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Thursday, March 31, 2016

When People Become Our Gods

Psalm 146, all of it, "Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, my soul.  I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.  When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.  Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.  He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them - he remains faithful forever.  He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.  The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.  The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.  Praise the Lord" (NIV).

The other day I saw this quote,

I liked it immediately.  I am, certifiably, extraordinarily stubborn, and I like to save myself.  Just yesterday I sat down with one of my friends who has known me the longest, and she went into this long treatise about how I get when anyone tells me that I can't do something.  I just sat there and listened, because I know she's right.  It's awful.  I replayed the quote in my head a couple of times.  It didn't help.

Lately I get way too wrapped up in the need for affirmation from other human beings, and this is a really difficult tension for me to deal with, because I'm not used to it.  Although the people who know me best still see the fire in my eyes every time somebody says, "You can't (fill in the blank)," I have come to this weird place in life where I think twice.  I actually care about what people are saying to me.  Instead of just saying, "Yes I can," and steamrolling through whatever it is that I had planned, there have been more than a few times when I have found that I actually can't do something.  This is rocking my world a little bit.  I don't like it.

So here it comes...

I can't save myself.

I think this occurred to me a long time ago, but I wasn't quite ready to admit it.

Ironically, you can't save me, either.  And by you, I mean you.  And... everybody...

Except Jesus.

Which comes out sounding so incredibly cliché, and I hate clichés.  But I think this one is true.

There is a part of me that doesn't even know what to do with this, which is sort of stupid, since I have been a follower of Jesus for a really long time now.  This is nothing new.  It's just... hard.

This chapter of Psalms struck me, though.  It is so beautifully focused on the things that the Lord has done.  I want to be the kind of person who does things like that, not because I want to be God, but because I want to be like God.  When people see me, I don't want them to see me, at all.         

Exodus 13:8, "I do this because of what the Lord did for me" (NIV).

May these be my words.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Laughter in the Midst of Pain

I hate drama.  I really, really hate it.  A lot.  Even though I have a knack for creating controversy, the honest truth is that I would legitimately be happier living in the land of unicorns who poop rainbows and fart butterflies and glitter... lots of glitter...  Please, do not tell my kids I used the word fart in public.  It is "the F word" at our house.  Seriously. 

For this reason, alone, it was super surprising to me when the words, "Please, tell me about your drama.  Tell me about the drama of someone else you know.  Heck, make something up," began to roll off my tongue, today.  I knew I was in trouble.  It's like I got sucked right in.  I just wanted to hear a narrative about someone whose drama was more ridiculous than my own.  I just...  I just... I just don't even know anymore...

I came home and read Scripture and was coming up short as far as actually having something reasonable to write (which you might think didn't get any better if you read that first paragraph carefully).

And then...

I Corinthians 15:30, "Why am I in peril every hour?" (NIV). 

I was all geared up to shout this one.  I mean, it relates so deeply, right?  It... it... Um, actually, it doesn't.  True story.  I am not in peril.  I am just really, really grouchy, and feeling a little bit sorry for myself... feeling a little bit forgotten.  And I think maybe I have also lost touch with what peril really is.  It's OK.  We all do this sometimes.

I laughed at myself. 

Because I tend to feel things deeply, I then spent some time thinking about all of the people in the world who really are in peril every hour.  And then I felt ashamed of myself.  A lot.  But that's not really any good either.  I need to move my feet.  I need to do things for other people.

I love it when people refer to me as the queen of... well... just about anything.  But not the drama queen.  I don't want that title.  Ever.  Starting years ago.  Resuming right now.

Psalm 115:12a, "The Lord remembers us and will bless us" (NIV). 

Good enough.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Keep Calm and Carry On

When I went to do my lectionary reading, this morning; honestly I was a little bit confused.

Isaiah 7:10-13, "Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 'Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.'  But Ahaz said, 'I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.'  Then Isaiah said, 'Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also?'" (NIV).

I don't want to try the patience of humans.  I sure don't want to try the patience of God.  The whole, "ask for a sign," thing has always been a bit baffling to me.  Have I mentioned that this is a confusing passage to follow the Easter narrative? 

I decided that I needed to go back and read the whole chapter, because context matters.  Here's what's happening in Isaiah chapter 7 that brings us to this point...

