Monday, January 11, 2016

What's A Good Little Christian Girl To Do On The Decks Of The Cultural Titanic?

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar (Greek: hissing and crackling), and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness?  2 Peter 3: 10-11

How should I live my life in the today's world? It's my daily prayer: "Please give  me great wisdom to navigate the quagmire and labyrinths of our present culture." I read the news and sometimes feel as though we are all drowning in a cultural Titanic that sinks ever lower with each passing hour. I hear things that make me want to rage! Starving children in Syria, mass rapes in Europe, mass murders everywhere, infanticide in America...inequities or blatant wrongs forced  upon us by the laws of our lands or chosen as a result of our spiritual autonomy. I feel choked by it all. Political correctness shuts some of our mouths, too afraid of offending to say the obvious: "Hey, people, this is just wrong and we know it in our hearts!" Sometimes it is our families that become arch enemies on the other side of our beliefs. How do we keep relationships when we are so far apart in ideology? Sometimes the work place or even our church. It's complicated. And I need to keep my head above the waves.

In light of the fact that the end of things as we know them is nearer than it was yesterday, that the Lord will come back to judge this earth, that I belong to Him and believe, counter cultural though it is, that Jesus will return and the Bible is prescient on this subject, what am I supposed to be doing? What sort of person am I supposed to be?

Humble, first of all. He has told you, oh man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8. To know my God is a deep and mysterious privilege. I didn't earn it. I was even given the faith to have the faith to believe. Therefore, who am I to judge another's lack of faith? God's heart in these days is merciful toward those sinking with the ship. He's unwilling that any should perish, but wants all to repent (2 Peter 3:9). He says this right before the admonition attached to the question of how we should be living in light of the times. But that doesn't absolve me from the "do justice" part of the equation. Do the right thing. Don't get caught up personally with the tide of the times and drown along with those rejecting God's open call to repent. Even when it's unpopular, laughed at or, even worse, the cause of my death, I do what God says...humbly. Mercifully praying for the very ones who hate me as Jesus did from the cross. "Father forgive them for they don't know what they are doing."  The idea that I can do this on my own is ridiculous. But I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

Wise, too. Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of that search. Knowing Who He is and reaching for not just a head knowledge of the Word of God, but stretching deeper into knowledge of the heart of God. What does He want in our culture right now? How is His heart broken over our continued rejection of His proffered goodness? That means I spend more time with Him, covered like a baby eagle under the immense wing span of her mother, kept close to the heart beat, warmed in the nestling. Assured that the God of All will one day right all wrongs. That the Judge of All will unfailing pass sentence on those who create the horrific havoc that pervades so much of the world today. Righting wrongs isn't my job. Judging the world isn't either. My job is to keep close to the One Who reigns, now and forever, and to follow His instructions for my own right living in the midst of chaos. Sometimes that means I will offend others. I know this. And I will need to be ready to give a defense for my faith. Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; but do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:13-15).

And holy. Not holier-than-thou. That's not what I mean. Holy means to be separate, set apart, not like the rest. It is a call to live what I believe because it pleases my heavenly Father, not so I can strut about on the decks of the sinking vessel and spout scripture verses. I am a member of God's family, and I love the head of the household with all of my heart. I want to be like Him. And, as a child of God, I know what He expects of me. He's an exemplary father that way. There are things I won't do because it breaches my Father's trust. He has rules, yes. And they give me boundaries across which I cannot set foot. I belong to Him is why I must say no to others, sometimes. Why I must cry out for what is right sometimes. It is also why I can't judge another who belongs on the outside of the family of God. Those who are not His don't have to play by His rules, nor can they. But I am called to live like my Father commands, and I joyfully obey for the look in His eyes when He's pleased.

