath is no exception. Jesus answers my question himself in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." Left to our own devices, God knew we wouldn’t take the necessary time to rest and renew physically and spiritually. Yes, He longs to spend time with us, but He also longs for us to spend time with each other. He knew the importance of Christian fellowship, which is an integral aspect to keeping the Sabbath.

Ideally, the goal is to walk with God always, regardless of what you’re doing. There are many that have achieved this level of spiritual maturity, but more often the obligations, challenges and distractions of life have a tendency to take over with a sense of relentless urgency that pushes spirituality to the back burner. Now more than ever, it’s essential to ‘unplug’ from daily responsibilities to spend time with Our Spiritual Father where we can experience a fresh outpouring of His Holy Spirit washing over us, quieting our minds and our souls. Shooting off ‘arrow prayers’* is fine and effective, but a deep, meaningful relationship with the Divine can only be developed by spending uninterrupted time getting to know Him. Being still is a form of worship that few value in our nanosecond society. Yet, it is the most effective antidote to the anxiety epidemic sweeping our nation. “Be still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10)

When I was young, Sundays truly were set aside for God, family and friends. Church, afternoon dinner at your grandparents’ house and Walt Disney in the evening were the only activities. You couldn’t do anything else even if you wanted to, which we didn’t. Everything was shut down. There was no such thing as FOMO (fear of missing out). Everyone was doing the same thing in some form or another. Sadly today, Sunday is just another day – business (or busyness) as usual. 

So, while we are honoring our earthly fathers today as they deserve, let’s choose to do the same with our Divine Father. Why not choose to approach the Sabbath with little Henry’s gleeful enthusiasm, anticipating our ‘day off’ and cherishing the opportunity to spend time with our Dad and our brothers and sisters in Christ? It’s the wise choice.

 

*A brief, spontaneous, urgent, specific prayer; a prayer made without interrupting what one is presently doing; a prayer consisting of just a few heartfelt words such as “Help, God!” (http://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/arrow-prayer-flash-prayer-dart-prayer/)

 

A Spiritual Spanking

by Joanie Butman

During my quiet time Wednesday morning I was ‘discussing’ an on-going issue with the Lord. I prayed for Divine intervention and was even bold enough to request a miracle. I concluded with the following prayer from The Word Among Us:

“Father, please show me how you want me to become part of the answer to this need I am laying before you right now.”

In addition, I asked for a topic for this week’s blog. Little did I know I’d have my answer on both fronts by the end of the day.

After a busy day followed by dinner with friends, I sat down to catch up on a couple of days’ worth of emails. I opened one from a friend and was surprised to read an aggressive message chastising me for not being a good friend. I felt awful (and convicted) because everything she said was true. I had to humbly admit that I’d been self-absorbed for far too long and not as attentive as a friend might expect. I responded immediately to express my sincere apologies. That email did nothing to assuage my guilt and angst over offending a friend, so I called her despite the late hour. She explained the backstory to her message, and I could certainly appreciate her deep disappointment in the Christian community she reached out to – particularly me.

That conversation was the two-fold answer to my morning prayer. It was a spiritual spanking of sorts where God’s message was revealed with stark clarity and the same firmness as my friend’s email. “Get over yourself. Your situation is in My hands. Now, get back to the business of living. There are needy people out there.” Every once in a while He needs to give me a whack to the back of the head like the nuns of my youth. It is done with love of course (His is; not sure about the nuns’ motivation), but we all need a firm talking to at times to jolt us back to reality.

In addition, the situation gave me a blog topic to which anyone can relate. What might that be? That regardless of our spiritual beliefs, we will disappoint and be disappointed by others – including ourselves. It’s part of the human condition. Our Christianity doesn’t preclude us from the character defects of our own humanity. Sometimes we disappoint others knowingly. More often, we do it because we aren’t even aware of their expectations. There’s a clever saying that “expectations are just resentments (or disappointments) that haven’t been born yet.” Amen to that!

People often hold Christians up to a higher standard – especially other Christians. In reality, it is specifically our imperfections that draw us into relationship with Christ because we know the only solution is His perfection and grace. Christians, like all humans, will hurt and disappoint others at times. In that, we are not unique. Hopefully, how we resolve those hurts and disappointments is what differentiates us. Do we choose to seek and offer forgiveness with humility and grace? Do we choose to take a moment before responding to see beyond the behavior at hand to recognize the underlying hurt that drives it? Not always, but progress, not perfection, is our goal. I will say that once you’ve experienced grace, it’s a lot easier to offer it. Jesus states in Luke 7:47, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Lastly, do we view difficult circumstances and conflict as growth opportunities?

