I Just Don’t Have the Shoes

By Cortney Donelson

Matthew 7:2 (NLT)
“For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

There is a very famous and well-intentioned saying out there.  This quote has been around for generations.  In fact, it is such a long-standing adage that no one quite knows for sure who first said it, although many give credit to the Native Americans. “To understand a man, you must first walk a mile in his moccasins”.  Moccasins was later changed to shoes.

This popular quote even influenced the writing of a similar line in a famous book.  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” was spoken by Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

As I said, the message is well-intentioned. I grew up learning this very lesson. It does deter some criticism and helps people see some things from a different perspective. Frequently, I will put myself in another person’s “shoes” to try to understand the decisions he or she made or the actions they took. And, guess what? It often gets me into trouble…

God created us uniquely. We each have our own personalities, experiences, thoughts, biases, views of right and wrong, and temperaments. We value different things. We have different tastes. We see the world through our eyes only. And, thank God we do! Our differences help us think creatively, avoid boredom, and develop innovative solutions.  I value our differences…God cherishes them.

The phrase “to walk in another’s shoes” means to step outside your own perspective and look at a situation from someone else’s perspective. Unfortunately, if we do this, there is the possibility for us to make a dangerous assumption. Each person is shaped by his and her experiences and personalities, from the day he or she is born. Our opinions, our tendencies, our perspectives, and our decisions are steered by our entire life story. When we “walk in another’s shoes”, we are viewing one specific situation or decision that individual has made. And, we are looking at that decision through our lenses, with our backgrounds, our successes, our hurts, and our failures all influencing our opinion of that one circumstance. I believe this can lead us down the path of judgment because our assumption is that someone else’s life story should have shaped that individual the same way we were influenced by our own. That is the assumption I know I, for one, need to avoid!

It is precisely because of our diversity that I think the quote below is much more significant and can have a greater impact on our lives:

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.” -Paulo Coelho

I contend we can never truly climb into someone’s skin, step into their shoes, and know all of who they are or what makes them tick. We live in our own realities, shaped by years of unique experiences and our one-of-a-kind DNA. To try to step into someone else’s reality can often cause misunderstandings that can lead to increased conflict and pain. I know…I’ve been there.

By no means am I saying that trying to understand another’s perspective is wrong! It is good! Extremely good! I think where we mistep is when we add our own judgments to those perspectives without giving credit to the fact that we cannot fully know another’s world. So I, for one, am going to work on agreeing to disagree without thinking someone is wrong just because I put myself in her shoes and did not see something the way she did or understood her actions or behavior.

Biblically, we are advised to avoid judging others.  And, if we do judge someone else, according to Matthew 7:2, God will judge us using the same standard. As I thought about this verse and its relationship to that famous adage, I realized that I cannot judge someone’s motives fairly. I certainly don’t want my motives, actions, and decisions to be judged against God, who is good, perfect, and holy. I would fail every time. So, no matter what people say or do, I cannot truly understand their perspectives just by “walking a mile in their shoes”. I would have to walk a million miles, over the course of their entire lifetime. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have the shoes for that….

Prayer – Father, thank you for the hard but loving truths in your Word. Thank you for our diversity. I pray I refrain from judging someone’s actions or words based on my own unique reality for I would never want to be judged by that standard myself. Jesus died for us so that the chasm separating us from God could be bridged.  And, for that, I am forever grateful. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

