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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Is It Time Yet?

I always got a kick out of our first glimpse of the adult Jesus at a party with his mother. When she asks Him to do something, He tells her He doesn't think it's a good idea.  Sounds like conversations I've had with my own thirty-something son:
"Not now, Mom."
"Really? Now?"
Sounds a bit like what Jesus said to his own mother:
Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.--John 2:4
At least He called her 'dear woman.'
But, aside from the common familiar comedy of it, the situation reminds me of something important.
Even in the kingdom of God, there are times for things.

Jesus knew this at the above wedding, when He told His mom that it was not yet time for Him to be acclaimed for public miracles.
He knew this later, when His friends went to Jerusalem for the festival, but He did not:
Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do.--John 7:6
He also knew when His time had finally come:
Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified."--John 12:23

And He also knew when the time had not only come, but was over:
 “It is finished.”--John 19:30

It is the same for us.
There are times for things.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to reap, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance...--Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

It's true.
Once a life situation begins, it will probably end.
Once we pick something up, we will probably have to put it down.
Once we take someone into our life, we will probably have to let them go.

Not worship, love, or my battle with sin, of course. Those will continue all my life.
But the others? They will all, at some time, end.
And it's OK.
Their time has either not yet come, or is over.
Really.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Spitting Images Sometimes Still Spit

Two peas in a pod...
Frick and frack...
It's reassuring to be like someone. 
More than likely, your best friends are like you in many ways. It's how we get along.

But it's not how we grow.
God did not make a church of identical twins. Instead, He made complementary parts.
Just as each one of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.--Romans 12:4

But we don't like that.  We want people just like us. We want the minister to preach in a way that reaches us. We want the kind of music that moves us. We want a liturgy that is meaningful to us.
And we expect it to reach, and move, and be meaningful to everybody else, too.

Well, that is not God's plan.
We are different.  And we are stuck with each other.
We do not get to change other people to be like us.
And we do not get to divide ourselves from them because they are different.

The church is meant to be more like a family, complete with weird Uncle Ralph and crazy Grandma Mabel.  Or maybe a husband who just doesn't understand us. Or a child who has broken our heart. They are an intentional gift from God. We are supposed to learn to love them exactly as they are.

Spitting images get along pretty effortlessly, but we rarely have the opportunity to find out. More often, we share our lives with people very different from ourselves and have to figure out how to share in peace. It is good. God would have us make the effort.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Born by Will

Of all children physically born into this world, of all ages and times, only Jesus Christ chose to do it.
I did not choose to be born.  Neither did you.
I did not choose my time, my place, or my parents.
But He did.

And, by doing so, by inhabiting a physical body, by living and dying, He made it possible for us to do the same.
Now, we can be born by our own choice and the Father's will, just like He was.

To those who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God--children born not out of natural descent, nor of human decision, or a husband's will, but born of God.--John 1:12-13

By believing we choose, and we are made new.
As Christ was born by His own consent to fulfill His Father's purpose, so can we be.
And when we are, Christmas shines through us all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Just Wanted You to Understand

It is not my job to make people understand.
What? What about evangelizing? What about the Great Commission?
Sorry. Not my job.Not that, and not a lot of other stuff, too.
At least not unless God gives it to me.

So, what is my job? To listen and obey.
That's it.  Always.
It was the same for Jesus.
The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.--John 14:31
To obey is better than sacrifice.--1Samuel 15:22

In the life He has given me, God has not made the salvation of strangers my primary concern. Unless my life dramatically changes, evangelism takes a back seat to being a godly wife and mother and grandmother and employee, and writer, and teacher. He has already placed those front and center. I must leave them there until He replaces them, and trust that He knows what He is doing, even if it doesn't look like other people expect.

And I do not need to explain this to anyone. Neither do you.
Saint Augustine said, "Oh, Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself."
And I do lust for it--to be clearly understood, to just make someone understand why. I want it badly.  And that is lust and lust is sin.
I just wanted you to understand.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cries in Ramah

It's nearly Christmas.
We are not supposed to be crying.
But we do.
Horrible things happen and we do.

Sometimes, we cannot muster up the requisite Christian joy.
But for those times, God gives us hope.
Hope: the gift God gives when we believe, in spite of circumstance, that He loves us.

"Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage.  Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.--Augustine of Hippo

So, if there is no joy for the moment, hope bears us up. And later, joy will come.

On earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart! I have over come the world.--John 16:32-33 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Do Not Forget

God does not forgive, much less forget.
At least not in the way we most often think about it.
Just saying.

He never makes our sins just go 'poof!' and disappear. 
He does, however, move them.
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.--Isaiah 44:22
...as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.--Psalm 103:12
But He does not make sin disappear until somebody dies.

When we know we are guilty, He does not forgive.
When we repent, He does not forgive.
Only after somebody dies does God forgive and, for us, God wants that person to be Jesus.

When we repent and believe, our sins are moved to Jesus' back, and He died for them, all of them. 
If we don't repent and believe, we are stuck with our own sins, forever, all the way into eternity, where we must do the dying for them.

Imagine that, every time we lie, a soldier drives another nail through Jesus' hand into the cross.
Every time we cheat or betray or love the world,--another nail, and another and another.
Don't kid yourself.
If you expect forgiveness, this must happen. It must. Either that, or you hang on to your sins right into hell.
The only way out is to stop sinning, which we should probably give serious consideration.
But forgetting may not be such a good idea.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Don't You Dare Kiss Me

The Bible tells us to be gentle.  It tells is to be patient, too, and to forbear with one another.
"I can do that," I think.
When someone cuts in line at the grocery, I can keep my mouth shut.
When I'm picking up socks for the fifth day in a row, I can almost smile.
When I get passed up for a promotion, I can try harder next time.
I'm doing pretty good.
Ha.

How about if the person in the grocery cuts off my arm instead of cutting in line?
What if I must pick up a sword rather than socks?
Or if I get chosen for the gas chamber rather than passed up for promotion?
It gets a little harder, doesn't it?
But Jesus did it, and He did it for Judas, who He knew would sell Him out.

Just before Judas walked out of the upper room to collect his thirty pieces of silver, what did Jesus do?
He prayed for him, he took off his robe, knelt before him to wash his dirty, smelly, betraying feet, and then Jesus fed Judas' conniving body with His own body and blood, the bread of life and the cup of salvation.
He forbore with Judas' outright evil  not only without complaint, but without apparently even noticing. 
And me?
I bristle with annoyance at the hint of a perceived wrong.
I know offense at the smallest slight.

