Worn out shoes

When I saw the story on the internet about the taped, beat-up looking shoes that Nordstrom’s sells for $530, it brought back a memory of a pair of honest to goodness beat up shoes I wore when I was 10 years old. I’ve worn and worn out a lot of shoes in my life time; the only reason I remember that pair is that I wore them to school on the play day at the end of the year and they fell apart as I ran a three-legged race. I don’t remember if I taped my sneakers after they were torn; I just remember how hard it was to run in cheap, worn-out shoes. And embarrassing, in case anyone noticed.

When I wore my worn out shoes, I wasn’t trying to be cool. I was wearing what I had. Nowadays it isn’t unusual to see people wearing “distressed” or ripped jeans. In my day, it wasn’t trendy or fashionable to pretend your shoes or clothes were well-worn.

It’s funny the things you remember from your childhood – the things that made an impression on your young psyche.

I have other shoe memories. One of the first was of going to school in kindergarten or first grade in a pair of second-hand tap-dance shoes; I wasn’t a dancer, I just needed shoes for school and that’s what my mom bought for me. I remember a pair of oxfords that I wore with my Brownie dress – that was a good memory. I remember the white go go boots I got for Christmas in the 5th grade; I loved them. And I remember the pair of shoes my mom bought at a popular classmate’s family garage sale. I liked the shoes but cringed at the thought that she might recognize her used shoes and say something to embarrass me.

People are understandably disgusted with the $530 beat up shoes because this “fashion” statement is insensitive to people who have no choice but to wear clothes or shoes that are genuinely distressed and worn-out. People who are poor do not get to make fashion choices. They get to choose between food and rent and gas to get to work.

Who is crazy enough to spend $530 for a pair of dirty, taped up sneakers? Evidently, a lot of people – a lot of shallow, self-indulgent people. I know this is a judgmental statement to make. People have a right to spend their money any way they choose – they certainly don’t need my approval. But the choices people make – even about what to wear – says a lot about their values.

I am an accountant. I know $$. Where is the value in spending $530 for a pair of beat-up looking shoes you could buy for $30 or $50 and wear out for real (by walking and running and living in them for goodness sake!)? The value of these shoes – the reason Golden Goose can charge a ridiculous amount of money for ugly shoes – is the value people place on impressing other people.

Your fake worn-out Golden Goose shoes? That don’t impress me much.

When you strip off all the pretense that money can buy, what is left? Our value as human beings is not based on what we wear; our value comes from who we are on the inside. Do we care about other people? Are we kind and patient and forgiving?

We are all born naked into this world, but each of us is fully clothed in potential. – Emmitt Smith

I have misjudged a lot of people in my life. One is the girl who I thought would judge me if I wore her used shoes. As an adult, I’ve gotten to know her (another Cathy) better. She is one of the most empathetic people I know. She has walked a mile in my worn out shoes and I love her for it!

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Photo credit: USA Today (link above)

 

 

 

 

 

Focus on who you are (and can become) rather than on what you should do

I am making my way through a list of practical steps my pastor gave the congregation to help us go deeper in our faith.¬† The tenth step is “focus on who you are (and can become) rather than on what you should do.” I interpret “what you should do” as God’s purpose or calling for your life. I have learned that it is easy for me to get ahead of myself, especially when I spend too much time thinking about what I should do in the future instead of focusing on the here and now.

What should you do?

A few years ago, I hoped that God would call me to do something radically different with my life. I had been an accountant for about 25 years and was unhappy in my job. I started blogging, which opened up a side of me that I had always suppressed. I started praying that God would lead me where he wanted me to be, hoping he would lead me to an opportunity that involved writing. When I heard nothing, I thought maybe I wasn’t listening closely enough or praying hard enough. Or, I thought, maybe God is too disappointed in me to call me to do anything for him.

One day as I prayed, it occurred to me that maybe where God wanted me to be is right where I am – seeking him, growing in my faith and learning to be more like Jesus.

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13).

Hannah Brencher wrote about the fear of missing God’s calling,¬†Don’t miss the call.¬†She was driven crazy by all the talk about God’s calling. Many of us think that if we mess up, our calling is not going to happen. But messing up is exactly what Jonah did when God told him to go to Nineveh to preach and he instead ran away. Even though Jonah resisted, God still used him for his purpose.

As I once did, we may want God to hurry up and reveal his “calling” to us. Our calling is not some far off goal that we will reach if we just pray hard enough. As Hannah wrote, “You are in the middle of your calling right now.” No matter what you’re going through right now, you’re in the right place.

Wendy van Eyck wrote about¬†why you don’t need to stress about finding your calling. She also learned some valuable truths from the story of Jonah. God will make the right things happen at the right time. God will not give up on us. “God is consistently, and lovingly, guiding us to the exact place he needs us to be right now.”

God works in us to fulfill his purpose, despite our ignorance or our inertia and even our resistance.

