name='verify-v1'/> Big God - little d: 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No Apology Needed

"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."
But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." Genesis 32:24-26

We must never apologize for asking a question of someone that causes them to wrestle with the Father for the answer. For that matter, we shouldn't expect an apology if we are on the receiving end of such a question.

You know the kind of question I'm talking about. It is the type that forces us to contend with a plan that wasn't of our choosing. Or it is the one that turns us inside out; forcing us to consider our lives from a different perspective. Or maybe it is the kind that causes us discomfort as it brings about a crisis-of-faith. Regardless, these questions tend to send us scrambling to God's Word for help and down to our knees in desperate to hear from God that we boldly declare we will not quit petitioning Him until He speaks.

I've had a few of those questions posed to me this summer. Because of them, I've spent quite a bit of time in the Throne Room wrestling with the Almighty. Even though I'm sporting some new bumps and bruises, it was worth it. One of those questions has given me the opportunity to see where my words of faith and my walk of faith don't quite match up and has allowed me to make course corrections. Another question has been an opportunity to stretch my faith and step into ministry. While yet another has been a test where the only right answer was, "no."

Each question has forced me into a closer relationship with my God. The results have been a purifying of my faith and a blessing from God, Himself.

Why would anyone need to apologize for that?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dear God

Dear God,

It has come to my attention that whenever You ask me to consider something that I don't understand...or that is anxiety producing (big picture)...or something that I would like to happen but I'm afraid of hoping for it and then being disappointed if it doesn't...I just shut down. I close myself off from You because I don't want to look at it.

It doesn't occur to me to say, "I don't like the way this makes me feel...but I'm just going to sit with it and You...and wait for You to speak to me about it. I'm going to open myself to the possibility that if You want me to be a part of this, then You will give me the courage to face my fears."

It is more like I am saying, "I don't like how this makes me feel so I'm going to tuck it away and You'll have to bring it up, again later, if You want me to seriously consider it.

God, You know this about me. I tend to push You aside whenever I don't understand what You are doing or saying.

Where is my faith?
There isn't any maturity in this approach.

It is time for me to grow.

Lord, give me the courage to look at Your bigger plan even though it is beyond my comprehension and requires me to grow in uncomfortable ways. Help me to remember You are trustworthy. I don't want my faith to be a reflection of my own inadequacies. I want my faith to reflect who You are...

"For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies."
-- Psalm 57:10

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Asking As If He Is Not Listening

"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 46:10

The other day, I prayed my way down a list of people and events that the Lord had placed on my heart. I had purposefully saved one name for last. For the past two months, I had been diligently knocking on heaven's door on this individual's behalf.

Mentally, I ordered several specific requests. As the first one formed on my lips, I sensed the Spirit's interruption. Rather than continue with the same line of thinking, I tried a different request. The same thing happened. After the third try, I had the distinct impression the Spirit was saying,

"You've already asked for all of these things."

I was stunned into silence.

And that's when I heard the questions:

"Do you believe I have heard you?'
Yes, Lord.

"Do you believe I am at work?"
Yes, Lord.

"Do you believe I am in charge?"
Yes, Lord.

"Do you believe My plan will prevail?"
Yes, Lord.

"Then, why do you ask Me as if I am not listening?"

Again, I was silent. Finally, I stumbled out a few unimpressive words...Wow. Good question. I see what You're saying. Forgive me. Let me try again...

This time I embraced the silence and entered into His presence, all the while acknowledging the fullness of all I had already asked on behalf of the person I was praying for. It was the equivalent of saying, "Please?"and after a long, long pause, humbly whispering, "Thank You."

Since then, I have been unable to get this encounter out of my mind. I can't help but hold it up in contrast to all the other ways I have been taught and practiced praying...

The times when I have been called to pray without ceasing.
The times when He has insisted I name my requests.
The times when I have been silent before Him with no idea what to ask for and that has been enough.
The time when He told me to quit talking and let Him pray because He knew best.

And now, You are telling me that sometimes there comes a point in praying for someone or something where I am to quit speaking my requests and sit in silent acknowledgment of Your faithfulness to answer in Your own perfect way.

For as long as I live, Abba, I pray that I never grow tired of learning Your ways. Thank You, for teaching me. I love You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Joshua Words

"But Joshua said to the house of Joseph - to Ephraim and Manasseh - 'You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, you can drive them out.'" Joshua 17:17-18

Allotments of the promised land are being divvied up and parceled out to each of the tribes of Israel. The people of Joseph receive their allotment and decide they need more land. They go to their leader Joshua and lodge a complaint. Joshua tells them they are welcome to go into the nearby forest and clear more land for themselves. Instead of saying "thanks" the people of Joseph add a complaint about the Canaanites living close by with iron chariots. (Joshua 17:14-18)

I love Joshua's response in verses 17-18. He acknowledges the size of Joseph's group...but adds that they are powerful. He acknowledges their concern about space...then gives them a parcel of forested hill country as a bonus. He acknowledges their fear about the Canaanites, a strong people with iron chariots...and then restates the piece of information which trumps all of their concerns, "You can drive them out." (v. 18)

Joshua doesn't deny the facts nor does he give in to their whining or fear. Instead, he reiterates their concerns and then refocuses them on the truth; they are numerous and very powerful and can drive out the Canaanites.

It is a brilliant leadership moment. It brings to mind those parenting moments when I have been faced with a whining, fearful child who has lost their focus. When my eyes are fixed on God, I have a better chance of responding as Joshua did. I am able to listen. I am able to offer solutions. I am able to remind my child of their capacity to overcome trials. I am able to speak with hope and confidence even though they may not believe me in that moment. I am able...because I am drawing from God's truth not my own.

This story is also a perfect illustration of what happens in my life when I act like one of the people of Joseph. When I become fearful and whiny, I am consumed with what I see and unable to draw on what I know. In those moments, I am grateful when the Lord uses someone, like Joshua, to acknowledge my fears and remind me of the strength and power that is mine in Jesus Christ.

Lord, help me to look to you when I am fearful and whiny. Give me the ears to hear and the courage to believe the words of those who deliver Joshua messages to me. And, may I be ready to respond to the nudges of the Spirit in order to speak Joshua words over someone else. I love you. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Forgoing the Plunder

"Then the LORD said to Joshua, 'Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. You shall do to Ai and its kin as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.'" Joshua 8:1-2

"But Israel did not carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the LORD had instructed Joshua." Joshua 8:27

I have been spending some time in Joshua 8, this morning. I am left with a question:

Why did the Israelites forgo the plunder that was rightfully theirs to take?

Scripture doesn't come right out and say this but I believe it is because of events that took place just prior to the capture of the city of Ai.

In Joshua 7, the Israelites, with the LORD's help, have already captured and destroyed the city of Jericho. Afterwards, they set out to defeat the city of Ai and are stunned to find themselves outmatched. It is obvious to everyone that God did not go with them into battle. The Israelites' courage turns to fear.

Joshua throws himself facedown before the ark of God only to be told to "Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned..." (v. 10) It turns out one of the Israelite men, Achan, had kept some of the Jericho plunder for himself (v. 11). He polluted the entire camp by hiding silver, gold and a beautiful robe in his tent; items that had been specifically marked as sacred to the LORD (v. 18-19).

The punishment for this offense was that the man, his family, his cattle, donkeys, sheep, his tent and all his possessions were taken outside the camp to the valley. The Israelites stoned them, burned what was left and piled rocks over the remains. (v.24-26) Only then did God's anger subside.

I believe the brutal image of Achan and his family's death was with the Israelites when they went into battle against the people of Ai for the second time. Victory on the heels of such a horrific event would make it hard to celebrate. The LORD had given them permission to take the plunder but He hadn't commanded it. The Israelites had a choice. I suspect the Israelites declined because it held no appeal for them in the face of Achan's recent demise.

