Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Notes to the Lord:Feast and Fasting

 Mark 2
The disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees made a practice of fasting. Some people confronted Jesus: “Why do the followers of John and the Pharisees take on the discipline of fasting, but your followers don’t?”

Lord Jesus--This is a really funny question in some ways.  Really it is something like...your disciples first are the wrong kind of people...street people, people who don't know Torah and shouldn't because of the way they have lived.  But to top it off, your group of riffraff are having entirely too much fun learning about God.  

I wonder if that is the way that I sound sometimes from the outside looking in?  Hope not.  There is reason for celebration and laughing.  The King of Glory has come and we have been invited to the party.  There is hope and light, there is good news of changed lives that need to be celebrated like a prodigal come home from the far country.

For some of these people that Jesus brought to his table, this may have been the first time when they had experienced acceptance without a hidden agenda.  If there is one thing that the church needs to be good at, I need to be good at, is acceptance without agenda.  The more that I think about it the more that I realize that my agenda runs deep.  Sometimes, I don't even hear clearly the needs that surround me.  They come at me so fast and I end up living part of my life stuck on fast forward.  

 [2.19-20] Jesus said, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but not now. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!"

I look at these young faces laughing in a iconic, almost a perfect moment of their lives. Worries of Monday morning job stress and how are we going to make the mortgage payment are far from their minds. They should be. At a celebration, it is time to celebrate the moment.  

Lord Jesus--There are times for celebrating and for getting a hold of the simple fact that your kingdom is here on earth right now, as your people bring it into being with your grace and resurrection life within us.

Remind me of that line today Lord Jesus..."This is Kingdom Come!"  I need to hear it in the push and pull of  this life.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (p. 1794). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Notes to the Lord:Riffraff Like Me

Mark 2

Later Jesus and his disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests. Unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them had become followers.

Lord Jesus--Very early the fractures between you and the religious establishment were evident.  The scholars had a problem with your power to heal.   And you were not playing by the rules as they saw it. Right now I am wondering which group do I fall in with?  Am I in the riffraff group of tax collectors, thieves and street people?  Or am I in the religious leaders group...nose in the air, better than the rest of you

Upfront and Personal--You know me Lord, better than I know have taught and re-taught me the Jesus Prayer.  "Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." The funny part is at times I am in both groups...and I am left with this simple prayer...I have come to say it often.  It calms my anxious heart.  It reminds me of who I am:  a sinner saved by your amazing grace.  It keeps me from feeling comfortable with the in crowd when seen as a leader in my faith community.  Why?  Because you know that I have to claim your mercy more times than not.  

So I say this simple prayer sometimes over and over in my heart as I breath in and out...somehow the breathe of the Spirit has entrance as I bring the camera lens back into focus.  When no one else is paying attention, there is time to repeat as I breath in and out this mental accent to the reality of who I am and who you are.

The religion scholars and Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company and lit into his disciples: “What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riffraff?” [2.17] Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit.”

Lord Jesus--The ironic part of this little vignette of grace is that if only these leaders who thought they knew so much would have admitted their need you would have turned around with open arms and touched them at the point of their need. Their unwillingness to submit themselves to your care left them at odds with the Lord of Glory.   If they could have only seen the truth of the human condition...we are all riffraff in need of a Savior who can  make sense of our need.

So that leaves me right about where I started with a simple prayer...Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.  Use this coming day as you see fit.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (p. 1794). NavPress. Kindle Edition. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Notes the Lord:Appointment Kept

 Mark 2
Then Jesus went again to walk alongside the lake. Again a crowd came to him, and he taught them. Strolling along, he saw Levi, son of Alphaeus, at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” He came.

Lord Jesus-I wonder how long Matthew had been waiting there.  Counting his money and looking for meaning in the coins of his indenture.   The money that created his lifestyle and his economic freedom also was a part of his prison walls.  A good Jewish boy working for the iron shod sandal of the Roman oppression was just what every Jewish mother dreamed of for their son.

He must have made difficult choices that landed him where he was.  Was it that accounting course that he took while parting at school that was the only thing that he did well in?  Were family connections used when all else failed. Or maybe it was just what he had aimed at all along.   A secure, safe if hated job in the middle of a hot arid oppressed and depressed region is at least a job.

I wonder how long it had been since a Rabbi had looked at him as if he was really there.  I wonder how long it had been since he had heard a person of his faith community speak his name?

