17 June, 2017

Treasure Seeker

This week I stumbled.  Stumbled to apologize, stumbled in love, stumbled in service and stumbled in following Him.  In other words, real life happened!  But amidst the stumbling, love arrived...a treasure realized again.

Years and years ago, my mama gave me her first wedding rings.  I treasure these rings.  I wore her thin wedding band for years.  Upon my mother's death, we received many other items from her jewelry box, her kitchen, her china cabinet, her life.  We worked and worked to clean out her house and disperse the items she had collected over the years.  We cried at memories, we laughed, and we despaired at all the STUFF!  But it got done and we returned to our lives with all receiving bits and pieces of treasure from our parents' lives.  I wear a certain bracelet of my mama's quite a bit and I cook in her famous cast-iron skillet.  But those wedding rings...have been lost.  I lost them.  My most valued possession from my mama were lost because of my carelessness.  It physically made me sick when I realized the loss.

Why would I have put so much value in that temporal treasure?  It was a simple, thin gold band yet its value to me was enormous.  The verses below have forced me to think about what I treasure today.  And honestly, it's not my parent's possessions that come between my heart and God it's my own
ME-ness treasure.  My desires, my children, my husband, my plans....you get the flow.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darknessMatthew 6:19-23
These verses have always inferred wealth to me or how I spend my money, i.e. treasure.  But the reality is that my treasure is not found in my bank account.  My treasure is my family, my temporal life, my to-do list.  I treasure the days when all is well with my children and their relationships and my relationships. Those are the days when I feel the most peace.  But one phone call or one text expressing sorrow, pain or stress and I seem to move from joy to despair rather quickly.

Could my treasure also be in my plans and my expectations for how my life should run?  Is my treasure in that I "have it all together, all in control"?  Could my treasure be church attendance and church service?  Could my treasure be in my appearance and community work?

I don't know your answers.  I just know that I often lose my way by focusing on earthly treasure.  I can't follow Him because I'm following me and my me-ness.

I wondered this week if my prayers have always been conditional....conditional to how I think things should go or how I think an answered prayer should look?  I wondered if my trust in God has always be conditional as to my own expectations?  And isn't that a false treasure?  A treasure I think I can control?

I pray that my eyes, the lamp of my body, will be healthy and full of Light.  I pray He will give my eyes a way to see His treasure only.

03 June, 2017

A Pinch of Salt and a Night-Light

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16

Salt adds flavor.  Salt preserves. Salt heals.  Some people like salt and some LOVE salt.  How much is too much?  How much is not enough?  Light has similar characteristics.  It adds, it reveals, it exposes, it guides.  Some people like a lot of light and some prefer darkness.  How much is too much?  How much is not enough?

You are the salt, you are the light.

How about some honesty?  Even though I've read these words for years what resonates within me today are two odd and maybe off-putting thoughts.
1.  First, I don't really find comfort in these words; I really don't like them too much! I mean it sounds good and noble but it's too much, too big.  These words make me uncomfortable; for Jesus is stating that we, me and you are to be salt for the earth and light of the world.  Ummm, those are big places and big responsibilities and frankly, this instruction scares me.  How? How? How?

2.  And next, what if I don't have any salt left?  What if my saltiness has been watered down, what if I've lost the savory self He created?  What if my light has been dimmed? What if my light is more like a weak night-light?

I acknowledge that my life has been easy and privileged; however, my life has also been painful and disappointing at times.  There have been times of shame, failure and great humiliation.  Images fill my memory of "you're not enough, you've lost your way, just quit and end the embarrassment."  My salt has lost it's saltiness and my light has become a flicker.

But here, we read these striking words of 'you are the salt and you are the light.'  Don't we have enough pressure to just get through life holding on to our Christian beliefs, to live as He would live, to teach our children His words?  Why oh why, does he add the task of 'the earth' and 'the world' to my list of life.

Perhaps, I'm asking the wrong questions....again!!!

I notice that Jesus' words about salt and light follow reassuring words from Him:

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . .

Could He be saying....? Yes, you are going to hurt and be harmed.  Evil things will happen.  But...Rejoice and be glad and be salt and light.  For it's in these hard times that I will 're-salt' you; or it is in these hard times that you find the healing properties of salt and light.  So, take your hurt life, unsavory, flickering life and offer even that.

He's not asking me or you to be the entire Salt Shaker for the entire earth or the Light to whole world!  Thank God, He's already in that role!!!  But he is asking me to take my one and only little, wounded life and offer a pinch of salt to someone else who is hurting in the same way.  Or He is asking me to take my flickering night-light into someone else's dark home and heart and just plug in for a time.  Over and over I try to become my own solution to life's problems.  I try to become my own savior as if, I know best.  Its in those times that I try to take on the whole world in my way and in my time when that has never been His request of me.

Just a pinch of salt goes a long way.  A night-light can fill an entire room.


