Saturday, April 23, 2011

Recognizing the Saturdays

I went for a walk this morning and ALMOST got to see an amazing sunrise.

The morning was heavy and cloudy.  As I came around the corner, I could just make out the hazy outline of a golden orange ball in the sky tucked deeply into the cloud cover.  I love a good sunrise, but this morning, the light was hidden.

It's Saturday after Good Friday.  And I wondered this morning just what Jesus' friends were thinking on this day so many years ago -- post-crucifixion Saturday.  While the rest of their culture busied themselves with celebration around the Passover, their hearts were dark.  Their Light, it seemed, had been snuffed out and was laying buried behind a stone.  Surely they were confused, broken-hearted, lonely, feeling completely in the dark.

But the light was coming.  Victory was just one turn of the sundial away.

I think it's in the "Saturdays" of life that we yearn most for the victory "Sunday" coming.  Isn't it in the dark times that we hold to the hope of the light the most?  I wonder if I fail to recognize those Saturdays, to let those moments open me up to the truth of my own needy state.  That mother in Uganda who is watching her baby die of AIDS or malnutrition or a water-borne illness -- she knows the grip of a Saturday, and so she holds even more tightly to the resurrection ahead.  The young girl in China who has been repeatedly tortured and imprisoned for simply living out the command to spread the word about a Savior -- she bears the scars of many Saturdays, but she knows that she will be glorious in her Sunday.

Truth be told, my lot is a little too easy sometimes.  Maybe in my lack of Saturdays, I miss the beauty of being dragged into a face-to-face confrontation with death and thus coming to know the power of standing in victorious faith closer to my God.  Like the Jews who were busy  with celebration while those who knew the Truth were in mourning, we can certainly insulate ourselves enough to miss the suffering of those around the world, next door, in our homes, or maybe even the pain in our own hearts.

Facing the darkness forces us to seek the Light even more desperately.  We need to feel that need.

But this morning during my walk, finally the dark clouds did clear and turn to whispy vapors, and the sun broke through.  And it was just as beautiful and bright when in full view as it was when the clouds were hiding it from my sight.  The Light never stopped shining, even when I couldn't see it, but when it broke through the darkness, it looked all the more perfect for my having looked a little harder to see it.

So today, I want to look more intently for the Light.  Happy Easter.  Blessings.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Shhhhh! Don't Say the G-Word.

(Originally posted March 14, 2010)

I'm way too old to just now be getting this.

Over the past few years, I've really been trying to wrap my brain around the idea of grace.

I grew up in church my whole life, but didn't hear too much about the “G-word”. I really don't fault our teachers for it. I think their intentions were good – probably along the lines of, “If we tell these young people that salvation is a free gift, they'll just go out and do whatever the heck they want to do!”

And, guess what?

I DID go out and do whatever the heck I wanted to do even without the knowledge of grace, and it led to my developing my own warped idea of earning God's protection and favor.

I think it went something like, “Okay, I did (name a sin) yesterday. So I'm gonna need to drive the speed limit AND be kind to old people for like two weeks make up for that one!” It was a twisted cycle that brought me no closer to God.

I came across this verse this morning: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3) In context, the apostle Paul is reprimanding these believers for adopting the idea that they need to follow the old Jewish Law in order to be right with God – living as if His miraculous grace in Jesus' sacrifice was not enough to save them without their own efforts.

What does this verse tell me today? That I cannot – CANNOT! – improve on God's grace. The Law God gave his people thousands of years ago had a purpose (read the rest of chapter 3), just like the rules God gives today are part of His making me who He wants me to be. And faith in Jesus' saving sacrifice is, of course, essential to stepping into that grace. But the fact is that I can never . . . EVER . . . do or be enough to DESERVE for God to save me. He WANTS to. It's so foreign to my thinking, I'm still not sure I fully understand the concept!

I'm seeing now that those teachers from my childhood were wrong. Embracing the truth of grace does NOT make me want to live my own way. In fact, it humbles me to the core to know that there is a Great Creator who would still love me and want me after time and time again I have spit in His face and tried to create my own righteousness – trying to improve on His perfect plan.

