Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rock Good, Sand Bad

Matthew 7:24 - 27, NRSV, “ ‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!’

I have heard this since I was a child. I know that there must be a song that goes with it, as every good bible illustration. I just can’t remember it, but I can’t remember what I did yesterday, either. The impression of a house built on a rock is one of goodness and wisdom. The impression of a house on sand is bad and stupid. That was about the gist of my understanding of a house on any geological surface growing up. Now I have my own home.

I see that driving force of this passage is hearing and doing. Hearing and doing. That is who I want to be. I have been other types of Christian. I have been a hearing Christian and I have been a doing Christian, separately. I have pretended to hear and pretended to do. I have been reluctant to do anything. I have been a dabbler. I have tried to combine my “life theology” (completely worthless) with the accommodation of the church. Suffice to say, that I am no longer content with being any of these. I am certain that Christ is over that period of my life, also.

Oswald Chambers warns us against the implications of this. It sounds simple, but it can actually be very uncomfortable to be an actual believer, one who hears the word and does what it says. Once this begins, others will compete for your affections. They feel neglected because they do not own your attention. Those who desire to control and manipulate will become unsettled and lash out against you. Why? Because you dared to upset their balancing act. You dared to follow your Savior after hearing His truth. You inconvenienced others in your life. Now they beat on your house.

Now that I have my own home, I believe in the real estate phrase, “location, location, location”. I have only one option, as I see it. Building our home on Christ is the least that I can do for my home, my husband and our future. When the rain falls and the floods come, the winds blows and the angry mob beats on our home, I know where we have built it. I can understand that the storms rage outside our front door, but it is not inside our home. What tries to beat down the doors and windows of your home, will try to come inside. This is when I call on my Savior to separate the real issues from the storms. Storms are loud and huffy, bombastic and rude.

Anything that you need to address can be let in the front door, don’t let it sneak in the back.

Of course, the other option, for your home building venture, is sand. These are the things that I know of sand and water. I remember being a little girl on the beach. We would swim/wade in the water and come out to the outrageous applause of my mother waiting for us. Sand is tricky, though. It creeps through your toes as the tide goes out. It slides under your feet like glass. This made many of the exalted exits from the ocean end in a face plant. Water has, also, melted the majority of architectural wonders that I have ever made from beach sand. Lastly, every little girl knows that sand has an uncanny ability to get stuck in the bottom of your swimsuit, doubling your weight as you escape from the ensuing waves. Ladies, it can make you weigh more. Sand is horrible.

None of these examples are flattering to the description of the sandy house. This house is one that is guaranteed to fall…hard. Wow, I don’t want to be in that house. I see the survivors everywhere I go, though. I hear her voice speaking to her children…or not speaking to them. I hear the words of antagonism and fear that she speaks to her husband. There are cruel words spoken in a house of sand that would not be said to any other person in the world, even a stranger. This house will fall and it will fall hard. When the storms blow…and we know that they will, these houses cannot resist the beating of the wind, that path of destruction that winds its way through relationships, marking its inhabitants. These will fall and they will fall hard.

I want my home to be different. I want for it to be unlike anything that I have known or seen. I want for it to be a refuge from storms, knowing that I am resting in Christ. I will want for nothing because I am assured and safe. I trust that He will never let my home go because it is embedded in His rock. A storm to me means a chance to pull out the candles in case the lights go out, maybe have a marshmallow roast.

Storms are guaranteed; where we build our house is our choice.

Lord, thank you for giving us your rock to build on. Let us weather the storms of this life, faithfully. Give us discernment in the midst of this life and let us honor you in how we handle all situations.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Acts 3:19 & 20, “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, 20 so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus”.

Before I write anything about this verse, I would like to say that I am aware of the socio-political/historical/future implications of it, contextually. This is not that. This morning, in my thinking chair, I was reading along when I came across this. It is Peter speaking in Solomon’s Portico to the Israelites. He is calling a collective “you” to acknowledge the identity of Christ and turn to Him. These recollections of Peter speaking after Christ’s ascension are so beautiful. I can just feel the tenderness that must have existed, as Jesus left the apostles to carry out His earthly ministry. They missed Him. People were touched as they watched the apostles exist through the tragedy, and then live on Jesus’ behalf after He retook His rightful place at the right hand of the Father. Amen, amen.

No wonder thousands were being converted and there was joy in the community. What a sight it must have been! So, the word is living and the Holy Spirit breathes it into us, and even more – will write it on our heart. Let’s look at this verse away from the collective “you” of the Israelites.

This repentance is such a common theme in the bible, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be easier if it was “go get dressed” or “clean your house”? I can do that, most of the time. It is something that does not require any alteration to my ego and it is tangible. Repentance is something that can only be seen by God. It is a heart issue. I am finding out that there are very few issues that God is concerned with other than heart issues.

All things that we can see are the result of heart issues. Modesty is a heart issue. Language is a heart issue. Vanity is a heart issue. The status of our heart issues are the billboards that we choose to set out on the proverbial lawn of our public life. I am finding out that Christ is not a fan of my billboards. I would imagine that He is not a fan of yard art of any kind. Repentance takes the billboards off our lawns; and, let’s face it, one less sign in the world screaming, “Attention Needed Here”, is a good thing.

Our willingness to surrender any issue and glorify Christ in any area of our life is a heart issue. Repentance is a tricky one, though, because no one will know if you really repent. I can’t see your heart. I can watch your symptoms and see where you struggle with sin…your billboards give it away. You might think that you have one sin really under control, but come on…you can see other people’s billboards, right?

Repentance is non-negotiable because it is what allows us to turn to God. It makes us get over ourselves. People, too often, myself included, want to turn to God without doing the business of God. We want to hang out with our friend and never say, “I’m sorry”. I don’t have any friends like that. If I am a jerk, my friends make me step up. If they didn’t, they would be called “Yes People”…and those are not friends.

We do not serve a “Yes God”. That would be the biggest misunderstanding of our lives. We DO NOT serve a yes God. When I have done the work of repentance, I can turn my orientation to God. My entire person, all that I am is turned. We fix our eyes on His face, and all other things fall into place. I don’t remember where I heard this, or if I did, but it has served me well…”Take your eyes off of God’s hands and look at His face”. Turn to His face.

Why do we do this? So that times of refreshing may come form the presence of the Lord. The sound of that is like a hot rock massage to me. We repent of the garbage in our lives, taking the billboards of sinful distress off of our proverbial lawns, and this reorients us to God who is wiping out all of the sin from our lives.

Our job then is to sit and stare at his face while being refreshed. I don’t know what that means to you. Everyone has a different idea of being refreshed. It might be an extended vacation from the incessant noise of your home, someone taking care of you for a change, or just catching your breath. Whether we believe it or not, God can completely refresh us. That should be what our prayer time looks like. He can completely fill us in just a moment of seeing His face. When we empty out our caverns of sin, He fills it with Himself…refreshed.

God is so good because all of this is for a purpose. He does not waste a moment. The time that we invite Him in is to refresh us now, but Jesus is coming again. He is going to gather us up and we will be with Him. We can throw out the billboard building materials. We will spend all of our time seeing His glory with our own eyes. So, get a glass of lemonade and let Him refresh you…it is your eternal destiny.

Lord, thank you for being a God of relationship. Thank you for giving us a way to be before you. Take away the sin in our lives and replace it with refreshment. Give us a glimpse of the refreshment that is waiting for us with you.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Attended to or Spewed Out

The last few days have been such serious topics, so I really didn’t know what today would bring. I sat in my official thinking chair in the backyard, in my robe and gloves, and seriously pondered my expectation for my quiet time.