Focus on who you are

Our self-identity is based in part on¬†our relationships with other people. I am a daughter, sister, wife, friend and coworker. Many of the relationships come with conditions. But I don’t always meet everyone’s expectations; I mess up and let people down.

My sense of self also comes from what I do to make a living and how I choose to spend my spare time. My talents and interests give my life meaning and purpose, a reason for getting out of bed every day. If I do something well and people admire or appreciate my efforts, I feel competent and valued.

Because Jesus loves me, my identity is not dependent on what other people think of me or on what I do. He loves me because he loves me, not because of who I am or for what I do. Jesus chose me to be a part of his family, just as he chose his disciples. He loved his imperfect disciples and he loves me.

I am known by God and loved unconditionally. God knows every corner of my heart, the good and the bad. He created my inmost being. He knows what I will do before I do it. As flawed as I am, because he loves me, I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Focus on who you can become

God is the potter and I am the clay. When I submit my life to his hands, he is free to shape me into something useful and beautiful. He won’t lead me unless I give him the reins. I have to let him discipline me when I do wrong, just as a father disciplines his child. When I stumble and fall, he picks me up and puts me on the right path.

Jesus “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 2:14).

When Jesus saved me, I took off my old self and put on my new self. The new me is still flawed but it is continuously being renewed by his wisdom.

Jesus showed me who I can become. Merciful. Compassionate. Pure in heart. Forgiving. Humble. A peacemaker. A person who is eager to do what is good.

Focus on the inner work

When we become preoccupied with what we think we should be doing with our lives or where we want to be in the future, we may not appreciate the work God is doing here and now in our hearts. God doesn’t care whether you’re a waiter or an accountant or homemaker or any other kind of doer, as long as you do whatever you do with a heart that seeks him.

Instead of focusing on what you should be doing with your life, fix your eyes on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Make every effort to live in peace with others. See to it that no one misses out on the grace of God.

Reading List:

Genesis 17:5-7
Deuteronomy 7:6-8
Psalm 40:1-3; 139:1-18
Jeremiah 18:1-6
1 Corinthians 15:56-58
Colossians 3:10
Philippians 2:13
Titus 2:14
Hebrews 12:1-29
1 John 3:9; 4:19; 5:18

 

Remember who you once were and embrace your new identity

At the end of a sermon series called¬†“Living Deep,” my pastor handed out a list of practical steps to help us go deeper in our faith. He called the ninth step, “learn from your history and get wiser.” When I read this phrase, I thought he meant, learn from your mistakes. But after reading the Bible verses he shared, I think he was saying: “remember who you once were and embrace your new identity.”

One of the verses on the reading list was Deuteronomy 7:6, which says “For you are a people holy¬†to the¬†Lord¬†your God.¬†The¬†Lord¬†your God has chosen¬†you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”

Although the Old Testament story of God’s chosen people of Israel is not my history, I can relate to it and learn from it. It is a story of rebellion and disobedience, of second chances and God’s unfailing love. In Psalm 105, David reminded the descendants of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that God would forever remember the covenant he made. The prophet Jeremiah said that the Lord would make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah.

After reading about God’s chosen people in the Old Testament, I read the Parable of the Wedding Banquet in the New Testament. The last verse,¬†Matthew 22:14, struck me as significant because it says:¬†‚ÄúFor many are invited, but few are chosen.‚ÄĚ

The “All about Jesus” website explains¬†what the parable means. Jesus was alluding to the history of the people of Israel. The invited guests who refused to come to the wedding banquet are the descendants of Abraham who turned away from God to worship other gods. God sent deliverers to turn the hearts of his chosen people back to him. Even though his people rejected him, God kept trying to get them back. He warned them. He disciplined them. They were stiff-necked, refusing to repent. God sent messengers or prophets to warn his chosen people that they would be punished. In response, the Israelites killed God’s messengers.

Even so, God Рthe king who prepared the wedding feast Рdid not give up on mankind. We are his beloved creation. He made us and he loves us. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1) He loves us so much, he continues to invite the world to his banquet: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)

Jesus fulfilled the promise of a new covenant and made the old one obsolete (Hebrews 8:13).¬†For this reason Christ is the mediator of a¬†new¬†covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance‚ÄĒnow that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first¬†covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)

Those of us who have accepted the invitation to the wedding feast have a new identity in Christ.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise¬†by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.¬†¬†But God chose¬†the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.¬†¬†God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things‚ÄĒand the things that are not‚ÄĒto nullify the things that are,¬†¬†so that no one may boast before him.¬†It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus,¬†who has become for us wisdom from God‚ÄĒthat is, our righteousness,¬†holiness¬†and redemption.¬†Therefore, as it is written: ‚ÄúLet the one who boasts boast in the Lord.‚ÄĚ

– 1 Corinthians 26-31

I remember who I was before Jesus – a shy, young girl. I wasn’t special. I certainly wasn’t of noble birth. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Christ Jesus became my wisdom from God. God values the meek and the lowly. As a young woman, I wandered away from the God who had always been with me. Then about twenty years ago, something bad happened that reminded me how good God is. I remembered who I am in Christ. In him I find my worth, in him I find my identity.

