Monday, April 28, 2014


Whoever said you can't ever go back home is right. I spent the last few days in the little coastal town in Oregon, where I grew up. All going back does is serve to remind me that home just simply isn't, not anymore. I find myself visiting all the places where I left so many fond memories. I'm always ultra-nostalgic, extremely reflective. I'm restless when I come's like I keep looking for something...

I finally realized what it was I was looking for on one particularly rare and sunny afternoon, as I walked along the beach in front of our motel. It seemed every where I went, I collected memories, almost like the smooth white stones I was picking up that had been tossed ashore by the waves. Obviously, the common denominator of all my memories is me. They are all about me, the child, Peg. That's when it struck me...I was looking for me! Of course, while I can replay old mental videos of my life, I will never find what I was after...and that made me sad...

About as sad as I felt the morning I drove past the house where I grew up.  I don't know who owns it now, but they sure don't put the TLC into it that my parents did.  My dad was an amazing landscaper. His yards were always immaculate. Mom was a tedious, spotless house keeper.  If you ever drove past that little house on the corner of 4th & Ocean Drive, you knew  it was reflective of hard-working, responsible, caring people. Not so, now.  If a house could be embarrassed, this one wishes a sink hole would open up and swallow it (and, it might). It's falling apart; it's unkempt; and the poor thing is perishing...(not to mention someone painted it bright blue and accented it with hot pink trim). Nope, you really can't ever go back home...

But, Jesus...  Following Easter, I started reading 1 Peter.  No reason, other than it had been a while since I'd gone through Peter's letters. God ordained it...knowing what I needed, and where I'd be. After taking some time on the first couple of verses, I landed on Chapter 1, verses three and four:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you...

Here in this little town, all the memories of my life crescendoed at one particular moment: my salvation.  At that moment, I was born again to a living hope, which was settled and secured that first Easter morning, when Jesus rose from the dead.  With it, I was granted an inheritance.  A new home.  A place, that my resurrected Lord is preparing for me, reserving it in heaven, until that day in which it will be revealed to me.  But, do you see it?  It's a home that never fades, is never corrupted by life, or what man might do, or not do, to it.  Never, ever, will it perish.  One day, home will be a place I will always be able to go back to, and always, always, find me - the completed me (as made perfect in Christ).  One day I'll see the dots connected between each and every memory and the me I became, because Jesus ordained it all... It's not surprising that Peter's next words are:  In this you greatly rejoice...  In this, your hope of a heavenly home, you have jump-up-and-down, skip-and-leap, overflowing joy!

Yes, I do... It never ceases to amaze me how God can speak to my sorrow and turn it into such great joy! He's just like that, though, isn't he?

The house I grew up in...

A daily view...

Monday, April 21, 2014

Jesus Met Me!

Matthew 28:9
And behold, Jesus met them and said, “ Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.

As I sat in church yesterday, reading the story of the Resurrection of Jesus, once again, I was struck by this verse.  It's sandwiched in the middle of the women's heart-weary, worn, and grief stricken arrival at the tomb, and their joy-filled, overwhelmed, and ecstatic return to the disciples with the news that Jesus was ALIVE!  I love those three words:  Jesus met them.  The women had come to lovingly give to him, to sacrifice for him, even in his death.  They had come to honor him, as they anointed his body with spices; and, in turn, he honored them.  He met them!  Reflect on that incredible picture for one moment.  The verse, those three words, hardly captures all that incapsulates that scene.  The only key we have to the intensity of that instant when Jesus greeted them is the action that followed.  They fell to the grouond, and worshipped at his nail scarred feet.

When I started this Lenten journey on Ash Wednesday, it was with a little bit of a flippant attitude and a whisper of a prayer.  Flippant attitude: "I'm giving up giving-up for Lent."  Whispered prayer:  "As I add this prayer of examen, and spend forty days in soul-searching, will you bring me to Good Friday seeing myself as I really am?  Will you show me, anew, my need for Calvary that the Victorious Resurrection be an incredible celebration?"