God can use anything to communicate with us. He hears our prayers and answers us – often not in a manner of our choosing. John Eldridge, a mighty prayer warrior, warns that until you are willing to hear whatever God has to say, you won’t hear anything because your attention is distracted by your own desires.

So what was the Divine lesson in my spiritual spanking? Simply, don’t become so self-absorbed in your own troubles, pain, sorrow or even joy that you fail to recognize, acknowledge and tend to the needs of others because in serving others we heal ourselves.

Just A Mom

by Joanie Butman

Sitting at the lacrosse finals last weekend, I had the privilege of meeting some new friends. During one of the conversations, the ubiquitous question “What do you do?” surfaced. I’ve always dreaded and been stymied by that query, and felt simpatico with my host when she replied, “I’m just a mom.” Having replied similarly for the last 23 years, I knew exactly what she meant. However, now that my children are grown, how do I respond? “I’m retired?” Parenthood is not something one retires from though it changes dramatically over the course of a lifetime. I’m currently in the junk lugging and storing phase. Not a lofty position by any standard.

Regardless, I found it difficult to imagine the beautiful, kind, generous, gracious, welcoming woman in front of me as ‘just’ anything. Having met her family, it was obvious she excelled at her job. It made me wonder why many of us dismiss our role so easily? In this context ‘just’ literally means “nothing more than or only.” No one is “nothing more than or only” anything because we’re all multi-dimensional, and God values us all equally. Was Jesus just a carpenter? Look at the motley crew He chose to establish His church. When Philip told Nathaniel he had found the Messiah, the first thing Nathaniel asked skeptically, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” The apostles were the Little Rascals of their day, bumbling along trying to understand the mystery of the Divine and their role in sharing it with others. Were Peter, James and John just fishermen? What about Mary and Joseph? Were they just nobodies? You bet. Most of the Biblical giants were. Was David just a shepherd? In almost every instance, God used the previous professions and life experiences of just ordinary people to develop and refine the skills needed for the extraordinary task He’d chosen for them. Sadly, it was the elite of the time that totally missed Christ just because they were clinging to their worldly positions too tightly.

Let’s face it. We’re all like the apostles – just bozos on the bus trying to do what we can, where we can, with what we’ve been given to the best of our ability. What we do isn’t as nearly as important as who we are when we’re doing it. We’ve all inherited a spark of the Divine. Our life’s journey is defined by the manner in which we flame that spark. How we choose to glorify God will be unique whether you’re driving in a car pool, driving a golf ball, driving a company as Chairman of the Board, or driving a country as Commander-in-Chief. That said, I firmly believe that regardless of your gender or profession, how we choose to glorify God within our own homes is one of our most important and lasting contributions to this world. We are passing the torch of Christ to the next generation. Can there be a more noble calling?

I will leave you with two quotes a friend passed along from professional golfer Bernhard Langer, recent winner of the Senior PGA Tournament. He’s an excellent example of someone who knows his value comes from whose he is, not what he does. He epitomizes the adage, “Your talent is God's gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” During an interview following his victory, Langer said:

“I’m just so blessed. I was carrying this Bible verse around with me from Proverbs 3:5-6. If I can just read it real quick: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ That doesn’t mean I’m going to win all the time but it does mean He’s by my side and I can rely on Him. And golf is my secondary thing. My faith is number one and it’s just awesome to have been out here for this long.”

Langer also shared: “I’m a Christian so I had my quiet time this morning and I just figured it’s in God’s hand. He’s in control and I’m just to going to try and enjoy myself and do the best I can to glorify Him. That’s really all. I’m playing to an audience of one, that’s Him, and I felt tremendous peace today, I really did. That’s when I play my best, you know, when I’m not bothered by anything, I’m just walking along enjoying the scenery and having a blast playing golf and doing it well. So it’s the gift He’s given me and I’ve worked hard at it and today we saw the fruit of the labor.”

How will you choose to glorify God today? Personally, I’m just a mom moving my son into an apartment in New York City for the summer. As I write this, I realize that Christian fellowship is all about helping others carry their ‘stuff’ and sometimes moving it to where it belongs. Who knew I was in training all this time? I can recycle unnecessary crap faster than anyone I know and am ruthless when determining what needs to be discarded. I guess I’m not ‘just a mom’ after all.

DDIY - Don't Do It Yourself

Missed you all last week as I was helping my daughter settle into her new apartment. Part of me was living vicariously through her, enjoying being back in the city, seemingly in the midst of all the action. The actual move couldn’t have gone more smoothly. It was a fraction of the cost of the DIY system my husband ascribes to, which was infinitely harder...

APPROVED!

APPROVED!

We were finally approved by the board to cosign for my daughter’s new apartment, which means that we get the privilege of grossly overpaying for a grossly undersized apartment. We’re supposed to feel lucky??? Such a crazy experience. Anyone not from the New York area would think ...

