Monthly Archives: July 2009

Feast of Dedication (part two): an unexpected question

“Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’” (John 10:31-32).

I’m not comfortable with the question; still and yet, it’s mine to answer. It’s yours too.

I’m a firm believer in the questions of Scripture … the ones issuing forth from a Father’s heart. Whether they come to us through the Old Testament prophets, God’s angels, his Son Jesus, or through his own voice, when God asks a question, he intends for it to transcend the pages of a “long ago and far away” to become a question for our “here and now”.

God’s Word is alive and active. As Christians, we can do one of two things with it:

Pick out the more seemingly applicable points and derive a partial theology based on human inclinations. Or, allow the entirety of its pulse to course through our veins so as to exact a change within based on divine perfection rather than fleshly preferences.

If we choose the latter, and I happen to view the latter as the correct approach to the handling of God’s Word, then we must be willing to sit before God and allow him his voice via his history. It’s a history that includes some direct questions, both in the context in which they were initially asked and in the context that surrounds our current faith.

On that day of Dedication 2000 years ago, in the shadows of a festival designed with the “lights” in mind, Jesus offered his people a question that would force them to wrestle with the truth of who he was … who he still is.

“‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’”

For which of these do we? Do you? Do I … stone him?


Indeed, a difficult wrestling for my spirit these past few days. The more research I do on the topic, the less I understand about why God would sanction any such cruelty toward his people. Swifter retribution seems an easier swallow than that of stoning—a slower death brought about through a collective group of smaller stones, intended to prolong the suffering. Still and yet, God’s Law allowed for stoning—for retributive killing based on certain offenses laid out in his Word. Things like…

Oxen and their owners who were in the habit of goring (Ex. 21:23, 32);
Anyone sacrificing a child to Molech (Lev. 20:2);
Any medium or wizard (Lev. 20:27);
Anyone blaspheming the divine name (Lev. 24:14, 16, 23);
Anyone leading the congregation astray to serve other gods (Dt. 13:10);
Anyone serving other gods (Dt. 17:5);
A stubborn or rebellious son (Dt. 21:21);
A woman who is without her virginity upon marriage (Dt. 22:21);
A man and a betrothed virgin who have sexual relations within the city (Dt. 22:24);

Things like that. There are more, but I’m certain you get the idea. And tonight, I’m confident that, but for the grace of God, a “stoning” I deserve. Who of us couldn’t confess the same? Without the shed blood of Jesus Christ, none of us are clothed with innocence. With him? Well, we’re found faultless, worthy to stand before the throne.

The grace of the cross is a very good gift to us. It means everything to me. I confess I don’t know why God waited so long to send his Son to earth to pay penalty for his children. I don’t understand this kind of Old Testament justice that came through the filling up of hands with stones in order to release them upon another for death’s arrival. It seems cruel and harsh and hardly in line with the mercy and love of a very good God.

I cannot imagine holding stones in my hands, wanting to cast them at anyone, let alone the Christ. But there were those that did. There are those who still do. Perhaps in our civil way of doing life with Jesus in 2009, we mask it better than the people of 2000 years ago. Perhaps our stones aren’t as obvious, more hidden, more private, yet nevertheless just as sharp. Stones we cling to with harsh resentment and that speak the same answer as that of Israelites on a day in Solomon’s Colonnade so long ago…

“‘We are not stoning you for any of these [miracles],’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’” (John 10:33).

Oh yes, we’ll take your miracles Jesus, but when you fail to act like God … when it seems you’ve abandoned your Kingly throne and instead respond to our need like a mere man? When you claim to be God, yet your actions seem to speak otherwise? Well, for that we’ll pick up a few stones. We may not throw them, but we’ll pocket them, touch them, cradle them and keep them until they collect and become too heavy for the holding. And then, if there is strength enough left, we’ll empty our pockets. Either at you or surrendered to you.

Both ways are burdensome to us because stones carry their weight, and when clutched for long seasons and collected en masse, their heaviness penetrates our hearts with doubt, with fear, and with a hardness that refuses to know Christ for the Savior that he is.

