Right Now.

Our family just welcomed tiny little Isabella into our lives. She was born 10/2. We love and adore her. God protected me through a difficult pregnancy and a scary delivery. Most of this pregnancy I’ve been sick and immobile. I haven’t been able to write as much.

In fact, my book came out when I became increasingly immobile and unable to talk much about it. But God has his hand on these things and in these things.

When I did get out, it was either to church, or to visit people as part of the pastoral care staff at my church. I couldn’t run and jump and play with my two daughters. My husband has for the last 10 months while also working full-time and trying to care for me. A neighbor he just met asked if he was a stay-at-home father (no shame in that). It’s because she never saw me-just him and the girls. That goes to show how absent I’ve been, physically isolated. It’s not because I’ve wanted to be, but because that’s what pregnancy does to me.

Since she was born, I’ve been out and about a little. People comment “You’re out so soon!” And I say “Yes, I’ve been in all year.” I am thankful I am alive and can walk. I am thankful for friends that helped/help out with the girls. I am thankful for social media so I can read about what others are doing and stay somewhat connected to those far away. When I was extremely nauseated, I could do very little. I moaned prayers. Then when I was more physically immobile, I found I couldn’t do too much more. But I could pray and I did pray. I believe James 5:16 – the prayer of a righteous person is effective.

I know many righteous friends have prayed for me.

My prayers are the loaves and fish I offer for my friends and for the world when I am immobile or up during the watches of the night. I think of the monastics who rise to pray throughout the night and of the prayers of brothers and sisters across the world whose day is my night and who are praying.

I like to join them.

 

God’s Power & God’s Peace Again

Mark 2: 3-5,12

Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.  Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven”….He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God,saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The story above is one of my favorites in the Bible. I wrote about it in my book. And tonight I come back to it. 

Recently, I’ve been really discouraged. Discouragement has come for several reasons: financial, relational, and because of the grief over the grief of friends, loved ones, and of those suffering in the world and in the church. Also, I’ve had some recurring anger about how the wicked seem to get away with abusing and oppressing the innocent-part of the problem of evil. I’ve been absorbing a lot of it. And, I am 9+ months pregnant and can hardly get around when I need to get around nor meet certain deadlines because I am exhausted. I could go into details about all of these things, but I won’t.

However, I will tell you that I did go into detail with a group of my friends the other night (online) because I stand by and wholeheartedly believe James 5:16:

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

I confessed my sin of resentment toward God and others. I told them how I felt paralyzed by circumstances and how I thought life unfair at this moment because I’m following hard after Christ and still afflicted. I didn’t say this to them, but essentially, I started feeling like Job. And I’m tired of feeling like Job, especially financially. I am ready for a long stay in the Promised Land! I thought I was out of the wilderness, the treacherous land where the devil and his demons and evil want to eat us alive, and where we are tempted to turn from God in order to figure things out on our own because it seems much easier that way-much easier than walking by faith. But then I remember and remind myself that we can see God in all of his glory while in the wilderness if we persevere under trial or have friends persevere with and for us when we just cannot. That’s the whole theme of my book!

But I did confess my sin and soul sickness and my dear friends lowered me through the roof-me the paralytic-me when I was all twisted up inside and despairing. They boldly lowered me through the roof to the feet of Jesus, the throne of grace, where I am promised that I will find help my time of need (Hebrews 4:`16).

And I did find help in my time of need. That very evening when they prayed. Sounds like stories in the gospels, right?

That miracle occurred 48 hours ago. And you know what, I got up. Past nine months pregnant, my spirit leapt up and praised God. I have experienced that peace that defies understanding. Circumstances haven’t changed, but God has done a work of grace in me. He has been loving and kind and faithful and assuring. But that’s not all. I do think he’ll meet my family’s needs as we seek his kingdom (Matt. 6:33). My soul feels stronger and more robust than it has in months -thanks to my friends who lowered me down through the roof to the feet of Jesus.

The thought sometimes comes to my mind that I shouldn’t confide in them – that I am always in need of grace and favor and why ask them for the umpteenth time to pray for me and my situation. They’ll think me needy. But I am needy, in constant need of grace. And God invites us to come in our time of need no matter how often it is. And these friends, they do the same. So I cast the temptation to go at life alone and to suffer alone aside and find the grace of God pouring out on me through the conduit of my friends’ prayers and other concrete acts of love.

May you do the same.

