Friday, August 31, 2012

Underneath the red lights

Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues! Acts 2:8-11

Indeed, Jesus loves the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

LORD make my heart tender as Your heart is tender.  May I not rush through the airports, down the sidewallks and through the traffic today.  Help me to notice, this little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.

Even in Las Vegas, where what happens here, stays here.  

With careful enunciation

And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. Acts 2:17-21, Joel 2:28-32

I remember this guy from last year, when I did the long 110 degree drive up  to Phoenix for the Spiritual Emphasis Conference.  I know he says that he is thirty-four and has four kids, but he looks twenty to me. Or fourteen.  He wears the weight of humility well.

And a fire burns in his belly.  A passion for people to step into relationship with His Jesus.  Not because it is easy and nice and the thing to do, but because it is hard and strong and courageous to stand against the tide of mediocrity and emptiness.  

He led three hundred and fifty people to the LORD when he was still in high school.  His baseball coach.  His basketball coach.  The captain of the football team.  The head cheerleader.  The guy sitting by himself in the cafeteria.  Every morning he was would gather with three or four of his weird friends on the steps of their little church in Georgia and pray name by name for people he knew that were stumbling along in lostness, trying to live their lives with sideways glances at the world around them, trying to make some sort of happiness out of it all.  

I am not entirely sure what it means to prophesy, but I imagine that it has something to do with speaking the heart of God with a loud clear voice because He is true and He has a heart for each and every of His lost sheep, to lead each and every one of them beside cool water and to green pastures.  

And I am tired of mumbling and not finishing my sentences.  Time is short.  

How long? How long must we sing this song?

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:6-7

Like the rest of the disciples, I would really like to know the times and seasons.  For example, “What in the heck is going on, Jesus?”  Why is this happening?  How does it fit into the big picture? And of course, most of all, “When, dear LORD, when?”

But it is not for me to know.  But He has said what is for me in the unrolling drama.  To live in the promised power of the Spirit.  To be attune to His voice and to His movement.  Whatever that looks like.  And to be a witness.  Here. There.  Everywhere.  Day in and day out.  That is my job.  A witness of what I have seen.

Not so much the tales of yesteryear, the Reader’s Digest version of oh so many years ago and so far away.  But my experience of God come among man.  What have I lived worked out in my life.  Not the theoretical.  Thus it behooves me to consider.  To notice.  To articulate.  And to be a witness.  Without nervous flickers or apologies.  In my own words.  Swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

The wood pile is stacked way high, almost ready to tumble

Holy Spirit, this week You have spoken to me about Your holiness, Your compassion, Your justice, Your omniscience over the earth. Which one of these would you have me think about today?

If you clamor up on top of the parking garage at Fourth Street, to the fifth floor, you can see pretty much all of Tucson.  Randy Reynolds does it every week, arriving breathlessly to be reminded about the omniscience of God, over all the earth, even Tucson.

The Native American community tucked in around the original site of Schuk-shon, meaning the place at the foot of the Black Mountain, the now bustling with delightful innovation downtown, the Bohemian happy sad of Fourth Avenue, the freeway stretching long and connecting in all directions, the gleaming and somewhat smug foothills, the block upon block of mid-century single-family homes struggling to keep up with the Jones, the schools with brand-new principals and fresh-from-professional development teachers determined to make a difference, the sprawling full of backpacked saggy shorts and short skirts ying yang, the spit and polish base with mothballed millions rolled out and waiting, past the brimming-to-the-corner jails and prisons full of souls waiting to be set free to the barrios tumbling down on the other side of 22nd Street.  

You are there.

