Saturday, May 31, 2014

To Be Known


 

Jesus answered, “Don’t you know me Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father?” John 14:9

 

Reading these words of Scripture just now I felt an ache in my heart. Jesus has walked with these men for three years. He’s been as open as a person can possibly be and shared everything with them. Now he is nearing the end of his time with them and there is an added urgency. Soon he won’t be there in the flesh to direct and guide them.

The urgency of Jesus’ words to Philip has always been apparent to me but this morning I read something a little different. I read a little sadness. We all want to be known, to be understood by those closest to us. Hear it that way, “Don’t you know me Philip?” Now put your dear friend’s name in there. “Don’t you know me ________?”

Some of the most frustrating moments in my life have come from being misunderstood. When efforts to help or bless are misread or when a need is ignored, it is so hard. We are called to know Jesus, in his triumph but also in his suffering. I’m not a military person nor do I have an occupation that causes me to risk my physical life. I do not know Jesus’ suffering in this way, this sense of being unknown to those closest to me. I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and grandmother and I do know this kind of suffering. To look in the face of a dearly loved one and no that they do not understand you or truly know you is awful.

Worse is to know that they don’t care to know you.  It seems to me that in asking the questions he asked, Philip did want to know more about Jesus but maybe not. Perhaps as the question is asked in regard to knowing the Father,  Jesus heard in Philip’s voice that he [Jesus] was just the means to an end. That is pure speculation. I don’t know Philip’s motivation or Jesus’ understanding of it. All I know is that not being known is sad, very sad.

I think of the many young people who have committed heinous acts of violence against their peers. How many have then turned their weapons on themselves? When we look closer we most often see wounded outcasts. Was all of that horrific, violent, murderous behavior a way to ask, “Don’t you know me?”

To know anyone else we must first know ourselves and to know ourselves best is to see through Jesus’ eyes. The closer we are to him, to our heavenly Father, the better we can know who we are. We learn that by knowing whose we are. From there we can better know the people around us.

 Pray to be able to answer the question with great authority. When Jesus asks you, “Don’t you know me_____?” Be prepared to answer yes and then ask to know him more.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Father


My Father who has given them to me, is greater than al, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. John 10:29

 
Last night I watched a movie which included a relationship between a father and daughter. The daughter loved her father completely. He was her hero and her heart. Eventually she would discover that her hero had feet of clay. He was effusive and charismatic and he loved her to the best of his limited ability but his abilities were tainted and extremely limited. It broke her heart to realize that this giant, this personality, this father was a damaged human being who left pain and catastrophe in his wake. It reminded me in some ways of my own father and of a conversation I had recently with a friend.

My father has a big personality. He is charming and endearing when you know him only on the surface. I was reminded of him when my friend Kim was telling me a story about a man her daughter had met at work. He was an older man but still full of life and humor. Kim’s daughter was taken by his energy and apparent joy. As Kim told me the story I did not picture a lovely old man, fun to know, delightful to encounter. Instead I felt a revulsion to this described man as he so seemed to resemble my father who most people would describe, with a certain amount of accuracy, the same way.

There is a part of me that still loves my father but I do not respect him. It took me years, like the woman I saw in the movie, to give myself permission to love the man but still hate the sin and pain he brought with him.

Those three factors, the movie father, my own father and the man in Kim’s story came together for me as I read in Luke where Jesus cries out to his Father, our Father right before he faces death.  I saw in my mind the scenes from the movie where father and daughter were so happy together and remembered a few similar moments from my own life. I also remembered the underlying dread that this happy go lucky version would at any moment change before my very eyes. Right then I felt an immense gratitude for a Father who never changes, whose love is unconditional, who does not have feet of clay but rather arms open wide to those of us who do.

So many people have been hurt by fathers and mothers who carry hurt from the generations that came before them. It makes it difficult sometimes to embrace the idea of a loving Father who will never leave or forsake us and yet He is very real.

