Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Jesus Said to Failure

 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?"
"Where I am going, you cannot follow Me now, but you'll follow Me afterward."
"Lord, why can't I follow You now? I'll die for Your sake."
"Will you? You'll without fail deny Me three times before dawn." (John 13:36-38)

This is where the chapter breaks. I think this is where most of us would break it, too. Peter, you failure. Your failure is why you can't follow the Lord now.

But Jesus was still talking. In light of this devastating news to Peter, Jesus says, "Don't let your heart be troubled."  

WHAT?! How could he not let his heart be troubled? Peter would rather die for His sake and go with Him than be left behind, but Jesus tells him that in fact, he's going to fail Him utterly three times before dawn

"Don't let your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me."

Peter's failure did not trouble Jesus, and He asked Peter to not be troubled by it either. God's love, and His work on Peter's behalf were sufficient to provide for Peter's failure. Trust Me, Peter -- I won't let you go. Your failure can't nullify My work.

"In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

Although you will fail multiple times, Peter, and although you can't follow Me, I have you in mind. I will complete what you will always fail to complete. I'm coming back for you. You'll be with Me, but not by your efforts. I will do it for you. You just believe Me.

Jesus spoke of Peter's coming failure as inevitable. Peter's failure was inevitable because Peter was a failure.

I am a failure. You are a failure. It is inevitable that failures will fail. But Jesus never fails. And His words to His friend, His wannabe follower, His disciple, His beloved failure, on the very eve of his failure are, "Believe in Me."

If God is for us, who can be against us? We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Trying to Assess a Soul

 Sometimes the kids ask me about other people. "Is he a Christian?" is a pretty straightforward question. Some people would look at the person, and immediately say 'yes' or 'no' based on church membership, or good works, or a fish bumper sticker. Sometimes I don't know the answer. Jesus said that if we believe on the One God sent (Himself) we would work the works of God. I do not claim to know the heart of every person I've met. Some Christians are pretty rough around the edges. Some unbelievers are very sweet people. Sometimes I don't know what to say.

"Is Mr. X a Christian?" Elisa asked me.
I smiled. "I'm not really sure. He's a very strange person. On the one hand, he does many kind things and is nice. On the other hand, he uses pretty bad language all the time. I don't know what he believes."
Elisa looked puzzled. "He doesn't speak good English?"
I guess I just added one more superficial thing to judge a man by. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010


 A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a friend teach on Mary and Martha and their friendship with Jesus. He talked about good friends, and the way they walk into your totaled house, and instead of judging the mess, lend a hand because they know you and realize your week was rough. He talked about Martha's frantic service, and Mary's fellowship. I've kind of had it in the back of my mind since then.

Two of my sisters have been in town for the holiday. I didn't clean my house to welcome my little sister and her husband and three kids the other night. (And believe me, the house could have used the attention.) But it's my sister. She loves me. She keeps an amazing house herself, but I don't care if she sees my dirty dishes -- because she's my sister. She's not here to see how my house looks. And, aware of the remodeling that has been going on forever, when she walked into my kitchen (which was not yet cleaned up from dinner), and which showed off my cluttering skills, she said, "It's beautiful!" That would not be the comment out of the mouth of an acquaintance. An acquaintance would see the mess. But my sister saw the improvement.

I share DNA with my family. It isn't the only way to gain membership to a family, but it's how I got in. We are members because we are part of one another. My husband married in. We also have a sister we accepted in. She doesn't share DNA with us. She has no legal standing with us. But she's ours. We take her part, and she takes ours.

Sometimes it seems like rather than being a family, as Jesus asked us to, we change family into something else. Club members have an artificial likeness to one another. There are entrance fees and dues to be paid in order to reap the benefits of membership. Club membership requires conformity. And no fellow member of the club is going to be accepted without anxiety into my trashed house -- because my membership in the club could be affected by my mess. I am only accepted on the basis of my performance.

On the other hand, the biggest losers in the family have full membership. The laziest ones. The stupidest ones. The immature ones. The uncool ones. The ones who went away and crept back, battered. The ones who agree with all my opinions and the ones who oppose them have equal part in my family. There is no attitude of "all those who hold my opinions are on a higher plane than the rest."

