Thursday, September 26, 2013

Filibuster Faith

By Brenda Black

The word of the week: Filibuster -- An effort to prevent action in a legislature by making a long speech or series of speeches (Merriam-Webster). The Senate glossary defines it as "any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions." Others say it can also be one member's effort to get word out and educate people without intending to specifically stop legislation. All I can say is it takes a lot of wind and words and the ability to stand!

Oh that we would have a filibuster faith to stand before God and speak to the heavens without ceasing! That we would appeal to the Almighty for action rather than hindering it with our silent indifference. With wind and words and heart stirred, we are called to pray as persistently!

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: 'In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea,”Grant me justice against my adversary.”

“'For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!”'

“And the Lord said, 'Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?'” (Luke 18:1-8)

If Christ asked it in the first century, how much more important that we ask it again, all these years later: “Will he find faith on earth?” We are called to pray. But we are also called to action, not to just provide lip service. Faith comes with a filibuster tenacity to stand for the long haul and speak the truth. It also demands engagement.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead...Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do...As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:14-17, 18b, 26)

Pray without ceasing. Go into all the world. Love your neighbor. Pursue peace. Be holy. Forgive one another. Speak the truth. Lay down your life. Turn from sin. Hunger and thirst for righteousness. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord. Be joyful, patient, kind. Repent. Encourage each other.

The list goes on and on and on. It would take more than 21 hours and 19 minutes to itemize God's calls to action. And it's going to take a lifetime to demonstrate them! Filibuster faith is not about delaying an outcome, it's about fulfilling the call. Filibuster faith is endurance and purpose. When we walk in such persistence, the process is more about changing us than it is about altering the end result.

God isn't looking for long-winded delayers, He's waiting for faith-filled, consistent pray-ers. The Lord wants His people to stand for truth and speak it and act upon it!

 “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Clearly a Winner

By Brenda Black

And they're off! Out of the gate, the beautiful Thoroughbreds seemed evenly matched and mounted. A wave of chestnut, grey, sorrel and bay on the bottom and fuchsia, teal, green and yellow on top blurred past the grandstands. For three bends of the track they stayed tightly packed, but on that final turn, endurance and expertise separated the winners to the front and to the finish. In a little over a minute, victory won and a day's work completed.

A trip to Lexington, KY, demands viewing a good horse race at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. The runners we watched weren't Triple Crown contenders, but they were just as fun to cheer as any Cigar or Man O War. With no money wagered, I had nothing to lose. But I still analyzed the gorgeous creatures in the paddock and picked my favorites, then hooped and hollered them into the winner's circle.

Having never been to Churchill Downs, I was tickled to see how close I could get to the contenders prior to their run. Each equine beauty passed within a few feet of where I stood behind the rail circling the staging area. The race analyst talked about each entry's track record, their breeding and age. She predicted who would run well on this grassy track and who would falter.

While she methodically itemized odds and numbers that meant nothing to me, I sized up the potential winner an entirely different way. I looked into their eyes, observed their eagerness or complacency. I noted how they walked in soundness and also with attitude. While others may have been doing the math in their heads, I was looking for the horse's heart and spirit. I backed the one that looked and acted like a winner. My pick, Number 9, did not disappoint. The glistening, stately sorrel crossed the finish ahead and alone with grace and glory!

I want to be like him! Not for the wins down here that are just as fleeting as the high-speed performance in a race that last a minute and the post-win celebration only a smidgen longer. I want to be like Him! Not to please a fickle audience that instantly forgets the hard-earned notoriety and is instantly consumed with the next line-up as the present winner heads back to the stable to eat hay in anonymity.

I want to be like the winner not for the photos and pats on the back or the cool splash of water over his head and the circle of doting investors. I want to be like him for his heart – to be the one who separates himself from the pack and clearly shows his colors. I want to be like the winner who visibly demonstrates a determined spirit. I want to be like the winner who gives it everything to the finish. I want to be like the winner who thinks clearly, strategically out-maneuvering the opposition. I want to be a winning Christian who looks for heaven and never looks back!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

In this life-long race, made of millions of furlongs, Lord give me a sound mind, a fierce spirit, and an eye fixed on the finish! Help me run the race with grace and enter in to glory! If I can fly like these amazing steeds across the heavens at my end, I'll be victorious and blessed. Whether I wear a wreath of roses or a diamond filled crown, what a thrill it will be to lay them at the feet of Jesus when my race is run.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Green Bean Perspective

By Brenda Black

Right at my fingertips and about eye level – yes, that's the perfect place to pick green beans. No back strain, no embarrassing road side posture when traffic passes near the gardner. No mud spattered pods to clean. That's why I plant pole beans.

Still, I discovered in a year of glorious growth, that I've had to twist and bend all sorts of ways to not miss the pencil thick veggies camouflaged among the vines and foliage. In the picking, I gained some perspective not only about green bean harvest. My eyes were opened as well to a few things about the Gospel message and the people who hear it.

Those easy eye-level ones are a breeze to bring to Christ. They are ripe for the picking and eager to jump into the bucket. They make sharing faith simple. But for every one of those, there are countless others that demand extra time and effort to reach.

The clusters. You'll find them in groups of three or four, equally long and thick. Quite uniform, they cling to each other and hang conspicuously on the vines beneath their combined weight of influence. In their numbers, they are a handful. If one doesn't break loose, the others may drop to the ground in the jarring or vines be broken and left dangling with many more beans wilting because of the careless approach. Worse yet, in trying to reach the masses with one stealth swoop, there exists the risk of accidentally knocking off nearby blossoms or a tiny sprout.

One size usually does not fit all. I've found that to be true in clothing and in Christianity. Though people may modify their behavior to mirror that of their peers, they are still individual in heart and mind and soul. Every single person needs to meet Jesus one on one. That takes time and individualized tender tugs.

Ironically, pole beans, intended to make picking hassle free, have me nearly standing on my head to look up and underneath. I've had to change my angle, lift arms full of tangled tendrils and squint just right to spot a keeper. And sometimes, the most ready are laying all the way down on the ground.

Now, I could ignore them, step over them. I could choose to not waste my time on them and still have plenty of pods for the pot. But there they lay – some nearly perfect and others a darker green and a bit deformed. God wishes for none to perish, but for all to come. You may think me silly to go all Gospel while I'm in my garden. Sometimes that's where God speaks the sweetest, the softest and the most convicting lessons when I listen. The soft coo of a mourning dove or the “Bob White” call of a quail are whispers of God's voice. The soft nicker of a yearling foal or even the buzz of a honey bee as it passes near my ear gives me cause to know there is a Creator who cares for every creature and blade of grass on this earth. How much more He loves you and me and doesn't want anyone overlooked.

When I first started gathering, I methodically picked only one side of my cattle panel trellis. I was determined to not reach through the wire grid to snatch from the other side until I made my way back up the line over there. I'd see some ready and force myself not to touch. Then I began finding tough hardened pods that had somehow been overlooked. I'd chastise myself, “How could you have missed that?” I changed my approach. If I could see it and reach it, I picked it right then and there!

Oh for that kind of urgency when it comes to the souls of my fellow man. I see them. I can reach them. Then I tell myself I'll do it next time, believing there will always be a better opportunity. “I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2b)

The sad, awful truth is that hearts will not always stay tender and receptive. I am compelled by God's great love and mercy to go and tell, and tell if often and to everyone!

“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13)

 It's no surprise that most of the beans hidden were easier seen when the trailing clumps of leaves and vines were lifted to allow sunlight to penetrate once dark places. I could tell you what that means to me, but I'd rather you listen to the whispers of the Savior and receive your own green bean perspective.