Saturday, December 30, 2017

No longer a slave to fear.

He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds. –Psalm 147:3

For you have been a stronghold to the poor,
    a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
    a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. Isaiah 25:4

 And as they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” –John 8:7

This is the rule of most perfect Christianity, in its most exact definition, its highest point, namely, the seeking of the common good. For nothing can so make a person an imitator of Christ as caring for His neighbors. –John Chrysostom

And really the most caringest and kindliest person I know is my sister Jenny.

I know I have told this story before, a piercing childhood memory that still makes my eyes sting because it is such a clear picture of unexpected and undeserved kindness.

Fallsvale Community School was a marvel in sitting-on-the-teacher’s-lap time to read, and a marvel of hands-on, project-based learning as we smashed open acorns and leached them for tannins and ground them on rocks and then patted them into little cakes to roast over open coals next to our fort in the woods the exact dimensions of the Mayflower. And in our tiny community, we children knew the insides of the neighbors’ refrigerators as well as our own.

Yet part of me never really recovered from my bestest friend Stephen Cowen getting struck and killed by lightening when I was in first grade. And now there were only three children in my grade, and sometimes those other boys could be pretty mean to dorky Chrissy-Pissy-in-her-Pants. And on the long walk up the curvy mountain road to home, they would throw rocks at my feet to make me dance. And one lunchtime they pushed me off of the seemingly great big boulder by the side of the school and I scraped my hands sliding down the rough granite, but mostly my little heart was scraped up and I didn’t know what to do so I did something naughty: I kicked a boy’s lunch box across the playground. And he tattled on me, and I couldn’t really explain to the teacher why exactly I had done that naughty thing, so I had to stay after school for half an hour to think about it.

And at the end of my carefully ticked-out thirty minutes I was very, very sad, not at all about my clear transgressions but rather about the vast and never-ending injustices of life. And my memory is that I felt lonelier and more misunderstood than anyone ever in the history of mankind. And I tied my button-up sweater around my waist, grabbed my own lunchbox and pushed open those great big wooden doors which led out to the concrete stairs leading up to the two-room stone schoolhouse.

And seated there on those steps, in the fading sunlight, with her arms wrapped around her knees, was my little sister Jenny waiting for me. Waiting to walk with me that long lonely mile to home.

And wow, her tenderheartedness has only deepened over the years, as I follow her around her beautiful city of Denver, beautiful, yet quite chilly city of Denver. Sort of like this beautiful yet chilly world in which we live.

I watch her purposely engage with the thin man with the wrinkled pants by the side of the dog path while I realize that he will probably be spending tomorrow, Christmas, alone. And she moves beyond chit-chat with the girl ringing up produce at Sprouts long enough to bring a smile of gratitude to her weary eyes. And man oh man, how the two neighbor ladies’ eyes lit up too when they found out who I was, and again and again they marveled, yes, even prattled, over the intentionality of Jenny and Tim among these yellow mid-century brick houses.

And truly this is how Jesus walked these same long, dusty roads of life. That led to the lifting up of the cross and smashing of sin’s power. And even while He hung, spat upon and bleeding, His eyes were on the other, not only His mother of course, not only upon those quite guilty thieves hanging beside Him, but also upon the spitters themselves, who knew not what they did.

Who know not what they do.

LORD please make me ever aware of Your Spirit, moment by moment wisdom, quicken my spirit to immediate, full-of-faith obedience. 

My Saturday prayer yet again this grey-skied morning, and forevermore.

To be a true imitator of Christ.

Christine, little Christ.


Amen.



Saturday, December 23, 2017

And Tim just came in with another armload of firewood.

Present
His gift to mankind
From the very beginning
Come walk with Me, Child.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:8-10

 Pray without ceasing1 Thessalonians 5:17

On Christ the solid rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
Prayer is not a transaction that somehow pleases God but a transformation of the one doing the praying. Prayer is the awakening of an inner dialogue that, from God’s side, has never ceased. This is why Paul could write of praying “always.” Prayer is not changing God’s mind about us or about anything else, but allowing God to change our mind about the reality right in front of us (which we usually avoid or distort).
When we put on a different mind, heaven takes care of itself. In fact, it begins now. Prayer is sitting in the silence until it silences us, choosing gratitude until we are grateful, and praising God until we ourselves are an act of praise.
Jesus tells his disciples, “Be awake. Be alert. You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, at cock crow, or in the morning” Jesus is not threatening, “You’d better do it right, or I’m going to get you.” He’s talking about the forever, eternal coming of Christ now . . . and now . . . and now. God’s judgment is always redemption. Christ is always coming. God is always present. It’s we who fall asleep.
Or hide.
Be ready. Be present to God in the here and now, the ordinary, the interruptions. Being fully present will allow you to say, “This is good. This is enough. In fact, this is all I need.” –Richard Rohr
Selah.