Maybe Matthew didn't know that he had an appointment with you but he did.  It wasn't on his Day Timer but there was an appointment none the less.  The call of the Master and his invitation were what Matthew had been waiting for all his life and just didn't know it.

Lord Jesus-- I wonder if you reached your hand out to Matthew? I would guess that no Rabbi had touched him or talked to him for many years.  Was there still the smell of Roman money on his hands as you reached out to him?  You didn't worry about getting your hands dirty did you when you met Matthew beside the sea with the wind and the waves playing on the edge of sight. You call Matthew just the way he was.

That is just the way that you are.  Grace has a way of calling that requires a choice.  Do I sit here with these things that are binding me to this place or do I follow?  A part of the change that grace would require was for Matthew to leave his tax booth and his accounting books.  I am reasonably sure that this was not the last time that Matthew heard your call to personal sacrifice and followed you to where you were leading...leaving the things that had moments before occupied his mind and heart.

Lord Jesus--Thank You for the coming day.  Be in the appointments that I will have in this day...the ones that I know about and the ones that you will make me aware of.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (p. 1794). NavPress. Kindle Edition. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dressed Like a Policeman

Were you behind me in the car yesterday Jesus?
Eyes tired from too little sleep,
Up in the night with you,
Up early and out the door…

Swerving with sleepy eyes.
He might have been thinking drunk,
But something in the smile as he asked
Is everything was alright?
Made me think of You.

Ticket-less and tired Praising you I left
Feeling that I was followed by you on highway today.
Thank you for
Meeting me dressed like a policeman today.

Notes to the Lord:Seeing Grace

Mark 2:7-12
Some religion scholars sitting there started whispering among themselves, “He can’t talk that way! That’s blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins.”
Lord Jesus--There are times when I am just like these leaders of the law. Two things are right in front of me and I just can't keep it all in focus. There is the map before me of your word and then there is present experience. It reminds me of looking at the GPS while the road sign is going right by me. These men could not get their eyes off the GPS long enough to see the sign post of personal experience right before them. Instead, they missed what you were doing and all that it meant.

[2:8-12] Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, “Why are you so skeptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or say, ‘Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking’?

Lord Jesus-- You did not want them to miss what you were doing. You were highlighting with red letters the work that God was doing right in front of their eyes. Now, I could get a bit proud and think that I never have done that kind of thing. I have never missed the road sign while intently peering at the GPS? Right? Wrong. You know that is just nonsense. Why is it that children sometime have less trouble being honesty about what they can't understand? They intuitively realize that they don't get it...while adults try to figure it out. Maybe that was part of why you said that we had to come to like eyed and open hearted.

Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both . . .” (he looked now at the paraplegic), “Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home.” And the man did it—got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”

Grace came to town that day, with you Lord Jesus. Right in the middle of the towering vested interests and spiritual longings turned legalistic, you walked in.  You came with power to heal forgive, and restore what sin had broken.  In the middle of so much that would distract me, I can miss grace.  But if I look for it I can still find it tucked in the middle of towers and highways.  

Lord Jesus--Today in the middle of a busy weekend open my eyes to your ongoing work of healing, grace and restoration of what sin has twisted and maimed.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (p. 1793). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Notes to the Lord:Lessons on a Roof

Mark 2
1-5 After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren't able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. 

Lord Jesus--There can  are obstacles in the way of accomplishing your will.  Sometimes those obstacles are the very people who are trying to follow you.  It is ironic that the people who were surrounding you stood in the way of these men accomplishing what you laid on their hearts to do.   The people that surrounded you were not trying to be in the was just life.  Remind me of that when I need it.

I am wondering about the dust and the mess that they must have made while they were trying to get through the pieces of the roof were falling were they were apologetic to the people below.  Did any of the debris hit anyone?  I am thinking there were some looks...some complaints.

Lord Jesus--I got to admit there are times I am any of these men on the roof. Sometimes I have my hands on the stretcher of a friend intent on seeing that this loved one receives what is needed: forgiveness, wholeness and grace.

A roof is not going to stop my efforts at seeing God's action brought into the real world.  Help me to be faithful, Lord when prayer is what you are calling me to.  A roof demolition is much easier for me at times than to allow you to use me in prayer.  