This morning, as I sit to write this blog, I know why this verse stood out.  It meant something to me.  The whisper of my prayer, in spite of my flippant attitude, was answered.  Jesus met me.  In a sense, even with a cavalier spirit, he saw the intention of my heart really was to honor him with true celebration.  When we honor Jesus, he honors us...always!  I don't know why that still surprises me.  He always has, and he always will, because of his faithfulness.  All along my Lenten journey, I saw the need of my heart for the crucifixion.  When Friday came, it arrived with such gratitude, I was overwhelmed.  However, as I sat in church, yesterday, the sense of Jesus' ALIVENESS, over-shadowed the events of Friday, and I was filled with celebration, unlike I'd ever felt at Easter.  Jesus met me.  He had been walking with me all along this road, in a unique, and very personal way; but, when I read Matthew 28:9, I realized how much so, and it humbled me.  He had honored me, by meeting me on this journey!  All I could do, all any one of us could do, is take hold of his feet, and worship him.  What a day of Resurrection!  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter: It's a BIG DEAL!


Several weeks ago, I had a conversation with my little grandson, Ethan.  We'd spent the weekend together, and as I was driving him home, I was curious how much he understood the "Holyday" that was coming up soon.  Here was the conversation:

Me:  Ethan, do you know what holiday comes after your spring break?

E:  I don’t know!

Me:  Easter!

E:  Oh, Easter…yay!  We get to go hunt Easter eggs and look for money!

Me:  Yeah, you do!  That’s so fun.  But, E, why do we celebrate Easter?

E:  I don’t know…

Me:  We celebrate Easter, because Jesus died on a cross and three days later, on Sunday morning, he came back to life.  He died and came back to life again.  It’s a big deal, E!  (Pause) So, why do we celebrate Easter?

E (shouting loudly):  Because it’s a BIG DEAL!

He’s right.  If that’s all we remember, it’s enough.  Easter is a BIG DEAL!  It changes everything for those of us, who recognize we are separated from God the Father by a huge gulf of sin, and we need a Savior – someone who can bridge the gulf, by taking our sins.  ONLY JESUS could do that…  So, he died & was buried and paid the price for our sins, covering them with his blood; and he came back to life (we call that resurrection) to give us a victorious way to live…

Easter is a BIG DEAL!  I pray none of us ever forget it…and that we loudly shout it as often as we can!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jesus Needed Saturday For Our Sunday

It's Saturday.  I'm trying to imagine what it must have been like for the disciples and those who had followed and deeply loved Jesus.  It's hard.  I know about Sunday.  They didn't.  For them, it had to have been a lonely day.  They must have felt the heaviness of grief, but more!  They were afraid for their lives, and spent the day hidden...afraid of the slightest noises.  Who knew if they might be taken next?  It's why after the encounter in the Garden, when the soldiers came to take Jesus away, the Scriptures tell us, they all ran away! Every last one of them! (Matthew 26:56) Peter made it to the so-called-trial, but only to the courtyard. Then, he denied even knowing Jesus - not once, but three times, just as Jesus had predicted.  Yes, there was those emotions, but there must have been more than even grief, and fear.  These hard-core followers were confused (in spite of Jesus' words, for days, even weeks, about his death and his predicted return); they were, perhaps, a bit angry, too (we gave up our lives for three years for....what?), and certainly, hopeless.  Hopeless!  Maybe they even found themselves, quoting the mockers at the crucifixion, "He had saved others, why didn't he even try to save himself?" (Matthew 26:42) I probably would have had those mocking voices in my head.  Why didn't he fight - at least for my sake?  Of course, they'll understand it more, after Sunday comes. They'll know, and it will be life transforming, and empowering, because everything Jesus did was for their sake, my sake, your sake...  Saturday was quiet.  Probably, too quiet; and, you, and I, know what quiet days are like.  They go on and on and on and on and on...forever.  Would life ever be normal again?  What comes next?

