The Holy Spirit (and Mother’s Day)

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I’m going to be honest with you all.

Mother’s Day is a tricky day for the church.

For some of you,  it is pretty straightforward. On Mother’s Day you celebrate your mom with lunch together, or you are celebrated by your children, some cards, some flowers.  To you all, I wish you a wonderful Mothers Day celebrating together. Being a mom isn’t easy, and a lot of you aren’t just moms, you are great, hard working (and probably exhausted) moms, and you are pouring into your children everyday, or supporting your children as they raise up their own. Make sure your family appreciates you. Or at least grab a nap.

For some, Mother’s Day is great.   And for some it’s really, really hard.

Some of you have had to say goodbye to your mom.

Some of you have battled with infertility, maybe for a really long time, wanting to be a mom.

Some of you are moms who have lost children.

Some of you might not want to be a mom and  people get really judgey about that.

Some of you have a mom who is sick, or who the relationship there is….not what you’d like to it to be.

Some of you are finding a role change in your life, where now you are taking care of the mom who took care of you.

So for Mother’s Day, we could  focus on the mothering side of God .Or one year I preached about how God is like a mother hippo. But that didn’t go over so well.  Or we could have gone the way of one pastor I knew, who totally forgot it was mother’s day at all….and preached on hell.

But this year we are focusing on everything Jesus taught. Looking back to January, we have looked at how Jesus’ teachings can help us live our lives to the fullest. We have studied forgiveness.  But what does Jesus say about mothers?

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Unfair

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The Jesus teaching that we are going to look at today takes us into a story of family dynamics. He talks about two brothers, and their father. And if you have a brother or sister or even a cousin or friend that hung around a lot, this story will strike a chord with you.

Earlier this week was national sibling day, and people all over social media were posting pictures of with their brothers and sister, saying how much they love them. And we do love them… for the most part.

On the other hand, we also know that having a sibling means feeling the deep and real sting of things being unfair.

Think back to when you were a kid. Even when our parents tried their hardest to keep things equal, we are always alert, as kids, to any slight, any favoritism…anything that might be unfair.

I have one sister, a few years older than me. And I can still remember a moment when I was 8, and she was 13. 8 for me was an especially annoying year, and as soon as my mom left the room, I unleashed all of my 8 year old obnoxious powers on my teenage sister. She retaliated by yelling at me to stop.

Well, I had two choices.

I could stop.

Or I could flick her.

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Letting Go of Legalism

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Several years ago Dave and I bought an older home in Ohio. The house was perfect for us and our young kids, with a large flat backyard and nice bedrooms.

We were young homeowners, so we worked really hard to follow the rules of good homeownership. We mopped the floors and vacuumed the carpet and scrubbed the counters and cabinets. We watered the plants and took out the trash.

The kitchen was one of our favorite spots, having lived mostly in apartments, with all of the cabinets and space to cook, so we made sure it was especially clean. There was even a corner cabinet, with one of those lazy susan spinning storage shelves built right in, which was perfect for all of the kids’ crackers and snacks.

But one evening just after we finished cleaning up from dinner, I heard Dave yelp in the kitchen. I went running in just in time to see him slam the lazy susan cabinet door shut.

There was a mouse.

In the corner cabinet. It had found a steady source of snacks with the saltines we had stored in there. And the mouse, surprised by Dave’s opening of the cabinet, had leapt off of the lazy susan, right toward him. But he had shut the door quickly enough that it was trapped.

We had a few possibilities. The obvious solution seemed to be to burn down the house.

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Letting Go of Shame

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We’re going to get to what Jesus teaches us about shame. But first, we need to tease shame out from two other words we often use interchangeably with it.

And those are embarrassment and guilt.

We end up switching these three words out for one another when we talk, because all three make us feel pretty similar.

Whether we are embarrassed or guilty or ashamed, we might feel our face flush, our palms sweat, our heart race. All of these feelings make us cringe.

But they are, nonetheless, really different in their cause and especially in where they take us.

Let’s start with embarrassment.

Embarrassment happens when we do something foolish or uncomfortable or even gross, especially in front of someone else.