You know me so well, maybe that is why my hands are seldom empty.  You know that prayer comes easier with a stretcher, or hammer in my hand.  Each piece of roof that was prided off, and tossed off the edge to the ground came tumbling down with a prayer.  "Release hands and feet just like this roof tile is free to fall, fall on this one we love enough to carry."  That is the way, I have prayed at times...with each manual act an act of prayer.  Each pounding of the hammer springing out of a heart that longs to see God's Spirit released in power.

Lord Jesus--There are times when I am on the stretcher  Surround by the love of friends and at the same time uneasy in their care.  I have known those times when without the strong hands of loved ones carrying me to you, I would not have gotten there.  Thankfulness is too shallow a word to express my gratefulness for the people that you have brought into my life...they have supported me in prayer even without my knowing it.  They had brought me to you through the roof more than once.

Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, "Son, I forgive your sins." 

You did not band-aid this man's hurt.  You addressed the point of his need.  The simple fact is: sin had hobbled him and he needed to be liberated from its grip.  You forgave his sin without hesitation.  You knew what the people looking on would say but you forgave this man anyway.

I wonder what silliness had brought this young man to this point in his life.  Was it trying to impress these same friends?  Was it a horse race just a bit to daring? Was it a leap that was just plain a bad idea?

Regardless,   of what got this man on this forgave him for all of it.

In the day that will begin all too soon, let this day be brought to light with praise on my lips and in my heart for the people who you have brought into my life.  People who have at times carried me to you, and at other times I have had the privilege of bringing to you. Continue the work that starts on a roof and that leads to healing, praise, and new places of service.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Notes to the Lord: The Power of a Touch

Mark 1
40A leper came to him, begging on his knees, "If you want to, you can cleanse me." 41-45Deeply moved, Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, "I want to. Be clean."

Lord Jesus-What was it about this man that caught your attention? Was it the plea in his voice? Was it the family that this man had that you could see that he kept in his broken heart? "If you want to..." Did that break you heart? Of course you wanted to...

You reached out and touched him. You touched a man who may not have been touched in years. You touched someone no one else would touch and did with power to heal. Your power to heal has not changed. You still touch with healing hands.

Then and there the leprosy was gone, his skin smooth and healthy. Jesus dismissed him with strict orders: "Say nothing to anyone. Take the offering for cleansing that Moses prescribed and present yourself to the priest. This will validate your healing to the people."

Lord Jesus-- It was a simple thing that you asked, but one that was not possible. This man had experienced your grace and power and you were asking him to not tell anyone about it.

This man's life was transformed, reformed...a face rebuilt in a moment?...or was it a hand that was re-grown? We will never know. But what we do know is that a dead man walking was alive again. His heart could not hold it in.

That is the way it should be in my heart Lord. How can I keep still and be quite when you have healed what no one else has the power to? Telling the story of grace received is always personal. It is always about transformation from the inside out.   It always has the fingerprints of God all over it.  Thank you for grace received.

But as soon as the man was out of earshot, he told everyone he met what had happened, spreading the news all over town. So Jesus kept to out-of-the-way places, no longer able to move freely in and out of the city. But people found him, and came from all over.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Notes to the Lord:The Night School of Prayer

Mark 1
While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed.

Lord Jesus--I am glad that night was a time that you spoke to the Father.  Was it a time when it was quiet and the press of people were not on your elbow?  You know me, many times I beat the sun up.  It is quiet and there is something about that time of day that allows me to be aware of you and your work in my life. Was that the way it was with You and the Father, while you were here?

 I know that without that connection, I find myself without water in a desert place. Lord Jesus teach me in your night school of prayer.

What can you teach me of prayer and of connecting when I am far from home and the Father?  In the night, far from home you prayed with the breathing of the sleeping disciples not from you.  Did you pray for the coming day?  Did you with eyes of faith and hope look out at the people who needs would tug at your sleeve in the coming day?  Did you ask for strength to meet the challenge?  Or, did you pray like I do so often...bless me, bless mine and keep safe those whom I love.  I have a feeling your focus was a bit more expansive then mine.  Teach me to see the large picture and to pray the large prayers.

Simon and those with him went looking for him. They found him and said, “Everybody’s looking for you.”

Lord Jesus--I wonder if Peter liked the crowds?...the excitement? Let me learn first from the night school of prayer.

 [1.38-39] Jesus said, “Let’s go to the rest of the villages so I can preach there also. This is why I’ve come.” He went to their meeting places all through Galilee, preaching and throwing out the demons.