This brings to mind my own experiences of victory while simultaneously witnessing a friend in Christ being disciplined by the Lord. It is difficult to watch someone you know and love go through this sobering process. It can be quite an emotional experience.

Thankfully, the days of stoning are over. We are called, instead, to love as Jesus loved. We are called to forgive. We are called to practice grace and mercy. We are to cooperate with God's plan and not get in His way as He corrects the one we love.

Sometimes, this requires tempering our own celebration. Forgoing the plunder becomes a means of honoring God.

Monday, April 12, 2010

When the Manna Stops Falling

"On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan." Joshua 5:10-12

I find myself drawing parallels between the Israelites and myself. Specifically, I can relate to the changes that took place once the Israelites journeyed across the Jordan and the changes I've experienced since Easter.

After 40 years, the Israelites eat their first meal from the land God promised them. They day after they partake of the food from the land, God's gift of manna stops. Not because God was being stingy or cruel but because God had made other provisions for them. They no longer had need for the manna and so it stopped falling from heaven.

During these past two years, I have waited on the Lord for things to write about. While the Lord did not deliver something every day, He was always faithful to deliver exactly what I needed, when I needed it. For that, I am truly grateful.

However, during the 40 days days leading up to Easter (Lent), I received something to write (manna), each and every day. God provided me with writing inspiration from my relationship with Him. It was a nourishing feast that alternately filled me with wonder, awe, and further expectation.

Now that Easter has come and gone, I hear the Lord telling me it is time to eat from the land. He has brought me to a place that is flowing with milk and honey...His Word, life experiences, lessons learned. I know, now, that I can sit at His feet on any given day and words will come. Some days, the words will come easily just as the Israelites first harvested the land of offerings they did not plant. Other days, the words will only come after great toil. Either way, the time for manna has come to an end.

I find myself one step closer to writing the book that is to come.
I pray that I might be faithful to the task He has entrusted to me.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Kingdom Seed

"Then Jesus asked, 'What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.'" Luke 13:18-19

Jesus compares the kingdom of God with a lowly mustard seed. A seed so small that it would barely make a speck in the palm of my hand. If I were to set it on the ground and walk away from it, I would have great difficulty finding it later.

By itself, a mustard seed has no impact on the space around it. It is only after the seed has been planted, watered, and receives sunlight that it grows into something substantial enough to change the landscape and offer shelter to others.

I believe this is how the kingdom of God is displayed in those who follow Christ. A seed that starts out small and often goes unnoticed by all but the Father, eventually develops roots deep enough to support upward growth. The kingdom of God becomes evident as the branches of faith and service testify to Him. Ultimately, we provide a sheltering place for others who are also seeking His kingdom and growing roots of their own.

God's work in me is not limited by the size of the seed. What hinders God's work is my cooperation. Will I join Him in the garden? Will I submit to the planting, and the watering, and the waiting required for growth? Do I trust Him to make me a living, breathing testiment to the kingdom of God, here on earth? Will I surrender my will in order to become a Kingdom Seed for Him?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Rewards of Knocking

"For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Luke 11:10

It is Easter Sunday. Lent is over. Christ has risen!

I open my Bible and discover that today's reading includes the words of Jesus from Luke 11:10. My heart is warmed as I acknowledge that this is the same teaching from Matthew 7:7 that started my Lenten journey. He has tied Ash Wednesday and all the days leading up to Easter Sunday together with this life-altering invitation to ask, seek, and knock.

I am not the same person who began this journey back in February. Each and every day, I knocked on the door, and Jesus opened it to me. My heart is too full to try and speak of it, just yet. For today, I will savor the beauty of knowing him more fully and let my words be few.

Thank you, Jesus.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Lesson in Rejoicing

"The seventy-two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.'

He replied, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'" Luke 10:17-20

This passage has stirred up a memory within me. It must have been four or five years ago. I spent the day up at church. As a member of the Pastor Parish Relations Committee, my task was to meet with a handful of staff members, one-on-one, let them know how much they were appreciated and invite them to share any concerns or joys they had related to their job.

Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, each meeting took on an intimacy that encouraged personal sharing. Hurting hearts were opened, fears revealed, and hopes and dreams brought to light.

I listened with complete focus, and asked questions, when necessary. At the end of each session, I asked if I could pray for the one sitting across from me. They all said, "Yes." Holding their hands in mine, I gave thanks to God for them and lifted up their concerns and challenges to the Throne.

Each time, I prayed, the Holy Spirit added His own words. In amazement, I listened as my voice spoke of things which I did not know...a childhood where the blessing was withheld, the bitter roots of unforgiveness, the depth of love and devotion to an elderly spouse, the pain and guilt of a parent over a wayward child, a new path for one who would soon be leaving.

I prayed in agreement with the Spirit. I marveled at the electric energy that pulsed through the center of the palms of my hands. Something supernatural and amazing was taking place. Not only was I a witness to the power and authority of Jesus Christ but I was the one serving as the channel for that power and authority. It was a heady experience! Afterwards, it was impossible to contain my joy when I relayed the experience to a few close friends.

Jesus' words to the disciples were a teaching, a warning and a redirection. His words apply to me as well. We are to serve Christ and utilize the power and authority we have been given through him but what occurs during that service and the results of our service are not to be our focus.

God, Christ, the Spirit...they are to have our full attention. We are to rejoice in our salvation...and take care not to make idols of the power we have been given or the results they bring.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Plowing a Straight Line

"Jesus replied, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'" Luke 9:62

Plowing a straight line. It takes more than strength and know-how. It requires concentration. A farmer's eyes must not only focus on where the blade meets the earth but, also be mindful of what lies ahead. To look back, as you are moving forward, is to lose your line...waste your efforts...use up precious time...perhaps, even, necessitate starting over.

Jesus warns us that if we are going to serve the kingdom of God then we must keep our eyes on the field. We are not fit for our work assignment if we are looking backwards. We must keep our eyes on him. He will show us where the plow is to go. He will make sure the hard dirt of the field is turned over in straight lines, ready for seed.

Jesus' eyes were always on Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). His life was a straight plow line leading up to the cross and the resurrection. He did not take his eyes off of the Father. He did not look back.

The question to be pondered this morning: Where have I been focusing, lately?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Afraid to Ask

"While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 'Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.' But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it." Luke 9:43b-45

Sometimes we would rather not understand. We don't ask the hard questions because we aren't ready to face the hard answers that are sure to follow. We choose fear and ignorance over heartbreaking enlightenment. I've been there a time or two.

What I'm wondering, right now, is how the Godhead feels about this? How does my failure to ask for understanding when I am clueless and afraid make Almighty God, Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Spirit feel?

Jesus, if it is important enough for you to tell me about it, then it is important enough for me to understand. Please give me the courage to ask you for clarity on those things about this faith journey that frighten me and cause me confusion. Help me not to be afraid and to trust matter the answer or where it leads me. I love you. In your name, Amen.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

One Day At A Time

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23

The day has finally arrived! Today marks the last day of a two year time span, set apart by the Lord, to focus on family and writing. The time frame was impressed upon me by the Spirit during my prayer time in the early spring of 2008.

April 2008-March 2010
2 years
24 months
104 weeks
728 days

Deep inside my soul, I know that I've accomplished something of greater value than I am able to comprehend. It has to do with obedience, one day at a time. It has to do with trusting Him with a large season of my life. It has to do with my faith being tested in ways that continually exposed my insecurities. It has to do with allowing the old root systems of faulty thinking, that run deep, to be exposed and uprooted. It has to do with discovering the joy in the routine of picking up my cross because I know it means spending time with Jesus.

I think I'll celebrate by heading outside to enjoy His beautiful creation and lift up my praises to the King!