Grace only makes me desire to become the creation HE desires.

***Sidenote: The 40 Days of Water challenge is going swimmingly (pun intended). I'm a little scared to see how much cash is in the cookie jar by Easter morning. This may need to be a permanent fix. Wanna get in on it?

The Cookie Jar is Ready!

(Originally posted March 8, 2010)

If we do not find some suffering in the world and do something about it, we are in danger of becoming miserable.” – Rob Bell in “Drops Like Stars”

It's true. A lack of concern for the hurting among us can cause us to become numb, feelingless.

Bloodwater mission is a faith-based organization that is working to help stop the HIV/AIDS and water crisis in Africa. I love what they do. And so we are taking their 40 Days of Water challenge. Check it out here:

The aforementioned cookie jar will be serving as the loot-holder during the challenge (and a cute cookie jar at that, eh?) So for the next 40 days during the Lenten season, the beverage of choice is tap water – no non-essential refreshments allowed. Come Easter, all the money that WOULD HAVE been spent on our usual indulgences will be going to help provide clean water to our friends in Africa.
And we're hoping the whole family will jump on board, not just Mom and Dad.

Since everyone is on a squeaky tight budget these days, this is a great way to find a few extra bucks you may not have even known you had to give. It's also a statement of solidarity – giving up luxuries so that others can have basic necessities. A simple thing, a beautiful experiment!

So starting tomorrow morning, March 9:

“Goodbye, morning OJ!”
“Later, evening cocoa with marshmallows!”
“So long, my <sniff, sniff> sweet ambrosia, Diet Dr. Peppers.”

And, friends, keep me honest. It's a challenge worth taking.

Take That, Rich Man!

(Originally posted March 3, 2010)

“Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you . . . Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you . . .” James 5:1,3

I'm so glad that scripture doesn't apply to me! I mean, there are tons of reminders every day that prove our financial struggles. Gas prices are just ridiculous, insurance premiums are soaring unchecked, and apparently growing kids equals a growing grocery bill. There's no way I would be considered the “rich” of the world.

So there's that line of thinking . . . and then there's the truth.

I face the fact that most nights we throw away enough dinner scraps to make a full feast for someone who's hungry. I have shoes in my closet that I'm still holding on to even though I haven't worn them in probably a year. We have cars, and they're in working condition most of the time. My electricity and water stay turned on every month, and we have more than enough blankets to keep us warm. By the majority of the world's standards, there's no way I would NOT be seen as “rich.”

So now that we've drawn the lines, how DOES this scripture speak to me? Am I letting my gold and silver rust rather than putting it to use in a Kingdom fashion?

In the context of the passage, the writer is talking about the wealthy who hold back the pay due their workers. The rich are hoarding and the poor are hungry. The gold and silver is rusting because it is sitting locked away as someone's “treasure”.

I guess the right idea is to keep the money moving. I try to see it through first century eyes: The wealthy landowner gives the gold coin to his day laborer who in turn gives the gold coin to his local Walmart associate to buy some produce. (something like that) Perhaps that Walmart associate will use the gold coin to pad the dowry of his daughter who will marry another day laborer that will again be provided for by the wealthy landowner's wages. It's a cycle. The gold can't rust if it's being passed from hand to hand providing for all those along the chain.

And if the wages are held back? In this case, no food, no marriage, no providence. But God hears their cries and takes action. The rust on the gold speaks volumes about this rich man's heart.

I don't mean this as a political statement, just a personal reminder to myself. In times when we feel we have the least, that's when we need to give the most. (see 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 about being generous even in one's own poverty) Someone once said, “If I have two coats, one belongs to the poor.” I want to get there. I would like to see money as utilitarian, a means to an end, just another process God has set up for us to steward; never something to chase after.

I think it's all about being spiritually-minded rather than earthly-minded. Keeping our eyes on The Day, we can't let ourselves begin piling up these treasures just to watch them rust. There are so many who truly need our help right now.

We've got to keep the gold shiny.

