That's the Book: Philippians
hI woke up yesterday with a full schedule and a headache. It was dull and so I added two cups of coffee and ignored said headache. This worked okay through a finance committee meeting at church, held through making Valentines with the preschoolers and I was distracted by the fantastic sermon at church enough to enjoy an after service lunch with friends. Then the headache amped up the volume.
I feel a little lame comparing the depths of persecution the apostle Paul faced with my Sunday headache, but hang in here with me. I have a point near the end. Here at the start though let me tell you Philippians is my father's favorite book of the Bible. I grew up on these words. The consistency of the message, the good cheer in the book even in the midst of suffering and the centrality of Jesus make Paul's letter to the church of Philippi a must read, must study, must learn for any earnest believer. Even on the days you have a headache.
Philippians begins with a declaration about what sort of long view the Christian faith is all about. Keep your eye on the prize. Today's struggles are difficult -but Christ Jesus has already won the war.
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6
Yesterday after lunch, I had to take home a couple of visitors. One was my daughter's friend from school. The second was my good friend from Rwanda. She's in the states for a couple of months taking English classes. Her host family lives across town. What a joy it was to have her at church with me yesterday. Her faith and her courageous testimony remind me to strive to spread the gospel without fear. I want my daughters to hear her stories of forgiveness. The family of faith can challenge our assumptions, push us to see the purpose in our pain and stretch us to learn to trust Jesus fully. Friends who have walked ahead of us can shine the light. This is the call of Paul to the Philippians.
"Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves, do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus Every Knee Will Bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2: 1-11
By the time I was driving home yesterday my headache had taken over I limped into the house and headed straight for the bath. My husband told me my face looked droopy. He brought me ice. Two hours later I was still a mess. I was laying on the couch when my daughters came and started trying to talk me into going for a walk to the park.
The Park?? You want me to get off this couch and go to the park?
My eldest was explaining that sometimes fresh air and a walk help. The youngest looked gleeful at the idea of a first playdate outside this year. My husband had already been overseeing outside rollerskating and was now engaged in dinner prep in the kitchen. I never call him away from dinner prep. Gotta have priorities.
At any rate this verse popped in my throbbing head.
"Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast he word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain." Philippians 2: 14- 15
All things? Do all things without grumbling? Here is the conversation which happened next.
Me: I'm having an inner battle.
My eldest: Huh?
My spouse: She means she's trying to decide if a walk will help the headache or make it worse.
Me: Nope. I'm battling between MY self and what Jesus wants. It's the same battle every day.
"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus may Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish so that I may grain Christ". Philippians 3: 7-8
Here's the deal. My headache was not a big deal really. Annoying. But Jesus still wanted me to slay my selfishness and look to the needs of others in all things. I lay there feeling sorry for myself a little longer. And then I hauled myself up and put on my shoes and my girls and I went for a walk. I'm not saying this in the least to say I'm doing the right thing. I'm sharing this story to show you how daily little things we can do through His strength. And the daily little things add up to big glorious wins in the battle for our soul, for the souls of our children and to advance the gospel. How you treat your spouse when he's impatient matters. How you respond to that annoying person at work matters eternally. How I act when I have a headache reflects the condition of my heart.
"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3: 12-14
You want to know something amazing? When I got back from the walk - my headache was significantly improved. I'll head to the chiropractor probably later today to address the underlying issue but I'm grateful for the win with my kids yesterday. The book of Philippians calls me to turn to Jesus in everything - in my worries, in my stress, in my priorities, in my little and big issues. It;s a gorgeous calling. If you struggle with the battle between what your self wants and what Jesus wants, Philippians is a great battle plan.
"Be anxious for northing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever if of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Philippians 4: 6-8
Here you are - my favorite tool to learn about the Bible. Outside the actual Bible.
I found a new song yesterday which describes me perfectly. Maybe you can relate. It's called Second Guess Girl. Its all about trying to figure out what to do in a messed up and beautiful world. Some of the lyrics mirror my heart.
Is it time for a speech or for silence
Are you calling for peace or defiance
Is this darkening counsel or wisdom
Are we all perpetrators or victims?
It’s a hard world for a second guess girl
With one hand and another
I try to take it in but it leaves me spinning
Trying to love my sister and brother
Is this confidence born of a calling
Is this ego and pride before falling
Are we standing to fight for what’s right
Are we angry and hopelessly blind?
I take in a lot of other people's opinions in books and blogs and sermons and conversations over coffee. I watch opposing views from people I trust on both sides of many debates pass by quickly on my twitter and Facebook page. I can get rilled up and ready to march with the best of them. Or sometimes I preach a gospel of peace. To fight or to reconcile?
