Thursday, December 24, 2015

My Christmas Letter: J

He is risen!! No, silly, I haven't confused my holidays. The babe is in the manger, the ham is in the oven, and there are cookies and presents for all, because we're celebrating! What are we celebrating? Not the birth, because if He was only born, what would that be? It would simply be an arrival with no destination. What we're truly celebrating is the first "baby step" toward the cross. We don't like to think about that, it ruins that festive spirit. Death? On Christmas? pshhh, back off buddy, or I will hit you with my candy cane. Matthew 1:21 spells it out for us: "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." His birth is nothing without His death, because it's His death that opened the door to forgiveness for all of my sins. And yours. For all of those times when you yourself should have forfeited your life for all eternity because of the darkness in your soul, He died. OK, stop sobbing, it doesn't end there. A few chapters later in Matthew 28:6 says "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." May Christmas be a reminder of the cross for all of us. Red for the color of His blood, and green for the new life He gave us. The tree on which His body hung, strung with shining lights reminding us of the "Light of the World" (John 8:12). He is risen!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Battle's Already Been Won

Dear young mommy, 
I was right there where you are. Trying to tap some non-existent inner reserve that would make me feel rested. Looking for the "best" way to parent. Wondering if I was doing it right, and if this was the way being a mommy was supposed to feel. One day runs into one long night, one mess turns into many, you never get that shower, and it's the first time in your life you're wearing the same underwear two days in a row. I remember. I won't give you advice, you already get plenty of that. It just makes you more confused. I will tell you this, you won't always get it right, but it's OK. God's got your back. He'll take all those "I wish I had/hadn't" episodes and turn them into something amazing. He'll show your child that love is messy sometimes, that forgiveness goes two ways, and that imperfections can be beautiful. So, take a breath, wipe your tears, and walk back into the battle. I'm praying for you. It's going to be alright.

Proverbs 31
Matthew 19:14

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Prisoner's Heart


Merriam-Webster defines forgiveness this way:
--to stop feeling anger toward
--to stop feeling anger about
--to stop requiring payment of
When I think about forgiveness, I see Jesus on the cross. I see pain, and blood, and sacrifice. I see eyes that looked out upon the people with love, and a voice uttering "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they're doing." What a contrast to what a lot of us consider forgiveness looks like today. We throw the word around as
if it came in the mail from a cheap TV infomercial. We are offended and we put on our forgiveness mask. Smile, nod, maybe hug, and we meet the first two dictionary definitions. We stop feeling anger toward, or about, but we never stop requiring payment of. Sure, I will voice that I forgive you, but I'm going to remember that you hurt me once, and it's going to be reflected in my dealings with you forever. Or maybe I won't deal with you at all. I'm done. I'm not speaking to you, I'm not loving you, I don't care any more. I "forgave you", yet I am going to keep requiring payment of your debt. Stop. Just stop a minute. Take a step back, plop yourself in a chair, and read Matthew 18:21-35 (aptly titled "the parable of the unmerciful servant"). How does your definition of forgiveness align with what Jesus is demonstrating in these verses? I don't know about you, but I can almost feel that cold prison floor, and the dampness is seeping into my bones  I don't want to be there any more. Colossians 3:13 "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" 

22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 

23"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 

24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 

25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 

26 "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.'

27 The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 

28 "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. 

29 "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'

30 "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 

31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 

32 "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 

33 Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 

34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 

35 "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

Sunday, October 18, 2015

An Unpopular Opinion on Halloween

The headlines this week spoke of a woman who died while scaling a fence in an attempt to escape her violent partner.  She got caught on the fence and was killed, and her body hung there for days. Everyone thought she was a Halloween decoration.  I hate Halloween. I have always hated Halloween. OK, maybe not when I was a kid. Back then I was willing to suffer the agony of a sweaty mask and plastic costume in exchange for a couple pounds of chocolate. I guess I'm just more sensitive to the rest of the world now. I think about the people for whom blood, gore, and violence are not artificial. While we are decorating our yards with severed limbs, they are seeing them in their marketplace after the bombs go off.  While we are celebrating monsters, they are running for their lives from them.

You're saying "that's not what it's all about,  it's about dressing up your kids and going out for a little fun". I hear you, I've been told that many times over the years.  I'm not questioning your motives, or looking to throw a wrench in the works.  I know your toddler in a fairy princess costume isn't scary.   What is scary to me about Halloween is that it conditions us to gaze upon things that appear horrific and see them as unreal, and by doing so we no longer react.  We drive past impaled effigies, or men of straw hanging by their necks from trees, and we do not even blink.  We seek out the "house of horror" where we can be chased by actors wielding chain saws and hatchets, and we call it fun.   Heaven forbid we should ever experience this type of evil as our own personal reality, like so many others.   The fact that a young woman lost her life in a violent manner, and that the passers by did not even blink at the sight of her body on that fence, makes me ill.

