26 March, 2016

Hallelujah Chorus

Another Easter Sunday is here!  Hallelujah, He is risen!  We have hope and a future!  As I sit here this morning, I'm having to force myself to stay in this moment and repeat the words, Hallelujah He is risen.  For in my life this Easter weekend there is much beautiful distraction...my family is in town, there are pictures to be made, food to be cooked, stories to be told, laughter to consume me, dresses and shirts to iron and dishes to wash.  These beautiful distractions of life give me great pleasure and joy but as this Easter Day wears on I can sense that the chorus of Hallelujah may become more faint.  Let it not be so, Lord.

The story of Easter morning from Luke 24 is one I never tire of reading.  There is so much drama and joy and unexpectedness.  The women walking to the tomb to anoint His body with spices and perfumes, the stone rolled away, the shock, the two men in clothes that gleamed like lightening, the women returning to the disciples to share the shock of their discovery, Peter racing back to see for himself.  And on the same day, two friends walking to Emmaus have an encounter, "were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"Luke 24:32
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.  And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:33-45
We can well imagine how exciting and disturbing all these happenings had to have been for these men and women. For the last three years, their lives had been dedicated to this Teacher.  And inasmuch as they traveled with Him, listened to Him and saw His miracles, the reality seemed to become too, too much to believe on that morning of all mornings.  Doubts, discussions, fear, joy and amazement were all words used to describe their emotions.  I wonder if the disciples were simply in information overload or in shock!  It had to be mind-blowing for them.  As they were discussing the events surely their thoughts ran to what do we do next?  What do we do now?  What will happen next?  And beautifully enough, the Savior then appears before them to instruct and guide them to open their minds so that they could understand the next step, the next hour, the next day.

These words from the scripture also describe my emotions.  I've experienced Easter morning.  It is a time of joy and amazement.  Hallelujah, Christ is born!  But now, right now the big event is over.  The Easter service is over, the Easter Bunny has appeared and lunch is finished.  I see tail-lights looking back at me...now its just me.....and I realize that all I really want is to go back and listen for the Hallelujah chorus.  I want to experience Easter like the disciples.  It was so healing for them to discuss all that they had seen and witnessed.  It was spiritually healthy for them to question and wonder and ponder the events of the day.  They were vulnerable enough with each other to talk about the hard issues of the day.  Can't we do the same?  Have we looked at Easter, I mean, really looked at it?  And asked what is next in my life?  What is my next step?  What do I do with this Easter news? Do I treat today as just another beautiful Sunday or do I let it change me?  Does this Easter Day become Easter living?  Is today the day I let go of my pain, my heartache and accept, finally accept His work on my behalf?   And because of that work....finally accept His unconditional love, joy and peace?  For it is the very work of His cross that gives me hope.  Doesn't my heart burn within me when I completely let Him have all of me?

For today and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow....don't let the Hallelujah fade from my mind and heart, Lord.  Let me live and shout it over and over again to those who have yet to learn the words.

P.S. Personal note: Happy Birthday Mama!  

19 March, 2016

Let's Go To A Parade!

When I was a little girl one of the great joys of Thanksgiving morning was watching the Macy's Day Parade.  I can remember waking up and immediately running to tune in and watch it with my parents (on one our three tv channels)!  I watched the dancing, the crazy balloons, the characters of all sorts! Of course, at the same time there was cooking to be done so we watched and cooked and prepared for the big family celebration to come.  But always, always the kitchen action stopped as the parade neared its end for we all had anticipated the main event...Santa Claus!  As a little girl it thrilled me to see him arrive for it meant that soon, very soon Christmas was coming.  And for a child there was no greater joy.

I've realized that after being in the desert of Lent for 40 days I am ready for a parade!  And, it strikes me that we have that opportunity this week.  This parade also has a great cast of characters and it too has a main event at its end.  Shall we take a peek at this historic parade?  We can certainly read the story and pull important facts from it but instead I suggest we find ourselves in it!  I know God gave us His word to teach us, certainly.  But I also believe that the Word is living which means I am to live inside it.  I am to do more than READ the words, I am to find myself WITHIN the words for that is when and where my own transformation will come.  And yes, I really want to be transformed to be more like Him.

So, shall we go find ourselves?  Want to go to a parade?
As he [Jesus] approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:28-48
There is quite a cast of characters here.  I know that on any given day I could be anyone one of these people or on really crazy days I may become all of them!  Oh my!
But, in THIS week, this holy week with which of these people do I have kinship?  Which of these characters do I hope to become in God's transformation of me?

•those who GO...go to the village...you will find a colt...bring it...the Lord needs it
•ShirtOffMyBack...those who give their closest possessions to honor Him
•Expressive...those who sing loudly...Hallelujah!
•Pillars...those who are the most studied and knowledgeable, visible church goers, following a God of rules and truly believing they know best
•StoneAgers...those who cry out from a lowly, dusty place

As I look at this list, I confess to you that it scares me because I can relate to all the cast but am concerned that my life only lives one...as a pillar.  I get so stuck in my head, my rules, my way, my understanding that I miss the real event.  I miss the Who.  For truly, the King rides in at the end of the parade.

Also, I desire to be a Goer but usually stop myself from selling out totally.  It scares me to go into situations where I'm uncomfortable.  I also desire to be the ShirtOffMyBack but like my own comforts too. What if I give more and then don't have enough for me? The Expressive makes me smile for I love praise music and I love to sing in my car!  But when life gets tough the music of Hallelujah fades from my mouth.  The Pillars...more often that I care to admit...are me.  But my desire, my true, so excited heart's desire is to be a StoneAger!  I want to cry out from my little place in the world.  I want the dust around me to kick up as I shout and cry out for Him..."even if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

This Holy week parade is a glorious one!  Don't miss out!  Find yourself in this cast and don't be afraid to really look closely at your life - it's why we were in the desert 40 days.  We've got to keep looking for ourselves IN HIM so that He can transform our character! The parade is about to start!

