Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Walk

First summer walk and I return again to the stream by my home, a favorite place to pray. On the narrow walking bridge I stop to look at the brook, swiftly passing below, full with spring rains. The lush foliage bows towards the waters. How often have I looked at the brook and asked God about my future. What is going to happen? When is it going to happen? What do I need to do to make it happen? I desperately wanted to know what was in my future. I needed to know because I wanted to be prepared.

This time, even though there was still many uncertainties in my life, I looked at the brook and felt His peace, not my questions. And in that peace He said to me:

No, you do not need know. You need to trust Me. I alone can prepare you.

It's the same at the beach.  There I found it was tempting to look for shells and rocks, and when I found something interesting I would wonder, what does this mean for my future, Lord? Once I found a large smooth stone shaped in the form of a heart. And my hope was renewed for a vision of mine. But it was mine alone and not of Him. It never worked out.

This summer's first beach walk I looked again at the sandy edge and He said to me:

I do not speak to you from the creation on the shore. I have given you My Word, My Son, My Spirit.

Beloved Jesus, there it is again. Trust. My impatience displays a lack of trust in You. Beloved, remind me of the wonders You have already done. Remind me You are worthy of my trust. Thank You for Your patience with me as I fail and fail again. Thank You of not leaving me in the desperate place of needing to know, wanting to know. It is Your mercy that You do not tell me.

It is in Your mercy that You spare me from my petty desires and give me Yours alone. You have given me so much! Your Word, Your Son, Your Spirit. I may not know the future. I am blessed instead to know You.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

on baseball mitts and tap shoes

Debbie and Gio, off stage
I saw Gio yesterday at his game, handsome and so tall already in his uniform and cap. He played first base, he pitched from the mound, using his mitt to catch so well. I was the audience today, watching him and as I did I remembered other times long ago, watching Debbie on the stage, her tap shoes clicking skillfully to the tune, her costume glistening in the lights.

There is still a part of me that longs to be that too, on the stage, in the spotlight, with the audience watching me. On the field, using my mitt, running the bases, pitching the ball. From childhood it started and I never lost that longing. I confess, even now I want to be seen, to be heard, to be noticed. I want what I do to last, to matter, to be a thing of beauty.

The desire haunts me. But it is not working for me.

But then, Beloved, You speak to me tenderly in Your great mercy….

You need to remember that I see you. I am always watching you, always with you. You are never alone. I am your very attentive and loving audience of One. As you delight in Gio and Debbie, so I also delight in you. But I created you and specifically gifted you to be a servant. That is how you will achieve the greatest good, not only for others but also for yourself. It seems lowly but it is not. For you, it is your true greatness, your true goodness. And you cannot be a servant as I have created you to be, from the center of the stage. The center of the stage is not for you. I have protected you from that spot but you still desire it. This is your idol and you must repent.

Trust Me. I know what is good. I want to give you what is good but I cannot when you chase after this other thing. It is not for you. I want to give you the better portion of servanthood. It will not be taken away from you. It is sitting at My feet. It is filling the room with the fragrance of worship. That is where you will be remembered. That is where I will use you best.

As you serve and teach you must remember that you are not better than any whom you serve. They are your family and My beloved. Pride can be a trap even for a servant. Even kings are warned against it (Deut 17:18-20). This too is sin. Point always to Me, the true eternal King.

I will use you by the power of My Holy Spirit where I have put you. Remember, I am the Creator and King of the Universe and I see you. I notice you. I will make what you do in secret last eternally. I will make it matter in My kingdom. I will make it a thing of incredible beauty beyond what you can imagine.

Trust Me. Rest in this. It is from Me. And I am doing a good thing.

...you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

That's your problem

It happened again at work yesterday. She called me back weeping, so troubled, so alone. The situation seemed dire, not only for her but also for her young son. My mind raced as I talked to her on the phone: how can I help them? Even though it was not my job to help, even though she wanted to keep it a secret because she was so ashamed.

