17 June, 2018

Happy Father's Day Indeed

Father's Day is today...oops, I forgot my husband, who is a father!  And, I almost forgot my son who is also a father!  I just have a hard time thinking about anything on Father's Day except my father!  Jack L. Loftin was his name and he left earth on June 27, 2008.  Wow, almost exactly 10 years ago.  How can that be possible?  (Hey Daddy, Happy Father's Day today!  I hope every day is Father's Day for you now...how could heaven not be?)

This has been a normal Sunday for me and Ray...early church, boating on the lake, a lite lunch, reading...but my distracted 60-year-old brain has been on my Father.  And I'm sorry but not on Jack L. Lofting but on my heavenly Father.  God.

Ray shared a small reading today that stated that all little girls seek love and attention from their fathers and that many women in our world today are still seeking that fatherly approval.  For the reality is not all of us had great dads.  We had stressed dads, workaholic dads, busy dads, unhappy dads, dads seeking their own father's love.  For some we never even knew our dads...but yet we yearn for that 'father' love, that father approval, that father acceptance.  Is it possible to be yearning for that type of father and at the same time not recognize that HE is indeed present.  He's here?

I know that for me that when life gets rough, I feel a bit lost.  Yes, I know I have a father.
I know that when I'm discouraged and confused, I get depressed and hopeless.  Yes, I know I have a father.
I know that when I get hurt by words and actions of other people, I turn inward as though there is an answer inside my little head.  Yes, I know I have a father.
I know that when life just sucks (sorry friends), I get bitter and angry and cry and cry.  Yes, I know I have a father.
I know that when my spirit feels broken in half, I go into my shell.  Yes, I know I have a father.
I know that when I wander off and try to find my own way, I fail and my self runs out.  Yes, I know I have a father.

Who is this Father?
He seeks me out when I'm lost.
He goes to the ends of the earth to find me, the one, even though he has 99 others.
He runs out to meet me when he sees me in the distance.
He encourages me to come into His party and assume my place as His daughter.
He heals my broken-heartedness, He binds me.
He know the plans He has for me, offering me a future and hope.
He hears the hurtful words and the rejection and takes it on Himself.
He offers me what I long for: acceptance, love, the pride of a father.

He's watching for us to come into sight.  Happy Father's Day indeed.

01 April, 2018

And then...Monday

Easter Sunday came and went.  Today is Monday and real life begins again.  The bunnies...all gone.  The chocolate...all gone (except what I need for daily sustenance!).  The food is all eaten, the company, thankfully, have gone and here I am...Monday.  He came, He rose, we celebrated...and it's Monday.  Life moves on and most days are routine, some hard and some unexpected.  Situations, family hurts, stress, life and death, disappointment, fear...it's Monday.  Oh yes, Easter Sunday just happened and am I living my Monday differently?  I believe He lived and rose from the dead but Monday still came. And I'm trying to figure out how to sing and live the Hallelujah chorus today...with no choir, no worship leader, just me and my little, bitty life.  How does Easter change me?  How should it change me?
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-29
Did you read those words?  Read them again.
In one last statement, Jesus spoke, "I am thirsty."  And then quite quickly, "It is finished."  Then He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

That is my Monday to-do list.  I'm going to follow Jesus' lead.
I am thirsty, Jesus said.  What do I admit after the exhilaration and exhaustion of living life?  Admit that I am still thirsty.  I'm thirsty for joy.  I am thirsty for peace.  I'm thirsty for healing and for God to 'make it right'. I'm thirsty for my future.  I'm thirsty for continued blessing.  I'm thirsty for Him to answer my prayers.  How would you complete this sentence?  I am thirsty for ________________.

On that cross, Jesus came to the end of His earthly self...maybe that last statement of 'I am thirsty' represents all we know as human need.  Maybe he was giving us the pattern for life.  Maybe the cross represents us coming to the end of ourselves, our struggle, our effort, our ability.  And once we find ourselves in that place of great thirst and great need, we can then and ONLY then realize the truth in His next words, "It is finished".  When I come to end of myself...I find this Christ.

I'm thirsty for joy.  I'm here, it is finished.  I am thirsty for peace.  I'm here, it is finished.  I'm thirsty for healing and for God to make things right.  I'm here, it is finished.  I'm thirsty for my future.  I'm here, it is finished.  I'm thirsty for continued blessing.  I'm here, it is finished.  I'm thirsty for Him to answer my prayers.  I'm here, it is finished

My Monday must reflect the truth found in, "It is finished".  For why else do we celebrate Easter?  It is finished that He came to earth to find us, love us and restore us.  It is finished that He has returned to the Father but let a part of Himself stay within us.  It is finished that today, this very Monday, we have the same power within us that raised Jesus from the dead.  It is finished that today He lives inside you.  So, whatever Monday brings, it is finished.

Years ago, I took my then 5-year-old daughter to a park in Corpus Christi, Texas.  In south Texas, there are no tall trees; therefore, you can see from horizon to horizon.  On this day, we were lying on a blanket and looking up at the clouds make believing the shapes of all sorts of animals and such.  As we kept, looking suddenly Sarah said, “look mama, a hand.”  And indeed, there was a cloud that looked exactly like an upturned palm – a hand extended.  This sweet girl said, “I think it’s God’s hand, look how big it is!”

