March 30, 2010

Jump Out Of The Boat

Tuesday of Holy Week. My studies have me in John 13 today. John, Chapter 13, speaks to the Passover meal. In this chapter, Jesus has washed the feet of those He loves, in that crowd is Judas. The "bad" guy in the group, even though Judas is the one to kiss Christ on the cheek after leading the authorities to Him, all of these men but John would scatter from Christ's side. Even Peter who would take off another man's ear before allowing Jesus to be taken into custody. Jesus would wash the feet of men who in front of Him stand strong but when things get a bit dicey, they run in different directions. It would be Peter who would deny Christ 3 times, this strong man whose name means rock. Because of what would take place soon after that denial, a door was opened for all mankind to walk into the grace of forgiveness, restoration and transformation that Christ offers us through the blood of His crucifixion. After Christ is crucified and resurrected in John 21 Jesus shows himself to His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.

John 21:7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8The other disciples followed in the boat,...

It is Peter, the one who denies Christ, that jumps from the boat to meet Christ. He can't even wait to paddle ashore. He wants to be actively moving towards Christ, not waiting on a boat. He swims to shore, and reaches Jesus.

That is the story of redemption, The Christ washes the feet of those who love Him, but will fail Him, but those who love Him will find their way back, even if they have to get drenched in the process. It is a heart thing, they will do whatever it takes to pursue and seek Christ with all they are, for without Him they have no life. With Him they have life abundantly.

I can testify to Peter's denial in my life, I can also testify to jumping out of the proverbial boat and swimming with every ounce of energy to get back in Christ's arms. My eyes only focused on Him. It is a love story of epic proportion.

March 29, 2010

Sweet Mary, and her anointing.

This is such a special week. It is the week that we can lend our thoughts to the week before Christ was crucified. Some don't like to dwell on the happenings of Christ before the crucifixion. I find it such a blessing, it reminds me of what Christ did for me. This week I will carve out a time to watch the Passion as I have done the last couple of Easters. This scripture below is where my devotional is today. Jesus has arrived in Bethany, with those shouting adoration all around him. Many of those voices shouting for him as he enters the town on a donkey will turn into voices shouting against him in just a matter of days. Christ loved them no matter what they were shouting. Sweet Mary poured perfume on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet to dry with her own hair. She was anointing her LORD, her Rabbai, her Teacher for burial. She loved him so. This "Mary" is Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus.

John 12

Jesus Anointed at Bethany

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2Here a dinner was given in Jesus' honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 3Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5"Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year's wages.[b]" 6He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

7"Leave her alone," Jesus replied. " It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me."

9Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.

March 25, 2010

Limitless Mercy

One of the assignments for my Friday small group class in Bible was to listen to this podcast by Randy Harris. Randy is one of my favorite preachers/teachers/speakers. He preaches with great conviction, not afraid to share his own doubts, and someone who is a focused seeker of Jesus. This sermon that Mike Cope assigned to us by Randy is called Faithing. When he first preached this sermon last August I remember seeing a buzz about it on Facebook and some blogs. I am glad I finally took the time to listen, granted it was an assignment, but I love my bible assignments, they are pure joy to me. Click here to listen to Randy's sermon on Faithing.

I am continuing to read The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen, two posts ago I quoted from the chapter of the prodigal son. I am currently reading about Henri's thoughts on the older brother. I just can't even express how rich this book is with insights. I always thought Henri Nouwen wrote more for the intellectuals, maybe because the word "theologian" was attached to his name, maybe because most of the people who I knew that had read his books were intellectuals themselves. But I have been amazed at the simplicity of Henri's writings, simple words written with an amount of depth that meets you right where you are. God was great at work in Henri. I can find truths that can sharpen and shape me on each page of his writings in this book, I might as well underline each sentence, highlight each page, because they are all worth looking back on. Here is the exert I will share with you today.

From page 74..

"Sometimes, people wonder: Whatever happened to the elder son?....
I am left alone with these questions. Just as I do not know how the younger son accepted the celebration or how he lived with his father after his return, I also do not know whether the elder son ever reconciled himself with his brother, his father, or himself. What I do know with unwavering certainty is the heart of the father. It is a heart of limitless mercy."

