Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Too Much Stuff

For months now I have been going through my possessions and making decisions on what I need and what must go. It is not an easy task, especially for someone like me who keeps things for memories' sake. I have a lot of memories. Little trinkets that I have stashed away into little boxes take me back in time when I find them during my clean up times. The question I must ask myself is it necessary to keep the mementos in order to remember?

The past has given me many gifts. My life is a culmination of all those events that are remembered and even those that have been long forgotten. I am not convinced though, that I need all my stuff to make the memories live again. It seems to me that all of those memories do live in me here in the present. Each memory has made its mark on my life and that impression has molded me in some way. Even more important are the choices I made and continue to make because of what has happened to me.

Cleaning out all the stuff is a good thing. I'm not ready to get rid of it all but I am simplifying my life and my living space. I am making big changes and I am making a memory of my choice to live free from the things that hold me down and clutter my life. I think Jesus would like that. It is time to be the me I am today, not the me I was yesterday!

Lord of my every day, You are Eternal. You are present in my yesterdays, today, and tomorrows. It is You that must be remembered. I need to look for You in every day, but I so often look more at myself. Help me to turn my eyes to You and let You fill up all the places of my mind and heart. Thank you for the promise of Your presence. I need you!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Breathe !

My Mom has told me stories of when I was a little girl fighting an asthma attack. She would sit by my bedside and will me to "Breathe." I can imagine she would whisper "Breathe" over and over, watching carefully my little chest as it struggled to take in the air I needed to live. Now that I have been a Mom, I can imagine the terror it would bring to her as she waited those eternal seconds before another breath would fill my lungs. How many long nights did she sit watching? I don't know, but one would be enough.

Anyone who has sat near a loved ones bedside as they made their last few breaths before leaving this life behind, can also attest to the desire to be able to will them the next breath. There are times, however, when the desire is for it all to be over. for the next breath to be the last so the pain and agony would be finished.

I have felt the desire to stop the breathing. I was again attacked by asthma as an adult after many years of freedom from its torture. I waited impatiently for the doctor and silently prayed for the end of breathing because it hurt so much. I am glad that I did not succomb, but I know the feeling of wanting to give up the pain for peace.

I wonder if Jesus wanted the pain to stop as He struggled to breathe on the cross. Did He have to suffer a certain amount of time in order for the sacrifice to be accomplished? Could He have given up the Spirit sooner to stop the pain? Would He?

The torture of gasping for breath on the cross must have seemed far longer for Jesus than the three hours He suffered. Even from the cross, Jesus had things to say and work to do for the people He loves. He needed to forgive, provide, love and finish the work He was meant to do. Because of that, He continued to breathe. How many breaths did He struggle to take in those last hours? Each one was a precious gift to us, as precious as the first breath He took as a tiny baby from heaven. His life was lived so that He could die the holy sacrifice for our sins, for my sins.

Holy Jesus, Sacrificial Lamb of God, Your every breath on this earth was a gift to the entire world. Your life was lived with the purpose of loving mankind. Thank You for making it possible for me to believe in You. Forgive me when I forget that Your need for air and water and food, was all for my good. Help me to use my need for air,water and food for Your glory, Lord, it is the least I can do.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Believe the Truth

It must be very sad for people that are very alive to find out that they are presumed dead. Of course if they want to disappear and not be found, it might be a relief. Then there are those who are estranged from family or friends who might find themselves erased from the other persons' "alive" list through no desire of their own. What must God feel when people declare Him dead?

I think it is apparent that if someone should say God is dead, they must have believed at sometime that He was alive. The question I would ask them would be, "How did He die?" I might even want to know the where and when of His death. Then there is the fact that if God is God and He is dead, who is holding everything together? Ultimately saying that God is dead is a silly and unfounded premise except in the mind of fools.

What does an estranged family member feel when they discover that the other person has declared them dead? Anger may cause them to push away futher allowing the deception to continue til the ultimate of separation takes place. Grief could encourage them to work toward a solution which may never be resolved if the other person refuses to believe in a resurrection. In any case it is very sad when hate destroys relationships.

I wonder how Jesus felt when walking on the road to Emmaus talking to two of His followers that believed He was dead. They didn't recognize Him until He revealed Himself through His unique way of communing with them through the bread and wine. These men, and even Mary Magdalene, who met Him near the garden tomb, were blinded by their belief that Jesus was dead. They could not see the truth standing in front of them until He revealed it to them. I can imaging His saddness that their belief fell short of letting them see Him alive. He did not want them to grieve over him because He lived! He had won the victory over the grave for them and their little faith was not even enough to allow them to se the truth of Him standing before their eyes. Jesus, did not turn away from them and let them stay in their unbelief, but gently revealed himself and then went on his way.

Believing in the truth helps us to see past the grave. The truth that surrounds us in all of creation will prove God still lives! The truth that misspoken words and thoughtless actions can be resolved, will enable relationships to be resurrected to live in strength because of the working through the storm. The truth of history and the fulfillment of all God said in his word proves Jesus' resurrection from the dead. We only need to believe truth.

Father of Truth, You cannot lie. You ask me to trust You and believe all that You have said, and what I have experienced in the world that reveals You. I am so sorry that I have failed to believe fully sometimes. I have been as Mary and the disciples. I have seen the truth in front of me and failed to believe. Reveal yourself to me as You have done for them! Thank You for not being a respecter of persons, for You will offer me and my loved ones the same opportunites for faith as You did Your disciples. Thank You! Thank You!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jesus Sees Me

The other day while I was reading the devotion Patrick and I are doing for Lent, I began to weep. The words were so powerful and hit hard in my spirit.

