I Am Broken – I’m Not Enough – But…

There’s a lie circulating. It’s out “there” and it’s in “here” and while everyone has heard it, maybe women hear it loudest. (Maybe not, but because I interact with many women, I know it’s reaching us loud and clear). It’s pretty and covered with flowery words meant to encourage, inspire, unite and cause us to emerge from the weight of the burden of performance and perfection driven living. The problem, though, is that in effect this lie actually discourages, demeans, divides us with comparisons and competitiveness and keeps us burdened in performing to the point of exhaustion. I know this because I too have lived out this lie. Until I can’t anymore and in the dark and quiet places I’m plagued by the anxious realization that in my very deepest parts I know it’s not true. No matter how many times I tell myself and others otherwise. In the dark the counterfeit mocks.

The lie is two-fold and is this: “I am not broken”. “I am enough”. While I understand the positive motive behind these untruths, the reality is, when I am alone and contemplating life, or when I turn on the news, or when I cry with one who is struggling to make it through another day, I am pummelled with the awareness of its deception. The realization that telling myself this lie perpetuates the very burden it is designed to release me from causes greater anxiety and feelings that I am “less than”. If everyone else is actually able to believe they are enough, then why can’t I just get my act together and be enough?! What is wrong with me? I guess I just have to work harder.  This is the enemy’s battle strategy in this spiritual war for our souls. The lie prevents us from acknowledging the truth, admitting the reality of our brokenness and thereby disables us from receiving help. We are driven to keep quiet about our inadequacies because, we aren’t supposed to be broken and we’re supposed to be enough. And so we keep performing. God help us if I am enough. I know it’s not true, my husband knows it’s not true, my kids and my friends and colleagues know it’s not true and more importantly, God knows it’s not true. It’s a false hope and we erroneously sustain it.

The truth is this (and I’m not making this up – this is what God says): “I AM broken” and “I am NOT enough”. The Bible tells us that brokenness is a result of sin and it is inherent in every one of us (1 John 1:8, Ephesians 2:1,3; Galatians 5:17; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23). Our very human nature lives in contradiction to God. While we are made in His image with the capacity to choose Him, we are utterly incapable of helping ourselves out of this situation and when we try of our own volition, we just prove how utterly incapable we are. None of this is a surprise to God.

In the last number of months, my eye has caught sight of a number of articles, blogs and books written by professing Christian women stating and implying things that are in direct contradiction to Gospel truth. They offer lovely sounding false gospels that point to self and keep us worshipping idols. When an author states that people are not broken, she is negating the Gospel. If we are in fact unbroken and whole, what do we need saving from? What is the point of being rescued by a Saviour? If we are enough, then why would we need the Holy Spirit to live out the Gospel. If the only one way to deal with being human is to forgive yourself, how do we adequately receive self forgiveness until we’ve been forgiven by God? How can I extend grace unless I’ve first received perfect grace from God Himself? If I’m at the centre of this faith, than how can Christ be?

When I keep the focus on myself and not on Christ, I have actually missed the whole point of the Gospel which tells us that at just the right time, when we were unable, powerless, weak, hopeless,  unprepared, helpless, rebellious, broken and sinful, Christ selflessly died for us (Romans 5:6,8). Living the lie makes us like the Old Testament Baal worshippers dancing around, cutting ourselves and bleeding without any purpose. God doesn’t ask us to perform or cut or bleed. He does not demand the impossible from us. He is fully aware that we are broken and never even close to being enough and so He showed us great mercy by offering us His Son who is more than enough.  Here is the truth – we don’t bleed to save ourselves; Jesus does.

Women, let’s beware of false gospels, false hopes, and empty counterfeits. The Message says it like this: “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.” 2 Timothy 4:3,4 (MSG). The mirage is the placating, soul destroying deception of self focused hope. Our salvation does not rest upon us thank God. It is not accessible because of who we are or who we’re not or what we have or haven’t done. It is wholly because He loved us (1 John 4:10). It is for this reason that we remember the bread and the cup: HIS body broken – HIS blood shed.

I AM BROKEN

I AM NOT ENOUGH

BUT…

PRAISE GOD

JESUS IS!

