Friday, December 14, 2007

Taking the Risk

The account of feeding the five thousand in the gospels is such a powerful story to me, one the Lord has used a number of times to speak to my heart - most recently this week. I had been having an email dialogue with a friend regarding a quote about and by Henri Nouwen:

Nouwen believed that what is most personal is most universal; he wrote, "By giving words to these intimate experiences I can make my life available to others."

This quote challenged me because while I see the value of being that open, and have been helped by Nouwen's openness in sharing his own life and struggles, it is another thing for me to be that open with my own life. Sharing personal things in the past with some has caused wounding in my life, so I have been reticent about being too transparent, and not sure it is worth the risk, that it will make that much difference.

Then God reminded me again of that story in Luke 9. Crowds of people have come out to hear Jesus teach, and they have been with him all day. They are in a dry, deserted place and they are hungry. The disciples are talking to Jesus and they just want to send the people away so they can find their own food and take care of their own needs. But Jesus' response to them is, "YOU give them something to eat."

They looked at themselves, they looked at the crowd and I'm sure they thought, "Us? No way." How could they ever meet the need? What did they have that could even begin to feed the multitude of hungry people? All they had come up with was five little loaves of bread and two fish - not even enough for themselves.

But Jesus was not bothered by the small amount of food they showed Him. He just took what they had, and He lifted it up to the Father for Him to lay His hands on it and to bless it. After it was blessed, in order for it to be able to feed everyone, it had to be broken. And through the breaking something was made available that fed and blessed others who were in need.

Sometimes there are people in need around us that we are tempted to send on their way, or we want Jesus to meet their needs. And His response to us is - YOU do it. He knows we don't have much in ourselves, but He asks us to be willing to offer what we do have to Him. When we do, He will bless it and break it, and use it to meet needs; but it can feel scary to make that kind of offering to God.

However, God is able to break what we offer Him of ourselves in a way that does not leave the gift broken in a useless way. Rather, in this story the brokenness of the gift enabled it to meet the needs of those who were in a dry, barren, and weary state. The broken offering brought refreshment and hope and strength to the people.

To be broken in the world in painful. But God wants to redeem and use our brokenness to minister to others, if we will take the risk and offer it to Him. This is what God is asking me to do. I have been taking baby steps, but now He is asking me to trust Him more by taking bigger steps. Am I willing to give words to my intimate experiences and make my life available to others?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

falling leaves

a profusion of words
in my mind....
i throw them
into the air
like handfuls of
autumn leaves
and let them float
slowly down
to the ground

gathering them into piles
i roll around in them
then lay pensively on my back
staring up
at bare branches
and brassy sky

at last i rise
covered in autumn hues
golds and reds and browns
clinging haphazardly

what will these words reveal
about this season
of my life
as they


"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1

Thursday, November 15, 2007

the silence

they needed help
someone to watch house
and pets
I said okay

now I sit plunked
seemingly in the middle
of nowhere
it might as well be
because I am stuck here

my life as I live it
is suspended
~ over
for two weeks

that seems like a long time

my only company
two phantom-like cats
who pretend not to know their names
and an old
harrumphing dog
who startles the silence often
with hacking dry heaves
followed by a whistling wheeze
and a soft groan
as he settles down again

I guess I should be grateful
for that noise
as the silence here
feels deafening
like the stark silence
of a mausoleum

it's not the comfortable quiet
of my cave at home
I love that silence
because I make it
I choose it

so God
where are You
in this silence

I didn't choose this
I know You are here

and I want to find
You are hiding
You are saying

in the silence

"...but the Lord was not in the wind...the Lord was not in the earthquake...the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice." (I Kings 19:11-12)

Monday, November 5, 2007



I realized today that this is a word the Lord is giving me. At different points in the last few years God has given me significant words for my journey, and I haven't had one for last word from the Lord was wait, and I've been in a waiting mode for a long time. But I sense God beginning to move me out of that place. The waiting time has been about a lot of inward motion toward God. Now God is placing some people and some possibilities in my life that call for more movement out.

So what does this have to do with brilliance? I have been considering Matthew 5:16 a lot lately, and what it means for me. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." How do I let my light shine? What are the "good works" in my life that will glorify God?

Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is the brightness, or radiance of God's glory. So the more we know and experience Jesus in our daily life, the more He will be the brightness, the radiance in us shining out to others. This shining will be made visible through the "good works" He personally calls each of us to do in this world. When others see Jesus shining out of ordinary people, God gets glory.

Brilliancy: "Luster; a quality that outshines the usual."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In to the Father, Out to Others

I have been thinking a lot about my daily life and what the rhythm of my life should be. Basically the question I ask a lot is how much of my time should be "in", in solitude, and how much should be "out", interacting with others. I know I need both, it's just how much of each should I have? I more naturally have a drawing to go inward, but I also find a needful and a compassionate compelling to go outward too.