The story was about Pilate asking the crowd who they wanted released for the Passover. They called for Barabbas' release so Pilate asked what to do with Jesus. They cried out as a mob to crucify Him. Walter Wangerin pointed out that Jesus heard it all. How sad! Then Mr. Wangerin noted that the religious leaders who had brought Jesus to Pilate wanted the crowd to unite and force the hand of the Roman Governor. They gave no thought to the persons who made up the crowd. But, Jesus did. He was concerned for each individual that was caught up in the moment and shouted out the death sentence for Him.

Jesus looked into the crowd and saw each person and knew them. He, as God, knew their names, their hurts, joys, trials and triumphs. He knew their hearts. He knew which ones would someday hear about His resurrection and repent of their part in this mob hanging, and all of their sins against the Holy God. It is that thought that made me cry.

Jesus sees me. He knows my failures and my successes. He is fully aware that I too, have a spirit that is willing, but a flesh that is weak. He stood quietly and let the mob demand His death. For each of us He stands and accepts our sentence. He accepted the price for each individual, for me.

Dearest Lord Jesus, Your love is overwhelming and again I feel tears welling up. I am painfully aware that I have been in the crowd of people who call for Your death, not knowing that it should have been different. You wanted me to choose the right way to live, but I chose the wrong path. You never stopped loving me, even when my heart rose up against You and wanted to do away with Your love and light for my dark soul. Forgive me! I pray that when You see into my heart, You know that I am one of the crowd that will find You and accept Your promises. Thank You for seeing and knowing me.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Time for Silence

Shhh. Be quiet. I remember my Mom often saying to us that if we didn't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. I think I've learned that lesson because I am seldom caught saying mean things about or to others. Even if I think the words that can hurt, I find myself trying to hold back, or at the most, say what I need to say in a kind and gentle way. It doesn't always work. Sometimes even those so called kind and gentle words come out with a sharp edge and hurt someone.

I do find it hard to be silent sometimes. I want to get into a conversation, or to let my thoughts find a voice. I guess we all do. Some people can get away with saying whatever they want, others find it a disaster no matter how they frame their words. Me? I guess I land in the middle of those two extremes. If I plan carefully I might be able to say what I want without repercussions. However, there are times when my words tumble about, and no matter how well planned they fall onto the ground and make a puddle of mud that I have to wade through. YUCK. I don't like when that happens. So, I am learning to be silent.

Silence is not an admission that a person is wrong, nor does it indicate their intelligence or lack thereof. Silence should be used in balance, always letting God direct our words to do the best for others. Silence can be wise, kind, and a sign of trust. Jesus was silent before His accusers. He put His trust in the Father and kept the truth to Himself. Jesus knew that to be silent would allow evil to have its way and yet, He let it be.

What do I learn from Jesus about silence? I learn that there is a time when the Father would demand silence for the greater good. He might even demand it of me. In fact, in my silence, I might hear the Fathers' voice more clearly. Jesus stood in silence. Maybe He heard the Fathers' voice above all the shouting. Maybe He heard, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." I hope He didn't have to hear the cries of, "Crucify Him. Crucify Him!" Sadly I think He did.

Lord Jesus, Your silence speaks loudly to me. You chose to allow evil have its day so that You would have the final victory. I look back over many times when I have failed to ask You when to speak and when to keep silent. Forgive me for choosing my own way, and not Yours. Thank You for teaching me about the gift of silence, even when it takes me to an uncomfortable place. Let me sit before You often in silence so that I can hear Your voice above the noise of the world and the thoughts that scream for attention in my mind. I love Your voice. It is wise and kind and in it I can trust!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Blue Balloon

Balloons are delightful to children. It is fun to watch their amused looks and wonder at the brightly colored ball floating through the air attached to a string they hold tight in their hands. I remember each of my children smiling wide as the balloon followed them with just a little encouraging tug on the string. They all also felt the deep disappointment when they momentarily eased their grip and the balloon floated away up into the heavens. Oh, they watched their blue, pink or yellow flier climb high and become smaller and smaller. They expected it to come back but it never did. It was gone, for good.

One of my first mothering experiences with a runaway balloon came when my first daughter was maybe two or three. At first, Erin was surprised that her toy was moving away, and then her surprise turned into tears. I began to comfort her and told her that God would take care of her balloon, and that I was very sure He was happy that she let it go up to Him. With tear filled eyes, Erin turned to me and said, "But I don't want God to have my balloon!"

I've discovered that same story lives in me. There are somethings dear to my heart that I hold onto very tight. I grasp and try so very hard to keep my treasure close. Inevitably it slips away from me, maybe by the gentle tug of my Heavenly Father who really does know what is best for me. I am surprised, because I've fought so hard to keep them close. Then I am brokenhearted to lose what I thought was so precious. I watch with impossible hope, my heart following after the lost possession.

I feel empty. I am empty handed and I cry out that I don't want God to have what belongs to me! I sense the loss, and my eyes fill with tears. I don't want to let go. I do not want God to have my home, family, career, ministry or a million other things. They belong to me, don't they? The truth is that those idols I grasped so tightly were never mine. I was bound to them. My Lord God is a jealous God, wanting me for His own! He desires my freedom from bondage and will set me free even if it causes me some momentary pain. Oh, what a Good God He is!

God of wonder and infinite love, You loosen the strings and ropes that bind me to people, places and things, not so that I will be hurt, but so that I will be set free! You set me free so that You can be greater in me and for me! You are Good. Thank You for taking away those tethers that tie me down. Thank You for setting me free to reach upwards to You and come closer to You! Forgive me when I forget that I am the balloon set free. Forgive me for wanting to be tied down more than to fly high to You! Remind me always that You are my Freedom, You are my Deliverer, You are where my treasure lies! God I want You to have all of me!