The Cheap Seats

I’ve learned that I must keep my eyes focused on Jesus. If I don’t? I’m sucked right into all the buzz that is swirling around me.  Bo Sterns, ALS widow of Steve Sterns and author of ‘Beautiful Battlefields’, penned it perfectly “there will always be people yelling at you from the cheap seats”.

What I’ve found is the people making the loudest ruckus actually have absolutely nothing to say of any truth or any worth for that matter.  They want us to yell back or engage from our home plate. Take our eyes of the prize as it were.  Psalm 34:13 tell us to “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies”. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that we aren’t to tear people down but to use our words to build up.

I remember an acquaintance once asked me about my friends. Se wanted to know why were so close. I explained that we don’t gossip and we pray for one another. “There’s no way. Everyone gossips. What? Do you have prayer list?” I explained that, indeed, we pray for one another whenever and wherever we need too. Sometimes that is out loud or it may be a group text. And, no, we don’t gossip. And, yes, this is the beauty of Godly friendships.

That person who is willing to tell you all the scoop? That “friend” will be the first person to gossip about you when you leave the room. “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness”-Exodus 23:1.

Jesus tells us to look at peoples lives and see if they are fruitful.  The people screaming from the cheap seats? Are they angry? Bitter? Can they see beyond themselves? Do they lack compassion? Are they pursuing God or in pursuit of others? Are their branches empty or are they full of fruit?

Any tiny foothold the enemy can get into your life to squelch your testimony? You better believe he will! The bolder the testimony the louder the ruckus and the more ostentatious the the buzz. Ignore the cheap seats. You can pray for the people sitting way up there. Jesus is in the saving business so that we don’t have to be. Hand the spectators over to him.

“Jesus is God, even demons know this”-James 2:19IMG_0429

Our Portion

“My dear and precious friends, whom I deeply love, you have truly become my glorious joy and crown of reward. Now arise in the fullness of your union with our Lord I plead  with Euodia and Syntyche to settle their disagreement and be restored with one mind in our Lord. I would like my dear friend and burden-bearer to help resolve this issue, for both women have diligently labored with me for the prize and helped in spreading the revelation of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers. All of their names are written in the Book of Life. Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let joy overflow, for you are united with the Anointed One! Let gentleness be seen in every relationship, for our Lord is ever near. Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a single thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day,  offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell Him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things”Philippians 4:1-9

As I read this letter from Paul to the Philippians I have a huge smile on my face. I’m smiling because though saved? Not much has changed amongst us fallible and squabbling people in 2,000 years has it? The perfectionist in me finds this somewhat of a relief.

There is so much to love about all nine of these verses! My favorite being:

         “Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing”

Paul goes on to say:

“Be saturated  in prayer throughout  each day, offering your
faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude”

And my very part:

“Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that
transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you”

The enemy has convinced our society that all answers to life and all fulfillment of life can only be found in the material. Guess what? We have bought into the lie! Every aspect of our culture involves instant gratification. The irony is it seldom gratifies us longer than an instant.

For eleven months our family had the privilege of witnessing my husband live out Philippians 4. He was saturated in God’s word, precision focused on what is righteous and true, full of joy and laughter and not worried about anything except  the present. I can only describe it as a supernatural season. We knew we were a part of something bigger than we were and very special. I believe Robin’s illness (ALS) and testimony were used not only for God’s glory but as a wake up call for our family and many in our community.

When we focus on what is good, righteous and true? Immediately we are able to identify what and who or whom is unhealthy and or hurtful in our lives. It also helps us to be appreciative, thankful and filled with over flowing gratitude for all that we do have verses  all that we think we should have. Jesus should be our portion. Our everything because we are His everything.

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His Wondrous Glory

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I recently read a commentary that perfectly depicted how many of us are walking out our faith as we enter into Holy Week:  defeated from a long cold winter.  Dry bones. Let me paraphrase the commentary:

Winter is departing and with the resurrection the dead season is gone and new life begins. We are changed because of the dead season but not barren. Christ brings new life if we choose to leave winter and spring forward.

I adore this analogy. Just when we think we absolutely can not take one more second of the season? The Lord gives us a glimpse of His wondrous glory.

Christ gives us the choice to commune with him in new life because of the resurrection. Because of Jesus. A chance to move forward in anticipation of new hope and new life. How many of us choose to let fear keep us from moving forward? How many of us can’t quite let go of the past season in order to embrace the new birth of a bright fresh new season?

My puppy Henry, as frustrating as he is, has been my saving grace since my husband passed away last July. Henry and I have struggled mightily over who is in charge. One thing Henry has taught me? He doesn’t remember when I’ve scolded him or if he does he doesn’t show it. He leaves the past season in the past. He eagerly awaits my entrance every single time I come into his peripheral  vision. He only sees the here and now. He only sees the good. Regardless of how I’ve behaved he’s eager to welcome me by bouncing and literally hugging me with his two front legs and paws. He loves me unconditionally even when I don’t deserve it. Shouldn’t we all be welcoming Jesus and  new seasons exactly in the same manner in which Henry does? Jesus most certainly treats us with the same regard.