Thank you, Jesus, for daily leading the way. Thank You, God, for your daily faithfulness. Thank you, Spirit for your daily presence. Your goodness has been with me, one day at a time. I love you! Amen.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cancelled Debt

"At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the LORD's time for canceling debts has been proclaimed." Deuteronomy 15:1-2

Those who were in debt: I am trying to imagine the joy and expectation as a people in bondage looked forward to the end of seven years. Once again, they could live in freedom. What a gift to be released from debt, released from the labors of servitude, released from the difficult circumstances they had managed to get themselves into or circumstances that had come their way through no fault of their own. They had permission to start over in the eyes of God and the eyes of the people.

Those who held the debts of others: I wonder what their thoughts and feelings were as the end of seven years approached and they were forced, by God's law, to cancel what was owed them. Did they see the end of the debt owed them as a release of sorts? Did they see the canceling of debts as a gift of freedom? Did they realize that they, too, had permission to start over in the eyes of God and the eyes of the people?

I am thinking of people I know whose pain and suffering run deep due to the debts owed to them. I have watched as they have struggled, some of them for a lifetime, to let go and move on with their lives. There is no freedom when life is lived with one hand open and the other clenched tight around a piece of paper that states what is still owed us.

If Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, as the Son of God, means my debt is cancelled then doesn't the same apply to the debt owed me?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Leaving a Witness

"When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left." Luke 8:35-37

Jesus heals one of their own and the people of Gerasenes come to see the proof for themselves. Their response is immediate and close-minded. Filled with fear, the group begs Jesus to leave. Where was their joy, their awestruck wonder at the sight of their brother "in his right mind"? Why weren't they celebrating his good fortune and inviting Jesus and the disciples into town for a meal? Why were they so afraid?

Perhaps it had something to do with the undeniable mass of floating pig carcasses in the nearby lake. Perhaps it had something to do with their inability to reconcile the sane man, fully dressed and looking them straight in the eye with the crazy one they had banished to live in the tombs. Or perhaps it was because they were afraid of the changes the one called Jesus might want to make in their lives.

Jesus knew it was pointless to stay with a people whose hearts were closed off to the blessing, healing and power he had to offer. So he left, but not without leaving behind a living, breathing witness.

"The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 'Return home and tell how much God has done for you.' So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him." Luke 8:39

Why, like the people of Gerasenes, do we refuse to invite Jesus into our lives? Why did I ask Jesus to stay away for so much of my life?

I was afraid of what he might see in me.
I was afraid of what he might change in me.
I was afraid of what he would ask me to do.

I was fearful because I didn't know him. So, what made me consider giving him a chance? It was the hard to ignore evidence of Jesus at work in the lives of people I knew and loved. I got to know enough about Jesus through other people until I was willing to take the risk of getting to know him for myself.

Thank you, Jesus, for placing so many people, as impossible-to-ignore examples of your redeeming power, in my life to influence me and teach me about who you are. Help me to remember that the way I live out my faith may very well be a witness to someone who is not, yet, ready to trust you. May I represent you well. In your name, I pray. Amen.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Listen Well

"For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him." Luke 8:17-18

I am hearing Jesus' warning to listen well. His words encourage me to be open to the voice of the Spirit even when what I hear doesn't make sense or seem to have value. I am renewing my vow to tune into the whispers that proclaim the Mystery of God; to treat them with care and respect. I am claiming Jesus' promise that in the Father's perfect timing all will be made clear and what I have learned will not be taken from me.

Jesus, thank you for this reality. Help me to be open and receptive to the mysteries of God even when they don't make sense to me. You are my praise and you are my God (Deuteronomy 10:21)! All glory and honor is yours, forever and ever, Amen.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Worth It

"Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." Deuteronomy 8:2

Desert time.
A time for humbling.
A time for testing.
A time for knowing what is in my heart.
A time for seeing whether or not I will keep His commands.

It hasn't been 40 years but it has been almost two. A desert time of waiting, announced in advance by the Spirit; April 2008-April 2010. In the last 23 months, I have been humbled and tested; blessed and grieved as the contents of my heart have been exposed; victorious and defeated (at least, temporarily) when it comes to keeping His commands.

It is fitting that the last portion of my desert time coincides with Lent. God the Father has turned my eyes towards God the Son. I am framing the lessons I have learned and continue to learn through the teachings of the Spirit by studying Jesus.

How did he handle humbling?
How did he handle testing?
The contents of his heart were beyond reproach but how did he respond when he saw the contents of the hearts of the men and women around him?
How did he follow God's commands?

There is only one Jesus. And no matter how hard I try, I will never live up to the standards he set while he walked this earth. I'm learning to be okay with that mostly because I have come to accept that there is only one me.

Jesus knows me. Were he standing before me now I'm convinced that he would speak to me truthfully about the state of my heart; no sugar coating for him. It would be worth it. It is worth it to hear the truth spoken in be exposed by the order to know the love of Jesus.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

Friday, March 26, 2010

A God Who Saves

"Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign LORD comes
escape from death."
Psalm 68:20

Our God is a God who saves.

I have been staring at that sentence for the last 30 minutes, trying to comprehend this God who saves and what that means to me. I've come up with two things:

1. He saves me while I'm living - my sins are forgiven & he leads me on this journey of faith.
2. He saves me when I die - he has given me the promise of eternal life spent with him.

This morning, I read about the time when Jesus and his disciples where in a town called Nain and came across a funeral for a young man (see Luke 7:11-17). Jesus sees the dead man's mother; is moved with compassion and tells her not to cry (v. 13).

When Jesus looked at the grieving mother he didn't just glance at her; he really saw her. What he saw made his heart go out to her. The King James Version says, "he had compassion on her." v. 13

saw - (from the greek eido) - properly, to see (literally or figuratively); to know
compassion - (from the greek splagchnizomai) - to have the bowels yearn, be moved with compassion

He saw the obvious...tears, wailing, grief, the support of a large crowd.
He saw the more subtle...she was widowed, without other children, without a means of survival.
He saw the hidden...that which only the Father would know...her future.
And he was moved to save.

Jesus saved the son when he died.
Jesus saved the mother while she was living.

Our God is a God who saves.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This Day

"Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other." Deuteronomy 4:39

Jesus' life is a living example of Deuteronomy 4:39. Every word he spoke...Every action he took...Every breath he inhaled and exhaled...testified to God's presence. I want to do the same.

Jesus, would you help me walk this out, today?

I acknowledge You, God.
I believe with all my heart
This Day
that You are God
in heaven and
on earth.
There is no other.
Only You.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Owning Our Sin

"At that time, I pleaded with the LORD...Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan - that fine hill country and Lebanon."

"But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. 'That is enough,' the LORD said. 'Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.'" Deuteronomy 3:23, 25-26

Poor Moses. He has led a rebellious, ungrateful people around the desert for forty years. He has faithfully escorted them to the front door of the promised land. There is only one problem: he doesn't get to cross the threshold.

Because of events that took place earlier in the journey, Moses lost his temper with the Israelites and, in the process, misrepresented God at the waters of Meribah (Numbers 20:7-12). Moses failed to honor God as holy in the sight of the people. And, now the fullness of his actions - his choice - is coming to fruition.

Moses pleads with God to change his mind. God cuts him off just as a parent cuts off a child when there is nothing left to discuss. Enough! What's done is done. Do not bring it up, again.

I assume that is the end of Moses' pleading with God but it doesn't stop him from telling the Israelites all about it. It doesn't prevent him from spreading the blame. It doesn't stop him from trying to inflict guilt amongst the people, "because of you the LORD was angry with me."

Because of you, I can't go to the promised land. It's all your fault.

What would have happened if Moses has said, "Because I lost my temper with you. Because I did not honor the LORD as holy. Because I did these things, I may not enter the land the LORD is giving you. Take care that you do not commit these same offenses against the LORD."?

