Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good Friday indeed

And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him,“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42-43

So last night there was a combined service at the Vineyard with Epicenter. And first of all we were served the most simple of baked potatoes piled high with the most amazing of flavors– crispy chorizo, simmered mushrooms and avocado hearts, curried vegetables, chunks of bacon, Greek yogurt– the choice was ours.  The gathered community of individuals united by His love. Our quite extended family stretched out on the Dondé está Spot quilt as the sifting rosy gold sunset roiled overhead, amongst the olive trees.

We entered as directed in silence to the front pew section, into a reflection of both the horror and beauty of that terrible night, the fulcrum of justice and grace. The music swirled into a giant tidal wave that bathed my soul in its depth and power.  

And once again we were reminded of Him in whose steps we follow.  Even in the midst of physical torture in which each sucking breath burned, even in the midst of emotional heartbreak–the turning of the back by the beloved Father, even in the midst of spiritual destruction as the full brunt of sin and justice fell upon His shoulders, He noticed.  And paused.  And saw.  In love. 

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. I am not bound by my humanity with all of it broken limitations.   May Christ live in me.  With love and mercy, proffered in His amazing grace.  How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wipe the sleep out of my eyes


And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer Him. Mark 14:40

Cameron sings a song about our God of second chances.  There’s a new book about this God, and the first sentence is this: “The door slammed behind me as I entered the sixth floor of the Duval County jail escorted by guards, hands chained in front of me, and leg shackles making music with every step.”  And of course, there is the Veggie Tales song about Jonah and the Whale and the Green Asparagus Choir ‘s rocking gospel version God of Second Chances.

Little did Peter know that he was laying the groundwork for his restoration when he rather smugly asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, “Seven times?” 

Even now Peter had not relinquished self.  Still dressed in smug remnants, he had said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.”  Smug describes any of us Pharisee types who still pretend that we can pretty much do it, the Law, on our own goodness and smarts.  Sunday’s sermon of a careening snow saucer’s out-of-control wild ride surely described this Thursday night by the blazing bonfire where Peter warmed himself.  Until the second cock’s crow pierced the facade, and he wept bitter tears of understanding.  At last he joined the tax collectors, the Centurion, and the weeping women at the feet of Jesus.  We are not worthy. Maybe he was even remembering His words of caution, But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father.

But Jesus was not done with him yet.  Meeting once again on the other side of the Darkness, He asks, “Peter, do you all-giving-unconditionally-unselfishing-love me?  And Peter answers, “Lord, you know I have friendly-affection for You.”  This was enough for our seven-times-seventy Lord Jesus.  

Peter, feed my sheep.  
Christy, feed my sheep.

It’s not about words.  It’s about fruit.  The fruit of the Holy Spirit let loose in a broken heart.  

In this light, Paul’s letter to the Romans is all about life and peace. 
Now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.

Wipe the sleep out of my eyes.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Total release, Day Two

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him. Mark 14:10-11

During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. John 13:2-4

So perhaps I am the only person who occasionally follows a trail of dark thoughts about people, listing their wrongdoings, mostly toward me, me, me, and preparing a case against them in which I win and they lose, big time. At the very least they have a see-the-light-moment, perhaps because of something clever I say, repent, confess the (many) errors of their ways, and life is happy.

Satan is the accuser.  These are his thoughts.  

I suppose Judas felt entirely justified by thoughts. And subsequent actions based on his thinking. Here the supposed Rabbi mercifully welcomes a sobbing one-of-those-sorts-of-women who is extravagantly, foolishly, selfishly wasteful and out of control.  Nay, He joyfully welcomes her distasteful attentions.  Who is this guy?  Certainly not The Promised One.  He is an embarrassment.  

Jesus is never an accuser.  Never.  He did not come to condemn the world but to save it.  

And I can fuss and storm about writers of Letters to the Editor, or Facebook posts, or drivers who are total texting dopes, or the ex-Tucson mayoral hopeful who plans free shotguns for everyone who lives in high crime areas.  Or maybe even one or two or three of the people who live in the very same house as me.  

But these are not His thoughts.  Really, they are flat out from Satan, and I must be clear-minded and alert. My enemy, the devil, is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  Let it not be me.  

May I echo the words of Jesus: Get away from me, Satan! You are an offense to me, because you are not thinking God's thoughts but human thoughts!

Because love is patient and kind.  Love hardly even notices when others do it wrong. Love does not insist on its own way.  Love is not irritable or rude. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Jesus watched Judas, his beloved friend from three years, push away from the table and head out the door.  In response, He stripped off His robes, wrapped a towel around His waist, and knelt down.  

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

LORD, may I be renewed in the spirit of my mind, to put on the new self, created after the likeness of Jesus in true righteousness and holiness.

I don’t want to be a Judas.  No, no, no.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Take up my cross and follow Me


And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.  Mark 11:12

Just before Jesus enters Jerusalem yet another time, on Tuesday, He and the disciples paused before the now withered fig tree.  Which He uses once again for a teaching moment.  Peter does call him “Rabbi,” after all.  

Jesus ties together the idea of Have faith in God with that of forgiving our brother.  Because really that is the quantifiable measurement of our trust in His love and mercy and forgiveness.  There is nothing between Him and me.  No barriers.  And how easy to release others, when we stand in the sweet spot of His grace.  

This understanding is built on the foundation for His teaching on the greatest commandment that afternoon, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

Once again, He ties together these ideas into one action, this is one commandment, because loving my neighbor is what happens when I love the LORD my God. 