A person who needs a bath needs only wash his feet; his whole body is clean.  And you are not clean, though not every one of you.  You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.--John 13:10, 7

Later you will understand.  Later--like now.
Thank you, Jesus, for training me with socks and checkout lines.
And please, please forgive my sad selfishness.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Real Zombie Walk

Everybody's talking about a coming zombie apocalypse.
I used to think they were joking.

After all, what is a zombie?
The dictionary says it is "the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose."
Colloquial observation  tells me that a zombie is a mindless, soulless, automaton. Neither reason nor sentiment affects it.  Kill one if you can, because nothing else will stop it.

Don't think you've run up against a zombie lately? 
You have. 
Every time we see someone intentionally follow a course they know is wrong or destructive.
Every time someone refuses responsibility they know is rightfully theirs.
Every time someone denies obvious truth or reason.
Every time someone does wrong because someone else has. 

Take a close look at their blank stare. You've seen it before, and often. 
 And what's worse, we've been warned:
They refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears.--Zechariah 7:11
They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.--2Timothy 4:4
Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.--Isaiah 6:10
To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears and closed so they cannot hear.--Jeremiah 6:10

People who function without thought, without reflection, without reason--they are the zombies. They probably won't groan or wear that telltale blood on their shirt, but they are zombies nonetheless. 

And, in their own way, they are just as dangerous.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Only Miracle

Jesus, the very Power of God, showed the world who He was in part by performing miracles.
To do this, He had to approach the filthy and festering, the poor and vile.  They were all the same to Him.
They were sinners who needed His miracle.
And so am I.
I need His miracle, too.

This is what I ask of my God--
As You made them see again, give me sight.
As You made them hear, open my ears to holy Truth.
As You made them walk, keep my steps turned toward your leading.
As You cured withered hands, keep mine devoted to your service.
As You raised them from dead, keep me in new life.

Now, Christ healed generously in kindness and compassion, but I know that part of the healing is my responsibility.  I have, in this transaction, something to do, too.
I must truly desire change.
What do you want me to do for you?--Mark 10:51
That is the hardest part.
I must want the miracle so badly that I stop being what I am, what I have nurtured and built in myself, the only 'me' I know.

Instead, I must zealously follow Him, look for Him, desire Him.
I must trust Him.
I must listen.
I must love Him with my whole heart, soul, and mind.

Then I will receive the real miracle.
There is, after all, only one.
It isn't the healed hand or the seeing eye or the sure step.
The miracle is only and always the glimpse of Himself that He brings every day.
Say only the word, and my soul shall be healed.--Matthew 8:8

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Slaughter of the Innocents--Why, God?

Can you hear them?
Keening in the lonely nights.  Desperate clinging to what is no more.  Sweet, cooling flesh.
God did not stop them, the soldiers who came with swords.

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.  Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, for her children are no more."--Matthew 2:16-18

The children died without having lived, and they haunt us.
And it happens still.
We don't understand--not then, not now.

I don't know why this happens, but I hear the children's cry, the cry quieted forever almost before it is uttered.  And I weep for them, too--for all of them.
But at the same time, I know that they are spared.  They rest in the one place for which I still long.
They died too soon, too soon, but they will never know what we have to live every day--
the yawning separation, and the long, struggling creep back into God's arms.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sin--It's Not Just Evil Anymore

Murder. Adultery. Lies. ---Sin.
I recognize them.  They are evil.  All of them.
God says not to do them.  I get it, and generally, do pretty well at it.
But somehow, in the niggling back of my mind, I knew I wasn't done.

Christ showed me why.
He did it in the desert.  Alone, hungry, weak, and bedeviled:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.--Matthew 4:1
And how did the Master Tempter beguile Him?
...tell these stones to become bread.
...thrown yourself down.
...all this I will give you.--Matthew 4:4,6,9

Satan tempted Jesus with food, with rescue, and with the power He already possessed.  By itself, none of these things were bad.  Christ, in another situation at another time, could have reached out and taken any one of them without sin. 
But not then.  Not there.

And so it is for us.
Sin does not come only in the footsteps of evil deeds like murder or deception or betrayal.
It comes at the dinner table, at our desk, in our bed.
In perfectly innocent-sounding activities, but ones God has forbidden in that place and time.

We fast by God's command and forsaking a fast is sin.
That donut, or that nap, or that good-looking charitable activity, is not evil by itself, but today, it might be sin.
Even Jesus had to look at something He wanted in His flesh, something He might have the next day or the one after that but right then, He, like we, had to look it in the eye and say,
Away from me, Satan!--Matthew 4:10

The beauty of all this comes when we look away from the thing dangling before us, that temptation, and see what God wanted us to see in the first place, the whole point of the exercise:
Himself.


And, after we have seen, He sends His angels to minster to us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What We Should Be

A while back, the US Army ran an ad campaign that urged potential soldiers to "Be all You Can Be."
Good advice, I thought.  And not just for soldiers, but for anyone.
But maybe I was wrong.  At least some of the time.

After all, Jesus wasn't.
Christ Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death–even death on a cross!--Philippians 2:6-8

When He became a man, Jesus was not all He could be.
He is God.  He reached His potential when He created the world, when He defeated Satan, and will do so again when He comes back to finally reclaim this world.
As a man, Jesus was clearly underachieving.

So, in following Jesus' example, are we ever to do the same?
Maybe.
Why did Jesus do it, anyway?
...the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.--John 14:31

And if that meant to lay aside His Godhead and become a man, so be it.
What does that look like for us?
If I love God and He wants me to teach someone how to fish rather than do the fishing myself, I must.
If I love God and He wants me to lay aside my leadership or capability in favor of a husband or an employer, I must.
If I love God and He wants me to let someone fail rather than bail them out, I must.

God gave us all gifts, but we are to exercise them only as God commands.
I not only have to consider what I can do, but must stop to think whether I should.
Perhaps the right slogan should not read "Be All You Can Be" but "Be What the God You Love Wants You to Be."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Age Didn't Bring

I am getting older.
So are you, in case you didn't know.

Now, I have expectations for aging.
I know that I will likely lose skin and muscle tone.  I may develop health problems and wrinkles.  I will feel different, look different.
And I also thought that I would have more leisure.

I truly expected to have long hours for contemplation, days in which I could find the kind of peace that allow for sweet silent worship, but it hasn't come.
Instead, the world stirs itself into disorder all around me and while it does, I must live in it, like a chunk of carrot continually bubbling up from the bottom of a furiously boiling pot of soup.
Shut it off, I think.  Shut it off or it will burn.