A little while ago I read a book by Henri Nouwen called Out of Solitude, which speaks poignantly to this tension in our lives. His text is Mark 1:32-39. Sandwiched in between verses talking about Jesus healing, and preaching and casting out demons is this verse: "In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there."

Nouwen goes on to write:

In the center of breathless activities we hear a restful breathing. Surrounded by hours of moving we find a moment of quiet stillness. In the heart of much involvement there are words of withdrawal. In the midst of action there is contemplation. And after much togetherness there is solitude....I have the sense that the secret of Jesus' ministry is hidden in that lonely place where he went to pray, early in the morning, long before dawn.

In the lonely place Jesus finds the courage to follow God's will and not his own; to speak God's words and not his own; to do God's work and not his own. He reminds us constantly: "I can do nothing by aim is to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me" (John 5:30).

Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures. The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the Christian life and should therefore be the subject of our most personal attention." (p. 13-15)

Surely if Jesus lived a life of withdrawing to spend time with the Father, we too should live our lives this way. It is not so important how much we do for God, as what - or who - is the source of all our doing. Jesus did nothing apart from the Father, though He surely could've done a lot. I want to live my life the same way, taking time to hear from the Father, and drawing supply from the Father, so I can live out the life He is calling me to live with others.

Our lives should be a graceful rhythm of going in to the Father, going out to others; in to the Father, out to others. How much time doing each will fluctuate from day to day. The main thing is making the time to have this discipline. Going out is easy and often compelling, because we live in a busy world that can demand much of us. All the more we need to determine to create that precious space to be with our Father daily.

Monday, October 8, 2007

monday morning

fall is here
cool mornings at last
taking advantage I go for a walk
in the nearby park
on this monday morning

the air is filled with the
earthy smell of the
freshly mown carpet of green
notably devoid of the weekend’s
softball-playing men
soccer-playing kids
and picnicking families
it is a quiet monday morning

maintenance men ride
puttering tractor mowers
looking like boys at play
gloating I’m sure
as people fly by in
metal cubicles
rushing to reach stuffy offices
on a workaday monday morning

leashed dogs tug and pull
and sniff one another
while their people converse
oblivious of their power
to disarm awkwardness
and bring strangers together
on a generic monday morning

small clusters of moms
begin to gather here and there
for their power walks
offspring safely deposited at school
eager for girl talk again
glad it is monday morning

breathing deeply of grassy air
my eyes linger on the pleasingness
of shade trees still full of green leaves
then rise to take in nearby
dark shadowed mountains
contrasting sharply against the horizon
I feel the warmth of brilliant sun
in cloudless blue sky
gently penetrating morning coolness

I walk and let myself be alive
to all that is around me
then my mind meanders
to home and morning schedule
to daily Bible reading and journaling
suddenly an epiphanic moment ~
I am surrounded by Word
right here

in the beginning God spoke
“Land appear!”
“Earth, green up!”
“Earth, generate life!”
“Let us make human beings in our image!”
and God saw that it was all very good

taking in deeply what God has spoken
spontaneous song lyrics well up
“give thanks! with a grateful heart!”
as I walk through the park
on a glorious monday morning

Saturday, October 6, 2007

her need

she called me saying
she wanted to talk

now we sit facing each other
and she begins to recount
the saga of the last few months
of a heart offered
and hurt
again and again

tears rim her eyes
her pretty face shadowed
with the pain
of disappointment
and betrayal

so many things I could say
but no
better to be quiet
her head already knows
what I would tell her

she doesn't need my advice
she just needs someone
to listen

to care about her heart

as we rise to go I hug her
and say I will be praying for her
"oh!" she exclaims
"that's what I need!"

yes, I say to myself
as she walks away
what she needs most right now
is to know someone cares
someone is praying

"Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs....Keep on on praying. " (I Thes. 5:14,17)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Soul Friends

"Soul friends show hospitality by making space in their lives for others....Soul hosts prepare for their gift of hospitality by cultivating a place of quiet within themselves. This is the place where they will receive others....When I have begun to be a person with a quiet, still center, I can invite others to come and rest there. It is out of this place that soul friends offer their gifts of presence, stillness, safety and love." (Sacred Companions by David Benner)

This is such a beautiful picture of hospitality. Often we think of the outward aspects of opening our home or sharing a meal with others when we hear the word hospitality. And yes, we may share outward space with others, but what about our inward space? Have we made room in our hearts for others? The real essence of true hospitality is that in opening up our home to others, in making extra room at the table for them, we are also opening up our inward parts to them. We are inviting others not merely into the physical space of a house, but into our hearts too. We have prepared a warm and welcoming place for others to come into and be loved.