Then, I started thinking about what the neighbors would think if, on any given morning, they peeked over the fence and saw this pensive creature with a fluffy robe, crazy hair, coffee in hand, and bible on lap. Maybe they would say something like, “what a lucky husband you have”. Then I would say something like, “Get off my fence and back where you belong; btw, do you have a church home?” All of the scenarios were making me laugh.

Realizing that I was a mental nomad, I went, seriously, back to my quiet time. God led me to Jonah this morning. Let’s face it, the story is hysterical. I can see myself in every moment of that book, running, saying throw me over the side boys, giving up, obeying, whining, and being disciplined.

During all of this, Tess, my dog, was chasing bugs…very seriously, might I add. I don’t think that she has every caught anything that she has hunted, which makes her that much more endearing. The only thing that she ever killed was a fly, which she nose-butted against the kitchen door. I think that she was trying to bite it but misjudged the distance. I have never killed anything with my nose; I can only imagine the sense of accomplishment that it would bring.

So, thinking about all of these things…I returned to Jonah…ever so seriously. I started thinking about how funny it would be to tell the story from the appointed bush’s perspective. Again…mental nomad, I finally just said, “God, are you smiling?” See, too many things had worked against my attempts at stoic religiosity, and as Jonah shows us, you can run but God is going to set the tone. So, I enjoyed Him this morning…as per His request.

He shared with me the idea of deliverance. After talking about the temptations of Christ, and His amazing example of endurance and the final deliverance that comes when the angels care for Him, I reveled in the victory of my Lord. I was so glad that He could finally experience peace away from the evil one. Jonah had deliverance, also. Each of these represent two ends of the spectrum of deliverance.

Christ’s deliverance was wonderful, Matthew 4: 11, NRSV, “Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.” I can just imagine the angels caring for Jesus, refreshing and renewing Him so that He could continue His ministry. I see a glass of sweet tea and palm fronds…a little R&R before He set out again. I have felt like this. During the period of my surgery last year, I knew what it was like to have nothing of myself left. I was exhausted. The immediate relief of pain that I felt with the surgery, and the care given by my husband, mom and dad, were like angels coming to my side and filling my mouth with every kind of pie imaginable.

I have also felt the deliverance of Jonah in chapter 2. Verse 9 and 10 say, “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Deliverance belongs to the Lord!” Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.”

I have spoken the words of thanksgiving and continued allegiance in the midst of trial. I have offered my sacrifices at His throne of grace; and I have claimed His deliverance and offered it back to Him. And then…just like Jonah, there was sort of a hiccup, and I felt like I had been spewed out rather than attended to. Deliverance is a funny thing. We don’t always feel victorious, sometimes we feel a little beat up, and sometimes we feel spewed out. We are none-the-less delivered.

At the end of a week, we can feel more like Jonah after the belly incident. I pray that you are delivered and that no matter how you feel about it, you know the one who gave you the strength.

Lord, we thank you for delivering from temptations and this world. We thank you for showing us all of you, the serious and the funny. Give us strength for the week to come, attend to us, Father.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Final Response

Finally, we reach the end of Christ’s temptation. I am sure that He thought the same thing…finally. In this final scene, I believe that the gloves are off. Satan does not try to identify with Christ through scripture, he does not play games with Christ’s Sonship, but he goes to the place where everyone else would fail.

These are hard times. Our economy is in the toilet. I know so many people who are trying to hold on to their homes, and some that just can’t. Financial stress is such a heavy strain. Families are in chaos and marriages are under the gun. It takes everything that I have, sometimes, to remember Isaiah 8:11, 12, “For the Lord spoke thus to me while his hand was strong upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what it fears, or be in dread.”

I was waiting in the airport, yesterday. I was flying Southwest, so I was in my proper sub-group. In front of me, in a far superior subgroup, were the ones that had gotten their boarding pass just minutes before me. One was a man in a shiny pin-striped suit, who must have been in investing, talking to a couple who must have shared his timeliness. They were retired and, probably, were in the prime demographic that had lost too much retirement and savings. The couple spoke in sound bites, like the ones I have forwarded to me. These sound bites tell of disaster and fear, and they prey on an already frightened people. This guy was a really slick talker and he was enticing people to listen to him as he explained the bail out situation.

The more interested that people were, the louder he talked. He had all of the answers, and I was just waiting to hear the, “but I have your answer” speech. Immediately, I didn’t trust him. It became my job to look disinterested and view my knees as much as possible. I am not going to spend my time on that train. I have made a very conscious choice to fear the Lord, not what this world is going to do whether I complain or not. This has to be conscious for me because I am a controller and there are things I cannot control, and they could get worse. I can read, though. I know that this is not how I am supposed to spend my days. We are the only people on the planet who think that we are guaranteed financial prosperity; and I can’t find it in the bible.

So, I got a little inwardly fussy, while watching this. I get a little inwardly fussy when I think of Satan tempting Jesus with the world. Matthew 4:8,10, “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ”

This tells me that, the bigger the threat, the bigger the temptation. The devil took Jesus to show him all of the kingdoms of the world. Think of the Roman Empire. Those are some really big kingdoms and lots of riches. If this happened today, the devil would show Jesus the city of Dubai and say, “You can have all of Dubai; from every man-made island to every barrel of crude oil in the Middle East…it’s all yours”. If you don’t know what Dubai is, watch the Travel Channel…unreal, and worth seeing. More interesting is to watch it and then read the prophets. I will let you think on that.

So, let’s think about ourselves…that is easy, right? What if Satan came to you and gave you this deal? You would never worry about another car payment, house payment; in fact, go and buy the biggest home that you have ever seen and give yours away. Don’t worry about cleaning this monstrosity; you have a team of people to cater to you. Don’t cook, don’t clean, hire someone to raise your kids. You never have to get yelled at again by your children, in fact, if your kids get mouthy just send them to their wing with their nannies. You will spend your time shopping, but have them come to you. Don’t worry about leaving your palace, unless you want to. Oh, and don’t worry about what you eat, you can just hire people to suck it out, work it out, or speed you up. You can look like anyone you want…you are rich. Not just that, you can never age. You won’t look like yourself after a couple of operations, but you will look like a plastic doll, just right for preservation. Then you will be happy, right? Could you resist this offer? After being tempted for forty days in the wilderness, with nothing to eat, are you that strong? Could you do it this afternoon if Satan showed up after lunch? This is a big temptation.

The catch… “if you will fall down and worship me”. Satan wanted the Messiah to fall down on His face and worship the father of lies. Would you do it then? Satan will give you anything for your worship. Maybe you secretly covet these things anyway? Don’t we all think, “Man, my life could be so much better, if… (fill in the blank)”. It is just one moment away from us at all times, isn’t it? One more swipe of the credit card to buy into the lies of the one who rules this world, one glance to the side when we are offering our worship. I heard a phrase in a podcast the other day. He said, “I have found that the grass is greenest where you water it.” I know, powerful, right?

What does Jesus say? He says two things. They both come from scripture. Deuteronomy 10:20, “You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear.” And, Deuteronomy 6:13, “The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear.” One of the things that I have found interesting about Jesus’ response, is that he says, “your God”. Satan is still subject to God. Satan can offer anything in this world but he does not have the ultimate power. He comes in our weakness, and tries to derail our allegiance and endear himself to our vanity…but he can be defeated.

In our weakness, God is already there in ultimate power. Ah, but God is a gentleman. He will not peddle Himself, or prostitute Himself to our feeble desires…Satan has that covered. 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10, “but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” It is time for us to put our trust in the God of the universe. Send Satan away, Jesus just showed us how.

