Saturday, January 30, 2016

Then he will remove His hand. And we will look.

Show me the light of Your countenance, O God, and come to me. Psalm 67:1

Jesus said: “In all truth I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit; what is born of human nature is human; what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be surprised when I say: You must be born from above. The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5–8

The love of the Saviour was revealed to me, You can't explain what a revelation is. I saw that the Saviour and Father, before I should suffer, would rather suffer for me. No natural love is in the same world as His love. It was not merely that the Saviour helped me outside Himself; no, He took my place. I saw every other love so rough in comparison. Self was the motive of it. But I could see that love enduring through the countless ages of eternity. When you receive the Saviour, you receive the love of God. That love flooded my being, and it has flooded my being ever since. I .saw that by His coming in to me, He would love sinners through me, as He loved me. It would not be forcing myself to love others, any more than the Saviour forced Himself to love me. No person could be an enemy to me, because I had been an enemy to Him before I was reconciled. If I live in the realm where He is, I live to have mercy, and to be kind, to love others. Could the love of God in me do harm to anyone? I had left the world and its folly, and been born into that Kingdom where there is only the love of God -- the most attractive life on the face of the earth. –Rees Howells
So I started off yesterday with this question in my heart…What is it that I ask of You, in Your name? That You promise to do so that the Father will be glorified in the Son. Anything. Ask anything in Your name, and You will do it.

I didn’t have an answer yet.


And my soundtrack for the ride down Broadway was once again Audry Assad: From the need to be understood From the need to be accepted From the need of being lonely Deliver me O God Deliver me O God.

And I glanced over the Mother Teresa prayer taped to my windshield: Dear Jesus, help us to spread your fragrance everywhere we go. Flood our souls with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly, that our lives may only be a radiance of yours.

And I briefly mulled over the Request for Presence, Show me the light of Your countenance, O God, and come to me, but my attention was distracted by all of the usual darts, and the day quickly unraveled into a tear-blurred rollercoaster ride of humiliation.

But last night I rode out to the airport and once again I waited below the escalator and watched the distorted people walk past the camera monitor.  I have done this sort of thing a lot. Lots of memories. And Nicole had stories of her adventures by the sea, hard and good. And profound.

And last night I began to read the story of Rees Howells. A very nice Christian Welshman who at last saw the light of His countenance. And when the love of God was revealed to him, his life was never the same.

And oddly enough the Request for Presence was the same today as yesterday:
Show me the light of Your countenance, O God, and come to me.


In My name.

Show me the light of Your countenance, O God, and come to me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

And this morning the glorious trail of planets sparkled in the clarity overhead.

Jesus taught us, saying: “. . . if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering.” Matthew 5:23–24

Happy are they whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Psalm 119:1

All wonder and worship can only grow out of smallness. – Ann Voskamp

Expectations kill relationships. –Ann Voskamp’s momma

Yep. No one can live up to the glossy ad campaigns that fill the in-basket of our mind.

And I pretty much skimmed right over the Happy is the one whose walk is blameless the first and second time through the Scripture reading. Blameless seemed like such a ridiculous word.

And yet two things:
It is the key to happiness.
And it is what He died for, that was the purpose, that I might be blameless and happy.

I mean, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not holding anyone’s faults against them, but entrusted to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19

So what happened?

I have gotten all tangled and tripped up in the Accuser’s web. Totally bound up holding faults.

How can I receive his free gift of blamelessness when I am so busy reiterating the sins done unto me?

 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6: 36-38

With the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

And today, once again, we will celebrate the Eucharist together, at Imago Dei. Each of us His Image-bearers will sit quietly together and confess our sins. But beforehand, I must be reconciled with my brother. Release him and her from the bleak prison of my expectations.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Release myself.
Release God from my sharp pointy prison of expectations.

And then, and only then, may I offer up my gifts of thanksgiving and worship.
And receive His free gift of blamelessness.

Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Or maybe just slinging that book bag over my shoulder.

Come now and look upon the works of the LORD, what awesome things He has done on earth. Psalm 46:9

And over and over again, Ann Voskamp talks about eucharisteo before the miracle. And today for some reason folks were looking at a post written long ago from an ocean of pain… a song of praise was in my heart, however, sort of. Mostly I am trying to make it up the next hill with just a trace of praise under my breath.

Holy, holy, holy.

