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! (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?

Pray Like This… L4L.29

The WORDMaria_Magdalene_praying

“Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13 (New Living Translation)

Such familiar words deserve yet another hearing…

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need. Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.’” (Good News Translation)

This prayer and these words, for some of us, are so routine that we haven’t actually heard them in a very, very long time. Here’s one more opportunity to receive afresh this lesson on prayer from our Lord:

“With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best – as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” (The Message)

Many a prayer formula has been devised using this teaching moment of Jesus. I get the feeling – don’t you? – that formulas weren’t exactly what He was going for as He said this prayer out loud.

The APP

Praise!

Desire for His presence!

Longing for His will to be made known and put on display!

Our physical hunger – quenched.

Our shortcomings and failures – forgiven.

The ability to give grace to others – desperately needed.

Minimize our mistakes (please).

Protection and rescue. Protection and rescue. Protection and rescue!

There it is, Lord. Yes!

Jesus’ most specific teaching on prayer is not only simple, but specific. Nothing fancy. No guesswork here.

To be literal with Jesus’ prayer is something most of us are used to doing – word for word – so the APP for today isn’t necessarily what you might expect…

Instead of rattling off some words that don’t require you to think as you speak, adopt a new and different version of the Lord’s Prayer for Holy Week. Use one of those provided above, or better yet – write your own. There is something soothing and beautiful about familiar words, but there is something powerful and stirring about looking at the familiar from a different point of view.

I would love to hear your version – your personal Holy Week prayer.

Use the comment space below!

Here’s a daily prayer, written by John Eldredge, that utilizes scripture and serves up a powerful opportunity for connecting with our Father. Check it out!

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Consider Yourself WARNED L4L.23

Attention yellow2

The WORD

“All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you.” John 16:1-4a (New International Version)

Excerpted from Jesus’ parting words to His disciples, these words of warning are unavoidably unsettling. A taste of what’s to come. An attempt to prepare His followers for the realities of their commitment to the Kingdom.

“I’ve told you these things to prepare you for rough times ahead. They are going to throw you out of the meeting places. There will even come a time when anyone who kills you will think he’s doing God a favor. They will do these things because they never really understood the Father. I’ve told you these things so that when the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them.” (The Message)

Before we can process these distressing words of warning, it’s crucial that we understand exactly who they are…

The APP

The passage that comes before this one in John is subtitled “Hated by the World” in The Message. It’s reasonable to assume that, because our text flows out of this ‘world’ talk, that the they in this warning refers to the godless world outside of our believing circles. Jesus could certainly have been cautioning His followers to watch out for the world that views the Gospel message with attitudes ranging from animosity to skepticism (at best).

We’ve all experienced some of this, haven’t we?

People whose threshold for tolerance has been tampered with by having had a few too many evangelists show up on their doorstep over the years.

People who are so consumed with self that the idea of faith in something bigger than themselves just doesn’t compute.

People who were raised under the oppressive religiosity of works-driven theology, only to slingshot as far away as humanly possible from the church the moment they were emancipated from childhood.

People who have so bought into the wisdom of the systems of man that the mere suggestion of the spiritual elicits scorn and contempt.

Jesus’ reminder in John 15:18 deals specifically with a world filled with hate toward those who will follow in the Messiah’s footsteps:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (NIV)

Just in case you’re thinking that you can handle the haters in the world outside of the faith, there is something even more disconcerting to consider in this Literal 4 Lent text today, and it is found in John 16:2.

“They will put you out of the synagogue.”

“They are going to throw you out of the meeting places.”

The they in this sentence doesn’t seem to be referring to the people outside of the church. Why would that they care whether we attend church or not? No, this they appears to be those people who are inside the church walls with us.

People whose presence in the worshiping community might be deceiving.

People who have never really understood the Father and the way He operates.

People whose spiritual eyes have been blinded, failing to recognize the embodiment of Christ in the imperfect people through whom He lives and moves and works today.

Jesus is warning us that, as we grow into our God-ordained, Spirit-enabled callings, not everyone is going to applaud.

The world that hates the Light is going to spew its loathsome venom in our direction in an attempt to silence the Good News. Be ready.

The institution of church is going to attempt to consume the living Body of Christ, and if you’re one of His holy organs, you’d better be prepared.

Jealousy will rear its ugly head and seek to put you (and the attractive presence of the Spirit in you) out on the street, where you’re less of a threat and distraction to the well-oiled machine that is the church. Consider yourself warned.

There is no rejection like that of your family and friends.

Jesus doesn’t just say this might happen… He says when.

“When the time comes and they start in on you, you’ll be well-warned and ready for them.”

As Holy Week approaches and as our experiment in being Literal 4 Lent comes to an end, consider yourself WARNED, my friend.

Warned so that you can get ready for whatever is coming next.

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