However, Saturday was anything but quiet for Jesus.  He was busy.  Busy preparing for the new normal of Christianity.  Busy planning for the what next.  Jesus was busy in a world that no one else could see.  We don't know exactly what happened, but we get snippets in Ephesians 4:7, Colossians 2:15, and 2 Peter 3:15-18.  What we do know is Jesus descended into a place, which we know nothing about, and proclaimed TRUTH to those who were being held captive there. What we do know is that he made a public display of the enemy he had triumphed over through his death.  For some reason, Jesus needed Saturday in order to prepare for Sunday's grand event... So while the disciples spent Saturday greatly distressed, Jesus spent it busily preparing for their new life to come following his GLORIOUS RESURRECTION.  Come Sunday morning, their fear would be replaced with courage, their sadness and grief would be replaced with joy.  The confusion would be cleared up, and they would be given a mission of their own to proclaim.  The lesson of Saturday, for me, is this:  No matter what life's are issues in the Saturday's of our lives, there will always be a Sunday.  Jesus is always at work preparing for it, in a place we can't see, and the result? JOY!  Joy always, always, comes in the morning! (Ps. 30:5).  Our mourning will always be turned to dancing (Jeremiah 31:13)!

Sunday is coming!

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Beauty of the Cross

At the cross I find the beauty of Your matchless grace
At the cross I see a King who died to take my place
It's the moment that You made me clean and pardoned my soul
Amazing grace that I would be allowed unto Your throne
Not by my own will but solely by Your will alone
I'm unworthy of this love you have shown to me
I see my desperate need

The beauty of the cross is that there's One who has redeemed my soul
Beauty of the cross is  I'm finally free and letting go
Beauty of the cross is that Your grace has found me just as I am...

-Lyrics to The Beauty of the Cross, by Jonny Diaz

The song lyrics capture the essence of the crucifixion.  Amen!  It is for these reasons that today is Good Friday.  Otherwise, there is nothing good about it.  Crucifixion was a horrible, shameful death.  (Go to YouTube, if you've forgotten, & watch the scenes from The Passion of Christ...I just did, and while it makes me want to close my eyes, or shut it off, the crucifixion was reality).  Yet, it was necessary. This whole event was because of me, and for me!  You, too.

All Jesus endured this day is over-shadowed by matchless grace, substitionary atonement, redemption, & most of all, forgiveness! As a result, I AM FREE... Freed from slavery to sin!

Honestly, I really don't think that there is more to say.  Click on the link to the song, perhaps visit some of the take-outs from The Passion on the crucifixion, and reflect.  Then, do as I have been doing with some of my grand-children, put on some rowdy praise music and do a joyful dance in honor of your REDEMPTION.  Remember, there is no redemption without a price...what a price was paid!

I must not take it for granted...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The New Commandment

I always wondered where the term Maunday Thursday came from.  It seemed like it should be Maunday Monday, right? I struggled to get that discrepancy when I was a little girl.  However, this is an appropriate title for Holy-Week-Thursday.  Maunday comes from a Latin word, "mandatum" (from where we get our English word, mandatory).  Obviously, it means "commandment."  Jesus, as he orchestrated the events of the Last Supper, not only asked that his death be remembered and celebrated, but that they would continue to commemorate it. He also instituted a new commandment (only John records it):

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another...
John 13:34-35

It was quite the paradigm shift for the religious of the day to make the switch from an emphasis on law to love. Hard to fathom, harder to live out. Jesus' life exemplified the how.

Think about it for a minute.  In that day, there were social classes for people.  Let's start at the top and work our way down the Jewish ladder.  If you were somebody, then you were one of the Jewish religious leaders (a Pharisee or Saducee). Next came the wealthy, followed by the blue collar workers.  Lower on the ladder came the poor, then the sick...on down to the leprous...the women came next, followed by the animals (however, this is debatable, since both were considered property); then came the children & slaves/servants; the Canaanites & the Samaritans shared a rung; and all these were followed by the sinners, and last and least, the tax collectors (yes, the sinners were separated in class from the tax collectors!)...

