Sunday, January 30, 2011

His Watchful Eyes

Then Jesus told them this parable, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep. ‘ I tell you that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke 15:3-7

A friend of mine told me today that God has her in “His peripheral vision.” I hope she isn’t mad at me but I immediately corrected her. I told her, “Oh no, hon, you may have God in your peripheral vision but He has eyes straight on you. He’s watching you.” I told her, “always watching.” She laughed so as I said, I hope she isn’t upset with me.

A few years ago my son Joseph told me not to worry about him and his relationship with God. “I’ve got Him on my back burner for now Mom but it’s all good. He understands.”

To be honest statements like those scare the living daylights out of me. God, God, the Almighty, the absolute Authority, Master, Creator, Omnipotent God gets put on back burners and tossed into the periphery? Think about that for a second. That’s scary right?

The scariest part is that my friend believes what she said, that God has her in some secondary position, some sideline area. Why I wonder would anyone see God that way? What would He be thinking? “Oh there’s that woman I created. I had big plans for her but I guess she’s busy doing her own thing. No problem, I’ll just keep half an eye on her until she’s ready for me.” Not hardly! And I wonder as I listen to her speak, is she ever going to be ready? Her life is not without strife. She’s had serious illness effect those near and dear to her. She’s had some minor health concerns herself. Her children have faced some challenges, as have some of her more distant family members. She does not live on Cloud Nine or Easy Street. She lives in this broken world with the rest of us. So how is it that she doesn’t realize how deeply she needs a Savior?

Don’t misunderstand, this is not some hard, awful person. This is a genuinely nice woman who does lovely things for other people. While I appreciate that at the same moment that scares me a little too. She is nice and she does good things. I have great concern that she falls into the “but I’m a nice person so God’s okay with me, right?” Well, to be frank, God is madly in love with you but it has nothing to do with what you do or who you are. I’d love to tell her that it isn’t at all about how God sees her but all about how she sees Him.

Today she sees Him as some benevolent benefactor standing off to the side taking care of His important business while she takes care of hers. Worse sometimes she sees Him as really ticked at her because of something she has said or done. She does not see herself as the one lost sheep He is constantly tracking while the ninety-nine wander around secure in the knowledge of His saving grace.

My friend has no idea how dangerous her thinking is. I feel to some small extent the urgency we see in Jesus’ life on earth when talking to her. I want so much to say, “Wake up! You have so much to offer, so much to learn and so much to gain by just embracing the free gift of salvation. I can’t I have to speak carefully, pray for her and follow the advice of St. Francis of Assisi “Preach the Gospel at all times and when it is necessary use words.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Differently Abled

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given to us. Romans 12:4-6a

The words above are inspired writings. For whatever reason, God wanted us to read them, believe them and behave accordingly. There are many parts and all of them are different. I have two small, very sweet friends who are identical twins. When I first met them I relied on the color of their eyeglasses to tell them apart. Their mom laughed at that. She told me that most people can’t tell them apart but to her and her husband, they are very different. It didn’t take long before I understood what she meant. I don’t need the glasses anymore to tell one princess from the other.

During the day I work with handicapped children. In our department the disabilities range from fairly mild to extremely severe. The word disabled is politically correct at the moment. We’ve been all kinds of things but that is the currently accepted phraseology. To me it is the least correct term. Challenged? Yes. Afflicted? Perhaps. Handicapped? In some ways, sure. How does that make them different from the rest of us? Look at it closely. How does it make them different from Jesus?

The Scripture above tells us that every created being was put here for a purpose. Due to my line of work, I have heard and witnessed some incredibly ignorant and often hurtful things. Here’s the crazy part. I have struggled and most likely will continue to struggle with my own sense of purpose. Why am I here? What exactly am I supposed to be doing? Often I have no clue. Sometimes, some wonderful, blessed moments, I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what God created me to do but those moments are rarer than I would like. Now, take a look at a little boy I’ll call Brad. There isn’t a moment in this life that my little friend needs to question his purpose. The kid has a killer smile and he uses it all the time. There isn’t a person in our department who doesn’t smile at him in return or speak to him every day. He is delightful. He is also completely unable to speak or walk or do much of anything on his own and yet, I guarantee you this world would be a lesser place without him.

Is Brad disabled? I suppose in the sense that he is unable to do some things, okay, most things. I prefer the term I first saw in a toy store ad, differently abled. Brad’s abilities are not the same as mine but then mine aren’t the same as my daughter’s.