I am there, ceaselessly, day in and day out through my Church.  Through the steepled crosses poking upward as a reminder of our long expected Jesus born to set Your people free, from our fears and from our sins release us.  Through the hopeful young pastor digging up the gas line in a shabby old house as he prepares to follow My call away from the cozy Starbucks at Sunrise and Campbell to drunks peeing in his front yard.  Through the grey-haired men and women hunched in folding metal chairs in the downstairs basement of Trinity Pres, filling out food stamp requests, paying overdue bills so the water will be reconnected, and setting up appointments at the Veterans' hospital yet again.  Through the stately Methodist church whose coffee and doughnut breaks between services sometimes slide into political wheeling and dealing as the powers-that-be temper their finesse with My heart, For the clump of twenty-somethings gathering from over all the city to meet Sunday nights to worship and pray as they prepare an assault on the sex trade of Tucson just in time for the Gem and Mineral Show.  Through the tiny-on-every-street-corner Hispanic churches filled with Sunday morning hopes and week day realities.  And yes, through the Vineyard, bursting with new growth seeking My face, with the old guard still showing up just after dawn to wander through familiar streets where memories haunt each alley and side street and pray for My Spirit to come down in power and majesty.

Yes, I am on the move, a fresh move, because where My people are, I AM in their midst, be it two or three gathered together.  

And don’t you forget it.  And don’t you murmur against my people. What is it to you?  Let Me be the judge.  And you, you can chop wood.

Come Thou long expected Jesus, born to set Your people free, from our fears and sins release us.  Let us find our rest in Thee.  

Dear desire of every nation.  Joy of every longing heart.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lest I stumble

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10

Where were You in the midst of this week?

Besides in the billowing sunrises, I mean.

So seldom do I know the rest of the story.  I am locked into my one small jigsaw puzzle piece of a cell, looking out through the bars. 

How can I smash through the prison cell? That keeps me from the wide-open spaces of Your Spirit?  

My child, my heart is grieved as you throw yourself against the walls, again and again, broken and bruised.  The key is in door, waiting to be turned.  

The key?  Where, where?  I don’t see it.

The key is love.  Of course, it’s the Sunday School answer.  But perfect love casts out fear.  This is what is True.  Even the small child knows this.  Especially the small child, taking the big leap into my arms with joy and excitement and no hesitation.  

My love is the key.  not you loving other people.  working a little harder, faster and better.  but accepting my unconditional love.  You are afraid of My love. it is so big, so sweeping, so crashing down every barrier of reason and logic and history.  And fear.  

Are you willing?

To the depths? To plunge yourself into its icy refreshment?   I am not safe.  but I am good.  I am.

Where can I flee?  Or cower in the moldy corner?  You are in the depths.  On the far side of the sea.  Holding out your right hand.  

And perhaps, in the same fogged and faltering understanding of my father reaching out his hand to me to guide him across the chipped red painted stepping stones which lead to the unlocked door, I reach out my hand to you.  The grip is strong and true.  Holding fast.

Full of sound and fury

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him! Isaiah 30:18

He is the one Who Longs to Act, to be the force in my life.  He wants to be my burden-bearer.  He wants it done right.  Not some mealy-mouth justice where I try to straighten things out on my own, normally ending in some garbled, trailing-off conversation, where things are only stirred up but not resolved, and I end up apologizing yet again.  

But that involves waiting.  

For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken. In God is my safety and my honor; God is my strong rock and my refuge. Psalm 62:6-8

In Him is my honor.  I do not need to defend myself.  I can stand on His faithfulness.  Mouth shut.  Waiting in hope.  

Because life without hope cannot be lived.  Uncle Ted lost hope.  He was at the end of his resources.  He was about to lose control.  Therefore the only logical option was to very deliberately and very carefully and very neatly put a gun to his head.  
I sift through the injustices that I have suffered throughout my long and sometimes weary life, until something catches my eye.  I pause, and kneel down to examine it more intently.  Most of them have already blown away in the winds of time.  Very truly the material injustices, the walking an extra mile, the stolen cloak, all of finitely measurable wrongs have been more than measured back, heaping and overflowing into my lap.  That I can quantify.  The promise has held true. In fact, the heaps are now piled high in every corner and I can scarce move without tripping over them.  Yet there are few left, sticky, tar-like clumps of injustice.  These are the questions of honor.  Mud cast upon my name.  My character.  Lies told and as yet unanswered.  As I bring one up close, ready to lift it up high and shake it in His face, I hear something.  


 I join with David, my favorite man who was willing to take it the LORD: “Hide not Your face from Your servant; be swift and answer me.”  Psalm 96:1

Wait.  I am at work to bring all peoples to my name.  And I have all the time in the world.  In my hand.  