And on Friday, after drying His hands with the towel wrapped around His waist, He will stand up and gives them a new commandment, the deeper understanding of what it looks like to love The LORD God: 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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

In love He lay down His life.  Total release.  Let me go and do the same.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

The yoke of bondage

Palm Sunday
The soul of Jesus is troubled.  And yet, for this purpose He had come: 
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself...And whoever sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. John 12:31-32, 47

And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple (Sunday night). And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if He could find anything on it. When He came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And His disciples heard it.

And they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And He was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

As Jesus’s face is set toward Jerusalem, and the task laid before Him, He tackles one more time those who talk one thing, and yet live another.  Once again, the religious leaders who laid fancy, complicated rules and customs on those who seek God receive the full brunt of his righteous indignation.  

To me it is the root of all sin, this ugly pride that refuses to believe that I cannot do anything to make myself more holy, through my self-control, my orderly disciplines, my basically kindly spirit.  

And that fig tree is a perfect metaphor.  Fresh and green, promising fruit to all who walk by seeking and hungry.  But nothing.  No fruit.  Just useless leaves which look pretty, but really are our righteous deeds: filthy rags.  

To quote Phil Dryscale:
I don’t know about you, but I personally have spent the majority of my Christian life working on my sin. Trying to beat out those unholy addictions, annoying habits or that tendency to mess up. Not only that but I was taught to! I was taught that spiritual maturity was to become “more holy” by sinning less and less as I worked on my sins so I might become “more righteous.”

The problem with this is that I’ve found it to be completely impossible. The definition of holy means that you cannot grow in holiness, you are either holy or you aren’t! Not only that but it’s completely unbiblical too. As Christians we are not called to work on our sins – that was Jesus’ end of the bargain last time I checked! He completely eradicated our sins so we would not have to live under the burden and shame of them as we guiltily tried to clean up our act.

Rather what we have been called to do is to renew our minds to who we are in Christ. According to Romans 12:2 transformation does not come by working on our sins but rather by renewing our minds.

You see before you were saved you had a “sinful nature,” you lived in unbelief of who Christ was and all He had done and found it impossible to walk in righteousness. But Christ has completely changed that and set you free from that sinful self. How? He crucified you and raised you up a new creation!

We are no longer trying to work on our sinful selves because our sinful selves no longer exist! We have been made a new righteous creation!

So instead of trying to clean up an old dead body we are better served by discovering this new righteous self we have been made to be. As we focus on discovering who we are we will start to manifest it in our day-to-day actions. This is what brings transformation!

Spiritual maturity is not working on our sin, it’s discovering our righteousness.

Father, help me grasp who you have made me to be, help me understand that my old sinful self died on that cross with Christ and help me identify with the risen Christ, that I have been given a new identity. Help me embrace the truth that it is no longer I who live but Christ in me.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The die is cast

Jesus therefore, six days before the pasch, came to Bethania, where Lazarus had been dead, whom Jesus raised to life. And they made him a supper there: and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that were at table with him. Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. John 12:1-3

Setting: Jesus has turned His face toward Jerusalem.  Alea iacta est. Just as Caesar declared as he crossed the Rubicon.  No turning back.  Lazurus is here for all to see, breathing and tangible.  There is no doubt Who is in our midst.  He Who is the Resurrection and the Life.  He that believeth in Him, though he were dead, yet shall he live.  

We all know that washing someone’s feet is for the humble servant. And I gotta say I appreciated Pope Francis choosing to wash the feet of drug addicts and prostitutes, to serve the least of these.  While Martha kept herself busy, doing, trundling hither and thither, back and forth, Mary once again chose the better part.  Kneeling before Her Lord.

Wiping His feet with her hair takes it a step further.  A woman’s hair was her glory.  And here Mary offers up her glory in humble service of The Christ.  

May I too lay it all at His feet. And may this gift fill the house with a sweet perfume of grace and joy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Free at Last! Free at Last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, bless His name; shew forth His salvation from day to day. Psalm 96:1-2

On many levels, I think that Nicole and I had a come-to-Jesus moment last night, tucked away on couches with her tattooed-covered and sing-and-dance-with-joy-at-the-top-of-your-lungs church.

H A L L E L U J A H ! Amazing, amazing, grace, for each and every one. let mercy & compassion flow as we rest in perfect love, beloved.  –Nicole’s Facebook

So this skinny Scottish guy with skinny jeans got up and exposited Romans for two and a half hours. And I had to leave early because I had amazing homemade Venetian pizza waiting for me.  And waiting for me.  

But one thing was perfectly clear.  That I was in the presence of a man of God who rightly divided Scriptures.  Because the Holy Spirit, the love, joy, peace, goodness, meekness, temperance, faith Holy Spirit rose up around him like a white dove.  

And sometimes joy and Bible aren’t so often associated together in the same breath, because a lot of the time we hear Romans 3:23,  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, but most of the time, we don’t memorize the rest of the sentence, in spite of the fact that we all know the verse numbers were added in the mid-sixteenth century: being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  Grace makes some people nervous.  Justified freely?  It’s not about me? At all.  

I remember the first time that “joy” and “Bible” came together for me, at Joy Bible Camp at Big Bear Lake in Southern California.  I was at the height of my dumpy dorkiness, and I know the exact week it was, the week of July 21, 1969, because the rest of the world were glued to their black and white televisions watching Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon, which was a pretty big deal.  And my dad was at Cape Canaveral because this was his baby.  My dad was a rocket scientist. 

