Remember

i remember the wrong things. i make copious lists, keep multiple calendars both digital and paper, yet still, i forget things that are important and fail to reach my goals.

i blame my illness. i blame failing to remember my agenda. i blame myself. i pass out post-it notes to my family and tell them to be sure to, “write it down.”

i have a shelf filled with old planners and agendas overflowing with bits of paper flowing with all the things that i did do.

i have been guilty of calling that shelf the history of my life.

All the things that i have done do not represent my life.

i forget. My life is what i have done for Christ.

i have a little wallet-card that i received in Sunday School as a little girl For years i carried it everywhere i went. It had a picture of Jesus on the front and a verse on the back.

It was not a verse from the Bible. It simply says,

Only one life,

‘Twill soon be passed,

Only what’s done for Christ,

Will last.

i remember the wrong things.

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Do you know what Love is?

Love is such a popular word. People light up when hearing it spoken. Some people get flustered, defensive, or curmudgeonly when love is discussed. Few words illicit such powerful, emotional responses. Being newly engaged I am made aware of how the awareness of love affects even total strangers.

As I struggle across the room in the blinding throb of a series of monster migraines, I stop to smooth the skirt of my wedding gown. It is newly acquired and hanging in my study so I can admire its beauty. Besides, who has closet space for a wedding gown! The glimpse of tulle and lace lighten my heart and I am transported from a state of pain to happy thoughts of the future when I get to marry my Beloved! Thoughts of the wedding lift my spirit because love breaks through the ugly of today.
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Our world is ugly. Countless souls are slugging through today just trying to endure the pain. There is too much brokenness all around. Love shines like a shaft of warm sunlight through a cold-winter night. It cuts through the hurt, pain, doubt, and best of all death!

We can deny or misunderstand the meaning of what love actually is. It is almost easier to define what love is not than what it is. St. Paul eloquently defined love in 1 Corinthians 13. But even if we confuse love for a feeling, the feeling love gives us is an effect not a cause. We cannot confuse the two. What Jesus Christ did for us on the cross is the greatest example of love that anyone can imagine.

Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant of rude. Love does not insist on its own way…rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

When I am hit by a long series of migraines, I drift further behind each day that I am sick. The pressure that I feel inside my spirit is second only to the pressure in my head. Rest comes when I surrender to Love. I don’t need to do more, have more, or be more ____ to find rest for my soul! What I actually need is less. I need to surrender not only control of my life to Jesus, but I need also to release management of my schedule to Jesus! His mission reveals the true nature of love. There is no “earning” in love. Jesus redefined what it means to be a successful human being in the cross. He, God, poured Himself out to become one of us! He fully embraced us. He freely accepted all the lies and suffering so that by letting go of Himself, He might save us.

Jesus, who was God and could not by nature stay dead, died so that He could reach past the great abyss that existed between man and God. He saved us. We did nothing but spit in His face and nail Him to the cross. He arose Easter Sunday that we might have everlasting life. For perfectionists like me it is a terrible reality to face, but we can never be enough, complete enough, people pleasing enough, God-pleasing enough. But Jesus said, “Enough…It is finished.”

What does Christ’s mission reveal about God’s love for us?

The truths packed into this little line of the Nicene Creed are strong enough to pull us through pain, misfortune, loss and make us happy enough to, “dance at our wedding.” How can I write a blog post and comment on the greatness of Christ’s mission revealing God’s love for us during a week-long series of severe migraines? Grace. What is the central theme of His mission? Self-sacrificing love. Real love. It is the kind of love my fiancé demonstrated last evening when he looked deeply into my slit-eyes, migraine-cooling-patch covered forehead and told me I was beautiful. Love. Thanks to Jesus we know what it is. It is an action verb full of might and gentle as a whisper. Love is not a feeling-but it creates a glorious feeling to those who surrender themselves to receive it.

