(holy) SPIT

A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him. Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly! Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news. They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.” ” Mark 7:32-37 (NLT)

Really – if there’s an apt title for this message – it’s this: (holy) SPIT.

Does that offend you? Does it make you uncomfortable? Are you bristling or shifting in your seat right now? I wonder why we react in such a way when the thing that God does, according to the scriptures, is take the raw material of our lives and make it HOLY.

Like Jesus’ holy spit.

Let’s not waste our time here today, okay? Let’s not let some words go in one ear and out the other. And let’s not waste this perfectly wonderful object lesson – Jesus’ use of spit – when what God has to teach us is as close as the moisture in our mouths.

Four things stand out to me, about God, after reading this story of Jesus’ healing of the deaf mute…

God Says it, then He does it.

God does what He says – HIS WORD IS ACTION! Jesus SAID to the deaf mute ‘BE OPENED’ and it was SO. No empty promises. No passive, pious ‘I’ll pray for you’. Jesus literally puts His money WHERE HIS MOUTH IS, and the result is HEALING and RESTORATION! So much so that the people around Him say things like:

“He’s done it all – and done it well!” (NOT – “He says such nice things!” or “He’s so smart. He knows so much!”)

Scripture is jam-packed-FULL of ACTION WORDS when it comes to the promises of God. To ward off any doubt, let’s do a quick re-cap:

God made.

He defends, feeds, frees and gives.

He lifts up, loves and protects.

He takes the side of, upholds, watches over and sustains.

He listens to and lays hands on.

He casts out and makes short work of demons, illness and fear.

He SAYS it, and then He makes it SO. That’s the S.

People are His Plan!

Look around you. What do you see? WHO do you see? Do you SEE GOD? More likely than not, you only see PEOPLE. And people, WE are God’s PLAN of ACTION! When we read Isaiah 35:4 and hear the promise “GOD IS HERE!” we can’t help but look around…

And some of us, when we look around expecting to see God, are disappointed. All we see are a bunch of broken, messed up, unholy people with issues at least as great as our own. Let’s be honest – we’re not much to look at, even in our Sunday best, even on our very best day – are we?

But God’s Plan to ACT in this world doesn’t just ‘include’ us – it RELIES on us, too! Listen to James 2:14-17 (the Message):

“Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right WORDS but never DO anything? Does merely TALKING about our faith indicate that a person really HAS it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved, and (you) say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit! (I’ll pray for you!)” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup – where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-ACTS is outrageous NONSENSE?” [caps & emphasis mine]

It’s true that God is already working in the world all around us – after all, HE IS HERE! But He is calling you and me to JOIN HIM! To get in the game! To stop wasting time on our little, human projects and join Him in HIS Kingdom-work – work that CHANGES things and makes a LASTING impact on the world! God is calling you and me to ACTION that:

Defends, feeds, lifts up and upholds.

He’s calling us to sustain, watch over, free and protect.

God is looking for givers, lovers and those who will take the side of others who are otherwise alone.

Actions that, yes, HE IS ALREADY DOING and will continue to do – with or without our participation. But people, PEOPLE ARE HIS PLAN! That’s the P.

Incarnation

Incarnation is that churchified word that simply means God-lives-here. In Christian theology, we believe the incarnation to be the embodiment of God the Father in the human form of God the Son… Jesus. But it doesn’t stop there!

God’s Plan is People, and He has made it possible for you and me to BE the Incarnation of Jesus through His living and active Spirit! God moves in to you and me and we become people who embody IN THE FLESH the PERSON of God, the Holy Spirit! This includes His personality, His power and His priorities.

When our words are just words, they make little difference to others and we have little impact on the world. It’s like Psalm 146:3-4 says: ‘Mere humans don’t have what it takes – when they die, their projects die with them.’ It’s not just ANY act/action that God is after – His ‘capital P’ Plan isn’t to sit back and watch while we each make our own ‘little p’ plans! He knows that our actions, when done apart from His Word and His Spirit, are only temporary, weak, fruitless, even impotent acts that will be buried with us when this short life is through.

