life, Light

My Heart Melts Like Butter

“Nobody’s ideals form them like their loves form them.” – Ann Voskamp

I paused on page 117 of The Broken Way, the morning sun streaming through my bedroom window and across my bed, putting a spotlight on my slumbering, gently snoring beagle.

I thought of an old friend, who turned down open-hearted friendship in favor of fellowship with close-minded ideals.

I felt something stir.

Hope.

Longing.

Love.

Maybe Love would one day draw him.

Maybe, in the end, Love would form.

I read on to a new chapter.  Mean girls and devouring women.

Unexpected tears rolled.

Not sobs, not even a cry, just a few stray tears churned up by a benign sorrow.

p. 189: “I’ve made wide berths around women for years and skirted the communion of community because who knew when smiles could turn into fangs if you turned your back?”

You and me both, Ann.

I closed the book and put in a load of laundry. Socks and underwear.

I love any piece of writing that churns a memory, an emotion, a “me, too.” I love writing that keeps me pondering long after I’ve put it down.

I’ve had far more male friends than female friends in my life.

I thought about my friendships in general, about how I was able to keep my heart wide open, how I was able to turn the other cheek and expect good things as a non-Christian child, yet watched my heart increasingly close as a Christian adult.

We Christians often think that our children’s hearts are in danger of being corrupted, wooed, enticed away from God by the world, but I think it’s much more likely that they will be pushed, shoved away from Him by members of His church.

Waiting for the dryer to dry I jot down that thought.

I love writing that inspires a thought, even a post.

It’s what God called “worthwhile, not worthless words.”

It’s what I hope to someday write.

Good job, Ann.

#churn

 

 

 

Standard
faith, Jesus, Light

Low & Mighty on Passover Eve

IMG_5685

Exodus chapter 12 describes, well, the exodus, the mass departure of the Israelites from Egypt.  On the night they were to leave God instructed them to roast a lamb and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They were to eat in haste with their loins girded, sandals on their feet and staff in hand.

“This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.”

And so it is that the Passover is celebrated faithfully, year after year.

In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John we learn that the Last Supper took place before the festival of the Passover.  It was Passover Eve.  Not Christmas dinner, but Christmas Eve dinner.  The rehearsal dinner, not the actual wedding banquet. The Last Supper was not the actual Passover Seder, it was the night before.

John’s gospel tells us a few more things about that evening:

  1. Jesus was aware that He would soon be returning to His Father.
  2. He was aware that each and every one of His dinner companions had been given into His hands.  That’s what the phrase, “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands” means.  “All things” is better translated as “each and every one.” Each and every one of them was gifted to Him, even Judas.
  3. He loved His charges with an agape  love. One aspect of agape is “to be full of good-will toward.”

And so it was with love and good will that Jesus sat down to His last human supper.

In Chinese culture, jade symbolizes nobility, perfection, constancy, and immortality. It is viewed as the most valuable of all precious stones.

A Chinese boy set out to learn all about it. He went to study with a talented old teacher.  The old gentleman put a piece of the stone into the youth’s hand and told him to hold it tight.  Then he began to talk of philosophy, men, women, the sun and almost everything under it.  After an hour the teacher took back the stone and sent the boy home.  This procedure was repeated for weeks. Finally the boy became frustrated – when would he be told about the heavenly properties of jade?! – but he was too polite to interrupt his venerable teacher.  So he held the stone and listened. Again and again. Then one day, when the old man began their lesson by pressing a stone in the boy’s hand, the boy cried out instantly, “Hey wait! That’s not jade!”

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.” (italics added)

It seems out of place, that third sentence, “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him,” since John doesn’t speak again of Judas until later in the chapter, but it isn’t out of place, it’s the reason Jesus got up from the table.

He knew He was about to be betrayed, He knew human nature full well. Perhaps at that moment He remembered back to the disciples’ argument about which of them was the greatest, perhaps He remembered all the way back to when Adam and Eve disobeyed so they could be like God, perhaps He remembered even further back to when Satan wanted to be greater than God. He may have also looked ahead to all the ways evil men would infiltrate the church and exploit Him for selfish gain.

