Friday, March 29, 2013

The Man from Good Friday


Today is Good Friday.

I understand why it is called this from our perspective. Yes, this is Good Friday for us.

Because we are lost in our sin. Not just the petty ones, not just the little ones, but in the lostness of being bent toward hard and ugly things. We are lost because of the very fact of being bent. We are bent toward wrong regardless that many believe that to be politically incorrect. And their question always seems to be who defines wrong?

We define it in our own spirits. And we feel it. It pricks us. It whispers to us. And we push it back. And we grow hard and callous to it. And the harder we become the more bent we lean.

We are bent toward the ugly. Toward the lie. Toward the hate. Toward the desiring of something we cannot handle.

A precious friend of mine was once asked the question what did Jesus’ dying (even living) help? What did it really affect? The implication was that it didn’t affect anything at all. My heart wept and bled when I heard this question. Not because of the question—it is good to ask questions. But my spirit grieved because the underlying thought behind this particular question is that Jesus’ death affected nothing in the real world.

And yet you are reading my words.

That man’s dying affected me. His dying altered me. I am who I am because of that man.

You are reading the words of a woman once completely bent, like a tree in a hurricane, toward the ugly and profane.

You are reading the words of a woman once bent toward destruction.

Every decision I made was leading to my death—one way or another. Deep inside myself I longed to be a god. To be the perfecter of my own life plan. To be the author of my own story. To be in control of my own destination. I was getting my wish.

Am I being dramatic? No, I’m speaking the truth.

I needed to be saved from myself. Many don’t want to hear this. They don’t want to believe that they need to be saved. They don’t need religion; they have so many other things. But the other things don’t save. I know.

Education didn’t save me. I was being well educated.
Money didn’t save me. I had plenty.
Knowledge didn’t save me. I was gaining that daily.
Friends didn’t save me. They left me when I needed them most.
Family didn’t save me. The bonds were too frail, too loose.
Enlightenment didn’t save me. I sampled a buffet of beliefs.
Success didn’t save me. I had a long list of accomplishments and achievements.

No, the Man from Good Friday saved me.

He called me out of darkness and into his wonderful light. And I was in darkness. I look back at that darkness now and for a brief moment I am actually frightened. I think I know what the people around and near the cross of Jesus that day must have felt—when the sky became shrouded and darkness descended.

Eerie and silent. Unexplained. Unexpected.

Darkness hides. Darkness covers. Darkness conceals. Darkness deceives.

I was in that kind of darkness.

When I met Jesus I had never met anyone like him before. And have never met anyone like him since. I have met people who ridicule him. I have met people who attempt to mimic him. I have met people who resemble him. I have met people who dismiss him. But there has been no one like him. At seventeen and then over the years I have followed him through the Gospels as if I were a curious child, a serious journalist, a dedicated student and a lonely woman.
Never have I met someone who loved people the way Jesus did.

Never.

And somehow in the midst of that darkness I realized that this man loved me. And oh, it wasn’t the kind of love I had known before—based on performance and appearance and contribution. It wasn’t a love that flared angry or allowed neglect. It wasn’t a narcissistic love that depended on what I gave or didn’t give. It wasn’t a love based on the benefits I offered—I had none to offer. This was a revelation to me. And I truly mean a revelation. I remember the EXACT moment it happened. And in the midst of that revelation I understood that all my choices were leading me away from this man, away from this God-awful love he has for his people.

And I KNEW I wanted and needed to be loved like that!

When he called me out of my Good Friday darkness it wasn’t about rules, regulations, laws or morality. It was about more than religion. More than spirituality (I didn’t know what either one of those even were). It was about more than doing the right thing. It was about a relationship with this man, the one I had met in the Gospels. He died to tell me life could be different.

And with Beth Moore I’m glad!

This man’s dying affected me. No one can negate my experience. No one can rob that from me. I know I am different because of Him. I KNOW what kind of woman I would have been had it not been for his death. And she wouldn’t have been pretty.

Today is Good Friday!

Good Friday.

And I am GLAD!  Be glad with me!




The Beth Moore link is a message she gave at Passion 2013. Please take time to listen.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Who Am I?


Today is Thursday.

Tonight Jesus will sit down with his disciples and eat. He’s waited and longed for this meal with them. John tells us Jesus knows his hour has arrived.

They gather for the Passover meal. Jesus’ Twelve and others congregate in a prepared room to celebrate the exodus of Israel from the bowels of Egypt. And they will vaguely remember the Passover lamb and the hyssop on the doors. Later as they look back and remember this meal they will understand that the Passover Lamb sat among them. The One whose blood would mark their door frames shared broken bread and poured-out wine with them.

During this Resurrection season I’ve thought about this day of the Passion Week more than any other. I have spent a great deal of time in this room at this table watching Jesus. I have lingered here in the upper room longer than any other place. I have waited here to see who I am in the room.




Source



Who am I?

Am I one of the silent ones who fades into the backdrop of the meal? Absorbing or missing the implication of Jesus’ words and actions? Am I oblivious to the unfolding of intentions and events around me? Will I stare at Jesus with blankness? Am I dull to the great plan that is being brought to fruition?