We’re reading about the last days of Jesus in our life group, where He was betrayed in the Garden. All betrayed Him, but in the end, Peter was restored, and became the hero and leader of the church. However Judas hung himself and is remembered as the betrayer and of the devil himself. Why is that? What’s the difference? The answer lies in three verses left for us by Matthew:

Judas, the one who betrayed him, realized that Jesus was doomed. Overcome with remorse, he gave back the thirty silver coins to the high priests, saying, “I’ve sinned. I’ve betrayed an innocent man.”

They said, “What do we care? That’s your problem!”

Judas threw the silver coins into the Temple and left. Then he went out and hung himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

Judas, like Peter, realized his sin. The difference was while Peter wept then returned to the fellowship of the disciples, Judas went to the high priest.

Judas tried to fix it himself.

The high priest even urged him on in this: “That’s your problem!” And because the problem was too enormous for Judas to fix himself, he hung himself in despair.

Horrified I considered the situation yesterday with the troubled woman and her son. I want to help her but, let’s face it, the situation is enormous. Like Judas I am anxious, consumed, and in despair because I cannot find a way to help. I am like Judas:

Barbara tried to fix it herself.

Beloved Jesus, forgive me. Some things are way over my pay grade, as this one was yesterday. Maybe I can help in a small way, but not without coming to You first. Nothing is too enormous for You, even death itself. Please remind me again and again that prayer is doing something. Sometimes it is the only thing. I can come to You because You are able, indeed You are enormous and You love with us with an enormous love. I can trust You.

Monday, February 01, 2016

What was I thinking? Reprise

It was 2000 years ago when a widow came to the Jerusalem temple and inconspicuously dropped in two small copper coins into the temple treasury. She was surrounded by many wealthy people giving large sums, but undeterred, she dropped her offering into the box.

Later a woman named Mary scandalized her dinner party guests when she took an entire bottle of pure nard and poured it on the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. The perfume was ridiculously expensive and although she was ridiculed by others, she only looked at His face.

About 30 years pass. Paul sat in prison and wrote a letter to dear friends far away. They had given him a gift and he was saying thank you and also shared important matters of his heart and his faith with them. When the letter was done, he handed the scroll to his friend Epaphroditus and prayed for his safe travel to the distant city of Philippi.

All three, the poor nameless widow, Mary of Bethany and Paul had no idea at the time of the significance of their obedience. I wonder -- what were they thinking?

Did the widow wonder what difference it made, her two tiny coins compared to the substantial contributions of the others? Did she fear ridicule for her tiny donation? Did she wonder how she would eat the next day because all her money was now gone? Maybe she just had faith and was obedient to God because she trusted Him, even with all she had.

Did Mary wonder what everyone would say when she lavished all of her precious gift on Jesus? Did she think she would be hidden behind Him at His feet? Was she embarrassed when she realized the smell of the nard filled the room and everyone was staring at her, her hair undone, her extravagance revealed? Was she horrified when Judas pointed at her in scorn saying the money could have been used to feed the poor? Maybe she just had faith and was determined to demonstrate her love for Jesus.

Did Paul wonder if his letter would get to it's destination? Was he concerned about Epaphroditus' health and safety as he traveled? Was he in prayer that the Philippians would be encouraged by his letter and be open to his instructions? Did he wonder if he wasted his time to write a letter that they may never receive? Probably he was moved to communicate to them in the only way available to him, although it was lengthy and cumbersome, and he trusted God for the rest.

The widow had no idea that the Lord of Israel in the flesh stood near her watching and held her up as a sterling example of generosity and faith to His disciples for generations. Mary had no idea Jesus would defend her to her guests, praise her faith and proclaim that her story would be included wherever the gospel was preached. Paul had no idea that not only would his letter reach Philippi but it also would sit on my kitchen table today in New Jersey. They only acted in faith. They had no idea how God would use their obedience.

