Friday, October 31, 2008

Cleaning Drawers

What you’re after is truth
from the inside out.
Enter me, then,
conceive a new, true life.

Psalm 51:6 (The Message)

Jack Rogers, a Presbyterian pastor, once gave an illustration of the difference between Luther’s reformation and that of John Calvin. The two reformations, said Rev. Rogers resemble the cleaning out of a dresser drawer. In Luther’s reformation he pulled out the drawer, took out only those parts of the Catholic tradition that he believed were detrimental. John Calvin, on the other hand, pulled out the drawer, dumped everything out on the bed and put back into the drawer only what he believed was good for the life the church.

There’s no leaning here towards one denomination or another! Instead this delightful comparison also represents what God wants to do in our lives. We are that dresser drawer. When God pulls it out to take a look it may be that the accumulated junk inside prevents anyone from seeing who we truly are as Jesus followers. But, God is looking for that which speaks of the complete person. Through difficulties, hardships, downturns and disappointments our drawer contents are dumped out in order to find what has been lost—truth about who we are in Christ.

The best part of this analogy is that God never leaves our drawer empty once he’s done his reforming. Having cleaned it thoroughly, he puts back only that which pleases him and will bring him glory. With this “reformation” there are no fears of being discovered a fraud. What people see is exactly what they will get—a person whose identity is in the truth of God’s love.

Open me up Lord!
Clean out my life’s drawer
so that whoever sees me
will know the truth of
your amazing love.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Staring Down Sin

For I know
my transgressions,
and my sin is ever

before me.

Psalm 51:3

Growing up I heard fantastic “personal” testimonies. Whenever there was an evangelistic service planned for our youth group or church there would always be a speaker who enthralled us with the depth of their plunge into the sin pit. My life seemed utterly boring by comparison. I loved hearing how God had reached down and pulled them out. Somehow it gave more meaning to my understanding of being “saved.” I loved Jesus, but I hadn’t really done anything which to be been “saved” from! At least that is what I thought.

In order to confess one’s sins recognition of sin is necessary. And it’s this snag that continually trips the Jesus follower. For those individuals who live a “good” life it becomes particularly challenging. When we’re told to “confess our sins” what exactly do we confess?

It’s easy to focus only on the sin biggies when faced with confession. We can easily sidestep the practice because we’ve successfully avoided them. But if we are honest with ourselves and read the Bible carefully, we discover that the biggies aren’t mentioned nearly as often as those things we don’t always consider “sin”—bad tempers, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk and lying (Colossians 3:8-9a). Any one of these “sins” we can find an excuse for that seems plausible. But, unfortunately there are no excuses available for these or any sin.

When faced with sin on this level there is no escaping confession. Whether they are conscious or unconscious sins, confession is our opportunity to admit, Yes! my sin IS ever before me.

Generous in love—God, give grace!
Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.
(Psalm 51:1-2 The Message)

Artwork--No Man's Land, Jankel Adler, 1943, Tate Gallery.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Prayer for Cleansing

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
Psalm 51:2

Loving God, who sees and knows all, even those things that I think I have safely hidden away, forgive me. I need your confronting hand to show me behaviors, speech and life choices that fall painfully short of what you want from me. It is only in your confronting that I see how I am living versus how you want me to live.

The world today is so angry and mean. People fear losing everything they have gained and in their fear lash out. In their meanness they say and do things they perhaps never thought possible. I discover that too often instead of being a light in the midst of this darkness I am infected by their spirits of anger and fear. My response is to do in kind as I have received. Forgive me, God! Help me to not succumb to these dark spirits!

Let me see the joy of my salvation and know again the pleasure of living in your presence. Pour your cleansing water, like a flood, over me and with the pouring I pray all that stubbornly clings to me would be washed away.

I pray for your shield to protect me from all that seeks to co-op me!Let my words be your sweet honey to all with whom I speak. Let my actions reflect the love you give to me daily. I am your creation. In your washing restore me to the beauty you originally intended.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Help Yourself...Not!

Have mercy on me, O God…

Psalm 51:1a

There are those who pretty much live out their “Christian” life in this way—God helps those who help themselves. It is difficult for them to connect that the God who gave them life also wants to live and help them, daily.