Mouth shut.  Waiting in hope.  Hope in a God of justice.  A God of compassion who longs to be gracious to me.  And to each and every one.  All peoples.  In His time.  

It’s all about the peoples.  For them, I can wait.

Because without hope, life’s but a walking shadow.  

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow 
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day 
To the last syllable of recorded time; 
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools 
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage 
And then is heard no more. It is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing.

A little Macbeth brought to me by Gio’s AP English teacher.  The Bard knows what’s what.

But I have the heaps, poured into my lap as quantifiable down payment.  
Number 291 so far.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

She picked him up and rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. Psalm 116:5

Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things. --Thomas Merton

Middle English, from Anglo-French or Late Latin; Anglo-French, from Late Latin compassion-, compassio, fromcompati to sympathize, from Latin com- + pati to bear, suffer

Hm.  Even the word “passion” comes from the root to bear, to suffer.  Hence the Passion of Christ.  Rather than my mistaken understanding of maybe something like “to feel.”  And thinking that com + passion = with feeling, to share feelings with someone.  And I was wrong, once again.  

So Merriam Webster, the official ACSI dictionary, defines “compassion” as sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.   God is not only aware of my distress, He longs to pour His oil of healing over and around and through it.   And the “righteous” part of His character has something to do with it as well. Being rightly aligned with what is True and holy alleviates the distress.  

And I am His child.  As a mother I am so very aware of this compassion thing that is woven into my heart.  Softly she sings to him: 
I'll love you forever 
I'll like you for always 
As long as I'm living 
My baby you'll be.

And it never goes away.  And it does not diminish. No matter how strong and big and grown-up and gone away the children of my heart have become.  

And may I live in this awareness today.  Of the woven togetherness of living together in His grace, in His righteousness.  And in the depths of His compassion.  That never goes away.  

Softly He sings to me: 
I'll love you forever 
I'll like you for always 
As long as I'm living 
My baby you'll be.

A slightly offkey song drifting through my day

Above Him were seraphs, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.”  Isaiah 6:2-3

The world is full of My glory.  You have eyes, but so often you do not see.  Take time to notice My glory and love and power. You are caught up so often in what does not matter- what moth destroys and rust corrupts and what will be burned up in the purging fire of My judgement.  Do not fill Your heart and mind with that which is not Me.  

I confess that so often I step into the center.  I push You off of the Campus Crusade throne of my heart, which leads to disorder and skewed priorities.  You are a God of order.  Of sufficiency.  With a plan.  You provide enough for each day.  Time.  Energy.  Resources.  It is only when I elbow my way into control that chaos ensues. 

It is a matter of practicing My presence.  Moment by moment.  Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in Me with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Me, and I will make straight your paths.

Holy Spirit, fill me with trust: trust that Your holiness covers my sin, trust that Your holiness is above and through all and in all.  I confess my headstrong pride.  Gently pull me back into Your presence and into Your peace when I begin to dash off onto my own paths.  Again and again.  Thank you for Your steadfast love that never ceases, Your mercies never that come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness

Sometimes cramming a pillow over your head doesn't really help

Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  John 20:8

Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.” John 20:21

Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  John 20:26

Peace be with me.  His presence brings peace.  Even if the doors are locked because I am afraid.  

The pounding and the clamoring for my attention. So many needs to sort through and tangled emotions out there, hollering, “Is anyone home?”  Long hours talking to some nice person with sort of a British accent in the Philippines about the internet that stopped working and then the cable people who are coming between ten and twelve on Wednesday and a six hundred dollar water bill to protest and those weird charges on the credit card and plane tickets to buy while asking  for a bereavement discount and that brake pad light coming on even though I got new brakes last year and I have to go water the cat lady plants after I run up to Fry’s and get more milk and bananas and finish that letter of recommendation for the travel abroad program for an old student; even the pause and really listen to the nice man whose entire life was just dumped upside down and jumped on who is standing on my front doorstep while Pippen growls his disapproval is one more thing to do.  

And if I creep into the little closet of my soul, He is here.  

Peace be with You.  Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Dear LORD Jesus I ask you for presence.  For awareness of You in my life, standing in the midst of me and mine.  

