Want What You’ve Got! (maintenance)

Dental flossApparently, I have a tiny mouth.

(Those of you who beg to differ, see yesterday’s post: Shhh!)

From my strategic position in the dental recliner, I complied with every request to open wider, turn my head this way, close my mouth around the suction hose thingy, stick out my tongue… All in the name of maintenance.

We all know that dental maintenance pays, right? I have a friend who is a dental assistant and I’ve heard stories, man. Stories of what can happen when we take our dental health for granted.

Kids, floss every day. Seriously. It’s worth it all when you take your place in The Chair.

Today I was told that my gum health is good – no bleeding. Hooray!

No X-rays on this visit, but apparently no trouble spots, either. I was in and out of the hot seat in less than 25 minutes, sporting some pearly white chompers and a shiny new toothbrush to boot.

The things we possess require maintenance. Teeth, hair, hearts, bodies… Feet.

Today is what many in church-world refer to as Maundy Thursday. On this day during what we call Holy Week (the week before Jesus’ resurrection), Jesus shared one last meal with His friends before His arrest. This wasn’t just any meal, either. As they gathered around the table in a borrowed room, the Jewish lot assembled there did so in remembrance of the Exodus – in celebration of the Passover.

Jesus did something shocking around the table that night. Taking the position of a servant – on the floor with towel and water – Jesus performed some badly needed maintenance on the feet of His followers.

Can you imagine how unpleasant it would be to wash the feet of guys who have been hoofing it in sandals for who knows how long since their last shower? Picking up each foot and, with the help of some water, scrubbing off those road-weary hoofs demonstrated to the dumb-struck diners just how unconventional and counter-cultural this Jesus really was.

And it modeled for them the need to maintain what matters most.

“Within pain and filth, there is an opportunity to extend God’s kingdom through an expression of love, humility, and service. This simple act of washing feet is a metaphor for how the world looks through the lens of Jesus’ grace. He sees the people—the world He created—which He loves. He also sees the filthy corruption in the world that torments everyone. His mission is to cleanse those whom He loves from those horrors.

This is His redemptive work with feet, families, disease, famine, and hearts. When Jesus sees disease, He sees the opportunity to heal. When He sees sin, He sees a chance to forgive and redeem. When He sees dirty feet, He sees a chance to wash them.” John 13:11 (The Voice)

We spend a whole lot of time, energy and resources on the maintenance of our possessions and toys. Boats, houses, atv’s, cars, carpets, landscaping, computers, closets… While some of this maintenance is essential, the rest of it is costing us – breaking the bank, so to speak – and keeping us from investing in those things that matter most.

Teeth require maintenance or else you’ll suffer. Cavities, root canals, and crowns all cost much more in terms of time and tender (and pain management) than the few minutes it takes to maintain dental health each day.

Relationships require maintenance, too. So do attitudes and energy. To keep them operating at full potential, all of our investments call for a commitment to ongoing (yes, even routine) preservation efforts.

Dates. Coffee breaks. Naps. Exercise. Prayer. Bible study. Conversations. Celebrations. Dental floss. All a part of the necessary maintenance for those who Want What They’ve Got, and want to keep it around for a very long time.

Daily Questions: Think about the maintenance investments you make on a daily, weekly or regular basis. What gets the most attention in your world? The lawn? The laundry? Kids? Spouse? Electronics? Your own well-being and spiritual health? Weigh the things you value most by the attention you award them… Telling, isn’t it? Maybe there are some dirty feet in your world that need washing today. Maybe there are some maintenance contracts you need to break in order to tend to those feet, and to that which matters most. Want What You’ve Got? Take good care of it today.

Want What You’ve Got! (weekend)

Bubbles and shell

Bubbles and shell (Photo credit: Fellowship of the Rich)

This weekend I have the unique privilege of spending time with a family of four, in preparation for their baptisms. Do you remember your baptism?

I don’t. I was tiny, judging from the size of the baptismal gown that has been worn by many a baby in our family’s faith tradition. Many of us share this memory-gap when it comes to our initiation into God’s family, coming from traditions with deep roots and long histories.

The language I’ve inherited for these baptism classes I teach is kind of fun – they’re called Splash classes. Usually I meet with the parents of a baby or young child, discussing with them the connection between water and Spirit, and talking through what they can expect on baptism day. We light a candle, share stories from our experiences with the sacrament, and we talk about what it means to be a member of God’s family – at any age.

One of the gifts that is given to each family is a page-full of ideas for living out their baptism as believers in a dry and thirsty land. These suggestions for walking wet as a family include things like praying together at mealtimes and bedtime, listening to scripture songs in the car, and modeling a life of God-seeking for others by “getting caught” reading your Bible and praying at home.

