Monday, December 6, 2010

Under the Blanket

Sometimes I question the truth about God & this blanket religion (Try & think of how many denominations & belief systems fall under the blanket of "Christianity"). I feel as though in order to follow Jesus & walk heavenward with His merry band of "Christians" , I have to throw a blanket over myself too. Its heavy, hot & scratchy under here... I trip ocassionally because its hard to see where I'm going... but this is walking by faith, right?

Am I being led by faith or hearsay? Do I have faith in God or in stories & traditions passed down through countless generations? No one knows how the earth was formed. Evolution tells us organisims crawled out of the sea & eventually sprouted appengages & became cows, monkeys & men. Who was around to know? It sounds absolutely ridiculous to me... What about the Garden of Eden & Noah's Ark? Who reported the play by play? These things sound ridiculous as well. But for some reason, I believe them over evolution... Truth or hearsay? Maybe it really is relative.

Sometimes I bump into another blanket-wearer. We exchange niceties & drift somewhere else among the mob... When we talk, we talk through the blanket. When we "fellowship", its through the blanket. I don't see them, they don't see me & we don't see those around us. The outside world- those "heathens" are but voices & images in our minds... Its like listenening to the narration of a museum exhibit. We are blinded by our blankets of opinion & belief, but walk through & nod our heads... Fascinating. Riveting. Sad. And then we leave, blankets firmly fixed. They've grown heavier, as have our eyelids. We sleep. No one will know... Until someone trips over us.

I've tripped over many a sleeper on my journey... no doubt I've caused a few to stumble myself. And when I wake up, I instinctively throw off my blanket... to the horror & shame of the other blanket wearers around me. They still can't see me. They're hindered by the fabric of their faith... But they know because I ask why everyone is wearing a blanket. They mutter hearsay, they know something's different about me... I've been exposed... Some run in fear, some gather around me & try to cover me with their blankets until my own is found. I begrudgingly pull it up over my head. I let it cascasde down around me, get up off my knees & walk. Its heavy, hot & scratchy under here. I still can't see. But better to be hidden than picked off by predators or worse, than being alone...

Or so its been said... but it could just be hearsay.

Flash Card Experiment Day 4

Today's word:

Nuance

A subtle expression of meaning, quality or tone. A slight degree of difference. Graduation.

Today's motivational thought:

I can grow & change.


My motivational card also reads "Caterpillars turn into butterflies, acorns into oaks, buds into flowers". The changes in each of these things are subtle... they don't transform overnight... & when each of these become something new, how many of us notice? Whos been standing around long enough to acknowledge the nuance that delivered such metamorphoses? Is the caterpillar aware hes undergone a radical transformation within the chrysalis, or does he feel like he just woke up from a power nap? Do the oak tree or the flower remember how small they once were? Are they aware of what they've become & how long their conversion took to accomplish? How much more or less might I be able to judge growth & change within my own self... I don't remember being conceived or growing in my mother's womb... I don't even remember my first breath in the outside world. But over time, this baby girl became a youngster, who became a teenager, who eventually became (& sometimes feels like shes still becoming) an adult... Someday my grey hair will win out & my body will falter... Am I aware of these changes as they happen? Not at all. I am always surprised when I notice something different. Such is the nature of nuance... and perhaps I am growing & changing even now. Somewhere down the road I may realize I became a butterfly, an oak, a flower...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Flash Card Experiment Day 3

Today's word: Pragmatic

Practical, as opposed to idealistic. Rational, realistic.

Today's Motivational thought:

I can put my worries into perspective.

Worry is easily blown out of proportion. I worry that I'm not thin enough, pretty enough, good enough, talented enough. Is this realistic? No. Who exactly am I comparing myself to afterall? Someone made of flesh & bones like me? Or perhaps the great God of the Universe is the contender in this match. Either way, I can't be perfect & won't win out... There will always be someone bigger & stronger. I worry that I will be alone the rest of my life. Maybe I won't be able to pay my bills, or won't know how to handle a high stress situation when it suddenly overtakes me... Are these worries valid? Sure. Practical? Not really. Worrying won't help me achieve long lasting relationship, financial stability or mental & emotional clarity in a time of need... But I can learn to be pragmatic about my anxiety... I can expect realistic results from realistic goals... I can start small & build my reserves. Who knows? Maybe I'll look back on all my worries someday & laugh...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Magic Carpet 4Sale Part Deux

The Christian scriptures don't have the power to save us or heal us or make us holy enough to stand before God. Only Jesus can do that. Our faith is in Jesus, not in the church, not in signs & wonders or even in the Bible. Yes, Paul says to Timothy (depending on your preferred translation): All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV).

Some argue since Jesus is the very Word of God (See John 1:1), that scripture is holy. "All scripture is God breathed..." But then, I was also "God- breathed" (according to Genesis), I was even made in His image. God created the first man & woman out of dust & breathed the breath of life into them. His breath. In fact, we are all God breathed. John 1:2 says "Through Him all things were made". Does this mean everything (me, you, that rock, that tree, that chicken or cow) is holy? No. Neither does "God breathed" mean the scriptures should be considered one in the same as Jesus. I personally don't think the two are interchangeable. I do believe (despite human errors in translation, etc.) that the principles contained in the bible are inspired by God. I believe they are the testimony of the Truth. They point, they direct. The word of God can equip us to find, to know & to follow Christ with both feet on the ground, through the flood, fire & muck. It can, but does it?

"...the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 NIV

Flash Card Experiment Day 2

Today's word:

Alacrity- Speed, quickness, haste. Cheerful readiness or willingness.

Today's motivational thought:

"I can say NO".

Sometimes I have trouble saying no to people- especially when they request that I do something in short order. You say "Jump!" & I'll say "How high?" But before the words complete their descent from my lips, I'm floundering like a rock climber on a rappel gone bad. I didn't really want to say "Yes" in the first place. I just wanted you to think well of me.

Sometimes I realize I've spoken abruptly, forgetting details that might genuinely prevent me from keeping my word. Sometimes I realize the consequence of my "yes" all too late & end up beating myself up or bailing out of self-preservation.

The truth is, I don't have to say "yes" to everyone. I don't have to belittle myself to justify my "no" & I don't have to be a flake. If I communicate my "no" with honesty & thoughtfulness, that could be a first step in the right direction...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Magic Carpet 4Sale

How is that we have the scriptures written in so many languages, yet some of us (me included) are so benign in our faith & witness? How is it that those who don't have the luxury of literacy or finances to possess sacred scrolls or books seem more likely to see more signs & wonders? What would have happened if each person in the pre-Gutenberg era had been able to read the Bible as we know it today? Might they have obtained the same kind of connection with their creator? Or would they have become like us?

And who is "us?"

We are the modern American church, fat with "scripture", so much so that we can't even move ourselves, let alone let the Spirit move us. We are morbidly obese... filling up on "the word", singing our songs & going to our bible studies with our friends. Maybe we busy ourselves with "God's work", prayer meetings, outreaches, community involvement... But have we ever left the comfort of our "christianity"? And what would that even mean or look like in the real world?

It seems some of us live in a kind of fantasy world, holding on to our scriptures as if they were a magic carpet with the power to take us anywhere we want to go. "Magic carpet, help us achieve whatever it is we need (or want), all for the glory of God of course!" Perhaps we believe we are impervious to scrutiny, above reproach... Justified, sanctified & oh yes, forgiven. We're safe to do whatever we want as long as we're firmly seated, holding on to the fringy corners, leaning into the turns. But merely owning a Bible, reading it or even speaking the words outloud will not protect us, make us holy or bring us closer to the living God.

To the casual observer, the Bible is the stuff of legends. There are heroes & villians, victories & failures. There is life & death, faithfulness, betrayal... There is hope & hope deferred. Its a book of heritage. And like a tattered family album passed down through generations, some pull it out for the sake of nostalgia & put it back on the shelf when they're done. For some, the bible is mere fiction... not to be taken too seriously. For others, the Bible is bread & water.

But listen to the words of Jesus. He said, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty". John 6:35 NIV

He also said: "You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life". John 5:39-40 NIV

Are we believing in the power of scripture or the power of Christ to move us? What's the difference?
More next time...

Flash Card Experiment Day 1

I have a couple boxes of "flash cards" that I found collecting dust on a thrift store shelf a while back. One deck is GRE vocab & the other is motivational. These cards now rest happily collecting dust on my shelf. The other day I decided it might be fun to try something... So I broke out both decks & here's what happened:

Today's word:

Deface- to mar the appearance of, vandalize, disfigure, impair, spoil.

Today's motivational thought:

"I can label life a new way".

How have I been marred or vandalized? How have I been disfigured, impaired &/or spoiled? The burdens of life have marred me, vandalized my walls, disfigured the Architect's original design & spoiled it... momentarily. What can I do about it? Perhaps the answer is in the motivation. Can I label this "marredness" in a new way? Can I see the burdens of life, the disfiguring weight that has impeded me as something beneficial? Perhaps the weight is not meant to be carried all at once, but like a body builder, I need to gradually work up to things... Perhaps I can learn to lessen the weight I carry, discipline myself to take things one thing at a time & slowly gain the strength to bear up under the load... Perhaps I need more levers, ropes & pulleys... Perhaps I need help.

