12 August, 2017

It's in the Go

On campus this week, the streets are filled and parking lots are overflowing.  Pillows, shoe racks, plastic containers, luggage, lamps, headboards and every other imaginable item are being moved into resident halls and apartments.  Parents follow their children around like professional movers.  It's a grueling task and as a mom who is past this stage in life it makes me joyful (that I'm done with this phase) and reflective.

I too, loaded up a car this week.  We're loaded with beach gear, baby gear, homemade pies, salsa and every other type of food one could imagine.  We are so full that we can barely fit ourselves in the car to drive!  We are beach-bound and on the way to spend a week with our kids.  It's a bit like the resident hall move-in.  For I have prepared every imaginable item we could possibly need.  I want my family to know I love them.  I want to prepare and over-prepare for all their favorite things.  It's my heart's desire to over-love these most dear to me.  Just like the college move-in date, I have anticipated this trip for weeks.  My husband has even been counting down the minutes via family text.  It's been our JOY to prepare and today it was time to GO.

The GO for a new semester and a long-anticipated trip are somewhat the same.  There is excitement.  There is some nervousness as we wonder how things will turn out.
Are we ready?
What have I forgotten?
Will we get along?
Will my college student make friends?
Will these college professors like my kid?
Will he succeed in the college world?

But, the excitement is palatable.  The air is alive with anticipation.  For it is in the GO that the excitement exists.  The GO is what makes our hearts beat fast, and feel giggly, and feel fresh and alive.  It's the GO that gives us purpose and a destination.

There was another group who experienced the nerves and excitement of GO.  This is what their leader told them:
"Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick.  Touch the untouchables.  You have been treated generously, so live generously.
Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light."

“When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way." 
And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words." Matthew 10:6-20 excerpts (The Message)

We were made to Go.  And we've got a Parent who has over-loved us and over-prepared us for what is ahead!  We were made to get out of driveways, our comfortable routines and our safe environments.  I believe we were made to pack up our cars and our lives with every good thing we've been given and find those who need those very items.  God hasn't asked me or you to share what we do not have.  He has only asked us to share what He's given us...all the things, gifts, abilities we have.  In these words from Matthew, Jesus is giving the men closest to Him quite a send-off!!  They are excited to Go.  He is excited to send them.
But, we often read these words from the Bible and are so thankful that we weren't part of these twelve men.  We seem relieved that we weren't asked to GO.  But we are asked!

The exiting part of life is that we DO get to pack up, plan every detail, bake pies, hang curtains, haul boxes and help those around us.  Every day someone is need of the same kind of love required to move into residence halls and to take a family vacation.  That's what God is asking of us.  Go to those in your world who need a touch, need a hand, need an ear.  He will provide all we need, every word we speak.  And it is the very best, most exhilarating experience for He is using us!  The God of the universe is using my pie!  He's using my hug!  He's using my time!  Oh, my goodness, let's GO!!!

29 July, 2017

Hall Light

Years ago, when we had small children bath time and bedtime became a ritual.  We would bathe our children and bundle them in towels to dry them off.  I can still remember that fresh, sweet child-scent and feel those soft, soft pajamas.  Often, bedtime included a last snack and reading a book together...or two.  For our Sarah, those moments also included a stuffed animal we creatively named 'puppy'.   So, after long days at work, Ray and I would each pair off with a child and go through this routine.  We then, after the reading would tuck them in and creep out of their rooms in great hope that there would not be one last request.  It seemed to me that just as I would get to my room to relax and do other mom things I would hear one last, sing-song voice...Hall light!  Ahh, yes, my little girl needed the hall light.  Even after the moments of snuggle, the tuck-in, the sweet prayers, the reassurance of love, the kiss.....Hall light would cry out.  She was scared and oh, the light!