God is trying to tell us today that WITHOUT THE WORD, our words are as powerful as SPIT. Yuck. Gross.

Why else would the world look at Christians and Christianity with such skepticism and negativity? The world is watching us, and when they see mere humans operating without the Word and without the Spirit, what they see is the outrageous nonsense of God-talk without God-acts.

Jesus’ words to the deaf mute are a powerful reminder that we must remain open! The degree to which we are open to this mystery of Incarnation is the degree to which we participate in God’s Plan! But you and I know from painful trial and error that human effort isn’t enough to bring about the Incarnation – what we need is a:

Transfusion of grace from God!

I had some bloodwork done recently. Often when I have blood drawn, the phlebotomist has trouble finding a good vein (fortunately it only took one stick this time). But think about it… maybe the pricks and pokes you’re feeling in your life right now are the work of the Savior, who is set on finding a good vein in you so that He can begin the life-saving TRANSFUSION of grace and forgiveness that you so desperately need.

It is only by God’s free-flowing, undeserved grace that we can be filled with the living, active Word Himself – the Word that Speaks and makes it So – the S!

And only when we’ve been connected to that flow will we be able to live into God’s Plan as God’s People – His Plan to act in ways that will heal and restore and include all people – the P!

He knows that we can’t do it on our own – God knows our track record, both personally and corporately. He’s seen our attempts and He’s watched our failures. Only Jesus Christ, alive in us – the Incarnation – makes it possible for us to participate in God’s Plan – the I!

So, why are we willing to settle for knowing the ‘right words’ but failing to live them? That’s DEAD faith, people! And when we’re dying, what we need is something we can’t supply for ourselves: we need a TRANSFUSION of life-saving, life-giving proportions! To come ALIVE with Christ, we desperately need the GRACE of God, so…

Hang in there! Let him find a good vein! Transfusion – that’s the T!

And what we’re left with is SPIT.

Saliva. We’ve all got it, right? Basic, raw material.

Yet God can take the most raw material – the least spiritual offering we’ve got – and He can make it holy. Jesus proved it – with His spit.

It doesn’t take anything special on your part, because the power comes from the Spirit of God, ALIVE in His Word! And it is Spirit-infused actions that will change the world, no matter how small they may seem to you and me.

Let God take what little you have – even if all you have to give is the moisture in your mouth – and let Him make it a blessing to others!

Share some (holy) SPIT with the last, the lost and the least – the poor, the widow, the orphan, the grieving, the outsider, the alien, the stranger, the needy, the sick, the addict, that teenager… you can fill in the blanks. YOU KNOW THE WORDS.

Now LIVE THEM.

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Maternity Leave (a PINK Tuesday post)

It’s been nearly 14 years since my last maternity leave.

In the traditional sense of the term, new life is practically bursting forth or has just arrived when maternity leave takes place.

Both of my own maternal leave periods were six weeks long. Six weeks of becoming acquainted with a new creation. Six weeks of anticipating, experiencing and recovering from the birth experience itself. Six weeks to make the often awkward and even painful transition between life before and life after this new arrival. Six weeks filled with the full range of emotional responses – tears, laughter, surprise, disappointment – while in the midst of a strangely euphoric period of exhaustion that tends to rattle the DNA.

Six weeks after which nothing will be as it was before.

When I requested a leave of absence from my work in church ministry – a six week leave – some were quick to liken this time-off to a sabbatical. I agreed. After all, after six years in ministry, even a lay person can benefit from a break. A change in scenery. A study leave. An extended ‘vacation’. I’ve done my best during this time to read and rest and catch up on those things I am perpetually, hopelessly behind in and on – all under the generous umbrella of ‘sabbatical’…

And there’s just one week left to go.

Sitting with my calendar in my lap, to-do list at my side, and the Spirit moving restlessly within, I am struck today by the most remarkably random reality: I am on maternity leave.

New life is bursting forth! Can’t see it yet, but I can feel it coming, and the uncomfortable anticipation just might kill me while I wait.