Sometimes I second guess Quirky Faith and the platform mentality. I wonder if this blog is about preaching the truth or getting attention for myself? I've been down that road often enough I know its both and the goal is always to kill the self and glorify God. Easier said than done. And yet we're called to shine a light and be ready with an answer.
See what I mean? Second guess girl.
If you're tracking with me can I suggest an exercise in sanity and stability. In classic Mindy fashion I'm talking about making a list. Of what I know for sure.
1. There is a Creator. He loves me. He loves you too.
2. I don't want to do life without Jesus. Ever.
3. The Bible contains words of life. Every second in the book is a good idea.
4. Work is honorable. But there is no greater joy than helping someone.
5. Art and music and food and friends matter.
6. My parents rock.
7. I want to grow old with my spouse at my side. He's my guy. Steadfast heart.
8. If my children learn to love Jesus then my life is a success. They are my most important priority.
9. I'd step in front of an angry bear to protect my little sister. She'd do the same for me.
10. Having a voice is important. Knowing when to shut up is more impressive.
I don't know a lot of things. I second guess my methods and my opinions and my time. But when I see clearly what I know for sure it helps keep the roller coaster in line. I second guess frequently - but I'm overwhelmingly grateful for the solid truths in my life.
What do you know for sure?
Okay. Before I tell you this story I really have to state I do know how to back up a car. For eleven years I lived at the bottom of s steep, gravel, curved road. I could back up it with my stick shift in the dark and rain. So this story is not about my lack of driving skill. It's about my inattention.
My husbad is a kind and patient person. He came and rescued me and my car. He even stuck the broken off piece of trim in the back of his car. Without snide, sarcastic or demeaning comment. He wins.
This is my sweet friend whose brick wall I massacred. She didn't yell at me either. Neither did her two lovely neighbors. I woke them up on a Sunday morning. They came out of their house, took a look at my car and then said. "Oh girl!" About summed it up.
While waiting for my spouse to come assess the situation my youngest was running up and down the driveway. She tripped and gloriously skinned her knees. My friend scooped her up on a massive hug and went to find bandaids.
Friends and Family. This is what to do. When your friends fall down help them up. When your family crashes come to the rescue. We all know this is right. My accident was due to inattention not lack of knowledge. We do the most harm to our relationships not because we do not know the right way to go but because we fail to pay attention.
Thanks team. I love you.
Two weeks ago I hauled my aging cat to the vet. We should qualify for a frequent visitor award. This time his face had ballooned up and he couldn't open his eye. My professional opinion (okay fine...I googled it) was he either had a tooth abcess or had been in a fight. Again.
I know. I know. Cat owners are supposed to keep their cats inside. This particular cat was having none of that. He was born 17 years ago to a wild barn cat out in the boonies. I heard the kittens were being picked off by coyotes and so I went into rescue mode and he showed up at my house in a big cardboard box. He was indignant. If I make him stay inside anywhere too long he gets that same look.
The little guy was a tad too young to leave his mama and so our dog Ripely adopted the cat. Ripley carried him around in her mouth and allowed the cat to attempt cross species nursing. They bonded quickly and were best friends until we had to put Ripley down a couple of years ago. The cat didn't eat for days. I took him to the vet. They fixed him up with some appetite supporters and we switched him to the good stuff.
One week ago, after we'd let a round of antibiotics do their thing, I took the cat back in for a consult.
AaaaHHH!!!! $1000 estimate for two teeth extraction and support. On a 17 year old cat. What to do. What to do.
The starving kids in Africa, my kid who is ready for braces, a tree we need to pay to have taken down and a spouse who is sick of the cat peeing everywhere were weighing on me.
And yet. This sweet boy.
Guilt...in either decision. Grace shows up in the hard and ugly right? In the petty little things that don't globally matter but which rock our day worlds? Right?
My friend wisely observed it's so hard to make decisions based on the end of a life.
No kidding. Thoughts of Charlie Gard and his parents fighting the entire British government flood my brain. Perspective is good.
There are moms in Syria boiling cardboard right now to feed their children as dinner.
My cat eats better than the children in Syria.
The blood work came back and revealed my pet has been betrayed by his kidneys. Surgery was pointless. Saddened and strangely relieved because the decision was obvious now, I scheduled one last appointment with the vet.
I leaked grief in quiet moments all week. In the little clinicians room I struggled to hold it together. I failed. Head down on exam table I broke down while waiting for the vet to come. My kids were crying. My husband was a stable force of comfort. He patted my back and kissed my forehead. Held the girls. I pulled it together and we all said goodbye.
