Testimony Tuesdays, Theological Thursdays, and Jackson 5 Fridays

I have a new plan and vision for blogging that I am excited to share with you today.  I am not a person for whom structure and discipline come naturally, so it is often beneficial for me to share my ambitions and intentions with others.  It helps keep me on track.  So this post is to give you a flavor of what I intend to do on Spur in the coming weeks and months, and also to give myself a structured and specific goal moving forward.

At my weekly Bible study I am privileged to hear a couple of brief testimonies each Tuesday afternoon, and it is one of the highlights of my week.   It occurred to me today that this blog could be a great way for people who love Jesus to share their testimonies, so beginning next week, each Tuesday Spur will feature a personal testimony.  I realize that most people who read this blog are already familiar with my story, but I think it is a wonderful and needful thing to be able to concisely present how Jesus has impacted our lives, so please look for my 3-minute testimony next week.  And as for contributors, I’m not talking about anything high pressure, just a willingness to share with others how you came to know Jesus and how He has changed your life.  Some people will have really dramatic stories.  My pastor, Lon Solomon, was raised Jewish, sold drugs, and came to know Jesus through a street preacher.  Talk about an amazing transformation!  You can listen to his story at http://www.mcleanbible.com.  It’s called “The Story of a Changed Life.”   Other people have no memory of not knowing Jesus and have consistently served Him throughout their lives.  These people are rare, of course, but what a gift they are.  Most of us lie between these two extremes, yet since we serve an infitely creative God, each story is uniquely inspirational.

I’m super excited about Testimony Tuesdays, and will be praying that many of YOU will be willing to guest blog for me!

Also starting next week, I’m going to launch two other new series:  Theological Thursdays and Jackson 5 Fridays.  These are pretty self-explanatory, but I will say that I’m going to start with the theology of the Sermon on the Mount.  As I study it this year, I am convicted that I need to better understand this foundational teaching of my Lord and Savior.  And as for Fridays, well, I’m going to write about my own family.  Sometimes the post will aim to be light and fun, and sometimes a bit more serious.  But I truly love sharing and memorializing this stage of life, mothering these incredible boys, so I hope you’ll check it out.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to read Spur.  I am so honored that there are people who carve out time from their busy lives to hear from me. I cannot adequately convey how encouraging, on so many levels, it is to have friends like YOU!

A Wedding, A Funeral, and a Birthday

Last Friday Will and I went to a wedding.  A wedding is all about people.  Yesterday I attended my grandmother’s funeral.  A funeral is all about people.  Tomorrow is my first born’s ninth birthday.  Birthdays are all about people.  How do we get away from the truth that life itself is actually all about people? How do we end up thinking that what matters is a spiffy house, tastefully decorated, or a fashionable wardrobe, or skinny thighs, or an upwardly mobile career, or being mindlessly entertained?  It doesn’t make a lick of sense.  Yet we have this amazing propensity toward priorities that are distorted, illogical and predictably unfulfilling.

At my Gramma’s funeral yesterday, many shared about how much their lives were touched and inspired by this incredible woman of God.  We talked about how my grandparents had the model marriage, loving each other with boundless passion for more than 66 years.  We talked about how she loved us unconditionally, how she was fiercely loyal, and lovingly protective, even in her old age.  We talked about what an amazingly fun person she was, her big laugh was easy to elicit and fantastically infectious.  My uncle Nate, her youngest son, talked about how “she knew how to show up.”  When Gramma entered the room something changed.  She had a sort of star power, a magnetic charisma that is a gift God doesn’t often bestow.  It warmed the room; it warmed your heart.  She was truly salt and light just as Jesus instructed us to be.  (Matthew 5)

Virginia Lois Southern married Wayne Cummins out of love, and from a human standpoint their life looked like it would be hard.  My grandfather was in and out of the hospital for months at time, with osteomyelitis.  Her family wondered how he could support their daughter, much less a family.  But by God’s grace, a cure was discovered just a couple of years later, and my Papa went on to build a very successful business, securing an extremely comfortable life for his family and an ability to also give very generously to those in need.   So my Gramma knew plenty, and later in life she knew what it was to have little.  Her life was truly marked by great joy and great sorrow.  And I am so proud to say that she trusted her Lord Jesus through it all.

