Two Questions

30 04 2012

I was a visitor. I sat in the unfamiliar pew, taking in the worship that flowed around me and through me. The minister finished his comments and the congregation moved to wrap up the time of surrender, praise, and encouragement. As a final reminder, the preacher challenged us to take two questions with us into our week. Who will you love today? Who will you serve today?

It has been several days now since I heard his voice, and still his questions are resonating through my heart. They are brilliant questions. God-shaped questions. Questions capable of focusing our eyes, directing our steps, and strengthening our resolve. They challenge me to be specific about walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

Who will you love today? Be concrete. Think of a name. Picture a face. How will you wrap God’s affection around someone’s heart today? What will they know about Jesus and His amazing love because you met them on the way today?

Who will you serve today? Be specific. Make a plan. Search for a need. Who will feel the touch of Christ’s hands on their life today because you reached out? How will you leave the fragrance of His nearness in someone’s path today?

We know that Jesus calls us to love and to serve, but too often they become vague, generalized instructions without a tangible focus. These two questions give Christ’s call a face and purpose.

My Jesus Resolution today is to ask and answer these two questions. I want to ask them both in the morning and at night. I want them to shape my prayers and open my eyes as I begin my day. Who will I love today? Who will I serve? I want to deliberately search out specific opportunities to love somebody and serve another in His name. In the evening, I want the answers to fuel my thanksgiving and help me trace His fingerprints on my day. Whom did I love? Whom did I serve? I am going to ask myself two questions today. In their answers, I will learn to see Jesus.

Increase Our Faith

27 04 2012

My spoon froze in mid-air. Reading my Bible, the apostles and I are walking with Jesus through the Gospels every morning at breakfast. As I reach for the next bite, they make a request that captures my attention. “Increase our faith!” they ask in Luke 17:5. I stop in mid-sentence, my heart beating a little faster at their boldness. That is what I want too. I long for more faith, a deeper understanding, and a greater desire and resolve to be like Jesus. How does Jesus answer this cry for more?

My eyes tumble back across the page, holding my breath as I listen to Jesus’ answer. “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey you.’” (Luke 17:6)

I sat there puzzled. It wasn’t the answer I anticipated or, very honestly, even wanted. I expected a to-do list – pray more, study harder, follow closer, pay attention. Too often, I treat faith like a commodity to be traded and acquired. I do more and God gives me more. The greater my spiritual investment, the bigger my faith return.

Instead Jesus fingers the leaves of a mulberry tree and uses its branches to pierce my heart. I don’t need bigger faith. I need to understand the power of the big God in whom I have faith. I don’t need an increase in my spiritual assets. I need bigger eyes and a more dependent heart. The muscle and might of faith isn’t found in its size, but in the way we surrender it to the Savior.

My Jesus Resolution today is hold a seed in my hand. Seeds are planted. All of the might of an oak tree is packed into an acorn. All of the fruitfulness of an apple tree is held in an apple seed. Instead of looking for something bigger, I want Him to plant His seed deeper. I want its tendrils to poke through my doubt, wind its way into my worry, and root itself in the reality of His grace. Faith increases not because we stockpile it for a rainy day, but when we exercise it and let it grow in the sunshine of His love.

I Want To See

25 04 2012

I live a blind life. I don’t want to, but too often I do. I miss beauty and ignore grace. I fail to see the threads of glory woven into the tapestry of my days. Every day, I am witness to miracles unfolding before me, but my stubborn eyes refuse to open. Busyness, selfishness, and weariness all restrict my vision and make me blind.

When someone is physically blind, there are remarkable stories of the other senses being heightened. With spiritual blindness, the opposite is true. When we don’t see, our sensitivity to the presence and power of God is dulled and muted. We miss blessings, choke off joy, and live full of worry rather than worship.

“And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called to them and said, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, let our eyes be opened.’” – Matthew 20:30, 32

Imagine the moment. They ask Jesus for sight. They long to experience the richness of a world guided by vision, permeated by light, and full of color. They cry out to the Savior, and He stops to touch their eyes. When Jesus opens their eyes, what is the first thing they see? His face.

My Jesus Resolution today is to learn from the blind men. I want Jesus to touch my eyes. Their cry needs to be my daily prayer. Let my eyes be opened. Help me see. I don’t want to miss anything. I want my vision to be filled with His face, to witness the glory He plants in my moments, to utter thanksgiving for the ordinary miracles that fill up my days. Today I want to stagger in light so piercing that I have to blink in wide-eyed wonder as mercy fills my vision. I want to open my eyes and see His face everywhere I look.

Thin Places

23 04 2012

The Celts have a tradition that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places the distance is even smaller. Thin places are spots where the threads between heaven and now are stretched and sheer, allowing us to catch of glimpse of God’s glory. They are the moments when we catch our breath in wonder, and experience the grace-filled reality that fills the other side.