"...given to hospitality." (Romans 12:13)

Friday, September 21, 2007

hide n seek

you know how little kids
play hide n seek
how they hide
behind a skinny tree
arms and legs
still visible

or duck behind
an overstuffed chair
with their back end sticking way out
or cover scrunched eyes
with pudgy fingers
that they are not
at all

how often
do we play this game
with God
or with others
trying to hide
the real us
the us
we are ashamed of
the us
we fear will be rejected

but the response in God's heart is ~
I am sad
when My children
hide from Me
I want them to come
just as they are
without fear

know the truth
I love you
I chose you
I formed you
in your mother's womb

you are beautiful to Me
and I delight in you
please ~ don't hide

Monday, September 17, 2007

"Who Am I...?"

I borrowed this quote from someone else's blog, because it really captured my attention and made me think deeply about what it said:

"Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God; your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

~Marianne Williamson

Powerful. And piercing. Convicting.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hinds' Feet

"The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds' feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]! " Habbakuk 3:19 (Amp.)

I love this verse, and one of my favorite books over the years has been "Hinds Feet on High Places". It has been an encouragement during the hard times of life to not give up, but to keep pressing on to know Him. The book is an allegory that starts off, "This is the story of how Much-Afraid escaped from her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places where 'perfect love casts out all fear'." Much-Afraid worked for the Shepherd and loved what she did, but she was crippled and disfigured, which hindered her work and made her feel distressed and ashamed. She longed to be whole and to walk in the High Places, but she didn't have the strength and ability to get there as she was.

When she told the Shepherd she wanted to be able to go there, he said he would give her two companions that would take her in the way that would develop strong hinds' feet in her so she could ascend the mountains. The names of her two companions were Sorrow and Suffering, and unless she was willing to trust Him and go with them she would never be able to escape from her evil cousin Craven Fear and the other Fearings, and have the strength to walk in the High Places with the Shepherd.

It is clear from reading the Word that we will all experience sufferings in this life, and that we need the attributes of endurance and perseverence. All the difficulties we pass through are to produce the character and strength needed to live the life God is calling us to. But we do not need to pass through these things alone - indeed, we are not supposed to pass through them alone. He is with us and He lives in us to be all that we need as we pass through various trials and difficulties.

He lives in us to be our life, our wisdom, our strength, to be our courage, to help us stand against the enemy, and to make our feet like deers' feet that have the ability to walk through and even on top of of the hard things we encounter in life. His goal is that we would not be overwhelmed by what life gives us or try to make it through in our own strength, but that we would come to know Him as the source of everything we need, and that we would experience Him as our way through everything that life brings our way.

In the verses just prior to the one above, Habbakuk is describing a bleak situation: "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation." How could he talk this way? Because he had experienced the Lord strengthening him before when things were difficult, and he knew that the Lord was able to make his feet like the hinds' feet; that the Lord would help him to stand firmly in the high places above his earthly troubles.

The Lord is wanting to do the same for us. He is using adversity and trials to make us inwardly strong as we look to Him and depend on Him to be our very present help in times of trouble, to be our strength and our security in the high places. His ways are often different than our ways, but He is so wise and He loves us and is for us.

"He makes my feet like hinds' feet [able to stand firmly or make progress on the dangerous heights of testing and trouble]; He sets me securely upon my high places." Psalm 18:33

Monday, September 10, 2007


insidious accusations
a crippling voice
coming from the shadows
hiding in the darkness

watch out for shame
it is a thief
a rogue
knowing just when to pounce

just when to
the air out of you
when to make you
want to slide into oblivion

but wait

here comes a bold figure
his name is Truth
he catches you
as you are sliding
he props you on your feet

be strong he says
resist the lie

clarity comes on Truth's heels
with clarity comes light
and strength to stand

shame slinks away
exposed again

"...Receive into your hearts all My words...." Ezekiel 3:10

"...Your word is truth." John 17:17

"And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." John 8:32

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Artisan

He walked with purpose along the beach
hunting for fragments of glass
the waves had tossed up on the shore.
He would stoop here and there
to pick up a broken piece
and put it carefully in his drawstring bag.
He was in no hurry
searching out the smallest
shattered shards.
Satisfied he had found all the pieces
he took his bag of precious fragments
back to his workshop.
Surrounded by shining
translucent works of art
he lovingly and gently
emptied the bag on his workbench.
With utmost patience and care
he set about creating
a beautiful work of art
a stained glass window
a mosaic
that would glow and come alive
as the sun shone through.
Not even the smallest crushed pieces were discarded
those creating special depth and richness
in the artisan's skilled hand.

All the pieces of our broken lives
are valuable and useful in the Master's hand.
He is searching out and redeeming
what seems hopelessly broken
patiently creating a masterpiece -
something to glorify God.