Lord Jesus--The mission was never far from you was it.  The harvest was waiting at every turn.  There were people who needed their lives transformed everywhere.  You did not pull back, you met the need head on aware of the Father's blessing because you had learned in the night school of prayer.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (p. 1793). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Notes to the Lord: An Outstretched Hand

 Mark 1
Directly on leaving the meeting place, they came to Simon and Andrew’s house, accompanied by James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed, burning up with fever. They told Jesus. He went to her, took her hand, and raised her up. No sooner had the fever left than she was up fixing dinner for them.

Lord Jesus--Tradition says that these stones were location of the house of Peter.  So it could have been through this opening in the rocks that you went into Petra's house.  It was a simple thing.  Peter's mother was sick with a fever. This could have been the illness that meant her death.  You walk into the house, maybe through these stones, and they told you of her illness.

You went right to where she was, and took her hand and raised her up.  You did not avoid or over look her need.  Her need was the first thing on the agenda.   I wonder what must have been going on in this women mind and body.  When fevers normally break it takes time and the change is incremental, almost unnoticed.  This fever left at the touch of your hand.  Things change when your hand is offered.

I wonder where the places are that I am missing your outstretched hand?  That is a lesson that I continue to learn.  So where are the places where you are reaching out to me and I am missing it?  Where are the places where activity has replaces prayer as the first thing to do.

Lord Jesus in the coming days, help me to make prayer my default action.  Let the first thought that comes in my mind be...."Jesus knows what to do."  Help me to look for the outstretched hand of healing and hope.

 [1.32-34] That evening, after the sun was down, they brought sick and evil-afflicted people to him, the whole city lined up at his door! He cured their sick bodies and tormented spirits. Because the demons knew his true identity, he didn't let them say a word.

Last but not least, you did not restrict access to those in need.  Did the line stretched down the city block? Did they have to direct traffic around the sick that had lined up outside Peter's house?  What a sight that must have been.  Lame, blind, demon oppressed and possessed were all surrounding this little house.  You healed them all.

Lord Jesus--The day is beginning all around me...a day awaits. Thank you for this day, work in it and through me.

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (pp. 1792-1793). NavPress. Kindle Edition. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Notes the Lord:An Ordinary Sabbath With Jesus

Mark 1:22-28
Then they entered Capernaum. When the Sabbath arrived, Jesus lost no time in getting to the meeting place. He spent the day there teaching. They were surprised at his teaching—so forthright, so confident—not quibbling and quoting like the religion scholars. 

Lord Jesus--You teach with authority and time has not changed this. There is power in your Word. The  power and the good orderly direction to change continues to come from your word at work in my heart. Help me to listen to your teaching and get it the first time.

You observed Sabbath even through you were there on the first one.  Your celebration of Sabbath included meeting with the people who were seeking to hear God speak.  Keep me surrounded by people who are seeking you. 

[1.23-24] Suddenly, while still in the meeting place, he was interrupted by a man who was deeply disturbed and yelling out, “What business do you have here with us, Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you’re up to! You’re the Holy One of God, and you’ve come to destroy us!” 

It seems ironic that right where the people of God were meeting, Satan was at work in the life of this man. On the Sabbath, in synagogue there was person who was oppressed by Satan. It is  in the most un-looked times that you enter and they become deeply spiritual moments. This was just an ordinary Sabbath experience for everyone in Capernaum. For this man oppressed by Satan it was a life changing day.

Lord Jesus--LIfe changing events occur when you are around. Everyday is not ordinary...or maybe better yet, the ordinary becomes extraordinary when you see fit to enter with power. It was not a comfortable experience for any of the participates at synagogue that day.  Don't let me look for the comfortable and miss the opportunity for you to work in power.
[1.25-26] Jesus shut him up: “Quiet! Get out of him!” The afflicting spirit threw the man into spasms, protesting loudly—and got out. [1.27-28] Everyone there was incredulous, buzzing with curiosity. “What’s going on here? A new teaching that does what it says? He shuts up defiling, demonic spirits and sends them packing!” 

Lord Jesus--The demonic and the divine came face to face that day. The ripples of this encounter were the beginnings of a movement of grace that reaches down through the years to me. You continue to meet people on ordinary days in extraordinary ways with life changing impact.

Lord Jesus--in this coming day move freely in me.  It is just an ordinary day that as you walk with me can become extraordinary.  