Jesus walked this earth without sin. But all along the way, he encouraged others to own theirs. He wants me to do the same. He doesn't want me to spread the blame or try to make others feel guilty. He wants me to meet him at the cross where my failures can be dealt with properly.

He wants me to live in the freedom of forgiveness.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Prepared by the Desert

"They said to him, 'John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.'" Luke 5:33

"One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, 'Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?'" Luke 6:1-2

No matter where Jesus goes there are Pharisees and teachers of the law watching his every move. They watch and listen, question and challenge, not that they might understand his teachings but that they might discredit him.

His very existence threatens who they are and what they stand for.

I marvel at Jesus' ability to stay focused in the face of such hostile opposition. I consider the way he ministers with compassion no matter who is watching. I am grateful for his example of slipping away to quiet places to be with the Father in order to renew his strength and stay true to his purpose.

Earlier in his life, Jesus experienced forty days of fasting in the desert... Forty days of being tempted by the devil. I see how this time of testing has prepared him for the taunts and persecution of men.

It makes me think about my own times in the desert. One memory, in particular, of being sifted like wheat (Luke 22:31) will stay with me forever. It is an experience I never wish to repeat but I can see how it has prepared me for the challenges on this road of faith.

God was good to prepare Jesus, in advance, for his ministry. God has been good to prepare me for what lies ahead, too.

Thank you, Jesus, for your example and for leading the way.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jesus Knows

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? Luke 5:21-23

Jesus knew what they were thinking.

During the last two hours, as I have read God's Word for the day, copied down some of the Scripture in my journal, and asked for clarity about how I am to respond, I've been stumped. I have asked Jesus what he wants to teach me for the day. I've offered to stay at it until something comes to me, no matter how long it takes. I've even offered to bypass writing for the day, even though it would be the first time, during Lent, that I have done so. I just want to be obedient.

His response is to go back to the Word and search, again. This time, the one sentence that is mine for the day, stands out like a neon sign. Ironically, it isn't one that I copied down, earlier.

"Jesus knew what they were thinking..." (v. 22)

Now I know about the dangers of taking Scripture out of context. And I know the warnings about clinging to a partial sentence.
But for me...
For today...
this is my word.

My Savior knows what I am thinking and has asked me to consider the same.

It is not a pretty picture.

I acknowledge that during the last two hours, I have marred our holy time by jumping up to attend to other matters. In between listening for his voice, I have completed two loads of laundry; made arrangements for my daughter's cell phone to be returned from a Houston hotel; retrieved and responded to a text message; stopped to pray for my family; started a to-do list that quickly grew to 25 items; read an email and responded to a friend's invitation to have lunch. Is it any wonder I am having trouble hearing him?

He asks me, "What are you thinking about in your heart, right now?"

My spirit is quieted by his question. With clarity I see, not just the things that I have done and that still need to be done, but all the other stuff I have brought with me to the table this morning...unspoken things. He invites me to name them and I do. I pour out my heart to him about the concerns that are keeping me up at night; about the things that are going on in my life that I am not free to write about.

I had not realized the weight of the load I was carrying until I offered it up in prayer. It is a burden I am not meant to carry by myself. I hadn't realized I was doing so until he asked. I am aware, once again, of the part of me that likes to tuck away the difficult pieces of my life when they are painful. He reminds me that to tuck them away means I must carry them by myself. It is only when I share them that he can shoulder the load.

Thank you, Jesus, for knowing what I am thinking and for the gift of being able to share it with you. Your knowledge of me is reassuring. Thank you for blessing me. I love you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

He Came For Me

"At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.'" Luke 4:42-43

Jesus never forgets why he was sent to earth.

Jesus never allows his ministry to be limited to a select few.

He came for all the people. He came for me.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Relating to Jesus

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry." Luke 4:1-2

I pray to God the Father and go to Him for strength and courage.
I listen and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.
But when it comes to Jesus, I have a confession to make:

I struggle to relate to him on a day-to-day basis.

And because of my struggle, it has been my prayer, for some time now, to know him better. I want my relationship with Jesus to be more than gratitude for the gift of salvation. For too long I have treated him like fancy china that only gets taken out on special occasions. I am convinced that my life will be richer by inviting him to ordinary meals served on everyday dishes and the occasional paper plate. I just don't know how to do that, yet.

That is what this year's Lenten journey has become for me...a daily meal in the Word followed by reflection and dialogue with Jesus. I have submitted to the discipline of responding to the day's reading in light of Jesus and my relation to him. It has been a blessing and a challenge and a necessity. I can't move on in my day if I don't spend this time with him.

Today, when I think about Jesus' 40 days of being tempted in the desert, I am aware of an ongoing sticking point in my faith. I try to imagine what Jesus' time was like; hungry, the devil constantly in his face dangling propositions that would trip up the best of men. I am amazed at Jesus' responses but sooner or later I always add the asterisk *Well, yeah but, Jesus was God, so of course he could resist the devil.

So there it is: I relate to Jesus, up to a point, and then I add, somewhere in the back of my head, the asterisk. If I am completely honest and follow this line of personal thinking then what I am really saying is that somehow it was easier for him to resist temptation than it is for me.

The asterisk line of thinking brings about two consequences: I allow myself a way out from even trying to live up to the example of Christ. And I place distance between myself and my Savior.

Neither is acceptable to God. I am finally in a place in my journey where this is no longer acceptable to me.

Jesus, I want you to be a part of my life each and every day. Forgive me. Teach me. In your name I pray, Amen.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Striving For Both

"My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken."
Psalm 62:1-2
Jesus knew the truth of the psalmist's words in Psalm 62:1-2. He never looked to anyone else but God to fulfill his soul's needs. Rest, salvation, rock, fortress...Jesus knew God was all this and more.

Did Jesus feel complete during the years that he walked this earth? Did he feel whole? Was he content? Or, did his soul yearn for the day when he would, once again, be reunited with the Father in heaven?

I am looking at the paragraph I just wrote and realize it is a reflection of my own struggle more than a reflection of Christ's life. I want Christ's life to be one or the other because that is how I have always measure mine. I am either content in God or I'm not.

But what happens, if instead of being one or the other, I strive for both?

What if I follow His lead, and go wherever it takes me and call that enough? What if I rest in Him and lean on Him for strength and protection, along the way? What if I find satisfaction and joy in each day's journey?


What if I quit beating myself up over this place inside of me that is restless and empty and screams to be filled? What if I accept that this is a part of being His...this part of myself that can't get close enough to Him to ever be satisfied? What if I accept that I'm not supposed to be fully satisfied until I see Him face-to-face?

"My soul finds rest in God alone."

Satisfied and dissatisfied; from now on, I'm striving for both.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


"When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'" Luke 3:21-22

"You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

These aren't the words of a father speaking to a small child. These are the words of one man speaking to another man or, in this case, the Father speaking to the Son.

Children are accepting of such words. They do not find it hard to believe that God loves them and is pleased with them. They also receive this same message easily and naturally from the adults in their lives. I was one of these kids.

But somewhere in the growing up process I dismissed God's message and looked to the world for affirmation. Because my heart was no longer receptive to the whispers of the Father, there was always a part of me that longed for words I didn't even know I needed to hear. No matter how hard I searched, I couldn't find anyone or anything that made me feel whole with any consistency.

Many years later, my heart is open, once again.

You are mine.
I love you.
You bring me great pleasure.

To be claimed, to be loved, to know that my very existence elicits such a response from the Father's heart is simply overwhelming.

Thank You, Father, I receive it. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Praying to Grow

"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Luke 2:52

As a praying mom, I have claimed this Scripture over each of my children, more times than I can count. We don't talk about it much but my kids know that I pray for them. It is just what I do.

They have grown up with the understanding that they are loved and prayed for. I wonder what a difference that makes in a child's life.

