Friday, December 30, 2016

And Yellow decided to risk for a butterfly.

Satisfy us by Your lovingkindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. Psalm 90:14

And this morning is still. Two candles are lit. The gas heater flickers silently. Everette is still. Still nestled in the big Nicole Indonesian comforter after her Thursday night sleepover.

And my heart is still. At rest. For the moment full up in His lovingkindness.

For the moment my eyes are fixed on Him and His faithful goodness.

But we are frail. This morning’s refrain echoes it over and over again, Remember, LORD, how frail You have made all flesh.

One of last night’s bedtime stories choices, after E. picked Tolstoy’s Papa Panav and The Wheels on the Bus yet one more time, was this year’s Cameron’s Christmas gift, Hope for the Flowers.

And it is the perfect bedtime story, as it traces the brokenness of all of our own attempts to satisfy the nameless longing in our hearts. And it is only through the total release of dying to all that I am, letting go of everything, wrapped up in the chrysalis of His redemption and His alone, that I will emerge beautiful in the truth of belovedness.

Truth to set the stage for dreams.

And Wednesday night’s AME bible study, in the small trailer down the street, finished up Philippians, savoring the very words the eight-year-old me claimed as her life verses, the very week that man first walked on the moon, a long time ago. Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything, and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. The Big Fat Green Puffy Living Bible.

Rejoice. I say it again, rejoice.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

His righteousness has He openly shown in the sight of the nations.

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for You judge the peoples with equity and guide all the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You. Psalm 67:3–5

They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by all the peoples. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

Let the rivers clap their hands, and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD, when He comes to judge the earth. In righteousness shall He judge the world and the peoples with equity. Psalm 98

So I turned to NT Wright this morning to read about righteousness, because for some reason we are to rejoice over it, unlike how I felt as a little naughty girl when my mom would warn, “Just wait until your father gets home,” and I would pace back and forth in front of the big living room window, peering nervously down the street, waiting for his black VW beetle to round the bend to mete out my well-deserved judgment.

“Paul saw that the Jewish problem of God’s righteousness (if the creator of the world is Israel’s covenant God, why is Israel still oppressed?) had been answered in a new and striking way in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The answer had, in fact, forced a restatement of the question, demonstrating as it did the universal sinfulness of Jews as well as pagans.  The gospel, Paul declares, proves that God is in the right despite appearances: he has kept covenant with Abraham, has dealt properly with sin, has acted and will act without partiality, and upholds all those who cast themselves, helpless, on his mercy.”

And Wright says that both Augustine and Luther veered off the gospel path, and made righteousness more of a thing we did, piling good deeds on one side of the scale to make up for all of our wickedness on the other side.

And the key word is “helpless” as we throw ourselves upon His mercy. “And sometimes,” Wright adds, “this complex meaning explains the occasional instances when the Septuagint uses dikaiosynē to translate not sedeq and its cognates but other roots such as hesed (grace, covenant mercy).”

He is the One who completed the Law, His grace, His mercy. It is not I, less I should ever boast or for even a moment judge or begrudge another.

And now that sin has been dealt with properly, we can rejoice, because all is being made right. Even the rivers clap their hands and the hills ring out with joy.

And the stars. This morning when I stepped outside into the almost-freezing fresh morning, the stars overhead were so brilliant that they too seemed to be laughing. Not unkindly, but nevertheless, with perspective. The battle has been won.

Love has triumphed.

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free

Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy,

a joy to be shared by all the peoples.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Although he looked a lot like Jack Voelkel with a red tablecloth tied around his shoulders.

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD. Psalm 31:24

Vineyard City Church had a surprise visitor Christmas Eve night, an older man, although still spry and alert, reflecting over some of the events of his life when he was much younger and falling in love with a local village girl named Mary. And life was not neat and tidy for Joseph, as he struggled with his fears and longings and the opinions of the neighbors, as well as what do about these unexpected angels of the LORD sent by Him to declare His will.

And the arrival of Emmanuel, God with Us, doesn’t mean that life gets easy and quickly resolved. It is a pilgrimage that can carry us on lonely paths through strange lands as we wait for the story to unfold.

But it Is comforting to hear the stories to those who have gone before me, the veritable cloud of witnesses, who also followed the quiet still voice, “Be strong and take courage, Because I, Your God, am with you, even unto the end of the age.”


