Category Archives: John 15

of young and old…

I am trained to listen for themes in the lives of others, places God may be working, pockets of the heart they may be unaware of.

when themes start occurring in my own life, I try to pay attention, to ask God if He is doing a work, teaching a lesson, preparing my heart for something.

so when a number of conversations lately have included a Titus 2 thread, I have been listening and pondering. several friends from different parts of life and not known to each other, have been processing lessons learned from the older women in their lives. some lessons good and godly. some showing a lack of biblical response to life. others reflecting on lives well-lived for Christ, providing inspiration and encouragement to those coming behind. a few wistful for what they’d hoped would be a Christ-like attitude and example, only to have that hope dashed and the opposite be reality.

come, let us walk together as we walk with Jesus…

is this not to what Paul aspired?

put away anger

wrath

malice

gossip

speculation

roots of bitterness

and instead walk in compassion

kindness

patience

humility

forgiveness

when we walk this way, Christ is honored and allowed to do His work in our lives.

as we learn to walk in these new attitudes, looking at the example of others is only natural. there are innate questions of how to work out a new life while still living in our sin-bound bodies of earth.

there is an assumption, an expectation, really, that those older than us should be that example. it is a biblical idea and ideal. but it is not always reality.

those older than us may not necessarily be “older” in faith. each of us have our own faith walk, a journey and relationship with Christ that is uniquely our own. that others might learn anything from us is sobering and an amazing testimony to God’s great grace. calendar age may have little to do with faith age. some people get stuck somewhere in life have a texture of immaturity to them. those of older faith age might be younger than us, the rare spiritual “old soul” who lives in deep relationship with Christ. we can learn from all walks, learn about the working out of Christlikeness, and what is does not look like, of what is an attractive faith and what is not.

these thoughts, as they run through my head and seek expression, turn me again, as so often happens, to the Breastplate of St. Patrick, the prayer of St. Francis, and essentially to the root of Christianity: let me be in such deep relationship with Christ that when others see me, they see Him.

we are all older than another. and we are all younger. brought full circle, this begs that we never stop learning and learn to live in harmony with Christ, aware of the footprints we leave. that awareness should not be a burden, but instead a mirror to our lives and hearts. are we pointing others to Him? do they see Him when they look at us?

let us walk together and live in community centered around Him.

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of saints and vegetables…

(photo credit: the St. Nicholas Center)

she is three years old, this daughter-gift of ours.

old enough to start understanding what is going on around her, the bits and pieces of Christmas and Advent and all the hype and even the character set.

Jesus. Santa. Mary. Joseph. Frosty. wisemen and shepherds. elves. bell-ringers.

all mix together in a tapestry of fact and fiction, of reality and story.

sorting it is difficult. being a parent sorting it and shaping your child’s understanding of a most important day and season can be daunting. allow some childhood fantasy? or burst the bubble from the beginning, telling her there is no Santa Claus, knowing that her honest little heart will inadvertently burst another child’s fantasy?

the Christ-child is real, of that there is no question. bringing the season together, sifting the spiritual and commercial, was overwhelming.

until we stumbled on a simple tale told by vegetables. it is no unusual thing to find a Veggie Tales show or movie playing any given day in our home. but I was not expecting this particular tale to grab my attention and heart, shifting the focus of Christmas squarely back to Christ.

Nicholas was a Christian man of some means, orphaned early, and raised by his uncle. he shared his wealth and resources with others in Christ’s name, resting firmly in the knowledge that all he had came from, and subsequently was, God’s. along the way he became the Bishop of Myra, and eventually a saint and pop culture icon.

cuddling our daughter-gift through this story, Christ began a new, or refreshed an old, work in my heart. what if my own giving was influenced by an overflow of gratitude for what God has given? what if I gave because He had?

the shift was almost palpable. the frenetic schedule of the season slowed. the pressure released. what if?

the gift lists changed. the reasoning was different. additional gifts were added. others removed. where might encouragement lie? where might He be asking me to give, to give beyond my list on paper?

a handmade gift or two found its way under the tree, bits that would be treasured for memories evoked and new ones made.

the grace of Christ, His compassion and mercy, to me and each person I come into contact with, was overwhelming.