BUT JESUS...Jesus entered the world in poverty, and on down to the bottom of the rung he went.  One of the first disciples he called was a tax collector (unbelievable!).  Then, he had the audacity to go home with said tax collector and fellowship with him and with his sinner friends.  His first introduction as Messiah was to a woman, and of all the women he could have picked, he chose a Samaritan.  He honored women, elevating them by giving them a place in his ministry.  He loved on children, and made time for them in his busy, demanding schedule.  He honored them, by explaining how they had an important role to play in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus touched the untouchables, the leprous, and he healed them.  He healed the blind, the sick, the paralyzed, and, yes, even raised the dead (one of these infirm happened to be the servant of an important Roman soldier, and the child of a Canaanite woman!).  He was received by the middle class, who followed him by the multitudes.  When it came to outreach, it was the religious leaders who were on the bottom rung of his ladder.  Yet, as we've discussed already this week, he still had great compassion for them! Woe!  The important lesson in all this is that when it came to loving people, Jesus turned the social ladder upside down!

Then, Jesus demonstrated love even further by pulling aside his disciples, wrapping himself in a towel, lowering himself to a servant status, and doing one more unthinkable act - he washed their feet!  It's all recorded in John 13.  As he washed, he taught.  If you want to be have to serve.  In my Kingdom, if you want status, you have to lower yourself to the least of these.  The lesson Jesus taught, went further.  Not only do you need to serve, you need to stoop down, and wash feet. Then he said, "If you do these things, you are blessed..." 

Whereas the Religious Upper Class would have desired Jesus to wage a little war against the out-of-place-lower-rung-people, by putting them in their place, Jesus chose to wash feet.  Jesus chose to go-out-of-his-way to stoop as low as he could for The Other.  Then he chose to die on a cross for EVERY ONE, which in theory demolished any status-ladder.  However, in reality, it hasn't...

We still have our ladder today; but, we've been given a mandate from our Lord: love.  Love one this all men will know you are my followers.  Love one this all men will know me.  Here's the truth of Maunday Thursday: if we are going to be Jesus-followers, we need to do as Jesus did - make our way down the social ladder of our society and wash the feet of the unlovable, untouchable, and unthinkably awful people of this world.  Just like Jesus did.

I'm still trying to apply just what this would look like.  How can I wash the feet of a tax collector (in our society that might be the sex-trafficer, the drug-pusher, the pimp, the prostitute, the homosexual, the drunk driver, the thief, the murderer, the betrayer, the rejecter, the denier, The Other...)? How can I be Jesus with skin on?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What Love the Father Has Lavished...

I woke up this morning, and as my eyes opened, two words popped into my brain. Where they came from I have no idea. It certainly wasn't a part of any dream, or anything I talked with anyone about yesterday. So, I reckoned to myself, they must be from the Lord, and worthy of exploring.  Here were the words: Seared conscience.  I know, odd.

Yet, this morning, as I open Matthew's gospel, and thumb through to the place where I should be focusing this morning, all I'm seeing is a community full of souls with seared consciences trying to trap Jesus. Then, there's Jesus!  Such a sweet heart, filled with compassion for these individuals... It was out of the depths of his desire to bring these hard hearts to repentance that he cleansed the temple, cursed a barren fig tree that represented unfruitful religious lives, attempted to show them their hearts in stories (like the Parable of the Landowner, or the Parable of the Marriage Feast), and wept over Jerusalem. Jesus loves even those with seared consciences.

There's something about seared consciences that isn't very pretty, or likable, really.  Those in such a mental state are pretty much about appearances.  There's a tendency toward narcissism, making life "all about me." Seared consciences result in Romans-1-behavior:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteous living..for though they knew God, they didn't honor him as God, or give thanks, the became futile in their speculations and their foolish hearts became darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of the corruptible...Therefore God gave them over to the desires of their hearts...**

Seared consciences result in unbelief.  It's easy for them to lie to themselves, and consider their lies to be truth.  Seared consciences result in questioning the authority of God, and allowing themselves to be The Authority of their Own Lives.  Seared consciences result in blindness.

