Day #18: In the desert with Jesus: Traveling

 Sheep watching

Right now, I am sitting in an office center at the Clarion Hotel in San Angelo Texas. There is a party going on, I think it may be a “Quinceanera” in the ballroom. All I hear is the “thump, thump, thump” of the base and Beyoncé’s voice saying “If you liked it then you should a put a ring on it……….” The day of traveling was like the movie, “Planes, trains and automobiles.” We had to run from Terminal 8 to Terminal 92 (no joke) at the Denver airport. We had to spend a little extra time with TSA with E’s Dad’s remains though the checkpoint. Then when we got to Midland/Odessa the luggage was already off the carousel. There was another guy on the same flight and they sent his bags to some other town. We went back to ticketing/check-in and handed over our baggage claim ticket to the smiling lady behind the counter and then she disappeared behind the double doors. We held our breath and said a prayer. Both bags were there. Thank you Jesus!

Then, when we got into our rental car we noticed there was a crack across the entire windshield. So back I went. We got another car and headed down the road. Around 100 miles east to San Angelo to take Elaine’s Dad’s ashes to his final resting place here on earth, the place he loved. A mission of love and a promise……his only request. So tomorrow we will take him there and say another goodbye.

Tonight the three cousins shared stories and I listened and laughed along with them, and somehow, it all fits. This mission we are on fits with this journey of Lent. Sometimes its good to go back to your roots, the place you grew up and had your first memories. And sometimes it’s fun to come along while others revisit old times, old memories, old stories.

The stories are what hold us all together after all. I am thinking that Jesus was probably doing some reflecting about His own growing up years during those 40 days in the desert. It touches me that Jesus went back to where His own cousin John the Baptist preached after he was thrown in prison. I wonder if he was thinking about growing up, and cousins, and family and his hometown.

I didn’t have much quiet time today, we were on the move from 5 AM until just about an hour ago. Tonight, I will reflect on today’s events and be thankful I have clothes.

And the beat goes on in the ballroom. They have switched to Spanish music now.

Blessings from the road……………San Angelo, Texas tonight.

Fact: San Angelo was once the biggest producer of wool in the world. (In case you were wondering why the sheep picture)

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

photo: google images

Lent Day #16: “Thou shalt nots” in an age of Grace

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By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you my friends…………

to agree in what you say

 so that there will be no divisions among you.

Be completely united,

with only one thought

and one purpose.

1 Corinthians 1:10 

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 If one part of the body suffers,

all the other parts suffer with it;

if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness.

All of you are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it. 

Is it really possible for the Church to be totally unified?  I believe so, because God doesn’t ask us to do things that aren’t possible.  When Jesus prayed, He prayed for this one thing more than any other, that the church would be unified and united in love. I believe He still is. But as important as love is,  love alone is not enough. According to the Beatles, it’s all we need. According to the Bible, love means obedience too. Jesus says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

Just the love without the obedience or Holiness and you just have a big commune.

Everyone does whatever they think is right in their own eyes and lives happily ever after.

There were lots of those in the 1960’s and 1970’s. They didn’t last.

My words are few today and I struggled with them. In this age of Grace we have been immersed in for over 2000 years, we don’t always like “Thou shalt nots.” But I do believe they are necessary. Just like the “Shalts” are.

I think the best thing the Church can do, expecially during this season of Lent, is pray for one another. And one day, we can be sure……God will bring about this promise if not here, then in Heaven.

Let’s get a head start.

Lent Day #15: Arise O Sleeper

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“Arise o sleeper and let the light of Christ shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14  

In fact, let it shine on every dark area of our lives.

Well, God is amazing, that’s all I have to say this morning. Yesterday’s post was such a struggle and today I awoke with this Scripture right away and the words just came along with it. Sometimes the Holy Spirit just blows through like the wind and our task, or challenge I should say, is to be ready and receptive. I am not always but He woke me early today so it was much easier for me to hear in the dark, before the sounds of life came crashing in.

I was thinking about different kinds of waking up this morning. Many are waking to routines, the sleepwalking, mind numbing ones. Others are waking to sickness again, sick of being sick. They wonder how they can get through another day of it. Others are springing out of bed with emotions like joy and exultation. My guess would be those are people without aches and pains, or maybe they’re in love. In that “honeymoon” season when all colors look more vibrant and the world seems more like a Hallmark card than Rottencards.com. My guess would be that most of us are probably somewhere in the middle.