It was His awareness of our propensity to competition, our desire to be “better than” that got Him up from that table.   It’s what caused Him to take off his outer robe, tie a towel around his waist, pour water into a basin and press a precious stone into His disciples’ hands one more time.

So they would remember what He feels like.

You know the foot washing story and you know Peter. When Jesus got to his ten piggies, Peter said, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

In other words, “You’re too good to wash my feet!”

Jesus answered, “You don’t get it yet, but you will.”

Peter insisted, “You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

And so Peter, being Peter, said, “In that case, wash all of me!”

So Jesus laid it out for him. Again.

“One who has bathed does not need to wash.”

Wash and bathe in this passage are separate greek words.

“Wash” is nipto – to cleanse (especially the hands or the feet or the face); ceremonially.

It was customary back then – as it is now – to wash their hands before a meal.

“Bathe” is “louo,” it is a word used in the context of washing a dead person or cleaning blood from a wound.

Peter was already bathed as a dead person when he was baptized, when he was crucified with Christ and raised to new life.  He never needed to be bathed in that way again.  Just as a person doesn’t need to keep going forward at every altar call.  Once is enough.

All of the disciples had been bathed in the waters of baptism, except one. Scripture doesn’t tell us how and when Judas was called to follow Jesus, but it is telling us right here that he was never baptized, never raised to new life.  Even so,  Jesus loved each and every one of the 12 His Father had given Him.

“So Peter,” Jesus was saying, “zealous, enthusiastic Peter, you don’t need to be bathed, you only need to be washed.  Bathing is for souls, washing is for feet.  Feet that get dusty trodding through this sin-filled world.”

If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive them and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Our souls need to be bathed only once – through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit – it’s our bodies and minds that need daily cleansing from the stink of sin.

After Jesus washed their feet, put back on his robe and returned to the table, He asked:

“Do you get it?

I just pressed something important into the palms of your hands.

I’m not too good to wash feet and neither are you.

Peter had it backwards. It’s not a matter of being too good, too high and mighty; it’s a matter of being good enough, of being low and mighty.

Servants are not greater than their master, so if I’m good enough to wash feet, then you be good enough, too.

Once you understand this concept, and do it, you will go through life blessed.

Isaiah said so, too: ‘take care of one another and then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up quickly;…

The Lord will guide you continually,

and satisfy your needs in parched places,

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,’

Take care of one another and you will flourish.”

As someone who is chronically dehydrated and has osteoporosis, I like Isaiah’s wording – strong bones, well-watered….

Be low and mighty enough to serve others and you’ll like your life.

The lectionary for Maundy Thursday (you’re reading the homily I gave last night) skipped over the details of Judas’s departure, but you know how it went down. It picked up again at verse 31:

“When [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.'”

Judas’s departure set Jesus’ finest hour in motion.

His finest hour as a man – enduring physical and emotional abuse, bearing false accusations silently, as a sheep before its shearer.

I watched a tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber Wednesday night.  At the end of it,  John Legend, who will play Jesus in Sunday night’s live presentation of Jesus Christ Superstar, asked Andrew for advice on playing the role.

“It’s all about redemption after all,” Andrew replied.

John mentioned the angst and fear and doubt Jesus experienced as He faced the cross.

“And yet He went through with it,” Andrew replied.

“Yes,”  John smiled slightly, “He went through with it.”

He was glorified as the Son of Man by going through with it.  By laying down his life for his friends – there’s no love greater than that.

His finest hour as God was defeating sin and death, which no man can do.

His Father’s finest hour? Showing a restraint in the face of His Son’s suffering the strength of which no human father could match.

John didn’t mention the bread and the cup in his account of the Last Supper, but our epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 11 did.

“…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

The Passover feast was a perpetual ordinance for God’s people to remember their deliverance from the physical bondage of slavery.