My early experiences with prayer were very different. Prayers were written by someone else to be read by others, usually in a corporate setting: Sunday mass, Baptism, Holy Communion, Confirmation. The rare grace spoken over a meal only happened when we had big get-togethers. I still recall my grandfather or one of my aunt's reciting a blessing that was comforting in its sameness.

I don't ever recall anyone praying over me or claiming Scripture on my behalf. Did anyone in the circles I grew up in even have an acquaintance with the words from Luke 2:52? I don't think so.

It wasn't until I went away to college that I met some people who knew God's Word. The first was Karen Robinson. Karen was my college roommate's big sister. She was married to Dave and was in her mid 20's. Karen and Dave led the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry for our college campus. Karen also led a Bible study at my sorority house. She gave me a Scripture to claim before I tried out for the cheerleading squad. I was desperate for all the help I could get so I looked it up. I still remember it (Isaiah 41:10). It was the first time I claimed God's Word for myself.

The second was Theresa Hobrock. I knew her as "Mom Hobrock." She was in her late 60's/early 70's and served as the House Mother for my sorority. Mom Hobrock had been widowed at a young age and raised five children on her own. She always gave God the credit for sustaining her through those early years. I will never forget the day she told me her story and she told of her response to God right after her husband had died. "Thy will be done." At the time, I didn't understand the faith behind her words, I only knew they were radical in the face of such an unfair situation.

Both Karen and Mom Hobrock loved Jesus in a way that set them apart. Obvious, in that they openly said they loved Jesus. Subtly, because they spoke with a wisdom that I could not fathom. They acted with a confidence that could only have been the favor of God. They knew Him well and their lives were a reflection of His love.

They also enjoyed the favor of men. I liked being around them. I liked to hear what they had to say even when I thought it was strange and weird and made my own life choices seem shallow in comparison. They were happy in a way that was not connected to their circumstances. Their joy came from the Lord.

Looking back now, I see what I didn't see back then: both of these women prayed for me. Their prayers had an impact on me even though I was not seeking a relationship with the Lord. I wasn't ready to grow in wisdom or favor but that did not stop them from praying.

Almost 30 years later, the prayers they prayed over me are being answered. Requests to the Father...made so long ago...are bearing fruit. The legacy continues as I pray for my own children and those God has placed in my life.

What a gift He has given me through be prayed for.
What a gift He has made available to pray for myself.
And what a gift He has invited me to share.

O Jesus, that we would submit our lives to the Father as you have done...that we would grow in wisdom and stature...that we would grow in favor with God and men...In your name, Amen.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


"When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." Luke 2:15-20

The Good News of Jesus Christ requires a response.

The shepherds' response was to go to Bethlehem to see the Christ child, for themselves. When they encountered Christ, their response was to share what they knew about him with others...they witnessed. Afterwards, their response was to praise and glorify God.

I wish the Bible shared what their lives were like after they heard and seen the Good News. Did they live like changed men? Did they continue to witness to Christ's birth? Did they continue to give glory and praise to God? How did they respond in the day-in, day-out routine of life?

I am thinking about my day-in, day-out routine. Apart from my morning quiet time in His word and this daily response, does my day reflect the Good News of Jesus Christ? Do I reflect Him? There is no easy yes or no, more like a hundred opportunities each day to go one way or the other.

I don't want to spend my day with a tally sheet and yet, I don't want to go through the day blind to the ways I fall short. The only way to reflect Jesus with any consistency is to pray for the Holy Spirit to make me aware of the choices as they come available throughout the day.

Jesus, How can I reflect you if I do not have an awareness of you? May I take the time to remember what you have done for me and to connect to you. Holy Spirit, guide me through my day. Give me a supernatural awareness of the choices that are mine to make. Father, I would submit my will to Yours in order to bring You glory and honor. In Jesus Name, I pray, Amen.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Words Matter

The words of Balaam to Balak, king of Moab:
"I must speak only what God puts in my mouth." Numbers 22:38
"Must I not speak what the LORD puts in my mouth?" Numbers 23:12

Zechariah, the priest, who was unable to speak for the nine months preceding his son's birth:
"He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, 'His name is John.' Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God." Luke 1:63-64

"A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor,
but a man of understanding holds his tongue." Proverbs 11:12

Words are important. Words are powerful. The words we speak can impart a blessing or a sting that remains long after the conversation is over. What we speak matters to God.

The right to self-expression isn't all it is cracked up to be. I have done so much damage by failing to filter my words through the Holy Spirit. Consistently submitting my tongue to Him requires great discipline. I cannot do this on my own.

Jesus kept his eyes on the Father. Everything he said, everything he did, was with God's plan, in mind. His purpose was to fulfill God's will and bring glory to Him. This singular goal set the boundaries for every word he spoke.

This morning, He waits for me to admit my need for Him when it comes to my words. He invites me to take the next step in the process; ask for His help. He impresses upon me the knowledge that I must do this each and every time I find myself in the place where I am speaking for myself with no thought of Him.

Help me, Jesus, I have so much to learn. Give me this day, my daily bread. Teach me what it means to do nothing on my own but speak what the Father has taught you (John 8:28). In your name, Amen.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Consequences and the Way Out

But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and Moses...

Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people.

The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." Numbers 21:4-9

God did not remove the snakes as the Israelites requested. Instead, He gave them a way to survive their consequences...gaze upon the bronze snake and live.

It is the same for me. The consequences of my sin is death; life apart from God. He gave me a way gaze upon Christ lifted high on the believe in his death and accept the gift of salvation...and live.

Thank you, Father, for the gift of Your Son. Thank you, Jesus, for your blood which covers the consequences of my sin and purifies me in the presence of the Father. Thank you, Spirit, for your presence which guides me to a better way; encouraging me to leave my sinful ways behind and choose life. I love you. In Christ's Name, Amen.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Trusting In Him

The LORD said to Moses, "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.

So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." Numbers 20:7-12

Moses forgets himself in a moment of anger and frustration.
He speaks rashly.
He acts impulsively.
Instead of obedience, he puts on a show of self-righteous indignation.

"You did not trust in me..."
God did not say, "You did not trust me, " he said, "You did not trust in me."
Moses believed God would make water come out of the rock.

"...enough to honor me as holy..."
But Moses did not trust in God enough to put aside his own anger.
He failed to obey in humility.
In the heat of the moment, he forgot Who he was representing.

" the sight of the Israelites..."
Moses misrepresented God before all the Israelites.
They have no way of knowing that Moses is speaking his own thoughts and acting of his own will. The miracle of water from a rock still occurs but it is tainted by the speech and actions of a man who has forgotten himself.

"You did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy."

When a teenager speaks words of defiance that pierce my heart and I slam the door hard enough to shake every window in the house...
When I harden my heart and refuse to consider I am in the wrong...
When the loneliness of walking with God in the desert gets to me and I can do nothing but complain...

In these moments, I am showing my own lack of trust in Him. It isn't that I don't trust Him. It is that I don't trust in Him to be enough in that particular moment. My words, my thoughts, my actions all point to my belief that the only thing that matters is need for justice, my need to react to my pain, my need to protect myself, my need to fight back, my need to express myself freely.

When my obedience to God is overshadowed by my sense of self then I cannot honor Him as holy because I am in the way. There are consequences for such behavior. Moses and Aaron were not allowed to enter the promised land. For me, I have seen the consequences in the form of a broken relationship with God, limited invitations for ministry, and a lack of fruit in my service to Him.

If I look to Jesus then I see that there is no room for self if I am going to follow him. He bowed to the Father's will. And, at no time, did he get in the way of God's holiness.

It is only after bowing my head and submitting to His holy examination that I am free from the need to focus on myself and my needs. It is only after a time of repentance and brokenness that I am restored. It is only after admitting that He is enough that I am able to trust in Him as He has called me to do.

