Friday, October 26, 2007

Mercy, Mercy

With my spirit full of Anne Lotz’s teachings, I’ve returned to Nehemiah chapter-by-chapter. What I glean is a lot. In chapter one, Nehemiah is in an intercessor’s posture; he has become cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. While many of his fellow Jews have been taken captive by the Babylonians, he has a peachy job in posh surroundings. His brother and a group of men from Jerusalem come to him to tell him that a remnant of newly returning exiles have found Jerusalem’s walls torn down and the gates burned. He now prays to God that Artaxerxes will allow him to return and help his fellow Jews rebuild the wall and remove their reproach.

I’m often an observer of other’s pain. I sit at my desk in my comfortable neighborhood writing, studying, and then I receive an email or a phone call that someone I know or love is in distress. What is even more troubling than calamity is when I know some insider’s scoop, that the person’s pain was at one point, avoidable; but at a crossroads, they made the wrong choice and fell into a quagmire. That is exactly what has happened to Nehemiah; he references a warning from the Jewish leader Moses and recalls when the Israelites crossed over that line into disobedience. But even in knowing that his neighbors have sinned, he takes the posture of an intercessor meaning that he is confessional on behalf of the whole group. The reason that he can do that is because of his influence among the people and the unity he shares with them. He knows that an exiled people are a humbled people.

It’s very difficult to intercede for a proud person. I find myself asking God simply for mercy. But Nehemiah is repenting for them. That’s a curious prayer. I can repent for myself, but to repent for a whole group takes a shepherd’s burden. I see that burden in my husband, a pastor. Then when I watch a person I love going pall-mall over a cliff metaphorically speaking, I sense that burden creeping into my prayers. It’s painful. I can’t prevent it and no amount of counsel prevented it. I think of how I could spend my prayer time praying for Africa, but no; I’ve got to painfully watch a friend get their ox out of the ditch even though they ran straight into it on a joy ride. Until they decide that they’ve gone the wrong way, I serve as cupbearer to the King. I have to work at not running off the cliff myself on a daily basis.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Turn Up the Volume

On some days, I get a call or an email that someone’s lights are shut off or a landlord has posted an eviction. First I pray, because the funds are always tight, then I tell the group members engaged in this battle with me; we pray and then venture out, like God smugglers making an HIV patient’s load a little lighter.

Here’s how it went one day. I had a certain amount of funds in the Secret Angels account. It was going to take most of it to help keep a mom’s electricity on. She came home from a battered women’s shelter to find the lights off and that the bill had not been paid for quite some time.

I remembered our early days as a couple. We were no where near ready for marriage. We spent most of the time money juggling and working to keep body and soul together. So when I heard this woman’s story, I empathized. What I’ve learned about intentional faith is that there are stages of response. People who hear this woman’s story will often sympathize. Those suffering similar domestic predicaments will empathize. But engaging faith intentionally is when we enter the realm of “becoming Jesus”, a phrase that has become a popular platitude among our rank-and-file.

Becoming Jesus is hearing and then doing. God hears the voices all day long—“Please, do you hear me?” “Can you send me some relief?” “Am I trapped forever in this life?” When we tune our ear to our community and ask God to turn up His volume so we can hear what he hears, then we can become doers, smuggling God’s love into our community in a manner that surpasses politics and programs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tract -N- Treat

There were many things that I gave up when I joined my husband in ministry and often that involved surrendering holidays to the work that it takes to plan a church event. Instead of being home on Halloween, we were busy assembling dunking booths and setting up tables for cupcake sales and goldfish bowl penny toss games. The church event on Halloween has become an expected event in many communities, so there is no shortage of them. But Randy and I talked about Halloween’s meaning to culture and realized one thing—the one night that our neighbors come knocking at our door, we’re at church.