A new creation has already arrived! It looks a bit like I’d imagined it would, but it is wrinkly and fragile and time-consuming and breathtaking in all of its high-maintenance, miraculous beauty.

I’m trying my best to figure it out! I know what I should do with it, but this isn’t any time to be leading with my head – I am intuitively aware of the need to lead with my heart.

What a long time in coming! I’m exhausted by a growth process that has taken (literally) years, yet what is being birthed has arrived well-nourished, perfectly formed and surprisingly health-full considering my own flawed existence and previously failed attempts at creating from my own strengths something that only God can do.

Emotions wash over me in torrents as: Joy! Awe! Fear! Insecurity! Wonder! Apprehension! Amazement! Uncertainty! What I thought was becoming and what has begun to arrive are not exactly the same, and I am caught un-expecting (both the best and the worst) between bouts of laughter and streams of tears.

What I thought was a badly needed vacation has become, under the direction of the Creator, a home-birth instead. The old ways of doing things will no longer do – new life has come! Along with the former commitments and work-of-my-hands comes a new vision requiring fresh energy and shift in focus, because you can’t do same-old, same-old while holding something holy in your arms.

There is no going back to the way things were before.

I may have thought that the years of raising dreams conceived in passion were almost over, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This has been my spiritual maternity leave.

And this little mama’s bundle of joy – though not flesh and blood, but Spirit-born and God-breathed all the same – can now begin to grow.

Like a new mother... my work has just begun.

A New Day, A New Dare (a PINK Tuesday post)

English: graphic convention of manga, sweating...

Do you remember playing Truth or Dare as a child? Usually the DARE was something RISKY – maybe EMBARRASSING or even SCARY – something that would push you out of your comfort zone. Maybe even make you feel a bit vulnerable in front of others.

Personally, I almost always took the TRUTH option.

The word DARE implies that this is something not everyone can or will do. To take a DARE is to take a risk – it COSTS me something in the end. A DARE is not without consequences.

Back in grade school, a typical dare would be something like this:

I dare you to call Jimmy’s house and hang up!

I dare you to run outside in your pajamas (or less, depending on how daring your circle of friends happened to be)!

The truth is, Truth was generally not as fun for the group as the Dare could be. Much less exciting to spill the name of your crush than to actually call him on the phone and tell him you like him (with an audience of slumber party-ers, hyped up on soda in the middle of the night). I may have opted for telling the Truth more often than I took a Dare, but that was then. This is now.

Just as my friends found it more exciting to watch each other DO SOMETHING than to listen to one another SAY SOMETHING, I find myself a forty-something who is tired of listening to a version of the Truth that is nothing more than what you think I want to hear.

There are so very many words, and they are so very easily tuned out, that what I am looking for these days are men and women who are all about the Dare! The DOING! Action and momentum and energy and Word-become-flesh! Truth isn’t found in what you say when you’re put on the spot and have to spit out an answer. Truth is found when you and I Dare to live as if that Truth matters too much to keep it locked away in our words.

Truth is found when we Dare to act in situations where others won’t.

Truth is found when we set aside our need to look good in front of people and choose to do the right thing, unpopular or embarrassing as it may be.

I’m discovering that Truth is actually found in what we Dare to do each day, and that the Dare really is a better choice when what we Dare to do is forget ourselves and live for others.

 

Sometimes I’m the Light Bulb…

English: High Resolution black and white photo...
Q: How many egomaniacs does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. He holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.
Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?
A:  How many can you afford?
Q: How many board meetings does it take to get a light bulb changed?
A: This topic was resumed from last week’s discussion, but is incomplete pending resolution of some action items. It will be continued next week. Meanwhile…
Q: How many campfire worship leaders does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. But soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.
Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. But the light bulb has to really want to change.

Even Wikipedia has a page dedicated to defining the cultural phenomenon known as the light bulb joke:

A light bulb joke is a joke that asks how many people of a certain group are needed to change, replace, or screw in a light bulb. Generally, the punch line answer highlights a stereotype of the target group. There are numerous versions of the light bulb joke satirizing a wide range of cultures, beliefs and occupations.