Little by little, the world is taking on hell's cacophony.

I can find islands of quiet and peace in this world, but all around them, disorder mounts.
I should have expected this, but somehow, well, didn't.  The world disintegrates around my refuge, pressing itself to destruction and, as it does, the people around me need more, draw closer.  The world falls apart as the demand on God's people increase.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?--Psalm 13:1-2

Still, God is there, whether peace and stillness comes or not.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise for he has been good to me.--Psalm 13:5-6

The battle may pause between actions, but no long rest will come.  Not now.
The only rest we will know waits at the end of all things.
My job is not to defeat the enemy.  God has already done that.
My battle is to follow Him to the end.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Rules of Forgiveness

I'm trying to understand the rules of forgiveness.
If the Bible doesn't contradict itself, and it doesn't, then how does this work?
God tells me to
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.--Colossians 3:13

OK. So, how does He forgive?
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins--Colossians 2:13
So, He forgave me before I repented.

But then He says,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.-1John 1:9
In other words, I must repent to be forgiven. 

So which is it?

Well, it's both.

When Christ went to Calvary, He proclaimed forgiveness and freedom for all men, although most of them did not know Him, had not even acknowledged His godhead, much less repented.
He did it all, all He could do.
But men still have free will, the free will He gave them.
Jesus did all of his part.  Men were forgiven, but their relationship with Him was not yet repaired.
It takes repentance to do that. 
When we acknowledge and repent of sin, we restore our communion with God.

And that is how we must forgive.
We do what we can while the offender is still clueless, still dead in sin.  We forgive him as Christ forgave us.  Without recompense, without expectation.
Then, sooner or later, he may acknowledge and apologize, repenting for his sin.
That is when, as in Christ, are we restored.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Another Blood

The Bible tells us that King David of Israel had a heart for God.  And he did. But he was not weak, nor was he sweet, nor meek.  King David was made and commissioned by God for war.  And he was good at it.

He began his career by killing the giant Goliath and while he reigned, Israel fought enemies on all sides.  King David knew the color of blood, and the smell of it, and the taste of it.  And when he grew old, he tired of it.

By the end of his life, David wanted not to destroy any longer, but to build.  First, though, he decided to assess his kingdom.  He desired to see the scope of what he had done so far.  He had fought so many years; he wanted to find out what he had accomplished, so he commissioned a census.  And he counted his people.

He had built an empire, a far reaching one of more than a million and a half fighting men. 
But God was not pleased with David.

During his life, David had conquered many lands and killed many men at God's command.  And God blessed him for his obedience.  But this counting God neither commanded nor sanctioned.  
Of all the things David had done, this peaceful, seemingly innocuous action angered God.
And David would spill another kind of blood.

Men would die this time, not because David was obedient, but because he had sinned.
So the Lord sent a pestilence in Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell.--1Chronicles 21:14

This new blood left a mark all the other had not.  And David would pay for his disobedience.
Then, only then, after all the love and reverence, after all the songs, after all the years of drawing his sword in God's name, only then did God tell David he had done wrong.
You had shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a Temple in my name for you have shed much blood on the ground before me.--1Chronicles 22:8

This last disobedience, not the years of faithful, if bloody, following, disqualified David from building the Lord's temple.
And so it still does.
The blood of disobedience, of pride, of lust, can never honor God.
But there is a blood of another kind, blood shed by specifically commissioned men according to God's intentional command. That blood leaves another stain, the stain of holy obedience, the stain of sacrifice, the same stain that gathered at the foot of the cross on Calvary.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pay Attention!

Did you ever hold  wild bird in your hand?
So light, so small, so fleeting...bound to fly away at the slightest flinch.
Its quick, small weight is a rare gift and too soon gone.
I have to pay attention every minute lest it vanishes.

That bird is like God, whose nearness is also a fragile thing.

God--fierce, constant, powerful God--always hovers close by.  He occupies the very air. His love, ethereal and palpable, bears rare,  precious weight.

But it can fly away in an instant of inattention.
Although God, for His part, always loves, always protects, my own wavering drives Him off, just out of reach.

That is why I nurture my closeness to God like a sweet rare bird in the palm of my hand, knowing that, though He never changes, when I succumb to random motion, He will flutter off to a nearby branch and wait there until I am still again.

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,--Isaiah 54:10

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Works for Me...

Forty years.
Why did God make Moses and his Jews wander around in the desert for forty years?  Why not twenty? Why not fifty?

What happens in forty years. anyway?
People die, that's what.  Two generations die.
In forty years, God knew that virtually none of the people who He rescued from Egypt would still be alive.  None of the ones who worshiped the golden calf.  None of the ones who complained about not having onions.  None of them, not even the babies.

 Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.--Numbers 14:33

After forty years, none of those Jews still living would have remembered anything about their life in Egypt.  They all would have grown up in the desert.  They would know nothing of lush harvests or emerald rivers.  They would know only sand and sun and manna and God.  And they would be grateful for the promised land.

God thinks in terms of generations. Men do not.
Even Hezekiah, who came to know God and to teach his whole kingdom about Him, didn't get that God does not just care about individuals.  He cares about legacies.

 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
“The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”--Isaiah 39:5-8 

In other words, Hezehiah thought, "It may suck to be you, but it works for me..."
God doesn't agree.

What damage does generational faithlessness produce?
Examine your own heritage. 
What did your grandparents do or know that has been lost?
Did a grandparent build or sing or sew or cook something that has disappeared forever?
Did they know how to survive without car or grocery store or telephone?
Does they have a heritage of faith that has dwindled from misuse?

Two generations and it is lost.  Gone, and irretrievable.
Forfeiting what was good from prior generations steals from our children.
We keep the faith of our fathers today not just because it benefits ourselves, but so that we can build an unbroken chain of those who know and love God for the future.

And you shall teach them your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house,
and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.--Deuteronomy 11:19



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Look of Real Horror

Aliens vs Godzilla
The Tomato that Ate Cleveland
Halloween 25
It's that time of year again, when horror becomes the pastime du jour.

But most of what passes for horror is only silliness.
Want to see real horror?
Try repentance.

Don't bother looking into the ridiculously manufactured faces of Jason or Frankenstein.
Try looking into the face of our holy God, knowing that you have offended Him and that He does not have to do more than think about your death to make it happen, and that His face turned away will be eternity in howling darkness.
Think about sin, your sin.