Peterson, Eugene H. (2006-06-15). The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In contemporary Language (p. 1792). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

Friday, February 10, 2012

More from "The Sacred Way"

My heart rejoices, Jesus, that the tomb could not hold you. You burst forth with new life, and you give me new life. I accept the gift you’ve given me—help me never to take it for granted! We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world! Amen.   Jones, Tony (2010-12-07). The Sacred Way (p. 144). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Lord Jesus--It has been years since I have thought of the Stations of the Cross. If memory serves me, it was in one of my first community worship services at my first pastorate that I was involved in a Good Friday service,  I was a part of this liturgy.  What I can remember of that experience was anxiety that I would make a mistake.  Too bad,   I missed out on what you could have said to me.

Today as I read through the liturgy...I found myself weeping.  Crying because of your sacrifice for me, Crying for the loss that Mary felt.  Crying because of the humiliation and pain that you experienced. But, the tomb is empty!

Lord Jesus--The grave could not hold you.  Thank you for your death for me on a cross made out of wood from a tree that you created. Thank you that because of the cross there could be a tomb that was empty.  In this day that will sweep me away in just a few moments remind me of the hope that comes from a sacrifice that was offered and a tomb that is empty.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

More from ..."The Sacred Way"

"My life is listening, His is speaking. My salvation is to hear and respond. For this, my life must be silent. Hence, my silence is my salvation.”  Jones, Tony (2010-12-07). The Sacred Way (p. 38). Zondervan. Kindle Edition

Listening...spiritual formation is all about listening.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

More from ..."The Sacred Way"

Still on a reading binge...almost half way through "The Sacred Way" by Tony Jones.

Henri Nouwen said, In the spiritual life, the word “discipline” means “the effort to create some space in which God can act.” Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up. Discipline means that somewhere you’re not occupied, and certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on. Jones, Tony (2010-12-07). The Sacred Way (p. 32). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 

I like that for God to work.  Discipline is not one of my favorite words. It is kind of in the same category as diet, work, cooked carrots, and chores.  All words that don't evoke happy images.  But when viewed from the angle of creating space or room for God to enter, then discipline takes on new meaning.

It is more like getting the books cleared away from the kitchen table before having close friends over to the house to share a meal.  It is not so much that I don't want friends to see the mess I can create.  It is more that I want us to have the room to enjoy time together.  That is the point really when it comes to spiritual for God to act as he sees fit.

Lord Jesus--In this day, help me create space for you to join me in.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Quotes That Make Me Ponder: The Sacred Way

I have been on a slightly manic phase of reading instead of writing.  So for the next few entries I will be sharing quotes and thoughts from where I am reading.    I am in the middle of The Sacred Way by Tony Jones. I am in the middle of a season when it seems like every book that I run across is about prayer.  So I this book came my way...wonder what the message is?

Here is the quote:

In the quest for God old habits are hard to break, and no one is easily weaned from his own opinions; but if you rely on your own reasoning and ability rather than on the virtue of submission to Jesus Christ, you will but seldom and slowly attain wisdom. For God wills that we become perfectly obedient to himself, and that we transcend mere reason on the wings of burning love for him. Thomas à Kempis

Jones, Tony (2010-12-07). The Sacred Way (p. 13). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 

This quote made me take a few minutes to ponder.  What is a Kempis saying?  That to know God we have to turn off our brains?  There are many times when I really wish I could stop the thought process.  After a few moments of pondering...

The point here is not that I have to turn off my brain to get closer to God. But rather,  in the middle of all my thoughts, opinions and abilities I am still able to submit to the Spirit's call.  The call that says, "Hope comes in the morning."  The Spirit that says, "Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest."

Why submit and listen to the still small call of the Spirit of God in the middle of this noisy and confusing world?  Because the Spirit is life, the Spirit bring order out of the confusion when I am willing to wait with my questions.

Can I trust that the Spirit of the Living God will fall fresh on me again to bring order to the chaotic?... to the bring peace in the confusion?  I am so much like my three year old granddaughter when it comes to listening to the call of the Spirit of full of questions that I often miss the answers.

That is the quest that we are learn to love and follow in the middle of the ambiguous and the muddled world where we find ourselves.  It it is in the middle of the real world, where it is loud and the challenges come at us at light speed that spiritual formation finds submission to the Spirit and his direction for this day.

Lord Jesus-Help me to listen in the middle of the noise of this day's needs to your call.