But I didn’t care.  I was being Miss Wet Sponge soaking up Scripture like nobody’s business.  First of all, what ten-year-old thinks that memorizing II Timothy is fun?  I did.  I still know it.  In King James English.  And I beat every single one of the several hundred other little Baptist kids at the Bible Sword Drill, even though I was like the youngest kid there.  I was good.  And I remember the song that we sang, with a big fat pause after the phrase “yoke of” before we sang “bondage,” which until last night remained a bit of a mystery: 

Stand fast therefore in the liberty 
wherewith Christ hath made us free, 
and be not entangled again with the yoke of 

For, brethren, 
ye have been called unto liberty; 
only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, 
but by love serve one another.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, 
longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance
against such there is no law.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty 
wherewith Christ hath made us free, 
and be not entangled again with the yoke of 

It is finished.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Accounting for randomness

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For He is our God; and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Psalm 95:6-7

So I took a vacation day last week.  Not for something sensible, like for instance, doing Turbotax or cleaning up my closets and pruning back frozen death in the backyard in preparation for lots of company and Sergio and Janelle’s wedding. Not even for something typically soulful like hiking up to Thimble Rock.  

I was a judge at the annual Southern Arizona Science and Engineering Fair, where hundreds upon hundreds of grades 1-12 science projects line the Tucson Community Center to overflowing.

Because for me, this is soulful.  A joyous celebration of my very favorite things for kids to do: Notice, Think. Act. Reflect.  And do it all over again.  That is what science is all about.  What life is all about.  Observing the world.  Coming up with a hypothesis.  Acting as if it were true.  And reflecting on the measurable results.  The empirical evidence.

So one of my old students sent me his hypothesis this morning.  After observation.  After thinking.  He formed this hypothesis and acted upon it: There is a God. He hears my when I pray. He understands me completely. And He loves me.  

The rest of his email was the detailing of his proof, the quantifiable demonstration that supported his IF / THEN statement.  And the whole thing about science is that if indeed you run an experiment and it proves true, then the assumption is that it is true throughout the universe.  And the more subjects participate in the test, the more valid the statistical probability.  Inferential Statistics uses patterns in the sample data to draw inferences about the population represented, accounting for randomness.

I have been around a long time.  And I have run a lot of tests on this hypothesis.  Held a lot of tangible results in my hands and measured them.  After a perfect evening under a perfect downtown sky last night at Maynard’s Happy Hour and the Hub ice cream, I recounted to Monica, Gio’s mother, the reason why Dustin ended up as a dean of students at a school of wildcats when he was only twenty-three years old.  And how we all saw with our very own eyes solid white eyeball of Heather once again sparkle blue.  And thus it is reasonable to extrapolate that since He has proven himself to be my God and myself the sheep of His hand, it is quite likely that He is indeed the LORD our maker.  And each of we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.  

O come, let us worship and bow down.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me

Who will rise up for Me against the evildoers?
Who will stand up for Me against the workers of iniquity? Psalm 94:16

Give me boldness LORD God.  May I step into the messy fray of life. 

It is a fine line.  

One has to look for God’s heart sifting through the at-first-glance conflicting paradigms.  As far as you are able, be at peace with all men.  Judge not lest ye be judged. How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 

As I swam back and forth this morning and considered, I think what we need to do is stand against the structures, the powers, the principalities; not flesh and blood.  This is not a person battle; Christ overturned the money changers’ tables.  

Be angry and yet sin not.  Humble mercy can be extended to those caught up in the lies of the times, of political intrigues, of religious chains forged by man; there can be no personal smug pride that I am not one of Them.  

Yet.  Yet I cannot be a coward.  Settling for the status quo because it is personally comfortable.  They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.  

Nicole and I were talking about the weeping and gnashing of the teeth yesterday.  And perhaps a great deal of that will be regret.  Regret that I spent my gift of life fiddling about the weeds and straw that will be burnt up into nothingness.  That I have so few gifts to lay before His throne.  

When I should have been about my Father’s business.  

Quoting Prophet Bono in church Sunday:  We cannot do everything, but what we can do, we must do.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

For God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world

The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves.

The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.  Psalm 93:3-4

This morning, while I was waiting for my Italian expresso pot to do its magic, I wrote a little thank you note to The Quartz newsfeed.  Curiously enough, I specifically thanked them for helping me hold back the noise of many waters: Indeed, I, like our society in general, am swept over by the tidal wave of information.  But more and more frequently, I find that you are whom I turn to in that early morning moment to help me sift through the crashing flood to what is of value.  And interest.  Interesting is good.  

One of the interesting articles was by the Harvard Business Review and the value of praise in the workplace.  The research showed that the factor that made the greatest difference between the most and least successful of 60 strategic-business-unit leadership teams was praise– as defined by such comments as “I agree with you,” or “thank you for your efforts.” The ideal praise to criticism ratio for greatest productivity and effectiveness– was 5.6 to 1.  The medium-performance teams averaged 1.9 (almost twice as many positive comments than negative ones.) But the average for the low-performing teams, at 0.36 to 1, was almost three negative comments for every positive one.

“Negative feedback is important when we're heading over a cliff to warn us that we'd really better stop doing something horrible or start doing something we're not doing right away. But even the most well-intentioned criticism can rupture relationships and undermine self-confidence and initiative. It can change behavior, certainly, but it doesn't cause people to put forth their best efforts.”

“Only positive feedback can motivate people to continue doing what they're doing well, and do it with more vigor, determination, and creativity. Perhaps that's why we have found with the vast majority of the leaders in our database, who have no outstanding weaknesses, that positive feedback is what motivates them to continue improvement. In fact, for those in our database who started above average already (but are still below the 80th percentile), positive feedback works like negative feedback did for the bottom group. Focusing on their strengths enabled 62% of this group to improve a full 24 percentage points (to move from the 55th to the 79th percentile). The absolute gains are not as great as they are for the most-at-risk leaders, since they started so much further ahead. But the benefits to the organization of making average leaders into good ones is far greater, because it puts them on the road to becoming the exceptional leaders that every organization desperately needs.”