You will know when you get it, when the reality of it dawns on you.
You will know.

Why have these people turned away?..They cling to deceit;..no one repents of his wickedness, saying, "What have I done?--Jeremiah 8:5-6

"What have I done?"
The sadness, the devastating reality, the...repentance.
That is horror. Real horror.
Not the movies, not any fright fest, no trick or treating.

We have to go there, you know. And often.
Repentance is not a Sunday thing, not a just-before-church thing, not even a daily thing.
The best repentance comes right away, moment by moment, the same way we sin.

"What have I done?"
And when we know, and repent, Christ will show us again what He has done.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jew for a Day

I am trying to imagine myself a Jew today.
Or a Buddhist, or a Mohammedan, or a Muslim.
I know that God exists.  
He made me. His power drives the world.
Somewhere, from up high and far away, He influences my life.

I try to serve Him. I try to obey Him. I reach out to love Him, to draw near to Him, but He is too terrible, too far.
He speaks to men sometimes, but they don't benefit much from the conversation.  They are too flawed themselves.
Such men have stood so near God as to hear His voice in thunder and whisper, to feel the heat of His fire, to witness His blinding brightness, but even then, they fail.
They smash His personally engraved tablets in a fit of anger.
They fear their king so deeply that they tell him their wife is their sister.
They sleep with their captain's wife, then kill him to cover it up.
No, these men, though they have spoken with God, do not help much at all.

And, because I am a Jew, there is no Jesus.
God shows no gentleness, little mercy, no offered fellowship, no shared humanity.
I long for God, but know that He will not share His heaven with the likes of me.
I can never know my God.

Then I remember Simeon:
Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for the face of all people; a light to  lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of your people Israel.--Luke 2:29-32

He saw Jesus on the day of His presentation in the Temple.
One look.  That's all it took to change an impossible contradiction into hope and a future.
One look.
Not a God far away, but God in my own skin.
Simeon, a faithful Jew, but as sad and impatient as the rest, had waited for the promise.
And it came.
It came to him in the same way that it comes to everyone--in one moment.

I look up and He is there.
My Savior lives.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

We, the Needy

OK, so you aren't rich.
Most of us aren't.
Or are we?  I mean, rich compared to who?
We might not be rich compared to Bill Gates, but how about compared to someone living in the Middle Ages, who feared plague or walked in cow dung every day? Or in Renaissance Europe, when courtiers carried perfumed hankies because people and places stank so badly? Or modern Ethiopia, where starvation kills thousands of people every day?
We are, in fact, richer than we ordinarily think.

Admit it.
We live in a place and time of comfort and privilege.  No one dies of starvation here.  We do not wake to the sound of gunfire. Our lives are luxuriant beyond that of ancient kings.

But are very poor in one way.  We can no longer see God.
We are the ones Jesus spoke of when He said,
Blessed are they who have not seen, yet believe.--John 20:29

We have not seen.
Moses, Abraham, and Noah have long ago died. The burning bush is extinguished.  The voice on Sinai is silent. Jesus does not walk among us.  We cannot, by word of mouth, learn of something He did just yesterday in the next town.

We need one thing those poorer people did not.
If we are to know God, we must have faith.
No earthly privilege will bring it.
No wealth can buy it.
We will not stumble upon it hanging on a cross in the town square.

Still, God made us for this time.
Faith is part of our intended destiny and, indeed, it is our privilege.
Because we cannot see, we must believe.
My Lord and my God!--John 20:28
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.--Psalm 145:18

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Waaaaa!

What do you cry about?
Be honest.
Sadness, loneliness, loss, physical pain, emotional hurt?
More often then not, this is the audio to that:  "Me. Me. Me."
Even empathy for someone else transfers from our own remembered pain.
Our tears are almost always all about us.
I do it, too.

We begin at birth with a cry of outrage when life smacks us with cold and discomfort, and we wail at its first assaults.
And they keep coming.
And, when they seem too much, we cry.

Did Jesus cry at birth?
He felt the pain and cold, too, but did He cry?
He wept later, but in very specific circumstances--over the sins of His people, and again at Lazarus' grave.  He wept for the death of people he loved. In no recorded instance did He cry over personal loneliness, insult, betrayal, or desertion.
Not like we do.
Jesus' flesh felt every body blow as deeply as our does, but He did not cry over them.
Why not?

Think about Him at His weakest moment--in the garden, sweating blood in an agony of anticipated suffering.
"Let this cup pass", He begged, but it would not.
He had come to the end of His human resources, but He did not cry.
I cry because I do not master my flesh.
Jesus, Master of all things, did.

He felt every pain, every hurt, as deeply as I do, but He did not give in to them.
Why not?  What was the difference?
He knew Himself.
He knew His Father.
He had already won.
I am supposed to know this, too, and in this knowledge, self-pity has no place.

Can I hold His kind of mastery over myself all the time?  No.
But in this, like in all things, Christ says,
"Follow Me."
"Be holy."
"My yoke is easy."

From the very first ones, all of my tears have been selfish.
Yes, tears sometimes come as a release, too, and I will still shed these, but I have no real reason to cry. Not ever.  Not really.
My Savior lives. He loves and cares for me.
What could I possibly cry about in the face of that?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

So Far Away...

Warning: You might not like this post.

Something has been bothering me for a long time.
Something about mission trips, and public ministry, and faith extravaganzas.
We plan them, we talk them up, we go to them.
And they look good.  They bring God into public view and seem to honor Him.  Some say that they change the lives of those who witness them, and maybe they do.

But is it possible that we are also hiding behind them?
Are we hiding our own inadequacies, our own distance from God?
For whom do we travel to a distant place, dance, or sing, or preach or perform streetcorner dramas?  For unbelievers?  Really?

Maybe.
And maybe we do it to drag our own sorry behinds back to God.

I know this:
We stay close to the ones we love, if not bodily, then in spirit.
If we want to connect with someone we care about, we do not have far to go--they will hear a sigh, a whisper.  We will not need to shout.   If we want to touch them, we need only lean in their direction.   They are already near.

It is the same with Christ.  We need to stay near Him, too.
My lover is mine and I am His.--Song of Solomon 2:16

If we care about our Savior, we will not need any spectacular display.  We draw near to Him with little prayers and exclamations, with everyday favors and tender moment-by-moment murmurs because He is already close by.

And He is there because He is our dearest love, and the place we find the beauty of holiness.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

It's All About the Feet

NFL players are lacing up pink shoes for their games these days.  They are not doing it to make a fashion statement, but, after the game, to auction them for charity. And buyers pay big money for them.
Why?  Aren't they just shoes?