Sidenote:  Here's some of my favorite places to help "polish the gold".  
Do you have one to add to the list?

A New Number

(Originally posted October 19, 2010)

Today is my birthday (pause for uproarious applause). I just don't think you should ever outgrow excitement about your birthday. And my sweet husband reminded me this morning that “36” is the new “34”. I'm not sure what that means, but I'm going to take it as encouragement.

And as with every birthday, I'm thinking a lot about what the next year or two or thirty-six will hold. God has graciously given me a new number to work with, so what am I going to do with it?

This past Friday, I got to be part of a luncheon announcing the new Art House Dallas. ( This organization (really more of a family) is focused on encouraging artists and art-lovers in their faith, in their work, and in living creative lives that are concerned about the things that Jesus is concerned about. I love this! Creative-types affecting change! Almost scary, huh?

So that's got me thinking about what this new year of life should be about.

I read just this morning in John 18:19-21 some eye-opening words. In this passage, Jesus is on trial, being questioned by the powers that be about His teachings. Jesus matter-of-factually says in verse 21, “Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.”

But DO WE? It was a piercing thought today. Those of us who claim to be Christ-followers, do we really know what He has said to the lost world? Can we reiterate it in speech and, even more importantly, in action? If we're not truly in the Word, in constant connection with God through prayer, how can we know how to be witnesses of a Savior to a dying world?

Would my Lord be able to point to me and say, “Just ask her. She knows.”?

Just like Jesus' words, even today God wants His children to be the demonstration of His power, grace, and truth. That's our part in His Story, and we join the many generations that have gone before us in that same holy pursuit.

That's what I want from myself throughout this new year. I want each day to be less “ME-o-centric” and to become consumed with the things that matter to Jesus. I want to participate in this abundant life that we have been given and to be about Kingdom business right here and now. I want my part in the Story to well-played.

Even in my weaknesses, I am comforted to know that God can do amazing things with those who are willing to allow His transformation of their everyday existence. That is the ultimate lifelong gift.

(But on a more tangible note, since it IS my birthday, a little cheesecake would also be nice.)  :o)


Don't Open That Door!

(Originally posted September 28, 2010)

I feel a cheesy illustration coming on, so I'm just gonna go with it and see if it ends up making sense:

The devil is like a door-to-door salesman.

He rings the doorbell at dinnertime.  At first, you pretend to not be home -- surely he'll go away.  Then curiosity gets the best of you, and you carefully, slyly peer through the blinds just to see what he's selling.  And, of course, he sees you sneaking a peek and quickly begins the sales pitch:  "It will only take a moment to show you this product that will make your life soooo much better!"

So you crack the door to politely tell him that you're not interested, that he should move on to someone else.  In a heartbeat, your eyes are fixated on the product and he slides his foot in the door.  Ugh!  He's on YOUR turf now, and the pitch becomes feverish as he dazzles you with promises of revolutionizing your life.  "May I come in and show you our catalog?  It will only take a moment of your time."

It seems like a quick downhill slide from there.  Soon your kitchen table is swallowed up in pictures of "new possibilities, the easy life, getting what you DESERVE!" if only you will buy in.  Your heart is racing and head spinning from all the statistics and discounts and market studies on how you NEED this product.  Before you know what has happened, you're signing up for something you never wanted that will end up costing you much more than you can afford -- if not, everything.

And then he's back out the door and on to the next house.

But, if you have company at your house -- I mean really IMPORTANT company -- you would have no problem sending the salesman away, however firm you might have to be.  "Sir, I'm just not interested in what you're selling.  I'm not even interested in hearing about what you're selling.  The one I have here with me now is far more valuable than your 'possibilities' could ever be.   I want to be with HIM.  I simply don't have time for you."  (door slam)

And the moral of the story?   I'm just thinking that if we, as image-bearers for God and temples for His Spirit, remember the precious company that dwells within us at all times, maybe we wouldn't be so likely to open the door and let satan get his foot in.  Because, just like with the salesman, once the door is cracked, once our appetite is whetted, the sale is pretty much in the bag.