And may I see you and be glad.


The dark will end the dark, if anything

When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed his head and gave up His spirit.  John 19:29

Yesterday afternoon I tapped on Nicole’s door.  “Just a minute, just a minute,” tap tap tap.  “Come in.”

It is finished.  The book Nicole has hauled around the world and back again in her very cracked and duct-taped with twirly designs painted on with glitter marker MacBook is finished.  

Jesus Christ, in His last heaving words on the cross before he gives up His spirit cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

It’s a cry of pain, and suffering, but it’s also a victory cry of dominion restored.  He is referencing Psalm 22, that starts out with that question of desperation, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In this moment of vulnerability He references the Psalm that foretold His death a thousand years before and described the scene before Him --from the moment of Gethsemane, to the dividing of his clothes.  This verse of the prophet captures the restless night before of “my groaning--O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.” He is surrounded by his enemies who are religious, “All who see me mock at me; they make mouths at me, they shake their heads: Commit your cause to the Lord; let Him deliver—let Him rescue the one in whom he delights!” as well as sinners, “For dogs are all around me; a company of evildoers encircles me. My hands and feet have shriveled...they divide my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots. (v. 8-18)

The question Christ asks is one of tremendous pain, but as He calls out, “Why?” He is in fact calling out the answer to those who have ears.  “All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!  For He did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him...The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.” (v. 23-27) The Psalmist cries out humanity’s question, and foretells God’s answer in Christ. 

What appears as this triumph of pain on the cross is the breaking in of the Kingdom. It’s the answer to humanity’s suffering, its horror of abandonment, and its need for redemption. Christ is the mediator--fully human, fully God.  He entered into our suffering fully a man who has been undeservingly betrayed, abandoned, and condemned. He cries out as a son of Adam, “Why have you abandoned me.”  It’s the cry from a son to a Father, and yet as God, he is the answer to that question.  God has fully united himself to us on the cross.   Identifying himself to us, becoming a living sacrifice of love in the very moment of greatest shame, persecution, betrayal, and shame.  Isaiah 53:5 says, But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.”

That exchange is the realm of the kingdom that I have seen break in again and again, from the look on the face of the heroin addict in my eight-year-old bedroom, to this gangster before me.  There is a reality of the kingdom that is stronger and truer than the worst that this world can do.  Christ’s cry is from a son to a father, and as God He triumphs as the answer to humanity cry for all time.  We are not abandoned.

From his moment of suffering, Christ pointed to you and me.  The answer he gave us through his “Why” was for you, for me, for my friend Johnny, to this condemned gang slayer who was raised by the fists and curses of his father.  Christ suffered so that in our suffering–in our sin–in our darkness–God does not hide His face from us.  His “Why” is that the poor will eat and be satisfied, and all who seek Him will find Him. His “Why” is that the “ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before Him.”  

Dominion Restored
Everything that was handed over to Satan in the garden has been restored. As the answer to the Psalmist’s “Why” concludes, “For dominion belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations.  To Him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before Him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim His deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that He has done it. (v. 28-31) Christ fully and perfectly suffered the injustice of all that was wrong in the world, but in this single cry utters both the agony and glory of the finishing-line words, “I have done it.”  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shall I crucify your King?

Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”  John 18:38

Well, I know one thing—we are up to our nostrils in non-truth.  Standing on tip toe.  And while studies show that we only listen to that stuff that supports what we already believe, deep down, surely I can recognize the cow manure piling up in big stenching heaps on every street corner.  

But recognizing it and not stepping in it are two different things.  And I wander about with stuff stuck to my shoes, every footstep tainted.

Pilate knew what was true, and he weakly flailed a protest.    
“I find no guilt in him.” John 18:38
“I find no guilt in him.” John 19:4
“I find no guilt in him.” John 19:6

But when it got right down to the moment of decision, of action, he gave into the crowds, the immediate, the expedient.  

It’s all about being a friend of Caesar.  

On so many fronts I find myself ducking the truth just to make nice, to get along, to get where I want to go, quietly and with my head down.

