We Can’t Afford Small Visions of Jesus

 

 

I need fresh vision. I need the cloud, the power, the white hot light. 

Be kind. We’re all fighting a hard battle. Plato spoke those words millennia ago and despite today’s youtube make-up videos and Instagram’s filters, the masks we wear aren’t strong enough to change that truth.

 

And the battles keep coming. 

 

We require a fresh vision of Jesus in order to fight our battles.

 

And this is what I’m wondering about this passage:

 

Perhaps Peter, James, and John were picked for this glimpse of Christ’s divinity transfigured because their destinies demanded a brilliant vision of Jesus. 

 

Jesus was seared white hot on the forefronts of their brain so that

–when they closed their eyes searching for courage, they saw Jesus.  

–when they laid facedown in discouragementthey saw Jesus.

–when they were weary of one more sacrifice, they saw Jesus.

–when they wondered where it all would lead, they saw Jesus.

–when their breath was taken away because they saw the crux and the cross where it was all leading, they saw Jesus. And they laid it all down, knowing He was big enough to carry it all.

 

 

We can’t afford small visions of Jesus. Today’s battle and tomorrow’s calling demand a new self-revelation of Christ. 

 

But here’s the humble truth.
We have a desperate need for something which is totally out of our control.

 

We can’t demand fresh vision, it’s a gift. We can’t coerce Christ’s self-revelation, it’s provision.

 

All we can do is pray, position ourselves (in the Word, in worship, in prayer with the Spirit, in solitude, in the Body of Christ), and wait.

And this friends is what I’m walking into the desert of Lent with.

I need a fresh vision of Jesus which will FILL the front windshield of my mind.

I need a vision of Jesus that is so extravagant it will crowd out all doubt, scarcity, and fear. Because I’m tired of doubt, scarcity, and fear. And I can’t walk ahead while my ankles are tangled in their nets.

 

In what area of your life do you need a fresh vision of Jesus?

 

{Join me for a lectio divina on the Transfiguration. Subscribe on the right to receive a weekly lectio divina straight to your inbox. It’s such a privilege to pray with you.}

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When the Longing of God Surprises You

I sat back into the overstuffed leather couch a little stunned. I begged Professor Robert Woodcock at my spiritual direction program to repeat what he had just said:  “We sometimes forget that there are two people in this relationship, us and God. We forget that we are in a relationship with a Person with feelings and hopes and dreams for our life together.  Sometimes we are brave enough to ask God what He thinks but rarely are we brave enough to ask God how He feels.”  

 

 

 

I was undone. My professor’s words exposed the neat little wall of separation I had carefully fit together between me and God. 

 

The point is God feels, profoundly.

 

I had never let this little piece of knowledge get personal. I had tucked this one in the bottom drawer of the left hemisphere of my brain. On purpose. Now I wondered if shame was the culprit.

 

Shame was overused in my church growing up, a whip to prod parishioners to sign up for cleaning day or push us out of perceived apathy. It was used for everything from hustling people to the altar during the sixth verse of “Just as I AM” to filling up the list for nursery duty.  

 

And what wires together, fires together, right? Soon God and shame were welded. Guilt leads us to repentance and back into repaired relationship. Shame is quicksand and we soon self-identify with our new home.

 

 

Exhibit A. Ask anyone at Asbury College in 1994 about the VUL-TURES sermon during chapel. As I watched the preacher energetically point to the wooden urns over Hughes auditorium and re-symbolize how they represented vultures ready to feast on our sinful hearts, I began to feel like I was having an out of body experience. Sometimes shame can be subtle, a little jab to prod us into movement but this time the ridiculous had brought the use of shame up to the light, exposed. That year I began to have an exquisitely fine-tuned shame radar. I began to see it abused in the emotional coercion of a worship leader, in the preacher’s clapping us awake during long sermons, and whenever I heard it, I’d shut down.

 

 It took decades to unwire.

 

 

After hearing my professor invite us to ask God how He felt, I began to wonder. I wondered if in order to shake myself free of shame’s constant demand, I had turned off my ability to sense God’s emotion, to be truly present to the Divine Other. I was sure that if I asked, I would only feel more shame.