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Out of the Darkness

By Missy Strayer

2 Corinthians 4:6 (NLT)
“For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.”

On a retreat one fall, a group of us walked to the top of a beautiful mountain. The view was breath-taking; it was such a clear day, and you could see for miles. The mountain range had colors that were just starting to turn to the brilliant shades of autumn, the air was wonderful, and I tried to drink it all in. It had been a long climb and after a short and light rain, it was time for the decent. You know how your heart feels when you know your mountain top experience is coming to an end, and you really don’t want to go… but you have to?  That was where I found myself. We descended the mountain, and as I walked I tried to hear God’s voice. I felt as though there was silence, so I prayed to hear Him louder and stronger than ever before. As I walked down the path, the shadows of the trees moved with the sun’s angles.  Suddenly, I found myself walking in the shade, and I stopped. I was the only one walking in the shadows.  Everyone else was walking out in the main sunlight.  It was at that point that I heard the Lord say, “It is time to come out of the darkness and walk in the light, professing my name boldly.”  Are you kidding me? I shouted for everyone to stop and look where I was standing and then told them what the Lord had laid on my heart.  It was time.  It was time for me to no longer stay quiet and watch the world go by, while allowing all that the world has to offer to taint my thoughts and beliefs. Most of all, it was time for me to tell my story. My story of survival was going to help others find their way out of their darkness. That was when I knew my true calling. For the first time,  I knew at least one of the reasons I had been created:  To help others come out of the darkness to make a difference in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Okay, but where do I start? I don’t know how to begin!

I had no idea what to do with my new-found purpose. My walk for the past few years had been difficult, including a separation, a child diagnosed with leukemia, and two months later my father being diagnosed with cancer, a divorce, and finally learning to stand on my own two feet. I had leaned on my friends and family but most of all my God. Now he was telling me to use my pain of losing my father, my joy and gratefulness that my son had survived and was thriving, and to rejoice in the blessings that the Lord had given me along the way. So I ask you… have you listened to that quiet voice? Are you ready to walk out your purpose, hold on tight, and know that God is always with you?

Prayer – Father God, I thank you for all that you have showed me and continue to show me. I pray that you open others eyes and hearts to know what your path is for them. I pray that you continue to bless those who follow your lead and that you strengthen them as they walk it out proclaiming your name boldly. I pray for those that have not found their way… that Father God you provide them with a lantern a divine appointment to guide them and bring them to You. Thank you Lord for your many blessings. In Jesus’ name I  pray, Amen.

Getting Crazy for God

By Cortney Donelson

Psalm 68:4-5 (NLT)
“Sing praises to God and His name! Sing loud praises to Him who rides the clouds. His name is the LORD- rejoice in His presence! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows- this is God, whose dwelling is holy.”

A good friend of mine once made the comment, “I am trying to understand it. People will stand up and shout, raise their hands, scream in excitement, and ooh and ahh during their favorite sports team’s big play, but they stand in church during worship like statues… barely singing. This is God!”

I was convicted. I was one of those people who stood in front of my chair during worship and sang, barely moving the muscles of my lips, let alone my body. Her comment struck a chord with me (no pun intended)!

I am a member of a church whose mission is to reach the unchurched…to seek out those individuals who are seekers themselves and bring them to the Lord. Most of the people in our (huge) congregation look like those statues my friend described. That included me, a long-time Christian. I understand for some people and for various reasons, moving and dancing are not in their comfort zones. They have every right to be still and sing (or not sing at all). I am not judging.  Here is the thing…It wasn’t okay for me. How did I know?  The reason I was standing still was because no one else was moving or lifting a hand, and I was feeling very self-consious of what other people might think of me…(Hello, pride!)

Not long after her comment, I attended a medical conference where the speaker showed a video of what can happen if just one person steps outside the social norm. It was a video of a college campus where a few hundred students were sitting in a grassy area listening to live music.  Suddenly, one brave man stood up and started doing a ridiculous dance in the middle of the sea of people.  After a few minutes of some seriously silly dancing, another student jumped up and started doing her own version of the crazy.  A few moments later… a third student stood up and started dancing. Then, another… and another… until after only nine minutes of video, half of the students were dancing. The message the medical speaker was driving home was that it takes just one brave person to recreate the current reality.