My daughter is a math whiz. She can calculate the tips of an eight person dinner table before I can get my calculator out of my purse. Yet, last night, I hesitated to give her a book because the author’s vocabulary is bit beyond her comfort zone. That isn’t to say she couldn’t understand it but to say she would have to stretch and at the moment I wanted to stay in her comfort zone.

We all have strengths and weaknesses. We are all differently abled. That is the way God planned it. I don’t know why. Although I do think Brad and his friends are here to teach us, to bring out the best in us. Sadly they often bring out the worst and then bear the brunt of that ignorance.

God said it through Paul. Jesus lived it and I believe we are meant to embrace it; we are many parts but all one body. Each of us is called to use our strengths and our weaknesses for the edification of others as well as for God’s glory.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bruised

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice. Isaiah 42:3


I have no idea what is happening in your life right now but this morning I am in deep pain. At the moment I am heartbroken about something over which I have no control. There are those who love to tell me about my choices in this matter but I assure you, there are no good choices. There is one obvious one and that leaves me heartbroken and at the mercy of another person’s decisions. Just a few minutes ago I did what we are instructed to do. I did what I know to the best option in any situation. I cried out to Jesus and he answered with the verse above.

The amazing thing to me is that this is a verse with which I have at best, a passing familiarity. It is not a go to verse for me. In fact it came to me as “What is that thing about the broken reed? No, not broken….” And I knew that I had to find it. Beyond that I knew that it was not just for me. Someone, somewhere, someday, will read this and find comfort. Of that I am absolutely certain.

This bruised reed feels pretty darn close to the breaking point, but now I have a promise that that will not happen. God doesn’t waste words. He doesn’t break promises. He is always faithful. Through Isaiah He tells us that He will not break us. He may allow us to get to the breaking point but “in faithfulness” He will rescue us.

It is my strong hope that this message reaches someone who needs it as desperately as I do. Today as I head to work, determined to live in a way that brings glory to my Father I need to focus on His promise not my problem.

And the peace of God which transcends understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Sunday, January 23, 2011

You then be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:1
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. Titus 2:11


Just a few minutes ago I read a line from a book by Brennan Manning. It said, “He [God] loves me whether in a state of grace or disgrace.” Wow! I’ve never thought of it that way. Being in a state of grace, to me, suggests a closeness with God. It refers to a gift that God gives me, grace. I’ve seen many times the acronym God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, GRACE. On some level I’ve understood that it is a state of being as well. Even as a child, growing up in a Roman Catholic Church I would hear the expression, state of grace. In all of my years of living with Jesus it has never occurred to me that if I’m not in a state of grace, then I am in a state of disgrace.

Now I know there could be arguments on this point, disgrace seems kind of harsh as we know it. I don’t mean, and I don’t believe Brennan means, disgrace as the world sees it, as in hang your head in disgrace. It seems to be more of a not quite right place, a something is amiss place, if you will.

Think of it this way, newly married people have to adjust to living 24/7 with another person. It’s new and it takes some getting used to, of course. Once they get used to it and one partner leaves for business or whatever reason, there is a new adjustment, now they have to learn to take single steps again, if only temporarily.

That is what I feel in the statement by Brennan Manning but much deeper. I can choose to acknowledge my Abba in all I do and walk in His grace, with His grace or I can be in disgrace, which just means, without grace. It doesn’t mean I’m a horrible person. It just means I’ve left something truly important at home. Think of it as the business person who can’t take a step without his day planner. He can, but it’s mighty uncomfortable.

The steps we take with grace are more surefooted and more purposeful. We can wander through aimlessly or we can yield to the One who showers us with grace.