This conversation ties in with last week’s family dinner conversation, with a very admirable and thoughtful Brandon Coverdale leading the way with his query to Dustin and Heather and me on effective teachers, and how they should deal with unruly students to pull them into line.  And what we all three learned from painful trial and error was positive and specific praise was what worked on the Southside– marvelously well.  And apparently in the workplace.  And, according to Zenger and Folkman, in marriages as well.  

So I know all about this.  Jerry Bowen’s eyebrows rightfully lifted in doubt when I raised my hand to step into the world of secretaryism.  There was certainly a steep learning curve: how to answer the telephone with the proper blend of courteous warmth yet distant professionalism, how to wrestle Excel files into proper tidy submission, how to sit at a computer hour after hour shoulders back, face away from the screen.  Proper.  Suddenly my enthusiastic Tigger bounce bounce had little place in my day-to-day life. And I had certainly never heard of an em or en dash and really what did it matter?  A lot.  

But Sue.  Dear, beloved Sue.  She squinted her eyes and peered into all these noisy, crashing waves and threw me a life buoy.  Her praise was not the faint, “Well, well, um.  Good job,” that flutter throughout our world helplessly. Unhelpnessly.   Or a lazy happy face taped on top.  Positive. Positive. Positive. Positive. Positive.  And, oh, by the way Christy, have you ever considered this?  Word by word, smile by smile, she watered my sprigs of competency, and they sort of unfurled.  A bit.  

Marco, who is learning company leadership the hard way, in a swaying skyscraper so far away in Shanghai, sent me a letter he had written to his particularly inept and clueless staff.  It was impressive.  While it was perfectly clear that the audience was stunningly careless in the ways of the business world, lacking even the decency to make sure heaps of trash actually landed in the rubbish bin, somehow it was framed in such a way that the reader would straighten up with hope, with clear understanding as well, but with hope that the steep curve could be conquered. And that she was an integral part of a productive and effective team. Marco seems to have mastered cross-cultural communication.

So this weekend Jincheng had a bicycle accident.   The sort that all men dread.  And he had to have seven stitches where no one would wish on his worst enemy, much less a sixteen-year-old boy in a strange culture, strange language, crashing waves so far from home.  But perhaps, just perhaps, he will be able to see the LORD on high in the loving buoys tossed to him by Gio and Gio’s dad, and Nicole and Mary Anne, as he floundered in fear.  Even horror.   So I prayed for him as he lay curled in bed this morning, as I set his white hot dog buns smeared with Nutella next to the ibuprofin bottle and glass of milk.  May this love communicate cross-culturally.

Because each of us are indeed strangers in a strange land.  I got a phone call from Sweden yesterday.  The marvels of modern technology.  And a question from Matteo.  Who is working through this cross-cultural communication as well– how to convey the truth of Jesus to this ever-so-hungry Hindu?  And the little brochure that the Norwegian pastor gave him to share felt too complicated, too many confusing negatives that distract from the positive message of For God so loved the world.   So what one verse would I suggest to turn into a prayer for his friend?  How to communicate truth to someone who speaks a different worldview? I sent him the Roman Road + my ACSI password verse: John 3:17.  But it is a question that has echoed in my head all day.

Because the Vineyard has been working through some stories of Jesus as he interfaced with the folks in His world.  And that has been what has struck me the most actually.  This is a man who speaks the truth.  Yet a bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth justice unto victory. He might smack the occasional stiff-necked Pharisee upside his stiff-necked head, but when faced with the bound woman caught in adultery, he scrabbled in the dust.  He starts where we are.  Where I am.  And moves forward.  Up and over the crashing waves.  Into safe harbor.  


Monday, March 18, 2013

Fat and flourishing is a good thing

Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; To shew that the Lord is upright: He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Psalm 92:13-15

I grabbed this verse just as I was running out the door to Mile High Vineyard yesterday morning.  One would hardly think that a middle-aged lady would find great joy in claiming the promise that she will be fat and flourishing, especially after two days of nonstop eating the most amazing food ever in every cute hipster joint in Denver, but it filled my heart with joy.  

So the sermon was about St. Patrick.  Not the pretend St. Patrick with his green beer and chasing of all snakes from Ireland, but the guy who has been credited with preserving Christianity through the Dark Ages.  That guy. 

Patrick grew up in a nice Christian Italian family in England.  His dad was a teaching elder at church, but none of it particularly grabbed Patrick.  He was dinking around with making bad choices and not particularly giving a rip about God, when one day when he was about sixteen, he was splashing about in the surf with his friends.  And pirates grabbed him.  And took him across the Irish Sea and far into the woods, where he took care of pigs for six years as a slave.  

The good thing about feeding pigs is that it really isn’t that much work and it leaves a lot of time for thinking.  And Patrick’s thoughts turned to prayers, prayers to the God that he had heard about as a small child.  Sometimes even a hundred times a day.  And the prayers changed over time.  At first they were all about “Get me free,” but over time they changed to “May I live free even if I remain a slave.”  

One day he heard a voice: Your ship is ready.  Patrick takes off running, leaving everything, and arrives to the spot on the map seen in his vision 200 miles down coast. A ship was loading up Irish Wolfhounds and because he was so skilled with working with unruly animals, they allowed him on the ship, even though he had no money for passage.  His parents, shocked at the return of the son who they presumed dead, welcomed him back home and to life as usual.  But Patrick was plagued with thoughts of those who had held him captive, and his dreams at night were filled with the Druids.  One night a group arrived, clutching some papers in their hands, and said, “We pray, come and walk among us.”  Patrick prepared himself with training from local church people, and with a small group of friends, he returned to Ireland. He was captured almost immediately, and imprisoned, and sentenced to death.  He demanded to see the Druid Chieftain, who gave his life to Christ.  He said it was because of the joy in Patrick’s face even though he was facing sure death.  Patrick founded 300 churches, training up the Druid chieftains as church leaders.  And that is just the beginning of the story.  