And a wall is a wall, whether it has a clean coat of paint or just got tagged with graffiti. No need to destroy the wall... I can paint over a wall that's been defaced. This "mess" can be cleaned up, restored, maintained. It may take some work, but it can be done.

Anyway. I was pleasantly suprised with this experiment...

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Belt of Truth

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth... Ephesians 6:14 KJV

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind & be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ... 1 Peter 1:13 NKJV

"Girt & gird". These aren't the names of some dynamic Scandinavian brother & sister crime fighting duo... These words mean to prepare oneself for action.

When we see the armour of God in Ephesians 6, its easy to imagine it magically, invisibly, protecting our physical bodies. However, imagine, if you will, your mind as a body all its own. Imagine it like a newly enlisted person in the military. Perhaps your mind is troubled... it needs some structure, discipline. Maybe it enlisted as an obligation to family or personal conviction. Maybe it enlisted as a last resort. Either way, the goal is to learn submission, grow under discipline & be ready for action. Not only that, the enlisted mind must work with other enlistees to become a cohesive unit.

If we, as soldiers in this spiritual military, set our minds on the things of the spirit, we will succeed. However, if we set our minds on the things of the flesh, we will ultimately fail in our service as individuals & cohesively as a unit. Why? "...Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace." Romans 8:6 NLT

Consider:
Jesus is the same yesterday, today & forever.
He is the One Who was & is & is to come.
He is the Way, the Truth & the Life.

If the opposite of girding is to disarm, loosen, or let go & if the opposite of truth is a lie, then what might the opposite of Jesus be, based on the descriptives above? Might it be someone shifty who is constantly changing the rules? Might this someone be finite, selfish, manipulative? Salvation would be something to work for, claw for, compete for. In the end, we would find that the hope of salvation was just a cruel joke b/c we tried to save ourselves & failed. This "opposite Jesus" might be a liar, a roadblock to experiencing freedom, sowing death in us instead of life. Imagine this "opposite Jesus", this counterfeit saviour, as your own sinful nature- your civilian mind- influenced by the lies of your enemy, the devil... Influenced by the malleability of another slightly lesser known enemy, your sinful nature.

We have a Saviour Who never changes. He has always been & always will be. He alone has the words of Life & all His words are Truth. When we learn to gird up the loins of our mind with the Truth He speaks, we learn how to prepare ourselves for action. We learn how to submit to the Spirit of God. When we learn how to submit to the Spirit of God, we are lead toward life & peace individually & cohesively.

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Armour, Applied

Today I decided to take a different approach to the Armour of God.

First, I wrote down the pieces of armour in one column:

1) TRUTH
2) RIGHTEOUSNESS
3) READINESS (FROM PEACE)
4) FAITH
5) SALVATION (HOPE OF)
6) WORD OF GOD
7) PRAYER

Then I wrote down their opposites in another column:

A) LIES
B) DEPRAVITY
C) LETHARGY / DISTRACTION
D) DOUBT
E) ABANDONMENT (FEAR OF)
F) WORD OF THE WORLD
G) SILENCE / AVOIDANCE

I applied each of the negatives to me.
A) What are the lies I'm believing today?
B) Is sin mastering me?
C) Am I lethargic in body, mind, spirit? Am I distracted?
D) Do I doubt things about God that I've previously believed?
E) Do I feel alone, exposed or vulnerable?
F) Am I listening to the word of the world about me, about God?
G) Am I choosing to avoid God because of sin or do I feel like I don't have anything to say?

I wrote my answers down under the negatives & sat with them for a bit. Everyone's answers will be different. Then I went over to the truth column, took each "piece of armour" & applied it to the corresponding negative. It looks something like this:

A) LIE (What are the lies I'm believing today?)
I have no hope, I can't change, I may as well give up.
1) TRUTH
There IS hope for me, God has given me a hope & a future, I CAN change, it just takes time, like any living thing.

Belt of Truth: fastened.

B) DEPRAVITY (Is sin mastering me?)
I am struggling with "X, Y & Z" today.
2) RIGHTEOUSNESS
I choose to repent & abstain from "X, Y & Z" b/c God has called me to deny my self & be Holy as He is Holy.

Breastplate of righteousness. Check.

C) LETHARGY / DISTRACTION (Am I lethargic in body, mind, spirit? Am I distracted?)
I'm tired, don't feel like cracking my Bible open. I have to check my email anyway & make lunch and...
3) READINESS (FROM PEACE)
I choose to stop & give my anxiety & distractedness to God. I choose to take time & read something today. Maybe I'll be able to share it with someone...

Shoes of readiness that come from God's peace. Good to go.

You get the idea. The "armour of God" is more than just a list of words in Ephesians 6. It can be used to effectively protect & defend us, if we can learn how to apply it to our lives...


Ephesians 6:10-18 NIV
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Waking Dream

Many years ago, I had a waking dream- perhaps it was a vision- I don't really know how to describe it. I was in the middle of an angry sea, standing on a lone rock. The waters were violent, red... blown about by a gale force wind. I stood upon that rock (which was no bigger than a manhole cover), unwavering in the middle of the ocean for some time before the scene ended & I "awoke".

The following are verses from various passages that have impacted my life as of late... They're slightly edited & re-written as prayer. Let this waking dream serve as an illustration of sorts... I'm standing on this Rock, calling out... The waters are so high, threatening to overtake me, threatening to drown me... I can't escape... I'm trapped...

God,
(You) set the earth on its foundations... You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. I hear the tumult of the raging seas as Your waves and surging tides sweep over me... So I seek You, and You have answered me; You delivered me from all my fears. You said “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you."

Those who look to You are radiant. Their faces are never covered with shame. This poor girl called, and You heard me; You saved me out of all my troubles. I love You, LORD, My strength! You are my Rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold! I called to You- You are worthy of praise- & I have been saved!

In my distress I called to You, Lord;  I cried to You for help. From Your temple You heard my voice; my cry came before You, into Your ears. At Your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of Your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place You assigned for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross... Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name! Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all His benefits! Amen!


Psalm 104 NIV, Psalm 42 NLT/NIV, Psalm 34 NIV,
Isaiah 43 NIV, Psalm 18 NIV, Psalm 103 NIV

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Skip Days

"I'm skipping church with the Body of Christ- I'm doing my church on Tv today."

This is an actual quote. It seemed so striking to me that I had to write it down. The person speaking started off by saying she was a heathen for not attending church. She was joking, of course, but there are folks out there who actually believe things like that. I'm not one of them, but I did think her statement was interesting. I'm not out to split hairs here... but I wanted to play with this some, entertain the idea... We can slip into this mindset easily without even realizing it...

She "skipped" church, like one might "skip" school. Church that day was a function, just another thing to add to the already overwhelming list of things to be done. Church was a thing to "do"... a place to go, instead of a living being (spiritually speaking) that just "is". The church IS the Body of Christ, so to say that one can do church "WITH the Body of Christ" seems to imply disconnection, disembodiment FROM the body of Christ... She spoke as if she were independent of it at will- perhaps in honor of halloween, like a living disembodied arm or some such thing (This particular Sunday fell on halloween)...

She said "I'm doing my church on Tv today", which equated to watching Tv preachers while she prepared lunch for the family. What exactly is church then? Is it only for the weekend? It is listening to sermons? Reading scripture on a screen & listening to people pray? Is it watching the camera pan through the hordes of beautiful people sitting in their mega churches? Is church merely something one "does" by observation or listening as an individual? Is church a building, a function? Or is it more than that? And are we really contributing more to the Body of Christ on a Saturday or Sunday, as opposed to the rest of the week? "Church" is lived, not attended. It can be- should be- experienced through everyday life... All week long, at any time of night or day, anywhere with anyone.

Would she still have been able to justify her "skip day" if she hadn't turned on the Christian tv program? Maybe not, especially if she defined church as just another slot in her schedule. On my skip days, I tend to sleep in, go for walks or just "be". I don't have to listen to Christian music, watch some preacher on TV or even crack open my Bible that day. I might pray, I might write. For me, this is rejuvenating. I tend to burn out easily. Some parts of the body are like that- eyes get tired, senses get overwhelmed, feet hurt, muscles ache, but with a little T.L.C., those parts can function & support the rest of the body just as the rest of the body supports those parts... Skip days aren't neccesarily something bad. Jesus Himself went off for hours or days to be alone. But its always helpful to examine why we skip, and how we remain connected when we skip... Jesus always came back... do we?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Word Find

Picture it: A list of 20 words pertaining to a particular subject matter & a box full of jumbled letters.

The object of the challenge is to find all 20 words in the box. They may be up, down, diagonal, backward, etc., but every single word is in there. You look at the box & maybe find 2 or 3 that stand out right away. And then the "fun" begins. I use the word fun sarcastically as the hunt can sometimes be maddening. Occassionally, you might hit a streak & find multiple words in succession. But there's always a sticking point when your eyes glaze over & you're forced to take a break. "Fresh eyes" will help you later on. The more words one finds, the easier the search becomes... Other words that were once hidden are now dilineated by other words that have been found. Eventually the challenge is completed. Onto the next.