How many of us hold ourselves back from believing we are fully forgiven, fully redeemed and fully loved. This is an area that does not come easy for me, or for many I would speculate. But this is a place where I have chosen to believe God's truth over my inadequate understanding - which is, I am as loved as I deserve which is based on my actions and thoughts. It is in the moments that I really think about how loved I am by my Father in heaven that tears come. To sit and think upon this is more than my emotions can take without tears. God has cleansed me from my sins with each confession, but unfortunately or maybe fortunately He has left the memories. I know where I have failed in the last week, where I have fallen short to love as Jesus loves in so many ways. It is in those moments that my human weakness is so apparent, but to then in the midst of that realization to know that I am loved by God with limitless mercy, loved especially, just like you, I can not hold back my praise, my adoration and gratefulness to know, to really know, that I am truly loved by God.

I am reminded of the lyrics of How He Loves, sung by the David Crowder Band, "When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are, and how great Your affections are for me."

I think that if I knew, if we knew, just how much we were loved our hearts would draw closer to Him than we could imagine. Rather than choosing anger, frustration, not to be patient with others, we would have so much love in us that we could react to others out of love and not the other.

Each day I pray to love God more than I did the day before, starting today I am going to add to that and ask God to help me realize his love for me greater than the day before.

We serve a God who is ever calling us, ever holding out His hand, ever believing in the best we can be. May I not close my eyes to those precious gifts.

March 17, 2010

It's Not REALLY about Green Beer....

St. Patrick

I love St. Patrick's Day. It is a day to remember....Saint Patrick of course. He was born in England in 387 AD. He was kidnapped by Irish Raiders as a boy and taken to be a slave in Ireland. He escaped after many years and found his way back from Ireland to his homeland of England. Once back in his homeland he joined the Church, which was a continuation of the closeness he felt to God while alone as a slave. As an adult he was called by God to go back to Ireland and bring Christianity to all who would listen. St. Patrick started many churches and through his love for Christ changed the land where he was a hostage not long before.

Over the years the Saints acts have been somewhat embellished, one embellishment of St. Patrick's life was that he alone drove out all the snakes in Ireland and that is why today no snakes are found. But most likely he dealt with the "snakes" that were used as serpent symbolism that was seen in the land.

St. Patrick was a brave man who answered the call of God to save a land of people who he could have easily turned away from because of harsh childhood memories. It is no wonder that many churches added the label of saint to his name.

This is why I love St. Patrick's Day, it is a day that reminds me of a man who followed the call of God in the face of adversity, a man who lived a life that we remember more than 1600 years later.

St. Patrick is said to author a famous prayer, I pray an exert of the Breastplate Prayer most days...this is a prayer that brings me peace and comfort.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Christ with you today, laddy and lasses.

March 14, 2010

God's Beloved

Sunday morning, waiting for a shirt I want to wear to church to finish washing so I can put it in the dryer. I Have gone through facebook/twitter/bloglines and I am all caught up. Decided I would check in here, not too much going on. Photographed my last wedding yesterday for a wonderful couple who are beloved in our church. It was a hoot of a wedding the officiants did a great job of keeping us all between laughing and crying. Wishing Danny and Angela the great adventure of marriage and may they always put the other first and God in front.

I am reading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen right now. This book (along with all of his other writings) are not to be rushed through. There is a jewel of discipleship, sonship, humility in every sentence. The Rembrandt painting of the Prodigal Son Returns is the focus of where Henri's thoughts in this book are drawn from. I not only have gained a greater understanding about the story of the Prodigal Son but also of the painting itself. Each time I read Nouwen I can't believe it took me this long to read his books. I can see places in my life where this book would have journeyed along side me in my return to my Father, helping me gently along the way, filling me with the truth of being His beloved when I wanted to believe otherwise. The words in this book have given me a gift of the love of the Father. Something that each day Satan would have us all believe that we are not worthy of, but are lies that we don't have to believe. The Return of the Prodigal Son is a gift, from God to Henri and from Henri to us.

