If Google Maps asks if I want to “Re-center”……

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 8.35.16 AM So yesterday I’m driving to the house of a friend,and I’ve never been there before. I plug in the address on Google Maps on my phone and click “start”, but all I’m getting is the audio instructions as I drive. I don’t see where I am, and I don’t see where I’m going. then I notice the little box that says “RECENTER.” Voila! Now I see where I am, where I’m hoping to go, and what’s ahead of and around me.I know where I am, and I know where I need to go.

Fast forward to today on  my elliptical on the back porch. I’m striding on ”Ellie,” as we fondly call it, listening to my inspirational playlist, starting with Michelle Tumes “Lovely,” and moving on to “Be Thou My Vision,” when Voila! I realize that for too long, and too often still, I’m “centered” on the wrong person/place/thing. In astrophysical terms,  I’m”orbiting” the wrong”sun.” Ineed to remind myself dailyto RECENTER and train, focus my vision and spiritual eyes on the “star” I truly need to “orbit,” the”destination” I need to focus my life journey upon: the One and ONLY SON Of GOD, Jesu Christ, Yeshua, “My Messiah and King” as the next song comes up.

Oh, people can shine so brightly in our lives and the “clutter”  all around us can disorient us so easily! How do I know? Because it still happens to me sometimes! My Gracious Lord and God, Father,the only truly Righteous One in my life,thank you for your nudges and reminders that I need to RECENTER my life  map, my day, my journey, my hopes, my trust,  my destination in YOU ALONE!

Short and simple  today,  but I know this is true! O God  my Father, the Lover of my soul,help me RECENTER on WHO YOU ARE, WHO YOU SAY I AM, WHERE YOU WANT TO TAKE ME ON MY ROAD TO YOU! Here’s somehelp for us all, on “Bible Maps” :

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Romans 8:1 ESV 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:6 ESV

And raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Galatians 2:20 ESV 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV 

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

1 John 5:20 ESV 

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

 

Hebrews 13:5  Keep  your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
2 Peter 3:9 ESV The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
1 Peter 4:8 ESV Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 2:9 ESV But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
This is WHO God is, WHO Jesus is, who I am, and where THE GREAT I AM wants me to point my life. How about you?
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Empty Bucket, Clueless, and Standing on Tip-toe

http://www.thecourage.com/video/college-a-cappella-groups-incredible-rendition-of-popular-worship-song/

Just when I think I might have a clue what God’s plans are for me, I realize that, yep, I’m pretty much clueless. The last eight years of my life have not at all been what I expected, naive growing-up-in-a-God-honoring-family-and-thinking-the-rest-of-the-world-lived-the-same-way girl that I was. I now know that most of the world does NOT know Jesus as God’s Son, God’s sacrificial Lamb, the Messiah, the King, the Savior, the One Way, Truth and Life, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, and because they don’t, they live their lives under their own power and desires and selected influences and moral code, which often differ vastly from God Almighty’s. This is not me pronouncing judgement, but a recognition of fact. How can they know…

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. Romans 10:13-17 NLT

This is where the empty bucket comes into play in my life: I am realizing that the most valuable thing I can do is empty myself of myself, get over myself, and let Jesus pour into and out of me.  That shoud be my primary “job description.” Just this morning, after I listened to the beautiful song above, the link texted to me by a friend, I got a phone call asking me to come to a MADD meeting. My first reaction internally was, “Oh, no, I don’t want to dig up this pain and grief again,” but as I spoke with the caller, a tenuous certainty (I know that sounds illogical, because something is either certain or it’s not, but maybe some of you “get” this oxymoron) began growing in me that God has a purpose for me attending, a purpose beyond ME, beyond what I might personally get OUT of it, perhaps a purpose about what GOD would give and pour INTO others through it.

Sigh, my humanity would prefer to go the route of “What’s in it for ME?” and I’m making an educated guess that many of you struggle with the same pull of self-protection and self-gratification. I fully acknowledge that I, along  with millions of others, would like to have an easy, pleasant, comfortable,  well-provided for, problem-free life. Now, however,  I realize that’s mostly fiction. We are all born onto a battlefield between good and evil, and at some point we must choose which side we’re on. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is NO “middle, neutral ground.”  If you choose the side of good, be assured that evil will find you and try to render you ineffective for good. BUT the good news is that God will work even harder IN you, FOR you, FOR victories and powerful purposes.