Am I John who makes sure I am seated next to Jesus and leaning back towards him to catch his every word? Am I behaving as the beloved? Making sure I stay as close as I can? Or will I abuse this favored position? Will I employ a sense of entitlement because I am a beloved disciple?

Am I Peter who asks the hard questions? Who questions Jesus’ methods? Who feels unworthy to have Jesus bend and wash my feet. Am I he? Am I this one who will boldly rebuke Jesus? Who will often call him to be what he is not? Am I this man who must have it all or none? Am I impassioned and wholehearted, yet often misguided? Am I this one who will shake her head in denial only a few hours after my loud declarations? Will say I never knew him? Will I hear the echoing of a rooster’s alarm?

Am I Judas? Oh, God. Am I? Am I dipping my bread in communion with you and all the while contemplating how I will leave the table to go and do something drastic? Am I more concerned with the loss of financial stability than the loss of innocence? Am I full of justifications for my pilfering of the money bags? Am I looking at Jesus and feeling contempt rise as our would-be-Messiah is stooping to wash our feet? Am I he? Am I one of the sheep who does not recognize your voice? Am I the one who will hold silver in the folds of my tunic when I kiss your cheek?

Am I Jesus? Do I know your power? Do I know that all things are possible with you? Do I know that I come from you? Do I know I have been birthed in your image and that when this life here is finished I will return to you? Do I know this? Am I Jesus who will strip down to my nothingness and wrap a towel around me? Am I Jesus who will bend low, face down, back bowed and lift dirty feet to the heart of me? Am I Jesus who ladles water over crusted feet and wipes away the grime of living? Am I Jesus who will dry those same feet? Am I Jesus who will serve when no one else will bother? Am I Jesus filled with so much security in His Father that in absolute humility will squat and serve friends who will fail me?

Oh, God! Who am I?



Monday, March 25, 2013

Cleansing the Temple


Yesterday was glorious Palm Sunday.

Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The crowds cheered. They shouted. They threw down their cloaks and hailed Jesus as something far more than simply a rabbi or prophet.

They shouted, "Hosanna! God save us."

But Jesus knows the ending. He knew what Friday would hold. He allowed this laud, but it slid off of him because he knows how fickle we can be.

Inside the gates of this city he slides off that donkey to the dusty ground. And where does he go first? The Temple, of course. The place of worship. The very place where the Jews believed the Presence of God did dwell.

Mark tells us that Jesus looks around at everything . He tells us that Jesus leaves and goes to spend the night in Bethany in the home of the siblings: Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

The next morning Jesus gets up and goes back into the city. Had he prayed all night? Had images of his Father’s house filled his vision? In the early morning hours had he made a plan? This would be his pattern.

Jesus enters the temple. He’s on a mission. Focused. Zoned.

He drives out the vendors, pushes out the hawkers—those littering the courts of his Father’s house. He overturns tables. Cages go flying. Feathers flutter. Birds squawk. Voices rise. Arms flail. Tempers flair.

But Jesus keeps going until the court is cleared. Cleansed. But that is not enough. Jesus always fills what he empties. He stands guard. He won’t allow the vendors to traipse back through the courts. The event becomes a catalyst for his teaching; a backdrop for the truth he wants the people to know and understand.

He explains. Always and forever teaching. I can see his gestures: his hands extended and outstretched explaining that this is God’s house. He quoted the prophet Isaiah, God, the Father, has said that this house would be called a house of prayer. It would be a house of prayer for all nations. And all the heads are nodding in agreement. But then Jesus looks at them and quotes Jeremiah, but “you have make it a den of robbers.”

How many of them understood that the you meant them? Did the pious Pharisees and the stern teachers of the law standing at the periphery of his voice understand? Did Jesus look straight at them? Were there empty-handed, indignant vendors on the edges of the court who caught the piercing of Jesus’ eye?

Wait now, be very careful because you see, Jesus could have spoken these things to you and me.

If he came into the courts of our hearts today what would he find? A place of prayer and worship or would he find a den of robbers—thieving what rightfully should be his? Would he find a place of hawkers vying for our time and focus and devotion? Would he see us selling to the highest bidder? Would he witness us embracing what offers the most benefits to us?

How many tables would Jesus have to overturn? How many benches would he have to push back to clear a path? How busy would he be stopping the vendors from carrying merchandise through our courts?

We were made for prayer. We were made to praise. These temples that are us were designed to be places of worship. But we have allowed robbers through the gates.

Today is Monday of this Holy Week of our Faith. All week we will watch Jesus move in and out and through events and people and places. This week our focus is on Jesus.

But in the midst of this please remember that these events are not just historical points in the past. No, Jesus is still moving through the temple—ours.

Paul asks, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”

When Jesus moves through our temples what will he find?

Jesus will cleanse our courts. He will come through with a braided whip and drive out the vendors that we have allowed to hawk wares in our courts—courts that were meant to provide access to the Father. Jesus will come in and teach us a better way. He will show us how to be a place of prayer.