There is nothing greater, nothing better than what we already possess.  We have all we need.  And turning our backs, even for a moment on this precious guest, to check out the shifty possibilities outside our door, would be beyond a tragedy.   It wouldn't even make sense!

As believers, we are God's "territory" and the adversary can have no foothold here. 

"Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves Me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.'"  John 14:23

Haul Me on Home!

(originally posted August 17, 2010)

We Southerners certainly do have our own dialect, don't we? And it pops up in the weirdest places.

You see, I have this Bible that has the English translation aligned next to the original Greek text. So as I read a passage in English, I can look right beside it to find the literal meaning in Greek. And, yes, it does make me feel smarter than I actually am. You should get a copy and try it!

So today I read this verse where Jesus is speaking: “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me . . .” (John 6:44). What a beautiful thought: God Himself calls us to His Son, our Savior. Then I glanced over at the original language to find that the English word “draw” used in this verse is literally translated “haul” in Greek. Well, that's different.

Every time I've read this verse before, I had in my mind a picture of God reaching out His hand with a gentle gesture beckoning us to come to Jesus. The kind of “c'mon” hand gesture that your buddy might give you while standing behind your car as you're backing up, to make sure you don't peg the BMW in the spot behind you. Somewhat of a coaxing motion to quietly “draw” you to Him.

But folks from the South know what it is to “haul” something. You might haul a load of wood, haul your kids around, or make the long haul. It's something that takes effort, energy, sweat, and dedication, right? Sometimes hauling feels more like dragging and can cause great frustration.

I don't pretend to know for sure if this literal translation is appropriate in this verse or not, but, wow, did it resonate with my own experiences. I think that's exactly how the Creator got me to the Savior: He had to HAUL me there.

Apparently, I don't respond to gentle to nudges very well  <insert friends' and husband's laughter here>.  I can look back and see the times God must have been literally dragging me to Jesus. Think about that kid in Wal-Mart who's kicking and screaming to go to the toy section while the parent has to drag him by the ear to get him safely home. That's a pretty accurate illustration, unfortunately.

The point is, praise God, I'm with Him now! Previously in that chapter, Jesus had said, “Anyone who comes to Me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37) Interestingly, the Greek for “drive away” is “throw outside”. So if we wanna get down to the nitty-gritty of the passage Southern-style, we see that God Himself hauls us to the Messiah who then will NOT throw us out! And that is breath-taking!

Looks like my learnin' has served me well this morning.

**Note to any Greek scholars who may be reading this: Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about the translation. My liberal arts college education will not argue with you. :)

I Can't Forget It . . .

(Originally posted August 4, 2010)

I'm wondering today how far we will go to keep ourselves comfortable. This country and our culture is all I've ever known, so the mantra “comfort is king” sits pretty well with me. It's the American way, I guess. But in what seems to be the ultimate self-gratifying society, we also keep ourselves pretty insulated from the realities in the rest of the world. These injustices are relegated to ninety-second news spots that are sandwiched between the weather report and an expose on the latest in summer swimwear fashions. And there are some heart-stopping events that our media doesn't consider news at all, so we never even know they're happening. Our bubble stays intact.

Lately, I've become acquainted with a group known as The Voice of the Martyrs. This organization is seeking to educate the comfortable Christians (that's us) about what our brothers and sisters are dealing with throughout the world. Yes, there are plenty of places where becoming a Christian is seen as a death sentence, where they are very literally carrying their crosses every day. These are amazing stories of unshakeable faith. Please take some time to check it out:

These people humble me. Their stories lay heavy on my mind. I'm not really sure what to do with all of it. It leaves me with so many questions: Why am I sitting safely in an air-conditioned house feeling no trepidation to openly proclaim my own faith, when another woman on another continent is desperately trying to hide herself and her children from the hoards of angry extremists who are seeking to eradicate Jesus' people? How can I help her? What would God have me do with this? And what would I do if I were suddenly placed in her shoes?