This is life: Challenging. Simple. Maddening. Numbing. Failing. Refreshing. Revealing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Insect's Prayer

First light... its not the first time I've seen you.
In a while the day will come, breaking down my door
and I will collapse, asleep, soundly.

I will dream of a balmy afternoon.
Shadows of leaves frolic on walls...
Rocks in the "crick" are kissed by fading light &
I will fantasize of making my escape
when I hear the buzz
of the insect's prayer...

I wore my heart out on my sleeve-
what more could there have been to hear or see?
Somehow my voice got misplaced in the translation.
They thought it was rebellion that fueled my intentions.
I was clothed with diagnosis & with prophecy...
My wounds were bandaged tightly under labels of warning.
The ones who swore they were defending me
somehow over time became the enemy, scorning...

I dreamt in colours, I was running through fluorescent lighted halls.
There's safety in numbers, but there were no numbers for me to call.
I was an exile from the nation of contentment.
I was so tired of living in the fray.
I could not say I was scared of being lonely.
I could not say I was scared to face my days.
I kept my mouth shut just like any good girl should do...
I held it all, locked it away...

First light... its not the first time I've seen you.
I will fantasize of making my escape
when I hear the buzz
of the insect's prayer...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

6 Months of Myrrh

I was frustrated today & asked God to speak to me. I picked up my Bible & read wherever I happened to open up. Yes, we're talking Bible roulette here, but that doesn't negate God's sovereignty. As I lifted my finger from the passage, I read:

Esther 2:12 (NIV)
12 Before a girl's turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.

I felt the gem in this passage was the myrrh. The time frame for the first leg of preparation was 6 months. That's a long stretch. But she had to complete this step- a step of healing & purification- before she could go on to the next. And then it was another 6 months before she could even see the king...

She had already been chosen to be part of the harem, but she still had to face this. I can't imagine it was all luxury spa treatments once or twice a week for an hour... She probably had to be waxed & plucked & poked every day in every way to be "perfect". What would 6 months of myrrh treatments do to a person, I wonder? Its said that myrrh can be used both orally & topically to treat a variety of physical problems. It was (& still is) used as a disinfectant, an analgesic, a preventative medicine. It has a myriad of other uses as well.

In short, I am a "myrrh maid" if you will... I'm entering some strange process of preparation for the next phase of life. It might not be what I had in mind. I might feel like crap & I'm surely going to be exposed to all sorts of scrutiny. But in the end, I'll get to see "the King". At least, that's what the brochure says...

Like Esther, I have to complete this step of healing (for my soul) before I can move forward...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fish Out of Water

I was perched on some rocks at the edge of the river the other day... It was just before sunset & the park was relatively quiet.

I happened to look up from my notebook to spy a hawk of some sort flying with a fish firmly in its talons.
The Still, Small Companion within me began to whisper... "I am the Captor, you are the prey".
Admittedly, I hadn't heard the Voice for a while.
The Voice continued... something to the effect of "You know what the hawk is going to do with that fish".
A picture of hungry birds & fish bones flashed past my mind's eye.
"Its natural", the Voice continued, "the fish will feed the hawk & it's young".

We tend to think "Oh! Too bad for the fish!" But the fish doesn't exist for itself- it exists for the hawk or the fisherman or the bear. Its natural.

From this brief encounter, I was reminded that God is my Captor, I am the prey. God is the Hawk, I am the fish. Hungry birds await. It sounds gruesome, but I get it. He's found me with his keen eye & captured me with His strong, piercing talons. He's plucked me out of a river full of fish & is taking me someplace I could never go on my own. I am, quite literally, a fish out of water... but I do not exist for myself, I exist to be consumed by God... to bless Him & others as well... to be broken down into something useful.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Jungle

I know I should be happy- I have a stable job... I'm in good health. I'm not in danger of losing the roof over my head or going hungry or even not being able to pay a bill. Yet for one who lives mostly inside their head, the challenge is not in living out the external things of life, but the internal.

The internal life is something of a jungle- there are wild beasties about. Snakes can be particularly dangerous. They're silent, feigning kindness & will squeeze ever so slightly to comfort you. I've run into many snakes who have told me I can't go any further- I may as well stay where I'm at & relax. They threaten to strangle in my cozy slumber, but I've always managed to escape. Then there are the giant gorillas who bully their way through the brush & try to intimidate me. They say there's no place for me here & I may as well turn around. They beat their chests & scream. I pass by shaken, yet unharmed. There are tigers hiding in the brush, stalking me... following my every move, waiting for the right moment to take their prey. And then there's those little things that can go unnoticed until its too late- spiders, insects & poisonous plants- all threatening to bite, infect & kill.

One must take great care to survive the internal life. The danger comes in many forms. Each form has a voice & each voice is linked to the past. Each time I choose not to listen to the tangle of the jungle, each time I cut one of those things down, I move forward. And what's my goal? My goal is to leave the internal jungle behind & reach a higher place. It overlooks my path from start to finish. This is a safe place, a place where the jungle voices have become but incomprehensible whispers. This is a place where I am free to walk without deadly obstacles, free to dream without fear of being strangled in my sleep... This is a place where I am free to sing & shout- there are no stalkers here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Not Today

she dug her knees into the couch-
propped her head up with her hands.
she was watching out the window
three blocks down.

a church full of people had opened its doors-
they used to throw rice in those days.
cars parked on the street began to pull out,
honking their horns up the hill.

3 sets of lights turned red. 3 sets of lights turned green.
& the bells of the steeple rang out the hours...

she was watching for his shadow to wash over the sidewalk.
she was watching for the signs of his tell-tale gait.
maybe he would think to get a ride from his girlfriend...
she was always hoping that he was on his way.

down the road another church had opened up its doors-
they used to wear black in those days.
cars parked on the street turned on their headlights
& made their way on down to the graveyard.

3 sets of lights turned red. 3 sets of lights turned green.
& the bells of the steeple rang out the hours
when she heard the telephone ring...

not today my dear, not today.
maybe tomorrow (not likely), but not today...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Who Is This God?

This is a question that's been in my head for weeks now. Who is this God I serve? Who is this God I love? Who is this God Whose kindness leads me to repentance, Whose faithfulness is everlasting, Who makes daring, even reckless promises to me- a sinful, ruined, weak human being? Who is this God who sees me as I am & chooses not to curse me or cast me away? Who is this God Who wove poor, pitiful me into the fabric of history? He grafted me in. He gave me a place in His house. I was a stranger & He welcomed me. I was naked & He clothed me. I was hungry & He fed me. I was thirsty & He gave me drink. I walked in with my shackels & He set me free. I was sick & He healed me. I was lonely & He gave me a family in the saints & apostles & those who call on the name of the Lord even now...

Who is this God? He made the earth & sky, sun moon & stars... He made the animals, the plants, the seasons. He made man & woman & remained faithful even when they sinned against Him. He is the same yesterday, today & forever & He forgives even me... yesterday, today & tomorrow. Who is this God? How can He love me when I'm not even sure how to love Him?! How can I know this God Who knit me in my mother's womb, Who wrote down all the days ordained for me before one of them came to be? How can I surrender my life to this God? It couldn't possibly be enough. I'm so poor. Yet God says "In Me, you are rich!" I'm so weak. Yet God says "In Me, you are strong!" I'm just a nobody. But God says "You bear my name now!"

Who is this God? I am His... and He is mine.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Speck

I am just a speck of sand...
but I know the Lord can see me.

He knows what I'm made of & where I came from,
where I'm going & how I'll get there.
He knows what's rubbing up against me & what will wear me down,
who will take me in & who will build me up.

I may be like the sand in the sea
that bears the weight of the world
or I may be like the sand on the shore
that licks up the sun's warmth & light.

I may get caught up between someone's toes
or put into a jar as a memento.
I may be ingested acidentally, built into a castle
or even bear the secret of something's final resting place.

I may be shoveled into a bag to strengthen a levy.
I may be scattered on the road to keep people safe
or I may be part of an obstacle on the golf course.

Either way, I am just a speck of sand among all the others.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Adversity

Do I want to be a worshipper? Do I want to love God wholeheartedly? Do I want to be a true disciple & follow Christ? Yes, this is my prayer, but my life often doesn't reflect such desires.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Romans 7:21-23 NLT

Adversity will be my teacher... It will teach me how to worship God. It will teach me how to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, body & strength. Adversity will teach me what it means to be a true disciple & to follow hard after Christ at all costs. It will teach me who He is & who I'm not. Adversity is the staff in the hand of the Good Shepherd. He uses it to correct me & keep me close. So often I rage against it. Yet all the while, it could be that adversity is the very answer to my prayer.

“What sorrow awaits my rebellious children,” says the Lord. “You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins. So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. ...You will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, He will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30:1,18-21 NLT

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Creativity

Today I decided to clean my house after a semi momentous weekend of creativity... For you creative types out there, perhaps you know this process. You can be found hunched over your computer keyboard, musical instrument (or other prospect) for hours, rising only to fill your coffee cup, eat or relieve yourself. You're concentrating & you'll do whatever it takes to foster the environment for creativity to breathe. Time seems to melt away- hours pass with barely a blink. You've lost yourself again & it feels good because you're doing what you love.

