Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Morning Grace

I am waiting for the meatballs to brown.

When I asked Nanny, Tim's Mom, what she wanted to do for Easter as a family, I mentioned my own family's traditional Easter meal:


I remember as a child my mom making spaghetti and meatballs for Easter dinner.  It's the meal I make just like my mom did.  And every time I put a bite in my mouth, it feels like Easter all over again. 

In the last few days I've thought much about the Easter story.  The gift of God's Grace is that the Old, Old Story has a way of becoming New, over and over again.  And to be telling the Story of redemption to little ones this year has deepened it within me, in a way I had not anticipated.

It took me years to wrap my head around Jesus dying on the cross, but after my last child was born, God helped me understand in a way that cuts right to the heart of me.  All three of my children were born by C-section.  The last required a vertical incision that streches up my belly.  The scars from all of them now form an anchor on my abdomen.  Sometimes when I look in the mirror I laugh and tell myself, "the anchor holds."   I have no idea what natural childbirth is like.   I know well the disappointment and pain of a plan not at all working out the way you think it is supposed to.  That's the way I thought of the cross for years.  Surely there had to be a better way for Jesus to go home to His Father.

And then one day I held my sweet baby boy and heard this Whisper in my heart:  "Was he worth it?"  I knew what God was asking me.  Was it worth it to me to have my body broken so that this child could have life?  "Of course he was worth it," I said back to the Whisper.  "So are you," came the reply.

The Gospel of Mark tells us that when Jesus breathed His last, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (15:38).  The curtain is the thing that separates the Most Holy Place from everything else in the temple.  It is there, from the early days of the Tabernacle, that God would meet with His people (Exodus 25:21-22).  And yet the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place only once a year, and then only sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice.  When Jesus was  broken, the power of His Gift of Himself ripped that veil in two, from God's end to ours.  As a consequence, we can enter into the Holy of Holies; God has made Himself accessible.  Through the broken Body of God's Son, we are born into New, Eternal, Abundant Life. 

Here is the part I love--

Jesus did not stay broken.

Can it get any better than this?  Jesus does not walk around Heaven broken!  He is Resurrected!  And those scars, well--

My scars are precious to me.  Really?  Did I just say that?  But they are.  Only God can take something that represented the deepest hurt my body had endured and make it beautiful.  Only God can take the thing that I thought made me look hideous and use it to show me how beautiful I am to Him.  And someday when I get to Heaven I'm going to look at His Son's scars and see my name written in the nail prints on His hands.  Each one of us, our names are written there, because first we were written on His heart.  He looks forward to the day when He can show us in person how deeply His Love has been written all over our story.

The same way my love for my boys is written on my body.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Resting God Rises

In the craziness that is my life, I have been pondering this question since I last wrote:  What happens when the God at rest awakens? 

What happens when the God at rest wakens?

Have we seen it before?  Have we witnessed His Power in Motion?  Have we seen the Mountain Moved? 

We want to experience the "OMG" thing often and always.  We want our wants gratified, our cravings satisfied, our boredoms nullified, our discomforts mollified, our slights justified.  Yet God is not into entertainment.  God does not put on a show for us to quiet our questions.  His ego does not need the attention; His self-esteem does not require our reassurance that He is in fact Who He says He Is.  He does not need to prove Himself in the face of our doubts.  And His WAITING accomplishes in us far more than demonstration, for its own sake, can.  Regardless of how we pester Him to do more and be more, He acts (or waits) according to WISDOM we cannot comprehend.  While we may carefully mark our actions and reactions according to the changing tides of public opinion, God does not regard public opinion.   

So we often find ourselves in the boat with the God who Rests.  His decision to waken comes at His own bequest.  Often when we are convinced that we will perish regardless.  We tell ourselves it doesn't matter if God is resting in our boat.  We are shark bait anyway.  And we despair.

Only in the moment He chooses does God's POWER reveal Itself.

Here is the part of that "Jesus Calms the Storm" story that nettles me:  The disciples came away from that moment more afraid of Jesus than they were the storm.  They say to themselves, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:41).

Precisely.  WHO then IS this?  This One Who Rests in our boats?  He IS the original WHO!  And the wind and sea MUST obey HIM! 

HE does not obey ANY storm.

So it makes me wonder about my attitude in life.  I have taught myself to think too little of Him.  I have thought it acceptable and my religion has deemed it appropriate, allowing and even encouraging such small expectations, helping me even to construct a box small enough to house them.

