Category Archives: Favorite

Remember the Lord

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”  “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel . . . “

What have we left?  Why did we do it?

We see our friends living the high life, going on extravagant vacations, buying fancy cars and houses.  We see them on the weekend, packing every minute with recreation, doing elaborate home fix up projects.  We see them taking high powered prestigious jobs.  We see their kids doing activities that cost as much monthly as a mortgage payment.

And we look at our lives, austere by comparison, and ask, “Why did we give up all that?”

Not to say that we don’t have some of those things at times.  But we’ve given up the pursuit of all that as a lifestyle.

And as Jesus says the reason is for HIM, and for the good news.

Are we still doing it for Jesus?

Here’s DeWayne, who just got baptized.

dewayne baptism2

When people shared about DeWayne, they talked about how he had fallen in love with Jesus.  That is what made him change.  And you could see the change.  You could see him more engaged, more joyful.

Do we remember every day to be motivated by our love for Jesus?

Because I can just go through the motions and forget how amazing Jesus is, how he has the answers, how I love the way he lived, how I am inspired by his heart of mercy and righteousness.

You know, when I shared the first part of this blog with Ken, he laughed, because it doesn’t really sound like we give that much up.  We still have so much.  But the early apostles really DID give everything up.  They left their homes, their families, their livelihoods.

Why?  When Jesus asked them, Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6:68-69

For the apostles, Jesus was what they’d been looking for all their lives.  It was worth EVERYTHING to them just to be able to be around him, watch him and learn from him.

And that should be true for me as well, but, strange as it may seem, I lose track of it in the midst of Bible study, church attendance and Christian deeds.

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

I lose that heart pounding excitement, that exhilaration of following someone GOOD and TRUE and LOVING.

I need to remember this:

Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.  Phil 3:11

Knowing Christ eclipses all else.   How is it I get so caught up in Christian pursuits that I forget that he has to be at the center of each one of them?  That he gives the vibrancy to our walk?

I’ve been working on a thankful list for months.  So far I’ve thought of 900 GREAT things God has given me!

But I don’t think Jesus is on this written list.  Sure, I thank God for Jesus in prayer.  But why not WRITE down my thanks for Him as I count my blessings?

So that’s what I’m doing today.  Thank you, Jesus, for showing me how to love and how to live.  Thank you for caring for the lowliest individual.  Thank you for being righteous.  Thank you for being with me always.  Thank you for choosing me.

thank you Jesus

Do you know what happens when I do this?  Jesus gets bigger.

And it occurs to me that if our minds are consumed with worry, stress,  resentment, etc, maybe it’s because we haven’t remembered enough how amazing our Lord Christ is, how he cares, how nothing is impossible for him, and so on.

There’s this great scene at the end of the musical “Upside Down,” where Peter is desolate because the authorities have threatened to kill his wife, Abby, if he doesn’t denounce his faith.    But Abby sings an epic song, “Remember the Lord,” saying that it’s her faith too, she’s ready to die for Christ.  She reminds Peter over and over how awesome Jesus is.  And finally, Peter remembers, and joins her in triumphant song.

In essence, Abby is saying, “I’m willing to DIE, because I REMEMBER Jesus.

So back to the question, “Why do we do it?”

Because we remember Jesus.  We remember who he is.  We remember what he’s done for us.

We remember him and he is magnified and everything else is minimized.

And then it is worth it, whatever we’re going through, whatever we give up.

To whom should we go?  We can only go to Jesus.  He has the words of eternal life.  He is manna to our souls.

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Filed under Favorite, Mark, More of Christ

To See Thee More Clearly

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”  But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.  Mark 9:38-39

Now this is a puzzling passage.  Why did Jesus tell them to not stop this guy?  I mean, look at what Jesus says in Matt 7:21-23 —

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

So shouldn’t Jesus want the disciples to say to this guy, “Away from us, you evil doer?” I mean, after all, the guy wasn’t following Jesus.  How could he be doing the will of the Father?

I’ve thought of numerous reasons why Jesus told the disciples not to stop, but the one that rings most true for me right now is that he’s teaching them a lesson about pride.

There’s a subtext here.  What the disciples are really saying is,”We tried to stop him, because he wasn’t following Jesus like WE are.  We’re the privileged ones, we’re the ones who know Jesus.  I mean, we just saw Moses and Elijah!  We’re going to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in his kingdom.  We’re the ones doing it the right way.”

And that’s why Jesus tells them not to stop the man.  He’s saying. “You’re not better than this guy.  You’re not ‘holier than thou.'”

It doesn’t mean the exorcist guy was right with God or knew Him.

