Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Because of Hope I Am Alive

She walks with the gait of her own familiar walk
Sees what her eyes wish to see
Blinded to reality by her own vision,
She knows not she is living

From birth to death, we live and learn how to live, how to be who we think we are and who we are told we are...this living of life.

When did I decide that because life is hard living should be?

 It is day 4 of living the only possible way I am able...in pain, sleeping a lot, pacing some, with my head spinning and my jaw throbbing. Today as I write this I feel the effects continuing. For all sense and purposes I cancelled my normal life for this life. This living. I am not often sick so I whined a little, okay, a lot, which I hate in other people as well as myself. I wrote texts in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep, expecting no answers. Just words going out into the night somehow helped me know I was still okay. If I have words, I am alive. I prayed for relief, which couldn't come soon enough, and I thought about this word, 'living'.

Every year in churches we are asked to revisit this week, this Holy week. We are taken back to when Jesus rode through the streets of Jerusalem on an untamed Colt. The crowd has laid palms before His feet, crying hosanna, which in Aramaic literally means 'please deliver us, I beg you to save'. I cried hosanna all weekend. And billions of people are crying 'hosanna' every day.

But salvation doesn't happen the way we want or expect. Jesus was not the Savior they were looking for. They wanted someone to take down the Roman government, bring justice and protect their rights and their land. They didn't understand He was not the Savior of their situations, but of their souls.

His life on earth was hard but He lived it well.

Jesus knew it was the last week on earth for Him. I can imagine what was going on inside His head. I'm sure His communion with His Father was constant and assuring, but He still had to endure the greatest suffering of all time as a mortal man.

He answered questions to those trying to deceive him about giving to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. He spoke in parables and revealed the blindness of their heart only to teach a lesson. He cleared the temple and reprimanded the Pharisees. He took time to honor a widow and her meager, yet sacrificial offering. He shared a last meal with His disciples and then prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. And then the betrayal came as He was handed over to the authorities, which led Him to Calvary. His purpose was to exchange our soul's death for His life.

Though life was hard He kept serving, kept loving, kept teaching, kept living.

The words I've written about this season of Lent - rest, joy, quiet, happy, remember, consider, wound and broken are all living words. Hard at times to understand, they each represent our life. We live through them and in them. Each touches us, some for a moment, some for a lifetime, but what gives them their eternal value?

Sometimes we are just surviving.

We all know people who are in dire situations; the homeless, the outcast, the abandoned, the addict, the abused, and yes, the ones like me, who can't deal with 3 or 4 days of discomfort. It takes all we have just to process it all. And when we can make no sense of it, we survive on auto pilot. And we plug our prayers in and go about our day.

I am alive when everything tells me otherwise.

I am blinded by what I see. All around me there are things I can't fix, people I can't please, hearts I can't reach with or without my words or actions. So I translate it all to impossibilities and living becomes hard. But I have forgotten that life is in me. I am a living soul and I can live and walk through all of it. My soul will live even if things never get better.

I can't stop the hard things. I can turn my eyes to the living and walk through them, even in the times I feel useless, forgotten and cast aside. Christ has made me alive.

Because we breathe, we live, but Jesus offers the abundant life. The rich, extensive and plenteous life. That is a soul that is redeemed. That is what Easter is about.

Can I look with Christ's eyes and not my own? Can I pray for souls of people that they will see a risen Savior? Though broken by situations, can I realize the situations have an end, but a soul is eternal? Can I put away my familiar paths and walk a different walk? Can I remind myself daily that I am living because Christ is living in me?

So maybe living is trusting in a hope that lives within no matter what the situation is. The hope that is a secure anchor in Heb 6:19, and a promise of eternal life in Tit 1:2.

I hope that Easter means more to you this year than last year. I know it means more to me. I am grateful for the thoughts and understanding He allowed me to write down and share with you.

Happy Easter! He is risen! He is risen indeed!

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Beauty and Hope in Brokenness

"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." Is 43:19

My church has purchased 31 acres, a significant amount of land on which we are building a home. There are 4 buildings that will be restored for our use. All are broken and have laid waste for some years. Volunteer crews have been going over whenever schedule and weather allow, cutting down trees and clearing the land.

Taking down panels of old ceilings and walls, my mind couldn't help thinking about how God restores and rebuilds. He doesn't just cover the old. He takes that which is broken and makes it new.  Why are we proceeding with this labor intensive and costly undertaking? We see a finished product.

What do we do with the broken?