I was reading the book “Everybody Wants To Win, But Nobody Wants To Wait” by Marcus Gill – until someone lifted it out of my purse at the grocery store two days ago, see, evil is not taking a nap –  and in the second chapter, he writes the truth that if you are or will be effective for and powerfully used by God, you can expect Satan will try to take you out or render you ineffective. His strategy is lies, external influences to tell you you’re not good enough for God to love you or internal voices whispering how badly you’ve blown it (even if you haven’t). And yes, he is MEAN and SNEAKY and HE DOESN’T GO AWAY QUIETLY! So……

I have to constantly fight back by reminding myself of the good words God has spoken into me  through the Bible and through other people at some critical times:

“You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow, you will be a crown of  splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate, but you will be called Hephzibah (my delight is in her) and your land Beulah (chosen, married),  for theLORD will take delight in you and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your build marry you, as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will you God rejoice over you.”  Isaiah 62:2-5 NIV

And God’s words to me in my spirit seven years ago at 5:30 a.m.: “You’re worth fighting for.”

And words from a total stranger four years ago: “You are my chosen child. Do not fear what man tries to do to you.”

Words on license plates, chrome words on a car, words in my dreams.  Yes, they strengthen me, and I fight the lies with them, but for what purpose? Just so I feel good about myself? I think it’s more than that. And whatever is going on in your life, I think there is a greater  purpose for YOU, if you belong to God through Jesus, that you can’t yet see, not even when you, like me, try to spiritually “stand on tip-toe” to get a look at God’s plan from His vantage point. I DO fully endorse confidently asking God to show you His purposes. I’ve done that before, and He has almost instantly. I’ve also done that and not seen an immediate answer. I have to believe, though, that God doesn’t change, nor does His love for me,  just because my earthly circumstances  and the nastiness of what Satan throws at me do.

“The Immutability of God is an attribute where “God is unchanging in his character, will, and covenant promises.”. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, ’God is a spirit, whose being, wisdom power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.” Those things do not change.”

“For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. Malachi 3:6

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19

The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation. Psalm 33:11

The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.  Psalm 138: 8

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. james 1:17

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

Therefore, I believe God has a redeeming plan and purpose for all the garbage I’ve gone through and am still going through, BUt I believe I can choose to be part of that plan and purpose, or choose to follow my own desires, inclinations, plans and hopes and tell God to take a hike because I don’t want the enemy flak that will come when I open my mouth to tell someone Jesus loves them. Christianity is not “religion” and it’s not a “bench warmer”faith; it’s a vital, living relationship with the Author of the Universe and the Lover of your soul who created you for relationship AND for purpose. Your life matters!

Does that make it worth the discomfort, the rejection, the abuse you may receive because you stand for Christ? I have to look at the Disciples, every one but John dying a brutal death at the hands of those who wanted to silence the liberating, validating, stauts-quo–threatening Truth of Jesus. Ultimately it does! So I think, pain and grief relived or not, I will go to that meeting to see what God wants to and WILL do, promised, through empty me. It’s HIS story, HIS victory, HIS purposes, His glory, and He WILL “have my back”!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. isaiah 41: 10 NIV

You [O God] are resplendent with light… You alone are to be feared. Psalm 76: 4, 7 NIV

The weapons we use in our fight… have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5

“For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us.…” 2 Corinthians  4: 5-7

I remember Beth Moore’s words in one of her studies: God is who He says He is, he can do what He says He can do, I am (you are) who God says I am (you are), I (you)can do what God says I (you) can do, God’s Word is alive and active in me (you) – I’m believing God!

As Patsy Claremont states in the title of her book, “God uses cracked pots!” I admittedly am one, broken not by my own choice but by the cosmic battle we’re all part of, like it or not, and my fervent hope and prayer is that the light of God’s love and glory WILL shine out of all the broken places in me/you to guide others to the incomparable depth of the riches possible from knowing Jesus as my/their/your Savior, Lord, Shepherd, Friend, and King! I pray for you, too, as I ask God for myself, that you and I will “ Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He willnot leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[a] knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”[b Isaiah 40:13]
35 “Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”[c Job 41:11]
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11: 33-36 NIV

On Monday mornings for three hours I’m part of a group of passionately loving people who pray and intercede for the unsaved and sick in worship. It’s the most powerful experience I’ve ever been part of,  so here is A “…BUT…” to pray in song:

 

 

God doesn’t “grade on a curve”…

Reunion 3

Grade school and high school buddies, decades later, still friends ! And yes,Thea, I’m glad ,too, the school photo is blurry!Thanks, “Mo,” for sharing it.

I still shudder when I remember the day in seventh grade when our teacher handed back math test papers, handing the papers for all the row to the first person in the row. As the boy in front of me handed the stack back, my paper now on top, he loudly proclaimed, “Ooooh, Rose got an 85!” The whole class echoed his “Ooooooh!” as though I’d done something dreadful, an unimaginable, unspeakable horror. Never mind that he didn’t announce HIS grade to the class, nor did any of my classmates; all that mattered was that I didn’t have a perfect score.