I made myself get in the car & wander on Saturday, just to clear my head. Sunday was church in the morning, Bible study at night. These provided much needed distractions. When I get into this "mode", its sometimes difficult to break free until the project is finished. I'm bound to its whim, but I'm doing what I love. I try & tell myself that makes it ok, but it doesn't. I felt convicted- while being creative isn't a sin in itself, sometimes it edges God out & becomes my master. It was a struggle to put the guitar back on its stand & open my Bible instead. It was difficult to make myself shower & get dressed, get in the car & wander when all I could think about was how to finish the project...

Creativity is high maintainence. While I love it when it shows up, I don't think I would be able to sustain a daily relationship with it. It takes so much time & energy! It demands my complete attention, all my emotions & thought processes... It demands my past & present, even my hopes for the future. It challenges me to do something new each time... to say something more, to be something different. Creativity is ever evolving & requires me to change with it. But if I had to encounter this every single day of my life, I would probably crumble under all the pressure...

Creativity is a gift. Yet as with any gift God gives, its important to remember the gift can be abused- the love of it, the pursuit of what it can give can cause us to forget the Giver, the true Master of our souls... distraction sometimes wakes us up, helps us remember, helps us break free.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Harry

Harry lost his job today. We all felt it in the air, wondering what the final verdict would be. He'd been with the company 20 + years. He's an older guy- early 50's, scruffy & eccentric. He favored dirty jokes, conversations about politics & more often than not, conversations about nothing at all. Sometimes I think the man just liked to hear himself talk. Or maybe he was lonely. He talked to EVERYONE. Personal space was a foreign concept to Harry, as was personal hygiene. He wandered & chatted more than he worked & he routinely ticked mgnt off. Hes been this way for years. Why can him now? Because now, we're on the cusp of streamlining the business. We're growing & moving to a new building this summer. The folks who don't contribute to the workflow are being weeded out. He had been a fixture in the workplace all these years... with a "personality" that will definitely be missed. One gal was angry at the news- she argued that he had been with the company all that time & this is how they treated him... Another gal was ecstatic & the majority shared her joy.

Of course you must know there's a spiritual application coming here! When we stand before God, some people are going to be like Harry- maybe they put in their time as a Christian, & maybe they (& those around them) will think its enough to save them, but its not. Maybe they showed up everyday & did the bare minimum to get by, but that was about it. Maybe they hindered others from doing their job as well. As the scripture says, "You reap what you sow". Years of service are chaff if our heart isn't right. And how do we know if our heart is right or not? We'll not only do the work, but we'll strive to do it better. We'll grow & change & weed out the things that hinder us. Do the work & God will see to the rest.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Smallest One

John 11:35 is perhaps the most beloved verse among students of scripture memorization. Why? Its the smallest one. "Jesus wept" is all it says.

This verse rests in the middle of the well known story about Lazarus & his two sisters, Mary & Martha. It starts off in Chapter 11, verse 1. We discover straightaway that Lazarus was ill, he lived in Bethany & he had two sisters. We also know Jesus must've had more than a passing friendship with these people because his sisters sent word to Jesus saying "The one You love is sick" (11:3). Again in 11:5, we're told plainly that Jesus loved Martha & her sister & Lazarus. However, Jesus' response to the news was strange. He didn't pick up & leave right away- instead, He stayed right where He was. I have to wonder, was it hard for Him at all, knowing His dear friend was sick? Or did He have peace because He knew Lazarus would rise from the dead at His command? He seemed to imply whatever transpired had already been planned for God's glory (11:4).

We don't know how long it took for Jesus to get to Bethany, but Lazarus had been in the tomb for 4 days already. Imagine how his sisters reacted when they saw Jesus- perhaps they bore the burden of inconsolable despiar- if only Jesus had come sooner! Martha said this very thing to Jesus in 11:25- "If You had been here, my brother would not have died." But she also said "I know that EVEN NOW God will give You whatever You ask". She had to have some faith to be able to say that.

Mary came along a short time later, falling at Jesus' feet & repeating the lament of Martha, "If you had been here..." She was weeping & a crowd of mourners had followed her. Its at this point we see Jesus breaking down. He weeps too when they show Him where Lazarus was laid. Why would Jesus weep if He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead? Why would He weep if He knew this miracle would bring God glory? Jesus wept because He saw the pain of Mary, of the people nearby. This man Lazarus was His friend. And these were the people who knew Lazarus & loved him too. Yes, Jesus was going to perform a miracle. Yes, God would be glorified. Yes, people would become disciples because of this & yes, Lazarus would come out of that tomb & live a full life. But it seems Jesus was trying to tell us that the moment mattered- the pain of loss, the pain of watching people suffer was just as important to Him as the eternal things that were about to take place.

I guess I was just struck with the thought that I don't have to be stoic & try to negate my "pain"- I don't have to try & sugar coat my trials with spirituality... Jesus has the timing all worked out. He cares & wants to see where I've laid my "Lazarus". He wants me to know He's with me, He knows what I'm experiencing & He feels for me, with me... But He also wants to wipe away my tears, roll away the stone & say- "Lazarus! Come out!"

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Power Of The Bow

We associate rainbows with little girls & white ponies, leprechauns & pots of gold; we recognize it as a symbol of unity for the GLBT movement. Some of us still associate it with the Biblical account of Noah's Ark. However we see it, the rainbow has taken on a myriad of meanings. In Greek mythology, it clothes the "messenger of the gods". Various traditions consider it to be a bridge to heaven itself. Some cultures believe its a giant snake or even a demon. Still others think its the apex of spiritual enlightenment. Some believe it to be an archer's bow. And this is how I read it this morning:

God said, "I set My BOW in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth..." Genesis 9:13 NASB

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around Him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking. Ezekiel 1:28 NIV

Did you know that two people won't see the same rainbow at the same time? When you see one, its for your eyes only. Sure, we can point & yell "rainbow"! & others can see a rainbow, but everyone sees it differently b/c the scene is in constant motion. How you see it depends on your position & the position of the sun as the raindrops fall... The enemy of our souls has taken the glory of God & made a mockery of it. Hes taken the rainbow, a symbol of God's covenant to us, & made it into something we associate with being dainty & weak. Its the stuff of myth & fantasies now. Its become an international banner for folks who live in controversy with God's Word. All of us, Christian & non alike, we all see the "bow" differently based on where we stand & the place we give God in our lives. But Isaiah 40:5 says: "...the Glory of the Lord will be revealed, & ALL mankind TOGETHER will see it...."

WHAT A DAY THAT WILL BE!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Guilt

When one experiences feelings of guilt when guilt is not warranted, its known as a guilt complex. The guilt complex sends mixed messages. Its manipulative, asserting it's will over yours. It says: "you WILL feel bad because I love you so much!" I have a friend who seems to think I have a guilt complex about everything. She calls me narrow-minded. But Jesus says: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 NIV.

I don't want to join in on dirty jokes... I don't want to see the racy scenes on tv or in movies. I don't want to get drunk, swear like a sailor or talk about sex like its a car. All this & more apparently makes me narrow minded & a slave to guilt. Really? Because the truth is, I have a choice. I'm free to do whatever I want. But not everything is good for me. "Everything is permissible"— but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"— but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV. What I choose to do (or not to do), I do not out of guilt, but love for God. I love Him & I want to do what's best for me because He loves me. If it means walking a narrow road, so be it. I am free to do as I please (& I want to do what pleases Him!). Guilt has no place in this relationship.

God is greater than my heart, and he knows everything. If my heart doesn't condemn me, I have confidence before God and receive from Him anything I ask, because I obey His commands and do what pleases Him. And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love others as He commanded me. Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them. And this is how I know that He lives in me: I know it by the Spirit He gave me". 1 John 3:20-24 NIV (paraphrased).

Its not a guilt complex. Its life.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Shed of the Subconscious

Lately, I've been having some pretty unsavory dreams. In one particular episode, after a series of strange events, a girl my age (someone I'd never met before) reached out to grab my wrist & pinched me, saying "Oh you bet you'll open your eyes". Yet in my dream, my eyes were already open...

I'd been trying to pinpoint the feeling I've had for the last month or so & finally realized it was like waking up- my eyes are opening up to a new world through faith in Christ. There's a scripture that says "Wake up o sleeper & Christ's light will shine on you". The way the girl in my dream said "You bet you'll open your eyes" was malicious & it seemed to be a direct response to my "spiritual wakening". The dreams change every night, but the theme remains the same- life isn't as fulfilling if I choose Christ.

It appears that even my subconscious is being used against me now- if the enemy can't get me to fall consciously, my subconscious is ripe for the picking. I'm essentially powerless on this battlefield. During the day, I do my best to guard my eyes & ears from the things I know will harm me... At night, I go to sleep praying, but the dreams come anyway. Some are tempting, some are mocking. Sometimes my heart will be racing from fear when I wake up... So I'll get out of bed, pray, read my Bible & repent (even though I did nothing wrong). I feel like I've been assaulted, harassed, even defiled after one of these dreams & I just want to be clean.

