Milestones

When there is a new baby in the house, you mark milestones. Whether is it the first time he rolls over or mutters a discernible word, mommies and daddies mark it down. And in today’s world, we post it online, on some form of social media, for the whole world to enjoy with us.

 

We have a new baby. She’s 15 weeks old and already potty trained. Ornery and feisty in the morning, she is the perfect lap dog in the evening when we’re all on the sofa ready to read and relax. Yes, she’s a fur baby, another goldendoodle, and she is the perfect compliment to our 4 ½ year doodle Winston. Maggie is her name and we are smitten. We are marking her milestones, her shot schedule, waiting impatiently for the day we can safely take her for a walk around the neighborhood, tracking her weight gain, and teaching her manners. It’s fun marking those milestones!

 

As I mentioned, Maggie has a big brother, Winston. While Maggie is very much her own dog, she looks up to her older and wiser doodle. While they play together something fierce and while I love watching them romp, I most enjoy watching Winston guide Maggie, showing her the ropes, minding his manners so that she learns hers. I caught this photo of them together the other day. You get the idea.12510461_10208182632501642_3559157654668221333_n

 

I wanted to share this photo with you for two other reasons.

 

  1. When Compassion Tea started on February 26, 2011, (Do you note the date? Do you see the milestone?) we began much like this photo, looking up to our God for guidance and direction. We founded our company on these 5 Bible verses:
    1. Proverbs 19:21 “You can make plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”
    2. Psalm 37:5 “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.”
    3. Psalm 16: 1-3 “Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge. I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.’ The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”
    4. Psalm 90:17 “And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!”
    5. Isaiah 46:9-11 “Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish. I will call a swift bird of prey from the east – a leader from a distant land to come and do my bidding. I have said what I would do and I will do it.”

Over the past 5 years, we’ve held approximately 250 prayer calls to pray over our tea, over our business, over our customers, over the people we are serving in Africa, over the people in Africa who are providing medical and spiritual care at our partner clinics, over each other. We have consistently held up the company before the Lord and asked him to heal, redeem, direct, guide, provide wisdom, to multiply efforts and monies and supplies, to give us strength to keep walking forward, faith to take the next step, and hope for an even bolder, broader, and beautiful future wherein we are able to serve more and more people. 250 calls. Yes, we’re like puppies looking up to the big dog to see what’s next!

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2012-10-13_14-10-53_91tea rounds ready to goTea pouches for Christmas Tea bazaarAnd he has rewarded that faithfulness on our part, offering the next steps when the time was right, bringing new customers and directions, and multiplying the funding we are able to provide to CompassioNow. And the number of prayers He has answered in those 5 years is astonishing. With God as our CEO, we have built a thriving business, we have changed lives here in the US and in Africa, and we have brought Him continual glory. That’s not to mention the new connections and the healing and the stronger relationships and the safe travel and the beneficial exchange rates and shipping costs. The list of success and answered prayer goes on and on!

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Reason 2:

On February 4, 2006, CompassioNow was awarded its non-profit tax status, making it a legal and legit organization. Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom recently tabulated what they have been able to provide monetarily to the clinics in Africa over the last 10 years. They discovered that it was over $1 million! Another milestone… $1 million and a 10 year anniversary! Woo hoo! But that hardly shows the full impact of those 10 years. It doesn’t tell the stories of the lives changed, the clinics that have been built, the new buildings and medical wings, the staff and supplies, the men, women, and children who have turned to one of our partner clinics as a last resort, after the witch doctor didn’t work, after the government hospital sent them away without proper treatment, after they’ve come to the end of their ropes, desperate for relief and healing.

It doesn’t tell the stories of the people tested early for AIDS and who began early medical intervention, the lives saved from parasites, which could have been lost had it not been for a basic antibiotic; the children who have been given life through urgent medical care and/or pre and perinatal care of their mothers; the home-bound who have community health care providers making regular visits; and the children who have been granted eyesight from a donated pair of eyeglasses.

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This doesn’t tell the story of medical training and supplies, of medicine shelves stocked, and birthing beds delivered, of bicycle ambulances, and fixed airplanes to transport medical staff and those who need more urgent medical care.

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We can put a number on the money raised for Africa but we can’t put a number to the people who have been touched by CompassioNow and its mission to bring “life-saving medical care to the world’s least served.”

 

Oh the milestones! Biblically, when people wanted to celebrate and remember what the Lord had done for them, they built an altar or raised a rock on end. They made a physical mark on the landscape to say, “Here, God answered us.” That is no longer tradition. But here, we raise our Ebenezer, we make our mark on cyberspace, we count the successes and mark the milestones. And we look forward to the future, knowing that with God as our CEO there is more goodness to come. “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him and he will help you.”

 

 

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Make Me a Bird

tumblr_mt5b1cmH0q1rbv0tfo1_500“Dear God, Make me a bird so I can fly far, far away from here.” It’s my favorite part of the movie Forrest Gump. A young Jenny is hiding in a cornfield and she draws Forrest down onto his knees next to her and these are the words that frame the movie, these words and that feather floating in the bluest of skies. It resonates with me… the hiding in a cornfield. Been there, done that. Indiana has lots of cornfields and the one next to the house is just as good as any for getting lost in, for hiding in, for dreaming in. Because sometimes you just need to get away. And kneel. And dream that the tassels whispering in the wind are the soul-quenching love notes of a God who knows you and feels along with you the pain in your heart.

 

My kids have an unquenchable desire to fly. Little Miss is outgrowing her desire somewhat as age and experience jade her sense of limitless possibilities. But she spent a year or more in fairy wings and ballet tutus ever sure that one of these days those wings would find the magic necessary to lift her off the ground. And Camo Kid, well, he’s still in dragon wings and may never outgrow his desire. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up he says, “A fighter pilot.” Daily, he concocts plans for jet packs and flying ships and personal wings. And when Little Miss steps in with her “reality check,” I shush because really, who wants to live in a world where flight isn’t possible.