I cringed, sighed, and knew one “B” wasn’t going to impact my semester grade that much. For those of you who laugh at the nerdy characters on the television sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” let me shed some light for you. Gifted students deal with other people’s expectations of their perfection, or near-perfection, ALL the time, and often base their sense of self-worth, validation and value on meeting the expectations of others. Does that sound like a weight you’d like to live under?

Flash forward to Calculus 102 in college and the soul-shaking day I got back another test paper, this time with a horrifying 69% on the top. My psyche rapidly started crumbling, until the professor put the grading scale on the board, and I realized I’d made an A. I breathed sigh of relief, though I still didn’t feel good that I hadn’t mastered 31% of the material. If the bulk of the class scored a failing percentage, evidently neither the textbook nor our professor had adequately explained the material. That was one day I was VERY grateful for the concept of grading on a curve, determining letter grades based on the highest achieved class score.

I suspect we’d all like to think God Almighty “grades on a curve” when it comes to standing before His judgment throne, and we’d like to think we’re good enough, love-able enough, to earn God’s love and grace on our own merit. That just tells me how insecure in ourselves and in trusting God’s lavish love for us – not based on our performance, but on how HE sees us and who HE says we are TO HIM in Christ!

After all, God does say in Hebrews 9:27  “It is appointed for men once to die, and after this the judgment.” Notice in this sentence the facts that 1) everyone dies – that’s truth; 2) we only get one “shot” at life, “ONCE to die”; 3) death is not the ultimate end, “and after this…” ; and 4) we all will face God’s judgment.

Here’s the other sobering fact: God doesn’t “grade on a curve.” God is Holy as well as loving, and we can’t ignore or deny God’s holiness.

“I am the LORD, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King.” Isaiah 43: 15

Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders? Exodus 15: 11

Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders? Psalm 77: 13

For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. Luke 1:49

Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor. Habakkuk 1: 13a

“You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel; I am the LORD who sanctifies you,…” Leviticus 22: 32

But the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness. Isaiah 5:16

But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 1 Peter 1: 15-16

Uh, you ask, isn’t God expecting too much from human beings in asking us to be holy? And what IS the standard for holiness, anyway? I certainly don’t do the evil things some people do. As a friend said to me one day regarding an issue in his life, “If that’s the worst of my sins, it’s not so bad.” In other words, isn’t it good that I’m better than a mass-murderer? Won’t God cut us some slack like my Calculus professor and grade on a curve?.

Jesus raised the grading scale on what God considers right living: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Matthew 5: 26-29 NIV

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” James 23: 10

The eternal grading scale is actually pass-fail, but it takes 100% to pass

“From the holiness in God’s character we can understand His righteousness and justice. The man who does evil sets his will against God’s will and against the principle upon which He conducts the universe. Such a man has placed himself where he must either turn back and forsake his sin or take the inevitable consequences of resisting the purpose which God is fulfilling.” Henry T. Sell

Jesus said: For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.  And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. John 5: 21-29 NIV

“NOT FAIR!” we shout. Hey, I’ve blown it just like you have, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….” (Romans 3:23) sin meaning to “miss the mark,” and “all” means me, too, so I’m NOT here judging and condemning you. I AM here to share some incredible truth with you: you aren’t made right with God because of anything you do, and no way you blow it can ever end God’s deep love for you.

It wouldn’t be fair, UNLESS God Himself made a way for us to pass, to in effect score 100%. God did exactly that in sending Jesus to draw us to God’s love and grace, to die on the Cross and rise again to eternal life, not for wrongs HE had done but for every wrong you and I have done and ever will do. He gave us, you, me  the grade Jesus earned! You aren’t made right with God because of anything you do, except for one thing – receive his free gift of salvation and righteousness through confessing your inability to be perfectly righteous and receiving God’s gift of Jesus’ 100% ability!

God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us (a complete offering to atone for sin), so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3: 23-26 NIV

In offering himself in Jesus as the One complete 100% payment for sin who could make you perfectly 100% right with himself, the holy God completely satisfied both his holy righteousness and his relentless love for mankind! God values you SO much, sees so much beauty and worth in you that HE HIMSELF made a way for you to be completely righteous. The world had never before or ever since seen such incredibly powerful, passionate, relentless love!

For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57: 15

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. “By His stripes you are healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1: 5-9 NIV

God doesn’t grade on a curve; thankfully God grades on Christ’s Cross! And you get an A!