Nicholas gave because he could not ignore the source of his resource. He gave out of gratitude and love.

the grip of commercialism slipped a bit this year. and I am glad. praying it continues, really.

as for our daughter-gift, there is no longer a discussion of allowing a few years of childhood fantasy with Santa Claus. that also shifted as we watched the vegetable telling of this biography. her earliest teachings about Santa are steeped in reality. and they are taking hold in beautiful ways.

she asks for money to drop into red kettles. toy boxes are culled for bits others might enjoy. a goose figure for a friend with a farm set. a teapot for daddy because he has none of his own. an elf doll for me, its silly smile meant to bring cheer and make me laugh. simple gifts, given from her own bounty. because Jesus and mommy and daddy love her.

there are smiles and waves as she spies the mall Santa or a yard decoration. it makes sense in her world that Baby Jesus and Santa reside on the same lawn. and in a way, she is right. strip the commercial Santa away and Nicholas remains, a man who continually pointed others to the Christ-child and His ultimate Gift.

may we do the same.

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the strong, quiet mirror…

have you ever met someone who undeniably knows Jesus, who serves as a mirror, reflecting Him? knows Him to the point their countenance and demeanor were almost surreal, yet the most genuine you’d ever experienced?

Mama Maggie Gobran is one of those people.

the depth of her humility was amazing.

she loves Jesus more than anything.

the children of Cairo’s garage dumps are forever changed, on many levels, for knowing her and being the focus of her ministry. thousands of lives have been saved. thousands more need help, especially as the Coptic Christians come under increasing persecution.

she blessed us, the thousands of conference attendees listening to her. through her words and presence, she blessed us. and as she left the stage, she knelt down, face to the floor, and asked God’s blessing over us. it was difficult to have the conference continue. listening to the next speaker, a loud, charismatic pastor, an internationally recognized figure, was almost painful after the few moments of her quiet speech.

the most beautiful part of her short talk? a deep, undeniable stirring of the soul that instead of whispering, shouted loud and strong, “I want to know Jesus like she does!”

oh, that I knew Him a tenth as well! would that others would see Him in me and He is seen in her!

I hear echoes of Saint Patrick, that Christ would be before, behind, above, below, within, and without me, that He would be seen and heard.

Mama Maggie gave us these words on the value of silence:

silence your body to listen to the words
silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts
silence your thoughts to listen to your heart
silence your heart to listen to your spirit
silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit

I will sit with this insight for a long time. as a contemplative introvert, silence is not difficult. but it can easily be pushed aside. the silence, especially when seeking Christ, is where the Spirit does much teaching. it is where we especially learn to abide. what a timely reminder, so wonderfully given.

have you ever experienced someone who drew you closer to Christ, who He shone through almost palpably, reflecting Him as a beautiful mirror?

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dark nights…

there, in the dark of night, was a quiet beep, followed shortly by another, further away. the cordless phones, unable to find their signal, were making their dilemma known.

it was terribly dark, and I was cold.

the nightlights I’d left on were dark.

it seemed the power had gone out for everyone around the lake. the clouds, like a thick blanket, covered the moon and stars. no help from outside to guide me through the cabin and quell the beeping. the furnace was out. my flashlight was missing, relocated by little fingers earlier in the day.

it was a deep, an all-encompassing dark. no amount of time to adjust seemed to help me see a thing. furnishings around the cabin were suddenly potential tripping hazards. I could not see the island across the water. or the far shore.

it was dark. plain and simple.

it drew me back to conversations about spiritual dark nights.

I generally enjoy night. the quiet. the thinking and processing time while others sleep. I find it peaceful and it feeds this introverted soul. the spiritual dark night seems, in the middle of the questioning of God, a similar time of rest, allowing Him to do His mighty work.

but I realized anew last night how dark the dark can be. everyday objects suddenly became obstacles, potential dangers.

how like our faith-journey!

when there are no street lights, no moon or stars, when the nightlight is gone, and no welcoming glow comes from a single house, it is truly dark.

in our spiritual lives, dark times come. God feels far away. everyday objects and routines can become obstacles. what we thought we knew is challenged on new levels. things that are supposed to “work” now seem useless.

there are no silhouettes to guide us. the familiar is suddenly frightening. what will happen in the dark? will we stumble and fall, breaking a bone in the process? or will a stubbed toe be the extent of injury? is it possible come through the dark unscathed? does some sort of “flashlight” exist to help relieve the angst?

how amazing that God, unlike the moon, does not abandon us in our hour of need. He is still there, more powerful than any flashlight.

after tucking the phones, with their twin beeps, under a blanket and pillows and closing the door, I went to find a flashlight, returning to bed in the very quiet and very dark night.