 

Maybe these kids inherited it from me. When they ask to add to our menagerie a pet bird, I am offended. Clip the wings? Cage the bird? Stop the flight? How inhumane. How anti-nature. Let the birds soar. Let the birds be free.

 

Hiking this morning, I was startled as I came around a bend in the path by a flock of pigeons rising out of an oak tree. The rising sun painted their breasts a peachy-pink and the blue morning sky accentuated their soaring outlines. I startled them. They startled me. And in that moment of watching their freedom, I uttered a prayer like Jenny’s. Dear God, make me fear-free like the birds. Help me to soar on wings like they do, above the fray, in the blue, with the rising sun touching wing-tip.unnamed-29 unnamed-27 unnamed-26 unnamed-31 unnamed-33 unnamed-30

 

And Jesus’ words in Matthew flashed across my mind: Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)

 

On the dawn of this new year, I look forward knowing that a year from now I won’t be the same person, living the same life. Things are going to happen. People, places, circumstances are going to change. And that knowledge brings with it fears. I don’t like the unknown anymore than the next guy… maybe even less.

 

And I touch my cross, the one that hangs from my neck, the one with these words: But those who wait on the Lord
 Shall renew their strength;
 They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
 They shall run and not be weary, 
They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

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These life words. These words of prayer… Lord, make it so. Because I’m the man in Mark 9:24 crying out, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” I want to believe that I am of more value than the birds in God’s economy. I want to believe that my running will be swift and stron, and that despite the pounding in my heart and brain, I will not faint.

 

I don’t need to fly far, far away. But I do need to fall on my knees and pray. Over and over again. Because in the praying that it be so, I will find my wings. Lord, let it be so. Help my unbelief.

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There. I’ve Owned It.

Last night, I was driving home from a meeting and my car struck a deer. There. I’ve owned it. I was at this meeting and off-handedly said as I walked out the door, “I hope I don’t hit a deer on the way home.” Everyone chuckled because it is fall and the deer are down out of the ridgeline looking for water in the arroyo and they are constantly crossing our yards and streets. It is what it is. And with this thought forefront in my mind, I headed for home.

It was over before it happened. And I have been oddly peaceful about it. Oddly in that I haven’t cried or dreamed or fretted. I feel bad, yes. So, please don’t go throwing bricks through my windows for being a careless vehicular operator. I feel bad, but not broken.

So, here’s the throwback. About 15 years ago, I was driving home in the dark on a road I didn’t normally travel. I hit an opossum. It nearly broke me. I cried the entire way home and well into the night. The next day, when I went to school to teach, I was still shaken. A mentor friend of mine who is well-versed in Native American mythology and spirituality tried to comfort me with the Native American belief that often animals will sacrifice themselves for a human in order to impart a particular characteristic of theirs to the human. She suggested many noble characteristics that the opossum might have imparted, but the one that sticks out after all these years is “what does an opossum do when it is afraid?” It plays dead. Fear and playing dead.

There has been a lot of fear these past 15 years. Fear that has grown cold and immoveable, dead weight. Fear that has robbed joy, that has bound and stifled life. Fear that has taken me down to the core at times.

So, I’ve been mulling last night’s events in light of my earlier experience. If it is possible that the opossum imparted some of its characteristics to me 15 years ago, than what did the deer impart last night?

Beauty? Strength? A wild freedom? Graceful gentleness?

Maybe this marks a new start? Maybe this is the breakthrough I’ve been awaiting? Maybe this is symbolic of a restart? I can throw off the opossum, stop playing dead, and can wow, run and leap and flash great big doe eyes and stop hearts with the beauty and grace my heart now possesses. Can it be?

I’m thinking about the moment, about how one moment there was an open road ahead of me and in the blink of an eye there was a deer. Was it a sacrifice? I can’t really wrap my head around that notion. It seems a little too egocentric. And not for a second would I believe that God placed that deer at that exact moment for that exact purpose. No. I can believe that He is able to redeem the situation, make good come out of it, but it is a broken world and sometimes animals do jump in front of our cars.

There’s something about that word – sacrifice. I’m trying to see around it. Sacrifice. A giving up of something, a replacing of something in order to save it, blood and pain. And there it is. Sacrifice. I don’t need the deer to sacrifice for me. I don’t need the sacrifice, because a sacrifice has already been made.

When Jesus died on the cross, he was the sacrifice.

And what did he impart through his sacrifice? I am made new. He washed me clean, sainted me with righteousness, set me free from the law, and established residency in my heart.

Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we can take off the old, ragged, dirty clothes of our sin. We are wrapped in a beautiful cloak of strength and righteousness. Language is a struggle here. How do words express the transfer? How do words hold the magnitude of meaning?

I’m asking if this is a new start, if this is a throwing off of the dead opossum act and putting on the wild freedom, grace and beauty of the deer. But that is a moot question. Because I am already wildly free from shame and guilt and the past and from the labels of old. I have already been made beautiful.

I emailed the friend I spoke my hope to last night and shared with him how indeed my words had come true. He queried, “Does this fall under the name it and claim it category?”

I don’t know. But I do know that I can name my salvation. My salvation comes from the Lord (Jonah 2:9). And I can claim it. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to save us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Because God so loved the world that He gave His only son so that whoever believes in him might have life eternal (John 3:16). There. I’ve owned it.

Remain…

I asked my daughter yesterday on the way home from school if her friend had been there in school. Yes, why? Well, I had seen her friend’s beautiful face posted on Facebook with a lanyard and Katy Perry ticket dangling from her neck. Sweet little 11 year old so excited to go to her first concert. It would have been a late night for a school night, but if it’s important, than it’s important.

I had asked the question innocently enough but I’m glad I asked it because the yearning that came through my daughter’s next comment blind-sided me. “Lucky!” she muttered.