Glass can chip, shatter or sometimes have hairline cracks. The chipped sometimes are glued back together. The shattered are swept up and discarded. As the cup slipped from my soapy hand and fell into the painted cast iron sink a hairline crack appeared down the side. "Oh! She just gave me this a few days ago and I go and break it!" I had to stabilize my thoughts. Gingerly I dried it and placed it in my China cabinet. I'm not throwing it away. It was a gift of love, and my cabinet is just for such things; a potpourri of items that carry sentimental value.

I have many hairline cracks. They sometimes can't be seen from the outside. They are in areas where every time you touch them the weaker I become. "Don't touch them, or I may fall to pieces". Who wants to be broken?  Haven't I been broken enough? Yet I know, even as I am holding myself together that no matter how many shattered pieces I may become, Jesus was broken first. But do you notice, they never broke His legs at the cross? They saw that He was already dead. Jn 19:33. He needed not to be broken any more.

Being broken frees what is inside

I hold back. I feel it. I don't trust certain people like I used to. Many years of neglected places and misinterpreted words have formed a hybrid of truth that leaves dry, barren wasteland deep within my soul. I am a vessel with fragile walls, afraid to be broken for fear of what will emerge. Job 6:6,7 "Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg? The things that my soul refused to touch are as my sorrowful meat". Perhaps the places I do not fully commit to Christ end up having no use nor flavor at all.

I have Christ inside. It happened at salvation. Brokenness created a space for Jesus to enter. I remember it well. As new life was rushing in all the old was being pushed out. Now I need once again to allow brokenness to be replaced with the beautiful.

Whole and beautiful is created from the broken.

We will never be perfect while we live in these earthly bodies. I would rather be whole and beautiful in my imperfection, revealing a loving God who is perfect for all of the breaks and cracks and fallen pieces. If we could achieve perfection, of what use would a savior be? My hope is in Christ who is faithful to me. When I am broken, I will not be glued back together or thrown away, but I will be transformed.

Being forsaken brought Him into full surrender. 

It was in those final words of Jesus that revealed His complete brokenness to the Father. "Into thy hands I commit my  spirit", Lk 23:46. Those words came after He was forsaken by the Father. Everything He did on earth He did through prayer and power from His heavenly Father. When He was forsaken He faced the fullness of knowing what it was to be man without hope so He in His free will completely gave Himself over to the one who is hope. As long as I feel there is another way of escape I will not be broken.

Streams in the wasteland where no water flows

There are springs waiting to burst. New growth beneath the frozen ground just waiting for the thaw. 
"...Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. 2 Cor 5:17.

Jesus has promised never to forsake us. He  knows the despair it brings. Let me fall into the hands of the one who was forsaken and broken for me.

The building project will take many months, but when it is done it will feed whoever will come in whatever spiritual way they may need. That is our vision. That was God's vision for sending His son and the Son's vision for completing the task. It was all for whosoever will come.

He beckons me. He will not force me. His mercy will ever be with me, and as I am willing to be broken, even if it be piece by piece, the life of Christ will begin to show through.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Hope For The Wounded

"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Is 53:5 (KJV)

Wounds of the heart like wounds in our flesh are open spaces where impurities enter and breed infection and spread. If not curtailed they are deadly.

The dining room was decorated for Valentine's Day. Red roses were on every table. The chef had prepared a dinner of Shrimp Crepes and Filet Mignon. All but a few of the tables were full. I walked up to an elderly woman sitting alone and extended my hand, smiled, introduced myself and asked her name. Immediately in a very loud and abrupt tone she told me it was none of my business. I tried another approach but was cut off before I could finish my sentence. I apologized and walked away, a little taken back and bewildered. Later I was told she was like that to everyone. No one would go near her.

I think about her and the wounds she must carry. I think of the many wounded people I know and the billions I don't know. I think of my own.

And then I think of Jesus and His. He was wounded long before He went to the cross. Every mockery, every slander, every disbelieving heart, every scheme to discredit Him brought a wound. He suffered everything we suffer.

There is the account of Lazarus in John 11. He was sick. Mary and Martha had gotten word to Jesus and He waited an extra 2 days before beginning his journey. Now when He finally arrived they were mourning his death, 4 days in the tomb. If only He had come earlier their brother would have been healed. Jesus was their friend. They knew of the resurrection in the last day. They knew and believed the miracles. Why couldn''t they be one of them? They surely thought he let them down.

What good is hearing of the miracles when you believe you'll never be the miracle?

We rejoice when we see the hand of God in other places, but sometimes it makes our wounds more pronounced.

Every negative feeling, every bullying word ... you feel it wound.
Every expectation that failed to deliver, every lost opportunity ... you feel it spread.
Every broken relationship, every fading dream ... you feel it sting.

If only I had made different decisions...
    If only I had waited, or not waited...
       If only I had listened...
          If only i could be healed...

The if onlies widen the wound and can spread the infection of lsolation.