Walking wet means living out a whole slew of potentially trite sayings – things like: Practicing what you preach. Walking the talk. More being ‘caught’ than taught.

Walking wet means keeping your cup full (vs half-anything) so that there’s enough Living Water in your life to splash around in. To splash on others. To have some fun with!

I don’t know your story. I don’t know whether you were sprinkled as an infant, dunked as a grown-up, or whether you’ve been splashed on by the Spirit in some equally supernatural way.

This weekend, will you consider what it means to Want What You’ve Got in terms of Water supply?

If you’ve been baptized, will you take time to remember and thank God for your faithful family members and the nudge of the Spirit that brought you to the river’s edge?

If you’ve been involved with God’s family but haven’t yet taken the plunge, will you consider joining many who, on Easter, will take their first dip in God’s sea of forgiveness and forgetfulness on this grace-filled day?

And if you’re dry and dehydrated and seek something holy to quench your thirst, will you come to the Water for something much, much better than the temporary beverage this world is trying to sell?

Whether it’s a puddle or a birdbath, a pond or a wave, a squirt gun or a water balloon… let’s make a Spirit-splash and Want What We’ve Got today!

Want What You’ve Got! (alarm)

English: The face of a black windup alarm clock

English: The face of a black windup alarm clock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most-used and indispensable items in my possession is a small, battery operated alarm clock. Without its help, my children would have won the most-tardy award every year in school.

If you must know, I sleep with it just above my pillow, on the mattress, so that when it goes off I will hear it and need only extend an arm to retrieve and silence it before dozing off for a five-minute increment of snooze-sleep. These days it takes a few snooze cycles before I’m sufficiently roused to start the day, but it used to be worse.

Do I set my alarm on days when I have nothing important to accomplish – no meetings or classes or appointments to keep? Are you kidding? Nope. I use my alarm so that I don’t miss the things that matter – like the opportunity to earn a paycheck or spend a day hanging out with my family or friends.

There is a smoke alarm in the laundry room, next to my kitchen. Years ago we learned it best not to keep the alarm in the kitchen, due to my delicately-honed culinary skills. The day that my children heard the fire detector’s alarm sound and followed it up with the announcement that “dinner’s ready!” was the day the relocation took place. Annoyances aside, this alarm may very well have saved my house from being filled with smoke during episodes of aggressive cooking through the years.

Security systems often find their way into our homes in seasons of fearfulness. During one such season, our security company gave us a convenient little key fob to use for arming and disarming the system. What a terrific idea! Our three year old son thought so, too, every time he pushed the distress button after commandeering my keychain. Several apologies later, to the nice policemen who answered those distress calls, the key fob found a nice home in the drawer where I keep my owner’s manuals and the incidence of unwarranted soundings of the alarm were minimized (much to the relief of our entire neighborhood).

We use alarms for things that matter – things like keeping our commitments, insuring our safety, and preserving our possessions. We Want What We’ve Got, so we take measures to keep it, sounding alarms to keep things in check.

So… where’s the alarm to bring us closer to God?

We set alarms every morning to wake us up on time, but where’s the alarm to rouse us from our self-induced spiritual comas?

We set alarms to keep intruders from entering and taking what is ours, but isn’t there an alarm to sound when thought-invaders and joy-stealing bullies overstep their boundaries and threaten our carefully chosen way of life?

I attended the funeral of a dear, older gentleman from my church last week. Near the end of the service, because he had been in military service, an honor guard presented his widow with an American flag. As the first salutatory shot was fired outside the church door, everyone jumped. And wept.

The abruptness of death is what many will say is the wake-up call of the heart.

Losing the companionship of someone we love calls into question our priorities and loyalties and often strips away the pretense that our attempts at living can create. After such a great loss of life we find ourselves dissatisfied with the trivial and petty concerns that used to hold us captive.

Like the powerful blast of the honor guard’s rifles, death sounds an alarm that has the potential to wake you from sleep and draw you close to the heart of the Father, whose welcoming arms are at the ready to embrace you – no matter what state you are in.

This week, as Easter celebrations draw near, hear the metal blast of hammer-on-nail. At the executioner’s stake, the alarm is sounding…

Wake up!

Stop hitting snooze!

This matters!

Life was meant to be lived, and newsflash:  You are alive!

As Holy Week approaches, Want this wake-up call You’ve Got – the life, death and resurrection of a selfless Savior and redeeming King!