The Day Before Easter

When hope seems sealed up in a tomb, it’s difficult to believe that God is working in the unseen realm.  In the dark places, battles are being fought on our behalf; victories are achieved, enemies are defeated.  We do not know what we do not know in the liminal spaces. We stumble around, we long for,  we cry, we tantrum, we grieve, we doubt…

“But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.” Psalm 49:15.  While Christ’s body lies in a darkened tomb, and the stench of death hangs thickly in the air, and people mourn – oblivious to the happenings in the spiritual realm, I am being redeemed.  The way is being made for God to take me to himself and as we find out soon, the way for God to dwell in me; through Jesus – THE WAY.  No perfume can disguise the stench of death wafting from my pores, and yet even in this disgusting state, Jesus sacrificially offers up his own aroma – the only perfume to cover my rotting state in the absence of his life giving presence (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Yet, this is exactly what he does!  God demonstrates his love for us while we are putridly stumbling around in our rotting spirits proclaiming our wellness, our enlightenment and our healthy practices. While the tomb is sealed, my life is being purchased, justified, redeemed, reconciled, saved and resurrected. We do not know what we do not know.

Maybe we glimpse, but we do not understand fully and we must rely on Jesus’ words before he died.  We wonder and try to figure out and doubt and wait…

Comfort comes when we trust, hope and exercise faith. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1.  How wonderful that we are on the other side of Easter! We have the benefit of His Spirit to enlighten and instruct even when we are in the dark.  We have the benefit of resurrection power alive in us!  “But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him.  Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about.  But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells – even though you still experience all the limitations of sin – you yourself experience life on God’s terms.  It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life.  With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!” Romans 8:9-11 MSG.

Resurrection People, it’s the day before Easter and Sunday is coming!

 

Dandelion Fluff

Why dandelion fluff?  While folklore tells us that blowing the fluff off the stem of a dandelion sends forth wishes (thoughts & dreams) into the universe to be managed and returned to us or others (a pretty thought – maybe), I rather believe in the God who relates to man through Jesus his Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe in faith and hope in the One who created both dandelions and the universe. He hears and knows my deepest heart cries even when I can’t describe them in words. He actually holds the power to carry out His specific will and plan here on and for the earth and its inhabitants.  Another story for another time.

Many years ago when my eldest child had yet to start school, we were driving along and passed a large green space – at least it had been green the evening before.  On this morning, it was yellow and I hadn’t noticed or cared until my sweet girl commented on the pretty, yellow flowers.  As I opened my mouth to give an explanation as to how these dandelions weren’t actually flowers, but rather weeds and how unfortunate it was that they had gotten so out of control, I felt a check in my spirit.  Holding my tongue, I turned my eyes, I mean REALLY looked, in order to SEE what she was seeing, and there it was – PRETTY!  Flowers in the weeds – it all depends on which eyes you use!

Here, the God of the universe and the God of the dandelions was speaking to me through His creation and through my child to remind me again (you’ll see a theme in these stories because I am dense & forgetful & childish & self-centred & require constant reminding) that my own eyes are blind to beauty and goodness and His eyes are the ones I should trust when looking out on the ‘fields’ of life and circumstance.  Romans 8:28 says: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  He is at work in the weeds, doing beautiful things, trading ashes for beauty. He is the One who opens my eyes to Himself. ” The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness…” Matthew 6:22-23

Since that day, I have LOVED fields of dandelions (as long as they don’t include my yard – let’s not get carried away).  As I paid more attention to them, studying them, I discovered new things I hadn’t known – they close and night and open in the day really showing off how beautiful mercies are new every morning.  I also learned that they are considered to be a “superfood”, full of vitamins, minerals & antioxidants. The whole plant is edible, and while maybe a bit bitter, also a bit spicy.  They have many medicinal benefits including detoxification.  Maybe shifting perspective regarding the weeds in our lives allows us, in a sense, to embrace and partake of their bitter spice,  thereby removing the toxic lies that shape our thoughts and determine our behaviour and move towards a more healthy outlook.