"Is their no balm in gilead? is there no physician there? why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? Jer 8:22

Gilead was a region east of jordan known for its rich supply of medicinal herbs and spices. both jeremiah and isaiah prophesized there would be none for the heart. is 1:6 from the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness— only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil.

The center of your thinking, all emotions, reactions and motives revolve around your heart.

With every heartache the wound opens wider and is prone to more infection.

He was wounded as us and for us that he might heal us. 

"He was wounded for our transgressions". for every unsolicited and unlawful action we have ever taken, his body and mind and heart was wounded. he didn't want to leave us without hope. he took on not only our sins, but also the effect of sins, the wounds.

"But because of his great love for us, god, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with christ even when we were dead in transgressions. it is by grace you have been saved." Eph 2:4,5

Jesus was demonstrating salvation to mary and martha.
i am the resurrection and the life. he who believes in me shall never die. do you believe?

There he was, dead. and then jesus said "lazarus, come forth". death, burial and resurrection, all three, to demonstrate what it takes to release us from the damaging effect of the wounds.

We start forming wounds from the womb. there is no escape. we are in a body that feels and absorbs every emotion. but there is christ, who was wounded for us and arose to declare victory and release of it's control.
our wounds do not have to destroy us. we can in our weakness look to his strength. when we keep them it is not us having control, but them having control of us. let them go and thrive.

My one word this week - Wounded

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Friday, March 4, 2016

There Is Hope In Those Holes

"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not". Gal 6:9

I finally have a morning off. I mean, yeah, I have one a week, but here is an extra and I'm saying it couldn't have come soon enough. The days fly and can seem downright mundane, and I feel I get nothing done that should be done. Is it just me, a never-ending circle of repetitive acts that take up most of my life? I'll have more time tomorrow, but you know it never seems to come. I wonder what's the sense. Today I sleep in (yes, 7 am is 'in') and at 9 I am still in the nightclothes. Supper is in the oven and that's about all I can muster up. 

So I trudge upstairs to change the litter box. And as I am hauling it downstairs I notice a hole and the litter is trailing out behind me; yes, down the stairs, through three rooms and out the door. So out come the dustmop, broom and dustpan and as I'm trying to hold all three one falls and knocks over the cat dish and the food is flying. I look over to see my cat lazily lift her head from the top of the couch as if annoyed to be woken up. My thoughts are "This is all your fault. Next time clean up your own mess." 

Yes, life is mundane and busy and we can get weary, but the holes in our own plans are often necessary to change our direction. Tangents out of the routine are not a cause for neglecting what is in front of us. The floors got done as well as a few other chores. The sleepy, lazy attitude changed to a hopeful one. And the cat slept on, never knowing what happened.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Resurrected Life of Hope.

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Lk 9:23.

The cross of Christ. What does one envision upon hearing those words? So much comes to mind when I think of it. The supreme symbol  of Christianity. No matter the denomination, if you call yourself a Christian, the cross is at the center of your belief. A place of resurrection, new life, redemption and hope.

The glory side has a gory side with which we all have to come to terms.

The cross was the worst form of capital punishment in Rome. They didn't just mercifully execute you with lethal injection. Death was not enough. They made you feel the extent of your sin. They made sinners pay while alive, to feel as much or more pain by inflicting it upon them. They shamed them in front of spectators, stripping away every dignity and watched them die, sometimes taking days. Usually they wouldn't even bury them, but their bodies would be left to decompose where they lay. It would be a reminder to others of the consequence of going against Roman law.

Jesus knew this was why He came. Couldn't He have waited for a more civilized time? Couldn't He have died an easier death and accomplish the same thing? After all He was innocent of all accusations and He was to die as though he committed them all!

And this is the point. He took them all and paid for them all in the most flagrant manner so we all could go free.

So, I'm pondering the question, how do I take up my cross? What is my cross? Is it anything that brings shame? Is it guilt I feel? Is it the feeling of unworthiness? Is it the acts I perform or the thoughts I think or the motives I harbor within?

Maybe taking it up means holding it in higher esteem than any of my sin or your sin because that's where all sin was made powerless by the one who was all powerful.

And after that, we follow Christ? Where? We have to follow Him off the cross. We can't stay there taking the punishment for our own sin. He was resurrected and no longer carries our sin. So should we neither carry ours. He still has the marks in His hands and feet and we should never forget that it is Him who gave us our freedom (Lk 24:40). So I follow Him by living a ressurected life where sin does not reign.

 "Not that I have already attained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." Phil 3:12.

It is a process.  I am daily being challenged to believe and take hold of what Christ secured. He is constantly saying "come follow me", not so much to a pyhsical place, but a place of rest for my soul. Then I learn contentment in any place I am.

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