Yes, they are only shoes, but, oh, the feet that wore them! That's what folks pay for.
Like the guitar John Lennon played, or a pen that signed the Declaration of Independence, an object can be elevated beyond its intrinsic value by its user.

Ok, you get that.
Now, pinch yourself.
You are made of flesh and blood.  We each occupy our own body and most of us are nothing special, pretty much like one another in composition and appearance.

But what if God put on identical flesh and blood, pulled on our own skin, and age, and pain? What if He laced up a human body as His version of a pink football shoe?  How would that flesh change?

Well, He did it, of course.
God did take on flawed flesh and wore it in His own game.
He wore it every moment...all the way into the end zone.
And when He did that, He changed the flesh, the game, everything.

Aaron Rodgers' pink shoes are still just pink shoes, though, just like before he put them on.
When God took on our humanity, our sickness and death became something else.
He not only made us part of Him, but He put part of Himself in us.
And the one body, the one He wore, He eventually put aside, perpetually undefiled, because it was His.

When Jesus put on flesh, He declared that He wants us to be like Him--not in exaltation, but in sacrifice and humility.
"Be holy," He says, not as men made to be Gods, but like God made man. 

Who, being in very nature God...made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness..." --Philippians 2:6-7
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only...--John 1:14

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Banging on the Door

God wants to meet me alone in the dark.
He wants me to go into a quiet place, to shut the door, and to concentrate on Him alone.
No distractions, no interruptions.

When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.--Matthew 6:6

And then He sends me life.
A thousand details.
Every day.
Like toddlers banging on the bathroom door they come, crying, "Me, me, me..."

Make beds.  Do dishes. Change diapers. Check off lists. Make appointments. Drive someone to practice. Return phone calls. Kiss an owie. Pack a lunch. Dust.

And He sends all this stuff on purpose.
He does it to teach me to love Him.

He knows that love is born in details.
When I do something big, something significant for God, I learn to love the act, not Him, or love the result or, worse yet, myself.
"Thank you for this opportunity to serve you, God and, by the way, look at the cool thing I did. Didn't I do a good job?"
On the other hand, a temporarily dry bottom or the top of a refrigerator finally wiped clean or a prayer said on the way to the grocery never inspires such obvious congratulation.

In small works of devotion, the ones invisible to all but God Himself, we encounter Him alone.
He sent me these responsibilities.  He put them in my path.  They come from Him as gifts for communion.
And they make me more like Him.

Small, insignificant tasks become, if I let them, the prayers I say without ceasing.
Whatever you do, whether word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through Him.--Colossians 3:17

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Only One Thing: Love and A Good Hair Day

You know what your hair looks like in the morning.
It's everywhere, sticking up in all directions--bunched up, knotted.
And one of the first things you do is to run a brush through the mess.
Bet you didn't know it was like the Spirit giving love.

Let's start here:
The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.--Galatians 5:21

The fruit.
Not fruits.  One thing.
Love IS joy, IS peace, IS patience, and all the rest.
All connected, all imparted at the same time from the Spirit.

 And it all comes from love.
God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Whom He has given us.--Romans 5:5

The Spirit is the one Source from which we example all the ways that changed who we once were into someone God now recognizes as His own, remade in His image.
Obedient divine love transforms the tangled mess of our life into the reflection of God Himself.

When God sends His Spirit, He gives us the one thing, the only thing, that tames our wild disarray of sin.
We slept in sin, and in the process made a mess of our life, but when morning came, the Spirit greeted us with the light of new life and love.

Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.--Ephesians 5:14
...only one thing is needed, and it will not be taken away from her.--Luke 10:42

We should see, when we look in the mirror, not the disheveled head of sin, but the beautifully adorned image of our God.
And that is a good hair day indeed.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sniffing Does't Work

I get lots of inspirations from God.  Don't you?
And, boy, do they look good.
All of them.
Start a Bible study.  Go on a retreat.  Take Aunt Mabel shopping.  Write a book.

They take me in all kinds of directions.--first one way, then another.
I work, and work, and sometimes very little gets done.
It feels like I'm sniffing my way around, looking for the right scent.
I feel frustrated, scattered, wasted.
Is anything getting accomplished?  Do my efforts produce anything of value?

Satan provides inspiration, too, and he doesn't worry about how many ideas or "inspirations" we have, or how many plans we make, as long as nothing gets done. 

God's way looks different.
Whether you turn to the right and to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, This is the way.  Walk in it.--Isaiah 30:21

God always tells us the way to go.  Are we listening?
How often do I forsake a smaller, obvious good in favor of a vague future that looks better but never comes to pass? 
God's vision doesn't ever look like ours.
It often looks smaller, less ambitious, than the ones we sniff at so ardently, but it is, in the end, straighter.

Each one went straight ahead.  Wherever the Spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went.--Ezekiel 1:12

A dog smells his way and, in the process, gets constantly distracted.
We are to watch and listen for God to go before us, then follow not our nose, but Him.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Being Beethoven

"How do I know God's will?" she asked me.
"How can I be sure I am doing what He wants me to do?"
Good question.

Anything we do, God Himself can do better, so what, after all, does God want from us?
And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.--Micah 6:8

Yes, yes, I know that. But what to DO?
God gives us stuff to do not because He needs us to get it done for Him, but because He wants us to seek Him in it.

Seek Him first, last, and always...then do what seems right until we can't do it any more.

Don't concentrate on the result. 
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.--Isaiah 55:9

Do what God gives us to do because He gave it.  
He manages the result.
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.--1Corinthians 3:61
We cultivate devotion to God.  He brings in the harvest.

Beethoven was nearly deaf when he composed his ninth symphony.  He never heard it, but he wrote it, and conducted it, with such genius and fervor that almost everyone recognizes its Ode to Joy:

God asks us, too, to play the notes even when we can't hear the music.
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.  I will sing and make music.  Awake, my soul.  Awake, harp and lyre.  I will awaken the dawn.--Psalm 57:71
Play on, and our love for God becomes our true song.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Now Where Was I?

My husband does not want me to use herbicides.
But I want a perfect, weedless garden.
For 30 years, we have wrangled about this.
It needs to stop.