12 March, 2016

Are We There Yet?

Do you take long road trips?  There is really nothing quite like a road trip.  It offers us great opportunity to see the countryside and all sorts of local sites.  It also is quite an opportunity for family bonding or something like bonding!  I can remember long ago road trips with my parents.  My mama's family is from Thomasville, Georgia and we would take an annual trip to visit.  Now living in Jackson, Mississippi this created a nice long drive for our family.  For years, we stopped at the same restaurant for breakfast as my dad insisted we leave before sunrise.  I still remember it after 40 years; you could play the jukebox from your booth!  This was a very high-tech situation!  And I remember my sister losing her shoes because either she or our brother threw them out the window at some point on the trip - this was not a happy outcome.  But I REALLY remember that my daddy would smoke his pipe while we were driving along...."it's OK," he would say.  "My window is cracked [slightly open] so the smoke is flowing right out."  Ummm, not so much.  But the repeating words from my childhood days and those from my own children were always, "Are we there yet?"  Over and over, Are we there yet?

This Lent season I feel those words forming, "Are we there yet, Lord?"  Am I learning what you have for me during these 40 days?  When will this period be over?  I want to hurry the process.  But as we all know...many situations will not be hurried.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”Luke 4:1-3
At the end of forty days of temptation we read of an exchange between Jesus and the devil.  The Bible says that Jesus was tempted for forty days but yet we only read of three specific temptations.  Could it be that these three temptations represent all temptation in our lives? The first temptation we read about is the temptation of basic need.  In this reading, Jesus was tempted with bread. After forty days with no food, He had to have been so very hungry.  But yet, He knew there was more to living than bread itself.

I have come to believe that the mention of bread in these verses may represent more than physical food.  Is it possible that Jesus was referring to the physical needs and wants of our lives?  This 'bread' may include all those basic things I need to survive...food, water, shelter...for without these I quickly come to the end of myself.  True, but in fact, for we humans the basics of life have become more than basic.  My basic need to survive has been redefined and now includes abundance, more, more and more.  Do I stop at what I need or do I keep going to what I want and desire?  Are my wants out-living my true needs?

Jesus must have been starving, literally starving.  And yet, he refused to eat.  For He knew, 'man shall not live on bread alone.'  There is so much more to real living.  Many of us are not starving physically this Lent.  But are we starving spiritually when we don't even know it?  Is that our place of temptation?  Is there a place of great abundance in me that hides the place of great starvation?  Do we find ourselves in a place of plenty and still wanting more?  Do we try to live on bread alone?

C. S. Lewis offers us this word from Mere Christianity:
"The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self: all your wishes and precautions, to Christ.  But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead.  For what we are trying to do is to remain 'ourselves,' to keep personal happiness our great aim, and yet at the same time to be 'good.' We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way: centered on money or pleasure or ambition, and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly.  And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do."
So let's do a new thing.  Let's trust that what Jesus says is true. God wants to do a new thing in us.  Look for it, see it!  He is making a way for us through the desert and providing streams for us.

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:18-19

We cannot live by the bread of our plenty!  And until we realize this simple but great truth we will continuously and agonizingly be asking, "Are we there yet?"

06 March, 2016

Dear Diary: Real Life

(Cross post from Forthfaithful.blogspot.com)
Dear Diary: today finds me at my favorite place...the beach.  Yes, I am at the water and thank you for meeting me here.  I'm bundled up and sitting in my beach chair.  The wind is whistling about and rustling my papers, tangling my hair and it is glorious.  The beach is empty except for me and my guy.  The waves are unceasing but the water is calm.  It is 68ยบ with nary a cloud in sight. And I feel tears rolling down my cheeks.  I am so joyful in this place. It is the place of creation... where water meets land in a divine way.  It is His place and He's let it be a part of my spirit.  

I am pondering Lent today.  We have walked a Lent journey for 4 weeks.  I'm wondering what I have learned.  Has anything changed in me?  Has what I "gave up for Lent" made a difference in my life?  Has it drawn me closer to knowing God?  And honestly, I'm a bit tired of writing in metaphor, reading the Bible in metaphor and hearing from God in metaphor.  I want real words and advice.  I want real steps to knowing this King.  Or so I think.  But really....can I handle the real words?...the Truth.  The truth of who I really am?
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  
(Luke 15 selected verses)
Perhaps the young son wanted REAL LIFE too.  Perhaps his father's words to him became mundane and metaphorical.  Perhaps he left home to find life on his own terms.  Perhaps his brother stayed to live by the rules and expectations.  Perhaps this brother was also seeking to find REAL LIFE.  Perhaps they too felt they needed real words and real actions to live life fully.  And that's exactly what the Father gave them.  Gives us.  Freedom to ask questions and seek Him.  For I too have left and gone into the far country and tried to find my own way.  I've also stayed home and become bitter and judgmental and jealous.  Aren't we all both of the sons in some ways and on some days??

Could Lent be the time in our lives that God runs off the porch to welcome us home and assure us of our place with Him?  Could it be the time that He endorses our journey, whatever it has been, and welcomes us home.  Could it be the time He says, Oh Kathy, all I have is yours.  Could it be the time that I must come to the end of myself and declare from the broken place of reality that I have only ONE home.  In this Lent season, not metaphorically but in reality, He is running off the porch to welcome us home.

Let the soul which God has breathed into us breathe after him; and let it be for him since it is from him.  Into his hands let us commit our spirits, for from his hands we had them.
(Matthew Henry)

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