Ahh!  This box in my heart is being demolished!

We become so well acquainted with the "Take up your cross and follow Me" way of life that we forget there is RESSURECTION POWER at work within us!  We forget that the cutting back of pruning and the intense heat of our refining is for a season.  That it is not an end in itself, but rather the vehicle that brings us to Purpose fulfilled, HIS Power revealed, in us and through us for the Transformation of the world!

HE keeps showing me, instructing me, priming me, and positioning me to see that He is not done with anything yet!  And until the storm has obeyed Him, He has not spoken His final WORD over my life.

Or yours.

I just sense in my heart this WORD:  Prepare to be amazed!

And they were filled with great and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"  (Mark 4:41)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

A Place to Watch the Rain

One of my favorite things to do is to sit in a quiet place where I can hear the rain falling.  Where I can see it pouring from the sky.  I hate being caught in the rain, in the cold downpour that seeps through to the bone and chills the body and spirit.  But there is comfort in watching rain fall from the place of safety and warmth.  The steady rythm and the dull thump, thump, thumping against my window and roof seem to help my soul enter the place of quiet rest. 

Outside it is gloomy as I write.  With only the widows shedding light I find myself surrounded by shadow.  Outside the rains come intermittently.  Sometimes mixed with snow.  Wind swirling everything around in a cold, wet mess.  I think about the cold, wet mess I can be too as I ponder this week's Bible story for Chapel.  Mustering up all my creative story-telling abilities I told those squirmy three and four year olds about Jesus calming the sea.

Jesus fell asleep in the boat.

Here is what I told them.  That His disciples were fishermen for a living.  That they spent lots of time in boats.  That they had seen lots of storms.  But this storm had them terrified.

We make fun of the disciples for being scared, but consider how big that storm had to be to make seasoned fishermen frightened.  So much so that they waken the Lord and ask Him why He was letting them drown.

Jesus, do You not care that this storm is about to EAT US ALIVE!?

He wakes up and says to them, "You of little faith!  Why are you afraid?"  I know why I am afraid.  Because my storms keep getting bigger, that's why.  Because the one ahead seems to loom over the one behind me.  Jesus, I know You are big enough to whup that one we just went through together, but this thing I'm going through now, do you see the size of that thing?  Do You understand the depth of the destruction that it can leave in its wake?  Do You see how small I am?

Here is the problem.  The disciples were looking at their circumstances with physical sight.  In our physical eyes we automatically see and size up.  We make instant calculations in our heads and simultaneous comparisons.  Our brains are so fast, we know in an instant how this storm ahead stacks up against every other storm we have encountered.  And with our physical sight we know the dimensions of what we are seeing, while being well acquainted with the dimensions of our own prowess.  We know when we've been beat.

Yet we know nothing of His dimensions.  We are not capable of calculating the size of the sleeping Giant in our own boat.  And we think because He rests that He is unaware and unavailable and unable.  We equate His dimensions with our own and believe only what we can see, which is very, very grim.  And might I also add, very, very little.

Because we see the human man asleep in our boat, but we do not see the Offspring of the One and Only God resting at our helm.  Our physical eyesight is fine, but our spiritual vision is near blind!  The problem in the storm is not that He fails to see how small we are, but that we fail to see how BIG He is!

Here is the thing.  I have never seen a storm that the Almighty could not rest through.  God at rest is a concept we have great difficulty with.  We want God to be always moving.  Like us.  We want God to be always working.  Like us.  We want God to be always occupied.  Like us.  We want God to be constantly demonstrating His prowess.  Like us.  And yet there is a forebearance in God that we cannot grasp.  His Wisdom always comes before His Power.  And God at rest is full of Power beyond our ability to measure.  The only time we have reason to fear the storm is if Jesus is in a panic bailing water.

He never does that.

If needed, He just ditches the boat and walks on water.

Inviting us to walk too.

Maybe if I were completely honest, that is what I am afraid of.  That somewhere between the loftiness of the storm and the smallness of my feet Jesus will ask me to do something that will really put my faith to the test.  Maybe what I fear most is that He will ask me to walk on top of the thing I'm most afraid of.

But then again, what if He asks for something that seems even more impossible than walking on water in a storm?  What if all He is asking is that we enter into His Rest while we are still in the boat?  If God at rest is something we cannot grasp, ourselves at rest is positively unheard of.

No wonder Jesus says we have such little faith.