How can I be afraid?

Curled up once again in The House Beautiful. Yes the old junk wood is crackling in the stone fireplace. Of course. The sky turned bright pink for just a moment, and now it is simply light.

Yesterday piled high with despair. A distorted reality. And God calls to me, gently, once again, “Where are you?”

Here I am.


Present is good. Present is enough. In fact, in Truth, Present is all I need.




Thursday, December 21, 2017

And grammar helps us think about purpose.

Rejoice
Is a clear command;
Rise up and do joy again,
An action verb form.

May my meditation be pleasing to Him,
    for I rejoice in the Lord. Psalm 104:34

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your word.” Luke 2:37-38

And part of my Wednesday prayer for myself is a response to this command: And may I live in the joy of the Holy Spirit.

Trust and obey.

Two more action verbs.

Yesterday the first grade teachers asked me to model a grammar lesson, so again and again I got to talk to rooms of six-year-olds about nouns and verbs.

And this time I remembered to right up front to teach MY signal for attention: Give me five. Give me your eyes, your ears, your mouths, your fingers and your thinking. So we practiced that a few times just to make sure we all understood the expectations.

Those kiddos could all rattle off “person, place or thing.” (Idea is added in third grade.) So we played “I spy with my little eye,” and worked with our elbow partner writing down verbs and nouns and drawing pictures of them and then we waved our fingers to show V for verbs and N for nouns and all was good. And simple. And we talked about why we might need to know how to use these cool words we were learning to read and write. And they all nodded their heads in agreement, but really, I am thinking that these question words a little bit abstract for this crew.

But now a bunch of us are old and sad and the Why and How questions are big and glaring and keeps us up at night. And my Joy in the Holy Spirit Day got a little rough at the end, in spite of all my good intentions. A friend Facebook posted some lyrics from the new U2 album that asks a question like Oh Jesus, if I’m still Your friend… what the hell is this all about? I received a lamenting letter about hope deferredAnd my daily prayers include a lot of kiddos who are staring at the messiness of life and not even asking. Just shrugging, which is even more aching.

And I think that actually the Hamilton song Rise Up is going to be my go to echo chamber for this day as I am about to strap in my bike helmet and double-glove my fingers, and ride out into the day.

Rise up and do joy again.

Trust. Obey.

And

Rise Up.


For nothing will be impossible with God.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Que toca mi corazón.

Joy in the Spirit
Come, Lord and open in us
The gates ever wide

Yesterday one of the kindergarten teachers was out with a head cold and the last line of my unofficial job description is “Anything else that needs to be done,” so I found myself in the kinder class because there is a special kid in the class that no regular sub could possibly handle but I can because he spends a lot of time sitting with me in my little closet of an office and we are special buddies because we both really like dinosaurs, well, at least he really likes dinosaurs and I can read stories about them and download coloring sheets full of them off of the internet. Anyways, we plugged through the stacks of neatly sticky-noted and paper-clipped handouts on following directions and less or more and I read a book about two mice who fell in love with the same pumpkin and so they both watered it a lot and piled manure on it, and the kids were horrified to discover that manure is a fancy word for cow poop and that’s what plants eat and so we must wash our vegetables and fruit before we eat them and then the art teacher came in and we made reindeer heads out of construction paper and googly eyes and of course great big red jewels for a nose and then, well, I still had another twenty minutes with twenty-six squirmy five-year-olds, so we did a little Simón Dice. I know only a crazy person would plunge into Spanish at 2:20 in the afternoon on the last week before winter break, but such is life.

And as we stood there, smiling and a little out of breath and pretty dang proud of ourselves a little one came up and hugged my neck and whispered, “I will miss you Mz. Christy,” and then another and another and another, little lemmings that they are, and suddenly all twenty-seven of us were in the biggest and happiest group hug ever.

Come, Lord Jesus.



Sunday, December 17, 2017

I'm going to let it shine.

Light
A single candle
Without a word destroys dark
So we will see true.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. –John 3:19-21

O Lord, who brings to naught the designs of the nations, O Ruler, who raises the lowly and humbles the lofty, have mercy on those who are disheartened. Raise us who have fallen, show Thyself to those who entreat Thee, and heal those who are sick. Feed the hungry, free our captives, strengthen the weak, encourage those who lose heart. All nations shall know that Thou alone art God. –Clement of Rome



And it’s third Sunday, and the kiddos are leading today’s service at Prince Chapel.

And the light reaches every corner of the room.

And suddenly, perhaps even yet again, it it perfectly clear why we are to come to Him as children. Uncomplicated and untattered. Hope in Him alone and eyes bright with expectation.

Hope and expectation.

Advent.


Come Lord Jesus, Come.