But will we be indignant and angry? Will we mutter under our breaths about our rights? Our pleasures? Our happiness? Our profits? Our traditions? Our merchandise?

Will we question Jesus’ authority? Or will we throw open the gates and bid him to come right on in?

Come, Lord Jesus come.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Corn Pudding

Last week our church youth group and church went to the Hope Lodge to prepare and serve a meal to the residents. The people living there are dealing with cancer and all its fallout and aftermath. This place provides a home while the patients and their families go through and endure the rigorous treatments of radiation and chemotherapy.

We have a precious couple there now, Dan and June Redding, and our church wanted to bless them in any way we could. Our church still loves potlucks! A meal is always a good place for the Body of Christ to gather and to fellowship. So, Christ Church took this philosophy on the road.

My husband and two of my daughters went. Sadly I didn’t get to go because of my work schedule, but I prepared a potluck dish. One of my old standbys. I decided on one thing and then changed my mind. I fiddled with my recipe—attempting to triple maybe even quadruple it. You have to understand numbers and measurements boggle my mind. After much debate I made the dish anyway and prayed that it would taste as it should. I asked the Lord to bless and make it stretch.

I wanted to go and hug Dan and kiss June. They have become very important to our family—much like surrogate grandparents in many ways. Dan and June have prayed for my husband and me. They have prayed for our daughters. They have prayed for my grandsons.

Dan is battling cancer. And he’s fighting hard. He’s weary. June’s tired. It’s a hard, hard battle. Please pray for them. Please.

When I got home that evening my husband and youngest daughter told me all about the night. About all the wonderful people, the beautiful facility and the all the food. My husband told me I needed to call my older daughter and ask her about the corn pudding—that’s the dish I made. I grimaced and thought I had left something out in all my attempts to increase my recipe.

One of the sons of a woman battling cancer and staying in the Hope Lodge was talking to my daughter. During their conversation he asked her who made the corn pudding. My daughter laughed a little and said, “That would be my mom.”

The man, I do not know his name and wish I did, told my daughter he was so grateful and thankful to see corn pudding on the table. It tasted just like his mother’s. Their family had not had a family gathering in a long time because of his mother’s illness and corn pudding was one of his favorites she always prepared for him. Seeing and then eating the corn pudding at this potluck brought back memories and was such a blessing for him. Having this one dish made his day; he took leftovers to his room.
I was overwhelmed.

I seriously considered preparing something else that day. I was even planning to go back to the store and get different ingredients, but I just kept thinking I needed to make corn pudding.

Listen my friends, God can and does use whatever is available. Be it a kind word, a gentle gesture or a pan of corn pudding.

We need to listen to the nudgings and promptings of the Holy Spirit. We need to be sensitive to his leadings and obey even when they seem as benign and inconsequential as what dish to make for a potluck meal. We don’t know what our God  will orchestrate. We don’t know what the needs are, but he does. And he knew there would be someone staying in that lodge who needed a taste of home, who relished a thread of tradition and who wanted a reminder of his mama.

Make your own corn pudding today. Mix up your recipe, put it in a pan and bake it. Then deliver it with a smile and a prayer. We tend to think and act as if the only way to bless others and glorify God is in the huge things, in the notable things or in the important things.

God determines the definition of all of these.





Jiffy Corn Pudding

1 can of cream style corn
1 can of whole kernel corn (drained well)
1 box of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix
1 stick of butter, melted (I use real unsalted butter)
½ cup sour cream (I use light)
1 egg
2-3 tbs. of sugar

Mix all ingredients well. Pour into a 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until lightly browned on top and toothpick comes out fairly dry.















Thursday, March 21, 2013

Heat and Oil

The problem is, I keep trying to be creative. I want the words to look nice, sound nice, feel nice. I want you to enjoy reading the words, even if they mean something awful…quote from Unforced Rhythms, a blog I follow.

This week when I read these words I resonated. For people who love words, who love to string them together, who braid them into ropes we feel this way. And often when I am writing a post for my blog this thought is just below the surface. I want beautiful writing. Beautiful words even about ugly things.

Well, some things are just plain ugly. And speaking of ugly...

Last week I talked with someone about the condition of our hearts. This is not the kind of conversation I am willing to have with too many people. I’m transparent, but only completely transparent with a selected few, and over the years the number of this select few has decreased rather than increased. But my friend and I discussed our hearts—the hardness of them. We reluctantly looked at the stony places in the middle of the flesh of them.

It’s almost absurd, but I am often surprised when I find a stone. I shouldn’t be, but I am. Just when I think my heart has become flesh, full of grace and compassion, I stub my toe on a boulder that I just didn’t notice or see. And I have to say, Really, Tamera. Really? How did you not see THAT?

Sometimes I know the boulder is there and I use it as a platform. You know, queen of the hill kind of thinking. I stand on top of the boulder as if it were a stage and the whole time my feet are slipping, sliding down the curve. I’m still yelling when my backside hits. At the moment I don’t have enough sense to know to be embarrassed. Oh, but I do later.