I don't always live it to the fullest that I ought to. But it's my desire to live for Christ in a world that increasingly scoffs at such "foolishness." Paul summed it up in 2 Corinthians 2:15-17: For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men and women of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God, we speak in Christ. Sometimes I'll bring the stench of death; sometimes the fragrance of life. And I ought to live in such a way that more and more as the day approaches when the ship has sunk below the horizon, I will still be found throwing out life jackets and calling out to Christ to pull some from their deaths. May it be so.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

There are more tears to shed, Mr. President

In the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will become lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless,
unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.  2 Timothy 3

I was struck, as I know all of us were, with the tears our President shed over the slayings of the Sandy Hook children by Adam Lanza in 2012. It was a heartless act. A young man driven by his own demons to destroy the lives of children and teachers...helpless, innocent, vulnerable, with no means of protection against the onslaught of bullets shot from the gun of a twenty-year old kid who'd just murdered his own mother. For all of us, the horror of it is fresh when we remember. How could this be? Where does this cold, calculated ability to take the lives of the innocent come from? Some deep well of hatred? Years of untreated mental turmoil? In the wake of the slaughter, the blood of the innocent cries out to us for change! Our President proposes we give up our guns. I know where this comes from. It was a gun in the hands of a troubled young man that left him dead, his lifeblood mixed with those he killed.

As I keep turning the news conference yesterday over and over in my mind, it is never the gun that kills. I know. I know. If the kid hadn't had one, he wouldn't have used it. But the why of Adam Lanza's need to blast into Sandy Hook to kill seems the bigger question than the method he used to quench the soul sickness that prodded him to his task that morning. And not just him at Sandy Hook, but of the several mass murders in the past seven years...more than any other decade stretching back to 1982 (incidents where four or more people were shot in a single event, FBI definition). Could it be that something is going horribly wrong with our hearts?

Since Roe v Wade passed in 1973, 57,762,169 babies have been aborted. What was once going to be "safe, rare and legal" is now "abortion on demand." A holocaust of death, bodies stacked in garbage dumps, stored in refrigertors or in jars, liquidated and disposed of in land fill. I've walked through the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, transfixed by the horrible things done to the Jewish people in World War II. But even then, nearly 58,000,000 people weren't killed. We, in America, are guilty of the worst mass genocide ever perpetrated on Earth!

Don't stop reading yet. This is on my heart because I reread the prescient words of Mother Teresa on the subject of abortion, and I know she is right about what has eventually happened to our hearts over the years as we have hardened them toward the children in our wombs. Yes, children. If we want them, we are having a baby. If we don't, we get rid of tissue...a fetus (look up the word in the dictionary, by the way). 21% of all pregnancies now end in abortion (CDC), over a million are performed in the United States on average every year, 1000 every day. And entire people groups are diminishing because of it. And we wonder over the heart that respects life so little that he would shoot up a classroom. When the mothers of our country embrace the "right to choose to kill their unborn." To take the life of another body within her own. Here's what Mother Teresa said would happen to us with the passage of Roe v Wade:

"We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?"
"America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has shown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts--a child--as a competitor, an intrusion and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being's entitlement by virtue of humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent upon, the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign."

Though I respect yesterday's tears shed by the leader of the free world over the children massacred at Sandy Hook, I would pray our President and our nation could begin to wail and mourn over the masses of innocents we slaughter every day in our country. Mr. Obama has praised institutions that perform massive numbers of abortions...blessed them, tears for the millions of children killed, not with guns, but with malice aforethought by their own mothers. On a sterile table with an assisting physician. Roe v Wade was the beginning of the end for us in respecting the most basic elements of human life. I'm sixty-seven. I remember what it was we wanted as women. Why we wanted abortion. The number one reason was so that we could be as sexually free as men. Not having to bear the brunt of a pregnancy, we wanted to participate in "free love." Turns out it costs the lives of millions of innocents. Mother Teresa again: "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you choose." And so here we are. Throwing into the garbage cans of our metropolises the remains of our most precious gift--a child--so that we don't have to be bothered with the thing. And we wonder why hearts have grown cold, children grown disobedient, ungrateful and heartless.