20 May, 2017

Follow Me

The slow-down of summer is before us.  In my youth, I can well remember languid summer days.  I would wake up after my parents had left for work and eagerly anticipate a day of friends, food and pool time.  Unfortunately, there were days that a 'to do' list was awaiting me and that was not to my liking.  Wash, vacuum, dust, help with dinner, practice the piano, etc.  Ugh, I wanted a totally free existence; one where I could follow my every whim.  I guess I'm saying I wanted to follow me.   Yes, certainly, that is it.  I wanted to follow my whims, my ideas and my desires.  I, in no way, wanted to follow my mom and her instructions for those summer months.

Here I find myself entering another series of summer months many years later.  There is a part of me that looks to long, lazy summer days in which I follow only my whims.  But a stronger part of me has decided to create a different summer.  I've decided to intentionally write this summer.  Every two weeks, I will write based on the book of Matthew.  Not just when I feel a whim but an intentional effort to follow the Me mentioned in Matthew 4.  Will you intentionally walk with me this summer?

     "As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. " Matthew 4:18-22
I want to ponder of few of the phrases in this story of early Christ-followers.  I'm perplexed and amazed and I'm fairly certain that I would have not followed Jesus that day. 

•Fishing - It was their regular work. 
•Jesus said to them, Follow me.  I'll make a new kind of fisherman out of you.  I'll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.
•They didn't ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.
•They were quick to follow..."immediately"
•Abandoning boat and father

It was a regular work day; these guys were doing their everyday tasks as Jesus, previously unknown to them, walks up and puts a call on their lives.  Follow Me.  Henri Nouwen* offers this insight, "One of his [Jesus] first steps is to call disciples to follow him and share in his ministry.  Then Jesus goes up onto the mountain, gathers his disciples around him, and says: "How blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness."  These words present a portrait of the child of God.  It is a self-portrait of Jesus, the Beloved Son.  It is also a portrait of me as I must be."

I've always wondered what it REALLY means to follow Him.  Of course, there are simple and obvious answers that speak to our salvation.  But to those fisherman that day surely, they wondered 'follow you, where?'.  After asking no questions and leaving all they had ever known...surely.

Is this story from Matthew really any different from our lives? Those of us who have previously encountered Jesus have had this very opportunity.  But....I seem to be stuck in my workplace, i.e. still fishing for perch and bass or tending a net when the call has been long since uttered and His call is so much greater.  And as Nouwen speculates maybe Follow Me means so much more than I've dared considered.  
Follow Me and let me teach you how to be poor
Follow Me and let me teach your harsh, unloving heart to be gentle
Follow Me and let me teach you how to hunger and thirst for uprightness
Follow Me and let me teach you mercy
Follow Me and let me help you grow into a pure heart
Follow Me and let me transform you into a peacemaker

What would it mean in my life to walk away from the work I know, the everyday life I live and Follow Him?  Would others receive more of His love?  Would others come to know Him?  How would my life be different?  What if I follow and allow Him to change me into a poor, gentle person? A person hungering and thirsting for uprightness, a person of mercy and a pure heart, a peacemaker....what if?  What if following Him in this deep, life changing way leads to greater fulfillment, greater purpose, greater Joy?

And for those of you reading who have never chosen to Follow this Jesus...think about His offer.  It's so simple yet so brilliant and complete.  Follow Me and I will fulfill all that you've been searching for, all the questions you've asked, all the emptiness that never gets filled.  Leave your nets...Follow.

*The Return of the Prodigal Son, p. 54

16 April, 2017

Monday's Choice

Cross posted from Fortyfaithful.blogspot.com

The big day has come and gone.  Baby chicks, Easter eggs, chocolate, and the Easter festivities have once again passed.  It's on to graduations, vacations and summer days.  The 40 days of Lent are over and Easter is over, isn't it?  Are you different this Monday after Easter Sunday?

This next thought may shock some of you but I've often speculated that the formal church is too focused on the cross of Christ. That's a disturbing sentence, I know, but hear me out!  In our Christian culture, we are taught early in life about Jesus and his work on the cross.  His beautiful and complete grace that covers our sin and selfishness and gives those who believe in Him eternal life.  That is a Truth; for without His death we would be without hope, without life.  However...

...is that where many of us stop?  Do we stop our lives at Jesus' death on the cross?  Oh, we celebrate Easter Sunday in our finery and with our families but can we say we're living Easter on Monday?

Could it be that we are living only half of the Good News?  We call Friday of Holy week...Good Friday as it was good for us that Jesus gave His life so that we may live today and forever.  But I contend that we are stuck on Good Friday.  We are stuck in the pain and anguish of our own lives.  We know what happened on Easter Sunday in Jesus' life but for some reason we have chosen to remain in a 'Friday' lifestyle.  WHAT?