the call for help I’d expected came. more like a scream. because she talks in her sleep, we waited to see how real the need was before venturing back into the cold and dark. “Mommy! I can’t see! Mommy! Help me! Mommy!”

her own volume was so loud she could not hear my voice, calling to her as I made my way (with the flashlight!) to her bedside. picking her up, I felt the great tension in her and the release of it when she knew safety and love had rescued her. as I settled her between us, she snuggled in, safe in her daddy’s embrace, no longer caring that she could not see. it was a new experience for her, this blindness in the dark.

the parallel of her experience and my own spiritual life is not lost. how I kick and scream for God, afraid of the dark that surrounds me. all the while, He offers words of comfort. in my panic, He wants to calm me, to embrace me. but I am too busy fighting the dark (and often Him) to know.

how do you experience the dark, whether natural or spiritual?

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healing tears (i cried, part two)

healing tears

there was a place in life so painful I wanted to walk away and start over. well, maybe not all of my life. but a good portion of it. years of pain from many sources. years of shattered dreams, crumbling like glass, falling to the ground, carrying pieces of my heart. again.

to say it was the lowest point of my life is no understatement. and it was here, in the depth of that agony, I decided to walk away from Him. the cost was too great. the pain too deep. in those moments I could no longer trace His path and walked away.

because the circumstance of life in that moment were so painful in and of themselves, no one knew some of the tears I shed were farewell to my beloved King, my Redeemer, my Friend. the journey simply cost too much and I had nothing more to give Him. to give no one, really.

it lasted less than 24 hours. theologically and apologetically, I knew there was nowhere else to go. I knew I would not really leave Him. where would I go? to whom would I turn? even then, I knew my earlier farewell was a sham.

and then…

blessed be Your name came on through the car sound system. a familiar tune. words glossed over. and yet not. yes, it is easy to called Him “blessed” when things are going well and all is right in one’s world. but those last lines caught my wounded heart. the decision to leave Him still flitted around my heart. until

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

did you catch it? He gives and takes away. that is His right, as my Lord, my King, my Redeemer. Job knew and acknowledged this. he did not curse Him and walk away. I just wanted the walking away part.

but did I? or would MY heart choose to say that He was “blessed,” even when He took away? even when there was so much pain in my offering?

in that moment I knew the truth of that refrain. He IS blessed. on the good days and the bad. when things are rosy and when they are black. and that blessedness falls on us as His children.

in my pain, I was fickle, looking for a way out, someone to blame. He was handy. and big enough to shoulder it, never judging me for the fear, anger, or weariness that had taken hold in my heart.

He flung His arms wide, whispered, “daughter,” and hugged me. I chose, in my pain, to call Him “blessed.”

years later, it still brings tears to my eyes. even in church…

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I cried…

it probably does not sound like big news to anyone but me. it is.

I didn’t just cry. I cried in church.

this is significant because I can be pretty stoic. a bit hard to read sometimes. certain emotions come freely. others are locked away and rarely see the light of day. and when they do, it is somewhere safe, not in church, not in any public place.

I’ve become a bit contemplative in recent years, causing me to weigh my emotion even more carefully than before, frequently seeming to “check out” a bit as I talk with God about something.

to cry in church is a watershed event. that it was in response to a song made it even more so. perhaps you know the song. the words are familiar to many. lines glossed over, sung without realizing the depth of their meaning.

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

(Matt Redman)

ah, the agony my heart returns to when this song comes up. it is one of those songs I sing alone in the car, at the top of my voice or in the smallest whisper. regardless of my volume, the stereo is on higher than usual. this is, to me, a song of pain, a song of healing…

(continued tomorrow)

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abiding…

Jesus calls us to abide in Him.

Easy and difficult.

Simple and complex.

Full of peace. Full of turmoil.

Much like the beautiful way He boiled the Law into two simple commands, to love God and love people, the Christian life is pared down to one amazing statement. Abide in Me.

The journey into that life of abiding is what this blog is all about. It is not a perfect journey. Sometimes it is full of wonder. Often full of questions.

Grace.

Mercy.

Love.

A focus on Him.

A desire to honor and glorify Him.

More of Him, less of me.

A jump into the ins and outs of one woman’s sanctification journey, with some of the oohs and aahs and bumps and bruises along the way.

Learning to abide. Learning to love. Wanting desperately to be like Christ. Knowing how far short of that goal I am. Resting in His grace in the gap.

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