It’s sobering thinking about what Jesus physically endured for us. When I have that picture in my mind? I am embarrassed that I can’t let go of some of the dead bones from the winter season. Jesus. Brutally beaten to a pulp to take away our sins. We certainly don’t deserve it. He did it freely for us.

When we are walking around with dead bones? That is bondage.  That’s us allowing the enemy to steal our rightful place in the Kingdom. This week let us all spring forward into thanksgiving and praise for the One who died to give us the freedom of new life.

“Faith does not make things easy. It makes them possible”-Luke 1:37

Locked In

This week I learned what a true hero my husband was. Yes, I get that, we all sanctimoniously elevate our deceased loved ones to sainthood but—for real.

Thursday I had an MRI of the brain. Pretty routine until they told me they would put a cage over my face. If you’ve never had an MRI? Imagine a tanning bed that closes while having a Freddy Cougar mask over your face then locked down.

The young tech was delightful. “Mrs. Wooten are you claustrophobic?” “Mrs. Wooten I have Sirius XM what music would you like to listen too?” “Mrs Wooten are you medicated?” This made me laugh 😆 Had I known about the mask ahead of time I would have been not just medicated but “heavily” medicated.

I was put in the tube and the young gentleman asked me again “What station would you like to listen too?” “63 The Message” I said. Jesus was needed desperately. He put the cage over my head and very kindly said “Ok, I’m going to slide you into the tube now. Don’t move you will be in here about 18-20 minutes. That’s about 6-7 songs”. And I was slid into the abyss with my hands by my side unable to move one inch.

Immediately panic set in. I couldn’t remember any scripture so I just started saying the Camp Seafarer blessing 😂😂😂. My breathing slowed. Michael W. Smiths “Amazing Grace” started playing and finally I was calm.

And then it hit me: “This is ALS!” This is how my husband lived the last months of his life: unable to move “locked in” but completely aware of everything going on. And the miracle of it all is that my husband not only praised God through the whole duration of the illness? He laughed! He rarely panicked. He was so focused on living & preparing for getting out of the tube, so to speak, that he saw his circumstances as merely temporary.

What a lesson Robin Wooten taught me! Why do we think that all “bad” or uncomfortable circumstances have to be forever? Scripture clearly tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:18 “So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever” .

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Christ Is Proclaimed 

They see me as their competition, And so the worse it goes for me,
the  better–they think–for them.

So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives,
whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. 

Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. 

Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done.

~Philippians 1:17-21

How many of us have been hurt by words? Many of us can shrug it off as unimportant. When Christians say hurtful things about us or to us? Members of the body of Christ? That stings. A lot.  Our immediate fleshly response is (1) you are truly a jerk (2) maybe the offender is right (3) how could a fellow sister/brother of Christ behave that way? (4) Just wait until everyone else sees what I see

Been there? Relate to any of that?  What I find absolutely awesome is that Paul, who clearly faces the same challenges we do, is able to stay focused on the good. He makes a conscious decision to cheer on and pray for those that criticize him. Paul understands that God has a plan for his life. He knows the importance of speaking God’s truth in all circumstances. He gets that actions are louder than words. He understands that “everything He (God) wants to do in and through me will be done”. He knows the end story. He knows how it all plays out.

After my mother died I had a huge disagreement with my grief stricken, cantankerous Father. His words hurt me deeply. That one heated encounter caused my father and I not to communicate for over 18 months. Two grown “churched” adults wounding each other with words.

I’ll never forget my father in law saying “Have you spoken to your Daddy recently?” I told him I hadn’t and why. Fully expecting him to jump on my bandwagon. He listened and very graciously said “You know, Elizabeth, I suspect George needs to hear from you. I suspect he needs to see you. He’s your Daddy. If I remember correctly we are suppose to honor our parents. You need to go see ole George”.

I was stunned. And hurt. His words stung. They stung because my father in law was 100% without a shadow of a doubt correct. The right thing for me to have done was to understand that my father was deeply depressed and grief stricken after my mother passed away. The right thing for me to do was to have had compassion for him regardless of my opinion. I chose to use words rather than actions.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbors. And crazy family members. We don’t have to like it. We must do it. The gospel can not go forth without doing so. We can not fully live a life of freedom in Christ when we are bound in sin.

I swallowed my pride and we went to see my Dad. During that year it was all about God growing me for His glory. My Dad never got any easier. We did bring him to live with us. Our entire family was with Him the day we prayed the gospel over Him. After squeezing my hand in acknowledgement that he had heard it he died.

God taught me the true meaning of love. He taught me that love is a decision not a feeling. My Dad never thanked me. Rarely said anything kind. Yet my choice to preach the gospel demonstrated Gods perfect plan through me used for His glory.

I know my Dad is in heaven. All the other hurt feelings just don’t matter. The end game means eternity in the presence of the King. “And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out”. 

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.”-Psalm 51:12