 

By holding God at bay with a neat and tidy Heisman, I became a subtle consumer of God. I look back now wondering how often this relationship was a one-way exchange. Or perhaps I did my best to control what emotions I perceived.  Reading scripture I note a whole range of God’s emotions.

 

Delight:

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

 

Empathy:

When Jesus saw Mary (the sister of Lazarus) weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. (John 11:34-35)

 

Desire:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. (Luke 13:34)

 

Jealousy:

For Israel said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. (Hosea 2:5-7)

 

Sadness:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)

 

Joy:

But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. (John 15:22-24)

 

 

I kept this awareness of God’s emotions locked down tight in the jar of scripture. 

 

As I slowed down today’s lectio divina in Jeremiah 3:19-22a and listened, I was forced to acknowledge God’s sorrow: 

 

How I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beautiful of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me.”

 

Can you hear it too Friend, His profound longing?

 

 

“I thought you would call me, My Father.” He had stood watching his prodigal, the entire nation of Israel, skip away with the inheritance money.

 

As I listened, in my small way, I recognized the discouragement of a parent. I know the stab of hurt that comes from disrespect, the ache of disappointment when my offer of time together is refused. I’m all-too familiar when my generosity is rejected, when my meals are pushed away by picky eaters. I can’t imagine the grief of a child who shuts the door on a warm home to live on the streets, let alone a heroine house.

 

“I thought you would not turn away from following me.”

 

I stop.

 

I spend a few moments remembering those times I bushwacked my own path AWAY. I sit still registering His sadness. I sit with His extravagant longing.

 

I glance up and see the Father of the prodigal searching the horizon calling out: “Return O faithless sons, and I will heal your faithlessless.” (Jer 3:22a).

 

It’s so over-the-top generous, isn’t it? 

 

There’s no sting. There’s no whip of shame. There’s a wave of His arm home, a full feast, and an invitation to heal our waywardness.

 

A weekly lectio divina video like this one (lectionary based) is slipped into the inbox of subscribers on Tuesday. Sometimes they connect with what I write and I post them here. Subscribe on the right so that you don’t miss a week.

Join me for this lectio divina from Jeremiah 3:19-22a:

(All photos from Deb Howard photography.)

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Review Your Year. Propel Your Faith.

 

We had a 10 inch black and white television in the corner of the living room when I was growing up. As mother banged around the kitchen making dinner, my brother and I sat side by side on the brown couch watching Sesame Street. I remember the four squares and the song, “One of these things is not like the other.” There was also a cartoon teaching a memory tool. A little girl is walking from home to the store to get bread and needs to remember signposts along the way, a clock tower, a red firehouse, a statue. We gathered the signposts with her. We didn’t want her to get lost. We wanted to see her safely home, bread in her arms.

 

We often don’t take time to gather the signposts. We forget to read the signs.

 

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During the summer, if you were to hike the Gorham Mountain Trail in Acadia National park, you might see a long line of my extended family trekking up the path. We haul a picnic and sherpa small ones in backpacks. We forage for blueberries along the trail and then spread out at overlooks catching our breath, watching the sun sparkle on the Atlantic.

 

The top of Mt. Gorham has round granite patches, small fir trees that look like bonsai trees sculpted by the wind, and stone cairns that show the way. “Don’t destroy or move Bates’ cairns” a National Park sign said along the trail: “Follow the path.” But these are not just random stacks of stones. These cairns were intentionally erected by Waldron Bates around the year 1900 and if you poke your head around a boulder on the Mt. Gorham trail, you’ll glimpse a bronze plaque green with age, “Waldron Bates, Pathmaker, in Memorium 1856-1909.” Bates mapped out many of the paths on the east side of the park. Lately, a local, fed up with the cairns being destroyed, began a preservation society selling t-shirts with a simple illustration of one of Bates’ cairns on the front. Some t-shirts say, “Preserve Acadia,” others say, “Preserve the Message.”

 

 

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The people of Israel had just marched across the River Jordan on solid ground and in turn God had proven that Moses, who had just died, was not the holder of innate magic. Yahweh was confirmed faithful to his people with or without his servant. They were not lost. They were not orphaned. One man from each tribe gathered a stone and placed it next to that night’s campground. It was a permanent testimony written into the landscape.