I have shown you many miracles, elaine. For which of these do you stone me? Is grace not enough to warrant your trust? Did my blood shed shallow … too little and not enough to clean up your sinful mess? Have you not known my favor and my provision for the past forty-three years?

For which of these do you stone me, child?

Do you not yet believe I am who I say I Am? Who I’ve proved I Am over and over again? It isn’t within your rights to fully comprehend my thoughts, but it is your privilege to wrestle with them … to answer my questions, and in doing so, draw closer to my heart of understanding. Thus, I ask you again, elaine…

For which miracle have I wrought forth in your life, do you stone me?

And with that question, friends, I am undone before my God. How about you? Would you be willing to entreat the thoughts of our Father this night, examine your own heart beneath the light of his great love and mercy for you, and answer his prompt in order to grow closer to him?

I’m heading to my knees just now, and I do so with the song below, playing over in my heart again. Would you join me on my prayer quilt and leave your stones where they lie? I’m praying for you this night. As always…

post signature


Feast of Dedication (part one): an unexpected Visitor

“Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.” (John 10:22).

They should have expected his presence in the midst of their celebration. After all, these were his people and this was his history to remember—an eight-day “festival of lights” commemorating the re-dedication of the temple nearly 200 years earlier.

Rewind the clock those 200 years and you will find a people of God under the oppressive rule of an evil emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes (a name he gave himself meaning “god manifest”). Antiochus feared the Jewish religious establishment and how it might usurp his power. Instead of allowing the Israelites their continuing, relatively peaceful assimilation into Greek culture, Antiochus imposed greater taxes and restrictions on them. He stole from the Temple; not just the physical treasures that would immediately line his pockets with a temporal wealth, but the spiritual treasures that would rob God’s children of a wealth more precious to them than gold—

Their freedom to worship God in God’s house.

In 165-164 B.C., a Jewish man named Mattathias and his five sons (known as the Maccabees, a Hebrew word meaning “hammer”) led a bloody revolt against the oppression and recaptured the Temple, ending nearly 175 years of Greek rule over Jerusalem. Once restoration of the Temple was complete, the Israelites celebrated its re-dedication on the 25th of Kislev, marking the beginnings of a traditional remembrance that is still practiced today by the Jewish people, a festival known as Chanukkah.

The celebration gets a brief mention in John 10, a seemingly casual inclusion, setting the stage for a showdown between these celebrants of religious tradition and the One who came to be celebrated.

Do you see him there? Walking beneath the magnificent shaded portico that enclosed the outer court of the Temple grounds? Milling with a people he came to complete, yet so few of them understanding their need along these lines?

I see him there, quietly engaging with the moment. His steps are heavy and his eyes are filled with depth … with insight that looks past their tradition and straight into their hearts of emptiness. His feet are dusty, soiled by a day’s walk in a sometimes unforgiving climate. His robes? They comfort him, perhaps even protect him from the cold embrace of others who barely notice his participation.

But then, a few do.

Notice him. Confront him and question him regarding his participation in their festival of lights:

“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (John 10:24).

He thought he had … told them plainly regarding the truth of who he is on an early occasion:

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).

Still and yet, they refused the certainty of Christ’s words, along with his many accompanying miraculous indications. He simply didn’t fit into their festival. Their “lights” stood on a seven-branch lampstand (Exodus 25:31-40). His light stood on a single tree stand. The understanding between the two was a difficult leap for these people entrenched in their tradition.

It still is for many of us … this moving on from the ritualistic and ceremonial worship of our well- meaning traditions to the single-hearted and unbridled worship of the One for whom tradition was instituted. Festivals and feasts were never meant to be an “ends” in and of themselves; rather, they were given to us as a means to that “end”—an avenue to draw our attention and our hearts back to Father God.

Sometimes we, too, get stuck on ritual and on our own festival of lights, all the while negating the Light amongst us. We relegate him to the shadows and to the outskirts of our gatherings in favor of the “show” that’s up front and on stage. Why? Because we’re sometimes more comfortable with the lights we can control rather than inviting the Light his control over us.

