Monday, July 15, 2013

The Mustard Seed and the Rain

Today is a good day.

My husband, who usually works from home, left early for a long day of business travel, leaving me and the boy alone for the day.  The boy crawled in bed with me at 5:00 am, and we have done absolutely nothing since.

We slept till 10:00.  We ate Cheerios for breakfast and lunch.  At 5:30, we're still in our pj's, side by side with our laptops on my husband's desk.  Doing nothing.  

We haven't even opened the blinds.

"Today is so relaxing that it's like a rainy day," says the boy.

"Yes it is, son."  Healing rain.

It's a stark contrast to yesterday.  Yesterday, I came home from church and went straight to bed until this morning.  I was sad.

"Your depression is getting worse.  What we're doing isn't working.  We need to do something else."

I know.

"It's hard for me and the boy too."

I know.

"I miss my family.  I want my wife back."

I know.  I know.

Crying is better than laughing.  It blotches the face, but scours the heart.  
Ecclesiastes 7:3

Consider my heart scoured.  Steel wool raw and tender new.  Depression has always been a fact of life for me, but this year has been hard.  Very hard.

"I won't be the same person when this is done," I tell my husband.  "Nothing is the same as it was."

I can't walk out of this wilderness unchanged.  But I can walk through it with the hope that the change will be good.

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches."  Matthew 13:31-32

The mustard seed is not scared of change.  It just rests in the soil right where it falls.  Rests.  It does not struggle, but simply soaks in the rain.  Healing rain.  In time, when the seed is filled with the living water, it's hardened shell will yield.  

This is my story.  Do you recognize it?  Maybe it's yours too.  

A mustard seed, that's all.  We can do that.  

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Alabaster Jar

When I read stories in the Bible, I try to put myself in that character’s place, to try to really understand what they are thinking and feeling.  Honestly, I have to do that because there are just so many details left out.  What exactly did they say?  And how did they say it?  And what were they wearing when they said it? This lack of pertinent details drives me crazy.

In Biblical times, perfumed oil was a big deal.  Sometimes women would wear these small bottles of oil around their necks, right there next to their hearts.  And they were quite expensive, worth even a year’s wages.  Twice in the new testament, women washed Jesus’ feet with their perfumed oil and then dried them with their hair.  Really? To just pour a year’s wages out on someone’s feet?  Now that’s crazy!  

And don’t even get me started on Bible feet.  These people had no socks, no proper shoes, no $30 pedicure at Nail Star over by the Walmart.  Bible feet are scary feet.  I’m just sayin’...

In Luke 7: 36-50, a ‘sinful’ woman, probably a prostitute, followed Jesus into the home of a wealthy Pharisee and anointed his feet while he ate.  She cried openly, letting her tears wash the road dust from his feet and then dried them with her hair.  Then she poured her expensive, precious perfume on them.  That very jar of oil she kept right by her heart.  

In John 12: 1-8, Lazarus‘ sister Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume while he dined in her home just a week before his crucifixion.  She prepared him for his burial before it was time, despite admonitions of extravagance and waste.  “You will always have the poor, but you will not always have me,” Jesus said.  Maybe Mary knew that somehow her gift would be magnified if poured out at Jesus’ feet.  Maybe she knew that without him, we are the poor.  

These stories are fascinating to me.  How much these women must have loved their savior to bow at his feet and serve him with such humility!  How willing they were to sacrifice all that they had, even expensive perfume worth a year’s wages, to give honor to the son of God.

I think if I had an alabaster jar of perfume worth a year’s wages, I would do the exact same thing.  Break it open and pour it right out on Jesus’ feet, right then, right there.  Simply for his glory and because he has done so much for me.  I would do it.  I would.

Of course that’s easy to say since I don’t actually have one of those.

And if I did, what would it really be worth to me?  Most days, I’m just happy to have time for a shower.  Forget about perfume!  It makes me sneeze anyway.  I guess I could put my fancy jar on a shelf, but I’m not really a chotzky kind of girl - too much to dust.  I could sell it and use the money, but where in the world do you sell something like that?  That’d take a lot of effort and research- might not be worth it.

Nope.  I’d pour it out for sure.  Just like Mary and that sinful woman.  After all Jesus did say give all you have, sell all you have, and leave all you have and follow him.  I could pour out my treasure.  And then my sacrifice would be just as big as the sacrifice made by these two women whom Jesus himself praised.  



Because the truth is that I do have one.  And it’s full of things that I like to keep right there next to my heart.  Some are good and pure, and some are...not.  I keep my family in there, my husband and my son.  I keep my home in there and my friends.  I even keep my church and all the ministry that we do there tucked inside my jar.

But deep, deep in the bottom, I keep the secret things that I hold on to the tightest - my sense of worth in the world, my reputation among my peers, other people’s perceptions of me.  Respect.  Admiration.  Prestige.  What’s all that worth to me?  More than a year’s wages, to be sure.  And yet worth absolutely nothing unless I’m willing to pour it out at the foot of the cross.