We don’t listen to Katy Perry. I can’t even name any of her songs, so this isn’t about Katy Perry.

Yes, we choose differently what we fill our ears and hearts with musically. We can sing the lyrics to nearly every Newsboy song and we even play name that artist around the dinner table sometimes, but our artists of choice are people like Laura Story, Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns, Natalie Grant. Because singing scripture, singing praise, singing our prayers grafts us ever more strongly onto the one and only true vine.

So, this is more about this… “My daughter is choosing the ways of the world over godly ways lately,” a mom told me just the other day. And after little miss’s “lucky” comment, I wonder if I need to be nodding in agreement.

This is a tension I knew would get stronger before it gets weaker. The flash and pomp and allure of the world is going to look ever more appealing… perhaps. And that’s a bad thing? The world? Yes. Because the world says God is dead, that the soul is the omnipotent, that the individual is god, that all is chance and you only live once so you better make the most of it by having as much fun as possible. Are these the voices by which we want to make decisions?

As my conversation continued with my daughter, I shared with her a time in my middle school days when Amy Grant came in concert to a nearby city and I wanted desperately to go. I was too young and therefore I wasn’t allowed. It didn’t leave that big of a scar; it’s just a story to share to suggest that I’m not the only “mean mom” out there. Then, Little Miss asked, “Are you going to be like that? Are you never going to let me go to a concert?”

Never is not a word I use lightly. So, no. Not never. But the conditions and circumstances have to be right. We’ll cross that bridge when the time is right.

On my hike this morning, I went further than normal and ended up at a bench overlooking the valley from a new perspective. Looking down, I saw an old bridge. It took me several seconds to discern that that was the very bridge I cross daily. It looked so old and out-of-place surrounded by our growing city and the modern amenities sprouting all around it. And then I wondered if our way of life, our focus on God looks like that sturdy but old-fashioned steel bridge. Unlike the soaring bridges that span the bay, their masses of concrete seemingly suspended in thin air, this bridge is set, its steel arms surrounding the car. You almost feel like ducking as you go across.

I like that old bridge. It feels stable and secure, like if an earthquake should hit, this one will stand. I don’t have the same faith in the flying concrete that marks so much of the Bay Area highways and byways.

But do my kids? Do they like the less-glitzy, the more stable, the “no” when it comes to things Mom and Dad view as tempting and tantalizing and off God’s path? I think I’m asking the wrong question!

On the one hand, I ask, “How can I make sure my kids aren’t complete outcasts because we shelter them so much?” and on the other I ask, “How can I make sure that my kids make wise decisions as they grow up?”

It’s really simple actually. Pray this verse over them!

John 15: 5-8 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Asking God to hold my children so that they continue to abide in Him? If we can weigh every decision against that framework, we probably won’t go terribly awry!

And then I’m looking at this problem with eyes from Africa and thinking what a first world problem this is. Worrying about my kids living for the world… for Katy Perry and Minecraft and Disney and “your way right away” and “make it a great day or not the CHOICE is yours”… those are worries that are indicative of the first world.

Because there are kids in other parts of the world who are worried about where they are going to find the day’s food and water, who will go to bed tonight on the ground, with an empty belly, and with wailing younger siblings who depend on them. There are child-headed households throughout the world where there is no adult to direct and provide and sustain and hold. The full brunt of holding the family together falls on 11 year old shoulders. There are children around the world for whom the dark isn’t just scary because of a movie they saw or because their imaginations are playing with them. No, these kids have seen with their own eyes things unspeakable, horrors one can’t even imagine. Like the kiddos at Village of Hope, Uganda. For them, the world has proven itself to be the dark mirage that it really is. For them, turning to God feels like living in light. The old bridge is comfort.

Because when we see enough of the world, we recognize that it is all cotton candy… sugary lightness that promises much but that melts and hardens and crusts and doesn’t fulfill.

So, I shared these thoughts with a mommy friend after school and found myself saying., “You know, as they get older, the friends have more influence than Mommy and Daddy.” My friend nearly choked. I nearly sat down and wept. But I’ll keep praying that Little Miss abides in Jesus and He in her.

And when Little Man is scared of the dark and afraid to move into a room by himself and when I’m tired and frustrated and just want to go to bed and to stop singing him to sleep… well. There’s a voice that says someday soon he’s not going to need me for any of this and the bedtime cuddles and the squirming on the lap and the sloppy whispers of “I love you” in my ear… it’s all going to stop.

We spend so much time hurrying our kids toward independence and big-people things. And then they grow up and do what we’ve taught them to do… be independent and self-reliant.

“Remain in me”… just keep praying that the old comfortable bridge will serve them well and that they’ll remember to come back to it when they need it. It’s a much better crutch than anything the world can offer.

Proclamation

I don’t usually consider the hair salon to be optimal thinking grounds. I suppose it is the mix of stewing chemicals in my hair (because, yes, I do pay to have highlights like my kids) and the eardrum crushing sounds of blowdryers, 80s music, and girl talk that I find so mind-numbing. But today I took my computer with me so that I could presumably work. Instead, I surfed Facebook and came across a blog written by one of the pastors at church. In the blog, which tackled many things, I read something so profound I had to share it. The one sentence… “The gospel is not presented; the gospel is proclaimed…” reverberated inside my head like gongs in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

YES! Here’s the deal. We can show people charts and Evangicubes and we can draw diagrams and bridges, but these are all human attempts at explaining something that really in essence doesn’t need explaining because explanation demands reason and reason, human reason, is insufficient here.

Here it is in a nutshell.
There is something called sin in the world. It’s the bad things we do. No one is exempt, even the people who believe that everything they do is right because they choose to do it. Step one? Recognizing that that lie told, that bad name called, that false information shared, that deed left undone, that sneer or eye rolled or unkind thought… those are all sins and really because you are murdering a reputation or a relationship they are just as bad as the deadly ones. Sin.

