Grace in Spontaneity

graceWhen Jesus was leaving, he saw a man named Matthew sitting in the tax collector’s booth. Jesus said to him, “Follow me,” and he stood up and followed Jesus. (Matthew 9:9)

Ponder It.

  • What is something spontaneous you’ve done lately?
  • On the structure/spontaneity spectrum, where do you generally live?
  • How has God moved in spontaneous ways in your life?

Receive It. Grace is enough for every situation. Even when things pop up throughout the day, God’s grace is sufficient. What seems spontaneous to us is known and expected by God. Structure helps our lives take shape; spontaneity adds character. It’s not always character we fully embrace. Some surprises aren’t what we prefer, but other times we jump in with both feet. When it rains, and the puddles begin to form, we can jump in with both feet and enjoy the splash, or we can carefully walk around or stay inside. Neither option is always the best choice. God will lead us in different ways at different times. He wants us to stop and smell the flowers in one situation, clip and share the flowers in another situation, and focus on the stepping stones ahead of us in yet another situation. The best kind of spontaneity is being willing to respond to what God wants. And when we live out that kind of spontaneity in an ongoing way, we’re actually making it a sort of structure in our lives.

Even though God knows how his grace is being lived out through situations and relationships we don’t even see, responding to and in God’s grace will often involve spontaneity on our part. When we are sensitive to God’s leading, he highlights some situations and people around us. When we respond, we are both relying on and living out his grace. We are depending on God to guide and provide. We step off the “my plans for the day” list and take the detour he has planned. We become a vessel into which God pours his grace so it fills us up and overflows onto others.

Live It. Look for an opportunity to be spontaneous today. It can be as simple as calling someone you haven’t talked to for a while or picking up a bouquet of flowers and giving them to a stranger. Look around you and notice where God has placed you in this moment. Listen to how he’s prompting you, then respond by trusting his lead.

Response Time Matters

healingthehurtResponse time matters in emergencies. It also matters in non-emergencies, because the time it takes you to get through a grocery line, wait in traffic, or fix a meal impacts other plans and responsibilities you have. Sometimes a fast response is essential. Sometimes, to give or expect an immediate response is premature, invasive, and inconvenient.

It’s important to invite God to determine the best response time when you’re dealing with issues among your church family. Let God tell you when and how to respond instead of your default comfort settings becoming the driving force. You might prefer to let things simmer for a while and see what the impact will be before addressing the issue, but carefully listen to God’s promptings. He might agree with you, but it’s also possible that he knows if you approach a particular person right away, the behind-the-scenes whispers will be quieted and the eventual roar will be eliminated with the early action. On the other hand, you might prefer to jump in and solve issues right away, and while that might be the best option at times, God will also encourage you to wait at times, because he knows approaching the hot fire will cause the flames to burn higher and hotter, making it more visible and dangerous for those otherwise unaffected.

Responding isn’t about your preference or comfort. God knows what’s best. Responding in his time is what matters, because he knows everyone involved, including yourself, much better than you do. Response time matters because people matter. Response time matters because your relationship with God matters.

Listen to Jesus’ instructions to his disciples—and us—about responding to others. Be sensitive to his leading and trust him. God knows best.

If the people in a certain place refuse to welcome you or listen to you, leave that place. Shake its dust off your feet as a warning to them. (Mark 6:11)

But I say to you who are listening, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.  Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy. (Luke 6:27, 36)

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? This is the final post of Healing the Hurt, a 10-post series to help hurting communities cope in biblical ways.

Security

The buzz among those who are travelling by air for Thanksgiving seems to be the looming boycott of TSA screening. A timely topic for me, since I just flew to and from Israel, experiencing heightened security not only in the airports but also on the ground in Israel.

On the ground, soldiers were everywhere…but not on guard as you might expect. Since military service is required for both young men and women in Israel, there are troops just about everywhere – many of them on “tours” of area sites. Kind of like field trips for elementary school children. Soldiers learn about their cities, people, and history by experiencing them.

This group was in the Old City in Jerusalem, where we often saw military touring. Sometimes on duty.

I was perplexed to see another group at Masada. Out of uniform but with guns.

I later saw this same young woman sitting in the shade on a rock on Masada – with her gun slung on her back while she knitted!

It seemed odd to me, but it’s a way of life in Israel.

We went through many checkpoints while driving throughout Israel. We walked across the checkpoints after visiting Bethlehem, which is Palestinian-controlled. We walked through metal detectors to enter the mall and other large department stores or areas. But…I never felt threatened. (Okay, the exit from Bethlehem was a bit nerve-wracking – but for other reasons. Perhaps a future blog post.) Being the leader of the group, I felt responsible and was always aware of what was going on around us. So if anyone would have felt threatened, it likely would have been me.

The Ben Gurion (Tel Aviv) airport was the most thorough airport security I’ve ever experienced. Even through the long lines, lifting my bags up and down on conveyor belts, opening my suitcases and shifting everything in them, emptying every bag of all electronics, and answering a wide array of questions, I didn’t feel interrogated or offended. I didn’t feel my rights were being infringed upon. I felt a bit more safe. Perhaps a lot more safe.

One day near the end of our trip, we approached a checkpoint. As our car slowed without stopping, an officer peeked inside and motioned us onward. I asked our driver what the point of the checkpoints are when people are rarely stopped (as far as I could see). His answer: “You Americans are more sensitive and less secure. We’re less sensitive and more secure.” In short…”We profile and don’t worry about offending others because our security is worth a possible offense to someone.”

A statement I don’t think I’d hear in the States.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I want to throw all sensitivity out the window. I’m not saying another country handles security better than we do or has all the solutions. But I wonder if our demand for personal rights gets in our way. What’s the cost of our arrogance?

If it makes you feel better, I’ll turn it on myself. What’s the cost of my arrogance? When do I expect or demand to be treated a certain way…but in the process negatively impact the process others must go through or their rights or security?

What is security? I wonder if we often think of security as “what’s most comfortable and convenient for me.” If that’s the case, how will we reconcile our “security” conflicting with someone else’s? Let’s not blur the lines. Security and rights or preferences aren’t the same thing.

Security does not equal safety. Security is freedom or protection from fear and anxiety. It doesn’t insure no harm comes to you. It’s a vigilant position. It’s not pulling a “security” blanket over your head and hiding. In that case, “security blanket” is an oxymoron. Security is taking the blanket off, keeping your eyes and ears open and watching for anything out of the ordinary…not just for you but for everyone else. Not to be paranoid but to be attentive.

The ultimate security you can have has nothing to do with your safety. You might be safe here on earth, but are you secure – for eternity? God’s the best security blanket you’ll ever have. And he never covers his eyes.

It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. 2 Samuel 22:33