I pause sometimes and shake my head at the photos of kids in Syria eating cardboard for dinner. I haven't once sobbed over their plight. I think perhaps God wants my heart to break for hurting kids more than my cat.
Don't mistake me. It is good to love well and deeply all of creation. Barn cats included. We learn much, love grows.
C S Lewis wrote this about your heart “If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket —safe, dark, motionless, airless —it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
If one of my children was crying Casey would come sit beside them. His warmth and weight would settle their spirit. Cats are proof that one of the best ways to love hurting people is to just be present. On a rough day I would take great comfort in him just sitting on my lap. Yesterday my husband's hand on my back was enough.
What I know is my life was better because of this cat. I also know his life was saved because I chose to save him. The coyotes lost because I made a decision to love despite the cost to my wallet, to my carpet or to my heart.
You know the obvious sermon there. Our lives are redeemed because a creator chooses us. Despite the cost. He invites us to a feast of the good stuff.
He also invites us to to be involved in a rescue. Sometimes it'll break your heart. It'll cost something. But you can make a difference by choosing to be present, to invest, love, laugh and grieve.. Indoor cats are safer but the ones who go outside have adventures. Go outside. Hearts don't belong in cardboard caskets.
The Quirky Faith logo sports a dandelion wish. I love dandelions. Bright and sunny. Cheerful. Stubborn and immovable. This steadfastness can be a great asset when it is grounded in good dirt.
Dandelions can grow anywhere. In tough circumstances. They are tough and resilient. I love how dandelions make my children smile. How they encourage kids to give big hearted handfuls of joy.
And the wishes! Fun and hopeful. Hope is a brilliant weapon against despair.
I love the big wide mystery of God. You don't get to know everything He is doing. But He lets us be a part of the joy of spreading the word. Part of the journey of faith is like a dandelion wish. Take a deep breath and see what happens.
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:8
Dandilions are free, accessible to everyone and always around if you watch for them. Just like miracles. Watch for God in your life. You'll find Him.
I've spent the last 48 hours in Chicago. I flew in on United Airlines. I scored a free upgrade to the exit aisle. Extra leg room.
My lovely cousin picked me up from the airport and graciously shared her beautiful city with me. We went to Portillo's and I had a Chicago hotdog. Tomato, pickle, relish, mustard and hot peppers. I normally only eat hot dogs in the summer and only with ketchup. When in Rome I order what's the local specialty. It's fun trying new things. Sometimes you are surprised you like it.
I got to my hotel where I'm staying for a work conference. I was given a free room upgrade. Corner room. Full windows flank two walls and I have a view of the city.
Last night I sat in my room and listened to the police sirens and news helicopters buzz a couple blocks away at the Trump Tower. There was a protest. Peaceful. When I had enough of the view I pushed the button on the wall and the electric blackout blinds closed.
Today was a full day of continuing ed classes and sponsor booths and catered lunch. Good meetings. We talked about the fallout from the election, about rising regulation and profitability. I found some new tools for employee training and grabbed some trade show giveaways to give my kiddos at home.
At lunch I hoofed down the street to Millennium Park and took a selfie with the bean. Hustled back to the hotel, grabbed a bandaid from the concierge for my new blister and made it back to class with one minute to spare before the break was over.
Halfway through the last session of the day I could bear it no longer and I purchased my online fast pass to the Chicago Institute of Art. I grabbed my Nikes and quickly walked down city streets to the nearest entrance. I was a little giddy.
Rodin, Seurat, Manet, Van Gogh. Georgia O'Keefe, Picasso and Monet. Rooms of Monet. Visions of Ferris Beuller. I love art. If I am ever sad, you could put me in a room with art and my soul will recover.
My cousin got off work and met me at the art museum. I tried to convince her that it is her duty to come view this art on a regular basis because it's here in her gorgeous city. She grinned. We took another selfie, this time with the Chicago lions sporting giant sized Cub's hats.
Then we went to dinner. We ordered a Tomato and Spinach deep dish pizza. And we talked. Of books and art. We talked of parents and siblings. Of work and play. Of roommates and love stories. We talked of children. Her friends in West Chicago, my friends in Rwanda. We talked about hope and pain. About poverty and privilege. I listened to her heart. She listened to mine. We talked about Trump.
Here's the deal. I know walking around in my skin and my life I am privileged. I get free upgrades and catered lunches. My kids get trade show giveaways and museum souvenirs. Some of the kids here in Chicago get moved out of their homes into neighborhoods where they wake up in the night to gunshots. I stay in a hotel with electric blackout blinds.
What would I write if I was not afraid?
