Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Who Are We Going to Be Today?

Your People are weeping, Lord.

I hear them crying. I hear them calling out and reaching out and screaming out for deliverance. Just like the Israelites of old—the Hebrew people caught in the snare of the Egyptian pharaoh.

They cried and wept for deliverance from their oppression. And you garnered the attention of your servant Moses through the burning branches of a desert bush. In a land where fire would be feared if out of control, for lack of water, you spoke through tongues of flame.

Father, your people are still crying. They are still weeping. They are still reaching. I hear them on a daily basis. I see the woundedness in their faces. I see the pain in their eyes. I hear their silent cries as if they were silent screams in my own head. I see the disease that ravages their bodies—spiritual and physical.

Yesterday I broke. In the early morning I wept hot, hard tears for your people. Crying from a frighteningly deep place. Sobbing for the brokenness, the illnesses and the diseases that plague your people.

All through the day I watched your people hurt. Wounded, wearied, worried, wracked people.

Lost. Lonely. Lacking.

Oh, Father.

Forgive me for ignoring them. Forgive me for turning my head and changing my path as the priest and the Levite did with the poor beaten man on the road. How often have I chosen to ignore my beaten brother or my robbed sister on the side of the road because it would require too much time or energy? How often have I neglected them because I was too busy with my own agenda and schedule and I squandered an opportunity to be a minister of your grace and mercy? How often have I not wanted to dirty my own hands for fear of association? How many times have I turned on selective hearing and tuned out the cries of people around me?

Even now my words are making me—us—uncomfortable. We don’t want to hear this. We don’t want to be reminded of our own accountability and like the Levite and the priest we justify what we do and don’t do. And we have valid justifications. But justifications are not always good. They may be right according to the law, but they may not be the good thing to do.

And when I ignore the pain and hurt around me, when I choose to not acknowledge the wounded places in people then I am behaving just as the priest and the Levite.

Oh, Father, today don’t allow me to selectively hear. Don’t allow me to walk on by the waylaid, the forlorn or the wounded. Don’t allow me to justify my own callousness, my own numbness.

Your people are crying, Father. And I know the Deliverer. Show me what to do. Give me the strength and the discernment and the wisdom to know what to do for your people. Don’t allow me to turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to the people you have intersect my path.

Not so long ago I was one of those wounded and forlorn people. I have not forgotten the ones who stopped for me. I remember the ones who stooped down and put their shoulders under mine and took me to a place of rest.

Our God has heard their weeping. He has heard their cries.

But the question is: Who are we going to be today?

The priest?

The Levite?

The Good Samaritan?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday Morning Prayer

Father, these are long days of living. We are living right out in the moment. Father, you are asking me to just live in the daily demands of a life. But I seem to be floundering with my schedule and other things. There seems to be no pattern or rhythm. No daily sameness that helps me track—I am random.

But you, Father, are the pattern. You are to be the fixed point of the day. Remind me, remind us, that if our eyes stay on you, the roiling waves diminish in their power and the chaos will be tamed.

Father, I thank you. I bless you for so many things: for my car, my home, my job and all the people in it. I thank you for my friends and my family. I thank you for journals and worn out Bibles and friends who send new books in a genuine attempt to feed our souls.

Thank you for my salvation and the shed blood of Jesus that has covered us. This blood gains us entrance into your throne room. Thank you for Jesus’ example of how to live in that blood. Thank you for the Spirit who comes now to dwell in these temporary shelters of us. Thank you that he is our Counselor and reminds us of God’s grace.

Thank you for this Holy Spirit who speaks truth to us when the world is shouting enticing, but doomsday lies. Thank you for the conviction of this same Spirit to move us to be like Jesus.

Thank you that you are you, O God! You are incorruptible; you are unchangeable, immutable, unstoppable and infallible.

You are.

I thank you that you are always bringing us back to yourself. You always use the crook of your staff to return us to yourself and the path you are on.

