Those “little Gethsemane” moments

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“Now my soul is in turmoil, and what should I say—’Father, save me from this hour’? No! It was for this very reason that I came to this hour.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

No doubt about it, Jesus had the real Gethsemane moment. None of us will ever come close to going through what He did that awful night in the garden. And even though He knew that all that suffering would be over in 3 days time, even though He knew that Heaven was just on the other side of it:

He still wrestled…….He still struggled…..He still resisted. But ultimately He trusted in His Father to see Him though.

What about you? You know you are headed for Glory eventually. You know where your real home is, but does that minimize the Gethsemane moments while you are going through them? I admit, knowing that the end of the story is victorious takes the sting out, but when you’re in the dark groping around, the pain is real. It feels like your own personal mini Gethsemane.

Wednesday was a day like that for me. It felt like God was hiding behind a cloud all day. I knew He was there alright, but I couldn’t feel Him. The night before I had slept fitfully. Taunted by the worry demons, they danced around my mind like shadows. I tried to recite the 23rd Psalm but I could hear Satan whisper…..”There are no green pastures or still waters for you….” He’s such a liar.

Right now it seems ridiculous. Yesterday and today I felt like my old self again, but Wednesday was a battle. I went out to my car during break to get some alone time with God. I had visions of playing some quiet music as the breeze wafted through the car windows, but when I got there someone was sitting in the car right next to me with their window open. So much for that.

I even moved my car to the next shady spot, but lo and behold, there was another person in the car next to me again with their windows rolled down. I know God’s sense of humor well enough by now to know that He was playing a little private joke on me.

Guess He didn’t think I needed any alone time.

Sometimes, God likes to play a little hide and seek with us. He hides Himself for just a little while, and it’s good for us. Those times stretch our faith like nothing else can.

Awhile back I was talking to my Dad, who was going through his own mini-Gethsemane moment at the time. He has a lot of those lately. He is 87 and dealing with all the changes that go along with that. He needed some bolstering up. Thinking to be helpful, I started to tell him about someone else who I felt was in a much worse situation. He told me something that I will never forget. He said, “Hearing about someone worse off doesn’t help me because my situation is what matters to me.

It’s my pain that’s real.

He’s right. There are times when it does help to talk or hear about someone worse off than you, but there are other times when you desperately need a loving ear with an open and sympathetic heart. And here’s the thing:

Anytime you hold out your heart to someone you are taking a risk. You hold it out with trembling hands with the hope that someone will treasure it and take it from you gently and treat it with care, instead of dismissing it or ignoring it altogether.

That was an important lesson that I needed to learn and I thank Him for trusting me enough to speak the truth and speak it kindly. I truly believe the best lessons we can learn are the ones we can learn from each other. We’re all still learning.

None of us is perfect and very few are actually out to get us. The best thing we can do is to ask the Holy Spirit to make us humble and able to receive the lessons He wants to teach us through the classroom of each other.

Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.

A person isn’t who they are the last conversation you’ve had with them, they’re who they’ve been throughout your whole relationship. 

Rainier Marie Rilke

Miracle at the DMV

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Yesterday we went on a little “adventure” at the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles. I volunteered to go along with Elaine as she attempted to straighten out her CDL license paperwork which was mysteriously “not in the system” even though it was mailed on time. I don’t think anyone should have to go to the DMV alone, so I went along for the ride. Well, actually I went along for the “wait.” As it turns out, the computer system goes down quite regularly there, especially on Mondays and Fridays, which would explain why her paperwork was somewhere floating around in cyber-space.

We walked down a little hallway into the “CDL” section which was a little room filled with plastic chairs which had seen better days. They needed a good scrubbing with bleach which they had never seen, and there were odd marks on the walls. The line was already forming but there were a few chairs left so we took the two available and settled in for the wait. About 20 minutes in, they announced that the “system was down” and it could be anywhere from 20 minutes to 6 hours.

They offered to hand out some slips whereby we could go to breakfast and come back, assuring our place in line but we opted to stay for the long haul and I began praying that the system would come up sooner rather than later. Well, I should say most of the time I was praying, some of the time I was commiserating along with everyone else. We got a little ticket that said we were number 25. The little display screen that showed the number being served was miserably dead. We waited for a flicker of life.