But where Jay the pastor went with the story was the parents.  The parents who nobody really knows about or cares about, but really they did indeed meet their calling: train up a child in the way he should go.  They built the foundation that stood firm when the storms rose and crashed down on everything, Patrick was not washed away.  

Jay asked those called to prepare kids to believe that they can trust in God in hard times to come forward for prayer.  As I knelt in front, the band sang, 
You have planted dreams in the good soil of my heart
Give me patience.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Set, set, spike

Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. Psalm 91:14-15

What does it mean to set my love upon God?

“Set my love” reminds me of one of the most heart-gripping moments in Scripture, At that time, He set his face towards Jerusalem.  A decision.  A decision made at several levels.  There is the cool-eyed rational moment, for this I came decisions, this is what I know to be true decisions– I am stepping onto this path no matter where it leads decisions.  

And then there are take-control-of-every-thought-so-you-can-pray decisions, over and over throughout the day– irrespective of crabby people zagging through traffic, descending clouds of dreariness, sleep deprivation, surges of covetness, unjustice blared in the headlines– whatever, take control of every thought throughout the day.  

And every thought throughout the night– the restless tossing, the blurry unnamed nightmares, the drifting longings– so that you can pray.  Lifting it all, opening it all to the Father of Lights with whom there is no shifting shadow, in trust and in confidence.  I know His name.  Wonderful.  Almighty God. Counselor. Prince of Peace.  

And because I have set my love upon Him, my tripping-over-my-own-feet stumbling sort of love– He will be with me. He will deliver me.  He will set me on high.

Set. Set.  Spike.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

And pop pop, I fixed Gio's backpack zipper too

Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. 

Psalm 90 is about perspective.  Viewing life with right perspective is humble wisdom, but tangled up in it as well is joy and beauty.  A good place to stand.  Or kneel.  In every sense of the word “good.”

For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

So does this not happen every single day with me? Pop out of bed, drink a couple glasses of water, quick fold the clothes, empty the dishwasher, scan the New York Times headline articles, answer gmails from Lisa and Andrea and Manuel, glance at Office Outlook and an email from Jackie White, the director of the Victory Montessori PreK I am visiting tomorrow while the expresso pot comes to a slow boil. Then settle in the quiet of the Morning Office and the next psalm.  Ooops, snatch a towel and out the door to Hillenbrand swim pool: 100 s, 100 k, 200 p, 100 k, 100 s, 300 s, 3 100 k, 6 50 p, 3 100 s, 6 50 k, 300 p and pop pop into the shower, oatmeal and banana and Selah, and lunches in a row, pop, pop and out the door.  Does anyone doubt that story about the time I pop popped a can of beer into my first grader Andrea’s lunchbox?  But luckily Mrs. Rhodes the lunch monitor didn’t notice smart little Andrea slide it quietly back into the paper bag. Forty-three emails and fourteen phone calls and a quick stop at Sprouts for double discount Wednesday, and at the end of it all, when Alan comes in all sweaty from reffing a mentor soccer game and queries, “So how was your day; what did you do,” I have absolutely no idea.  

I was really really busy and I worked really really hard, and there was something about making a SurveyMonkey about the Admin Conference.  And, uh, that is what a thousand years is like in the sight of the LORD God, a momentary blur and done.

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

I might have done one thing that really mattered yesterday. JinCheng slid into the car after school yesterday with that texting and dangling ear pod slump that announces that life is pretty darn awful and there is no hope.  Our little drive home guessing routine of “Name two interesting things that happened today,” never got past, “Nothing.” He sipped his chicken noodle soup straight out of the bowl so he didn’t have to lift his head.  Or look at the rest of us.  But after a phone call with wonderful Mr. Winslow, his English teacher, I dumped his cram-packed bag upside down on the dining room table. And for two and a half hours we went through every single paper, one by one. And talked about every single one, and how great he was doing in Physics even though it was really hard and then, then there was Macbeth and All Quiet on the Western Front and page after page of undone homeworks and tests with one tiny answer written for one of the twenty questions and a stapled-together handout of How to Write a DocArg paper and the Six Traits of Writing Rubric and absolutely no idea of what any of it means. So paper by paper we talked, and punched holes with my grandfather’s heavy duty holepuncher and found an old binder on the bookshelf and wrote labels and assignment pages and explained how to write a topic sentence and discussed ten of the possible fifty choices to research and he decided on music piracy and I wrote a pro topic sentence and a con topic sentence so he could choose  which one and showed him what Times New Roman 12 point font double-space was, and just answer these five questions on Chapter Four and do this compound sentence punctuation sheet and memorize just these ten How to Increase Your Vocabulary words and look, I am crossing out all this other stuff, and by the way, I am so glad you love your art class.  

And Jincheng was no longer slumping.  And this morning he had the biggest ever smile on his face. Absolutely the biggest.

O satisfy us early with Thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish Thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it.

Let Your beauty be upon me and establish Thou the work of my hands. That I may rejoice and be glad all of my days. My so very like-grass-that-withers days.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It is really hard not to entitle this psalm Love Wins

 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. Psalm 89:23-24

Parenting is not for cowards.  It is not a clear and simple task for mere mortals.  Certainly my dad prefaced every single paddling with this clarification: “This hurts me more than it hurts you.”

