Saturday, August 31, 2013

DAD! What are You Doing?!!

It was hot that day, like most other days.
Nothing special, except that Dad told me we were going to take a trip.
He got me up early, and we took two of our servants, some axes, and went to the grove.
I liked these days. For so many mornings of my 33 years, we had come here to cut wood. The axe felt natural, and its swing so familiar, almost like an extension of my own tight muscles.
And today we would go to Mt. Moriah to make an offering to God, my father and I.
Yes, a good day to begin.
Mom waved to us, smiling, as we walked down the road, and we walked three days before the rocky crags of the mountain rose before us.

Stay here, Dad said to the servants, while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.--Genesis 22:5

The boy. Certainly, I was a man by then. Dad never did get that.
And it took men to climb that mountain, especially with our burdens, the wood and the firepot. But we were missing something.

Father! The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?
God himself will provide the lamb, he told me. --Genesis 22:7-8

So we laid the fire, then Dad asked me to climb onto the wood pile, and to lay down on it.
The sun was high and bright, and I closed my eyes for a few minutes. The walk had been long.
I heard Dad murmur and when I opened my eyes, I saw it...his knife raised high right above me.
Dad! Dad! What are you doing?

And then that sound...the booming echo and the blinding light. I never saw anything, but heard it:
Abraham! Do not lay a hand on the boy. Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.--Genesis 22:11-12

And the knife fell--not into my own flesh, but onto the ground, and my dad beside it. He did not look at me while I climbed down from the pyre, but looked up only when he heard the bray of the ram suddenly come out of the brush.

We had worshiped--we had both obeyed--and God had indeed provided the sacrifice.
Now, every time that I present my own sacrifice to God, I see again the upraised knife ready to pierce my own heart all those years ago. And I remember.
Dad dropped the knife because his own heart was already pierced, so he did not have to cut mine.
And I worship anew my God who is the Lord.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

THIS is the Promised Land?

The Israelites needed rescuing. They lived as slaves, miserable, with no way out.
But God saw their sad state and promised to bring them to their own land, free before Him.

I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians..I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement...I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.--Exodus 6: 6, 8

And He did.
He brought the Pharaoh to his defeated knees, then buried both him and his whole army under the waters of the Red Sea. 
And the Israelites were free.
Then they looked around. 

Where were the trees and streams of water?
Where was the fruit and fields ripe with grain?
Where were the olive groves?
All they saw was sand.
They were in the desert.
What the....?

God did not save them into Eden.
He freed them from Pharaoh, but not to lush ease.
He freed them into desert.

And why?
Because once they had shed their slavery, they still had to find Him.
And so it is with us.
Take away everything we once knew, and it sometimes feels like desert.
That's when we look for the pillars of cloud and fire.
Follow them, because they lead to the Promised Land.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Stop Inviting People to Church

Here's the church....
Here's the steeple...
Open the doors....

And what should we see?
Not friendly people.
Not good deeds.
Not uplifting music.
Not helpful programs.
Not hot coffee and a smile.

None of these.
Then what?
We should see what the Baal worshipers saw then Elijah stood before them on Mount Carmel--not a good speaker or a nice man. In fact, not a man at all--

When the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord--He is God! The Lord--He is God!"--1Kings18: 39

They saw God.
No one and nothing less will do.
The church is no more than the sum of what we bring to it.
If we don't look like God, then the church does not either. 
And if we do look like God, than the church will look like us.
Don't bring people to church.
Live so that they recognize God in you.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

His Good Gifts
I miss my friend Vera, God.
Ten years ago, you gave her to me as one of your sweet blessings and until April, she taught me with the sweet love of a mother. She loved me, she cautioned me, she worried about me, she prayed for me. Oh, how she prayed for me.

Then you took her back, and still, she has not stopped giving.

I am looking at her prayer journal, on the page where our names appear, written in a crabbed hand, hesitant with arthritis:
JoAnne and David Potter

But, further down on the page--why did I not see this before?
Her prayer for herself:
Good health
Good night rest
Strength and energy
Saintly wisdom
Buoyant spirit.

And you gave it to her, God. You gave it to her.
All of it and more. Until that very last day.
And with it, Your witness, through her, that You listen.
Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.--Mark 11:24

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Open the Dawn

Awake, O Sleeper!--Ephesians 5:14

The moon has reigned long enough.
Time has come for light, for darkness to run away.
You have slept in the deep, but I pull back the veil.

