Saturday, September 28, 2013

Waiting for the wind to shift

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said,“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:1-4

And you know what is really humbling?  To give cups of cold water to one of these little ones. Cupbearers don’t get thanked very often.  I got an email of reality from a beloved cupbearer this morning.  Someone who has left it all to search out straying sheep. The destitute of hope and light and truth.  And it is not easy to feed scowling, fearful people who are imprisoned and don’t know when or how their suffering will end. And who never say thank you, but turn a moment of generosity in His Name into a sort of “you are stupid and I will be able to manipulate you to get more stuff from you” moment. Which did I already say, is humbling.

And you never know.  

You might never know who will spit into the cup or pour it on the ground.  Or sell it to someone else for a tidy profit. Or throw it back into your face. But it doesn’t matter.  We are called to give out the cups of water. In His name, because we are His disciples. 

And sometimes the water splashes onto a sown seed in fertile soil, and it brings forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

And you never know.  

Last night our community group talked about this act of serving as a Vineyard value.  The wind has shifted in Tucson and blown away the sweltering heat. And we sat wrapped in blankets by the first fire in the outdoor fireplace under the thousands and thousands of twinkly Sergio and Janelle wedding lights. Hung by all of those delightful uncles and cousins who showed up early in the morning and worked with a smile on their faces because they love Sergio and then they disappeared.

But their lights still shine.

The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

And it isn’t easy, this message of reconciliation.  Humbling oneself is not poetic or picturesque. To die to ourselves and our late-night crabbiness and aching back or pressures and expectations from our job and our understanding of how things should be done or our need to get things done and see quantifiable results. And of course a lot of us were taught to argue people into the kingdom. Except that really doesn’t work. And it’s not at all what Jesus did. He who leaves the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray.

Do what Jesus did. Pause and look to the edges of the crowd. Or the one in the tree. Or the unclean outside city limits. The outliers.

And catch the splashes of the water He has given us, a spring of water welling up to eternal life in our small cup and offer it to the least of these, completely humble and gentle; patient, bearing with one another in love. And trust in Him to do the work, the LORD of the harvest, even when it is really dark.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

A promise.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Are You the One?

And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them,“Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:18-20

And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Mark 9:28-29

So just as Hector settled in front of the mic for his teaching Sunday, he turned his head, listening. And then he asked, “Does anyone here have pain in their left knee? I am supposed to pray for a left knee.”  There were not so many people at the Upper Room this Sunday, and no one said anything. 

So I spoke up. “I have prayed for three painful left knees this week.  Three. And none of them were healed.” 

Last week was sort of a practice week for me to grow in faith, in stepping out into the invisible and waiting to be caught by Him.  Saturday I went to a conference on the Holy Spirit all day and night.  And I went up to the main speaker and asked to be anointed to be a more powerful intercessor. And really it was so I could pray for someone’s left knee.  Which I did. And it hurt even more.  

And one of my students sort of fell and really messed up her left knee. It was screamingly painful and swollen and the only crutches we could find were way too big and I knelt down by the side of the road and held that ice-packed knee and prayed for healing. And she came to school on Monday with a distinct limp and a brand new cane. 

And Dustin rides his bike. Everywhere. To work and back. And up Mt. Lemmon. And on bumpy roads. And bike riding fills him with joy and his knee hurts so badly and my general experience with knees is they only get worse and ibuprofin can only do so much, so I prayed for his knee.   His left knee. And he took another fistful of ibuprofin and headed out the door.  


So I have been pulling Jesus aside privately and asking, Why not? And publicly too, I guess.

And last week I watched Father of Lights, a documentary with a rolling camera of God doing His thing of powerful love in the name of Jesus all over the world.  And while it is not neat and tidy all of the time, it is clear that He is willing and able to step into the normal flow of brokenness and pain and bring healing and joy. With Chicago gang lords who changed from angry bleepers who drove by and filled homes with bullets just for the heck of it to gentle giants of peace. With an Indian guru who showed up because God spoke to him in a dream. With a bank president who gave up the earthly mansion to hold crippled babies in China, with children in India who grind rocks to sand for their entire lives, with an Egyptian who was crucified for the name of Christ and now is an international leader for human rights, and with a Muslim in the marketplace of Jerusalem who threw away his cane after twenty-three years. 