The stuff stored in the shed of the subconscious mind can become viable weaponry in the hand of the enemy... I suppose I could pray that God would wipe my memory clean & take away all the images & scenarios from the past that could be used to piece these dreams together... But I prayed instead that He would tag & catalogue everything the enemy could use against me... I prayed that He would set a guard over the door of my "shed" so the enemy can't enter... Whether I have another dream or not is up to Him now... but I'm not going to be subject to my enemy on this particular battlefield any longer. My enemy is subject to God.

Friday, May 7, 2010

End of the Line

What does it take for change to break into ones life? What did it take for me? It was gradual, yet sudden... I remember going through the motions- going to church, singing songs, reading my Bible & praying. But I had been doing that for years. I remember beginning to pray specifically for God to change me. I was looking for a way out of the rut. There were good days & bad- good days were full of hope, life & energy to go go go... Bad days were full of exhaustion, self pity & darkness. I had a lot of bad days. I had been at this faith thing for years but hadn't felt much different... ever.

Change began with CONNECTION to various individuals in my church. Nothing major, just Hi's, coffee & lunches. I never talked much. I just "was". However, connection led to the desire to be in COMMUNITY. I thank God for my patient friends! Two years later, I finally moved closer. A 20 minute commute became a walk around the corner. FELLOWSHIP became easier since proximity & time wasn't an issue anymore.

I spent time in PRAYER, continuing to ask God to change me, to chose me, to buy me. I felt powerless, despairing. I knew I must have been "saved" all this time, but I still felt rejected, like merchandise nobody wanted. I continued to read the Bible & realized I needed to start living what I was reading. So I began to HUMBLE myself & SUBMIT to God. I began to DESIRE REPENTANCE, even though I still hung on to sin. And then that desire became OBEDIENCE (or more realistically speaking, progressive repentance, which lead to obedience)... I began to take ACTION, striving to live the way God said He wanted me to. Sin continued to foster opportunities for more prayer, more repentance & eventually, change. I'm nowhere near perfect, but I can say with growing confidence: Sin is no longer my master. I've been redeemed!

A friend approached me & suggested I go through Neil Anderson's Steps To Freedom. I don't know why I said yes, but I did. I mean, I had been through his books when I was younger & nothing happened. Still I hung on to some measure of hope that it would be different this time. And it was. My friend sat across from me each session, patiently listening as I read the material & prayers aloud. It doesn't seem significant, but it really was. The power of the spoken word had devastated me throughout my life. Family, peers, authority figures, they all spoke words that fed my inward destruction. But the power of the spoken word- God's Word- has set me free! It wasn't enough to hear someone else speak it over me- I had to speak it- to myself. As I practiced this, I learned to pray it & eventually, I learned to believe it. And I'm still learning!

This is the end of the line for the girl who was bound to her past, bound to be kicked around, bound to merely exist. I can't do anything without God, but He requires that with Him, I do SOMETHING. So we built a road together. This is where a new path begins, as a road raised up from the rubble of my brokenness... Praise be to God!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Revelations Of A Shrunken Head


Its become tradition for the worship leader to leave women's retreat with a special trinket. The leader before me got a stuffed rat & last year, I acquired a mechanical disembodied foot. This year, I came home with a shrunken head. I have to say, I was a little uncomfortable with the head, for all it implies:

"A shrunken head is a severed and specially prepared human head that is used for trophy, ritual, or trade purposes." "The practice of preparing shrunken heads originally had religious significance; shrinking the head of an enemy was believed to harness the spirit of that enemy and compel him to serve the shrinker. It was said to prevent the soul from avenging his death." The process also served as a way of warning enemies. "
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrunken_head

Even though the head I received was plastic, I held "me" in my hands. I had been decapitated, my mouth long ago sewn shut... I had been a trophy for the enemy of my soul. But this isn't who I am now- I've come to new life in Christ & am beginning to rediscover what my voice sounds like... Not only my physical voice, but my voice as one redeemed. I'm no longer a powerless, silent, boneless, shrunken head! And so today I presented the head to God & prayed that it would become a trophy for Him instead, as well as a warning to my enemy. It still represents me- who I once was (but am no longer)... & it represents the power of my God as well.

Thanks gals!

Faith & Mountains

He replied... "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20 NIV

Jesus is speaking to His disciples. They had tried to drive a demon out of a boy but failed. What's worse, the boy's father went to Jesus & complained! How humiliating. Jesus healed the boy on the spot & later told His disciples how they lacked faith. But what did mountains have to do with anything?

When I was a kid, I tried to envision what moving a mountain might look like. I imagined a giant snow capped peak, ripped from the earth. It floated up into the atmosphere like some ethereal being... It would glide slowly through the sky till it reached the sea, where it gradually disintegrated over the water. But in reality, if a mountain COULD be moved, what might it look like? Perhaps it would happen with an earthquake or a landslide or more slowly, via erosion. Maybe it would occur with strategically placed man-made explosives or extensive mining.

But Jesus said faith can move mountains too. I think its interesting that the disciples didn't seem to have enough faith, even after years at Jesus' side. I believe the idea of faith moving a mountain is a deliberate overexaggeration. He uses it to make a point, much like the picture of the plank in the eye or the idea of cutting off your hand if it causes you to sin... I know I tend to focus on the mountains first... but faith sees the outcome, not the mountain. It sees the place the mountain is going & the freedom its absence will bring.

Jesus said in another place, "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." (Mark 16:17-18). The disciples knew this, but did they really believe it? Were they focusing instead on the mountain of impossibility rather than envisioning the possible outcome- signs & wonders, not to mention freedom for this boy they were praying for? Herein lies the essence of faith. When we can start believing in the possibility that something so solid, secure & insurmountable (like mountains of "natural law") can actually crumble, be shaken or conquered, we can indeed begin to see them move. Faith as small as a mustard seed is all it takes to move peaks of doubt, of fear, of defeat... It may have taken years for these mountains to form, or it may have happened in one cataclysmic event. They may be big. They may be small. But a tiny seed of faith can move them all. Apparently.

I can't help thinking- if the disciples thought they had faith but didn't, how can I? There's no need to lose hope. The book of Acts paints a very different picture of the disciples AND their newfound faith...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Back To the War

I recently went away on retreat with a group of women from my church. We took up temporary residence at a conference center which sat at the edge of the ocean. Whenever anyone opened a door or a window, you could hear the crash & roar of the ocean waves. Its kind of like that spiritually as well- opening doors & windows of our hearts & minds... when we do, we let the stale, stifling air out & allow the cool, salty breeze in to refresh us. Opening the doors & windows of our hearts & minds allows us to escape from the monotony of the sound that only we can make- and we are exposed to the voice of our God- mighty, majestic, powerful... constant, like the ocean's tide... but I digress, because this is war.

Retreat is a time to get away from the hustle & bustle of daily life. Most of the gals I know have husbands & children... some have financial troubles, others have health restrictions. Some are angry & bitter, some are joyful but weary & some just "are". All in all, retreat is 2 days of refuge from life as we know it. Well, almost. Many had cell phones to stay in touch with their families & me, well, I brought my laptop... Most of us remained connected to our everyday lives in some small way while we were out there. And isn't that what we tend to do with God as well? We pledge all, but carry our cell phones & laptops with us so we can access the other things that are important to us. But God wants all. Even our gadgets & our families... but I digress, because this is war.

We packed up our bags Sunday afternoon & headed home. It was on. The R & R was over, just like that, at the snap of a finger, the drop of a hat... Monday morning came & I knew I couldn't afford to revel in the good memories of the weekend. Temptation had been watching for me & was already at my door. I jumped in my foxhole (the place I have my "quiet time") & opened my bible... I took the inductive bible study booklet we used at retreat & loaded it with ammunition against my enemy. The scripture I chose was Mark 14:29-31. As I read, I was reminded of the words of 1 Corinthians 10:12-13. Peter was pretty sure of himself that fateful night, but it was Jesus' words that proved true in the end. Peter ended up denying Christ not once, not twice, but three times. Coming off retreat, I felt strong & still do- but I know temptation is at my door. My mouth breathing nemesis lumbered up the stairs, his long, yellowed toenails scraping on the concrete... His leathery wings got caught in the stairwell & I could hear him cursing as he tried to pull his scaley tail free from the bannister... Not really, of course, but I have a very good imagination.

This is war. In the last week or so, my enemy has brought up every last thing I've ever struggled with- thoughts, feelings, experiences. Its like he had a clipboard with a checklist & was barking temptations line by line. I'm thankful to say I was able to stand firm & I continue that trend. But this is war & if I'm not careful, I can fall, no matter how strong I think I'm standing. This is war & I need to be in my foxhole, no matter how quiet the field might be... despite how many temptations & sins I've slain... I fight the enemy within myself- my flesh, my pride, my sinful desires, as well as the enemy around me- the evil one & his inspirational minions...