But the disciples don’t seem to have a clue about God either.  In spite of all the time with Jesus, they still don’t get it.  They keep doing stuff like arguing about who’s the greatest, worrying about how much bread they have, and rebuking Jesus when he says he is going to be killed.  They think Jesus is going to be pleased with them when they tell the guy casting out demons to scram.

It brings to light that it is so important to KNOW God, and what really pleases Him, not what we THINK pleases Him.  The disciples thought they were hot stuff because they were followers of Jesus.  But they still missed the point.

Are we missing the point too?  We can’t just be seekers of God.  We have to seek to KNOW Him.

How much do ask ourselves, “What is God’s will in this situation?”  I think often I only give perfunctory attention to this.  Sometimes I don’t think about it, and sometimes I run it through my mind and make a quick determination and move on.

But Jesus wrestled with knowing God’s will for hours, until he was sweating blood.

It takes effort to get outside of our personal biases and see instead what matters to God.

Ken turned me on to a great sermon by John Louis.  (Scroll  on the link to March 29, 2015)  It’s about knowing God.  And the gist of it is that the Hebrew word for knowing is yada‘, which means to know by experience.

How do we know by experience God? We acknowledge how He’s worked and is working in our lives.  We recount all the ways He’s been faithful.  We don’t just see our lives as this random collection of happenstance, we recognize and NAME that it is only because of God that each good thing has happened.

That means that we should cultivate gratitude.  Every time we thank God, we experience Him.

And here is the thing.  Religious pride keeps us from experiencing God.  Because when we have religious pride, it’s all about us and what we’re doing for God.  It’s not about what HE is doing.  We can’t see it.

Also, when we have religious pride, we  can’t see what’s important to God: PEOPLE. We’re self important, and thus, others can only be less important.

So let’s yada’ God.  As things happen, don’t just react.  Ask instead, “What does God see here?  What is God doing?  What is the Spirit doing?”

Because that’s what I think Jesus was trying to get at when he told the disciples, “no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.

Jesus was saying the Spirit was at work.  We don’t know how or understand this even today. But Jesus didn’t want the disciples to deter the work.

Think about these verses:

  • Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.  I Cor. 12:3
  • “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them,  John 6:44

Let’s have a reverence for the workings of God in the lives of others.  That doesn’t mean we leave them alone.  We can still proclaim to them the whole will of God.

But let’s not have the religious pride that blinds us.  Let’s not miss the yada’, the knowing by experience of God.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matt 5:8

In the song “Day by Day” from the musical “Godspell” there is a line, “Oh dear Lord, three things I pray — to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly.”

(Tried to insert video.  Can’t get the silly thing to work today.  Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtR7xrgZ_Fk)

It’s a great line, because it’s true.  The more clearly we see God, the more we love Him, and the more closely we’ll follow Him.

I’m trying to see God more.  I’m working on being thankful, working on “riding God’s train” and not my own.

But I find pockets of self righteous pride in myself.  That’s why I can relate to this story.

It’s easy to hear about activists who help the downtrodden.  I get all teary eyed and think, “Oh that’s so wonderful.  I want to do that too.”  But then when I actually interact with “one of the least of these,” I see their messy life and  cringe.  I am supposed to be the warm welcoming angel of mercy, and instead part of me squirms. “They should be doing better,” I think.  What that really means is, “I’m better than they are.”  All of my “holier than thou” comes out of the closet.

I have a long way to go.  And so did the disciples.  But they were on a journey, traveling with Jesus, getting to yada’ him, and I am too.  God’s presence and constant love shines on me and helps me to deal with the creepy crawly attitudes.

In the name of Jesus, power is evoked, demons are exorcised.  Maybe the real demons that need to be cast out are the demons of pride.  Let’s get our priorities straight.

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A Friend A Day #8 — Stumbling upon Treasure

atlas girl2

I’ve been reading “Atlas Girl:  Finding Home in the Last Place I thought to Look” by Emily T. Wierenga.  It’s one of my favorite discoveries lately.  I love this book about a woman who loses and finds her faith.

And this is one of my favorite passages from the book —

“But what I needed was love, to wrap me up in its arms and tell me how beautiful I was and to make me laugh. . . .There are those nights when your dad reads an extra story or sings one more song. . . There are fresh homemade carrot cakes baked for your birthday and home-sewn dressed out of red velvet. . . But when you’re young, you see the gaps more than you do the glimpses.  You see the hole more than the donut.”

I’ve been blogging so much about being thankful more and subsequently seeing God’s love more.   But the reality is that it’s sometimes not enough.   Sometimes my insecurity is like a huge chasm.  Sometimes my emotions strike up and whirl out of control inside of me like a sudden storm. And then all I can see is the gaps, not the glimpses.

So a good goal is to make the glimpses more frequent.   A good goal is to make the glimpses bigger.