Many versions of the joke are puns on the word “change”.

Change is equivalent to a four-letter word for many of us (just ask the woman approaching her 50’s what she thinks about the change). In the spirit of Dire Straits’ lyric for The Bug (“sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug”), sometimes I feel like the light bulb in all of these silly change jokes. Growing dim. Fading out. Flickering. Failing. No longer functioning the way I used to (the way I ought to). Powerless to bring about the change that’s needed most – because what really needs changing is me.

There are also times when I feel like the proverbial butt of all of those light bulb jokes. Instead of taking the most direct route to meet the needed change head-on, I drag my feet. I complain. I call for back-up. I make excuses. Instead of simply making the change – replacing the broken with the functional – I try desperately to do it my way instead. Anything to delay the change.

The writer of Proverbs knew this about us:

“Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” Proverbs 20:30 (Good News Translation)

Like it or not, our unwillingness to see change as a good thing is actually a root cause of many of the tears we shed. Paul knew this. He had written words to the church at Corinth which resulted in some tears on their end. Instead of apologizing, though, Paul said this:

“But now I am happy – not because I made you sad, but because your sadness made you change your ways. That sadness was used by God, and so we caused you no harm. For the sadness that is used by God brings a change of heart that leads to salvation – and there is no regret in that! But sadness that is merely human causes death.” 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 (GNT)

Sometimes God uses the tough stuff (when we’re feeling like the bug) in order to bring about the change that we are content to forever tap dance around, if left to our own devices.

There has got to be a better way! John the Baptist must have had these inklings, too, when:

“In many different ways, John preached the Good News to the people and urged them to change their ways.” Luke 3:18 (GNT)

Wouldn’t it be better all around if we would heed the wisdom of the Baptist and take the initiative to change the light bulb (or the relationship – or the situation – or the priority – or the behavior) ourselves? Difficult as this may seem, it’s exactly what Paul was talking about in Romans chapter 12 when he warned his readers not to become “so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” (v. 2, The Message)

To follow Paul’s line of thinking requires us to look at change as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. Facing change squarely and not backing down makes us think outside the lazy box-life that many of us lead – as Paul said – without even thinking. Change engages our minds and invites us to participate in our own lives rather than spectate, watching life unfold from as great a distance as we can muster.

Shifting focus from the ways of the world to the Way of the Word ushers in the new! New feelings. New choices. New ways of being in the world.

As uncomfortable and disconcerting as change can often be, it always does one thing very well…

Living in the eye of the hurricane of change confirms that, YES! You are alive! You don’t have to numb out to the predictability and monotony of the same old routine. You may be bruised and you may be bleeding, but you have the choice today to become the embodiment of Jimmy Buffett’s lyric: “I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.” (Growing Older But Not Up)

To live a life that defies every light bulb joke in the book will require that you stop dwelling on the light bulb that needs to be changed. Of course the bulbs are going to burn out – they aren’t made to last forever. Of course the things that are working in your life today will one day begin to flicker and fade – this life wasn’t made to last forever, either.

Resolve this day to make the change you need to make, but don’t let that change capture your attention. Instead, fix your eyes on the One whose light will never grow dim! With Him, change won’t get the better of you.

You’ll be changed! From the inside out.

The Pentecost Prayer Marathon (a PINK Tuesday post)

Prayers

Image by Xerones via Flickr

A number of years ago, in the midst of a season of unprecedented awareness of the power and presence of the Spirit of God, I gathered a group of women together for what became known as the Pentecost Prayer Marathon.

A marathon, as you may well know, is an endurance race that measures out to be 26.22 miles long. It has quite a history, the marathon, going back to the Battle of Marathon and the Greek soldier Pheidippides – a messenger who ran the distance from the fabled battleground to Athens in order to proclaim their victory over the enemy (in a battle which he himself had also fought). A feat which he did, as the story goes, without stopping until his pronouncement had been heard (at which time he fell down and died).