And this is the same answer Jesus gave to John the Baptist when he asked, Are You the One?” The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.

But not all of the blind receive sight. There was also the clip of two Indian guys, one blind and one crippled who could not stop talking about Jesus their Savior, so the crippled rode the handle bars, and the blind guy peddled. All over the countryside, proclaiming His name. Rejoicing. 

And my heart burned, and I showed this movie to the nice little Christian kids at my school, in preparation for their first team research project to learn what are reliable sources of information, how to correctly cite resources and how to avoid plagiarism. And as our last written assignment on The Pearl by John Steinbeck, we are going to do a presentation on people group who fits the Proverbs 31:8 admonition: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. 

Even though Mr. Steinbeck was not a believer, he had a great passion for the destitute and the apowerless, whether for the tenant farmers of The Grapes of Wrath, the handicapped in Of Mice and Men, and in The Pearl, the oppressed Mexican villagers.

In every bit of honest writing in the world … there is a base theme. Try to understand men. If you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, righting injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme: try to understand each other. Journal entry (1938), quoted in the Introduction to a 1994 edition of Of Mice and Men 

And the overwhelming message at school is that we are to love one another, even as Christ loves us. However, so often, we are caught up in the busyness of our small circle of friends and family, and we forget that God so loved the world, the whole world.  Thus I want our last project to focus on knowing and telling the story of those who are often on the outskirts, the powerless, the lonely, the discouraged, those for whom Christ also has a message of hope and love.  

So my students watched spellbound.  Except I had a problem for one of the classes because I forgot my power cord at home and the disk wouldn’t play on my ornery school PC laptop and no one at the school had a Mac cord, not even Mr. Winslow or Mr. Dalton the Mac Men, and my battery had about ten minutes left on it, because it is five years old and has a permanent warning to service the battery. 

So I told the kids about a time I was driving out of Mexico in the big double cab pickup truck at night with my three little kids in the back, and the way that always worked is that you had to fill up both tanks in Navojoa, and then drive five hours to Hermosillo and fill them up again, and then you could barely make it to Nogales, another five hours away. 

But there was some holiday and every single gas station in Hermosillo was closed. And Hermosillo is a big city.  And I drove and drove, hoping to find some small gas station along the highway, somewhere, but everything was closed.  And then I made the goofy decision, at midnight, to just drive.  And if I ran out of gas, I ran out of gas, and we would sleep by the side of the road (mind-boggling lack of judgement, eh?). And I drove and drove. Looking at the little dial lying flaccidly on empty. Looking for a little light shining over one of the so many Pemex stations. And nothing. And I drove until the morning dawn glint off the billowing sunrises and we hit the border and crossed over and drove into a nice clean shiny Texaco station, and that was that, and it really happened to me and the little girls, and of course it was impossible, and God doesn’t always do that, but he sure did this time.

So I told them that story and said that maybe God would step in and power my computer, and maybe He wouldn’t, but let’s just give it a shot and watch it until it dies.  And the little red light warning that there were only seven minutes left flashed across the screen...three minutes before class let out.   The same computer that can't even hold a charge long enough to take Language Lab attendance.

I sure had the kids’ attention.

And these couple of weeks, I am having different folks write about why they follow Jesus for the monthly Vineyard devotional.  And every story is miraculous. Not so much about arms growing back after timid prayers, although they are there, but about transformed lives.  About a God who is living and active right now. And about His word that is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And this God is big enough to hold the universe in His palm and is certainly not a tame lion neatly caged by my understanding. But let me echo the words yet one more time, Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

And once again, let me echo the father of the child who cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

And the light shone brightly all about them

And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him.” Matthew 17:10-12

Another thing that Hector touched on was the strand of time, which trips us mere humans up again and again, because The God Who Was, Who Is and Who Forever Will Be is not bound but unfettered. 

And one way that we are bound is that we allow the past to filter, to haunt our present–past hurts and unforgiveness and lies we believe about identity and who we can trust (no one) that we drag along clunking and clanging behind us like Marley’s ghost. 