And the next day we rolled our bicycles into Mondoñedo over the muscle-jouncing cobbled stones and saw the mighty power and love of God take hold and heal mightily and angels bumbled out of the side roads and comforted me and Nicole shared a vision of a light tower and crashing waves that pierced the souls of all who were present.

And this is not a make-believe fairy tale we are spinning.

That is the point of all of these monuments, the Joshua stones set by the river. Remember when we saw and held and tasted His goodness? 1000 gifts upon 1000 gifts. And if He showed Himself as powerful love yesterday, as He pressed our daily bread into our outstretched hand, will He not show Himself yet again?

Today my predawn gratitude was for the grace of the glowing eastern horizon, new every morning, His faithfulness.

And the Monday night ladies all told stories as we sat by a crackling fire and sipped our tea. Stories of pain and brokenness and even hopelessness.

What to think when staring circumstance straight into its blood-shot eyes?

We were all gripped last night by the image of when we look back, we see God’s back. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Then he will remove His hand. Then we will look.

Then we will look back and see His back.

But belief is not simply mental assent. Even the demons believe. Belief is a verb, something that you do. It is not something conjured up through sheer willpower. Rather is it hiding spies under a pile of straw. Taking that step into that raging river. Leaping off of that storm-tossed boat. Picking up the bed and walking. Obedience.

Faith without works is dead.

And the first act of faith is to give thanks, sight unseen.

Out loud, with words.

How do you count on life when the hopes don’t add up?
The hopes don’t have to add up. The blessings do.

Jesus replied this is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent (that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger) John 6:29 AMP

Voskamp continues: That is my daily work, the work God asks of me? To trust. The work I shirk. To trust in the Son, to trust in the wisdom of this moment, to trust in now. And trust is that: work. The work of trusting love. Intentional and focused.

Eucharisteo always precedes the miracle, child.

Beloved child.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Little Nutbrown Hare held on tight to Big Nutbrown Hare's very big ears.

Come now and see the works of God, how wonderful He is in His doing toward all people. Psalm 66:4

O LORD, what are we that you should care for us? mere mortals that you should think of us? We are like a puff of wind; our days are like a passing shadow. Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down. Psalm 144 3-4

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the façade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.  Fred Rogers

Easier to let a mind run wild with worry than to exercise discipline, to reign her in, slip the blinders on and train her to walk steady in certain assurance, not spooked by the specters looming ahead.

And yet He does care for us. He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. All gratitude is ultimately gratitude for Christ, all remembering a remembrance of Him. For in Him all things were created, are sustained, have their being. The crux of Christianity: to remember and give thanks–eucharisteo.

In time years, dust settles.
In memory, ages, God emerges.
Then when we look back, we see God’s back.
Is that it? When it gets dark, it’s only because God has tucked me in a cleft of the rock and covered me, protected, with His hand? In the pitch, I feel like I’m falling, sense the bridge giving way, God long absent. It is in the dark that God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is the closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can’t see, and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us. I-beam supporting in the earthquake. Then He will remove His hand. Then we will look back.

Jesus call me to surrender and there’s nothing like releasing fears and falling into peace. It terrifies, true. But it exhilarates. There is no joy without trust. –Ann Voskamp

So Brandon stopped by yesterday afternoon on the way home from Ryan’s Airfield where he did his solo-piloting airplane thing. And I must admit, as he describes the weird wind currents and the sudden drops just before he lands and having to throttle up and leap towards the sky to avoid crashing into the earth I can’t quite picture choosing this form of exhilaration.

Especially after watching The Martian with the extended family the night before. Yet these are the dreams and hopes of his bright blue eyes, soaring through the stars with no murky atmosphere clouding his vision.

There is no joy without trust.

And tightly clinging to control and fear and resentment sure as heck does not bring joy.

But living free does.

Crossing each day’s bridges in perfect trust because He has proven Himself Stop-at-Nothing-Trustworthy. Arms outstretched.

And even realizing that The Martian was a fictional character, his courage and steady walk is based on the truth of our heroes, those who kept the faith even in the darkness, quietly, steadily planting potatoes in poop. And whether our heroes are Daniel in the lions’ den and imprisoned Joseph and Hannah waiting for a child or Martin Luther King Jr. in Birmingham writing about forgiveness and Mother Teresa kneeling down in the Calcutta gutters or that guy rolling his wheelchair down the sidewalk with a plastic Safeway grocery bag looped around the handle and the single mom who makes sure her kids set out their schoolwork by the apartment front door before going to bed, each and every hero holds steady in the darkness, trusting that In the blackest, God is the closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will.