"For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]." Ephesians 2:10 (Amp)

Friday, August 3, 2007

At The Right Time

Enoch walked many years with God
Then one day - at the right time
He was no more, because God took him.
Abraham was called the friend of God
And was promised that his descendants
Would be more than the stars in the sky.
He tried to fulfill this promise his own way
But his way did not work.
Then one day - at the right time
When Abraham and Sarah were
Too old to have children
They had Isaac their son of promise.
Joseph had dreams of high position and honor
Instead he was sold into slavery
And put unfairly in prison
And forgotten.
Then one day - at the right time
Joseph was released from prison and
His dreams came to fulfillment.
Moses was raised in Pharoah’s house.
He killed a man and fled in disgrace -
From wealth and position to lowly shepherd,
Moses hid in the desert forty years.
Then one day - at the right time
God called Moses from obscurity to leadership.
As a shepherd boy David was anointed
To be king instead of Saul
Yet for many years Saul remained king,
And David had to run and hide,
Until one day - at the right time
David received his rightful position.
Esther was a Jewish orphan girl in captivity
Then one day - at the right time
God raised her up to be queen
So she could save her people from death.
Hundreds and hundreds of years passed
As the Jews looked and waited for
The promised Messiah, their savior and deliverer.
Things looked bleak and hopeless…
When would He come and deliver them?
....“Christ came at just the right time
And died for us sinners.”

He didn’t come too soon or too late -
He came at just the right time
According to God’s wisdom and timing.
He’s doing the same in our lives today,
Coming at just the right time to rescue
Or to make good on His word
Or to answer prayers - in His way,
According to His wisdom over our lives.
At the right time.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

God Our Rock

"...And who is a Rock, except our God?" 2 Samuel 22:32

I have gone through some hard environments and storms in my life, as we all have. Some were potentially faith-shattering, and definitely shook my personal world and beliefs. But in the midst of the pain and darkness of those times I came to discover and inwardly know the Lord as the solid Rock that I needed as an anchor for my soul and for my storm-tossed faith. There is an old hymn, the chorus of which goes: "On Christ, the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand." There is only one truly solid, trustworthy, unmovable place in the universe, and that is in God. Sooner or later we will find that if our hope is in anything other than God Himself we will become disappointed or disillusioned, and shaken in our faith.

Sometimes we think that our faith is solid and rooted in God Himself, and not merely in a belief system or things related to God. Then something happens that really throws us into a tailspin. When that happens we have a choice of what we will do. I love David's response in Psalm 61:2; "From the end of the earth I will cry to You when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I." Sometimes we need something or Someone bigger than us, and He is the higher one, our Rock of safety. Psalm 40 says: "He heard my cry and He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."

Jesus tells a story about how a wise man built his house on a rock. Then when the rains came and the water rose and the winds buffeted the house it did not fall because it was built on the rock. Luke 6:48 says, "He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and built a foundation on rock. When a flood came, a torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built." Sometimes our "house" is not on solid ground, but we don't know it until a storm comes along and we get swept off our foundation. But when that happens we can dig down deep inside, deeper than we have gone before, and cry out to the One who is our Rock and He will establish us in and on Himself.

Because of things I have passed through I have discovered what is "sand" and what is "rock" in my life. I have learned that we need to go deeper into God when the storms come. I have learned that God truly is our refuge, our rock, our fortress - a hiding place in the storms of life. We all have had, and will have, different kinds and degrees of stormy situations in our lives (the Word says that in this life we will have tribulations and trials, that our faith may be made strong), but God is there for us in the midst of everything we pass through, in the midst of our darkness and our pain and disappointment. He is there to be our Rock of refuge and our strength if we will cry out to Him.

The preciousness of this truth, the solidness of it, the comfort of it! It is a priceless, saving reality. We have a Rock in our spirit, a Rock that will never leave, a Rock we can depend on, a Rock we can run to and hide under, a Rock that will catch us when we falter, a Rock that will ground us when we are spinning, a Rock to stand on when we are sinking, a Rock we can lean on when we have no strength to go on. He is the Rock of our salvation - this Rock saves us from whatever we need saving from, and He saves us to Himself. We can cry out, "Jesus, be my Rock right now! I'm falling, I'm sinking, I've lost my footing, I feel disoriented. Help! Set my feet on You, be my anchor, ground my heart and my emotions in You right now!" He will not fail us. In the process of learning to know Him in this way sometimes our emotions don't cooperate right away, or the situation doesn't change outwardly as we'd like it to, but He is no less our Rock. He is a safe Rock, a strong Rock whether we believe Him to be or not.