I begin my days with God. All mornings include prayer but there are devotional reading days, flip the pages of the Bible days, Proverb days, Psalm days etc. On the mornings that, for whatever reason, I cannot start out with that special time, I am not quite right. It isn’t that disaster strikes. It’s just that prayer on the run does not have the same centering quality as focused prayer or actual conversation. I’m not miserable all day I just feel the same way the business person without the day planner feels, something is missing. That is what I think Brennan Manning is talking about when he says “disgrace” as in a lack of grace. It doesn’t always have to be a big dramatic thing. It doesn’t have to mean that we are carrying around unconfessed sin. It can simply mean that we have put our relationship with God on a back burner. God needs to be first and foremost in our lives and when He is, we are in a state of grace.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Not to Worry

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

I’ve been reading a lot about God’s love lately, in two different books. At first glance they seem to be very different. One author writes like an everyman, despite his vast experiences, high intelligence and knowledge of the Bible as well as a deep relationship with Christ. The other writes more like an intellectual. There are amazing spiritual truths in his books. He is brutally honest about his own life as well as what he knows of God but sometimes he uses words one rarely hears in conversation. In any case both men come to the same conclusion, a truth said in fifty words in the Scripture above. Nothing, not one thing can separate us from God’s love. Both men are quick to point out, more than once in far more words, that we are ourselves, can move away from God’s love but nothing can take it from us if we’re holding on to it.

The intellectual takes the path of God’s incredible willingness to pursue us when anyone can see it should be the other way around. For a gift of that magnitude we should have to chase Him down, promise our firstborn, give up our lives. Oddly enough, we don’t have to do any of that. God does it all. He pursues us. He gave up His firstborn and in doing so gave us not just this life on earth but eternal life. He doesn’t ask us to give up our lives. He asks us to live them to His glory.

The everyman author takes the path of asking us to drop our heaviest burdens and embrace the love of God. He points out in plain, easy to read terms the foolishness of worry. He quotes a lot of the passages where Jesus himself tells us not to worry. (See Matthew 6:25-34 as one example)

Let’s have a little scenario. You and I are together. I introduce you to my friend.

Me: “Hi dear. Let me introduce you to my friend, Jesus Christ.”

You: (probably stammering, I would be!) “P-p-p-pleased to m-m-m-meet you.”

Jesus: “Don’t worry. About anything. Just do not worry.”

Do you think your response to that would be to go home and fret over marriage issues, kid issues, bills, health or anything else? I hope not! But as the everyman guy points out, we do it all the time. We’re in good company. The apostles did it too. They twisted their hands. They questioned each other. They debated what to say to Jesus and they worried with Jesus standing right there! Most of us have the same first reaction to those stories in Scripture. “Fools!” We can’t understand it. Couldn’t they see him?

My kitchen faucet is messed up. I can’t fix it but I’m not worried. My husband is coming home today and he can fix it. My husband is a great guy but he isn’t perfect. He doesn’t know everything. He’s not Jesus.

My life is messed up in places too. I can’t fix it and I have been worried. But two godly men reminded me of a truth I already knew. Jesus is standing right beside me. He is in me, around me, and ready to fix anything I willingly, faithfully, put in his hand. My choice is the same as your choice. We can worry or we can lean on Jesus. I know the smart response, the correct response. All I have to do is be wise enough to make it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Joy vs. Happiness

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy the choice food and sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10 (emphasis mine)

But only the redeemed will walk there,
and the ransomed of the Lord will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
Everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Isaiah 35:9b-10

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even thought you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9


Are you happy? Enjoy it. Happiness is fleeting.

What makes you happy? Your family? Your job? Your spouse? Your pets? Your possessions? Your health? Fleeting, every single one of the aforementioned possibilities is temporary. We are happy when a project goes well. We are happy when the doc says all is well. We are happy when our spouse does some unexpected kindness. We are happy when the children are pleasant and all is well with them. Great, but what happens when the doc says more tests are needed? What happens when the children bring bad news? How do you feel when the spouse forgets your special day or is not delighted in your accomplishments? What about when the pet dies or the car is totaled? Are you happy then? Of course not! But you can be joyful.

Are you joyful? Enjoy it! Joy, if it finds its source in Jesus Christ, is enduring. It will not fade or fail. We can let go of it but it will not depart from us. It will be there always lurking, waiting to be admired and appreciated.

The root of the word happiness is hap, as in happenstance. The very root of the word means that it is not enduring. That it is temporary and based on very mercurial things. It isn’t meant to stay. It is meant to grab us, dance us around and then leave. It is insouciant and fun. Who doesn’t want to be happy? There is nothing wrong with happiness except its transitory nature. Happiness lifts us up out of the ordinary into a little dance of delight and then it drops us back into the ordinary or worse.