 

A “…BUT…” to pray: Holy God, I know and confess that I’m a sinner, yes, a sinner, and I’ve blown it, missed your true standards, in many ways large and small, BUT what they were doesn’t matter to you. What matters to you is what I choose to do with your gift of perfect forgiveness, grace and unmerited love to me through Jesus, so I say _________________________________________________________________! And now I want to live out of that gift, live the good, upright, wise and loving choices you enable me to do through your Holy Spirit living inside of me, So Righteous Father God, I ask you to help me daily __________________________ and, as I need to, daily confess my sins and come back to knowing I’m completely forgiven when I do. In Jesus’ name, thank you! Holy Spirit, help me to listen __________________________________________

 

SaveSave

“Leave your table looking like …”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA(No, I am not scolding him; I’m actually praying a blessing on each child)

Reward, success and insight come in the  strangest places.

In the third week one of my least favorite jobs, I listened to the assistant principal decisively tell the room full of fifth graders that if they didn’t clean up their table and sweep the floor after their lunch period,before the sixth graders came in, they’d be sitting in his office. That went over like the proverbial lead balloon, and I thought, “I’d better find another way to inspire these kids  or it’s  going to be a very, very long semester for us all.” I give the Holy Spirit credit for the  thought that came to me. I began going table to table, cheerfully and positively telling the boys, “You’re young men of valor,courage, integrity, commitment, teamwork, strength, and honor. I know you want to leave your table looking like a man of that true strength was sitting here,” and to the girls, I said, “You’re beautiful young women of honor, virtue, strength, courage, compassion and kindness. I know you want to leave your table looking like that kind of  beautiful woman was sitting here.”

Completely puzzled looks met me, but I simply smiled and moved to the next table,and  repeated the process for every grade level that came into the multi-purpose room for lunch. One eighth-grade  girl had the surprised confidence to respond, “Miss Jackson, nobody ever talks to us like that!”

“Well, I’m going to tell you that until you believe it!” I  replied,  and her face lit up. Encouraged, I repeated the process for the rest of the week, for fun throwing in situations to the boys like, “You’re the pit crew, and you want to take care of  this ‘car’ and leave the pit ready for the next crew, looking like dedicated, capable,  smart, honorable men were just here,”and similar  girl-themed situations for the girls. Table after table, boys raised their hands and asked if they could be pit boss, and girls asked if they could be the head attendant at the coronation.

For three weeks,  grade by grade, twenty-minute lunch period by  period, I repeated character affirmations to the girls and boys, young men and women, from fourth grade up to seniors in high school, and in those three weeks, something wonderful happened: children started asking me for the rags, spray bottles, and brooms.  No threats of detention, no raised voice, no wagging  finger, just an affirming call to be someone higher, greater, and to have the power to lead by a servant-hearted example of true strength and grace. The assistant principal was surprised by how clean the room and tables were, I was enormously glad  that my venture worked, the students  felt good about themselves, and even more importantly and delightfully, I began to develop good relationships  with quite a few of the children.

It occurred to me at the same time that I was also telling myself something important about myself, as well as others: this is precisely what Father God wants for us and from us as His  children: to conduct  ourselves in such a way that  we leave our corners of the world looking like women of inner beauty, valor, value, honor, strength, kindness and compassion were “sitting here,”and men of courage,  strength, integrity, commitment, teamwork,  and honor were “sitting here.”

There was not time and no place in the multi-purpose room for, “It’s not my job. Oooh! That’s yucky! I don’t want to. Somebody else can.” May I propose that there is no time and no place in our  families, friendships, relationships, work associations, neighborhoods, churches, cities or world  for those kinds of self-centered, self-serving, weak, uncaring, and flatly irresponsible attitudes either. God may not call us into his “office” or wag his finger in our  faces, but we can be assured of  this certainty the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman believers:

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Romans 14:10-12 NIV

Sadly I see a spirit of taking offense and entitlement rising in our nation, perverting the idea of individual liberty (which ought to include individual accountability and responsibility) into narcissism. This  attitude is nothing new,and sadly, it isn’t limited to immature children. Jesus dealt with this attitude among his disciples.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

“We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 35-45 NIV

We should take  Jesus’ words very seriously, but can we put the same affirmative spin on this command that I put on cleaning up the lunch tables? Can we live out our lives in the strength, beauty, dignity, honor, commitment, kindness, and courage of  humbled service, knowing how it positively impacts others,  how glad it makes our Father God, and how much  true strength, validation, and outright joy we will find within ourselves when we live our lives with an eager, enthusiastic, “May I please have the rag and spray bottle?” attitude? If it was good enough for Jesus,  theKing of KingsandLord of Lords …. then there is true greatness in  every act of giving, listening, sharing, forgiving, mess-cleaning helping, and walking alongside one another.