And now a new perpetual ordinance has been instituted, to remember our spiritual deliverance from bondage to sin and death.

My body broken for you. My blood shed for you, because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Jesus, Our Passover Lamb.

Our gospel reading ends with a precious plea:

Little children, I am with you only a little longer.

At my church the children come forward and crowd in the aisle between the rows of pews for “The Lamb’s Liturgy.” The pastor gives a brief lesson and then touches each of their heads and blesses them before they head off to Sunday school. It’s my favorite part of the service. I love to see them walk back down the aisle, their little heads blessed, their faces Hopeful, expectant that the future has good things for them.

The tenderness with which the pastor blesses our children is the tenderness with which Jesus beheld those at the table, on the eve of His great suffering:   “Little children, dear ones, my charges, my responsibility, my baby chicks, my friends…

I’m leaving and you can’t come with me.

So just love one another.

By this everyone will know that I taught you well, if you love one another.

By this my Father and I will be glorified.

By this our strength will be shown.

Because no one can live low and mighty apart from us.”

Amen.

#betrayed

Standard
faith, Jesus

Sometimes My Heart Weeps

I usually leave a speaking engagement feeling exhausted and exhilarated. Today I feel exhausted and sick.  It’s not the scratchy throat and runny nose that seem to be worsening by the minute, it’s the quivering lip and the tear-filled, pleading eyes of a young face.

A face I can’t shake.

Even now I’d rather set my laptop aside and weep.

Just weep and sleep all afternoon. ‘Cuz I’m sick and I’m sick.

I got up early this morning, scratchy throat and all, loaded my stuff into my Escape and headed to a Christian school about 30 minutes away to talk to sixth graders about building healthy lives, healthy marriages and healthy kids.

The first session went beautifully, as usual. The students listed all the things that make them unique geniuses.  They listed all the good things they want from life and all the good things they want to contribute to life.

After a fifteen minute break, we talked about the things that can trip you up, pull you off course, cause you to lose your focus.  We worked through scenarios and looked down the roads of shoplifting, pornography, drugs and unmarried sex.

I shared real life examples from my years as a social worker and as a crisis pregnancy center director.  The kids had questions. Lots and lots of questions.

A girl in the front row raised her hand.

“If a man and a woman did stuff when they were young and then got married and did other stuff, would any of their kids die?”

“I’m not sure what kind of stuff you mean, like drugs?”

Head nodding yes, “And alcohol.”

“Well, drugs and alcohol could cause things like a miscarriage, or fetal alcohol syndrome or developmental delays, but I don’t think the drug usage of the parents would directly cause an older child to die.”

More kids asked more questions and then her hand went up again. Another question about dying.

“Do you know someone who died?”

“No.”

The third time her hand went up, same hypothetical scenario but this time a little more detailed, I knew she was talking about her family.

After the presentation, she lagged behind. She told me she is adopted. Her eyes pleaded with me for something, some hope that her older brothers, who were adopted separately, whose whereabouts are unknown to her, are okay. Are not dead.

We only had a minute. As her tears welled, I asked if the burdens of her heart were too heavy. I asked whether she was tempted to go the route of her birth mother. She nodded yes.

I gave her a hug. It was a limp, rag doll hug.

I wanted to ask her whether she could talk to her parents, whether they knew her concerns about her brothers, about alcohol. I wanted to know whether she had anyone to talk to. I wanted to tell her that Jesus knows all about her brothers. He knows all about her heart and her fears. He really does have enough love and power to help her.

But she left. She quickly left to catch up with her class.

And I want to make it all better for her.

And I can’t shake her sadness.

#purpose

#praying

 

 

Standard
Food, life

Lousy with Lettuce

I usually eat pretty clean but yesterday I ate clean AND tidy.

I was making sandwiches for the hub and me, to use up some leftover chicken. Organic, free range chicken.

And then, just as I was placing a leaf of lettuce over the chicken, I was struck by genius.

Wrap the lettuce around the chicken.