Lord, Forgive me for getting in Your way; for putting my needs before Yours. Please move me closer to a place where Your holiness is honored, all the time. Help me to surrender my will to Yours so that I don't need to slam a door or scream in frustration in order to feel I am heard. Help me to follow hard after the example of Jesus. I want to be right before You so that I can honor You as holy in the presence of others. Show me, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Friday, March 12, 2010

He Will Sustain You

"Cast your burden on the Lord [releasing the weight of it] and He will sustain you; He will never allow the [consistently] righteous to be moved (made to slip, fall, or fail)." Psalm 55:22 (Amplified)

Sometimes we find ourselves in a difficult situation where rescue is not an option.

We beg for deliverance and instead He says, "No." He gently, but firmly, answers in a way that closes the door on our heart's request to escape our circumstances. He shows us that there is no other way to move beyond our circumstances but to walk through them.

My heart is burdened, this morning, for many people who are hurting...those who have gone to God for rescue and instead been told gently, but firmly, "No." They are facing a walk through the valley of pain and suffering where their hurt will intensify. I am weighted with the understanding that they cannot go around; there is no escape.

Christ knows all about this human condition that seeks another way through suffering. He asked, in the garden of Gethsemane, to be released from the road that was leading to his death. Three times he asked for a different way out; each time submitting his request to the Father's will. God's answer was, "No." (Matthew 26:36-44) Christ's ultimate response was obedience. He submitted to the Father's plan.

Christ walked the hardest road of all and the Father sustained him, every step of the way. He will do no less for me or my friends. This is the truth I hold onto when I pray...that Jesus knows how hard it is to walk the road...that God will sustain those who lean on Him. For those who cannot see that far ahead, I am holding onto the hope and the joy that is to come.

Thank you, Lord, that you never let the righteous fall. In Your Name, I hope and pray and dare to believe, Amen.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


"A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross." Mark 15:21

"And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, 'Surely this man was the Son of God!'" Mark 15:39

"Some women were watching from a distance...In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there." Mark 15:40-41

A stranger who is passing by, is forced into service on behalf of a man he has never met. He walks the road of death and shoulders the cross upon which another will die.

A soldier, doing his job, stands by as a condemned man hangs on a cross waiting for death. When he finally walks away he is convinced that he has seen the Son of God.

Women, at a distance, keep a death vigil as their beloved one suffers through the last moments of his life on earth. They serve him to his very last breath.

Random moment...
In the line of duty...
Or an act of love... encounter with Jesus always changes our life.

Am I living out my days as if I expect to encounter him at any moment?
And am I living out my days prepared to represent him to someone else?

Jesus, help me to make the most of each encounter I experience today.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Without a Blindfold

They all condemned his as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guard took him and beat him. Mark 14:64b-65

The high priest, chief priests, elders and teachers of the law unanimously condemn Jesus as worthy of death. Why the need to blindfold him now? So they can spit on him and hit him and jeer at him? No doubt, the blindfold gave them false courage for their cowardly actions but I don't think that is it.

I think they blindfolded Jesus because they could not bear to meet his eyes.

To look into his eyes is to see a true reflection of yourself.

To look into his eyes and see yourself...stripped of your own illusions...sinful, broken, painful. But to do so outside of a relationship with him is unbearable and unthinkable.

The truth is, apart from his grace and mercy, apart from the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we cannot bear the reality of who we are.

Walking with Jesus means walking with our eyes open. It also means meeting the gaze of the One who loves us and knows us. It means resisting the urge to cover up the truth of what he sees.

Jesus, give me the courage to look into your eyes and see my true reflection. Help me to become more like you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stay Here and Keep Watch

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch." Mark 14:32-34

"Stay here and keep watch."

Jesus invites us to accompany him on the road that leads to suffering. We walk with him because the alternative (to walk without him) is unimaginable. He tells us to stay and we do. But we would be less than honest if we didn't also admit our relief that we aren't asked to go any farther. We are told to keep watch and we nod our heads in affirmation. It isn't long though, before our eyes close in weariness and we drift off to sleep.

He tells us to stay and keep watch and we fail him, again and again.

Even so, we are His beloved. We are His chosen ones. We are the very people upon whom He has sent His Spirit and His power and His authority to go out and share the Good News. We are the broken men and women who have been called to be His love and His light to a world that knows only darkness.

In the course of our lives, we will have multiple opportunities to "stay and keep watch." He continues to invite us to do the hard things that purify our faith and reveal the motives of our hearts. We should expect to be asked. And we should never cease praying for the day when we will be able to keep our eyes open in obedience as we wait with Him.

Jesus, forgive me for all the times I have refused to walk the road of suffering with you. Forgive me for the relief I have felt when you have let me stop travelling and gone on ahead without me. Lord, why were my thoughts only for myself, in those moments, and so far from you and what you were going through? Forgive me for the many times I have sought refuge in sleep instead of staying awake with you. You know my heart. You know my sin.

Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for your grace and mercy which covers me and my brokenness. Thank you for your blood which was shed for me that I might be forgiven and free. I am free. Hallelujah!

Teach me how to stay awake with you in the dark hours when pain and suffering and death draw near. Teach me how to honor you as a companion in faith. Teach me, Jesus. I have so much to learn. In Your Name, Amen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Extravagant Worship

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly.

"Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me." Mark 14:1-6

Every time I read this story, my senses go into overdrive. I hear the sound of a breaking jar. I register the gasp of those in attendance as they watch the woman raise the jar to Jesus' head. I see the perfume as it leaves the confines of the container and runs down his head. I watch as it drips off his hair and onto his robe, perhaps even making its way to his face. I register his stillness as he receives the fullness of her gift. And, finally, I am overwhelmed by the smell as the powerful fragrance fills the room.

The cost...
The spectacle...
The mess...
The disapproval...
The overpowering fragrance...
Even the Savior's response to her...
are secondary to this woman's need to worship the One she knows as Lord.

An inward response to Jesus Christ manifests itself in a display of outrageous love and extravagant worship.

"She has done a beautiful thing to me." v. 6b

I want to worship you like this, Jesus.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Preparing the Way With Thanks

"He who sacrifices thank offerings
honors me,
and he prepares the way
so that I may show him
the salvation of God."
Psalm 50:23

Good morning, Father. I am bringing an offering of thanks to Your Throne of Grace. May it honor You and bring You glory. And may it prepare my soul for all that You desire to show me.

  1. Your Word
  2. My salvation
  3. Freshly turned soil
  4. Hawk flying overhead with a snake in its mouth
  5. Look on my man's face after wrestling tree stump from the earth
  6. Daughter home safe and sound
  7. Dog breath
  8. Dancing reflections of water on the ceiling
  9. Sore muscles from a day in the yard
  10. Jesus, who loves me
  11. Hardwood floors
  12. Single word answers from a 15 year old boy
  13. Empty lines of a journal page waiting to be filled
  14. Knowing that I know that I know that I know
  15. Girl's head covered in soft curls
  16. Notes of the piano filling the house
  17. Phone call from a college boy
  18. Technology that helps keep threads connected
  19. Prompting of the Spirit to stop and pray
  20. Dust bunnies
  21. River rocks that mark the passage of time
  22. More than enough
  23. Your faithfulness
  24. Voices joined in the melody of praise
  25. The Movement of God
  26. The gift of words

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Giving Out of Poverty

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on." Mark 12:41-44

Jesus has positioned himself directly opposite the treasury. He watches as the people bring their money and throw it into the collection box. He is close enough to see even the smallest of coins (v.42).

Do the people see him? I believe so. I think they are aware of Jesus as they make their deposit. Are they unnerved by his presence? Do they meet his eyes and hold his gaze or do they quickly look away?