More than 500 marathons are run every year. Athletes prepare for months for this race which, for many, emerges as a defining moment of glory and achievement in a lifetime of athletic endeavors. I’m not really sure where the connection between 26.22 miles of road and a miraculous outpouring of Spirit-presence came from, but I began to wonder about what it is that drives a person to such a strenuous undertaking as the running of a marathon. I began to marvel at the dedication and intense preparation of marathon runners. I pondered the fruit of such an athletic commitment – maybe a medal? Certainly feelings of self-satisfaction!

But I am not an athlete.

No matter how hard I try, I just can’t imagine enduring the pain and maintaining the focus and discipline needed in order to run this kind of race (as much as I admire those who can and DO)!

On the other hand, I CAN appreciate the value of the LENGTH of the marathon. Yes, it is long. But it also has an END. A finish line.

I find that people (myself included) often function better with deadlines. Can you relate? When I diet, I am a maniac at following the rules! I almost NEVER cheat, because I can see the results AND I know there is an END – a goal – in sight. When faced with a huge project (say, writing curriculum for a retreat), I ALWAYS do better work as the deadline looms larger. There’s a date when this work must be presented, and the closer that event is, the more efficient I am at staying focused on it.

Anything I want to do better CAN be done better if I assign a goal or deadline to it!

This may drive one person to successfully finish a marathon, another to lose those last five pounds, and yet another to finish a project that has been pending since 1992.

Can the same be true about PRAYER? Can I be more effective and focused in prayer if I designate a sort of ‘finish line’ for it?

My hope is that you will find, as I have year in and year out, that the answer is an absolute YES! Herein lies your invitation, then, to join me in my annual marathon – my PRAYER Marathon – purposely connected to the memory of the Spirit-bath Jesus’ disciples and followers received when His promised Friend arrived on the scene, thousands of years ago.

Be mindful, though, that this marathon of prayer isn’t about ME. It isn’t about what I can do, what I think I need, or what I think is important to God. This Prayer Marathon is about the power unleashed in the lives of believers when the Holy Spirit is given room to breathe His mystery and comfort and momentum into the very lives of those who seek Him. Today.

So… here’s how it works! The Prayer Marathon begins on Saturday, May 26th at 8:00pm. It ends at 10:12pm on Sunday, May 27th (the day we celebrate Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit). In case you missed the connection, the Prayer Marathon lasts for a total of 26.2 hours.

For the sake of focus, there are four stations to pass through during the Prayer Marathon. Each one is designed to help us focus on a particular area of prayer/need. Designated times are just suggestions here, so don’t get too legalistic about them! Simply use them as a guide and allow God to move you through the Marathon to the finish line – the celebration of the arrival of His Presence with us!

Prayer Station #1: 8pm on Sat. May 26th

Focus your prayers on preparing your heart to receive all that God wants to pour out in YOU! Seek scriptures that connect the work of God in His people. Include times of confession in these early prayers. Invite God to move in your heart. Ask Him to show you what a life of discipline and focus on the things He cares about might look like. Ask Him to surprise you as the Marathon unfolds!

Prayer Station #2: Dawn on Sunday morning, May 27th

Intercede on behalf of those in your family, your church and your community. Make a list of those whose needs are greater than the resources you have to meet them. Take your time and ‘download’ any/all prayer concerns or requests you might have on behalf of those you know and those you love.

Prayer Station #3: Sunset on Sunday evening, May 27th

Intercede on behalf of those in our culture, our nation and our world. Bring to God your concerns for the people who live near and far, in familiar and unfamiliar places. Use a map or globe as a tool for your prayers! Consult websites for agencies like International Justice Mission, World Vision or Wycliffe Bible Translators. Identify specific places and people groups whose issues and needs tug at your heart, and lift them up in prayer. Light a candle on their behalf. Let your prayers shine light into their darkness as only God can.