Jesus didn’t force the matter 2000 years ago. Instead, he walked in the shadows of a people’s tradition, at least for a season longer. And today, I’m wondering how much longer he will patiently wait in our shadows as we languish in our attempts to mandate worship and the celebration therein? Even as Jesus was their unexpected visitor in Solomon’s Colonnade on that winter day so long ago, I wonder…

Is it the same for us? Do we anticipate Christ’s arrival, or are we surprised when he actually shows up and illuminates our darkness with the Light of his presence? Are we expecting the Son of God, or are we content with imitation?

God is walking amongst our lampstands, friends. His presence is real, and he longs to participate in our celebrations, especially the ones where he is the center of attention and the source of our remembrance. Today, unlike the Maccabees of long ago, we don’t have to “fight” for our freedom to worship in God’s house. There is ample room in our land for our worship; if not in our buildings, then most assuredly within our hearts.

See him there today, lingering in the shadows and more than willing to be the Light in the festival of our worship. The suspense is over. Truth has been revealed. His name is Jesus Christ, and he is the Son of the Living God. May our hearts re-dedicate toward this good and perfect end as we remember. As always,

post signature

PS: Join me later this week for “part two” this series when an “unexpected question” from this “unexpected visitor” takes the stage, inviting our dialogue therein.

The Next Post…

The Next Post…

The next post.

This is it … the one following the last one. I sometimes wonder when the next post will be the last post. I’m not there yet, but I sometimes wonder. After 220 posts, is there really anything left to say?

A year and a half’s worth of ramblings has chronicled a full cycle of family birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and vacations. Does any one really need to hear about that stuff again? While it’s all very important to me, I’m not sure it’s important to you.

I’ve divulged most of my “junk” … at least the stuff that’s worthy of print and remains reader appropriate. Recipes, fashion trends, and scrap booking aren’t my thing, although I very much appreciate those of you who make them all a worthy pause in my day. Sex really isn’t my writing forte nor an area of personal expertise; I’ll leave that up to the girls over at Adding Zest in your Nest. And parenting? Well, while I’ve done it for over twenty years, I don’t claim the market on the best technique. I simply parent as I go, and in the last eighteen months, I’ve found a nugget or two to share with you because of that “going”.

Thus, it seems to me the ground has been mostly covered here. What’s left? What more could be written that hasn’t yet been said? What might this next post be beyond the fact that it’s the “next post”? I struggle with this every time the obligatory 2-3 day post-interval cycles around and asks me for my thoughts.

Some of you don’t. Some of you are compelled to keep the ink flowing and do so in beautiful measure. But as for me, I struggle. Not because I don’t want to be here, but because when I am here, I want to say something worth saying. Some words that leave you thinking. Not thinking just about anything, but words that leave you thinking about God. This has always been the purpose behind “peace for the journey”—to pause from the everyday ordinary in order to partake of our extraordinary God.

Yesterday, I listened to an on-line seminar hosted by Sheila Wray Gregoire on How to Launch a Speaking Ministry (the best $10 I’ve spent in a long time and well worth the hour investment for anyone with a heart stirred along these lines). In her talk Shelia lays out some initial, foundational principles about how to shape and hone a “signature talk”, one that directly pertains to our own personal story. We all have one; yours isn’t mine and mine will never perfectly fit into yours. God created each one of us with a story in mind. You are the one best equipped to write its witness.

Sheila also drove home the point that “speaking” isn’t necessarily the same thing as “teaching” or “preaching.” According to Shelia, the goal of a good speaker is “to bring other people to a place where they are open to hearing God’s voice.” And while she was referring to a speaking ministry, I would echo the same for my writing ministry; as for that matter, my life’s work!

To bring others … to bring you … to the place where you are open to the possibility of hearing God’s voice … of knowing God more. If I’m about anything, I’m about knowing my God more. Why? Because knowing God is the benchmark of a vibrant, growing faith. God places a premium on our pursuit therein.