I thank you for your Word which always feeds us, convicts us and changes us. It never leaves us untouched.

I thank you for your mercy and your grace—both so undeserved. Both so lavish and freely given—not cheaply obtained or bought.

You have done all of this, Father. And you just keep doing it. I thank you that you see things in me and call them by their real name before I even recognize them. I thank you that you know me thoroughly and yet you love and call me precious anyway. Thank you that you have a purpose for me and you have every tool I need to fulfill this purpose. Thank you that you have called me and gifted me for that purpose.

Thank you this morning that you are the Good Shepherd. You have the day’s pasture already chosen. You have already found the stream that you want us to drink from; you have already gone ahead of us in this day.

Thank you, Father. Now help me, and those reading these words, to lean and trust in these facts. May they comfort us, brace us and encourage us.

Praise you! Bless you!

Amen and amen.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Shut the Door

But when you pray, go into your room, shut the door and pray to your Father.

When I pray, not if.

Jesus commanded me: Go into your room, Tamera. Jesus is asking me to be intentional. He is telling me to make a conscious will-altering change of direction. I have to decide to remove myself from the traffic of my home and life and all its demands. I must go into my secret place.

And shut my door.

Often I go into my room, but I fail to close the door.

I forget that I need to close off the rest of the world for a while. I must shut out the demands and the clamoring for my attention. I must willingly close the door against the expectations of the day, against the agenda, against the clock ticking.

I must shut the door and close myself into a space where I might better hear. A place where I might be tunneled to selectively hear One voice.

When I am expecting company for dinner, if weather permits, I leave the door wide open, but when I was teaching last year and would begin the lessons for the day, I shut my door. When we come into our home for the night, we shut the door.

This shutting of the door is a closing off—a boundary. A fence. Jesus, however, is doing more than telling me to shut out the exterior distractions. To keep things out is not his only purpose, but he wants to keep me in—to keep my mind from wandering.

To keep my spirit from flailing (he wants me swaddled like a newborn child).

To keep my attention from being diverted.

To keep my mind fixed on him.

In the Matthew* passage Jesus is talking to his twelve. He has been sitting on the side of a hill speaking to the multitudes. Radically teaching against the religious grain. With authority he is teaching principles that will turn their cultural and religious world upside down and inside out.

And then he turns to his disciples, the ones who have committed to follow him, and he says and when you pray.

When you pray.

And he says to me: Tamera, when you talk with the Father don’t pray for people to see. Don’t pray for an audience. You have a conversation with the Father. Just him. You go to your secret place. Your hidden place, Tamera. You enter the one place no one else can go and you shut the door.

And, Tamera, what you ask and seek from the Father in private, what you bring to him behind that closed door he will answer openly.

But, first.

First, you must go to your room and shut the door.

Matthew 6:6

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Do It Anyway

The cover of the latest (October 2012) Christianity Today is covered with 1 ½” photos of twenty-five women. The headline reads: Fifty Women to Watch: Those Most Shaping the Church and Culture.

My reactive thoughts immediately had me asking can we put any more pressure on these women. Can we make the fish bowl any larger or set it at any more of a visible angle? Why do we do this? Why must we turn everyone into a celebrity? These women are servants, and many of them deal with their own issues. Now they have to add being watched. It’s enough to become a hermit! Or to fight the ugly dragon of hubris (awful pride) mentioned often by Madeleine L’Engle.

Yet, the muted cover with its female symbol stopped me. The photos of the women’s faces stopped my stickering and preparing this magazine for the shelf. I recognized several of the faces. Many of these women have been tools the Lord has used to speak to me. Their words have often pierced me, inspired me, angered me, impassioned me, coaxed me and redirected me.
Ann Voskamp. Beth Moore. Margaret Feinberg. Joni Eareckson Tada. Household names. Their books are on my book shelves. My Bible and journals are peppered with insights I have found in their studies. They are now familiar faces and even more familiar voices. We recognize them and their style—their place in the kingdom.

