You set a table before me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5 ESV

Over the last number of weeks I feel like I have been told what to think. We have protests, counter protests, and lots of arguing. We have post after post of anger, and frustration boiling over from people speaking about the injustices of life. We have people’s posts mocking others for the words they choose to use or not to use. Some people have argued with others they know and don’t know. Some people have unfriended others on social media. Some have just stopped talking because they don’t want to be attacked. Some are just feeling attacked over and over and don’t have a place they feel they can turn. Conflict in our community is at an all time high. You may have even said I am done with this person in my life.

Yesterday as I was sitting around the table with my accountability group eating dinner I was reminded of something. All the people in my life, those I am good with and those I have conflict with, we are going to eat around a table again. We are going to come to the table of our Lord. Jesus over and over again sat and ate with people he didn’t agree with. He ate with pharisees, and sinners. He often made people angry by doing this but Jesus knew the kingdom would be for everyone. I may not want them there but I know that Jesus does. I know Jesus wants them at the table. He wants us to be in relationship. He wants us to love and respect those around us who may not think like we do. He never asked them to change in order to be at the table. He knew the table would change us.

So in these days if you are hurt because someone said something to you or made a post mocking your opinion remember we are all going to sitting around the table together. The place where Jesus makes things new. Where he makes things well and brings forgiveness. Maybe it can change the way we talk about each other. Maybe we can listen and learn and bring healing. Let us come together at eat together, with our cups overflowing and have peace in Jesus.

Lets stop, listen, ask questions and act!

I have to admit I don’t like to listen. I am an extreme extrovert so listening doesn’t come naturally. But seriously I think more of us need to listen. I mean really listen. Here is the thing I think many of us have forgotten how to listen.

Listening is not just sitting back and accepting what others are saying. It is trying to understand. I feel as though many of us have lost this in today’s world. This past week has been tough. It has been hard for many on both sides of almost all the debates. Stay home orders, Black Lives Matter, riots, protests, violent police, these topics have truly brought many of us to blows on social media, with family, with friends and even people we have never met.

As a Christian I have no problem with The Truth. I have no problem with their being absolute truth. I do however as a Christian know that because of my sinful self-centered nature I can never see any of this through a perfect lens. I am going to get many things wrong, I may use wrong words or wrong comparisons or examples but I know it is important to keep listening and ask questions.

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance

Proverbs 1:5 NIV

What does it look like to listen? I think it is hearing points of view I don’t agree with. We all need to stop speaking in absolutes. Memes are not about listening but often about mocking another point of view. Lastly too often all I see is the tag line if you don’t agree, shut up, or shout it so those in the back stop talking. I dont find this helpful. I want to listen and I want to ask questions. I want you challenge me and I want to challenge you. But first I have to listen and then ask questions. Some of those questions will seem accusatory, I am sorry. I think it important to ask. When I ask those questions I know i need to keep listening. Listen so you can hear the people around you. So you can help and maybe become more empathetic to those who think, act and walk differently than you do. Lets be people who listen, ask questions, and finally act to change our world one person at a time.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “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.’

Matthew 25:34-40 NIV

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I want to get this off my chest.  I hate wearing a mask. It is uncomfortable. It hurts my ears. It makes my face itch. Seriously they are just annoying. By the way this is not a post about the merits of wearing a mask or not. I am not a medical doctor and although I may have opinions about wearing a mask, and its ability to make one safer, no one cares what I think on the matter, nor should they.

I wear a mask in public because I am willing to do my part to make others feel/actually be safe.  I don’t have a real problem with making others feel safe when I am out. What I hate most is I lose the ability to to share hope with a smile.  I miss being able to walk around the store I am in and share some joy through a facial expression.  Share it with a mom and young child who is acting up.  To share a smile  with an old couple who are bickering about what kind of lunch meat to get.  I just want to spread a little joy and this mask is preventing that.

Our world today is full of people wearing masks.  We wear the mask of patriotism, the mask of having it all together, the mask of of liberalism, or the mask of I am more enlightened because I don’t use hateful terms.  We wear masks by only posting pictures of all our kids smiling while we have created at home class rooms.  On facebook, and twitter today we can wear the mask of righteous anger…(far too much of that today especially if you live in Michigan) We like to wear masks and it really shows.

So here is our challenge.  Maybe before Jesus and each other we can find a way to take off these masks.  We can show who we are in life and in Christ.  We can stop hiding behind masks of hate, and perfection.  We can show are flaws and run to the arms of the one who save and makes us new.  So take off the mask, share a smile, share joy, share Jesus.  Our world needs us to take off the masks.

P.S. for now I will be wearing the real mask and not taking that off but those other masks are going to come off God willing.

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:17-32 ESV

I hate wearing a mask…I want to take it off.