Are You a Building Block or a Stumbling Block?

healingthehurtCome to the Lord Jesus, the “stone” that lives. The people of the world did not want this stone, but he was the stone God chose, and he was precious. You also are like living stones, so let yourselves be used to build a spiritual temple—to be holy priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God. He will accept those sacrifices through Jesus Christ. The Scripture says: “I will put a stone in the ground in Jerusalem. Everything will be built on this important and precious rock. Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” This stone is worth much to you who believe. But to the people who do not believe, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (1 Peter 2:4-7)

In these verses, Peter is encouraging believers to be like the stones used to build a holy temple for God. In order for the building blocks to do what they needed to do to fit together with other building blocks, they needed to be carved, molded, and placed together. In order for believers to fulfill individual and collective purpose for God, we must be willing to let God shape us and place us where he wants us to be. That means we don’t decide who we sit alongside. We don’t decide our exact shape. We don’t decide how we serve within the building. We don’t get to decide how pretty our rough edges are or how smooth is smooth enough. God does all that. It’s not about us; it’s about God’s building. It’s about unity. However, in order to come together to make what God intends to make, each piece has to be worked on and fitted together. Each has to be yielding in order for the building to be sound and holy.

We have another option other than yielding. Instead of being building blocks, we can be stumbling blocks. When we don’t allow God to shape us into the right shape for the right fit into the building, we will become displaced. We’ll fall to a place we’re not intended to be and create a stumbling hazard for those around us.

You get to choose which you’ll be, so ask yourself, “Am I a building block, or am I a stumbling block?” Avoid quickly giving the Sunday School answer. Think about specific situations you’ve been involved in recently. Of course, we all want to believe we’re building blocks. We want to believe we’re doing exactly what God wants us to do, but are we…really? Have we checked with him before we’ve proceeded, or have we moved forward in the direction that makes sense, responding first, then asking him to bless the process once we’re in motion? The popular adage “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” isn’t a biblical principle.

In order to fit well within a body of believers, you must invite God to shape you in order to fit where he intends you to fit. You don’t decide where you fit, then reason through why you’re such a good fit. You don’t decide you were made for such a time as this. God decides the time and place. He decides the process. You seek. You trust. You obey. You can certainly be stubborn about it, but when you don’t allow him to place you where you’re supposed to fit, you’re not just impacting yourself and your purpose. You’re impacting the body of Christ.

So, are you a building block or a stumbling block?

I beg you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with each other and not be split into groups. I beg that you be completely joined together by having the same kind of thinking and the same purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

God’s family is certainly not exempt from hurt, including the hurts that come from within. People in churches are just as vulnerable to unjustly criticize, gossip, neglect, and offend one another as anyone else. It’s true that God sets us apart to reflect his image to the world, but to believe Christ-followers are perfect representations of Jesus will, to say the least, lead to disappointment. What (should) set Christ-followers apart from the world is how they deal with one another to heal the hurt. Will they do the hard work it takes to unite or will they further divide into quarreling, backbiting, judgmental factions? Which will you choose? Welcome to Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

Building Under The Foundation

I was the seventh generation to live on the family farm. Of course, it doesn’t look the same as it did for the earlier generations. The house was built in 1907. My parents have made minor and major renovations. They made it into a home. I have lots of memories, and I love the house. But there’s one area I don’t visit often if given the choice: the basement.

It’s a old farmhouse basement. For those who don’t quite have the complete picture, let me share a few details. My parents “improved” the basement when I was young, partly because we didn’t have a shower upstairs – just a bathtub. It wasn’t quite enough for a family with three girls. I’m not much of a fussy girly-girl, but I didn’t linger in the shower for long, because I didn’t particularly like seeing the spiderwebs and their owners. I didn’t want to think about what might be lurking in the dark corners. I’m sure my imagination was much more graphic than reality.

I certainly appreciated the shower (there’s now a shower upstairs, which I appreciate even more), but it wasn’t optimal conditions even if they were vastly improved from the past. My parents sealed the walls and “finished” the area for the shower. However, my grandparents actually dug the basement…after the house had been built.