That is when we birthed the idea Randy calls Tract –N- Treat. We order tracts for our church members to pick up the Sunday before Halloween. In advance, we stamp the backs of the tracts with our ministry info in case someone has questions about God or they just want to find us. For the families who live in an area not highly trafficked by local children, we invite them to our home for chili and fellowship. I wear my usual costume—a giant Hershey’s kiss—and prepare my bowls of treats along with tracts.

We use the kinds of tracts that express the love of God rather than the typical turn-or-burn materials that often get passed around during Halloween. Our neighborhood is kid city and I can’t wait to finally get to meet neighbors that I wouldn’t otherwise meet if I didn’t stay home and prepare for their arrival.

The leaves are beginning to turn orange and yellow and neighbors are already setting pumpkins out on their front porches. As the neighborhood changes from summer to autumn, we look forward to showing neighborly love through a simple tradition.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Filling Up to Overflow

Off and on in the past sixteen years I’ve tried many bible studies in order to do everything from jump start my faith to finally succeed in seeing some real maturity in my life. My first experience with a deeper study followed a spiritual valley where some false teaching was seeping into the Church that directly affected me. I was, frankly, petrified. My husband knew exactly how to refute what he called extra-biblical teachings. My discernment was kicking in along with the Holy Spirit; but I needed to know the precepts of the Bible better to steer confusion away with confidence.

Twelve years ago a friend recommended Bible Study Fellowship, International. I devoured my study every evening. When my leader saw my hunger for knowing the truth of God’s Word, she gave me some teaching tapes of a pretty famous BSF leader by the name of Anne Graham Lotz. Those teachings completely reshaped the way that I taught whether from a platform or in a small group.

This past weekend, I finally had a chance to hear Anne Graham Lotz live at The Cove near Asheville, NC. “Filling Up To Overflow” is a four day seminar that does what it promises. I’m not just filled up, but broken. I’ve moved out of the realm of student of the Word to full blown addict.

I’ve experienced for quite some time the peace of Christ dwelling inside of me. But Anne’s teachings have struck a chord in me words don’t do justice to describe. And the few critiques I’ve found of her conferences simply don’t do Anne justice. I feel as though I’ve been in the presence of a true saint, a person of high spiritual pedigree. What a privilege in a day of spiritual blindness and lethargy to find so apt a teacher!

I’ve enjoyed so many conferences over the years and I always take away something from each of them. But Anne Graham Lotz has challenged me to my knees. I was convicted to the bone; so much so, that when we were given our quiet time to go and pray and study, I sought a quiet meeting room where I knelt, broken, and encountered God in a way that I’ve never encountered before. When I told my sons and husband about it over dinner tonight, I said, “There was a place in the O.T. text she read where God came and spoke to Abraham and He was called the word. How many times have I read that and just missed that reference?” Jesus appears everywhere in the Bible and I knew that, but I realized more than ever that to encounter Him and practice the presence of God, I have to know the word to know The Word.

If you have a chance to participate in Lotz’s “Filling Up to Overflow”, do go. Like her famous dad, all attention that falls on her is humbly returned to Jesus who has blessed her with an amazing gift as a bible expositor.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Big Families

If I’ve been remiss in blogging this week, it is for good reason. The Kittles, friends who go way back to our early ministry days, are in town.

After six attempts to have a girl, number seven was a charm, meaning that they have seven energetic children; not a shy one in the bunch. Like us, they are a family committed to a fasted lifestyle and living a life simplified enough to make home the first line of defense. They are in short what the American dream once was, but in its self-striving reaching, lost in the building of human empires.

I’ve watched Melissa calmly sitting spreading mayo on yet another sandwich while marshaling a group of strong minded young men coming of age and full of testosterone; yet she possesses who she is as a woman. She is quiet spoken until, in the clatter of our sporadic conversations, we hit her “righteous ire” button, and suddenly a temperament arises that scatters demons.

We can learn a lot from watching large Spirit-led families operate. When there’s a problem, call a meeting, find a consensus, pray, and then follow the leader who follows God--Dad. And you follow him, not out of obligation, but because you are a family and you’ve been given reasons to trust your leader—he’s been tested and tried and has proven himself reliable; God created that model for a purposeful eternal picture.