Because I hate it when I tip the sandwich to take a bite and some of the guts fall out.

I had the presence of mind to grab my iPhone so I could show my Facebook friends. In my excitement (and hunger) I didn’t bother to make the pics post worthy.

IMG_2474IMG_2475

What’s in the green schmear?

It’s a puree of one avocado, 2 cloves of pickled garlic, minced red onion, a bunch of cilantro – because my garden has a wealth of cilantro right now, just a little bit of kefir, a drizzle of serrano honey balsamic vinegar, a quick squeeze of lime, a longer drizzle of lime infused olive oil, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

The lettuce pouch worked beautifully. Not a single morsel of meat fell to my plate. Not a single morsel fell to the hub’s plate, either.

So now I’m going to wrap ALL the contents of my sandwiches in lettuce.

Because a). I like my sandwiches orderly and b). I’m lousy with lettuce.

IMG_2477

You’re welcome.

 

Standard
family, love

The Epitome of Matrimony

Fishing hub.001

The Hub: I’m going fishing now.
Me: Come in as soon as it starts to storm.
Hub: Naw, I think I’ll stand in my boat and wave my carbon fiber fishing rods.
Me: Is your premium paid up?
Hub: Yep.
Me: Are your accounts easily accessible?
Hub: Yep.
Me: Who do I call to make sense of them all?
Hub: Tom.
Me: Okay, then, do what you want.

‪#‎it‬sjustawaitinggame

daily prompt

Standard
life

Put a Fork in Me, I’m Done.

I’m breaking up with Whole Foods.

IMG_0595

My disenchantment began two years ago when I found these aliens in a can of green beans.

I tweeted this picture (and I almost NEVER tweet) @WholeFoods saying I was going to avoid their 365 brand. They responded almost immediately and  asked me to send all info via e-mail. I sent a picture of the can, the upc code, etc. They assured me they’d look into and get back to me.

That was June 5, 2014 and I haven’t heard a word. No explanation. No offer to replace the green beans (not that I would have bothered anyway), nothing.

Not cool.

I posted the pic on Facebook hoping one of my botanically inclined friends would know what the heck. No one did.

I don’t hold a grudge, though, so I kept my relationship with the big WF – avoiding the 365 brand.

But then last week I bought a bunch of stuff that I wouldn’t have bought had it not been on sale.  Things I use, but didn’t actually need at the moment – I had a newly opened package of Fig Newmans in the pantry, for example, but since they were on sale and the hub likes them, I threw a pack in my cart.  Same with a half gallon of milk – had an extra in the downstairs fridge already, but it’s on sale…. You get the idea.

Even with all the sale items the bill was high. As usual.

After I put away my loot, I scanned the receipt.  I was charged the full price on all but ONE of the many sale items I purchased.

I called the store and asked the chill young man who answered what a girl has to do to actually be charged the sale prices. He said, “Maybe the sale stickers were expired.” Then He put me on hold to transfer me to groceries.

Anyone who knows anything about grocery stores knows that if you don’t remove the sale stickers you have to honor the posted price. And someone was really sleeping at the switch because, if that was the case, the store was full of expired posted sale prices.

Anyone who knows anything about customer service knows that the first words out of your mouth in a case like this should be something along the lines of, “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry for the mix-up, I’m sorry for the inconvenience, I’m sorry for being far too chill.

I waited and waited and waited on hold and hung up. I’m not as chill as the young call-transferring man.

So I’m done. Whole Foods is not the only high-priced, organic game in town.

#putaforkinmeimdone

 

Standard
Jesus, Light

Love, Regret & Pure Rapture

My heart was caught up in a beautiful rapture this morning.

The hub and I were standing shoulder to shoulder singing one of my favorite worship songs when I noticed the elderly gentleman sitting in front of us was quivering. My heart was drawn to him. The quivering increased to what appeared to be silent crying. I didn’t know whether he was in distress or whether he was just moved by the song.  Often when I went to church with my dad, he would cry during worship, so I knew being moved to tears was a real possibility.

