Sunday, February 24, 2008

Divine Conjunction

Romans 3:21

I want to have a deeper and a greater understanding of God's divine conjunction. I want to understand that in Christ--but has a very different meaning.

Often when we attach this word , all that follows is negated, rendered benign, or even has an adverse affect.

"I agree with you, but..."
"I understand your position, but..."
"I was going to get the work done, but..."
"I had a great time, but..."
"I am sorry, but..."
"I love you, but..."

These statements are a reflection of how this three letter word has caused heartache and doubt. It has been used to point out perceived failures and shortcomings. I have used this word in this way before. How sad.

BUT, God's conjunction is endowed with something greater than my paltry excuses, than my pitiful explanations, than my petty exceptions. God's conjunction holds grace, promise, and hope.

I want to learn how to use this word.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bumbling Buffoon--Part 1

There are so many people I gravitate to in the stories of Scripture. Abraham, Hagar, Abigail, Deborah, Ruth, Rahab, David, Lydia, and John.

And Peter. I have always loved him. I have heard so many jokes at his expense over the years—“Saint Peter was at the Pearly Gates” kind of jokes. Many descriptions and labels have been attached to this fisherman. I used to lovingly, but apologetically refer to him as the bumbling buffoon. He was always the one of Jesus’ crew who constantly stumbled over his own feet, or his foot managed to routinely be in his oversized mouth.

But my perspective and thoughts concerning Peter have changed.

I watch him through the lens of the Gospels, and hear his voice in his letters and I am taken with this man. I resonate with Peter.

The situation that has most confounded me about Peter is his last meal with Jesus. In the crowded upper room Peter behaves in a way I never quite understood. I did not know whether to laugh or to shake him.

Jesus decides to do what everyone else neglected or avoided doing: the menial task of washing the guests’ feet. He wrapped a towel around his body, got a basin of water and started at the end of the table. He bent to wash the grime and filth of the Jerusalem streets from his followers’ feet. I wonder how many times he had to empty the basin and get clean water.

Peter knows Jesus is coming, and he watches Jesus closely. But the whole time Peter is having a heated argument inside his head. He cannot decide if he needs to get up and help. Maybe he should wash his own feet. Maybe he should start at the other side of the room. Then it is Peter’s turn. Jesus bends to the floor and glances upward to Peter’s face. Jesus expected Peter’s reaction; he knew Peter’s wiring. Jesus was very aware that what he was about to do would be appalling to Peter’s sensitive ego and propriety.

And it is here, in this moment, I always became puzzled. Peter, in all of his zeal and passion, cries out and refuses to allow Jesus to wash his calloused feet. You can hear the tone of Peter’s voice. In John’s gospel it comes through in stereo. There is intensity in Peter’s exclamation. I used to believe it was simply because he didn’t want Jesus doing the task of a slave—the lowest slave in the household paradigm.

I am not sure that was all that was going through Peter’s mind. Peter seems like a simple, plain fisherman. A concrete kind of man. Many have interpreted him to be the most forward, but perhaps, one of the most simple of Jesus’ apostles. I think this is an unfair and inaccurate assessment of Peter.

Peter believed in independence and self-sufficiency. When a job needed to be done, Peter did not ask Andrew or John to do it. He did the task. And every task he applied himself to he gave 110%. Follow him through Scripture and you will find this to be true. Peter did not care to ask for anything, and I think it was quite hard for him to accept help when offered. Peter gave. If your fishing boat had a leak, Peter would be the first one there with tools and a pitch bucket. But when Peter’s boat had a leak, he went to the shore alone.

This characteristic of Peter’s is vividly portrayed as we watch Jesus wash Peter’s feet. If Peter had been asked to wash Jesus’ feet he would have heated the water and most likely massaged them in the process. But the tables (or the feet) were turned.

There was a lesson in this symbolic gesture of Jesus’ for everyone in the room. Each person had something to process and learn. In that moment of truth when Jesus knelt to wash their feet—they saw themselves. Jesus’ actions revealed the hidden, inner places (at the moment) that were most out of line. And Peter saw.

No, Lord, you will not wash my feet. You can’t stoop down and help me. I can wash my own feet. I should have remembered. I should be doing this task, not you. You are our Rabbi. Our Master. I should have had the foresight to provide someone to do this menial thing…or done it myself.

Then you cannot have any part of me, Peter. If you will not allow me to minister to you, if you will not allow me to wash away the daily grime, the accumulated filth of the routine walking then you can not walk with me. If you do not allow me to aid you, to cleanse you, then you can have no part of me.