But how?  Nobody wants to give in.  We both think we are right and, from our own perspectives, we are.  After all, no biblical principle hinges on whether I spray Roundup on the creeping charlie.
Or does it?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.--Matthew 5:3,5
A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.--Proverbs 29:23
I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the contrite.--Isaiah 57:15

Think about it.
What makes us really humble?
Is it bowing and shuffling when someone tells me that I have done something well?  No.  That makes me secretly proud.
Am I humbled when I experience defeat after striving to do or learn something?  No.  As often as not, that simply spurs me on to try harder next time.

But obedience, now that breeds humility.
Doing what someone else wants, not what I want, when I know my idea or plan is just as valid as theirs.  Setting aside my own will in situations where all I sacrifice is me.
That's humility.

Of course, I should never set aside my holiness, my love and devotion to God, but all else can be well lost.

And it feels nasty.
Is not my opinion or desire of value?
Of course it is.  That's why setting it aside takes so much effort.
I am humbled by giving up my will not because it has no validity, but because it does.

Some positions are not important enough to fight over.
But they make great tools by which to learn holiness.

Obedience in these issues is how I push aside the extraneous parts of me, how I enter into the holy of holies, where my humanity takes a back seat to God's supremacy.

Humility was never about my position before other men.  
It was always about my position before God.
And, as it turns out, pulling weeds.
I am always with you.  You hold me by my right hand.--Psalms 73:23

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Beyond the Bandaid

I am concerned about my son.
No--that's not right.
Just say it.
I'm worried about him.

Never mind why.  The reason doesn't much matter because he's a grown man and I can't do much about it.
But that doesn't stop the love.  Or the worry.

In fact, his maturity increases the concern because my ability to influence his situation decreases with his increasing age.
Unlike when he scraped his knee falling off a bike or when little Jimmy took a poke at him on the playground, I can't kiss away his hurt.
I can't fix it.
And parents are fixers.

So what do I do?  God has some advice:
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Choose life, so that you and your children may live...Deuteronomy 30:19a

I want life and blessings for my children, but I can't get them by fixing their hurts and problems.  I do it by choosing God.

Can I bring my sons practical help?  Sure.  In fact, I should.
But that help is only a bandaid in the larger scheme of things.

My choosing God, however--walking with Him before my children and the world--gives God the opportunity He craves to do what only He can do.

How do I know this?  He told me:
Listen to His voice and hold fast to Him, for the Lord is your life.--Deuteronomy 30:19b

Choosing God first will probably alter the kind of bandaid I apply to my son's owie.
Choosing God first may open the wound farther so He can clean it out properly.
But choosing God brings real healing and everlasting life.
And that is what a mother ultimately wants for her sons.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pleasure and Pleasant Places

The world is big and wonderful and full of cool stuff--stuff God made specifically for us to use.  And, as I've already said, (Don't Blame the Apple) God declared it all good.  All of it.  He did not stutter.

But--yes, there's a but--He also sends a caution.

I can, in good conscience, enjoy everything God made so long as I do nothing sinful,
I can do all of this,  but...
...not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive.--1Corinthians 10:23

God wants us to enjoy what He made, but these pleasures should only sweeten the straight way, like berries that line our road to heaven.  We may pick and enjoy them, but we are not to stray from the straight path to over-fill our bucket.  God made the berries and they are yummy,
but they are only pleasant, not necessary.

God promised to thrill us with what He has made.
But even He, when He walked the earth, never failed to remember the goodness of the Lord, not the pleasure of  living, as most important.  We must do likewise.

I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.--Psalm 27:13

The trick for us is to find both the Lord's goodness and what is beneficial among the world's welcome pleasures without letting our focus stray.  We have to hold on to the loving Lord who made all of these pleasures, and not gather closely the all-too-sweet world that offers so many of them.

Pleasures exist so that we use them, not for us to be used by them.
That's why it's called self-control.
Pick your berries, but stay in charge.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Don't Blame the Apple

Christians don't drink.
They don't smoke either, or eat too much, or talk too much, or spend too much.
I can find Bible verses to back these up.
And every one of them would bear a degree of truth, but I would be missing the point.

Our God made the world and everything in it.  And He said it was what?
He said it was good.  All of it.
He made wine, and tobacco, and lots of yummy food, and the ability to speak, and wealth.
He did not make a mistake when He did it.
He wants us to find pleasure in what He made.

A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work.  This, too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or drink or find enjoyment?--Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

But, this is the point that we usually miss when we talk about drinking or smoking or any of the rest.
God wants us to find pleasure in what He made for us to use, but He wants more than that for us to find pleasure in Him and to use His creation to bring Him glory.

The Bible tells us not to get drunk, not to give in to gluttony, and not to gossip or defame because these things can never bring God glory.
Asserting, however, that all strong drink or all of a certain kind of food or a particular association is wrong for every Christian will not make us holy.  It can, if we are not careful, make us Pharisees.

 You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces.  You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.--Matthew 23:13


Obedient worship makes us holy.  Loving God more than anything or anyone else makes us holy.
Abstaining from strong drink does not protect our faith.  Following God does.
If that means, for you, abstaining from strong drink, then well and good.  If that means, for you, never eating a donut, that's fine.  If your cigarette separates you from God then, for sure, put it down.  But remember that doing so will not make you a good Christian.  Only loving God will.

God told Adam and Eve that they couldn't eat the apple not because there was anything wrong with the apple, but because it was more important that they want what God wanted.  
Apples are good.  Ignoring God is not.
Wine is good.  Tobacco is good.  God said so.
They exist because God wanted them for us.
But more than that, He wants our love and respect and worship.

We can use God's stuff as long as we can use it in His name for His purpose--to bring Him glory, to love Him properly.
If we cannot use something of His creation to honor Him, then, indeed, it is time to put it aside.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.--1Corinthinans 10:31



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Entering the Throne Room

Why does God tell us to pray?
He already knows what we want.
He knows what needs to be done.
Why bother?

Why doesn't God just do what needs doing without all the fuss?
Take what He did to Mary, for instance, right after the resurrection:
Mary stood outside the tomb, crying...she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize Him.  "Woman'" He said, "why are you crying?"..."Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him."  Jesus said to her, "Mary".  She cried out, "Rabboni!"--John 20:10-16

Mary knew Jesus thoroughly, pined for Him, mourned His death.
And He stood there, right beside her.
Why didn't she recognize Him?
Because He didn't want her to.  Not then.  Not yet.

Jesus wanted Mary ready for Him. He wanted her as much as she did Him, and jealously.  He wanted her completely focused on Him, fully in His presence.
This is prayer.
It brings us fully before God.  Prayer is our opening the door to His knock. 