Hector spoke of a stuffed back memory of his twelve-year-old self begging his dad not to walk away. But he did. And there is forgiveness like, “Yeah, I forgive you, again. Seven times.” And there is Forgiveness, as in Forgive-them-for-they-know-not-what-they-do Forgiveness. It-is-Finished Forgiveness. Done.  That is the only sort of forgiveness that allows me to live not in the spirit of rejection, but in the spirit of being a beloved Child of God who has received mercy and what a joy it is to offer the same that I have received, bubbling over and joyfully in the presence of love. Not even noticing when it has been done wrong.

And another way that we are bound is that we allow the fear and the unknown of what lies ahead to paralyze us, deer in the headlights.  We cannot see so we stand stricken.  All the What Could Be’s suck the Presence and daily manna Provision gratefulness right out of the moment. We weren’t created to know everything, but to know Him. His name is Jehovah, and He knows the end from the beginning; therefore His hand shall be over me.

And here on the mountaintop of transfiguration, restoration looks a lot different to the disciples that they had imagined. Jesus, ever aware of the Kingdom Come, saw things for what they were, for He saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven, the strong man was overcome in his own house, and the stronger man had taken from him all his armour wherein he trusted. And in this restoration it was possible to have a pleasant afternoon chat with Moses and Elijah.

May I live in this moment of “Have no fear,” because He has touched me and lifted me up, to be about My Father’s business, this restoration. The restoration that has already taken place. This “will be made” is not future tense in Greek, but rather present future tense, the action has already taken place and will continue for eternity. 

And the light shone brightly all about them.

Monday, September 23, 2013

He tells me I am His own

But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hinderance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23

...that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 
1 Corinthians 2:5

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. 1 Timothy 1:13

Yesterday I went to the Upper Room for pounding worship, Price Club pizza and a good word from Hector.  He reminded us that in the Garden, Eve and Adam plucked from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, choosing the wisdom of man over relationship and faith in God to provide every good thing.  

And as Jesus turned his face resolutely towards Jerusalem, Peter his friend was only being reasonable.

But it was that same sly whispering as that which tripped up man so very long ago... that you might become like God. 

Our Friday night community group noticed that doctrine isn’t about airtight parsing and culturally correct prepositions, but rather the Holy Spirit is He who wields the Sword guided by faith and love.  These are what remains, and the greatest of these is love.  

And I want to be smart. And sensible. And knowledgable.  But when it gets right down to it, often that looks a lot like elbow-shoving my way back onto the throne of my heart.  

And over at the Vineyard, the teacher was whipping out slightly dated by nevertheless eye-popping Barna Group statistics about the abysmal biblical worldview of Americans, even self-described born agains.  Which is distressing, until one remembers James' admonition that even the demons have perfect worldview, and what does it matter? Nothing. Without fruit. And the Barna Group came out with some more recent statistics on that one, and once again the Christians flop, talking and acting like Pharisees, rather than like Jesus.  And actually, the less orthodox folk seem to act more like Jesus, while the dot and tittle guys stepped back into the shadows muttering into their beards that at least I am not like that sinner.  

So today, this week as I step out, let me choose to listen for the LORD God in the cool of the day, seeking me.  Seeking me with all His love. To set my mind on the things of God rather than to spin out of control into the tangled webs of with the thoughts of man. 

Don’t let Satan whiff it out.  I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. This little light of mine.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Going up in a poof of smoke

Am I my brother's keeper?

For whosoever may be wanting to save his soul shall be destroying it. Yet whosoever should be destroying his soul on my account shall be finding it, for what will a man be benefitted, if he should be gaining the while world, yet be forfeiting his soul? Or what will a man be giving in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26

So Josh asked me to stand up in retreat and share a time when one of the brothers encouraged or admonished me, and it made all the difference.

And though of course my mind briefly flitted through my rather dramatic stories, my heart went straight to Max's good word.

That first year at Wildcat School was really tough. A lot of hopes and dreams were smashed and squished and shattered against the blackboard of reality every single day, every single period, and even in between in the hallways and staircases. And my carefully and tender crafted sacrifices were offered up at first with cheerful confidence and quickly with humble hesitancy only to be cursed upon and spat upon, and sometimes slammed up against the wall and shook. With me inside them.