My heart aches for Sandy Hook parents, too. But where are the tears, Mr. President, for the others whose lives were not celebrated, who were lost in their innocence by the painful and horrific act that tore them from their mothers' bodies? Where are the burials for the children stacked in dumpsters or stored in clinics or vaporized or sold for their parts? When we begin to ache for our lost consciences, repent for our growing selfishness, cry out for the lives of those dying without cause, maybe then we will see the Titanic that is our American culture right itself again.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Christmas Question

What if...God became a Man, born with the sheep in a barn, laid out on the straw under a star so bright astrologers followed it to find Him. Shepherds on a dark cold night saw a sight that frightened them nearly to death...the same shepherds who regularly cared for and bred sacrificial lambs for Jewish feasts. Called by angels to visit the Lamb of God newly born in a stable in Bethlehem. What if this Lamb was the lamb that ended all sacrifices?

What if...some of us have too small an idea of Who God is? We think the story of Christmas and the death and resurrection of Jesus is far-fetched and silly: God become man to therefore die as the ultimate redemption from our sin. What if our thinking is silly? We think we are so smart that God couldn't have a story that far surpasses our reach and grasp, yet is so simple even those with little reach or grasp can understand it. What if we have boxed God in to our own story so that He can't get out and be more vast than we can imagine? How pedestrian we must look to Him if His story is true and we discount it because it's crazy to think about.

What if...all the years of Jewish sacrifices pointed to this One offering? Year after year, Passover after Passover, the blood teaching that our wrongs must be righted, atoned for. Then this One Lamb...

What if...all our judgments of Christian churches and the imperfect preachers and congregations keep us from relationship with a God Who eschews the religious rites practiced on His behalf in deference to intimate one-on-one relationship with those Who choose to love Him? What if many...or most...religious types have missed out on the one thing most important to God: intimacy with His children. After all, the Lamb was to be called Emmanuel--God with us.

What could live the life Jesus called you to live? "Life--and more abundantly (John 10)." What if knowing Him, Christ in us, causes judgment to fall away, love to burgeon in our hearts, wisdom to grow and power to overcome to be manifest? What if we didn't look at how others are living the Christian life to negate our need to follow, but, instead, walked it ourselves, knowing we live for Jesus...not ourselves, not for what others think. What if you could live the life you accuse others of falling short of? What if I could?

What if...the question isn't what we do with the Lamb of God, but what is He to do with us? If the hands that created the universe were pierced for us? What if the Word that spoke it all into being spoke "It is finished" on my behalf. If this story is true, God became flesh and lived among us (John 1), then the question of what we do with Him is embarrassingly juvenile. The fly on the back of an elephant asking what it does with the elephant (C. S. Lewis). God, by virtue of the fact that He is GOD, can tell whatever story He decides.

What if...people embraced the cradle in the barn and the cross on the hill as the culmination of God's redemptive plan? Not waving the hand in dismissal of such a noxious story. If it is, indeed, the story GOD is writing, wouldn't it be worth embracing? Because, if this is the greatest love story ever told, and we are invited into it, our hubris, judgment, theology or offenses could keep us from true intimacy with the God Who would call us "children."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Should We Be Afraid? An Open Letter to a Child of My Heart

"You will hear about wars and stories of wars that are coming, but don't be afraid. These things must happen before the end comes. Nations will fight against other nations; kingdoms will fight against other kingdoms. There will be times when there is no food for people to eat, and there will be earthquakes in different places. These things are like the first pains when something new is about to be born. Then people will arrest you, hand you over to be hurt, and kill you. They will hate you because you believe in Me. At that time, many will lose their faith, and they will turn against each other and hate each other. Many false prophets will come and cause many people to believe lies. There will be more and more evil in the world, so that most people will stop loving each other. But those people who keep their faith to the end will be saved. The good news about God's kingdom will be preached in all the world, to every nation. Then the end will come."  Jesus, Matthew 24

Your questions were good ones, sweet child of my heart. I read and reread your letter to me last night and again this morning. I understand your fear. We live in a crazy and confusing time when right and wrong are upside down, when evil might be lurking in a garage next door, when Christmas parties and concerts are only questionably safe, and warning others about eminent danger could look like racial profiling. We try to function in a catch-22--damned if we do, damned if we don't...or dead either way, even. I felt the cringing of your heart when you pulled your car back into the garage and hurried back into your house because the men in the car parked along the curb looked out of place and dangerous as they sat there looking out the windows at what was supposed to be your departure. Your baby unsafe, maybe. Pushed back into the confines of the four walls, not wanting to risk even the perception of danger. Conflict in your heart because you know good people whose beliefs lead them in a different direction than the San Bernardino terrorists who looked like they were okay...even at the baby shower the very people they killed had for them in the months before. Who do we trust? How do we know? And...your bigger question...where is God--is He good?