Ten years ago, I voiced frustration to a dear wise friend. While I don't remember the specifics of the situation, I clearly recall his advice. Use your gift, he told me. Find a way to express the gift that God has given you. And so hesitantly I began a blog. What was I thinking? I had been writing in journals all my life as I cried my heart out to the Lord, as I studied His word. Out of those conversations, He seemed to talk back to me. Really, He did. I'm sorry if it sounds crazy. The words, those thoughts were too "other" to be mine. I wanted to write them down and save them in a way so I could remember them. I hoped that they would encourage others. And some people have told me these posts are encouraging. But I am sure the person who reads my blog the most is me! As I recall Jesus' words to me, I am encouraged and rebuked and strengthened all over again.

I have no idea how God will use this blog. But I know He reads every word. He remains my main audience, an audience of One. This is my conversation with Him. My prayer is that you, if you are reading this, would also be encouraged. Do you have a gift? Are you using it? Find a way to express the gift God has given you. Don't be deterred that it seems small. Don't be embarrassed that it seems ridiculous to others. Don't be hopeless that it will be effective.

God used two small coins, a pound of nard, a parchment is a mighty way. And so I trust Him with this blog. You can trust Him too.

Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me."

Matthew 12:14-44, Matthew 26:6-13, John 12:1-8, Philippians 2:25-30

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I hung the moon

I was driving home last night in silence except for the hum of my old Toyota. Inside my head, however, there was the screaming voice of Worry. Worry for people who I would never meet who's life was affected by my failure to resolve the  late afternoon phone call. Worry about how I could not help because it was not my job. Worry about what I could not do because I did not know how. 

Worry swirled around and absorbed me in fruitless conversations I would never have.

Then I looked up and saw the moon in the late twilight sky. A tiny sliver, it stood suspended above the dark blues and oranges of sunset. 

"I hung the moon." God whispered to me. "I hung the moon and I can handle this too."

I remembered a prayer from a prior day when I knew I was praying towards sin but did not know what else to ask of God. "Your will be done, Lord, open doors, close the others that lead to no good." Maybe You are doing that for those people who I just failed but would never meet. Maybe this is Your goodness, Your mercy, closing a door for them. I cannot know.

But I can trust You. Of that alone I am certain. Because I could see right ahead. See, You hung the moon.

God made two great lights -- the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars....And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:16,18)

Friday, January 01, 2016

Grab on

Captivated by the movie scene playing in blazing color on the 72-inch TV, I stood transfixed as I waited for my daughter to complete her Best Buy purchase. It was the Terminator Geneisys bridge scene where Arnold chases the fleeing school bus, his determined face showing through the circle of shattered windshield glass.

As the scene progresses, the evil character damages the bus’ mechanisms causing it to flip in mid-air, careening wildly and finally stopped, hanging off the side of the Gold Gate Bridge. The good gal and guy team are still in the bus, dazed but unharmed, as is the bad guy and a chase ensues inside the dangling bus. Arnold arrives at the bus just in time to reach out his strong arm to the gal, who in turn grabs the arm of the good guy as he reaches out to her. The bus breaks free and falls into the water below with the bad guy in it just as Arnold pulls the gal and guy to safety.

And then the movie switched to another scene in another movie and I found myself back in the Best Buy TV sales section.

For several days the scenes flashed repeatedly through my mind. Arnold, the hero who they tried to kill over and over but they could not. How he relentlessly chased them and then rescued them with his strong arm. So much like our Jesus!

Jesus came as a babe in a manger, tender and mild. He looked like a toddler to the wise men and when He grew He looked like a mere man to the townspeople of Nazareth. But He is not. Jesus is greater than even Arnold in all his cinematic special effects. They tried to kill Jesus but they could not. He too emerged unharmed, not from a damaged vehicle but from the grave. Jesus’ saving is greater too, saving not only our lives of flesh but our eternal lives as well.

Jesus chases after us. He reaches out His mighty arm. He will save you from whatever bus you are hanging from. Grab His hand today.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords…
to Him who alone does great wonders..
with a mighty hand and outstretched arm…
His love endures forever.
(Psalm 136:3, 4, 12)