Thursday, July 29, 2010

Some thoughts on a Blind Beggar:

“What do you want me to do for you?”

He could have passed him by.  He could have acted as though He didn’t hear his cries among the deafening crowd.  He could have pointed to His busy schedule, His important agenda...for He was on his way to save all of mankind.  He could have easily disregarded him.  In fact, He could have even tried to silence him like all the rest had done.

A blind beggar was all that he was; just a poor man with nothing to offer the world.  Day by day he lived, ignored by the steps he heard walking by and scorned by the faces he would never see.  But today was different.  Today he heard a crowd, he heard joy, and he heard celebration.  “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by”, they answered him, hoping he might then cease from bothering them. 

Jesus of Nazareth.  Just the sound of the name filled the blind beggar with an indescribable hope.  Jesus of Nazareth.  He had heard so much about this man, this prophet, this teacher, this friend.  He had heard the stories of love, of compassion, of healing and mercy.  Maybe He would be different, the blind beggar hoped.  Maybe He would not be like the others who day by day walked by him with only pity to offer and ridicule to heap. Jesus of Nazareth.  “Son of David”, he heard himself crying with the depth of his being, “Have mercy on me”.  Over and over again he cried out, his loud voice echoing of desperation, “Have mercy on me”. 

And through his cries and tears...he felt a gentle hand upon his face.  He heard a voice so close he could feel his breath as he spoke words of life into his suffering, “What do you want me to do for you?”.   

The Almighty had put everything aside to reach down and hear the cry of a poor beggar.  The one who was disregarded by all was now in the presence of the loving power of a Savior.  Jesus had come to listen, to hear, and to understand.  Jesus had come to melt away the crowd and allow this blind beggar to take all of him in that moment- his healing, his worth, and his very life.  And in that intimate moment, Jesus overcame the title of friend, prophet and teacher....for he became his Lord, “Lord, I want to see”. 

And the same face of Jesus is so near to us: His loving hands, His gentle voice, reaching over the noise of the crowds in our life- and giving us every part of his attention, all that He is. 

And when we cry out to him, there immediately comes that intimate moment in our lives: to let him go by, or to call him Lord.  The choice to receive healing, or to choose to continue to live in death.  The chance to open our eyes and face our beautiful Savior, or to go on with a mask of darkness covering our blinded eyes.  

“Immediately, he received sight, and followed Jesus, praising God.”   

May we also be the recipients of sight.      

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Inception Explained:

Ecclesiastes 3:11
[God] has set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 

Movies like Inception tend to draw a huge crowd.  All in all there seems to be a growing trend of movies that are based on the concept of an alternate reality (Matrix, Memento, etc.).  We are drawn to the possibility of another existence, the chance that there is really something more than what we have come to know as our reality.

If you're anything like my husband and I, as much as these movies bring thrill and entertainment- there is a part of these concept that kind can of mess with a person.  There is a part of us so deep down that connects with these movies in such a significant way that it can be a little creepy at times.

As I was thinking about these things on the way home from watching this movie (which I, by the way, give two thumbs up) it struck me that there is a reason that so many of us enjoy these types of movies.  It made so much sense to me to consider the thrill that comes from considering an alternate reality when I realized that we were made for an alternate reality.  

Each one of us is created for something bigger than this earth can offer.  Each one of us was engineered in such a way that we must always long for something more, something greater than ourselves.  Each one of us, when we really slow down, finds ourselves groaning and aching for something or Someone on the outside to save us from our own realities.  Something to give us purpose and meaning.  Something to live for. 

The truth us, God has set eternity in our hearts.  God has set up for each one of us an alternate reality that we will reach someday, if we continue to follow the compass that He has placed within us.  It's no mistake that we find ourselves drawn into these concepts and ideas, because at the end of the day we were made for something more.  And at the end of the day....there exists something more.

The truth is, because of the the intense love God has for us, He longs to bring us in to His world...a world that we could have never found on our own.  A world where He promises no pain and no suffering.  A world where we will all be at peace with one another.  A world that our greatest imagination cannot even begin to fathom.  A world where we will be in the Presence of the embodiment of Love, and Joy, and Peace.  I don't know about you but I am looking forward to this alternate reality.

