- Written by Callie Neff
Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV)
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
It is not always comforting to read about persecution as a cause for joy, nor is it particularly motivating to know that it is not something we can or should even try to avoid, but knowing that we are not alone in it and that, in fact, Jesus walked through the same struggles before us does give us hope. In my experience the greatest source of misunderstanding often surrounds expressions of love through acts of service, kindness or compassion. The times I am expressing love in the most genuine, unadulterated form it seems I am met with rejection, anger and sometimes an end to a relationship. [Insert your scenario here...is it a client who walked away...a co-laborer who shut you out...a ministry that denied partnership...a family member who does not accept your work...and the list goes on...]
It can be confusing that expressing God's heart of love can be such a source of conflict. Yet isn't that truly what Jesus was met with, the one who always at all times was expressing love from an unadulterated, genuine place with no ulterior motive except the benefit of another? Take heart that you are not alone that true love expressed to us and through us stirs up a struggle and response sometimes even suprising to ourselves. Reflect on how you react to pure expressions of love, the way you may shrink back, try to hide or sometimes run away...as we grow and learn in this we can be assured that living fully from a place of love is not the wrong way...love forges paths to freedom, tears down walls of resistance and opens prison doors!
Do not loose heart at the empty places left by those you reached out to in love...it was not in vain, it was not unnecessary and it was not the wrong thing to do. If Jesus who walked out love perfectly was rejected, despised and shut out by so many...then we can conclude that it is more about what is going on in the exchange, the intention and motive of the heart and what is being stirred and moved that matters. Love moves so often in the unseen! May the eyes of our heart be open to see beyond the natural! May we love no matter the cost!
Be freed to love again, no matter the cost!
- Written by Callie Neff
1 Thessalonians 5:9-12 (CJB)
9 For God has not intended that we should experience his fury, but that we should gain deliverance through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, 10 who died on our behalf so that whether we are alive or dead, we may live along with him.
11 Therefore, encourage each other, and build each other up — just as you are doing.
12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are working hard among you, those who are guiding you in the Lord and confronting you in order to help you change.
We all need a place and people to share our stories with. Not just a place to "co-misserate" but a place to really experience being built up, learning to respect and care for each other in our differences and in our purposes, to learn, to rest and to grow. I am thinking this week of a group of people with whom I have shared that place of learning, leading and building up as they gather to encourage, share stories and come together in faith that the Lord is using all our efforts and hearing our cries to release those bound, to stop the oppression among us and to open paths of life. I am so glad for these groups and individuals and their stories. I have been encouraged, sobered, and challenged especially in learning contentment and remaining steadfast in the work before me, challenged to a higher level of excellence and to get up again after major roadblocks, frustrations and losses. This is a journey that we individually take but is made all the better through the forging of the bonds of co-laboring together in the work of our dear Lord and Savior.
It is sometimes in the moments when life has slowed down and you can get the long view - seeing what lies behind and catch a glimpse of what lies ahead - that you see and feel how you have been changed and molded by the ones walking and journeying with you. My heart, my mind, the way I relate to my family, co-workers, to clients, to others in housing ministry has been built up by each interaction, each word of encouragement, each testimony of God's faithfullness and promise of what can be done when we work together. I encourage each one of us to continually put ourselves in places where we can be guided, confronted to change, and built up.
May your eyes be open to those the Lord has set on the journey with you! May you in turn encourage each other!
May you be changed and challenged by the relationships that build up!
- Written by Callie Neff
the inability to make a decision quickly.
"government indecision over the future of local taxation"
synonyms: indecisiveness, irresolution, irresoluteness, lack of resolution, hesitancy, hesitation, tentativeness; ambivalence, doubt, doubtfulness, unsureness, uncertainty; vacillation, equivocation, oscillation, wavering, teetering, fluctuation, faltering, second thoughts; delay, hanging back, waiting, shilly-shallying, dithering, stalling, temporizing, temporization; havering, humming and hawing; swithering; informaldilly-dallying, blowing hot and cold, sitting on the fence; raredubiety, incertitude, cunctation
"she was rooted to the spot, torn by indecision"
The idea of being rooted to the spot... That place of indecision is an unsettled place of uncertainty and vulnerability.