There are thin places in nature. Places of such intense, raw beauty that we can’t help but cover our mouths and stare. Awe makes us rub our eyes as we soak in the splendor of a vista that boldly, persistently proclaims the majesty of God. These are places where it is hard to leave, to tear our eyes away from the truth that God is in this place. We walk away humbled, eyes wide open, our sense of how we fit into the universe realigned. Thin places.

There are thin places in time. Moments when we feel God’s presence in an almost tangible way. Some of these are times of vivid, overwhelming joy. Others are marked by the intensity of grief or pain. Sometimes it is a quiet whisper that catches our ear, encouraging us to stop and pay attention. These thin places in time come like a streak of lightning, illuminating, for just a moment, a different reality than what we usually see. Thin places.

Sometimes thin places are found in people. Someone who shows you Jesus, extends grace, offers a hand, reminds you that you are loved, or helps you take the next step. In watching them walk with God, we catch a glimpse of His face, hear His voice, or feel His love. Spending time with them leaves us both hungry and satisfied. With them, we have moved a little closer to heaven, hearing angel wings. Thin places.

My Jesus Resolution today is to look for a thin place. I am convinced that they permeate our world. Places where we are allowed to see glory, witness majesty, experience beauty, and let heaven touch the here and now. The thinnest place of all is found on a hillside planted with three crosses. The one in the middle holds back the fabric of earth and invites us to peer from this world into the one beyond.

How Much More

20 04 2012

My daughter is graduating in a few days. She is in the process of finishing up the unfinished, tying up the loose ends, and preparing for the opportunities that are ahead. She put the final touches on a project that recapped her area of study even as she began to knock on doors, answer interview questions, and imagine a life beyond school. She is doing great. I’ve been holding my breath.

I didn’t even realize that I was holding my breath. We have prayed, encouraged, loved, cried, laughed, and prayed some more over the last several weeks. We committed ourselves to putting her in God’s hand, to waiting on His timing, and following His lead. There have been ups and downs, disappointments, excitement, sparks of confidence, and seeds of doubt. Trusting became a full time job.

And then I started breathing again. Settling in with my Bible over my morning yogurt, I read words that soothed my soul and breathed fresh life into my tired lungs. “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:9-11.

How much more… Those words changed the rhythm of my prayers. I love my daughter with mom-sized love. He loves her with God-stretched passion. I am on her side. He is constantly by her side. I am willing to give my life for her. He already did that. Setting her in God’s hands means opening our hearts to the truth that whatever unfolds, whatever doors open or close, whatever path is revealed, it will be His very best. Gifts tailor-made for her heart and her walk with Him.

My Jesus Resolution today is to rest in His how much more. I can breathe, knowing that I can trust Him with even this most precious of gifts. How much more speaks to the immensity of His love, the depth of His faithfulness, the intensity of His grace, and the intimacy of His presence. How much more challenges me to open my eyes a little wider, walk a little closer, pray a little more fervently, bow a little more humbly, and praise Him a little more intensely. How much more allows anticipation rather than anxiety to fill my soul.

Be Ready

18 04 2012

Today is the anniversary of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. In 1775, the Boston silversmith set out on a journey that would take him across the countryside and into history. His mission was to warn the American militia about the advance of the British army. He arranged for a signal to be given about the movement of the British troops. One lantern would hang in the steeple of the Old North Church if the British were moving across land. Two lanterns would alert the patriots that the British were coming by sea.

On the evening of April 18, 1775, word came to Revere that the British were moving by sea. He traveled under the cover of darkness to warn independence fighters. His timely message helped set the stage for the Revolutionary War and the birth of freedom.

Revere’s watchfulness and commitment to alerting his countrymen remind us of a valuable lesson. We need each other. We need to stay alert and be ready. We need to be watchful both for the movement of God and the attacks of the enemy.

It is difficult to stay attentive on our own. We get tired, distracted, weary, and busy. We need each other to help us see what is easy to miss. Sometimes it is hard to trace the fingerprints of God. Pain or despair cloud our vision. Others can help us see His movement in our lives and find His fingerprints on our day. In other moments, we need someone to alert us to the prowling of the enemy. He seeks those he can catch off guard. When we stand by each other, we minimize the vulnerability that springs up when we try to go it on our own.

My Jesus Resolution today is to be ready. I am going to take a lesson from Paul Revere and keep my eyes open. I am going to pay attention and invest myself in freedom. I will give myself to shining a light in the darkness if the enemy gets too close. I am going to align myself with others who long to live in dependence on God and commit myself to remaining alert for His presence.

Tax Day

16 04 2012

Nobody really looks forward to Tax Day, except perhaps accountants who look forward to it being over. Taxes are necessary to maintain a government purposed with upholding the common good. We pay our taxes this week with honesty and integrity in submission to God, recognizing that it gives us the opportunity to pray for those who will make decisions regarding the money and how it is spent.

Tax Day has been coming around for centuries. It is on one such day that Jesus uses taxes to teach us a valuable lesson about what we owe and who has a claim on our lives.

