Sunday, March 30, 2014

Battle of the Lord

I haven’t written anything about this because honestly I don’t know what to say.  I think sometimes you can be so wrecked and moved my something that there really are no words.  For someone like me, that's a hard statement. Because there are always words.  It’s the words that comfort me, help me wrestle things out, give color to my emotions and a voice to my soul.  Words are sometimes all I have.  Except when I don’t because of the sheer darkness and injustice of humanity that moves me to utter and complete brokenness.  And I sit in the silence. Because this is when I need the most to be still and know.  Even here, He is God. 

Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with our God.   When Christ came, He showed us how to live this out, what it looks like.  And as we grow into His likeness, our hearts crack open to more.  We not only want more of Him for ourselves, we yearn for more of Him in the world.  And it’s our submitted hearts that carry Him in to a desperate world seeking justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God like Christ did.   

These are words from my journal from a month ago.  I wrote these words with a two week mission trip to Nepal focused on anti-trafficking efforts stretched out before me.  Today, I am here and one week in on the ground in Kathmandu.  Seeking justice.  Loving mercy.  And praying I can walk humbly.  And there is more hope than I thought there would be. But there is a lot of hopelessness and there is a darkness and sin embedded deep in this culture that is daunting.  But God is here.  And the battle is His. 
"Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's. ... You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you." - 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17
"The Lord will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies." - Isaiah 42:13 
This is only the beginning. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Come What May

Only four hours left in this year.  My belly is full.  The black eyed peas are soaking.  New Year's Eve dessert is in the oven.  And the kids have high hopes of making it until midnight, though as I look at them, I'm not thinking those eyelids will hold past 9:30.  When I was younger, I rang in the New Year in traditional American style - abundant libations amidst noisy bass pumping through the crowded venue.  These days, I delight to ring in the New Year quietly on my couch reflecting on the year gone by and looking forward with great expectation at the year stretched before me. 

God has a plan for these next 365 days.  And it will lay perfectly on top of my previous 39 years just as much as it will be foundational to the years to come.  It's already a planned part of this tapestry He is weaving.  And one day, these next 12 months will be firmly hemmed in. But right now, the thread has merely been chosen and the needles merely threaded. The stitches begin tomorrow - well in a couple of hours. 

And I pray that I will embrace each one, each moment, each lesson and gift and hardship and opportunity. Each celebration and blessing and struggle and mundane task. Each everything that He gives by His hand that makes up this life of beautiful colors.  I pray that I will surrender to the design, seek His design.  And not try to fight or wriggle free from what He is stitching together. Because I can look back from here and see His divine and sovereign craftsmanship. And it is good.  He is good. So I know I can trust. I can trust Him. Come what may.

"For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed. ... For I will pour out water to quench your thirst... And I will pour out my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your children." (Isaiah 43:19, 20b)

"For God has said: 'I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.' So we can say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Monday, December 30, 2013

A New Year Prayer

For whatever reason, sometimes the only thing that can calm my children is for me to sing over them.  When the long shadows overtake them as they lie in their beds at night, they often request songs of me. I am their personal jukebox. 

Lately, they have been requesting Oceans by Hillsong.  They have never been much for childish lullabies or lyrics that rhyme but have no soul.  No, my kids have always requested lyrics they know will make the darkness flee, that will push evil back down to their footstool.

It's been a few weeks since I have sung over them, since they have requested anything.  I think it's because of Christmas.  When your attention is wholly fixed on the Babe wrapped in light, there is no room for fear.  It's the law of love.  Perfect love casts out fear. And in Him there is no darkness.

As I was getting ready this morning, the day after Christmas, the day after Love came down, I started thinking.  The darkness might creep back in tonight. Tonight may not be silent for them. Tonight they may be headed back down the mountain to the valley of death.

So I started singing a bit.  

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters
wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.
And my faith will be made stronger
in the presence of my Savior.
And I will call upon your name
and keep my eyes above the waves
when oceans rise
my soul will rest in your embrace
for I am yours and you are mine."
                                                               - Hillsong United

Oh how I pray these words over them, their lives as my soul sings each verse in bold confidence.  May the Lord lead them where their trust is without borders.  It's the only place to really live.  And may they call upon His name always.

As we approach a new year, this is my prayer for all of us. The Lord is already asking, inviting me into things where by trust is challenged.  So I pray this repeatedly... my trust Lord. without borders. And my soul, Lord. Resting in your embrace. 

I have found this past year to be spiritually stagnant. (more on that later perhaps)  And so I pray for a fresh fire of faith to burn deep within me, to burn up any boundaries holding me back from where the Lord is leading me. 

Lord, this is my prayer for the year to come.  That I would worship You with reckless abandon, trust steadily in You even in the midst of the mystery, and rest in Your embrace as I learn to love like You - extravagantly. Spirit lead me... in the presence of my Savior.  Take me farther than my feet could ever wander, Lord.  Show me Your glory, Yahweh.  May all my days be wholeheartedly devoted to You. And I will call upon Your name for I am Yours... and You are mine.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Has My Heart Gone to Sleep?