I've always tried to find myself in the gospel narratives. Which character am I? What part am I playing in the story?  I generally pick the role of the "good guy." I sure don't want to be the seared-conscience-Pharisee, or the legalist, or Judas-the-betrayer...  But the fact is that it was a collection of seared-consciences that betrayed Jesus, beat him until he was unrecognizable, scourged him, and finally killed him.  Today, as I look at the events of Holy-Week-Wednesday, I want to be Mary of Bethany, tenderly anointing Jesus' body for burial with her most reckless, scandalous love.  The truth is that I am not Mary. The truth is I am one of the crowd of seared-consciences. If nothing else, my Lenten journey has proven that out. I am part of the collection of people that put Jesus on that cross come Friday.

BUT GOD loves even those with seared consciences.  Jesus Loves Me this I know!

(...and somewhere, there's a Mary, waiting to step out!)

**The words in bold are emphasized by me just to show, further, the unlikable character of an individual with a seared conscience.  Again, I emphasize, Jesus loves even those with seared consciences! Hallelujah.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Blind guides. Hypocrites. White washed tombs! Brood of vipers!  Over and over again, Jesus uses these words to describe the religious rulers of his day.  Then he looks them in the eyes, and from the depths of his knowledgable heart, emphatically declares, "Woe!"  (Not once, but seven times...we'll come back to that word.)

If we've ever thought that Jesus only spoke in niceties, we need to get back into the gospels.  I believe Jesus was always kind (a Greek word that referred to the mellowness of wine); he was always gentle (see Sunday's entry about gentleness); and he was always good (his desire was to give that which would always benefit the people); but that didn't mean that he wasn't truthful.  At one point (see Matthew 15:12-14), the disciples came to Jesus worried, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard what you told them?"  Jesus' response basically was this: "Let them alone. Don't be concerned about what they think. They are blind guides leading blind men...and both will fall into a pit!" Ouch!  Truth is always out of love; always desires the best for The Other; always speaks with goodness, tempered by a mellow-mouth; and truth is always gentle (which means that if there's a reason to be angry, that anger is not withheld for all the above reasons).  That was Jesus. No matter what they thought about him, he gave them what they needed to hear.  What they needed to hear wasn't always NICE.  It wasn't always received the way he intended it to be received.  He ruffled feathers. He stirred pots. He forced men (& women) into corners.  I don't know many people who are OK with that...myself included.

That little three-letter-word, woe, is highly important in this passage. In our English language it is spoken as a warning. As we read it in this passage, it appears from the surface, that Jesus is saying..."Listen, you jerks, bad days are ahead of you. This is your warning..." Reading what Jesus has just said, with the choice words he picked to portray the Pharisees in his hearing, we get the feeling he is condemning them to hell right there and then. So, we have to go deeper to see what he meant when he spoke the word, "Woe!" In old Greek writings, the word was an exclamation of grief, of intense mournfulness.  Let that soak in just a minute...

Jesus had healed blind men. He'd been vulnerable and, well, human, setting a whole new paradigm that excluded religion and brought in relationship with the Father.  He'd raised dead men to life...and soon, he'd be lifted up on a cross, as the serpent was lifted up on a pole in the wilderness, to bring complete healing to sin-weary souls (Numbers 29).  However, the Pharisees just didn't get it. They stayed blind, hypocritical, spiritually dead, and covered in spiritual leprosy. With their inability to get beyond their hard-heartedness, and be open to a different kind of Savior, they were condemning themselves to the pit of hell....and Jesus was grieving for them.  He grieved because he knew where he was headed, in just a few days.  He grieved because he knew they'd be the very ones to send him to the cross.  Mostly, he grieved because the salvation he was about to bring to the world, would not be embraced by these leaders.  Woe!  Deep grief.  On this last day of intense teaching, that Tuesday of Holy Week, from dawn to dusk, Jesus was holding onto the hope that one last day of intense training would take root in their hearts and bring them salvation.  Unfortunately, he saw the inside of their hearts (those white washed tombs that looked good on the outside, but inwardly there was decay). What he saw, caused him to lose some hope, and he grieved for them... Yet, even to the end, he kept inviting all who would to be with him in paradise.

