Monday, May 31, 2010
Bands marching, gum popping,
. . .this is Memorial Day.
Flags draping, tears falling,
trumpet playing, guns saluting,
. . .this is Memorial Day.
Flags torn, orders shouted,
Bombs exploding, soldiers falling,
. . .this is Memorial Day.
Empty tomb, sorrow spent,
Mary weeping, angels questioning,
. . .this is Resurrection Day!
Lord, in these turbulent, uncertain, violent times. . .bring us again to your empty tomb and Resurrection Day! Thank you for the peace that only your presence can bring.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Peter left his livelihood as a fisherman. James and John turned their backs on the family business. Matthew left a secure appointment by the government. Jesus knew what he was asking and yet throughout his ministry he continued to repeat the same two words, Follow Me. Some who heard were able to meet the challenge and take the risk. Others felt the constraint of family and business obligations. Both decisions changed their lives one way or another.
The disciples represent the broad spectrum of individuals that Jesus called. They all came from different backgrounds with the only common factor being that in following Jesus they were turning away from the known to face the unknown. Jesus gave no expectations at the point of his calling. There were no promises of life after death. No assurances that they would return to their lives. He simply said, Follow Me, and at least twelve couldn’t resist!
It strikes me that sometimes I spend more time thinking and talking about Christianity in the context of the afterlife. I was taught to “witness” because we want people to be assured of heaven after they die. There wasn't an emphasis on how much it could change their lives, now.
Follow Me radically changed the lives of the disciples. They saw, heard, and experienced this life as never before. Jesus taught them how to live the kingdom life that was being given to them--now.
Jesus wants us to live in the kingdom now. Follow me!
Thursday, May 27, 2010
The Bible is sometimes difficult to understand. Because of the historical and cultural significance of some passages it takes some digging to mine the truths and bring them to meaning in the 21st century. In other passages all we have to do is simply scratch the surface and up pops a gem beyond compare. I was reminded of this when a mass e-mail popped in my box with this verse from Malachi along with this illustrating story.
Prompted by this verse and wanting to know more about the process of refining and purifying silver, a Jesus follower found a silversmith and started asking questions. She discovered that in order for silver to be refined it had to be held, by the silversmith, deep in the hottest part of the fire. It was crucial that the silver be carefully watched because the silver would be destroyed if over exposed to the intense heat. However, it was the heat that burned away all the impurities revealing the value and brilliance of the metal.
After watching from beginning to end she asked, “How do you know when the silver has been properly refined and purified?” Without any hesitation the silversmith replied, “When I see my image I know that the silver has been in the fire long enough.”
It doesn’t take much to understand how this connects to my life! Nevertheless it’s a good reminder--God has his eyes on me at all times. He won’t allow me to burn unnecessarily. While the heat of the fire may seem beyond tolerance He’s watching and when He sees His image I will be removed.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
this good work in you…
Philippians 1:6a (CEV)
Grace is one of my earliest memories. She passed away several years ago but her imprint has left its mark because Grace assumed the best in everyone. When walking on the pier no one was able to pass by without her calling out a hello or engaging them in a conversation about the catch of the day. She didn’t see anyone as anything other than God’s good work.
It isn’t always easy to accept those that we meet, or live with, as God’s good work. We know all the weak spots of those we love and when seeing a street person we give them a wide berth. Too many times my own instinct, unfortunately, isn’t to see God’s good work in those that I find troublesome. But, of course, I want to be seen as a good work in progress!
From our beginnings God saw that what He had created was good. Grace claimed this by living it out in her life, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, believing that what she saw wasn’t the finished product. There was hope of a completed good work in everyone.
Having the eyes of God; seeing that He has begun a good work in everyone—this is how I want to live. With this vision, while I may see that a person’s behavior, choices or attitude are far from being good, I can trust that God knows what he began and he knows how the finished product is supposed to look.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
For this reason I remind you
to fan into flame the gift of God. . .
2 Timothy 1:6a
There have been several “seasons” in my life where I have been confident of the gifts that God has given me. My present “season” isn’t one of them. A number of different factors along with life dramas have played into my absolute uncertainty about exactly what “gift” I should be fanning into flame. It is not a comfortable place to be.
Recently a long time friend was forced into early retirement. After over thirty years of faithful employment, to one company, he was rewarded with a cake, a handshake and a closed door. The initial days off are refreshing. But when the routine of years begins to kick in again and there is no office, no goals, no rhythm how does one discover, much less fan into flame God’s “gift.”