“This is what the LORD says,

‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
Or the strong man boast of his strength
Or the rich man boast of his riches,
But let him who boasts boast about this:
That he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.’” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

A life verse, I suppose. At least one that has gripped my heart for these past few years. Knowing God and boasting in that knowing is the only worthy pursuit of my heart. Wisdom, strength, and riches are fleeting. But knowing the LORD in rich, intimate measure is the well-spring of my journey. To know God, I must be with God. And one of the best ways I’ve found to be with God is to spend time with him and his written Word—his everlasting witness to his everlasting presence.

As long as I’m there, hunkered down somewhere in between a Genesis’ beginning and a Revelation’s end, I’ll always find a reason to be here. I won’t have to wonder where the “next post” will come from or if it will be a worthy read. Boasting in the Lord is always a worthy use of my words. It may not make me the most popular blogger in cyberspace, but it keeps my Father’s attention. In the end, what’s more important? Man’s applause or God’s attention?

I choose the latter every time because I understand that it is the Latter who holds the keys to my forever and who’ll be waiting for me when my race has finished its course.

The next post.

If the Lord allows me a few more days, it’s coming, and if you’d like to join me in the journey, you’ll find me, along with Jesus, walking Solomon’s Colonnade—a story found in John 10. I invite you to take some time to read its substance prior to my next post. I’ve been there recently, and because of my obedience along those lines, I know my God more today than I did yesterday. I want the same for you.

Wherever you are this night, whatever tugs at your heart and pulls at your emotions, whatever plans you have for this week or whatever struggles await your fretting in the days to come, there is peace to be found in your journey. His name is Jesus, and if you’re willing, he’s more than willing to be known by you, to be loved by you, and to be worshipped by you.

That, friends, is the next post worth writing. Write him well; with God’s help, I will endeavor to do the same. I’ll be back with you on Tuesday to get the party started at the Feast of Dedication; Jesus is there, and wherever he is, a party is sure to follow. At least it should.

As always,

post signature

a fleeting resemblance

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.” (Psalm 39:4-5).

Two boys at eight-years-old.

Two boys separated by twelve years.

Two boys with different fathers.

Two boys who are never pegged as look-alikes , still and yet two boys who share some obvious similarities:

adorable eyes;
kind hearts;
big dreams;
ice-cream appetites;
and a mutual love for the one thing they’ll always have in common.

Their momma. The one who loves them back and then some more and wishes she could fold them up and keep them in her pocket for a long season to come.

Where has the time gone? I know we all say it; I’m pretty sure I’ve heard at least once or twice in the course of conversations within the last few days. Time slips through our hands like water. Perhaps not always in the moment; sometimes moments spend long and laborious. But then they gather and collect and before long, we’re left holding our memories and wondering why we didn’t cherish them better while we lived them.

Sometimes it hurts to look back because it reminds us of just how fleeting a life-span lives.

Children are most often our benchmarks for the passage of time. They can’t help but grow and change and move into adulthood. Those of us who are older? Well, it seems we stay “stuck” in our growth as we age. Yes, the internal shaping is ever at work, and while we may gray a bit, get rounder and more wrinkled with our collection of days, the measurable change of our next ten years doesn’t wear as obviously as that of children.

Their changes come swift and fast and full of the blossoms that belong to their becoming. Ours seem less pronounced. Instead, we are given some “down time” so as to better observe the exponential growth of a younger generation and to contemplate the meaning behind it all. If we can get past the “pain” of the pondering, we can glean some understanding that will help us better live our “now”. Understanding that simply says…

Live life like you mean it.

On purpose and with the intention of sowing some good seed into a good soil that will glean as a good harvest somewhere down the road.

I’ve been sowing those seeds in the lives of my children for twenty years now. I haven’t always planted them with purpose; most of the time, my seeds scatter through accidental measure and with little thought of the blossoms to come. But every now and again, a reminder arrives, showing me that all has not been sown in vain. A moment like today, when a younger child recalls the earlier season of an older sibling and shows me just how “alike” they look … how much they share in common. And that, just maybe, in twelve years’ time, my Jadon will grow into a man like my Nick.