Yes, my grandpa dug under the house to create the basement. I picture him kneeling beside the foundation with a spoon and digging small chunks of dirt. He shoveled scoop after scoop until there was enough dirt removed under the house to fit a small piece of machinery, a belt on which to place the dirt to be carried up to ground level. While I didn’t like the basement shower, the thought of becoming a human mole appeals to me even less. I think of how dark it must have been and what critters he disturbed, not to mention the factor that there was an entire house looming over his head!

Of course, I’ve heard the story of my grandpa digging the basement throughout my childhood, but I still had questions, so I checked with my dad before writing this post. (1) Grandpa kept the foundation in tact. The walls of the basement are about 18 inches inside the foundation of the house. So, he wasn’t really digging under the foundation of the house. That would have been a bit stupid and unsafe. He dug under the space of the house inside the foundation. (2) He built supports as the space was created. Otherwise, the floors of the house would have sagged and collapsed. Yes, I know these things are probably common sense to most people, but I’m not a builder. When I heard this story as a child, I was simply in awe that my grandpa would do something so adventurous without the advanced machinery of today. I didn’t think of the practical aspects of the job.

We often think of a sound foundation being able to withstand the building on top of it. However, part of building a sound foundation is what it can withstand from beneath. That’s why people need to check for underground springs, types and quality of soil and other things that will impact the solidity of the ground beneath the foundation.

I’m thankful my parents build a shower in the basement, but my grandpa trumps them, because he was brave (and pretty cool) to dig the basement by hand. But the best choice of all was how and where to place the foundation years ago. It’s still standing strong, and it’s supported many of my life memories!

Everyone who hears my words and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and hit that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock. Everyone who hears my words and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and hit that house, and it fell with a big crash. (Matthew 7:24-27)

On what is your spiritual foundation built?

If You Build It, It Will Grow

It began as a small project. Tim would build a simple sandbox for our oldest daughter’s first birthday. It was a basic square sandbox with seats on the corners. He did a great job. The finished product held sand and contained hours of fun.

Then we decided we wanted a swingset and clubhouse. It didn’t need to be fancy, but the logical thing to do was build it around the existing base of the sandbox. Tim had to make a few adjustments to the clubhouse plans to allow for the existing dimensions of the sandbox, but he successfully added a clubhouse, slide, ladders, climbing rope and ladder, and an extension on which we could place a light swing.

It wasn’t long before our family grew and the single baby swing wasn’t enough. In fact, our house wasn’t enough either. It was time to move, and the clubhouse was coming with us. Tim partially deconstructed it – enough to transport across town – and reconstructed it, adding some renovations in the process. He replaced the top beam with a longer and stronger piece of wood and built a new, large A-frame support leg. Now we could have more than one daughter swinging into the sky at a time.

The playgym brought hours of enjoyment to our family. The girls built sandcakes and sandcastles and slid down the slide through sunshine, sprinklers, leaves and snow. They soared high on the swings and hosted many picnics and read for hours in the roofed clubhouse. They restained it by themselves one year while Tim and I were staining the fence, and they helped Tim make minor mendings as the weather took its toll.

Years earlier, when I looked out the window at Tim standing between a truck full of lumber and a simply sandbox, I wasn’t sure what the end result would be. Sometimes we just have to get started and build something. As we make adjustments and see the possibilities, the end result takes shape in our minds. But it’s still just the beginning: the resulting memories cannot be foreseen or planned.

What are you building today?

Where and in whom are you investing?

What are your expectations?

Dare to dream. God’s plans likely differ from yours. His blueprints, journals, and photo albums are better.

Several years ago, we talked to the girls about giving the playgym away. It was still in good shape, so it made sense for someone else to benefit from it. They agreed. One of my best friend’s husband helped Tim take it apart again. It’s been reassembled in their backyard. They’ve renovated it yet again, and now their son can make his own memories on it. The building continues.

Solomon began building. (2 Chronicles 3:2)

Projects or People?

Then I said to them, “You can see the trouble we have here. Jerusalem is a pile of ruins, and its gates have been burned. Come, let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so we won’t be full of shame any longer.” I also told them how God had been kind to me and what the king had said to me.