And every morning I would pile into my little rumbling Mercedes, along with all of those  lesson plans and happy-faced papers and maybe-today-will-be-differents, and sing little cheerful but vaguely tuneless ditties over to myself and look out at the sunrise bouncing off of the Tucson Mountains, the sunrise reflecting in my rear view mirror, and mutter my rosary off sorts, I look up to the hills, from whence comest my strength; my strength comest from the LORD, and all was pretty good.

Until I made that right hand turn to merge onto I-10 west. And then, man, I would just start crying. And I would cry all the way up Sixth Avenue until I pulled into the cracked asphalt parking lot. Unless I was just sniffling. Or sometimes even sobbing.

And the days stumbled forward, long days of disappointment and bad decisions made with good intentions and with just the tiniest glimmers of hope around the edges.  And what can I do with these angry hissing Wildcats?

And I am sure my long-suffering friends and friends sort of rolled their eyes and asked, What did you expect and I am sure it's not that bad, except Jon and Pamela who knelt down before me in mock homage after they had laid their honed-around-the-country and polished Mayan offerings before the restless hordes and watched them go up in smoke as well.

Except for Max. He got it.

Max who publicly defends his child porn guy and his Somalian pirate and his wanna be bomber. And He listens to their stories all day long. The back story. And it's about a lot of things. About abusive uncles and voices shouting through paper thin walls and moving every three months because grandma never can pay the rent and feeling so very, very angry because none of those little black marks on the page make any sense, but it's never about me.

It never is.

And when He was lifted up to bring all people to Himself, and they were cursing Him and spitting on Him and shoving a shaft deep into His side, He said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

And something shifted in my head. And the days were still long and hard, but somehow  it looked different. Releasing my soul to be smashed and squished and shattered, and yet restored. Every day, His oil splashed down, and I stopped weeping at that right hand turn, and life became about squinting my eyes, and poking around in the bushes, and peering into dark holes, looking for lost sheep.

It's not about me.

And life is like that for each of us. And right now my issues are beyond mundane, but sometimes people look at me funny and make hurtful assumptions, or pull in front of me and make me slam on my brakes or miss the light because they are so busy texting or give stupid answers to my good questions or ask for spare change while they stand there smoking a cigarette, or the list is of course endless. Because the hapless herd of milling sheep is endless.

And yet each has a name. And it is still not about me. And it’s all about them and His great love and nail-pierced grace.

He is no fool who trades what he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sometimes when you leap out of the fish bowl you land on the floor

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16

The Atlantic has an article this month about the New Atheism, and what drives people to denounce a belief in God, because the large precent of them started out in Christian homes and then either drifted or leaped out of faith.  And over and over again, after a few stabs at pretending it was science or reason that drove them, it turns out to be so-called Christians that caused them to doubt. Not so much an over-focus on politics or social issues or unleashed prejudices or the usual suspects. Rather it just seemed that the Christians themselves didn’t really believe what they said.  

It seems to the unbelievers that if those who choose to be called by His name really believed, every single moment of every single day would be a full court press loving people, declaring the name of Jesus, speaking of hope and grace. Not mostly the same old, same old, and by-the-way, yeah, I go to church.

The researcher ends his article with a little story about David Hume, the humanist: Sincerity does not trump truth. After all, one can be sincerely wrong. But sincerity is indispensable to any truth we wish others to believe. There is something winsome, even irresistible, about a life lived with conviction. I am reminded of the Scottish philosopher and skeptic, David Hume, who was recognized among a crowd of those listening to the preaching of George Whitefield, the famed evangelist of the First Great Awakening:"I thought you didn't believe in the Gospel," someone asked.

"I do not," Hume replied. Then, with a nod toward Whitefield, he added, "But he does."

I watched a movie Monday night, Father of Lights, about a bunch of Christians who do indeed live their life with conviction. Every single morning, every single moment of the day, it is clear that their listening ear is cocked for the Father of Light’s gentle prodding.  And sometimes they fall flat on their faces. At least that is what it looks like in the running camera of short shots. And I am still trying to figure that out.  But maybe that is the Pharisee in me.  Like being given some pretty big over sweeping Love Commandments and feeling the need to break them down into tidy outlines and tasty recipes and if/then statements. Especially tidy. I like tidy.