Prayer Station #4: 10:12pm on Sunday evening, May 27th

REJOICE! Revel in the faithfulness of the God whose Spirit is ever-present in THIS DAY. In THIS MOMENT! Thank Him for His promises and celebrate His presence! Take note of what this Marathon has brought your way, taking time to write down your impressions and His responses to your cries. Ask yourself: what is the ‘medal’ He wants to lay across your shoulders, now that you’ve completed this Prayer Marathon? Is it a fresh awareness? A clearer vision? A deeper passion? Pay attention to the fruit of your commitment!

If you choose to pray this marathon with me, I invite you to pray these words from Habakkuk throughout the journey. Because the rushing wind and tongues of flame didn’t just come and then go. The Spirit of God is moving still, and something in me says that this is what our prayer should be…

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known.” -Habakkuk 3:2a

What I Believe (a PINK Tuesday post)

Jesus

Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I grow older in my faith, I find that there are fewer words to describe who God is – to me – and what He does in my life. I don’t mean that there aren’t words to express the truth about Him, only that I don’t actually need them. Does that make sense?

My experience with God in the past year has shifted from learning about Him and me moving toward Him to something much simpler and much more complex… just BEING together with God.

Where I used to think: what’s the right thing to do in this situation? Now… I just know.

Where I used to have to work and search God’s Word for an answer, somehow those answers come more often TO me – and not always from the pages of scripture! Sometimes God’s answers come from a conversation, or His instructions through an impression or sense of Him speaking to me. His comfort often comes by means of a changing situation, and His direction by simply waiting and watching for HIM to MOVE.

I’ve come to a place in my journey of faith where there seems to be one word that sums up all of my belief and understanding about God – His nature, His character, my relationship with Him, how He feels about me and what He wants to provide… ONE WORD!

PRESENCE.

What I mean by this is that I am never alone.

I don’t have to open a book or close my eyes or make confession or try really hard to clear my head and focus… because God’s presence isn’t dependent upon me at all.

He doesn’t need me to act in a certain way or say specific words or even pray in order to be who He IS – which is HERE! PRESENT.

You may have heard the catch-phrase from M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Sixth Sense – “I see dead people.” It’s as if I have been given spiritual eyes – not for glimpses of the deceased – but for actually seeing the living God all around me, every single day!

I guess “I see Jesus” IS my statement of faith! Because every day, I see Jesus alive. In all of YOU!

And here, inside of me.

Jesus’ disciples once asked Him why He told so many stories… His answer to them is confirmation to me that I am right where I belong on my faith journey today.

“The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?” He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again: Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing. Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing. The people are blockheads! They stick their fingers in their ears so they won’t have to listen; They screw their eyes shut so they won’t have to look, so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face and let me heal them. “But you have God-blessed eyes – eyes that see! And God-blessed ears – ears that hear!”     Matthew 13:10-16 (The Message)

May God bless your eyes and ears on this PINK Tuesday!

What’s YOUR Story? (a PINK Tuesday post)

In my world, this is Faith Statement season.

This means that, tomorrow evening, about 30 of us will gather to share with one another what we believe about God – and how that translates into real life, day in and day out.

Believers of all ages do this every year in my faith family, in conjunction with Confirmation Sunday. Before we expect our young students to share their statements of faith in front of 200+ church members, we get together and CELEBRATE the faith we ALL have! No matter how far along we are on this journey with Christ, we ALL have a story to tell!

The most beautiful part of this annual ‘event’ for me is the realization that we have more in common with one another than we could have known! After all, unless we take purposeful time to pen our thoughts and speak them aloud in the company of faith family, how would we know what God has done and is doing among us?!

I’m still working on my statement of faith for tomorrow night’s sharing, so today I’ll not waste your time with my words…

Instead, I challenge YOU to take time today to find words to express where you are in relationship to who God is! Here are the prompts that we use every year in this process:

  • Explain what you believe to be true about God – His nature and character.
  • Share what you believe YOUR RELATIONSHIP to/with God is (what you believe He thinks about you, has given you, wants to provide for you).
  • Give a personal reason or two (short story, life experience) for why you believe as you do.
  • Share a scripture verse or passage that you believe God is using in YOUR LIFE.