Here is a paragraph that I have underlined in the book: pg. 47

"When the younger son was no longer considered a human being by the people around him, he felt the profundity of his isolation, the deepest loneliness one can experience. He was truly lost, and it was this complete lostness that brought him to his senses. He was shocked into the awareness of his utter alienation and suddenly understood that he had embarked on the road to death. He had become so disconnected from what gives life-family, friends, community, acquaintances, and even food-that he realized that death would be the natural next step. All at once he saw clearly the path he had chosen and where it would lead him; he understood his own death choice; and he knew that one more step in the direction he was going would take him to self-destruction.
In that critical moment, what was it that allowed him to opt for life? It was the rediscovery of his deepest self."

How does Henri Nouwen know what was in my mind that morning almost 20 years ago. How does he know that I had a realization that I had found myself alone, in the midst of community. How did he know that I realized that the path I had chosen was a path that had no sustainable life in it. It was a path that journeyed me farther and farther away from everything that gave me light and life. And it was in that very moment that my reality shook me and opened my eyes to see that God Himself was all I had, and God Himself was all I needed. The Creator of the Universe was calling me and holding out his hand waiting just for me to place my hand in His. And when I did, things changed. The hopelessness turned into hope, the despair turned into possibilities, the weary traveller finally had a new direction to walk. For me it took the bottom of a pit to come to my senses, but I wouldn't trade that dirt and mud for anything because it was in that place that for the first time I realized who I was, I was God's beloved.

March 10, 2010

Thin Places - Book Review

I loved reading Thin Places, An Evangelical Journey into Celtic Christianity, written by Tracy Balzer. Several of the subjects covered in this book are: Prayer, pilgrimage, silence and solitude. One of the chapters dealt with the benefits of confession to another being, something the Protestant tradition might recoil at....after discussing the benefits of confession I love this quote by Sherry Bunge Mortenson about "the power of the secret" "If our compulsions, our addictions, our warped conceptions are not brought out into the open, she urged we are not able to receive healing we so desperately need. Denial is a dangerous thing and is contrary to the truth, integrity, and freedom that is to mark the Christian life. Hiding behind an illusion of wholeness will not make the disease in a soul go away. Sherry implored us all to "break the secret" so that healing can begin."

James 5:16 says "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

I love the chapter on Silence and Solitude. The author quotes Henri Nouwen several times, a memorable quote that has changed me in many ways Henri writes in The Way of The Heart, "Solitude is the furnace of transformation."

and in that same subject from page 126,

"Ironically, it is through solitude, through intentional times being alone with God only-that we are transformed into people who demonstrate compassion to others...Their time spent in solitude with God resulted in a greater capacity for physical hospitality and spiritual friendship."

I don't know about you but I feel like our world is getting noisier and noisier, our smart phones have put us in places that we NEVER have to follow the words from scripture, "Be still and know I am God." I find that books like this one call me back to quiet, solitude, and prayer, and remind me of the importance of it. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good read on history and the places we can intentionally grow closer to the Lord.

Once you start a routine of making quiet places for you and God to have quality time together you will not ever want to be without it. Being in solitude does not come easy or naturally to most of us, but it is life changing in every way. Satan wants to keep us from being quiet or still with God, you know the saying, if the devil can't make you bad he will make you busy.

I am at a place in my life that, if allowed, I could be over run with busyness, but I take great steps to not allow my life to run me, but to intentionally allow open spaces of time for me and God and for me and my family. I protect those times. If the world is allowed to speak into our lives about the value of being busy it would say the busier you are the more successful you are, the more popular you are, the more valuable you are. I hope that we pray for God to intervene in our hearts and show us that those are all lies that do not come from Him.

We do not have to be a slave to our phones, we don't have to answer a phone and give it precedence over the person in front of us, or distract us from our personal time with God. Cell/Smart phones have a great value but they can be used towards our own detriment.

I don't want to go through life like a mouse on a wheel. I want to live intentionally and making choices that lead me in the direction I want to go. For me the direction I have chosen is towards the Lord, it is important to be aware that God often times shows Himself, or discloses Himself in the whisper and if we don't address the "noise" around us then we could miss Him if we don't value that time of quiet. (You can find a cool story about the whisper here, 1 Kings 19:1-13)

March 06, 2010

My Amazing Father and His Consolation.