Often we know we need to change, but we just simply don’t want to harness the energy that will be required. Have you been there? You know what needs to happen. You know what should happen. But for whatever reason your heart, your will, just isn’t there. It’s not that we want to be rebellious. It’s not that we desire to assert our wills necessarily. It’s not that we are truly trying to be difficult. We just don’t know. Even if we attempt the what should happen would it make a difference at all? Would the situation really change?

Perhaps not. Maybe the situation would not change. Rarely, if ever, is our God about changing the situation.

Ask Joseph. Ask Job. Ask Ruth. Ask Paul. Ask Corrie ten Boom. Ask Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Ask Joni Eareckson Tada.

No, our God is about changing us.

If we are waiting for God to change the situation we might be waiting awhile. Situations and circumstances are temporary. They are a finite set of episodes and events that can be shifted and moved and manipulated. No, God is after changing our hearts, because out of our hearts do our mouths speak (this is how I know my heart is stony and ugly sometimes). The heart is the wellspring of our life; therefore, it is our hearts he wants to transform. It’s these cold, stony places deep within us that God wants to exchange for bloody, warm and pulsating hearts.

But often we have hard and dull hearts. Toward ourselves. Toward others. Toward God.

Hard hearts.

Hearts harden for many reasons: sickness, injury, atrophy and disease. And my heart, the will of me, has been afflicted by them all.

Isaish tells us that we are clay. Our hearts are clay.

I sculpt. And I know that if I leave my clay alone too long, uncovered and unworked, it hardens. And because I am a sculptor I know that clay does not change itself. It is the heat and oil (and sometimes water) of my hands that softens the clay and makes it pliable.

Usable—a workable piece of clay again.

Heat and oil.

The Holy Spirit.


source

All through the pages of the book God gave us oil represents the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will soften the hard clay of our hearts. He will make flesh that which has become stone.

The Holy Spirit will put us in the Father’s hand and his heat and oil will soften us. Make our hard, creviced hearts pliable again. The heat permeates and opens up the clay and the oil moves through giving it elasticity and cohesion.

And the Spirit will remove the stones. Dissolve them. Break them. Crush them. If we hand these hearts to him he will change us.

As much and as often as I resist I still want the Spirit to make me aware of these boulders in my heart (Read Idol Lies by Dee Brestin). I don’t want to stub my toe, but I also don’t want anyone else to ram into or be scraped by them either.



source
 

I am a work in progress. Ephesians tells me I am the workmanship of God. And that workmanship, this art, is still on the wheel and on the table. The clay, my heart, is still being worked. It is still being conformed and transformed. Sometimes the progress is slow; I tend to get off the table and remove myself. I tend to resist the working of the Spirit. I often wrap my arms around the boulders and do not let go.

Yes, some things are just ugly. But there is no sickness, injury, atrophy or disease our God cannot heal. There’s no stone too big for him. And he has removed not just a wheelbarrow full, but a semi full from my heart.

But, (oh, that wonderful conjunction of God) our gracious God has assured me (and you) that he will complete what he has started. He started a good work in me (in you)—he will bring it to completion.

But He is not finished with us yet.
















Monday, March 18, 2013

Multiplication

This post was inspired and prompted by words **  from William H. Willimon in his book Thank God It’s Thursday.



One of the great physical miracles wrought by the hand of God through his Son is the feeding of the five thousand. There were so many people present that day that the disciples counted only the heads of households—one man representing perhaps three or more. Yet, scholars have tried to explain it. Skeptics have dismissed it. They want to remove the miraculous from it. Strip it of the divine and make it be nothing more than a humanitarian effort.

But that is not what it was.

I can’t explain nor dismiss this miraculous moment. I can’t even understand it. My finite logic just can’t seem to wrap all the way round the perimeter of this miracle, but I know it to be true just as sure as the earth is rotating on its axis and revolving around the sun at the same time. I can’t wrap my finite mind around that fact either, but I know it to be true.

The way John tells the story you get this feeling that Jesus has been waiting all day just for this. Matthew lets us know that this feeding came right after Jesus heard about the beheading of John the Baptist—his cousin, friend and forerunner.

In the midst of his grief he went to seek a solitary place, but the crowds followed. They’re waiting when he stepped off the boat. He looked out at that great crowd and instead of sending his disciples to act as press security and crowd control he moved among the people and bled his compassion on them. He laid the heat of his hands on their broken, sick and diseased bodies and heals their sick. In his own grief he heals. He opened his hands and did what John the Baptist said he was coming to do.

All day long Jesus moved among and through this crowd. When the day was almost finished, as evening began to set, the people heard and felt the rumblings of their empty stomachs.

Jesus heard the talk. He heard the questions and he waited. Jesus waited to see what his disciples would do. He knew what he would do; he had it planned, but he waited to see if his disciples would remember who they said he was? Would they remember what they had witnessed and seen? Would they be expectant? Would they anticipate how he would take care of this dilemma? No, instead they slipped back into the cloak of flesh, back into the realm of finite expectations, back into the dull sight of seeing only what is visible.

Jesus’ patience is wide and long, not just with them, but also with us.


Jesus disciples came to him. They, too, have heard the murmuring of the crowd. Jesus’ disciples were nervous. And they told Jesus just to send the crowd away. Let them go fend for themselves. Let them go get their own food in the villages nearby.