It's like being at the Grand Canyon at an overlook point. As you stand at the railing looking over the canyon, you can either be frozen with fear that you might fall over the edge, or you can rest secure knowing that the railing is firmly anchored in the rock. Either way, the truth is the same - you are safe because of the solidness of the rail and the rock. Just so, we can either live tossed around and in fear of situations and environments, or we can learn to trust and rely on the Rock within to hold us up and be our refuge and strength.

The Lord is our eternal Rock that is there for us every time, whether we believe it or not. But when we begin to believe it and look to Him to be that Rock within, we will be brought into such a solid, sweet inward knowing of our God that will outweigh the pain and the difficulties we are going through or have gone through. Eventually we will even come to the place where we can declare with David, "The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let God be exalted, the Rock of my salvation!"

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My God, My Portion and My Love

"...And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You." Psalm 73:25

My God, my portion, and my love,
My everlasting all!
I've none but Thee in Heav'n above,
Or on this earthly ball.

What empty things are all the skies,
And this inferior clod!
There's nothing here deserves my joys,
There's nothing like my God.

In vain the bright, the burning sun
Scatters his feeble light;
'Tis Thy sweet beams create my noon;
If Thou withdraw, 'tis night.

And whilst upon my restless bed,
Amongst the shades I roll,
If my Redeemer shows His head,
'Tis morning with my soul.

To Thee we owe our wealth, and friends,
And health, and safe abode:
Thanks to Thy Name for meaner things,
But they are not my God.

How vain a toy is glitt'ring wealth,
If once compared to Thee!
Or what's my safety, or my health,
Or all my friends to me?

Were I possessor of the earth,
And called the stars my own,
Without Thy graces and Thyself
I were a wretch undone.

Let others stretch their arms like seas
And grasp in all the shore,
Grant me the visits of Thy face,
And I desire no more.

We recently returned from a wonderful vacation in the beautiful Northwest. The beauty of the mountains and the water and the trees was unparalleled. We stayed with dear and gracious friends on a beautiful little lake, and had encouraging fellowship and prayer together. We were refreshed in every way. We really couldn't have asked for more. Yet as I sat alone with God after we returned home, a line from the hymn above came to my mind - a hymn I haven't sung in years. And the line was, "Thanks to Thy Name for meaner things, But they are not my God."

What was in me was a deep gratitude for all we had enjoyed and experienced, things from God even. But the deeper realization was that as marvelous and precious and beautiful as all those things are, they are not my God. Nothing can compare to Him. His gifts and His creation and the good things He gives us to enjoy - as great as they are, they are nothing compared to Himself. They are nothing compared to the beauty and preciousness of His presence. I love the last two lines: "Grant me the visits of Thy face, And I desire no more." The more I get to know Him, the more time I spend in His presence, the more I find these lines express the growing sentiments of my heart.

He knows how to ravish our hearts and wreck us for Himself. But the way it happens is by our spending time with Him and getting to know Him, by our seeking Him out - seeking His person and presence, seeking His face, seeking to know His heart. He gladly gives us all things to enjoy, but the things He gives should point us to Himself. It's like He is saying, "This is beautiful, but wait 'til you see Me. That is just a little glimpse of My beauty and glory. I'll show you so much more if you will come and spend time with Me in My presence!"

Nothing can compare with our God. He is everything we truly long for and need. He is our portion, He is our love, and He is our everlasting all.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

More Glory

The story of Lazarus is a familiar one, but one I never get tired of because I love what it reveals about God's heart for us, and how God sees a bigger picture and has a greater good and a greater glory in mind for us than we could imagine for ourselves. Our nature is to stop short and play it safe, go for the quick and easy fix, but God is God and He knows what He is about in each of our lives and He is willing to risk our "safety" for more of His glory to be manifested in us because He loves us.

Mary and Martha and Lazarus were siblings who lived together in a town called Bethany, about two miles away from Jerusalem where Jesus was staying at the time. They knew Jesus and were good friends with Him, so when Lazarus got sick, his sisters sent a message to Jesus telling Him that the one He loved was very sick. When Jesus heard that he responded to the disciples with him, “Lazarus’ sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God.” Then the Bible says a very peculiar thing. It says that although Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus He stayed two more days where He was and did not go to them.

Finally He decided it was time to go, and He told the disciples with Him that Lazarus was dead and that He was glad He wasn’t there because this would give them another opportunity to believe more in Him. As He was going Mary went to meet Him, and when she saw Him she fell at His feet weeping, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died!” When He saw her and the others weeping He was so moved that He was groaning and troubled inside, and He began to weep too.