And then sometimes God Himself stitches the glimpses together and I see a pattern that’s so right, so overarching, so magnificent, that I am awed to the depth of my soul and I am at peace again, knowing that everything is okay.

Church is great for that.  We sang, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being praise His name,”  and I remembered my study on that very psalm (Ps 103) this week and how it exemplifies God’s compassion.  I wanted even more to praise the Lord with all my soul.

The head of a service organization got up and expressed her deep gratitude for our group’s workday to help them on MLK Day.  I remembered how the day almost didn’t happen, and then how so many of us were there having a great time helping out, and I felt like everything was coming together just as it should be.

One of the campus girls shared a written word at communion and I was in tears at how beautiful it was, seeing how much her faith meant to her, knowing I had a small part in where she was.

Last Friday I made a new friend.  One of the women in my choral group invited me to drop by her house some time.  So I set up a time and went over.

It was wonderful.  She showed me her quilting room, where she puts together beautiful stitched projects and helps underprivileged women in the community to do the same.

I saw her indoor aviary.  It was so amazing — larger than a china cabinet, with all kinds of nests and colorful birds hopping around.

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She made me a smoothie with homemade kefir she kept in a mason jar on the kitchen counter.  It was great.

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The time was an adventure.  A treasure in a week of stumbling around trying to find my way.

It reminds me of part of one of my favorite poems my mom wrote:

“We have stumbled over trunks of treasure

In the darkness, and have laughed

Down the velvety corridors of night.”  (Marguerite Tillinghast Roberts)

We travel down the velvety corridors of night, through the wailing winds of  insecurity, the pain of feeling unloved, where the gaps are more than the glimpses, and the real challenge, the hardest thing of all, is to TRUST that we are loved, to know that we will stumble upon treasure, to know that He is the God who makes beauty out of ashes, who  just at the right time pulls back the fabric of the universe and allows us to see the myriad connections.

That is why we keep going on, keep holding on, keep reaching out, keep praying to have the heart of Jesus.

To provide for them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.  And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.  Isa 61:3-4

 

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Filed under A Friend A Day, Abundance/Greatness of God, Beauty of God, Diary, Favorite

Transforming Time

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I only have this day

this holy moment.

It is a gift.

I am not owed.

Let not the piranhas

of worry

consume,

the undertow of emotions

take hold.

Let me just

in this breath

savor,

fill up

with the good

the sacred

the beauty hiding

in a thousand

simultaneous

scenes around me,

find joy

in each simple task.

Gracing

each moment

each day

with grace.

 

 

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No Scarcity!!

Sharon's baptism

Sharon’s baptism

As I am learning to be more thankful, daily writing down the gifts God is giving me, I am undergoing a huge paradigm shift.  Whereas before I always saw myself in a place of scarcity, I now see that I am actually standing in a place of abundance.

I used to feel like I was surrounded by things that were going wrong.  I would pray about all these things, feeling a great neediness, a great lack, like I was standing on a barren plain, shouting into the wind, begging for a little something to change.  And the prayer would be answered, but it was never enough, because the neediness around me was so great.

Now as I thank God and identify all the things He is giving, all the ways He is working, I see myself instead standing in a fruitful place, a soul pleasing garden.  I’ve done this day after day for so long that it’s becoming my reality.  I see that God is good, and He is giving to us all the time.

Is this what God has been trying to get man to see through the ages?

After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”  Gen 15:1

I love this verse.  God is telling Abram that He is WITH him, and as long as He is with him, there will be no lack.  In fact, God will protect Abram, take care of him, and give him great blessings.

God said it wasn’t just a reward he was providing for Abram, it was an exceedingly great reward.  And although part of this reward would be that Abram would have numerous descendents, and that all nations would be blessed through him, the most exceedingly great part of the reward was that God would be with him.  No matter what he did, in having God, he would have abundance at his fingertips.

This theme is carried through all of the stories of the Bible.  Surely in the story of Moses and the journey  of the Israelites to the Promised Land, the lesson they learned was that there was always an abundance, even when there seemed to be scarcity.  They thought there was no food, and God provided manna.  They thought they had no water, and God made it spring up from a rock.  They thought they couldn’t defeat the people of the land, and God (once they learned to trust Him) gave them the victory.

And then look at what God said to Joshua: ‘No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Joshua 1:5

See how God was with the Hebrew kings,  “And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”  II Kings 6:17

Could David have said it any better?  “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.”   Ps 23:5,6

There are so many ways Jesus tried to get people to see this.  I’ll list only two:

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matt 7:11

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  Matt 28:20

This weekend Ken and I were determined to keep trying to share our faith.  We felt like we missed opportunities.  We felt like we didn’t open our mouths.  But we did go out to Walmart specifically to try and meet people.  It turned out that we only talked to a couple of the employees who were helping us, and invited them to church.