As I sat on the airplane last night and reflected on the day, it occurred to me that Gramma’s life was really about one thing: people.  First and foremost, the person of Jesus Christ, and then her husband, her children and grandchildren.  But Gramma also wooed the people she passed in the hallway, and the waitstaff at restaurants.  She exuded grace, and her spirit and demeanor conveyed a respect and a love for all.  What a woman!   What a celebration of life!  What a legacy!

This week, in honor of Virginia Cummins, may we spur one another on to right priorities: people.

The Inner Circle

As many of you know, this year I am a children’s leader through Community Bible Study.  We are studying the book of Matthew and my students are primarily between the ages of six and eight.  And they are precious.  I just adore their candor, their ability to be so easily amused, so motivated by a single Starburst, so eager to share their answers and their lives, and so able to absorb God’s Word.  Even though I taught for two fantastic years a number of years ago, I was reluctant to commit to it again, because it is actually a significant investment of time, and my life is a tad busier now than it was then.  But I am happy to say I made the right decision.  I know that CBS is right where I am supposed to be on Tuesdays, and that assurance of being exactly where God wants you is a wonderful thing.  I wish I had that same feeling every day of the week.

A few weeks ago we were looking at Matthew 2.  This is the chapter where Matthew writes about Jesus’ birth.  I had this attitude going into it that I probably wouldn’t learn anything new.  The Christmas story?  I figured I knew that one inside and out.  But of course, I was wrong.  As soon as I read through Chapter Two I immediately had a question.  It says that when King Herod heard from the Magi that Jesus had been born he was troubled.  Not surprising, right?  But it also says that “all of Jerusalem” was troubled with him.  I put a question mark in my Bible when I read it, wondering why all of Jerusalem would be troubled by this news?  Weren’t they waiting expectantly for their Messiah?

One commentator suggested that the reason they were troubled was that they didn’t want to receive the news of the Messiah from outsiders, and that makes sense to me.  Given how insular the Jewish community was, it seems quite reasonable that they would be less than enthused to have wise men from Saudi Arabia be the bearers of this long-awaited news.  I can picture their reaction, “What do you know? Who do you think you are coming here and telling us about our King?”

It’s human nature, isn’t it?  We have this propensity for inner-circlehood, we strive to get there, and we strive to stay there.  The cultural and religious influences of being a Jew in Jerusalem undoubtedly contributed to this inner-circle mentality.   As C.S. Lewis described in The Screwtape Letters people in cliques, religious or otherwise, often “acquire [an] uneasy intensity and defensive self-righteousness.”  Perhaps then it is self-righteousness that prevented these Jewish people from traveling just six miles to Bethlehem to investigate for themselves whether their promised Messiah had arrived.

It makes me wonder — in what areas do I strive for or cling to an inner circle?   Would others describe me as having an uneasy intensity or defensive self-righteousness?  What a horrid thought that is!  And yet, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched, because our culture portrays anyone who believes in absolute truth as extreme and close-minded.  Another verse from Matthew sheds light on the tension between being emphatic about truth without crossing the line into cliquey self-righteousness.  Jesus said that we need to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.  (10:16).  This means we need both keen wisdom and great love.  It’s a divine balance, and we will never strike it perfectly in this life, but we must never give up trying.  Shrewd and Innocent.  Loving and Truthful.    Just and Merciful.

Aren’t you so incredibly grateful that justice and mercy met on the Cross?  And that Jesus is the author AND the perfecter of our faith?

This week may we be willing to sacrifice the protection and even the allure of others’ approval, clinging instead to Christ, emulating that divine combination of justice and mercy.