I'm reminded this morning of Paul's words about the Lord:
The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

At the core of my onion-like heart, I recognize I quickly go to the first meaning of the word "woe".  I pronounce judgment, when someone doesn't seem to want to open their eyes or their hearts to Jesus.  My heart isn't a heart so full of love, that I keep presenting the truth to them, even if it becomes offensive. I don't hold out truth, in kindness, goodness, and gentleness, no matter what their response to me might be.  Oh that I would have a Jesus-heart, patient, not wanting any to perish, but for all to come to repentance!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Questions, Questions, & More Questions

And Jesus entered the temple and cast out all those who were buying & selling in the temple.  He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.  And He said to them, It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a robbers den.'  And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them..."
Matthew 21:12-14

The section heading reads Jesus Cleanses the Temple.  Had I just read the section heading, that would have been enough for this morning.  That's really been the bottom line of my Lenten journey to the cross.  This temple needs cleaning.  Really, what it needs is an overhaul.  As I've exercised the seldom used discipline of "examen," I've become more aware, how often I sell myself a "bill of goods."  There are some tables that need to be overturned, and some closets that need to be cleared out.  I may not be selling doves in this temple, but I am selling myself things like: excuses, justifications, rationalizations, explanations, validations, realizations, and defense...  Some of those things are stuck so far in the back of the cupboards, I've forgotten they are there.  Jesus hasn't.  He's all about cleansing the temple today, as much as he was about it back then.  He wants this temple to be a place of prayer!  He wants this temple to be a place of healing...  So, here I am, sitting on the Monday morning of Holy Week, going back through my journal, to see what all has been dug out.  It's time to put it all in a trash bag and take it to the dumpster!

Don't get me wrong.  There have been some very sweet moments with The Lord during this season, where he has been encouraging, affirming, and reminding me of my new identity in Him. He has poured out his sweet mercy and grace, OFTEN. However, this has been a season of preparation for the cross. So, most evenings, and most mornings, together we've done some intense soul-searching. The Lord has also reminded me, as he did the Pharisees, that he came for the sick, and the sinful, and that is me!  More than anything He has shown me the inner motivations of my heart, and is stripping away layers in my heart (pretty much like that of an onion, & just as tear-producing!).  Most of the time, all he has had to do was to ask me a question, or two, and that was enough to land conviction, and a realization of these many areas of hiddenness. Each question could be a blog entry in itself. However, I don't want to bore with my gory details.  Can I simply share just a handful of those questions with you?  Maybe they will not just be for my soul-prep as we land on Good Friday in five days...maybe something will be for you, as well.

#1:  Am I continuing to pursue my mission statement, as God-called, no matter my audience or its size?  Mt. 13:52

#2:  Will I stay true to my calling (& persevere) in spite of what others think of me, or the voice I am given, even within my household, or my hometown? Mt.13: 57.

#3:  In spite of my own “stuff” (even valid emotions), will I respond with compassion to the “multitude of needs” that crosses my path?  Mat. 14:1-14.

#4:  Will I let my faith be crowded out by my fear and thus limit the work of God through me for the Kingdom?  Mt.14: 22-33. 

#5:  What man-rules do I follow just because they are “customary” and therefore unnecessary bondage?  Mt. 15:1-3.

#6:  What’s my “measuring stick” – law or love? Mt. 15:1-3.

#7:  What comes out of my mouth that reveals more of my true nature?  Mt. 15:11, 18-19.

#8:  Am I applying what I am learning or simply writing down lessons?  Mt. 15:21-18.  Am I being a hearer only, or a doer of truth?  James 1:22.

#9:  Do I seek to glorify the Father, even as Jesus did?  Am I truly a display of His glory?  Mt. 15:29-31.

#10:  Christian-service is not just about providing for the spiritual needs of others, but stepping out of our comfort zones to help provide physical needs as well – am I?  Mt. 15:32-39.

#11:  Have I learned to discern the signs of the times; and, am I watching for His return…really?  Mt. 16:1-4.

#12:  Am I careful to discern and line up all teaching with God’s TRUTH, and not just devour or dish out “leaven”?  Mt. 16: 5-12.

#13:  If people looked at my life, who would they say Jesus was?  Mt. 16:15

#14:  Am I particular about who gets the crumbs of my service?  See the story of the Canaanite Woman.