This morning I was reading about John the Baptist. His was not a comfortable life. He lived out in the wilderness wearing itchy clothes and eating bugs. He became a well-known teacher with a huge following, all for the sole purpose of pointing his followers to another Teacher. And because he audaciously stood for God's truth, he was thrown in jail and eventually beheaded. This was his part in God's story, and he embraced it and accepted it! Could I do that?

Sara Groves has a song with these words:
“I saw what I saw and I can't forget it.
I heard what I heard and I can't go back.
I know what I know and I can't deny it . . .”

If you'll take a few minutes to get acquainted with the suffering members of our family, I think you'll feel that way, too. God has certainly used their stories to get my attention.

As I'm typing this, I'm glancing at this bracelet that I got from VOM that reads “Bound with them – Hebrews 13:3”. It reminds me to remember, to pray for these courageous followers of Christ. That's certainly a first big step in our efforts to help them. And I'm just trusting God to guide any further steps. Only He knows what part we are to play in His beautiful Story.

“Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13:3 NRSV

A Reminder

(Originally posted July 27, 2010)

Brandon Heath has a song called "I'm Not Who I Was" that I'm pretty sure I must have written.

Okay, I didn't write it, but I could have because it tells my story (and the story of lots of us, I imagine). Writers just have a way of getting inside our hearts with the beauty of words -- of telling their story and touching our stories through a character or a verse. The artistry of language can make a message so clear.

Any of you who have heard of or read "The Vampire Chronicles" are familiar with Anne Rice. I think this message from this award-winning author is worth listening to. She has an amazing way of painting her story:

I was so blessed last month to be part of a songwriters' conference where I got to swap stories and ideas with some amazingly talented and giving people. These folks have hearts for God and for serving Him, His church, and the world with their art. It's so nice to get among "my tribe" for a while and be reminded of what's real. It's not about crafting a catchy tune, earning a dollar, or making a name for oneself. It's about showing the world a God who loves, building up His people for the spiritual fight ahead, and reminding everyone that we have a Savior who IS coming back to judge.

I need a reminder every now and then that we're not the crazy ones. We're the realists. Listen to "Living for That Moment" (from 12-27-09)

Wow, I'm rambling a bit and two links per entry should probably be the limit. But I loved these and needed these, so I wanted to share them. It's by God's grace alone that "I'm not who I was."

Peace and blessings.


(Originally posted June 10, 2010)

My kids have become obsessed with the “slug-bug” game. As we drive, they are constantly on the look out for Volkswagen Beetles. Always trying to outdo each other, the game has evolved into “Cruiser bruiser” and “Jeep-er peeper”. And it gets really loud! Somehow they think it's not unsafe for me to be driving along and suddenly be pelted in the back of the head with three shrill “SLUG BUG!”'s simultaneously (followed, of course, by “Jinx. You owe me a soda! Jinx. You owe me a soda! . . .”)  You get the idea.

Of course, they think I'm terrible at this game, because I never notice any of the vehicles before they do. Um, hello? My eyes are on the road, kids. I'm trying to keep us all in one piece here! I'm seeking safe travel, and they're seeking to one-up a brother or sister. Wow, I'm starting to sound like an adult. Oh well. . .

The moral of the story: You tend to find what you're looking for.

In my study the past few days, I've been reading about events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion. In Mark's gospel, chapter14, the end of verse 1, “the chief priests and the teachers of the law were LOOKING for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill Him.” Enter Judas--one of the Twelve closest to Jesus. These Jewish leaders found what they were looking for. Then in verse eleven, Judas begins to LOOK for a chance to betray Jesus and hand Him over. As we know, Judas found what he was looking for too.

But I think it's interesting that the Greek word used for what the leaders and Judas were both selfishly and deviously doing (looking) is literally translated “seeking.” The same word Jesus uses in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness . . .” (Matthew 6:33)

“. . .seek and you will find . . .” (Matthew 7:7)

In this case, the LOOKING being done is for something holy, something so much higher than just what I want, something perfectly eternal and completely fulfilling. So, again, what we find in life depends a great deal on what we SEEK and where our eyes are focused. Having spent a huge chunk of my life with my spiritual eyes darkened and my life pointed in the wrong direction, I can testify. When I seek darkness, I find it in droves. But when I seek God, He's there . . . every time.