But that is not the end. There’s this wild thing called grace and grace is forgiveness and not just a pat-on-the-head kind of forgiveness but really deep internal forgiveness. We can try to offer ourselves this kind of grace but we end up in quagmires of sin as we justify our actions, forgive ourselves, and turn around and do it again.

Or.

THE OR.

You see. There was this guy. His name was Jesus. He actually had a whole bunch of names. But he was born to a woman named Mary. He walked the area of modern day Israel some 2000 years ago. He was also God’s son. This guy, Jesus, lived for roughly 30 years and then for reasons really hard to fathom, he was nailed to a cross where he died. Three days later, his friends went to his tomb and his body wasn’t there. Angels proclaimed that this Jesus guy was alive. And then, one by one and group by group, people began seeing this guy around town. He ate with them. Some of them touched him. He had substance, he had scars, and he had news for them. And his news would change everything.

His news was that while on that cross, God had piled the sins of the world on his shoulders. His groans on the cross were not just the groans of pain from the nails and the spear and the crown of thorns and the beatings. They were groans from the weightiness of gazillions of sins. He carried these sins, crucified them, buried them, exhausted all punishment for them.

And because of that, that one man on a cross, we are forgiven. He chose to do this and he chose to do this for all the people of the world. Not just for the holy few. Not just for those who choose to choose him. For all people.

And here’s the critical. Jesus didn’t just say, “Hey, Linda, thanks for choosing to believe in me. Because you chose me, I’m going to hop up on that cross and take your sins for you! How does that sound? Buddy?!?!?! Fist bump!” No, he went to the cross even for the people who are downright evil, for the people who mock him, for the people who deny him, for the people who worship their own works and their bodies and the earth and the things of the world. Can you even wrap your head around that?

Try. Try to wrap your head around it. It doesn’t make an ounce of sense from human terms.

Because we have a hard time loving anything but ourselves quite that much.

The proclamation is this. Because God so loved the world. SO LOVED THE WORLD. Love is proclamation. Reason is presentation.

Sure, we can choose to follow Christ. In fact, we’re encouraged to do that. But truly following Christ comes when we open our eyes to the LOVE that is God, that God showers on us, that takes on incredible burdens, like all the sin of the world.

It already happened, radical grace. Our choice really is whether to accept it or to continue to throw our hands up in defense and say, “NOPE. Got this on my own. I think. I mean. Sort of.”

I couldn’t proclaim this until I felt it. But once I felt it, this radical grace that swept through my physical house of a body like a mighty wind, rattling the windows and knocking down the ceramic idols I’d placed on the mantelpieces of my soul, not until then was I able to proclaim and not just present. I was okay at presenting. I knew the facts at least. And facts are good. But there is very little passion in a fact.

When we look at descriptions of the early church in the Bible, the picture they paint is one of passion. Never does it say, “They invited each other over for coffee and presented the bridge diagram of the pathway to salvation.” Oh my gracious, NO!

It actually says this: Acts 2: 42 ”They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.
43-45 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.
46-47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.”

Did you catch that? People liked what they saw!

Here. Let’s try this. I was out at coffee with a friend the other day. We noticed a lady with a service dog who seemed to be loudly having difficulty. I asked if she needed help. She really just needed some ears to listen to her. Her monologue was full of bitterness and broken relationships and innuendo and even the occasional low-blow. As I listened to her, I thought, “This is the kind of person Jesus would cry over. She needs prayer.” And then she apologized for taking up our time. I explained that we were preparing for Bible Study and that it was no problem. When she heard we were Christians, she proceeded to tell us about how she was saved and about how she prays. I was floored momentarily. I had been 95% convinced the woman knew Jesus only as a curse word. I guess I was wrong! But her time with me was a stark reminder that as a passionate follower, my life is either a presentation or a proclamation. Do people like what they see? Is my proclamation accurate and appropriately representing Jesus? Does it offer more than facts?

Because there’s this wild, crazy God who sends me daily reminders that He loves me. He tucks encouraging Bible verses in my newsfeed, and spurs friends to send texts. He delights me with a whisper of wind or of butterfly wing or just the right song on the radio to remind me, “Now is as good a time as any to praise me.” His love is so abundant. Shouldn’t I let it spill over all around me? And isn’t that a more powerful proclamation than anything?

Play Ball

It was the head-bangers that boggled my mind first. Every time Shawn Doolittle came out to pitch, his trademark heavy metal song was piped through the stadium and a large section of fans stood, waved flags, and head-banged until my head was pounding. Then there was Mr. A’s himself, in his white linen sport coat and white jeans and his green or gold shirt underneath working the crowd as if he was in his living room. And the cow-bells and brooms and drums and yes, even the skulls on a stick that serve as rattles… looking around me I was pretty sure I had traveled well beyond my comfort zone.

And then there was the jumbo-tron demanding the attending fans “make noise,” be “louder,” clap their hands and jeer at the opposing team’s pitcher as he and his coach held a meeting on the mound. Or the incessant rounds of “Let’s go A’s” circling the stadium. Really? I found myself thinking. Really? Do I have to follow what you are telling me to do? Can’t I just cheer at my own level and in my own way?

As a family, we’ve loosely followed Oakland A’s baseball for the last 9 years. The stadium is easy to get to, many of the local teachers are huge fans and share that love with the kiddos at school, and the A’s do a lot in the community to raise reading interest among other things. But this year, we’re sharing season tickets with another family so we’ve spent many weekend afternoon and evenings at the ballpark. Sure, we’ve had a lot of fun as a family and have learned a lot.

For example, the only way, seemingly, to get our little boy to sit still long enough is to repeatedly feed him. Corn dogs longer than his arm and a bowl of nachos usually tame that beast.unnamed-5

We have grown to look for certain personalities … like the guy who pedals pizza. His voice and method of calling are so unique that he is a crowd favorite eliciting many “echoes” as he climbs the aisles. And that one time he lost his voice, the crowd called for him!

We enjoy the traditions… the long-standing tradition of singing of the National Anthem at the beginning of the game and the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the traditional 7th inning stretch as well as the larger than life hall of fame “bobbleheads” who race, hand out beads and t-shirts, and who are slightly cool and borderline creepy. Of course, we love Stomper the elephant.unnamed-3

Our section, along the third base line, is relatively fluid and mild-mannered. There are some familiar faces now after half the season, but overall we’re surrounded by new faces each game. And yet, when the homeruns are hit, everyone becomes best buddies cheering and high-fiving and toasting with a beer or when the A’s forget to bring their game those best buddies still develop as conversation grows around who should be brought in and traded and what strategy should be followed. The camaraderie grows… maybe because we’re all crammed in like sardines, or maybe because we can make assumptions about people. Like, “You’re here, you’re routing for the A’s; therefore, you must be alright. I can talk to you.”10306089_10204098901730925_2200846511345265592_n
During commercial breaks for the at-home crowd, the A’s run a series of give-aways and challenges and games. When these involve real people attending the game and not just some animated, computer generated gizmo on the jumbo-tron, the question always comes up, “Share with us a favorite memory from an A’s game.” Repeatedly, the answer has something to do with how the fan grew up watching A’s baseball with grandpa or dad or some other figure and how A’s baseball has been a part of life for as long as memory stretches. Many fans connect with this comment as attested by their apparel and tattoos. Yes, there is a family feel to the ball game and yes that makes it a beautiful way to spend time together as a family. And now, about halfway through the season I hear my kids asking questions about the game and the players and the rules. They are starting to feel the tug as well. This is true Americana! Maybe, soon, we won’t need the corn dog to pass the time!

Nevertheless, baseball, as is true with all professional sport, remains entertainment. And yet, there are people who come to the games always wearing the same thing, who go through certain motions while at the game, who have their own personal traditions… as if they are as important to the game as the players on the field. As if they the fans can somehow influence the outcome of the game. Like, if I don’t don my green full-body bodysuit and walk around with my friend in his green and gold Darth Vader helmet every single game there is no way the A’s can pull off the win. Or if I don’t stand and head-bang for 5+ minutes, there is no way Shawn Doolittle can pitch a no-hit inning.

Between the booing of players and this… I’m not sure which makes me most uncomfortable.

The front page of the Wall Street Journal this morning brought it to my attention again. There’s a man in Cleveland holding a sign that shows LeBron James arms outstretched and chin tilted high. Above James are the words, “The King has returned.” Click here to see.

Am I the only wacko out there who sees in this all kinds of religious imagery?

James, arms outstretched, like Jesus on the cross? The words King… king of basketball, king of the Jews… has returned. James is back in Cleveland, his more-or-less birthplace, the much-anticipated return of Jesus. In both, there is hope. James will bring a championship ring to the Cavaliers and to a fandom that is parched for success. The return of Jesus will bring the final days, the judgment and making right of all things, the wiping away of tears and the donning of robes of pure white and an eternity of living back in the Garden, at the feet of a God of light and good and mercy.

Baseball, professional sport in general, is a religion. A worshiping of false idols.

Several weeks ago, we were watching an A’s game on TV at home. We had a better view of home plate and could see the advertisement there for the next big promotional… a Coco Crisp garden gnome. Oh we laughed long and hard over that! Yes, let’s decorate the garden with Coco Crisp! Turns out we had tickets to that game and as the date approached we strategized our game plan for early arrival so as to be within the first 20,000 people at the game. We were by no means the first in line. Clearly other people had the same idea. As we got closer to the gate, my son began to fret. “What if they run out before we get there?” Like the world would stop if we didn’t get a plastic, poorly made and poor representation of an A’s player who is good now but who will quickly fade into oblivion in 50 to 100 years. Right. The gnome was procured and peace was restored. Pictures were taken.unnamed-2

Inside the stadium, Coco Crisp came near the wall in front of us to sign autographs. One young lady came back to her seat beaming as if she had just had a religious experience. Her backpack was covered in autographs, but she explained repeatedly, “I said Coco, you’re the only one I don’t got.” As if having this last signature will complete her life.

It leaves me a little heart-broken. And maybe you’ll say I’m reading too much into things. But looking at the fans around me, at this culture that pays sports figures millions of dollars to play ball, at this culture that elevates the news of where James is going to play basketball over the news of what is happening along our borders or around the world in places like Israel and the Middle East where rockets are firing and it seems like any sort of relative peace is completely imploding, at people who pin their hopes and their identities on the teams they follow… yes, it leaves me a little heart-broken.

And it challenges me. Because if there are people who spend their paycheck to take their son to see a game or to buy a fan jacket or to tattoo “Athletics forever” on their arm… they may have a passion I don’t have. While they put their hope in that new pitcher or the third baseman or in a season (this is our year baby!), I put my hope in a man who died over 2000 years ago, who died on a cross, one of the worst, most humiliating forms of death man has ever created. He lived a humble, itinerant life, teaching, healing, instructing, loving. His greatest accomplishment seemed to be irritating the religious leaders of his day… and raising people from the dead and healing them from life-long illnesses. He was viewed as wacky by the people in power with his claims to be God’s son and his way of overturning their cozy little powerplays. Oh, and yes. He died. But three days later he began to appear, first to his scraggly band of followers and then to larger swaths of the population. Men wrote about him hundreds of years before he was born. Men wrote about him after he died. He continues to visit people, to touch hearts, to lead lives, and to influence culture. This is who I put my hope in.

I spent several years in Cleveland. I know first hand the thrill of a winning team in town. I remember the days when the Browns were something special, when the Indians had a run at a World Series. And I learned quickly that players and teams have slumps. Players get injured, get traded, move away. Teams move too. Putting our hope in a player or a team is a transient kind of hope, dependent on the location, the season, the strength of the athlete(s). Putting our hope in Jesus is eternal. There are love songs that he sings through my life, ways he blesses me and encourages me and strengthens me that I could never find in a person, or a team, or in anything earthly.

But do I have the passion to follow him as fully as a “true fan?” Do I make enough noise? Does my life show him to the world? Does the way I dress, do the things I say, and does the example of my life clearly tell the world where my hope lies? And do I live as if God’s plan can’t win if I don’t play my part? Do I faithfully take up my part? And when the going gets tough, do I continue to cheer in full faith and hope? Maybe I have more to learn from these fans about living loud and fully committed. Because in the end, the game of life is the one that truly counts. And I better play my part well.10402577_10203940894980855_4703814435724589571_n

Beautiful Things

“I don’t see anyone in here wearing a mini electric chair or needle full of a lethal injection hanging from their neck. That would be the moral equivalent for those of you wearing crosses today,” he said.

Yes, the point was valid. As an instrument of torture, the cross was horrendous, humiliating, inhumane.

Rome had perfected public punishment in this particular instrument.

I fingered the cross hanging from my neck, it’s edges so familiar to my fingers as I traced the heart laid over the top. My cross, marked with Isaiah 40: 31, marking my life as Christ’s, the sign of the mark made on my life when Jesus chose me and I chose back, marking a public declaration of where my true love lies. My cross so beautiful, so much a part of me, so much more than jewelry. I’m not the tattooing type. So I wear the jewelry.

And the message on the back: “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Perfect promise perfectly captured.

No, for me the cross is beautiful and as he talked more about the ugliness of the cross, my heart cried no. Jesus died and made the cross beautiful, elegant, a visible emblem of hard work with enormous pay out, of elemental love and sacrifice, of eternal salvation. I can look on the cross now and see nothing but beauty; I can look beyond the instrument of torture to see the instrument of grace. It isn’t even a stretch.

In fact, the beauty of the gift of salvation so far outweighs the ugly, that I often forget the hideous, humiliating, inhumanity of the thing around my neck.

Not long ago, I paused over my cluttered desk and I looked up into the corner at my wall of love. Drawings my kids have offered as tokens of love array the space. It’s good to look these over sometimes. When offered, I adored them, oohhed and ahhhed over them, complimented the work that went into them and the talent showing through each picture. I hung them on the wall to show my appreciation, but I closed a door inwardly, not accepting the words offered as possibly true for me. As if my kids were actually addressing the mother of their dreams, not the flesh and blood person in front of them. Then, I went to the sink and brushed my teeth, hardly glancing in the mirror, and wondered why I have a difficult time accepting these words from my children.IMG_5673 IMG_5672 IMG_5674 IMG_5671

And as I fingered my cross this morning, these musings came back.

The work on the cross was bloody, ugly, horrendous agony. But the result was beautiful. Salvation, death conquered, law reduced, God lifting the veil that separated Him from us and inviting us directly to come to Him.

Repeatedly scripture tells us that through Christ’s death on the cross we are made new. The prophet Isaiah (43:19) announces God’s will,

 

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

 

Romans 6: 3-7 says, “Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.”

 

And in Revelation 21, God proclaims, “Look, I am making everything new!”

 

Me and you, made new.

When we come to Christ, it is as if we are taking off the old, ugly, worn-out clothes of our life and putting on a coat of beauty and grace and forgiveness and freedom. Like when I shed the clothes I’ve been painting in, shower and dress for an evening out… that kind of new. Sort of. That changes the external. But Christ’s changes are from the inside out… eventually. Living free… free from the fear of death, free from the ancient’s law of ceremonial clean and unclean, free from eternal judgment.

Gungor sings it this way:

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

And as we sang these words this morning, I thought of the cross, of Christ’s death making it beautiful. Of how His act took the awful and made it artistic, of how His love took the twisted and the maimed and straightened it and healed it, of how gnarled and blood-soaked became lily-fresh.

But me. God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You too.” Like the cross, Christ takes my life and the ugly and the horrid and the horrendous and the inhumane, all the broken, gnarled, twisted, blood-soaked splinters of my cross-life and turns them toward redemption. He tapped me on the shoulder this morning and said, “I’m doing this to you, too. Taking your dust and growing a garden.”

And I realized that I have to accept that I can be beautiful. That I am already beautiful through Christ. That the words my children picture for me are true. This. Is. Truth. Truth I need to pickle in, not just accept but relish and believe. If Christ can change the most horrific method of torture into a thing of beauty… now worn by millions of people, then what can He do with me?

My dear Prosy, my Ugandan “daughter,” how He has taken the broken bits of that life of horror and redeemed them, saved her, made beauty where there was dust and ash. All the lives now at Village of Hope Uganda… for them all He has made beautiful things.

In the heights of hubris, I’ve closed the doors to this, just as I’ve closed the door to the words of my children, preferring, clinging to, embracing the lies I’ve heard from other parts of the world. As if those lies of “you’re nothing” and “you’re so broken you can’t be fixed” are the final assessment and the final horror of life. If I accept the lies as the final answer, then I am also turning my back on hope, on the greatest gift ever offered.

It’s time to fling wide those doors. Just as Christ flung wide His arms on the cross and took the pain for my gain, it is time to fling wide my arms and embrace His words for me. It’s time for beautiful things.

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!

Just yesterday I was driving to an event. My heart started racing. As I become more aware of how this kind of thing gets going in my body and may or may not send me into a full on panic attack, I stop to ask myself why. Why, little heart, is the approach of this event, sending you into spasms. The answer? Because I’d rather be at home writing.

“The Introverted are the people who live in the constant tension between the desire to communicate… and the desire to hide.”
This from Ann Voskamp, another “I’d rather stay home and write” kinda gal. So she wrote it out, her story, and it has launched her into comfort zones far beyond staying home. She says, “…well, when you’ve been revived from the dead, you keep mustering the courage up to communicate this story because maybe it will help just even one other person?”

