On Loyalty

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As the world awaits here are my thoughts.

Loyalty CAN NOT be demanded.

Tyrants demand it.

Insecure managers demand it.

Let me type that again.

Tyrants and Insecure managers demand it.

What demanding an oath of loyalty does is expose the hand of a manager, notice I was careful not to say leader, who has to avoid negative feedback at all costs to soothe their EGO (Edging God Out).

There is no need to pledge allegiance as if you were pledging to a god. A manager who is demanding loyalty does so because they can’t listen to negative feedback or can’t lead without unwavering loyalty because of insecurity. They make a terrible boss and that person is not a leader at all.

You will be loyal out of a heart that believes in the mission. A covenant of mission never demands an oath to a person. An oath to a person is always bondage. Christians have dominion over the earth not over people.

Walk away from anyone who demands an oath of  loyalty to them or one who would disguise the verbiage in the word covenant. Demanding loyalty to a person is a dangerous precedent of the abuse of power to come.

I am not loyal to Doug Young because he demands it. I am loyal to Doug Young because I love him and I believe in our marriage. My loyalty can’t be made by force and doesn’t negate his leadership when I disagree. My covenant of marriage was to the mission of our marriage under God.

In the military leaders are taught not to demand personal loyalty and they teach subordinates to avoid personal loyalty at all costs. The reasoning is that eventually the tyrant will rise up and cause you to do things you never thought you’d do out of loyalty or be cast out of the ranks. It’s too high a price.

God never demands loyalty and these oaths and covenants that are demanded by men are not of God in any way shape or form. God is looking for a people with love and a heart for Him and service in the freedom of Free Will. This is not blind ambition or loyalty. This is eyes wide open, mission-focused, unity because we want to not because we must. We give our loyalty out of love not fear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B.A.T.H

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In our house we don’t say the word bath, we spell it out until we’re ready to do the deed. You see, the word bath invokes a rebellion in Lulu the Wonder Dog. Immediately upon hearing the word she goes and lies in her bed, curls up and closes her eyes. When I go to get her to take her dreaded bath she won’t open her eyes. When I grab her by the collar she becomes deadweight. When we are finally in the tub and giving her a bath her ears are down and she moans loudly refusing to move and making me maneuver to get her all cleaned up. Once out of tub and all scrubbed down and toweled down she runs throughout the house jumping on furniture that she isn’t allowed on and refusing to come near me. I offer her a treat for her misery and she takes it, but isn’t quickly forgiving.

As I bathed her this past week I wondered what God has to spell out in my presence? What am I refusing to do that ultimately is good for me? For Lulu the Wonder Dog bathing means we get all of dirt off, we hopefully avoid things like fleas, and it gives me a chance to check for ticks or anything unusual on her skin, not to mention she smells good again. Yet, the mere mention of the word brings on such a refusal of action. Honestly, this is the only thing she fights me on. It makes me wonder and stop to take inventory of what I have an absolute refusal of?

So what is it? Does the Lord have to spell E-A-T  H-E-A-L-T-H-Y? Does he have to spell E-X-E-R-C-I-S-E? Is it more like, F-O-R-G-I-V-E? C-L-E-A-N-S-E? Or is it deeper still? S-A-B-B-A-T-H? Is it a sentence like, What does the W-O-R-D say about that? What consequence does our refusal hold for us? If Lulu the Wonder Dog understood that her bath does nothing for me and everything for her would she still see it as the worst thing she has to do in life?

Do you want to know the most interesting thing about Lulu The Wonder Dog’s bath? Once she settles her issue, she gets on her dog bed and sleeps in such sound peace, snoring she doesn’t even wake up to shift positions. I don’t know if she’ll ever go willingly or understand that there is a benefit to it, all I can do is continue to do my part and that’s all our Heavenly Father does. He speaks and hopes we’ll understand the benefit.

Think about it. There is a benefit to what the Lord is asking of us. Will we be deadweight or will we rise up and follow?

 

My Weapon of Choice

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You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still
Whom shall I fear
I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side ~ Chris Tomlin

Sitting in church this morning as we sang this song in semi-unison, I need to remember that the bible says make a joyful noise and even though we clap and sing to different beats and tones we are here for one purpose.  I felt such total peace. To stand under the wing of the One who formed me before the foundation of the earth knowing I am secure because the weapons of my warfare are not designed in the earthly realm, and since I don’t war people, there is no need.  I war thought processes and mindsets that crept into my soul making me feel that I wasn’t enough on my own and that there were things I needed that I didn’t have. I war perceived inadequacies in relationships that make me feel unloved, and until I gain clarity on the situation at hand, I stand feeling unworthy and helpless.  Yet when I read the bible it says I am more than enough in fact, I was created with everything I would ever need downloaded.

