Thursday, March 14, 2019

The One About the Thunder...a Lenten Lesson



Before I actually start this morning's blog post, allow me to throw out a little anecdote.

As I begin writing, I can hear thunder - it's off a ways, but it always pulls up a past scenario.

I'm immediately reminded of this little white fluff of a Maltese pup that used to rule our home.

Her name was Tilly.

Tilly was afraid of nothing.

She'd go after any animal, or human, that didn't belong in her yard.

She even thought she was a bird dog, and would go into a full point when any would come searching for worms.

Well, fearful she was not.......except when it thundered.

So, any time I hear thunder, I'm drawn back to the multiple times she would cower and shake like a leaf in my arms until it passed.

Just putting her in another room DID NOT work (NO THANK YOU!), she had to be held (good thing she wasn't a Bernese Mountain Dog)!

Just tuck that story away for now....

#####



My Lent-Challenge has me reading through all four gospels, over the course of a week, for the next concurring six weeks.

I've chosen The Passion Paraphrase, and am fully enjoying some of the fresh ways the scholars have rephrased some old-words that have grown a little tired (keep in mind this is a PARAPHRASE).

However, I highly recommend changing translations from time-to-time, asking the Lord to help us forget what we think we know and show us Truth anew.


Transitioning from one Biblical author to another, over the course of a few days, has made me more aware of the personalities of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (from stoic, to fast-paced-hit-the-highlights, to nitty-gritty-detailed, to deeply passionate), and each is unique.

I've found myself grateful that the Lord chooses all sorts to speak-forth-life-giving-words, be they hated-but-reformed-tax-collectors, professional doctors, smelly fishermen, or scared kids who turn tail and run away when things get tough.

 There's a ministry that fits us all - a place for all our stories of redemption.

For this one thing is definitely TRUE: the gospels are overshadowed by one meta-narrative...

...in the end, Jesus redeems EVERYTHING!


This said, there is one word that has stood out this week, and caused me pause:

AWESTRUCK!

People were awestruck by Jesus.

They were especially astonished, and stopped short, by His words.

His teaching moved them.
                 
Sometimes with wonder.

Other times with dread.

All the time with respect!


They'd heard nothing like what they were hearing from Him!

"The people were awestruck and overwhelmed by His teaching, because He taught in a way that demonstrated God's authority, which was quite unlike the religious scholars."
Mark 1:22

In fact, look at one of the notations made in a commentary on Mark 1:22:

The Greek word used in this passage for "awestruck" is ekplesso. It is a strong verb, meaning filled with amazement, to be astonished, panic stricken. It is something that takes your breath away - to be shocked... Clearly, Jesus spoke with such glory and power emanating from Him that His words were like thunderbolts in their hearts (emphasis mine)..."

What the every-day-human sensed coming from Jesus' mouth was DIFFERENT.

It rumbled and echoed in the caverns of their hearts and minds.

Jesus taught from His soul, out of His experiential knowledge of the Father...

Know the Father, and, you'll obey out of love!



Obedience out of a want-to...

Because there is no fear, or even a hint of rebellion, when you know with certainty you are loved!

To know the Father is to know love...



The Scribes, and Pharisees, of the day emphasized an outward keeping of the law...

In fact, spoken tradition trumped even what was written on the scrolls...

Jesus challenged the most educated among them.

His words were like thunderbolts in their hearts...

I am listening for the rumbling in my own.

Where is it?

Why do I not hear it every time I pick up the Word of Life?

How have I become so desensitized to it?

XXXXX

The tradition of Lent is a 40-day-sacrifice.

The purpose is to look inward and to mourn the death that sin has caused in our lives...

...To re-discover the WHY of the CROSS FOR ME!


This week, I've become more profoundly aware of how common and ordinary the thunder of Jesus' words has become in my own heart.

I've stopped paying attention...

His words don't always resonate within me with the powerful force of AWESTRUCK.

I confess often reading with a casual attitude.

I confess becoming desensitized.

It's so easy with the fast-pace of the world around me.

But, this Lenten Challenge has reminded me that it's time to STOP and listen for the THUNDER!


Maybe even be a little frightened by it.

And, when push comes to shove, let the thunder drive me, shaking, into the arms of the one who came to SAVE!

He may be loud, and sometimes we may even feel a sense of panic, but He is always GOOD!



Thursday, March 7, 2019

The One About Celebrating Lent...and, some thoughts from Israel



Two events occurred yesterday.