Dandelions are also prolific, and isn’t that just like God’s good gifts – even in the weedy places?  His goodness, mercy and grace are given in abundance! So… I enjoy dandelions in their yellowness as well as in their fluff.  I love to blow the seeds away whilst praising God for beauty & goodness and mercy. He who has eyes, let him see – flowers, not weeds; he who has breath, let him blow praises.  Spread the dandelion fluff.

 

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Coffee Dregs & Rainbows

I was driving alone – sometimes the only quiet time in a day – and I was also enjoying a cup of coffee, or more specifically a latte, on the go and was coming to the end of my cup.  I tilted my head back to get the last bit of sweet foam from the bottom and instead got a mouthful of dregs.  Just as I was about to spew the contents back into the cup, my eyes caught a sight through the sun roof and I ended up swallowing the awful stuff in my surprise.  There, with my head tilted back and my eyes focused heavenward, and a mouth full of dregs, I saw not one but two rainbows in the sky.  I began to cry, for I was immediately overcome by the picture God was giving to me regarding His promises in the midst of my circumstances.  No matter how good or awful the contents of my cup are to swallow at any given time, if I keep my eyes heavenward I will be able to focus on my Father and His promises; to be with me, to provide, to love and care for me in the midst of the dregs.  Oh that I would remember to look up and see not just one, but a double portion!

This past week as we’ve entered the Lenten season, I’ve been thinking upon Christ’s journey to the cross.  Specifically, I’ve been considering Jesus’ time spent in the garden of Gethsemane prior to his betrayal and arrest.  He expresses to the disciples, his friends, that his soul is sorrowful, even to death (Mark 14:34) and then he prays:  “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:36.  He prays this not once, but three times (Matthew 26:44), and during his earnest and agonized praying that this cup might be removed, and that His Father’s will would prevail over his own, we are told that his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22: 44). WHAT? Jesus the Son, who is one with the Father (John 10:30), praying to the Father, for His will to prevail over his own opposing will. This is difficult to grasp.  The mystery of the Triune God.  Yet, here in the garden we see the humanity of Jesus displayed.  We don’t have to wonder if he can ever understand our pain and suffering here in this world nor whether he can grasp our struggle to obey God and yield our own wills to His; rather I think we should wonder how we could ever assume that he couldn’t, when we ourselves cannot begin to understand the depths of his own struggles, sufferings and pain.

Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man, looked into the cup he was given, knowing it was the very plan for which he came.  The cup FULL (not just a swig at the bottom of an otherwise good cup) of the dregs of all time – past, present and future; sin and sufferings, pain and evil – drank up to the bottom – disgusting and putrid to one so pure and undefiled.  Jesus knew the fullness of what was to come: God was making him who had no sin to BE sin – for us! So that we might become God’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Jesus was about to absorb sin and its consequences, having his HOLY FATHER turn away from His SON become SIN – forsaken to the place of death.  Jesus suffered more than we can possibly imagine; Luke, the physician, is the only gospel to point out the physical expression of Christ’s soul agony to the point where he sweats drops of blood (a condition called hematidrosis).  THIS is extreme anguish.

Jesus resolves to complete the will which he came to do and “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:8-11

My God, who knows the very soul agony of ALL sufferings and sin consequences, drank the putrid cup of dregs, that I would no longer be forsaken, because He’s love. Jesus’ death on the cross saves us from sin and it’s consequences, not from a hateful God. Forgiveness and reconciliation, mercy and grace, love so amazing, so divine. So… when you get a mouthful, look upon Jesus Christ and be thankful for the rainbow reminders that he has promised to be with you and rejoice that through him it has become possible and receive your double portion with a heart full of thanks.

 

 

 

 

Tender Ordinary

I live across from a lovely forest which is home to a river, many animals including deer & rabbits, porcupines and even bobcats. Just yesterday I heard what I thought was mewing, and quietly tiptoed out to watch a mother deer and her fawns in my backyard.  The babes were unable to follow their mother out by jumping the fence.  She was waiting for them, silently encouraging them towards growth and maturity while they cried for her and paced back and forth.  Finally Mamma returned to the yard and the two babes immediately ran to suckle as Mamma kept her watchful eye on the surroundings (much like many bygone days for this mamma silently standing on her deck).  Such a tender moment, I had the opportunity to observe.