Yet the Kittles exhibit proof that there is no carbon copy model for raising a family; you create a God-inspired environment, and leaders emerge, each intrinsically possessing elements for which you can take no credit, but for which only their Creator can stake a claim. If ever there was a testing ground for watching fully formed individuals emerge, it’s within such a family.

The world says that we need small families so that each child receives optimal attention. But the large family provides attention in abundance as well as teaching the older ones how to care for the younger ones; and the younger children learn from watching the elder brothers. The object lessons arising from that are legion. I’ve realized that parents operating in humility and wisdom birth fully formed minds rather than the toxic practice of falling in line marching to the frenetic pace of ushering and taxiing that parents succumb to in modern life.

I never cease to be blessed when the Kittles come to town. I’m humbled and reminded of my place in the Body of Christ and that my individual purpose is fulfilled in interdependent community.

I’m thankful to the Father that He has placed me in such a large family, one He affectionately calls My Body.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Meaning of a Winning Life

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question: "When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?" The audience was stilled by the query.The father continued. "I believe that when a child like Shay , physi cally and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child."

Then he told the following story: Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, "Do you think they'll let me play?" Shay's father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps. Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play.

The boy looked around for guidance and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning." Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. His Father watched with a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again.. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball. However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher. The game would now be over. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide- eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!" Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball ... the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he too intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home. All were screaming, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay"Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third!" As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, "Shay, run home! Run home!" Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team. "That day", said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world".Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his father so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Friend Who Got Away

My former thesis advisor, Elissa Schappell, along with some other writer friends wrote and compiled a short story collection entitled The Friend Who Got Away. Since this week’s topic discusses conflict, it’s a worthy way to end the week.

I remember the first summer my best friend moved away. I was about nine years of age. It still hurts to remember it. We were bosom friends, the kind that share a mutuality that is rare in our culture. Mutuality is when I share my deepest secrets and it is reciprocated. It’s a friendship that deepens over time through trust. The day she pulled out of our neighborhood with her single mom headed for greener pastures, she was excited about a new place to live since our neighborhood was not the best place to grow up. As she excitedly climbed into her mother’s car, I was broken hearted.

But an even more painful parting is when friends remain in the same area, but drift apart. Typically the parting will be blamed on a single incident, but truly it usually starts much further back. It could be that the friendship was birthed out of loneliness and then over time the friends begin to realize that they have little in common except their earlier need for one another. Or a friend might see in you something they need and use you to get that thing and, once they have it, lose interest in you. If a person is carrying around a lot of baggage, they may habitually seek out people to lighten their load; but no one person can “fix” them, so they become disappointed and abandon a friend in search of one who “meets their needs”. When a friendship is carried on only because of one person’s need for your comfort or support, and it isn’t reciprocated, it’s doomed for failure. If you’re the only person doing all of the work, something is wrong.

Fellowship is defined as companionship, of people journeying through life with mutual interests and causes. When that mission changes for one person, there is often a split. At first, the heart is in denial. Quick coffee dates may be arranged or a night out at the movies, but something has changed. You may tell yourself your friend is going through a season and she needs your support. But as you speak, she is not engaged, not in the moment with you. When you share a struggle, she is looking around to see who else she can engage—you’re no longer the flavor of the month.

Finding deeper meaningful friendships can be improved by seeking out friends with your similar pursuits. Start with the things you value and think about what you do in your spare time. To what pursuits are you devoted? What is your depth of understanding of God and how does it compare to your friend’s? Do you seek God’s presence and surround yourself with others who also do?

If a friendship is based on surface interests, be it the pursuit of the material, corporate ladder climbing, or the American god of team sports, that is not the definition of fellowship. Fellowship involves communing with one another, dreaming together, and encouraging one another through healthy mutuality. If your communion is not being reciprocated, it could be that you are settling for a surface friendship that in the long run may bring you no satisfaction. Healthy satisfaction in a friendship should lighten your load rather than weigh you down.

