Who Are We?

question markSitting here in Starbucks with some iced tea, just scribbling down some thoughts after the Sunday sermon. To be honest, it was a seriously challenging, throw-down kind of sermon. The kind that makes you squirm in your seat and avoid all eye contact. The kind that puts a choke hold on your heart. The best kind.

The truth sneaks up on you through the single harmless questions.

Who are we?

We the people?

We the church?

We the fiercely loved by God?

If someone watched a movie telling our life stories, who would they see?

Jesus gives us a glimpse of the story he invites us to be part of in Matthew 25: 34-40

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you cared for me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

(Italics mine.)

Some days we struggle to “see” the kind of people Jesus describes in this story. In our day-to-day lives, most of us are not confronted by these real physical needs. But, as I read through this again I wonder if I am missing the true definition of the distress.

I picture Jesus asking me, do you see

someone hungry for love?

someone thirsty for relief?

someone longing to be invited?

someone standing naked and abandoned?

someone feeling sick with regret?

someone imprisoned by shame?

And if you do, can you see me in their eyes? Would you do this for me?

Jesus invites us to be bold and step up.

Jesus invites us to be brave and step in.

Jesus invites us to love others like we love him.

With sincere love.

“You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.” 1 Peter 1:22

I believe when we step in, accepting the invitation to love Jesus by loving others, he answers that question I asked at the beginning of this journey.

Who are we?

We are ONE.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for always asking the right questions. The ones that make me squirm and check my heart. We make excuses because we don’t find the kind of people you describe in this scripture in our paths. Help us to see past our understanding and to see those we pass everyday with new eyes. Don’t let us turn away when we recognize that point of pain in their eyes. Because Lord, we proclaim that we will step in, because we recognize you in their faces and we would do it for you. Because your love propels us into that very place. We remember what it felt like to stand alone, and we will not leave someone you fiercely love longing to be invited. Oh Father, we know who we are, we are ONE with you. Let our lives proclaim that truth by the way we love others deeply with all our heart. Amen..

 

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Unplanned, Unorganized and Uncomplicated

two-children-running-garden-sprinkler-26103135Ever have one thought lead you to another and before you realize it you’re traveling down memory lane? This morning the sprinkler system came on and propelled me down that very path. I was thinking back to my childhood days. The carefree summers spent playing hopscotch, marbles, running through sprinklers. My best friend and I devoted hours to both the swings and the challenge of bumping each other off the teeter-totter. We ate popsicles in the shade of the trees and played with our Barbies in a make-believe world.

It was all so unplanned, unorganized and uncomplicated. We just woke up, ate our Lucky Charms, threw on our flip-flops and out the door we ran. Skipping hand in hand, fully expecting the day to unfold on its own. We just trusted there would be joy in the adventure.

I find myself longing for those days. Don’t you? Simple times when one momentary pleasure flowed into another.

But, I find myself organizing every moment of my life. I’ve got a plan. I’ve got a project. I’ve got a purpose. Yes, even in my relationship with God. It all has to be very neat. No room for unexpected. I even pray for God to show me his plans. Because there has to be a plan.

I always believed God had a purpose for me in this life. I’ve poured out so many prayers asking him to show me. I think I’m a little afraid I might walk right by and miss it, leaving him standing there disappointed.  And after the extravagant gift he has given me in Jesus, that’s a crushing thought. I’ve even gone so far as to beg him for a divine appointment. I find myself waiting for clear vision of the concrete plan.

Does your heart ache for insight too? Are you wanting to step into that place where purpose and pleasure collide?  I think God may want the exact same thing.

I’m thinking the simplicity we long for is what he intended all along. The unplanned, unorganized, uncomplicated rhythm of days spent with him. No plan, no project, no purpose. Except to wake up. Wake up to what brings him pleasure. The pleasure of our company. Fill up on the food for thought in his Word. Then run, letting the door of doubt slam behind us.

We just skip hand in hand with him, expecting the days to unfold on their own. Trusting that the things making our heart sing make his sing too. I believe there will be joy in the adventure.

One momentary pleasure flowing into another.

Psalm 16:11  “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures of your right hand.”

Psalm 16:11 (The Message) “Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way.”

 

Part of the Crowd

smaller-crowd-rdc-color-hi

With my high school reunion right around the corner, memories of those days flood back. The good, the bad and the ugly. Let’s clarify, there was a lot of good, always involving friendships. There were a few bad, usually involving study habits, or the lack thereof. Then comes the ugly, usually involving the hair styles of the day I was determined to try.

But as I think back to those days, the one thing that stands out was the longing to belong. We each came into that school searching for that place to fit. Though we all dreamed of the independence we would one day experience, we knew this was a time we would need our “crowd” for support. We needed our people to stand close in both the celebrations and the struggles. We needed to surround ourselves with people who had a common denominator. (Oh that math teacher would be so proud!)

Things haven’t really changed much since then. If we look back in history, we recognize we have always needed to stand together. Unity in searching for truth and love has always been a catalyst for crowds.

Mark 3: 7-8

“Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.”

I imagine the people of all these different areas had stood in other crowds looking for answers. Hoping for rescue. Maybe their physical needs were different, but they had a common denominator. This crowd leaned in, shoulder to shoulder searching for a glimmer of hope. They heard the stories told of this healer of hearts and body and they were drawn to this place by the promise.

Haven’t we all stood in crowds hoping?  I have been drawn to many different crowds looking for that person, place or thing to fulfill my longing. Not even completely clear on what I was longing for. I just knew there was something more. There had to be.