Isaiah 54:15 If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. 16 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc; 17 no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.

When I read that no weapon formed against me will prevail it tells me that weapons will be formed to take me out but they can’t. It takes me back to when I was a kid and I wanted to be Wonder Woman only now I really am. I can stand as the arrows fly, and people say and do whatever they say and do and as long as I don’t respond with the same arrows, they fly by. Sure, the threat hurts my feelings, but feelings are up and down and I don’t live my life by them.

Know who you are and especially whose you are and then whatever arrows try to come to distract you from your God-given path know that they can’t harm you. You’re not out until God says you’re out.

 

Cathy

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I met her when I was 14. She was my boyfriend’s little sister but she was nice and friendly and she became my friend. We became family when I married her brother and when it was time for her to get married I was her matron of honor. She walked happily down the aisle with Eric to You Are The Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder. I will never forget it because it was so like her doing life her way. Years later I found a designer who made a necklace out of the song and sent it her. She sent back a note that she couldn’t believe I had remembered. She would invite me to absolutely every family event they had. I remember one conversation:

“Umm, thanks but I think it would be awkward to go consider I’m no longer married to your brother.”

“Did you divorce me?”

“No”

“I didn’t divorce you either. You’re my sister-in-law and the mother of my nephew and my niece and you are invited to all family functions.”

Then we’d laugh and tell secrets that only friends that know each other well can tell about things that are really none of our business.

After a three year battle with cancer I got the call from my son that Cathy was being sent home to hospice. I contacted my mother-in-law and asked if I could go and see Cathy, understanding that they have a big family and I didn’t want to intrude. She said of course I could come. I walked into a room filled with people and went to hold Cathy’s hand. She said quietly, “Susie, I have missed you.” I said, “I’ve missed you too and I came to tell you I love you.” She answered that she loved me too and that she was tired and she was sorry but she didn’t want to fight cancer anymore. I told her I understood and that I didn’t want her to feel as if she had to host me as a guest, instead I was there for her. We talked about God and heaven and she said she had seen glimpses as God was leading her spirit little by little. We told a couple of secrets that made us both smile and then her brothers came into the room and it was the four of us like it was when we were teenagers. We talked about where life had taken us and old stories about the past. We brought up phone bills, and FaceTime, and how much trouble we’d be in if were teens today and we laughed like we used to over stupid stuff. Cathy took a sip of ice water and through half-closed eyes she said to me, “See what I have to do to get us all together like old times?” I replied, “Who knew all those fights with your brothers would make you give cancer a run for its money?”

My sister and my friend is passing from this life to her next one and as I write this my heart breaks. It breaks because we distance ourselves from painful events and while we do, there is the unintended casualties of souls that are wounded. It seems necessary to separate out, to stop the pain in the moment, and are in the end are such pitifully poor decisions. To turn away love from one heart because another has been careless with your heart can never be right. I’m thanking God for second chances and a deep friendship with a wonderful woman who loved me deeply and who is forever embedded in my heart.

 

In Time

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Last October I was given a vision of my next step in ministry. I couldn’t wait to see it fulfilled. I began to research, to ask questions of those I knew, and to make plans. Each time I got ready to launch something got in the way of the plan and it was stalled. I wasn’t frustrated just chomping at the bit to move forward. God’s timing is not like our own and so I waited.

My husband began to see the vision of what I was going to do and began to pray with me. Then he began to change the ideas I had. This is when the test happens because the question becomes,

I had my own ideas, I had my own lists, I had my own plan but what happens when they aren’t where we are going in ministry?

Well, as I always say,

Submission isn’t submission until we disagree. 

So I got on board with the vision of the house, I began to input where I was asked. We launched last night, prayerfully, considerately, and mindfully, a leadership team. You see, my vision was to make a path to ordain women into ministry. My husband challenged me to think broader. Together we forged a plan of ordination for all people. We gathered our combined resources and gathered wisdom and materials for a clear path. There are 15 of us in the beginning stages of this new phase of our ministry. There were 7 women which was still important to me. Now I get to watch it all unfold. I’m excited and glad to have waited for proper timing and direction.

Sometimes things take awhile. Even though we may have a vision and it seems clear, the path isn’t always how we think it should go. I would prayerfully ask you to be mindful of this and to wait for God’s timing.  This isn’t the time to push forward your own agenda over that of the church in which you serve. A pastor friend in Arkansas preached on the Baptism of Commitment. He said,

Are you committed to your own agenda or are you committed to your leadership? 

That’s a great question to leave you with today.