Laying there in the dark, I remembered this. I was waking up in our old red canvas tent in Yosemite where we went every summer and fall for much of my life. The sounds always amplified as they echoed off those steep canyon walls. More real than they ever were, I can still hear them all these years later. I hear tent pegs being pounded in, car doors slamming, a campsite waking up. I hear the scolding call of the Stellar’s Jay from the pines above, going from tree to tree……….and tent flaps unzipping to the brace of cold morning air and the hopeful sound of a crackling campfire. And walking out to greet the sun with a mug of steaming heaven.

I also remember times of waking up through a terrible mantle of grief so heavy it seemed it would smother me. I wondered how I would ever get through another day. But I also remembered something else. That moment right before I remembered that terrible crushing thing when all I was conscious of was waking.

That little space before I remembered is where the light of Christ waited for me.

Maybe that’s the answer, maybe we could learn to live in that little space of hope where Jesus waits. I pray that His light may shine on you today wherever you are and however you are waking this morning. It’s day 15 in the Desert with Jesus.

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

 

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

Bologna boy

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

Lent Day #13: What is Truth?

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Pilate seemed to be haunted with the question: “What is truth?”  He was in fact standing right in front of the embodiment of “Truth,” Jesus Himself, and he still missed the mark. Pilate’s wife, however, had a brush with truth and it terrified her: “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.”

I was asking myself this morning, why is it that so many young people have become disillusioned with the churches of their youth? Why are they so willing to grab at any other counterfeit philosophy, religion or way of life this world has to offer? Even ISIS, God forbid. What have they found so very attractive in the world?

What makes a seven-year old stand in front of a congregation, face alight with truth and knowledge and love of God, to declare their faith and plunge under the waters of Baptism only to abandon that same faith 14 years later?

I don’t think there is any one answer, but a combination of many things, but right now I would like to write a letter to all those young adults out there who think God no longer has any relevance in their daily life.

 

Dear Twentysomethings:

This is Jesus, remember me?

I’m still here. I remember you, even if you no longer remember me. First of all, I just want to say that I miss you, and so does my Father. We see you going about your daily life, with all its joys and heartaches and lost loves. We see how you smile and laugh with your friends, how you are learning so much. We see how you are burning the candle at both ends; falling asleep in class and working that part-time job.

We are deeply interested in all your comings and goings. Each day we try to get your attention in thousands of little ways. Did you see that sunset last night? I saw you look up briefly but I didn’t hear a prayer of thanks. In fact, I haven’t heard any prayers at all. I miss our talks. And remember that heavy rain storm last fall? Those were our tears as we watched you wrestle with that terrible decision. We wanted to help, to guide you. We could have offered a way out but you didn’t ask us. We stood aside as we felt the agony in our own Spirit, even as you told all your friends and family you were fine.

Let me remind you of something about my Father. He is less interested in telling you what to do and much more interested in infusing your life with meaning and truth and total fulfillment. He knows all have fallen short but He loves you anyway. We see your heartache and deep loneliness. We see the tears that fall when no one else is watching.

We know that the world is doing its best to make you believe that everything that looks good to you is truth. That whatever you feel in your heart must be right and that all those things you grew up learning in church were nothing but empty lies and fairy tales written by old men. Things that have no or impact or relevance in your life now.

Let me remind you that the Bible is my love letter to you, inspired by My own Spirit and written in my own blood and the blood of others who died for it. My Word will never steer you wrong, the world always will. There is an enemy out there who would like nothing better than to destroy your soul.

The soul I died to save.

You might think that your life is really exciting right now, but I promise if you really get to know me I can give you excitement and power and meaning like you never dreamed possible. More than you could ever ask or think. I am that kind of God. I am the One who calmed the waves with a word, the One that put this whole thing into motion. I long to take you to the far corners of the universe to hear the stars sing.

But only if you come back to the truth. To the only love that will never let you down. You may feel that your are free right now, but you have made yourself a prison of your own wants, needs and desires. Those can never give you true fulfillment or the peace and rest your soul so desperately craves. We can. It’s never too late to come home.

Our arms are always open. The Lover of your soul, Jesus.

“For although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.”

Lent day #12: The Weight of Time

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It’s the 12th day of Lent and I can’t shake the notion that stretching ahead of me are 28 more. Right now that seems like a lot. I wouldn’t normally give it a thought, but there is this writing thing, this faith project I have entered into. I could give it up right here and now except that it would be like saying that God has no more words to give me……and I know He does. He always does. That is if I am quiet long enough to hear.