Joy is decidedly different. Joy lifts us up out of the pit of despair. Joy holds us in its tender arms, above our circumstances, closer to the heart of our Master, closer to the thrill of salvation. Joy is not fleeting. Joy is not mercurial or insouciant. It is steady, calm and readily available in the person of Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Be Yourself

Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17



How do people know that you are a Christian? Is it because you give ten percent or better of your income to your church? Do you know all the latest worship songs? Or maybe you have a Scripture quote ready for any and every occasion? All of that is fine but none of it really points to a life lived in Christ. We try, God bless us, we really do. We start campaigns like WWJD. We read all the right books and attend seminars and retreats. But even when our hearts are in the right place, most of us are good at getting wrong. One of the strongest, dearest Christian men that I know, our former pastor, B.E. Palmer tells many stories of doing crazy things because he thought it was what God wanted. In the early stages of his relationship with God, he decided that if something felt uncomfortable, he should do it. After all, isn’t sacrifice a huge part of commitment to God? Of course he is quick to point out the error of his thinking, by presenting humorous stories of his failed attempts. Yes, sacrifice is a part of our relationship with God but it has to be directed by God, not by our own erroneous thinking.

So, how do we let people see Christ in us? By living our lives, just as God created us to live. Each of us was created in God’s image but with a unique personality. We can go all kinds of wrong by living according to our flesh but if we surrender our lives to God and live as He directs we’ll come much closer to what we were meant to be.

Too often we try to use the WWJD as our guide. Well, I don’t know about you but I’m not Jesus. Just recently I experienced a social situation in which one participant wanted to abuse the name of God. Throwing the names I call sacred as if they were dirtballs. I have been there before with the same person and respectfully asked him to respect my feelings toward that name even if the commandment of the same ilk meant nothing to him. This time I couldn’t summon a polite response. I wanted to shout at him and if I were using WWJD, I might have. I’m not one to call someone a viper but Jesus did. The truth is I don’t know what Jesus would do. Is this gentle Jesus meek and mild or ticked off Jesus tossing tables around? What I can do, is surrender what God has placed in me, into the hands of Jesus, to be used as he sees fit.

As it says in the Scripture, we are new creatures in Christ but the raw material remains the same. Some of us were created to be bold, outspoken and provocative. Others were created to be quiet, observant peace-makers. Being Christian doesn’t mean behaving exactly the same way Jesus behaved. It means behaving exactly the way Jesus directs. It means modifying our behavior to fit better into the kingdom of God than into the world.

What would Jesus do? He would consult his Father and that is precisely what we need to do as well.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cracked Pots

These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:7

A few years ago I worked with a student who would often say, “I hate it when that happens.” He had heard another teacher say it and loved to repeat it whenever the occasion presented itself. It became something of a joke among those of us who worked with Paul because he repeated the phrase so frequently. In our world there are a lot of circumstances that fit that phrase. Paul’s demeanor was so precious that his use of those words often took the sting out of an otherwise discordant situation. It got to the point that at some of our worst moments one of us would say; “Don’t you just hate it when that happens?”

The truth is we all hate it when anything goes wrong. For the most part we want smooth sailing. When we hit a trial or even a bump in the road we get irritated. We don’t stop and try to see what God is teaching us. It is so much easier to see a teachable moment when the lesson is for someone else. Being tested is not fun nor is it easy. Most of us would prefer to go around the fire rather than through it. Can’t we prove ourselves some other way? The answer is no.

In Peter’s day the pots with flaws cracked in the fire. They didn’t pass the test and that was the end of the road for those pots. The analogy is perfect to describe how God allows us to be tested to prove our faith, not to Him but to ourselves. These are the rubber hits the road moments in life. This is where we can really have faith or just say we have faith.

Sure we hate it when that happens. We hate the tests and we really hate to fail but the good news is that we get another chance. The pot that became cracked in the fire was doomed. There wasn’t a second chance, try again, maybe a different fire for those pots. It was a once for all deal. We are blessed that our Father picks us up, dusts us off and allows us to try again, increasing or decreasing the heat, as we need. Fires will come in our lives and it is okay to hate them. Just try not to crack under the pressure…. try to hang on in faith and bring glory to God.

Love for All

How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
Find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 36:7


Think of the person in your world who loves you more than any other. Think about that relationship. Right now I would say my husband loves me more than anyone else does and more than he loves anyone else. However, when I think in terms of God’s love and how He loves us I am more reminded of my Gram. The other day listening to a message on the sacrificial love Jesus displayed on the Cross the pastor spoke about Jesus’ love for each of us and I was again reminded of Gram.