I’m wondering what prompted the little boy to offer his meal.

Jesus, had you spotted this little guy already? Did you see him arrive earlier and knew that the little boy would become an integral player in the drama that would unfold?

Did you see Peter keep brushing the boy’s hands away? Little hands pulling on his tunic,

Mr. Peter. Mr. Peter. I’ll share.

Did Peter swat him away like an annoying fly, and the boy had to turn to Andrew who finally paid attention?

Jesus, were you inwardly grinning at Peter’s awkwardness with the child? Of course Peter did not want to trouble or embarrass you with what little was offered. The boy’s meal was a mere snack to Peter, one eaten mid-afternoon to curb hunger until evening.

Did John turn to look at you? Did James smack his forehead? Did Philip roll his eyes as he did his mathematical calculations? What did they do when they saw this boy and his lunch? Did they really think that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do something with what was offered? You already knew. You already knew what you were going to do.

And even once the meal was surrendered they seemed to think you would use it as it was—that you would simply disperse the five loaves and fish. Divided as evenly as possible so that a few people could have a little lunch.

It's almost as if what they were thinking in their heads got spoken out loud.

“How far will they go among so many?” they asked.

Oh, these poor clueless men.

How far? Depends on whether what is being used has been blessed by Jesus. Depends on whether what is offered into Jesus’ hands is to be used for his purpose.

And then Jesus doesn’t tell them how far this will go, he shows them.

Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks (Ann Voskamp’s eucharisteo). He did the same with the fish. Then he distributed both.

Jesus took that thin little meal, barely enough for a boy, and feeds (with leftovers mind you) what eight months of wages couldn’t have even bought to give them all one bite.

He saw something in them that would multiply. Something he could use.

Jesus saw good in the five little loaves and two little fish of the boy. He saw what could be rather than what was meagerly offered.

Jesus saw beyond.







Oh, Father, let me be both the boy and the meal. Let me be the coarse bread and the raw fish…and may you see in me something you want to multiply. May you see in me something that you can use to feed your masses.

May you see something in me that can use to feed your hungry sheep.

Oh, Father, let Jesus take me in his hands, bless me and break me (and oh God, help me) to feed

your people.

The little loaves and fish were a paltry answer, actually no answer at all, until they were placed in Jesus’ hands and asked to be blessed by you.

May he see beyond in me.

Oh, Father! Today I ask that you put something in me that he can use, that you can bless.

Let me be bread and fish and boy in your hands, Jesus.



John 6:1-15
Matthew 14:13-21
Mark 6:32-44
Luke 9:10-17

**"Jesus worked a great miracle in multiplying a few loaves and fishes to feed a multitude. A similar miracle is how Jesus is using people like you to multiply the good that he wants to do in the world."

Thank God It's Thursday by William H. Willimon
Chapter 5, page 82

Bread and Fish image






Thursday, March 14, 2013

Metanoia--Beautiful Turning


I cannot dance. No, seriously. We’ve talked about this before. Ask my daughters. I like to dance. I love to dance, but I have NO innate ability of any sort. None. And much to their dismay, I do it anyway.

My daughter, my third daughter, is a dancer. I have mentioned her in a previous post (Dead Eggs). And I thought of dancing as soon as I discovered this new word: metanoia..

It’s a Greek word. Metanoia. It is a radical, spiritual, transformative change of heart.

When I discovered this word in a Lent devotional, Bread and Wine, I texted Olivia and asked several rapid-fire questions. She texted back speaking in a language she understood, in a vernacular with which she is quite familiar. She explained what a chaine turn was and what had to happen in order for it to be executed well. I had to work to follow her.

Subconsciously I learned something from the years of watching my daughter dance. I can close my eyes and see her. I can still see the fluidity of her hands and arms. I can still feel the buoyancy of the joy in her face. I can still remember the elegant grace that carried her.

I watched her listen to her instructors, watched her turn her ear to hear and her body to mark the choreography. Little did I understand that years later the Spirit would use her discipline, her art to teach me.

The Father through the Spirit is always calling for me to listen for His mark—hearing his timing, his counting—in the deepest recesses of who I am and who he has called me to be.

Metanoia is a turning. A revolution.

And like Olivia’s chaine turns Metanoia is not just a one time radical pivoting.

Metanoia is an ever-turning toward him, toward the light, toward his voice.

A repentant, repetitive willful act.

Toward Him.

Metanoia is an inevitable turning. In the midst of it I need to keep my balance; therefore, spotting is essential. Spotting is fixing your eye on your end goal, fixing your eye on your desired destination.

In ballet when a dancer attempts chaines turns across the stage she must fix a spot. And then she turns with rapid fire turns until she has covered the length of the floor required in the choreography. Like Olivia I have to keep my head and eye on a fixed place or object or my inner balance will be thrown awry.
I must fix my eyes on Jesus. Fix them. Spot on Him.

Why in the world do I think this ballet technique applies to us?