I command the moon to fly away and bring light into the heavens.
I made brilliance, then formed your very eyes so that you might see it.
Open them and exult!
Arise with me. Join in the song of morning.
I open the skies for your delight.

I AM the dawn.
I AM the morning.
I AM the sun.
Every day from horizon to horizon, until I Myself unravel time.
I made this day for you.
Look at it and live!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Healing What Hurts

Photo: -
Oh, God, please heal kitty. Please?
Or Mommy, or Sally, or Grandma.
Who has a cold, or a broken leg, or cancer...
Please, God, I know you can do it. The Bible says so.

Praise the Lord, Oh my soul, and forget not all His benefits,
Who forgives all your sins, and heals all your diseases--Psalm 103:2-3

But He doesn't all the time, does He? Heal them.
Sometimes they don't get well.  Kitty or Mommy, or Sally, or Grandma.
Why not? Well, for a hint, take a look at the next two verses:
Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles'.--Psalm 103:4-5

He doesn't only want to heal, He wants to redeem.
He doesn't only want to save, He wants to give us a crown.
He doesn't only want to make things better, He wants to make them new.
This is what we don't often get:
God doesn't heal everything. He heals what hurts us the most.

Not all cancers are spiritually malignant.
All desires do not renew my life.
God grants the ones that do.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Waiting for Rescue

This is you and me.
A princess safe in her castle, waiting for rescue.
We believe God will save us. But what kind of God do we wait for?

God drowns men.
He sends plagues.
He strikes men dead.
He opens the earth and burns them alive.
He exterminates whole families.
And all of these He does to Israel, who is His chosen,  just like us.

Does that make sense?
The Israelites thought so. This is what they said about their God:
The God of old is a refuge, a support in the arms of the Everlasting. Israel abides securely.--Deuteronomy 33:27-28

A refuge? Really? He sounds dangerously judgemental, rashly cruel. How does that work?
It works because He is God.
Don't expect to understand Him. By definition we can't, or He wouldn't be God.
Don't bother to second guess Him. He knows what we don't.
He only wants one thing from us:
This is the work of God: that you believe in Him whom He has sent.--John 6:28-29

Believe in the face of the unbelievable.
Believe when He makes me wait.
Believe that the God who struck down Saul is the same God who raised Lazarus.
No contradiction. No empty mercy. No megalomaniac cruelty.
He will not always do what we expect.
And because He does not, He remains God.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why Not Broccoli of the Spirit?

Fruit of the Spirit.
Why fruit, I wonder. Why not vegetables or meat? What is different about fruit?

Let's see--think of them.
Oranges full of oil and fragrance,
apples shiny and firm that crunch in response to our bite,
berries dark and fragile,
peaches that lie perfectly in the palm and so ripe that their juice runs down my arm.

Sweet, lush, over-the-top good.
Does their very excess connect them to the Spirit of God?
Maybe. But maybe it's something else.

Unlike vegetables that need repeated planting and cultivating, unlike meat that needs breeding and tending, fruit just comes. Plant a tree or bush once and it bears repeatedly for years. After the first year, even if I don't prune or spray, it bears. All I have to do is pick it--reach out my hand and pull it off, ripe and warm from the sun.
Like manna.
Like fishes and loaves.
Reach out and possess God's immediate gift, a glimpse of Himself.

Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day."--Exodus 16:4

Taking the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven, He said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over--twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.--Matthew 14:19-21

Perhaps fruit lies especially close to God because fewer human hands lie between it and Him. 
Perhaps fruit, by its very nature, comes more directly from Him than any other foodstuff.
And maybe that is why fruit tastes so sweet.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

It Wants to Go Straight

Thank you, God, for bringing us a teenager who we can teach how to drive.
Really. I mean it.
Learning how to drive bears so much resemblance to learning how to live.
The techniques are, in the end, very much the same.
Look where you are going.
Watch out for the other guys.
Anticipate your next move.
Slow down for turns.

And then, after she turns a corner and overcorrects--

Just let the wheel come back on its own.
The car wants to go straight.

The car wants to go straight.
It does, you know. Just let go of the wheel and it will return to center.
Just let go and you will go the right way.
So it works for the car, but do I do that with my life? Do I know how to find the straight way by just letting go?

I will instruct you in the way you should go.--Psalm 32:8

You tell me, of course. Over and over. I know where to go because of You.
You show me the straight path and I want to walk it because You give me the desire.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind me saying, This is the way: walk in it.--Isaiah 30:21

You make me want to go straight.