It was obvious to those around how much Jesus loved Lazarus. But there were some who said, “He healed a blind man, why couldn’t He keep Lazarus from dying?” And Jesus, again groaning inside, headed for the tomb where Lazarus lay and asked some to move the stone covering the entrance. For Martha it was too late, Jesus hadn’t shown up in time. Lazarus had been dead for four days now and all that was left was a terrible stench - to which Jesus made the reply, “Didn’t I tell you that you will see God’s glory if you believe?” Jesus then lifted up His eyes and prayed to the Father, asking that these people would believe in who He was. Then He shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus, who had died, arose and came out. Interestingly, he did not burst out of the grave fully free, but he came out still bound with the graveclothes, and his face covered with a headcloth. And then, rather than Jesus Himself fully freeing Lazarus, He turned to those nearby and instructed them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

Sometimes when we are going through something hard or scary or even life-threatening we cry out for Jesus to come and rescue. Yet seemingly He doesn’t hear; or at least doesn’t show up when or how we think He should. To us this will end in “death” if Jesus doesn’t respond immediately. But look at what Jesus knows – He knows that what we are experiencing does not have to end in death but that it can glorify God in time if we will let it. Our vision is so short-sighted that we can only see and feel what is here and now, and it isn’t always good or pleasant. It often even is painful. That’s why it hurts when He seemingly doesn’t show up, or He shows up too late by our standards. As with Lazarus He waits to come - even though He is moved with compassion by what we are going through - because He loves us.

God sees a much bigger picture than we do, He has an eternal perspective on things that we don’t naturally have. God wants glory - we were created for glory. He wants to be glorified here on earth and the way that happens is through people who are willing to let go of what they see and what they want, and believe by faith in God’s greater and eternal good. Though all the events up through Lazarus' death were painful and hard to understand, in the end, Lazarus rising from the dead was much more of a testimony than being healed would have been. It had a much greater impact on everyone – and especially on Lazarus!

Interestingly, though, being raised from the dead wasn’t the end of the story. Lazarus was still bound even though he was physically healed and made alive. Jesus could have freed him from the graveclothes too, but instead His instructions were for those close to Lazarus to unwrap him and help bring him into full release from his death situation. This is a beautiful picture of how God operates in our lives and puts us in proximity to others who can render the help we need to experience more freedom. Jesus could have done it all for Lazarus, but instead He wanted to demonstrate how we need one another, how we need others to be "Jesus" to us, and how we need to receive from them (and in turn we need to be available to be "Jesus" too).

This is not a solitary life, it is a member life He has put us into. And just as it must have taken a little time for them to unwrap Lazarus, it takes time for us to get freed from all the things in our life that bind us. Our part is to keep coming, trusting and receiving, and as we do God will get more glory in this whole process of us coming out of "death" and being freed from the woundedness and brokenness that hinders our walk and our growth. What a defeat to our's and God's enemy! When God is glorified in us, our lives testify to Satan and to others of God's greater wisdom and power and greatness that can triumph over even the most seemingly hopeless of situations.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Take the Cup

“I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” Psalm 116:13

Two things, as I look back on my life, have had a major impact on my daily experience of the Lord. One is learning the secret of feeding on the Word, the other is discovering how to call on the name of the Lord. So, what is in a name? A name in itself has a meaning; the name Jesus means savior (one that saves from danger or destruction), or deliverer. But what really gives any name meaning to us personally is knowing the person that a particular name is attached to.

When we were little, “Mommy” was a name attached to a very important person in our life and we knew if we called that name she would answer us. If we were hurt and we cried, “Mommy!” she would drop everything and come running to see what was wrong and would try and comfort us. Just so, one of the things that gives meaning to the name of Jesus is knowing who He is, that He loves us and is for us, and that He is the one who saves us not only initially, but also day by day.

Daily, it seems, there are emotions or temptations and situations that we need to be rescued from, either inwardly or outwardly. Romans 10:13 says that the Lord responds generously, or is rich, to all who call out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.” We call and He responds. The help He gives is His very person, His presence. The Word says He is a very present help in our times of trouble. As we call, He gives to us the experience and portion of His life we need for that moment.

After all, Jesus has already lived the human life that we now live, and He fully knows about and sympathizes with our human condition and experience – He understands what we are going through, He knows our weakness. And in His person we can find peace and comfort, we can find courage, we can find wisdom, we can find strength – it is there if we will receive it. He is ready to richly supply what we need if we will just look to Him and cry out to Him. Our outward situation may or may not change but He will give us the grace we need for that moment. He will give us grace to wait and grace to go on, grace to trust Him - He will give us Himself, all that He is.

The Psalms are full of cries to the Lord, and full of praise for His answers, too: “In my anxiety I cried out”, “Then I called on the name of the Lord, ‘Please save me!’”, “I called on Your name, O Lord, from the lowest pit.”, “I sought the Lord and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”, “He delivered me…therefore I will give thanks.”