There were scenes in the movie and in my life of cruelty and anger. There are no such scenes with our heavenly Father. He does not reject our offerings or our love simple and flawed though they may be. Instead He blesses our paltry offerings and turns them into gold.  His faithfulness is great. His love is perfect and is literally without end. (Lamentations 3:22-24, 1 Corinthians 13:8)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Peace Not Worries

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day had enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

 
This morning I read a message that talked about this verse from God’s perspective. There was an acknowledgement of the fact that while this is His command to us He knows it’s a bit beyond our abilities. That made my day!

 During the school year I work in a classroom for children with special needs. Every single day we offer them challenges that, even as we’re planning them, we’re fairly sure they won’t be able to quite get it, at least not right away. It’s an invitation to try, to grow. No one is going to yell at them or discipline them if they conquer it on the first or thirtieth try. What we do is try another approach. We adjust our presentation to aid their success.

Here in this verse, God gives a directive. Do. Not. Worry. It’s so important to Him that we have faith and trust in Him, in His will. Here, He is telling us not to worry. There are several places in Scripture that prop up the command, places where God promises His help and provision. If we truly, through and through believed and had faith that God’s will is best we wouldn’t worry.

The rub comes in when we start to think about the future, as the verse indicates. The “what ifs” of life. I think it is true and precious that God knows that no matter how many times or ways He tells us we don’t have to worry, we shouldn’t worry, we still worry. Does He get angry with us? No! He doesn’t fine-tune us or our circumstances either. He loves us. He answers our worry with peace that passes understanding and with love that neither ends nor fails. (Philippians 4:7, 1 Corinthians 13:8, Hebrews 13:5) God is for us and therefore nothing should dare to come against. True we may lose a battle or two but ultimate victory is God’s and by His grace, ours.

Don’t get me wrong, I worry and frankly, I worry about ridiculous things that really don’t matter or things so enormous I know I can’t do anything about them. That is not what God wants for me or any of us but I know that He understands and loves me through that worry into the next season of confidence. Why? Because God is good and His mercy endures forever.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

In Awe


 

 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made,
your works are wonderful I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

 
This morning I read a devotional message that spoke to the beauty of nature. As things of that genre often do, the passage made many references to the grandeur and glory of God’s handiwork and how we humans should feel so small in comparison. As I read I was mentally agreeing with it until the idea of how I was created stopped me.

We humans are the ones created in God’s image. Don’t get me wrong I am in awe of nature. In fact the first line of the message asked are you a beach or mountain person and I couldn’t choose.  Not terribly long ago I would have emphatically answered beach but recently my husband and I had an amazing vacation in the mountains. Months later, looking at those pictures I can easily feel the wonder of being in such a magnificent place. The world we live in is full of beauty. In fact when we were in the mountains I asked my husband if he thought the locals took their amazing scenery for granted. A few days later I repeated that question to a friend who lives in that area and she admitted, sadly, that yes, they do.

 We all do. There is wonder and beauty all around us. From things as grand as the Great Smoky Mountains to the beautiful simplicity of a blue jay, we are constantly in the presence of God’s incredible creation. Blue jays came to mind because the other day I was in the car with my granddaughter Isabelle as a blue jay flew by us gracefully but amazingly fast. It was breathtaking. God has been ridiculously good to us and it shows brilliantly in nature.

Still I’m not sure I’m quite on the same page as writers who think that because some of that handiwork is larger or perhaps more complicated that is more important than we are. Even the most beautiful mountain, ocean, bird or animal cannot say, as we can, that it was created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27) How blessed we are to have been given all of those things to enjoy and how much more so to be able to be in relationship with the Creator.

 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Introducing….You


 

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

 
Self-image is a tough one right? Do you think you see yourself clearly? Is this a good day or a poor one? Either way, go to a mirror. Now, take a close look, try to see beyond the obvious. Got it? Great. What did you see? Someone who is energetic and ready to face the world? Someone who can’t wait to extend her hand in greeting and say, “Hello my name is Confidence, nice to meet you.” Or did you see what I hear so often, too fat, too thin, bad hair, dull eyes, stress, a dead end job, no friends, no spouse, and so on. This person will reluctantly or with forced politeness extend her hand and say, “Hello my name is Please Don’t Look Too Close.” Unfortunately for most of us most days are like the latter example. Very few of us start the majority of our days with a positive self-image. Personally I wake up and as has become my habit I speak immediately to God. I do this to focus my day, to let the enemy know to whom I belong. That’s great and it does get me out of bed with the right perspective. Most days things go pretty well until the invasion of the mirror or the reminder of what my day holds. The subtle shift in attitude begins when I let physicality or circumstances steer my attitude and steal my joy. Sound familiar?
 