Thursday, December 22, 2016

And Paul uses the word joy about a jillion times.

Satisfy us by your lovingkindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. Psalm 90:14

Lovingkindness can look like sweet rolls beat together at four in the morning. I woke up with a start, remembering that I had made a promise to one of my kiddos. And now they are baking, pretty much looking just perfect and gooey beyond belief. And I pounded out the speed swim set this morning with the kid from Mexico City, and we rocked the interval. Man, even dragging the recycle and garbage bins out in time this morning before the big truck rumbles down the street is a pretty rejoicing moment.

But joy is bigger than these bits of manna, even if they are from the hand of God.

So Monday’s afterschool Writer’s Circle got way angsty.  And our guest speaker who has published over forty young teen novels really had no clue of what fourteen-year-olds are all about. She was almost in tears after the last aspiring author gathered up her notebook and walked out the door. “My childhood wasn’t anything like this. I mean, I was kind of shy and quiet. But these kids… wonder if I say something wrong and they go out and commit suicide? I don’t know if I can do this.”

And yesterday two of the authors asked me about why the conversation got so bad, so dark, so quickly. And we talked about light shining in the darkness and noticing beauty and standing courageous against the shadows. As they wrapped their gift around my wrist… twisted threads whose renaissance colors meant wisdom, kindness and love.

And the girl who always squeezes my elbow just like Everette when she talks to me, asked me yesterday what was the all-out craziest thing I had done for my kiddos as a teacher. And I remembered the time that I hefted two students over the back wall of the school so my dad, who “just happened” to be driving by could pop them into his car and drive them home even though my mom was having a big dinner party and because I didn’t want to tell any fibs to inquisitive authorities, I slid into the gym where the girls basketball team was practicing, and sat on the floor beside the folded-up bleachers. And when one of the basketball players asked me what I was doing there, sitting on the floor, I asked her if she would let me duck into the back seat of her car and drive me home so the policeman outside wouldn’t see me. And her eyes got real big, but she said yes, and that was pretty all-out crazy. But the basketball player’s mother called me that evening and thanked me for showing her daughter what it meant to stand up against injustice.

And yesterday in social studies we learned that standing up sometimes means sitting down. The kids are doing powerpoints about lights shining in the darkness against injustice, and the sitting down of Rosa Parks set off a revolution in a country jam-packed full of injustice. As part of our Civil Rights unit we are reading To Kill a Mockingbird and thinking about Atticus Finch and what it means to make hard stands for justice, even when you know you are going to lose. Tom Robinson was never going to be declared innocent by an all-white jury when it was his black word against a white man’s word. And why was the jury all white? Because only registered voters were on juries, and people had to pass a literacy test before they registered, unless, of course, their Pre-Civil-War grandpa before them was a registered voter. And I am pretty much betting that not so many voters, or let’s say it, president-elects, could pass this test even today.

And they are taking notes on character traits, and moments of consequence, and impact. And their reflection is going to be about what they personally are going to do about the brokenness we see all around us. Just before we head off to the science lab and do our Happy Happy Polar (and nonpolar) Lab with shaving cream and bright food coloring that has sparkles in it.

And last night the folks at AME were reading Philippians together, which is all about having joy in the rough spots. How to have joy in spite of difficulties, how to have joy in spite of people, and how to have joy without things. And what it looks like to have the mind of Christ, in humility, consider others more significant that yourself.

One of the ladies said that when she took her black first grade grandson to school that day, another first grader came up to him, white, and said, "My dad said that now Trump is president, you people aren't going get all of your special privileges anymore." First grade. 

Count It All Joy is my latest password for all of those random accounts that have to be updated so many times it makes my head tired. Because real joy means that my mind, may it be His mind, is fixed on what is true, what is just, what is honorable.  

And not on the darkness.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst bid Thy disciples to shine as lights in a dark world, in shame and contrition of heart do I acknowledge before Thee the many faults and weaknesses of which we are guilty who in this generation represent Thy Church before the world; and especially do I acknowledge my own part in the same. Forgive me, I beseech Thee, the feebleness of my witness, the smallness of my charity, and the slackness of my zeal. Make me to be a more worthy follower of Him who cared for the poor and the oppressed, and who could never see disease without seeking to heal it or any kind of human need without turning aside to help.

Let Thy power, O Christ, be in us all, to share the world’s suffering and redress its wrongs. Amen –John Baillie