And it’s really hard when the knee hurts worse after they pray for it than before.  But there is without a doubt something winsome, even irresistible, about this life of conviction. And without a doubt, I do know that He is at work and that I have seen and held and been a part of miraculous restoration against the way things should go as dictated by the Laws of Physics. Either winding down or spinning outward. But sometimes there isn’t the expected restoration. Now. In this moment of time which binds me and my understanding into knots.  And I don’t get it. And I think, Hey, God I asked for a fish and You gave me a stone. 

So even though I don’t have neat tidy alphabetized boxes to organize God and How He Works, this is the direction in which I am stumbling.  In His direction. I mean, only crazy people ask for a tender aching heart. Because I do not want to live in a small quiet bowl of water in the windowsill just waiting for food and air and to die. And I am willing, at least in the Spirit (Lord, I believe; help my unbelief) to make bold proclamations and wait for the fall flat on my face moment.  (I guess that’s where He wants me anyway, flat on my face.) Again and again, to leap out of the boat. 

“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to You on the water.”

“Come,” He said.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

chipped pink toe nails

And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel. Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” Matthew 15: 30-33

So I went to a Holy Spirit conference this weekend.  Very much praying Give me ears to hear and eyes to perceive the manifold glories of God that I might worship You.  

 And in reality nothing dramatic happened.  No tingling hands and feet.  No descending lights.  No healing balms of Gilead. No prophetic words.  So at one point, I decided to just step into it, even lacking signs and marvels, and to request anointing.  Just like that.  And the line I stepped into resonated with my general understanding of one of my gifts, and I asked for a tender, even broken, heart for intercession.

And I pretty much figure God would like us all to carry that around.  An aching heart for hungry crowds. And He calls on me, His disciple, to be His hands and feet.  The speaker called it God’s addiction to incarnation. After Jesus gives thanks, He breaks the bread and gives it to me to serve, His compassionate provision, lest they faint in the road, the pilgrimage to Zion. 

And a woman who I knew from many years ago ran up and said, “Christy, it’s also about the gift of evangelism; you are anointed with that gift too.”  Sharing the good news.  Good news of happiness. And I am curious to see how it plays from here on out as I head out into Sunday, and Monday, and Tuesday. Perhaps now my feet will burn with the Spirit’s presence. 

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

My feet, complete with chipped pink toenail polish. 

Give me ears to hear and eyes to perceive the manifold glories of God that I might worship You.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sputtering into my tea cup

This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. Matthew 15:8-9

So yesterday I was asked, Who is a Pharisee?

And this is the question I am asking myself ever-so-often on this trip through the familiar words of Matthew, that I so dutifully memorized in King James verbiage many years ago in order to gain a position on the Tennessee State Bible Quiz Team.

Because there are a lot of Pharisees in Matthew, this Gospel written for the Jews, the People of the Law.

When I click on the footnotes on my online ESV Bible it automatically includes sermons from John Piper, and the word “worship” sent me to a 1981 sermon entitled “Worship is an End in Itself.”  And I settled in for a good read, because like so many of my ilk, middle-aged evangelicals, we all read and reread Desiring God, over and over, like a good cup of hot tea after a long cold day: Worship is not a door through which we pass to get anywhere. It is the end point, the goal. And I have some now developing theological disagreements with Mr. Piper now, as I read and reread the Scriptures, but I so very much hold him in honor in my heart as well, and a man of God who held open this door for me.

But as I was rolling along happily, I ran into a troubling statement, just as he wound up for the final pitch, the reiteration of today’s verse: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.  

What makes a worship service authentic and genuine and pleasing to God is the quickening of our hearts with appropriate emotions. But this quickening does not happen in a vacuum. It is caused by true perceptions of God's manifold glories. And so there must be substantial theological content in the service: in the lyrics of our hymns, in the prayers, in the Scripture, the sermon.

And I had to sputter on my cup of tea. Because Jesus walks away from these Pharisees right into a region of absolutely no true perceptions and zippo substantial theological content, the district of Tyre and Sidon, the capital of Canaanite culture and religion. And he found a woman of great faith, licking at the crumbs that fell off of the Chosen People’s plates. And I am quite sure that her worship was heartfelt and authentic and pleasing to God, especially after Jesus healed her severely oppressed daughter instantly. Her vision was clear and her perceptions were true, and it had nothing to do with substantial theological content in the lyrics of the hymns.