God is my commander & the weapons of my warfare are not the weapons of this world... I submit to God in humility & rely on Him to keep me safe & sound in body, mind & spirit. I fight with words & deeds through faith, with the hope of salvation as my helmet, the righteousness of Christ as my breastplate, with God's truth as a belt around my waist, with the sword of the Spirit- God's own Word & the shield of faith- not only my faith, but the faith of those who have gone before me as well. I'm part of an army & I'm in a war. And so are you...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Let Us Pray

I was in church the other day. The speaker said "Let's pray" & we bowed our heads in uncomfortable silence. He had barely finished the invitation to pray when suddenly, tiny footsteps came barreling into the sanctuary... "Daddy! Daddy!" the little voice cried exuberantly, arms outstretched. I glanced over to watch the drama. His father quieted him, scooped the boy up & took him outside. I could hear them conversing. The father wasn't angry- in fact, he spoke gently, kindly. I felt a smile grow on my face as I heard that still small voice say "Now, that's prayer, just like that"...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lively Duds

2 Corinthians 5:17 says the old is gone, the new is come, I am a new creation in Christ. Often I am told this means my past is irrelevant & I am no longer who I once was. But to forget the past is dangerous business.

In the news years ago, I remember hearing about mines & other artillery from various wars that had been discovered by accident- some actually exploded, others were duds. But all had been previously lost or forgotten until someone inadvertently stumbled upon their existence in a jungle, a forest or a field. The memory of war was evident only in the lives of those who had been there before. As time passed, things grew back. As a new generation rose up, people forgot about the battles fought there. New life took over the awful ravages of the past, but the artillery remained hidden.

We may indeed be a new creation when we come to Christ, but what about the battlefields of our family life? Our youth? Our mind? Is there hidden artillery that still needs to be found, defused & dismantled? To forget the past is dangerous business that puts not only us, but those around us at risk.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fruitless Deeds

"Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness..." Ephesians 5:11. This scripture planted itself squarely in my thoughts today. I was minding my own business, going about my work, & there it was.

For whatever reason, I had also been thinking about the musical "Sweeny Todd" & how I enjoyed Tim Burton's version in particular. It's a story of murderous revenge that seems justified & even profitable for a time, until a little boy discovers the truth behind those tasty meat pies... There's redemption (eventually) & the offenders lose their lives. But throughout the film, there is murder & merry making... Sarcasm & blood flow freely. I can't help but wonder if this is pleasing to God though. You might say "Its just a movie. Or even, "Its a classic!" But really, what would God say?

Ephesians 4:30 says not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God... Ephesians 5:1 says we are to be imitators of God... The next 19 verses tell us what to avoid: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, every form of malice, sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking... Does this mean we shouldn't watch movies or listen to music that portray these things? And to take it a step further, does this mean we shouldn't be engaging in these things ourselves, whether in thought or deed? And yet how many of us do? How seriously do we take the Word?

I find myself struggling with this- I mean, I like Sweeny Todd... but it portrays bitterness, rage, anger, slander, malice... among other things. What kind of fruit did the main character reap? In the end, he was met with insanity, grief & death. His were fruitless deeds of darkness. I occasionally let myself get bitter & angry... I let obscenity or coarse joking slip by every once in a while... I could check off nearly everything on the list at some point or another. All these things are fruitless deeds. What can I possibly gain from them? It certainly won't be the righteous life that God wants me to live.

"Well, nobody's perfect" you might say. True. But its not an excuse to sweep things under the rug. "You're being legalistic," another might say, "with your list of 'dos & don'ts'"... But Remember Eph. 5:11? There's more to it than just ignoring or avoiding the deeds of darkness- the last part of the verse says to expose those fruitless deeds to the Light. Why? Because the Light makes everything visible. We'll begin to see those things for what they really are... bare, dead, fruitless branches... they're tangled up, hidden among the good branches & need to get lopped off. They need to be pruned so we can produce good fruit. Exposure requires action on our part- it requires submission, repentance, change... Its not legalism, its life.

"Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness..." Its not a suggestion. Its not a command. Its a warning. Are we listening?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Laboring In Vain

There's something to be said for those big names in Christendom who write books & put out full length Bible Studies complete with a DVD series & group guide. They're probably doing what they're called to do & many lives have been changed b/c resources like these have been made available. But what about the few who slip through the cracks, who can't seem to commit to a 12 week study that not only requires 2 hours of group time each week, but 30 minutes or more each day reading and answering questions in a book? Application is key. Group time & personal study promote growth, but only when applied. Sometimes group time & personal study promotes distraction from what may actually be needed...

And what might actually be needed is not only application, but grounding. Many of us (me included) have tried to build on a weak foundation. Oh yes, I've said my house is built on the Rock, but again, application makes all the difference. If that declaration is just a sentence made up of magical words, I can shout it from the hill tops, but the truth will be revealed soon enough. When the wind & the rain comes, do I stand firm or do I crumble? If I crumble (as I have done many times), I can be assured that my house was built on something other than the Rock.

So lets say group time & personal study have indeed proven to promote distraction for me... What then? Doing a Bible study isn't wrong & the personal study time is well... personal, right? Isn't that applying the Word to my life? I don't think so. I've spent time in the Word with countless study guides over the years & I didn't change much. I thought I was changing though, I was learning new things after all... & it seemed like that was enough. But lasting change is the litmus test. No application, no change. I can have all the knowledge in the world but if I don't put it into practice, its just useless trivia to me.

Application has its own set of requirements. If I apply a sticker to a window, it sticks. Why? Adhesive. If the adhesive is dirty or rubbed off however, it won't stick. How do we get things to stick? How do we get things grounded, strong, firm & steadfast? We make sure our contact surfaces are clean. We make sure the ground is solid & we dig deep to lay our foundation. That takes more than 2 hours with a group once a week or 30 minutes with a study guide each day. The real work is done outside of these parameters when we take what we've learned & put it to work in our everyday lives. We submit to God & get our hearts clean. We confess our sins, fire up the bulldozers & let the Lord build our house. Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain (Psalm 127:1a NIV).

We can go to church, do studies, read our Bible cover to cover but these things won't benefit to us much if we're not taking our resources to God & applying them to His blueprints. His plans say if we apply the resources we have to His specs, we'll have a house that'll weather anything. But if we cut corners, we're in for trouble. Are we laboring in vain with Bible studies & teaching series? Are we applying what we've learned to this build? Are we clearing out our hearts & digging deep to lay the foundation for a solid house or are we setting ourselves up for shanty living?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It Takes A Little Time Sometimes...

I was thinking about prayer today & how we understand it to be a conversation between us & God... I don't think we actually believe that however. It ends up going one way as opposed to both parties sharing in turn... The more time we spend, the more we talk, the closer we're getting to the Almighty, right? We want to talk, to be heard... God wants us to pray... We have needs & it's only logical to assume that more words equal more points with Him, right? Wrong.

I'm sure I'm not the first to admit that prayer can be a boring, even frustrating activity at times b/c it's just me & an empty room. Its just me & my Bible. Its just me in a church full of people... Its not like a "real" conversation with a flesh & blood person who I can experience with my senses. I often send my prayers up in faith & then walk away, neglecting the exchange of actual conversation. I'm impatient. Tired. I have things to do. God probably wasn't listening anyway & if He was, He's probably busy contriving some trial or complicated series of events in reply. You know how God is... I'm being facetious of course. God hears every word out of my mouth as well as the ones that never make it past my tongue. He can read my body language, He knows what I really think about a situation. What He's really looking for is time... Am I taking the time to listen, to get to know Him- to hear His response to my life?

Is listening merely confined to an act of silence? Is it something we can carry out beyond a single moment? Thankfully, God is not confined by our timelines, our spacial or even physical limitations. He doesn't grow weary like us. He doesn't faint from exhaustion when we ramble on, even though He already knows everything we need. But do we know all that He requires of us? Do we have any idea how much He loves us? We can't possibly know unless we listen... And we can't possibly pretend to know what He's thinking or doing if we're always droning on about ourselves. God speaks to us not only with words from the Bible, not only with language from the people around us, but also through nature, science, & everyday things from our everyday lives. I don't believe listening is confined to the last 5 minutes of our 15 minute devotions. It needn't be confined by anything at all, really. So if prayer is not only talking but listening as well, when do we take the time to listen?

Speak, Lord, & help me listen... Make my life an ongoing prayer.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Revival

The word "revival" in my mind sparks all sorts of craziness. In the denomination which I was raised, "revival" meant long nights on the church floor in tearful prayer, hours of limb trembling, soul soaring worship... It meant speaking in tongues & being slain in the spirit, it meant running laps around the church & "praising Jesus", it meant howling like an animal & laughing so hard you literally rolled around on the floor. It meant stumbling out of the church after all that like a drunk, full of exceeding "joy". "Revival" always seemed to culminate in having some grand outreach on the city square or college campus... Bible studies & worship nights abounded...

To me, "revival" meant hoopla & a momentary rush that quickly faded away. It never really touched me for whatever reason. I chalked it up to my own spiritual defectiveness & sin. But then I compared the percentages of lives that seemed truly changed with the number who experienced some grand emotional manifestation. And that's when I walked away from my denomination, from church altogether in fact. The numbers just didn't add up. This kind of "Revival" never lasted long. My former pastor & his team always talked of "acquiring the fire" & taking it to this place or that... Apparently, he imported our "fire" from Argentina, Toronto, Brownsville... I can't help but wonder why he had to go anywhere else to "get the fire". We had the same God afterall... or did we?

