Sunday, July 20, 2014

Where are your accusers

It always intrigues me when God asks a question. It can't be because he needs information, as if there is something unknown to him lurking inside of me. In part, questions force us to participate in the conversation, to look for the answer and give our best guess to the Master. Something in us doesn't respond as well to a droning lecture.

Questions invite.

In John 8:1-11, there is a story of a woman caught in adultery. (Complete sidenote: because this is a rare disputed passage in the Biblical cannon, I researched the topic a bit. If you are interested in puzzling out why scholars debate its inclusion in Scripture, this article was helpful to me.) She is brought before Jesus with the expectation that he will condemn her, command her to be stoned as the Law requires.

After all, she was caught in the very act of adultery. All by herself. Uh huh, really.

Another article I read today talks about how carefully Jesus upheld the Law. He wasn't backed into a corner by the crowd; he stood up for what was right and judged fairly.

So this story may be a lovely tribute to the Law, but readers for centuries have loved it because it speaks of grace. Jesus didn't condemn her, and he surely knew she was guilty. He surely had the right to judge her; her heart was open to him. And yet, after such a public, humiliating spectacle, he says, "Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin." Until Judgment Day, when we stand bared before a righteous God, we have the opportunity to repent, to turn toward him.

But Jesus also asks her a question. My translation says, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" (v.10, NIV) The King James says, "Where are your accusers?"

The answer is "No one is here to condemn me." She is standing before Jesus, and all of the stone throwers have slipped away.

But what humiliating experience, to be caught in sin and dragged to a public trial. The experience wouldn't leave you easily. You would still see the people who accused you as you went to market, took your clothes to be washed, drew water from the well. And you would know that they are still accusing you in their heads (at least).

So when Jesus, at this pivotal moment, asks her a question, she is forced to answer: "No one accuses me." And the Righteous Judge, standing before her, sends her away with the command to live better. In that moment, Jesus plants his words in her head, the reminder, the truth she must cling to, as she goes on in her life.

Who is accusing you? How does the punishment/judgment/grace thing work in the life that we live?

Who is accusing you?
No one.
Neither do I. Go on, and live repentant.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What do you want

One of my favorite questions in the Bible was posed by Jesus to a blind beggar. The story is told in Luke 18:33-43. Jesus is walking towards Jerusalem, where he will be crucified. As he is approaching Jericho, a man calls out to him: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" This man has no name; he is identified as "a blind beggar."

I wonder what my tag would be? Without a name, if I appeared in a story with Jesus, would I be "the harried housewife?" "A distracted mother?" When this man sat on the side of the road, anyone who saw him knew his flaws: he was blind; he was begging. He had needs that were glaring.

When he began calling out, the people around him rebuked him, told him to hush, but he shouted even more. I feel like that beggar this morning: Lord, I am in need. I need you. See me, Lord!

And Jesus says to the man, "What do you want me to do for you?"

Really, Jesus? The man is BLIND. Duh. What do you think he wants?? Why did Jesus ask this?

When I am desperate, when I am begging in a crowd for answers to the cry of my heart, I imagine Jesus looking at me and asking, "What do you want me to do for you?"

Would you have an answer? Do you know the one thing that you want from the Master, if he were standing before you and asked?

"I just want my life to be good." Very vague.
"I don't want to worry anymore." Very broad.
"I want to run away." Genuine, but is the cry of my heart really just a bed and breakfast somewhere?

The man answered, "Lord, I want to see." And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you."

The man wanted to see, but he could already see his own need when he began calling out to the Lord. Jesus seemed to love people's clarity and boldness.

I personally do not look as messy as a blind beggar. I work to hold things together, so I am not so obviously needy. It would be a shame if all my efforts to not fall apart kept me hushed, kept me away from the side of the road.

I don't want to miss his question: "What do you want me to do for you?"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Where are you

The story of the Fall had to be an oral tradition before it was written down in our Scripture. Every word is so meaty; there is something amazing just in the telling of it. After Adam & Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they sewed leaves together to cover themselves, and then hid when they heard God approach. Genesis 3:9 says, "But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

When my kids enter the house, they will call out, "Mom, where are you?" This is not God, slamming the door as he walks into the garden, trying to locate his man. God knows where Adam is. And God knows what Adam has done.

I think I would have entered the garden with something more like, "Adam Lewis Marcus Godson, you get here this very minute." My child would be terrified to disobey me, and rightly so. I mean, if I were God.

But God, the all-knowing, asks, "Where are you?"

A question implies a relationship. The LORD wants Adam to speak with him; he asks a question. Adam's response becomes the basis of what God then says. God speaks in context of Adam's own thinking.

If you find yourself hiding from God, ask yourself, "Where am I?" Are you anxious about something, and you fear how God would deal with it? Are you sinning and not really wanting to give it up?

If God rang your doorbell, would you answer, or hide? Would you roll your eyes because you have to stop what you're doing and see what he wants? Would you make excuses for how your house looks, or your hair, or your kids?

Where are you?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The most important things

The most important things you will ever do are completely unseen. This thought is not startling or new; it has just been impressed on me more and more as I grow older. I think judgement day will turn the world inside out. After all, it is the Lord who said, "The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). Right now, we see appearances: success, accomplishments, possessions, looks, money.
But at judgement day, we'll see hearts: sincerity, love, pride, jealousy, envy, strife. And I don't think there will be any kind of direct correlation.