Believing that God is not finished with us until we come to our end is a discipline. With each advancing year we step further away from the prowess of youth and into a world of muscle loss. Being disciplined comes each morning when I am given a choice. There are only two options requiring two different questions: Why should I get out of bed today? – or – What does God want to do in me today?
The choice I make each morning makes a difference in how readily available I am to fan into flame God’s unknown gift for my day as well as preparing me for my future.
Now I am uncertain about my future.
What do you want to do in me today?
Monday, May 24, 2010
that bears no fruit while every branch
that does not bear fruit,
He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
For ten years I lived in the wine country of northern California. Actually, I lived in a historic village on the Pacific Ocean so had the best of two glorious worlds! But, when I was a new resident I was enthralled with the beauty of the lush vineyards and the draping of fat globes of fruit. One day I came around the bend in the road and the beautiful landscape I was expecting was completely devastated. In the place of “lush” and “draping” stood row after row of barrenness. Single, stark posts marched silently over the rolling hills. In the distance rose a blue gray column; evidence of a burn pile. Pruning season had arrived.
When Jesus used this visual, he could have very well been looking out on a vineyard during pruning season. No one who heard him that day would have missed the point—pruning season takes the plant down to barrenness—pruning season involves burning. Pruning is drastic.
Driving through Anderson Valley that morning a visual was burned on my soul. With each difficulty that memory returns. Even the parts of my life that are “producing” don’t escape the pruning shears. I feel, at times, completely stripped. But, that summer I was rewarded with the effects of that brutal cut and burn season. No longer barren, each post that had stood naked was now again clothed in succulent greens, shades of amethyst with hints of sienna. Abundance was a visual I added to the former. What had been ruthlessly cut back was now getting ready to produce a bountiful harvest.
is exactly what I desire.
Friday, May 21, 2010
"Come away by yourselves
to a desolate place and rest a while."
It is difficult to be alone. Feeling uncomfortable in one's "aloneness" is cross generational. Just watch a lone teenager busily texting. Most adults wouldn't dream of sitting in a restaurant eating by themselves. Most often, when we find ourselves with the possibility of being alone, we seek to fill the void. In the midst of my own fatigue my thoughts have settled on these selected portions from Gifts from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I was struck with how many years have passed since the publication of this book and yet how pertinent, particularly to the life of a Jesus follower.
Jesus faithfully pulled away from the crowds and spent time alone. It was after these times of "aloneness" that miracles happened. If being alone produced such significant results shouldn't we seek it's location more diligently?
It is not the desert island, nor the stony wilderness, that cuts you off from the people you love; it is the wilderness of the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost--a stranger to oneself and estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others. We are all, in the last analysis, alone. How one hates to think of oneself as alone. How one avoids it--it seems to imply rejection or unpopularity. We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. Even if family, friends and movies should fail, there is still the radio or television to fill up the void.
We must re-learn to be alone.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I am claustrophobic. Whether it’s a tight space or a tight embrace my breath quickens as I struggle for freedom. It’s probably one of the reasons why I love the image of being in the shadow of God’s protective wing. I want to feel secure not claustrophobic.
Standing in shadows isn’t a suffocating experience. Instead, one finds relief from heat, the wind, the rain while at the same time keeping the ability to be mobile, with a view of what’s happening. If I am to learn from experience, it’s I want to see what I’m facing. Locking myself away or closing my eyes doesn’t help prepare me for anything.
When I’m facing storms of destruction God spreads out his wing of protection. He provides the shadow that reminds me of his presence while providing a “safe” space to learn and grow from the experience. It’s all part of growing up in Christ. If I want to be a Jesus follower that is mature and strong I will need to find contentment in the shadow of God’s wing.
Now, I have to be honest, an embrace is wonderful. But, if I am going to become strong as a result of my “storms”, taking refuge in God’s shadow will give me the comfort I need while at the same time giving me a view of the upcoming lesson.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
of life in the kingdom.
Mark 10:14b (The Message)
“Our culture is child centered at the moment,” said my walking partner, an elementary school teacher. She was responding to my question as to whether she had seen a change over the years in the behavior of children. It became apparent that a teacher’s life isn’t easy given the self focused personalities of children. However, that evening at church I saw centers of life jumping up and down singing about the power of Jesus. I saw hope!