For example, I was embarrassed when I got all the way to the top of a five flight staircase for a water slide, then chickened out, and how to walk all the way back down the stairs to the ground squeezing past the other kids waiting in line for the slide. That was embarrassing.

And it was especially embarrassing because I was 30 years old.

Or, for another example, I was embarrassed when I was talking with my hands one afternoon like I always do and forgot I was holding my cell phone and it flew out of my hands and right into a lake.

And I was especially embarrassed when we took it into the cell phone store to have it fixed, and water kept dripping out of it, after I told them “I don’t why it’s not working!”

So that’s embarrassment.

Then there’s guilt. This one has some of the same effect on us as embarrassment – the flushed face, the sweaty palms – and may have started with a foolish or stupid action, but it comes with the added awareness of having done something wrong, especially if it hurt someone else. Guilt is a tough one.

But guilt has one small positive piece. Sometimes it actually motivates us to become better people, to repent, to make things right. We’ll look at that more later.

But then there is this third one. The insidious cousin of the other two. And that’s shame. Again, flushed face, racing heart, sweaty palms.

But here’s why it’s different.

Shame makes us feel not just that we did something bad, but that we ARE bad.

So embarrassment is when we say “I did this foolish or even horrible thing” and guilt says “I did this horrible thing and it hurt someone” but shame says “I am horrible and wrong.”

Today we are going to focus in on this last one. Because we dole shame out, all the time.

We shame other people by looking at their lives and deciding who they are because of what we observe and perceive as breaking our version of the moral code.

And we shame ourselves.

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Good In, Good Out

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On the podcast that Dave and I have been doing each Monday, we were talking about how what we watch on television gets into our heads and affects what we do.

This seems to be especially true with reality television.

For example, if we watch home improvement shows Dave and I start taking down walls in our house.

When we watch traveling shows we start planning a trip.

Once Dave and I binge-watched an entire season of American Ninja Warrior. That’s the one where people compete on these intense obstacle courses after training for years to prepare. A few episodes in,  I decided I was, in fact, a future ninja warrior and started doing push ups on the commercials and jogging in place.

But then we took a break from ninja warrior to watch the Great British Baking Show. A few episodes into that one I was making a layered chocolate cake in the kitchen with raspberries on top and talking about its “crumb.”

(I realize that the baking show and the ninja warrior competition don’t create complementary goals for my life. So I’m going with the  cake.)

Whatever we are watching tends to affect what we talk about, think about.  Or, in other words:

What we put in is what we get out.

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Loving Our Enemies

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For all of the things we may hate about the internet, there is one thing I think we can all agree is truly fantastic…  Stories and pictures of interspecies friendships.

Cats and dogs napping together.

An elephant and a black lab playing.

A gorilla cuddling a kitten.

Amazing.

One of these stories recently caught my eye because it seemed so unlikely. The two species weren’t just uncommon together. They were enemies. Predator and prey. At the Primorsky Safari Park in Russia there is a Siberian tiger named Amur. Twice a week they throw in a live goat for Amur to eat. And every time, he quickly pounces on the goat and devours him.

Until he didn’t.

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Courage

Way before I was a pastor, before seminary and serving churches and ordination, I was a volunteer with the youth group. Dave and I both were, and we worked with the youth group every week, helping to lead games or give a talk or sing songs with them. Then the time came to plan for the middle school summer trip. The trip was scheduled for just 3 days after we would return from our honeymoon, 2 weeks after our wedding. This particular year, we were doing the 8th grade plunge, which involved about 15 eighth graders and 4 leaders sleeping under tarps and going to the bathroom in the woods for a week.

I can probably think of a more romantic way to have started our married life together.

But off we went as newly weds to help that group of eighth graders learn to love Jesus, even though it didn’t involve flush toilets or electricity or even tents.  When we left for the trip I had been camping maybe twice in my whole life. But there we were, out in the woods of Tennessee. Just us, a sleeping bag, and a tarp.

And I. Was. Terrified.

It was all so …. naturey.  But then, to really take it up a notch, we not only camped but did high adventure wilderness activities, everyday. One day, we hiked several miles into the woods. Another day we went deep into the depths of a natural cave, moving through tunnels way underground. And then, on the last day, we set off to go white water rafting.

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