Meanwhile the poor lady that was behind the counter (I wouldn’t have wanted that job for all the tea in China) was displaying an enormous amount of fortitude and goodwill. Not to mention patience. We sat and played Trivia and Words with Friends back and forth and I in turn observed, as I always do, the people around me. It never fails. There’s always one in the room who isn’t clear and doesn’t listen to the announcements. And there is always at least one who constantly questions the whole entire system.

As I looked around, I thought, these are working people who just want to do their jobs. None of them were being paid to be there and probably most of them couldn’t afford to be off work for the day. But there we all were in earthly purgatory, helpless and at the mercy of the SYSTEM. The guy sitting in front of us was alternately looking at scantily clad women on his phone. The other guy, mister “stand up and sit back down” was reading a book called, “I hope they have beer in Hell.” I wanted to tell him I was almost positive they didn’t and that he most assuredly didn’t want to go there even if they did.

As I looked around, I found myself thinking, each life here is precious to God. None of us looked like anything close to miraculous but as we live and breathe we are. I wanted to stand up and tell them all that Jesus loved them. From the one speaking in broken English, to the one who looked like he just crawled out of bed, and the one wearing the T-shirt that said, “Beer is proof that God loves us.” And everyone in between, even me.

Then, to make things even more bizarre, they made another announcement that it had started to rain and that, “Due to the rain, there will be no road driving tests.” What?? Don’t people drive in the rain? We all looked at each other with a sense of bewilderment. If that were the case in other states, such as Oregon or Washington, then nobody would ever be granted a driving license.

I leaned toward Elaine and whispered, “At least this time there is no pesticide guy.” No joke, last time we went to the Apache Junction DMV a guy came in with one of those pesticide tanks on his back and proceeded to spray the entire room, including and around people’s feet where they were standing at booths taking the written driving tests! The bizarre thing was, no one paid much attention as the smell wafted around us.”

After about an hour, a miracle occurred and the system blinked to life. They made the announcement and the display screen flickered to life. It said now serving “1.” Number one went back into another room and we didn’t hear anything else for an hour. Then they started calling more numbers. They skipped a bunch, and finally they called Elaine up, gave her a gold stamp of approval and said three magic words, “You’re all set.” Apparently, once the system came back up it found her in it. And no payment was needed to have it reinstated. (Miracle number two.)

We thanked the lady profusely for how she handled the customers, and the situation at hand and she beamed in gratitude.

Everyone waiting seemed to be happy for us, all those nylon short clad, dirty Levi, greasy haired clan of men collectively clapped and cheered when Elaine announced, “Since we are all friends now I guess I can leave.” I gave the victory sign, smiled and said, “Good luck.”

And peace be with you……….

I believe what I believe…….

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I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

According to Wikipedia, the purpose of a creed is to provide a doctrinal statement of correct belief, or Orthodoxy.  The creeds of Christianity have been drawn up at times of conflict about doctrine: acceptance or rejection of a creed served to distinguish believers and deniers of a particular doctrine or set of doctrines. For that reason a creed was called in Greek a σύμβολον (Eng. symbolon), a word that meant half of a broken object which, when placed together with the other half, verified the bearer’s identity. The Greek word passed through Latin “symbolum” into English “symbol”, which only later took on the meaning of an outward sign of something.

In the year 325 AD a controversy arose whereby Arius, a Libyan presbyter in Alexandria, had declared that “although the Son was divine, he was a created being and therefore not co-essential with the Father, and “there was when he was not,” This made Jesus less than the Father, which posed soteriological challenges for the nascent doctrine of the Trinity. Arius’s teaching provoked a serious crisis.”

The Nicene Creed of 325 explicitly affirms the co-essential divinity of the Son, applying to him the term “consubstantial”. The 381 version speaks of the Holy Spirit as worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. The Athanasian Creed (not used in Eastern Christianity) describes in much greater detail the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apostles’ Creed makes no explicit statements about the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit, but, in the view of many who use it, the doctrine is implicit in it.

On its own, this statement of belief would be only a collection of words, however, since it is rooted and grounded in the Holy Word of God it stands forever as a unifying standard that applies to all Christian Churches. I never recited this growing up as a Baptist but when I visited other churches and they would recite it, I always loved it though inwardly I cringed a bit with the “Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” because I thought I was being hypocritical saying that part when I wasn’t Catholic. But in this case, the word “catholic” is derived from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning “general”, “universal. (Although some Catholics might disagree on that point)

This morning, millions of churches will gather together and break bread over these words. In this instance, we are totally unified despite our different denominations. I found myself saying these words this morning as a awoke, well really singing them. In the 1970s Rich Mullins wrote a tune to these very words and I played it on the way to work yesterday. Of these words he says:

And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
I did not make it, no it is making me
I said, “I did not make it, no it is making me”
It is the very truth of God
And not the invention of any man…….

