Sunday, November 30, 2014

Humble yourself in the sight of the LORD

Hallelujah! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation. Psalm 111:1

With my whole heart, no qualifiers or second-guessers or distracting accusations. My whole heart. And we are the upright because You are our father, and we are your children. And we have been washed whiter than snow.

And may my heart rejoice and be glad as we congregate together to honor You, our LORD and God. Together, undivided into factions and denominations and red and blue parties and different sides of the (barbed wire) fence.

Then He looked me in the eye and said, "Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: 'I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.' For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners."

And may I offer my sacrifices of praise with a clean heart, holding nothing against my brother or sister. For it is indeed a sobering judgment to ask the LORD God who sees into all of the dark corners and closet spaces of my heart to Forgive me my sins just as I have forgiven those who have sinned against me.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Clickity Clack Clickity Clack

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 2 Corinthians 10

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. Psalms 19:14

God desires truth in the inward parts. Psalms 51:6

This mind control requires persistence and patience. It requires coming again and again to the truth no matter how many times I have done so before, and quietly, gently, and humbly, choosing that same truth again, deciding this is what will be, this is the way I'm going to think, this is what I will act, and refusing to do otherwise. This is bringing captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Renew. Again and again. New every morning with that just-bubbling cup of espresso. New mid-morning as the day settles around my shoulders, New in the weariness of late afternoon traffic. And new as I stare into the starting-to-turn-to-coals fire just before I head off to the ice cubicle bedroom with flannel sheets.

And I am also staring at an as-yet-undefined length of time sabbatical. A Sabbath rest in perhaps the Delectable Mountains, to behold the gardens and orchards, the vineyards and fountains of water; where also they may drank, and wash themselves, and freely eat of the vineyards, a place of relief for pilgrims that are weary and faint in the way.

And I don't think it is a coincidence that Christian was led here after his escape from Giant Despair. 

And somehow My Father put this idea into the heart and mind of my boss, and maybe I sputtered for a day or two or eight, but then it settled in true and I am so grateful for his willingness to follow the gentle prodding into the unknown.

And the folks who know me, all of whom are enthusiastic about the concept, are a bit quizzical about the day-to-day.  Is God really going to be able to wrest the checklists out of the Checklist Lady’s fingers?

And this morning I woke up as usual just before the clock flipped to 4:15 a.m. but I didn’t have to hop out just yet into the day so I just lay there and thought about these verses that I had tucked into my heart yesterday. And I pretty much thought to myself that this is enough. I can live right here, practicing the presence of God for a whole chunk of undistracted time and Be. Be without the clickity clack clickity clack railroad track careening in the background of every conversation with the other or with myself.

I grew up a stone’s toss from the Norfolk Southern Railroad and every time it passed the pictures on the dining room wall trembled. And everyone tried not to notice, but we did. That’s pretty much how I have lived the past thirty-five years of my life and I get it that everyone who loves me would like the picture frames to stop rattling in the background.

Perfect Peace.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

And Buon Natale is hanging up high on the tree

Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name. Psalm 86:11

Well, it’s that time of year again.

My mom’s friend likes to knit so over the years we have all been gifted with afghans in specially chosen colors that spend most of the year folded up neatly in the hall closet but now that the not-so-frigid weather has struck Tucson, these blankets are now draped around couch arms and people shoulders and group laps in front of the fireplace.

And knitting is actually a pretty amazing concept. Entwined back and forth indistinguishable from one another woven into beautiful yet sturdy functionality.

And the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

As I walk with the Lord, I discover that God poses an ominous threat to my ego, but not to me. He rescues me from my delusions, so He may reveal the truth that sets me free. He casts me down, only to lift me up again. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but love from the Lord is its completion. - William D. Eisenhower

Perspective. Seeing. Revealed truth that sets me free.

And yesterday afternoon Nicole and I dragged out all of the old boxes full of strung lights and slightly bent angels and crèches and candle holders and embroidered stockings to be hung by the chimney with care. Boxes crammed full of crinkled memories and sparkling smiles nestled up right against bruised aches as yet unresolved pains. Boxes heaped to overflowing with perspective. Because this year, like every year before it, has not been the easiest thing, and the road has been long and uphill, lots of uphills.

But what is true is this: Jesus taught us, saying, Now if that is how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field which are there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will He not much more look after you, you who have so little faith?

But, what is true is this: You crown the year with your goodness, and Your paths overflow with plenty. 

Perspective. Seeing. Revealed truth that sets me free.

And those long hard uphills are nevertheless under strong trees and by still waters and I shall not want. May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing, and the hills be clothed with joy.

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

With my whole heart I seek you

The Call to Prayer
Taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are they who trust in Him! Psalm 34:8

The Request for Presence
Gladden the soul of Your servant, for to You, O LORD, I lift up my soul. Psalm 86:4

With my whole heart, with no rag tag remnants of self-pity or murmuring or finger pointing. Jesus is flat out clear: And When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.


