Wednesday, July 30, 2008

All Things Are Possible

A couple of mornings ago, I awoke with a mixture of verses running through my head. I knew they didn't actually go together, and I was probably combining the phrases, so I took a second to check my concordance and read the verses accurately within their contexts. One of the passages, I'm still mulling over - Mark 9:14-29.

Just after Jesus, Peter, James and John have had a (literal) mountain-top experience with the transfiguration, they descend to join the other disciples in the midst of an argument with scribes surrounded by a large crowd.

"Welcome back!"

It's like coming home from a vacation only to find the air conditioner is broken, the toilet's stopped up and the washing machine has flooded the utility room. What a downer!

But this intriguing passage takes an unexpected turn as it reveals the power of Jesus to remove an evil spirit from a man's son. This spirit had caused him countless injuries by forcing him to slam to the ground and jump into fire and water. Prior to Jesus' arrival on the scene, the man had requested his disciples cast it out, but they were unable. Jesus explains that their failure has something to do with a lack of belief (vs. 19).

I find it interesting that Jesus, in his omniscience, asks the man to explain how long his son had experienced this horror. Could it be he wanted to allow the man to think about (one last time!) this long and seemingly unchangeable journey he'd walked? This was not some brief ailment that could be corrected with two aspirin and a good night's sleep, this was a traumatic and terminal malady. And by verbalizing it aloud, the testimony of what was about to happen could be shared for generations to come.

The part that most resonates with my heart is the father's request. He has already come to Jesus for help, so he knows that healing for his son is at least possible. But, like me, knowing from the depths of his being that Jesus is fully competent and trustworthy, he states in v. 22: "If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"

Jesus responds, "If I can? All things are possible to him who believes." The man begs, "I do believe; help my unbelief."

My life circumstances right now include some things that I just don't see how God is going to resolve. We've been living this journey of life with some of them so long and they seem so unchangeable, I can't imagine workable solutions. I don't even have any suggestions to offer God! (Like he needs them.) In desperation, I've cried out, "If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" And Jesus is saying to me, "If I can? All things are possible to him who believes."

I do believe, Lord Jesus; help my unbelief.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Who's On First?

I felt like I was in an Abbott and Costello routine yesterday afternoon. As we drove toward a friend's house to swim, we passed a field of recently baled hay. Ace, ever observant and informative, said, "Momma, cows!" I corrected him, saying, "No, that's hay."

"What's that?" he asked from the back seat of the car.

"Hay," I responded.

"Hay!" he said.


"Momma, what's that?"

"Hay," I answered.

"Hay!" he said again.

"Momma, what's that?" ...

We continued this conversation for several repeats, when I suddenly realized his "Hay!" was a "Hey!" He thought I was greeting him, not answering his question.

I know how much I hate it when someone won't answer my inquiries, so, to his final "What's that?" I answered him most profoundly:


"Oh," was his appeased reply.

Friday, July 18, 2008

What Will I Remember?

God, in his infinite wisdom, made it impossible for humanity to remember anything before the age of two or so. Case in point: if I had to remember someone sticking an aspirator up my nose to clean out the funk, I'd grow up and live in this world with a huge chip on my shoulder. What an awful experience! And it's got to be bad for the kid with it in his or her nose, too.

One of my earliest and most precious memories is the only recollection I have of my maternal grandfather - Luther Humbles. Grandpa carefully sat me on the kitchen counter and gladly and lovingly fed me a spoon of peanut butter. I don't know exactly how old I was at the time, but I was almost 3 1/2 when he passed away, so it was definitely before he got sick and went to the hospital several weeks before. Oddly enough, to this day, I'd rather have a spoon of peanut butter than just about anything. I don't know if my love for the condiment is tied to that very happy memory, but I'd like to think so.

Sometimes, I wish our memories as adults weren't so good. I think Paul felt the same way. He knows some memories can hurt us more than they help and delight. This is especially true in spiritual matters. While it's important to remember the milestones of God's faithfulness and activity in our lives, why is it we can't shake the disappointments, unmet expectations and unkindnesses? Even worse, why can't we get over ourselves: "our" accomplishments, "our" preferences, "our" successes, "our" importance, "our" inside scoop and "our" social prominence?

After listing his impressive credentials to the Philippian church in 3:5-6, he very crudely states that all those things are "rubbish" (vs. 8). That's the polite, American English interpretation for feces, manure, or yes, crap. I don't know about you, but neither the size of the crap nor its color impresses me. It may get my attention, but it's certainly not good attention.

Paul also says he is "forgetting" what lies behind (vs. 13). I think there's a good reason that he uses the present tense, there. He could have chosen to say, "Brethren, ... I've forgotten all that stuff." But instead, he says he's "forgetting." I truly believe he said it that way because pride was a likely struggle for him. He knew that such credentials could gain him a foothold with political and religious leaders, but that wasn't what his identity was built upon. His righteousness, he knew, came not from his own doing, but through faith in Christ (vs. 9). For Paul, that was a humbling thought that he had to adopt daily. Time and time again, perhaps multiple times a day he had to remember to forget how "impressive" he was and remember to consider the "infinite value of knowing Jesus Christ" (vs. 8).

What am I going to remember today? Will it be my own laurels or Christ's power that raised him from the dead. My own self-assurance or the fellowship of His sufferings (v. 10)?

Please God, don't let Paul's words be about me. With tears in his eyes he said "there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction....they brag about shameful things" (vs. 18-19).

Monday, July 14, 2008

Finding Balance?

