Sunday, March 29, 2009

Seeing me

"Jesus was as certain of the future as we are of the past." ~Alex Himaya in a Sunday sermon

This statement almost made me laugh out loud, but with delight, in a good way, not a mocking way. Jesus does see the future and past clearly--what amused me is how poorly WE see things. Not only do we not see the future, but we really don't see the past clearly either. We can't even judge our present very well. The apostle Paul said that he didn't judge his own ministry because he didn't trust himself to understand his own work, that he would leave God to be the judge: "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me" (1 Corinthians 4:3-4 NIV). When I study history with my girls, I realize how subjective my presentation is, how the past can be manipulated and distorted, and is very difficult to know because it always comes to us through a lens of human understanding--and we humans are so fallible.

I want to ask Jesus to tell me my own story. I know that I will not see things clearly until I stand with him, but even as I live my every day life, I want him to reveal even my own life through his eyes. My past, my present, and my future--I want the freedom and joy of seeing me the way he does.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Working for coffee, working for Jesus

Last week, when I was in Chicago, I had a lovely time. Filled with peace and purpose, confident in my girls back was great. Except for this one moment. I had gone with my preschool director, and she had joked about "Starbucks every day" for weeks in advance, almost a motto for the trip. I myself have always said, with regards to the church, that "I work for coffee." Seems like such innocent fun, eh?

Just as we began the trip, she mentioned what our food budget was, and decided that meals would be on the church budget, but between meal snacks and drinks would be out of our own pocket. Hello? The church isn't buying my coffee? But I work for coffee. With the joking we had done, and the emphasis I had let build around it, I was actually...hurt. I know it sounds ludicrous, but really, don't we do that? Let things get into our spirits that don't belong there, and then ZAP, they sting us.

I could sort of see a problem brewing on the trip, but I did not heed any warnings and examine my heart. On Friday afternoon, after the last conference, I told Jennifer, "You have to buy my coffee this afternoon." I knew we had the budget for it, and it was my RIGHT. I have since been quite grieved by my attitude. I suppose I should praise God that it came out. That is how God often works: if we ignore something festering in our souls, he will let it come into the open. I believe, the more we ignore problems he is trying to bring to our attention, the more public he will make them.

I'm not sure Jennifer ever knew how much ugliness there was in that moment for me, in my heart. She bought me a venti mocha, which I did enjoy...mostly. But this week I am off the fancy coffees and humbling myself before God. Our pastor shared this verse in his sermon on Sunday: "Do not love this world or the things it offers you....For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions" (1 John 1:15,16 NLT). He said that we are all easily enticed; never get to the point where you think you are above the temptations of the world around us. Some day, I will stop at Starbucks again, but for now I am laying down my coffee for the sweeter prize of Jesus.

Monday, March 16, 2009


My last blog kind of bothered me. When writing, one likes to create a certain shape, an aesthetic that is appealing. One crafts words. That said, I wondered about how easy it is to diminish oneself. I was listening to a woman teach the other day, and she commented that something she had done was, those aren't her exact words. I can't remember them, but the idea was that she was somehow bad for making an error. And my thought was that in diminishing herself, she diminished her students' ability to learn. Or rather, what students learn, from authorities who lack confidence, is to lack confidence themselves. Remember the research done on children, how every child thinks he or she can draw until they have been in school a certain number of years, and then most are convinced that they can't...We lose our freedom to BE, to be something, if we feel we must be the best or perfect all the time.

So while I love my iceberg lettuce imagery, I must admit that I'm deeper with God than 10%. I'm not 90% below the surface--I like to talk way too much to achieve that. Maybe someday, as God becomes more satisfying and fulfilling and rich to me. I know for certain that I walk deeper with Him now than I used to. That's encouraging, isn't it? And my walk with God is not steady improvement. It comes in fits and spurts, perhaps less fitty & spurty as I grow, but never a steady curve of improvement.

Sometimes when I am listening to Christian music and it is heavy into angst--why can't I love God well, why will I never follow Him like I should--I wonder about the derth of songs that express confidence. It is certainly okay to have doubts, but isn't there something else? I like Paul's confidence in his epistles. I like to think that someday I could write to my friends with that same confidence. Paul was the New Testament writer who said, "Imitate me." That's pretty good living, to feel confident in your faith and your humility enough to put yourself on display.