 

But it is Psalm 78 that haunts me. In one long poem it retells the journey to the promised land complete with the repetitive punctuation of the Israelites’ disbelief. Stories of salvation abound throughout the Psalm: forging through the Red Sea, manna covering the ground like snow, water spurting out of rock, and small birds careening into the camp ready for a barbeque. Throughout the Psalmist declares sentences like this: “They did not remember his power or the day He had redeemed them from their foe,” and, “Despite His wonders, they did not believe.”

 

The psalmist equates a poverty of faith with a deficit in memory.

 

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This time of the year, we are invited to remember. We make an intentional pilgrimage back up the mountain to look for signposts of God’s movement. Here are a few of mine this year:

  • God opened more grace in our marriage and we were provided with a sweeping preview of the coming years.
  • Family members who were at odds offered forgiveness and I had the privilege of being witness.
  • Grandfather passed away while we stood around his bedside and prayed him home.
  • Impossible prayers were answered.

 

But the actions of God deserve marking whatever their size. Sometimes God’s work in the human soul is a subtle, soundless shift. We don’t recognize the immensity of their movement until months later. Sometimes we pay attention and are propelled to praise. Sometimes we don’t. The moment passes and it does not become a part of us. We see God’s actions, glance as we pass, and then forget. We let it go. It washes downstream. 

 

It is in the remembering that our faith is fortified. 

 

We recognize the signposts of God and sit and stare for a while. We listen for the message written in the stones. We sit in silent awe before we swing our backpacks on and trek into the new year.

 

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Here are some ideas for your time of remembrance:

 

*Use these simple questions: What did you find was life-giving this year? What took away life? Where did you see the movements of God?

 

*Spend an afternoon reading through last year’s journal then write your findings in a fresh, new notebook.

 

*Look through last year’s calendar and make notes.

 

*Check out Tsh Oxenreider’s 20 questions here.

 

*This is a fantastic time to do an end of year examen. Find an example here.

 

*This time of the year as we drive the miles home from family, I often listen to Dan Allender’s podcast for inspiration: Ending the Year Well. It’s extremely worth your time.

 

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Falling Forward this Christmas

 

I gave this print as a Christmas gift to my Healing Care Group Sunday night. We sat around the kitchen table at the Cathedral’s retreat house eating a spinach pizza and looking at the drawing. We took turns remarking on the details conceived by the Trappist nun who colored it. This year my group is full of teachers. One recognized Mary’s gesture. “I do this with my four year olds all the time,” she showed us with her hand open in front of her. “I rest my hand under their chin and invite them to look into my eyes before I speak.”

 

Intimate connection creates space for heart transformation. It’s at the heart of spiritual direction. It’s at the heart of healing ministry. It’s at the heart of the gospel.

 

Simone Weil wisely said, “Attention is the rarest and purest act of generosity.” 

 

I can’t stop thinking about Eve’s lowered eyes or Mary’s hand resting beside Eve’s cheek. It’s shockingly tender. Motherly. Mary full of God steps on the snake coiled around Eve’s leg. She traps it. Contains death’s design. The Presence of the baby Mary is enlarged with is already reversing the curse. They stand together under an arbor of sorts, heavy with fruit. Is it a nod to the garden? Is it acknowledging that for this framed moment as Jesus fills space and time, heaven has come down?

 

All I know is that the air is heavy with redemption.

 

It’s tangible presence, this drawing near. Mary has crossed over the chasm of Eve’s separation. But the sin she’s still cherishing does not wipe out her value. She was created in the image of God. Mary’s hand gently pulls Eve’s hand to her belly to touch the growing God-seed: Your story is not over. Your redemption is here. Mary intentionally draws shame towards Life.  I wonder how often I push shame away unwilling to take the time needed to build trust so that lowered eyes begin to lift, a hand can unclench?

 

 

I wonder how often I push away instead of falling forward when my love is stiff-armed?