What does Jesus see? It is more than the quantity of coins.

He sees the pride in the one who makes a show of pouring in a great quantity.
He sees the defiance in the one who shortchanges God in order to keep more for himself.
He sees the clear conscience of the one who has brought what is required.
He sees the extravagant faith offering disguised by the confines of poverty.

He sees and he knows the condition of each individual's heart.

When I open my wallet to give of my finances...
When I open my calendar to give of my time...
When I open my heart to give of myself...

He sees and he knows the condition of my heart.

His words to the disciples, that day, remind me that Jesus does not measure the way the world measures. Jesus does not reward the way the world rewards. It is never about what I do in comparison with what someone else does. It is only about what I do in relation to who He is.

I am struggling with this. There is still a part of me that wants reassurance; wants a way to quantify my service to the Lord so I know I am doing enough.

Moving a year ago, all the while, heeding His order to be still and wait for direction has placed me in a physical, emotional, and spiritual poverty. For over 365 days, I haven't been called on to open my wallet, calendar or heart in the ways I am used to. I am in uncharted territory.

He has been teaching me about living in the poverty of stillness. He has confronted me with the poverty of waiting. I have discovered the poverty that comes from being unsure of every single thing in my life except for the reality that God is God.

Truly, my offerings to Him during this time have been meager. And yet, Jesus assures me that He is pleased.

Thank you, Jesus, for your assurance this day. Your pleasure is food for my hungry soul. Thank you.

Friday, March 5, 2010

In Error

Jesus replied, "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?" Mark 12:24 (NIV)

The Amplified version puts it this way, "Is not this where you wander out of the way and go wrong...?"

Wandering off...

Heading down a rabbit trail...

Going in the wrong direction...

all because I do not know God's Word or His power.

It is true. Many a time I have forged a path of my own choosing because I was armed with little knowledge and even less understanding of God. More than once I have found myself lost and confused and with no idea of how to retrace my steps. And too often to count, I have cried out, "Help me. I am lost and I want to come home."

Jesus speaks plainly. If I want to stay on the path He has for me, then I must be in the Word and I must become familiar with the resurrection power that is available to me through Christ.

Several years ago, I took these words from Mark 12:24 to heart. What started out as studying His Word in order to know His Word, has turned into something richer; studying His Word in order to know Him. And somewhere along the way, my confession of immaturity, "I do believe; help my unbelief!"(Mark 9:24) has been transformed into a declaration of faith, "Nothing is too hard for You!" (Jeremiah 32:17).

Christ came so that I would not have to live my life in error.

Father, may my thoughts, my words, and my actions reflect the transforming grace of Your Word and Your Power. Thank you, Jesus, for being The Word. Thank you, Jesus, for your resurrection power. May each day of Lent bring me closer to the cross and you. In your name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

More Like Him

"Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth." Mark 12:14a

"We know you are a man of integrity..."
False sentiments from false lips and yet no truer word had been spoken. I am intrigued by the words used by the Pharisees and Herodians as they try to trap Jesus in a compromising conversation regarding following the letter of the law. They speak the truth about Jesus and testify to his name without realizing they are doing so.

"You aren't swayed by men..."
The KJV uses the word carest -(greek) ou - absolute negative; no, not, never
Jesus' message was never swayed by any man.

"You pay no attention to who they are..."
Jesus knew man before he ever arrived on earth. Men of power and influence did not change the way he did ministry.

"You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth."
Jesus was always teaching about the road to God in absolute truth.

Jesus, I want to live my life in a way that brings you honor. Teach me how to be a woman of integrity. Show me how to live a life that isn't swayed by men or who they are. Help me to walk the journey of faith in love and truth. Please, Jesus, teach me how to be more like you.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written:

"'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'?

But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. Mark 11:15-18 (bold print mine)

Jesus is always teaching. He is master of the teachable moment. To be in his presence is a certain guarantee that his words and his actions will challenge the way I think, the way I do life, and force me to consider a better way. His way.

So how receptive am I to the lessons he has for me?

The big ones...where he overturns tables and benches...are hard to ignore. Sometimes the lesson is immediately clear. Other times, the image lingers until I am ready for the teaching that goes with it. Either way, they make a lasting impression.

The smaller ones...the lessons he weaves into the ordinary moments of my day...are harder to see. I miss them because I drift in and out of "connectedness" with him throughout the day.

Which is why it is so critical that I practice the discipline of seeking him.

It is up to me to go to Jesus' and ask for eyes to see and ears to hear...
It is up to me to daily make the time to sit down with His Word.
It is up to me to respond to the invitation to journal out those parts of His Word that speak to my soul.
It is up to me to reflect on past conversations, events and thoughts and jot down the bits and pieces for further consideration.
It is up to me to quiet myself in prayer...

The rest is up to Him.

He makes my morning quiet time a holy and set-apart space.
He connects the events of my day with lessons from his life.
He calls me to live by his radical example of love, service and faith.
He bestows unspeakable joy as I sit at his feet and soak in his presence.

He teaches me...and I am amazed.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Haven't I?

"Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him.'

So they called to the blind man, 'Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you.' Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus." Mark 10:49-50

On the outskirts of Jericho, a blind beggar sits on the side of the road. He can't help but notice the large crowd as it walks by. When he discovers that Jesus is in the crowd he begins to shout,

"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" v. 47

When he is rebuked and told to hush up, he yells even louder.

"Son of David, have mercy on me!" v. 48

Jesus hears the man. He stops and the entire traveling party comes to a halt.

"Call him." v. 49

With those two words, Jesus rewards the man's persistence and his traveling companions are invited to make their circle wider.

"Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." v. 49

The group, that moments before rebuked the beggar and told him to be quiet, now speaks to the man with goodwill.

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. v. 51-52

I know this beggar. I know the crowd. I have found myself in both roles at one time or another. Both are equally blind.

Haven't I yelled for the Savior to notice me? Haven't I insisted on Jesus' attention even when those around me have urged me to settle down?

Aren't I guilty of traveling with Jesus without seeing those on the side of the road? And though I may not have spoken the words aloud, haven't there been moments when I have thought to myself, "I wish that person would just be quiet"? Haven't I sung a different tune after witnessing Jesus' interaction with the individual who was invited to take his rightful place in the group?

Haven't I?

Lord Jesus, teach me how to see with your eyes.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Time In-Between

"Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'"

"At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." Mark 10:21-22

In Mark 10:17-31, a man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.

The man's body language, his use of words, his ultimate response all seem to indicate someone who has no ill intention towards Jesus. Instead, I see:

Eagerness and humility - "ran up to him and fell on his knees before him." v. 17
Desire to please - "Good Teacher" v. 17
Seeking to secure his future - "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" v. 17
Willingness to live within the law - "all these I have kept" v. 20
Need for affirmation - "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." v. 20

What does Jesus see?

He looks beyond the surface of the question and sees that the man lacks the most important thing of all: an unhindered path to Jesus.

He sees great wealth. He sees an accumulation of possessions. He sees the power that comes from title and position. He sees the security that comes from money. He sees the pride that accompanies a checklist of laws kept since childhood. He sees how all of these things added together create a monumental roadblock between life as the man knows it and the radical life required to follow Jesus Christ.

Jesus sees the roadblock and names it. He offers the man a way to clear the path. He invites the man to make the needed change in his life and then to join Jesus in ministry. Jesus knows, even as he speaks, what the man's response will be.

"How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" v. 23

Jesus does not stop loving the wealthy man even though he is unable, unwilling, to do the hard thing Jesus has asked. There is no ridicule or condemnation in his voice. That is not the Savior's way.

Jesus speaks with understanding. He uses the encounter as a teaching moment for his disciples. He wants them to see as he sees. To understand as he understands. To have compassion as he has compassion. To love as he loves.