1) I arrived back in the US after a full-big-day-after-big-day trip to Israel (which explains why I was awake at 1:30 AM beginning this blog)...and,


2) Wednesday marked the official start of the Lenten season, which leads up to Resurrection Sunday.

Yes, I celebrate Lent.


Yes, I am Protestant...

I find focusing on the 40-days leading up to the biggest event in our Christian heritage creates in me a readiness for celebrating Easter in Spirit and Truth.

I'm not bound to the traditions of "giving up" for Lent; instead, it has become more about "adding to."


I add to my days a "one-thing" that deepens my awareness, and AWE, in what my Savior gave as He loved this world so well. 

I reckon in the end, it amounts to re-prioritizing my time, and in a sense, sacrificing more of it to be intentionally proactive in my "adding-to" (if that makes sense).

I do that which will prepare my heart in greater-extent for the commemoration of the day my Jesus overcame death!


This year, I intend to take more time to read and re-read the gospels, bringing them to life in my mind, by envisioning the land of Jesus-birth that I was just privileged to visit.

One of the gals on our tour said it well when she stated, "Now, when I read Scripture it will be as if I've gone from viewing it through the lens of a small black and white television to HD."


In one of the many conversations I had with our tour-guide, he dropped this one little thought:
"Really, one of the biggest hindrances to the Jews of Israel receiving Christ as their Messiah is Christians."

He went on to explain how knowledgable these men and women are of their text...

...How faithfully they study the Torah (their History, comprised of the first five books of the Bible), the Nevi'im (the Prophets), the Ketuvim (the Writings). They KNOW the TaNaKh (the Hebrew Bible)...and study through it, all of them on the same schedule, year after year.


One of his friends at Hebrew University simply shook his head at Christians.

How little we know and comprehend our Text.

And, in randomness, a thought was dropped into the thin-air of space in my heart.


I took it as a challenge...

...and, I've taken it as a Lenten-focus.

This friend of our tour guide had mentioned that if Christians were truly convinced Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior come-from-God, we'd at least read through the gospels on a weekly basis...


We'd want to study and copy the life of our Rabbi-Messiah as best we could...frontwards, backwards, inside out, and upside down.

There-in is my Lenten goal: to read through all four gospels every week over the next six.

Not just to read it and check the "done-box;" but to read it and savor it, ponder it, let it roll around in my head and on the tip of my tongue.

Not because of bondage to a have-to-do...

So, why?

To know my Savior better.

To envision His life on this earth.

To walk through the Words of His followers with a careful eye on the path that Jesus walked.

To travel so closely behind Him, I am covered in His dust.

To sit beside Him in the Garden and pray, "Thy will be done."

To attend His trial.

To stand at His feet as the blood drips from the cross.

To lay Him carefully in the tomb.

To feel the full impact of Resurrection power...

And celebrate what that means for me!

This Lenten Season, I want to once again, comprehend the force of the Unseen Hand that changed my life in that one moment of history.

XXXXX

This was how our trip began.

Each of us were handed a honey-stick.

The directions were simple: open it, put a drop of honey on the tongue, savor its sweetness, and remember:



Try it.

Experience it.

Then, consider how you can enjoy the sweetness of Christ and His Words of Life all the way to Easter.

Oh, that I truly KNOW Him more!

Not just in partial color...

...But, in full HD!

Oh, that we all would...and in response, show others just how SWEET HE IS!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The One About Rocks....and God...and Israel

Israel is rich in archeological discovery.

I remember back in November, when I got to do a whirlwind trip into Israel with Azmera, to speak at the King of Kings Community church in Jerusalem, thinking that I couldn't remember a time when I had looked so closely at something as common & ordinary as rocks...So MaNy RoCkS!



But, each rock told a story (incredible!) of the history of God's chosen people.

And, I remember marveling at all that had been uncovered, and learned, about the culture, the people of the past, and the land of Israel.

So, this morning, as I was reading through my favorite go-to Psalm of David (#18), the word "rock" struck me in a new way in this verse:

The Lord is my rock;
my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock,
in whom I take refuge,
my shield,
the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2

The Lord is my rock! 



I have often referred to my husband with a number of descriptors.

My most quoted phrase is "tall, dark, and drop-dead-gorgeous." 

However, I've often referred to him as the rock of our family.

When I say this, I'm talking about the security he brings into the mix...

I'm referring to his faithfulness, his calm assurance when the world around us seems to be caving in...

I'm thinking of how the man I see in the pulpit is the same man who holds my hand in the midst of every-day...

He's the most reliable and God-trusting guy I know!


