Jesus in a corner

Christianity, Christmas, Uncategorized

Sometimes we put Jesus in a corner. Or an attic.

I find myself doing that sometimes, literally and figuratively. I was ALL happy with myself three days after Christmas when I took all the decor down and put almost all of it in boxes.

Since I’ve de-glittered the house, and still had packed up boxes of Christmas decor out in view, I’ve thought about how we treat Jesus sometimes.

I packed up my nativity scene from the dining table and had Baby Jesus tucked safely in styrofoam. You could still see him because I didn’t put away the styrofoam completely in the box for a while.

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I’m missing a piece, but I don’t think anyone noticed this Christmas. The most important Person was in the scene….Jesus.

After I procrastinated a couple of weeks, I taped up the tired Christmas tree box and put it all the way in the back of the attic. We won’t need it for 11 months, and I wanted it out of the way.

I wonder how often we do this with Jesus in our lives. We have seasons and times that we give Him the spotlight. He’s the focus, the reason, our everything. We may give Him full and complete access to every part of our hearts and lives.

Little by little, though, sometimes we put him in a corner. Subtly.

It doesn’t happen on purpose. At first.

But when we begin to struggle with anger, or disappointment, or hurt, we may shun Jesus a little because we don’t want to forgive. Or we don’t want to face our part and change. Or we want justice, and that feels right.

Jesus may be put into a corner because we begin to get busy. It is, after all, a new year. New goals, health focus, workouts, check my social media feed, work, sports, kids activities, hobbies, gotta check my phone again.

Distractions. Not on purpose, but it happens sometimes.

Sometimes giving Jesus full access to our hearts feels scary. Paradoxically. Because there’s no one more trustworthy than the One who crafted and created us. He knows the deepest parts of us, every longing and worst thought, yet lavishly loves us.

Intentionality. If you and I want to keep Jesus front and center in our lives, it will take the choice to be intentional. Carving out time to be with Him. Choosing to focus my thoughts on Him during my everyday tasks.

Brother Lawrence in Practice of the Presence of God explains this much better that I can. It’s a short and sweet, very practical read.

Will you and I put Jesus in a corner, or way back in the recesses of our heart’s “attic”?

May we people who seek Him with our whole hearts, forsaking other stuff that doesn’t really matter. May we be people who REST and soak in His presence.

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I know I was thinking this the whole time. How about you?

Living Out The Journey of Your Calling

Christianity, mission, Uncategorized

Do you feel like your life’s calling is a mystical thing?

Maybe it’s a very simple, practical thing that we can all do, every day, no matter where we are on the globe.

God calls us to Himself. The rest is geography.

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Keeping it simple and practical.

Be with Jesus.

Know him.

Love him.

Allow yourself to BE loved by him.

When those things happen, we will be compelled to evangelism, and to service.

But first we must BE with Christ. Geography will be less of an issue.

I’m convinced that there’s not a wrong answer of geography when we’re truly abiding in Christ.

This watercolor was inspired by this video on Calling by Propel Women.

Living Out The Journey of My Calling

Then I saw the clouds

God

If you read the last post, you know that I was struck by the gravity of eternity recently as my dad and I walked through the cemetery visiting my grandparent’s plots. Each headstone that I saw touched me deeply, reminding me of how short our fleeting lives on earth really are. How inconsequential material things are. The little annoyances and things that felt important earlier that morning suddenly faded into insignificance as I weighed them against the backdrop of time and eternity.

Yeah, I think like that a lot. We got into the car, and I leaned back and exhaled deeply, relaxing. I looked up and saw a perfect blue sky, with just the right amount of white, puffy clouds.

Then I thought: Eternity isn’t the only thing that matters. Knowing God and enjoying Him right now matters, too.

Thank you, God, for this moment. It is so beautiful. I love you and I love this moment. 

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I breathed in again, enjoying the perfect temperature and sunny, blue sky.

My dad and I drove away, content with the ebb and flow of our conversation. It was a very good day.

Walk by faith, not by sight

Christianity
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No more progressive lenses, I’m switching between readers and distance glasses.

Have you ever wanted to dance at a doctor’s office? Kiss and hug your doctor? Weep for joy with thanks and gratitude at your doctor’s office? Inside I wanted to, recently, but I could tell by Dr. Romero’s reserved demeanor that I should keep the displays of emotion to a minimum. I simply ended with, “Tell your wife to give you a big hug and kiss.” My happiness was because the doctor gave me a clear and concise explanation for the double-vision and migraines that have been troubling me for the past couple of years. I had a micro-vascular stroke during a severe migraine at that point in time (2.5 years ago) and it caused a palsy in the oblique muscle of my eye, resulting in double vision. Eureka! It all made sense now….

