Wednesday, March 26, 2014

His Mysterious Ways

In human economy, we pick the best man for the job
(or the most photogenic woman).
We stack up his or her gifts and talents against all the other applicants,
and tell the others they didn't measure up and are unwanted.

My husband and I visited with another pastor the other day,
and together wondered at His mysterious ways.
Some of us forget His ways are not our ways,
and His thoughts are not our thoughts.
We think He is altogether like us -- angry at what we are angry about,
and tickled pink over the things we like.
That He looks people over and says,
"That one is really special -- so superior to the others. I pick him."
But that isn't how He chooses.
I can't explain His choices, because they are absurd.

He chooses outcasts, and failures, and weaklings.
The ones who don't deserve to be considered.
The barren women, and the washed-up men.
We choose strength to do hard jobs.
He chooses David, a kid with a sling shot.

Why does He choose the things that are not?
Because it gives us no cause to boast.
Should even the most glorious among us be standing tall in His presence?
He is the One who ought to be worshiped, not ourselves.

When He works through our foolishness,
and ignores the wisdom of the wise,
it more clearly shows His power.
He does not need the cream of the crop.
He does not require a noble metal to show His artistry.
Mud will do.
His breath, His kiss of Life will raise us up.
Creation and Redemption both transform dirt from death to life.

O Lord: breathe Your image into me.
Let this nothingness reflect Your love and creativity.
In all the places I am empty, fill me.
Form my chaos into Your image.
You are Life, and You are Peace.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hear No Evil

There was a commotion upstairs, and then I heard, "I'M TELLING MOM!"
I sat captive in my chair, nursing the baby as I often am.
I looked up at my husband, "Please... no. Go stop them from telling me."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Did You Forget?

I went to a ladies' retreat this weekend.
I think it has been five years since I last went to one.
Lydia came with me and together
we sat behind a screen set up for nursing mothers,
and I listened as carefully as I could between nursing and changing
and shushing any whimpers that started up.

I am normally a note taker,
and that helps me to process and retain the teaching that I hear.
When my arms are full of babies and their belongings, it's all I can do to listen.

The speaker paused fairly early into her first session
and asked for a verse from the audience.
Someone said a reference I recognized
from close enough to me that I could hear it plainly.

The speaker asked her to say the verse.
The familiar words came in like an old friend.
I know these words.
The ones He spoke to me through three different people in the same week
nearly two dozen years ago.

The speaker's voice smiled,
and later on in the teaching, she had more things to say about that same verse.
When I had a moment, I wrote the words down again to remind myself;
once on the provided note paper,
and once on a tiny little card I could put in my pocket.

I left the retreat earlier than the other ladies,
so I could help my husband get the kids to church this morning.
After church, I walked into my husband's office and stood next to his desk,
looking at the papers and books he had there.
I saw a piece of paper and picked it up.
It was a tattered index card, and I recognized my own handwriting:
"Do not fear, for I am with you; 
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. 
I will strengthen you, 
surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
~ Isaiah 41:10

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

To Be Carried Differently

On the plate this morning:

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more 
in knowledge and in all judgment;
That ye may approve things that are excellent; 

that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ;
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, 

which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
~Philippians 1:9-11

I read through it multiple times this morning.
Looked up words to get a better sense
of what exactly Paul was praying for these people he held in such affection.
That phrase 'approve things that are excellent' gave me pause.
The word 'excellent' seemed like a strange choice.
It has to do with carrying something separately.
The difference it references nearly always indicates something superior.

This I pray: that your love would be more than enough, abundant;
recognizing and grasping the value of the important things; 
that you would be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 
being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, 
to the glory and praise of God.

It began to clear.
We do need Him to work in us that we might recognize the valuable.
We don't measure importance like He does.
I think of Him sitting and watching the givers at the temple,
and calling attention to the widow with her mite.
How He stores up tears in a bottle like they are some treasure.
and our prayers there in heaven -- wafting up as incense to Him.
How He keeps a book of remembrance with words of faith recorded in it.
That He notes what we lose for His sake --
the presence of siblings so sorely missed;
and the safety of long-tested friendships;
and the joy of being part of the group
and not measured by someone else's yardstick;
and the freedom to pray what's really weighing you down
with others who will carry it too.

Some things have to be carried differently.
I bought a specialized shirt for my train trip down the east coast last year.
It has a pocket designed to keep the most important things
out of the reach of pickpockets.
I was determined not to get stuck without cash,
the ability to get more cash,
a credit card, identification, and phone numbers.
Everything else could be replaced if it was lost or stolen,
but those were the things worth carrying differently,
because they would see me home.
I didn't just throw them loosely into a backpack
and shove them under the train seat.
They sat there zipped into safety close to my skin.

Lord, please give us overflowing love
that recognizes and grasps the important things,
that when everything else is lost,
we'll have our identity and our fellowship unbroken,
and our heavenly currency right there in a safe place,
with access to more when we need it.