Its my opinion that people are so hungry- so sensory- that when something comes along to pique their interest, they start grabbing at it like children after candy. Out goes Biblical truth, out goes humility & submission to Christ, out goes the appeal of Paul for orderly gatherings that are respectful to one another & to God... We dig into the gifts of the spirit with fervor & forget all about who they come from & why we were given them... So often I've seen gifts (and I do believe in the gifts!) become our god... We begin in our own ways to worship these things- to worship prayer, to worship the feelings we feel during worship, to worship the sensory manifestations of gathering together in the name of something- some ONE more powerful than ourselves. But we deceive ourselves... and the gifts take hold & demand more of us than God requires. All good gifts come from God, but even good gifts can be wrecked by human hands... Think Adam & Eve, Gideon, King Hezekiah, David & Bathsheeba... the list could go on & on.

My heart has always longed for something more- though I dare not classify it as "revival". Revival smacks of eccentricity, of camp meetings, of extraordinary circumstances involving large crowds & even larger productions. Perhaps I could better identify this "something" as a resurrection of sorts. My heart longs for the resurrection that Jesus promised us- this "being raised to life" with Him... I'm not talking about the final day when he raises His people from the dead. I'm talking about daily resurrection. He calls us to take up our cross & follow Him... daily. What does that mean? It means we not only follow Him into death daily, but also into resurrected life. Our goal is to glorify God, not each other, not our emotional sensations, not our spiritual prowess, not our gifts. Our goal is to love one another & spur each other on in Christ.

How are we dying today? Have we been raised to life? Because that's revival- dying & living & leaving the tomb... walking the road together, eating & working & praying together... daily. It might not be what we were expecting... but then maybe we should be asking ourselves what we were expecting in the first place- Was it ever what God had in mind for us?

Dear Congregation:

I feel like I'm watching us slowly becoming a congregation of "churchy" people... I've heard folks expressing thoughts about how we're doing, speculating why people have left... I personally feel like we're not really moving forward. It seems we neglect the time it would take to do so b/c we're in such a hurry to move onto the next thing. Oh, we're moving, alright, but we're just spinning our wheels. Its gotten a little messy & we need to get out & push. Its gonna take some time.

We'd do well to remember that our struggle isn't against flesh & blood, its not against the pastor or the leadership or even each other. Our struggle is against the spiritual forces, the powers, rulers & authorities of this dark world... That said, I feel compelled to pray for us as a congregation, for the pastor & for leadership... for wisdom, discernment, humility... for cohesiveness & a sense of unity under the direction of the Holy Spirit... For God's will to be done, for truth to prevail despite how we fear it- even for repentance in some areas. Who am I? I'm nobody. But I am part of this congregation & together, we are part of the spiritual Body of Christ.

We need to be taking responsibility for our faith, getting in the Word, getting together with others to read, worship & pray on a regular basis, even outside the church walls. It seems there's an unspoken expectation that we ought to wait for something to be announced as a "sanctioned" function before we can engage. What a heavy burden for our pastor & leadership to bear! There are only so many spoons to go around... & too many mouths to feed. But what difference would it make, I wonder, if even just a few of us got together outside the confines of a Sunday service or even a home group & set aside an hour or two to read just a chapter or a book of the Bible out loud to each other? What if we took time to pray together or hold each other accountable on a regular basis, outside the confines of 15 minutes on Sunday or the first Saturday of the month? What if some of us committed to fasting as an act of repentance, as an act of submission to God- to stand in the gap for our leaders & our church as a whole? Would that change us as individuals? Would it change us as a congregation? I'm inspired by the stories of handfuls of people throughout history who did just that... And God met them...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

God So Loved the World...

I must admit, as a Christian, "For God so loved the world"... hasn't really meant much personally. Its kind of a blanket statement... just another one of those verses we quote b/c its popular. How many of us actually stop to think about what it means?

I can't tell people Jesus loves them if I can't grasp His love for me. Everyone knows God loved the whole world, but does everyone know God loves them as an individual? I can't tell the guy at the bus stop Jesus died for his sins if I'm not 100% certain He died for mine... Really? All of them? Even that one from a few years ago? Most people have heard that God forgives sin... but some don't know that extends to all of theirs as well. I am fully forgiven in Christ. Do I believe it this Easter morning?

Believing in a Jesus that died for the sins of the whole world is one thing. Believing in a Jesus that died for me too is completely different. Jesus stood at the door of my heart & knocked. I answered, tentatively... I must admit, He still makes me nervous after all these years, but then, I'm still getting to know Him. Often times I've wondered, why me? Why my door? Because God so loved the world... and me too. Jesus knew what I didn't- did what I couldn't... & He came to my door to offer me life. He came in the form of family members who were Christians, in the form of children's records that taught the Bible, He was even present in the form of the lady who led me in the sinner's prayer. He stepped in when I was just a child in order to give me a foundation- a hope as an anchor for my soul, even before my "cognitive" life began. Through my difficult childhood & adolesence, on into adulthood, I know He's been with me. At times, I've left Him waiting outside my door. At times, I've consented to speak to Him through a crack & nothing more. But as I've gotten older, I've once again invited Him in- to stay. This Easter morning, I'm thankful... the love & life He's given... its admittedly beyond my comprehension.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Traditions

I lived on a street that boasted 5 churches in a 3 block radius- Episcopalian, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian. Almost every Saturday there was a wedding somewhere... The church bells would ring out as the precession of cars passed by, happily blaring their horns. Other days, I observed the mournful creep of funeral precessions led by a motorcycle cop. The church bells tolled on these days too... more slowly... sadly. Easter was a busy day as well, like a wedding or a wake. Cars lined the streets & people poured out of the churches in their best attire. Bells rang out from various steeples in a cacophony of sound. And by noon, it was all over. All was quiet until the next event.

However, Easter was never much of an event to me. I knew the "Passion story"... I saw the banners that said "He is Risen!", I observed people dressed to the hilt, heading for church on Good Friday & Easter Sunday. As a child, though I was "saved", what Easter meant to me was a basket from my father (most years) & a Palmer's chocolate bunny from my mom. It meant Cadbury creme eggs & marshmallow peeps. Easter was synonymous with coloring eggs in art class at school. It meant getting my picture taken with someone in a creepy looking bunny suit... It meant pastel colours & the arrival of spring. But it never really meant the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I've always observed Easter much like I observed wedding & funeral precessions. There's a sense of tradition associated with each. I don't get baskets & bunnies anymore. I make it a point to decline photo opportunities with giant rabbits & I might snag the occasional Cadbury Creme Egg, but that's where my particular tradition ends. Yet Easter is supposed to be the "Who, What, When Where, Why & How" of my faith. How easily I pass by as part of the precession, lights on, respectful... Jesus died on a cross for the sins of the world. That's nice. Thank You, Jesus. And on Sunday, I'll hear "He's Risen!". The stone was rolled away! I'll throw some confetti. Its tradition.

But Easter will be nothing more than a tradition until I realize the "precession" I'm in isn't just for Jesus on a cross- its also for me. Jesus died for Me. The celebration of His resurrection is mine to share as well. Just as He was raised up to life by God's power, so I too have been raised to life by that very same power. And when the stone of my tomb was rolled away, there was great rejoicing in heaven... "She is risen! She lives!" That same power that raised Jesus up also raised me up from death to life... The old is gone, the new has come. And if that's not a reason to celebrate Easter, I don't know what is. Thanks be to God for rescuing me from sin & death...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wonder Woman & The Lasso Of Truth



I rented the first season of Wonder Woman this week- I haven't seen it since I was a kid. When I say "kid", I mean I was between 2-5 when I first saw it. But I remember I absolutely loved it. The opening titles didn't jog my memory, but the theme song did, as well as the lasso of truth. Everything else- her Amazonian roots, her sidekick Lyle Wagonner, her "invisible" airplane (Really? Everything is invisible except her & the chair she's sitting in?!), & her nifty ability to change clothes while spinning (& somehow come out completely put together) was forgotten. I found it entertaining all these years later however, in a cheesy sort of way. I mostly remember the outfit & the lasso of truth- wishing someone would use one on me.

I wonder if I was even able to comprehend truth & lies at that age... Perhaps the idea of "truth" meant something entirely different to me then. When I saw the villains being lassoed, I saw them become "real". No facades, no pretending. The masks came off, the deception was exposed. They told the truth & tragedy was averted. Not only that, but justice was served.

When I'm not out among people & the daily activities of this world, I often crawl back into my mind for refuge. Translation: I think too much! But consider with me if you will, the circumstances of the years between ages 2-5 when I was watching this program... My father was in & out of my life, my mom worked a lot & I was in the hospital, sick with asthma so often that the nurses knew me by name. I'm sure preschool was traumatic & there was a significant death in the family when I was 5. The idea of Wonder Woman, the idea of truth, stuck with me. Perhaps its just a vestige of nostalgia (though I don't have many in depth thoughts about Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy or The Facts of Life!).

But I had ask myself- what would the lasso of truth represent to me, if I were the villain being lassoed? What crime might I confess? Would it be deception? Would it be secret hatred? Would I reveal a bitter hurt that drove me toward acts of malice? Its hard to say what a child might confess... perhaps I didn't have the words back then... but I knew I wanted the truth to surround me, to rein me in, to keep me safe. I wanted someone to see me, to know me for who I was inside, not for the things that happened to me... and I wanted justice.

