Friday, October 01, 2021

Saved by the Earthquake!

 Acts 16:20-34

Paul and Silas are beaten and put in prison for preaching the gospel.  It sounds mostly bad, until the very end when the jailor, who almost committed suicide, was interrupted by Paul's cries to not do it.  They were all saved by the earthquake, which interrupted the night, released the prisoners' chains and caused the jailer to be ministered to by Paul and Silas (and I imagine all the prisoners there).

The unsettling of an earthquake, large or small, will grab your attention, cause you pause and usually actions which cause you to run from any structure you might be around.  I have been in several and seen people saved when they ran (far) out of the building.

The metaphor is haunting me:  what was once their comfort zone, in an earthquake, becomes a danger zone.

How much is crisis like that for us?  When it comes, do we hunker down?  Do what we always do?  Hide within the walls of some coping mechanism?  When each could be our death, our danger?  What if we learned to reach outside of our comfort zones when in danger?  Housed inside our "usual" could be fatal or dangerous...and the answers are not there...

The earthquake released them all: Paul, Silas, other prisoners, the jailor and his family.  May we realize how our earthquakes could do the same for us.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Notice

 Jesus said, "Who touched me?"  Luke 8:40a

Jesus was having a jam-packed day, if we only stay in Luke 8:  he's teaching and explaining parables;  he gets in a boat after a big day of it and goes across a lake, having to quiet a storm to keep the disciples calm; he heals a man of a demon, and upon arrival in town, is asked by Jairus to heal his daughter.  It's crowded.  There's much excitement at Jesus' presence.  An in the middle of it, Jesus notices someone has touched him.

Peter's response is golden in the rest of the verse:  "Master, everyone is touching you - you are pressed in."

Have you ever had days like that, where the assignments and demands come from a hundred directions?  Like you are responsible for everything? Everyday occurrences surround us like they surrounded Jesus, but he was able to stay present to the needs of those around him:  "I felt power go out from me..."

What would happen if we could stay present to the moments in the middle of busy-ness?  What if we could know that interruptions could become invitations to sacredness?  It was such a powerful request, probably with Jesus scanning the crowd, that woman could not stay hidden and with her presentation to Jesus as she fell at his feet, he affirmed her effort:  "Your faith has made you well; go in peace."

First, how do we develop that awareness for sacred presence, even in the midst of our busy lives?  Sacred presence notices a touch and recognizes healing.  Sabbath teach us with rest: rest which gives an awareness of sacred moments.  That Sabbath-rest allows us to recognize when God is at work and present, then we can recognize it "on the street."  

How does rest help us notice?

Secondly, do we notice Jesus' notice of us?  We may think no one sees us - our needs, our loss, our long struggle - but Jesus does!  He does!  When we bring our whole selves to him, when we are least expecting it or deeply seeking it, he notices.  His power is going out to us in those moments.  In every moment.

Think of your day.  When were you in greatest need?  When were you least aware?  Can you picture Jesus noticing?  Always.




Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Mountain Top

 We always want to be on the mountain top, although not always as committed to the path it may take to climb there.  Switchbacks seem like delay, undergrowth a barrier.  The shadow side of a mountain can cause us to shiver; exposed outcrops blast us with the wind and the hot sun.

But what if every step mattered?  

What if every turn a tool?  

What if the elements were a blessing?

As always, the journey provides the greatest truth that makes the summit all the more glorious.  Looking back on the path traveled, the climb becomes just as amazing as the final step.



Tuesday, August 10, 2021

My Dear Young Self

Letters can open a view into the personality of character.


Dear Young Gina,

Here I am, your older self with the unique opportunity to reach back through time and offer some guidance and a bit of hope for what you are going through.  On this side of time, I know you've been crushed and I know you feel like too many bad decisions have led you to where you are.

About to lose hope.

About to give in to the dark.

Let me tell you, the dawn is coming and the best thing I can tell you  is to make decisions in the light, specifically in the light of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know its full truth, its full light is not yet fully on you.  Oh, you think you can see, but, truly, like the apostle Paul, you see as in a mirror darkly.

So seek the light of the way of Jesus, who said he was "the" light.  For every step.  For ever decision.  At every juncture.  To deal with every siren's call or earthly plea.  Turn the light onto your path.  Go to the well.  Sit in those moments at the feet of the Light-giver.

Many such moments will come upon you when you don't even realize you have a restricted view.  You'll rest in your own knowledge.  You'll lean into your own desires.  Instead, let the light shine onto the knowledge Jesus will give, consider (and come into agreement) with the desire of the Christ for you.

Don't be so late in coming to his light - it will be clarifying for you and many others.  The light of life will enthrall you!  Stay trusting of the One worthy of it.  Stay loyal to the love of the Father.  This will grow your faith and it will shine through you.