God is intimately acquainted with us. For us, however, to be intimately acquainted with God takes humility. The, God helps those who help themselves, approach doesn’t allow room for much humility. The emphasis is pretty much on the individual will power of “me.”

Humility is the defining characteristic of an unpretentious and modest person, someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others ( Here’s the attitude of a Jesus follower coming to confession. When we ask God to have mercy on us it is the first step in acknowledging that our lives are nothing without God’s presence and the first step towards repentance. True confession, honest repentance cannot begin without first stepping towards humility and asking for God’s mercy.

“Helping ourselves” isn’t the Jesus way. God didn’t create us so that we could “go it alone” or “make our own way.” In asking for God’s mercy we identify him as the artist, welcoming him into the painting of our lives. Here is evidence of his gift of free will. God wants to keep on painting! It is at the point of our saying, have mercy on me, O God that humility overtakes our pretentions and he can continue.

Repentance has just begun.

Have mercy on me, O God.
I cannot help myself and my life
is nothing without you.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thoughts on Confession

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10

It may be that "confession is good for the soul" but it is definitely one of the most difficult disciplines of a Jesus follower. And yet, it is perhaps the number one requirement when it comes to living a life with Jesus. In Mark we see that John the Baptizer preached a message of baptism and repentance which resulted in life change. We like the thought of baptism, that implies being clean and belonging, but repenting becomes a painful thought, one to be avoided. We don't like what it will take or what it will demand.

I've been thinking recently about confession after having it as an assigned topic for a Sunday School class. It definitely wasn't a subject I wanted to address because of what it required--allowing God to confront my sin! But then, after reading an article about the increasing number of web sites that offer "anonymous online confession" and the number of "hits" they were receiving it would appear that as individuals, as a church, as a culture we are in desperate need of God's confronting.

The reason why true confession and repentance is so difficult is because of what it requires--standing before God, silent, listening to what he has to say about what he sees and knows isn't right. We don't like to confront each other, much less be confronted! Consequently being confronted by our Creator is particularly intimidating.

We know we sin. Sin is anything that goes against what God wants. The problems rise when we put a "value" on sin. Surely "criticizing" our church leaders isn't nearly as "sinful" as murder. Passing along information that isn't yours to pass--well, come on now, "gossip" can't possibly be held to the same standard as breaking one's marriage vows!

We can find any number of excuses for our sin. But whether it be slandering someone we don't like or murdering them it is the same in God's eyes. Sin is sin. He just doesn't see the same distinctions that we do.

If, as Jesus followers, we want to experience growth in our lives and health in our churches it will require our willingness to hear God's confronting voice. We will be surprised at what he points to because it will be those things that we thought innocuous, those little "sins" that we did in "love" or thought didn't really hurt anyone.

Little or big, it doesn't matter, sin destroys. God, however, begins the restoration process when humbly we fall on our faces praying,
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Untying Knots

When he was alone
with his disciples,
he went over everything,
sorting out the tangles,
untying the knots.

Mark 4:34

My husband can sort out tangles. Early in our relationship I discovered this ability when I found him with a coed’s tangled mess of necklaces on a table before him. Although sometimes it took longer than others his patience always paid off because he never failed to unravel the knots. He was the “go to” guy for sorting out tangles.

Getting into a knot seems to be much easier than getting out of one. Like discovering a tangled pile of necklaces the life decisions that we make can suddenly creep up on us. The harder we try to detangle ourselves the more tightly knotted we become. We desperately need a patient hand to sort out our tangles.

During his ministry travels Jesus saw a lot of tangled, knotted up people. For some their knots were of their own making. For others their tangles came about due to illness, cultural estrangements or political decisions. But all of them needed the patient hand of Jesus to sort them out and he never failed to unravel every single knot. There were those, like the Pharisees, who in their panic knotted themselves even further, but for those who wanted to be un-tangled Jesus spoke, “Your sins are forgiven.”

It doesn’t matter what our spiritual or emotional condition may be. And, whatever the reason for our knots existence we first have to stop frantically running around trying to untie them. Our efforts alone only make them tighter. It’s time spent with Jesus that ultimately brings our tangled mess to unraveled beauty.