Peter lost his spot when he looked away from Jesus’ face and instead looked at the mounting waves above him and the black depths of water beneath him. Martha lost her spot when she looked at the pile of dishes and the list of chores and the bank account needed in order to feed and care for the entourage of Jesus. Judas lost his spot when he expected Jesus to do and be something less than what He came to do and be.

My precious friends, life will keep us endlessly turning, always and forever turning. Expect it. But it is these very turns that makes life’s choreography so breathtaking--so far from the mundane.
And our lives, hidden in Christ, do not simply make just one turn. Yes, we turn in an initial transformative act of repentance. We change direction and he bends our bodies toward him, but we must continue to turn—ever turning toward him. Always. Regardless. But we have to remember to spot. We must remember to keep our eyes on Jesus or we will end up in the cold water or on the hard floor or steeped in bitterness because our sisters won’t get up and help us.

Today, where is God’s mark telling you to turn? What has he asked you to do and you are avoiding it because it’s going to require effort and moving outside your places of comfort and security? Where is he sending you that will stretch your skill and engage your faith? What is he asking you to lay down and leave behind? From what is he asking you to disengage?

Ask yourself. Don’t just read these words and allow them to pass. Ask yourself. Ask him.

Then turn. Do it. But remember to spot.

Remember to fix your eyes on Jesus—watching him the entire time.

I can’t dance, but it doesn’t bother me anymore. I dance in my head and heart. I dance on paper and a computer screen and in prayer.

I try so hard to listen for his mark. I attempt to follow his count.

And oh, glory when I remember, I spot.

Lord, help me to remember more.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Water-Seconds

This week I have been sick. The dreaded stomach virus. Usually I am not sick very often, but in the last three months I have been and I really don’t like it.

So, since Sunday I have been on the couch or in the bed eating ice chips. Sometimes they have been my friend and sometimes not.

Yesterday morning I was attempting to rest on the couch in my backroom sanctuary, and I was drifting in and out of sleep. This backroom is attached to the main floor bathroom (which isn’t much more than a closet, but it has served its purpose well). In the next three months the two bathrooms in our house are slated for radical renovations and remodels (I am quite sure that this endeavor will produce a great deal of material for posts). Right now our downstairs bathroom’s shower has a persistent drip that will get fixed, but in the meantime we collect the drip in a bowl and use it for the dogs and for all the plants in the house so it is not wasted.

As I lay on the couch and attempted to sleep the drip was in perfect synchronization with the clock ticking on the wall: one drip = one second. Usually the clock ticking is a comfort to me, but combined with the water it was not. Remember the cartoons when a drip and its volume grew and grew and then Tom would end up beating the faucet until it was twisted, yet when he lay back down it would begin again? I think that’s how I felt for a little while, but just couldn’t quite muster the energy to get up and go somewhere else.

As I lay there I realized each drip was a second falling away. Each drop of water falling was a second in time never to be retrieved.

I lay in my green state and thought about this. The Holy Spirit never wastes a teaching moment and he knows exactly what will speak to me, and he can and does use the oddest of things and elements.

Tamera, what are you going to do with your drops of water? What are you going to do with the water-seconds that are falling away? When they collect in the bowl, what do you intend to do with them? What will you do with the overflow?

I lay on that couch wrapped in my soft red blanket and thought about those questions. All the while the water was dripping filling the bowl. And time is like that, isn’t it? It drips away little by little.

Little by little an hour passes, a day, a month, a year.

Someone very important and special to me looked at me this weekend and through tear-filled eyes said, “I don’t want to look back on my life and regret or feel like it was wasted.”

She has recognized that even the drips and drops are important. She doesn’t want to waste them. Or regret how she used them.

i want her to know that our God wastes nothing. Nothing. Every drop that falls will be used for some purpose if they have been given over to him. Even the ones that seem to just plop in a bowl on the shower floor.

She and I can’t and don’t want to stop the dripping, that’s just simply life. But we can decide how we are going to use the collected drops. We can make willful decisions to use the water in the bowl to bless others. To make them laugh. To lift them. To encourage them. To help them pray. To nourish them.

To give God glory.

To exalt him.

Aren't these the ultimate goals anyway? Regardless of what we do, to give him the glory? To lift him up for all to see?

To be a testimony of what he does with a shower bowl of dripped water when it has been given over to him?







Photo 1 source
Photo 2 source





















Friday, March 8, 2013

Lamenting Arrows



I’m tired of making mistakes and wrong choices. I’m tired of trying to get it all right and not offend anyone or make anyone else unhappy. I’m irritated with what I see and feel when my waters are stirred and the froth comes to the top—full of debris and silt and decay. I’m tired of knowing the right and not doing it. I’m weary of starting something good only to fall short…oh, this last one slays me.

I’m tired of trying to be good. I just don’t have it in me. No, I don’t. This attempt to be good is not woven into the DNA of my spiritual being. I look in the mirror and see only what I want to see. I see only what I want others to see, but it is often not the reality. I choose not to see the warts, but they remain.

