Are You A Work In Progress?

A Lesson from Gideon

work-in-progress-woman-painting

Are You a Work in Progress?

By Beth Demme

I’ve written before (here, here, and here) about how I love the Old Testament. One of my favorite Old Testament heroes is the long ago judge of Israel, Gideon. (Judges 6-8) I appreciate Gideon’s story not because of his heroism, but because of his lack of it.

Gideon teaches me that even Heroes of the Faith sometimes:

  • wonder if God is absent;
  • feel inferior; and
  • worship the wrong thing.

In the time of Gideon, the Israelites were being attacked by nearby enemies. Their crops and animals were being stolen and/or destroyed. God appears to Gideon and appoints him to be The One who saves Israel from those enemies.

Gideon looks at the world around him and says, “God, where are you?”

The first thing the angel of the Lord says to Gideon in Judges 6 is, “The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior.” In response, Gideon says, “nuh-uh.” Actually, he says, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this bad stuff happened to us? … The Lord has cast us off, and given us into the hand of our enemy.” (Judges 6:13)

Gideon looked at the world around him, saw how troubled it was, and assumed God had vacated the premises. Gideon was really saying, “if God cared about me, only good things would happen in my life.”

It’s tempting to measure God’s love based on our current situation.  The better we feel about our life circumstances, the more blessed we think we are and the more we feel God loves us. But as Gideon’s story teaches us, God is present with us even when times are tough. In fact, sometimes it takes a difficult circumstance for us to surrender our self-sufficient attitudes. When we move beyond an “I’ve got this” attitude, we discover God’s love and the supernatural peace that passes understanding.

Gideon felt he was the least of the least, but God saw him as a work in progress.

Learn The Bible This Lent

<<Special Announcement>>

Beginning Wednesday, March 1

Bible 100: Lenten Edition

If you (or a friend) want to know the Bible better, this is your chance!

During Lent, Beth will offer a free Facebook Live video each day, Monday thru Saturday, to take you through the entire Bible in about 5 minutes a day.

Follow Beth on Facebook and Twitter to be notified just before she goes Live.

The Power of Apology

Soften the Heart and Open the Mind

Power of Apology Psalm 32

The Power of Apology to Soften the Heart & Open the Mind

By Beth Demme


Apologies are powerful things.

I learned this first-hand when I practiced law full-time. I often represented nursing homes being sued for negligence in the death of a resident. You might not believe me, but most of the time people in nursing homes die of natural causes, not negligence.

In litigation, my only opportunity to interact directly with the family of a deceased resident was at mediation. I had a knack for working things out at mediation and keeping the whole case out of court.

My secret weapon? Apologizing, and meaning it.

At mediation, we all started out together in one room. The family’s lawyer went first, explaining the ways they felt my client failed. Good plaintiff’s attorneys would spend at least a few minutes talking about the lost loved one, about the kind of life they lived and how much they meant to their family. Not-so-good lawyers would spend all of their time yelling angrily about how awful nursing homes are.

When it was my turn, I always responded calmly. I smiled and made eye contact with any family member who would look at me. I would say, “First, on behalf of my client, let me say we are so very sorry for your loss. We are sorry for any way that we let you down. We know that your loved one was a wonderful person and that her life mattered.”

Hear me on this, I never said these words for the purpose of manipulation. I always meant what I said. The sentiment was true and it was in my client’s best interest for this message to be communicated personally and clearly.

It was in my client’s best interest for an apology to be offered.

An apology has the power to soften the heart and open the mind.

After I apologized, the family members were able to hear my client’s side of the story. They could hear me talk about the standard of care and how our staff had done their best to meet it.

Can you think of a time you felt someone owed you an apology? Whether it was a friend, a family member, or a business, the lack of an apology probably hurt your relationship. Maybe you also know the power of offering an apology and receiving forgiveness.

An apology works the same way in our spiritual life.

Wholeness and Doughnuts

Are You Empty Inside?

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Wholeness and Doughnuts

By Beth Demme 

If you were a doughnut, what kind would you be?

Would you be a delicious hot glazed Krispy Kreme, fresh off the conveyor belt? Would you be a Dunkin’ Donuts Old Fashioned, ready to dive into a hot cup of coffee? Or are you a jelly-filled doughnut, sweet and surprising inside?

I know this seems like a silly question, but I’m guessing you need some levity in your life today. I know I do. In a world filled with tension, fear, and grief, I’m thankful for a quick smile and, come to think of it, a doughnut never hurts. 😉

The genius of a doughnut is its empty center (jelly-filled doughnuts aside). In people, however, an empty center is less appealing.

There might be something to this theologically, or maybe not.

Mercy for My World and MySelf

Kyrie Eleison

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Praying for Mercy for My World and MySelf

By Beth Demme

Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

It’s an old, old prayer from around the 300’s. This prayer is almost too simple in its construction. It is, perhaps, too Roman Catholic for someone like me who was raised in a Protestant church with an ingrained sense of pride for our Reformation heritage. We Protestants might even balk at the idea of praying in Greek, transliterated into Latin, preferring to rely only on our own language when communicating with God.