Saturday morning, the dishwasher is running, washing machine washing, and I am thinking about going to the gym. I haven't gone this long in my life without lifting weights for...well..ever, or atleast 25 years. I don't have a gym membership right now, but the Y let's you pay to enter so that is my plan. Just after I stop to process this last week.

These last two weeks have been busy with school exams and projects, and then Jack had appt.'s in Dallas this week too. It has been about a year since the oncologist told us there was a new "spot" to watch, but that it didn't appear to be anything problematic but we needed to keep an eye on it. I held onto those words, and the lessons I have learned in the last 5 years of not allowing the worry to be the emotion that drives me. With God's help this last year has been easy and without fear, enjoying my kids, my new station in life as a student, my photography and my husband.

Our trip to Dallas was special because Rob took off work and Sophie joined us too. But there were little irks along the way, the Ronald McDonald House didn't have an opening for us so we pricelined a hotel which worked out great, Jack's MRI machine couldn't play a movie, so he had music as his company, the nurse that put in his iv line for the contrast made a mess of it and Jack had blood everywhere,...yada yada yada, we all do a good job of just dealing most of the time. But maybe my nerves were a bit shot and with one thing after another and especially Jack's iv I thought I might just break down in tears a couple of times.

Thursday morning we woke early and headed to the hospital for breakfast and then to the oncology clinic for his 8:30am appt. We were sitting amongst 30 or so others with kids waiting for their chemo, for clinic, to have blood drawn. That life of a fragile child still fresh in my memory and looking at all the bald heads around me brought about enough fear in about 15 minutes that I was trying to remind myself to breathe. I think because of all the irks along the way I let myself think, well all this other stuff was crummy so maybe our results will be crummy too. This is not my typical state of mind, I just have to make that disclaimer, but if I don't let God's word be my sounding board then fear can have it's way with me pretty quickly as far as Jack's journey is concerned. There was the cutest little 2ish year old who was hooked up to fluids of some sort and she was wheeled through the waiting room a couple of times by her nurse and mom to get to a different part of the clinic. She was sitting on the bottom of the pole with her bottom resting on a tiny little pillow made up of a couple of blankets and her legs crossed with the pole in the middle, she was holding onto the pole and was enjoying the ride. I would have loved to have taken a picture to share. There was a girl about 14 years old who was as frail as could be, she was pale, thin, and covered in blankets to stay warm. She was laying down on a pillow on one of the couches sleeping until she was called back. Her dad or grandpa was was with her. As she was called, she was of course slow to get up, the nurse walked over and tried to help with all of her blankets and her bags and said she would be getting platelets this day too, which meant that her count was extremely low and she was very weak. As she was trying to step towards her wheelchair her feet didn't move with her and she fell, the nurse tried to grab her and a patients mom jumped up too but all three went down. Tables and chairs flying every which way. At this point I was praying for this precious young woman to not have hurt herself, when she got up she had just a couple of scrapes but nothing was broken.

I remember saying to God, "I can't do this again, please help us not to have to go through this again, I can't." Tears were welling up in my eyes, and I felt the Lord say very clearly to me, if this is what you have to do, then you will do it, I will give you the strength, at that time, not a minute sooner. You will know it is because of Me that you have joy in the struggle and victory over heartbreak. And then I remembered, yes that is how God does it. I don't think "I" can do it again, but I know that with God I can, and with a smile on my face and with His strength in my heart I can be a light that shines the power of God through my weakness. I took a deep breath and just rested in that thought and it consoled me and gave me complete comfort.

Well after what seemed a lifetime we were called back to talk with the Oncologist, Dr. Bowers, and he gave us the good news that Jack's scan was clear. I was just as grateful today as I was the first time we got a good report on Jack. I thought about being upset with myself about the thoughts I had allowed to take over and cause fear, but then I thought it was a blessing in disguise, it was my reminder that even the hardest things in life are possible with the hand of my loving Father holding mine along the way, my need for God is fresh each day. Thanks be to God for His words in my spirit, for He is my loving Father in whom I believe and delight.