Jesus, time spent with you
makes things far less complicated and tangled.
Help me to remember that
whatever the situation your
hand alone will straighten it out

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Soul Windows

Let all bitterness and wrath
and anger and clamor and
slander be put away from you.

Ephesians 4:31

Eyes are the windows to the soul. Whether one likes it or not, what lives in the depths is revealed. The next time you sit in an airport or wherever a large “study” of people is available look at their eyes, you may be shocked at what you see. In my own observations I’ve seen plenty of fearful eyes, bitter eyes, empty eyes, angry eyes. In between there have been those eyes whose deep pools have brought me refreshment.

Whatever we’ve set up house for in our souls, whether anger or bitterness, peace or joy, will ultimately find its way out the door of our eyes as well as our mouths. God created us as a living being whose physical, emotional and spiritual lives is intricately connected. It is impossible to keep hidden whatever we take in on a regular basis. It’s like overeating! Eventually we don’t need the scale because the results are evident in the mirror.

While Jesus was surrounded by Pharisees angry about how he was upsetting their traditions he never succumbed, even to the point of his death, to their soul dwellers. Here in Ephesians Paul reminds us of this truth. To be a follower of Jesus we have to evict from our souls those emotions that make our eyes and mouths distasteful to see and hear.

Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander abound today even among Christians. But, as Jesus followers, we can’t succumb to these. We have the message of the Kingdom! A “world” difference will come about when that Message is the only resident in our souls. Then our eyes will shine!

Jesus, forgive me for allowing
anger, bitterness, anxiousness
and slander to set up residences.
You brought the message of the Kingdom--
bringing joy, promise, hope and love.
Help me to evict the others and move
in only your Kingdom message.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Food for Thought

Man can control all kinds of things, but the tongue may be the hardest of all. Once a word is out of our mouth, it is hard to call it back. Regret will not achieve this.

God's rulings are not negotiable, either. When we ignore them we hurt ourselves and usually others as well. When we see the damage we cause them we are aware of our sin, and rightly are frightened of God. His forgiveness frees us, but if we become sensitized to His approval, and ask for the sense of the "fear of the Lord" this can help us begin to know wisdom, and guard our tongue.

The man who never minces his words is responsible for a lot of indigestion.

Hugh Redwood

Today on I am on the road traveling and praying. May each of you know the presence of God today allowing the words he gives you to flow from your mouth. Blessings.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Powerful Words

Jesus shut him up:
“Quiet! Get out of him!”

Mark 1:25 (The Message)

It shouldn’t be considered circumstantial that the first healing told in the gospel of Mark is Jesus expelling a demon. Having arrived in Capernaum Jesus heads immediately to the synagogue and begins teaching. Right there smack in the middle of the synagogue, where many were gathered for the Sabbath, the first declaration of Jesus’ identity, other than John the Baptist, comes from a demon. The encounter sets the stage for the drama that will increasingly unfold as Jesus begins his ministry. Repeatedly the demons recognize the power of a Jesus spoken word.

Most of us have gone through varying degrees of difficulties. Just as soon as I begin to set a table for one pity party a “perspective” story comes my way. It’s a story of someone else’s difficulties that far outweigh my own and I’m slapped with the reality of my “troubles.” The problem with my pity party is that I shouldn’t have had it in the first place. Jesus doesn’t want to be a guest at a pity party. He wants to heal from the inside out.

The words of authority that Jesus uses on the troubled man in the synagogue are the same he wants to say to us. When we find ourselves with issues that “drive us insane”, problems that “torment us”, or worries that “plague us” the authority of Jesus speaks into the tumult, “Quiet! Get out of her.” They alone are the words that will drive out the “demons”, heal us from the inside out, bringing us real peace.

Jesus, thank you that your
authority surpasses any issue,
problem or worry that troubles me.
Speak your healing words, “Quiet! Get out of her!”
bringing me healing from the inside out.
Artwork--Man with the Unclean Spirit, Ian Pollack, EICH Gallery

Monday, October 20, 2008

Prayer Wrestling

And Jacob was left alone.
And a man wrestled
with him until the
breaking of the day.

Genesis 32:24

A personality type exists that is relentless. They will convince, coerce, cajole, in order to get what they want. Parents of children with this personality type can be worn down, employers can become frustrated, spouses irritated. But, there is a flip side as well. The “positive” of this “negative” is one who possesses a determination to succeed, leadership skills and an unusual ability to stay focused on the goal.