Free Parking

A few weeks ago, I drove a couple of friends into the city to see a show. Miraculously, we found a ‘free’ parking space, or so we thought. When we entered a neighboring restaurant, a diner seated in the window kindly warned us that he had just received a ticket for parking there even though, technically, it was a legal spot. My friends and I looked at each other, shrugged and decided...

Who's Your landLORD?

Who's Your landLORD?

Last week’s blog was a departure from my mostly light-hearted dishing on the Divine. However, I think the passion of Christ deserves serious reflection before we race past Easter searching for the proverbial golden egg. Why? Because hopefully it changes us - and not externally like those extra pounds from all the jellybeans and chocolate. Christ’s sacrificial act of love transforms us on the inside at the core (or crux) of our being, which alters the way we choose to live. When we fully understand...

Via Dolorosa

During the Easter sunrise service, I felt convicted for omitting an integral piece of the story in last week’s blog on the Passion of Christ. One page in particular came to mind. It was the illustration of Christ being scourged. The six-year-old artist drew the event occurring in a traditional house, not in the courtyard of a palace with a large audience. The poignancy of the drawing is that it points to something we all like to gloss over as we bask in the glory of Easter; namely....

Everlasting Redemption

The glory of Easter Sunday doesn’t need to be ushered in with words. Christ’s actions speak for themselves. They are the purest, most powerful expression of sacrificial love the world has ever seen. In my experience people don’t need to be reminded of it, they need to experience it – every day of their lives lest we forget or discount the cost paid for our ransom. Last weekend a speaker shared a quote...

Lay Down Your Burdens

Lay Down Your Burdens

Every year as part of Lent I try to attend a spiritual seminar. This year’s Walking the Spiritual Path focused on hurts, regrets, resentments and their toxicity. The speaker noted something that prompted yet another idea for a Lenten offering – something anyone could satisfy. I think He’ll be pleased with this undertaking – not because...

Meandering Manatees

Meandering Manatees

An amazing thing happened this week that reinforced last week’s theme of God’s unconditional love. I met one of His homeliest creations – the manatee. I don’t know what the manatee’s purpose is in the ecosystem nor do I need to. His value as one of God’s creatures is innate. Known as a Sea Cow, they don’t do a lot except eat. They spend approximately 50% of the day sleeping, and the remainder of the time grazing, consuming up to 10-15% of their body weight per day.* Sounds like a lot of people... 

F.I.P.

I’ve had the privilege of spending a chunk of the winter surrounded by FIPs, or so they call themselves. FIP stands for Formerly Important People, though they use this acronym tongue-in-cheek. Sadly, for many, there is an element of truth behind that moniker that can’t be denied. Whether we are in the business world or raising children, don’t we all derive much of our identity from what we do, who we know, what school we went to, or how much success we’ve had – or not – monetary or otherwise? This thinking leads to...

DIVINE TWINE

Did you ever stumble over a seemingly innocuous obstacle? Not an unusual occurrence on the road of life. Many of us get tripped up by these kind of subtle obstructions more often than the obvious roadblocks that force us to stop or change course. I happened on one this week while using my husband’s car. Though my driving skills are often the victim of ridicule in our home, I’ve always felt my family’s mocking was grossly exaggerated. Unfortunately, this recent snafu....

Spiritual Adjustment

Driving by a chiropractor’s office this week, I chuckled at his signage, “CRAWL-INS WELCOME!” I’m sure anyone suffering from chronic pain or even episodic pain would find his message alluring. I know people who swear by the healing powers of chiropractors, touting them as miracle workers. I have benefitted from their expertise on more than one occasion. The only issue is that they promote ongoing adjustments as the key to long lasting results. Perhaps I’m a cynic, but I was suspect...

Monkey Business

Monkey Business

With the first week of Lent under my belt, I’ve decided I finally found a fasting regimen that’s working for me – at least so far, which is longer than most of my past sacrificial attempts. This year I decided to give up something that will benefit not only myself but those around me; namely, talking. I heard something recently that prompted this decision. It was an observation that...

Let the Good Times Roll!

This week ushers in the Lenten season beginning on March 1st, Ash Wednesday. Many people celebrate Mardis Gras, but none with more gusto than someone looking at 40 days of abstinence. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Fat Tuesday is when some Lenten observers over-indulge in their vice of choice: sweets, carbs...

What's Your Legacy?

What will people say about you when you’re gone? An interesting question, and one Rabbi Cohen explores in his new book of the same title. His premise was prompted by a funeral he attended. As he left, he considered the eulogy and wondered what his would sound like. Having faced my own mortality, it’s a question I’ve pondered on more than one occasion and precipitated a conscious decision to change certain things in my life. Without a doubt, when facing your own demise....