The March that really matters

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There are many marches going on right now in the U.S. and all around the world. Down through history people have marched for different things. Some of those marches had impact and affected real change. Some marches will have little lasting impact.

Today, on Palm Sunday we celebrate a small band of marchers that changed not only history and time as we know it, but changed eternity as well. A small band of people including Jesus walked toward Jerusalem and as Jesus approached the city He wept because He saw hearts that needed to be changed. Just like today.

He knew that He and He alone had the only cure for a terminally heartsick humanity. Just like today.

However zealous today’s marchers might be, they can never affect real lasting change. Real change can only come when people’s hearts are transformed by Jesus. Palm Sunday has always affected me. There is just something about Easter week and everything that goes with it. It’s like everything in the world that we think is so important can just wait. It all pales in comparison with what happened on the world stage around 2000 years ago. And largely, people back then had no clue about what was really going on. Just like most people today.

Jesus came. He vacated His seat in Heaven for this lowly grungy stinky planet. Does that get your attention? It should. And if not, why not?

People threw their coats down on the road where Jesus came riding in on the donkey. For most people, it was their only coat. One week later those same people screamed for His death. This week among all weeks is when we remember what God’s love cost Him. Everything.

Today was kind of comical but not really. We were irritated and circling the parking lot once again. We were too late for early church and way too early for late church. We hung out in the parking lot and watched people until 10:00 service started trickling out.

When the service started, however, it no longer mattered. To sing, “Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest” as little kids came down the aisles waving palm branches was enough to do me in. The world and everything in it melted away in those few minutes as it was just Jesus and me…….and us. An eternal family worshipping in church. A world away. A world together.

Later I got to decorate eggs with my niece and see my family……..later still, I worked in the yard with my bestie and it felt like Holy work. Something about working close to the earth reminds us of Eden I guess. Holy work for Holy Week.

I hope this week to remember to pause enough. Remember enough. Cherish enough.

Thank you Jesus. All to You I owe.

Heart is where the Home is…….

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I flew in last night from spending a wonderful weekend at my cousin and his wife’s beautiful home in Sonoma, the heart of the wine country. The scenery was breathtaking, just as I remembered it when I was there too long ago at their wedding. More than that it was the faces I hadn’t seen, the greetings, the laughter, the joy of surprising everyone by showing up unexpectedly. The look on the faces of my family as they got out of the car and saw me were worth any amount to get there.

As wonderful as it all was, it was tiring. After the planes, shuttles, and rental cars it’s always good to get home. I have always thought being homeless would be the worst, having no place to belong, no place to get out of the storm, no place to call your own.

Scripture has much to say about home. Jesus had no physical dwelling place on this earth. About Himself he said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has no place to lay His head.” He knew His true home was Heaven, and so do we, if we belong to Him.

As I was meditating on the whole concept of home this morning at 2:30 AM when I couldn’t sleep, I was thinking that as believers, we carry “Home” around in the form of the Holy Spirit, who never leaves us. And since Heaven is our real permanent home, and Jesus continually said that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, right here and now, then it logically follows that our “real” home can never be snatched away. It’s here, it’s there it’s everywhere, kind of like the Beatles song of the same name. (Look it up those of you under 50)

As wonderful as it is to have a physical home right here and now, I know that if I lost it today it would be nothing compared to not having that home that never leaves me. there are few promises in Scripture better than the one that says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

Our future home in Heaven is more real than you can imagine. It’s not a figurative idea, it is a concrete place where nothing ever dies or rusts or wears out. While we are bound to this earth,  we are severely limited in what we can see and touch and feel. Our hope is in that better place. And yet Jesus said in many different ways, don’t just wander around dreaming of Heaven, but instead store up treasure there by helping those in need here. Look for opportunities to show God’s great love for humanity by being a conduit for His love yourself.

I guess you could say, we are all like the prodigal son who finally came to his senses and went back home. As wonderful as this world was to him at first, sooner or later it chewed him up and spit him out. He knew where he had to go. To His father’s waiting arms.