As Christ followers, we are invited to have our own Good Friday where our problems and our pain are put to death.  And, then experience an Easter Sunday in which we receive new life!  But we tend to stay in Friday and our pain from this world consumes our entire attention span.  And life does hurt.  It's hurts so badly to be rejected.  It hurts so badly to lose people to death, particularly death that is violent and random.  It hurts to see sickness and addiction in those we love.  It hurts to have no one to love or to be loved by no one.  It hurts to be lonely and isolated.  We have forgotten what Sunday offers us and our pain!
...they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen! Luke 24:2-6
He is not here!  He has risen.  That is the message the Bible teaches and that is the life we are offered...a way of real life and Joy in our Monday world.  Jesus' message was certainly one of redemption and salvation and life eternal.  AND, it was also a message of Joy, of overcoming, of living life to the fullest in the midst of earthly pain.  We say we love Him and believe in this message but are we living it?  Are we looking for the dead among the living?  Do I keep looking at my dead pain instead of looking at my alive Joy?  Easter is the day to celebrate that He has overcome our pain and loss.  And, Easter is also the day to wake up and live life to the fullest. Yes, there is pain in our world but He has overcome this pain.

This is the Monday choice.  No one can do this for me.  I can stay tied up in my Good Friday pain, hurt, disappointments and insecurity.  Or I can choose a new way....a way of living life to the fullest.  Choosing an Easter Monday does not mean that I forget my pain; it simply means I choose Jesus over my pain.  I choose to let Him use that pain so that I may help others.  I choose to let Him use that pain to grow me into who He dreamed.

Hallelujah, He is not among the dead.  He is alive!  Are we brave enough to let go of our 'identity of pain' and choose the Joy He offers.  He HAS overcome the world.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

09 April, 2017

Today, I am Hungry - 6th Sunday in Lent

Cross posted from Fortyfaithful.blogspot.com
Kale, Left-over fried chicken, coconut and Greek olives...you have 30 minutes to turn this into a wonderful entree for our judges.  Time starts NOW.  This is the Chopped kitchen which airs on the Food Network.  I'm obsessed with this show.  I love to cook and I look to eat and I love watching the chefs try and make something delicious out of ridiculous ingredients.

There are dozens of cooking shows on TV that teach us about new techniques and new foods as though we've become bored with our everyday food.  We don't just want daily food anymore, we want new food, something different, less calories/fat/sugar, etc.  Yes, more please.  Food is not just a daily necessity for us; it has become a hobby.  It's a planned event and for some it's a beautiful memory of home, family and a time of connection.  But today, I don't want to go down memory lane (I could...easily...because no one cooked like my mama and I miss her and her kitchen).  

But today, my thoughts lead me down a less traveled path. 

Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11)....
And this further Word,

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:25-26)

I find it interesting that these two verses are found in the same chapter of the Bible.  They are found in Jesus' teaching after being asked the question, 'teach us to pray'.  He answers this one question with a long teaching session that covers many life issues.  But what we are focused on today is unique to me. I'm focused on these three phrases...Give us this day our daily bread...is not life more than food...look at the birds they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and YET your heavenly Father feeds them.

Have we forgotten this simple message?  Are we so obsessed with new, different and more? Do we really believe He can and will care for us as he does the birds?  Honestly, I'm a little more comfortable knowing I have money in the bank for food tomorrow and a savings account just in case my world turns upside down.  And as Scott mentioned, perhaps we've begun to believe that we are the ones providing ourselves with our food.  It's our hard work, our accomplishments and our paychecks that provide today and tomorrow's food for our tables.  
So who am I relying on?  It feels like the answer is 'me'.  And oh, how I hate that thought.  Please Lord, give us what we need not what we want.  Isn't that what 'daily bread' means?  In our fear and insecurity, do we strive for more and more....just in case tomorrow is a disaster?  I know me.  I know I am not enough and never will be enough.  However, my soul knows the truth...there is only one Gardener who provides and through the words 'daily bread' he's teaching us to trust only in Him for today's food, shelter and life.

I contend that as much food as we have in the world, many of us are still hungry and I don't mean those who are in the world and truly starving.  I mean those of us comfortable in our homes with full refrigerators and full everything else.

Proverbs offered an interesting word to me recently.  It reads like this:
“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’" Proverbs 30:7-9a

So, could 'Give us this day our daily bread', truly mean:  Lord, give me only what I need in this day otherwise, I may have too much and disown you...Otherwise, I may have too much and say 'Who is the Lord'?

In our North American wealth, has this happened to us?  Has this happened in you?  And yes, has this happened in me?  When I pray, give us this day our daily bread, I pray it is only enough to sustain me for fear that my selfishness will lead me to forget who HE is....my only provider, my only life source, my one and only, Bread of Life.

one day
one bird
one basket
one fish
one loaf
one prayer
one Lord
one pilgrim
one journey

more than enough
more than I can imagine
more than I expected
more than I can fathom
more than I hoped
more than others
more than most
more in one day

I need
I admit
I submit
I acknowledge
I thirst
I hunger 

Just today: I come, I bow, I ask, I eat, I'm filled
Tomorrow will care for itself
One bird, one life, one day

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