 I have had a number of opportunities to observe tender moments looking out over my backyard through my kitchen window.  This forest is also a provincial park and therefore maintained with lovely pathways and pretty bridges and benches, making it a beautiful place for practising the art of photography.  I have watched tender moments of the non-animal sort as many photographers come to capture moments both special and ordinary.  Today, I am reminded of one such summer photography session I viewed as I stood at my kitchen window. I was performing the very ordinary task of washing dishes, while my husband was performing the very ordinary task of mowing the lawn, & the children were participating in a very ordinary session of playing outside.

And then… something special.  A beautiful couple dressed in formal wedding attire – he in a top hat & tails & she in a white gown & veil following instructions on how to pose while looking tenderly at one another in order to have the memory of this day captured in photograph.  Capturing moments and making memories.  I was reminded that this was the beginning of their journey of commitment & togetherness; that what they were setting out to begin on this day becomes exactly that which I was doing that very moment, standing at my kitchen sink, humming, while my husband mowed & my children played. Whoever truly understands the everyday’ness’ of the journey so beginning as they look into each other’s eyes wearing the fancy clothes, vowing to have and to hold in sickness and in health?  How interesting to think how happy I could be to observe out this window of “ours” as we work away at life together; grateful for the years of compromise, sacrifice & commitment which began on a day I also wore a white dress & veil. Happy and grateful and… yet…   Now I know.  Our vows should have included mindfulness regarding loving one another in the ordinary dreariness of everyday living.  Reminding ourselves of the commitment to love one another even when we don’t; of searching for the perspective to really see each other and to give voice to the gifts found in the ordinary.

Today my husband and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  A lot can happen in 20 years.  That’s 7300 days (& many more moments).  It’s a lot of hairstyles, the making of four people, a number of grey hairs, as well as wrinkles.  We have LIVED this journey full of days. Days of dream weaving & dream discarding. Days of laughter, days of tears. Lonely days, empty days, full days & crazy days. Days of creative ideas, days of boredom. Days full of courage, days full of worry, days full of disappointment. Lazy days, puking days, silly days, cranky days. ‘I love you’ days & ‘I’m sorry’ days. Diaper days, potty days, car seat and tantrum days – times four. Soccer, baseball, hockey and dance days. Disneyland days, discipline days, moody teenager days. Messy days, clean up days. Silent days, loud days, forgiving days.

Oh what grace!

Ordinary days. Ordinary moments. Tender ordinary. Finding flowers in the weeds. Dandelion fluff.

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I Don’t Like the Song, but I’m Still Gonna Sing

The other day, we were traveling in the van with the family when an older song came on the radio.  I didn’t necessarily think it was all that old until my young teenaged daughter commented on its age.  I vaguely remembered the song from my adult life – I know that I was a ‘real’ adult because I was already married, keeping house and working a real job in my field of choice. However, I was chagrinned to think  about how long I’ve actually been married and graduated from university – we’re talking 20 years – GASP!  I guess I’ll have to agree about the song,  but listening to it didn’t actually make me feel old.  Instead my first emotional reaction was a feeling of freedom and joy in singing along to a familiar tune with lyrics that rolled off my tongue without thought.

“Aww, not this old song…” she said.  Funny that it wasn’t the quip about the song being old that struck me most, but rather what she said next, “but, I’m gonna sing anyways”.  And off she went, joining in with the same ease as I.

I was struck by the illustration of experiencing joy regardless of circumstances.  Paul’s words came to mind, “… for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound…” Philippians 4:11-12. Even when we don’t like the song, be it the un-relatable lyrics or the tune or the beat, we CAN still CHOOSE to sing along.  Sometimes it feels awkward, sometimes it’s with an outpouring of grief, sometimes we stumble over the words, maybe even hit a few wrong notes.  Often we don’t like the circumstances we find ourselves in, sometimes the ‘notes’ seem unreachable, out of our natural range and so we sing off key.

Whether we hum out of our want with sobs or boisterously belt out the song’s sentiment out of abundance, maybe the point is just to ‘sing anyways’.