I have been chased by my sister with a butcher knife, and she's still in. I've been wrongly accused of things; I've tried to poison my sister with harmless but disgusting substances; I've given out at least four black eyes to the same brother; yelled at members and been yelled at by them -- and none of us have been excommunicated from the family.

Every one of us would have been put out of a club.

Bad news for one of us hurts all of us. And causes for rejoicing are equally joyous. And I think that as each member has grown older and matured, the other members have become more precious and more valued. Our relationship has become more layered. We are friends as well as family. And we have learned to communicate our disagreements without resorting to gouging each others' eyes out.

I'm glad Jesus offers me membership in a family, and not a club. I am accepted in the Beloved.

"Accept one another, then, for the glory of God, as Christ has accepted you." (Romans 15:7)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Whole Offerings

I stayed with my kids at my mom's house while my husband and my dad did an out-of-town job. It also happened to be the day we both received our last phone call from my baby sister (who is pregnant) before she left the country with her husband to be a missionary in a far-off land.  It was kind of an emotional day.

My mom had one last text, called and left one more voice message to say, "I love you," and sat down at the piano to cry and sing.

Hear my cry, O God
Attend unto my prayer
From the ends of the earth
Do I cry unto Thee
And when my heart is overwhelmed
Lead me to the Rock
That is higher than I
That is higher than I

I cried and worked in the kitchen. We've done this before. I am the oldest in a large family. The sister right behind me, a number of years ago, left pregnant with her husband for a far off land. We all waited at the airport with them, tears streaming down our faces. An observer of our tears chided us for them. Not feeling the loss himself, he could not comprehend our grief. We have seen my younger brother off to war. And another younger brother leave for another coast, not knowing when we would be together again. Of course, 'dangerous' places are harder to bear. But every loss hurts.

My children were concerned and confused at the tears, and came around asking questions. I listened while my mom explained her singing and her crying to the kids. She led them through a number of David's prayers to the Lord for help to show them what she does when she is overwhelmed.

But I was thinking of another of the things David said:

"I will not offer to the Lord whole offerings that have cost me nothing."

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Check From a Check

My husband and I are perpetual offenders. When it comes to returning library books, we are always late. And when it comes to time spent at the library, we have a number of times outparked our spot. Our city has this sweet habit of giving out courtesy tickets, which basically say you deserve a real ticket, but since it hasn't been more than once in thirty days (I think it's thirty), you're getting away with it this time. We had a real one several weeks back. We didn't even discover it was on our car until the next day, after a rain.

From a financial background of unemployment and underemployment, a $15 fee for parking in a space that is reserved for the public to park in makes me angry. Okay, I get pretty angry about most fees that always serve to oppress the poor, and never hurt anyone who has enough. I think they are wrong. I think they are unreasonable. To threaten citizens who have done nothing immoral or reckless with the loss of their car if they don't pay extortionary fees to the city just makes my blood boil.

And so, after struggling for some time to find a dang parking spot at the police station, and finally parking in a spot reserved for a local attorney's office in direct opposition to the sign that said so, with boiling blood and a sharp tongue unleashed, I stalked into the police station after first trying the wrong door and finding it locked. I saw the window I had to approach to pay my fee. I pulled out my check book and prepared to say some scathing thing to the clerk who waited for me to write. And my eyes fell on the message that I had printed above the signature line: Jesus rescued me. And God sent Him for you, too. I bit my tongue, and wrote in silence. And then I said, "Thank you."

Thank You.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

And We Know

"Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.
For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought,
but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us
with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Now He who searches the hearts
knows what the mind of the Spirit is,
because He makes intercession for the saints
according to the will of God. 
And we know that all things work together for good
to those who love God,
to those who are called according to His purpose...
What then shall we say to these things?
If God is for us, who can be against us?"
(Romans 8:26-28, 31)

Likewise. Earlier in the chapter, we are told the Spirit is life. It says the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.

And it says He helps our weaknesses. I am so riddled with weaknesses. And especially, I think, when it comes to prayer. I just don't know what to pray for. I bring my children to the Lord in prayer, and I feel like I stumble over my words, and don't know what to ask.

I pray for my brothers and sisters, and sometimes it just comes out as a groan. "Lord... help." But He does. He is the One who searches the hearts -- and knows what the mind of the Spirit is. And He prays for us according to the will of God.