Have a great weekend full of friends who lighten your load and are thrilled to see you coming!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wake Up Calls

My son and I have had some battles for much of his school age years over waking up in the morning. When he was a little guy, I bought him a rooster alarm clock that hollered, “Cock-a-doodle, Doo! You gotta get up, you gotta get up, you gotta get up this mo-o-ornin’!” but the only person that got up was me. I tried dousing his face with water. Until he outgrew me, I would even stand him up in the mornings. What came of that was a child who didn’t feel responsible for waking up. I had to let him be late at his very strict school a number of times until the demerits he racked up sent him off to Saturday school. Finally, after suffering the punishment of his ways, he changed.

But then he turned very surly and began barking out orders to me, something I considered very disrespectful. In short, although we had conquered one problem, we were still dealing with conflict.

I used to believe that true happiness was a life free of conflict. It was taught in some Christian circles in those days that when you “just say yes to Jesus” that your life will get easier. Mine got worse.

What is more accurate about life, whether walking in faith, or without it, is that conflict is more a daily part of life than days free of it. But the difference came when I put actions to the mouth service I learned to parrot as a teen, and finally surrendered. Then when I began to mature in my faith I was better equipped to swim through conflicts like a marathon contender. Maturity builds confidence but better than that, wisdom.

Recently I had to pray that God would help me learn to deal with my son so that he would see patience modeled, rather than shoved down his throat. Instead of lecturing to him on the way to school, I started asking him questions to get his opinion on some faith matters. I was amazed at his answers and at his depth of understanding. Then instead of trying to add to it or throw in my two cents, I thanked him. He softened immediately.

I’m usually grabbing keys, purse, and a bottled water to take to the gym on the way out the door. This morning, Jared was standing at the foot of the stairs, book satchel ready, lunch packed, and, for mom, he was holding out a bottled water.
Conflict is a good thing, really. It’s like an alarm clock that says to my soul, “You gotta wake up, you gotta wake up, you gotta wake up and love!”

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Things We Carry

Do you get frustrated with yourself, especially when you blurt out the wrong thing, or, believing you’re being forthright, take your words over the line hurting a relationship? I think that as a recovering choleric, that was the hardest problem for me to control. It took time for me to first of all recognize it as a problem, and then to get a Holy Spirit bit in my mouth.

I remember the years of struggling to grow while trying to build a career. Work ethic was never a problem, but dealing with the people I saw as obstacles frustrated me. I kept encountering people whose habits were counterproductive to my goals. It seemed for many years that people had been placed directly in my path to drive me over the edge. I saw them as the enemy, rather than recognizing the real enemy—often, myself.

What I failed to recognize was that the people in my way were the true part of God’s plan for me, while my aims and objectives contributed far less. It was the difficult co-worker who did not want to be a cog in my schemes that taught me to slow down and see her for her humanity. It was my ADD son who taught me that there are greater things to learn in life than facts and lessons learned by rote. It was a mentally ill relative who taught me that change is not always the goal, but living in the moment. It was my once-failing marriage that taught me that happy endings aren’t sensible while small daily triumphs gained in tandem bring long-term happiness.

John Lennon once said that life is what happens when you’re busy doing other things. God has taught me that those other things I spend my time doing will be enriched by how people are treated along the way. Each person I meet in some form or fashion has taught me something. I can’t take the fruit of striving with me when I die. It is people who are the only cargo allowed into and out of Spaceship Earth.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not us.”
2 Cor. 4:7

Monday, October 8, 2007

People Who Bug You

Last week’s theme: Abide
This week: Conquering Conflicts

Growing up in a family fraught with conflicts, there was no way around conflict except to battle through it. One-up-man-ship was considered a life skill.

How radically life changed when I learned the power of negotiation. Jesus brought the gift of negotiation to the Church. He didn’t blow his God whistle and say, “Okay, all Gentiles out of the pool!” He came making room for all to come to him.