Unless I’m willing to give Jesus everything I’ve got. 


So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.   Luke 14:33 

We all have an alabaster jar tucked next to our hearts.  Let’s break them open.  Pour out the contents at Jesus’ feet.  Let our gifts be scented with Jesus and released.  Let His grace  cover the fetor of our sin.  Let our homes and our lives carry the fragrance of our Savior and pray that it will linger long after we depart, drawing others into the sweetness of His presence.

Monday, July 1, 2013

You Will Be Loved...

So I’ve been participating in this little Twitter project called Armchair Theology for a few months.  We read a chapter of the Bible each day and tweet about it, and there are 5 or 6 of us who tweet regularly.  We are just about to finish Deuteronomy.
I don’t know that I would have had the patience to read straight through Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy without this group, but the promise of a retweet is a strong motivator for me.  Pavlov’s bird, I guess. 
but they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating 
on it day and night.  Psalm 1:2
Um, that’s not me.  As far as I’m concerned, there is no tedious like Old Testament Law tedious.  It’s right there next to listening to my husband talk about binary tedious.  Endless sequels of The Land Before Time tedious.  Going to Walmart with my mother tedious.
And to be honest, it’s tedious because I don’t get it.  It doesn’t mesh with my New Testament, God-is-love spiritual milk perspective.  If God is love, then why are there so many rules?  And such harsh consequences?
So many reasons for Him to not love me.  I will never measure up.
My husband came home from Bible study last week completely perplexed at a statement someone made.  They were discussing the mechanics of sin nature and perfect grace, and one man became totally offended at the conversation.
“You make it sound like we don’t even deserve to be saved.”
“Well of course we don’t deserve to be saved.  That’s the whole point of grace,”  was my husband’s nice logical answer.
There is no logic in wanting to be loved and the whole conversation made me cry.  I hear what that man is saying.  My heart wonders that same thing.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I just want to know that it’s ok for me to take up space in the world.  I need to be sure that God wants me.
My husband grew up remarkably undamaged.  He accepted that he was loved at face value and moved on from there.  I had a different experience.  Love for me was always out of reach.  Never exactly withheld, but never freely available.  Love at my house was tired a lot, and irritable.  It worked all day and fell asleep early.  It was distracted and needy and overworked.  It tried, but it just didn’t have enough.
It had to choose and I could not be first choice.  Must’ve been something I did.
 And this is how things will end up: Just as God once enjoyed you, took pleasure in making life good for you, giving you many children, so God will enjoy getting rid of you, clearing you off the Earth. He’ll weed you out of the very soil that you are entering in to possess.  Deut 28:63
Wow.  What kind of love is that?  Love that can be taken away because I fail to keep some vague and nearly impossible rule of conduct?  Nice.  
But I’m pretty sure that’s the love God has for me.  And He enjoys it, too.  That’s what really gets me.  I must be bad.
If I could be charming enough, easy enough, pleasing enough, then I could be loved.  But if I’m too much trouble, well, then it’s the crabgrass treatment for me, rip up my shallow roots and leave me to wither in the sun.
In the world, love is too often saved for the worthy.  And worthy turns on a dime.  
Or a fair weather friend.  
Or a fickle spouse.  
Or a tired parent.
“You make it sound like we don’t even deserve to be saved....” Well, we save what is dear to us, so really the question is “Could I deserve to be loved?” Because I really, really want to be. 
Can God love me if I am wretched and He is vengeful?  Is He love or is He wrath? 

He is both. 
His nature is holy and perfect.  He cannot mingle with sin, not even a little bit.  He cannot be duplicitous, not even for love’s sake.  God is perfectly just and justice must be served.  
For the wages of sin is death... Romans 6:23a  
Where there is sin, there must be death.  God set the law in motion and, as He holds the whole world in His hands, it must be so.
But He is also love.  Perfect love.  
...but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23b
He loved us, you, me, all of us, enough to pour his wrath on someone else.  He poured it on His only son.  So much wrath that He had to look away.  Don’t miss the beauty of it.  It is the wrath that gives measure to the love. 
God is perfectly just, rewarding the good and punishing the bad, always consistent and never changing the rules.  He will not mock us or set us up to fail.  Christ is for real.
And He is perfectly loving, without reason and without limit, no matter where we go or what we do.  He is never fickle or tired.  And He will not quit us in hard times.  Christ is for you.
...Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.  
Romans 12:3
Thank you Father that it is not about me, but only about You.  I am nothing and yet You love me.
Stop wondering what you deserve.  Don’t even think about your worthiness.  Don’t you see that none of that matters?  You are defined by who God is and what God did for you and He, my friend, has already saved you.
Accept that you are loved and move on to the promised land.