 

 

Go and Learn This: Mercy

Today something happened that brought these words of Jesus to mind: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice'” (Matthew 9:13).  When I got home, I then thought about this verse in connection with the first one and with my experience today – again in the words of Jesus: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). And finally, I thought of James 2:12,13 that I read last night: Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What do you take these to mean all together and how do you apply them to your circumstances – especially in “mercy triumphs over judgment”? I can understand what “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful” means because of the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35). To whom do we choose not to extend mercy?

My Life Matters If And Only If . . .

Fill in the blank. My life matters if and only if:

  1. I have a prestigious position in my field
  2. I’m considered beautiful
  3. the “cool kids” are my friends
  4. my body is chiseled/I am slim and sleek/am a certain weight
  5. I have a head of hair (as an adult male)
  6. I drive a luxury car
  7. I’m in high society
  8. I have a certain amount of Twitter, FB, or blog followers
  9. I’m famous
  10. people trip over themselves to get my attention
  11. I’m in a relationship/married
  12. I have children
  13. I’m 50 years old or younger
  14. I have a high IQ
  15. I live in a  prestigious neighborhood
  16. I have more than a 3.6 million dollar bonus
  17. my skin is a certain color
  18. I get into a prestigious program/school
  19. people affirm me
  20. I have lots of money

The above are some I thought of off of the top of my head. Personally, what have I had to fight back against lately? My Life Matters If And Only If…

  1. I sell a certain number of books
  2. certain people notice me
  3. I’m younger than I actually am
  4. my body is a certain composition (which is hard when I’m two days away from being 8 months pregnant)

Tonight I had to remind myself of this truth, a truth I remind myself of over and over: what God cares about the most is that I love him and love those who he puts in my path (and of course that I love myself, that I am kind to myself, and gracious towards myself as he is towards me).

When I stand before God I will not be judged by how many books I sold or who noticed me. I won’t be judged by my age or my body composition. I will not. Life is short. I am middle-aged now. Who knows how long I have to live? What matters is how I love God and those he puts in my path (and how I respond to those he brings before me who are far away).

I was also wondering how Jesus might have felt, how Jesus might’ve been tempted to fill in the blank during his time on earth. Would Jesus say, I matter if and only if:

  1. everyone accepts my message
  2. the religious leaders accept me
  3. I have hundreds of thousands of followers
  4. I am Caesar
  5. I’m rich
  6. everyone accepts that I am the wisest person alive
  7. everyone accepts that I am God

I don’t know exactly how Jesus would’ve responded. But, I do know that he had to fight the temptation to measure himself by the world’s standards and continually turn his face toward the Father. Jesus had to fight the temptation to measure himself by the ways of the world  and instead measure himself by the truth, by what his and our Father says is true.

We all, everyone of us, need to tell ourselves the truth that God tells us. We are his beloved children. He delights in us. His love is deep and wide and more expansive than we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:14-21). And everyday, and also in the end, what matters is how we love.

* I must add this caveat: we all matter because we are God’s children. Some may be severely disabled, but they are God’s children. He loves them deeply and so should we. We all are to love each other and receive each other as gifts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Jesus is Inconvenient

The Trouble With Epiphanies – by Ben L’Heureux

About hospitality Dennis Okholm says*, “what I find most irritating about practicing Benedictine hospitality when it comes to receiving the guest is the timing of the guest’s appearance. In the spirit of Benedictine hospitalilty I used to make a simple request each morning: ‘Lord, send someone today whom I can serve.’ But inevitably this someone would show up five minutes before I had to deliver a lecture . . . or before I was dashing off to lunch with a growling stomach. It got to the point that I could not pray this prayer with sincerity–unless I was in greater control of my encounters with guests. And that is precisely the point: the stranger at our ‘gate’ is as unpredictable in his appearance as Christ. To top it off, this stranger is often the kid who irritates me most, yet the one whom I must envision as Christ. That often takes not only patience but a lot of envisioning.”

* Monk habits For Everyday People

Okholm goes on to share this poem (I posted it once before within a text of a homily. But it is so good, I wanted to share it once more).

Christ came into my room
and stood there
and I was bored to death.
I had work to do.
I wouldn’t have minded
if he’d been crippled
or something–I do well
with cripples–but he
just stood there, all face,
with that d–ned guitar.
I didn’t ask him to sit down:
he’d have stayed all day.
(Let’s be honest. You
can be crucified just so often;
then you’ve had it. I mean
you’re useless; no good
to God, let alone
to anybody else.) So I said
to him after a while”
well, what’s up? What do you want?
And he laughed, stupid,
said he was just passing by
and thought he’d say hello.
Great, I said, hello.
So he left.
And I was so damned mad
I couldn’t even listen
to the radio. I went
and got some coffee.
The trouble with Christ is
he always comes at the wrong time.