And one more thing from The Martian. When I pulled myself out of the pool this morning and looked up, there was a big soft white round moon looking down at me. Exactly like the moon on the last page of the pop-up edition of Guess How Much I Love You that I read to Everette that night, in her tiny secret room. And Big Nutbrown Hare lay down close by and whispered with a smile, “I love you right up to the moon – and back.” The other thing about the movie is that there were no bad guys, no antagonists at all. Everyone was just muddling about as best they could, puffs of wind, passing shadows from the big perspective, the For God So Loved the World perspective. He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. A reminder of Who am I to judge my Father’s child? He knows each of our unloveliness and fearfulness and what lies behind the door, behind the facade. It is His love that saves us, not we ourselves.

Awe…awe ignites joy because it makes us bend the knee and we are in deepest happiness in the posture of grateful worship. Because the God-likeness with our smallness speaks to Father-God to His magnificence. –Ann Voskamp

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Soft is stronger then hard, water is stronger then rocks.

Let my mouth be full of Your praise and Your glory all the day long. Psalm 71:8

Ultimately having his nets broken and his boat flooded with water were nothing compared to witnessing this miraculous catch of fish, to having his Savior revealed before his very eyes.  “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
There is no such thing as too much love, too much patience, too much prayer, too much forgiveness, nor too many sons and daughters returning to The Father,.  Although my earthly body, earthly home and earthly perspectives may not hold up very well, although I can hear that high pitched creaking of ropes stretching under too much tension – the words of Jesus are the same:  Follow Me. –Kirsten Phillips

It’s not about me and my expertly and carefully crafted nets.

Repent. Re-see. And follow Him.

Your praise and Your glory.

And may I be soft.
Water, not a brittle rock.
All day long.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Even now there is rejoicing among His angels.

Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call; have mercy on me and answer me. You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.” Your face, LORD, will I seek. Psalm 27:10–11

I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me out of all my terror.

Jesus taught us, saying: “. . . what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, I have found the drachma I lost.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.” Luke 15:8–10

I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me out of all my terror.

For He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and adder; you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet. Psalm 91:10–13

I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me out of all my terror.

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.

Almighty God, who has promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in your Son’s Name: I beseech you mercifully to incline your ear to me who have made my prayers and supplications to you; and grant that those things which I have faithfully asked according to your will, I may effectually obtain, to the relief of my necessity, and to the setting forth of your glory; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Terror is a strong word.

And I really try to whittle down the morning office to a phrase or two, to more simply mull it over throughout the day.

But yesterday as we were driving up the curvy road to Mt Lemmon and the snow, Heather gently accused me of carrying the sorrows of the world. She caught me furtively packing something away. And I have to confess that I am guilty of this, picking up little pieces of the broken bits and stashing them in the pocket of my heart until it becomes this huge massive Pilgrim’s Progress burden that indeed becomes a true terror.

Terror from all the things I cannot control.

Which is pretty much all of it.

LORD, have mercy.

And this morning He reminds me that it is His kingdom. He is come, God-With-Us.

And He will speak to my heart.

And He is the woman with the lost coin, who will stop at nothing to seek out the sinner who is each of us.

And He will bear me in His hands through this long scary day full of terrors that I cannot control.

Even me. I can’t even control myself.

But I can repent.
Turn around.
Towards Him.

And Gary’s sermon Sunday was all about repentance as being the first step of discipleship. Turning around and following Jesus. Seeking His face.

Deep change v. slow death. Small changes, slow death, mean that I want to stay in control. Deep, daily change shows true repentance, being open to new ways of seeing things. Everything.

Whether we are proud. Or filled with shame. Or wandering crookedly and making excuses. Whatever, Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but the sinner.

Perhaps God is saying to you, Get ready for something new.

Dumping out my pockets and shaking loose all of all the terrors I cannot control.

Your face, LORD, will I seek.

And on my way to some of the uncontrollable terrors that await me across from the downtown bus station, I am going to stop at the Little Chapel of the Nations at the corner of Highland and First Street and join a few folk in prayer.

May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

And at the end of a very long day, Panchita was still laughing.

Knit my heart to You. Psalm 86:11

Jesus taught the people, saying: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, ‘My boy, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not go,’ but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, ‘Certainly, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “In truth I tell you, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you.” Matthew 21:28–31

Jesus taught us, saying: “Whoever holds my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and reveal myself to him.” John 14:21

Jesus said to us: “In truth I tell you, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34, 40

Who knew?