But just in case, I put my hand on his shoulder and said a prayer.  Almost in unison, the hub put his hand on the other shoulder.  Then his sweet wife noticed and took his hand. The beautiful clasp of their long-married hands is one for the memory album.

That precious snapshot was the prelude to an even more beautiful moment.

We next sang, Come Worship the Lord.

The young worship leader’s rich, able voice stirred the air as we sang the chorus again and again:

Come, worship the Lord,
For we are His people,
The flock that He shepherds.
Alleluia.

And I thought about my sister, Laura.

I thought about one of the last conversations we had before she died.  She asked me about my church. I told her I hadn’t been going.  She looked alarmed. “We’re just taking the summer off,” I assured her, “we’re going to start visiting churches in the fall – look for one that fits us better.”

“It’s the singing I miss,” she said.

Many years earlier she attended an Assemblies of God church with my dad. Back then I attended an Evangelical Presbyterian Church, but I would come and worship with them occasionally, especially when Laura was singing a solo.

She had a beautiful voice. The only one of us seven sisters who could sing.

Then she remarried and no longer went to church, hadn’t been, as far as I know, in about 25 years.  She told me, once, that she wanted to, but her husband wasn’t willing.  He was interested in more of a Native American spirituality which she adopted, and which gave her much comfort, in her battle with cancer.  And she never stopped believing in the God she worshiped in church.

She missed the singing.

And as I stood in the midst of the rapturous, glimmering, Spirit-filled air this morning, I wished it had occurred to me to say, “Let’s sing now.”

I’m tone deaf, so I would have sung along very quietly.

The two of us all alone in her house singing as many worship songs as she could remember.  Perhaps they would have stirred the air, enrapturing both our hearts.

I went to the funeral of a stranger.  I witnessed his family gather around his casket, which stood in the center of the aisle. They laid their hands on the casket and they kissed it and they prayed.

As I watched, I thought, “I would entrust my funeral to these people, to this pastor.”

This morning I wished Laura’s funeral had been entrusted to them.

This will likely offend some in my family, if they were to read it, but there is a deeper, higher, broader, sweeter, whole other layer of spirituality in worship and in the gentle giving of last rites and in prayer that my sister missed out on. Perhaps she wouldn’t have wanted it. Perhaps she would have asked for it if she did. Perhaps she didn’t know it was available for the asking.

I didn’t, until I witnessed it at that stranger’s funeral and until I was so moved by it today.

All I know is that Laura missed the singing and, if I had that afternoon in her living room to do over again, I would sing.

I want my death to have a soundtrack.  I want to walk to the gate with music playing – music that reminds me that I am one of His flock, and He is my Shepherd; music that affirms that even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He’ll never let go of me.

I want this song on my dying breath:

 Worthy is the, Lamb who was slain, Holy, Holy is He…

I want to be surrounded by those who will sing it with me. Or for me, if I haven’t the strength or the consciousness to sing.

Then there was the sermon. It was one of his last in a series on the Apostle’s Creed.  The pastor explained the meaning of the holy catholic church and the communion of saints – including that great cloud of witnesses that has gone before us.

And again my thoughts turned to Laura.

When Abraham and Ishmael and Israel and others of the Old Testament died, Scripture says they “breathed their last and were gathered to their people.”

I’ve always loved that phrase, “gathered to their people.”

Shortly after my sister died, I had a dream about her. She was sitting under a tree with an open book in her lap.  From a distance it looked like the hardcover yearbooks we purchased in high school. People were sitting and milling around in the background, blurred, and she was sharply in focus in the foreground.  The scene looked and felt like a family reunion from our childhood.

Laura looked down at the open page and said, to no one in particular, “I really like her.”

It was as though she was being introduced to her people, sitting there under her family tree.

I know she’s fine now and I’m fine, too, and this morning my heart was full of love and regret and pure rapture.

Holy, Holy is He.

 

#breath

Standard