I voted for Trump.
I struggled all year long about that decision. I do not like the man. I'm disgusted by his vulgar and angry rhetoric. I hate that my ten year old looks at me with sad and questioning eyes and asks why.
In the end, I voted for Trump because I was more concerned about Secretary Clinton's corruption and policies. About healthcare and regulation and abortion and jobs and ISIS. I'm heartbroken by Syrian Refugees and hopeless kids and deep divides in our country. I don't believe more of the same is a solution to any of the mess.
I'd still vote the same way.
I am afraid that telling the truth and attempting to have the hard why conversations with people I love will mean I lose people. I hate losing people.
Author and speaker Eric Metaxas (author of Veggie Tales and Bonhoeffer) sent an email today in which he wrote "one friend actually emailed me 'You helped make this happen. Our friendship is over'. That hurt. But then I thought about how much he must be hurting to have written that".
Now I sit in my hotel. Watching the city lights. The news helicopters are back across the plaza to Trump Tower. I read a news story that just this afternoon a white man wearing a Trump hat was beaten as people watched and chanted "don't vote Trump". It happened just down the road from here. The beaten man looked a lot like my father. Even as I write this, fear of assumptions is making me want to point out my dad also does not like Trump.
At home the protests have continued four days and have been declared riots after extensive damage occurred. Clearly not a legitimate or legal or helpful way to protest.
Someone said "what would you write if you were not afraid?"
I'd say "I'm listening. Will you?"
I want to listen. I want to understand fully why people are scared and angry. I want to engage and find ways to move forward that we can all accept. I want to help bridge the gap between those hurting people's politics and my concerns for the future.
Someone asked me how I got free upgrades in my hotel and flight. I grinned and glibly said it's because God loves me and likes to surprise me with joy. After my Chicago tour I pause. Hmm. Perhaps I get free upgrades because I'm privileged. My mama pointed out that the privilege is the fact I was on the flight or in the hotel at all. Some people never travel. Which is not a right. For the love. Some people don't have clean water.
There are rights. Free speech. Right to assemble. Right to vote. To pursue happiness. Freedom of religion. For everyone. Not just those who agree with me. Truth is we are all privileged by those rights. Well. We don’t ALL have the privilege of those rights. Syrian refugees come to mind.
So here is what I'd say if I was not afraid.
I'm not sorry I voted for Trump. I believe given my options it was the lesser of two bad choices. However. I am deeply sorry that I did not use my privilege and resources in the primaries to ensure better candidate choices. I am sorry that I have not met my neighbors. I am sorry that I don't know the name of the pastor of the largest Black church in my community. I am sorry that I close my windows when the noise is disturbing my sleep. I am sorry I have been afraid.
I shall do better.
My cousin and I talked about some of our failings. When our passion for our projects was not enough to make a difference. When our privilege got in the way. When people tuned out because we did not understand.
I agreed with Metaxas when he wrote "For a Christian, the first thing to do after something this divisive is to pray for those who disagree with you and show them some love. This stuff is complicated, and there are legitimate concerns. (I'm not talking about the people burning flags and cursing in public....). So please let's give each other the benefit of the doubt. I want others to give me the benefit of the doubt. So I have to do the same for those disagreeing with me. We need to assure those we disagree with that they are loved and respected as fellow Americans, and, more importantly, loved by God. This is the work of being a Christian. It's not extra credit Christianity. It's the guts of the faith at its most basic level."
Can I suggest that rather than unfriend and block and close your windows and just put bandaids on your blisters that you respectfully talk with someone different than you? That you listen to understand, not to find holes in their argument. That you don't beat the man in the street. Or hate the man in the street. You don't break things, break friendships, break hearts.
I love my cousin. She is different than me in many ways and the same in some. I'm proud of her. I'm praying for her this morning as she goes to work and to church. I'm praying for her friends and this beautiful city. I'm praying for Trump, like I pray for Obama and for Bush before. I'm praying the voters like me who plugged their nose and checked his box will not be afraid to hold him accountable to lead and protect everyone. I'm praying for those who were with Hillary and those who walked away from the whole mess.
I'm choosing to ignore my fear and extend my hand. Will you? Will those of you who hate Trump and assume that since I voted that way that I must be a hateful bigot please drop your assumptions and listen? Will those of you who are horrified by burning flags and stopped traffic slow down and listen? I'm afraid of what will happen if we do not.
More so, I'm hugely hopeful in grace. In breathing. In prayer. In kindness. In forgiveness. In this big beautiful diverse country. I'm more hopeful than afraid. Courage is not the absence of fear. I believe that honest conversation in a spirit of grace can help heal our national soul.