That pretty much covers it.

And then, and only then, can we step into the feast, the grand table spread out for me, with extra whip cream and caramelized pecans, and just maybe a glass of swirling red wine of gladness.

And Matt Redman’s song swept me through the endless sprint workout this morning, just as the morning light edged up against the blue black night:
The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Bless the Lord, O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your holy name

You're rich in love, and You're slow to anger
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find

Joy comes in the mourning.
The upside down gospel.

Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

And my daily neighborhood alert starts off with this headline: Members of a troubled Uni­versity of Arizona fraternity shouted an anti-Jewish slur and 'Heil Hitler' when they recently kicked down an apartment door and roughed up Jewish students inside

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and will save those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18

And really, even though I was such a nice girl whose favorite book was To Kill a Mockingbird and who was in the first stream of white middle school kids bussed into McMinnville City School buried in the middle of the black shanty part of town and who drank from the brand new aluminum chilled water fountains standing next to the rust-stained white porcelain spigots with-barely-any-water-trickling-out labeled “colored” with paper signs and duct tape and who even roller-skated with a black boy at the school dance once, I never really even edged into seeing until a few years ago when I stood next  to some kiddos and parents and their teachers in a school parking lot at South Sixth and Drexel Road and wept.

And I forget what the kid did, whether he shoplifted from the Circle K or talked back to the janitor or had drugs in his backpack, but I sure saw what happened afterwards. And he was silently hunched and handcuffed and still the cop would not let up, but kept shoving him against the patrol car and kept yelling in his face and then the girlfriend came running up crying and she got shoved and yanked and cuffed we all watched. We watched and I knew that this was systematic injustice and degradation and that this was a lecture in a long series of lectures for all of my kiddos standing there and their mothers and fathers who already knew what is what. A public service announcement about the way things work here in America, land of the free.

And I saw it again and again, once I crossed over the invisible line that runs down 22nd Street in Tucson. And I don’t care how many cops are my friends and how kind they are and sacrificial and willing to step into danger for community safety, I know that there is systemic injustice and degradation.

And I hear Pastor Leonce Crump’s prayer and plea…I want to believe that you will rise to our aid, and that you would agree that a silent Christian who avoids applying the gospel to issues of injustice—though those issues may be uneasy, unclear or politicized—upholds the very structures that purport and perpetuate injustice.

And once again I marvel over the world net, tossed over all humanity and pulling us in together. There are some good words that two or three of us gathered together can share in the presence of the Almighty.

Defender of the weak, open our eyes to the poor and marginalized in our midst. Teach us to not just to serve the poor, but to see the poor. And may we too become poor, as you became poor, that we all might be filled with the riches of heaven. –Jeff Hanaan

Yeah, the world needs peacemakers tonight, Lord, who let the broken bits of our heart fill in all the cracked pieces & places in the world. The world needs prayer warriors who don’t see prayer as the least we can do but the most we can do — and then literally get down on their knees & pray us through. The world needs us to belong to each other, to hear each other, to hurt with each other, to be kind to one another. Kindle us with kindness, Lord, keep us with kindness, kiss us with kindness. Please, resurrect us all with a courageous kindness that heals wounds with a Brave Love. –Ann Voskamp

An article in Christianity Today quotes Crump’s blog: I am 6’5”. I weigh 270 pounds. I’ve been called imposing. The police have stopped me, both walking and driving, nearly once a year since I was 15 years old. Though I have been asked to leave my vehicle, thrown to the ground and against my vehicle, interrogated, frisked, and cuffed on these occasions, I’ve not been cited. Not once.

Until you feel the humiliation of this moment, particularly as a “decent, civilized, educated black,”—Yes, that’s an actual quote of how someone referred to me once, behind my back of course—then you cannot say that it is an anomaly. You cannot say that someone was “just doing his or her job.”

Beyond the problem of racism, we must see the pain that injustice inflicts.

And Ed Stetzer finishes it up: So, we must acknowledge our faults, confess our sins, repent to those we harm, and seek reconciliation in the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Listen, understand, acknowledge, and come along the side of those who are hurting, bearing their burdens in love. Might we love in such a way that others see the unconditional love of Jesus.

In our system of justice, the law has spoken. Officer Wilson will not be charged by this grand jury, yet I hurt for the family of Michael Brown and for many others hurting in the African American community. And, coming from a family of NYC police and civil servants, I pray for the police there, including Officer Wilson and his family.

There are no winners here.

Now, this moment will pass. This case will fade. Yet, real issues still remain.

For many, this is about an incident. Yet, for many African Americans, it's about a system. It's worth listening to why people are responding differently to the situation in Ferguson.

That's what I hope to remind us (including myself) of today.

And this morning I can thank God for my already broken heart, very tender and gentle in it tenderness. For our hearts must break, because our Savior’s heart breaks as he stands on the overlooking hill, longing to gather us up in His extended arms.

And we must join the chainbreakers and peacemakers. And those who pray.

A literally get down on my knees prayer.