Dear LORD may I speak truth today, not quietly murmuring it under my breath, but boldly and with good cheer because my eyes are on you and not the restless crowds.  On Monday evening God was saying to those who were listening: What is it to you?  Lucy rising in the dark night because Aslan was calling.  

That You may be glorified. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

That sword dangling over my head takes all the fun out of it

So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”  John 18:11

Besides the noticing that John left out part of the story, the part where, somehow the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak, and he couldn’t stay awake to comfort his friend, he did detail Peter’s activities this evening.  

Besides that I mean.  At some point, I just have to set aside the me asking questioning wrestling grieving and step into the Plan.  

I guess this is something that God brings me back to time and time again.  Just today, as I was mulling over this verse in my back and forth in swimming, somebody said something snitty about the chlorine level, and the guy in the next line caught my eye and said, “Quitcherbellyachin’.”  

Brice was in a writing class with me.  Ten years ago.  He remembered something I wrote then, and sad, but true, things haven’t changed much.  Such is the nature of man.  God keeps whispering, “Trust Me.” 

Prompt: Bellyache
June 19, 2003

Backpacking up steep gravely switchbacks was kinda my dad’s idea of family togetherness and fun.  “Quitcher bellyachin’, it’s only another seven miles to the saddle.”

I know that we are in a tidal wave of self-expression, and getting in touch with our feelings and emoting, but the older and hmmmmmmm if not wiser, more free with my advise I am, I have settled into my British-stiff-upper-lip-
taking-jaunts-in-weather-suitable-for-mad-dogs-and-Englishmen motif.

In camp candlelight moments of clear contemplation, these are the lives we honor- not the bitchin’, whining, and fussy about being comfortable that so mark our talk shows and instant messaging.  Even these superficially trite melodies-to-write-by pay homage to sinking ships and packing out over the Alps.

This month as I tackle family oral traditions and try to wrestle them into words over and over again, I encounter the still peace and taut jaw of pushing through the crashing hurricanes, torrential floods, bug-swarmed nights and even the most heart -wringing calamity of all- helplessly crouching by a child whose life is seeping away like a low tide.

I am not some sheltered ninny- I have lived those moments common to man: long-term debilitating and bone-crushingly painful illnesses, losing my home to a rifle-wielding friend, starting completely over again ten years ago with a suitcase of clothes and a few boxes of books and once crumpling by a mattress on the floor, bathing my three-year-old daughter gripped by a malaria fever that carried her into frantic, delusional tremors.  Kneeling, cradling this fiery body I stepped into the eye of the storm where grace reigns.  

It is not fatalism because fatalism is hopeless and dark and incapacitating.  When the world spins crazily out of control is when we can come face to face with our Creator.  Even now, the Aspen Fire rages less than half a mile from my mountain home of twenty years- if the wind shifts this afternoon, it will be the first to go.

Lean into the pain; welcome each wrenching spasm of childbirth because a soul is being born.  Pour out mercy with the same measure with which we hope to be met.  Rage only destroys our own personal forest, leaving charred stump scars while the perpetuator walks away scot-free.

Attitude is everything.  It's not foolish Pollyanna wishfulness that looks for the silver-lining- it a realism that understands the rhythm of death and renewal.  Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies it does not produce fruit.  Flex your knees as we take the turn.

We live in a world of shriveled, tasteless produce (an exception of course being Brice’s watermelon) nurtured only from air-conditioned tractors with surround-sound stereos.  The community stories we now share are gleaming Matrix tales- crafted far away from reality as stale formulas designed to foist sleek cars and low-slung jeans on a docile public viewing audience.

“Quitcher bellyachin’; it’s only seven more miles to the saddle.”  And if we stop our self-absorbed sniveling about a growing blister and lift our eyes up to the granite cliffs rising up from the eons, the perspective will make us gasp with wonder.

Asking in My name

“Jesus looked toward heaven and prayed,"Father, the time has come. Give glory to your Son so that the Son can give glory to you.” John 17:1

“Having finished the work you gave me to do, I brought you glory on earth.”  John 17:4

“I have given these people the glory that You gave me so that they can be one, just as You and I are one. I will be in them and You will be in me so that they will be completely one. Then the world will know that You sent me and that You loved them just as much as You loved me.”  John 17:22-23

That He may be glorified.