We stayed a little while longer but were gathering up to leave when we also noticed a rainbow in the far horizon.  Of course, we were thrilled as we counted and named all the colors we could see.  It was quite a day for a mother’s heart.

That night at bedtime, I was tucking Sarah in and we begin to say our prayers.  I first prayed and thanked God for our day, and the clouds and the rainbow.  Then Sarah prayed….and changed my world.  “Dear God, thank you for today with my mama.  Thank you for showing us your hand in the clouds and mostly, God, thank you for giving us eyes to see rainbows”.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realmsEphesians 1:18-20

15 March, 2018

Is My Cup a Sippy Cup?

Cross-posted from Fortyfaithful.blogspot.com
In Genesis 40, we find Joseph in prison.  And as the story evolves,
we meet two new characters, the chief cupbearer and
the chief baker.  Both of whom had offended the king of Egypt and he in turn had put them in prison.  This is when they fell under the care of Joseph.  One night each of them had a dream.  They told their dreams to Joseph and he interpreted the dreams.  Joseph told the cupbearer that he would soon be let out of jail.  "But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of prison"  Joseph said. Genesis 40:14   The chief cupbearer; however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. Genesis 40:23

I don't blame the chief cupbearer, we all forget things and people who have influenced our lives.  He wanted to be restored and was eager to regain his duties.  He was a servant to the king and aspired to serve.  According to this story, his specific role was to "put Pharaoh's cup in his hand," and we certainly all want and need our cups in our hands.  Perhaps this was a specific historical occupation of which we're unfamiliar!  But, I daresay the cup of the king was important.  It was so important that a position was created just for the care of this cup.

Interestingly, hundreds of years later, we find Jesus also wanted to discuss the cup of our lives.  And maybe this is our cup for this week of Lent.
Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons [James and John] and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 
“What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” 
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” 
“We can,” they answered.  Matthew 20:20-22
What does this mean?  What is the implication of Jesus' question, "can you drink the cup I am going to drink?"  In the disciples zealousness they quickly answered, YES.  But...how easy is it to drink the same cup Jesus drank?

Several years ago, Henri Nouwen wrote a beautiful book entitled, Can you Drink the Cup?   Nouwen wrote that the cup that Jesus speaks about is a symbol of life, filled with sorrows and joys that we can hold, lift, and drink as a blessing and a way to salvation.  "Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?" Jesus asks us.   It is the question that will have a different meaning every day of our lives.  Can we embrace fully the sorrows and joys that come to us day after day?  At one moment it might seem so easy to drink the cup, and we give a quick yes to Jesus' question.  Shortly afterwards everything might look and feel quite different, and our whole being might cry out, "No, never!"  We have to let the yes and the no both speak in us so that we can come to know ever more deeply the enormous challenge of Jesus' question. Henri Nouwen, Can you Drink the Cup?

This question from the mother of James and John was one of hope.  She hoped her sons would achieve success which is the heart of every mom.  She didn't realize the full extent of her request.  But the more James, John and you and me learn about Jesus, we learn about being a servant instead of a master.  We learn to love when we'd like to hate.  We learn to seek last place instead of first place.  We learn that drinking His cup is hard.  We learn that being the cupbearer is not important for our own accomplishments but is only important in service to the King.

Years ago, we gathered in Rockport, Texas for a couples weekend and retreat.  The book we studied that weekend was, Can you Drink the Cup? by Nouwen.  We had fun all weekend and had some good talks about our cups.  The final question that Sunday was, "What type of cup do you hold in your life?"

Is it an old cup filled with old, old ways and memories?  Is a cup of newness as you seek all the new ways of our God?  Is it a chipped cup?  Is your cup cracked?  Is it missing a handle?  Is your cup overflowing to others in your life?  Is your cup faded as your life journey has been oh, so long?  We went around the small circle of ten sharing our answers.  And then it was a father's turn to speak.  He and his wife had the youngest children in the group.  This man of God was quiet and reserved most of his comments.  But on this day his answer rattled me...he said, "my cup is a sippy cup.  I can only dare to take small sips as a really big drink would scare me.  And I'm not sure I'm ready for what that would mean."

I agree, my friend.  Often times, I prefer to not even take a drink or at the very most to use a sippy cup.  It's safe.  But He offers us so much more...do we dare to drink?

What type of cup are you holding in your life?

04 March, 2018

Do you love me too?