God must shake his head sometimes at our mixed-up perception. SMH, he says.

I've studied a lot of psychology. Some people say you have to think right before you can act right; some people say you have to just do the right thing and your thinking will change. Both are true. Both can be found in Scripture. But God is the only one that really sees the effort I put into my heart.

Loving my family well. Working to forgive. Praying when it is hard. Calming my temper.

I think this occurred to me after July 4 weekend. We had company. The food was great; my house is big; everyone was chatting and laughing. And one person there was envious.

Please: God does not care about my house. God does not care about my hostessing. God cares about my heart.

If we admire the right things in other people ("she is kind," "he has integrity," "she is faithful"), then we will be inspired to imitate those qualities. If we admire the appearances of others, we will focus on the small stuff.

The stuff that will be burned up.

The stuff that man considers important, but God says is just stuff.

SMH. But if I'm not careful, I will judge and dismiss this person. This one will rankle my pride. And then God will look at my own heart and shake his head.

Better to pull it out now and do the work that no one will see. The most important work. The kind that will last.

Lord, give us eyes to see.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Worship and provision

The worship music was very meaningful to me in church today, one of those times when you pray and sort of lose yourself in the moment. At one point, I was moved to kick off my shoes--the feeling that Moses had when he came across the burning bush, and a voice told him, "Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground."

I didn't however. What if I got my feet dirty? We worship in a gym; the floor can't be all that clean.

And the next image in my mind is Jesus, wrapping a towel around His waist to wash the dirty feet of His disciples.

When we are touched by the holiness of our Father, we become aware of our own dirtiness. Often, it's just the ordinary, everyday kind of dirt, that seems to stick to us no matter how hard we try. But the Savior, knowing our nature, stoops down to serve us, to make us clean.

God provides for me. He was thinking of me before I was born, before today, before I knew how much I need Him.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Reading in Summer (2014)

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you have been seeing my posts as I read this summer. I wanted to collect my thoughts in my blog as well. It has been a surprisingly good summer for books! I have aimed for no spoilers, so my reviews aren't really complete. Just snippets, in case you're looking for something to pick up.

Book 1: The Life of Pi by Yann Manzel. I have not seen the movie, although I remember wanting to, and that impulse moved me to pick up the book. I'm glad I did. The narrator's love of "all religions" was very off-putting to me, and I almost stopped reading it after the confrontation with his parents and the three "holy men." However, his writing about wild animals was compelling to me, since we were adopted by a semi-tame crow in my childhood. Gradually, the psychology of his struggle took over my interest, and I was so glad I read to the end. Old themes that interested me in school popped up again: the unreliable narrator, post-modernism and the telling of story, etc. A good read for varied reasons.

Book 2: When Captain Flint was Still a Good Man by Nick Dybek. I like books that leave you feeling as if you've lived another life, and this was one of those. Another young boy as narrator, another "coming of age" story, although not quite as uplifting as Life of Pi (I know-if you've read Pi, you shudder. I say this because Pi was so hopeful, and Flint has more of a "things be gloomy" feel). The title is explained early in the story, and sets a fascinating motif. I didn't really like the ending, but I would still recommend it. I have now grown up in a small fishing village and punched my way through a few friendships.

Book 3: The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. One of the best books I've ever read; this one will always stay with me. The main character has an illness no one can identify. If you or someone you love has ever struggled with doctors and diagnoses, this is a powerful portrayal of this aspect of real life. Good writing, good storytelling, takes you beyond the day-to-day; it gives words (with all their power) to our experiences. In sharing the words, we share our lives with the author, with other readers; we feel more connected. The book moves beyond the illness and becomes about the marriage, the family relationships. "Hope and denial, the front and rear guard of the chronically ill"...this phrase alone will always be part of my vocabulary.

Book 4: Crazyheart by Thomas Cobb. Again, I haven't seen the movie. But having read the book, I have now lived as a country music star who is past his prime but still on the stage. And I haven't contracted any std's, like the main character probably has. I enjoyed the pathos and hope in his narrative, his brilliance and the sadness of his choices. He is the kind of person I would strike up a conversation with at IHOP and then keep in my collection of people.

Book 5: The Good Sister by Diana Diamond. This was the first book I read this summer that wasn't amazing. Her writing is good enough for me to read the whole book, which is not a small compliment. But the book was almost entirely plot driven over character. The topic of sociopaths interests me. I wanted to know who killed who, which is the main reason to keep turning the pages. A good pool-side read.

Book 6: Sycamore Row by John Grisham. Grisham, pardon the cliche, is a master storyteller, and one of my all-time favorite authors. I love his portrayal of the South, his exploration of racism, the inside look at the tedium and thrill of lawyering. This book was balanced between character-development and plot; his writing is so clean and beautiful. I love Grisham's worldview. If I were giving spoilers, I would expand on his worldview, which played into the two times the book made me cry. It is a sequel to his first novel, A Time to Kill, and I highly recommend it.

I am resisting the urge to simply go get another Grisham novel. I love reading them; I love telling his stories to my husband, reading select passages that made me laugh. I have a few non-fiction stacked near my reading chair; we'll see if I am able to finish them, or if the lack of story pushes me away.