 

I think about my master closet full of brown boxes from Amazon ready to be wrapped with the red polka dot paper. I think about the full list, the errands, the days of scurrying from place to place. This image slows me down. It reminds me to sit on the floor with Maggie playing with the doctor kit we’re wrapping up. It reminds me to wrap in my arms those in my family circle who it’s easier to pass by. It reminds me to keep offering small seeds of redemption.

 

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Where Do We Get More Love-Fueled Courage?

 

We need you fully present, fully awake.

 

We need light-bearers, God-bearers, Kingdom-bringers, hope-servers.

 

We are hungry for your glad tidings shouted from mountaintops, whispered into smartphones, wrapped around the shoulders of the widow sitting hands-folded in the pew. We need the Kingdom come and it is you, my friend, who will help bring it in.

 

Back in ancient days, the glad tidings proclaimer was a job, the one responsible for climbing mountains to bring the news.  Think ancient news anchor. Job description: trek up the switchbacks, catch your breath and loudly bellow the message.  The words, “The King is coming!” would project from up in the hills so sound waves could reverberate to women with baskets hustling around the market.

Isaiah 40:9 “0 thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain;O Jerusalem, that tellest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, “behold your God.”

Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee”

 

It is fear, (oh ya, and narcissism, but sometimes aren’t they one in the same?) that keeps us planted down in our own square footage.

 

So here’s the secret to fearless proclaiming:

 

The greater the love, the less stage fright we have.  Fall in love with the Image-bearing, beautifully broken and we can’t help but weep over Jerusalem, walk straight into our callings.

 

Because we don’t want your love-less art (a quote from Emily Freeman’s inspiring book here), your narcissistic preaching, your light-less spouting, your love-less mothering, (friending, teaching, doctoring, self-promotion, etc.)

 

We need you fully engaged. We want your story metamorphosed by His story and projected by love.

 

But that kind of love…it can’t be bought, faked, counterfeited.

 

It has to be given and grown.

 

In seminary I found the longer I steeped in a story, the more it would come out as tight little bits of poetry.  Spend an internship researching the world of the Celts along with Hilda of Whitby from the 600’s? For a month I would dream and create and scratch down Hilda poems before sleep.

 

What we marinate in eventually comes out.  For better, for worse, it becomes the story we write, the art we make, the tidings, glad and otherwise, we project.

 

We have a dear friend who used to be an editor at Zondervan who would regale us with stories of the authors he supported. His unabashed favorite? Richard Foster. Why? Richard’s integrity.

 

Richard Foster, our friend told us, would spend seven years writing a book. He refused to put words on paper that didn’t come out of his soul, that were not written by his life.  Richard refused to get caught up in the publishing world’s demand for more titles. He would pray through his subject, live that subject and then, love the reader of that subject.

 

How do we project God’s coming into the world without fear?

 

Eugene Peterson transcribes Isaiah 60:1 “Arise, shine for your light has come” in this way, “Get out of bed Jerusalem! Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight. God’s bright glory has risen for you. The whole earth is wrapped in darkness, but God rises on you, his sunrise glory breaks over you.”

 

We, my friends, are solar powered.  Our light gets brighter when we dwell in strong light.

 

One Sabbath I was searching for direction and sat down for an hour in front of the altar. It’s a thin place, a kairos place, a place where God’s voice feels louder. This was one of those rare moments where His love broke over me and I sat for a long time just enjoying Him. But I’m no saint and soon hunger chased me out and I slid into a booth at Red Lobster. I know, a little extravagant and entirely institutional but I’m addicted to their coconut shrimp with pina colada sauce.  I found myself getting effusive all over the unsuspecting waitress.  “Do you know you have a beautiful smile?” I asked her. The mechanical eyes now turned soft and the smile brighter. I wrote “thank you” on my receipt and “I just want you to know God takes great delight in you” in the margin. And yes, I know, maybe we should have established more of a depth in our friendship before I went all glad tidings over her, but honestly, love was just seeping out.

 

This was me holding back.

 

When we soak in love, lap it up, we project love fearlessly.

 

We need you, dear one, to fearlessly Go Tell it on the Mountains.