Words

I LOVE words.  I spend (probably too) much time thinking about the feelings words convey, the thoughts they stir up and how a certain word can evoke a much different response than one that means something similar.  Long ago I had a roommate who spoke three languages fluently and she often preferred to write poetry in something other than English as she could convey deeper emotion more efficiently.  I often think that it would be nice to think in another language that would allow me more options with words, but alas, I am stuck with only this one.

Just the other day, I had a conversation with a dear kindred spirit, another word lover.  Boy, can we share words!  We can laugh ourselves silly and come close to tears, lingering until we are late to pick up our children… This recent visit involved discussion particularly about ‘words’ – as well as food. I love how our conversation tends to linger – a word spoken, a word received – that weaves itself through encounters & conversations with different souls & sermons & readings & Scripture…  SomeOne is speaking.

We spoke of the benefits of food & the value of those providing & preparing it.  Food  meets our most basic of needs.  It nourishes, sustains, comforts, celebrates and brings us into community. We honour those whom are gifted in planning and preparing and presenting this heartfelt offering.  We know those whom find this to be a satisfying and fulfilling task.  Food is life!  What use are words when bodies require nourishment? Here is where doubt begins. A question posed. Implications made, now causing uncertainty about the usefulness, purpose & value, not only of words, but also of those who love them and weave them together.

Ahh, but someOne is speaking.

Words.

Words are powerful.  They can build up a person or tear them down. They can bless or curse. They can inspire & nourish or poison with lies. They can put out a fire so to speak as well as start one. Think of King Theoden in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. When we meet him, (in the movie) his countenance has been severely altered by the manipulations of Wormtongue. Wormtongue is as his name suggests, a liar, speaking evil with his forked tongue, a mere tool of the enemy to keep the king in bondage while whispering words of deceit.  We only know King Theoden as a sick & suffering shell of a life. The movie version of his transformation when Gadalf breaks the spell with his own powerful words of truth & life gives me chills every time. Power! Transformation! Freedom! Life!

Ahh, but someOne is speaking.

Words of truth. Words of love & grace & mercy & hope.  Words that heal. Words that free. Words that nourish & fill up & spill out. Words that bless. LIFE – giving words. Scripture – God’s words to His people. His word proves true (2 Samuel 2:22, Proverbs 30:5). Words are timeless, they are power, they are love & they are life. His word transforms us and that is because it is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12)! “So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.” Isaiah 55:11 the Message.

We want to know how to live. “How can a young person stay pure? Obey God’s word” (Psalms 119:9) – a conversation began while driving the children in the van.  Who can remember how? These things happen according to the Spirit’s prompts. We – okay – ‘I’ was commenting on the importance of memorizing scripture (“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” Psalm 119:11 ESV), when I encouraged the kids to pray a “dangerous” prayer as I did a few years back.  While I explained that they themselves would not be in danger, they would become dangerous to the enemy, if they would pray asking God to give them a love and hunger for His word – for in so doing they would be given the sword of the spirit (Ephesians 6:17) to wield in the Spiritual battle in which we all fight.

In all this thinking about “words”, I am deeeelighted that JESUS himself is referred to as THE WORD. “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. the Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life bought light to everyone… So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness…” John 1:1-4, 14a ~NLT. I just can’t get over it! The Word creates, the Word gives life and light, the Word is faithful in loving, the Word is God and human, the Word made his home among us – Emmanuel, and continues to make his home IN us through his Holy Spirit!  Can it get any better?!  What a word! It/he gets inside you and changes you from the inside out! Transformed living. The Word is how we live life!

Ahh, someOne is speaking, sending forth his Word. Word that is Light, exposing the lies. Word that is Bread, feeding us, sustaining us, nourishing our very souls.

What use have we for words? They are everything!

You are what you eat.

Bon appetite!

Misplaced Marks

Not so long ago, I attended a funeral, where in the midst of celebrating a lovely life lived fully, we in attendance were asked to leave our fingerprint on the coffin – our “mark” if you will.  Just as the one whom had passed had left her mark on each one of us, we were being asked to remember the beauty of her mark & leave one of our own in return.  It was so beautiful.  And it opened a whole lot of UGLY in me.