The name of the Lord is a mighty name, a powerful name. He has given us an amazing cup to drink from, a cup full of saving ability, a cup that never runs dry. When we cry out, and keep crying out from our depths, “Jesus!”, "Abba, Father” or “Help God!”, He hears us and He responds. If we look for Him instead of for a particular answer we want, we will never be disappointed. Sometimes we can’t cry out loudly. All we can do is whisper because that is all the strength we have, or all that our environment will allow. But He hears the desperation of our hearts and comes to minister to our need. He is our Abba, our papa.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Living Bread

Hunger…we all experience that to a greater or lesser degree daily. God has designed our bodies such that we need to eat multiple times a day, and feeling hungry is usually the signal that it is time to refuel our bodies again.

Physical hunger is just a picture of our spiritual need. For our walk in this life we need spiritual food to give us the spiritual strength we need daily. We do not tend to think of food as an optional part of our life, and if we do for too long, our bodies will surely let us know about it. In the same way, spiritual food is not optional. Part of our problem is that we do not always recognize what spiritual hunger looks or feels like, so we may overlook our need. Most of us have learned in the physical realm to eat regularly scheduled meals, whether we always feel hungry or not, because we know our bodies need the nourishment to keep functioning optimally.

In the same way we need to have spiritual supply daily. In John 6 Jesus presents Himself as food – “I am the bread of Life”. In v. 57 He says that just as He lives because of the Father who sent Him, “so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” That’s a pretty amazing directive – how do we feed on, or eat Jesus? John starts off declaring in chapter 1 that in the beginning was the Word, and that this Word became flesh in the person of Jesus.

So, a good way to eat Jesus is to feed on His Word. Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Your words were found, and I ate them. And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart”. God tells Ezekiel in chapter 3 to eat what He gives him – “As I opened my mouth He gave the scroll to me saying, ‘son of man, eat this book that I am giving you. Make a full meal of it!’ So I ate it. It tasted so goodjust like honey.” And Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

The Word is for eating, for taking in daily for supply, and it is sweet and nourishing. Is eating different than just reading? In my experience and that of others, yes. When we think of how we eat, we put a small piece of food in our mouth, chew on it to break it down and savor the taste, then swallow. And we repeat that until the portion of food is gone. This takes some time of “intimate” interaction with our food.

Another way of thinking about eating the Word is to meditate on it, or pray with it. Psalm 1:2 says, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates (ponders by talking to himself; mutters, mumbles; chews like a cud) day and night.” Verses 2 & 3 in the Message read, “…you thrill to God’s Word, you chew on Scripture day and night. You’re a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, never dropping a leaf, always in blossom.” Eating the Word makes us living and healthy, a person who has what is needed inwardly to keep bearing fruit.

We all know that eating is much more enjoyable when done with someone else. And when we come to the Word in the way of seeking nourishment and taking time to eat, we find that Jesus is not only the bread on the table but also the One who is at the table with us. As we meet with Him He offers us Himself as food to fill our hungry souls, as drink to quench our thirst, as supply to carry us through our day.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Emmaus Road

The story in Luke 24 tells how two disciples are on the road traveling together to a village called Emmaus. As they are walking along deep in conversation Jesus, unrecognized, joins them and asks what they are talking about. They tell Him all that's been going on, and then He begins to explain to them about Himself using the Scriptures.

When they arrive at the village the disciples invite Jesus, still unrecognized by them, to stay with them for the night. "As He sat at the table with them He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him" (Luke 24:30-31).

After they recognized Him, they began talking about how their hearts were burning within them while He was talking to them on the road and while He was opening the Scriptures to them. But it took the time of stopping and sitting down together, and breaking bread together in an unhurried and intimate environment where they were face to face, for them to "know" Him.

Jesus is walking with us on the road of life. The Word says that He will never leave us or forsake us. But so often our eyes are blinded and we don't recognize that He is there. Jesus appears to us as we are walking along on our road to wherever, deep in our own thoughts and conversations, and joins us. We are all caught up with what is going on in our lives, but He patiently walks along and listens to us, and then if we listen carefully we find He begins to share some of what is on His heart.

He does this through other people, through things that happen to us, through the Word. And that is wonderful, but for our eyes to be opened to really see Him for who He is, we need to stop and take time to sit down with Him and break bread with Him in an unhurried way.

Intimacy takes time and it takes communication. It takes asking questions sometimes, opening our heart to God, and then listening to what God has to say, what is on God's heart. Too often we rush in, grab a quick "bite", say a short prayer and rush off again without listening to what He might say.

In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me." Every day Jesus is saying, "Here I am!" The more we take time and allow intimate encounters with the Lord, the more our hearts will begin to burn with a love for Him and a love for His Word.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

His Poiema

"The raw material for spiritual growth comes from the grit of our life and human experience. For the Spirit of God calls us through our families of origin, our personalities, our choices, and all the conditions of soul we encounter - and from that He forms in us the image of Himself and His grace which He wants to express to our particular world. From the dust of our lives, the glory of God can shine....