What would you write if you were not afraid? I'd love to know. I'll take you out for dinner. Let's talk. I'll listen.
My sister was my maid of honor. She wore a blue dress which had been hand sewn by a friend of mine. We had picked up the dress the day before the wedding. It was entirely too small. My sister couldn't raise her arms, she couldn't take full breaths of air. No one told me. They didn't tell the guests. She didn't complain. I was the bride and my family didn't want anything to tarnish the day.
All throughout the Bible the church is referred to using marriage imagery as the Bride of Christ. Read a good explanation here.
I am concerned that believers have forgotten how to treat a bride.
Listen. I get it. People have been hurt at church. They have lost their way. Leaders have sometimes broken trust. Priorities have been misplaced. But that is not the full picture. Certainly not the full truth. But frequently it's all people talk about, write about, think about. Most of the blog posts online I see about the greater church are not positive. They are critical. Our society is soaked in criticism. Why would new people bother going to church if all her members do is complain?
The tone of the conversation about church tends to be a sneer or a shrug. Music is too loud. Too long. Not long enough. Teen group too fun. Not fun enough. Too much Bible. Not enough Bible. No one says hello. They make me say hello. For the love.
You know that part in the wedding where the pastor asks if anyone knows of any reason the wedding should not continue? Sometimes people have to stand up and say stop. Happens in churches too. Martin Luther. Those awful child abuse stories. When the truth is being hidden or distorted.
However. Most of the time, people at weddings stay seated. They do so out of respect and kindness and awe at the beauty of the bride. Guests shouldn't stare critically at the choice of flowers or music or dresses. They certainly don't throw tomatoes. They don't trip the bride.
My favorite thing to do at a wedding is to watch the expression of the groom. When he sees his bride. Eyes light up. Tears fall.
Seems like instead of throwing every criticism we can find at the church and her leaders perhaps we should watch the groom. He loves his bride. Jesus loves his bride enough that he laid down his life to save her.
You know what a bridezilla is right? When a bride is mean, picky and crazy. The only time a bride isn't lovely is when she focuses totally on herself and forgets the groom, or forgets her guests. Same is true with the church. Eyes on Jesus and she shines.
I know most people writing critically about the church are simply trying to remind her to keep the faith. But the constant criticism and lack of cheer can do harm. At a wedding, ultimately, it does not matter what flowers are chosen or what dress the flower girl wears. The wedding will proceed. Save your complaints about church for eternal concerns and don't worry about the details.
May I throw out a thought? Perhaps what the church needs is more people to cheer her on. More people who say thank you to leaders. People to tell their stories of grace and joy and friendship and love. More people who stand when she walks down the aisle. My guess is more people would respond to the invitation if the guests made the wedding sound fun. So fellow believers, when you see a problem within the church, solve it. But do so in a manner that does not demean or degrade. My sister dealt with her dress in grace. I appreciated it.
The truth is that people are healed at church. People are found. Leaders keep the faith. Conflicts are resolved. Wrongs are forgiven. The church is the bride. She's not perfect. But she is loved.
Feel free to share a wedding picture in the comments or a story of how the church has made a difference in your life.
I'm spending the weekend with 75 of my closest friends. No really. It's church ladies' retreat weekend. I'm related to 5 of the 75 so those ones count in the friend and family column. Some of these girls I've known all of my life. Some are new acquaintances. But by the end of the weekend we'll all have more in common. We'll have shared stories, shared faith, shared laughs. Gifts to carry home.
Earlier in the week I had a conversation with my friend Elo. She paints. You should buy one of her paintings. Read Here for details. We chatted about how art reflects the beauty of what God made. We talked about how the best writing expounds only what He has already said. Elo paints because God is a creator and she is made in His image. She said I write because Jesus is the word. Art. Words. Such fun gifts from heaven.
I got off work late so drove down by myself. The entire drive was gorgeous. I watched the sun play with clouds and fog roll down fir trees. The sunset of brilliant pink and blue washed over the changing fall colors. Gorgeousness. It was a gift from heaven.
The speakers tonight talked about friendship. They talked about investing in others, about being open and vulnerable to allow people in, about forgiving and communicating.
They talked about how behind every successful woman is a best friend giving her crazy ideas. So true! But sometimes those crazy ideas lead to beautiful places. Friends are hard work. But they are worth it. My favorite quote of the night was "I love you and that's all that matters."
The last couple days have been full of gifts. Grace and forgiveness and sunsets and art. Safe travels and friendships. All gifts from God. Those little and big things are His way of saying "I love you and that's all that matters."
What gifts are you thankful for today?
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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