Despite the twelve years that separate their ages, despite the time that has flown by rather than crawled, there is a familiar seed that anchors them to the soil of my heart and home. They are my look-alike sons. The two of them, along with the two others, will be, perhaps, the greatest living witnesses as to how I’ve invested my time on this earth … fleeting and otherwise.

I’ve been wrapped up in a great many things for the past several weeks, splitting my time amongst preferences and responsibilities. All the while, my children are milling about in my presence, rarely garnering my notice. It isn’t fair to them; it isn’t fair to me. I’m robbing myself of some moments, and rather than flog myself with regrets, I’m going to slow down a bit and capture some memories in the bottle that I carry around in my pocket.

I imagine I will need them in the days to come. A season when pulling out a remembrance or two will bring me a much needed smile and generous lift to my wearied heart. I cannot forecast the need in the immediate, but when it arises down the road, I’ll be grateful for the time I’ve invested along those lines.

These are memory-making days, friends. Even if you don’t have some look-alikes to make them with, I’ll wager the fact that there is someone God has placed in your path who could use some of your intention, sown on his/her behalf. Let’s spend tonight and tomorrow and the next day doing so—sowing seeds with intention and living life like we mean it.

Thank you for being my friends. The seeds of love you have sown into my life have given me a generous portion of remembrance for the road ahead. What a privilege it is to walk it with you.

As always,

post signature

a worthy pause … God’s worthy cause

“Pray that God restores a place in me…”

That was her request. It haunts me now, some seven hours down the road. She spoke it from a place of absolute brokenness and ample isolation. She also asked me to pray that the devil would stop doing bad things to her … that God would be stronger than the devil and make him sorry for all the evil things he’s been doing in the world.We didn’t talk theology and where she had it “wrong” as it pertained to the devil’s power in relation to God’s power. We simply held hands and ate some lunch and prayed for a better day, all the while sitting on the curb in front of the local Bed, Bath, & Beyond.

I found her there, slumped on a park bench, completely unaware of her surroundings. I’d just finished up my Tuesday lunch with the “ancients”. While making my way to the van, I spied her out of the corner of my eye. People were pointing, commenting, and stepping quickly past her obvious brokenness.

It’s not a sight we see very often in these parts. Our lives are fairly sanitized and void of the “in your face” kind of moments that call for involvement. Yes, we take our mission trips overseas, and we stock the local food pantry, but when it comes to “hands on” and “in the moment”, well, rarely are we presented with the occasion. Thus, when such profound “need” comes knocking, it always warrants my notice; not always my intervention, but certainly my notice.

I’ve been noticing “need” all of my life. I suppose it began as a young child while watching my father’s intervention on behalf of the needy within our community. He has a special place in his heart for them, an even more special knack for intervention. If hugeness of heart is learned, then any measure I possess began at home. I learned from the best. My daddy is a foot-washer, both with the tangibles and the intangibles.

Today, my heart was called upon to remember. And so, rather than leaving the parking lot with regret, I circled back around, rolled down my window and simply shouted,

“Ma’am, are you hungry?”

By this point, she was stumbling down the sidewalk, after having been rudely interrupted from her slumber by a honking horn (apparently someone less comfortable with her “park bench” status). Her bleary eyes and mumbling response assured me of her appetite. I told her I would be back and that she should wait for me.

After what seemed to be an extensive wait at the local Chick-Fil-A, I returned to find my new friend sitting on the curb where I’d left her, barefoot and with the few items she carried strewn around her. She quickly offered me her thanks for the food, confident of my needing to make a quick escape. But I didn’t need to … escape. She was where I needed to be.

I sat down on the curb beside her and shared a half-hour of my day with a woman whose fifty-seven years on this earth have left her with some scars and certain hopelessness. She talked about her three children, especially about the one she aborted long ago and how he/she would have been 38 years old this year. When she discovered that my husband was a pastor, she asked if we could come and be the pastors at a church unfamiliar to me. She assured me they needed a good pastor. I assured her I was married to one and that I would like her to meet him someday.