Jacob was a man who demonstrated this personality. At an early age he tricked his father, cheated his brother and turned the tables on his father-in-law Laban. He made a number of people angry. On top of everything Jacob now takes on God! He’s one gutsy guy! But, here is where his negative became a positive.

While Jacob’s life is full of perfect illustrations of how NOT to live the scene that unfolds for us in this chapter of Genesis is one of a man prayer wrestling. Much like his blessing from his earthly father, Isaac, Jacob is determined to get what he wants—God’s blessing. And, his ability to stay focused on the goal leads him to a full night of wrestling with God, even getting a permanent injury as a result.

Prayer wrestling—it’s something to think about. When we pray are we intentional and focused about our goals in prayer? Are we willing to “stay up all night” wrestling with the only One who can make a difference? Next time you pray think about Jacob. His prayer method got him what he wanted in the end!

God of blessings, thank you
for your strength.
Help me to not be afraid
to spend time wrestling with you.
Artwork--Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Eugene Delacroix, 1854-61.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Open the Door

I stand by the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out,
the door is the most important door in the world--
it is the door through which folk
walk when they find God.
There's no use my going way
inside and staying there,
when so many are still outside,
and they, as much as I,
crave to know where the door is.

Samuel Moor Shoemaker

People often find safety within the confines of their church community. Even if they have a life "out there" that's exactly where it stays "out there." Afraid to allow their various worlds to combine they keep separated their "spiritual" life from their "worldly" one. One "world" consequently knows very little about the other.

If God isn't ashamed to call us his own, why are we relunctant to claim that relationship when it comes to our "worldly" friends? At such a time as this, we can't afford to go where it is safe and close the door behind us. Standing in the doorway, as Shoemaker describes, is keeping open to whatever opportunity might arise to open the door to the kingdom to whoever passes by.

May you see today the opportunities that God brings your way.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hear Him Speak

“My presence will
go with you,
and I will give you rest.”

Exodus 33:14

Moses had taken on a responsibility that he had not sought out. Picked by God from his birth for a destiny he never imagined Moses knew first hand the range of emotions and experiences that exist when living God’s plan. Initially there had been heart stopping, God-glory moments when he and the other Israelites had first escaped Egypt. But as the days and weeks passed the unending desert vistas began to take their toll. Now Moses, chosen by God for a task which seemed to highlight his inadequacies, heard daily thousands of voices whining and complaining. Where was the burning bush God when you needed him?

So, once again Moses has a conversation with God, doing his own bit of whining and complaining and in the middle of Moses’ “furthermores” God assures him of his presence. It isn’t a promise of rescue from the difficulties or a commitment to making it all better, simply a promise that God’s presence is in the desert.

Despite all that Moses had seen of God’s glory in the desert when times got really tough he needed assurance that God would be there. And God delivers yet again giving Moses a God-glory encounter like he has never experienced (Exodus 33:21-23).

This same God goes with us every day, even when we feel he his distant. In fact, it is perhaps in our desperate times that we hear his voice most keenly because in our questioning and our desire to know we listen more intently

Hear him speaking today, “My presence will go with you…”

Even when I don’t “feel” You, Father,
You are with me.
When my day is dry I need You to
lead me to water.
Tired from the turmoil of life
I want to hear Your words,
“I will give you rest.”

Artwork--In the Wilderness of Sinai, Igor Ulanovsky, Israel, 1998.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reading Blueprints

Unless the Lord builds
the house, those who
build it labor in vain.

Psalm 127:1

Passing a construction site recently I wondered at its beginnings. A visionary stands in an open field seeing houses, a business park, a playground, a hospital. Unseen by those passing by are detailed blueprints, environmental reports, contracts made with various building “specialties.” What is seen are crawling, snaggle toothed yellow machines digging, scraping, preparing the land for what will eventually rise out of the empty landscape. At the center of the entire project is an individual who conducts and orchestrates. Success depends on no one working independently from the one who knows how it will all come together.

The natural progression of this illustration is in understanding that God is both visionary and orchestrator in our lives. And yet, more often than not we build our lives without “reading” his blueprints. We may think we’re doing and being exactly what a “good” Christian should be about and yet we find ourselves disconnected and dissatisfied. The curb appeal of what we’ve built with our lives may look great but if someone stopped to take a closer look…well, God’s blueprints are stuffed in the back closet.

Whether it be in our personal lives, the life of a congregation or family when we build according to our own blueprints we won’t find contentment. Volunteer of the year, best mom, best dad, superb deacon or elder, amazing Sunday School teacher, inspiring sermons—it is all a vain exercise if not done as a result of following God’s blueprint.

Learning how to read blueprints takes time and patience. How much time do you take to learn how to “read” God’s blueprints for your life?

Jesus, I admit that too often
I live by my own plans
and desires of how I want
people to see me.
Forgive me, Jesus. Teach me
how to read your blueprints in order
to see the vision you have for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Food for Thought

Recently I came across this quote by George Eliot. It resonates with me on a number of different levels.

It describes the relationship we can have with our
heavenly Father
or a relationship with a treasured friend.

It describes the relationship that Jesus followers
should ultimately have with each other as a result
of the "breath of kindness" God extends to them.

Lord, let it be so. Amen.

Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.

George Eliot

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Child's View

…I say to you,
whoever does
not receive the

kingdom of God,
like a child

shall not enter it.

Mark 10:15

We were locked out of the house! Tears puddling in her eyes my small niece looked up at me, “Aunt Val, how are we going to get back in?” Taking her in my arms I asked her, “Do you trust me to take good care of you and find a way back in the house?” Nodding her head and griping my outstretched hand we walked away from the locked door and towards a plan of action. She never asked again how I would accomplish my task. Instead she went about her play confident that I would do what I had promised. In time, the door would open because I had given my word.

A child’s faith is inspiring. No wonder Jesus used it as a point of reference for spiritual maturity. Children have the uncanny ability to believe and accept what they cannot understand. Somewhere along the line we lose the gift and believing becomes insurmountable. With every downturn comes a litany of questions—why did it happen, how will we survive, when will we see a turnaround.

It is not a child’s level of intelligence that Jesus uses as an illustration of how to live in the Kingdom. Being ignorant or na├»ve isn’t a Jesus follower requirement. Instead it is a quality of believing that in spite of not knowing how or why, when God promises that he will “deliver them (us) out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17b) we look into his face, grip his hand and put our complete trust in him.

Jesus, I have outgrown
“childish” things
but help me to never
outgrow the spiritual gift
of a “childish” trust in You

Friday, October 10, 2008


“Time’s up!
God’s kingdom is here.
Change your life

and believe the Message.”

Mark 1:15 (The Message)

“Vote for change” are familiar words these days. In a world that changes faster than our ability to keep up we keep looking for the “change” that will make everything better. Whether it’s a “change” that takes us back to some point where we felt comfortable or “change” that takes us out of our discomfort we want to keep things within our comfort zone.

But, change shouldn’t happen just for the sake of changing. What Jesus wants isn’t change just for change sake. When Jesus preaches about the good news that God’s Kingdom is here he’s talking about a change with one goal in mind—life itself.

When Peter and Andrew, James and John leave the only life they know to follow Jesus they chose a new life. Their choice of change brought financial instability not only to themselves but to those who depended on them. What went through their minds as they changed their lives no one will ever know. But through the gospels we see that their change choice radically altered their lives and ultimately has changed the course of millions of lives. It was a change for growth and life in God’s kingdom.

When we follow Jesus we must be ready for life-change. The disciples were on the move with Jesus, the message of the Kingdom was the constant, but life lived was always growing. To grow in Christ requires a “vote for change” to live life in God’s Kingdom. It guarantees a life richer and much more fulfilling.

Jesus, change is not very comfortable.
By choosing your Kingdom life I know
that my life cannot stay the same.
A vote for change means allowing
you to do with me what you will.
As uncertain as it is, I choose
life in your Kingdom.

Artwork--Sermon on the Mount, Fra Angelico, Museo Di San marco Dell'Angelico, Florence.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Small Morsels

I'm traveling these days and spending time with people who love me. It is a good time to meditate on small morsels, chewing them and discovering the complexity of meaning and the depth of truth. Here's what I'm praying and meditating on today--

I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart!
Psalm 119:32
If my heart is enlarged I'll not have time to hold back, nor will I carry things that hamper my progress.

From Celtic Prayer Book
Questions for meditation today.
What creates an enlarged heart?
How do I avoid carrying "things" that prevent me from passionately pursuing God's way?
What do I need to put aside, no strings attached, to live completely and unashamedly in the presence of God?


Wednesday, October 8, 2008


While driving across the western landscape of New Mexico I had ample time to pray, listen and meditate. During the three plus hours I had before arriving at my destination I listened to one CD--Eden's Bridge, Celtic Worship. Given the surrounding and the music it was an amazing worship experience.

Times have been difficult for many leaving them feelings lost and alone. This song was one that provided much to meditate on. The Shepherd never sleeps until he has brought all his sheep into the shadow of his hand. Blessings!

Lost in a little room
One with whitened-out windows where no one goes
Lost in an empty space
Where no one else can reach me or hear me cry
But the Shepherd never sleeps
Nor leaves off searching for His sheep
So how can I be afraid?
For You will find my heart again
You can warm my fears away
And I won't be alone
For You will bring me home again
Safe into the shadow of Your hand

I was an only one
Separate and different and so aware
That I was a lonely one
Without a friend to call me to say "Hi"
But the Shepherd knows His sheep
He alone will meet their needs
So how can I be afraid?
For You laid down your life for me
You became the living door
And I won't be alone
I can hear You calling me
Safe into the shadow of Your hand

Here, there is life for me
Life in such abundance from You
Here, there is sanctuary
And entering through you I find Your peace
For the Shepherd knows his sheep
His is the only voice they heed
So how can I be afraid?
Now that You have found my heart again
You who've warmed my fears away
And I won't be alone
Now that You have brought me home again
Safe into the shadow of Your hand

Shadow of Your Hand by Eden's Bridge--Celtic Worship CD

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


"Unbind him,
and let him go.”

John 11:44c

Jesus didn’t just give life to dead Lazarus. Before Lazarus could live he had to first be unbound. True freedom came when, unbound by the restraints, Lazarus could move every joint, every muscle, every limb. Until then, he couldn’t get out and live his new life.

I once heard a preacher talk on living the resurrected life. Using this chapter from John he encouraged his listeners to live out the Lazarus story believing that Jesus could do the same in their lives. They may have been beaten down, trampled on, discouraged, feeling like death itself, but Jesus could speak into their “dead” lives “Lazarus, come out.”

I needed to hear this good word. But Jesus’ final words are what hit home. Absolutely! Living the resurrected life is available if we believe, but there’s a key essential that must happen to fully enjoy it. Jesus has to unbind all the straps that keep us bound up.

These straps could be a variety of different things and they change depending on the context. In a congregation it may be certain events, structures or traditions that bind up the resurrected life. Individually it may be attitudes, desires or fears that keep one tied up unable to live the new life.

Whatever the straps, Jesus says, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Yes, He wants all his followers to live a resurrected life, unbound by anything that keeps things status quo. Because you see, living a resurrected life is to live a new life.

Jesus, thank you for the
gift of a resurrected life.
Help me to live in that new life
by allowing you to speak the words,
“Unbind him, and let him go.”
Artwork--The Raising of Lazarus, Alfred Leslie, 1975. Bayly Art Museum, University of Virginia

Monday, October 6, 2008

Be a Lucy

He handed out gifts
and pastor-teacher

to train Christ’s
followers in skilled
servant work, working
within Christ’s body,

the church, until we’re
all moving rhythmically and

easily with each other.

Ephesians 4:11-12 (The Message)

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis explores the biblical truth of individuals being given various gifts that in turn allow them to move rhythmically and easily with each other. Aslan has the power to do anything and everything and yet he gives to Edmund, Peter, Susan and Lucy gifts that ultimately are used to restore Narnia.

Aslan’s gift to Lucy is a small crystal vial. At the time, Lucy has no idea how to use what she’s been given but soon discovers that a single drop heals wounds, mends the broken and brings to life the beaten down. All that is required of her is to put to use what Aslan has given. Having the “right” words, the “right” answers are not necessary, only being a presence beside the wounded, giving them the vial’s healing drops.

How does this relate to Jesus followers and working within Christ’s body, the church? At some level we’re all called to be a “Lucy.” When we responded to the words, Follow Me a “spiritual vial” was placed in our hands. With every sermon, every Bible study, every prayer, every verse memorized our “spiritual vials” are being filled. Like Lucy, what is required of every one of us is to generously spread the healing ointment we have been given.

It is not a Biblical absolute for just “some of us” to be Lucys but an absolute for all of us who hold in our hands a “spiritual vial” because we answered Jesus’ call, Follow Me.

Jesus, forgive me when
I put on “others” the responsibility to
care for the hurting.
Through your life you have
given me the gift to heal
by bringing those that mourn into your presence.

Artwork-- Silent Tears, Timur I. Poerwowidagdo, Indonesia, 92

Friday, October 3, 2008

Food for Thought

Hurry is an unpleasant thing in itself, but also very unpleasant for whoever is around it. Some people came into my room and rushed in and rushed out and even when they were there they were not there--they were in the moment ahead or the moment behind. Some people who came in just for a moment were all there, completely in that moment.

Live from day to day, just from day to day. If you do so, you worry less and live more richly. If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.

I do not think it is lack of time that keeps me from doing things, it is that I do not want enough to do them.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Bring Me a Unicorn

May you be totally absorbed and live in the moment of this God-given day. Blessings.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Making Camp

Search me, O God,
and know my heart!
Try me and know my
thoughts! And see if
there be any grievous
way in me, and lead me
in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

One college summer I decided to memorize Psalm 139. I can’t remember why this particular psalm except that I liked the idea of being known before I was born! Along with memorizing I would journal my thoughts and pray over the sections. I never anticipated my life being radically changed.

Writer Diana Clancy talks about knowing something so well it “makes camp in you.” The same holds true with memorized verses. When a verse makes camp in you it settles in for the duration of one’s life. Turning ten my parents challenged me to memorize 32 verses in the book of Proverbs. As each verse made camp I would say them to my mother telling her what I thought it meant. To this day, those verses are still camping.

Be careful, however, what verses you want to make camp! Anticipate that if you take on a verse about life change, life changing events will happen. If its verses about God’s forgiveness know that confession is around the corner. Expect when you set out to make camp with some verses for God to show up!

My college summer and the end of Psalm 139 coincided. As these verses made camp I kept being reminded of thoughtless words spoken to specific individuals, one whom I hadn’t talk to in over a year. I had been searched and found grievous!

Looking up the individual that kept joining my "camp" site, I apologized. Fortunately I was forgiven because as it turned out, God did show up and we were married a year later.

God, my heart is open to you.
Search me.
My thoughts are muddled.
Know me.
Show me what has hurt you.
Forgive me.
Lead me, God to your glory.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Conscience Check

Pray for us, for we
are sure that we
have a clear conscience,
desiring to act honorably
in all things.

Hebrews 13:18

When making a decision there’s nothing like a conscience free of doubt or misgivings. But it seems that these days it is more and more difficult to maintain a clear conscience as we are faced with decisions and choices that are troubling. From encounters with neighbors to co-workers to work ethics to church politics we come up against issues that cause us to take a double think about our reactions. Are our intentions truly honorable or do they reside in the muck of self preservation?

Perhaps we’ve been blamed for a broken relationship, a misunderstanding at work, an unrealized expectation or we have been unjustly accused and we wrestle with our conscience as to how we should respond. At times like these wouldn’t it be nice if God would just speak, audibly, letting us know if the decisions we’re making are good ones?

As Jesus followers it’s a frequent necessity to call in check our “instinctive” reactions. Unfortunately we live under the cloud of “human nature” whose instincts or more along the line of the category of “sin.” And it’s for this reason that we must check ourselves, listening to the voice of God through the truths of Scripture. In the "checking" we discover how little “human nature” has altered.

Life is full of checks and balances, but for the Jesus follower we have access to the perfect scale. To gain a clear conscience and live a life that is honorable means being silent, praying intentionally, studying the biblical truths and no doubt fighting against what may come “naturally.”

Jesus, forgive me when I respond to my “nature”
instincts instead of my “redeemed” ones.
You speak through the ministry
of your life setting the guidelines in place.
These are what I want to keep me in check.