Yesterday I went to pick up Panchita from her friend’s house, the most innocuous ranch-style home ever, tucked behind Myles Elementary on Broadway.  Her ninety-two-year-old friend with mostly bright red hair and a double-knee replacement so she can’t really walk very well. So Panchita went over because the lady hadn’t had visitors for a long time and then Panchita got distracted because the freezer was so filled with frost that the door wouldn’t shut so Panchita took everything out and cleaned it and under the kitchen sink because that was pretty scary too and then she made her chilaquillas because it had been a long time since she had eaten a good breakfast and could I please come and pick her up?

And the thing about this house is that this lady likes Christmas. Year round. And literally hundreds of Christmas stockings were hung up on every single vertical plane. And manger scene after manger scene are neatly arranged to fill each horizontal plane.

And the thing is, I drove down this street of small cookie-cutter ranch houses from the fifties, pulled into one driveway of one house with a faded number painted on the curb and knocked on the door with no idea of what lie behind it, just picking up Panchita and Judy so they could clean my house.

An explosion of red, green, tinsel, felt, sparkles, glitter, fringe, buttons, stars. Who had any idea of how many Christmas stockings have been crafted in the history of mankind? I now know that there are of course Snoopy stockings, and Smokey the Bear stockings, and My Little Pony stockings, and tie-die stockings and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves stockings.

And man, that lady loved hobbling through her house showing me her stockings and her crèches and the pictures of her grandchildren and of her and her brother, who started El Charro Restaurant.

And the point of this is that each and every person lives behind a door.

Each Imago Dei, made in His image, person lives behind a door. Each For God So Loved the World person.

Who knew?

We all know.

Every morning chapel Reverend Susan reads from her big book of fables from around the world, from all the nations, from all who will be gathered before the Son of Man who has come into His glory. And what is clear is that He has indeed written eternity on each heart. Everywhere tells the same stories of forgiveness and kindness and mercy and honesty. We are each without excuse.

We all know that we are to love the LORD our God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Even the despised Samaritan knew that.

And yesterday I went to a funeral. Well, actually I was late and I missed the funeral but I did make it to the reception in a side room of the church where vegetable platters with dip and chocolate chip cookies were being served on plastic platters. And I hugged the husband and the son who is my age, and met his kids. And that was pretty much it. A life.

But I will never forget that life. Because that lady who died suffered from diabetes 2. And I have known her for a long, long time, like since high school. And she never could walk very well. But every time I saw her, she was serving someone, whether it was heaps of lasagna, or labeling missionary newsletters, or knitting.

Mrs. Hosterman loved to knit. So my mom hired her to knit blankets for everyone. And we all have knit blankets. And there are two cream-colored knit blankets in my living room that pretty much everyone I know has wrapped around themselves one time or another. And there is the blue knit blanket that Ali did not take with him when he moved to Texas that is folded neatly over Alan’s big leather chair. And there is another smaller blue knit blanket for Everette to curl up with as she looks at books in her secret room with twinkly lights. And Panchita washed all of these blankets yesterday, because well, they get around. So now they all smell like Tropical Ocean fabric softener.

And every single morning and evening I wrap myself up in Mrs. Hosterman’s love.

And my prayer verse for yesterday was Knit my heart to You.

And I tried to think about it a lot. What does it mean to have my heart knit to His? So tangled up in His love and compassion and goodness that where He stops and I begin is indiscernible?

And really I have a long way to go. I get distracted a lot by the outside of ranch-style homes. And they are kind of bleak and weed-ridden. And bunches of times, I just sit out in my car out in the driveway and honk my horn.

But, then there is Panchita.

And really, I am without excuse. Because like those Pharisees who heard Jesus’s story about the man who was beaten by robbers, I get to see how it is done, every other week. Like yesterday Panchita opened up the door, walked in and knelt down in front of the grimy grease-caked gas stove and started scrubbing the cracked kitchen tile floor probably for the first time in fifteen or twenty years. Scrubbed six times, the whole thing.

She sure sees every grimy detail of our grimy little lives, but it does not slow her down.

Just as He sees every little grimy detail of our lives and still, for the joy set before Him, He picked up His cross. We who spit in His face. We blasphemers. We behind closed doors.

Knit my heart to You. 

That I might open those doors.

The doors to your vineyard.

And today after I go for a bike ride, I am going to church. And the name of our church, both of them, is The Vineyard, so we don’t forget.

But we do. I do.

Knit my heart to You.