And while he expected to be treated like a servant, His Father ended up treating him like a prince. Listen to what the Bible says about how our Heavenly Father views us, friends:

“So he got up and went to His Father, “But while He was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Kind of like the greeting I got from my family as they saw me and gasped and then held out their arms open wide.

That kind of love is our real home. That’s the kind of love the Father’s has for us, and all we have to do is turn to Him and receive Him. That’s our hope. No matter how wonderful this world is, we have a better one coming.

You might feel like you are a long way off from God right now. Maybe it’s been years since you darkened the door of a church. Maybe you never have. But all it involves is one small step toward him, and like the father gazing out the window looking for his son (or daughter) He’s waiting.

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Photos from the home and property of John and Jean Painter………I sincerely hope they don’t mind.

Lent Day 19: I could never capture it all……

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How can I ever capture what today was? It was joy, tears, memories, laughter and stories all wrapped up in a wonderful day that I can’t fully capture here. Bobby and I took a walk along the Concho River this morning that runs by the Hotel and got a little snatch of nature while listening to the birds. Elaine, Bobby (Elaine’s brother) and I picked up their cousin Gerry…..after that the laughter just kind of continued throughout the day. I won’t even try to explain it. I don’t think I could fully do it justice, maybe someday I will try for now I am simply played out.

We did end up visiting Mt. Carmel Hermitage Monastery and also Our Lady of Grace Monastery, both courtesy of Gerry Dupree. The day started with own ceremony of bringing Vernon Curtis Dupree back to his homeland and beloved Texas which he loved. It was a privilege to be able to take part in this journey and final stop for him until that final Resurrection Day of the Lord which is our hope.

All in all, it was a day that will live in all of our memories because it was full of some of the very best this life has to offer, a few tears, many memories and much more laughter to hold it all together.

My words are few tonight, I am still full of voices and stories that are far too colorful for me to capture here…………but I leave you with a few words from the vestibule at Our Lady of Grace Monastery:

God of Love, through this Lenten journey, purify my desires to serve you. Free me from an temptations to judge others, to place myself above others. Please let me surrender even my impatience with others, that with your love and your grace, I might be less and less absorbed with myself, and more and more full of the desire to follow you. in laying down my life according to Your purpose.

And thank you Lord, for the dear lady who came graciously out when she saw our car and let me in to see the beautiful church……I felt an immediate kinship.

Thank you Bobby (who walked the stations of the cross with me) and Elaine who drove us miles to get there, and to Gerry for showing us these treasures. I love you all……….

When Church Happens

He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:14

I went to church but I didn’t go all the way in. To be honest, I just didn’t feel like hearing another sermon. I have heard it all before. I have sat and filled in the blanks dutifully, like one more task I have to check off. Done. On to the next thing.

I miss the interaction. I miss how at my old church they would ask if anyone had a burden, a need. And then others standing by would surround them, touch them, hands like gentle doves lighting on shoulders, backs…….. and the Pastor would pray. Sometimes they would cry and we would want to cry too. There is something powerful about the laying on of hands…..passing the Spirit from one to another.

It unifies us all.

Somehow I can’t escape the feeling that we are leaving with our burdens intact. There might be a burning need right next to me, and I would never know it. An inner cry for help like a dial tone unanswered.

We leave as the islands we are. Untouched. Still carrying the heavy load.

I wonder and not for the first time if the Spirit is not quenched with all our organization. Just one Sunday I wish the Pastor would stop and say, “Now everyone turn to your neighbor, not the one you came with, the one you don’t know, and pray for each other for 15 minutes.”

And I miss the altar call. Some say it’s just not needed anymore. It makes people feel embarrassed, singled out. But I disagree. I feel like it’s what draws us all in, and holds us together. Makes us remember when we were the one propelled out of our seat, and how that aisle looked impossibly long.