Oh, is this not the lament and hope of Lent: the recognition of the reality of ourselves in light of the cross? The cross enables us to see ourselves as we really are. Lamenting comes because we move toward the cross and realize that our lack is the reason Jesus went there, stayed there and died there. Our lies, hypocrisies, pretensions are the lament of Lent and only Jesus and what he did at the cross can dispel and remove these.

This past week a couple of incidents occurred and revealed some very ugly crevices and wounds of my heart. Scripture tells us that out of the abundance of the heart does the mouth speak…oh my.
The frustrated ugliness that frothed to the top of my being took me quite by surprise…and I did not like what I saw. Many people would tell me that it really wasn’t too bad of a thing. I didn’t yell, scream or say mean things. I wasn’t truly rude. My frustration was justified. There were legitimate reasons for my reactions.

But I knew better.

And the Spirit most certainly knew and gently (as always) pointed out that the attitude of my spirit was far, far from being like Jesus. It was an attitude—an attitude of entitlement.

It was an attitude that dismissed the grace I preach.

It was a bitter attitude root. And as I pulled on it I found it was connected to another situation. In my pulling I found an arrowhead of bitterness buried deep in my flesh.

Ephesians tells us to get rid of bitterness.* The Greek word for “get rid of” holds the connotation of an anchor, a weight. Bitterness weighs us down. It weights us to the ground, pulls us and holds us.

Paul says get rid of that weight. Pull up that anchor.

In the Greek the word bitterness holds the visual connotation of an arrow piercing. Bitterness is an arrow that pierces through the flesh of our hearts and embeds, lodges and remains and then weighs us down.

This past week I found the head of an arrow embedded in the flesh of me. The realization was startling on many levels—that I had allowed it to remain, that I hadn’t recognized this foreign object in my soul and that I hadn’t called it what it really was shook me. Perhaps what appalled me the most is that I had attempted to ignore it. There is nothing, it seems to me, that I can do to fix it. Nothing I can do to make it any better. Nothing I can do to change it. It is what it is. Long ago I must have decided it might be better to just leave it alone rather than attempt to dig it out. I snapped the shaft off in an attempt to be better—not bitter (Christ Church’s tag).




The shaft wasn’t the problem.

These particular bitter arrows flew from the bow of someone who was supposed to love me. Someone who was supposed to have my back. Someone who was supposed to defend me. Apparently this particular arrowhead wounded me far deeper than I acknowledged. And that made me mad, which of course, certainly didn’t help.

What I didn’t realize is that the wound had closed over, enveloped the arrowhead and developed scar tissue. I became alarmingly aware that this is still a very tender and very sore place in my soul and I tend to favor it. I guard it because I want to avoid pain. To leave it in is painful, but to pull it out could be excruciating because then I have to face some very hard truths that I can’t control, manipulate or change.

This weekend when I scraped the edge of the blade I tasted gall. And no matter how many times I spit the foul taste remained.

Some of the bitterness is over thirty-five years old. What in the world do we do with bitterness that old? What in the world do we do with a wound that appears healed, but causes us to weep when bumped or jostled? How in the world do we dig out our own arrowheads? Fresh wounds or closed scars?

We don’t.

We give it the Healer.

And we trust him. We ask him to remove it. Ask him to pull it out. Ask him to open up our flesh and remove the object that has caused this veritable ache, this silent hurt, this droning pain just under the surface. We ask him to enable us to look at it and call it what it is.

Call it out—call it bitterness, call it hate, call it manipulation, call it fear, call it anger, call it control, call it sadness, call it fury, call it bitterness. Call it by its name. Name it and then give it to him. And give him permission to use whatever means necessary to extract it.

I didn’t want to be bitter. I didn’t want to call myself Marah**. I wanted to believe I was just fine, that I didn’t harbor any bitterness for the pain someone else caused. The original pain was caused by their lack, their insensitivity, and their choices. But the pain remained because of mine.

But it doesn’t have to remain. The cross, the place Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, is the place God took all the pain of the world and absorbed it. Through the willingness of his Son, through the selfless life of Jesus, God provided a way for arrows to be removed and healing to begin. In the cross there is hope.

There was no bitterness in Jesus due to our piercings of him. No, Scripture says that he endured the cross for the joy set before him***! He didn’t demand his rights—this sinless, selfless Son of God. And he would have been justified. He was right. And though he allowed the arrows to piece him he didn’t allow them to remain. He threw off the anchor of them before they had a chance to embed.

I can’t change the reason or the why of my arrows. I don’t understand them. I only know that they cannot remain and me be healthy. They cannot stay embedded and me be free. They cannot stay enfleshed and me be who my God has asked me to be.

Neither can you.

Many of you have embedded arrowheads. You have swallowed down the bitter gall. You have self-talked and self-medicated and self-probed. Bitterness and resentment hide themselves well. Only the tops of them rise above the surface and like a glacier their greater bulk is hidden. My friends, I know you are hurting. I understand what it is like to nurse age-old wounds.

So, my fasting in Lent? My giving up in the Lenten season? I’m giving up my bitterness. Fasting from the holding on of the unjustness of why I was shot right through with these poisoned arrows. I have held on and allowed these arrows to remain from a sense of entitlement—I was right. I was the victim I told myself. Those who sent them from the bow were wrong. I have held on to that justification. I wanted to be right. I was the one sinned against.