So a few days back, I asked what does it mean to ask for something in the name of Jesus.  And this is what Jesus was all about.  The point of Him and everything that He did and said and thought.  That the Father may be glorified.

Glorifying the Father is truth-telling.  It is not about some huge mega-ego trip.  It is declaring what is.

It is peeling away all the brokenness and confusion and declaring, “Hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

And it is living in the truth that He loves me.  And this is how we pray.  Ask that you may receive, that your joy may be full.

And as I wander through my prayer list, I can whisper after each name, “May He be glorified.”

And through my day, as I weigh decisions, or, not-so-weigh decisions, and react. May He be glorified.

And the pause before I blurt out yet one more thing. May He be glorified.

His glory is my joy.

In Jesus’ name, may He be glorified.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Even if I missed the meteorite shower last night

Sing to the LORD, a new song, for He has done marvelous things. Psalm 98:1

Every single day is new.

He wills and works His good purpose and He is trustworthy.  And even if the conversation feels tired and caught in an ugly loop, He makes old things new.  

This is His promise and His comfort.  

Show us the light of your countenance, O God, and come to us. Psalm 65:1

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

May my peace be in Him.  He has (past tense) overcome the world and all of its glittery bleakness.  As well as all of its shimmering sweetness and beauty.  He reigns over all.  

Come LORD Jesus, come.  

Ah, the snarling dogs

The ungodly go to and fro in the evening; they snarl like dogs and run about the city. They forage for food, and if they are not filled, they howl. For my part, I will sing of Your strength; I will celebrate Your love in the morning; For You have become my stronghold, a refuge in my day of trouble. To you, O my Strength, will I sing; for You, O God, are my stronghold and my merciful God. Psalm 59:16–20

231.  For an absolutely lovely glass vase with silver splatters from Venice.
232.  For the promise of a weekend
233.  For my three wonderful amazing daughters who do so much all the time to live their love
234.  For foam on top of the coffee
235.  For pink fluffy sunrise clouds billowing
236.  For Burt’s Bees hand salve and a little hand-stitched bag of French lavender  
237.  For the orange cat looking for just a little love
238.  That it is so easy to take care of Grandpa and let mom REST
239.  For a nice clean car that zip up right up River Road
240.  For springs of refreshment on the pilgrim’s way
241.  For that goofy windspinner made by the Americorp kids that sparkles light in the breeze

Friday, August 10, 2012

Please write this one word on my heart

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

This is Nicole’s word.  It dances across her room.  Bursts out from page after page of her journals.  It’s even the password on her college debt.  A reminder of what is true.  One word that sums up the Law and the Prophets to their very essence.  

Apart from Me, you can do nothing.  

So please don’t even try.  It’s quite ugly, and more often than not, does more harm than good.  

I simply cannot produce apart from Him.  Therefore.  Abide.

Out front with the broken drawers and splintered particle board

If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  John 15:6

It is Brush and Bulky trash pickup next week, so the heaps are beginning to build in front of the houses along the street. Chopped out prickly pear cactus, armloads of dry grassy weeds and most of all spiny mesquite branches. Personally I can wax eloquently about the honey mesquite with its darkly curving boughs twisting upward echoed by strong roots reaching downward, sucking up every last drop of water. But once it’s chopped, it is only good for the fire.  Well, that’s what I think.  The weeks building up to Brush and Bulky are always a little tense around the Voelkel compound, as different family members define “useless and good for nothing” differently.  The pile out front is smaller than some of us would like after others have sifted through it hopefully.  And the beat goes on.

However, things are perfectly clear here.  If the branch is not connected to the vine, it cannot produce fruit.  And it is useless and good for nothing.  And while discussions can spin around about eternity security and “If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” the big point of the story is the fruit.  The “faith without works is dead,” point.  

Thus, the Spirit reminds me that if the love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, meekness, temperance, faith is lacking, I need to do something about it.  Immediately.  Drop my nets, drop my tax table, drop my serving dishes.  


Like the Israelites before me, I am a stiff-necked people.  And like Moses, I ask, “If your Presence does not go with me, do not send me up from here.” 