Movies like Inception just remind me that there is truly something more.  I'm following the compass of my heart to get there, and I hope you, too, choose to follow yours. 

For more information on life beyond this life: 
The Four Spiritual Laws
Let My People Think

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Picture of A Thousand Wounds:

Psalm 139:14 NIV
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
       your works are wonderful,
       I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13-16 The Message
 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
      you formed me in my mother's womb.
   I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
      Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
      I worship in adoration—what a creation!
   You know me inside and out,
      you know every bone in my body;
   You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
      how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
   Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
      all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
   The days of my life all prepared
      before I'd even lived one day. 

Okay, so I'll admit.  I was watching Dr. Phil the other day.  Don't tune out yet...

In all seriousness, the show was about men and women whose lives had been destroyed by childhood bullying.  It was sobering to see adults in their 30's and 40's, carrying around the wounds of their past.  Memories still fresh in their minds, haunting them and bringing tears to their eyes.

Words, simple words, that had shaped their identities and their worth. 

At first it can be difficult to understand how mature adults can carry around childhood experiences in such a significant way.  It's hard to understand how these seemingly meaningless events could have such weight in a person's life.  But the reality is, childhood is a significant period of our lives.

Children are born as blank slates- ready to take in whatever the world has to offer them.  I think of them like a white canvas, taking on the colors and the textures of everything and everyone they come into contact with.  For the lucky ones, they can go home to a safe place where the bad colors can be washed off and replaced with true beauty.  But for many others- this filtering process is not available in their home due to brokenness and sin.  So, they take in whatever words are thrown at them- whether true or false.

These words are internalized, and eventually, become the constant voice playing in their mind, reminding them of "who they are".  There are many men and women walking around with false voices playing in their heads...voices of shame, of guilt, of fear.  Voices that bring false accusations.  Voices that steal beauty and joy.  Voices that declare brokenness, stupidity, and worthlessness.

My heart goes out to these men and women.  My heart goes out to them because there is a piece of them in all of us.  At some point, we have all experienced the pain of lies that have made a home in our hearts.  We have all let these false doctrines slip into our minds- bypassing the filtering system that God has given us to sort out the fantasy from the reality.

And all of us share one thing in common: a need for redemption.  A need for the redemption of our hearts and minds.  Redemption of our self-worth and our value.  A need for God to step in and help us sort out the jumbled mess of our identities.  To take back what has been won over by the Prince of Lies.  To reinstall in us a filtering system- allowing only His truth to pass through and enter in.

This takes hard work.  For some, this work can be done through their personal willingness coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and for others the words may have sunk in so deep that they need professional help sorting through.  But either way, there is a place to begin- and that place is in God's truth.

These verses are found in the middle of the bible...because in my opinion, they are central to the needs of men and women across all race and ages.  The need for value.  The need to be known.  The need to be praised and adored.  God knows these things, and he takes each need one by one...offering it in bold colors and coloring over the canvas of shame with this beautiful truth. 

Take these words one by one, and allow the brush strokes of God's words to wash over the pain of your past.  This is reality.  This is truth.  May it color over every part of your broken canvas today....

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Diswasher Dude:

Luke 21:14-15
14But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.
A couple posts ago I wrote about being an "active" Christian.  Lately, I have been challenged to be real about my faith, to see it as a part of my every day life, to integrate it in all that I say and do particularly in my interactions with others.  Let me tell you, this has not been an easy task.

I have a tendency to view being a Christian as an extracurricular thing.  I guess what I mean by this, is that I tend to wait until the opportune, designated times to really allow God to overflow from my life.  Mission trips, church out reach, ministry days, etc.

But the challenge for me has been allowing this attitude to permeate every part of my life.  I have had to keep this idea at the front of my concious for me to make any strides in this area.  But God is honoring my attempts...

The other day we had our dishwasher fixed by this young 21 year old dude.  He was just starting out in the field but he was a very social, likable young man.  My typical nature would be to say hello, be polite, show him to the dishwasher and then let him do his thing.  But this time was a little different.  I decided to invest a little bit more and be deliberate about sharing God's love. 