Our time is short, and we are allowing the devil to gain too much ground.  We have been sitting, and it is long past time for us to stand. Ephesians 6:10 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground..."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Jesus Wept

I was privileged to watch grieving unfold yesterday, for where there is much grief, there was much love. It is such a tribute to those lost for the people who valued them to "feel". I don't think we understand that in our culture. We want so badly to take away everyone's pain, that we don't allow the people who need to express it to do so. It's OK to hurt today. Pain is like a shovel in our soul. It digs through all the petty arguments and all the perceived little wounds that keep us separated from one another on a daily basis. It pitches those to the side and allows compassion to rise to the surface. It opens our heart's doors to people we would not have let in before. It gives us the opportunity to both run to each other, and to God. "2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Straining To Hear

I had a lot on my mind all day yesterday, and was having one of those frustrated "where are you God?" conversations with myself at the kitchen sink. I do my best talking to myself, especially over dishes, where I can say things like "if you had used more butter, you wouldn't have to scrub the egg off the pan like that". Well, in the midst of being attentive to my own babbling, I picked up the strainer out of the dish drain, and God gave me a little nudge. One of those Spirit nudges that said "hey, do you remember how much you hated your old strainer? How the one edge was broken and every time you used it to make iced tea it would dump some leaves back in the pot? Then you stopped at that yard sale, and you actually had cash, and there was an almost brand new one just for you? That was me. I love you, and I care about even the smallest parts of your life." Darn it, I was wallowing in myself so well until that moment. So, the "where are you God?" was answered with "right here". Right here so close that I am watching you make tea, and seeing you struggle with a piece of broken plastic. That's close, people. That's not "God is way up there, and I am way down here", that's "hi, I'm in your kitchen with you" close. Is the "where are you God, do you not even hear me?" question on your tongue today? It's an easy one to ask when life is hard. Look over your shoulder. He's right there. Don't believe it? Open your Bible. Find the many places where it says "the Lord heard". He is hearing you. He sees your struggle. He is right there. That is where God is today. Deuteronomy 26:7 "Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our fathers, AND THE LORD HEARD..."

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Locked Out. Forever.

Something I've learned in the past 24 hours is the importance of keeping my cell phone in my pocket. I figured that out pretty quickly when I was running barefoot through the snow and praying that the back door wasn't as locked as the front door.  Going out to get that package on the porch when no one else was home was a very bad idea.  Especially without keys in my pocket.  It's all about being prepared.  People prepare for lots of things.  They plan on getting to work the next day by setting up the coffee maker the night before.  They pack a bag for the hospital when the baby is due.  We prepare for emergencies, and birthdays, and even car breakdowns, but how prepared are you today to die?  Oh, bet you weren't expecting that question this morning.  In a blink, life is done.  Faster than that door locked behind me, your chance to get ready for life after death is done.  Where is your heart today? What do you believe?  How have you prepared to stand before the Lord this morning?
Luke 12:16 And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' 18 "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' 20 "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself ?"

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chips

Good morning, beautiful. Yes, I mean you. You. The one sitting at facebook reading posts wishing you were thinner, or smarter, or more talented, or or or. Stop believing the lies.. God created you. He. Created. YOU. The Potter put the clay on the wheel, and made one a pitcher, and another a bowl. Each piece designed in it's own size, shape, and color for a specific purpose for Him. "Oh, but I am so imperfect", you groan. Yes. Isn't it wonderful? Because it's the imperfections that make you a "unique piece". A singular entity that can not be reproduced. It is the flaws that give you value, because it is through those cracks and chips and holes that the light of Christ will shine. So, my dearest cracked pots, pitchers, or bowls, go do what God has made you to do today. Get off the shelf.

Hey, Hey, I Need To Ask You Something

Everyone prays differently. Some have a true prayer closet, others kneel, some reach up to the heavens, some are quiet. Me, I have the attention span of a toddler, so God and I have a running dialogue pretty much all day long. I am reminded of our Father's infinite patience as I chatter on like my children did when they were young. I remember when my own children were about four years old, following me everywhere, telling me long elaborate stories, and asking myriads of questions. I regret my short-tempered days when all I wanted was a moment of silence. God is not like that. In my mind's eye, I see Him kneeling down to my level, placing His hand on my shoulder, and hearing me like I have never been heard before. He is not distracted by petty things like dirty dishes or the pile of laundry. He never needs a moment to himself. My relationship with Him is what He desires. Do I always get the answer I want to the many hard questions I ask? No. Neither did my children always get an answer to those "why" questions they asked. Sometimes they just had to be content to know that I was the mom, and that I cared more than anyone else, and that the answer couldn't always be "yes". May you feel God's loving presence as you pour out your heart to Him today. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.