Sunday, October 30, 2016

Dog-eared pages

Everybody thinks of changing humanity,
and nobody thinks
                    of changing himself.

                    --  author Leo Tolstoy

Friday, October 28, 2016

Because of forgiveness

I wrote about forgiveness yesterday.  And I was too ashamed to post it.  "How dare you? What do you know about forgiveness?"

I cannot know all of the atrocities that others face, the snarling beasts of experience, the hidden terrors that threaten to jump out at the most vulnerable moment, the unspeakable burdens too heavy to bear.  But I come to grips with the daily forgivenesses that are before me. There are no small forgivenesses.  Lives are always at stake. And not just my own.  There is always a glaring reason to not forgive.  There are always a million reasons to forgive.  Maybe more.

What do I know about forgiveness? 

Because of forgiveness,
   what has wounded you
               does not define you.

Because of forgiveness,
    God redeems every detail.

Because of forgiveness,
                 you can be healed.

Because of forgiveness,
      Christ bears the scars
                and you don't,
 forgiveness is why Jesus came.

But He was wounded
       for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
upon Him was the chastisement
            that made us whole,
and with His stripes we are healed.

                       Isaiah 53.5

Because of forgiveness,
    with what the adversary
     meant to destroy you,
                   God transforms.
Your weakness
               becomes His strength in you.

Because of forgiveness,
     it is not that you don't care anymore
           about the hurt,
     but you care even more about people.

Jesus says,
     "love even your enemies."
And that would pretty much be
              those who need forgiveness.

Everything in us says,
    "Someone has to pay for damages!"
Yes, indeed.
Jesus already died for that.
Even for that.

What does God want me to do?
       Forgive him?
Are you kidding me? I can't do that.
I don't have enough grace in me.

But He said to me,
"My grace is sufficient for you,
for My power
   is made perfect in weakness."

               2 Corinthians 12. 9

God always brings grace to the table.

A lack of forgiveness makes you tough and hard.
Forgiveness makes you stronger.
A lack of forgiveness plants a bitter root
                       in your heart.
Forgiveness produces incredible fruit.

What does God want me to do?
            Forgive him?
As a Christ-follower,
       there is no other option.
      as we have been forgiven

If we only realized
the catastrophic consequences
                   of not forgiving someone,
we would run as fast as we can toward it.
The lack of forgiveness
    passes on a deadly burden to your children,
your grandkids
                and beyond.
And they won't even know where it came from.

Because of forgiveness,
      God changes the course of your life,
everyone around you,
and even those you will never know.
God works that way.
         Because of His forgiveness.
         Because of Him.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The fine art of being distracted

In the past few weeks, my life has been full to overflowing, nonstop, lined up, go, go, go, and oops, I forgot to do that too. Not enough hours in a day. Young people sometimes ask me, "So like, what do you do all day?" Sometimes I have no idea.

Am I mastering the fine art of being distracted?  Even this morning, oh, I should do that...get that...check that...and what about...?

My mom was a professional violinist.  Music was integrated in all of her life, a calling but also a strong ministry in the lives of others.  I am convicted by her example, she whose kitchen counter tops were stacked with literally everything you can imagine crying for attention, waving their hands, "I am urgent!  I am important!"

And she would walk away from those distractions and time-sapping "urgencies" and go practice her violin.

Mom took it to extremes at times, but there is a reminder there.  Lately, I have been focused on everything else, and a day, and another day, and a week passes, and oh yea, no writing today. And again, I push aside that nudge inside of me.  So many things to do, but I hear His voice at the end of the day, "but did you write?" 

No doubt, God uses distractions sometimes to redirect our hearts and enlarge our vision.  More often, it is we who use distractions to make excuses to God, even in what appears as really admirable deeds, even in what is necessary, even in what we say we are doing for Him.  God does not work by a checklist, nor by gussied-up "sacrifices" to gain His approval.  If I dare think, "but look at all I'm doing,"  I know that I am on the wrong highway.

It may look like all good stuff, but may not be what God has in mind.

Has the LORD as great delight
    in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
    to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to hearken than the fat of rams.

                    1 Samuel 15. 22

What does God desire?  Just to listen to His still small Voice.  Hear and heed.  What changes the course of my life, what changes the course of history, what impacts everyone around me for generations, is my heart aligned to His. 

The most profound thing I can do today is to follow Him, not being distracted by what someone else may be doing or another person's calling, not even to focus on what is on my plate today, but what He places in my heart.  Being always impacts doing.

I can lay my day before the LORD,
but when I ask Him to lay His day before me,
there are no interruptions,
              but only His incredible purposes,
even in what I cannot yet see.

"You want me to do what?  Surely, O LORD, there is something better, more significant, more glorifying to You than that."

Somehow we don't get the interlocking connection between following Him fully, faithfulness, and fruitfulness.  We don't grasp the longevity of walking with Him and the unfathomable orthodoxy of the odd little details in His bigger narrative.

It is all ministry, even that which is not recognized as such.  The gospel is not just a kind word, a cup of cold water, the washing of feet, but a different heart. 