Isaiah 30:15 says, "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." First learn to find a place of quietness. Then let our Lord feed your confidence. These things become our strength. The entire verse is worth meditating should look it up. :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Resurrection and icebergs

I am good at shutting down. I too often escape the issues of life by reading, playing games, being busy, talking with friends... Our culture offers us every opportunity to be distracted.

Today, I was thinking about intimacy with God, and it occurred to me that just as I struggle sometimes to stay connected with the people around me, so I suffer in my intimacy with God. How many times do I shut out the noise & people just to be with him?

Sometimes I feel as if I am not fully alive, and I prayed tonight that God would awaken me. Awaken me from all the things that pull me away from him, and and away from the people in my life. Teach me the give and take of being together, the peace of not performing, something deeper than a mask. I am amazed when I really look at myself in the quiet how little of me there is beneath the surface. A mentor of mine once said that the Christian life should be like an iceberg: 90% below the surface. He also pointed out that most of us live 90% in public, and have very little just between us and God, in the depths. Rather than an iceberg, I seem to float like iceberg lettuce--pale green, bobbing, not very nutritious.

While I was thinking about these things, the phrase "resurrection power" came to me. Paul wanted to know this resurrection power. I looked up the verse where Paul makes this statement: "I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead" (Philippians 3:10). I once was lost but now I'm found...I once was dead, but now I'm alive. I am alive by resurrection power. The Bible speaks of our salvation as an event and as a process. Maybe, just as I was made alive in Christ, he also keeps making me alive to his presence.

By the way, verse 10 finishes with Paul saying, "I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death." I'm going to chew on that first part of that verse for a little while. It's daunting to think about coming alive to God, and then laying my life down again...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Seated with Christ

Ephesians 2:6 (NIV) says, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." I am not personally seated in heaven at this moment, next to the throne of God, so I am going to assume that Paul's language is figurative. To be seated means to have authority, and this passage of Scripture is in present tense: when we are in Christ, we are--in the present time--given the authority that Christ was given by God.

Okay. That's a big thought. We were talking about this in my community group at church, and this passage comes right after a reference to Satan as "the ruler of the kingdom of the air." Remember how the ruler of the kingdom of the air came to Jesus in the desert and said, "All this is mine, but I can give it to you if you bow down and worship me."

Satan knew that Jesus had some pretty awesome authority that was given to him by his Father. And he knew that Jesus had a pretty important work to do, just like Ephesians says that we have: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (v.10) So to "trump" Jesus' authority and distract him from his Father's mission, Satan offered to give Jesus his own authority over the kingdoms of this world.

Where are you going with all of this, Angie? Follow me just a little longer on my rabbit chase. There are lots of parallels between what God planned for Christ as the first of many brothers and what he has set before us. And if Satan tried to distract Christ, isn't it just possible that he is trying to distract you and me? Has he ever taken you up and shown you what you could have in the world? When he offers you worldly pleasures, worldly authority, worldly opportunities, how do you respond?

I'm afraid that sometimes I don't even notice what the prince of this world is offering me until I'm already down his path. Jesus answered the enemy, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY'" (Matthew 4:10). May we see what the worldly prince puts in our path, and turn our hearts to God and worship him only. Give us pure hearts, Lord.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Free to be incomplete

On Friday, I got to hold a baby. I was at a co-op with my daughter, but my teaching job wasn't until after lunch, so I was just looking around for a gap to stand in. The co-op's director came down the stairs with this little pink bundle. The director had many things to do, so I offered to hold the little girl. She wasn't able to stay in the nursery because she was just too fussy for the workers to handle with all the other kids. When I took her in my arms, she was stiff as a board and very tired. She looked at me, and every fiber of her being proclaimed, "YOU are not my mommy." After five minutes, all my learning as a preschool worker at my church came to play, and she relaxed in my arms. Within another five minutes, she was asleep.

Her mom had been going from class to class that day to lead the children in learning the tin whistle, for an end of the year presentation for parents. All the tutors were so grateful for her using her remarkable music skills to lead the kids. I wasn't running the nursery; I wasn't directing the co-op; I wasn't tutoring children; I wasn't teaching the tin whistle. For a short while, I held a baby. I was one piece in a large body of people who were serving each other.

I saw the best definition of community last week on the Burnside Writer's Blog:

The gift of community is that each one of us is absolved of the burden of completeness. In and of ourselves at every moment we can lean on one another for the elements we lack.