Thank you, Jesus, for enduring temptation and leaving your example for us to see. Make us strong when we hear the lies of the evil one. Let us find contentment in our place. You have made it perfect. Thank you, Jesus, for my weakness.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Second Response

Matthew 4:5-7, “Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”

The second response that we see in the temptation of Christ is an extension of the first. Note how Satan says, ‘if you are the Son of God’. Slightly mocking, isn’t it? He is still questioning the identity of Christ. Do you hear that voice sometimes, “If you were more faithful”, “If you were a better mother”, or “If you were like her”? Questioning our identity is literally the devil’s playground. Satan is trying everything to take the Sonship away from Christ. He is crafty but he knows the eternal ramifications of what is happening. Jesus is being prepared.

Throwing yourself down off of the temple referred to the expectation of the coming of the Messiah. It was thought that He would appear suddenly over the temple, making a huge stink of His presence. Satan sounds like a taunting bully, trying to get the other kids to jump off the roof. He was, in essence, saying, “Give the people what they want. You say you are the Messiah, right? Prove it by being what they expect.” Satan does not stop there, though; he quotes scripture to the living Word…the audacity. That is so interesting, isn’t it? Even the father of lies knows scripture and is aware of its power. To be unarmed, without the word of God, makes us sitting targets.

Satan was quoting Psalm 91: 11, 12, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” Tu Chez, Satan, but let’s look at the difference in what the two say… just one phrase, “to guard you in all your ways”. Satan left out an interesting part, didn’t he? Some say that this would not make any difference in the meaning. Some say that Satan was downplaying the consequence of not completing the temptation obediently. Would all of Christ’s ways be guarded if He was disobedient? This can be your theological thought for the day. There is no right answer, so go wild.

Going back to Satan’s quotation of scripture…our temptations do not come in the form of, choice = consequence. If this was the case, Satan would lose a lot of customers. He does not say, “if you choose to speak about your friend behind her back (choice) = you will lose this friendship (consequence)”; or “if you jump off of this building = you will be disobedient to God and all of eternity will be affected”. Don’t we wish that it happened like that? So, here the devil is just saying to go ahead and jump because the angels have got it under control; in fact, not even a little piggy toe will be hurt. What a guy. We encounter this everyday. When we are tempted, the important part gets left out.

And then Jesus speaks, our Savior boldly and defiantly says, “NO”. Can’t you just feel that moment? He doesn’t just say no. He says, “Look here, bucko, don’t put God on your level…he won’t play (TJK paraphrase).” Jesus’ response is Deuteronomy 6:16, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.” Again, He quotes scripture to the father of lies. He never adds a single word of His own. What more is there to say? There is supernatural power in speaking the word of God. There is power in memorizing it, and talking about it. Satan will retreat in the face of scripture. That alone is a reason to use it. It is our sword. We cannot outwit or outrun Satan. Scripture is the weapon that Christ used; it is the weapon that I will use.

Let me ask another question. Are we testing God? Are we dragging Him to the place of spiritual ultimatum? Are we asking Him to perform like a pet for us? Are we manipulating Him, maybe leaving out a few details to make ourselves look more appealing? I don’t know how to be delicate, obviously, but let me assure you…we are not. We might think that we have that power, but God does not play with Satan and He does not play with us. Let God be God. Let Jesus follow through victoriously. He resisted more temptation than we can fathom, so that He could sit in this moment with us.

Lord, you have given us such an amazing example. Write your word on our heart so that we can stand strong in the face of the enemy. Examine our hearts and show us the places that we do not understand who you really are. Change us to let you reign victoriously in our hearts.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

First Response

This week has shown me that I need to review a topic introduced to me while I was studying Matthew a few months ago. The Spirit drew me to this scripture, probably because I need all the help that I can get. In looking at the temptation of Christ, the three responses that He gives to Satan appear to have universal applications. I find that when I go through times of temptation, I can call on one of these for help in dealing with a situation. Follow with me…

Jesus is famished. He has not eaten for forty days. This is beyond anything that I can understand. Forty days is a long time, at the end of which one would be confused and vulnerable. That is when the devil slips in. Isn’t that typical in your experience? It seems like I encounter temptation when it is really still or really chaotic? When I am sitting around twiddling my thumbs or when I have worked my way through breakfast and lunch. Whenever I fast, I know that temptation is waiting in the wings. When I am deprived and uncomfortable, then I am vulnerable. What a spoiled culture we live in.

In Matthew 4:3, 4, this is the situation. “The tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.' But he answered, "It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Jesus is asked to make food appear, like a magic act. Imagine how enticing that would be after you had not eaten for forty days. Have you ever been feeling down and a friend says, “Let’s go shopping”? You are down because you are broke, but still you say, “Ok”. If you were completely focused and on your game, you might say, “nope that is what got me in this situation”. If you are a little off of your game and needing solace, you might cave in to the comfort of a good shopping spree. Jesus did not give in to this enticement after forty days of fasting and living in the wilderness.

What just happened in Matthew? God has just publically claimed Jesus, as the Son, during His baptism. The Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus…that is pretty hard to miss. Oh, well, if you did, there was also the voice of God. It was, probably, a pretty big deal and I assume that it got the attention of Satan and his entire posse. This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the beginning of His testing. He must have been quite a threat. Then, Jesus was led by the Spirit to go and be tempted.

Satan wanted for Jesus to disobey God and break the fast. It does seem simplistic enough, appealing to the immediate needs of Jesus, but let’s look a little further. Jesus is meant to be vulnerable, He is meant to be physically at the end of His humanity; and this temptation was meant to break the very core of Christ’s identity. It seems as simple as a miracle, but any temptation brought on by Satan is, at its root, meant to pull us away from God. It is meant to question our identity as His children. Satan was trying to tempt the Savior of the world to perform at his request.

Satan has power in the slight twists of good things. God’s love is pure and good, but in the hands of the devil, it looks like a desperate reality show contest. Sex inside of marriage is good, but in the hands of the devil, it looks like an insatiable appetite for everyone; one that leaves people discarded and used. Satan is a liar. John 8:44, “You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Everything that is pure can be touched by Satan and twisted, even just slightly to make it unholy and needy. This adversary has been around so much longer that us, and he is so much more cunning than we could ever be. We are truly fools to think that we can manage him. He was the most beautiful angel, thrown out of heaven. Sin is attractive, isn’t it? Otherwise would we bother? Don’t play with temptation. It has big connections.

Jesus’ response to the devil is what I would like to call our “First Response”. This response says, "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." This sounds a lot like Deuteronomy 8:3, “He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

What is he saying? The word of God is better for me. The word of God is truer form me. The word of God serves me better than following any of my appetites, any of my desires, and anything that goes against God’s will for me. God wanted for Jesus to fast; so Jesus fasted. Note that God’s word holds authority in this situation; and note that the devil left it alone.