I remember one time however, when he didn’t paddle me.  Even though he had created one of those smoothly sanded paddles that was a bit shorter and much thicker than a canoe oar.  Hard as it may seem to believe, I have always been an awful speller.  Probably because I read so fast I don’t even notice the words.  Or sentences.  Just galloping through.  My dad taught me to read fast when I was barely in school because slow reading had always been the bane of his life. He sat me on his lap and quickly ran a 3 x 5 card down the middle of a page of the book, and then drilled me with questions.  It wasn’t fun, but I learned to gobble text.  Sort of like learning to eat at Camp Hy-Lake, the boys’ camp, which is not good.

But Dad made a great editor.  Which is pretty interesting, when one thinks about the thousands and thousands of missionary newsletters he has edited for His honor and glory.  And how God took the bane of my dad’s life and utilized it for His kingdom.  And my miserable spellingness has helped me scaffold the awkward task of spelling English into doable tasks for myriad frustrated middle schoolers.  And at least they walk out of my class knowing how to spell “there, their, they’re” and “a lot is two words.” And in two days I fly out to run a Rocky Mountain regional spelling bee.  The ironies of God.  But I digress.

So fourth grade was a miserable year for me.  I was dumpy in every sense of the word after gobbling Tennessee butter all summer at the boys camp and sporting a Mrs. Winnie Price old-lady haircut performed by a beautician whose husband had left her and she needed money and mom felt sorry for her.  Mrs. LeCompte, the fourth, fifth and sixth grade teacher at our two-room schoolhouse did not appreciate my bad spelling and she did not like that I wrote the number “5” with one stroke and not two, and every math problem where I wrote a single stroke “5” she would mark WRONG with a big red “X.”  And I never made it into the Pen Pal Club and was never allowed to use a pen in her class because my writing was so messy.  And Mrs. Hahn, whose last name is my secret code for TurboTax, had loved me for three whole years of first, second and third grade.  And she had let me sit on her lap because I was shy.  And let me read Call of the Wild when the other kids were reading Dick and Jane.  But Mrs. LeCompte didn’t like me and I couldn’t spell.  So on one Friday in fourth grade, a student in my class raised her hand and shouted, “Mrs. LeCompte, Christie is cheating on her spelling test.”  And I was.  Badly.  With a little list sort of hidden in my lift top desk, I was trying to peek.  Boy, did I get in trouble.  I had to make the phone call home.  I had to stay after school.  And then there was the ever-popular, “Wait until your father gets here.”  

I paced the living room.  I peered out the big front windows down to the bend in the road, squinting.  Catching the familiar rumble of the Volkswagon bug with dread.  When my dad clumped up the back steps, I felt that my rather miserable little life was over.  I begged and begged not to be paddled.  Really that is the only thing we ever got paddled for in the Coverdale house: lying, and I totally knew that cheating was lying Big Time.  But my dad gave in to my pleadings and didn’t paddle me.  

But that evening, as we all knelt down in the living room for our evening prayers, leaning on the green and gold Chinese brocade couches, my dad almost wept in his prayers.  He was so very worried that he had chosen the coward’s way of out.  That the best thing for me in the long run would have been justice, but he had taken the easy way.  Because paddling would have hurt him more than it would have hurt me.  

In the modern mind, justice and mercy are often thought of as two parameters, two outstretched hands, the balancing edges between which we live before God.  Sometimes I overhear or say things like, “Err on the side of mercy,” or “he leans towards the justice side,” but I am reminded throughout this psalm that justice and mercy are not balancing traits, a positive plus a negative equals zero so to speak; they are equated: Justice and judgment are the habitation of Thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before Thy face, or in a modern translation (NCV): Your kingdom is built on what is right and fair.  Love and truth are in all You do.

Justice and mercy are not lines in the sand that God falls inside of trying to wrap our language and mind around Him, justice and mercy are the same thing: God.  God is love. Simply different stages in Who He Is, much as the seasons spring, summer, fall and winter are all part of Life.  

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known Thy faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: Thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. Psalm 89:1-2

Monday, March 11, 2013

So maybe I need to be very careful what I pray for

I am trapped and cannot escape.
My eyes are weak from crying.
Lord, I have prayed to you every day;
    I have lifted my hands in prayer to you. 
LORD, I have called out to you for help;
    every morning I pray to you.
Lord, why do you reject me?
    Why do you hide from me? Psalm 88:9, 13-14

So this has been a crazy past four days.   A sort of weird prophet-like sorrow as in Ezekiel weird, whom no one in their right mind would ever wish for.   Sobbing in Fry’s parking lot because of a way that a bag packer looked at a tired customer.  Remembering a moment or two in the previous night’s movie– of a life-changing pause, a momentary pause on a character’s face. And then Janice’s call to worship. Leaking like a sieve.  Literally as I knelt in church yesterday, tears rained between into my open palms.  And this morning I sifted through some of this month’s prayers, fairly unhappy with today’s Psalm and wondering how it ever made it into the canon– NOTHING uplifting about Psalm 88– and then I got a little message about Billowing Sunrises, and there it was:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Jesus looked at him and loved him

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; He judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82: 1-2

Dear LORD. In my busyness do not let me overlook those who hold Your heart, rushing past to do the next thing on my list, accepting through complacency.  

May Your Spirit burn through the brittle pricker weeds around my heart, sweep away the cloudy vision, shine brightly on the path I should take.  

No need to be so confused, By all the fires you have to walk through
They're breaking you, and making you, And building you to be
Soft enough to love the least of these, Even me.

May this love fill my perspective and understanding, my creativity and daydreams, my longings and my passion.

Give me a tender heart, even if it aches.