Then wash my hands and my head, Lord. What a funny turn of dialogue. Peter changes his tune. Can you see him thrust his great work-hardened hands toward Jesus? Watch as he bends his head toward the basin in Jesus’ lap. I think Peter would have probably dunked his own head.

Friends, Peter may have jumped before he looked, spoke before he thought, and acted before he considered, but that’s Peter for you.

Once Peter is shown the errors of his ways, he is quick to repent. He turns so fast that there are times he probably turned 190 degrees just from his exerted energy. He wants so much to get everything right.

Bumbling Buffoon--Part 2--coming soon.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Favorite Things

I looked out my kitchen widow at 5:30 am this morning and to my delight there was snow on the ground. It shimmered shadowy blue in the early morning light—so pristine. Unmarred. Untouched.

I thought of Julie Andrews and her wonderful song “Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music.

Here are a few if my favorite things: (as usual they are in no particular order)

Old clocks
Clean, fresh snow
Fresh bread
Silver, dangling earrings
Sea shells
Old maps
Vintage clothing
Celtic lore
Dark chocolate
Smell of coffee
The Greek language
The Ocean
Cold, green grapes
Smell of coconut
Black journals
Black pens
Children’s kisses
Summer grass
Front porches
Little boys
Good teaching
Fresh salsa
Driving fast
Holding hands
My Daughters
The Piano
Vintage boxes
Warm towels
Cold water
Bing cherries
Strong women
Dance performances
Movies at the theater

Sunday, February 10, 2008

My Cast

At last! My ankle cast is gone!

My ankle was encased and protected in a hard, immobile shell.
I had limited movement.
I was weighted.
I felt heavy and confined.

The cast was applied to protect the broken bone—
a tangible reminder to be cautious.
And I was grateful. The cast fulfilled its duty.

It is gone now.
Cut away and removed.
It dropped away and the cool air hit my leg.
I wiggled my toes.

What now?

Have a seat in the hall and wait.

I tried to decide how to get to the hall.

Is it okay to walk on this ankle now?

How else are you going to get there?

Tentatively I took baby steps across the hard, cold clinic floor.
With every hesitant step I willed my ankle to have muscle recall.

This injured limb had been denied direct sensations for quite a while.
The lower portion of my leg did not feel like my own—foreign and strange.

I secretly hoped I could put my foot on the ground and run (or at least skip).
I hobbled still.
I thought I would feel freedom.
I did, but not in the way I imagined.

As the cast was pulled away I saw myself.
Somewhat immobile. Partially confined.
I can move. I can feel. I am alive.
But I am limited by my own brokenness.

This body of mine—like the ankle cast—has been graffitied.
My hard shell has offered protection, but it has often been abused.
I regard this cast with fondness and gratitude—
it has guarded the inner me and given me a place to carry myself.

What now?
Have a seat in the hall and wait.
Wait because someday He will return.

God will send his son and once again my cast shall drop away.
I will take my first breath of fresh air.
Sensations will flow over me like rivers.
This heavy weight will be discarded.
I will at last be truly home--
I will no longer be a foreigner nor a stranger.

I will be whole and complete.

And I will not only walk, but I will run;
I will not only run, but I will fly.
I will be free.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Blue Nostalgia

I can’t control who knocks on my door, but I can decide whether to answer or not.

Nostalgia knocked on my door tonight. Last time I swore I wouldn't let her in again. She knew about my vow, but came anyway.

I heard her out on my stoop.

She was singing jazzy blues—Singing like I wish I could—
Blues of a thousand different shades in that achy vibrato—deep and rich.
Melancholy created the tonal quality of her voice.

Yes, I answered the door. I tried to ignore her, but I couldn't resist that voice and that song.

I invited her to come in and visit. I hoped she wouldn't stay too long.

I offered her coffee. And we talked and talked. We revisited places I haven’t been in a long, long time. We talked about what used to be. We shared the same stories, but we remembered them a little differently, and we argued about the details.

The bittersweet visit ended abruptly when I told my friend, Nostalgia, that I could see her rose-colored glasses perched on her nose.

She accused me of being a cynic and left.

Next time I just won't answer the door.

Yeah, right.

The Thrill of Hope--Jeremiah, Part 1

One April evening in 2017 we reached for your Mama and Daddy’s hands and led them into the stillness of an empty sanctuary. At an altar we...