There's an old hymn that says “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” It's very true.

And just like with the slug-bug game, you don't know how easy it is to find the thing you're looking for until you're, well, looking. I estimate there are at least 1.5 million Beetles and PT Cruisers in our town. Okay, it just seems that way at least! And I never knew there were so many until we started looking for them.

If we seek God each day, He will point out to us just as many opportunities to know Him. And thankfully there's no ear-piercing “It's a GOD THING!” scream necessary in this game, although sharing is certainly encouraged. So, just keep looking, seeking. You'll find Him every time.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

(Originally posted April 23, 2010) 

I can honestly say I never aspired to be a doctor. I know it's one of those things all parents want their kids to grow up to be, but pursuing that career path never even crossed my mind. And every time one of our kids gets a serious injury, I remember WHY I didn't want to be a doctor: It's just a dirty, gross job!

My four-year old fell and split his chin open a few months ago. I honestly didn't know if I was going to make it through those stitches, and all I had to do was hold his hand and stare at the opposite wall. Yes, I'm a wimp. The doctor was the one who administered the pain relieving shots and sewed up the wound. It's the brave medical professionals (nurses included, of course) who can see past the blood and the yuck to the job that needs to be done, the healing that needs to happen.

But, in a sense, as Christ-followers, we ARE all doctors (so tell your mom to be proud :). )

Remember what Jesus said when He was criticized for having dinner with tax collectors and “sinners”: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 3:17)

Jesus, often called The Great Physician, was always right in the middle of the fray, the spiritual war-zone. He gladly went to the most badly injured, torn-up soul and freely offered whatever kind of healing was needed.

Now, as His people, we must have the same ambition: to bring healing to the sick. We hold in our hearts and hands the life-saving medicine of love and truth. There's an old song that goes, “Freely, freely you have received – Freely, freely give.” We have been healed, and now it's our job to bring healing to others – those lost in sin, depression, suffering in physical or spiritual poverty, the outcasts, the lonely, the misunderstood. (Tangent: And, contrary to what many have often been taught, that goes a lot further than just pounding someone over the head with scriptures. It takes a connection, a touch, an honest love for the hurting person. Okay, tangent over.)

If you're like me, though, you may seldom find yourself in a spiritual triage area, because often those are the “unsafe” places we avoid. It's easy to get comfortable. And, honestly, getting your hands dirty in the blood-and-guts work of touching hurting people is just that – a lot of hard, messy work.

But, we are CHRIST-ians, and we are to be LIKE CHRIST, right? Aren't we to see past the infections and injuries to uncover the person beneath who is desperately in need of healing?

And the medicine doesn't do much good if it just sits in my pocket – it takes initiative to administer it. It's so hard sometimes, but, God will give us the strength to go to those who need Him. And let us not be afraid if we get a little blood on us along the way. Because our Savior did, too.

A Beautiful Gift

(Originally posted April 5, 2010)

Sometimes all you can do is . . . all you can do.

In getting ready for Easter, I had been reading through the gospel accounts of Jesus death and resurrection. But this morning, I flashed back to the days before His passion when He was enjoying a banquet in His honor in a town nearby. (Matthew 26:6-13, John 12:1-11)

Mary (of “Martha and Mary” fame), came with a gift for Jesus. She anointed Jesus with a very expensive perfume, and then took some serious flack for doing so. “What a waste!” a certain man demanded, as if to say that there was no point to her sacrifice of devotion. All wasted.

But Mary loved Jesus. She had spent precious time learning at His feet and later watched as He brought her brother, Lazarus, out of the tomb. She was deeply connected to Him. Surely she knew that tensions were rising to a fever pitch in Jerusalem, that her Teacher was in danger. Even Jesus' closest disciples did not yet grasp the gravity of the days to come, so Mary must have also been in a state of nervous confusion and waiting.

Even so, what she could do, she wanted to do. What she was able to offer, she gladly gave. She just wanted to show her love for her Messiah, and Jesus praised her for it, saying that Mary's gift would be memorialized everywhere the good news was heard (Matt. 26:13). Wow.