We often hear about how God loves each of us as if there were only one of us. We hear that Jesus died for all of us but that he would have done the same thing for just one of us. My Gram had seventeen grandchildren of which I am number twelve. The entire time she was alive I was convinced, and I remain convinced that I was special to her. Of all her grandchildren, there was something about me she just found special. I’m pretty sure my sister Kathy, number one, would say the same thing. As would my cousin Jacqueline, number seventeen. Knowing that does not make me feel any less special to Gram. For years it did make me wonder. How can you love each one of seventeen children, ranging over 26 years of age difference, as if there were only one of them? I decided it was some special quality that God had given Gram. She was an amazing woman and very close to God so it wouldn’t be a shock if He had given her a unique ability to mimic His love for us.

Today my Gram has been gone from me for too many years. I miss her as if it were yesterday but today I am the Gram or Grammy, in the picture. I have seven grandchildren, Joey, Faith, Lily, Isabelle, Samuel, Madelyn and Grace. Those two boys are my favorites. Oh wait, it might be Faith. No, I think it’s Grace or is it Isabelle? No, it’s Madelyn, definitely Madelyn, at least until Faith wakes up or Joey calls or Sammy knocks on my door or…. I’m sure you’re following the logic. Each one is my favorite for a different reason. Just as each one of my four children is my very favorite for a different reason. The difference with me and probably with Gram too, is that the favorite, the real favorite kid is subject to change at any given moment. God never changes. I am His favorite right now and I was ten minutes ago and I will be in ten more minutes. Oh and by the way, so are you! And you were and you will be. Our Father loves each one of us as if there were only one of us.

I do have times when I think an activity or circumstance is better suited to one child or grandchild than another. In fact just the other day my friend and I were at an adorable restaurant having lunch and I said I would like to bring my daughter-in-love, Stephanie, there one day. My friend laughed and said, “Not Laura?” She was wondering why my thoughts went to my son’s wife before my own daughter. It’s simple. Laura wouldn’t like that place and Stephanie would. I think God does that too. We make ourselves available to Him in different ways. His relationship with me is different than His relationship with you but His love for each of us is equal. We are His darlings.

It is hard for me to imagine someone loving me more unconditionally or simply more than Gram did but I cannot wait to experience it firsthand. For now, even in my shortsightedness, I am happy to live in the light of my Father’s love and do whatever I can to reflect it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Loving the Least

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ ” Matthew 25:40

The words above come from Jesus. This isn’t some Bible scholar suggesting a new cool way to get God’s attention. This is a directive from Jesus. The words that precede that statement tell us how God expects us to treat each other. We are told that we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give comfort to the afflicted and visit those in prison. When we do these things, even for people who by the world’s standards aren’t terribly important, we have done them for our Father in heaven.
Reading on we find the opposite is true as well. Verse 45 says that when we did not do these things for the least brother we ignored our God as well.
These verses, or at least the concept of them, are familiar even to people who aren’t in a relationship with Jesus. Those people may not know where the idea comes from but they know it exists. This isn’t some hidden treasure that if we’d only known we’d have behaved differently. Or maybe it is.

The hidden treasure part comes in the fact that Jesus sees how we love him and his Father in how we treat the people around us. When we see someone we deem as unimportant or unlikeable we may well treat them with a lack of respect or worse, with contempt. That then is how we have treated Jesus. We don’t see it that way because we don’t see Jesus in them. That may be because he isn’t there but it also may be because we weren’t looking.

Each created person was created by God and each one belongs to him whether they choose to accept that love or ignore it. It isn’t our responsibility to measure a person’s love or lack thereof, for our Father and then decide how to respond to his need. It is our responsibility to look to our Father and ask what He would have us do.

In John 13:34-35, Jesus makes it very clear what he expects from us. We are told to love one another as he has loved us. He doesn’t tell us to love the nice people because someone I see as nice you may see as hateful. He tells us to love one another.

When we treat people with respect and kindness we honor God but when we are cruel we dishonor Him. Certainly harsh words will be needed at times. Jesus definitely used them. I personally have never called anyone a viper but Jesus did. He did what we are told to do. He spoke the truth in love. He treated people with love. He looked at them through eyes of love.