Lost Things

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Last week I went shopping with my Starks, Louisiana cousins. We met up for lunch and some girl time. My husband was spending some one on one time with his dad so this was perfect. Around 6 pm I decided to give my husband a call to see how he was doing. I opened my purse to grab my phone. It wasn’t in its usual spot so I began to dig around for it and quickly discovered I didn’t have it.

I stopped and thought back to if I had put anything down and the only time I set anything down was in the dressing room so I quickly walked back. I mean quickly.

No phone. I retraced my steps throughout the store. No phone. I went to the Customer Service desk and asked if anyone had turned in a phone. “No Ma’am.” I searched my Apple Watch to see if I could find the Find My Phone app. No app. I went to look for my cousins. Still not in full panic mode, but close, I borrowed the car keys to see if I had left it on the seat. No phone on the seat, no phone on the floor, no phone between the seats. I stop and say aloud, “Lord, I need your help.” I look through my shopping bags. Nothing. I go back in the store and my cousin calls my phone. It has a loud ringer. Nothing. I call my husband from her phone and give him instructions. “Please call Verizon, tell them I lost my phone. Then get on your Find My Phone app and log in as me and find out where my phone is.” I’m a little more worried at this point, because a) my husband isn’t great at these things and b) I have lost a $400 phone.

My husband calls me back three or four times because he can’t figure out how to do what I’ve asked and then he finally calls back to give me the address of where my phone is pinging. It’s at a shop we were at earlier, which is now closed and doesn’t have an answering machine. He says calmly, “Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.”

My cousin, gets on Facebook and sends the owner a Private Message but in the meantime, I offer to buy us all a Starbucks, yes you guessed it, app on the phone has the money on it, luckily I have some cash, and we head back home. I’m worried about the phone. I am with family, I am with my husband, it’s not a matter of connection, it’s the cost and the fact that I don’t remember when the last time I backed it up to the computer and how reliable is the cloud anyway?

The next day, we get up but guess what? No cell service because in Starks Louisiana Verizon doesn’t work, only AT&T. Go figure. So my cousin calls the store and they aren’t open yet. It’s a 45 minute drive there but my husband wants to stop by his mom’s house first. Ugh! I get ugly. “Sure, let’s go to your mom’s because your phone isn’t missing.” Yes, not my proudest moment by far.

My cousin calls us on the way to the store, yes he skipped going to his mom’s, and says she has spoken to the owner and the owner is checking for my phone. She tells the owner it is either in the dressing room or on the counter. Sure enough, it’s fallen between a gap in the chair in the dressing room. Big shout out to La-Tee-Da Boutique for their amazing attitude and care. I walk into the shop about an hour later and the owner smiles big and says, “Hello Susan! I have your phone.”

Whew! What a relief. I walk out after my sincere thank you and thank the Lord. “Lord thank you for your help and your kind people.” The Lord says, “I know about lost things.” Ignorant me, I smile and say, “Yes, I know!” Totally oblivious about the lesson.

Then Chris Hodges preaches at Grow16 about lost people and how God must feel frantic about them and how the Lord needs us to do our job. In that moment my eyes filled with tears and my heart begins to pound in my chest, as they are doing as I’m writing this, and the tears begin to stream down my face, as they are doing now in an airport waiting for my flight.

That frantic feeling I had retracing my steps, trying to figure out where I had left them, how it grieved me to lose something expensive, that is nothing compared to what God lost.

Folks this was a phone. This was a phone.

We’re talking about lost people. Chris Hodges said how sad it must make God when we pray sometimes. I repented in that moment. “Lord, I’m sorry. I prayed for your help with such clarity for my phone and although I pray for the lost, I don’t pray with such fervency for lost souls. Please forgive me. I totally missed your cue about lost things. Totally felt relief that you cared about my phone without looking at the big picture of the lesson you were trying to teach me. Thank you for loving me enough to bring a message to me three days later that taught me exactly what you were trying to tell me. You never give up and I am grateful to you.”

Okay, people are staring at me here at the airport terminal as I cry and write so let me leave you with this:

Matthew 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coinsand loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”

The Order Of Things

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Joe Quatrone Jr.  

A self-described “Old Guy”, meaning a man I hold in esteem who has retired from ministry spoke this wisdom in a conversation.

“Before there can be mercy, there has to be judgment.”

It was a drop the mic moment. I took it home and mulled it over. I often relate things to my experience as a mother. It’s quite true that when my children misbehaved I corrected first and then made them see what they did wrong. Okay makes sense but…

I then had to reconcile that with

James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

In order to show mercy we have to have judgment. Mercy comes through judgment. It’s a great revelation. It may not sit well with the “don’t judge me Christian” but it isn’t biblical. Mercy triumphs over judgement but judgment is first.

It’s as my husband explains, giving mercy out of order is like giving a cure for a disease you didn’t know you had. There is no recognition of the healing.