This post is shared with If:Gathering in the wonderful ongoing study of the Nicene Creed. No prior knowledge is required. A heart that is open is the door to truth. Join the Gathering at If:Equip.com and find this post under “Jesus Came to Bring Salvation to Us”.

Candlelight

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If you follow my blog you may have noticed that I like to write about God’s unconditional love for us. It is best demonstrated to us by Jesus taking our sins to the cross and dying in our place.

We are forgiven, restored and endowed with the new position of “children of God” through His love.

The self-sacrificing love that He taught is called agape in the original Greek.

It is amazing how something we all need-love-can be so elusive for us human beings.

The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) delight in teaching us what real love is. Jesus is what real love is. Jesus is like light, says John. Paul picks up much of this in his letters to the early Christian churches.

Love and light are not supposed to be fleeting. In Revelation we are told that in the New Jerusalem at the end of time that there will be no more night. The sun won’t be needed either.

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Even when all the stars fall from the sky we will not be left in darkness.

We will not ever be abandoned or alone.

Jesus will be the everlasting light.

God will live with us. He will make His home there with us and the light will permanently replace all darkness and despair.

In the meantime, it is autumn in the northern hemisphere. The darkness is increasing nightly. How are we to live in the light, shine light to a dark world when we are living in the darkness?

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Symbolically we can light a candle. There is something calming about the light of candles. They are reminders of the sun since they cast the same warm, golden light, but on a drastically reduced scale. Candlelight reminds us that the darkness will never win. It flickers, but it doesn’t go out. It shines and brings light to what is near.

Have you ever noticed that we all acquire a lovely glow when we sits in it’s beam? Agape love lights us up when we are spending time with God.

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Try a new ritual with your family. Light a candle and read a favorite Bible verse. Tell your loved ones something you appreciate about them. Conclude with a simple prayer thanking God for giving us love and light that will never end.

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It could be with dinner, or at bedtime, but a simple ritual like this could be a special way to build your family up in love. As the holiday seasons become intense and pressure to do more, and more builds schedule a few moments each day to remember love.

A few moments to light the dark with the promise of love, present and future can create a beautiful family tradition and memory.

Sit Down

The verse that stopped me today was, “Mark 9:35-37
” Sitting down, He called the twelve and *said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” What first made me pause for some reason was the phrase sitting down. I checked the Greek and found out it is καθίζω kathizō ; another form of to make to sit down, to sit down:–appoint(1), rested(1), sat(5), sat down(15), seat(1), seated(1), seated themselves(1), settled(1), sit(9), sit down(4), sitting down(1), stay(1), taken…seat(1), takes…seat(1), took…seat(3).

Jesus’ disciples are arguing about who among them is the greatest and Jesus stops, sits down to rest and calls them to Him. I would have jumped right into a debate over theology with them. Jesus lifts a little child into His lap and teaches them humility. He uses an object lesson. He slows them down to listen. He knows that if He scolds them they will become defensive. If He tells them that they should memorize everything He says they will be distracted or annoyed, depending on their temperament. Jesus stops. Jesus sits down and waits until He has their full attention. Then He uses something everyday and unforgettable to help them remember.

Forget about putting yourself first. Don’t worry about your own accomplishments. Love and serve others. Listen patiently to what other people say. Love them gently. Follow Me.

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Putting to Death What Really Hinders Us

Since the beginning satan has been telling us lies about our not being or having enough. He told Eve that she needed to know what the forbidden tree would give her. She was not enough. Humanity was thrown out of the garden and we’ve all borne the pain ever since. In John 11:45-57 we read about what happened right after Jesus restored Lazarus to life. If you didn’t know better you might expect a party. No, it is a plan for an execution.image

The worldly leaders, in this case they were the Pharisees, were afraid of the Roman authorities. They were an occupied nation. The chief priest and leaders feared that the Romans would take away the source of their power, the Temple. The Pharisees had local authority as long as they kept the peace and made sure the Romans received their tax reverence on time. Their concern was that if Jesus continued to do astounding things like raise the dead, they people would think He was the Messiah and rise up against the Roman over-lords.