LIving with less, a lot less

God says, “I tell of some who know Me in Egypt and Babylon; behold, My people are in Philistia, Tyre, and Ethiopia too.” Psalm 87:4

I have felt weighted down for several days, with what I hope is a holy repentance or sorrow for the Church (and not mere mood swings), over our lack of understanding of Who God Is and Where is His Heart.  I sense Jesus looking over at us sadly and echoing His admonishment of so many years ago to one He loved, “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

His vision is so broad, so big, so beyond our frame of reference and yet so very focused.  One does not think of Him as being distracted, and yet He holds the universe in His cupped hands.  Three things will last forever--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pounding out the rhythm of His love

I will hear what the True God—the Eternal—will say,
    for He will speak peace over His people,
    peace over those who to those who turn to Him in their hearts. 
Without a doubt, His salvation is near for those who revere Him
    so that He will be with us again and all His glory will fill this land.
Unfailing love and truth have met on their way;
    righteousness and peace have kissed one another. Psalm 85: 7-9

Without a doubt.  All His glory will fill this land.

Last night my brother Scott took me out for my birthday dinner.  We do that.  Take each other out for the birthdays.  Obviously not exactly on a tight schedule. One of us brings cheap wine and the other one picks up the bill at Zeman’s, the Ethiopean place across the street and we pull off pieces of injera and scoop at little brown piles of deliciousness. 

And we are His portion and He is our prize, 
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes, 
If His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss, 
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest, 
I don't have time to maintain these regrets, 
When I think about, the way... 

Oh, how He loves us oh, 
Oh how He loves us, 
How He loves us all
How He loves.

No idea where I was going with this now unfinished thought.   I am sure it was frightfully insightful.  Alas.  Great Scripture though.  Great David Crowder song.  

March 9, 2013

All the nations You have made
    will come and worship before You, Lord;
    they will bring glory to Your name.
For You are great and do marvelous deeds;
    You alone are God. Psalm 86:9-10

But maybe it had to do with the faded posters of Ethiopia on the wall and sitting across from the old man eyes of Scott and imagining all that they have seen in his relatively few short years and the stories that are aching to come out of his heart, flow from his fingers of Dominican orphanages and Somalian refugee camps and UN sort-of-relief officials and dung huts clinging to Lesotho heights.  And an isolated broken-down bus where a disabled vet lives near Four Corners, Arizona.  And the adjective “isolated” is completely superfluous.  I remember the  joy in his step and the song pounded out on a metal can about going down to the spring to fetch water.  

And now the general ache of his good heart.  As he spends eight or ten or twelve hours a day hunched over a computer, while pressing a phone receiver between his ear and shoulder and shuffling through assorted work orders and shipping lists with his free hand.  Understanding in his mind that he is serving the love of Jesus to the forgotten and so very needy multiplied many times over by now pounding out the grants and negotiating corporate donations but his soul cries otherwise. 

And his long lanky strides ache to wander over hill and dale anywhere far away, through all the nations He has made and see His grand beauty and sweetness reflected in so many sights and sounds and smells and most of all those eyes looking back at you with curiosity and grace.  But he rides his bike back and forth down Third Street, pausing long enough to pull a twisted fork out of my parents’ dishwasher machine and get home in time to help Brandon with his homework or drive him to swim team and check his email for news of Zach in Guatemala.  

And I am a lot like Scott.  We both have old Gandalf eyes and hair that sticks out in all directions.  And I hunch in front of a computer with a phone receiver pressed between my ear and my shoulder as I shuffle through the binders of Sylvan Spelling Bee rosette orders.  And my mind understands that I am equipping Christian educators worldwide as they prepare students academically and inspire students to become devoted followers of Jesus Christ, but my soul cries otherwise.

And my not-so-long strides ache to wander over hill and dale anywhere far away.  

But really.  Really the far away gathered again around our dining room table last night, and I sort of found my stride with the ribs and salad and bread once again, and oh how delicious it all was to find out how northern Chinese differs from southern Chinese and what is the fatal flaw of Guatemalans and to see Bryan the poet’s eyes light up as he thought about what he was going to maybe do after he hiked Machu Picchu now that soccer season is over and to smile as Alan and Luis and Marina scratch and thump and strum songs and I think what a brave or foolish man Manuel is to drive Pusch Ridge kids eight hours to the Mexican border to explore a cave with candles and God is good and none of them were left behind, he thinks.  

And after we held hands just before everyone left and Luis asked for God to guide us in our wanderings, I wiped the kitchen counter one more time and pushed the dishwasher machine button on. Jin Cheng clutches the orange cat as he sat in front of the remnants of the probably last fire of the season built with the wood that Yu chopped last fall, and I am very aware that God is good.  He is great.  And He does marvelous things.  

Teach me your way, Lord,
    that I may rely on Your faithfulness;
Give me an undivided heart,
   for great is Your love toward me.

Oh, how He loves us oh, 
Oh how He loves us, 
How He loves us all
How He loves.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Every round goes higher, higher

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

This has pretty much been my heart’s verse for the past, maybe ten years.  It is a declaration of God’s faithfulness to provide joyous, bubbling up refreshment in the midst of life and her hardships.  And in this very same valley of granite boulders strewn across sandy gravel that doesn’t particularly make for firm footholds or long strides, His miraculous rhythm of seasons produces bountiful harvests of growth and beauty, in His time.  

In His time.  Grumble, grumble. Why does this journey have to be so very long, so very bound up in earthly time, slow second after slow second.  While is it very true that sometimes His hand reaches in and takes a situation and instantly molds it into restoration, seldom is that the case.  And even with the healing, there is still the rest of life waiting with its “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another” mantra.  The journey continues, from strength to strength.  