And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23: 9-12 NIV

I know the children  at that school with a high academic reputation were and are not  simply brains to be filled, but lives to positively, affirmingly, enthusiastically shape for a lifetime of real valor, courage, strength, kindness, beauty, dignity, commitment, compassion,and serving.

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A “…BUT…” to pray: Father God,I  admit I’ve looked down on people who work at jobs like ______________________ and I’ve drawn back from_______________________ because I thought it would be yucky,time-consuming,  no fun, someone else’s job, beneath, or __________________. I seen I have missed opportunities to rise to true strength and dignity, integrity, honor, courage,inner beauty,commitment, and compassion,  BUT you never tell me it’s too late or I’ve missed and messed up too much. Awaken me to opportunities to live  my life in Christlike ways. Holy Spirit, what could I to today,this week? Where and for whom could I “leave this home,job, relationship, community, world looking like a man/woman of  those  values was ‘sitting here’?” ______________________________________________________________ Please  remind me to pick up the “broom”  or ask for the “spray bottle” where and when I can, and help me remember that bending and sweeping and wiping and serving lifts me up to the greatest I could possibly be within me, not justified by works, but reflecting the character and powerful love of Jesus.

Little Boxes on the Hillsides

IMG_1135So began an irreverent song in the 60’s, but as I walked back down the hill toward my house in the foothills today, a thought I’d had  earlier in the week driving home struck me again. What are the conversations going on in the minds of the people in these  custom and semi-custom houses? In reality, all they are is boxes.

Unvoiced perhaps, but perhaps subconsciously thought, going up from these boxes: “ My box is bigger than your box… My box sits higher up the hill than your box…. I’m glad my box isn’t down there below the river …My box is full of more stuff, fancier stuff than your box… My box makes me important… My box tells the world who I am and why I’m important…” and perhaps some voices  down below the  river: “I wish I had a bigger box up on the hillside … I deserve a better box than this … .” Surely, and true, many people may be grateful for the boxes they have, that they have a box lid over their  heads, that  they have a place to sit and eat and sleep.

Yet up here on the hillside (and even down below the  river)  nobody asks who the real lien holder on the land is, who holds your hill in his hands, who created the minerals in that mine far in the background, who can call in the loan at any time.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Psalm 33:6
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

Psalm 24:1
A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

Psalm 50:10-11
For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.
I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.

Job 41:11 Who has first given to Me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heavens is Mine.

Nehemiah 9:6
“You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You.

Haggai 2:8 —

” ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

John 1:3

Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 — “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God in your body.“

Colossians 1: 15-17 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.…

Walking down this hill that my mind and hand could never make, that no land developer or geologist or  architect or construction engineer could ever create from pre-existing molecules,let  alone from nothing. I bow in holy awe of the One who spoke, “Let there be earth,” shaped these hills, spun the earth to create day and night, gave me cells and DNA and breath and life, because without His Spirit and breath, I’m the same as the sand beneath my shoes.

“Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades! Never-ending, Your glory goes beyond all things! And the cry of my heart is to give you praise – from the inside out, Lord, my soul cries out to you… consume me from the inside out.” Be all you are in me,and how totally implausible is that for me to ask of God Almighty? I have no right to ask that, EXCEPT that through Jesus I am adopted into God’s family,called his own,  filled with his Spirit, loved, no matter  what  size or shape box i live in, how it is filled, how empty it may be, or who shares it with me.

And when I stand before Jesus, I wonder, will he ask me how big my box was, how much I had in it, how high on the  hill it sat? Or will he ask me  what I did with the time and the life and resources I had, all that He  gave me, while I was here? Will He ask,”Who did you love? How did you love? To whom did you reach out? To whom did you give a ride to their job? To whom did you give a loaf of bread? Whose child did you clothe? Who did you comfort in their grief? Who did you share me and my love with?”

“‘When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’”

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:38-40 NIV

Jesus speaks a sobering word as I sit in my box and  look out at  the boxes around me down the hill:

Matthew 25:15-29English Standard Version (ESV)

To one he gave five talents,to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,  so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’  But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.  So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

I hope, I pray, I have answers for those questions that  will gladden the heart of God.

Lord God, I am eternally grateful for a roof over my head, a place  to sleep, food to eat,clothing to wear, family and friends  to love, and, improbably, for my very life, a  gift from you. Help me to manage all that you give me with love and faithfulness,  out of love for who you are and all you’ve already given: the priceless blood of your son Jesus as a  ransom for my life and soul, my righteousness, my life  forever with you in your house.