With all my heart, I don't want to give you a trite, hackneyed or easy answer. That doesn't satisfy me, either. However, I can only give you the responses that occur to  me today, because I don't have all the answers. A few days before the Passover on which Jesus would be arrested, His disciples asked Him to tell them about the end times--what would they be like? Jesus's response is found in Matthew 24. It's going to be bad. It's going to look a lot like it looks right now. Climate issues. Earthquakes. Famines. Hatred. Lawlessness. And people will hate more; love less. Natural affection will be hard to find--mothers for children, children for parents, friend for friend. Betrayals. Upside down and inside out. And some Christians will lose faith. Jesus predicted this. Because God sees history as a straight line. He isn't surprised by what has happened in any era of time. In fact, Jesus knew two thousand years ago what it will look like right before the end of the age we live in. That is comforting. Jesus wanted to make sure His disciples then and now know He is in control. And not to fear. Don't be afraid. It's seems to me to be an intentional imperative. We decide not to succumb to it. Decide to trust that if He had the prescience to warn us, to spell out the events of the end, that we can trust His epic plans as well as His plans for us as individuals.

I have a new prayer these days: Father, please keep us. Thank You that Your Word says that Your eyes are on us (2 Chronicles 16:9 The Lord searches all the earth for people who have given themselves completely to Him. He wants to make them strong). Thank You that You have promised to hide us under Your wings  (Psalm 91). Thank You that You are greater than our hearts and You know everything (1 John 3:20). And thank You that the plans you have for us are not to hurt us, but to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29). This day is what I have. This hour to trust You. Give me great wisdom to navigate this chaotic world; give me great faith to believe You for anything; give me perfect love so that I adore You without the fear of what might be coming from Your hands into my life. Please keep me in these turbulent times that I might be a light that doesn't dim because the world is sinking into darkness. I want my head above the waves, each breath coming from You. Be strength to those Christians dying and imprisoned for knowing and loving You today. Be present in a way I can't fathom in my ease. Come quickly, Lord. Come quickly. Amen.

A lesser god would not have, in love, prepared those who love him for the end of things...nor would a lesser god even know what is in store. Lesser gods rule so much of the world right now--in particular, the god of self, sitting on so many separate thrones ruling in favor of anything that feeds the beast, which is never satisfied. But the One True God is actually in control. And, precious daughter in Jesus, we are here, right now, at this time in history, because He ordained it with purpose. That is how I claim joy. And we have the Spirit to speak to us individually. Giving us nudgings, making us wary when we should be and bold when we should be. Listen to Him. We can trust the God Who made the world, Who predestined and foreordained us to be His children before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1) to move history and at the same time keep us until the very end. Jesus has the power of God, by which He has given us everything we need to live and serve God. We have these things because we know Him. Jesus called us by His glory and goodness. Through these He gave us very great and precious promises. With these gifts you can share in being like God, and the world will not ruin you with its evil desires (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Books have been written on why there is suffering in a world created by the God of love. We choose some of it. We live in a fallen world, yes. But those answers can't contain nor absorb some of the things that offend your heart. Men and women have lost their faith in God over just that question. The root of it is that: God isn't good. My response may seem too simplistic given the attention this accusation against God has received over the ages. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, the message to us is that our God wants to live among us. The garden; the exodus; the temple; Emmanuel, God with us, in the flesh--Jesus. I don't believe God looks onto this horrific mess of a world, tsk-tsking and blaming, wrath like smoke billowing from His holy nostrils...I believe He is as tired of it all as you are, baby. Yet, because He is love, He waits. Feeling what we feel...not feeling about us. I believe that I am His you are. And, though I know your concept of a dad is at the very least a blurry mess, being God's child is a place of ultimate safety and understanding. You are not home here. I'm not, either. But we are never out of His sight either place. If suffering comes here, we know He understands it...knows how to bear it. The blood-soaked ground beneath the cross of Christ's death assures us that in our suffering we are not alone. He isn't callous to our need. And our deaths, like His, take us home to our Father. What we know as believers is that, unlike the current world view, our suffering has purpose, as His did. And we will never, ever be alone in it:
Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can troubles or problems or sufferings or hunger or nakedness or danger or violent death (sword)? As it is written in the Scriptures: "For you we are in danger of death all the time. People think we are worth no more than sheep to be killed (Psalm 44:22)."  But in all these things we have full victory through God Who showed His love for us. Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!  (Romans 8)