#15:  Like the Pharisees & Saducees, do I demand more of Jesus “just because I want to see more tangible proof of his trustworthiness,"  rather than hold to a simple faith based on what I’ve already seem him do in my life?  Mt. 16:1-12

OK…I’ll stop there.  Remember there are 40 days in the Lenten journey to the cross.  So, this is just a little summarization of where I’ve wrestled over the past month.  Yes, there’s more....but this is enough, right?  Sure has been for me…

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Take a Look @ Your King!

Officially, this morning marks the start of Holy Week.  Holy Week: Jesus final week of life, as he steadily, and intentionally, moves toward his death.  Someone once said something like this:  "If you knew you had a week to live, how would you, then, live?  You'd do the important things!  So, Holy Week shows us what was important to Jesus."  Perhaps, so.  However, it is our last week before the crucifixion and resurrection, two of the three most important events in Christianity, that should be our focus as we continue to look inward.  If we do, I believe our outward celebration will be greater than ever come the weekend.  Each day, as the Lord allows, I want to do just that, get ready for Friday, so Sunday's coming will be a true day of rejoicing.  Would you join me?  This will be a bit unusual, I've not done a daily blog's been hard enough to get out the once a week entries...

Last summer, I began going through the book of Matthew.  Somedays, I get no further than a verse, or maybe a handful of verses. There has been no rhyme or reason, no plan other than to just read until I sense the Lord stopping me.   There have been times, I've spent two or three days on a passage, just soaking in it.  It's been slow, and sometimes tedious in its conviction; and, there have been times of comfort and encouragement.  All that to say this: on Friday, I reached the passage in Matthew about The Triumphal Entry.  The Triumphal Entry, also known to us as Palm Sunday!  Coincidence?  Not in God's timing!

I didn't have to read very far into the account that Matthew gives us, before I stopped.  Jesus had just given his disciples some direction, and then Matthew quotes Zechariah (Mt 21:5).  Here are the words as Matthew quoted them (NASB):

"Say to the Daughter of Zion, behold your king is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden."

Here's what I read:

Daughter (Son), take a good, long look at your King!  He comes to you...and he's gentle!  See him riding on a donkey's colt - a donkey, not a royal, prancing steed - a donkey, a beast that is trained to carry burdens.

Let's look closely at our King.

Most importantly, he's coming to me.  He sees....he!  He's watching, and waiting, for the right timing, and when it's "that day" he comes.  He doesn't wait on me; he just comes.  The King comes!  It speaks volumes to me about how much this King cares.  He cares about the people in his Kingdom.  Even though he left us for a season, he left us in the care of his own very Spirit - the Spirit of God, who is ever present, when we need him.  One day, he will come again...but oh, how different this entrance will be.  This is a King who comes (and is coming again!) - just LOOK!

The first time, our King came, he rode a donkey.  It's important to note that it wasn't a prancing steed. It wasn't a pure-bred horse fit for royalty.  He wan't putting his trust in horses or chariots...he was reminding us all of his humility and service.  Here was a King for the people (how unusual is that - a ruler who truly is for the people).  Here was a King who wanted to take our burdens, make our load light, and give us rest.  Here was a King, who would lay down his life to this end.  Jesus wasn't a victorious King, or a warrior King, He was a serving King.  No one anticipated that!  But...look...!

Jesus' gentleness is his true mark of greatness.  Let me give you Spiros Zohdiates definition of this word, prautes:  Often translated, meek &/or mild.  In the New Testament it expresses a meekness which differs from the usual connotation of the word in English.  Prautes, according to Aristotle, is the middle standing between two extremes, getting angry without reason, and not getting angry at all. It is the result of a strong man's choice to control his reactions in submission to God.  It is a balance born in strength of character, stemming from a confident trust in God, not from weakness or fear (Zohdiates, 2008). Here was a King who set an example of trust in God, living confidently in true identity, to give to his people hope of a victorious new life, while they were still living on this earth.  Look at him!