Enemies of Jesus decided to use Tax Day to trap Jesus. They developed a question about paying taxes to Rome to test Jesus. An answer in favor of Rome would enflame the disfavor of the people. An answer advising avoiding taxes would bring the wrath of Rome down on His head.

Jesus listened to their question and examined their hearts. He requested a coin and asked about the image engraved on its shiny surface. As they pointed to Caesar’s image on the coin, Jesus pointed to their hearts. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” – Mark 12:17

Paying taxes is appropriate. Presidents have their pictures on our money. Give them what is due. God wants something more valuable and more encompassing. God has stamped His image on our souls. Give Him what bears His image.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pay my taxes – all of them. As I file my taxes, I will see the amounts on the different lines as evidence of my blessings. I will also examine my heart. Money is just money. It doesn’t have God’s image on it. My heart does. Have I given it fully to Him? Is there some part that I am holding back as my own? Have I answered the full claim He has on my life? Today I will pay the government what I owe and put my heart in God’s hands, giving Him everything I am.

Thank You

13 04 2012

Dear Friend,

I am writing you this letter because I love you. I don’t tell you often enough, but your presence in my life is a blessing. I see Jesus in you. Your laugh reminds me to seek out joy, your constancy is a comfort, and your willingness to listen has softened many hard days.

Thank you for encouraging me to journey deeper into faith. The way that you extend grace to my heart allows me to release the shame I too often hold on to. I hear the echo of His voice in your words, and catch the fragrance of Christ in your actions. Your servant’s heart extends an invitation to my soul every time I am with you.

You aren’t perfect. I am so thankful that you let me see that in you. Your transparency inspires me to drop the masks I so often feel compelled to wear. You let Jesus meet you in your weaknesses. Your willingness to be vulnerable has made me stronger.

How do you bless someone who has been such a blessing in your life? Know that today you are covered in prayer. Remember that you are loved. Understand that the impossibles with which you wrestle are swallowed up in God’s bigger than you can ask or imagine plans for you.

My Jesus Resolution today is follow you as you follow Christ. Your example points me to the cross. Your love encourages me to take the next step of faith. Your willingness to speak His name, bow your head, bend your knees, dirty your hands, and extend His grace helps make the invisible visible. I am not putting you on a pedestal. Your example highlights His example. The way you walk in Him teaches me how to be braver, believe stronger, pray harder, praise richer, sing louder, laugh bigger, and embrace everything it means to live this redeemed, resurrected life. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” – Philippians 1:3

The Goof

11 04 2012

I goofed. It wasn’t a big deal. I pressed the wrong button and sent when I meant to save. I was holding the words for a specific time, but they flew into the world of cyberspace before I could pull them back.

Sitting at my desk, I kicked myself. I told myself that it didn’t really matter, that others would forgive my timing failure, and that no one would care, but I cared. Frustrated, I closed my computer, seeing only the cracks in my well-laid plan.

God used those cracks to show me His glory. What I meant to control, God used to bestow grace. God took what I saw as a mistake and wrapped His presence around hearts that were hurting. It wasn’t the words that made a difference. What caught their attention was the timing.  Shattered and vulnerable, God provided just what they needed in exactly the moment they needed it. He provided them with an answer, with Himself, through what I only saw as failure.

I am so humbled. When will I learn to take my eyes off myself? I am so thankful that God pulled back the curtains and allowed me a glimpse of His power and movement. God’s plan is perfect, His timing impeccable, and His goodness unparalleled. He uses everything to weave His love into our lives, His grace into our circumstances, and His presence around our hearts. Even our mistakes, our goofs, and our miscues can be transformed for His purpose.

My Jesus Resolution today is to put everything into His hands. There are too many things that I hold onto because I think that they are of no use to Him. I mistakenly believe that God will only use the perfect, the flawless, or the things I think measure up. He wants it all. He can and will take my faults, my failings, and my flops and use them to draw me closer to His heart. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7

Press On

8 04 2012

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” – Hosea 6:3

Let us acknowledge the Lord. Let this day be filled with His praises. Let this be the day that His words are on your lips and His voice shapes your voice. Let this be the day when your eyes search for His presence and your ears long to hear His voice. Let this be the day that your hands reach out in service. Let this be the day when your feet walk only in the footsteps of Jesus.

Hosea’s encouragement to press on is good advice to carry into our day. Pressing on implies deliberate intent. It carries with it the determination to work through obstacles, look behind closed doors, and keep our eyes open. The world presses us to conform to its image. It wants our hearts focused on self, our souls satisfied with lesser joys, and our bodies enslaved in seeking after comfort. Hosea reminds us that the very rhythm of the earth testifies to the faithfulness of God. In observing its beauty, we can be encouraged to press on to know the Lord.

My Jesus Resolution today is to press on. Whether the sun shines or the rain pours, I must press on as I look for the appearing of God. The sun’s faithful rising and setting is but a shadow of the faithfulness of our Lord. The rain that falls refreshes the earth in the same way that the love of Christ refreshes our hearts. Whether the triumphant shout of the second coming or the gentle whisper of His quiet presence, God will appear today. Press on.