Coming home into my box, I fall on my face on the floor in reverent awe of the Holy One who created, differentiated, gave life to, and sustains it all and us all.

 

A”…BUT…” to pray: God Almighty, I may not have much in the sense of possessions, or I may have more than enough, BUT no matter what I have or lack, I have YOU as my Creator, Sustainer, Provider, Provision, Father,  Savior, Loving Lord,and that give me  value no one can take  from me. You say I am yours, and that alone makes me ___________________________________________________________________ and I thank you for your Spirit within me! Holy Spirit, I’m listening, and who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Fire burns in the ashes

Rose Jackson © 8/3/2009

Fire in the AshesSome journeys take you to unexpected discoveries in familiar places. Walking through the most difficult time of my life through the smoking ruins of a destroyed relationship, I find Jesus waiting to meet me. . Recently my friend Sharon’s daughter, Charity, told me she wanted to take me on a journey through “the Father’s house,” a spiritual journey into Jesus that had given her a breakthrough in a challenging time in her own life. The idea was to “walk” through God’s house to find Jesus. Hungry to experience God’s presence more deeply, I sat with her in Sharon’s bedroom and lifted my sanctified imagination to the Holy Spirit’s voice.

“Please, God, I don’t want to conjure this out of my own imagination,” I silently cried out.

Long ago I had sat beside a boyfriend in a “spiritual” Sunday evening church service, the hair standing up on my arms, my spirit filled with the suspicion that the “spirit guide” the pastor was listening to absolutely was NOT Jesus. I wanted nothing to do with that kind of experience ever again! But I know Sharon’s and Charity’s heart and faith, and my own as well, so this day I could sit in confidence believing that Jesus guarded my thoughts and nothing of the Enemy could enter. I set off in my mind’s eye up a long driveway. We talked about what we were “seeing,” and my friend Sharon described a beautiful mansion in vivid detail. I was having some trouble, my analytical brain questioning whether what I was sensing was me or the Lord, but I pressed on in faith, believing God truly did want to speak something to my heart.

Crossing imagined polished hardwood floors, walking into large rooms whose vague details disappeared as I tried to focus on them, I just wasn’t getting anything. Sharon’s words were awash in love and amazement as she narrated her journey.

Hmmm . . . . No such experience for me. Why was I getting nowhere? After much mental wandering through an empty mansion, I decided to follow the tug on my heart to go “out back,” and as I pushed open a worn, green wooden screen door, I smelled my Grandmother’s apple tree. As my friend saw glorious flowers and a beautiful river filled with gems, I sat on the old wooden swing hanging from the tree and felt someone pushing me. Oh, could I dare to believe this was Jesus? So natural, so common, so familiar, so ordinary . . . so wonderful! What I was experiencing wasn’t at all like the things Charity had seen in her own walk, wasn’t like the things her friend who’d first shared the journey with her had seen on her own walk, wasn’t like the splendor Sharon was seeing now. Simply so simple. So free. So familiar in family love.

Now Jesus and I sat in the grass on the edge of my Grandmother’s garden, and I smelled dill and rich, warm earth. “What does Jesus want to give you?” Charity asked.

“That’s a good question!” I thought. Nothing was coming into my vision as my hands dug beside Jesus’ hands in Grandma’s deep brown, moist soil. Ha! My hand playfully put a smudge of black dirt on Jesus’ left cheek, and I sensed -or maybe dared to believe – it pleased him. This wasn’t the grand spiritual adventure, the overwhelming breaking in of the Holy Spirit that I had hoped to receive. This wasn’t Acts 2 in the upper room. This was sitting on the grass with my hands in dirt, my hands beside another set of hands, feeling completely at peace and joyfully loved. This was awfully ordinary for a powerful spiritual encounter.

“Jesus wants to give you something. What is it? Ask him,” Charity gently encouraged.

Vaguely I sensed something like a gold brooch in an extended hand, sensed rather than saw, and I got the impression the gold setting held an opal. He was holding it against my chest. “Ask him what it means,” Charity offered.

“Uumm . . . . ,” I was determined NOT to attach any meaning that wasn’t absolutely of God onto this experience. The still small voice of God was so quiet, more a trickle of understanding seeping into my mind. I know many precious stones are mentioned in Revelation 21 where John describes the foundations of the walls of the New Jerusalem, but I wasn’t at all sure opals were among those stones. “Opals – really pure, beautiful opals – are fiery,” I recounted. “Maybe – maybe Jesus is saying, ‘Don’t let the fire go out in your heart.’ Or maybe, ‘I won’t let the fire go out.’”