So, what is our First Response? It is the word of God. This is the first way that we deal with temptation. Tune in tomorrow for more…

Lord, make us strong in the face of the enemy. Write your word on our hearts so we can crush temptation. We praise you that your will for us is better than anything that we desire.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No Time to be Lazy

Hebrews 12:12-14, “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. 14 Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” What a wonderful image. Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees. This book was written to Christians, probably with a Jewish heritage, and maybe in Italy. Is that vague enough? The point to remember about them…they were discouraged. This is a letter of encouragement to Christians who had been persecuted, hassled and they want Christ to come back. Sometimes we all have days like that, minus the violence that these Christians faced. We have our faith picked apart by others or even those nearest to us, and then we just want to go home (heavenly, not the dirty earthly one). I say ‘our faith picked apart’ because everything that happens to us should touch our faith. We are products of our faith: what we believe. The choices that we make, what we say and how we respond is a picture of our faith. We are ONE identity, and although this world tells us that we can be many things at one time: a secular scholar, a biblical teacher, a yoga fanatic and lover of the arts, we are at all times ONE identity. We belong to Christ, and there can be many values offered to us by the world, but we are required to choose between them. Our responses and actions, our words and attitudes, are the evidence of our spiritual life, and therefore, the practice of our faith. Do you do something that you do not like? Is it complimentary to the body of Christ? Ok, then…lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees. Potentially offensive, but encouraging, side note: being born on the front church step or your parent being the lead deacon does not mean anything. 1) You cannot be grandfathered into faith. 2) You can also be kind and/or moral, and not have a relationship with Christ. Saying, “yes”, to Jesus gives you the right tools. It does not make a relationship. It is like sitting in front of a light socket with a bulb and never screwing it in. Let’s lift our drooping hands (with the word?) and strengthen our weak knees (by kneeling in prayer?). The “you” mentioned in these verses, is actually a collective “you”. They are being told to make straight paths for their feet. In any group, there are weaker and there are stronger. So, just as you are thinking, “thank goodness I am not responsible for everyone’s hands and feet”…stop yourself. We are told to make our collective path straight. There are many things that I have been exposed to in my Christian adult life. Many things that I have let in, and had to shove back out because I thought that I was strong enough to handle them, but I was not. I cannot dabble in the world. I get hurt. Therefore, I do not want to bring anything into the body that will cause anyone to stumble. I want to make straight paths for my brothers and sisters. To be perfectly candid, my droopy hands and weak knees are my mouth. I talk too much to cover up the fact that I am an introvert. Strange, isn’t it? When I am in situations where I am chit-chatting with other women…I know that I will be confessing later because I really don’t have much to say but I feel like I should be social. So, to compensate, I say EVERYTHING that comes to my head…unfiltered. I know. What a disaster! I love being in circles where I know that the conversation will never approach the realm of gossip or carelessness. Then I can be sure that I am on a straight path for my feet. I rely on others to help me stay on that path. Why? So that the weak (me and my mouth) will not be put out of joint, but I will be healed. So, you go and lift your drooping hands, today, and strengthen your weak knees. Collectively, we will make paths straight for the healing of each other. With everyone, we will pursue peace and holiness. Let me help before you skim over this…thinking of ‘holiness’ as sanctification makes this verse a little more understandable. We are pursuing peace in order to grow in Christ. (Sanctification = growing, in grace, as the result of commitment to Christ.) This is the way that we run the race, strong and straight while chasing after peace and holiness. We do not wait for it to come to us. This is not the time to be lazy but to seek peace…and that can be hard; too hard when you have droopy hands and weak knees. It is worth it, though. I want to see the face of the Lord. Don’t you? Lord, let us be women of strength and conviction. When we are weak, lift our hands and strengthen our knees for the purpose of healing. Show us where to pursue peace and holiness.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Head Explodeth

Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. That was not the expectation of the Messiah. It is kind of like seeing my elementary school teacher at the grocery store. I felt very unsure when I saw her outside of the classroom because it was not certain that she was human. All that I could think was, “Wait, you eat? That is so weird.” If you saw them come out of the bathroom, your whole worldview needed reshaping.

The scribes expected that Jesus would at least put the needs of the “chosen” ones first, even if they saw Him as an insolent radical; but there He was, eating with those deviants. He was being watched every moment, sort of like church leaders now. They were waiting for Him to mess up. He knew that. So, they scrutinized Him. They put their judgments on His comings and goings, although they were not interested in His purpose. They were concerned with how it compared to their “elementary school teacher worldview”.

I have done lay ministry for many years. I call it “flying under the radar”. As I see it, it allows me to move as the Spirit leads me, without the red tape. I have a wonderful “boss”, who I am accountable to, and I tell him that I love all of the work with none of the responsibility. Let’s face it; it relieves me from a lot of Pharisaical scrutiny. I have had my share, even as a volunteer. The weight of the gossip and judgment can be crushing.

When the scribes of the Pharisees saw Christ and the disciples eating with the tax collectors and sinners, Christ’s reply was, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners (Mark 2:17, NRSV).”

I find myself in this verse. I grew up in a fairly “controlled” church setting. I was a little stink pot; a judgmental, arrogant, self-righteous little girl. I was a teenage girl who knew all the answers…sound familiar. Sadly, I was largely following example. I saw religion as having all of the answers and using them like weapons. There was lots of talk about Jesus, but very little on love. What is the cross without love? In my adult life, I have found that God places more value on order, than rules. It matters what children see. It matters if they see the love of Christ alive.

So, Christ did not come for those who had it all figured out. He did not come for those who had bought the, “Christ-in-a-box” home kit or those who could not get passed their ‘elementary school teacher worldview’ of God. Christ was not interested in those who desired to tell Him who He was. He was interested in those who had room in their lives to believe in the living, loving God. What do they look like? They are sick, they are tired, they are hassled, they need someone to take away their burdens, they are corrupt…these are the people that have room for Christ. The perfect and self-righteous can remain that way, if they choose. They simply might not have the room.

Jesus says it like this in Mark 2:21, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

I picture a really self-righteous person standing there, shaking their heads in judgment as Christ does His work. And then, I picture their heads simply exploding, like an old cracked wine skin. It is not supple enough to stretch and be filled with new wine, with new love, with new hope. There is no place for this Christ; the one who is not interested in who we think He should be.

Think outside of this scripture; are we casting judgment on the work of Christ in the church, or in other’s lives? Are we standing and shaking our heads as we watch others go to and fro in the name of Christ? Do you feel like your head is about to explode?

Actually, that is kind of what it felt like when I finally got it; when I finally started to understand what the love of Christ was about. It was kind of mind-blowing, but in a good way. When we come to Him as a sinner, one of the sick, He gives us a new wineskin. This one can be stretched beyond anything that we can understand. Being a part of the LIVING God is a real adventure. Let’s shed the idea of Christ and let Him give us the real thing.

Lord, come to us in your fullness. Show us who you are today. Destroy the places that we stifle You and manage You. Move freely in our lives and show us your living love.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Wait

I have already told you that I am praying fervently for something. I should have said that I have received an answer, but I have not received THE final answer. I came home last weekend from a women’s event and got on my knees in my yard. I had to choose my spot carefully, because we have three dogs. I just knelt and wept. I begged God for an answer…and the one that I got was not the one that I was hoping for, but it was such a peaceful, reassuring word. I had purged everything from inside of me, and I looked up. My dog Tess was lying in the grass, staring at me. She was so happy. Tess was created to be a dog; and she is a wonderful dog. There is nothing that delights her more than a stray bug to snap at, or a bird taking flight. I think that she sees herself as responsible for the motion of creation. Nothing in the world matters but the moment in which she is participating. We exist for her amusement and provision. Under this roof, dogs want for nothing. God entrusted our friends to us for safe keeping and we relish in this role of stewardship and friendship. Saying all of those good things, I am kind of jealous. I watch that adorable mug and think about the fact that she is everything that the God of the universe created her to be. Tess cannot screw up being a dog. She is an excellent control group when thinking about the unique creation of humanity. Tess was created with everything that she needs to fulfill her purpose. Snapping at bugs and chasing birds just makes her more of a dog. We will drop everything and watch it, every time. I have free will and a unique purpose. I worry. I sometimes worry about the dogs. I worry about the results of this prayer. After looking at Tess, my eyes locked on this swarm of bugs over the lawn. I don’t know what they were. They were small, and they were being everything that they were created to be, even if this means eating our hibiscus. I just stared at them like a really great screensaver, and then I worried about our hibiscus. AND…then it came. Matthew 5:25-30, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” I have read this so many times. It is what people like to say to make you feel guilty for thinking ahead/worrying. It was different this time, though. I did not have my bible in front of me; and, as I was locking eyes with my miniscule friends, I knew that God’s Spirit was whispering to me. He was writing His word on my heart and telling me that His plan was already in the works. In the meantime, it is my job to take a lesson from Tess and be what I was created to be. I have to live out my purpose as all of the pieces are being put in place. The answer was…wait. Lord, let us be women who can trust your purpose. Reassure us in our times of doubt or worry. Let us remember our purpose and honor you with it, while we wait.