Can you identify? Let’s see if any of these sound familiar. I stood in crowds that believed a man’s love could fill that place.. I stood in crowds that believed wealth could fill that place. I stood in crowd after crowd, leaning in, searching for the missing piece to fill that place. I stayed this path until the day a beautiful friend invited me into a new crowd…one that pressed in close to the One who offers the perfect peace.  This new crowd stood with me and helped me to find the truth that finally silenced the lies that  whispered for years and years that I was not lovable. In this journey I found what I had always been longing for, that thing that fills the empty places.

The missing piece was missing the peace of knowing the love of Jesus Christ.

It’s a new day. I stand here with healed heart all because someone loved me enough to invite me into this crowd. Their crowd. And believe me when I say I didn’t fit. It was messy and complicated and hard. And lovely, and gracefilled, and soulfilling. And I will forever live thankful for this crowd that followed so close to the Jesus they love, there was no other choice but to welcome me into His open arms.

Dear Father,

Thank you for inviting me into the crowd that presses in close to you. Help me to always remember what is was like standing in those other crowds, wondering and wandering. Help me to always be the one with eyes wide open…heart wide open…willing spirit to invite others into this crowd that stands expectantly at your feet because of the love you have lavished on us. Don’t let me walk by without reaching out to grasp a hand and pull a pleading, bleeding heart into your embrace. Because you loved me…I pray I am never too distracted to tell everyone who you are and how you continue to transform my heart every single day. Let my love shine into a world longing for your healing touch. Help me to stand so close to you that people will ask me to introduce you today and every tomorrow. Amen

A Natural Response

glaciernationalpark

The crowd numbered near two thousand. We stood shoulder to shoulder, leaning on the railing, eyes wide in disbelief. As our cruise ship slowly drifts through the waters of Glacier National Park, the beauty overwhelms and quiet reverie seems the only appropriate response. For a few, extraordinary moments we stood in stunned silence. Of course the silence was quickly followed by lively exclamations. Because amazement requires response. Because wonder requires response. Because admiration requires response.

I love how beauty moves us to respond. We can only imagine how Peter, James and John must have felt as they stood on a mountaintop with Jesus.

Mark 9:2-6 ‘Six days later Jesus took Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.’

Let’s look at this from their point of view.

They climb up this mountain to spend some quality time with Jesus. They most likely felt special and looked forward to this time alone with Jesus. No crowds, no other disciples, no distractions. Then before their very eyes Jesus was transformed into a glorious God-like vision. Then two dead prophets show up and start chatting with Jesus. They have seen Jesus do some amazing things up to this point, but this experience held quite the shock factor.

I love Peter, he’s the kind of guy that just reacts from the heart no matter what the situation. He responds to Jesus (even though Jesus is looking a bit dazzling and different right now) like a friend. He tells Jesus, we are so happy to be here! Then he says, we should build you, Moses and Elijah each a shelter as a memorial of this moment.

Peter didn’t know what to do or what to say, but his amazement required response. His wonder required response. And because Peter is a man of action, moved by beauty, he allowed his admiration to respond.

Dear Lord,

Every day your light in the morning sky reminds me of the beauty you lay before me. I am dazzled by your light and long to respond as Peter did, with deep admiration and love. When I don’t have words to express my thankful heart, I will simply whisper, I am so happy to be here with you.

Amen

 

Are you willing?

kneeling_in_prayer

It all begins and ends with being willing to do something. It’s the down and dirty catalyst for change. This story begins with a man looking for Jesus, desperate and determined enough to risk all. He was willing to take the first step.

Mark 1-40-41′”A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed.”‘

I imagine the man’s journey to see Jesus. The risky path he took to get close enough to kneel in front of him. The crowd pressing in around Jesus would have stepped back in disgust as he drew near. A wide berth on all sides. This man barely remembers what human touch feels like. Yet, he comes full of faith and hope, not just begging Jesus, but believing Jesus. “if you are willing, you can…” I see the crowd standing as close as they dare to this unclean man, leaning in, no one taking a breath as they watch closely to see what Jesus will do. Jesus slowly reaches out his hand, eyes fixed on this man’s face, compassion brimming…and. he. touched. him. And I hear his voice, maybe a mere whisper. I. am. willing. be healed.
Isn’t this how I approach Jesus? I feel too unclean to come?  I come as a beggar, pleading to Jesus…if you are willing, save me from the pit I stand in. I come as a believer because I know he can, he’s the only one who can. And honestly, he’s the only one willing. Willing to reach out his hand from the cross with compassion in his eyes and touch the brokenness that defines me. And I am healed.

With this healing, I am both changed and challenged. I hear him whisper, are you willing? Willing to do the same? Will I reach out and touch the people in my path longing to be seen, to be known, to be loved, as Jesus does for me?

Dear Father,
Thank you for being willing to do whatever it takes to draw us near. Thank you for being willing to sacrifice your Son because of your great compassion and love for us. We live thankful you extend your hand, your heart from heaven and touch the unclean and by your love we are healed. We are desperate and dirty longing for change and your beautiful Word reminds us to come and ask, with hope and trust. Help us to always be willing to love the “unlovable” in our path with the same tenderness. Because you took the first step toward us, let us take the first step toward others. In the power of your love lies the catalyst for new beginnings. You simply ask if we are willing. Yes, Lord, let it be so! Give me a willing heart! Amen