Ahaz, king of Judah, is about to be overtaken by a powerful army.  Except, it doesn't work out, so that army aligns themselves with some more powerful allies.  And Ahaz gets scared.  Scripture says, his heart was shaken.  The hearts of his people were shaken.  A lot (v.2). 

But God sends Isaiah to tell them, "Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid.  Do not lose heart" (v.4).  "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all" (v.9).

Frankly, I'm not sure what they have to lose.  They already think they are going to fall, so it probably makes sense to make a last ditch effort... faith.  Oh, wait.  That's not really supposed to be the last thing we try, is it?

Now, we get to the part where Isaiah instructs Ahaz to go ahead and ask for a sign. 

And Ahaz is like, "Nope.  Not gonna ask."  And, let's be real, that seems like the faith filled thing to say and do, right?  Except, this sign for which Ahaz is supposed to ask isn't some superficial magic omen.  The sign to which Isaiah is referring is the coming of Christ, the birth of Jesus, God incarnate.


I think, maybe, it's kind of like Pentecost...

Now I'm connecting the dots...

So...  true story...  I am not a "Whovian", and as you may know, I am also not amazingly awesome at pop culture references.  However, in recent years, the whole "Keep calm and (fill in the blank)" thing has sort of swept the world (even I have a keep calm t-shirt), and somehow it was my understanding that this phrase came from Dr. Who.  I was going to make mention of this, but I wanted to get my facts straight first.  As it turns out, the original "keep calm" was printed as a World War II propaganda poster, "Keep Calm and Carry On," to be used in crisis, to bolster resolve.  As it also turns out, it was never used. 

But what if we used it now?  What if, instead of panic, distress, and violence, we chose to ask for the Holy Spirit, to wait patiently, and to trust that God will do what God says God will do?  What if we did not allow our hearts to be shaken but to be filled?  What if we actually kept calm and carried on?

Luke 1:37, "For no word from God will ever fail" (NIV).

Jesus...  the word...


Sunday, March 27, 2016

I Have to Admit

Sometimes I have a little bit of trouble pulling myself away from the suffering and death and mourning of Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  I'm pretty comfortable with silence and darkness.  I like cloudy days and sitting outside in the middle of a good thunderstorm. 

I like the story of Mary, not that I would have arrived early in the morning at the tomb.  Let's be real, my alarm didn't even sound, this morning, which led to frantic rushing around and kids in tennis shoes for Easter Sunday worship.  But I digress.  I like the late night darkness... and the early morning darkness, only if I have not yet fallen asleep.  Never mind.  It has just occurred to me that I might have been there early in the morning.  I might have just sat there all night long.

John 20:11-16, "Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.  They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?"  "They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”  Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

I hate that Mary doesn't recognize Jesus when he is standing right in front of her face.  Maybe she's crying too hard.  Grief can cloud our vision.  But I love that Jesus has only to say one word, her name, and she knows.    

I like the story of Cleopas (and let's just assume it's his wife), too.    

Luke 24:13-18, 30-32 "Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.  They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.  As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.  He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”  They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”(NIV).

I hate that these two travelers on the road to Emmaus do not recognize Jesus when he is walking beside them.  I feel as if they are analyzing what has occurred.  This can be distracting.  When Cleopas asks Jesus why he's so out of the loop, I choke a little bit, but then I am alarmingly certain that I might have asked the same thing. 

Luke 24:30-32, "When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Eucharist... Nail scarred hands... Oh wait.  Now they get it!

I've been doing the Easter thing all day.  You know... the "getting dressed and going to church and stamping my feet over the lousy selfie and gathering with the family for dinner and reminding myself for the hundredth time that I need to pull the kids' buckets out of the garage when we get home, because our Easter bunny is just as irresponsible as our tooth fairy," Easter thing...

If I think too much about life, there are tears.  If I think too much about death, there are tears.  I'm going to take comfort in knowing I'm in good company.

I'm a little late to the party, but, it is Easter.

Isaiah 25:8-9, "he will swallow up death forever.  The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.  The Lord has spoken.  In that day they will say, 'Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.  This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.' (NIV).

Psalm 118:24, "The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad" (NIV).

He is risen.  He is risen, indeed.

John 20:18, “I have seen the Lord!”