Daily Questions: You know, you need not wait until you’re grieving to heed the sounding alarm that says: Connection with God matters. How might you tune in to the soft whisper of the Spirit as He calls out to you in the midst of the events we remember in the coming week? What kind of alarm will it take to awaken what’s snoozing inside of you? How might you participate with God in sounding the alarm for others?

Want What You’ve Got! (weekend)

English: School bus seats, photographed from b...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

I often think of the Christian life in terms of the classroom and the field trip.

Sermons, Bible studies, devotions = classroom.

Life in the real world = field trip.

Jesus taught that His words are not just to be “incidental additions to your life, homeowners improvements to your standard of living.” Jesus’ words are foundational words – words to build a life on! He has some pretty harsh things to say to those who spend all of their time in the classroom and never actually work what they’re learning into the living of their lives (Matthew 7:24-29).

The weekends during these 40 days of Want What You’ve Got are a chance to work out all that we think about during the week. Sundays during Lent aren’t actually counted in the 40 day season, because Sunday for the believer is always Easter! Always celebration! Always feast day!

This weekend, instead of going out and buying or doing something new, consider what you’ve got. Find one thing that you already have but haven’t used or enjoyed for a long time…An appliance that makes a special treat. An accessory buried deep within your closet. A movie you enjoy but haven’t seen since… forever.

Take it out. Dust it off. Want What You’ve Got!

While you’re searching for that one thing, keep your eyes open for something that you haven’t used or enjoyed for a very long time – something that you don’t want... An appliance. A pair of shoes. Something that collects dust in your spare bedroom or that you regularly trip over in your garage.

If you don’t want it, why keep it? Re-purpose or recycle by giving it to someone else or dropping it off at a local charity store on your way to the coffee shop (just kidding)!

Family: Redefined (a PINK Tuesday post)

Linkware Freebie Image use it however you like...

Image via Wikipedia

Jesus was teaching and the crowd of curious and eager listeners was growing. With Him were His traveling companions – the Twelve (His students), and some women whom He had healed from various diseases and evil spirits.

Apparently, once healed, these women did not wish to leave His side. So they traveled with Him and His disciples, taking care of their need for food, drink and shelter. Supporting them by sharing from their abundance (or in some cases, from the abundance of their husbands and families).

As the crowd pressed in to hear the Rabbi’s words, “Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’” (Luke 8:19-21)

Words which have always given me pause.

Maybe even making me cringe a bit.

I’ve read these words many times and I’ve always felt that Jesus was being awfully harsh, dismissing His flesh-and-blood family in such a way. I imagine myself as His mother or sister, having traveled here to see Him – perhaps to deliver family news or to make sure that everything is well with Him – only to find that I am no more important to Jesus than this gathering of strangers seems to be.

These words of Jesus have carried a sting that I have never understood. Or tried to understand.

Until today.

Today my family celebrated Thanksgiving. Yes, Thanksgiving. In April.

I came home early from work to put the turkey in the roaster.

Dallas peeled potatoes and mashed them up the way our kids like them best and made gravy from scratch because that’s just what his Mom always does for Thanksgiving.

And then our family arrived.

Michael & Caleb bring a tub of rainbow jello, and we talk about Easter baskets and arcade games and visits from family out-of-state.

Paul brings pans of his original green bean casserole – the spicy version and the mild rendition – and we readily play guinea pigs because we can.

Marlena’s in her slippers and Maddie is showing off her Easter toy. Abby has a field trip tomorrow and has to get up early, so it’ll be an uncharacteristically early departure after dinner tonight.

Brian’s arms are full of pie and a mammoth tub of ice cream, and once these have been set on the counter, his arms are full of warm hugs for everyone.

Penny’s heart is full of concern for her children. She wears her heart on her sleeve and we love this about her.

Alan comes in – it’s a treat that he’s here! – carrying a pan of homemade cornbread stuffing and sweet corn casserole, hot out of the oven and smelling divine.

Rachel makes a bee-line for the kids in the family room and Carol makes her way into the kitchen, tired from a busy day of tending to her family’s needs (but smiling because being here is part of the tending).

Greg, as always, brings a story to the table and Joffrey brings hands that need washing to our family’s prayer circle, in the middle of the kitchen, where the aromas of this Thanksgiving meal (now assembled) are irresistible to this hungry crowd.

Britton smiles across the table as another funny story is shared, and we celebrate yet another year gone by as mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and children in one family, knit together by the hearing of God’s Word and the often feeble (but always honest) attempts at putting it into practice.

Blood relatives we are not.

But family we ARE.

I wish you could see what it is that I see when I look around the table at these faces.

It’s Jesus’ words come to life in a way that words on a page can never do.

It’s a springtime Thanksgiving for which all I can say is

Thanks.