Have you experienced the paralyzing affects of indecision...even the minute decisions like what to wear, what to eat or where to go on a day out can clamp the brakes on joy and give room to worry and fret. Imagine then the multiplied affect when decision has been removed from your life either by choices or by circumstances and there is no longer a clear path. We can begin to experience indecsion as exploitation; others choosing for us, dictating the use of our time, our bodies and our opinions. Yet choice is always ours, the freedom to choose is never removed or lost but so often we give it away. Choice is the freedom we take for granted and least understand as one of our most valuable and precious gifts.
I believe we so often overlook this as a need when finding a starting point for walking with someone who has come to us for help. The reality is that most of us and those we are called to help have no real basis for this kind of thinking and have not learned how to make decisions. We can learn and pass on how to walk through a thought and planning process to really look at the "where have I come from and where am I going." This can unlock so many doors in a person's life. When I myself come to a point of decision on a matter whether weighty or inconsequential there is such joy and freedom. When I see a young woman come to a place of decision about her next step it opens doors to relationship and the good news of life in Jesus. Do not overlook the very basic skill of making a decision as it comes with freedom, comes with hope and it comes with a new sense of person and purpose.
Job 22:28 (CJB)
28 what you decide to do will succeed,
and light will shine on your path;
- Written by Callie Neff
1 Corinthians 13:7New Living Translation (NLT)
7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
The other week my daughter asked me [after listening to her father and I go back and forth about how to deal with a situation] if marriage was hard. My immediate answer was no. I could say no because I made a decision to marry and committed to it for life. The finality and decisiveness in that leaves no room for alternatives, a way out or complaints. In fact the solidity and finality of that decision provide a security, peace and joy I would not otherwise know. If she asked if we always agree, or if I have had to make compromises, sacrifices and work through obstacles well , yes, in that sense it is hard but my eyes are not moving from the horizon, being married is not optional and going back is not a choice.
This is no different than Jesus facing the cross. His love for us, his decision to endure out of obedience to His father and love for each one of us...his eyes fixed as he walked through suffering, hardship, opposition and what looked like failure through His death on the cross...there was no room for a way out, only a way through.
Living from a place of decision is what makes this work easier and brings the motivation to endure. Our family set our face 14 years ago in agreement with where Jesus lead us to love those hard to love, to share our lives with those different in so many ways, and to experience the pain of loving without being loved in return and without expectation of repayment. We set our face and it has made the way all the more clear...full of disagreement, obstacles, sacrifices, many unknowns and many tears...yes, but not so hard that we cannot endure. His love that never gives up and continues to say yes opens a way in every circumstance and to the hardest of hearts.
Philippians 3:12-14 New Living Translation (NLT)
Pressing toward the Goal
12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[a] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
May you be moved by a love that never gives up! May you remain hopeful! May you endure through every circumstance!
- Written by Callie Neff
Luke 10:33-34 (CJB)
33 “But a man from Shomron who was traveling came upon him; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion.
34 So he went up to him, put oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he set him on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.
When you are backpacing or rock climbing there are times when you cannot see the next step, you lose your way or you get hurt. If you are part of a group there is someone to come look for you, to talk you through the next step or lend you a hand, redirect your steps or care for an injury. Journeying through life with the purpose of helping those who are hurting, lost or stuck requires more than one person.
I have been part of several ministry teams and experienced the dichotomoy of those who handle walking into darkness by shutting off emotion, focusing on outcomes and the success of a program; and on the other side, those so emeshed in the hurt and pain that they get stuck there and it is one ongoing ministry time without a clear end goal or time to breathe. There is a middle in all this, there is a space where we allow ourselves to be moved by compassion with a purpose and an end goal...to meet an immediate need and set up a plan and opportunity for next steps and ultimately opportunity to hear, to see and to know Jesus because, in Him is the freedom, the hope and the purpose for being drawn out of the pain and hurt. If we individually evaluate where we are at on this spectrum and yield to Him our tendency for no emotion or all emotion we together can use these sides of our giftings and personalities to really provide hope and help and do it together. If we are willing to make room for each other, we make room for those we are pulling up.
Hebrews 10:23-25 (CJB)
23 Let us continue holding fast to the hope we acknowledge, without wavering; for the One who made the promise is trustworthy. 24 And let us keep paying attention to one another, in order to spur each other on to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting our own congregational meetings, as some have made a practice of doing, but, rather, encouraging each other.
And let us do this all the more as you see the Day approaching.