Jesus didn't ride into Jerusalem on that Sunday to say he was a namby-pamby King, who would simply give up and let them take his life!  He rode into town that day to say he was a King of another color, a stronger kind of King than they had ever seen.  He was a King who could control his character, who could submit to a higher authority for RIGHT and JUSTICE, because of MERCY and GRACE.  He was a King who knew who he was, and lived life without fear (what could man do to him....really?)!  Jesus rode into town that day, to prove he was coming to the people, for the people, with a gift that would change the people.  Oh, how he hoped they would BEHOLD their King for the right reasons!  Now, LOOK and behold your King!

....oh, and Jesus, your King, is coming again to his people, for his people, to get his people to give them a heavenly Kingdom...and this time, he'll be riding a white horse!  Think about that!

Monday, April 7, 2014

More on Words & The Other Side of Shame

Then Absalom her brother said to her, "Has Amnon your brother been with you?  But now keep silent, my sister, he is your brother; do not take this matter to heart."
2 Samuel 13:20

Once again, I wandered across this verse that's a part of Tamar's story of rape and desolation this week. It's really not a story about rape.  It's a story about the desolation (great word) that is caused by something called "shame."  We don't have to have been raped to experience shame.  Shame is that niggling little voice inside of us that says, "I am bad."  "I am wrong."  "I am so stupid!" "I am unacceptable." "I'm unforgivable."  "If only I _________." That voice sounds as familiar as the people who fill our lives, or possibly, even as familiar as our own.  Shame, most often is the result of words.  Words that shut us up, and then, shut us down.

I mentioned,  sometime back, that shame is one of the most crippling emotions with which we will ever live!  It absolutely cages us, and like Tamar, ruins us.  It's one of the enemy's biggest tools to quiet us, and to eliminate our effectiveness for the Kingdom of God.  If the enemy can silence our story, he creates a hopelessness that says, "See, your God is nothing!" If he can silence our voice, we have no opportunity to bring hope and joy and healing to others.  If he can stillbirth our words, how can we ever fulfill the purpose for which God birthed us: to bring glory to Himself?  Oh, how wrong Absalom was to command his sister to silence.  Oh, how hard-hearted to give a mandate she could not keep, and thus heaped more shame upon her with his words, "do not take this matter to heart."  Absalom spoke the words that quieted Tamar, but the enemy did his worst damage once they were spoken.  That's most often the way of shame.

What was Absalom thinking with those words?  Of course, Tamar took the matter to heart!  The act was so very personal.  Every act that produces shame in us is personal!  When it is, we take it to heart (I really want to slap my head right now, and say, "Duh!" out loud...ok, that's done.)  We live with our embarassment tucked away in darkness, stuffed in a box labeled "SHAME," with the eyes of heart low, and our throats choked with words that want, no NEED, to come out.  Yet, the world around us doesn't know what to do with our vulnerability.  Like Absalom, they don't want to listen, and be uncomfortable; they just want it/us/them to go away.  They want to fix life for us, rather than let us do the very thing that will bring healing:  speak the words.

Sometimes, we don't want to hear ourselves tell the story.  It's just so very hard!  Sometimes, being vulnerable, for one reason or another, is so-not-easy.  Probably we're afraid, because the story is so very personal.  It is "my" story, after all, and I think I ought to leave it that way.  Besides, I hate all the other emotions that spill out when shame is let out of its box.  So, the fear, also, compounds the messiness; and, of course, it creates more shame.  "If only I were a better Christian." 

Ah, the complexity of shame!  The Lord has been speaking to me for months about this complexity.  About the need to be healed, and set free, of this damaging, crippling disease.  I've even felt compelled to share some of my story, and have sensed the door cracking, and shame being released in little amounts (sometimes, when it's been stuffed for years, we can only handle letting it out in doses).  I keep being reminded that to tell my story, unashamedly, brings healing to myself, hope to others, and glory to Almighty God.  I am not adventurous; I am not courageous; but, I am fixing my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my story.  His is the only voice I want to hear.  So, that desire is greater than the one that tells me to "keep silent...and do not take this matter to heart."

The following link has fitting words that will set a soul free, and eliminate shame as we bring it into the light.  However, it will also be one of the bravest things you will ever do.... Take a listen: