Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Public Witnesses to the Power of the Cross

Lent began with an ashen dusty cross on our foreheads; a reminder that "We are dust and to dust we shall return." On that night, a heaviness encompassed the air as the relentless reality of the cross weighed on our shoulders. We woke again the next morning with the shadow of that ashen cross still barely visible but reminding us once again of our mortality.

From the cross, we step onto the path and begin our journey to the cross. Along the way, we are continually transformed as we encounter the love of Christ given freely to each of us. Together we sit and break bread with Jesus. We see and hear those who are opposing Jesus--the one who has come not to condemn the world, but to save it. We listen and take it all in; feeling every emotion. 

And on Good Friday, we find ourselves standing at the foot of the cross--silent! We so desperately want to stop it all, yet our words won't come out. We can't muster up the strength to prevent this from happening. Shocked and speechless,we stand and watch as Jesus cries out and then breathes his last. In the utter silence of this moment, it appears that death has the final word as Jesus hangs lifeless on the cross.

Three days later, the women come to the tomb. There is no stench from a decaying body. The stone is rolled away. They look in and realize that Jesus' body is gone. They think it has been stolen. They run to tell others and along the way they encounter Jesus. Jesus is alive. He has been raised from the dead. Together, we all trust in this resurrection promise and loudly proclaim,"Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Allelulia!" 

From the cross to the grave to Easter morning, Jesus proclaims God's scandalous love for all the world. This love opens our hearts to be transformed and renewed by this very love. This love also teaches us to follow Jesus example of love;"He loved them to the very end." Together, it is this love that calls and claims us to be public witnesses to God's love for all in this world. 

Knowing what has been done for us, our voices are no longer silent. We cry out for justice. We cry out for mercy and kindness. We cry out in all the ways we know how so that Gods love will be known to everyone. We cry out to break down the walls of injustice. We cry out so others will listen to those voices who aren't being heard. We cry out because we are called "to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God." 

As public witnesses to the power of the cross and as bearers of the Word made flesh, we trust in the resurrection promise of hope; a hope that bears light, truth and life not darkness, falsities and death. In our public witness, our words and actions embody the power of God in this broken world. It shows us that death can be buried in the grave, but it does not have the last word--Christ does.

I'm linking up with Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa linkup and Jennifer and Tell His Story. 

 



The Gift of Water

"Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does."--Margaret Atwood

Standing on the edge of the river, our eyes watch the water flow over the rocks and obstacles. The water knows to flow over it or through it. Water, like the waters of Baptism, is holy and refreshing. It also cleanses us of our sins. In addition, it quenches our thirst like no other beverage. But what about those places where there is no water or their water isn't pure?

I cannot help but think of the people in Flint, Michigan as I read our text from Ezekiel. I find myself crying out, "How long, Oh Lord, will you forget them forever?" When will they get the clean water they so desperately need in that community? I also find myself thinking about those in my own state who were trying to protect the pipeline from going through one of their main water sources. In both of these situations, it is water that is central.

Water is central to the gospel too. Jesus offers the life-giving water that only he can give. Jesus offers this life-giving water to the woman at the well and she tells others about this water; water that gives life to all of God's people. And it is this life-giving water that finds Jesus hanging on the cross on the night of his crucifixion and death. With his hands and feet nailed to the cross and a crown of thorns on his head, Jesus parched from thirst simply cries out "I thirst." A sponge of water is placed upon his lips; only wetting his thirst very little. And then Jesus breaths his last.

Water is a holy element in this world. It flows freely. It goes exactly where it wants to go. Water is patient. Water quenches our thirst. Water frees us and washes us of our sins. Water calls and claims us as God's beloved children as we are freely given the gift of the life-giving water only Jesus can give. Are we willing to share that water with all of God's beloved children?

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Ultimate Sign and Wonder

"Then Jesus said to him, 'Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.'”--John 4:48

How often do we too look for signs and wonders in the midst of this broken fractured world? I don't know about you, but there are times in my life when I truly want to see those signs and wonders. When someone I love is diagnosed with cancer, I want that person to be cured of their cancer. And that is only one example, there are so many more I could share. Often times God shows up in ways we never imagined or expected. We are looking for signs and wonders and God shows up in completely different signs and wonders than we expect.

It seems to me that often the world is looking for extravagant signs and wonders that will show them the kingdom is here on Earth. But the truth is that those signs and wonders aren't flashy like a Hollywood sign. But rather they are flashy in their own way. They come from our gentle humble radical Christ who wasn't afraid to turn water into wine, who wasn't afraid to sit with tax collectors and sinners, who was all about reminding us of God's love by dying on the cross and then being raised from the dead.

"Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won't stay there."--Clarence W. Hall

Lent is a time when the signs and wonders of Christ come once again in unexpected ways. For me, death in the midst of the days of Lent has more of a heaviness to it than any other time. A dear friend passed away this weekend. She is now reunited with the love of her life. Yet our hearts are broken. This is only one example of how life and death are so apparent as signs and wonders. On Easter morning, Jesus is risen from the dead when we are reminded that life not death has the final word. 

Each Easter, as the keys to the organ swell as we sing the words to "Jesus Christ is Risen Today," I find myself clinging to the promise of the cross; the ultimate sign and wonder of how much God loves each of us.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Blessings 164

(1) A beautiful day

(2) Lemon Meringue pie on pi day

(3) D.C. Sharing her strawberries with me.

(4) Seeing EG and BG tonight. They are both getting so big.

(5) Videoing people for our Lenten worship.

(6) Zumba

(7) Ellie Holcomb's Red Sea Road album

(8) Watching Class B Boys BB

(9) Watching Special Olympics World games on tv. The moment with Jason Mraz and Grace Vanderwaal was something special.

(10) Cinnamon Jelly Beans

(11) Getting to give EG his bottle.

(12) Baby snuggles

(13) Baptism celebration

(14) 50 degree spring weather

(15) Time at one of my fave places CotC

(16) Potato klubb with KN and MH

(17) Lunch with KW and DW

(18) Having fun filming clips for our Lenten videos.

(19) Winning a prize at this week's #fmfparty. Thanks Krafty Kash!!

(20) Buying books on Amazon and getting some great deals.

(21) For the Love of the Arts event and performing some of my poetry.

(22) An accidental call from Uncle J and texting with Aunt C as a result of that call.

(23) A PLN

(24) Apple Rum Cake

(25) Hugs and convo with one of my fave kiddos. Thanks KM.

Look on the Heart

The Lord does not look on the outward appearance, but on the heart. How often are we guilty of doing just the opposite? We look at a persons outward appearance and so easily can judge them. Yet we don't know them. We don't know their stories. God calls us to get to know them and to look at their heart.

Through social media, I've met some incredible people. To be honest, I'm not sure if we would have been friends if we met in real life before we did on socal media. Yet what I know is I see these friends hearts through their words, their passion for justice, their care for others, and their faith. I'm delighted to call them friends because I've truly seen their hearts.

We need to better about getting to know one another. We need to look deeply into each other's hearts. Our hearts are called to share the same faith Christ shared with us through his life, death, and resurrection. I'm reminded of one of my fave passages from the book of Romans where we are reminded that all of us are the Lords.

"If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords."--Romans 14:8

Saturday, March 25, 2017

God with Us

Mary cries out in labor pains as Jesus comes into the world. Soon the silence of the night is broken by the cries of this holy infant; Immanuel (God with us) Wrapped in swaddling clothes, Jesus lies in a manger in Bethlehem surrounded by his parents Mary and Joseph. This holy infant sent to save the world. "For God so loved the world that God gave Gods only son that whoever believes in  him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed God did not send God's son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world may be saved through him." (John 3:16-17)

Jesus hangs on the cross crying out "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing." With dry parched lips, he exclaims, "I thirst." With a crown of thorns on his head and nails in his hands and feet, he breathes his last. The crowd gathered stands in awe and utter silence. Gently, Jesus is taken down from the cross and is wrapped in burial cloth. They place his body in the tomb and roll the stone in front of it.

Three days later, women return to the tomb and find the stone rolled away. Jesus' body is no longer in the tomb. Jesus has been raised. Life not death has the ultimate word. "Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won't stay there." In this promise, we declare our trust in Immanuel; God with us.

God with us in the manger in Bethlehem. God with us as Jesus breaks bread with tax collectors and sinners. God with us as Jesus offers lifegiving water to the women at the wall. God with us on Maundy Thursday as Jesus washes the disciples feet even those who will deny and betray him. God with us on the cross as Jesus breathed his last. God with us when the world is broken and fractured. God with us when we are afraid. God with us in both our mourning and dancing. God with us at all times because God promises to never leave us or forsake us.

In the promise of Immanuel; God with us, let us trust in this profound scandalous love that comes in the life, death and resurrection of God's Son. A love that is born in a manger in Bethlehem and that dies for our sins as Jesus hangs that dark Friday night as he breathes his last. A love that rises again on Easter morning as life not death has the final world.

Friday, March 24, 2017

What Wondrous Love

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. There is no commandment greater than these."--Mark 12:30-31

With everything in me, I do my best to love my lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. But when it comes to loving my neighbors as myself, that is way harder because I'm not always good at loving myself fully. I too often compare myself to others and feel like I'm not worthy. She's prettier than I am. She's so much better at that than I am.

Yet the truth is I am worthy. I have been given wondrous gifts by God; gifts that are meant to be shared. The truth is when I truly am seen, known and loved, I can love my neighbors as I love myself much easier.

God sees us.
God knows us.
God loves us...
Which is why God sent God's son to die on the cross for each of us.

Oh what kind of wondrous love is that: the kind of wondrous love God calls us to share in this broken world.




Thursday, March 23, 2017

Embrace Who You Are

I am linking up for Five Minute Friday.  The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today's prompt is "embrace." I love spending time with this crew. They bless me beyond words. We'd love to have you join us.  Just hop onto Twitter on Thursday evenings and follow the #fmfparty. Hope to see you there! 

Tears fell from her eyes as she sat and told her story. Every time she begins to unlock this story and tell more people; tears fall from her eyes as she embraces telling her story. She cannot help but live out her new mantra; words from Brene Brown "The bravest thing you'll ever do is tell your story." In telling her story, she continues to embrace who she is.

Her fingers tap across the keyboard as she tells yet another story or writes another poem. Her soul is bursting as the words travel onto the page. Words are her love language and it is words that gives her so much life. In living out these gifts, she again is embracing who God created her to be; a writer--a bearer of the Word made flesh in this broken fractured world.

She wraps her arms around her friend's shoulders as she grieves. She isn't afraid to be the shoulder for her to cry on. She wont let go until she knows her friend is ok. In this loving embrace, she reminds her friend that she is not alone in her joy and her grief. Another of the gifts God gave her as she embraces this gift in her life.

There are so many communities that she embraces; that bring her such beauty and grace. She embraces each of them with their unique gifts. There is wine, gin and other beverages spread out on the table. Snacks also for her friends to enjoy. At the table, we sit and break bread. These are communities where we embrace each other in all of our uniqueness. They are places where we are all truly seen, known and loved! 

Convicted

"Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters."--Luke 11:23 (New Revised Standard Version)

"This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse."--Luke 11:23 (The Message) 

Convicting words, are they not? As I read this passage this morning, I found my body paralyzed by these very words. I have been guilty of being the one who scatters rather than gathers. I have been guilty of not helping. I have been guilty of sitting quietly and not saying a word. And how many of you are with me and feel very convicted by these words from Luke too?

Does God not call us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? Does God not call us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Does God not call us to live out the Gospel in this world? 

The Gospel is scandalous yet God calls us to trust in God's love for the world in the life, death and resurrection of his Son. Walter Brueggemann captures this well when he writes, "The Gospel is a very dangerous idea. We have to see how much of that dangerous idea we can perform in our own lives. There is nothing innocuous or safe about the Gospel. Jesus did not get crucified because he was a nice man." (Thanks for sharing this quote Slate Project)

Jesus was the first to sit with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus was the first to forgive. He washed Judas' feet knowing that Judas would betray him before evening was over. He still welcomed Peter at that same table and broke bread with him and washed his feet knowing that he would deny him three times. Jesus stood with the woman at the wall and offered her life giving water; the life giving water only Jesus could give. Jesus was all about turning over the tables and welcoming all especially those on the outside to the table.

In hearing these words today, I am convicted. I want to be the one who gathers God's people together. I want to help and not hinder the mission of God in this broken fractured world. I want to be on the side of love, and grace, and mercy and forgiveness! 

Yet it is because of my sins and the sins of all of us that Christ hung on that tree as he breathed his last. It is because of our actions and God's love for us that I am indeed convicted; convicted because of God's love for this broken fractured world.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

From Captivity into Freedom

Standing in front of the television, tears fell from his eyes as the wall separating east and west crumbled to the ground. His heart yearned to be with his family and friends yet this day found him miles away celebrating with his new American friends. 

This scene unfolded as one of our foreign exchange students watched as the wall between East and West Germany finally crumbled to the ground. He watched with joy-filled eyes as he watched his people freely walk between each side of what was once the wall. 

I remember this story well. It is a story that reminds me of the power of what it means to let people in and not keep people out. I find myself deeply yearning not to see a wall put up to keep people out. Our God calls us to welcome one another with open arms. Our God calls us to love one another and not fear one another. 

In Psalm 78, we hear the words that we are to teach our children; the next generations so they will set their hope in God and remember all the good works that God has done for us. Yet oh how easily, we forget the goodness of our God. We get sidetracked and derailed by the evil one. As I read this text, my heart sank as these words so easily capture what is happening in our broken sinful world today. We forget to trust in the hope of God. We forget to share the good deeds of God that have happened and will continue to happen.

What do we want the next generations to remember and be known for? Do we want them to love our LGBTQ friends with open arms and not question who they are in this world? Do we want the world to be known for proclaiming that #BlackLivesMatter? Do we want those immigrants who have come for safety to not fear for their lives? I believe that every day God calls us to live out the words to Micah 6:8 "But what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness/mercy, and walk humbly with your God?" to the best of our ability. We will indeed fail. But we are called to pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off and try again tomorrow.

God calls each and every one of us to guide with a tender upright heart just like David guided his people. As God's people, we are also called to do our best to love and serve our neighbors and pass on faith and values from generation to generation. I am reminded of the words from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

For every time we love God's people, the wall crumbles and another soul is able to walk freely from captivity into freedom.