Amen, dear Rich, you have been living that out with Jesus for years already. I can’t wait to meet you……..

My prayer for today:

“Oh Father, though the streams of culture and the world flow swiftly and changeably around us, Your words are like a mighty rock it swirls around. The world has its eyes turned elsewhere, but ours are forever turned to you. You are the first and the last, and your words were formed long before this world existed and they will stand for all eternity. We thank you that though everything else changes, you never do. In an unsettled world, we draw tremendous comfort from that. I pray that the church will continue be an open door for people coming in from the world battered and bruised and that we in the church might be a conduit for the great love and mercy you have shown to us. You are light in our darkness, without you, we have nothing.” Amen

Why written words will never go away……

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I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.”

Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.”

Over and over again, Paul especially, stresses the importance of writing this “with his own hand.” At times others would take down the message, but when Paul wanted to emphasize something he said this. It was his way of saying, “Pay attention, I want to you to see how important this is to me.”

When we get something handwritten it’s almost like we get a piece of that person, almost as if they leave a bit of themselves behind with the ink on the page. When I want to keep someone close, I tuck something they’ve written in my wallet. Even now I have some folded notes and little drawings I have held onto for years. My wallet is fat, but not with folded money, with other kinds of treasures.

And today I was given a special journal, an unexpected gift to go along with us on our journey. Elaine said, “This had your name on it.” as she held it out, smiling. I will keep it and scribble notes in it and maybe someday years from now someone will find it and wonder whose it was.

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Tomorrow, we will go on a long-expected road trip. We will drive for miles and miles. We will sing out loud with the radio across several states and we’ll stop where we want. It will be a grand adventure and I thank God for the opportunity. And in my purse, there are four people I hold dear who will come with me because right now I am holding them all close in prayer. I need part of them near me, with me on this journey.

Because what’s written on those pages I carry is part of them, and part of me too.

That’s why what’s written will never go away.

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Lent Day #35: Relationship……why He came.

Love one another

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-37

Without a doubt, relationships can be the most challenging part or the most rewarding part of life. It’s those really close relationships that can really put our hearts through the wringer. We brush past people everyday barely skimming the surface of each others lives. We can smile while in line at the store, offer to let someone go in front of us, practice grace with those rude drivers, hold the door for a Mom laden down with strollers and packages, or an elderly person struggling with a walker. These are easy. It’s the ones we are closest to that are the hardest.

What do you do when a relationship you’ve always counted on is broken? It always seems like it’s one person who hurts worse than the other. How do you handle the indifference of someone you thought was so close? How can they not see your suffering in silence? How can they turn away and not care?

I believe God gave us family and friends to teach us the hardest lessons about practicing grace and love in the midst of pain. Sometimes pain so severe you think you might not live through it. But when we think about Jesus life, we see someone who loved perfectly so that we would never ever have to be alone in this life. He came to create a bond with us that would never be broken. Ever.

It’s true, we need each other. God created us to live in relationships. But the truth is, we need God more. There is only One relationship we can’t live without, either in this life or the life to come. When we put our trust in Him each day, He surrounds us with the strength and peace we need to keep going, even in the midst of turmoil in the people around us. I know that to be true from experience. Sometimes, all we can do is release our loved one to God’s care and know that as the King and Healer of hearts, He has the power to turn it around for ultimate good. But it’s so tough to do this. Jesus knows this, He was betrayed by one of his closest friends.

And I look at my own life, how I have failed Him so many times, sometimes barely skimming the surface of our relationship, even though it cost Him everything. His love continues to amaze me. He’s promised to never leave me or forsake me. That’s a guarantee that just doesn’t happen in this life.

Please know…………if you are going through heartache with a relationship today, be assured that there are people you don’t even know praying for you right now.

On earth and Heaven. Take heart, and take hope my friends.

 

Day 17 in the Desert

Monday blessings....

