Wednesday, May 11, 2016

backstories // MYOB

"the Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. people judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 
-1 Samuel 16:7

one of my fondest memories i have with my stepdad is of our daddy-daughter dinners at our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, Don Pablo's, when i was a teenager. it wasn't something we did often, it wasn't a big deal, and yet the one-on-one time with him was incredibly special to me. over chips and salsa and cheesy enchiladas we laughed, talked serious, talked nonsense, and solved all the world's problems. 

but my favorite part was before we even ordered our food. typically, there was a wait for a table, so we would go up to the restaurant's second story and sit in the balcony that overlooked the entire dining room. there, my stepdad and i would make up backstories and conversations of the people down below. and it was hilarious. if it was a man and woman at a table, we would create an elaborate make-believe story to their relationship and do ultra-dramatic voice-overs of their ridiculous conversation. it was like watching a silent movie and making up the words. it was a lighthearted and silly thing we did together. 

there are other ways people give strangers backstories every day that are not so lighthearted or fun or kind. not all backstory-givers are coming from a place of joy and love. and that is where judgement, false assumptions, discrimination, comparison, and bitterness take root.

what is, for instance, the common backstory we give to the homeless man on the street corner with his cardboard sign? he made bad choices in life. or he's just going to use my money to buy alcohol. or he's uneducated and lazy. 

what about the backstory we give to a grumpy cashier at the grocery store? she's so unfriendly she's obviously in the wrong profession. or the young waiter in the diner who seems to be in a fog and looks like he hasn't slept in 3 days? he's a stoner, probably high right now.     

sometimes we do it subconsciously when we hear the voice of someone with a particular geographic or regional accent. or if someone is wearing a certain brand of clothing. or if they let their kids wear a particular costume on Halloween. or if their toddler is being unruly. or if they post a picture on Facebook.

backstory. judgement. preconceived notions. assumptions.   
yikes. it happens so fast- we see something or hear something and almost immediately give them a label and a story. these every day backstories we assign to strangers happens in our heads but effects our hearts. it's internal criticism of others with the purpose of making ourselves feel better. it hardens our hearts to people and makes us prideful. it prevents us from being able to offer genuine grace and love, as we are called to do. 

"love each other as brothers and sisters. be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude." 
-1 Peter 3:8

we don't know what people are dealing with, where they've been, what's on their mind, or what burdens they carry. maybe it's nothing and that's just the way God designed them!? it isn't fair of us to guess or assume things about people, good or bad. the backstories we give people - even the seemingly "nice" ones - are basically false accusations.   
"why do you pass judgment on your brother? or you, why do you despise your brother? we will all stand before the judgment seat of God" 
-Romans 14:10

think about a friend in your life. remember when you first met her? did you give her a backstory before you knew her? isn't it ridiculous to think of what you thought of her now that you know her so well? 
i personally believe everyone i come into contact with is a divine appointment from God, and not by mistake or coincidence. and my interaction with them - even if it's just a smile - is an opportunity to show the love of Christ. Hebrews 13:2 encourages us to show hospitality even to strangers who could be angels sent from the Lord. what if we walked around thinking of everyone as angels on assignment? that isn't a backstory- that's a biblical reminder to love one another.  

we're not sitting in a balcony above everyone else, watching their lives and seeing the big picture. we get snapshots and in between moments. so how about instead of a backstory, we give people grace, mercy, and love?  

here's what i'm saying: you don't know their backstory. leave it alone. stop overthinking other people's lives. let's just call it what it is- it's judgement, and it's not nice. mind your own business. 

this has been on my heart lately and i'm challenged to stop giving people backstories. let's be intentional about not thinking we know all. yes, everyone has a backstory. but it's not my business (or yours) to know it, guess it, or assume it. my business is to love like Jesus. that's it.

"make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody"
-1 Thessalonians 4:11-12


Tuesday, May 03, 2016

making the promises personal // a declaration

"The soul prospers when we are full of the Scriptures and of the grace of Christ." (Matthew Henry) 

today i am simply thankful for the promises in God's Word, and that they apply to me. i can read my bible and make each promise personal, because the God i serve is a personal God who desires a personal relationship with me. it is true - 

"I am loved by God and nothing, no height or depth, could separate me from that love. 

Because of God's sacrifice of love, I am no longer a slave but a son. I am at peace with God in every way. He broke the bars of my heavy yoke and I am in right standing with Him. Now my yoke is easy and light and I approach him boldly.

What the law couldn’t do, God did and because of that, I can’t be condemned! He has washed me clean and freed me from the laws of sin and death. It is not I who now live, but Christ who lives in me.

As the Spirit dwells within me, he directs my steps and fills my mind with life and peace that surpasses all understanding. I don't have a spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind. As I walk, I know that I am far from oppression and fear won't come near me because God has given me hope as a firm and secure anchor for my soul.

By the stripes of Jesus, I have been redeemed from the curse of sin and all sickness. I am forgiven of my sins, kept safe from secret traps, healed of all diseases, and am protected from all harm and evil.

Because I seek God first, food, clothes, shelter, and everything I need are added to me. I am complete in Him and content in any situation I find myself because I, like Paul, know a secret: I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength.

Because I am submitted to God, the devil has to flee from me! Gods faithfulness is my shield. He is my glory, my strength, and the lifter of my head. He sets my feet on high places. his steadfast love preserves my spirit.

I won't fear what the night brings, or daytime assaults. Thousands can fall all around me, but it won't come near me. Even when I'm hard pressed I'm never crushed. The favor of God surrounds me like a shield and he is with me as he was with Moses.

His Word and His Spirit always comfort me. And in every weak moment the Spirit is helping me. By his light I walk through darkness. No weapon formed against me will work. I’m like a tree planted by rivers of water, everything I do prospers. His power is at work in me and he does immeasurably more for me than I even think to ask.

God goes before me making crooked places straight and opening doors that no man can shut. He busies himself with my every step.

I am precious to God. I am firmly rooted, built up, established in my faith, and overflowing with gratitude. He has made me the head and not the tail; He has set me above and not beneath. But I don’t just talk, I live an empowered Holy Spirit driven life, I have overcome and am much more than a conqueror.

I am God's person and he planned things a long time ago for me to do! For this reason, I break up with the past and run forward, like I'm after a prize. But really, I consider anything I might gain garbage compared to the great great worth of being loved by him and knowing Him.

And because I know Him, I will be strong and I will do great exploits."

-Declaration of God's Promises, Church Eleven32

It is not enough to have a Bible on the shelf—it is infinitely better to have its truths stored up within your soul. It is a good thing to carry your Testament in your pocket—it is far better to carry its message in your heart. ...There is no book that has so much power over us if we will but give ourselves up to it! (C.H. Spurgeon)