We find a similar story in Matthew.  The guys are all tucked away in a boat, crossing the large lake.  These guys were professional fisherman and they knew the water, they knew the surroundings, they were comfortable in their place and in their abilities.  They had a guest with them that night and He was certainly comfortable, asleep in fact.  He was so very confident in the ability of the fisherman and the handling of the craft that He could sleep.  Do you remember the story?
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
 Matthew 8:23-27
He'd been with these guys for a while at this point.  They'd walked many roads together and lived with him and they'd seen many miracles and healings.  They were on an intimate journey with this man.  And, they had come to believe that this self-professed Christ was God and actually, they'd given their lives to that fact.  Yet on this night, the waves came and they came hard.  The boat shook and pitched and waves poured over the bow...fear arrived.  Jesus slept.

How could one sleep in such weather?  John Claypool, well-known and much-beloved theologian, suggests that perhaps, Jesus was confident in what these fishermen had inside of themselves.  Could it be that Jesus knew what was planted inside each of these men and trusted that they would rely on their innermost faith in Him being God.  How beautiful that in our belief in Him, that deposit has been made in each of us.  He knows what power is planted inside us.  But do we?  Or are we just like the fishermen?

They woke him, so very scared, crying out.  Help us, don't abandon us, don't leave us alone but save us!  We live this same type of experience many days of our lives, don't we?  Things happen, we lose jobs, we lose hope, we try and try but fail.  And we cry out; we cry out in our fear....our fear of, 'what now?  What will happen next?  What are my next steps?  How can I fix this?"
It's all fear....it's our crying out to a mother or father...Hall Light!!!

But fear will never have the last word.  So, continuing the story, Jesus woke and asked why they feared.  No answer came, it seems.  He then, calmly, stilled the sea.  At which the fishermen pondered, what kind of man is this?

I believe we often ask the same question, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"  Even after He has calmed the seas of our fearful hearts, we still cannot understand.  Do we need to redefine our definition of this God/Man?  Is it possible that our understanding of Him is askew?  Or, is it possible we have an understanding of Him but do not allow His true nature to govern our lives?

Isn't it true that upon our belief as Christ-followers, Jesus planted inside each of us trust and faith to rely on the fact that He is GOD. Isn't that what He pours into our hearts?  He is not one to lead us into harm or fear or pain.  Nor does he condemn or shake His finger at us.  He is ONLY Love, mercy, and grace.  He is only there to save us, calm us, comfort us and turn on our hall light.  And as He lives inside of each of us, we have His strength, His Oneness with God...we have Him.

Indeed, what kind of Man is this?

15 July, 2017

Say the Word

Today, I sit and stare at this computer screen.  I've made a commitment to write every two weeks this summer; however, the words seem to have stopped but I've been going and going.  A twelve-hour car ride, hotels, flights, new life starting, old life ending, going and going.  I have a really bad feeling that the God I say I love, serve and follow has been running to catch-up to me...I remind myself, He's leading...remember?  Invite Him on this summer journey...and sit back and follow.  I get so wrapped up in my next to-do that I often run ahead and run all day and then collapse into a heap of weariness.  That's where I've been the last few days.

But even so...there He stands waiting, urging, listening.  How can the God of the universe be so available?

"When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  Matthew 8:5-8

This Roman soldier came to the man named Jesus and immediately calls him LORD.  Was he a believer?  Did Jesus' reputation proceed Him as he entered this town?  In the soldier's great worry and busyness was He looking and expecting a savior?  Can I live in that manner? Today, I want to be looking and expecting my Savior to intersect my life and plans.

Their dialogue continues and almost immediately, the centurion is humbling himself, "I do not deserve to have you come under my roof".  How often do I act in the exact opposite manner?  I talk to my God, and act as though I deserve His favor or deserve that my prayers would be answered in my best judgement!  In those times, am I praying to God or to my Lord?  Isn't there a difference in these words?  A Chinese student once asked this very question, "Ms. Kathy, what is the meaning of the God and the Lord?  Are they the same meaning?"