Love, 

65-year-old Gina

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A Self-Revelation

You knitted me in my mother's womb.  I praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  Psalm 139:14

Maybe my soul doesn't know it very well.  The world has long tried to convince me that I am lacking.  

What if I took this one verse seriously?

"Start with the grace of resting in your dignity, then let the truth of identity flow out of that."  Christopher Huertz says.  

Dignity is something worthy of honor and respect. I need the grace, the gift to rest in that one truth.  I am God's and I have been from the beginning.  He formed me, with the intention of having ownership over me.  He knitted me - blocked in my qualities such that they define me, cover and protect me.  They provide the definition of who I am and whose I am.

And as his creation, I am awesome and astonishing and wonderfully made.  My personhood is distinctive, distinguished and filled with the wonder of humanity and my uniqueness.  This is that gift he created me to be - a representation of himself in my unique form.  That is my identity:  my value and worth as assigned by God.  My distinctiveness is part of God's creative design.

As such, it is to be honored - held in esteem as to its valued and selective uniqueness.  You, too, are so created!  

These truths need to be held tightly against the lies the culture would generate about us.  We should be aware of the persona (mask) that we would build in order to deal with the world.  Our true identity holds an original righteousness that is expressed through our faithfulness in relationship to God, as our creator.

I need a humble exultation to appreciate God's great commitment to me.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Saved!

 I looked and I could hardly believe my eyes!  Everything was new:  the earth was gone; the sea was gone; even the heavens had passed away.  Yet, I saw Jerusalem, the holy city, descending from above, from God.  It was beautiful!  She was prepared as a bride prepared for her groom.

And a voice said:  See God has come to live with his people:

  • they will be his people
  • God will be with them
  • He will wipe away their tears!
  • Death will be no more!
  • No more reason to mourn; no more reason to cry.
  • Nothing to cause pain!
                        They are all gone!   Revelation 21:1-4

The fulfilled Kingdom's presence will be filled with God and all the old, painful parts of life will be gone!  Think of anything which causes you to cry, to fear, to be in pain.  It will be gone!  It is God's presence which will dismiss these pain-causers!  

Here's what his presence will look like:  it will involve the sense of "home" and a present and active God.  The connotation for home here indicates a dwelling with the aura of being "under one roof" with other kingdom inhabitants, including God.  It reflects a theme of togetherness with a relationship theme:  we will belong to him and carry a moniker - "his people." This reference is a group-identity idea:  like a tribal or national identity.  The Greek uses heritage language that connects historical truth to futuristic promises.

This makes me think of Johnny Cash's song "These are my people."

Then John, the writer of the Revelation, says that God's true self will be present.  His being will be with them in such a way that he is known to them; he will be in proximity to them and will accompany them.  It is a companionship model.  It has permanent connotations, indicating that this relationship with the true God provides a sense of belonging and protection.  God may be on the throne, but he will bring us into the household as full-fledged members, not just late-comers or in-laws, but full-fledged belonging.

Do you feel like you have a home, a tradition, a heritage that can carry you into the future?  God has an every lasting heritage for you.  He has claimed you as his own - His child - and wants to return you home with full assurance.  

Whatever this world has shorted you on, whatever this world has lacked, whatever holes you have felt in your existence are because you belong only one place:  in the household of God.  Seek its presence today.  Glory in its future fulfillment!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Cross?

 If you don't carry your own cross as you follow me, you cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:26

My cross?  Didn't you do that?  

Add this to the previous , which says to "hate" every other relationship, even hate your life and it is hard to imagine why anyone would be interested in being a disciple.  Yet, Luke does not tire of talking about this dying to self repeatedly.

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily and follow me.  If you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  For what good will it benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?  Luke 9:23-25

There it is - that cross again. This theme is repeated in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

The word literally is a reference to that terrible instrument of death used on Jesus.  Did he mean that we all had to die to prove our Christian mettle?  

A deeper look at this word might come from cross' (stauros) base meaning.  The root word for stauros is hestame and it means to make a stand,  to be firmly resolute and establish a position of strength, to be unwavering.  It means to be on solid ground, safe and sound, and, resultantly, to not waiver.

Essentially, Jesus says we must be sure.  We must be sure with whom we are standing and for what we are standing.  We can't have one foot in "the world" and the other in the Kingdom.  We cannot serve two masters.  Like the stake which stood firm to uphold a dying man, our "stake" in the world must signify a serious "line in the sand" to reflect who we follow.  

That "line in the sand" might distinguish us from others, might cause us to be removed from others who do not follow the same path.  It causes us to look different and behave differently.  Paul called it "Put off" or "throw off" your old sinful nature and your former way of life and ... instead "Put on" your new nature...Ephesians 4:21-24.  This line in the sand needs to be deliberate and will result in a drastic new way of being.  There should be no doubt as to whom you belong, whom you follow.

Have you taken a stand? Does your marker clearly delineate which side you are on?  That is your cross!