I've always loved this part of the Story. Here's what I wrote in my journal with regard to our own acts of devotion toward our Savior:

“Perhaps sometimes there is not a further motive or agenda, just a sacrifice of love, devotion, worship – that IS the end of the act itself, and it need not be more. When God is doing something BIG, sometimes all we can do is pour out our love for Him, trusting His plan and guidance – helplessly, humbly, worshiping in the midst of His moving. Maybe we don't need to understand – just . . . love . . . Him.”

These thoughts keep ringing in my head, and I'm trying to figure out if they actually make sense, but I think they do. A sacrifice, a piece of art, a poem, a prayer, a cry . . . directed in love, honors our Lord. And no one may know about it except Him and me. It may not lead to helping or encouraging another soul, and it may not fit neatly into our prepackaged ministry kits. But in the middle of uncertainty, love poured out in whatever form we can manage is beautiful to our God.

Dealing with the Weeds

(Originally posted February 13, 2010)

Ooooh, I really hate it when someone gets the better of me!

And when they do, whether I say it out loud or not, I automatically want retribution. This is one of those instances where the things I teach my children have to be pointed back at me. And, once I cool off, deep down I know that it isn't God's way, but sometimes I can't see past my own sense of personal justice.

Jesus says (Matthew 13:24-30) that God's Kingdom is like a field where a man planted a good crop. One day his servants came in to report that, along with his healthy crop of wheat, there are tons of weeds growing up . How did this happen?
Who could have done this? The owner of the field simply replies, “An enemy has done this.”

In our own lives we often ask, “Why are all these weeds trying to choke my good fruit?”

The answer is the same: “An enemy has done this.” (more on this in v. 39)

Of course, this landowner in the parable has faithful servants who are on the job to fix the problem. They dutifully ask if they should go weed out the weeds, annihilate them!

But their master says, “no.”

Why? Because he doesn't want to harm the wheat while pulling up the weeds. He says the weeds will be dealt with at the proper time by his reapers, but for now they should grow and live together in order to insure the safety of the fruit of his precious crop.

The term “collateral damage” comes to mind. It always happens in the midst of war. One group of people thinks they need to weed out the weeds from another group of people, and in the process, good stalks of wheat suffer for it. Many of those are Christian brothers and sisters whose only crime is that they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. The weeds may be the target, but often the whole field is destroyed in the process. And precious fruit of the Kingdom is lost.

On a more personal scale, this may relate to how I myself behave when I've been wronged. What effect will my weeding out of a grievance (shouting at the person who just cut me off, giving a bad look to a referee at my kid's game, laughing about my enemy's well-earned misfortune) have on those around me? Could I be doing some serious damage to those watching me, especially those who are young or new to the faith?

Whether the retribution is actually justified or not may be up for debate, but my response must be to allow room for God's plan to work. As my daughter says, I need to “chillax” and put it in His hands.

Jesus promised that we would suffer, be wronged, be misunderstood if we truly try to model our lives according to His Way. It's just not easy. And sometimes His way is to wait, continue to grow as student followers, and allow God to deal with the weeds.


Love and Art

(Originally posted January 14, 2010)

I've been buying a lot of books lately.

I also love to buy new music. And here's what I notice about myself:  Every time I buy a book or CD that I really like, I automatically like the person behind it.

I'm a bit of a bandwagon-jumper anyway, so if I feel like showing some love for someone's art, I can't help but show some love for the artist. It's like the artist and the art cannot be divorced from one another, at least in my mind. So I must be a fan of both the work and the one behind the work.

Maybe this makes sense in a universal way. When the good folks of the first century asked Jesus what the greatest commands were (essentially, what the God of the Universe wants from us), He said it could all be summed up in two laws:
             *Love God.
             *Love people.
              (Matthew 22:37-40)

And these two commands are so intricately tied, almost united. To truly love the Creator, we must show love to His creation (mankind). And in so loving His creation, the Creator receives even more of our hearts. I'm starting to see that it's kind of a circular thing, and we become more and more devoted to both the creation and the Creator as we grow in this way of living.