I did get to spend those couple of hours with Jesus last Tuesday, and what a blessing they were. My world has seemed so off balance over the last month; I needed the time to connect with the one who calmed the sea! I'm sure to people passing by on the highway, I looked most peculiar with my arms outstretched in worship and my head bowed over the picnic table. But I didn't care in the least. The truth is, in that solitude, in that stillness, in that nobody-else-exists-or-matters-but-Jesus-and-me moment, I found myself again. And my identity, although MIA over the last month, was found still set securely in him, as his daughter, servant and friend.

I think that's because, as much as I wanted to focus on my feelings and my needs, I tried very hard to focus on Who he is. (Not an easy feat.) I spent time in Bible study and prayer, honestly reflecting on a couple of instructions he has given in his word, and whether or not I am being obedient to those commands. Then, I plugged the ear buds into my ears and played two songs over and over that simply talked about him. One was Hillsong's I Adore. Look at the lyrics:
The universe is at Your feet
Gives You praise evermore
The stars will light the sky for You
Always, God be praised
And we sing
The Lord is on high
The Lord is on high

I adore You; I adore You
And there's none that compares
To Your majesty, oh Lord
I adore You; I adore You
And I stand in the wonder of Your love

We will crown You King forever
Living Savior, Jesus Redeemer
Lord of heaven, Robed in majesty
Crowned in glory, creation adores You

Holy, holy God almighty
And forever the Lord is exalted
Hear the angels shout His anthem
Ever living,
God we adore You
Not much room for me in there, huh?

I also prayed this song by Watermark: Captivate Us.
Your face is beautiful
And Your eyes are like the stars
Your gentle hands have healing
There inside the scars
Your loving arms they draw me near
And Your smile it brings me peace
Draw me closer oh my Lord
Draw me closer Lord to Thee

Captivate us, Lord Jesus
Set our eyes on You
Devastate us with Your presence falling down
And rushing river, draw us nearer
Holy fountain consume us with You
Captivate us Lord Jesus, with You

Your voice is powerful
And Your words are radiant bright
In Your breath and shadow
I will come close and abide
You whisper love and life divine
And Your fellowship is free
Draw me closer O my Lord
Draw me closer Lord to Thee

Let everything be lost in the shadows
Of the light of Your face
Let every chain be broken from me
As I’m bound in Your grace
For Your yoke is easy, Your burden is light
You’re full of wisdom, power and might
And every eye will see You
John the Baptist said, "He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less" (John 3:30). While I know he was making reference to Jesus' public prominence versus his own public ministry (and therefore instructing us to act in the same humility), I think this principle still applies in our thought lives, worship and prayer, too. If I'm self-absorbed as I sing songs about what he's done for me and think and pray only about what concerns me or those I care about, you can hardly call that worship and adoration of our Creator. I'm still exalting myself; I'm still putting myself in a "greater" place of prominence. Certainly he tells us to bring our needs before him, but too often my "worship" is unbalanced, whether surreptitiously or unintentionally, I prevent myself from "becom[ing] less."

I wonder if my life would be more balanced if my worship were. It's certainly worth trying.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Real Truth

Growing up, my mom gradually taught me, at appropriate intervals, various aspects of housekeeping: making my own bed, dusting, vacuuming, laundry, cooking, etc. She claimed it was to develop my character and responsibility as well as prepare me for adulthood. I now know the real truth - she was tired and wanted some extra help.

If a two year old could reach the dials and switches on the washing machine, I'd teach him to do laundry, too. Of course, the sorting process might be a little rough, if you're still working on colors.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Meeting With Jesus

I took a bath today. Not a quick, scrub-clean shower, but an honest-to-goodness, immerse-yourself, luxurious, bubble-laden soak.

Let's just say it's been a while since that happened.

Although my troubles didn't wash away with the water, my mind and body sure felt better after that 30 minute sop. I'm hoping the time I'll get to spend with the Lord this afternoon will do that for my spirit and soul.

I'll have some uninterrupted time to be with Jesus at the park today, and I know I need it!

It's amazing the refreshment that a long, hot bath can provide. It's also amazing the refreshment that a long, hot afternoon alone with my Savior can provide. I had the same opportunity last week, but had a bunch of paperwork to catch up on. Today, I'm ready to experience the beauty of his holiness, to hear joy and gladness and have the joy of my salvation restored once again. Like David, I won't bring a sacrifice, for that's not what he takes pleasure in. Rather, I readily come with a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51).

For I know the Lord my God is with me, and he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in me, he will quiet me with his love, he will rejoice over me with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

Quiet me in your flood of delight and quiet peace. Sing to me Jesus; I'm listening.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Not Provision but Presence

The following devotional from Michael Card speaks volumes to me as I'm walking through this new and challenging journey of foster parenting. I've need his presence in fullness and richness like never before. Through the sufferings of illness, exhaustion and frustration, God is undoubtedly with me. Too often, though, I've looked to my own strength and hopefulness for sustenance. All the while, he is crying out, "I'm here. I'm with you. I'm sufficient."

"Who is Jesus for you? How is faithfulness written on his face? Might he impossibly be the very image of the God whose disturbing faithfulness to us looks like incarnation? Could it be that he came not to wave the magic wand and make the cancer go away, but to enter into our sufferings? Could it possibly be true that the best show of faithfulness is not the healing or the unexpected check, but the unthinkable truth that God has chosen to be with us through it all? Could it be that the greatest miracle is not provision, but presence?

"In what situations do you most need to know that God is with you? What are some practical ways you can do to remind yourself of his presence?"

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)