But making room for the difficult person takes a measure of planning for that person in advance of the conflict. Whether encountering a slow check-out clerk or a whining office co-worker, knowing in advance that your expectations and other’s expectations are not always going to jive is the first step to preparation. Every person awakens with expectations. Problem solving comes in when we have to decide what ground we can and can’t give up. So first of all, we need the power and knowledge of God’s Word to temper us and the things we say. What we ingest on a Sunday morning is not going to float us through a week of navigating through the stream of humanity we all wade back into on Monday morning. We need to rise intent on allowing God’s Word to preach to our own soul, God’s tempering agent for making us “world ready” when we leave our drive-way. Being a “world-ready” believer is not arming yourself with Bible knowledge so you can waylay that unbelieving co-worker. It is allowing it to seep inside of you so that God’s transformative power in you is evident to them.

Next, we need the greatest gift of all--that of love. Loving the difficult person whether a person who is a slacker on the job or a believer that never seems to mature, modeling love is not only helpful, but God requires it of us. Remember that you are not responsible for people’s wrong choices. People will entangle themselves in a web of deceit but it isn’t our job to jump into the web and try and untangle them. Two tangled in a web is worse than one! Work alongside God by praying for them, trusting that as you take the high ground, God will work through them to finish them just as steadily as He’s worked to hone your faith. It is often when the person hits bottom that causes them to look up and see who they can find standing high on sure footing. People will be drawn over time to the life that remains on steady ground.

“Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, And the strength of salvation; The fear of the LORD is His treasure.” Is. 33:6

Friday, October 5, 2007

Abiding in Patience

I’m not the best candidate to be writing about patience. But I’m working on it, or better stated, God is working on me. So having confessed all of that, starting with the big picture of it is the best way for someone of my ilk to tackle the subject of patience.

Hebrews 3 has as its keyword, rest. Before the connotation summons up a picture of a Sealy mattress, we first have to get a grasp of the meaning of Christ’s rest. To do that, we have to realize what Christ has done for us in advance.

When my father was very ill, my mother having already passed on, Dad asked me to step in acting as his power of attorney. He suffered his whole life with pulmonary disease and then acquired Alzheimer’s Disease in his final years. In the meantime, he had a relative who had designs on the money he had saved over the years. This person was a very violent person who had gone to blows even with her own children. Because she had not planned for her retirement, she was desperate to finagle money her way. When I arrived in town, I found her selling off my mother’s belongings to neighbors to raise money. I had to work very wisely to get her out of my father’s house and to get him into assisted living care. Then Dad asked me to take him to his attorney where he finalized a will that would leave his estate to my sister and me. Until he signed on the dotted line, there was a great deal of tension and pressure on me. I knew this relative would return to try and gain access to my father’s assets once I left town if I did not put in place safeguards. Because my father’s mental condition would soon deteriorate, he would be vulnerable.

But once the will was in place and signed by Dad, I could relax. No amount of scheming or threatening would do this poor individual any good. Finally, I could rest. When he died, I could execute his last will and testament knowing that my sister and I were protected.

When Christ signed my redemption with his own blood, the only thing left for me to do was to execute the will. I did that when I accepted that new covenant and became God’s newly adopted daughter. My rest is now knowing that my covenant with God is irrevocable.

What does that have to do with patience? Everything. All of the work I do, because of Him, for Him, to point others to Him is a long road of work. I have to be patient with myself, knowing that God is finishing a work in me. I have to be patient with His Body because people tend to grow slowly. I have to trust that God is working to finish His work, not to my satisfaction, but to His perfection. Here’s a good verse:
“Let patience have her perfect work, that you may be
perfect and complete lacking nothing.” James 1:4

As God works me through the tapestry of His plan, I can rest knowing that I’m secure while abiding in it. That is a true source of patience.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Abiding (Continued) Choose to Shine Today

When I was trying to live a life of juggling my faith along with being a wife, mom, and an office manager, I was sent by my employers to many seminars that touted positive mental attitude—PMA, it was called back in those days. PMA was something I readily embraced because it was a philosophy full of words like “self-empowerment”, “mind-over-matter,” and other self-controlling platitudes. The problem was that juggled faith is as powerless as no faith at all.