Take a moment to listen to this song by clicking the link below.  We don't have to be slaves to fear.  I love you.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Proverbs 26:28: Benghazi Lying

A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin. Proverbs 26:28

So now we know from Mrs. Clinton's own mouth to her daughter, Chelsea's ear, and to the ears of the Egyptian leadership, that: "We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack--not a protest." Then later, "Based on the information we saw today we believe the group that claimed responsibility for this was affiliated with al Qaeda." Benghazi was a planned attack that killed her good friend Chris was that name again? She didn't remember his name and sent a memo calling him by the wrong name. We know for sure, while the fighting was still going on and later the next day, from her own emails, she knew. We now know for sure what many suspected, that when she and President Obama stood to greet the caskets holding four dead Americans, including the ambassador, they knew there was no video link to the murders of those dead heroes. They knew when Mrs. Clinton told the families as they sobbed over the flag-draped coffins of those they loved that there was no film to blame.

Mrs.Clinton knew when a California man was taken from his home in the middle of the night, arrested and incarcerated for the video's egregious part in the Benghazi tragedy that he wasn't responsible for the deaths of our American ambassador and those who died trying to save him. They knew, President Obama and Mrs. Clinton, when they made their own video that was shown throughout the Middle East blaming the uprising on a video that they were lying. When our President once again told the United Nations the attack was in response to outrage over a video, he knew as well as she that it wasn't the truth.

But that 's not the only thing we found out yesterday--those of us who watched the hearings. We also know from the former Secretary of State's mouth that Chris close, close friend, who didn't even have her email address or phone number, and whose 600 emails pleading for security in Benghazi went unanswered and apparently unread by Mrs. Clinton (because she didn't have a government server?), we know from her that...It was his own darn fault. "He knew he was wearing a short skirt," she said yesterday. Like a woman who is raped asks for it. Leaving himself open and vulnerable like that. Got what he asked for? 600 times he asked for help. How did he get what he asked for? So, really, when you look at it, he's responsible for the horrific things that happened to him. Have you seen the pictures from that night?

I live in California, so the papers I read fluffed over all of this. They lauded Mrs. Clinton for getting through that tough partisan grilling she got for no reason whatsoever. The lying...the blaming the ambassador for his own short-skirt-wearing death...meh. There are simply people who hate her. That's what this is all about.

If I were a personal friend of someone who treated me as she and Mr. Obama have treated us, I would never have anything to do with them again. Liars hate the ones to whom they lie. Assuming they are stupid, taking advantage of the vulnerability of friendship or trust. Make the one lied to believe in them and then their story when all along trust is being abused. If I were the mother of one of the men to whom she and the President lied as I wept over the casket, today I would be deeply angered and a bit ashamed that I believed anything she told me. I can't personally imagine electing to the highest position in our land a woman who can, with a straight face, not only lie to us, but go so far with it as to incarcerate a man she knows isn't guilty of the crime ascribed to him. To protect her own interests without care for others.Nor would I further trust the gut empathy of a woman, whose charge and creation the Libyan consulate was, when she has the gall to say Stevens died because he asked for it.

If we as a nation are okay with this, don't even bother to report the truth of it, don't see how egregious this cover up is--Meh...all politicians lie...Then God help us.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Unwashed Feet

And, listen, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that He was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, bought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind Him at His feet she began to wet His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment.  Luke 7

The Pharisee at whose home Jesus was reclining eating dinner was outraged that an unclean, unreligious woman of the city would slip into the party just to see Jesus, to bring an offering and to splurge it on His dusty feet. "How could you let this woman even touch  you?" was the question.