I thank God for Beth and Ann and all the others. Regardless of anybody and everybody’s opinion these women have been doing kingdom work and sometimes they take intense heat for it. Beth and Ann and many others, however, have been revisiting and revising and reinventing a woman’s place in God’s kingdom.

But as I thought about these women I considered others. Ones whose faces weren’t on the cover of the nation’s most well known Christian publication. They didn’t make the cover and they weren’t one of the fifty mentions inside the pages.

I thought about these women. Women you may never meet, you may never hear their voices, or see their faces. Women you may never recognize at a conference or on the back of a book. Women whose influence you may never be able to trace. I hesitate somewhat here. I don’t want the recognition they receive here from me to be their reward. My thoughts about and for them are simply not enough. So, I hesitate.

But I write anyway.

Why do we hesitate to say the good? Why are we reluctant to allow good words, kind words, uplifting words to whistle through our lips? Yet, ugliness and harshness blows past before we even think.

We wait too long, we hesitate too often to encourage and exhort. We hold back our words of affirmation for fear they have a feel of flattery. We are reluctant with our intuition and encouragement because we feel we will be the fool if we misread a situation or a particular look on someone’s face. We are afraid. Deep down we worry that the acknowledgement of someone else’s contributions and gifts will cause us to be accountable for our own. Blessing someone else often makes us feel vulnerable. We become transparent because we become brave enough to allow someone else to know we see into their lives. We see them.

Women scare us. We’re afraid of comparisons and falling short. We are afraid to share our victories because then we feel we must confess our failures. (I do this constantly. I am forever pointing out my own faults and failures. Attempting to make sure that I am real with others. But our gifts are what make us real too. And they need to be acknowledged.)

Women can be hard and exacting creatures. But the lesson for me in recent months has been don’t wait to say something good or encouraging to someone. Don’t wait to be kind. Don’t hesitate to tell a woman that she is lovely—and it is not just about her clothes or the ability to accessorize. Don’t be reluctant to, out of the blue, look at someone and say I appreciate the way you…

Paul tells us that we are to spur one another on to good deeds. We are to encourage one another daily (Hebrews 10:25). We are also afraid to do this because what if someone doesn’t do or offer it back? What if others disagree with us? What if no one looks at us and pats us on the back? What then? In the words of Martina McBride: Do It  Anyway .  This You Tube clip is worth watching!

(Mother Teresa’s poem Mother Teresa's poemseemed to have inspired this song.

Today, I am doing just that. I am tired of being afraid to bless the Body of Christ. I am weary of worrying how my words will be received. I am slightly exasperated with our reluctance to bless instead of criticize.

There are some women in or around my world who are quietly living in the valley, diligently doing what has been given to their hands to do, embracing the place they are and blessing many within their realm of influence. They are doing many things anyway. They need to know that this life in the valley will be worth it. It will be of value. It does and will have purpose.

My list is not fifty women long—although it could have been.

Meet some of the women of my world.

Terri Smith—read the post  Quarter of a Century

Amy Scalf—our minister’s wife. My good friend. She is not a typical minister’s wife. In Amy there’s very little sugar, but there’s plenty of spice. Six adopted children call her mama. She lost a precious son when he was barely three years old, and she bears the scars from the battle, but they have empowered her to minister to others who have lost a child. Many people teach, but Amy is a teacher. And, yes, there is a difference. She has a strong gift of administration and wields it deftly. Amy knows the truth; she tells it like it is and straightens out the messes. She weeps silently, hurting for the deep things that often others don’t see.

Sharon Wright—Spiritual Formation Director and marriage counselor at a large church. She is a woman of seriously profound wisdom. Sharon’s influence and spiritual direction and words still guide me today. Sharon is soft-spoken and gentle, but she has a power within her that is mighty to see. The Spirit has gifted her with the ability to rightly divide not only the Word, but people. She sees through to the real crux of the issue and speaks truth right to the center of it.