I’m out in the shop attempting to wipe the slate of my mind as clear as the screen of the iPad balancing on my lap. It’s relaxing out here. As I sip my tea, I hear the plaintive cry of the quail making their way through between the houses. I have a strong sense that God is trying to get me to focus only on today and not look at how many days there are to go.

I am struck by the thought that before these days are through, this Lent lesson will have carved out an indelible place of importance in my walk with the Lord.

But still, I wonder if I will last. And I wonder how many readers will see this through along with me. But really, isn’t that the whole point of Lent? To travel this journey not on our own strength but on God’s alone. Anything we try to do or not do for 40 days is going to be a challenge.

Today I find myself preoccupied with thoughts of time. So immersed are we in the constraints of it that we feel it heavily, every waking moment. Well, I do anyway. I didn’t think much about time when I had a lot more of it ahead of me. I wonder how Jesus dealt with it?

He who was timeless was plunked down into the middle of this aging planet and immediately had to deal with the fact that He had only 33 short years to complete His mission. It boggles the mind to think that while Jesus was here, He was fully conscious of the timeless place He was going back to.

Everything we do here on earth from the time we get up until the time we go to bed deals with the passage of time. When I start my workweek I am already looking ahead to the end of the week, and I think I can speak for all my co-workers that they feel the same. We put in our time, but real life starts when we get home.

But what if we practiced being fully immersed in time here and now, but also fully immersed in Eternity like Jesus. Is that even possible? And how would we live differently? What would be expedient and what wouldn’t matter as much?

I think God wants us to be fully present in the here and now, and yet always keeping alive our hope of an eternity spent with Him. I think that’s the best way we can honor God. Jesus walked this earth handing out that hope and healing to everyone He encountered. In fact, He was that hope. And nothing would make Him happier to know that we were doing the same.

We put in our time here with the hope……………Knowing real life starts when we get home.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the Heavens and on earth. visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything………..For it was the Father’s good pleasure to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in Heaven. Colossians 1: 15-19
 

Lent Day #11: Putting my heart through the wash cycle

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I head out to my car, again for some quiet time. And today I really have nothing, nada, no idea what “word manna” will come down if any. All I have is my inner assurance that something will. I have never done anything like this. It’s like a Holy experiment because I have determined that I will not write anything just for the sake of ticking one more post off the list, but to be silent until I receive something from the Holy Spirit. And like the manna that fell like snow for the Israelites in the desert, words can’t be left over. And neither can they be written ahead.

I open the sunroof and the sound of birdsong drifts in. A mockingbird is singing his heart out from a nearby Mesquite tree and clouds are blowing in. A change is in the air. The wind in the trees somehow mimics the sounds of ocean waves. Imagine that, here in the desert! God brings me the ocean even here. He loves to give us little surprises to see if we will notice.

Slowly I scroll through the Bloglists on Facebook until I get to one that leads further in to this site: www.21martyrs.com and I hear Jesus words and they stop me in my tracks and then it hits me. This is my message for today:

Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that.” Luke 12:4
But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

“Surely not these atrocious acts, Lord.” Then I remembered how Saul looked in approval on as Stephen was stoned to death, before the Lord called him and he was renamed Paul. Ever since I have seen those 21 paraded out before the world, I have felt a searing hate for those with the knives. After all, I am an American patriot. We go after our enemies don’t we? Yes, part of me would love to see them wiped off the face of the earth. And yet.

Don’t I call myself a disciple of Jesus? A follower of the Way?

To forgive the unforgivable, that’s what Jesus did. Even while He was still hanging on the cross. And He calls us to do the same, impossible as it may seem. One thing I do know, everyone who dies for the sake of the Gospel and for Jesus will never die in vain. I believe God is calling us to pray, more now than ever before.

And I believe that these horrific acts that continue to color the ground red will lead to Heaven’s gates swinging open to others that may never have entered in otherwise.

As I sat there in my car listening to the trees that sounded like waves, I felt like my heart was being washed clean. I felt convicted. I felt the tide of hate in me recede just a little bit. I still hate what those people did, and God does too. But Jesus had to go to the cross because of my sin too, not just theirs. For there is no “little sin” or “big sin” in God’s eyes. It’s all the same.