Fear is at the heart of it all. The Pharisees feared loosing control of the people. Keeping the peace sounded like a worthy cause. The end result was crucifying the Savior of the World.

We like to think we are different. If we had lived when Jesus walked the earth we would have followed Him faithfully. The reality is that in Gethsemane His closest friends ran off and Peter followed, but denied knowing Him, three times. People haven’t really changed. I have been sick all week. I had a busy work load. These posts are not going up on time. I decided to quit. I thought I’d buy my worried mind some peace by quitting. Quitting a series in no way compares with murder, but I was read to kill a series because I was not enough.

I had all the arguments worked out. My logic was faultless. I stated on a whim, finding out only two days before the series was scheduled to start. I wanted peace, but peace at what cost? Quitting would only reaffirm my insufficiency. I figured I would delete the whole 31 days original post and links and forget I ever started this series.

I pulled out the Lectionary reading to see what I had missed and as I read them I felt like a Pharisee. I was doing away with a series because I didn’t have time this week. The series is titled 31 Days. I did not give it 31 days and then declare myself a failure. So here I am. I don’t know how many posts will go up. But I am going to do my humble best to share reflections on the Word of God.

Dear Jesus, when I listen to the lies about my own unworthiness help me remember that You willingly went to the cross to pay the price for my failures. You did sacrifice Yourself for the world, including me. I thank You and fall in worship before You. All You ask is that I keep trying to serve You. Help me to follow-You-through. In Your Holy Name I pray. Amen.

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Passages Through Pain

Sitting in the dark with Jesus again,
Wondering when Life will begin.
Waiting through another migraine
Hoping it will not start once more.
When will Life finally be restored,
Full of vitality and activity?
Sitting in the dark with just my Lord.
Fighting frustration,
Too caught in thought to be bored.
Wondering the value of my life,
Grief sometimes searing like a knife
Dividing between the marrow and joints.
The Word, a comfort and also a choice.
How can I live most fully for God,
When sometimes my body won’t do what it should?
What is the value of this, little life
That looses bits and pieces amidst the strife?
How do I keep my spirit strong
In the tired waits and the bitter wrongs?
Questions not answers,
Throb with my head,
But I know who waits by my side
Through the long, dark hours,
The one who never leaves me,
In comfort embowers.
My spirit dances
Before my Lord.
Like a child with joy
Simply adored.
Knowing there is a reason
Though I haven’t the key
To unlock the answer
But that’s not for me.
He made me,
He planned this
He understands the pain
He has a purpose,
It will all come right in the end.

Maelstrom

I just gave the Creator of the Universe a handful of foolish excuses. Don’t ask me why, because I know He knows they are excuses. My week has been very busy. That isn’t an excuse that is truth. But, that doesn’t give me leave to neglect this post. I cannot really say why I am obligated to write this. Although I am charged to write. God doesn’t really ask that much of me. God doesn’t nag at my quiet time with requests. Well He has been after me to share what I’ve learned about Him. He wants me to write. If I neglect this then there will be a tiny hole in the fabric of the universe that only God and I will be aware of. Something seemingly insignificant will not be done, but these thoughts are supposed to be shared. So, my To Do: List is an excuse.

This week I’ve been reading from the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. The powerful contrast of God’s abundant provision even in the midst of human want; the miracles that Jesus wrought have been pointed out to me again and again. The feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the water to the disciples in the middle of the storm at sea have been buoys that marked my busy week. Today has been something of a storm. There is too much to get done and too little time.

I’ve been looking at Annie Dillard’s book, The Writing Life. At the end of the third chapter she describes how the page will teach the writer to write. “The page, the page, that eternal blankness,the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time’s scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nonetheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its’ possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life’s strength: that page will teach you to write.”