Turns out this young man was waiting for that.  After a series of mini conversations, we ended up talking about faith.  "So, with all these thoughts you shared- do you have any spiritual beliefs?" 

"You mean, like religion?" He asked.


"I do...kinda.  I'm Catholic.  But to be honest, I don't really believe it. How can you believe in something that doesn't really make any sense?"

He went on to explain some of the dilemmas he has with faith.  For example, how can there be one Adam and one Eve- yet hundreds and thousands of races, colors and ethnicities.  It didn't make sense to him. 

We chatted for a while.  I didn't answer his questions- but I commended him for asking them.  It takes courage and honesty to question things.  But I challenged him to seek out the answers.  I reminded him that through the questions, at the end of the day the most important thing is having a relationship with God- no matter how many questions we choose to ask.

I gave him a book to read and my email address- and asked him to get back to me with any thoughts or questions.  After I wished him luck on his spiritual journey- he thanked me sincerely....and then was off to his next task.

I don't know if I'll ever hear from this young man again, though I pray that I do.  I don't know if he'll pick up the book and read it, or if he'll even remember our conversation.  But one thing I do know- I allowed God to use my voice and give me the words to speak.  I allowed Him to come down to earth and attempt to make contact with one of His beloved children.  I allowed Him to make me a vessel for His use...and through it, to change me.  To give me a sensitivity for others around me.  To grant me the courage to speak and the words to say.  To be an active Christian.

So, this week, I challenge you and myself to do the same.  Wherever you go, whoever you run into- take the time to look beyond their superficial hello and dig deeper into their lives and hearts.  There is always something there.  There is always a need...and deep down, we are all made with an intense desire to connect with something Greater than ourselves.  Lead them into that. 

Allow God to use you.  Even with the Dishwasher Dude. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Like A Son Learning to Trust: Part II

Deuteronomy 1:32-33

32 In spite of this, you did not trust in the LORD your God, 33 who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.
I always wish Deuteronomy 1 had ended with verse 31.  I mean, who doesn't like happy endings.  We're scared, broken, discouraged...and our loving Father comes along, sweeps us into His arms, and carries us the whole way home. 

But right when we think the story is over and the curtain is drawn...comes verse 32-33.  Right when we're about to soak in the glory of a marvelous happy ending- in walks self to ruin the finale.  You heard me: self.  The irony of this chapter is that it ends with you and I.  It's a mirror into our souls reminding us of our inability to give ourselves fully. 

"Despite did not trust Me".  After all He had done, after the miracles, signs and wonders.  After coming to them like a cloud by day and a fire by night.  After leading them step by step, and showing them incredible things.  After fighting for them the entire journey and opening doors they could have never opened themselves...somehow, they are unable or maybe trust. 

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?  I mean, if it were you or I we might be thinking, it wouldn't take much more than watching the Red Sea part for us to trust.  But, I'm afraid we are only fooling ourselves.

You see, this sore, weak muscle called trust must be developed in all of us.  It is a muscle that is so quick to atrophy, so quick to dull and die.  It is a muscle that needs to be exercised daily...and not just once, but time and time again.  It is a muscle that is quick to forget all that God has done in our lives, and even quicker in remembering the hard times. 

I'm guilty of this.  I can imagine Jesus looking at me like a hurting Father sometimes and saying, "Seriously?  After ALL that?  You're still having a hard time trusting me.  What more do I have to do to prove myself to you?"  In spite of all this, sometimes I still refuse to trust.  Like a stubborn child, afraid to let daddy hold her in the water for the first time...(when all along...the water is only 3 feet deep). 

This devotional comes in two parts, because the second part takes the responsibility and puts it in our hands. 

There is great truth in understanding that our Lord carries us like a Father carries his son...but there even greater responsibility in allowing Him to carry us.  He won't carry us by force.  He won't force us to trust Him.  Nothing made of love can be forced.  He will just wait, proving Himself over and over to us until we learn to let go.  Until we learn to lift our arms in desperation and allow Him to pick us up and lead us where He will.  Until we learn to trust Him. 