In more simple terms, a killer migraine caused a “short” in the nerve that goes to my eye muscle, causing it not to work properly, so that I now have double vision. That causes a vicious cycle of more migraines and other complications. I’m pretty happy with this news. It doesn’t really change the circumstances, but it does affirm what I’ve been telling doctors and everyone who will listen for quite a while now. My takeaway…we know our own body better than anyone. Except for our Maker. And boy, are we wonderfully and intricately woven together!

Walk by faith, not by sight. These words have a more profound meaning than ever before to me, because without my glasses, I see everything double! Even with my glasses, my eyes fatigue very easily and sometimes I can only do half of what I’d planned in a day. That used to really frustrate me and make me so mad. Kicking and screaming mad inside. Feeling sorry for myself mad.

Recently walk by faith, not by sight means when I don’t have sight, quite literally, because of fatigued eyes, I must rest. Rest can be active, you know. That’s something I’m learning. When I am not sleepy at all and it’s only 1:00pm in the afternoon, but my eyes must rest, I am forced to close them. I have choices in that moment. I can be really frustrated at my situation, and obsess on what I’m not able to do at that time, or I can simply take the time to be still.

If you want your life to count

Christianity, Jesus, Uncategorized

To make your life count, you don’t have to have a high I.Q. or good looks. You don’t have to be from a good family, or good school. You just have to know a few basic things, and be gripped by them, and be willing to live and die for them.  One of the saddest realities is that many of us are not concerned with our life making a difference. Some of us only want to be liked, to have a great job, nice house, and financial security.

These strong words are from John Piper, a well-known theologian, preacher and author. He isn’t just saying this stuff for shock value. It’s true, if you want your life to count, Piper says, you just have to know a few basic things, and be gripped by them, and be willing to live and die for them. These “few basic things” are the realities that we are made for more than our life here on earth; God made us to know Him, and to make Him known to others.

Following Jesus requires more than working hard to have a fat bank account, being nice to people, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. If you want your life to count, Jesus said, you must lay down your agenda and pick up His, following Him. (paraphrase of Matthew 16:24) He laid down His life for us, now it’s my turn.

Do you want your life to count? I do. I’m going to start by surrendering my will and agenda today, and to pick up Jesus’.

No fear of bad news, laughing at the days to come

Christianity, fear, Jesus, joy, mission, righteousness, spirituality

It’s funny how an upcoming event can fill us with conflicting emotions. We are giddy and excited about an upcoming mission to Africa, meanwhile there are bad reports on the news. Below I found joy in what the Psalmist says about bad news:

Praise the LORD.
Blessed are those who fear the LORD,
who find great delight in his commands.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.

They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor. (excerpts from Psalm 112, emphasis mine)

I have no righteousness on my own, but only because of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sin. Because of that, this Psalm says that I will never be shaken. I don’t have to fear bad news. Keeping my heart steady, trusting in the LORD, I will have no fear. And as the Proverb says, we can laugh at the days to come.

Here’s where the laughing part comes in for me today:

This makes me laugh out loud every time I read it, because I am guilty of complaining and saying some of these very things! It will be great to put life and annoyances in perspective, visiting with missionaries and nationals as we go in a few weeks to experience third world culture again. Do these thoughts feel disconnected to you? That’s what’s going on in my brain today. Wanting to keep my heart steady on the LORD, trusting in Him, and laughing at the days to come!

The power to change a life

Christianity, Jesus, new creation, righteousness, sin, truth

Wow. I had a moment recently. Have you ever been talking with someone, and as you are saying something you think is factual, the real truth will wash over you? I was talking with my college-aged son about a heinous crime that was on trial. My son is very compassionate and insightful, and he had a much kinder perspective than me. He sympathized with the victim, but also the accused. He emphasized that the accused is a human being, a person with value and feelings….I interrupted, not surprisingly, to argue my point. Yes, the accused is a person made in God’s image. BUT, they must stand before a judge to face the consequences of any wrong-doing. I emotionally presented my case; I was so certain I was right that my fingers may have been in my ears as I talked, wanting to block out anything else he was saying.

It was then that the real truth came over me, making my face feel flushed as it went downward to my chest. I realized that I was judging someone by one of their worst acts. What if you judged me by my worst acts, my worst habits, or thoughts, or attitudes? I would certainly be convicted of being a horrible human being. You would cease to remember anything good that I have ever done, because the horror of the bad things would overshadow any good. I think I suddenly stopped talking mid-sentence, but I’m not sure. Then I told my son, “Hold on, I am having a God-moment.”