We become a “fan” of both.

HOW to show that love is a whole other thesis, but God has a way of opening eyes and doors for those who are looking for opportunities.

Right now, there's lots of our fellow creations suffering in Haiti. They're homeless, hungry, thirsty, and scared. Some of them know God and some don't yet. Why not find one of the many organizations sending help and show some love by giving? And certainly pray. And then pray some more.

The miracle is that the Artist can make beauty from destruction and chaos. And sometimes He allows His other works of art to play a part in something new He's creating. Let our hearts break for them. Let our hands serve them as He allows.

Love God. Love people.

Who's In Your Boat?

(Originally posted December 21, 2009)

At our house, we like to debate on the “what if”s, so here's my current musing:

In the Bible (Matthew 8), when the disciples are in the boat with Jesus, the storm blows up, and Jesus is crashed out asleep in the back of the boat . . . WHAT IF they had not awakened Jesus? I know, they DID wake Him up and beg for His help, and then He DID use this opportunity to prove His power over all of creation, but is there more to be discovered in this passage?

Listen to Jesus' response in verse 26: “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” To me (again, purely opinion), this seems to imply that they would have been alright either way. It's as if He is saying, “What are you so scared of? The creator of the universe is right here with you? Just because you don't see me taking action at this very moment, doesn't mean I'm not still in control!”

It's just gotten me thinking, because I'm pretty quick to lose faith, too.

If you look at the wording in the Greek language here, the disciples are literally saying to Jesus, “we are being destroyed”. I feel like I've probably said the same thing a thousand times in my life: “Come on, God, are you just gonna let me sink? I'm scared! Aren't you going to fix this?!”

The Greek words used by Jesus in chastising the disciples at this moment are powerful and read like this: “cowards” and “little trusting”.

Is it possible that He had intended for them to just hold on tight and weather that storm; to believe they would somehow make it through the peril simply because the Son of God Himself was on board and confident enough to be able to nap through it?

How often do I lose faith simply because I cannot see Him fixing the problem right before my very eyes. Am I a coward before trials and just looking for an out? Maybe it should be enough that He is there with me.

(I need to write that again) Maybe it should be enough that He is there with me.

I'm so thankful He IS here, whether I see His hand at work right now, or whether I'll have to look back later to see the unmistakeable imprint of His power over my situation.

All the above musing comes down to this: I'm just really glad He's in the boat with me!

Broken Pieces

(originally posted October 1, 2009)

I love it when I stumble upon a good illustration!

No, seriously, I almost tripped over it this morning while I was finishing up my miles.

I'll be the first to admit that sometimes I can be a bit “complicated” (isn't that just a nice way of saying difficult and a little crazy?), so I always try to search for truth and understanding during my run/walks; to get into the creation and to get that inner dialogue going with God. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention this morning until this little bit of truth almost literally swept me off my feet:

I was about a block from home and there in the middle of the road was this gorgeous piece of thick, expensive-looking ceramic tile shattered into chunks. Well, being the frugal salvage-hound that I am, I feverishly began gathering pieces and thought out loud, “I could make something with this! I could take these broken pieces of tile, some wood, some grout, maybe a nice poly-coating and make a beautiful mosaic!” (Never mind the fact that I don't actually know how to do that yet, but c'mon, there's instructions online for everything, right?)

Apparently, someone else had left it there in the road, because it wasn't worth much to them all broken like that. It sure wouldn't be very useful the way it was. But, in that instant, all I saw was what it COULD be, so I had to pick it up and lug it home to begin the process.

A few steps later, the revelation came. And the message was simple and very clear:

“God sees potential in the broken pieces.”

Broken pieces – that's definitely me. I constantly bring Him all my baggage and my “what's wrong with me”s. But today I heard Him reply, “Hang in there. I'm doing something with this. And, trust me, it's gonna be beautiful.”

I love it! And it's just what I needed today, so I hope it serves you, too.

As for now, I have a date with e-how and their mosaics department. Pictures to follow . . . eventually. :)