And today Maya Angelou died and I’m thinking about how her voice was my first experience with poetry that licked my heart as it sang to my brain, how her words opened new doors and suggested to me that form in poetry could be more organic, subtle, sensuous, slithering up the backside. Her voice, husky, grandmotherly, wise, pooled around my high school self and flung wide doors of language.

And I think back to three days ago when I was watching my daughter perform with her choir during a church service and how words, lifting in song, touched people. The choir cast the words of The Battle Hymn of the Republic into air, and I watched as the grey haired ladies in their own special pew popped above the surface to nip at them. Joy spread across their faces and their lips moved uncontrollably, lipping the words, eyes bright. I had glimpses of young girls in those wizened faces. Young, smooth skin under the wrinkles, tossing curls under the white and grey. Age remembering youthful prayer meetings and days spent with beaus and a patriotism that is no longer politically correct. And I thought, “Oh how God loves you, ladies.” More than me, they have seen Him marching on.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free;
[originally …let us die to make men free]
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

It was here, at this verse, that my own tears started, flowing fast, joy … joy that my daughter was in a choir that was teaching and challenging and training her voice and that that voice was singing one of my favorite hymns… a hymn for crying out loud. On the cusp of Memorial Day, it had meaning.
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free…
There are men and women who stood up, left their comfort zones, their homes, their cozy and with racing hearts faced the enemy, the freedom takers. Their voices, their stories were shortened, heroic, often unsung, unheard. But their acts made differences, changed tides of battles, changed lives. Their passing may have seemed a blip on the map of strategy, but in God’s great economy, not a drop of blood was wasted.

These words of march and fight and triumph are reserved for Memorial Day, for funerals, for times of passing. But we need them every day. Because every day is a battle. We need to know that there is purpose, a strategy, a plan in place, a plan for victory, and an exit plan, even before we move from our beds in the morning. God’s plan, God’s march, God’s victory.

Plan enacted, sweet son sent. Holy oneness broken for a bit so that holy becomes human. Holy takes on skin but not the depravity of human. Holy walks soil, holy sleeps and eats and touches and feeds and speaks words of love and healing and dangerous words that turn thousands of years of “God says” into “but now.” Holy from the beginning, there in the beginning, there in the early sacrifices that will herald and explain and ready hearts.

Yes, oh sinner. God spent those years teaching his children that certain actions are sin, the most offensive of which is turning away from God.

There must be retribution.

Retribution taken by himself on himself for me so that the swift sword loosed is not for me deserving though I be. Oh be swift my soul to answer Him, be jubilant my feet!

It makes me want to stand at attention, eager along the parade route, listening for the trumpet that shall never sound retreat, butterflies in my stomach anticipating the display that is about to pass. Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! Drips from lips like so much honey.

Can I stand at the parade route and stay home and write too? Can they be one and the same? Can my voice raised in writing be loud and cheering? Can yours?

So, I’m writing and I’m crying, my soul purging. And my daughter comes in and says, “Why? Why are you crying?” Crying and writing, writing and crying? Isn’t that normal? Because it is in the writing that I feel the hand of God, like He is pouring His voice into me, filling me. In the preaching gospel to myself, I touch God, spend an hour at His feet, rest in the beauty of the lilies, glory in His glory. Voice my own hallelujah. Cast it out into air. It’s the introvert way, the God way for me. For now.

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.

Our Most Precious Resource

In the court of public opinion, there are no winners.

Am I the only one who thinks like this?

I’ve crafted a life that very carefully kowtows to the various cults out there… the environmental cults of save the trees and save the animals from plastics, and the food cults that say processed is bad and fresh is best, and the cult of cleanliness is next to godliness, and the cult of send your kids to school with colorful, nutritious lunches packed in neat little boxes, send them neat and tidy and well-showered and (goodness knows I try) well-groomed (although my tween is really challenging my style and sense of well-groomed). I have bowed at their altars, taken photos of my triumphs and shared them on Facebook, proud of my stellar accomplishments, expecting another star for my motherhood crown.

And now, in a barrage of letters, newspaper articles, and yard signs, I’m suddenly told that my efforts are not good enough because we’re in a drought and everyone needs to reduce water usage by 25%. Suddenly, water, and not trees, or the atmosphere, or the polar ice caps, is our most precious resource. And I’m scathing that poor planning, lack of responsible management, and politics have led us to this point (I can’t honestly say that I know these things to be factual, but it is ALWAYS easier to point the finger at someone else!).

So, in my mind, I’m playing David Letterman and creating the top 10 list of how to conserve water, and I’m laughing like a maniac at how it all flies in the face of the other altars of humanity at which I’ve been bowing. Like this:
10. Do laundry less. Because stained and smelly with food hanging off the sleeve is the new black.
9. Buy more clothes so you can do laundry less. But some poor person in a third world country is sitting in a sweatshop under horrific conditions for you to buy those new clothes at a “reasonable price.”
8. Flush less. Ewwww. At what point does that become unsanitary?
7. Use less soap and water for cleaning and more harsh chemicals.
6. Eat more processed foods…. We save water in these ways: watering the garden, rinsing the fresh foods, preparing the foods, washing the prepping pans, cutting boards, knives, spoons, etc. After all, no water is used when you take your meal straight from the freezer to the microwave.
5. Paper plates, plastic silverware, Styrofoam cups! Can’t you just hear the tree-huggers screaming! But if I’m not running the dishwasher, then I’m saving water.
4. Plastic baggies for packing school lunches. Suddenly, my life is getting easier! And the plastic industry is happy!
3. Become bigger consumers… eat out more, travel more, be away from the house MORE… it’s someone else’s water bill.
2. Bathe less and when you do, do it Navy style, and line the shower with buckets to capture every last drop of this precious resource. People, I have a tween … I can attest here and now that this is a public safety issue.
1. Live like this is a third world country.