If you were to judge me by the worst things I have done and said, I would be GUILTY

I saw myself clearly for a moment. If Jesus’ blood and righteousness had not ever covered my sin, I would be toast, to put it very lightly. The power of Jesus Christ to change a life is almost indescribable. If you knew me just 15 years ago, you would certainly see that God has made me into a new creation. Not a perfect person, but definitely a NEW person. A person who thinks and acts and believes differently than the old me. And now, because of the power of Jesus to change a life, when God looks at me He doesn’t condemn me to the burning pit that I deserve. Instead,  He gives me a new heart and mind, and looks at me as righteous because of His Son’s shed blood.   Does this sound a little churchy or weird? Don’t take my word for it. Check out what Scripture says in Romans 4, concerning the righteousness of God:

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 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 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. (emphasis mine)

What would a visitor say?

commitment, Jesus, spirituality

My son, Christian, was telling me about a family that he loves to spend time with. Christian is almost 20 years old, so he really decides where he hangs out when he’s got down time. I was curious what compelled him to spend so much time at this family’s house. He told me that when he is there, he feels the presence of God in a unique way that is hard to describe. One night last week when he spent the night there, he passed through the living room several times, and each time the dad was reading the Bible. It was late in the night, Christian passes through going to the kitchen, and the dad is again reading his Bible. Early the next morning, guess what the dad is doing when Christian peeks out? Yep, reading his Bible.

The dad is a humble and strong man that is respected by our entire family. I found it interesting, the colleration of how Christian experiences peace and God’s presence in a home where God’s word is elevated and devoured as food for a starving man. I was challenged with the question: What behavior characterizes me? Would a visitor see that I’m a woman who treasures Jesus and His word, or am I always on the computer, or  ___________?

Treasure hunting

Jesus, Pentateuch, religion, spirituality

This morning I went on a great treasure hunt! Still groggy-eyed, I was about to settle into my favorite morning chair with a cup of coffee to read the Bible. I’m not a morning person. This means that I don’t want to be greeted before I’ve had at least one cup of coffee, I don’t want eye contact, and I find it especially annoying when perky people talk to me and I’m not awake yet. However, this morning, before I sat down with my mug, Herschel said, “Hey, I’ve got something interesting for you to look for this morning as you read the Bible. Do you know where in Scripture it says that the High Priest has a rope tied around his ankle when entering the Holy of Holies once a year?” For years we have heard pastors teach that on Yom Kippur the Jewish High Priest had a rope tied to his leg so that, if he died, he could be dragged out, since no one else could enter!

Illustration of High Priest by Zely Smeckhov

I remember hearing this taught several times through the years. In Torah, the book of Leviticus prescribes that once a year, there would be the Day of Atonement, the most holy day  of the year for the Jewish people. The Jewish High Priest was to wear specific sacred garments and enter the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle to confess and make atonement for his sin and the sin of all the people.  We see the utter Holiness of God in this passage as Moses records God’s explicit instructions for entering the Holy of Holies. Any person who would enter this Most Holy Place at an unauthorized time or manner would die. (read more in Lev. 16) This is where Herschel’s question came into play. I was certain that I could find the answer if I searched the Bible deeply enough.

I frantically searched through Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy looking for clues. My pulse raced. I get giddy with a challenge to find random facts or passages in the Bible.

After a search through Torah that was fruitless, I went to Google. It turns out that this idea is a myth. The legend of the rope tied to the High Priest’s ankle is not found in the Bible, the Apocrypha, the writings of Josephus, or the Midrashic commentaries of the rabbis.

I found that the myth originally came from a Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism) commentary, but where it may have gained popularity is from evangelical commentator John Gill, who published it in one of his books, and it’s been told ever since. Interesting….

Here’s what I learned from this: Check my sources. The most well-meaning Bible teacher or pastor (or me!) may state something as fact that is not found in Scripture. It’s a fresh reminder to search and know God’s word well for myself. I am reminded that the Bible is the ultimate truth and my thoughts, beliefs, and actions need to be measured by it.

Proverbs 1 says: My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

If you’re curious to check out more on this, see sources below.

http://blog.bibleplaces.com/2009/01/that-rope-around-high-priests-ankle.html  This one explains that it would probably be a violation of Lev. 16:3-4, because God very specifically describes garments that the High Priest is to wear.