By giving children center stage in life we keep them from claiming their place in the life of the Kingdom. Once I met a young man who claimed that his parents never told him what to do; they just wanted him to be “happy.” Unfortunately I never saw him be "happy." His parents had centered him in their life forgetting where his true center belonged.
Jesus saw the ability of children to throw themselves wholeheartedly at life as a way of illustrating what it meant to live in the Kingdom. On one hand it might appear that we should make children the center of our culture, but here’s the catch. When we forget that our children are the center of life in the kingdom of God and instead make them the center of our lives we destroy their identities in the Kingdom.
For all who are involved in the lives of children, their “happiness” cannot be our focused desire. We are instead called to show them how to claim their identities as centers of life in the kingdom.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
a tornado hit—but nothing moved
that house. It was fixed to the rock.
Matthew 7:25 (The Message)
During one of my most difficult moments I met Elizabeth. She was waging a battle against a powerful hurricane, cancer. Her story and the hard work she was doing to simply LIVE reeked havoc on my pity party. I never heard her complain or question God’s purpose. In order to not be destroyed, Elizabeth faithfully followed the blueprints that would keep her living.
The Bible is consistent with this message—a Jesus follower can be guaranteed some foul weather. It isn’t a pleasant truth, but there it is. In my own life I have found it to be a consistently uncomfortable fact. It seems as though I just get through one “rain” storm and a “tornado” whirls in. It is at these times that meeting people, who are dealing with “hurricanes”, provide a perspective.
Being in community with fellow Jesus followers is essential during foul weather. It is impossible to survive on one’s own. It’s the same in the life of a Jesus follower. The strength we need to live through a storm comes with the help from other followers. Their stories of endurance remind us that there is life after a “flood.”
Meeting a Jesus follower who has built their life on the Rock is like knowing a master builder. Having been intimately acquainted with the Master’s blueprints they know what is necessary to not just build, but maintain the structure and it is this wisdom that helps us be fixed to the rock as well.
Thought for the day: Who are the people who help you live through storms?
Monday, May 17, 2010
It was supremely still. The air of Dachau was not easily breathed as our minds attempted to take in the implications of the place. Conversation was minimal as if we feared disturbing the peace. Silently my husband and I entered Dachau’s memorial archive. Black, six inch letters scattered across a white plain - All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing – stopped us cold.
What had started out as a quick “point of interest” visit, ended eight hours later when we boarded the bus back to our hotel. High def images and those bold black words will be forever burned in my memory. They are tapped again and again at every injustice, broken vow, murder account, slanderous story, act of violence, gossipy tongue that I hear about, see or experience. Shamefully, too many times I do absolutely nothing. Fear stops me cold.
Even after all they had experienced with Jesus, when the going got tough, the disciples fled in fear for themselves. They left Jesus to the results of the slanderous betrayal of one of their own. And, I sometimes wonder if perhaps Judas hadn’t revealed his character previously but no one had had the courage to confront him. It is only a wonder.
There are numerous ways evil triumph’s in our world today. It usually starts out miniscule and of seemingly no consequence. But then we’re shocked at the stories and the repercussions of a tiny seed named evil. From murder to gossip to slander to adultery, the list is endless. Evil keeps growing, living, multiplying, existing because good men (women) do nothing.
Thought for the day: What evil have you seen or experienced and should speak out against?
against all that you consider evil.
Help me to find my voice, today!
Friday, May 14, 2010
There may be some who scoff at the the idea of an evil presence much less our need to be ready for battle. But, when Jesus walks into the temple in the first chapter of Mark, his first miracle is getting rid of a demon who has taken up residence in the middle of the place of worship. It's a warning that evil is often times present in the places you least expect it. Dressing in full battle gear is the only way to survive.
It's true now and it was true in the fourth century as you will read below. . .
Let us, therefore, take courage and strip ourselves for the contests. Christ has put on us armor that is more glittering than any gold, stronger than any steel, hotter and more violent than any fire, and lighter than any breath of air. The nature of this armor does not burden and bend our knees, but it gives wings to our limbs and lifts them up. If you wish to take flight to heaven, this armor is no hindrance. It is a new kind of armor, since it is a new kind of combat.