How bold of her to buy the alabaster jar in the first place with the express purpose of imposing on the meal of a religious great in order to bring her many sins to Jesus for cleansing. What made her think He'd want her foot washing tears or that He'd let her soothe His dried and tired feet with her oil? Was she merely taking a chance that Jesus would accept her? Was her deep desire for forgiveness the powerful energy of her brash crashing of the meal?

The woman was clearly known as a person weighed down with her many bad choices. Underserving, really, of compassion from the religious community. Church folks weren't supposed to let her touch them lest her ignominy rub off on them. Yet, she rushed past the servants and into the presence of Jesus and was so taken aback in the moment that when she comes up behind Him while He is lying at dinner, all she can do is burst into tears at seeing Him there. Sobbing, bent over in her grief at bringing her sinfulness into such a Presence, Jesus felt the warmth of her tears on His feet. Embarrassed, maybe, at having cried all over the Prophet, she takes down her hair, quickly bends down, and wipes the tears from His feet. All the while the other dinner guests are appalled at her histrionics. Way over the top! And Jesus is simply accepting all of this with His usual aplomb. Letting her not only touch Him, but also letting her kiss His feet and rub them with her fragrant gift.

"What's going on here!" The Pharisee, overwrought with outrage. The loose woman invading the party, bringing her essence into their holiness.

"Who loves more, Simon?" began Jesus to His host, "a person whose owes ten dollars and has his debt released or the person who owes ten million and is forgiven?"

"I suppose, the one who has the bigger debt," answered Simon, sensing a trap, I think.

"The woman came in here owing a great debt. You gave me nothing with which to clean my feet, but her tears have washed them and her oil anointed them."

She is quieted because they are talking about her. The sobbing subsided. Her heart beating furiously in her chest. Will they take me by my arms and throw me out?

"Her sins, which are many, are forgiven." Jesus declaring her to be as clean as the feet she has just washed. "She loved Me enough to dare trespass into religious territory in order to be near Me."

The woman is holding her breath, with her head down, clutching the empty alabaster jar to her heart. Then she hears it: "Woman, your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."

To Simon, Jesus said: "The one who is forgiven much loves much."

It's humbling to have your feet washed. When my husband's father came to live near us in California in 2010, I noticed his toenails hadn't been clipped in a while and he had sores on his legs. At ninety-five, he'd never had a pedicure. So, he didn't know how to react when I filled a pan with water and asked him to put his feet in. "No, Kay," Papa said, "I won't let you wash my feet. They're too ugly." He was close to tears that first time to think I'd do such a lowly thing as clip his toenails. I know he finally understood that I loved him and his feet, and the monthly pedicures became a staple of our relationship.

I thought about that day when I read Luke 7 this morning. The argument wasn't that Jesus felt awkward about the woman washing His feet. He didn't say to her, "Oh, woman, don't do that. It makes me feel too humbled." The adoration with which her tears fell and her hands anointed with oil was accepted. They both knew Who He is. Jesus accepted her love and praise because in that she was forgiven. At His feet, crying her heart out, His very presence in such sharp contrast to her ill-used life. Jesus let her pour that out. Unembarrassed by the sobbing contrition because that saved her. It wasn't that He felt she owed Him the costly anointing. It was that in breaking the flask in adoration she honored the One Who she'd possibly seen heal the sick, release those controlled by demons, feed the multitudes and raise from the dead. And something told her this Jesus would know how much she needed Him and He could set her free, too.