Tears erupted from my eyes. My heart is under siege – has been for the past six years. This wasn’t the encounter I wanted with the splendor of God, but a sweet communion with the passionately loving heart of Jesus, and if he wanted to run under me on my Grandma’s swing and wear a smudge of dirt from my hand, that was more than fine by me. He was telling me there was no place he’d rather be than here in my heart.

Wow! Sharon and Charity may have been a bit puzzled and underwhelmed, but I was overcome. I remembered I have a small opal pin at home. I checked both my jewelry box and my concordance as soon as I got home. Yep, there was the pin with four small opals, though the tiny white stones in it aren’t very fiery, and nope, opals aren’t mentioned in the Bible. Did that mean my experience had come solely out of my own imagination? I left a message asking about the significance of opals with a friend who’d spoken a year or so ago about gems in scripture to ask her about opals. When she returned my call, Amy said nope, it was a mystery to her, too. The Bible doesn’t mention opals. Amy explained some information she’d found on opals, and my heart soared as God’s assurance settled deeply in. This information wasn’t in any of the geology books we had at home: Opals are semiprecious stones treasured for their fire and light. Very fragile, opals deteriorate in heat and cold. They contain water, but lose water easily in dry air and become brittle, so opals need to be worn next to flesh so the oils from the body can seal in their moisture. To clean an opal, you must wash it in pure water. Left to dry, an opal will crack and lose its brilliance and beauty.

There it was, God’s word to me: my heart is like an opal, and just as fragile. He washed and cleansed my heart in pure water, the Living Water of Jesus, and seals it daily – if I let Him – with the oil of the Holy spirit. My heart is meant to be – God WANTS me to be – filled with Jesus, my heart pressed close to his so it doesn’t dry out and lose its fire, brilliance, and beauty. There is absolutely nothing common or ordinary in that truth!

In this dry, hope-sucking valley of the shadow of death that I walked through where the Enemy is working to destroy my heart (are you walking that valley too?), God wants above all else for my heart (yours, too!) to be whole, beautiful, and filled with his fire, pressed against his chest in a place of safety, sustaining, and love.

Your experience of the love of Jesus doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s. He loves you too much to let you be less than the unique person He created you to be. Yes, Jesus is the only way to eternal life, the only one whose blood was costly enough to buy you back from the hand of Satan, but the road He has to lead you to himself may be more like the screen door out to green grass than a superhighway to ivory columns and marble floors. Don’t let anyone impose the counterfeit forms of empty tradition on you when what God wants to do with all of the you that you are and in all the you He created you to be is conform YOU to a reflection of the likeness and love of Jesus.

I clasped my opal pin on the chain of a necklace I hadn’t worn in many years, hanging beside a gold-colored, jagged-edged half circle inscribed with these words from Song of Songs 2:16: “I am my Beloved’s.”  Hanging on the chain, the opal pin looks like a cross . . . .

A ” . . . BUT . . . ” to pray: Oh, Abba Father God, my heart feels crushed, ground into the dust, broken, BUT your word says, “All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” (SOS 4:7) and you promise I can count on your love and power as “(I) wait in hope for the LORD; he is (my) help and (my) shield. In him (my) heart rejoices, for (I) trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon (me), O LORD, even as (I) put my hope in you.” (Psalm 33:20-22) Restore the lustre, beauty, fire, and water to my heart even in the driest place with the Living Water of your love, Jesus. Thank you that my heart is precious to you and you hold my heart close to yours! You created me with all of this in me ________________________________________________, the good and the flawed, the simple and the complex, the humble and the royal reflection of you in my talents to ________________________________________________________ and my desires to ________________________________________________________, my limitations of ________________________________________ that are the possibilities for you to ___________________________________________ out of your strengthened power to bless _______________________’s life and to bless the world by you doing ___________________________________________ in me and out of me anyway! Open the screen door for me,Jesus, to hear you say ____________________________________________________________________________ to me today. ” . . . BUT . . . ” Abba, Father, Beloved, my heart is weighed down with ________________________ BUT I know you desire to restore my heart, so I give you ______________________________________________ and I receive your _________________________________________________. Take me to that place where your heart resides in me. Amen!

Conformity? Really? Really!Sitting on the front steps of Grandma’s  house. My mother Helen, her sister Bonnie who died tragically in her early 20’s,  and my Grandma Ruth, whose garden was the place of this  wonderful encounter with Jesus

WHOSE Blood Bought Me?