Crossposted from forth faithful.blogspot.com
 The morning was sunny.  It was early and time for coffee.  The mom lazily walked to the kitchen to begin the breakfast process for her family and guests.  In just a few minutes, her husband joined her.  They bantered softly as to not wake the house.  Soon thereafter, footfalls were heard and their son joined them in the coffee quest.  This son, this broken, recovered son of addiction.  The mom still found herself amazed at his recovery and early morning risings.  She also held secret questions about how it all happened, how it all went wrong for him, how his childhood could have been better.  She had new questions too, but they were far too painful to ask so she simply chose to love.  But on this day, God had other plans.  In the quiet of the kitchen, as the son was casually conversing he asked the parents, "I've been wondering about something.  Is there any thing you'd like to ask me?  Is there any issue you've wanted to share?"  The mom suddenly felt the pull of tears and a lump in her throat.  She suddenly realized that the deep question must now be asked.  With stumbling words and multiple pauses, she asked, "Through all your life, with your struggles, even as a little boy, did you ever feel we loved your sister the most?  Did you ever feel we loved her more than you?"  Tears streamed down her face and her son looked directly into her eyes.

We find Joseph in a similar scene.  
So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
“Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.
So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?  Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
The brother's heart's hurt with the pain of not being loved the most, the best, or equally.  In this reading we watch as the brother's hurt hearts take over their brains and actions.  We experience the plotting, the passive-aggressive natures, the jealousy, their desire to be loved ultimately by their father.  And in this reading, I find myself and I find humankind.  For each us is striving to be seen, be heard, be appreciated, be loved.  Aren't we?  

And, I see Jesus.  For He too had a similar journey.  He was sharing Truth as the Son of God.  People didn't want to hear His message.  It made the Pharisees insecure...for if Jesus was the ultimate authority, who were they?  The people would see through their frailty and therefore, their insecurities began to grow.  And they continued to grow, as did fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of not being recognized.  And those emotions festered.  And suddenly, a plot began.  Questions were pondered... how can we trip up this Teacher? How can we prove we're of value?  They decided to lock him up (similar to Joseph's cistern) and teach him a lesson.  They did.  But it was Jesus who taught the final lesson.

Why are we so afraid?  Why are we so fearful?  Why are we jealous of other's success?  Why do we want what others have?  Do we not know that we are loved completely too!  Joseph's brothers were so focused on themselves, as were the Pharisees, that they turned inward and listened to their damaged emotions.  And acted on their damaged, hurt hearts and minds.  

In this Lent season of inward examination, we ask, Lord, do you love me too?  Look directly into His eyes, He's given His ultimate answer.  And it's, yes, yes and yes.  Now, He's asking me...and you, "Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? (John 21).  Lent is certainly a time for inward exploration but it must always lead to outward action.  Outward action in love for only Him.  Let's stop doubting and questioning His love for us and take what He has given us into our work, schools, coffee shops, our very lives.

"Through all your life, with your struggles, even as a little boy, did you ever feel we loved your sister the most?  Did you ever feel we loved her more than you?"  Tears streamed down her face and her son looked directly into her eyes. "No, mama.  Not one time did I ever feel that, never.  I always knew you loved me completely."

17 February, 2018



Just as we set aside time to prepare for Christmas Day, it makes sense to set aside time to prepare for Easter....hello, Lent.  Think of all the Christmas preparations for the birth of Jesus; during these days we are preparing for the end of His early life and the birth of His eternal life.  These forty days give us time to shop our hearts and minds, ponder our lists with our names at the top, and choose the perfect gift for Him on Easter morning.  That gift is each of us...a more extensive us.  More of our minds and our hearts and our hands and feet.  How do we get there?  How do we explore deeply in order to offer ourselves more fully?  I honestly don't know.  But I believe the Old Testament story of Joseph will help teach us.

Many scholars believe that the life of Joseph closely connects with Jesus' life story.  In fact, it is practically impossible to examine Joseph's life and not see the similarities in the life of Jesus.  So who is Joseph?
     Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
     Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
     Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
     His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. Genesis 37:2-8
We learn a few facts pretty quickly:
•Joseph is a member of a very large family
•He is born into a mixed family, step-brothers and step-sisters probably
•His father had a favorite - him!
•He and his brothers did not get along very well - there was jealousy and anger
•Joseph had dreams...I believe big dreams

Ironically, through this story we can immediately recognize Jesus' family life too.  He was a member of a large family, he had brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3).  He was the favorite - the very favorite of his Father.  And the people He came to meet and teach, argued with him, accused Him, and certainly didn't accept Him.  Yet, Jesus had a dream, a vision, a hope.

This life template gives me encouragement.  I see similarities for my own journey.  Do you?  Think about it!  We all began our lives with people who were imperfect, who loved or didn't love on any given day.  Families are complicated, messy, emotional and mark our beginning.  These people loved us as best they knew how.  Some of us received extravagant family love, others received a broken, shallow type family unit.  All of us lived in complicated family units where there were 'favorites' and there was jealousy and anger.  But, there was laughter and love in abundance, too.  There were nicknames and special hugs.  There were some slammed doors and forgotten birthdays as well.  In my house, there was also dreaded silence.  Sometimes it was better than yelling.  It was family.  And it was beautiful.  And dreams were planted and dreams grew.  Because those dreams were planted by a bigger Father.

This Joseph/Jesus story tells me that we all start in the same condition.  We all start with 'F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E' engraved inside us.  And we all face difficult times.  But it's the gift and dream inside that we need to find.  It's that special word planted deeply that whispers and nudges.  This Lent of our lives is the chance to focus on the inside.  And let the dream come alive and breathe and claim us.

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