Go ahead – put it on paper! But don’t stop there – to do so would be missing half of the point. Share it with someone – or better yet, a few close friends or family members. Let God use this experience to illuminate connections and increase understanding in and among His people!

And if you need a friend to share with, well… there are LOTS of US here! Use the reply space below! Tell us YOUR story!

 

On Your Feet! (a PINK Tuesday post)

‘Rather than “standing on the promises,” many Christians are simply “sitting on the premises.”’ [Daniel Henderson, PRAYzing! (NavPress)]

Devout bystanders. Faithful pew-sitters. Attentive audiences.

Somehow, I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind.

Don’t get me wrong, though – for some of us, the fact that we are sitting on the premises is a very good thing! Showing up is a first-step for those of us who are curious or lonely or broken. Surrounded by God’s faithful, we can find hope in hopeless situations! Church is exactly where we need to be!

The problem begins, however, when we realize that many of those who are sitting beside us have been sitting there for a very long time. Week in and week out, singing the songs and reading the words and going through the worship rituals as if on auto pilot, or maybe as if idling endlessly with no intention of shifting out of park.

Francis Chan, in his video lessons on The Forgotten God, talks about this in terms of a football team. The team huddles and the coach lays out the play. They get pumped up. They give a hearty ‘Go! Fight! Win!’ They break the huddle. And they sit down on the bench.

Into the huddle they go, again, only to enthusiastically break and head back to sit on the sideline – never making their well-thought-out plays. Never engaging the other team. Never even playing the game.

It’s one thing to show up and sit down in hopes that God will move you. It’s quite another to do this year after year, with nothing but a church membership to show for it. The extent to which our churches have become the huddle of an inactive team is the degree to which the enemy is winning the big game, my friends. And this should not be so!

Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth about God’s promises:

God has made a great many promises. They are all “Yes” because of what Christ has done. So through Christ we say “Amen.” We want God to receive glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

When we consider that the God we worship is this “Yes” and “Amen” God of the Bible, we can’t help but consider his great promises as well.

Promises to be always with us.

Promises to give us a hope and a future.

Promises to send His actual Presence to live within our actual bodies.

Promises to surround us with protection as we pray.

With promises like these from the eternal “Yes” Himself, of course we want to shout “Amen!” But then we break the huddle, head home, and find ourselves once again sitting on the sidelines while the game plays on. Sitting, as Daniel Henderson writes, on the premises. Again.

This inaction we so easily adopt is not the fruit of a life filled with Christ! In fact, Paul says that God:

makes both us and you stand firm because we belong to Christ. He anointed us. He put His Spirit in our hearts and marked us as His own. We can now be sure that he will give us everything he promised us.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

We can now be SURE! God is going to COME THROUGH!

He has claimed us, anointed us, indwelled us and marked us as His own. We wear His team colors! We huddle with those who belong to Him! We empower our coaches to teach us the plays and we work together, so that we’re all on the same play and can get into position as soon we shout “Go! Fight! Win!” Break.

That bench sure looks inviting – not necessarily comfy, but safe. I know. I’ve done time on the sidelines, too.

But today… today we get into the game, my friends. We wear our gear and we show our true colors and we choose to give glory to God. The God who says “Yes” to every one of His promises! The God who has laid out the plays in His Word and has called us to love and to serve – just like Jesus did.

Jesus began by showing up, but His life’s work was done by standing up to evil and by running the plays that God called. And now He makes US to stand firm as His own, with all of His promises showing!

Seriously, now. Are you going to take this sitting down?

ON YOUR FEET! 

My shoes - detail

My shoes - detail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Life as a Piñata

300px-PIÑATAI grew up in Arizona.

My children have grown up in Arizona.

With this in mind, you’ll understand that when I hear the word broken, I think piñata.

I would argue that until you’ve had your arms elbow-deep in papier mache, you haven’t really experienced creation (or at least the act of creating). I still remember the first piñata that my sister and I made together…

It started with a balloon. It received coat after coat (after coat!) of newspaper dipped in flour-paste. In my youthful impatience (not much has changed there), I probably layered too quickly, not allowing each generous covering to dry completely before slathering another one on. No matter. It was a fine piñata by any 8 year old’s standards.