For David, it seems his thinking went an entirely different direction when he spoke of God as his rock...

While poetic, the word can be somewhat ambiguous, until I pulled the descriptors out of David's psalm:

Shield - A rock held in front of us can deflect all kinds of harmful objects.

Horn of Salvation (animals use their horns for defense...). So take it a step further...a rock can be a weapon - while in Old Town Jerusalem our guide informed us that while no weapons are allowed in the Old Town, rumor has it that the mosque is filled with rocks, which can be used in battle, if necessary. 

Stronghold/Refuge - For David, a rock in the form of a cave, became his stronghold. When running from Saul, a cave became his safety and refuge...his protection.



All military terms.

For David, the Lord was the I AM WHO WILL FIGHT YOUR BATTLES & DEFEND YOU. 

For David, the Lord was the I AM YOUR PROTECTOR....

GOD is all this for me...for us! 


There are times, we will feel exposed and without help. I certainly have!

There are times when it will seem the odds are stacked against us. Yep!

There will be moments when we wish we could step up and defend our character, because no one else will... Check!

There will be times when everything seems to be AGAINST us... Uh huh!

Throughout life we will all fight some tough battles.

Maybe not military ones, but physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, occupational, intellectual, and even environmental...

Without God, the ROCK, in our midst, we are defenseless, offenseless, and vulnerable.


So, I wasn't surprised when in researching the word "rock" in the past history of Israel, one of the things I discovered was that as Israel was declaring her independence in 1948, a fierce debate raged about the name of God that would be included in her official Declaration of Independence. When a compromise was reached, instead of using a traditional name for God, He would be referred to as "the Rock of Israel." 

How significant!!! 

How perfect!!!

He IS all this and more!


Thursday, February 21, 2019

The One About Routine


I am a woman of routine.

Without routine, my whole emotional state begins to crumble.

With that, my spiritual health, as well.


From there, the rest is down-hill:

*  My typical health-driven eating habits are nil; opted most often for fast food, because it's just so....so....easy & convenient (lately it's been zipping into Chick-Fil-A for a frosted coffee, oh my!)....

*  It's hard to sneak away to my quiet sit-place with Jesus.

*  Or to create space for the walks I rely on to clear my head, create new messages, and start writing whatever next thing needs writing...

And yet, I am also a woman who travels some little bit.

Routine is constantly disrupted.


When "on the road" there really is no schedule that accommodates my normal get-the-day-going-sequence.

So, little things start to throw me off:

*  I don't sleep well.

*  Social media can leave me self-critical, and consumed with toxic thinking (comparison, mostly...and we know what comparison does, right? Robs us of joy).

*  I'm easily annoyed.

*  Lazy.

*  Self-centered, narcissistic.

And, the days, which can, at times, turn into weeks, are also lived off-kilter.

*  I live by the next thing that drives my crazy schedule...

* ...whatever calls for my attention the loudest.

*  Internal peace is obliterated.

This isn't me complaining.

It isn't me whining.

But, as I sit here this morning to type a new blog, I realize this AS FACT (!):

I thrive best on routine.

In EvErY way ImAgInAbLe!

It's how the Lord has wired me.

But, more than the lack-of-routine, I need the self-discipline of creating a new-normal inside the abnormal, out-of-control-times of life.

I know what I need! And...

 ...only I have the ability to make the time for what I need.

Perhaps you are like me...and your crazy, whirl-wind-cycle of life has you in the same predicament.


So, I drop these words into an empty-blog-space for both of us.

Because the biggest TRUTH for me when it comes to no-routine is that I don't simply just exist to live from day to day, my whole world starts to unravel.

Unraveling takes a long time to fix.

I know.

I have had to rip out stitches, and unravel, big sewing and crochet projects.

Going backwards is not time, energy, or emotionally efficient;

And, sadly, backwards is where I've been heading...

THIS WEEK, THIS Scripture verse dropped into my lap:


This, this right here, just a phrase, caused a little heart comotion:

AS WAS HIS CUSTOM!!!

It's just a little Greek word (etho) translated custom, wont, or habit.

It's only used four times in the New Testament (three times referring to Jesus' habitual lifestyle, and once regarding the apostle Paul).


However, the word has such depth to it.

Basically, it speaks of CHARACTER.

Both Jesus, and Paul, daily leveraged their customary habits of life, and these behaviors were indicative of their CHARACTER!

Those who knew them, knew them by their daily routines.

Routines say A LOT about who I am.

About what is important to me.