I’m reposting this from four years ago, on another Palm Sunday, because I need the reminder and you may, too, so that we don’t take Jesus’ sacrifice and this Holy Week for granted or make it less than the monumental move of God’s incomprehensibly great mercy, grace and untiring love that it was and will always be. That Almighty God not only puts up with us, but gave Himself bring us back into living relationship with him through the costliest offering ever made makes me fall on my face again, just as I did in  the teachers’ workroom where I came upon Vy Canis Majoris and it threw me to the floor,  and then in my living room where this thought exploded in me four years ago and put me on my face in totally sold out wonder and gratitude.  I admit fear of man threw me off track a month after this, but I come again to look to the ONE who’s kept me in the last four years despite my stumbling. THAT is the unmerited merciful GRACE OF GOD!

How I treasure those brief flashes of deep, gut insight that hit me much less frequently than I long forDo you know what I mean: times when you feel for a Nano-second that you’ve touched a deep truth about God, and you wish with everything in you that it would engulf you so you could immerse yourself in its power? Frustratingly, those moments never linger long enough.

The latest one that grazed my consciousness on Palm Sunday, March 24th, entered the orbit of my subconscious during the week before as I searched YouTube for some exciting video and information about relative sizes of objects in space for the third grade class I assist in. Some facts about VY Canis Majoris absolutely astounded me: a red hypergiant, it’s one of the largest stars we know of, with a diameter of 1,227,000,000 miles (that’s billion, if you don’t want to count the place value yourself), or 1,975,000,000 kilometers.

To give you a better sense of that immensity, if VY Canis Majoris was at the center of our solar system, its surface would extend at least beyond the orbit of Jupiter, and perhaps as far as the orbit of Saturn. What grabbed my attention in the video was the comment that if you could fly in a jet at 900 miles per hour, it would take you over 1,000 years to fly around the star! It’s so distant that the light of VY Canis Majoris takes 3,9000 years to reach us.

I sat in bed at 5 a.m. that Sunday and tried to cold-start praise to the King of Kings as Holy Week began.  A realization rose slightly above the horizon of my consciousness: WHOSE blood bought me? WHOSE blood?  Yes, Jesus’ blood – that rolls of my tongue almost tritely sometimes – but WHAT blood is his?

“And God said, ’Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night,’ . . . And it was so. God made two great lights . . . .  He also made the stars. . . . “  Genesis 1:14-16

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? . . . On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”  Job 38:4, 7

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” Psalm 147:4

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . .. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” John1: 1, 3

“I, Jesus, . . . am the Root, and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16

The “gestalt” of VY Canis Major fused with these Bible verses and blazed into a whole much bigger than the sum of its parts. The Blood that bled for every speck of sin in my life coursed through the veins of THE ONE whose voice spoke the inferno of VY Canis Majoris into existence. THAT blood! The most precious fluid and outrageous gift in the universe because it was the Blood of the ONE who imagined, then spoke blood itself into being and who bound the vastness of himself within the confines of a completely human body to spill HIS blood instead of requiring mine.

And HE, PURE LOVE, PURE RIGHTEOUSNESS, PURE HOLINESS, PURE LORD OF ALL CREATION,  willingly gave it for me.

Oh, I wanted to grasp the enormity of that love in every cell of my body and neuron of my understanding!  Like a meteorite, infinite love tore through the atmosphere of my finite comprehension. Why in the world do I think I’m not loved? Why do we think we have to, or ever could, earn that love? And engulfed by that love, why in the universe am I ever afraid?

“His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns . . . and his name is the Word of God…. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS!” Revelation 19:12,13,16

Even now I feel like I’m writing an ionic plasma breath of truth with hands and understanding of concrete, but O God, let me burn with that reality one day! Brand my heart with it now: I AM YOURS! YOU SOUGHT ME AND BOUGHT ME! 

I WORSHIP, ADORE, PRAISE AND LOVE YOU!

A “…BUT…” to pray: Oh FAther God, Everlasting  Love, Jesus my LORD, I’ve believed you died for me to pay for my sins, but today I’masking YOU to help me feel the enormity of this truth in my heart, in my spirit, in the core of my being. I need you, ABBA Father, to invade my intellectual understanding with the visceral fact that I NEEDED to be saved or I’d be bound for Hell,  because in and of myself I have no righteousness AT ALL to stand before HOLY GOD, the Refiner and Fire who created the infernoes of the stars. And yet YOU LOVE ME! Invade, penetrate,  speak through my spirit into my heart, Holy Spirit. Here are my words of worship inviting you in __________________________________ In Jesus’ name, amen! (And the AlmightyGod your Father smiles and replies, “I’ve been waiting for you to ask me this….. I’m glad you did!) _____________________________________

 

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