As an aside, this creative endeavor was inevitably turned into a mouse. After all, what else CAN an inflated balloon be? An egg?

A lot of white paint. Some whiskers. An opening cut. A LOT of candy stuffed inside. Resealing the hatch. Attaching a string. Hanging from the front yard Palo Verde tree. Add a blindfold and a broom handle. Party-goers get in line…

Let the party begin!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like a piñata – dangling mid-air. Gratefully, God’s creative energy is so much more skillful than mine (or we’d all be egg-shaped mice). There are days I wish I looked as festive and colorful as a tissue paper piñata, as if looking good was the goal, but the purpose of a piñata isn’t to float on the breeze indefinitely.

The purpose of a piñata – its role in the party – is to be broken.

After all – that’s how we get to the good stuff, right?

The very first women’s retreat I ever attended took place in a mountain summer home. There were only 5 of us there that weekend – all of us young mothers who couldn’t help but rejoice at the opportunity to spend a child-free weekend, hours away from home. Our theme that weekend was brokenness, and while I hate to admit that I don’t remember much about the teaching, I do remember the piñata.

Our leader hung it outside on the porch, and 5 grown women took turns (blindfolded, of course) wielding the weapon of destruction. We swung hard and whacked mightily until finally the piñata completed its mission and spilled chocolate candy all over the wood planks at our feet. Like children, we giggled and rushed in to grab at our favorite treats, collecting the goodies and enjoying every last bite.

While we ate our treats, I thought about Jesus, whose body was broken for me.

I thought about Jesus, who teaches that,

‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only one seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves his life will lose it. But anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it and have eternal life.’ John 12:24-25 (NIrV)

I realized then that my buttoned-up, self-contained, dangling-piñata life fails to bring glory to God. Hanging there, on display, the only thing I’m good for is a photograph. Maybe a second glance. Maybe a comment. And then, you’re bored. Ready to move on.

That is, unless you have a broomstick in your hand.

I could preserve this shell of a life and steer clear of the weapon you wield, but Jesus says that would be fruitless – like choosing death. No, my friend. Today I choose to be battered and beaten until the holes in this fabric that I’m made of are sizable enough to let the good stuff through. To let what I’m truly made of – placed within me by the hands of the Creator Himself – be poured out like candy from a piñata at an Arizona birthday party.

Broken.

Beautiful.

My life as a piñata. There is no higher calling.

Let the party begin!

Empowered to CREATE (a PINK Tuesday post)

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, ...

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a doorstep conversation this morning with a repeat visitor from a local church. She remembered my name, and she remembered that my work includes Christian education. She didn’t come empty handed today – she came bearing a gift in the form of a book dedicated to refuting the claims of evolution. She told me that people sometimes call her crazy for believing in creation. She thought this book might be of help to me as I teach God’s Word and His ways.

She couldn’t have known that this week, in my world, the focus IS: CREATE.

I will look at the book she left for me – I’m always seeking God’s truth where it can be found – but I refuse to get caught up in defensive conversation about whose understanding of God’s work is more accurate. I’m much more interested in watching His work unfold… today.

THIS is the call of creation! To be aware of God’s ongoing handiwork and to be open to glimpses of His present activity in the people and the world around me.

And once I’m both aware and open, to choose to accept His holy invitation to join in creating a world that reflects His goodness, His glory and His constant efforts at restoring our brokenness through the real presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

You & I have been empowered by God to CREATE!

How we direct our creative energy says a lot about who we believe ourselves to BE and what we believe our God can DO.

Barefoot Ministries has created a beautiful curriculum called A World Unbroken. The faith family I live in has adopted this curriculum for the next seven weeks in an effort to find our place in God’s story – beginning at the beginning. Beginning with: CREATE.

Click here to learn more about our efforts to join in God’s continuing restoration-work: CREATE.