Then they answered, “Let’s start rebuilding.” So they began to work hard. (Nehemiah 2:17-18)

I’m inspired by Nehemiah’s leadership. I’m amazed by his faith. I’m amazed by the response of the people of Jerusalem who committed to work side-by-side to clear the debris and rebuild the protective wall around the city. It’s easy to think the book of Nehemiah is about a project, the rebuilding of a wall. However, it’s about the people who were part of that project.

We often focus more on projects than people.

Projects cannot be planned, begun, or finished without people. Projects require a call to action and subsequent response.

As much as social networking allows us to stay connected with one another and communicate at lightning speed, it also invites us to treat people as projects.

There was recently a popular video flooding social networks. It was picked up by mainstream media outlets. It was talked about in grocery store lines and church groups. It was a call to action, inviting – even challenging – people to get involved in a project of awareness and assistance. I heard of youth groups holding fundraisers and events and other inspiring stories. People were coming together, working side-by-side for a common cause.

I was moved by the video, but I hesitated before clicking the share button. I wondered why I was sharing. Was I willing to do anything else besides share, or was I simply jumping on the bandwagon of popularity of the most recent social cause? I’m not saying it would have been wrong to share the video or that anyone who shared it was wrong. I personally felt a pause, as if God was checking my motivation. Was I treating the situation as a project, or was I making it about people? Was I willing to personally invest, or was I only willing to do the easy thing, familiarizing myself with the basics but failing to respond?

What’s going on around you right now? How are you involved? Do you talk about the project, or do you get involved – whether in planning or completing? What’s your motivation?

God’s motivation is to involve people in his plan. He wants you to listen to when and how to respond. He has a project – probably more than one – with your name on it. Step up to your section of the wall and rebuild side-by-side others.

Swirling Blanket

“What a beautiful blanket of snow.” – posted as my Facebook status moments before I left my house this morning. 

It really was beautiful. It looked cozy – as if the ground was snuggled under a warm, fluffy blanket. I love the feeling of lying in bed and having a heavy blanket spread into the air over me, floating down to cover and warm me. The snow blanket reminded me of my own favorite blue quilt.

And then the wind began. The blanket, as thin as it was, was torn to shreds. The scattered pieces flew through the air as if a feather pillow had exploded – but the flying snow felt like shards of glass, not feathers. High winds and plummeting temperatures mixed to make less-than-pleasant driving conditions. Walking wasn’t much easier. As I pushed a shopping cart toward my van, it slid across the icy pavement in the opposite direction. (I won the battle by pulling instead of pushing it and using my foot as a brake behind one wheel as I unloaded my bags.)

As I drove home, there were moments I could barely see the car’s lights in front of me. When I could see the road for a safe distance, I’d look around. At times, there was no visible line between the ground and the sky. The swirling snow obscured the reality of the landscape.

And it had looked so peaceful and beautiful only a couple of hours earlier. 

It’s similar to the foundation we’re building by the choices we make. We make priorities. With every choice, we lay a foundation and build. It makes sense to us. It’s appealing to us (I assume…why else would we make the choices we make?!). Each choice is like a snowflake, and our choices create a blanket of snow.

And then the wind blows. Sometimes it’s gentle and barely disrupts our lives. Sometimes it’s beautiful. Sometimes it’s blinding. Not the wind itself but the stuff the wind picks up and swirls around us.  

The swirling blanket of snow slowed me down. As my visibility decreased, my caution increased. And I thought of how some of the choices in my life have blinded me at other times in my life. Having limited visibility isn’t always a bad thing. After all, it makes me focus on what’s immediately around me. My senses are intensified. But limited visibility also prevents me from seeing the details of my surroundings.

I suppose  the most important thing is awareness and discernment concerning the everyday choices I’m making, realizing the choices of today will be part of the storm of tomorrow.

Whether you’re life resembles a beautiful blanket of snow or a raging blizzard right now, choose well. Your visibility depends on it.

This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good; that you will be pure and without wrong for the coming of Christ; that you will be filled with the good things produced in your life by Christ to bring glory and praise to God. Philippians 1:9-11