I wrapped and twisted filthy gauze around the wounds and secretly nursed them.

I do this with God. How often have I pierced him? The sword piercing his Son’s side was an indication of what I would do. Yes, even what you would do.

I would and have pierced his heart by not extending grace to others as he has extended it to me. I have not forgiven as he has forgiven me. And oh! I have been forgiven much. Because I have held on to the bitterness, held on to my rights, held tightly to things due me I have squeezed his joy and grace out of even the tiniest capillaries of my lungs.

I am tired of trying to be good. I am tired of making poor choices. I am tired of attempting to be good. I just simply want to be healed. I want bitterness to be gone.

And so do you—if you’re honest.

I want joy. During this Lent I want joy to fill these hollow, empty piercings. I want them to be flooded with grace. I want healing. I want arrows removed. And I want his grace to pour through the holes and wounds and cleanse them—I want him to wash them with hyssop and stitch them with the sutures of his mercy and grace—

His enduring, endearing, enabling, empowering and encompassing grace.





*Ephesians 4:31

** Exodus 15: 25Ruth 1:20

***Hebrews 12:2











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Friday, March 1, 2013

One Word


A new year began two months ago. It slipped by me like water through a drain. Swiftly were the day and that short season gone. Normally I think and ponder the course of the New Year. I try to determine where I want to go and where I want to be at the end: what do I want to change? And how do I want to change? But this year that pondering and meditative time did not happen. I’m not sure why other than…

Usually I pick a key word for the year. One word or phrase that encompasses something I want God and me to spend time shoring and building. One word that directs my study and prayer and efforts. I had not even thought about a word, did not even consider a concept. But my God was ahead of me. As always he was walking before me and leaving a sweet trail.

At the end of the 2012 I began to think about Jesus discussing mustard seed faith. At Christmas I gave several small vials of mustard seed away to women who had blessed and touched me throughout the year.

Mustard seeds.

Jesus said that if we have the faith of a mustard seed we could move mountains.

Exponential growth.

Oh, that my growth in the faith of the Faith would grow so large that it would offer shelter to those who are weak and sick, hurt and wounded. Oh, that my faith would grow exponentially! I have faith: roots—sent deep into the ground of this life I am living. This faith is rooted in who God says he is, in who he showed himself to be through Jesus.

I have seen God move mountains. He has moved them in and around me. Tossed them into the sea. Now, I want to be a part of the body he calls out to move the debris of a mountain in another person’s life. I want to be on the task force he calls when the storms are whipping and mounting.
I want my faith to grow like a tiny mustard seed. I want the faith that Jesus has apportioned to me to be a shield in battle—both mine and others. I want my faith, established and rooted in the love of Christ, to change the way I live. Jesus’ faith in his Father affected the way he lived here—so it should mine.

About a week into this new year  I was at work and a friend’s daughter brought me a small package. Her mother was one of the beautiful people on my list during Christmas, but the package was unexpected. I opened it. I shouldn’t have done so at the work counter. Tears blurred my vision and my chest tightened with an affirmation so tight and specific that my breath caught.

She had given me a silver necklace. Very plain and extremely simple. Written in lovely silver script was the word Faith.

God had chosen my word for me.

He is always involved. Always leading me in my choice of word for the year (last years was the word WHOLE—an acrostic). But this year He let me know what he wanted me to think about. Ponder around. Meditate on. Listen for. This is what HE wants to grow in me this year.

Faith.

Mustard seed faith.
And I know why.

My husband and I have been praying—hard. Praying circles. We have been asking where God wants us to put our feet next. We know, with trembling, that our God has called us to be priests (to intercede for his people), and we know that there is a promised land he is calling us to enter. But we are not clear what or where it is exactly. Thus, we have been asking and asking for him to reveal to us where he wants us to put our feet in the waters. Where does he want us to enact our faith?

The only revelation he has given so far is that our faith must increase. Mustard seeds must be planted.




Faith.

Without it we cannot please God. And oh, I want to please God. I want to know what his good, pleasing perfect will is.

I want mustard seed faith that abides in the assurance that my Father will do exactly what he says he will do. That he will do more than we can ask or imagine. Immeasurably more.
This year I want to ask for water to be wine, to cut holes through roofs, to touch the hem of his clothing, to break open an alabaster jar and to eat the crumbs from his table. Every one of these incidents required absurd faith and courage. Each one of these men and women took a risk—with a bold and audacious faith they went to Jesus. Each one of them was in need. Each one had a wound that needed healing. What seemed impossible, unlikely and improbable became reality with Jesus.

I am sowing my mustard seeds. Along the way. In my going out and coming in. Along the path and beside the road. This year wherever I am I want to sow mustard seed. And I want to sow lavishly. I want to sow on the edges of cliffs and in the crevices of mountains. I want to sow in the darkness and in the light. And I want this mustard seed tree to grow in the chambers of my heart—expanding it, stretching it, strengthening it.

More than anything I want to please Him.

And today when I get dressed?

 I will put my necklace around my neck.