Both Jesus and Paul lived their lives "on the road."


My life compares in NO WAY to theirs.

Neither man had a normal.

But both men set an example of finding normal in the abnormal of their everyday.

As a result, every person KNEW THEM at THE HEART-of-their-LIFE level.

Here's what this says to me...this week...this moment...as I sit in an airport (AGAIN) waiting to fly out on a twelve day trip to Israel:

I AM what I make my NORMAL, even in the midst of a NON-NORMAL life.

You will know me by what is important to me.

And, what you see right now is NOT WHO I WANT TO BE.


So, WORD received.

Heart convicted.

And, now...to "have this attitude that was in Christ Jesus" and make it my own...

And, now...to create space in my life for that which I know is critical routine in my everyday...

So...

Before ALL ELSE....

Jesus!


Thursday, February 14, 2019

The One About What Women Want

Hubby and I returned from Cuba on Tuesday night...late!

One would think that with Cuba being only 90 miles off the coast of our country, the trip home would only take few hours.

If, like me, you think that way, we would be so wrong.

Eighteen hours from door to door made for a long, long, day...especially after a wonderful, but full and busy, week of ministry!

(our flight after we de-boarded, just sitting on the tarmac, waiting for a pilot who was stuck in Houston traffic...a normal 45 minute drive, which took him 3 hours to get to work...#journeyhomeproblems)

So, waking up this morning, and realizing it was Thursday, and I'm committed to be somewhat regular in posting a blog, but knowing I hadn't really processed my week in Cuba fully..................well, let's just say I was less than prepared for a Thursday Thought.

HOWEVER, there is a little "but God" coming.

As I walked into the kitchen in search of my morning cup of coffee, a wee miracle occurred.

You see, I have always declared (and, while it sounds a bit humorous, there is more truth than humor to my statement):  "Even Jesus won't talk to me until I've had coffee!"


(Ok, here it is) BUT GOD!!! I heard just one little whisper to the ears of my heart (there-in-is-the-miracle).

And, so, I've grabbed onto that whisper, and I'm spinning a thought or two around it.

By now, you are hoping those thoughts are brief.

Here is what jumped from His mouth to my heart:
"Women-in-the-church EVERYWHERE are all the same; and, we all want the same things."

We do!

It's what makes it so much easier to go to other countries to speak.


Our hearts are knit together in desire of the same wants.

What are they?


As I sat with women to pray, as Bay and I prayed over husbands and wives together, as we held question and answer sessions, the focus was this:
1) We want healthy, happily-ever-after marriages.


2) We want our husbands to serve the Lord with us.
3) We want children.
4) We want those children to honor the Lord (and, us...OK... more-so-us than the Lord) with the way they live their lives.


5) We want our children to be MORE: more successful, more happy, more godly, more financially secure, more problem-free than we were, are, or will ever be.

There was a thought that kept re-occurring to me, however, and I wondered, how many times as we come to the Lord do we ask the right question:

Lord, here's what I want, but what do you want?

So, on this Valentine's Day, I remember that first and foremost, God wants our love. It is the greatest commandment. The "Shema" in the Old Testament, re-quoted by Jesus (see the opening passage above).

Then, Jesus says, "If you love me, you will show it by keeping my commandments..."


Right there...this is Jesus' answer to women everywhere, 
"Want to know what I want even more than happy marriages and contented children?"

"Your love!"

"Your love shown by doing this life according to My words!"

"You seeking me above your wants...even if (especially if) it is counter-intuitive to your wants."


And, what burdened my heart as we ministered to women in three different regions of Cuba is that these women are just like all of us............looking for ways to get around Jesus' commands..............wanting someone to concur with our wants, justifying them, excusing them, waving a magic wand over them...

But God just wants our HEARTS fully committed, loving Him, seeking His will...


Turning from our ways to His ways (Exodus 18:20)...

"teach them God's decrees and instructions, and show them the way in which they are to walk"


Our God has gone to great lengths to love us!



So, on this day of loving others by going to great lengths to show it to them, I want to re-commit my heart to loving Him first, most, and best...and showing Him in tangible ways.

Ever asked what God's love language might be?

God's love language is my response to His Word!

On this day, I re-commit to His way above all.

To ask: What Would Jesus Want? before I look at what I want...

WWJW!?!

Oh...and, P.S.
When we set in motion our plans to love Him with our all and all?

Well, there is this:


Let's just not get things out of order...

Love Him first.
Delight in Him.
Follow in obedience.
Then...just see what He will do!