I grew up immersed in these commandments of men. They weren’t exactly taught with me sitting in a desk with notebook and pen, but I breathed it in and knew it to be true. I knew the Pope was the antiChrist. I knew that Pentecostals were demon-possessed. I knew that Presbyterians didn’t believe in the Bible.  I memorized explicit colored timelines that charted the end times moment by moment with up and down arrows that have all come to naught. 

But it really doesn’t matter. Because I didn’t know better.  None of us do.  We all see through a glass darkly. And I think that when that Glorious Day comes, all of that stuff with be rooted up and burned up like the chaff that it is, and we will all see clearly, all of us, a great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen."

But on the other hand it does matter. A lot. Because it stands in the path against the prayer of Jesus: May all of them to become one heart, just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us.

There is nothing wrong with depth and historical precedence and Greek verbs tenses or the lack thereof, and the Pharisees with the substantial theological content. Except that it is so easily leads us astray. Like wealth. Because it sure does nothing about being in one heart and mind. Not at all.  Or loving the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and likewise, your neighbor as yourself. Mostly it draws dark lines between me and my neighbor. And the old man on the metro with the big tattoo across his face. And the chick with the short shorts. Or is that a guy? And the laughing Muslim with a gold chain around his neck. With big words that aren’t even found in the Bible so we had to make them up. And it is so very, very easy to take it seriously. And write lots of books. And read lots of books. Which leads into taking myself seriously. And the instant that I do that, it becomes about me, and not about Him.  And I do not even see Him, standing right in front of me. Lifting the the Samaritan leper up from his knees. Taking a cup of water from that woman. Rolling up the bed of the cripple on a Sabbath. Speaking gently to the adulterer. Marveling over the heathen soldier. Chatting with the now-clothed demoniac. 

Quicken my heart. Give me ears to hear and eyes to perceive the manifold glories of God. That I may worship You.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The fringe of His garment

And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent around to all that region and brought to Him all who were sick and implored Him that they might only touch the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well. Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat. Matthew 14:34-Matthew 15:2

So I watched a Youtube of Nicole at Burning Man yesterday. Actually, three times. Nicole showed it to me, then I watched it with mom and then I watched it with Alan.  

And the thing is about Burning Man, is that the people of that place recognized Him.  And they stood outside His tent and His umbrella and implored Him that they might only touch the fringe of His garment. And they were made well.  And tears of joy streaked down their faces and smeared their face paint.  And it was ok.  

And there was not much talk of the sinner’s prayer or The Four Spiritual Laws or The Roman Road that I know so well from my childhood.  But there were stories, lots of stories, of healing and repentance. And this guy came back and we talked and prayed for four hours, and this lady was from Harvard, and this lady was a witch and had a serpent living in her.

And the big takeaway that Nicole has from being in that place is that God is bigger and more glorious than all of our traditions.  And He is at work to will and to work for His good pleasure. And He has been chasing these beloved lambs for a lifetime, calling them home. And what a joy to be there to welcome them, celebrating with joy before the angels of God over each lost sinner who repents.

I don't want to be a Pharisee, no, no, no.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin

Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31

It’s all those little lies pelting our thoughts that mess us up.  What Peter KNEW was that he was with the guy who had just fed the five thousand. What he KNEW was that he was indeed walking on the water. But then fear overtook his knowing, and down he went.

This is why we have to take every thought captive to obey Christ. We are called believers, not tryers.  We are not called to grit our teeth and step off the cliff of obedience in fear.  There is to be a lightness of step and joy, because we know what is true. 

I have lots of insightful saying tapping from my fingers from Joyce Meyers, as I head into a new day, refreshened from yesterday’s sick day, but surely with lots of strong winds and high waves to step across: 
We will never enjoy life unless we make a quality decision to do so. 
Wisdom is doing right now what you are going to be happy with later on.
Today can be effortless as you depend on God’s grace to do what He has called you to do.
He never called us to be busy.  He called us to be fruitful. 

Pop, pop, out the door I go.  