And when it was just you and the Lord, and no one else. And somehow, you know that this one thing, this one moment will change the course of your eternal destiny. What in the world matters more than that? I believe churches are robbing their congregations when they take this Holy moment away.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the church more than ever. When I miss it, something is wrong. But I also think that church happens more often than not after we leave the building.

As we sat yesterday with old friends, listening to all they have been through since we had last seen them I felt church happen with the exchange of tears. When she said she was finally getting help in dealing with the death of their little boy. That little boy who was their whole world and in some ways still is.

I can see how that little boy is so alive to them still. And how if he knew what a shadow his death made on their marriage, how sad he would be. I wish I would have told her that if he knew his Mommy was finally getting help, that he would smile from Heaven.

We talked of how it will never go away, he will never go away. But you learn to make some kind of peace with it. And go on for others who still need you.

Church happens when love happens, and not just on Sunday. But over coffee, in between classes, in parking lots, in school buses, everywhere God is.

It happens when we remember the Cross and what was done on it, for us. And that every single thing we bear in this life, He already dealt with.

It was nailed to the cross when He was.

In light of that, we stand at the edge of eternity every day. And with each day, no matter what we have to handle, our gratitude can’t help but grow.

We just can’t stop counting the gifts. Join me today? And Ann at Holy Experience here.



Lattes in Church

It’s a curious phenomenon. Ever since bigger churches have started adding bookstores and coffee stands, I have noticed more and more people carrying their lattes into church. It kinda bugs me. Now, anybody that knows me, knows I have a passion for coffee and books. Nobody loves them more than I do, I just think there is a time and place for everything. Maybe it’s the Baptist in me. I think they should be able to put their latte down for an hour or so, at least in church.

Here in the desert, it is very hot and very dry, so I totally understand a bottled water in church. After all, the Pastor may have need of it. He might just have a coughing fit right in the middle of the sermon, or have a bad case of cotton mouth. You could be the hero, offering your water. But coffee is a leisurely drink. Something to have in the fellowship hall (remember those?) after church, with a bad store bought cookie or donut.

To be honest, I even have mixed feelings about having those places on the church premises, although I frequent them myself. It is confusing. I know the money goes to good causes, but even so, my legalistic side imagines Jesus coming in with a whip and tipping over the coffee cart and scattering books everywhere.

I know, I am mixed up.

That’s why I blog, to share my mixed up feelings with my fellow believers, and anyone else who will listen. I have some hangups, I know. I just feel a certain decorum and reverence should accompany church attendance, and yet I love it when our Pastor uses YouTube videos to illustrate a sermon point. And I love that he uses an iPad.

I definitely believe in laughter and humor at church. My Grandmother on the other hand, didn’t think laughter and church belonged in the same sentence. She also didn’t think there should ever be any guitars or drums involved at any time during worship and certainly no clapping or raised hands. She didn’t think church was the place to show any joy or expression of any kind.

She believed in paying attention……well, she paid attention mainly to what everyone else was doing. She sighed loudly in church and embarrassed us all. Bless her heart.

She also picked the quietest time to unwrap her Reed’s peppermint candy and offer one to everyone else in the pew. It also bothered her that after Amy got her divorce, she was still allowed to be the church organist. I can still hear her to this day……”She should be in the back of the church….”

Well, now you can understand why I have all these conflicting feelings about how church should be and how you should behave in it. Just last Sunday, I saw two of the shortest skirts I have ever seen, at church. I want to ask them, “Do you know where you are?”

And I am still surprised when I see tattoos in church, though I shouldn’t be. I do, however believe in drums, and guitars and raising my hands and laughing in church.

After all, if being saved from hell and living forever with Jesus isn’t a reason to rejoice, I don’t know what is.

Maybe I need to sit in the back of the church with Amy the organist.

Social Media and the Church

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching <sup class="crossreference" value="(BE)”>and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread <sup class="crossreference" value="(BF)”>and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common…..Acts 2:42-44

And each day they were actively involved in Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and joyfully embraced each new Social Media that came along and integrated it into the Church, and each day more believers were added to their number…….