We talked about other things; some strange “others” and some that made more sense. And then, my new friend, Gail, was ready to leave. I asked her if I could pray for her, and without hesitation, she grabbed for my hands and uttered a small request for some restoration within her own heart. Her words; not mine.

For all of the things she could have asked for, for all of the ways her conversation seemed to wander and weave in confusion, when it came to prayer, she asked from a place of understanding. She knew she was in need of God’s restorative power in her life. And so for a few moments, I prayed. Others milled past our make-shift altar with quiet conversation and knowing glances.

And then, as quickly as our sacred intersection had arrived, it passed. I hugged Gail, returned to my van, and she returned to her wandering. Even now, I can’t type these words without some painful tears of remembrance and a few questions alongside.

Does compassion have a limit? If so, what’s mine? Where does it end? Is thirty minutes enough? Should I have done more, been more, given more, loved more? Where do my needs end so that hers can have ample time and room enough to know a deeper sustenance beyond a chicken sandwich and a few moments of conversation? Should I have said more about Jesus, been more declarative about the truth I hold in my heart?

I couldn’t look at her feet, Heidi, and not think about washing them … literally. Not just her feet, but her entire body that signaled it had been a long time since her last shower. But I didn’t offer her a basin. Instead, I came home and immediately washed my own hands and thought about taking a shower to further separate me from the unpleasant smell.

I’m conflicted about it all, and quite honestly, I don’t know what to do with these feelings that wrap themselves around such “open-ended” moments of ministry. Chicken sandwiches aren’t cutting it for me; most assuredly, they’re not cutting it for her. Not really. Seems a pitiful offering when the need is so great.

Still and yet, I suppose it’s something. A beginning, perhaps. The seeding of a further wrestling that seems to be growing in me now more than ever before.

There’s got to be more to my mission on this planet than my words and my feeble attempts at pacifying a temporary ache. I know I can’t be all things to all people; who needs that kind of guilt? But, maybe, I can offer a good thing to the few people who God so graciously scripts into my every day and my along the way. Wasn’t that the lifeblood of his ministry here on earth?

The everyday and along the way? The one over the many? Jesus never rushed his earthly encounters with his created. Instead, he offered people his time and his undivided attention. He even offered a basin and a towel and the humbled posture to cleanse the needs of a very dirty people in order to make them ready for very difficult walk to the cross.

He’s still doing it, and he’s using the likes of you and me as his conduits of reconciliation. He’s entrusted us with a great deal; seems a bit risky to me, for I am well-aware of all the times I could’ve, should’ve offered grace at a deeper level. I’m not there yet, but I’m growing closer in my need to do so. Christ’s love compels me along these lines.

I want to walk like Jesus and touch like Jesus and give the “Gail’s” of this world the peace and restoration that their hearts are hungering for so that, indeed, the devil will get his due and my God will get his glory. I don’t always believe God for the restoration of lives that seem so lost … so far gone and so deeply broken. Tonight I confess my unbelief and ask God for Gail’s complete restoration, for the tiny spark that was lit this afternoon to flame into a full-blown fire of holy cleansing within her heart.

I don’t know what that might look like for her in days to come, but I believe God knows the best way to get there. I only wish I might have done more.

Next time.

By the grace of God, next time, thus I pray…

Grow my heart to a Jesus-sized heart, Father. One that doesn’t put boundaries on love; one that is willing to bend and to wash and to pray until restoration finds its home within the brokenhearted. Forgive me for my complacency and move my will to action on behalf of the kingdom. Guard my friend, Gail, this night with your careful watch and tender care. For all of the demons that assail her flesh and invade her mind, speak your peace and freedom over them all. Let this be the day of her new birth and understanding in you, Lord, and remind her of your love and mine with every step she takes. Thank you for intersecting my life with hers, and should our paths never cross again on this side of eternity, I pray for her salvation that will land her in my path when I get home to you. Break my heart for your people, again and again and again until I no longer have an agenda of my own but only one that lives and breathes for you. Amen.

post signature

error: Content is protected !!