Maybe we've tried.  Maybe we have been so let down by the world.  Maybe we have been so hurt by others that we tend to associate the idea of trust with pain and disappointment.  Don't allow the mistakes of man to be placed onto God.  Don't allow yourself to transfer your feelings of fear and pain onto the face of God.  Give Him a chance.  Let Him take that pain from you.   

Let Him show you that He can be trusted. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Like A Father Carries His Son: Part I

Deuteronomy 1:29-31
29 Then I said to you, "Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place."

The other day my friend and I were discussing how wonderful it is to see a man with his baby.  There is something refreshing about witnessing the strength and safety of a man's arms, holding a vulnerable little baby.  There is something beautiful about seeing the gentleness of a man brought out by the little child in his grasp.  He is utterly responsible for this little one, and in daddy's arms there is no safer place. 

I have always loved this verse because it describes so well the safety we can feel in the arms of God. 

Whether single or married, many times as adults life can get to a place where we feel we are fighting the battle alone.  We are walking along the journey of life feeling depressed and discouraged.  We are at the end of ourselves, broken and weak- having no strength left carry on. 

The unfortunate thing is, many times we try to hide this state of weakness from the world, putting on our disguises and masquerading around as if everything is quite fine.  We are afraid to show weakness.  We are afraid to be vulnerable.  We are afraid to be real.  Somehow, we have learned to believe that Christians should never be broken.  That they should have it all together, all the time.  That discouragement and despair are a sign of a lack of faith or closeness to God.  We have it all wrong. 

As the bible says, Christ did not come for the healthy...but for the sick.  He came for the broken, the weak, the tired and the weary.  He came for those who are able to recognize their need....for those who are able to cry out in despair, like a desperate child raising up his hands for help.  To them that realize they are them who are willing to lay down their lives.  The beauty is, in Christianity- this is where salvation is found.  It is only when we are at the end of ourselves that God can begin to offer Himself. 

He reaches down and carries us, when we can't walk anymore.  Like a father carries his son, He picks us up off our feet and gently cradles us in His strong arms.  And He doesn't let us down until it's safe.  Until he knows we are strong enough to handle it.  Until we have felt His closeness.  Until we have recognized how important it us to rely on Him. 

My favorite description of this verse is found in Rob Bell's video Nooma: Rain.  He describes an experience he had with his son one day, and how it made this verse come to life.  He describes the beauty that can be found in suffering, because it is in suffering that we are cradled like children in the arms of a loving God. 

What do you need?  Are you at the end of yourself?  May you cry out to Him today.  May you let Him pick you up off your feet and carry you like a Father carries his son. 

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Gift of Unhappiness: On true Joy

John 12:3
Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. 

There are a lot of "happy" things going on in my life right now.  My husband and I just bought our first home two weeks ago.  We are having so much fun setting up and decorating, and making it our own.  We are also expecting the birth of our first child- a little baby girl, at the end of September.  There is so much excitement in thinking about her and imagining what she will be like.  We just moved to a new city, where we are surrounded by family and friends who love and care for us.  Like I said, a lot of things to make a person "happy". 

But I must say, yesterday evening, "happy" is not exactly what I was feeling.  In between all the running around, setting up, planning and dreaming- something went wrong.  I tried to put my finger on it, and then I realized: I was experiencing the GIFT of Unhappiness. 

Max Lucado refers to this gift in chapter one of his book "Heaven, God's Highest Hope".  He discusses the concept of unhappiness as a gift- because it reminds us that we will never be truly happy by the things of this world alone.  My favorite part of the chapter describes the gift of unhappiness like this:

"Unhappiness on earth cultivates a hunger for heaven. By gracing us with a deep dissatisfaction, God holds our attention. The only tragedy, then, is to be satisfied prematurely. To settle for earth. To be content in a strange land...We are not happy here because we are not at home here. We are not happy here because we are not supposed to be happy here. We are “like foreigners and strangers in this world” (1 Pet.