The word FRAUD jumped on my back as we received instructions about how to proceed & I was unable to shake this label – this mark which the enemy wished me to bear. Although this dear life had indeed marked mine, even from afar, I didn’t see it as being reciprocal.  As my discomfort grew, I felt the need to escape while at the same time feeling the need to embrace my discomfort.  How insignificant could my own discomfort be in the context of this tragic loss? As I was moved forward, I wanted to make myself smaller & smaller so that I could remain unnoticed in this gathering of people who really deserved to be present. My focal point was shifting right where I least wanted – to SELF.  I thought I could do this quickly, move on, get out & not be seen. That’s when IT happened.  I made a mark alright. Right where I was asked not to. Right where it wasn’t wanted. Someone sprang into immediate action to remove my mark, while I horrifically looked on whispering “I’m so sorry, so sorry” and thinking “Please just get rid of it. Get. Rid. Of. It. Get. Rid. Of… Me”.

As I made my way back to my seat, I think a gentleman directed me while I continued to whisper my apologies. He even may have told me it was ok, honey – but I knew it wasn’t, for even if no one had seen it happen, my fraudulent behaviour had been exposed all the more – for now others could see my tears and assume they were all about my grief, while some were really about my stupid self. More labels, more attacks upon my character – all happening within my head.

“I brought more pain to an already hurting family.”

“Who do you think you are? They have lost their loved one, who is even thinking about your stupid mark?”

“If you saw someone else do what you did, how would you respond?”

“With tenderness, but it wasn’t someone else, and I should know better!”

As soon as I could, without making any more of a scene, I bolted, needing to escape, but finding that I still had to wait for my daughter.  As I stood to the side trying to be visible to my girl so she could find me & we could leave, I desperately wanted to hide from everyone else. People came by to offer condolences & a tender touch to my blubbering self – don’t bother consoling me, I don’t deserve it. Then, across the way, kind eyes coming towards me: “I saw what you did.  I feel so bad for you”. It wasn’t accusatory, just knowing, not condemning, just seeing, not despising, just offering comfort. The tears came heavier as I received a hug. I had no words, but the Accuser sure did. YOU don’t deserve this kindness. You are a joke.

Have you been marked by labels? Have you left your grubby fingerprints where they haven’t been wanted?  Have you also helplessly watched someone scramble to erase the marks you errantly left? How do you cope when you feel unworthy? Like a joke? That your heart is too black to be made clean? Have you been marked by the scars of pain or suffering?  What is to be done?

The weekend left me undone & certainly “marked”. I wrestled & cried and wrestled some more – thinking of Jacob’s wrestling & the mark he received on his hip. Jacob received a mark from the Lord as well as his blessing after he clung to him (Genesis 32:24-26).  I too have been marked by the Lord; I cling to him & thank him for the many blessings he gives.

I was reminded again just yesterday at our Ash Wednesday service.  Here, along with many others around the globe, I received the mark of  the cross right on my forehead! We are a marked people – marked by the cross of Christ! He also bears my mark in the scars received from every pounding of the nails (the “mark of the nails” John 20:25 ESV). His blood has marked me, and my name has been engraved on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:16)!

Marked – definitely!

Misplaced – no more!

Epiphany

Today: The twelfth day of Christmas – Epiphany,  is not a holiday from work or school, so the house is quiet.  I should be cleaning up the Christmas decorations & putting them all away, but alas, here I sit listening to Christmas music in my cozy slippers, sipping one last egg nog latte, watching the snow come down (we’re in a snowfall warning), before picking up the kids.  All of the preparations of Advent have come to an end, the receiving has been done, the food eaten, wrappings recycled – it was nice while it lasted, but it’s time to get back to reality.  Hmm, what IS reality?  Is it the routines, the monotonous, the mundane and ordinary grind? Is it stressful, uncertain, is it hollow & empty, is it painful or even dangerous? Isn’t the reality that Christ has come on a mission of peace & salvation which will be for all people; offering hope?  Sounds to me like we have a new reality… Joy, peace, hope, healing, deliverance, freedom regardless of circumstance.  I know, this world is still the broken place that it was before Christmas, but isn’t Emmanuel (God with us) here? Could my heart maybe be different even if my circumstances are not?  I mean, isn’t that why he came?  To make the ordinary extraordinary? To surprise us in the mundane, routines of life? To arrive in the unexpected places? To quietly enter into the places where there had been no room? To reveal glorious messages to the ragamuffins of society? To guide some “wise”men by a star to a humble abode where a child (conceived out of wedlock) was living with his carpenter father and scorned & displaced mother?