As it turns out, "Wonder Woman" is a senior citizen now & the lasso of truth is just make believe... Ironic, isn't it?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Repercussions

Recap!

I've been thinking about what a fear based belief system could accomplish in the development of child & adult alike. Here are a few things I grew up believing:

-Whenever I sin, I'm in danger of hell.
Hell is just a misstep away.
-God loves me, as long as I do what's right.
-If I sin, any connection I have with God is severed, left hanging by a thread.
-My salvation is contingent on what I do for God.

Now, I have no idea how I came to believe this way, but hell was surely a constant threat in my mind. It must've really freaked me out. I'm sure the lady at the bar-b-q said something about the security of my salvation, but I honed in on the part about eternal punishment...

For many years, I could say I believed God loved me, but in my heart, I was afraid... I never thought of Him waiting to greet me one day with a lighting bolt or the back of His hand- I didn't envision an angry God. But I did see one I disappointed horribly. This God would send me to hell out of sadness. I always envisioned Him disappointed, sighing, shaking His head... biding His time till He would abandon me forever to be damned... Not b/c He wanted to, but Hes a Holy God & "them's the rules".

Over the years, I've come to believe the truth about my salvation.

-There's grace for me when I sin.
Ro. 3:22-26
-God loved me even when I was still a sinner.
Ro. 5:8
-Jesus made it possible for me to approach the throne of grace with confidence!
He. 4:14-16
-I am saved by grace, not by anything I can do!
Eph. 2:1-10 2 Ti. 1:9-10


For God so loved the world... John 3:16-18

How did I miss that? Its the most widely quoted scripture of all time & I missed it. I remember memorizing it, I remember singing songs about it, but the meaning escaped me for so many years. Twenty nine of them in fact...

The repercussions of a fear based belief system are great. Its the difference between life & death, joy & despair, hope & hopelessness. I'm not blaming anyone... God has worked (& continues to work) everything out for my good. (Ro. 8:28) I no longer feel that I'm dangling over the precipice of hell by some imaginary thread. I'm saved by grace, not by anything I can do. And this grace comes from God, through Jesus Christ- as a simple gift of love.

Thanks be to God indeed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Irresponsibility

In my last post, I suggested it was irresponsible to present the gospel to a child in the way it was presented to me. So how DO you share with a 6 year old?

My aunt & uncle became Christians right around the time I was born. When I was 5, they sent LPs of children's songs as gifts for my birthday & Christmas. This was my introduction to God & all things Christian. I remember looking at the illustrated booklets that came in the jacket (The art was so much better back then!)...




I learned about the 10 commandments & other Biblical principles, but I didn't really connect with the reality of God or my need to be saved. But then, is that really necessary at 5 years old? Jesus said "Let the little children come"... In another place, it says He "put His hands on them to pray for them". It doesn't say He told them to repent & be saved. It doesn't say He told them they did bad things & were going to hell. He didn't even tell them to follow Him. He simply placed His hands on them & prayed for them. And then He went on His way.

I've heard theories about guardian angels or automatic salvation prior to the "age of reason", but no one seems to be able to agree on anything solid. I'm under the impression that a child (in my case, a 6 year old) can't be expected to make a fully conscious, logical decision to commit their entire life to Christ after hearing a few sentences about God's love & the threat of hell.

I'm convinced I prayed out of fear- not necessarily b/c I was able to comprehend eternal punishment or even God's love. The idea that I was going to suffer if I didn't pray the prayer terrified me. Moreover, every time I did something bad, I feared hell & asked God to forgive me- not because I cared about our relationship, but I didn't want to end up a crispy critter. I don't think a child should have to concern themselves with this kind of fear however. It seems wrong to impose the truth in this way. And what's worse, I never really formed a relationship with God until many years later.

In hindsight, I can be thankful that I had a foundation- that God saw fit to reveal Himself to me by some means, so many years ago. But perhaps Jesus set an example for us when He said nothing more than "Let the little children come"... and He put His hands on them to pray for them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Journey of Faith Part 1

When I was a teenager, I always wished there was some kind of concise resource out there cataloging the journey of faith. What was this thing supposed to look like?

I went to church, I "prayed", I sang worship songs, & even led worship for a time. I once had an actual "prayer closet"! I was mentored, went on mission trips & lived on a missionary base for a while. All my friends went to the same church. And all my friends seemed to have an insatiable joy & passion for Christ that I didn't. Me, I did all the same things, but I was still dead inside. When I sought help, people prayed for me & rambled off scriptures to "help" me combat my unbelief. Unbelief & lack of faith always seemed to be my problem. But as I've begun to come to life now in my 30's, I realize these things weren't the problem at all. I had faith, I believed, I just didn't know why.

I first heard the "gospel" when I was 6. It was a warm July day & my mom & I were vacationing with family in California. A friend of the family was having a bar-b-q & she came over to chat with me... This is the "good news" I heard: God loves me & wants to save me from hell. I do bad things called sin & deserve to go to hell when I die. But God sent His Son to die for me so I don't have to go to hell. I don't want to go to hell do I? No! All I have to do is accept Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord & Savior! Yay! I can be saved forever! While that's a simple way of presenting the good news, I've come to think its irresponsible. I was six for crying out loud. That's not to say kids can't make decisions for Christ, but there needs to be more to it than that. So many times I've wished I never heard that "good news" until I was able to understand what it really meant. I prayed the prayer & sealed my fate (I do however, think it's fitting that I was saved in the great outdoors!).

From that lady's backyard, back to New York where I grew up- I started going to church & learned Bible stories via flannelgraph & songs like Father Abraham... We did arts & crafts & put on Christmas plays. I had my own Bible, complete with illustrations, but I never cracked it except in church. When I was 13, I dropped out of church altogether. That was the year they split the boys & girls into their own rooms. We went around the room to do introductions. The girls in my class were all prettier & more talented than me. I was still wearing last year's purple pants & they all had swanky designer jeans & perms. They had an air about them I didn't want to be a part of, so I left. And I ended up leaving my faith behind as well... momentarily.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Miracle of Presence

I spent the day alone, went walking in the park & treated myself to lunch out. I've been feeling wistful, thinking how this is an idyllic day for friends to spend time doing nothing in particular. I've been lost in thought since I got home, my senses still taking in the feeling of late afternoon... I randomly started talking to God & told Him how I liked the way the light was shining just so... how the colours of the trees & sky seemed so vibrant... I shared with Him how much I loved the warm breeze & how it rustled through the leaves. The sun burst through, casting shifting shadows on my walls & I thanked God that He was not like those shadows...

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 (New International Version)

I thanked Him for the fresh scent of growth, for the trees budding & blossoming, for the flowers displaying their new life. But then I stopped, wondering if I was rambling on about nothing or being annoying. As I quieted myself, I "heard" that familiar voice. I got the sense that He was glad I told Him how I felt about His creation. He was glad that I cared to talk to Him. And He was especially content just to listen. Today I got the feeling that He cares about the "nothings" just as much as He cares about the "everything" in our lives. He's present for all of it. Like two friends hanging out, doing nothing in particular, chatting about nothing & everything, its all part of relationship. Its the miracle of presence.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Through The Eyes

In a recent post entitled 'Myth & Life", I ruminated briefly on the question of Christ's endurance of humanity while He walked this earth. I surmised that He was tortured by a handful of idiots & died for the sins of a worldful. However true that may be, those were rash words spoken without love.

I had lunch with Conviction today. He stared me down till I looked Him in the eye. He seemed to say , "You don't see what Christ saw b/c you aren't looking through His eyes." And then it hit me. Jesus LOVED us. Scriptures flooded my already cluttered mind: Matthew 9:36, Matthew 14:14, Matthew 23:37

I had no recourse but to submit myself to God & to the realization of my limitation- no, my utter failure- in my ability to love. I can't love like Christ, I can't see what Christ saw using my own eyes. I'm too jaded, too wounded, too human. But if I can begin to somehow see through the eyes of Christ, I'll see through a lens of love, of compassion, of mercy. What did He see? He saw people like sheep- easily lead astray. He saw them like children, helpless. He saw them hungry & naked & sick. He saw them poor, He saw them simpleminded & burdened. He saw them oppressed by the religious leaders blustering about in the temple courts. He saw how they followed, how they just wanted a glimpse, how some were willing to give everything & how others just walked away. He saw me. He saw you. He walked this earth & was crucified in flesh so we might have the chance to come to repentance, so we all might be saved from a wrath we can't fathom. Even as He rose on the 3rd day, resurrected by the power of God unto new life in the very same flesh, we too can be raised to new life by that very same power...

Jesus tells us, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you". (John 15:12) And how has He loved us? Luke 6:27-36 gives us a taste...

Jesus loved us while we were still His enemies. He did good to us, He blessed us, He prayed for us. He fed us, healed us, covered us with the price of His blood. He gave freely & demanded nothing in return. He was kind to us, an ungrateful & wicked lot. He was merciful when mercy was undeserved. He endured because He LOVED us. And He still does.