Did you mean that the way it sounded?

"It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel." Proverbs 20:3 (NIV)

 I've really come to enjoy Facebook. I'm able to stay in touch with family while living thousands of miles from home, become reacquainted with high school friends and made new friends in the writing world. With just a quick sentence or two I can encourage a friend, let them know I'm praying for their needs or give a quick update on what's going on in my life.

I have notice one drawback to Facebook, though. Unless you're careful with how you phrase things, the written word can be easily misunderstood. What you mean in jest can be taken as an insult, a casual question could be taken as prying and a simple comment can be misconstrued and offend the reader.

Because you can respond immediately to a post, it's easy to zip off a retort to a perceived slight, which can then set off a whole string of replies, leading either to a full-blown argument or a lengthy back and forth explanation of what was intended accompanied by lots of apologies.

Long ago I read in the Bible that love is not easily offended (1 Corinthians 13) and made up my mind that someone would have to go a long way to offend me.  I decided to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that their intention was not to offend...even if it sounds that way.

I haven't always reacted the way I would have liked to a perceived offense, but I've come a long way in realizing that life is just too short and friends too valuable to waste time being offended by every little thing.

Father, help us to be slow to take offense, to assume that the other person did not mean to offend us, to carefully consider our response to others and to always...above all, respond in love. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

One Step at a Time

Earlier this month, I posted a poem called The Journey. It was part of the blog chain for May.  Each member selects a day of the month to post, then writes an entry on the theme of the month.  May's theme was journeys.

After reading these stories (links to the stories are at the end of this post), one thing has become crystal clear to me.  It's the steps you take TODAY that are the most important in your journey!

Yesterday's steps have been trod. We can't change them, but we don't have to be defined by them because, today is a new day. We can choose steps that will continue along the same path we've been walking - if that's the path we want, or we can choose to alter our steps to put ourselves on a new path.

So, where are today's steps leading you?
Where is it you want to go?
Are the steps you are taking today leading you there?

For me, the most exciting part of my life's journey is knowing that God has a good path laid out for my life and I choose everyday to walk in that path. Sometimes I stumble, sometimes I fall and sometimes I veer off the path, but always God draws me back to the right path through His incredible love, His grace and His mercy.

Father, thank you for the gift of choice. Help us to see clearly that the choices we make today determine where we will be tomorrow. Lead us in the paths that you have chosen for us. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Other journey stories on the blog chain:

Slow down, people!

I made a trip to Walmart this morning to pick up a few things and almost got killed!

Ok, maybe my life wasn't in danger, but still, I almost got run over by three women, who were obviously in a hurry to get somewhere.  The first one shot out from between the clothing racks into the main aisle with a cart full of groceries. I almost T-boned her.  She shook her head and mumbled "Sorry, I didn't even look." and rushed on toward the check-out lane.

The second was a Walmart employee with a cart full of pretzels that she was moving to a display in the middle of the main aisle. She did a quick two-wheeled left turn when she spotted me. She narrowly missed me, but didn't lose one bag of pretzels from the cart, most impressive!. A sheepish grin was all I got by way of apology.

The third was my neighbor - a sweet little old lady who can barely drive a car - or a cart. She stopped in the middle of the aisle, so I couldn't get around her. She was bent on giving me all the latest gossip from around the neighborhood.  I told her I was in a hurry and moved on, but not before I almost cut a lady off in the laundry detergent aisle!

Why are people always in such a hurry?

I wonder how many of us rush past our Bibles each morning, too busy to take in a little of God's word? How many blow right past the Holy Spirit when he attempts to give us some guidance? And how often do we cut God off when He is just about to direct us down the path He's chosen for us, in favor of our own short-cut to where we want to go?  I wonder.

Anyway, I survived Walmart. I even let a young man go ahead of me in the 10-Item Only express lane.  He only had 6 items...I had 14.

Father, please help me to slow down enough that I can connect with you and so that I don't run over others. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Hey, no fair, Jesus!

While Jesus and his followers were traveling, Jesus went into a town. A woman named Martha let Jesus stay at her house.Martha had a sister named Mary, who was sitting at Jesus' feet and listening to him teach. But Martha was busy with all the work to be done. She went in and said, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work? Tell her to help me."

But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her."  Luke 10:38-42 (NCV)

I used to dislike this story in the Bible. It seemed so unfair that Martha was saddled with doing all the cooking and housework while her sister sat at the feet of Jesus, soaking up his every word. When Martha complained to Jesus, expecting him to chastise her sister for not helping, she was the one who got chastised!

I would have been screaming, "No fair!" At least that's what I did when I was a kid and had to help my Mom with the housework while my brothers got to go outside and play, so I'm pretty sure that would have been my first response.