As for you...
     fulfill your ministry.
              2 Timothy 4. 5

And not be distracted,
                 even in this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The rims of what I cannot imagine

I have not written in weeks, at least in this blog or on the computer.  I have, however, been writing volumes in my thoughts, taking notes on my phone, scribbling on every scrap of paper, searching for a pencil at stop lights, trying to capture words to describe a hike two weeks ago that my husband and I took in the Grand Canyon.

Even now, I feel like a reluctant third-grader, sitting at the kitchen table with an assignment the night before it is due, a one-page composition to write, "What I did on my family vacation."  There is no first sentence, there is no final word.  And that which is most profound is not what we did, but how we are changed.

I struggle to write the words, not because it is hard to find them, but because there are so many.  I cannot wrap my mind around them or tie them neatly with a bow.  But this morning, the words pressed hard against me.  "Write something," a composer friend suggested over the weekend.  I cannot tell all, but I can begin, even though it feels like weakly whistling a tune from a resounding symphony.

We met the small group of people with whom we would hike over the next several days, rim to rim.  The seven of us would be bonded by doing life together for this very short time, moving from awkward strangers into the beginnings of friendship, the sharing of stories, the meshing together of our lives, and the glad fellowship of peanut M&M's.

The first day, we traveled for hours through scrub land and cactus.  A rare beauty emerged from what most would deem a wilderness.  And I was reminded as in so many places that Bill and I have lived and moved, unfamiliarity does not mean a wasteland but what has yet to be discovered. As the van followed the solitary pavement through flora foreign to my eyes, I felt like one of our toddler grandchildren, asking over and over, "What dat called?"

A splendor spread out before us, and we were drawn to it.

Suddenly and without explanation, the ground broke off --snapped like a saltine --and revealed what was below the surface, beyond our own vision to an awe that had no language. There was suddenly the canyon, a mile deep and ten miles wide, and a mighty river below, thick and red.  We stood silently.  No words could describe what lay before us, beneath us, over us, beyond what we have known or can ever know. If the road hadn't stopped, or if we had traveled hundreds of years ago, we would have driven right over the edge.  It came without warning.

It was not that there was a gradual sliding or even a suggestion of what was to come, but an abrupt vision, a breaking through, an acknowledgment of what is real and what is not, a strong intimacy in an unfamiliar place, and somehow, a recognized voice calling us home.

None of us could help but being changed by it. I wished for proficiency in a thousand languages to be able to describe "wow."

Early before dawn the next day, we arose in the darkness in great anticipation of the sunrise.  But we found already before us, crowds of tourists transformed into sojourners on a religious pilgrimage.  The same reluctant people who at home hit the snooze alarm every morning stood shivering in the darkness and expectant on the edge of the cliffs, waiting for the break of dawn, these pilgrims of the new day. The sun's brilliant rays inched up over the edge of the horizon, breaking forth and bathing the world in a different light,  right on time.  There is something more here.  Something much bigger beckoning in my life. 

There are always explanations for what cannot be explained, the movement of powerful waters, tectonic shifts of massive shelves, layers of rock, a careful arrangement of massive colors and textures, monumental walls, the mysteries of what unfolds before us.  There is no stirring of the human heart in a geology lecture or a rock collection.  But here, in this place and time, we were all in awe.  That which is beyond us is a presence that we miss in our tiny myopic worlds.

Later that night in the lodge, a seasoned and uniformed ranger presented his power point slides, his memorized script about how this came to be, a mantra repeated so many times it was devoid of life, no excitement, just words strung together to form complicated explanations of what happened, his charts of what "the experts" said could have happened, a particular ordering of events, myths that periodically shift trying desperately to account for what is ancient and true and unchanging, and theories taught as facts. We cannot help but know there is a reason why.  Nothing just happens.  And certainly nothing like this. 

As we exited that beautiful man-made lodge and wandered outside the lecture room, the cliffs were illumined by a billion stars that we rarely see because of our own limited vision.  We stood silent and amazed with our heads thrown back.  We swam in the universe with the stars, floated among familiar constellations, and were pulled under by the warm currents of the Milky Way, laughing because that was the closest emotion at hand.  I am aware that the immensity of stars surround us even when we do not see them.

But when we finally look up, what accounts for the wonder?

To whom then will you compare Me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
       who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
       calling them all by name;
by the greatness of His might,
and because He is strong in power
               not one is missing.

                        Isaiah 40. 25-26

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The odd, the awkward, and the redeemed

I found myself in an awkward situation yesterday. What helped me get a grip on it is realizing that it is not what I just happened to wander into.  It is not what is random at all. God fulfills His purposes even in that which I did not plan, nor even in what I cannot see coming, even in what may always remain a mystery to me.

It is not the unknown to God.  My part is to be faithful.

What have You put on my plate today? Make me faithful. What have You placed on my radar? Help me to be aware not of my line of vision but Yours.  How can I be mindful of You?

Even in this.

And He is before all things
and in Him
        all things hold together.

                      Colossians 1. 17