Although I am human, I must aim my blows at demons; although clad in flesh, my struggle is with incorporeal powers. On this account God has made my breastplate not from metal but from justice; God has prepared for me a shield which is made not of bronze but of faith. I have, too, a sharp sword, the word of the Spirit.
John Chrysotom, Fourth Century
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Most of us have known the weight of anxiety. From owning your own business, to raising children, to making ends meet, to marital issues, to losing employment, at some point anxiety meets us head on. And, we don't really need to be told that anxiety shouldn't be one of our friends because anxiety is toxic.
Anxiety, no matter the reason, destroys our spirit. Even our physical body will eventually begin to exhibit the effects of anxiety through a variety of physical ailments. For something that causes so much destruction it's a wonder that we are willing to keep it company. We know it isn't a good house guest and yet we make “anxiety” feel comfortable.
It is at the point when we see “anxiety” making camp that we need to help each other with a good word. The challenge of this is becoming aware of what that good word might actually be! For myself I too quickly offer words of Biblical "instruction" about who and what God will do instead of waiting, listening to the words of anxiety and responding with a God given good word that will bring gladness.
Here's a challenge for today. Let's listen and hear what is weighing down the heart of our friend, co-worker, parent, child, neighbor, but, take the next step--wait, listen carefully to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and hear the good word. Today let's make someone glad because of the good word we have given them.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
help me to give even what I do not have.
Lord, I feel nothing;
help me not to be jealous, that You may
use me to touch others' hearts.
Lord, I am weary;
help me to remember that You
have been weary, too.
Lord, I need refreshing;
help me to refresh others and to forget
about my own needs.
Lord, I can't see the way ahead, help me not to get in the way
of those who can.
Lord, I am disappointed,
help me not to bring disappointment to others.
Lord, I have no one to help me;
help me to trust in You.
Lord, I can't see You;
yet You see me. . .help me to remember that.
Lord, I am not worthy to receive You,
but only say the word and I shall be healed.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I Corinthians 13:4
Between officiating at marriages, catering or attending them my husband and I have witnessed hundreds of couples exchange vows of commitment. Even for those who have previously been married a new relationship represents renewed hope and desire. From my vantage point at every wedding, it appears that every couple wants to believe that somehow they will be able to sustain the amazing feeling they are experiencing. Statistics compose a completely alternate ending.
When the day to day struggles arrive, the differences in backgrounds rears on its legs or the protective personality covering falls away, we are faced with how difficult it is to be patient, kind, not insisting on our own way - to love. It proves much more difficult than we ever imagined.
We are, however, loved in exactly the way Paul describes. God knows how to love. Even in Eden his love overshadows Adam and Eve while he makes clothes for them, after they have “insisted on their own way.”
The thirty plus years of loving my husband stumbles when compared to how I’ve been loved by my Father. His love has never faltered as daily he clothes me with his “love” garments. Dressed in His clothes I am able to at least see how to truly love.
Monday, May 10, 2010
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NIV)
It’s a strong word, but I hate wind. It makes me feel completely out of sorts. The fact that it blows every which way and I never know its direction or what it may cough up takes me to an “out of control” place. And that’s not a place I like! Knowing where I am going and what I am doing is where I like to be.
No wonder I cannot understand the work of God! And because of my reluctance to lean into the unknowingness of God’s nature I miss seeing, experiencing the wonder of how He moves, how He creates, how He lays out a path. My need to “control” too often overpowers my desire to run wherever the Wind may take me.
When I think of God’s work in terms of the wind or an unborn child it does give me a different perspective when challenges step in my way. Years ago I heard a speaker say, “Why” questions just aren’t helpful when it comes to God. But, not knowing isn’t a comfortable place to be! And yet, it is to that place of “unknowing” that God seems to bring me in order for me to trust Him—because I have no other choice.
As much as I don’t like the wind I do remember as a little girl, relaxing, with arms outstretched, allowing the wind to push and move me along. Feeling the power and yet never knowing where I was being blown was fun as a child. Claiming that sensation now, as a follower of Jesus, is what will make a difference.
Relaxing, with arms outstretched to God is a position of trust—allowing His Wind to blow me down a path that is unknown and yet knowing that wherever I stop is exactly where God wants me. In the end, that is the place I want to be.
With arms outstretched; leaning into Your Wind
That will move me to where You desire.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Written by Aidan Clark
What I believe about Jesus could not be contained in a thousand books. I believe in Jesus more than I believe in the pen with which I am writing these words. I cannot, however, expect you to believe my beliefs.