So I have been doing some thinking these days as I consider heading back into the world of Desert Christian after six years abroad.  How have I changed, how have I grown.  Why did this pilgrimage wend through the feral world of snarling Wildcats and into the rather staid world of ACSI Math Olympics and annual accreditation reports to perhaps end up again at the brightly blue ex-tennis courts nestled between the city dump and the fire station.  Other than it is handy to be smack next to the fire station when one’s students are conducting dry ice experiments?  

So, and yes that is certainly a change for Mrs. English Teacher who very firmly crossed out every single leading “So” and “Then” on every single paper for many many years.  I imagine many a budding author still winces every time (he, she, he or she, they) pick(s) up a pen.  So, I worked the word “scaffolding” into my job application this time around. A word I never learned before, but now it is part of my worldview.  

My first year at Wildcat left me sputtering helplessly.  Those blank round eyes had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.  We spoke a different language.  It sort of helped to read some glorious piece of literature or give an impassioned pet peeve speech.  But not really.  There was a huge gap between reality and the goal.

Until I found out about scaffolding.  Deliberately building in rungs on the ladder up.  And little bit by little bit, as I added more and more steps, understanding and skill and growth and trust were all built in as well.  And we collectively climbed to the top.  Until at last these kids could hit the same rubrics that I had used on the eastside, reading-since-they-were-four kids.  And it was a huge ah ha moment for me.  I am all about scaffolding.

God is all about scaffolding too.  As he stares down in love at his blank round-eyed children who have absolutely no idea what He is talking about.  I heard Robbie Dawkins a couple of weeks ago talk about this.  Robbie is a guy who travels all around the world and walks up to people on the street and says, “Hey, can I pray for you?” And legs lengthen, eyes open, and backs straighten up tall.  And he said that the Big Instant Healings are mostly God saying, “Hey, I am here, all powerful, and I love you.  I love you a lot.”  They are not about leap-frogging over the sloughs. No catapults to the Promised Land.  

They get our attention and set us on the pilgrimage. 

This pilgrimage of climbing Jacob’s Ladder.  Higher, higher.  The intentional journey set out by the LORD God Creator of the Universe. Becoming like Jesus, one rung at a time.  And He meets us with springs and autumn rains, and He is there to provide strength to strength when we just don’t think we can take another step.  

We are climbing Jacob's ladder,
We are climbing Jacob's ladder,
We are climbing Jacob's ladder,
Soldiers of the cross.

Every round goes higher, higher,
Every round goes higher, higher,
Every round goes higher, higher,
Soldiers of the cross.

Sinner, do you love my Jesus?
Sinner, do you love my Jesus?
Sinner, do you love my Jesus?
Soldiers of the cross.

If you love Him, why not serve Him?
If you love Him, why not serve Him?
If you love Him, why not serve Him?
Soldiers of the cross.

LORD how great Thou art. How pure and beautiful and life-giving is Your word. How loving and real and tangible is Your presence. Guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. Fill my soul with Your Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Jesus looked at him and loved him

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; He judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.

Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82: 1-2

Dear LORD.  In my busyness do not let me overlook those who hold Your heart, rushing past to do the next thing on my list, accepting through complacency.  

May Your Spirit burn through the brittle pricker weeds around my heart, sweep away the cloudy vision, shine brightly on the path I should take.  

No need to be so confused, By all the fires you have to walk through
They're breaking you, and making you, And building you to be
Soft enough to love the least of these, Even me.

May this love fill my perspective and understanding, my creativity and daydreams, my longings and my passion.

Give me a tender heart, even if it aches.

Monday, March 4, 2013

We blindfolded kids for the middle school Trust Walk

I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.  Psalm 71:10

I drove up to Phoenix Saturday, for a science fair, and basically for the whole trip, I thought about this verse, which led me to reflect on God’s goodness.  

And the image I had was of a bulbous squeezed-eyes-shut birdlet, beak wide open, perhaps naked-without-plumage trembling a bit with eagerness, waiting for his mother to fill his very wide open mouth.  

Not very attractive perhaps, at first glance. An absolute willingness to receive whatever tidbits that the mother bird deems appropriate, be it crushed grub or snatched insect, because of the implicit trust in both momma’s goodness and knowing. Sort of along the lines of If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

And the context of the verse is interesting, in that it is part of the conversation “Lord, teach us to pray.” 

After He taught them, “Give us today our daily bread,” and “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened,” He placed all of this teaching in a picture of a person pounding on the door of a friend in the middle of the night, begging to borrow bread for a guest, someone with quote, “shameless audacity.”

But Jesus does a little clarification move in Luke; He takes it a step further, and defines “good things,” for his disciples, the smaller crowd, as “the Holy Spirit... If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

And piled on top of this is the teaching from Chris yesterday, and the singing of Cameron: All I have is yours.  

That’s what the Father said to the older brother of the prodigal son.  “My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

Everything.  I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. 

But, all of these promises are related to the little bird, wiggling with impatience, “Give me what is good for me. Give me what I need.”

I, who am Queen of the Prayer Lists.  The one who day after day who lays her tattered lists before her Father and waits.  But now that I am older.  And a tiny bit wiser, I am learning to frame these prayers with the words of Jesus, “But not my will, but Thine be done.” Not because I am mystical or wistful, but because I am a stubborn pragmatist.  Because I have been filled.  Because I have received my daily bread, I am perfectly willing to bang on the door.  A long time.

And quite honestly, my sustenance is most often manna, “What is it?” The unimagined. I had been longing for leeks and onions and garlic from Egypt, expectations tightly bound by past experiences, digging about in the dirt, rather than looking upward to heaven, for that which far more wonderful than the human mind can comprehend.  

Thus once again, LORD, I will open my mouth.  And my heart.  To receive Your goodness for today.  Give me today, my daily bread.