I ask you today, in your life.  Do you seek and serve God or do you seek and serve your Lord?  Is there a difference?  I ponder that question today.

Then lastly, "say the word".  I love this phrase and I'll be using it in the coming days in my prayers.  Say the word, Lord and your will be done.  This soldier simply believed.  He took initiative and approached Jesus.  He named him the proper name, LORD; therefore, realizing his own humanity and need was humbled.  Humbled his own achievement and success to the One above all.

Say the word, Lord and help me follow you instead of following my busy summer to-to list.  Say the word, Lord so that I can hear your voice.

I want to approach you, acknowledge you and call you LORD.  I want to recognize my need and humble myself.  I want to trust you to heal all in my life so that I can live, say the word.

Am I expecting the Savior in my world today?  Just say the word, Lord and give me ears to hear.

01 July, 2017

Hide and Seek

As a little girl, I remember many games of Hide-and-Seek.  The goal was to hide well and not be found...at least not be the first one found!  I had a friend who hid SO well that there were times that she literally could not be found!  For most of us, we hid but we all were eventually found...that's what made it fun! We WANTED to be found. 

But, you know the person who is IT in Hide-and-Seek?  The person who has to find everyone?  I never liked being IT.  There was too much pressure to find everyone!  The IT must be tenacious when the seeking gets tough.  Weren't you always annoyed with the kid that gave up while you were in your hiding place?

And somehow, after we'd hidden so well and the seeker couldn't find us we'd then blame the seeker.  'You didn't look hard enough!  You gave up on me!  You got tired and quit!  I wasn't important enough for you to keep looking!'

Real life is so much like this children's game.  We like to hide but we want to be found.  And in some cases, we want to be found out.  For if we're found someone has cared enough to look, to seek for us.  Even when the hiding place is so good and so difficult to find...we cry out...'find me'.  What a paradox!

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you...Matthew 7:7-12

Let's look at three key words:

Ask - this implies an actual request...Speaking and then receiving.
Seek - this implies looking.  Eyes seek and eyes get opened to find.
Knock - is an action. Hands knock and doors open.

These three words are action words.  They do not lie dormant but they provide a path to real life healing and wholeness.  These three small actions allow me to communicate with the God of the universe in great honesty.  For nothing I will ever ask will be 'too much'.  He will never be surprised by what I seek or even where I'm looking.  He even knows I will knock on wrong doors again and again.  And, it is in these actions that I am able to actively grow and trust.

So even as these verses teach me the joy in 'seeking', I confess that most times, in this real game of Life Hide-and-Seek, I am one who is hiding.  Many times I don't actively seek because I'm fearful of answers and hiding seems easier.  So hide I do and I can hide really well!

You remember, the 'it' in Hide-and-Seek?   I can still hear kids screaming, "He's it....watch out Kathy!  He's going to see you....He's it"!!  Well, yes indeed, He's IT.... the true IT in this life game is only God.  He is the Seeker.  He is our pursuer.  He is the One who is tenaciously searching for our hiding places.  He asks us to be found, He seeks us out, He knocks and knocks.  He has modeled these three action words for us.  For when I let myself be found by Him the stress in my life somehow dissolves, the worries cease, the laughter flows and Joy floods in.

Lastly, I have to understand the personality of the One I seek and Who is seeking me.  My definition of Him must be correct and clear.  For any distortion creates a god that is just like me...imperfect, unholy, flawed, damaged and deeply lost.  The One who seeks for us is thoroughly unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness.

Often times our thoughts have been wrong about the Seeker.  He will not give us stone when we ask for bread.  He will not give us a snake when we ask for fish.  He is not some wizard behind a curtain toying with us.  
Let's not put our human personalities and frailties on Him.  He is the King that left His throne to
come engage in our Hide-and-Seek.  He will NEVER stop looking for us.  He will never fail to hear our asks, lead our seeking and answer our knocks!

Do we dare be found?

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

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