Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Expectations


 
Listen! I am coming soon! I will bring my reward with me. And I will repay each one of you for what you have done. Revelation 22:12

A week ago it was Christmas Eve. Having many little ones in our family I am well aware of how anxiously they awaited the big day, Christmas. As an adult watching the little ones you always hope the event will live up to the hype and anticipation.
A few weeks ago my husband and I went on a trip to Tennessee to celebrate a special anniversary. That trip far exceeded my expectations and hopes. But, you never know. When we wait and wait for something, Christmas, a birthday, a vacation there’s always a chance that it will disappoint.

Some people live their entire lives waiting. When I get married. When I graduate. When I get the better job, the new car, the driver’s license etc. It’s all going to change when the_____?_______ happens.  Sometimes it does. Some of those things are turning points in our lives and things do change. Even then the change isn’t always good. Even spiritually, we pray and wait to feel the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Then he moves and sometimes it isn’t what we wanted. Growing closer to God isn’t an easy process. We get to know him through grace and blessings of course but we also draw closer and learn in our suffering times.

Here in the verse from Revelation Jesus is talking about coming back for us. It’s a day that for true believers is better than any other day imaginable. Most of us don’t think in terms of being here for the Rapture. We think in terms of our death and our journey to the new life and that has some scary aspects. Let’s think for a minute though of the actual arrival at home. Jesus is waiting for us. Father God is waiting. The Holy Spirit is waiting. We are told that a cloud of witnesses is waiting. (Hebrews 12:1) People who have had near death experiences talk about seeing loved ones who have already made it home. It’s so amazing to think about it, isn’t it?

Unlike any earthly event to which we look forward, this one cannot disappoint. When my husband and I took our trip to Tennessee we had great expectations and they were exceeded. We had no way of knowing how much fun we would have there. There were blessings in that trip that we couldn’t possibly have anticipated. That is a weak comparison to what awaits us in heaven and our trip was temporary. Eventually we had to leave.
When we get home we will be with our Father. Jesus, the one and only Jesus will greet us and hold us close. I can hope and plan, wait and watch but I can’t begin to imagine how great and glorious it will be.  No matter how wonderful I think it will be, I know it will be better.  Human plans carry the potential to disappoint but God’s plans never do. That makes me happy and excited to get there, to go home and to know that I never have to leave.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Love Trumps Dirt


 

When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought  an alabaster jar of perfume and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”  Luke 7:37-39

In reading an incredibly well written explanation of grace, I came across this passage as an example. It certainly speaks to grace and the author made excellent points. I was however, distracted by an entirely different image. My mind’s eye immediately saw images of the Chilean miners emerging from their underground nightmare. It wasn’t the over the top mercy and love of God evidenced in that rescue that caught my attention either; it’s the simple filth of the whole situation.
For sixty-nine days those men were underground. Now it is beyond fair to say that I know nothing about mining or what is and isn’t a part of that experience but I’m fairly confident in assuming that toileting and certainly bathing options were seriously limited if they existed at all. So, sixty-nine days after any real bathing opportunities, the men emerge. Did their love ones stand back or recoil at the sight and/or smell of them? No! They ran, they grabbed on, they hugged and kissed. The relief, the love and the truly miraculous nature of the moment negated anything else.

Go back to the Scripture. This woman is weeping and her tears are the “water” she is using to clean the feet of Jesus. Take the word Jesus out of the equation for a brief moment. This is a young man who walks everywhere on dirt roads also frequented by animals. Yuk! His feet aren’t just dirty….. Beyond washing them with her tears, she dries them with her hair. (Beth Moore must shudder at that thought! Most women do, I think.) Then, as if that isn’t intimate enough, she kisses his feet. Why? Okay, now put Jesus back into the picture, not just some random young man with dirty feet but Jesus Christ. Ah, that explains it. It’s love, huge, enormous, crazy love that spurs her actions. She knows him and she’s felt his graciousness. Much like the family of the miners, his condition is not the main factor. It is simply a matter of who he is to her and how much she loves him.
So what about her? The Pharisee, ever helpful, would like Jesus to get a clue. “Uh, hello, that chick kissing your feet is a prostitute. I’m just saying.”