Has my heart gone to sleep?
Have the beehives of my dreams
stopped working, the waterwheel
of the mind run dry,
scoops turning empty,
only shadow inside?
No, my heart is not asleep.
It is awake, wide awake.
Not asleep, not dreaming -
its eyes are opened wide
watching distant signals, listening
on the rim of the vast silence.
                - Antonio Machado
Translated by Alan S. Trueblood
included in A Family of Poems compiled by Caroline Kennedy

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Favorite Gift

I have no gift to bring...
   that's fit to give a king...  but...
When you give to the least of these, you have given to me. (Matt 25:40, paraphrased)
They flocked to them.  The least of Jesus' brothers crowded around my son and my husband.  For a plastic bag with a little food, some water and a toothbrush. And there was one for each of them. Because weeks before, a few families offered their bread and fish in faith.  And that kind of offering is always more than enough.

This.  This was my favorite gift this Christmas.  Given to Jesus "in disguise".

Happy birthday, Jesus!

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?"
1 Chronicles 29:14

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Law of Love

"You never start living until you stop fearing."  - Ann Voskamp

There has been much to fear in this year.  And no doubt, there will be much to fear in the year to come.  Because evil is on the loose in this world.  Lurking behind bushes, prowling the open plains, waiting to devour the weak. 

But take courage because there is One. 

He has overcome this world.

He reigns victorious over this evil. 

Jesus. At His name, the darkness flees.

Do not be afraid.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

Love wins in this epic story.  Love always wins.  And until the day when every knee will bow and tongue confess that Love has won, may the church unite to speak Truth and mourn with those who mourn.  No more. No less. No arguments that will solve nothing. No blame to be tossed. No criticizing of the laws and control or lack thereof. 

When four foot caskets are buried six feet under, I just don't understand how more laws or less laws will cure the human heart responsible for this kind of graveyard.  And I think deep down we all know laws can't prevent evil.  Isn't this why Jesus came?  To fulfill the law that was impossible to keep, to save and redeem His family of sinners, to claim victory over this unbeatable evil that beats in us all? To transform us and send us out as sheep among wolves, not lawmakers among the lawless?

There is only one cure for the wickedness of earth and that is the love of God. 

When Jesus came, He didn't draft new laws.  He loved. And He reminded us what the two most important commands were:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength. (Deut 6:5, Matt 22:37)
Love your neighbor as yourself. (Lev 19:18, Matt 22:39)

It seems so simple. But even these I cannot keep without Him. I cannot even love without His power and presence in my life.  Not selflessly, not extravagantly, not in a way that exposes Love to a barren, bankrupt heart.  It starts with me. My heart. My circle of influence.  Not with a lawmaking frenzy of pharisaical proportions.

Laws made by man - they are made out of fear.  But perfect love casts out fear.  That's the law of Love.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Disciple, a Boy and the Multitudes

I’m not exactly sure how many times I’ve collectively heard or read the story but it’s been at least a million. A little boy.  A simple lunch.  And five thousand men to feed.  And my favorite part – they ate until they were satisfied and had twelve baskets of leftovers because the Messiah took what was offered and gave thanks. 

But this part I noticed just recently. 
“Philip answered him, ‘Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’ Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’”  (John 6:7-9) 

I think I have always focused on the boy.  Everyone says offer what you have.  Give Jesus your bread and fish and he will feed the multitudes. I’ve said that!  And I believe it. Completely.  Give what you have to give. Give thanks.  And watch how He can make it enough. See how He feeds the multitudes.

But the part I missed was Andrew, the disciple who recognized the gift and spoke up.  The boy was young.  And he humbly offered what he had with a childlike faith. And, I have a feeling if the boy offered it to Philip, Phillip would have scoffed and not seen it as enough and walked on by without saying one word to Jesus.

Andrew didn’t know if it would be enough. But he knew enough about Jesus to call attention to the boy’s gift.  In this passage of Scripture we see a stark contrast.  One disciple who sees the impossible and another who sees Jesus.  Phillip, who sees an insurmountable task and Andrew, who sees a boy with a gift to offer to the One who cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, so how much more will he care for us? One disciple who cannot fathom feeding five thousand men plus their families and another who dares to imagine what Jesus can do with 5 small loaves and 2 small fish.  Andrew, himself, had empty pockets. Nothing to offer in this moment.  But, his eyes fell on one small boy while his heart was wrapped around the One who made all things possible.

I wonder… which disciple am I more like? Do I see in others, in my children, what they have to offer and encourage them in it?  Do I build others up so THEY  believe their gift is not too small or their talent too insignificant or that they are too small or insignificant for Jesus to use them, to multiply their offering?  Am I missing the beautiful landscape of gifts that completely surround me?

You know… sometimes… I just don’t have anything to offer.  Sometimes, my act of worship is to look for the best gift to present to the Lord - whether my pockets are full or empty - believing that the multitudes can be fed. 
“Jesus, we have a boy here with a small lunch.  What can you do?”
“Jesus, this little girl with an amazing artistic gift. How can you use her?"
“Jesus, this boy with a wild sense of adventure. What are the possibilities?”

Sometimes, I am the one with the offering.  But, sometimes I am the one who sees the boy and calls out his gift to Jesus. And sometimes, I am the multitudes being fed.  So often, I think I’m the one who needs to offer something.  Always digging deep and searching hard for what it is I think the Lord is asking me to give. Typical really.  This self-centered view.  Because I’m not always going to be the one.  I can't be... And does it really matter who does the offering as long as the multitudes are fed on the feast of the Lord?
We are the body of Christ, disciples of the One who makes all things possible.  And we live to breathe in His grace and breathe out His praise - together -  and that looks like encouraging each other, moving together, calling out each others gifts before Him – all for Him – in the shadow of the cross, where the ground is level and the glory is all His.