And yet, this prayer calls to me. Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

With these few words, I acknowledge my need for mercy and my belief that God will pour it out. I trust “in God’s infinite, inexhaustible mercy and compassion” as I place myself, with all my “strengths and weaknesses, in God’s hands.” (Pray-As-You-Go)

Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison, because I get it wrong so often.

I want to be a beacon, a lighthouse that sends the light of God’s love out into the world. I want to be the kind of person Jesus describes in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) when he says blessed are those:

A Beatitudes Prayer for Transformation

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A Prayer for Transformation
(Based on the Beatitudes)

By Beth Demme

Perfect God,

I come before you today ready to be transformed by your loving grace. Open my heart and my mind to the truth of how much you love me.

I know Lord that sometimes I let pride, thoughtlessness, anger, impatience, and discontent separate me from you. I do this through my words, my actions, and my failure to act. I know God, and I am sorry.

Send your Holy Spirit to teach me, lead me, and guide me in the way of Jesus. Give me an appetite for righteousness and a love for others.

I admit Lord that I have not been a peacemaker. I ask your forgiveness and your guidance in calming the stormy spirits and quieting the turbulent passions in myself and others.

Teach me, dear Lord, to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with you.

Holy Trinity, your mercy is perfect. Your grace is sufficient. Your love sustains me.

Amen.


More From Beth:

What Is Worry Costing You?

Cost of Worry

What Is Worry Costing You?
By Beth Demme

I recently spent several days worrying about my family’s health insurance plan. This isn’t a political statement; I wasn’t struggling with whether the Affordable Care Act should stay or go. We went to get a prescription filled and the pharmacy said it wasn’t covered. At first, I assumed it only appeared the prescription was not covered because we were at the beginning of a plan year. Since our deductible started over, the entire cost of the prescription was our responsibility.

That’s what I thought until a few days later when an idea popped into my head, “hmm, I should double check that prescription thing.” When I logged in to the health insurance company’s website from my phone, I got extremely confused. The billing was all wrong, it looked like maybe I had only individual coverage instead of family coverage. Plus, I couldn’t find where the prescription was applied to our deductible.

Cue the doomsday music.

The worst part? The idea popped into my head while I was on a retreat.

I was supposed to be focused on hearing from God. Instead, I was worried about whether there was a glitch in the health insurance company’s computer system. I worried about how many hours it was going to take me to get the problem fixed. I worried the problem would never be fixed. I worried we would never have health insurance again! And what happens when there’s no insurance? Someone gets sick, of course!

I went from, “everything is probably fine” to “one of my children is going to get a curable disease but will suffer because I won’t be able to afford the medication” in a fraction of a nanosecond (fast!).

My God Box Is Too Small

By Beth Demme

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A healthy and sustaining spirituality anticipates new knowledge, welcomes the search for truth, and dares to live with uncertainty.” –EfM

I read this quote recently and instantly loved it.

Sometimes I dare to live with uncertainty. Other times, I find myself stuffing God into a set of too-small boxes.

The first box I try to squeeze God into is the Bible.

I feel uneasy admitting this to you because I love the Bible so. I don’t want to give the mistaken impression that I think the Bible is ancillary or unnecessary. The Bible is a place God and I meet daily. The Bible is vitally important to me.

Still, I have to admit the covers of my Bible don’t have the capacity to hold all of God.

Anyone who has experienced the love of God knows that God exists outside the Bible. The Apostle Paul knew it. He wrote in Romans 1:20, “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s external power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.”

That passage gets a resounding “Amen” from me every time.

The Bible is one place we can meet God, but it is not the whole of God. [Twitter Link]

Happiness Is a Heart Condition

By Beth Demme

happiness_child_beth_demme

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preached: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8, NRSV) This is also translated, “Happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

Happy.

I like being happy, feeling happy.

I’m not a student of New Testament Greek, but I can tell you what the commentaries say about using the word “happy” here. They say it’s right. The Greek word used here is macarios which means happy, not eulogeō which means blessed. Also, this verse is part of the Beatitudes and beatus is the Latin word for happy (benedico is the word for blessing).

In other words, Matthew 5:8 says there’s a connection between my happiness and the condition of my heart.

In a way, happiness is a heart condition.

Looking For God In All The Wrong Places

The Wise Men Got Lost, Too

Traditional Wise Men Picture Beth Demme

By Beth Demme

Epiphany is more than a sudden inspiration; it’s a season on the church calendar! Epiphany is when we celebrate the arrival of the Wise Men as described in Matthew 2:1-12.

Epiphany conjures up an image of three robed men riding camels through the desert at night, following the light of the brightest star in the sky.

As with most things in life (and in the Bible), it isn’t that simple.

A star led the Wise Men to Jesus, but if you read the story closely, it seems like they got lost along the way. Ultimately, they travel for years before the villain of the story puts them on the right path and they find God where they least expected.