And I know the only way I can possibly hope to forgive the unforgivable is to do it with His power and not my own. And by believing that anyone can be redeemed.

Because I was.

Let’s all pray. Join me over the next 40 days. For further reading please check out what Ann Voskamp has to say below.

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2015/02/the-call-for-the-next-40-days-to-the-nations-people-of-the-cross/

 

 

Lent Day #10: Joining God in the Present

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“Your future looks uncertain and feels flimsy – even precarious. That is how it should be. Secret things belong to the Lord, and future things are secret things. When you try to figure out the future, you are grasping at things that are Mine. This, like all forms of worry, is an act of rebellion: doubting My promises to care for you.” Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

One of the things God is teaching me during this 40 days to Calvary is to be fully aware of the present even as my mind veers off  relentlessly toward a reckless road somewhere in the future. He is telling me not to miss the moments because all around me there are people who don’t have many left. And the ones they do have are precarious at best.

It seems God keeps bringing me these examples lately. Two co-workers on the Intel memorial page……..gone. One from a heart attack the day after surgery and the other I am not sure about. Then, later in the day I inquired about someone else on our Shift because he wasn’t answering his work phone. Today we found out he is in the hospital with cancer. All of them around my age and younger. It seems God is saying…….”Slow down. Pay attention. When you wallow in worry you steal from your present and I didn’t create you for that.”  

The best way we can glorify God is by standing with Him right here in the present without wasting precious time immersing ourselves in the past or worrying excessively about events we have no control over.

This morning, I was rushing out to the car to get in some quiet time; (whooshing by people in order to get out to the car and think God thoughts mind you) and on the way I saw my buddy Gilbert who does maintenance here at the site. I stopped and asked him how he was and he paused as he looked down at the floor a minute. “Oh”……he said, shaking his head. “I have been up since 4:00 AM. My daughter called because my ex-wife had kicked her out of the house to let her son move in. She didn’t have anywhere else to go.” He said she had all her belongings there in her car.

Sometimes, the best way we can pray is by closing our mouth and listening to someone else pour their heart out.

I am so glad I didn’t rush by him so I could go out and do something “Holy.” Not that there is anything wrong with that. When I left, we were both smiling and joking. I hope I made him feel just a little bit better.

By the time I got to my car, my bagel was like rubber but I didn’t care. That, and my coffee tasted like communion. I opened the sunroof on my car and birdsong greeted me. And Jesus has been in the wilderness 10 days now.

He must be so hungry.

Lent Day #9: What was I thinking?

The Wildness of God

I don’t remember consciously making the decision to do a post for each of the 40 days of Lent, it just sort of happened. Somehow I think there is a lesson for me in it. And maybe for someone else as well. I am discovering just how weak the flesh can be, (as if I didn’t know before.)

On Day 9, I find my mind wandering. And this morning out of nowhere, I found myself thinking very uncharitable thoughts about someone sitting just a few feet away. I had to pray a prayer of confession before 6:30 in the morning. For the co-workers who might read this, don’t even speculate. It was all me, not them.

We’re all human, after all. The Spirit is willing but the flesh always talks back.

As I sit here writing  this, I have to stop and think because my mind is growing fuzzy. Is this the 9th or 10th day of Lent? I had to consult Google.  I feel myself losing focus. I wonder, how did Jesus feel on the 9th day?

I think, “This is crazy. Do I really want to go on with this? Is anyone reading?”  You know how someone with hundreds of followers will post something on Facebook, something innocuous like, “I had fried fish for dinner last night.” And all of a sudden, they have 120 comments. Oh yes, my flesh was talking back like crazy this morning.

Then it was like I felt a quiet tap on the shoulder (God has such a sense of humor) “How’s the lesson going?” He said. I had to smile.

And yes, this is only the 9th day. All of a sudden, I am reminded of why I am doing this. And it has nothing to do vanity or popularity, or shares, or comments. It’s all about what God wants to teach me with this small task.

And as we walk this 40 day road toward the cross together, friends. It’s about what we can all teach each other.

“The noonday devil of the Christian life is the temptation to lose the inner self while preserving the shell of edifying behavior. Suddenly I discover that I am ministering to AIDS victims to enhance my resume. I find I renounced ice cream for Lent to lose five excess pounds… I have fallen victim to what T.S. Eliot calls the greatest sin: to do the right thing for the wrong reason.”  Brennan Manning

Photo: Google images