Okay, I might be a bit cynical about this whole thing.

And the conscious kicks it into high gear.

Because back in 2011, when I first started working with Compassion Tea Company, I became aware of a medical clinic in Zambia called Chalabesa Mission Hospital. This medical clinic was run by a nun who worked tirelessly to bring medical care to the people of the bush. Her clinic was the only one for miles around. People walked all day to reach it. They waited all day to be seen. The nun might treat over 200 people in one day. And the clinic operated on solar panels that worked sporadically and it’s water pipes had broken. At that time, the nun and her meager staff walked 169 yards to a dirty river where elephants bathe in order to bucket brigade water back to the clinic. (read more)

Waddington by the Mission Medic Air plane and team members.

Waddington by the Mission Medic Air plane and team members.

Day6MMAplanewithgreeters.104954

Carrying water on their heads

Carrying water on their heads

A boy struggles with his water load.

A boy struggles with his water load.

Laundry and water are carried in jerrycans long distances.

Laundry and water are carried in jerrycans long distances.

Three years have passed.

And while the nun is a different person, the bucket brigade continues. The medical care is often provided by flashlight. And 100s of people still walk miles and wait hours for the care.

CompassioNow has worked with Mission Medic Air, Zambia to remedy this situation, but things move slowly in Zambia. We’re waiting breathlessly to hear that the pipes have been fixed, that a new well has been dug, that running water is back at the clinic. It could happen soon! We’re praying it happens soon.

Water is a precious resource, and Zambia is a third world country, and they’ve learned to be creative and resourceful to meet the needs of the people there.

And I’m writing cynical letters to the editors in my head, throwing snarky comments around in my head when I see the neighbor’s teenage son hosing off his beater car, and generally in a bad frame of mind over this new inconvenience.

And there’s Jesus at the well, talking to the woman who has come to fill her bucket for the day. He’s telling her that he can offer her living water.

John 4: 10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? 12 And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

15 “Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

Jesus doesn’t tell her that she’ll never have to come to the well again. She’ll need to go to the well again. Life demands water. But the burden of it will be lifted. She hears his words thinking this is the fountain of youth he is offering, a spring of water that offers perpetual youth and strength, eternal life even. In the sense of life on earth forever, not in the heavenly sense. And she’s ready to sign her name on the dotted line, to enter contract on this amazing fountain of joy.

Give me this water! My heart echoes her’s. Give me this water that I will never be thirsty again. Thirst is a wild craving. It gums up the throat, it clouds the brain, it pastes the tongue in place. Thirst is a cynicism, body turning into desert.

Give me this water! This water that quenches the cynicism, the dried up thoughts and pasty mouth, that says, “You have eternal life through Jesus; so what’s the fuss?”

“A fresh bubbling spring within them.” A spring fed by the Holy Spirit, joy unspeakable, life eternal.

This is the most precious resource.

If I Close My Eyes…

If I close my eyes, I can see it.

Joseph dancing in the back aisle, joy moving his limbs in awkward cadences to the words … Our God, you reign forever. Our Hope, our strong deliverer….

His feet dangling out the back of the pew after he crawled under it…

The way he draped over me, head hanging down to the ground, and then curled up all fetal like knees to nose head on my lap…

The thumbs up he gave after taking communion for the first time…

Clara sketching next to us, flowers, girls, the chalice and the bread and the words of command and institution…

Her glances to check in… is Mama crying… again… in church…

The mom in front of us with 3 children wrapped around her…

The flickering candles on the wall…

If I close my eyes, I can see it.

In the moment, it seemed embarrassing and funny and soul-crumbling all at once. Me, a piece of fabric, wadded in a ball, stomped on by two beautiful angels bent on sabotaging a moment in time and in space. Joseph kicks as he squirms down to the ground, he butts his head against his sister who complains like a squeaky door. He is heavy, this growing boy who can’t for the ever-living life of him sit still. Ever. Even in sleep….

But I don’t want to take that joy from him. I don’t want church to be all rules and sitting up straight and not making a noise because that is not how God meets us, in the straight and narrow, in the clean and pure and well-manicured.

But when Joseph asked me, “Can I take the bread and the wine?” I hesitated and reviewed the rules. Rules I wasn’t sure about for our current church. Rules.

Well, why? I struggled to understand why he was interested.

And out of the mouth of my babe came, “Because it is Jesus’ body and blood. He told his friends to eat it to remember him.” If my growing, squirmy man-child knows this, then there are no rules to follow.

Because God doesn’t meet us in the rule-following, but in the heart-calling.

The heart-calling.
“Let’s imagine Jesus washing our feet.” This is the call from the front.

If I close my eyes, I can see it.

A basin. A towel. The base of the cross in the background. A hand. Water. Dropping, dribbling, gentle and cleansing. This God, my God, tenderly caressing my weary soul. In the middle of the mess, in the middle of the chaos, this water becomes stillness and peace and the holy.

It’s today now. Another day of it. The mess and the chaos and the meeting God in the middle of it. And it’s Good Friday and we remember the mess and the chaos and the seeming end of it. Jesus on the cross. Blood, vinegar, final words, nails, ripping curtains, ripping hands and feet, dark skies, dark hearts, and the exclamations of “Surely, this was the son of God” and I wonder if there was a heart-cry that followed, “We killed him… the son of God.” The despair.

Joseph is sitting in the chair behind me kicking me and complaining that I won’t add a new app to the iPad and I want to curse the iPad and send it screaming out of my family forever for the ways it tries to seduce and steal my family, my boy who knows that the bread and the wine are for Jesus, that life is for Jesus.

It’s going to be a messy, chaotic day.

But if I close my eyes, I can see it. The Easter sunrise, the Easter sonrise, on the other side. And there can be joy behind my closed eyes that will sustain. My God, My Hope, My Strong Deliverer….