It’s always easy when you’re striding along that wide sunlit road and things are going well. It’s easy to sit sanctimoniously here in my safe place when everything’s going just fine and shout encouragement up to you as you’re desperately scrambling on the rocks. I shout, “Hey you there, I’ll bring you some water when you come down! You can do it, I know you can, keep up the good work, bro!  You barely glance my direction for you’re too busy concentrating on placing one foot in front of the other.

But I have been through enough to remember that hard path, and for that I am thankful. And so I scramble up to you and side by side, we make it together. I hand you a canteen and I can see you are grateful.

There have been too many times I have passed people by, too intent on my own story to find out about theirs.

I’m wondering, on this 17th day in the desert with Jesus, if I’ve ever really sacrificed anything for the sake of the cross.

My heart goes out to those today in the persecuted church. The list grows long…….China, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Africa, Ukraine. All over the globe people are losing their lives, and not just for the cross. In some cases, just for being different brand of religion or people group.

And right here in America…..it’s getting more unpopular isn’t it, to call yourself a Christian. I like what they went by in the early church, “Followers of the Way.” Yes I like that very much. Every day here in this land, people are waking up with flickering candles, trying desperately to keep them lit no matter what. They cup their hands pretectively around them, against all odds.

I see people, brave ones in difficult situations; making the right choices when it’s neither easy or popular. I see the worry on their faces, wondering how far the paycheck is going to stretch and still not hesitating to give when they see someone else in need. Taking care of sick kids, sick parents, sick friends. Everyday they light their candle of hope and set out again courageously on paths that are steep and getting steeper.

We may not always be exempt from real persecution or threat here in America and I can only hope and pray that we will be good stewards of our safe shores.

And help me, Lord, be one to blow a little breath of encouragement to keep my neighbor’s candle lit instead of being one who snuffs it out with negative attitudes and cynicism. Or grumbling and complaining. I want to be one who flickers the flame to life.

A hope bringer to a world that needs it desperately.

There can be no faith without doubt, no hope without anxiety, and no trust without worry. These shadow us from dawn to dusk, indeed, they appear even in our dreams. As long as we withhold internal consent to these varied faces of fear, they are no cause for alarm, because they are not voluntary. When they threaten to consume us, we can overpower them with a simple and deliberate act of trust: “Jesus, by your grace I grow still for a moment and I hear you say, ‘Courage, It’s me! Don’t be afraid.’ I Place my trust in your presence and your love. Thank you.

Brennan Manning

 

This next week will be interesting since I will be traveling and access will be hit and miss. Posts may be a bit “different” So I thank you in advance for your patience. Lori

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Lent Day #14: The Struggle (when you start to doubt your sanity)

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Up until now it’s been a process of emptying myself out so words could come in. Somehow it has been easy for me to believe that God would supply the word manna for each day. But today, it all changed. The struggle has been a deeper one. My mind has refused to quiet down.

I have been in and out of the shop several times today off and on. I took the tea-pot out there and consumed 3 mugs of Tazo Zen tea, along with the doves and the wind chimes you would think my mind would calm right down but it was wound tighter than an eight-day clock.

All the conditions seemed to be right…..it was a nice drizzly day and I started with quiet time this morning and that was just fine. But a significant piece was missing that hasn’t been before. Doubt and fear kicked in simultaneously. I think it was mostly fear. That was what ultimately paralyzed me. That I was foolish for trying this.

I mentioned this to Elaine, my faithful sounding board this evening and she said, “Why can’t those be the words, what you just said.” She has faith like a child, beautiful in its simplicity. After all, that’s what Jesus valued isn’t it? I love that she believes in me, in this.

And my Dad too, when I mentioned my Lent writing journey to him yesterday, was so excited and on board. What a blessing it is to have support, even when you doubt your own sanity. After all, that’s what keeps us all on track isn’t it? When someone gives verbal assent to your own inner assurance, it bolsters you in a way that nothing else can. It gives you that little nudge that says, “It’s okay, it may not always be easy but it’s right and we are behind you all the way.”

So this is my lesson today, that some days it will be a struggle. We lift our eyes to Jesus out there on the water and we forget our fear, all we can see is His face, His voice saying, “Come on, you can do it.” We plunge in enthusiastically like Peter, then we look down and realize we are actually walking on water and panic, then we sink. But thankfully, He is always there to pull us up.

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  Matthew 14:22

Photo: http://i.huffpost.com/…/322416/slide_322416_3042121_free.jpg