An interesting question…..how would social media have affected the early church? I wonder how the use of social media has shaped the modern church today. I didn’t think about it much until I got swept up in the frenzy of it myself. I blame my IPhone. I heart my IPhone! I panic when I lose sight of it. It has almost become a part of me, after all, all my stuff is in there. Personal stuff.

I have now started doing a Facebook check in at church. Then I ask myself, am I doing this to be prideful? While others are out Facebooking at Starbucks or the golf course, do I feel secretly superior for “checking in” at church? It takes a little bit of self-evaluation. On the other hand, I see others check-ins at church and it makes me happy they are there. So maybe they are happy seeing mine as well.

My Mom has the personal opinion that the computer, (and the IPhone) are the Antichrist. She often says that if the computers shut down the whole world would stop. She might be right. I think when we become so dependent on anything that we couldn’t imagine life without it, it’s a problem.

As with everything we do, discretion and moderation is key.

I personally think the church can use technology to its advantage. The question I have to ask myself is, can  I be just as comfortable in the little brown church in the wildwood, as in a modern day church with the big screen and flashing lights and the YouTube videos? Do I need all that?

I think as long as the intent is to bring people closer to Jesus and to each other, it can be a good thing. And if I did go to the little brown church in the wildwood? I have to confess, I would most likely be tempted to whip out my IPhone, take a picture, do a check in and then check to see if they had a website I could “Like”

This morning, I just found out there is a Jesus Facebook page. It has 12,993,870 likes. I had no idea such a thing existed.

What’s your take on all this?

God’s Language is Love

                      
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26, 27
So many times I search for the right words….I falter. No words express what I am trying to say. It’s frustrating! But we need not ever search for the right words…..The Holy Spirit always knows the perfect words. It is as if He is laying out my heart before the Father, in the Father’s own language!
At one point in my Christian walk, I was almost obsessed with having a “prayer language.” I wanted to know everything I could about speaking in tongues. I read books, I talked to other Christians, I prayed for the gift. I wanted the “experience.” A pastor friend I know says he prayed for the gift and months later he was driving down the road and was so overcome with emotion he had to pull over. Then he spoke in tongues for the first time.
At one point, I went so far as going to a church meeting and having the pastor pray for me to “get it” right then and there. Nothing came forth…….not one utterance. He prayed…….I waited. And waited. Not one Holy peep. He told me, “Just praise God out loud.” I did, well, not really loud, in English.
Me and another lady were ushered off to the side where we were prayed for again, to no avail. She seemed somewhat upset. I mumbled something out loud and they thought they had success, “Glory to God!” I went and sat down just so they could stop praying.
Looking back, parts of this meeting now seem very humorous, although not in an irreverent way. It was an evening spent with people who loved God gathering together for one purpose, to praise Him. The motive in my heart was pure. That’s what God saw. My prayer may not have been answered the way I wanted it that night, but not because of what anyone did or didn’t do. Not the Pastor, not me, not anyone….certainly not God.
One day, many months after that night while I was vacuuming I started singing and praising God….in another language. It came quietly and unannounced, like a gentle dove. I didn’t lose control, I didn’t black out or fall to the floor. I was completely coherent and rational. And that is how its been every time since. It is my prayer language and only God hears it. It is His gift to me and it is precious.
And it came in His timing. And whatever you believe about this particular topic, the Holy Spirit is very much alive and working in the hearts of men and women today.
I know there are some denominations who teach that without this gift, you aren’t saved. I have never read that in the Bible. I also know some denominations that say it’s not for today, it only happened once on the day of Pentecost. All I know is it happened to me. Regardless, we never have to worry about either having a prayer language or not having one, God always hears the cry of our heart.
Not only do we have Jesus actively interceding before the Throne of the Father, we have the Holy Spirit interceding for us in our prayers! That unspoken request that is in your heart today? Be assured, it has already been communicated in the best language….God’s language! And His language is always
Love