I love community, where I can give whatever small piece I have to offer, and God makes something beautiful in the whole.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

On being sick

I am not a good patient. And isn't it interesting that the word for "a person receiving medical care due to illness or injury" is patient? There is a key in our very language to what God might be accomplishing during times of illness.

I have never been able to believe that God does not allow his children to get sick. But I live in Tulsa, OK, one of the charismatic capitols of the world, and the airways are full of the idea that a Christian immediately and always has access to immediate healing. Every time I catch a cold or a stomach virus or develop an infection, I pick up the healing question and start batting it around--it's like a ball that doesn't quite respond to the way I understand gravity.

I have a friend who serves God in a very difficult part of the world. The climate is hard on her, and she is under a great deal of stress in what she does. She becomes emotionally exhausted and sometimes physically ill. From where I sit, in the comfort and ease of the United States, I think DUH, girl, your environment is harsh. But from her perspective, she wonders why, if God called her to serve, she is unable to do so on certain days. Surely she is failing him?

For some reason, I began thinking about the apostle Paul. Church people argue a lot about Paul's health. Galatians says that he was sick when he first preached the gospel to them, and 2 Corinthians speaks of a "thorn in his flesh" which could mean a variety of things. Those passages aside, we know that Paul suffered beatings & other physical calamities that would have left him bedridden, recovering. What if he had spent that time berating himself for not being out in the marketplace, preaching to the Gentiles? What if he saw himself as a failure for not being ON 24/7? That's kind of a funny picture, isn't it?

When Paul said in Philippians that he had learned the secret of being content in all situations, he was speaking about finances, but I think we can extrapolate. Paul knew that the Kingdom of God doesn't only advance in direct, fierce battle. The Kingdom also advances within us, in all of our heart choices. When we allow God's peace to reign in us, when we follow our Savior with our whole heart in worship and adoration, no matter what our circumstances, I think we are triumphing over evil.

Graham Cooke made the statement that God often allows in his wisdom what he could prevent in his power. Maybe, all across the planet, the Lord would like to hear his children praising his name. Some of us are in prison; some of us are sick; some of us are living out great victories; some of us have just fallen (again). And all of us are singing to our God and Father, singing about his wonderful goodness. If there is a war waging between good and evil, who would be strengthened by such a chorus of praise? Who would rejoice in our being patient?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pure joy

"Consider it pure joy, my brethren, when you encounter trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing." - James 1:2-3

I am sick. I have a very sore throat, but it's not strep, it's not flu. I can't really talk with my family (which means my schooling is limited, since I read so much to the children). I have a low-grade fever in the evenings, and the last two mornings when I wake up, I don't feel any better. Beka has a birthday party on Friday, and I am tutoring at a new homeschooling community for the first time, also on Friday. I wonder if I'll be well? I wonder if anyone else in my family will get sick? I wonder if we'll have to reschedule Beka's party?

I'm not sure if I'm at the point of "pure joy" but I am content that God will work all this out. Things may not go as I like; I guarantee I don't like being sick. But the God who loves me and takes care of me, who has a plan and a purpose for my life, has not suddenly bumped into something He can't handle. The God who took care of me last week is taking care of me now. I think He is pretty wonderful, although the only shouting I am doing about it is in the quiet of my heart. Pure joy...I wonder what that looks like?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Kneading Hands

Zechariah watched his wife, kneading
the bread with her strong hands,
hands that lifted water in their
heavy jars, hands that held no child.
We are good, he thought, but
no. No one is good. Just God.
And her empty hands brushed at
her skirt, she absently tucked
her hair back up. She lifted
the paddle to the oven door, then
reached for oil, pouring a small
amount to a vial stuffed with
rosemary. Again, wiping her hands,
again tucking her hair, again
standing empty. She smiled
over her shoulder, feeling
his eyes upon her aging body.
He knew her long hair, once
black like the darkness in
the corners of the Temple, now
streaked with gray, the wisdom
of her age. Only God
is good, he knew, and what
can we expect to have
from his hand.

No genealogies were written
of those without children.
No begats with no belonging,
no place to be written. And Zechariah
sat in the kitchen, his own age
allowing him this moment of rest
in days that were full of teaching,
serving, tending the garden.
Old Avirim who worked
in the Temple decades ago
had died, no sons. And Zechariah
now itched to write them down,
to write them all, the litany
of childless men, with women
baking their warm flat bread
in empty homes. An urge
rose in him, to know his wife,
to write on her beautiful
aging body his love, indeed
the mystery of God.