Mother’s Day—a day where the strongest people on earth finally get some of the recognition they deserve. Moms do so much that tend to go unnoticed or at least unacknowledged. While we’re too busy caught up in our own, sometimes selfish lives, they are always there… praying for you, loving you unconditionally, and just being someone who you can always run back to if something went wrong. Of course I can’t say this for ALL moms out there. But this very true for mine.
I am my mother’s favorite child, although she may not ever admit it out loud because that may cause some sibling rivalry and she doesn’t want to hurt my sister’s feelings. But it’s like an unspoken truth. (If you couldn’t tell, I would definitely be classified as a momma’s boy).
Fast forward three years and I thought maybe I needed some help to learn to like myself. So, my mom took me to a therapist. I'll never forget that encounter. My family must have thought this was something really serious because everybody seemed to think the price of the session was worth it. When your family is struggling financially, paying for a session of talk therapy is a big deal. Anyway, I walked into the cold room filled with diplomas on the wall that were supposed to reassure me that he was qualified enough to help me. But, it only made me feel more intimidated and inadequate. We couldn't speak the same language. His self-assured, polished voice telling me I felt pity for myself did not connect with my shaky, insecure voice. He simply did not come across as warm or empathetic. I didn't feel he understood me. So I left and never went back. However, to be fair to the man, he did share a story with me that I still remember to this day. He said, “Liciane, you're like a person who's walking down a path, falls into a hole and keeps refusing to use help to get out. You're waiting to figure out a way out on your own but fail to realize that, while you can help many people out of the hole, you cannot help yourself on your own because your hand will not reach far enough without help.” I remember thinking it made a lot of sense. I needed help out of the hole. Just not from him.
Has anyone thought someone was waving at you, only to realize that it was definitely not the case? I certainly have! Let me tell y’all (friends, this word is fast becoming one of my favorites, even as a transplant from the north) all about it, since I’m sure some of you have also had a similar experience and can sympathize. Me being me, I was in a hurry running into the local Starbucks before school one morning, and thought I glimpsed one of my middle school students from aftercare waving excitedly at me from her table. I waved excitedly back, only to realize with slow dawning horror that my 'pre-coffee' brain had incorrectly recognized this student, and a) it was not my favorite student from aftercare, and b) she was definitely waving at her friend behind me. Man, I was embarrassed, and I booked it out of there as fast as I could.
Perhaps some of you have felt this way about church—we learn quickly in our culture that there are many messages to be tuned out and to swipe away from. So perhaps, if we feel that the message of the sermon isn’t geared towards us, then we hightail it out of church, or more frequently, we zone out what we don’t think is being sent our way from on high and if we don’t perceive it as being legitimately addressed to us. Or, maybe we don’t agree with the message from the gospel, and we decide it’s one of many messages that we can choose to receive or not. The truth is, ultimately, Jesus is greater than all the other messages we receive on a daily basis, and we need to slow down and listen.
One of the central beliefs of Christianity is that Jesus is the one, true God revealed to us. Colossians 1:15 says “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation.” In other words, he is all-powerful and greater than literally everything. That is a remarkable and revolutionary belief. However, as Pastor Jeff said on Sunday, for many of us it can be easy to lose sight of this belief and why it matters.
In Roman times, most religions, including those in the Middle East and Mediterranean (except Judaism), were polytheistic- meaning that people thought there were many different, more or less equally valid, gods. They also believed these gods were not all-powerful. In fact, they also thought that their many gods were flawed, emotional, and almost human (but immortal and with powers) and that they didn't especially care a lot about saving mortals.
Jesus promises that there will be good and bad times in everyone’s lives. He said so in Matthew 5:45 - “He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” But, He also promises in John 16:33 that “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
So, there will be ups and downs for all of us, but we can know that we have God’s grace no matter our condition. However, many times when we do find ourselves in a bad spot, we may be afraid to ask for help or may blame ourselves—turning a bad situation into a long-term prison.
“Improve your financial freedom!“
“Pay all your bills with this awesome side hustle!“
“Boost your credit score with these five easy steps!”
Ever see any emails with these subject lines? I think I received at least 20 of these in my inbox today. And, if you’re like me, you’ve tried out some of these get-your-financial-life-in-order guides as well. Now, don’t get me wrong, some of them are useful, and those side hustles could easily earn you a little money. But what’s the point? Will you make the purchases you make meaningful with the extra cash you earn? Or are you caught in a circle of spending without reason?
“4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” - Philippians 3:4-9 [NIV], Paul speaking on his conversion from relying on himself and religious law to instead relying on faith in God
While browsing social media on Easter, I noticed that a friend of mine had written about their annoyance at the number of so-called Christians who post “He has risen” and yet are hypocrites who don’t act at all like the Jesus whom they claim to follow. I liked that post and thought about commenting on it, though I didn’t. I think that friend has since deleted it and I don’t know what, if any, discussions became of it.
But that post got me thinking.
“Are you someone who looks at a cup half empty, or half full?”
I remember when this question was first asked to me. I have to be honest I had no idea how to answer it. I never looked at the cup half empty or half full, it was always just half to me. I was clearly overthinking the question. But I’ve come to realize what they were asking me was how do I look at a situation? Do I focus on the negative or the positive of any given circumstance?
If you watch the news regularly, you’ll notice that the majority of our news networks focus on the negatives that plague our nation… our world. Ratings seem to indicate more people like to hear about a negative story than a positive one. Culturally, we rarely find something positive and emphasize it, instead we live in an often critical, pessimistic, jaded, and cynical society. But here’s the problem. When we focus on the negative, when we worry… we’re stepping away from and even shielding ourselves from the presence of God. A negative focus creates a prison in your mind that taints every gift, every experience, every blessing, and every relationship that God gives.
There have been times in my life when all I truly wanted was peace. When everything seemed so troubled and confusing that I couldn’t figure out what the next logical step should be and this caused a great deal of turmoil. We’ve all been there. When conflict arises, clarity seems to vanish and confusion, hurt, and resentment seem to take over. Because people, man… people are messed up!
I remember this one study group meeting, when my peers and I were so righteously discussing the political issues of my country – Brazil. We were saying “they should…”, “they are…”, “they don’t…” until my professor asked us to reframe our speech to “we” instead of “they”. Well, that put a dampener on the discussion. All of a sudden, we found ourselves having difficulty to judge and act as if we knew better because now we were implicated in the root of the issues. We were forced to see our share in the responsibility, even if that meant admitting our own corruption in smaller scales or our inability to rise to the occasion and fight back. After switching from ‘them’ to ‘us’, we could no longer solely blame the “other side” for the problems and issues we faced. It’s never easy to come to the realization that conflict, regardless of whether it’s inevitable, is never one-sided – unless you’re Christ, in which case, you’re perfect and this does not apply to you.
The thing about conflict is that it is never easy to go through it and have the courage and willingness to mend it. On the other hand, it’s impossible to live a righteous life if all you do is avoid conflict completely–there’s no truth to that kind of relationship.