Imagine you meet me in a cafe and I introduce you to a friend. I say "This is Jesus." I do not then give you a list of things you must believe about His family and a thick book to memorize before I let you speak to Him. I don't ask you to believe in Him--because you can see Him for yourself. I ask you only to trust Him and to get to know Him.
My prayer for today is that each of us would have an opportunity to introduce Jesus with, "This is my friend. Would you like to get to know Him?"
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Psalm 46:2a, 3
Dig in! Dig in! Suddenly the waters turned into a whirlpool and the six of us thrust our paddles into the water feeling our weakness against the river’s strength. Nevertheless, our rafting guide repeatedly yelled, Dig in! We listened. Digging in was what had to be done in order to get through to the other side.
My muscles ached the next day as a result of digging in. At one point I felt myself being pushed off the raft by the force of the water; I dug in deeper. Digging in was the critical element of survival, but it also helped stave off fear. When one is busy digging in there isn’t time for fear.
It would be nice if there was a river guide yelling Dig In! when our life river suddenly turned to rapids. Too often fear overcomes us and forgetting to dig in we become swamped by circumstances beyond our control. We feel our weakness.
But the truth is that we do have a river guide daily encouraging us to Dig in! Abraham and Sarah grieved over their infertility and God said, "Your descendants will outnumber the stars"–Dig in! When Job was put to the test, God said, "who hung the stars in place"–Dig In! Gabriel tells Mary, "Don’t be afraid. God is with you"–Dig in!
In the moment of life’s turbulence, if we are willing to listen, our heavenly River Guide can be heard to say, "You have nothing to fear. I am with you." Dig in!
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Parenting is probably the wildest relationship I’ve ever had. It’s like a turbulent roller coaster while quickly resembling the tranquil beauty of an ocean sunset. Just about every imaginable emotion lies in between. The crazy part is that even given the uncertain emotional nature of the relationship, when my child asks, I want to give.
The truth is that most parents know exactly what their kids want because kids aren’t afraid to ask. Knowing what is available, they believe that they have a ready resource able and willing to provide. Their requests may not always be granted, but parents generally want to give their kids good gifts.
When it comes to our relationship with our heavenly Father, just imagine what we would receive were we to simply ask. As the perfect parent, our Father wants to give the ultimate in good gifts. But, asking is an important part of the process.
Prior to asking, a "need" must first be identified. Next is acknowledging that this "need" will bring about change in one’s life. Asking is the point where "need" and the desire for fulfillment meet. When Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given” (Luke 11:10a) he reveals this truth as well as his desire to fill the "needs" that will bring him glory.
There’s nothing like receiving a gift for which we specifically asked. Our creator Father is waiting for us to ask. His good gift of the Holy Spirit will satisfy all our needs.
Jesus, thank you for your willingness to respond to our asks.
Today I ask for your good gift of the Holy Spirit.
This is the "need" that I want to become real.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
I John 1:5b
It’s our memory, however, that changes our behavior. Our homes, bedrooms, places of work, or schools are familiar and so, even if shrouded in darkness, we allow our memory of what we know to be in that familiar place, to guide us. Consequently, in the middle of the night we find that we have made it to the bathroom--without a light.
Jesus followers need to rely on a spiritual memory as well. During those moments when life’s decisions are obvious and clear cut we are privileged to stand in God’s well lit room. It is at these moments, when everything is visible, that spiritual memorization is essential. Because the truth is, in an instant the light of the “obvious” could be snuffed out and instead of confidently moving ahead we find ourselves disoriented and confused.
When we make spiritual memory a priority, fearing the dark should no longer be an issue. Without a doubt we will remember what God has shown us in the light.
Jesus, you were the Light that God
sent to illumine the darkness of the world.
When darkness envelops me, help me to remember
what I have seen in your Presence.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Trust nothing, yourself least of all; but in Me have that perfect confidence that banishes fear. Remember how many storms I have quieted by a word, making a great calm to follow. Remember how I held up Peter walking on the waters. I am always as near to all people as I was then to him, and as ready to help and succour in all that is for the good of the soul. Be confident, faithful, courageous; have no fear for your body and soul, for I am there, loving and all-powerful.
Never forget that I am there. In this life the tempest never ceases, and your boat is ever ready to sink. But I am there, and with Me it will never be wrecked.