JoAnn Embs—a servant. One of the most beautiful and gentle spirits I have ever seen in a woman. JoAnn washes tables as if they were in the banquet halls of heaven. She is drawn to the hurting and the sad and to the least of these. She works, unseen, in her little corner of the world and has no idea what her words to me every Sunday morning mean. She has no idea of how much impact they have. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Christy Witt--An extraordinary single mom. Christy has an incredibly generous spirit. She gives and gives and gives. And she gives cheerfully. She pays attention to detail and her blessings flow out of those observations. She is loyal--a friend you would want with you in a crisis. A friend you would want in the midst of suffering--in the midst of pain.

Angela Turner—one of my dearest and longest friends. We often teasingly call her Sarge. She has a strong gifting of administration—and can see in a linear fashion that astounds me. She has the ability to see consequences and cause and effect a long way down the road. I have benefited quite often from this gift. What many people don’t see are the quiet things she does for others or how her heart bleeds. Angela puts her hand to the plow and does not look back. She is one of the lionesses in the Kingdom—fiercely loyal and deeply committed.

Dianna Harmon—this woman has one of the most beautiful and encouraging spirits I have ever known. She has endured life-threatening surgeries with a gentle and faithful resolve that has floored me. She is a prayer warrior and the enemy probably chuckled when they saw her approaching, but I guarantee they didn’t laugh for long. And she has loved me like a daughter. She has prayed and interceded for me and mine too many times to count.

Donna Vaughan—my sister-in-love. One of the wisest, most intelligent, gifted women I have ever known. Donna reminds me of Deborah and her tree. Her husband is a minister and she takes and fulfills her role with great grace and profound beauty. She has learned to say no; she has disciplined herself to resist peer pressure—not allowing herself to be pushed into a mold of someone else’s expectations. She has raised two godly sons who will no doubt praise her at the city gates. And her husband, I know, counts her as one of the most tremendous gifts God has ever given him.

Sherry Mohr—one of the most alive women in my life. She is the mother of five incredible children I love deeply. Her grasp of Scripture and its daily applications is extraordinary. She is intelligent and witty and one of the hardest workers I have ever met in my life. She reminds me of Abigail and her discernment and wisdom in the mess with David, but she is certainly NOT married to Nabal. Actually, it is because of her marriage that I began to watch her; honestly good marriages are rare, and so I noticed hers.

Pam Finley—a woman I would want in my corner. A prayer warrior I would request on my flank. She wields the Sword of Truth with a dexterity that is astounding, but she also loves the Word and is passionate about the truths and principles found in its depths. She is a minister’s wife. Astute and strong. She is a no-nonsense kind of woman. Pam ministers to her flock; she feeds and leads them to green pastures. Like Priscilla, I believe she could hold her own with Paul.
The last four women are my daughters:

Anna Vaughan  
and read her blog : Unforced Rhythms

Katherine Rector
And read her blog: The Whole Kat and Kaboodle

Olivia Vaughan

Abby Vaughan

My four girls tell me that I see good things in them just because I am their mama. My answer to that is truth is truth. I admire my daughters more than almost anyone in the world. Each one of them has changed me and spurred me on to be a better woman. In twenty years there’s a great possibility that if Christianity Today (or a publication like it) discusses the influential women of the time my daughters’ names will be on the list. Is this just a mother’s bias and hope? Perhaps, but there’s truth in my bias and a foundation of hope in my dreams.

These are women who are doing it anyway. Women who are influencing the world God has put them in right now and right here.

Please go today and encourage someone in your world. Point out something good and right in them. Shine a light on their gifts. Tell them you appreciate them. Let them know you see the Spirit at work in them.

Don’t hesitate to bless.

You never know you may be the blessing God uses to exhort someone to fulfill their calling and shape and mold their culture. You may be the catalyst God uses to help someone step into their gifts.

Please go today.

Don’t wait to say something kind.

Please do it anyway.

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