Now, however, I identify more with Mary. I chose to sit at the feet of Jesus each morning, hanging on his every word. As I read my Bible, especially the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) I imagine what it would have been like for Jesus to live through each event. After all, they're historical stories for us, but for Jesus, they're his story. If he were sitting with me, reading them, he would say, "Oh, I remember that time!" or "You should have seen the look Peter gave me when I told him to cast his net on the other side of the boat after fishing all night and catching nothing!"

These stories are exciting and I'm with Mary - the housework can wait a little while. I want to sit with Jesus first!

Father, help us to see your word as an opportunity to sit at your feet and learn from you - to get to know you in a deeper, more personal way. Help us to put you first and as we do, would you please make the rest of the day...including housework go a little smoother?  Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

Need a little Encouragement?

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..." 1 Thessalonians 5:11a (NIV)

Encourage - to give courage to someone to stand, to move on, to take a chance

That's what we are called to do...

To encourage others to take a stand for Christ among their peers
To encourage others to move on from past mistakes, hurts and bad habits
To encourage others to take a chance - to dare to step out and do what they feel God calling them to do

These things take courage - incredible courage in some cases, and it's easy to let fear hold us back. Perhaps it's the fear of rejection by someone we care for, perhaps it's the fear of embarrassment or failure, but we need not be afraid, because we are not alone. God is with us, but it's also good to know that there is another human being standing with you.

It's easier when you know that someone "has your back" - when someone is on your side, cheering you on, when someone believes in you.  We all want someone in our lives like that. We all want an encourager, so why not start by being an encourager in the lives of those around you?

"...A man reaps what he sows. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Galatians 6:7a, 9, 10 (NIV)

Father, open our eyes to those around us who are in need of encouragement. Help us to give to them the kind of encouragement we would like from others. Strengthen our relationships with others through the gift of Encouragement. Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)

The Journey

The journey was hard
The way, clouded - confused
Alone I struggled
No one to show the way

I thought I found it
Only to lose it again
Bad decisions
Brought much pain

But He was there
Lighting the way
One step at a time
back to the foot of the cross

I thought I had arrived
But to my surprise
My journey had just begun
The hardest part lay ahead

The transformation process
The steady walk of faith
Through good times
Through hard times

Until I reached the valley
The valley of the shadow of death
Until I lay down my will
Until I relinquished it all

And then a deeper journey began
Down the path to truly knowing God
To dying to self in order to live for him
To take His will as my own

Moving forward, pressing onward
I move to the rhythms of His grace
Until the final leg of the journey
When I shall see him face to face

But, will that be the end?
Or will it be just the beginning
Of another journey-
One that will continue on into eternity?

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved

No More Christian Status Quo!

I am tired of the Christian status quo - that safe, sweet kind of Christianity that requires only that you attend church, play the part and don't rock the boat.  We live in desperate times and that kind of Christianity just won't stand up to the onslaught of evil in this world.

I'm talking about that refined and civilized version of the good news that goes something like this: Jesus died and rose from the dead so that you can live a life of endless comfort, security, and indulgence or the flip-side of that coin that says if you'll simply confess that you're a sinner and believe in Jesus, you'll be saved from the torment of eternal hell fire, then go to heaven when you die - if you can hang on to your faith until then.

Both are way too domesticated for the true calling that Jesus puts on our lives, which is one that demands action and He never lied about the danger or cost associated with becoming His follower. He began His public ministry with a simple invitation: "Come, follow Me." and warned "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)  His closing instructions to His disciples can be summarized in one word, "Go!".and He told His followers up front, "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves." (Matthew 10:16a).

Jesus understood His purpose was to save us not from pain and suffering, but from meaninglessness.  We have a purpose to fulfill. Jesus did not suffer and die so that we could build for ourselves haven, but so that we might expand the kingdom of His love. Because invisible kingdoms are at war for the hearts and lives of every human being who walks on the face of this earth.

Looking around at the church today, one would think that His invitation was to "Come, and listen" and that our response to His command to "Go" is "No!"

It's time we shake ourselves out of our complacency and our perpetual pursuit of comfort and become the revolutionary force that storms the gates of Hell in order to reclaim souls for Christ - the force that bombards the gates of Heaven with fervent prayer for the souls of the lost and that God's will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

I for one do not want to leave this world having lived a safe, but bland and ineffective life. I may not be able to single-handedly wipe out the evil forces of this world, but I can bring them to their knees as I wage spiritual warfare on mine!

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

Father, forgive our complacency, forgive us for living a pablum brand of Christianity. Show us the power we have to change the world, to root out evil and to be your hands extended to the hurting, lonely and lost in this world. Shake us to wake us, Lord. Give us the courage to set aside our comfort to be all that you have called us to be and call your people to a renewed commitment to Christ, to righteousness and to fervent prayer.  Amen

(Copyright© 2011 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)
(adapted and inspired by an excerpt from The Barbarian Call by Erwin Raphael McManus).