So who are you? Please allow me to introduce yourself. You are beloved. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14) You are a child of God. (1 John 3:1) Now quick, check the mirror again. Any changes? Do you look different? Did your job, social or financial situation just change? No? Hmmm. That’s not the least bit strange because God doesn’t judge by externals. He looks at our hearts. (1 Samuel 16:7) If we could see what other people see that image would be very different.

We all read the articles and books about feeling more confident or more attractive. We look for and sometimes find, ways to better ourselves, improve our images. Those things can help, temporarily but the truth is real change, real confidence, real security comes from inside, where the Spirit of the Lord is. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

In Christ our heavenly Father makes all things new. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone the new has come.” You may not feel new or believe that you look new but God’s promises are true. Why choose so quickly to believe the lies of Satan and the world that tell you you aren’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough or that there’s entirely too much of you? (Asks the woman guilty of believing those lies far too often)

Fighting back with Scripture is our best defense of course. There are the verses included here and so many more that tell us how incredibly beautiful and valuable we are to God but because He knows us so well our Abba has provided another way of seeing ourselves more clearly. Look into the eyes of the people who love you and listen to their words. We’re all our own harshest critics but that friend, spouse or child sees in us things we don’t believe are there to be seen. Confidence and beauty do not come in packages or on hangers. They come from believing the Word of God and trusting the people He’s put in our lives to support us.

When the things of this world attempt to knock you down, fight back! Fight back with the strongest weapon available, God’s Word. Introduce yourself as Beloved, fearfully and wonderfully made, so valuable to your Father (Matthew 6:26).  We have to know that if Abba were introducing us He would say, “This is my precious child.” Now, we just have to believe, live it and introduce ourselves in kind, starting with an introduction to that often times enemy in the mirror. God bless!

 

Friday, May 2, 2014

God Willing


 

Now listen you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  James 4:13-15

 
Children are often instructed to watch, listen and learn from those people with more experience. Surely parents are the earliest teachers of any child. Sadly, far too many children learn all the wrong things. The other day I was blessed not only to see the result of great parenting but to be taught a lesson by a five year old.

My little friend Adam was quite excited to tell me that he would most likely not see me at church on Sunday. After inquiring about my intentions toward church attendance he said, “I probably won’t be there. We’re going to Orlando this weekend, God willing.” Now, to make this even more precious, hear it spoken with a tiny speech impediment, one that he is outgrowing rapidly and that I will miss. The words “God willing” were sweet enough but hear it as, “God wiwwing” and it’s even more adorable. A few minutes after our first conversation Adam repeated the information again. His family was planning to go to Orlando, God willing. In the brief ten minutes we spent together I heard Adam tell at least three other people the same story with the same modifier. He had plans, God willing. Those words coming out of that child, with a face so absolutely beautiful, impish and precious that it defies an accurate description, just grabbed my heart.

This is a kid you want to hug every time you see him. He’s that adorable and on top of that, he was speaking with authority straight from the Scripture. For the rest of the weekend and on into the next week I thought about Adam’s words. “God willing.” It is how we all should view our plans. They are not written in stone. We need to keep our hearts and minds open. We will go here or there, do this or that, God willing. It’s a humbling, submissive statement and I am so grateful to Adam for shining such a tender spotlight on it.

Further, I’ve thought about the way Adam is being raised. I know his parents or better said, I’m acquainted with them. They are sweet young people and on meeting them you know why their children (I knew Adam’s older sister first) are so great. Jesus is clearly the center of their family.

A few years ago my granddaughter Faith told me that God speaks to people all the time but that grownups don’t always listen. I heard Him loud and clear through Adam and I’m grateful, and now God willing, I have to go to work.