And the LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”


If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:7-11

And joy.  Joy is the point of abiding.  In full.  

Beyond a mumbled grace

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1

So I was pretty much soaring off the crabby charts.  Writing irate but of course fully justified letters to well-intentioned but misguided souls before the sun had started leaking through the many cracks in our front door.  

And in the midst of my three-point outlines with lots of supporting evidence and more than a few finely-honed words, God whacked me upside the head.  And brought to mind and heart a wondering question from Nicole, just wondering.  

So I went back to 1000 Gifts: Dare to live fully right where you are by Anne Voskamp and the story of the ten lepers and the one, the heathen, who returned to give thanks.  And it was this act of faith, this kneeling in gratitude, which made him whole.  Whole beyond the you-are-clean-and-have-the-priest-check-it-out whole, but soza whole.  

The Greek word soza is beyond whole.  It means saved, saved from who we are, from all of our bleak brokenness, into true wellness, complete wellness.  To live soza is to live the full life, the abundant life promised by Jesus, for which He came.  

We only live the full life if our faith gives thanks.  Thanksgiving is the evidence our our acceptance of what He gives.

If the church is in Christ, its initial act is always an act of thanksgiving, of returning the world to God.

He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.  Psalm 50:33

The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God—even for the bread and cup of cost, cancer and crucifixion—this prepares the way for God to show us Hs fullest salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and all sin that estranges us from Him.  At the Eucharist, Christ breaks his heart to heal ours—Christ, the complete accomplishment of our salvation, and the miracle of eucharisteo never ends. Thanksgiving is what precedes the miracle of that salvation being worked out in our lives. 

Because I wasn’t taking everything in my life and falling at His feet and thanking Him.  I sit still, blinded.  Sitting all those years in church but my soul holes had never fully healed.  

Eucharisteo, the Greek word with the hard meaning and the harder meaning to live—this is the only way from empty to full.

I may even have known that change requires more than merely thinking warm and fuzzy thoughts about a door and a way through and that Greek word, eucharisteo, holding the mystery to the full life and the ever after.  

How in the world, for the sake of my joy, do I learn to use eucharisteo to overcome my ugly and self-destructive habit of ingratitude (that causes both my cosmic and daily fall) with the saving habit of gratitude—that would lead me back to deep God-communion?

And Jesus took the bread gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them.  

Naming is Edenic.

I name gifts and I go back to the Garden and God in the beginning and who first speaks a name and lets what is come into existence.  This naming is how the emptiness of space fills: the naming of light and land and sea.  And the first man’s first task is to name.  Adam completes creation with his Maker through the act of naming creatures, releasing land from chaos, from the teeming, indefinable mass. 

All I can see, think is that the whim of writing one thousand gratitudes, the naming of the moments, is a holy work.  

In naming what is right before me, that which I’d otherwise miss, the invisible becomes visible.

The name that spans my inner emptiness fill in the naming.

I name.  I know the face I face.

God’s.  God is in the details.  God in is the moment.  God is in all that blurs by in a life.  God.

It’s so frustratingly common—it’s offensive.

Driving nails into a life always is.

Paul said twice that he had to learn it—learn to be content and thankful.  And learning requires practice—sometimes even mind-numbing practice.  C. S. Lewis said it too, to a man looking for fullest life: “If you think of this world as place intended for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: but if you think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.”

Practice until it becomes second nature, the first skin.  Practice is the training, and training is the essence of transformation.  Practice, practice, practice.  Hammer, hammer, hammer.

I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I’ve seen the hungry and guns that go to war.  I have lived pain, and my life can tell, I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for the early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights and the rives that run and the stars that rise and the rain that falls and the good things that a good God gives. When we let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows.

This dare to write down a thousand things I love is really a dare to name all of the ways that He loves me.  To move into His presence and listen to His love unending and know the grace uncontainable.  This is the value of the miracles.  The only thing that can change us, the world, is this—all His love. 

I am on number 200.  

Beyond a mumbled grace.  Naming His love, one moment after one moment.  Naming gives power and truth.  