Today, as I think about those “wise”men who studied the heavens looking for signs of something great, picking up & packing up, willing to embark on a journey into the unknown, risking much, guided by wonder & a star, I wonder about their journey. They anticipated meeting the king of the Jews for they recognized that this was for whom the star they studied had risen (Matthew 2:2) and they planned to worship him and thus bore gifts fit for a king.  These wisemen began with inquiring of Herod, king of Judea at the time. Did they realize how Herod’s fragile ego was threatened by the implications of their questions? Maybe not until the Lord directed them later in a dream.  Did they anticipate the significance of their chosen gifts in regards to Christ’s mission to this world? Gold for divinity, frankincense for sacrifice & offering – a pleasing aroma to the Lord, myrrh for bitter suffering & affliction.  When they came to find this humble bunch, did they second guess & hesitate about dispensing such gifts in such an ordinary place? Matthew 2:9-11 says they rejoiced when they arrived at the place where the child was and went in, falling down to worship him and opened their treasures, offering their gifts. I believe that their hearts must have been guided just as much as their heads and they responded to their encounter with the divine – Infinite Infant – with joy, worship and offering. Did they realize the revelation that they had received? Did they have their moment of sudden insight – an EPIPHANY – recognizing the manifestation of the divine revealed to those previously outside of the Old Testament covenant? Even if the fulness wasn’t realized, they certainly responded appropriately. Wonder & worship.

After all the Christmas celebrations are over and I return to regular, ordinary life, I am asking myself if I am still responding to Jesus with wonder & worship. May I not forget that I spent much time anticipating and preparing for his coming. I made room for him;  would I now allow the mundane to push him out of my mind and heart? We celebrated God’s gift to us at Christmas, may we now respond to this gift at Epiphany, by worshiping and offering him room to remain – to make our ordinary extraordinary as we seek him in the unexpected places.

More Joy, More Love… More Christmas

The very word “Christmas” conjures up thoughts and emotions for everyone.  Some of the Norman Rockwell ideals bring us joy and eager anticipation while others may cause heart palpitations and feelings of dread.  Maybe even some of us grieve over unmet and unfulfilled expectations.

My own expectations were challenged in the early hours a number of years ago, when as I was decorating the tree (alone and resentful).  Everyone else was long ago in bed (likely sent there by me as I struggled to reconcile the bickering to the ideals I had of family joy and sentimentality surrounding this particular task of tree trimming).  As I “fumed” quietly in the soft glow of the tree lights, THE LIGHT – the very One who brings illumination met me.  The question came tenderly: “Beloved, what ARE you doing?”  As the thoughts continued, my tears began to spill.  “THIS – what you are doing, what you are feeling, here in this moment is NOT what I wanted for you because of Christmas…  When you truly celebrate me full of joy and hope and peace, it brings a smile to my face, but, Daughter, you are not celebrating me now.  You are trying to celebrate joy for joy’s sake, Christmas for the sake of Christmas.  You are reducing me to a mood or a ideal.  You can never know authentic joy, hope, peace and love unless you know me and not only know me, but live me.  THIS is why I came down to that manger – for I AM joy, I AM hope, I AM peace and I AM love and so much more, for I AM… I came to BE in this world then and in this world still now.  In you and through you, I came to minister in this broken place through a broken servant.  Won’t you let Me?  Won’t you let me be your joy, your love, your Christmas all year long?”

Oh, what a gift was received that Christmas night! – The present of His continuous presence.  The miracle of the manger is the same miracle taking place in my heart.  The ordinary made extraordinary by filling with the presence of God.  In our brokenness, may we all grasp hold of His presence and continue to discover the treasures to be uncovered in this heavenly place.  Because we ourselves are “filled up” with His presence, only then, may we extend more joy and more love – more Jesus this Christmas.

Blessings for an extraordinary 2015 even as you live out the ordinary!