 

We want your unique God-soaked story projected and inviting us to strain our eyes for the Coming One, to“Behold our God.”

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Get Practical this Advent:

Soak in God’s Love–

1. The 3 R’s: Rest (take deep breaths), Receive (Receive His love), Respond (Love Him back, worship)

2. God on a hunt for Scripture about God’s love for you. Meditate, chew on them and then take them to bed.

3. Turn up the worship music, close your eyes and enjoy Him.

4. Use one phrase from Scripture and take deep breaths with it: “I am loved with an everlasting love.” Set a timer for ten or twenty minutes. Neuroscientists tell us that what we repeat, transforms and heals our brain.

5. Do a SLOW Word Lectio Divina. Subscribe on the right to get one weekly sent to your inboxPerhaps you’d like to start here: Invitation to the WITH-GOD life.

 

 

 

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How to Withstand the Storms

We are all transplants in this Kingdom, all ball of roots, shook out and replanted insecure, longing for our heart’s true home.

 

 

We are adopted children of the most High who wander through the world with amnesia forgetting to come home, forgetting where our bread (acceptance, security, purpose, Life) comes from.  We turn towards whispers of “little l” life with hope-filled faces and turn away from the arms always offered.

 

We are basically earth scorched thirsty people searching for living water, quenching our thirst in the most unhealthy/unholy of ways.

 

Everywhere I go, when I’m turning toward another voice in hope of some piece of the puzzle coming together, I hear an echo of Him, “Daughter, Come back to Me. Don’t go too far. Attach. Dwell. Abide.”

 

It takes three years for plants to reach down in foreign soil and establish. Three springs that follow three cold winters before they begin to thrive.

 

The gardeners at the Center where I bought my white hydrangeas said to chop off the big snowball blooms for two full years. The roots’ establishing was more critical than beauty, she lectured, tenderly patting the black plastic base. Let them spread all their energy to the tightening, spreading roots and then, she promised, they’ll bloom strong into the years.

 

It’s the roots we can’t see, the roots spread firm in Him that create the lasting beauty.

 

Around that same time wandering through a Christian bookstore, I stared at a black and white Ansel-Adams-like photo. She was a queen of a tree, full of leaves, standing alone, a lace of intricate branches. Underneath the photo was Ephesians 3:17 “Rooted and established in love.”  Paul, midway through his letter was praying for the Ephesians. Now, Paul was hardcore. A missionary of missionaries. I imagine him a bit wild-eyed, like I’d have to look away if I tried to look straight at him. And yet much of his writings come straight back here, straight to the importance of being rooted in God’s love.

 

The full verses of 17 through 19 go like this, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” We need to be rooted in love in order to be filled with God.

 

Chapter 8 in Romans, the chapter I would gladly take to a deserted island (or maybe just a four star hotel) and feast on for weeks, climaxes in this: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

The man was rooted and established in some serious hummus-filled love. You’d have to be in order to endure the whips, the chains, the prison isolation, the shipwrecks. He’d be dashed and wrecked about the rocks of life without that firm anchor of love. And maybe that’s all we’ve known.

 

We are so often like adopted children wondering where home really is, insecure, fearful when my dear friends, our Abba is firmly here with us. “I will never leave you or forsake you,” (Mt 28:20)

Every moment we:

stop and look into His eyes,

whisper “Jesus” in joy or wonder,

search the Word for his self-revelation,

fill up the lungs, drink deep breaths of His love,

bring our fears to his lap,

take our sins to the cross,

listen, getting used to the sound of His voice,

worship with arms outstretched,

or double back, saying thank you.

All this roots and establishes us a little deeper.

It is the constant abiding John talks about, the branch coming in close, attaching firm to the Vine.

 

 

Christianity is less a lifestyle of trying hard and more a constant doubling back, coming in close.  And the most beautiful service, the most powerful wave-walking trust and firm obedience? It comes naturally out of the coming in close.

 

The beauty will come. One day it fill unfold into bloom. And my friend, I can already see in you the tight nubs whispering of future glory.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to get rooted and established in God’s love, Lectio Divina.

Rest in His Presence. Receive his Word. Respond.  It’s a doorway to prayer.