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.  Daniel 6:10-11

And all of Daniel’s wisdom and influence and true living.  Where did it come from?  Just wondering.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.  J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday, August 6, 2012

Floating in the great pool of His peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:26

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Colossians 3:15


To let the peace of Christ rule.  Rip out all the busy fretful thoughts as so many weeds popping up in monsoon season.  Rip them lest they take root and choke out the fruit which springs forth from a life filled with His Spirit.  The love.  The joy.  The peace.

And be thankful.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Curling up with my bowl of beans

Let not your hearts be troubled.  John 14:1

And next to him was Shammah, the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the men fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines, and the Lord worked a great victory.  2 Samuel 23:11-12

Take a stand.  And the LORD will do His work.  

We probably looked more than a little out of place, but everyone pretended not to notice the old people, me and my parents, in the Elevate Youth Church at Victory last night.  And it was okay if my dad fell asleep sometimes during the service no matter how loudly the drummer pounded, how high the kids jumped, and how brightly the swirling lights reflected in a million sparks.  Because everyone was wholeheartedly focused on one thing, worshipping the Glorious One.  

And I wish I could remember more of the message about mighty men of valor.  And being more than a conquerer and the great illustration of receiving the bounty from the hand of the conquerer, who does the actual fighting.  And surrendering to His dream.  

But I do remember that my calling is to take a stand in the field.  And He will do His work.  

And I need to own this field.  Even if it is just a bunch of lentil bushes.  And if I don’t own it in the depths of my heart, ask Him to fill me with love and passion to where He has placed me in this moment.  In the midst of it all, to stand firm.  

And once again the weight was lifted.  And once again, yet once again, I hear His voice: ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's not the gold standard

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34

At first, I wonder, “What is so new about this?  Haven’t we been commanded to love before?  Isn’t that the Golden Rule?”

But no this isn’t the Golden Rule— to love others as ourselves, this is a much higher standard.  Our love for ourselves is fraught with misconceptions, instability and double-mindedness, and is often includes bulwarks against past hurts. Big ugly cement walls.  And that is pretty much how we do love our neighbor.  Inconsistently and with lots of foolishness tossed in.

But this new commandment is radically different.  Not to love our neighbor as myself, but to love him exactly in the same way as Christ has loved me, kneeling at my feet in tender service with no reservation or position, in all wisdom and grace and mercy.  THAT is how I am to love my neighbor. 

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Not my feet only but also my hands and my head

"Never, while the world lasts," said Peter, "shall you wash my feet." 
"If I do not wash you," replied Jesus, "you have no share with me."  John 13:8

Nicole has been dragging a book behind her all around the world, spending an entire year looking at life through the lens of Listening.  Now it has not always been fun to have this task ever-present haunting the to do list, although it has been a sweet gift to be able to pay for all of those foreign vistas, looking down on swirling clouds and glimmering ancient towers.  

And things are bubbling up to a crescendo.  Sifting and sorting and swelling.  And yesterday this word was spoken: 
God’s message to His people through His prophets, His priests, His kings, and finally though Jesus Christ, has been that of a lover: “Come, my beloved, and be my Bride.”  The Bible is the longest going love-story that has ever been written, and is being written today on the hearts of humanity. The groom has given everything for His love, and is on bended knee, asking, “Will you come and make one life with me?”  We don’t truly understand, or we would never see “works” as an appropriate response. Works tremble and shudder, and hoarsely whisper back, “I washed the dishes. I folded the laundry. I walked the dog. Am I good enough yet? Will you accept me if I clean up the rest of the house?”  Servile fear has never even heard the words of love that were spoken from the heart of tenderness and bloodshed. It’s a response that crushes her lover, as He longs for her to recognize the freedom and value He has crowned her with through His ardor.
Can I accept His love? Offered on bended knee?  

When someone is washing my feet, I really can’t do much.  I certainly can’t dash off here or there or interrupt and help out a bit.  I just sit there.  Withs all unmerited humility.  

Freely given with no dangling strings to bind me and trip me up.  Over and over this week that has been the message: I love you.  And that is enough.  To walk in the way of love.  

And all of that stuff and bother that Paul lists out in Ephesians is a description of oh-by-the-way-this-is-what-love-looks-like, being light in the LORD, cleansed in His love.  

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-18