Take a fish and place him on the beach.2 Watch his gills gasp and scales dry. Is he happy? No! How do you make him happy? Do you cover him with a mountain of cash? Do you get him a beach chair and sunglasses? Do you bring him a Playfish magazine and martini? Do you wardrobe him in double-breasted fins and people-skinned shoes? Of course not. Then how do you make him happy? You put him back in his element. You put him back in the water. He will never be happy on the beach simply because he was not made for the beach.

And you will never be completely happy on earth simply because you were not made for earth. 

Oh, you will have your moments of joy. You will catch glimpses of light. You will know moments or even days of peace. But they simply do not compare with the happiness that lies ahead....

Those moments are appetizers for the dish that is to come."

I don't think there is a better explanation for what I was feeling last night.  You see, when God's blessings are used to replace Him- the end result can only be unhappiness.  It's so easy to get caught up in all that he has given and forget to take the time to get caught up in Him.  The only source of true joy.  The only place in which our hearts find rest.

As Saint Augustine so eloquently says: "Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee"

So what does all this have to do with Mary pouring perfume at Jesus feet?  As I read this story this morning, it reminded me of the importance of taking all our physical blessings and pouring them at the feet of Jesus.  True happiness, therefore, is not found in enjoying the perfume- but in pouring it at the feet of the one who is worthy. 

I'm challenged to take all the blessings that I have been given and bring them back in thanksgiving and adoration to the feet of Jesus.  This is where true happiness can be found.  This is where permanent joy can be achieved.  Joy that stands alone.  Joy that is not dependent on the things received but on the One who gives those things.  Joy that is everlasting.

Thank you God, for the gift of unhappiness....because it reminds us where true joys are to be found. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sorry, Wrong Number: On Being an Active Christian

2 Timothy 4:2
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season...

I heard a woman speak the other day on a blessing she received through a "wrong number".  She had dialed the wrong number and was introduced to an older gentleman on the other end of the line who would bless her more than she would have ever imagined.  They talked for hours, and prayed together, and at the end of the wrong number phone call he was able to bless her and her family through a financial gift that met a desperate need they could have never imagined would be met in such a way.

That story got me thinking.  Less about financial needs, and more about spiritual needs.  The verse about being prepared in and out of season came to my mind.  I mean, at the end of the day- you never know how God intends to use your mediocre day to day life...especially if you aren't looking for Him to use you, and even more so if you aren't prepared.

This was confirmed to me the other day when I text messaged a friend at an old number...and it turned out not to be my friend.  Another wrong number.  It was ironic...considering I had just heard this woman's story a couple weeks back.  Call it God's Spirit, or call it preparation- I decided to take advantage of this wrong number and try to bless the person on the other end.  I encouraged them, and asked them if I could be praying for them about anything.  Because, at the end of the day- you will never be used by God unless you take action. 

If you think about it, it's way to easy to become a passive Christian.  It's easy to let life go by and wonder why God isn't using us when the reality is He wants to use us everyday- we just tend to go through our day unprepared.  It's easy to be prepared "in season"...when we're on a mission trip or at a church function.  But what do we look like "out of season" when we're walking through the grocery store or dialing a wrong number.  The reality is, most Christians are either most effective or most damaging to the name of Jesus Christ and to the gospel in those moments when they are least expecting it.  In the times we are caught off guard. 

My husband and I have been trying to think of ways to be active in our faith, ways to be prepared even in situations where we would normally be unaware of the spiritual needs of those around us.  We've thought of ways to bless our waitress/waiter at a restaurant, and once we said a prayer for the Walmart cashier named Albert who was checking us out.  Places in our lives where we would normally be passive in our faith.  Because we want to live lives that are active...prepared to preach the gospel and share God's love even when we least expect to do so...even when it feels unnatural...even when it's out of season.  

So may you, Christian, as you go through your day today...may you be looking for ways to be an active Christian, taking every moment you have been given.  May you break free from the life of a passive Christian and be released into the power of an ever-loving active God.

Question for Discussion/Reflection: What are some ways you can be an active Christian in unexpected places?