To wear the label Christian should mean to behave as closely as possible to the way Christ behaved. It is an incredibly tall order but it is absolutely what we are called to do, if we are to be called by Jesus name.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Simple Request

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ ’’ Matthew 25:40

I was just this minute asked to do something I’m not at all sure I want to do. The task isn’t hard. In fact it is quite simple and something that I enjoy doing. The problem is that is in the nature of a gift and the recipient, or more to the point, the recipient’s circumstances are a problem for me. I don’t the recipient terribly well. Whenever we’ve had contact she has been friendly but certainly don’t count her among my friends or confidantes. It isn’t her as a person but her belief system and lifestyle that bother me. Even while my mind was saying no, my heart was carefully considering the request. I listened for the voice of my Father and He answered, swiftly and clearly. “Do this for me. Show her my face.” Well then, consider it done. This morning, in just a few minutes actually, I will do what I was asked to do and I will do it with a happy heart. There is no grudging, dragging of feet. There is no “But, but, gee Dad, do you know her?” Of course He does and apparently He wants her to know Him, especially in her moment of need and darkness.

We are all called to be light to the world. Sometimes that is the harsh light that comes suddenly, disturbing the darkness and possibly exposing evil. Sometimes we are called to be a gentle, peaceful light, that comforts and invites. Then we can encourage our neighbors to move toward the true Light that comes from heaven. We can quietly coax a person toward healing and fulfillment.

Today I have a choice. I can be the harsh light that exposes the error of this woman’s ways. (As I see them of course.) Or I can be the kind of light that says, I don’t care where you’ve been, what you’ve chosen or how you’re living right now. I can only that you are hurting and that I can offer you a way to comfort and strength.

Jesus didn’t stop and weigh anyone’s choices or measure their sin before ministering to them. He knelt beside the broken, put his hands on the dirty and healed even the most blatant sinners. He showed compassion and that is what I am being asked, no told, to do.

It doesn’t matter who or what this woman is. All that matters is that my Father asked me to do this thing for Him and for Him I will do it. As I said, not grudgingly, not with great fanfare or condescension but with humility and gratitude for what He has done in my life. I know what He can do for this woman because He has done it for me. Now all my reluctance, all my judgements are gone. All that is left is the desire to do God’s will and hope that it touches her heart.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sight

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105


I just walked through my very dark house. Leaving one room, I turned out the light only to realize that there were no other lights on between there and my destination. I felt quite disoriented and a little guilty for teasing my poor son who walked into the corner over our wall several years ago. As I made my way, slowly and inch by invisible inch, I thought of my Aunt Carol, who is blind. She is now totally blind but there were years when she had some shadowy sight. Think of it as if I’d had a nightlight around the corner toward where I was headed. It occurred to me, not for the first time, that I’d rather have always been blind, than to have had sight, even a glimmer of sight and lose it. Understand, I hate the thought of being blind. My heart breaks for Aunt Carol who cannot see her great nieces and nephews, who has to navigate around a room rather than just walk. The compromises are endless for her because she cannot see. Walking through the dark room and hallway, I was taken again by how amazingly well my aunt lives and gets around. She lives alone and pretty much takes care of herself, having become accustomed to and contented with her lack of physical sight. In that moment the spiritual correlation hit. “I was blind but now I see.” (John 9:25)

Many years of my life were spent in spiritual darkness or blindness. I had no interest in spiritual sight. It was my foolish belief that I was doing fine on my own. (A quick look at some of my choices during that time will show you how errant that thought was.) Then one day I felt it, the darkness, the lack of vision and I wanted to see. God in His amazing mercy granted me sight. I can say with the man in the Gospel of John, I was blind but now I see. Moreover I could see clearly, certainly clearly enough to know that I had a lot to learn. Today I still have a lot to learn and I believe that my vision is clear but there have been moments and days when that vision has been blurred or obscured by some lesser thing.

Unlike physical sight I have some control over my spiritual vision. In Scripture Jesus promises us that if we seek him, we will find him. The clarity of my spiritual eyes depends on where I’m looking and what I am looking for. Making my way through the room through the house this morning I wished I’d left a light on somewhere. There was total darkness. In a house, that’s not good but spiritually speaking the man in darkness is actually better off than the one with a mild, blurry vision. (Revelation 3:16)

God, in His infinite mercy and love, granted me sight over thirty years ago. In those years I have taken that vision for granted far too often. Today I was reminded that His Word is the light to my path. If that light remains in me my stumbles and falls should be few and far between.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Unbridled Passion

David wearing a linen ephod danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord she despised him in her heart.