Walk in the Truth, as I am in the Truth.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Even in a desolate place

When he went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said,“They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:14-15

He had compassion on them all, the entire great crowd.  No matter what the circumstances, the choices, the attitudes or expectations.  He had compassion, because He knows of what we are made of, dust.  And He fed each and every one.  Each one was ordered to sit down and be served. And all were satisfied. And there were abundant leftovers.  

They need not go away, you give them something to eat, each and every one.

As I head out into my day, I too am going out into a great crowd.  And sadly, I am just beginning to put names to the faces, to the eyes.  And I am just beginning to hear stories. And just beginning to detect strengths and weaknesses and passions and not.  But that really doesn’t matter.  
It’s not about them.  He will feed them all. It’s not about me. My resources are paltry in facing the crowd. Two fishes and five loaves. 

It’s all about Jesus.

Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied.

And so today, Lord Jesus, I bring you my little basket. Almost empty.  And in the words of the Burning Man prophet, fill her up.

May I too weep tears of joy.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Maybe sprinkle a little more compost

And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ Matthew 13:27

I actually listened to the words of the songs we sang yesterday in church.  A lot of them were old songs and I marveled at the fresh new truths hidden in plain sight all of these years. And I was also struck by a line that reminded us that God knew from the very beginning of time that He would give His only begotten Son to save his scraggly, weedy, choked up but beloved seed, that the world through Him might be saved.  

Sometimes I feel particularly weedy and wilted and hardly worthy of being called a child of the King.  But He doesn’t give up; He doesn’t yank me out my my roots and toss me to one side. He waits.  For He is the LORD of the harvest.

And somehow the righteous shining like the sun in the kingdom of the Father more than balances all of that weeping and gnashing of teeth that we call life.  And I sort of get a glimpse of that, when I consider any harvest of any sort. It always involves lots of kneeling and digging and watering and fertilizing and weeding and pruning, but when all is said and done, there is the harvest celebrated with great joy.  And in our case, it is most often artichokes with lots of butter and garlic and lemon juice squeezed all over.

If it weren’t somehow worth it all, there would be no farmers, and we would all die.  The end result of all that weeping and gnashing is much, much bigger than the tiny seeds first sown.  Thirty, sixty, a hundredfold.  

And The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.

He makes everything beautiful, beautiful in His time.

Even me.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

And a rainbow arched upward and disappeared into the clouds

Come, let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn us, that He may heal us;
He has struck us down, and He will bind us up.
Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
His going out is sure as the dawn;
He will come to us as the showers,
As the spring rains that water the earth.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
The knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Hosea 6, Matthew 12:7

Be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God,
for He has given the early rain for your vindication;
He has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the latter rain, as before.
The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.Amos 2:23-25

Somehow these Scriptures pull together so many small yet very vivid images from the past two days, wrapping them all up into one big hopeful promise. 

The brilliant pink burst momentarily lined the later rain clouds piled high in the east when I turned the corner of Tucson International Airport after dropping off Nicole as she heads to South Dakota to challenge students, teachers and families to be intentionally and courageously kind. Momentarily.  My next glance eastward, towards Aslan’s country, was filled with only heavy greyness, but the sign of glory had broken through, a promise.

Tucson is suffering a plague of swarming locusts: the hoppers, the destroyers, and the cutters, The little colorful bodies are throwing themselves upward and inward to every vulnerable space. Chomp, chomp, chomp through the basil and oregano by the front door, leaping into my classroom, along with a door-rattling blast of wind that blew framed pictures off the wall into shattering shards of glass. And while I can trap a few of them into mismatched petri dishes for an observation activity for my science students and toss a couple of the decidedly most unhappy ones into the black widow jar on my desk, hundreds of the little guys crunch underfoot. Underfoot, a promise.

Scooched together with a largish crowd of greying but perky souls who had gathered for foot-stomping fiddle playing, Carmen and I went to a folk music fundraiser last night headlined by Ryanhood.  Which of course meant a polished rendition of “Always Love You”:
No need to be so concerned with who is best or holiest... 
No need to be consumed with all the ways that you try to save your life...
because you are going to be sifted like the wheat, because no wheat is going to grow unless it dies... 
No need to be so confused by all the fires you have to walk though because they are breaking you and making you and building you to love the least of these, even Me... 
I will always walk with you, even if you feel you walk alone, And I will walk along with you unknown, I will walk along with you unknown, til you come home. Steadfast love, a promise.