For me the blank page and the dark, stormy sea are as one. Both are challenges for which there is no human solution. Yet Jesus walks on water. I worry that there is not time to write. Yet I realize that my thoughts run like a raging sea in my head as I try to figure out how to get more done today, than the length of the day has hours to provide. I cannot do this of my own sufficiency. I have only one boys’ lunch. And yet, if Jesus is here what can He do with my little scraps? If He can feed more than five thousand with one boys lunch what can He do with my few moments snatched here and there? Can He not create calm in the chaos? Can He not still the storm…still?

What do you do when the storms of life assail you? Where do you find Jesus walking on the water to meet you? I find Him in a daily commitment to Bible study. One more thing to do- it is a life-vest for me. Jesus meets me in my need.

The Cart

imageI had a dream that I was going down a lonely road in an old, rattle-trap cart. It was a very bumpy ride, which was frequently brought to an abrupt halt when one of the wheels fell off. In addition to being small and uncomfortable to ride in the cart was old and shabby to look at. Though it was foggy I could see many ugly patches on the cart. I was filled with self-pity. How had I come to be riding in such a pathetic, old cart? Why was I slowly bumping along an empty, dirt road in the middle of nowhere? I envied those who were fortunate enough to be swiftly riding down well paved interstates in luxurious speed. Oh, how I wished I had the Mercedes and smooth road.

I was so cramped in my little cart that when the wheel fell off, as it frequently did, I could not get out of the cart to put it back on myself. The wretched cart held me fast. I had to sit still until someone came to help put the wheel back on my cart. My impatience to be off, along with my shame over having ridden in such a wretched cart caused me to be less than courteous to my assistants.

After the wheel was fixed off I went, rattling along again. I regret to say that on more that one occasion, being in such a hurry, I whipped at the front of the cart, For though the fog hid the beast, I was sure from the slow pace and the condition of the cart that it must be a pathetic, old mule, or some such dismal creature that was pulling my broken old cart.

After a time, I noticed that it was often the same people who came up from behind to fix the broken wheel. Being in a more appreciative mood on day I asked my helper why they didn’t just get into the cart and ride with me since we seemed to be going the same way. My offer was graciously declined. The poor souls preferred to walk. My progress was so often halted that the walkers were always catching up with the cart when the wheel fell off. Though I had a sometimes lonely ride I considered myself better off than the walkers, Unfortunately, I was frequently loosing a wheel or getting stuck in the mud. The walkers pushed with all their might to get me out of one bog, yet they never gave up or passed me by.

After spending a long, cold night with a broken wheel, one of my fellow pilgrims came up to help me again. “If you don’t want a ride, that’s fine. It’s cramped in here anyway, but why are you following along behind me?, I asked. My assistant looked surprised at the question and replied, “I’m not following you. I’m following Him.” I looked at the front of the cart as he pointed and for the first time the fog cleared enough that I could see it was not a mule harnessed to my cart but a man. Here was a tired looking, ragged man, with sweat and blood running down his face, holes in his hands, feet and side, and a crown of thorns upon his head. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God was pulling my broken cart!I wept with tears of guilt and remorse at how bitterly I had complained about being in such a broken, old cart. I had taken out my frustration on the slow speed and inhospitable road on the one who had never left me despite my ill-usage and self pity.

Now freed from my folly I was able to climb out of the cart and worship at his feet. “My child,” he said, “Can you take up your own cross and follow me?” I fell into walking with the other pilgrims as we followed him down the narrow, ill-kept, dirt road.

He never walks unharnessed. He is always finding someone in a broken down cart to pull. It is much easier to walk than it was to ride in my old cart. We walkers help to pull carts out of the mud and repair their broken parts. All the while we keep our eyes on the Master, the humblest and most broken looking one on the road, Yet he alone has the strength to pull a cart. He can and does. And we follow the humble Master who leads us home.

Sometimes I am in the broken cart. Sometimes you are the one creaking along. We all ride in its’ miserable confines at one time or another. When we are strong enough we get out of the cart and follow on foot. When you’re stuck in the cart remember you’re never alone. Christ is pulling you.