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel had distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

And Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.
2 Samuel 6:14-16, 20-23


David is so passionate about his Lord that he pulls off his outer garment and begins to dance. The ark is coming to the City of David. There is much cause for rejoicing. Can’t you just see it? David, the king, is dancing for joy at the idea that the ark will be in such close proximity. His love for his Lord is shining brightly as he twirls and jumps listening to the fanfare that announces the arrival of something much greater than David himself. It is the presence of God, to David and his people. This was as near as they were going to get. It’s huge and David is so joyous he can’t help but dance. It is all wonderful until Michal happens to look out the window. Uh-oh, meet Mrs. Killjoy.

As unashamed and unabashed as David is, Michal is completely ashamed and totally appalled. How dare he? Doesn’t he realize that he is a king? This behavior is completely unbecoming and Michal wastes no time telling David just that. She lets him know in no uncertain terms that he is a disgrace. She didn’t like the less than dressed dancing, especially in front of the servant girls. Can’t you just hear the conversation?

Michal: “Oh David how could you? Right in front of the help! Did you forget that you’re the King?”

David: “Oh Michal, did you see it? Isn’t it fantastic? The Ark of the Lord, right here with us! It’s amazing! Did you say something about the servant girls? Is there a problem?”

David is clueless. He’s thrilled. When he realizes what Michal’s problem is he lets her have it. He will not keep still and act in a dignified manner. He will shout, sing and dance. Slave girls? No problem. David is unconcerned about the opinions of the people around him, including his wife’s because he knows the only opinion that counts belongs to God. When we read the Psalms as well as the two books of Samuel, we see that David, royal David can also be a royal screw-up. He is called a man after God’s heart. Here in this passage from 2 Samuel we see that he is not afraid to show it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Faith


When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:4-5


Two things strike me here. The first isn’t terribly remarkable but the second is, to me, pretty amazing. First of all, this meeting with Simon [Peter], James and John is recorded in all four Gospels. Each one is a bit different, but only Luke tells the longer story of putting the nets out again. When you read all four Gospels you can see each writer’s style. Luke is the wordy one. He likes to get every detail in his stories. He may have been one of those people who noticed things that others find superfluous. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest. Mark was the, tell the story and move on type, I guess. So the idea that Luke added more detail is notable but not remarkable. What is remarkable is the lack of relationship between Jesus and the fishermen.

When Jesus notices those guys dragging in nets, cleaning up boats, he is not acquainted with them. By all four accounts he sees them, speaks to them and bam, they’re going right along with him. That I don’t doubt for a second. The Gospels make it pretty clear that Jesus had a compelling presence. Love him or hate him, no one failed to be intrigued by him. What does amaze me is that he walks up to these men, experienced fishermen, with no knowledge of their trade and says “hey guys, try again, but this time do it my way.” His way, which is opposed to everything the fishermen know about fishing. He tells them to do something that is ridiculous to them and what do they do? They do exactly what he says.
Of course this story is one of the many reasons why I love Peter. “Uh, we’ve already worked hard for nothing, but okay.” Alright, what he really said was, “because you say so” and that, to me, is the truly amazing part of the story. Who is Jesus to Peter at that point? Peter isn’t even Peter yet. He’s still Simon. This isn’t his best and closest friend telling him to something ludicrous. This is some guy he may have heard about but that’s it.

We learn that the apostles were people, just like us. True and yet they answered the call much faster and more fully than most of us. The difference I suppose was that they were face to face with a person so intriguing, so charismatic that they could not resist him. Jesus, being God, never, ever changes, which means the character of Jesus, is just as strong and compelling now as it was all those years ago. What has changed is our vision. We don’t see as clearly as Peter, James or John. Maybe we see as clearly as Nathaniel, who asked, “what good comes from Nazareth?” But even Nathaniel moved faster than most of us. If we would be still, listen and then do things Jesus’ way, our lives would be productive.

This reminds me of a day, several years ago, when I was trying to help one of our students get on a swing. No matter what I said she wanted to do it her way. As I tried repeatedly to help her all I could think was, “If you’d just do it my way, I know so much better than you.” I also remember wondering how many times my heavenly Father has that same thought toward me. Obedience with alacrity and without question would be the best course of action. Who knows? I might even catch a fish.