That’s precisely when I decided I would get crazy…crazy for worshiping my Holy Creator! The definition of praise is to give an expression of admiration. God does not ask us to quietly praise Him. He wants us to be loud! Psalm 68:4 says, “Sing praises to God and His name! Sing loud praises to Him who rides the clouds…”  He wants us to be abandoned (free).  He wants us to worship Him in church with music and dance…

Psalm 150 in the Message Bible says, “Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship, praise him under the open skies; Praise him for his acts of power, praise him for his magnificent greatness; Praise with a blast on the trumpet, praise by strumming soft strings; Praise him with castanets and dance…” (italics added)

So, the next weekend at church, I started to let go. I raised my hands in front of me with open palms. The next week, I raised my right hand a little higher to my shoulder. The following week, my right hand was lifted to the heavens, and I was shouting to God in praise. I had done it! My heart and soul were abandoned. I had let go of pride and stopped worrying about what other people thought of me. I focused on Him. I finally broke through and praised my Lord for all that He had done and was going to do! It was so freeing, and I felt alive!

“So I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all.”
(The Stand by Kristian Stanfill)

Is God asking you to let go of pride today? Or, is there something else God is whispering in your ear to let go? Fear? Worry? I want to encourage you to let it go! YES! Let’s get crazy for God!

Prayer – Dear Lord, I will praise you forever! You are so mighty. I realize this is all about You and not about me. I will do my best not to worry about what others will think. I will give you all the Glory. You are my Father, my Creator, my Rock. In Jesus’ Name I pray…AMEN!

El Shaddai

By Michelle Meeks

Genesis 17:1-2
“…I am God Almighty…I will confirm my covenant with you.”

I love music.  It moves my heart.  Even when it was hardened and covered by anger, God could use a song to pierce through it.  So when He called me to sing on our praise team about ten years ago, I was all for it!  What I hadn’t thought about was how nervous I get in front of people. The first time I had a solo, I was sick on my stomach for a week. Every time we sang, a voice would whisper, “You can’t sing.  You aren’t as good as…You sound horrible.”  I wondered if I had heard God right. I asked Him if this wasn’t His plan for me to take away the desire to help lead worship.  The desire didn’t go away.  Some of the nervousness went away, but when it came time for a solo, you could always find me in the bathroom on Sunday morning.    

Just a few years ago, we moved to a different church.  To be on the praise team, you have to audition.  I knew this was going to be a big turning point for me.  That voice kept saying they are going to tell you no.  Don’t do it,   you really can’t sing.  God’s voice was louder!  He said, “I called you to this”.  Luckily, before we moved to this church, the Bible study I was doing asked us to look at God’s names and what they revealed about Him.  What characteristic did I know Him most for and what did He want to teach me next about Himself.  I knew Him mostly as faithful, Yahweh.  He wanted me to know Him as “El Shaddai”, God Almighty, The All Sufficient One, the One whom all our blessings come from. 

I knew God had placed the desire to lead worship on my heart.  He wanted me to learn He was the God who would make it happen.  I had to trust He is who He says He is. I made the praise team, but I still struggle.  I’ve sung “Friend of God” many times.  Last night, though, God showed me something I had never noticed.  Right before I was to sing a solo, I prayed for God’s help (I know I can’t sing ever without His help). As I’m singing the first line “who am I that You are mindful of me, that You hear me when I call” and then “God Almighty, Lord of Glory, You have called me friend,” God says, “see, I know your heart. I know your desires. I placed them there.   Remember I am El Shaddai, God Amighty, the God who loves you enough to call you friend and to bring your dreams to fruition.” 

He loves me, and He loves you.  He knows what you love to do and what He’s called you to do.  What dreams and desires has God placed on your heart?  Do you believe He is El Shaddai, God Almighty, The All Sufficient One, the One whom all our blessings come from?

Prayer – Father, I thank You for letting me know you as El Shaddai.  I thank You for reminding me when I am weak and struggle, You are my strength, You are working things out according to what You have called me to be.  I trust in You.   

Genesis 17:1-2: “I am God Almighty…I will confirm my covenant with you.”