 He’s so sure that if Jesus knew who she was he wouldn’t allow her to touch him. Wrong! And there it is again. Love. She is untouchable, at least in the light of day by men who wanted to be seen as respectable. Maybe in a dark corner somewhere if it could stay a secret but not like this! Does Jesus care? Yes, but not the way the Pharisee wants him to care. Jesus loves her. He is so touched by her open and obvious love for him. She doesn’t care about his dirt and he doesn’t care about hers. Now that, beloved, is pure, unconditional love.
Another quick image came to my mind. I saw my sweet husband after a few hours of yard work. The joke is always, “give me a hug” as he drips sweat and has dirt and grass clinging to his body. Um… no, thank you. I always give him an air hug and kiss, exactly what he expects. But suppose he’s filthy and sweaty from a near fatal accident? Or suppose I hadn’t seen him in days or weeks? Then I wouldn’t even see sweat and dirt. Then I would only see love.  My sight would be skewed by my love for him and his for me.

We are dirty, filthy, sweaty people, in far worse condition than those miners or even that woman. Yet, Jesus reaches his arms out without hesitation. Further, he transfers our dirt to his body where it was crucified and defeated. That, my friends, is LOVE!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Cry of Jesus


 

Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Luke 2:11-12

 
Yesterday I had the privilege and blessing of spending the day with five of my eleven grandchildren. The two youngest ones were part of the group. Abram is just short of nine months old and Harper is six months old. Neither of them is talking but both of them are great little communicators. Abram has eyes that speak volumes, even in pictures. His moods and opinions are pretty clear if you can see those big beautiful eyes. Harper uses her whole face but it’s her mouth, they way she opens or purses her lips that give her away. Both of them have a certain head tilt that is equally adorable and telling. They let you know their opinions, wants and needs with facial expressions and noises, not words.

Joey, who at nine years old is our oldest grandchild, spent the night with us. While we were admiring the new crèche that Pop Pop built for the Holy Family, Joey was explaining to me that Jesus wasn’t born in December.  Later in the night I was thinking about that conversation and about Jesus as a baby. The images of my precious Abram and adorable Harper came to my mind, in particular how different they are. When Harper wants something she yells, short, sharp sounds that if unanswered turn into a disappointed cry. Abram is quieter at first with his tears. Where Harper opens her mouth wide, Abram’s sweet face crumbles, his lip quivers and his cry starts, sad and plaintive. As their grandmother all I want to do in either case is give them whatever they need or want. My little angels should never be sad!
Thinking of Jesus as a baby in comparison to my angels I started to wonder.  Jesus would have to have cried for what he wanted and needed just like Abram and Harper. I pictured him both ways, Harper’s way, a tad more insulted that we hadn’t anticipated her needs and Abram’s a bit more poignant, how could we not know he needed us? How would baby Jesus cry? And why?

We learn all through Scripture that Jesus was fully man yet fully God. This is a being who could and would eventually heal the sick, raise the dead, give sight to the blind and save the world. Doesn’t it follow that he could have just looked at Mary and said, “Mother, I’m a bit chilly here, not to mention hungry and wet.” He didn’t. He came to us as helpless, needy and limited as Abram and Harper. Like my sweet ones Jesus had to cry for attention. Oh yeah!
When my thoughts got there I realized that the Savoir of the world, the One true God, the Almighty, did grow as a boy and man. He did speak, quite eloquently in due time, just as my babies will. Then after humbling himself to that most dependent form, he literally gave his life for us. Yet, he still cries for our attention. There I see a bit more of Abram’s heartbroken cry.  Jesus does not demand our attention, though he could. He waits, he calls and he beckons. Sometimes we answer and sometimes we don’t. ( See Luke 19:41-44 for an example )

To think of Abram or Harper crying and crying to no avail is heartbreakingly sad to me. I cannot stand it. I am so grateful to have them in my life and now I’ve learned an important faith lesson from them. They’ve given me an image of Jesus as a baby and now, that I hadn’t fully considered before. One day soon both Abram and Harper will use words instead of just sounds and facial expressions but for now I’ll enjoy their unique ways of communicating.
Merry Christmas and may Jesus touch your life today and every day.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Seeing or Believing


Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

It is Advent or what is referred to in the secular world as “the Christmas season.”  During this season I love to watch old movies. My favorites are mostly the ones in black and white but my husband and grandchildren make other requests. One of their favorite movies includes the line, “seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing.” It’s corny, incredibly, ridiculously corny in a way that is only tolerable in the red, gold and green of the season but in its own corny way there is a certain profundity.  Think about it, “Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing.” Does it strike a familiar chord?

Remember Thomas? He’s the disciple that had to see and feel Jesus’ wounds to believe that Jesus had in fact, risen from the dead. (John 20: 24-28) He was an, I’ll believe it when I see it, kind of guy.