And not only that, but apparently He answers His prayers, too, and works all things together for the good of those who love Him.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Even While

"Mom? You know how Jesus is everywhere at the same time?" my son asked me.
"Well, if He's inside of time and He's outside of time, that means He is talking to Moses even while He's talking to us."

Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am." The past tense does not really apply to Him, and everything He was, He is. And just short of my ninth birthday, I had no such thought.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


 This life is full of so much grief. There's nothing we can do to remove it from others. But we can cry with them. Let their griefs hurt us, too. Suffer with them.

My friend is crying today. More than one of them, actually. Anniversaries of loss, present losses heaped with them... so much to cry through. I look forward to heaven. To seeing my friends with joy filling their faces, to the touch of His hand as He wipes our faces dry, and to the end of loss. The end of death. The New Testament tells us to weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.

When my uncle died in July, I went to my parents' house and sat and cried all day with them. It doesn't remove any of the loss, but there is something in knowing we aren't alone in our misery. So many of my friends are on my heart today, and I'm crying, too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

They're Watching

I overheard my seven-year-old daughter's telephone conversation with her cousin. As a parent, it's always amusing to hear their interpretation of life and things. Well, maybe it sometimes makes you hold your breath as they take out of their brains the twisted, mutilated version of a conversation about something else entirely and apply it to something you never did. But this one was a blessing.

"We pray over our bills together, because we don't have enough money for them. But God has been helping us a lot."

One day, as I was explaining our bills to the kids before we prayed, this same daughter asked me, "Mom, why are you telling us this?"

"Because I don't think that you seeing the wilderness we are in in any way limits God from being able to help us, and I want you to pray with me."

I have been praying the Lord would show my children who He is, that they would know His handiwork. I don't really want them to worry, but I also don't want them to not be in the habit of going to Him in time of need. And I think the only way they will know to do that is if we show them our needs, and take them with us to Him.

Much of my young faith was formed in distressing situations. I think back to what I have seen of the Lord's help, and it gives me courage to ask Him for help again. I want my children to have that database. And every time He sends help, I think of ravens, and water from the rock, and it reminds me that His arm is not short that He cannot save, His ears are open to the cry of the righteous, and my Father knows that I need all these things.

Let us therefore draw near with boldness 
unto the throne of grace, 
that we may receive mercy, 
and may find grace to help us in time of need.
~Hebrews 4:16

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More Blessed

Pouring over the Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog

It warms my heart when I see my children conspiring to help someone else. 

Discussions in our house have included being thankful for such things as we have, and contentment with godliness being great gain. And we've been talking about not having the kind of Christmas they are used to. The kind of Christmas they are used to is a fairly simple one. We buy very little in the way of gifts in a good year. This has not been a 'good' year. But frankly, I think it is a good thing for Christian children to be trained in thankfulness. My kids don't get avalanches of electronic gadgets, piles of clothing, and all the latest toys. And they say, 'thank you' when they open socks and underwear. Contentment and gratitude are so beautiful to look at in people.

In spite of receiving news that their own gifts will be minimal, my children gleefully brought out their piggy banks today to add their money to a small amount we had set aside to participate in Operation Christmas Child. We shopped for hours today, looking for killer deals so the money would stretch as far as it could, praying that the Lord would help us to pick things that would bless the child who gets it. Every year, the Lord lays some different things on our hearts to include, and we wonder about the child who will open the box. We have read stories in the newsletters about volunteers praying as they reached for a box to give a blind boy in the crowd... half expecting to pick the wrong one. The box is opened, and has a Walkman in it (I-Pod, for you newer generation people). A perfect match. We pray that for the box we pack. We talk to the kids about how we don't know this little girl, what she loves or who she is, but her Father in heaven knows every hair on her head, and He is able to bring this gift right to her.

Tonight before my daughter went to bed, she skipped over to me and hugged me, smiling happily. She looked over at the box we packed, and said, "I'm so glad we were able to get that much stuff!" It really is more blessed to give than to receive.

My husband and I have participated in OCC for many years, and when some of our children were younger, the shopping was not always easy. "Can I have...? I would like that!" Over the years, I have watched them change their tone. I think today I heard only one faint: "Mom, could I -- oh, wait! We're picking things for a girl who doesn't get anything." My kids don't complain that we buy more gifts for a total stranger than we buy for them every year. In fact, they give, too. And I am so proud of them.