"As Paul says, we are God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10); that is, our lives are His poiema - literally, His poem. A poem is an artful creation, a thing of beauty that requires care and time to produce. My prayer is that you will find God slowly pulling together all the "words" of your life to achieve just the right meter and rhyme. For His high purpose is that your life may give voice to some piece of His holy wisdom and insight desperately needed by others in this challenging world." (Soul Keeping, by Howard Baker)

Isn't that awesome? God is writing a unique poem with each one of our lives, a poem that will express Him beautifully to those in our world around us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Servant Song

Brother, let me be your servant,
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace to
Let you be my servant too.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
We are brothers on the road;
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ-light for you,
In the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out for you,
Speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping,
When you laugh I'll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we've seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in Heaven,
We shall find such harmony;
Born of all we've known together
Of Christ's love and agony.

Brother, let me be your servant,
Let me be as Christ to you;
Pray that I might have the grace to
Let you be my servant too.

(by Richard Gillard)

This is what we can be to one another in a busy, hurting world. We are here to help each other on our journeys. We are not just traveling alone, although at times it may feel like it. But the bigger reality is that there are members of the body of Christ who can come alongside us when we are feeling weak, or afraid, or in the dark - or even when we need someone to laugh with. We also can be the ones to come alongside others. I am grateful for all who are companions on this journey. There are the ones ahead of us who are beckoning us on, there are those alongside who hold our hand or offer an encouraging word, and there are those next to us or behind us to whom we can offer the encouragement we have received from others and from God Himself. We can be as Christ to each other, and we can receive Christ from each other. We are called to live this kind of life with one another - may we take the time to give and to receive. We will be blessed and we will bless others.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Fire Within

"I believe you need to have something more than smoke to touch people. You need to be a burning light for that. His ministers must be flames of fire....I tell you, a flame of fire can do anything! Things change in the fire....And whatever you do, don't let your heart get in the wrong place, for it is there where all the illumination comes, and you are made a flame by the igniting of His power inside." (Smith Wigglesworth)

"The world is cold. Someone must be on fire so that people can love and put their cold hands and feet against that fire. If anyone allows this to happen...then he will become a fireplace at which men can warm themselves....The English word "zeal" usually means intensity of action. But real zeal is standing still and letting God be a bonfire in you. It's not very easy to have God's fire within you. Only if you are possessed of true zeal will you be able to contain God's bonfire....The Lord is calling us to stand still before Him while walking with men." (Catherine Doherty)

"Silence is the discipline by which the inner fire of God is tended and kept alive....What needs to be guarded is the life of the Spirit within us. Especially we who want to witness to the presence of God's Spirit in the world need to tend the fire within with utmost care....Our first and foremost task is faithfully to care for the inward fire so that when it is really needed it can offer warmth and light to lost travelers." (Henri Nouwen)

I love these quotes and find them to be very challenging and compelling in a good way. As believers we naturally have a longing to know God and to be known by Him. One outcome of that mutual knowing is knowing God's heart that loves and cares for other people and where they are at. But what do we have to offer them?

Perhaps we can help meet physical needs like for food or clothing, or we can listen when someone needs to talk, we can give money where there is a need...these are good things to do. But I believe more than that, people are lonely, they are hungry for love and companionship, for knowing that someone cares about them. And I think to be most effective in this kind of ministry, which is a ministry we all can and should have, we need to have the inner fire of God.
We need to have it tended and kept alive so that when it is needed, it is already burning and we can offer a warming presence to cold, lost, or weary men and women.

What a wonderful possibility that we could be reflections of God's love and light in this world. But there is a price to pay, although love would call it a joy, not a price. The "price" is spending time in His presence, letting Him warm our own souls and kindling the flames freshly in our own hearts. Then as we go out each day, we can go out "practicing the presence of God" in the midst of practical duties, as Brother Lawrence wrote about - learning how to cultivate an inner dialogue with God as we go about our daily lives.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Life is a Journey

"Father, my heart longs for eternity but my body remains here. Help me to see life as a journey that is completed through communion with You." (Margaret Feinberg)

There is this thing called eternity. There is eternity past where God has always existed and there is eternity future where someday we as believers will exist with God forever. And in between the two eternities is this little blip on the radar screen called time. To us time is everything, all we can relate to. After all, who can really get their minds around eternity? Yet that is where we are headed. In the sphere of time we are all travelers on this road to eternity. And God is very interested in our journey. He has invested the life of His son, Jesus Christ, and given us all the raw materials and resources we need to ensure that we will make it and will end our journey well. As we spend time in His presence and in fellowship with Him, He imparts to us fresh strength and fresh supply that enables us to keep pressing on day by day by day.

"Blessed are those whose strength is in You,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion." Psalm 84:5,7