Genesis 48:3: “God Almighty appeared to me and blessed me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9: “The All Sufficient One:…”My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…”

Jesus in Disguise

By Cortney Donelson

Matthew 25:40 (NIV)
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

The pastors in my church led a wonderful series this past summer that forced me to stop and get into the Word. Many Christians have one Bible verse that has become the cornerstone of their entire lives. There is a scripture that seeps into the cores of their beings and has done so since the instant they heard it or read it for the first time. These verses are the foundations for which they live out their spiritual journeys and the promises they hold close in all of life’s situations. So is the case with me.

My significant scripture gets to the heart of one of the key messages of the Bible. Love! Matthew 25:40 says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  This verse gives me chills every time I read it. Let’s break it down.

Jesus is speaking. Truly I tell you” Let’s stop there. Jesus is always true. He is always honest. So, when he starts a sentence with “Truly,” you better believe it is a double portion of truth! He is introducing this particular teaching by urging people to listen up…this is big! He is giving us a truth that He hopes will propel all of us into action. He is pleading with us to hear Him, to consider His message clearly, because this gets to the heart of every Christian’s responsibility during our days here on Earth.

Whatever you did for one of the least …” Let’s stop again. First, look at the word “whatever”.  Any action, any dollar, any prayer, any thought, any word of encouragment, any second of your time… ALL these acts of service for others matter. Notice the word, “one.” One person. You can make a difference in the life of ONE person and know you are doing the work of Jesus. Too often many of us believe that we cannot help everyone, so we shrink back from helping at all.  I used to think this way.  When you consider national and global crises such as hunger, AIDS, addiction, orphans, famine, slavery, homelessness, and abuse, it is overwhelming. However, when we think we cannot do anything to impact big issues, we are just believing a lie, aren’t we?  Jesus says whatever you can do to battle for one is crucial in the war for helping all… for helping Him!

“…of these brothers and sisters of mine…” I also love how Jesus refers to brothers AND sisters.

And, then there is the ending that just rocks my world! “… you did for me.” WOW! If you really stop and think about that, it might just blow your mind. Think of the homeless man on the side of the street with the sign begging for work or food. He is Jesus. Think of the orphaned child lying in a crib waiting for her forever family. She is Jesus. Think of the young widow working two jobs to make ends meet for her children. She is Jesus. Think of the little girl sold in a trafficking ring as a sex slave at age nine. She is Jesus.

There is a song by Brandon Heath called “Jesus in Disguise”. The chorus of that song says,

Jesus in disguise
Jehovah passing by
The burden of a tear
Hanging in your eye
Jesus in disguise
A scar across the sky
You were looking for a king
You would never recognize
Jesus in disguise

When I hear it, it reminds me that Jesus is everywhere…in my heart, in my mind, in my children’s eyes, in my pastor’s words, in my husband’s kiss, in my neighbor’s text, in my friend’s secret… He is the boy with the dirty clothes in your child’s class. He is the co-worker who seems withdrawn and sad. He is the woman with the shopping cart on the city street. He is the unemployed father who has lost all hope. He is the 1 million orphaned children in Russia alone. He is a sponsored child in South Africa… Have you seen Jesus in disguise? I bet you have.

And, that is why, this verse is my “life verse,” as my Pastor, Jim White, would call it. It reminds me of what I have. It reminds me of what others need, and it reminds me of who Jesus says He is…and what I can do for Him as a very small repayment for what He did for me on that cross. It guides every major decision I make, and it shows me how to live out the calling God has placed on my heart.

Do you have a significant scripture that propels your life forward, a life I pray is racing towards God’s unique purpose for you? If not, maybe it’s time to find one. If so, I would love to hear it… Leave a comment at the end of this devotional if you would like to share your verse!

 Prayer – Dear Lord, thank you for your Word and how it is fully alive. It reaches into our souls and triggers emotions and responses that no other person can do. I pray you continue to help me look at others through your eyes, never running in fear of what I cannot do to help.  In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!