Even though Christ had empowered me as a young teen trying to leave behind an abusive childhood, like the Israelites in the book of Hebrews, my faith was unraveling fast. Aside from my grocery store check list of things I believed, I added to that list anything that sounded like faith. But faith that comes from any source other than the Word of God is counterfeit. Building life upon that kind of faith is like building your life over a trap door—and all the while the enemy is slipping a noose of lies over your head.

To leave behind the past, something that the Hebrews needed to learn, takes letting go of it so that you can free up your hands to be full of things that Christ has placed in them. The first thing we need is the Person of Jesus Christ and then His Word. The Hebrews waned because, like their ancestors in the wilderness, they quickly forgot the promises that God had given them. They wanted to return to the Mosaic covenants that had been replaced by a whole new covenant, one signed in blood by the Son of God.

Hebrews 2 tells us exactly what to do with God’s Word:
• Pay close attention to it
• It is unalterable (God said it; no man or principality can change it)
• It came to us spoken through the Lord
• and Heb. 4:12—it discovers our condition!

If only I had known this early in my faith walk! When I think about my stumbling and running blindly into walls all because I did not have the light of God’s Word fully formed inside of me, I am filled with regret. But it is also God’s Word that reminds me that what the moth and locust has eaten, God will restore.

Some of us are set on the path, shining like stars from the beginning; then others of us, like me, are more like new moons found much later when the Son is finally able to fall on us because we have come out of hiding to let our lives be fully exposed and placed in orbit as God intended.

Abide in Confidence

During Nehemiah the prophet’s day, the Israelites had been exiled out of Jerusalem since the Babylonian invasion. The weary families returned home to their beloved Jerusalem to find the wall that had once surrounded their city had been torn down. The city had one place where the town fathers gathered to discuss politics and business and that was at the large gate, the main entry into and out of Jerusalem. With their gathering place a shambles, shame covered the city. Other people in other townships started a whisper campaign that made it to their ears—you are ruined and a laughingstock!

We have similar gathering places in our townships here in Lake Norman and most of them have to do with coffee. Starbucks, Legends, and CafĂ© Mia are all centers of conversation, gathering places for meet-ups. I’ve seen many contracts signed at our local coffee shops and heard numerous business transactions made over a latte. Imagine having all of our hubs shut down, cell phones disrupted, or Internet service stopped. That is what it was like for the Israelites the day they returned home and found their hub destroyed.

Cultures create hubs for a reason, but the most important one is to grow confidence in their community. Confidence is a cord that is built through human connectivity. It is built upon trust and affirmation. Without trust and affirmation, confidence is eroded.

There are people who live their lives riddled with anxiety because they have never felt affirmation and therefore have not been allowed to abide in confidence. They play a daily tape in their minds—“You are worthless . . . you haven’t accomplished anything . . . no one could possibly love you.” And on and on play the tapes until the person withdraws in isolation. Like the exiles returning to Jerusalem, these people go to sleep and wake up horrified to know that their emotional walls are a shambles. They believe that their lives are ruined, never to be rebuilt. Jesus who knew ridicule and public shame came to lift up the ruined life and give hope where lives lay in shambles. He is the Rebuilder of our lives.

Nehemiah prayed and fasted for his friends to be restored and look to God for their hope. In spite of public ridicule and naysayers, the wall was rebuilt. In chapter 6, verse 15, we find that the wall was finished in fifty-two days! “When all our enemies heard of it (the new wall) and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence, for they recognized this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.”

There is a Super Power at work in a dysfunctional world, a Re-Builder of Walls and a Restorer of Confidence. His name is Jesus.