Reading List

Psalm 105
Deuteronomy 7:6
Job 14:5
Isaiah 46:3-4
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 
2 Corinthians 5:17
Colossians 1:16
1 John 3:1; 4:9

You Say (Lauren Daigle)

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to knowYou say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, o-ooh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
Oh, I believe

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You have every failure God, and You’ll have every victory, o-ooh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

Oh I believe
Yes I believe
What You say of me
Oh I believe

Shema: Hear and Understand

My husband complained recently because I often ask “huh?” or “what?” when he speaks to me. I tried to blame it on age but I really can’t blame my habit on an inability to hear what he said. As he pointed out, after saying “huh” I will then respond to his question or comment. The problem is, my ears hear but my mind is not focused on his voice. It takes a moment for me to switch gears, focus on and digest what he said.

The Hebrew word shema was the sermon topic at my church today. My pastor broke down the meaning of each of the Hebrew letters of the word shema. The first letter resembles teeth biting down. The second letter stands for the unknown and the third means to see. Taken together, the word shema means press into + unknown + to see. Or put another way, bite down and understand.

Shema is more than hearing; it is listening and paying attention to the words so that you can understand and obey. It is active, not passive, listening.

The Shema is a Jewish prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Jesus quoted from the Shema when he was asked to name the greatest commandment. I read that the Shema prayer is like a pledge of allegiance to God. It is hearing God and being fully committed to him. It is listening and writing his word on your heart.

Jesus knew that you can hear and not hear intelligently. He knew that just because you have ears to hear, does not mean that you will understand.¬†You can hear God’s word and not act obediently.

Jesus knew that his words would be heard yet not take root in every heart (Matthew 13:19-21).

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

Jesus often spoke in parables because his words had a meaning that many people would not grasp.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

‚Äú‚ÄėYou will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

 

Whoever has ears to hear, let him understand. Let Jesus sow his word deep in your heart.

Dive deep & immerse yourself in Scripture

I am ever so slowly making my way through a list of steps my pastor gave the congregation to help us go deeper in our faith. I read the verses Pastor Brad provided to support the eighth step, “Immerse yourself in Scripture” and thought it would be easy to write about the verses. Instead, I found myself wrestling with a verse that Christian frequently quote.

2 Timothy 3:16

According to the New International Version translation of the Bible, the apostle Paul wrote that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” Christians often quote 2 Timothy 3:16 as evidence that every word of the Bible was inspired by God. In other words, the Bible is infallible.

Is every word of the Bible really infallible? If every word of Scripture is God-breathed, how do we explain inconsistencies? Did God, the supremely intelligent Creator, give Moses the inspiration to write a simplistic account of creation? When was Genesis written and why does it matter?

I searched for commentary on 2 Timothy 3:16 to find out what other people think of it. I found a long article written by Frank W. Nelte,¬†The Real Story Behind the Translation of 2 Timothy 3:16.¬† He believes that the original Greek was mistranslated; Paul’s statement is more accurately translated as “Every writing that has proceeded out of the mouth of God…” This translation is consistent with The New Testament translated by Richard Lattimore, who endeavored to keep the meaning as close to the Greek text as possible.

Every writing that is divinely inspired is also useful for teaching, for argument, for correction, for education in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete and equipped for every good work.

In addition to wrestling with the issue of whether the entire Bible is inspired by God, I struggle to see the usefulness of much of the Old Testament writings. The Old Testament includes the Pentateuch (The Law of Moses), books on prophesy, books on the history of Israel, and poetic and wisdom writings. While useful in understanding the big picture themes of the Bible, I learn and grow more by reading about Jesus and the good news of the gospel.

I remember reading that Thomas Jefferson compiled his own version of the Bible (The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, now known as the Jefferson Bible) by editing out the parts he didn’t like or believe to be credible. According to Wikipedia, Jefferson had high regard for the moral teachings of Jesus but did not believe in miracles or the supernatural. While I don’t want to use Jefferson’s approach to studying the Bible – picking and choosing my favorite parts, I do want to study Scripture intelligently.

Immerse yourself in His Word

Now that I’ve reflected on the meaning of 2 Timothy 3:16, I have fine-tuned my pastor’s advice for going deeper in my faith. Immerse yourself in God’s word.¬†Every word that comes directly from the mouth of God and every word inspired by God is useful for growing spiritually.

His word teaches me.

His word corrects me.

His word penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of my heart.

His word endures forever; it stands the test of time.

Every word from his mouth sustains me. I treasure it more than my daily bread.

His word accomplishes the purpose for which he sent it.

He sent his Word to heal me.

The Word is my rock and my foundation.

The Word is alive and active.

The Word lives in me!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Reading List

Job 23:12
Isaiah 40:8; 55:11
Psalm 107:20
Matthew 4:4; 7:24-27
Luke 11:28
Colossians 3:16
2 Timothy 3:16 
1 John 2:14