 

I wonder what you will hear from today’s scripture? 

 

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Philippians 3:7-14 Lectio Divina and 31 Days to Making Your Phone an Ally

{*Hi Friend!* If this is your first time here, every Tuesday a SLOW Word lectio divina comes out right here. We’re slowing down the Word so we can encounter the God of the Word in a fresh way. Want more? Subscribe on the right to receive this fresh manna into your inbox every Tuesday…along with other practical tips, videos, and letters from me about staying in the word. Another gift?  If your church follows the lectionary, you’ll be encountering next Sunday’s word and preparing your heart a few days early. Sounds lovely, right?}

Do you have this same tic? Do you subconsciously reach for your phone when you should be tuned into work? Do you have family members who give you that long stare and beg you to turn it off? Or perhaps you’re just searching for a more intentional way to live with technology?

It’s time to journey together. I’m struggling too. The truth is that our phones are slowly encroaching on our prayer time, taking over our empty minutes, and redefining rest. It’s time to get a bit bossy with them. Choose boundaries. Develop intentional practices and generally pay attention to how we’re functioning with technology.

 

I’m over at Instagram this month writing out my own wrestle with technology here www.instagram.com/revsummerjoy :

31 Days to Make your Phone an Ally, not a Bully.

Here was the takeaway from Day 1:

Get an alarm clock. This small change has been a big step to taking back my mornings. No more setting an alarm on the phone. No more losing my prayer time to scrolling groggily. It’s the best $30 I’ve ever spent to protect my mornings from the tyranny of the urgent.

 

On Day 2 I get a little bit brain science nerdy. You can read it here: Day 2, Prepare to Grow

 

Wanna join? Follow me on Instagram and lets build a community. Share with your people. We’re all struggling together. Lets walk out the solutions together.

 

What are you noticing about how your phone is encroaching on your attention and your time?

(feature photo by Death to Stock Images. Love that name.)

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Are You Addicted to Big? Matthew 13:31-33 *SLOW Word video*

Come join me in the Presence to listen to Jesus remind us that the Kingdom is made up of small.  In a world addicted to big, it’s a powerful reminder. Below is my story of big addiction. Want to receive these Lectio Divina, these invitations of Word to prayer, straight into your inbox? Subscribe on the right:

 

 

 

I knelt on the blue berber carpet at the front of the church as often as I could.

We were a Christian Missionary Alliance church and rated an “A” congregation for all the big missionaries to make their circuit through during their furlough year. An altar call was always given, “Just as I Am” was played, and I walked forward, knelt and spread my palms on the berber carpet. I smelled adventure. I wanted to do big things for God.

 

But the mustard seed kingdom life doesn’t work that way. We are not plucked out of obscurity into big. We are taught to get down on our knees with a basin and a towel and rub tiny feet, wrinkled feet, and the tired feet with cracked heels. The Spirit teaches us to plant lines of seed one at a time. We learn to love big, not work big. They are rarely ever one in the same.

 

We learn to cup our children’s faces and linger just a little bit longer than necessary. We learn that small acts of kindness watered by grace feed a marriage. We learn the particular accent of the woman next door, the village where her people are from, and her favorite type of tea. We learn to become a collector of stories, that a vulnerable heart listening well is the building block of trust.

 

We learn to sit in the dark and quiet and sow seeds of prayer which will never be counted, nor should they. They should be massed in our hands and thrown out liberally, generously.

 

We learn that who we become for God is infinitely more important than what we do for God. We learn that becoming a good news person means listening to the heartbeat of God first, leaning on His chest like John the Beloved at the table, and finding our home in that steady pattern. Sometimes we are encouraged to whisper what we hear into the next waiting ear. Sometimes we become a container for the secrets of God and hold them tenderly in our hands in order not to crush them.

 

It’s been a long ten years of unlearning the siren song of Big. I tied my worth to it. I tied God’s love to it. I made vows to it which had to be cut off. But the Kingdom is built by small offered to He who is big but was planted in a womb, a tiny seed.

 

What are your small Kingdom beginnings today, friend? Join me in the comments.