The woman stood up, squared her shoulders and walked out of Simon's house a brand new woman. The weight of her guilt now gone. Perhaps never forgiven by those she'd hurt, but her many sins now past so that she didn't carry them into the rest of her life. Shame lifted so that she could ever afterward make decisions based upon her cleansing instead of upon her ignominy. Driven by the great strength Jesus's forgiveness gave her. She loved Him so much! Unchained she had a whole new reason to live free of condemnation! The dampness of her tears and the fragrance of her oil was left on the floor of Simon's house and lingered on the feet of Jesus. The men at dinner argued about whether Jesus was capable of forgiving sin. Who did He think He was? They completely missed the point. But she knew. And because she understood what the religious people couldn't grasp, her life was changed. Without a word from her. Heart to heart. Jesus knew. He knows me as well. And you.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Matthew 11: Happy Oxen

"Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."  Verses 28-30

I've been reading Andrew Murray for my daily devotionals lately. These verses came up Friday and I couldn't stop thinking about what it means to be yoked to Jesus. Oxen are yoked together, side by side, to pull a plow, to make the work easier for the farmer and get twice as much done as with only one ox. Jesus is telling me to get yoked up with Him. What does that even mean?

If I decide to heed the call to join Jesus, I will go where He goes. Where He takes me. Since we will be walking the same pathway, we will have a lot of time together. We'll talk. I'll watch what He does along the way, learning about Him--what makes Him tick. Jesus wants us to know Him even in the daily drudge of life. The pounding of the dirt, the pulling of the load, the sweating of the labor. It's there we show who we truly are, oppressed by the unrelenting sun, tired almost beyond bearing, prone to complain, wondering if we've lost our way. But when Jesus is the One willingly carrying the burden of the task, pulling more than His fair share, leading the way down each furrow and over each hill, I am tasked with merely going with Him in the sowing and the planting. My joy is to watch in wonder as the heaviness of all I carried alone is lightened because Jesus assured me yoking with Him makes life easier.

If I decide to heed the call to join Jesus, I will not be venturing out on my own. He will pull me back to the path we are on together. At the very least, I won't be adding burden on burden in my ignorance of the fields ahead. Going astray and working in fields that will bear absolutely no fruit and leave me dehydrated and exhausted...and lost. Without Jesus, I will be working fields that are fallow, rocky and unfertile. Oh, I might happen upon arable land, but it's simply a case of wandering. Yoked to Jesus, I work where He works, am led where He goes, gently pulled along the path my partner plows. The bonus of this is, Jesus knows where we're going next.

If I decide to heed the call to join Jesus, I will learn to follow. To work at His pace. I'm sure at first I will balk at having to plow the rows of a new field, at not knowing the specifics of the next field where I will find myself. Having to trust that Jesus will lead us. I might not like the looks of what is coming, the new land Jesus says is our next place. I'm sure I'll stop us to stomp around and snort. Then Jesus will remind me that I chose the yoke...and for very good reasons. If I want, I can leave. But what then? I'm left standing alone now, in a pasture by myself, and I have no idea which way to go. He is not there for me to talk to every second of my day, to learn from as we churn the ground together. I would be free to go in any direction without any compass to tell me north, south, east or west. To some, this freedom to just take up life and go wherever seems best, is priceless. Doing it your way...blazing new trails. The yoking with Jesus is even more exhilarating than that, because there is still the same thrill of "I wonder what's next" without the dread of failure. My Partner created the very ground we plow. Teaches me and enjoys me along the route. And, honestly, I've grown accustomed to--actually delighted in--the fact that life's been so much easier since I began working alongside Jesus.

If I decide to heed the call to join Jesus, I will rest. There is so much involved in living life my way that makes me just plain tired. I'm really good at taking on the tasks of others, too. Pulling them along with any extra energy I have. If I'm trying to do life all by myself, it's overwhelming. I barely have the answers for my own life, much less the extra heft of trying to figure it out for someone else. Jesus gives me rest from that burden. Because? Because the invitation for being yoked to Him is for everyone. "Come to Me ALL who are overwhelmed and bearing too much." Any extra oxen who need support and a map can join us.

There is nothing keeping me from answering the call--accepting the invitation. I have found that it's not as confining as it sounds to those who don't want God telling them what to do. It's freeing in a way that a child holding the hand of her mother at the mall is freeing. No getting lost. Crying in the middle of the store wondering where she is. No strangers leading her away to unsafe territory. It's freeing the way marriage is. One soul testing and teaching the other, filtering the good from the bad, showing us who we really are, loving us anyway. Braided cords making love stronger. Only Jesus can offer true safety and security this way, though. Yoked together with The Way (John 14) I will not be lost again.