Christ says,
Ask and it will be given to you.--Matthew 7:7
And it is.
Not because we ask--God already knew what we were going to say--but because we have come properly into His presence.
This is His throne room.  This is the place to which He invites us, saying,
Test me.--Malachi 3:10
Taste of me.--Psalm 34:8
Come to me, all you who are weary.--Matthew 11:28

Prayer is a mechanism.  It does not have power because of its activity.
It has power because of the place to which it brings us.
Prayer brings us into communion with our God.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What the Marys Know

In the Bible we meet only one Martha, but three Marys--accident?  I think not.

Most of us can identify with Martha of Bethany at one time or another--hardworking, efficient, aware of others' needs, skilled, a doer of things that need doing and thus always busy and, oh yes, complaining.

The Marys, all of them--Mary Magdalen, Mary of Bethany, and the virgin mother of Christ--were lovers.  All of them.  They had "the better part."

We know we are supposed to be more like Mary but somehow we just, well, can't.  
Why not?

Because Martha is just so NECESSARY.
Dishes need doing.
Babies need feeding.
Lawns need mowing.
Who is going to do it all if all we do is hang out with God and love Him all the time?

I've decided that even Mary can mow the lawn.
What separated these Marys from Martha was not what they did, it was their attitude.

A Martha knows her Bible verses.  She goes to church.  She attends Bible studies. She helps folks in need.  She cleans the church and bakes pies for socials.
Martha marches to God's cadence.  And God loves her for it.

But Mary allows herself to be drawn into His arms and loses herself there--not forever, not so the beds never get made, but for the sheer joy of these times of communion.
She does not give up one for the sake of the other.  She has found her beloved and intends to enjoy Him.

They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.--Luke 2:16-19

Don't let the tenderness of moments with Christ escape you. 
As Marthas, we only begin our life with Christ. 
As Marys, we find its depth.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

At All Times? Really?

David, the man after God's own heart.  Listen to him--
Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my utmost being, praise His Holy Name.--Psalm 103:1
I will extol the Lord at all times, His praise will always be on my lips.--Psalm 34:1
At all times?  Really?

The song of God lived in David's heart.  His song and dance before the recovered ark was a single day in a life of songs that started much earlier--when he wandered the sheepfold, way before he ever picked up a sling and five stones.  He could not stop singing.
He sang fear and sorrow as well as victory and joy.  It was all a song.
But when David sang for the pleasure of God's gifts, he may sometimes have sung for the pleasure of his own sin.

David...the singer...and the sinner.  He sang at all times.
Did he praise the Lord as he rose from Bathsheba's bed?
Did he praise Him when he gave the order to put Uriah, her husband, into harm's way so he could hide his betrayal? 
He could have.
At least until Nathan forced him to see himself as God did...not as king, not as singer, but as betrayer and murderer.

For what do we praise God?
Can we see clearly what may be a blessing and what may not?
Do we praise Him for what He gives or what He does?
We only know safety when we thank God not for what He gives, but for who He is.
That is, when we praise His Holy Name.

God loves our praises.  They rise to His ears like a song, like incense.
David lived a habit of praise, and so can we.
But raise your voice in praise, not of circumstances, or for things, but in the presence of His holiness...
He is my God, and I will praise Him.--Exodus 15:2
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!--Deuteronomy 32:2



Saturday, September 1, 2012

All the Wrong Places

Of all the things we are supposed to know how to do as Christians, the most basic is to love.  We are supposed to know how to love.

Oh, yeah?  Try it sometime.

What is loving, anyway?
Love does not harm to its neighbor...--Romans 13:10
Love is patient, love is kind...1Corinthians 13:4
Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.--John 15:13

So we are to care about other people more than ourselves.  
Is that love? Really?
If so, any atheist could love.

No, love must be something more.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.--1John 4:7
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me...--Matthew 10:37
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and great commandment...--Matthew 22:37

Love comes from God, so we have to love God first to love at all.


So, what does that look like?
It looks like this:
Love does not see the task first.  Love sees God first.
Love does not see the person first.  Love sees God first.


When the phone rings, we do not hear the phone first, or even the person on it, we hear God first.
When a child reaches up, saying "Mommy..."  we do not see primarily her sweet tears, but God.
When we pull out our wallet to buy something, we don't lead with desire for the thing, but for God.
When someone offers a mission trip, we do not see the  legions of unbelievers, we see God.
When we hear sermon, we do not listen for the pastor, but for God.
When we pick up a husband's socks for the hundredth time, we don't see the socks, we see God.

The small decisions and the big ones, they are all God's, for His glory, in His name.  Where we live, how we furnish our home or choose our friends, or spend our time.  All God's, for His sake.  No exceptions.

Does that mean we have no fun?  Absolutely not.
But God's highest will for us is to derive our primary pleasure from Him.

It means we lead with the Song of Solomon, not with the Ten Commandments.
We live with the Magnificat in our hearts.
My soul does glorify the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...--Luke 2:46-47
How beautiful you are, Oh my darling!  How beautiful!--Song of Solomon 1:15

This is love.
From God.  Of God. For God. Back to God.
Once we know that, the rest will come.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Who Am I?

Who are we?  What are we doing here?
In all the wide universe, what is humankind's place?

We sit here in a vast cosmos, sandwiched somewhere between quarks and distant galaxies, on a single planet between viruses and blue whales, and amid all of them, I am transfixed by what we are.  Ants don't care.  Dogs don't care.  Oak trees don't care.  Neither Venus nor Mars cares.  But I do.

I look at myself, feeling the life and strength, seeing what I can do.  By simply living, I influence my world.  I mold, build, destroy.  I grow stuff and I think stuff up. I know power in all of this, flexing and moving, and the excitement at my abilities in this world grows.  My own image casts itself against the great backdrop of heaven and earth, and I cry, "I am woman!"

Yikes.

Then I remember:
What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?--1Corinthians 4:7

For everything I build, God first made the building materials. For everything I grow, God first made the seed.  For every thought, God provides the inspiration.  It is His.  It is all His.

Who am I in the universe?
I am the image, the flesh and blood reflection, of my Creator God.  

I walk with arms and legs that came from His very thought.  I think with a brain, a mind, modeled on His own. I manipulate a world conceived and made from nothing before time began purely from His imagination. 