Hebrews 11 is the faith Hall of Fame. In it are listed people who believe in impossible circumstances. These are people whose situations brought to mind words like hopeless, over, impossible, Not. A. Chance. And yet, here they are listed in the Bible as people of great faith. They believed and then they saw.

How about you? Do you believe after the miracle or before?

My own life has been a minefield of challenges for the past several months. That is not to say that I have been miserable or unhappy. It is however, to say that I have become very aware of the origin of my joy, blessings and victories. There have been defeats and disappointments but in it I am fully confident that God has a plan; that he who began a good work in me will not now leave me to finish the race on my own. (Philippians 1:6) In many areas I cannot see his hand but I believe that he is orchestrating the events of my life for the best outcome even as I feel defeated or unhappy. Feelings are human and fleeting. Joy is real and comes from a never ending Source that we cannot see but whose promises we can most certainly believe.

So back to the corny line, “seeing isn’t believing.” True because where there is proof there is no need for faith, for belief and hope in what appears to be impossible. “Believing is seeing.” Again, true, because when we believe that God’s plan, purpose and will are the best we can rest and trust in him. We can “see” his hand, his blessings and his love for us and from there we can hope. We can be certain that we are in the best care possible.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Before You Were Born


 
The Lord appeared to us in the past saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

 
Today we will celebrate our youngest son’s thirtieth birthday.  It is hard for me to believe that he is thirty. In my mind he’s still four, pretending to be an old man, with his baby sister at his side pretending to be his wife. As we’ve planned and cooked and created surprises for today I’ve gone back in time. I remember being pregnant, delivering him, the news that he was a boy, a very big boy. So it was quite fitting today that my first devotional reading of the morning included these words, “Before you were born I knew you.”

It made think of Jeffrey. Due to his size, 9 pounds, 22 inches, Jeffrey made his presence very much known to me in the months that we resided literally together. I joked about his very active behavior when he began to roll, kick and poke but those jokes changed to a feeling of concern when the movements slowed down to very little activity. My doctor quickly assured me that it was because my baby had no room to move around but that the baby was, in fact, just fine.
Note my use of the words, “the baby” or “my baby.” I’m in my fifties. In my day there weren’t scans to tell you the gender of the baby. Those scans were brand new, used very rarely. The morning of November 30, 1983 all I could tell you about my baby was that he or she was making it very hard for me to sit down and that I loved that baby sight unseen. I did not know Jeffrey before he was born, anymore than I knew his older brothers, Paul and Joseph, or baby sister Laura. I knew that they were mine, that I wanted them and that I would love them no matter what. I did not however have a clue of how difficult no matter what could get.

This morning I read the words, “Before you were born I knew you” and had a heightened respect, love and sense of gratitude toward God. I did not know when I was carrying and delivering each one of my children that while each of them would bring incredible joy, amusement, tenderness and love, that each one would also break my heart at times in ways I could never imagine. The depth and ability a child possesses to cause pain to a parent is unfathomable until it occurs. The level of ability to forgive and move on is a beautiful gift from God. But I didn’t know about that pain before I had children nor did I know about the connection or joy I would feel. What if I’d known the whole story? Would I have chosen to be a mother? I can’t honestly say. For one reason our journeys are still going and for another, I also didn’t know that God would give me strength and comfort.
God knew and knows us all, from conception to eternity. He loves us the entire way through with no strings or conditions. Sadly, I cannot say the same. I have, at times, placed conditions on my children. What’s worse I’ve done it passive/aggressively. The whole “of course I love you but please by all means feel the intensity of my disapproval.” YUK! All I can say is PRAISE GOD, that he does not love us that way.

Our Father knew before we were born, about every sin that we would commit and still he allowed our lives to happen, he allows us to sin and repent over and over again without fear of having gone too far.
My son Jeffrey is a precious gift in my life and I wouldn’t give him up or trade him, ever. Today, because the focus was on him, on his birth he helped me to see a wonderful truth in a deeper way. God’s love is truly a free gift, given with full knowledge that we did not and cannot deserve it and that, as horrific as this sounds, sometimes we don’t care if we have it or not. We ignore God and he knew we would.

It has always been my goal to be the best mother I could be. Looking over my children’s lives I fear that my best, if in fact they got it, was just not good enough. My children may measure, they do measure, and find me lacking but our Father doesn’t ever measure. He simply but perfectly loves.