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#Mondays at Jesus’ Feet

 

Today our lectio divina leads us to Jesus’ words warning the disciples that persecution is coming. He said that they would have to take up their cross, to die in order to find Life.

 

I remember that first time my sweet Madeline grasped the wood of the crucifer’s cross. She was just five and she fit inside my arms as we walked together in procession toward the altar. Our acolyte was gone that Sunday and I volunteered to be the crucifer. But, as she grasped the cross, instead of feeling proud, I cringed.

 

I was shocked by my reaction.

 

I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this blond haired girl of mine (singing right now in the shower) to grasp the cross.

 

That cross? That cross is going to cost your life, little one. Choosing the cross cost Jesus His life, and grasping our cross will eventually cost us our life. We may never see persecution so many of our fellow Christians experience in the Middle East, but we will find that the road to Life is not Easy Street. The way up is often down. We lay down our American Dream, our vision of what life was supposed to look like and we choose to worship the one true God instead of the way our hearts whisper.

 

Through all the refining, the stretching, the humbling we can keep walking back to the cross and reaffirming our vow:  I WILL FOLLOW WHEREVER YOU LEAD.  We can say after the hard words in this lectio, “Take up your cross and follow me,” that the alternative is great cosmic loneliness (I’ve felt it!) and in the end a different sort of death. With Peter we can acknowledge,  “Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

 

Because He is the Good Shepherd, and we can trust in His goodness that the hard way is actually the best way, and the way down is actually straight into His arms we can grasp that cross tight.

 

Thank you for walking with me.

 

Blessings as you wrestle with these words today dear friends,
Rev. Summer Joy

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Ascension Day @ Jesus’ Feet *SLOW Word*

Last words.  We turn them over and over in our hand like a last gift, a necklace, a jewel, discovering every angle, looking at the way the light shines through it. We hold onto the tone, the timbre of their voice. Last words get embossed in the mind.

 

That last visit sitting in the white nursing home room, under the window, my Nona was barely able to talk. Alzheimer had claimed all her words. She who once wore a mass of red curls like a crown, whispered like a child, nodding her head as if it was heavy. After hours sitting next to her, holding her hand and holding a monologue about the children and the happenings in our Mitford-like town in Pittsburgh, I thought all memory of me had slipped into the dark of her mind. But, as I got up to leave, I leaned forward to kiss her peach-fuzz covered cheek and heard her whisper, “I love you Sweetie” just like always. Just like she had whispered for the last thirty-eight years as I hugged her good-bye by the car. I glanced into her eyes surprised but she had already closed her eyes. She was already gone. I held her words like blue-green seaglass I search for on the shore, familiar and precious.

 

And Jesus’ last words? In Matthew Jesus leaves his disciples with the words every newly-adopted child needs to hear: “I will be with you always to the end of the age.” But, in Luke 24, Jesus gives last directions before he ascends: “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

 

The Spirit is the Father’s promise. Let’s just park here for a minute. The Father promises the Spirit, a magnanimous promise from of a perfect, loving, all-powerful Being. It’s a promise we can trust, a promise we can build a house on, build a life on. Can you hear echoes of Luke 11? “If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Holy Spirit give good gifts to them that ask Him.”

 

Ask. Stay. Wait.

 

 

It’s a daily thing, a lifetime learning. We’re invited to lean into the promise, to not rush ahead, but to hold out our empty hands for our Abba to fill. Frances MacNutt says that prayer is just our sitting at the table with the Father and asking Abba to pass the mashed potatoes. I can still hear the laughter in his voice from the tape I listened to early in my ministry, “And He LOVES to feed his children.”  It’s the same big-hearted Daddy tone of Luke 12:32, “Don’t be afraid little flock, for the Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.”

 

Luke all this time has been setting us up for his sequel, the book of Acts and the opening chapters punctuated with the fireworks of Pentecost. He’s setting us up for power, not for emptiness. He’s pointing to a new life fired by hope and the ability to bring the Kingdom wherever we put down our feet one step at a time. Your Kingdom come Here on earth as it is in heaven. Your Kingdom come here.

 

He is setting us up for gain, not for loss.

 

What are you hearing in these last words, my friend? 

 

 

 

 

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