And this does not make me less, it makes me more.
So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them...--Genesis 1:27

Sunday, August 26, 2012

All the Little Foxes

Blooms are so tender. 
Fragile Spring flowers hold such hopes for ripe fruit. 
The grapes yielded now, at the end of summer, were sown many months ago, when sweet petals unfolded, beckoning the bees. 
But if blooms fail in the spring, if the flower withers, all is ruined.

Predators threaten the promise of fruit.
Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.--Song of Solomon 2:15

While we live, our own harvest, like that of the vineyard, is not sure.
Little foxes stalk our faith, our life in Christ.

Union with God is not complete in this world.  It can't be.
We are constantly distracted by the fox--the fox that is flesh and blood and, by nature, partially broken.

The danger is not in the part of us that loves God, the part in bloom, but the part not yet subject to Him.
If we are to see fruit, we must protect the bloom, that is, give to God ever-increasing portions.
We cannot rest on the part of God already blooming in our hearts.  We must stalk the fox in us, and chase him out. In doing so, we yield to Christ's promise, and make ways for the complete work of the True Vine.

We must resolutely grow in God.
If you think you stand firm, be careful you don't fall.--1Corinthians 10:12

Don't kid yourself.  The fox lurks.  Weakness and sin threaten.
But Christ brings the promise of a harvest.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Forget the Pool

Thinking today about the lame man sitting beside the pool at Bethesda, waiting 38 years to be healed.  Jesus, knowing everything about him, asks the man,
Do you want to be healed?--John 5:6

Obviously, waiting at the pool was not getting the job done.
Jesus wanted the man to reconsider his position.
Jesus did not just want to heal him.  He wanted to show him something wonderful.
He not only wanted the man to walk, He wanted him to see.

When Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and walk, restoring his mobility was not the point.
Jesus did not want to give him only legs that worked.
He wanted the man not to walk, but by walking to see real power.

The man had waited vainly for so long because he looked for the wrong thing in the wrong place.  He looked to get well, not to find God.

Where do I look? 
Do I look for relief?  Do I look for a spot of water to bring it?  Do I look to someplace else on the planet or to something of flesh and blood?  Do I think these can enact rescue, provide comfort?

Or do I look always into the eyes of my Savior?  Do I see His extended hand, offering more than the world, more than legs that work, more, more, more?

Forget the pool.  I want the power.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Going Home

Life gets tough sometimes and, when it does, I just want to go home.  Home.
But at this stage of life, where is home?
Not where I grew up, certainly.  Too much water under the bridge for that.
Not even where I currently park my hat--this place is complicated, expects too much.

I want to go where I am protected, where I am safe, where I am not in charge.
And I only know of one place.

The Lord is my Rock, my fortress and deliverer.  My God is my rock in whom I take refuge...He is my stronghold, my refuge and my Savior--from violent men You save me.--2 Samuel 22:2-3

Funny thing about my home, though.
I have to go there.
The refuge does not come to me where I am.
If I want its safety and protection, I have to surround myself with its parapets and gates, with its unyielding stone and battlements.  They will not form themselves around me.

God's strength is only available to someone willing to uproot from her normal dwelling place and travel what sometimes seems like a very long way.
And the trip is sometimes hard.
But protection and safety wait at the end.
Where all things turn out right.  Where someone bigger than me is in charge.
Home.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I Can't Get No...

"I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God...."  We sing it every Sunday, shoulder to shoulder with dear, familiar faces.  We know their children, their sorrows, their prayers.  We share their lives, and they ours.  The song makes a sweet confirming concert, a satisfaction of belonging.

But God does not want us satisfied.
All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full.--Ecclesiastes 1:7
As the deer pants for streams of waters, so my soul pants for you, O God.--Psalm 42:1

My union with believing brothers and sisters cannot calm my yearning for God Himself.  
I cannot rest in familiar flesh and blood arms.
We can love our family, but like in the whirlwind, God is not there.
He waits for us in the quiet place of solitary devotion, in the whisper of His Word, in the pillow talk of prayer.

No matter how much we love the people around us, while we live, we can never have all that God intends for us.
Now we see as through a glass darkly; then we shall see face to face.--1Corinthians 13:12

I need to be troubled if I do not want more. 
The solace of companionship of family and friends was never intended to do more than bring a short moment's ease.  It is a shallow pool, a pause while I search for the never-ending stream.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.--Luke 6:21

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Out of Orbit

I love my church family.  Don't you?

Every Sunday, the same dear faces, smiles of recognition, hearts that have prayed for whatever concerns cloud my heart, sweet familiar voices lifted all around in songs repeated so often they seem gentle friends themselves.  A refuge of common faith.
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!--Psalm 133:1

We stay together; we pray together....
But we can also stray together.

The Ephesians discovered this when John warned them:
You have forsaken their first love.--Revelation 2:4

The believers in Ephesus started out fine, just like us.  They cared about one another.  They prayed.  They ate together.  They did good works together, but somehow, they ended up off course, out of orbit.

This didn't happen all at once.
It happened in a slow creep away from the light, step by small step.

The church--every church, your church and mine,--can walk into darkness together, feeling perfectly fine about it.  We are still in unity, we think.  Surely, we can't be too wrong.

But we can.

So how do we test our church?
We do it by remembering that our church is not our church.  It belongs to Christ.
God placed all this under His feet and appointed Him head over everything, for the church, His body.--Ephesians 1:22

We do it by growing closer to Him individually and so maintain our rudder corporately.
Whatever binds us together as a church must take second place to what binds us to Christ.
The most important commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.--Matthew 22:37-38

Our love for one another can push us out of orbit.
We can travel safely together only when we look primarily not toward each other, but toward Christ.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Getting Burned

The sun rose red this morning.  It crested the horizon in stunning pageantry, shining with glorious promise, and by its gentle light, I welcomed a new day.

But I would not have found the sun so hospitable from a closer vantage point.

The temperature on the surface of the sun is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  It doesn't glow; it explodes in blazes of fierce fire.  Anyone drawing near would burn up before they got within 3 million miles.

God created the heavens and the earth to display Himself.
Our God brings life and warmth, but at the same time burns white-hot and dangerous.

Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before Him and around Him a tempest rages.--Psalm 50:3

We draw near to Him with warning, but cannot resist His call.
I am God Almighty; walk before Me and be blameless.--Genesis 17:1

The sun, now warm and nurturing, now a destroying furnace, stands inexorably above all things, every day reflecting its maker.

The closer we get to the sun, the more we are aware of its power.  Like God, it only seems friendly from a long way off.

I cannot know the sun's physical touch, but I can feel its influence.
To approach would mean death, but to witness and experience is glorious.