And I had to pick a favorite verse for my Desert website biography.  So I wandered through myriad translations of Psalm 84:5, weighing “Blessed,” versus “How blessed,” and “Happy,” and “What joy for those.”  And considering “whose strength is in You” as contrasted with “strength is from the LORD,” and “strength is in Thee.” And  have I set my heart or my mind on a pilgrimage?  Or am I “disposed to ascend by steps”?

But what is more important than the me part of the verse, is the He part of the verse: He will heal us; He will bind us up; He will provide springs of water in the dry valleys, until we arrive home.

And there is 70% chance of rain today in Tucson, as just announced by NPR radio, which really means that drops are falling right on top of the announcer as he peers out of the window from his office somewhere at the university campus. And even surer than rain in Tucson today from the cumulonimbus clouds heaped up over the Catalinas, is His pouring down rain and the overflowing vats, a promise given so very long ago.

And let me not be a Pharisee who turns my back on Him, and walks away to conspire, because my plans and concerns and pride and sacrifice look different than His mercy. 

But let me be glad and rejoice in the LORD my God. May I enter the house of the God and eat the bread of His presence. Come let us return to the LORD.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Come unto me, all you weary and you wired

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30

Lord Jesus, Your burden is light and Your yoke is easy. I pray that we as Your people might be joyful and content exactly where we are, full of gratitude and making the most of all that You have given us, and the garden that You have given us tend.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

And may my face shine

The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. Matthew 10:41-42

Sometimes, like most every time, that I pick up a paper and read about 2 millions Syrians refugees or Arizona’s overflowing foster-care system or impoverished teachers and poor schools in Nicaragua, I fret about not going into all the world, particularly if I am folding stacks of two-shirts-and-he-has-none laundry or rearranging cans on my pantry shelf just to squeeze in a few more granola bars and leftover pita chips.  

And here I am at 220 South Country Club Road, Tucson, Pima County, Arizona, The United States of America.  Forever, most likely, until they drive up the rolling cart to wheel away my donated-to-science body. How then am I to number my days, that I might gain the heart of wisdom that Jon talked about in devotions yesterday? For a man's wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.

And yet. Monday afternoon I received a couple of dust-encrusted prophets straight from the playa, and hosed them down and made a quick pop out to Food City for icy dark Bohemias, because that is what they liked. Tonight a beautiful young lady is going to join me on the back porch and hope for an-almost-autumn evening breeze and talk about what does it mean to live rightly.  And I sure pass out a lot of cold water smiles and specific positive feedbacks and splashes of experienced counsel just to make school and that which follows a little easier than one could possibly count.

So today let me receive with joy the reward of life, life abundant, God’s gift to those who lose theirs for His sake.  

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Springs of water in the Valley of Baca

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:36-37

Playa dust is everywhere. Its fine particulates coat each surface with its subtle presence, impossible to really wipe clean. And underneath the swirling glitter and soaring scaffolds the sense of harassed and helpless is thick. Sue compared the event to the Tower of Babel: words, words, words stacked up high, the best efforts of man to remake society in our own image.  The founder told the folks from our team,  “There is no Supreme Being.  Being is Supreme,” with more than just a slight edge of arrogance. 

In gentle contrast, humility dwelt under the orange tents at coordinates 3G. And while tears of both joy and repentance flowed down and smeared the face paint and splashed off the equipment, words were few.  

Fill him up.

And the cold sparkling life-giving Spirit bubbled up and over the rim of hearts stretched open to welcome the wandering sheep seeking green pastures and cool waters in the burning desert, where no rest was to be found.  

Because laborers were to be found, kneeling in the powder, with hands lifted high and hearts bowed low. 

May the seeds of true freedom sprout a harvest of righteousness for many generations to come, for those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

New wine in new wineskins

Jesus turned, and seeing her He said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” Matthew 9:22

Twelve years is a long time to bleed.  I ought to know.  

And once again, the ruler, having come to the end of his resources and hope, knelt before Jesus.  “Come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”  And Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and the girl arose.  

And she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well. And instantly the woman was made well.

And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.”

I believe; help my unbelief.