It would have been easy to be discouraged, but I see so much abundance in the weekend.  There were three people I followed up with who wanted to come to church.  One of them made it to a sister congregation, and had a great time!  We counted the cost with a young professional single mom, and she got baptized yesterday!  We crashed the singles supper and there was such an excitement and energy.  We went to lunch, and it was the first time the nonChristian husband of one of our sisters came out and socialized!

I could go on and on.  I will continue to share my faith.  I pray I can find more effective ways to do so.  But it is much better to do so feeling that I am sharing from a place of abundance, than just shouting in the wind.

God is working.  God is blessing.  Even when things seem bleak, we are enveloped and sustained by a solid force for good.  There’s always “much more” to draw on.  And when we know this, we get stronger all the time.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.  Ps 84:5-7

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Romans 8:32

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The Gospel of Jesus: Much More!

No One Like Him

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  Matt 7:11

Ken has been reading “No One Like Him” by Thomas A. Jones, and yesterday he read aloud to me this amazing chapter on “His Good News:  Extravagant Generosity.”  It is so good, I want to make sure I remember it.  I am going to mark this as one of my favorite blogs.

In the chapter, Jones stresses that the gospel from the mouth and life of Jesus is incredibly, insanely good.  This gospel is that God will give MUCH MORE.

Here are some examples:

  • The woman at the well
  • The parable of the man forgiven the huge debt
  • The justification of the tax collector who prayed with the Pharisee
  • The story of Zacchaeus
  • The forgiveness of the woman and Simon’s house
  • The parable of the workers in the vineyard
  • The support of the man who confessed his doubt
  • The numerous healings of those with demon possession
  • The cleansing of the ten lepers
  • The forgiveness of the thief on the cross

In addition, Jones mentions that the core group of the Jesus’ followers had failed at the crucial hour and were therefore in their roles only because of “relentless grace” of the Son of God.

God gives MUCH MORE.  More than we expect.  More than we deserve.

Jesus characterizes this extravagant generosity, and THAT becomes our motivation.  As Jones says —

“Every standard Jesus sets for us, every challenge he gives us, every seemingly impossible moral imperative he announces must be seen in the context of this insanely generous love, the abundance of support, this extravagant generosity. Take away this gift, this offer, this lavishing of grace, and the call to follow Jesus would just be too hard the Sermon on the Mount would be a burden, and the idea of seeking first the will of God would wear us down.

There is something so great in the kingdom that the only appropriate response is a radical one.”

So my prayer for the new year is that we all would be able to see the MUCH MORE of Jesus, and that would be the impetus behind all we do.  Because the gospel is much more than a bunch of things we are supposed to do.  It is much more than a set of teachings, or even the story of a man who gave his life.  It is the story of a God whose very nature is to shower us with abundance, whose generosity defies logic, who delights in bestowing unexpected and undeserved blessings.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.   Eph 1:18-19

I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.   Acts 26:17-18a

He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”  Matt 13:52

 

 

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Redeeming Time

(Video of my family, joyful in the moment.)

Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Eph 5:15-16

Redeeming the time.

This has also been translated, “make the most of every opportunity.”

Each moment contains an opportunity – an opportunity to be righteous, to serve, to believe, to love, to use our gifts.

That opportunity is lost, unless we redeem it.

But each moment also contains meaning.  Each time we slow down and thank God, we proclaim the truth: He is there!  Each seemingly empty moment is revealed to have beauty and value.

As Ann Voscamp wrote in One Thousand Gifts, “I want to slow down and taste life, give thanks, and SEE God.”

Time is redeemed.

Voscamp realized, “This day is not a sieve, losing time.  With each passing minute, each passing year, there’s this deepening awareness that I am filling, gaining time.”

Each time we redeem a moment, it is gained. It becomes solid.  It resonates into the future.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Each time we redeem a moment we steal it from Satan. We negate his lie that life is meaningless.

We declare the reality that the goodness of God all around us, and He gives to us ceaselessly, abundantly.   We receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken. (Hebrews 12:28)

We maintain that even our struggles have purpose: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” II Cor 4:17

Day by day, the worldly veil fades away, and our spiritual self becomes manifest.

Redeeming the time.

Overflowing with thanksgiving. Savoring experience. Being wholly present.

Defining each moment as a parcel of God, full  with meaning and opportunity.

Taking hold of the life that is truly life.

(A serendipity — we came across this moving version of “By Our Love.”  Ken translated it into beautiful guitar chords that we all sang at house church yesterday.  So wonderful. )

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Filed under Beauty of God, Faith, Favorite, Gratitude