Following Jesus is not easy. Removing the things in my life which hinder my faith walk takes courage and great sacrifice. It also requires a radical change of heart. Quite often there is a lag in the time in-between the initial moment of understanding what I must do and the moment when I finally follow through in obedience. That lag time can be anywhere from a few minutes, to hours, days...sometimes, even, years.

Jesus taught his disciples understanding, compassion, and love. As his disciple, it is not my place to judge others as they struggle on their own journeys. Minutes, hours, days, years...if Jesus is willing to love me in the "time in-between" then I must be willing to do the same.

"Jesus looked at him and loved him." v. 21a

Please, Jesus, teach me how to love like you.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

His Hand, His Light, His Love

"It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them."
Psalm 44:3

A church service in the gymnasium. I stood in the back, in a darkened corner that was just beyond the reach of the lights. The pastor broke from the regular routine and initiated a time of prayer for those who were hurting; who needed help.

He invited them, the bruised, the bleeding, the angry, the empty, to raise a hand if they were in need of prayer. And he asked those who were seated nearby to reach out and pray for them.

From my corner, I watched as hands slowly raised caused a ripple of movement as others leaned in to support and encourage. Each need met as soon as it was revealed.

Something in me stilled as I sensed movement from the back row located ten feet in front of me. A young woman, with an infant in her arms, sat by herself. The other seats in her row were empty. Timidly, reluctantly she lifted her hand an inch or two above her shoulder.

No one witnessed her need. No one leaned in to offer their prayer and support. As she was processing the fact that she was alone, the Spirit was propelling me towards her. God's provision when she saw none.

Quietly walking up behind her, I placed my hands on her shoulders. Her hand, moments before raised in silent request, grabbed mine in gratitude. I began to pray.

I do not know what I prayed for. I do recall weeping as great waves of sorrow poured over me. On some level, I knew that she was crying, as well. I remember being aware of the deep love the Savior had for this woman and her child. The prayer continued even after the pastor moved on with the service. Eventually, the prayer came to a conclusion and I returned to my spot in the corner.

I can say, with certainty, that this was a unique moment for both of us. She did not turn to look at me. And I never felt the need to see her face. Instead, our focus was on the healing, redemptive power of Jesus Christ. Nothing else mattered but Him.

"You are my King and my God,
who decrees victories for Jacob.
Through you we push back our enemies;
through your name we trample our foes.
I do not trust in my bow,
my sword does not bring me victory;
but you give us victory over our enemies,
you put our adversaries to shame.
In God we make our boast all day long,
and we will praise your name forever."
Psalm 44:4-8

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Head Knowledge vs Heart Knowledge

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:23

From Mark 9:14-29 The Healing of a Boy From an Evil Spirit
I am seeing this story with new eyes, today.

Thank you, Jesus, for meeting me in between the lines of God's most holy Word.

Jesus, Peter, James and John catch up to the other disciples and find them surrounded by a crowd and teachers of the law. They are in the middle of an argument.

Jesus asks, "What are you arguing with them about?" v. 16

I assume he has directed the question to his disciples and, yet, a stranger from the crowd takes it upon himself to answer.

"Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not." v. 17-18

There is something so disturbing about this father's lack of emotion as he matter-of-factly lists his son's symptoms as if reading a medical chart. Where is his urgency? Why does he waste time outlining the facts when he could take advantage of his one-on-one encounter with the Healer and appeal to him for help for his child?

Instead of responding to the man, Jesus responds to the crowd,

"O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me." v. 19

The weight of his words hangs heavy in the air. How long do I have to put up with your lack of faith?

The boy is brought to Jesus and immediately falls to the ground in convulsions.

Jesus asks the father a question,

"How long has he been like this?" v 21

Why doesn't he just heal the boy? Why does he need to ask the father this question?

Because the father needs healing, too.

Earlier in the gospel of Mark we are told that Jesus' work is limited when there is a lack of faith (Mark 6:5-6).

With every question the father answers, he sheds further light on the unbelieving condition of his heart. There is no connection between his head knowledge and his heart knowledge.

If he were responding from his heart how could he have tolerated questions and answers while his son lay writhing on the ground? Why would he be willing to wait even a second longer for his son's healing? Why doesn't he do what so many before him have done; throw himself at Jesus' feet and beg (Mark 1:40; 2:1-2; 5:21-34; 5:35-43; 6:56; 7:24-30; 8:22-26)?

It turns out he is every bit as sick as his son.

"But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." v.22

The father's reply, in the context of his earlier responses, shows that he doesn't really expect Jesus to help him. He doesn't believe Jesus can help him.

Jesus replies to the man's lack of faith with strong words,

"If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes." v. 23

In that moment, the man's life changes forever. Was it Jesus' words? Was it the tone of voice? Or was it the look in Jesus' eyes that made the father realize just who he was speaking to?

For the first time, he responds from the heart,

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" v. 24

He is willing and ready to believe. His heart is split wide open and the long buried hopes and dreams of a father, for a son, rise to the surface.

Without wasting another moment, Jesus rebukes the evil spirit and the boy is free.

Later, the disciples ask Jesus why they couldn't drive out the evil spirit (v. 28). He responds, "This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting." v. 29

I've always thought Jesus was referring to the evil spirit when he said, "This kind." Now, I'm not so sure that he wasn't referring to the bigger healing that had to take place in this family. The father had to be healed in order to bring his son to Jesus.

Jesus moves in response to our heart cry. He heals when our posture reflects a humble, hungry, hopeful heart.

This kind of healing...this bigger picture healing, is hard work.

We, the disciples of Christ, are called to believe on behalf of those who have yet to make a connection between their head knowledge and their heart knowledge. We must hold them up to the throne of God until they can encounter Jesus for themselves.

Jesus, help me to be willing to do the hard work on behalf of those who do not know you yet. I love you. In your name, Amen.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Things of Men

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Mark 8:33

"Get behind me, Satan!"

I've often wondered how Peter felt when Jesus spoke those words.

Was he offended? Was he angry? Did his fists curl in an involuntary moment of self-preservation?

Was he confused? Was he hurt? Did he react in disbelief that his friend, his teacher, would address him in such a way?

Was he ashamed? Was he humbled? Did he get it? Did the truth of Jesus' words wash over him in a wave of understanding?

We don't know; Scripture doesn't say.

"You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

The Lord has been teaching me about the meaning of that particular phrase for years now. Perhaps because I have been in an extended season of watching and listening versus doing and leading... I have had the eyes to see and ears to hear things which would otherwise have gone unnoticed. And what I have observed within myself and within others grieves me to no end.

I do not type these next words easily. I have sat at my keyboard praying for discernment...and finally, the courage to say what comes next.

I am convinced that there is much damage done within the church by the Body of Christ because we plan, we advise, we speak, and we act from a mindset that does not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.

The worst part of this is that we do these things under the false belief that we are acting "in the name of Jesus."

The need to be in control.
The need for power.
The need for a happy ending.
The need to hold on.
The need to protect.
The need to be loved.
The need to help.
The need to fix.
The need to do something, anything, but wait.
The need to enforce our own agenda.

He is asking me to pause today and consider things His way...

"The LORD established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor." 2 Chronicles 17:5

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Philippians 4:11

"Jesus said, 'Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.''' John 20:17

"I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name - the name you gave me - so that they may be one as we are one." John 17:11

"No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God." John 16:27

"My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:2

"In that day I will restore David's fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be," Amos 9:11

"But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel." Psalm 106:13

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9

So what have I learned? What am I still learning?

To listen well.
To ask questions when I don't understand or agree.
To speak only when necessary.
To seek God's direction.
To concede my needs and my desires and make room for His.

If I can do these things...then I will not hinder the journey of the church, of my brothers and sisters-in-Christ, or myself as we make our way to the cross.

Lord Jesus, let it be so.