Friday, March 20, 2009


My husband and I had the privilege of a date night, last night. I love to be face-to-face with him. I can hear his heart differently when I am out of the house, really dialoguing about relevant issues. One of our family members is very sick and we are feeling helpless, although, we are confident that she has nothing to fear in the hands of our Father. We talked about her, and sent our love across the miles. (add Grandma Knowlton to your prayer lists).

It has brought some memories back to me from my senior year in high school. My grandmother lived with us. She and I just had this special bond. I can’t explain it. We would sit and talk for hours. She would tell me what time my bedroom light went off the night before, and tell me that I studied too much.

I would tell her that she should eat something besides ice cream and cookies for dinner. We would giggle and she had a wonderful laugh. The best times were when I sat with her long enough, that the stories just started to roll. As time went on, she opened up to me about everything. I just loved her, and I had no doubt of her love for me.

I went on a youth ski trip my senior year, and while I was gone my grandmother fell and had a stroke. My mother gave her around the clock care after that. It was difficult for everyone, but we just loved her and wanted her with us.

The day came, however, when the family had to decide to put her in a nursing home. That is day that I will never forget. As she was being carried to the car, she took my hand and said, “Don’t forget me, Tracy, remember me”. She repeated it. I can hear her voice. I assured her and assured her, as I kissed her hand. They are my mother’s hands and my hands. I could never forget her.

I do a lot of visualization in prayer. I picture the steps of the throne of grace stretched out before me. I picture myself in a ball at the foot of the cross covered in the blood of Christ…thank you, Lord. We attend a church that has the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. This is a time that I put myself in the presence of the Lord. I have made sure that my accounts of confession and forgiveness are settled, and I freely enter into His presence. He always waits for me there.

Sometimes this is what I see. I go to the door of the upper room. I am wearing a burdensome, rough and long coat - unmanageable and unruly. I feel the weight of it bearing down on my shoulders as I get to the door. The requirement for entering this room is the removal of my jacket. I open the door.

It is dimly lit and there Jesus sits waiting for me, seated behind a table. He smiles and tells me eagerly that He is glad that I came, and to come in and sit down. I slip off this heavy coat outside of the door and leave it there. It is the compilation of my burdens, my worries, my week and my flesh. I leave it at the door. I feel relieved and I obey His voice. I go and sit across from Him. There is never a more tender welcome than the one that He gives me. He has bread and wine already prepared for us, and He says, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19).”

When Jesus said this to His disciples, he was talking to people that He loved. He was telling his loved ones what was coming, but He was also making the plea of a friend and loved one. “Do this in remembrance of me”, is an insertion that we only see in Luke, and retold in 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25. I think that it is so wonderful and so personal…so human.

My grandmother did not want to be a passing thought in my mind just because she did not live with us, anymore. She wanted to be present with me forever. She wanted for my children to speak her name and honor her memory. Christ wanted to be remembered. He wanted for those whom he loved, and who loved Him so much, to be with Him forever. And so we sit together, and he says, “Don’t forget me, Tracy, remember me”.

He then says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:13, NRSV). The new covenant…and He has told me, once more, why I am there. I sit before Him and say, “I remember you, Lord; I will never forget what you did. Thank you”. I eat and drink, and sit in awe with my Savior until I have to leave. Then, I get up from the table and I walk back through the door, leaving my coat behind.

Lord, let us honor your memory today. Let it be a blessing to you and to us throughout each moment. We remember you, and we thank you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's Not Over 'Til He Says It Is

I want something. I see the example of it throughout scripture. I pray for it fervently. I am not going to tell you what it is because it is not your prayer; but you might have prayed, or are praying, for something like it. 1 John 5:14, 15, “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him”. What I want is in his will; I know because scripture says it. It is sort of like people reading about the fruits of the Spirit, and saying, “Patience, will make my life better, give me patience, Lord”. Then they pray for patience, (frightening, right?) expecting that the Spirit will snap its wispy fingers and “shazam”. Alas, I have never seen anyone gain patience without the events that make them patient. I was, however, elated to find that it was an official, “yes, do this; this is my will”; because I knew that when I prayed for it, I was on the right track. I haven’t received it, yet. I know that it is scriptural. I know that it is the Lord’s will. I, also, know that I need to be on my knees about this, and I am. I was sitting with my mentor, yesterday, and she said, “You know, if God wanted to ‘answer that prayer’, he could do it right now”. Hmmm…God is choosing not to answer me. I have three options. I can get fussy, and, oh my, I am so good at that. Number two, I could say that prayer does not work and withhold from Christ because He doesn’t perform for me like a pet. Or I can open my bible…Isaiah 55:8, 9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”. This last one requires me to say, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2). Give me number three. As important as our culture tells us we are, we belong to God. That is part of the gig; we trust that, as the sovereign ruler of the universe, He is smarter than we are. He made my brain, He made my personality, and He knows the number of hairs on my head and the number of days in my life. He is infinitely more capable to handle my prayer request than I am. I was watching, “The Passion”, last night with two wonderful women. After it was over, one of them said, “What did you get from it this time?” I am not a quick processor, so I had to rummage through the catalogue of thoughts and come up with something. This struck me. Christ was brutally beaten, His flesh was torn to shreds, He wore a crown of thorns that pierced His head, and He was spat upon and taunted. Mark 15:29, 30, “Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” See, this is what we do. We look at God and tell Him what would look God-worthy. We tell Him that the way to be God is to show off and take His Son down from the cross. We are ready for the miracle, and a light show would not be bad, either. God says, absolutely not. He knows something that we don’t. Christ would not end there. Christ did not die for the fireworks display. It was not finished until He said that it was. It was not over until HE commended His spirit to the Father. But there was more… What happened then? A dead Christ was in a borrowed tomb for three days and He walked out. Why? To reign forever with His Father in heaven; giving us a forever with Him. Hallelujah! Say that with me. Hallelujah! God does not always answer in an impressive way, or even when I want for Him to answer. Sometimes, I have to be on my knees offering it to Him – the offering is part of the answer. Then He takes everything that is standing in the way of this one request and crucifies it…until it is dead, until it is finished. Oh but wait, he resurrects it in a form that glorifies Him and conforms it to His perfect will. The things that I ask for are small, and when God answers, like Job, I have to cover my simple, unworthy mouth and marvel at this awesome God. Our God is sovereign and He has all the resources of heaven and earth at His disposal. If He wanted to answer, He could do it right now; but if He doesn’t, watch out, we just might see the best light show ever. Lord, hear our prayer today: I say to the Lord, “You are my God; give ear, O Lord, to the voice of my supplications.” 7O Lord, my Lord, my strong deliverer, you have covered my head in the day of battle. – Psalm 140: 6, 7

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Back in the Saddle

This week has been like two, and it is only Wednesday morning. This is just one more reason that I know I was meant to be at the “Youniquely Woman” conference this last weekend. They talked a lot about life management, ah yes.

I have spoken to two of my girlfriends, in the last few days, who have shared their frustrations to me about their role as a wife and mom. Not the fact that they are a wife and a mom, but sometimes we feel like we don’t measure up, like it is a test that we are failing, or like we are missing out on something because of sacrifices that have been made. It is in these times that I know we are made of the same materials (dust and an extra rib) with the same womanly purposes, from the very moment of creation.

We also have the same influences knocking at our door every day from this world. It is courting our natural state; something inside of us, no matter how small that it is, desiring to make us feel unsatisfied; with what greater lie could Satan fill women’s heads? Really, can you think of one?

So, I participated in a senior’s luncheon event at the church, yesterday. It really is one of the most fun things that I do at the church. They are a funny group, and they allow me to laugh and eat with them. I am honored to be invited. I asked everyone that I saw before the event to pray for me. I could only explain it by saying, “I feel like today is happening to me”.

Have you ever had one of those? I had run the day before, until I couldn’t make full sentences, and then I did it all over again. I was tired, physically and emotionally, a silent killer for us who desire to be useful every day. I could tell that the Lord wanted to enjoy His people, and I was not going to thwart His efforts. It was a blessing to me, as usual. But, by the time that I got home, I felt drained and weary. I still had the high school girls coming over that night for their bible study. So…I opened my bible.

This is what Paul asked me. Galatians 3:3, 4, NRSV, “Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing.” In my experience Paul does not mix words. He was writing to people who were about to scrap their faith and go back to some legalistic jargon. Why do we go from Spirit-filled and Spirit-led to empty rituals? Why do I ride the roller coaster of abiding in Him and then going through the motions?

I knew that if I did not call on the Spirit to transform/renew my mind, I was about to lose an opportunity for the Lord to speak to some of his most precious ones (yes, that means you, girls).

We are entrusted with just a few things in this life; our families in our homes and in our churches are so important, now and eternally. God does tell us how to fulfill our purposes…through his Spirit; not for one moment are we supposed to trust our own understanding or our own flesh. I accepted my reprimand from my brother Paul. I left the land of the unsatisfied and weary, and climbed back in the saddle.

Lord, I pray that you would transform our minds, today. Send the power of your Spirit to let us fulfill all of our roles and purposes today. Let us be completely satisfied in you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Doing vs. Being

Proverbs 31 woman…enough said. Some of you have a condition called, “burning flesh” right now. Some of you have developed eye trouble and can no longer see the words on this screen. I love her but I am not sure that we could be really good friends. She is the kind of woman that always looks the part. She is making it in the world and in her home. She could walk out into the street and ask 15 neighbors in for a spontaneous feast, and it would be perfect, including place cards and three courses. She makes me jealous. Argh! So, the senior high girls and I have been looking at this woman. She is capable, trusted, she does her husband good, she works hard, brings food to her home, she is up at night if she needs to be, she furthers her families financial interests, she is strong, she is fully able to supply the needs of her family, she is generous, she is prepared, she plays her role in the honoring of her husband, she is dignified and not afraid, she is wise and kind, she is not idle (this does not mean busy), her children get out of bed calling her happy and her husband praises her… It is a tall order, however, I know many of my friends who do, or are willing to do, any of these things for their families; just not all at once. One thing to point out is that she is not doing all of these every day. She is doing them over a lifetime. The actions of Proverbs 31:10-28, should not scare us. She does what she has to do, don’t you? Are you willing? She does have something else, though. I noticed that this laundry list of attributes is lacking something. To be a Christian woman today, you are supposed to attend the women’s suppers and bring a dish, be enrolled in 5 bible studies, show up looking perfect on Sunday morning, read out of your 15 devotional books, and…be up on all of the TV evangelists. Now, you are supposed to read your friend’s blog…it is endless. Today, I am giving you permission to make your life a lot easier. I see none of that in Proverbs 31, or anywhere in God’s word. Don’t get me wrong, I see a faithful woman. It says that her husband trusts her, she is generous to the poor and needy, she is not afraid, she is wise and kind, she is happy and her husband brags about her all around town. That tells me that there is a stillness that is coming from inside of her and infecting all of those around her. She is doing it right. She lives from the inside out. My desire has been to find the lost manuscript that tells me of her “being” relationship. What is she when she is still with God? What does her heart say to God through the day as she takes on each new adventure? That is the “being” relationship with the Lord. (A note on "being" relationships: you have to know with whom you are in a relationship; that is the role of scripture and prayer.) This is a glimpse of a woman from the eyes of a son. I don’t have children, but would you write this about your mom? If you would, call her, thank her and ask her about her “being” relationship. Would your children write it about you? It is from this “being” relationship with the Lord that good things come. The Spirit gives us the power to have this fruit in our lives. It wars with our flesh, our sin nature, being the very power of God inside of us. We have this power in our lives…that stuns me as I think of what is available and untapped. I have the power to be kind and generous and loving. I have the power to bless those around me and care for their needs. Wait, yes, I also have the power to be wise and not afraid…to be peaceful. You and I can be known as happy, because when someone asks us how our day is, we will be able to tell them of our “being” life; we are fine, we are content, and we are strong. We can be dignified and say that we have everything that we need to face the trials of this life. We tell our troubles to women who will lift us up, hold us accountable and point us back to the cross. That is part of this “being” relationship. My temptation has been to live in the “doing” because that is where things happen. How will anyone call you productive if you don’t prove it? This goes hand-in-hand with the twenty minute response for, “How are you”? These lives are always busier and always harder than anyone else’s life. I was challenged at a conference this weekend to take charge of the “doings” in my life. See, when we you commit to something, you absorb it into your world. It shares a place with other priorities in your life (see Donna Otto’s stuff…amazing). Some of these things should not be let in your front door. You are not meant to “own” those things. If I ask you right now, what is the one thing that you are doing that you should not be doing? This thing usually robs the other true priorities of your life (family, friendships, your “being” relationship with Christ, and you…fyi, you are a priority in your life, whether or not you act like it). It robs peace from your life, and probably someone else could do it…ouch. I know that is a radical notion, but someone else could do it…and if they did it better, hallelujah. Want to be really bold? Ask your husband or your children, maybe your friends what you should drop. Actually, that is great advice; I will have to ask my husband that question. Lord, show me today how to “be” with you. Show me areas in my life that are unnecessary; those that rob the real priorities of my life. Create in me the willingness to move away from “doing” and into authentic relationship with you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Flying Loser

I am on a plane today, which differentiates it from most others. Flying is so funny to me. It really is the experience of “the masses”. I am an inexperienced flyer these days. I will prove it to you; I forgot the “put-your-under-3oz.-liquid-items-in-a-baggie” rule, so I had to ask for a Ziploc at the x-ray machine. I went through my whole purse searching for liquids. Surprisingly, I have a lot. I was the, “you-can-go-ahead-of-me-because-I-am-not-ready” person. Afterward, I texted my husband and told him that I am lucky that I fly like I drive…pretty oblivious, so it didn’t bother me, but I didn’t ask anyone in line with me what they thought.

Then, upon sending my purse and three plastic bins through the x-ray machine (I am returning home this afternoon by the way, I just like to be ready), everything, keys and pens, etc., fell out of my bag and onto the conveyer belt. The kind TSA guy offered me a handful of my belongings…twice. I also sent my boarding pass through the x-ray machine in my computer bag, so I had to get permission to walk through the body search machine, promising that I would remedy the situation as soon as I could locate the proper documentation.

I just think that it is hysterical and I am sitting here in my window seat giggling as I write. Again, I did not ask anyone else in line what they thought. At this point, I am not entirely sure that my fellow passengers would find me as funny as I find myself.

Airports take me completely out of my norm; I see what I do not normally see, and some of it stops me in my tracks, but it is nothing that has not lived inside of me at one time or another: rage, vanity, attention-seeking or sadness, some happiness, too. It is just more obvious when you fly because people do not worry about the common niceties or facades; they don’t care what you might think about their attitudes and/or lifestyles. In the course of my life, I have been every t-shirt, every expression and every wandering eye that I have seen in this airport. And, now I am free…thank you, Lord.

Upon waiting for the privilege to x-ray my many possessions, I was behind a college fraternity guy. I have nothing against fraternities. I was in a sorority myself, proof that there is life on the other side. His t-shirt proclaimed his Greek letters and read, “Whoever says winning isn’t everything, is obviously used to losing”. This sort of thinking has done DAMAGE to my worldview. I have believed for most of my life that there are winners and losers. I am sure that today, some might say that I looked like a bit of a loser with my mad flying skills.

My experience has told me that every game has a loser, every relationship has a loser and every conversation has a loser…and then there are situations when I have really been wronged but they feel similar to the others…I just want to win. Think about it with me, do you talk until people collapse in a heap in front of you, just agreeing so that you will go away? This has been me, controlling every word that is spoken. I have wanted so desperately to be heard and to hear, “Yes, you are right…I validate you”.

Or, are you passive-aggressive, meaning that you don’t have to have agreement in the moment, but you make people sorry later with silence or coldness? Both, and most things in between, say the same thing; I have the right to be right…the right to be the winner. See, I don’t want to be a loser. I don’t want to be taken advantage of and I don’t want to be a doormat. And here is the truth; I also know that my understanding of winning is twisted and destructive. I have broken relationships and hurt people that I love…and I have won.

1 Peter 2:23, hits me right in the face, “When he [Christ] was abused, he did not return abuse, when he suffered, he did not threaten, but he trusted himself to the one who judges justly”. Peter tells me that Christ left matters of justice to the Father. Is it fair the way that Christ lived or died? Was that the point of His life and death, its fairness? Aren’t there just some acts, some relationships, and some ends that are more important than winning?

So, I have to ask myself if I really even understand justice, the very core of who should be right in this life. I believe, and scripture tells me, that at my core I am defiant to Christ. When I see that verse, it burns my flesh. I want for Christ to cry out, saying, “Oh, you’ll be sorry…wait until my Daddy hears about this”. And that, amongst many other reasons, is why He is God and I am not.

Why do I want for Him to be right? So that he could be more valued, less of a “loser”? Christ could have been “right” in front of the Pharisees, but instead He chose for us to be right for all of eternity. You know what? That is not fair either. I need to leave matters of justice in the hands of the One who knows what is worth fighting for…I can tell you from experience that my pride and my defiance are not worth the fight. That is not why Christ fought.

Lord, give me the grace to let you fight my battles. Close my mouth and open my eyes to you. I trust in your justice and believe that you do know what is best for me. Give me victory over defiance, today.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Speak Up, I Can't Hear You.

Not long ago, my husband and I were having a discussion. I was feeling a bit challenged and I was not handling his words especially well. I have come to find that my husband has a knack for truth. During our marriage of 30 months and three days, he has really laid some whoppers on me. Once, he pointed out the fact that I am not a diligent or consistent housekeeper…I know, shocking, isn’t it? He pointed that out because I profess to be such a wife, and was trying to defend myself.

The truth is that I am not. He is correct. I am neither diligent, nor consistent. I like to think that I am because it paints this idealic picture of me that I favor over the alternative. I desire to be “The Everything Woman”. The truth is that I am just me, inconsistent and dirty.

Next, I happened to be talking to my husband one day about how I hate to go to the grocery store, and he said that he too has had to go to the grocery store, only he does not complain about it…again, shocking! He dared to tell me the truth…I am a whiner.

What kind of a man am I married to? The best kind. He only let’s me see who I really am; who I was created to be. That is who he loves and that is who the Father loves. I intentionally plant these kinds of people all over my life. The ones that will tell me the truth…biblical truth; people like my husband, my mentor, the leaders of my church and a few of my friends. These are the people that the Lord points me to when I need counsel, or just someone to straighten me out.

The “grocery store event”, was especially poignant because I was reading Philippians 2:14, 15 at the time, “Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world”.

Yikes. I am a murmurer and an arguer. I used to get every pleasure in the world from taking any member of my family into an argument, indiscriminately. The point was not the point; it was whether you could get them to beg for mercy from the rhetorical onslaught. My husband is less tolerant of these whimsical delights. He doesn’t play…so, I don’t argue. Thank you, Jesus.

So, that leaves murmuring. What is the deal with murmuring? That is that highly gifted area in which someone, usually a loved one, is talking to you and you turn away. But you don’t end the conversation, do you? You continue to talk just loud enough so no one can understand what you are saying, or the silent killer…the “brain-roll”. I often do these, and sometimes much more, when my husband reveals truth to me. The brain-roll is a response that I lay before the Lord every morning and throughout the day. I have found that the only victory over this is claiming the Holy Spirit's power over my thoughts .

Arguing and murmuring, both are terribly attractive, right? Paul says very unattractive. These are not appropriate for someone who claims the identity of, and aspires to emulate our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Did Jesus murmur and argue? No way. If He had something to say, it was worth listening to and He said it to his target audience and no one else.

So, why does Paul tell us to do all things like this? Because, arguing and murmuring make us stand out in a crowd. It hurts us. When people see this in our homes or in public, they think that we are just as out of control as the rest of this world. We are no different from anyone else. BUT, Paul is hoping that we are different. He wants for us to shut our mouths so that we can be blameless and innocent; and yes, shutting the mouth does promote less arguing and murmuring. People will know that we are children of God because we can actually control ourselves better than a toddler. The formal name is impulse control.

Paul says that the world around us is crooked and perverse…just watch cable for a while if you need convincing. Your job, in the midst of all of that arguing, murmuring and perversity, is to shine like stars. That is so beautiful. We are not supposed to shine like self-righteous windbags, but like Christ…like stars. Stars are big and bright, and I probably would notice one in a grocery store.

Think about how you fit into this conversation. I have already told you where I am. I will give you a hint…if you are not shining at home, in those familial relationships then there is a really small chance that you are actually shining in the world. Proverbs tell us that our home is the practice run for living outside the front door. If you aren’t willing to make it happen with people that you love, then you will not make it happen past your lawn. Our homes deserve our best, let’s commit to that.

Lord, teach us today and everyday to shine like you in our homes and in our community. Give us your Spirit to conquer the murmurs and the arguing that quench your light.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I have had a corrupt view of sin (no pun intended) for most of my life. Honestly, it has made me unwilling at times to come to the throne of grace, boldly or otherwise, Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”. I have been unwilling to confess my sins before Jesus, my Savior…it sounds a little silly when you say it out loud. I say “unwilling” because it has been all about me; there is no blaming anyone else for something that literally takes moments to do.

The catch is that it has taken all the minions of heaven to help me scale the wall of my pride and rebellion in order to arrive at the bottom step of that beautiful throne of grace. A secret about the minions of heaven is that they do all of the work...they are excellent scalers.

Furthering my sin problem, I used to be one of those people who had the “goodness continuum” in my head. I was better than average so that meant that I still qualified for church on Sunday morning. Interestingly enough, the whole world thinks that they are better than average. There was a study done showing that most people think that they are better than average drivers, and we know that is not true. I would have bragged on my driving skills, too, before I ran a red light with five high school girls in my car (there, I confessed it; sorry moms). The subjective nature of scales makes them…worthless. I only mention all of this because I have, and still can, struggle with confession.

My sinful heart responded when I read this, Isaiah 43:25, “I, I am He, who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” I love this verse; it speaks to me in a wonderfully mystical way. For a long time I have looked at this from afar, and today I tackle it.

These words are sort of a majestic way of saying, “I won’t remember your sins”, but let’s crack it open a little further. “I, I am He”, which makes me want to put my face on the ground in front of the proverbial burning bush. I just think of Moses standing there, on holy ground, hearing “I am”, that is His name. God is giving a peek at Himself. He is present and active in the midst of his people (see The Problem of God, John Courtney Murray for a “riveting” discussion of this). God is reiterating that He is here, Creator, Holy, Endless, Savior, Rescuer, Present; He is here for the sinful.

As I have said before, I hate messy. I cannot imagine why God would get messy over me, until I look at the cross. He blots out transgressions for His own sake. This has been what I cannot shake. For His own sake he is erasing all of my mistakes. Everything that is contrary to His holy nature, He removes from my life when I ask. For His own sake NOT for my sake, He restores the broken fellowship with Him created by my sin. Why? He wants me to come to meet Him at the throne of grace.

And why should this matter to me? Stay with me; read this slowly…He tells me who I am when he tells me who He is. Isaiah 43:21, “the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise”. I was not created for myself, but for Him. I was created to experience God in the infinite ways that He chooses to show me His face…so I can celebrate Him. I was created to watch God show off and just remain in awe over Him. This might hurt the pride of some; it used to put me off a bit. I have very little to do with this scenario, and I have thought very highly of me. So, here is the shocker, God acts independently of me. God is who He is independently of us, “I, I am He”, not “I, I am who you want me to be”.

This is why the continuum fails. God will not conform to my scale (thank you Jesus). He just will not let me call myself ok, when I am emotionally drowning or when I am doing “the brain-roll” at home. That is not ok. It is not about me…and I am not praising Him by doing what I want and emotionally stealing what I want from everyone around me, just to make me feel better about myself.

So how do we get there? We go boldly to the throne of grace where we lay down all of us and let Him make us into something new, even if we have to use the minions of heaven to get there. We let him make us into something new that reflects His purpose for us. He can break the shackles of worry and shame, so that we can raise our hands to praise Him, the One who is present. AND, as if reiterating this amazing act, he says in a whisper to my heart. And I will not remember your sins.

Thank you, Jesus, for making us new and desiring only that we praise you, enjoy you, delight in all of who you are. Thank you for making us for you. Whisper your freedom from sin to my heart today.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Brain-Roll

Ephesians, 6:5-8, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; 6 not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, 8 knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free.”

I was looking at this verse thinking, “Oh, poor slaves…called on to serve their little hearts out while in bondage”. Then I kept reading as Paul threw in the “we” language. He was speaking specifically to slaves, but he was including them in a larger discussion without social distinction. These verses are filled with the expectations of all believers. WE, all of us, slaves and free, are meant to live our lives of service with singleness of heart. Singleness of heart…as in no duplicity. For those of us who are still wondering, it is the mental eye-roll…I call it the “brain-roll”. It is much easier to do in public than the normal eye-roll, less conspicuous when you are in the middle of a conversation. No one might see it, but it is very much alive inside of us.

The double heart serves the church and home, perhaps even workplace, continually exhausted and at the end of their wits; always wondering how the next day will be possible. You know the type, the person who stands in front of you at work or church, constantly complaining about what they have to do, and how there is never enough time, as if their list is cosmically more important than anyone else’s in the course of history. They are usually the ones from whom we are backing away slowly, and waiting for a breath so that we can run to the bathroom…anywhere just to be out of their toxic reach. Toxicity doesn’t have to be that obvious, though. There are many of us who smile to the many faces we encounter and feel like we are dying inside, as people pour their hearts out to us. We have nothing left to give them.

I have been that person. I have flown by the seat of my pants in ministry. I have been toxic and duplicitous. I wondered why I always felt so lonely at those times. The truth is I did not even want to be alone with me. There was no peace. I scheduled a ton of activities (assumption that more activities = more Jesus, because I gave Him more opportunities to show up) and little by little the activities, and I, were less effective…and I was exhausted. Even now, after church sometimes I will get in the car and start to “talk”, but really I am “venting”. My husband is saintly in these moments but I know that he can’t help doing a brain-roll at his ridiculous wife.

The clincher, Paul does not stop at singleness of heart…the expectation is enthusiasm. That is right, the word of God says, “with enthusiasm”. What does that mean? It means that if we abide in Christ, He will give us singleness of heart and enthusiasm. Isn’t that the whipped cream and cherry on top of our sundae? Let’s make that a barrel of fudge? You and I both know that in this life, on this earth, we battle the forces that want to rob of us of an enthusiastic spiritual life every day. Christ wants this for us. Enthusiasm. Let me tell you why I, naively is what you are thinking, write that this is possible…because I believe that His word is true, I believe that it is relevant to me every day. Paul also says that whatever good we do, we will receive the same AGAIN, from the Lord. Whatever true, authentic experience that I have in this world, with the enthusiasm that he grants me to do his work, will be replenished so that I can just keep doing his work with singleness of heart and enthusiasm. I can be His hands and feet because He will give me that ability. The trick: stop trying to do it myself.

Lord, make us your hands and feet with singleness of heart and enthusiasm. We desire this relationship with you and the world. Remove toxicity and duplicity from our hearts and send your Spirit to recreate us.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Philippians 1:12-14, “ I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.”

Just four days short of eight months ago, I had back surgery. Just 2000 years ago, Paul was imprisoned. Both prisons were humiliating, painful, cruel and surprising. During my imprisonment, there were moments when I swear that I felt the breath of the devil as he waited for the faithful to retreat, for me to give up.

I am sure that Paul knows what I am talking about, and I am sure that you know what I am talking about…he waits for the faithful to retreat. I could no longer walk by the end of June. I had never imagined that the body could cause itself that kind of pain. I was a traitor to myself, and yet, somehow I just kept repeating, “He will use this for His glory”. Somehow…praise God. We did not retreat, Paul and I; God needed us elsewhere. God needs you elsewhere.

Prison, what does that mean to you? You might experience a physical prison, like Paul or I. The thing about prisons is that they are usually really obvious, small, stinky. They hold you back and keep you from experiencing freedom. You can probably tell me what your prison is right now; it could be a broken relationship or an emotional state that you can’t shake.

Prison can, also, be sin in our life. 2 Timothy 2:26 says, “and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will”. When Paul puts it like that, sin reflects the sun a lot differently. It blinds us with the message that you are not in control of these sinful prisons of your life, in fact you are little more than a captive…a prisoner.

The attractive part of sin is that it seems we have it under control, like we are somehow the warden of our sin. Let’s not kid ourselves, are you really in charge of it? If you are willing to be honest with yourself, then let’s take it one step further…to be a captive to sin makes us laborers on behalf of the devil (I just lost the popularity contest). What sins are holding us captive?...unforgiveness, lack of confession, refusing to be obedient, pride, worshiping ourselves and demanding what we want from the relationships in our life, regardless of the carnage that it leaves behind. Take your pick, they are all prisons.

But, according to postmodernism, everything has an upside, so prisons can also release us. Paul was released. I was healed. Relationships can be mended and sin can be forgiven. If I had to write what I feel like, prison-free and eight months later, it would be Paul’s words…modified. “I want you to know, ladies, and the occasional man, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole church/youth group/women’s ministry, and to everyone else that was within ear reach of my loud mouth that my imprisonment was for Christ; and most of us, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.”

It is funny what the prison experience will do to you and those around you. It will make you bold, and I am not afraid. I have nothing to lose; I have been in prison! It is time to free the captives, and lift each other up to escape the snares of this world. Christ desires our release so let's lay down the prisons of our lives and experience freedom.

Lord, release us from the prisons that we see and those we don’t see. Give us boldness to speak your word. Let us live a life of freedom in your son, Jesus Christ.

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