Hopefully Devoted: Not What I Want…

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When the disciples of Jesus saw the followers of John had a “prayer,” they went to Jesus and asked him to teach them to pray.

I wonder if Jesus shook his head, looked at the ground and thought, “You already have one…in fact you have many. What do you think the Psalms are? You already know this.”

But what he said and did was give them the format for prayer that we know as “The Lord’s Prayer.” And many parts sound like they come from Psalm 143. Consider verse 10: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground (NIV).”

Thinking then on Jesus praying in Gethsemene sent me to examine the rest of the Psalm:

1 Lord, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
2 Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
3 The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
like those long dead.
4 So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
5 I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
6 I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.[a]
7 Answer me quickly, Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
9 Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.

In the Garden, Jesus’ prayer boiled down to: not my will but yours be done.

He taught us in word and action to pray for God’s will—not our will, or our wants.

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Message Meme: Rocks and Their Role

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Holy Week begins with Jesus making an surprising entry and ends with an amazing exit. And rocks play an important part in both. On the way in Jesus tells the shushing Pharisees that even if his followers are silenced the rocks will cry out. Then at the tomb, it is a rock that introduces them to the resurrection: the stone is rolled away!

So while it appears that the rocks are the stars, let us never forget: Jesus is the stone that the builders rejected.

A Saturday Thought: Tattoos

This is a note I posted on Facebook on this date in 2009. It still holds my hope and heart today.

Lent Day 28: Tattoo
March 24, 2009 at 7:40am
Lent Day 28:

My older daughter is visiting us. It is good to have her close and it will be hard to let her go when it’s time, but our connection is good. While she was here, she got another tattoo. This bothers her father. I try to remain neutral. I have to admit that of all the ones she’s gotten, I like this one the best. It’s the Celtic symbol for motherhood—or at least I hope it is!

Over the years both my daughters have tried to talk me into going with them and getting a tattoo. There’s something “special” about doing that, so I’m told. I know that there are biblical comments prohibiting tattooing, but that’s not why I haven’t gone. I am a wuss about pain, but that hasn’t been my deterrent, either. I can’t imagine anything that I want engraved on me for forever. The image of a wilted rose on an 86 year old woman’s body just doesn’t get me all jazzed up.

And yet, somehow, I want my life to be tattooed with Jesus. I want my laughter, my conversation, my touch, my service, my work, my prayers, everything that I am to immediately point to Jesus. As much as I want that, I know that my life is so far from consistent. My heart desperately seeks to live in a way that is pleasing to my Father, but my choices betray my lack of trust and my selfishness. I truly understand the struggle that Paul speaks about in Romans 7.

In my life I have known the absolute bowels of wretchedness. I know what it’s like to screw up so royally that you lose all respect, wallow in shame, and try to rebuild integrity. I’m thankful for grace that makes climbing out of that dark pit possible. I’m thankful that Paul moves from chapter 7 into chapter 8: There is therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

So, if I ever got a tattoo it would be a grapevine bracelet (symbolizing that I am just a branch needing to stay connected to the vine). In the vine would be a turtle (a rich symbol and spiritual totem) and a daisy (for me a symbol of hope and faithfulness). All three would serve as reminders to me to keep living, to keep being fruitful, to truly make every effort. The only place they may ever be is in my heart, but hopefully they will be seen by those Jesus sends my way each day.

Hopefully Devoted: Tears

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I just finished putting together a funeral sermon and when I went to save it…I hit delete instead.

I wanted to cry. My disappointment was great. But I realized I could put it together again and I moved on to writing this post.

I turned back to my devotional, A Guide to Prayer For All Who Walk With God, and found these words: “Tears are deemed a gift by many ancient masters of the spiritual tradition…Tears were, for the ancient church, given to some along with wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, and the like, for the life of the entire community (Wendy M. Wright, “Tears of a Greening Heart,” Weavings).”

Ms. Wright goes on to link tears to the word compunction, which “literally means ‘to puncture with’…To have our hearts thus ‘punctured’ is both the beginning and the dynamic of the journey.”

I instantly thought of the words to the old hymn:

1 I love thy kingdom, Lord,
the house of thine abode,
the church our blest Redeemer saved
with his own precious blood.
2 I love thy church, O God.
Her walls before thee stand,
dear as the apple of thine eye,
and graven on thy hand.
3 For her my tears shall fall;
for her my prayers ascend;
to her my cares and toils be given,
till toils and cares shall end.

I sat quietly and listened to the questions pounding, puncturing my heart: Do I weep for God’s kingdom? What do my prayers look like, sound like? Does the intensity of my hate for sin drive me to wrestle like Jesus in the Garden? How hard am I working?

Prayer Thoughts: O God. How I wish you could just tap on my heart and find willingness and openness. I’m sure I can count the layers of indifference, excuses, and busyness you must have to go through to even begin to puncture. I don’t want it to be that way. I imagine removing those layers might be painful…and I’m not into pain. But I want your Kingdom, your Spirit, your love to be my focus, aim, my life. Peel and puncture. Let tears of love fall from my heart and become a healing stream for those who thirsting for you around me. Amen.

Selah: What do these stones mean?

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I love walking. I love walking in Arizona when I’m visiting my mom. Feeling blessed to be able to do that this week.

As we travel closer to Palm Sunday and Easter, I have been thinking a lot about rocks.

There are a lot of rocks in Arizona. I took the picture of the rocks on my walk the other day.

I wonder who put them there. I wonder why.

In the Bible, a pile of stones marked a special moment—a sign to remember. In the old hymn, Come Thou Fount, we sing: “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’m come.”

Do you know what that means? We aren’t singing about Scrooge. The verse is a thanks to God for his care in bringing us through or to something.

What has he brought you to…or through lately?

The stack of stones stand as a reminder to you, and a testimony to others that we have a God who goes with us (through whatever we’re facing) and brings us to where he needs and wants us to be.

Prayer: God, some of the things we’re facing seem difficult, confusing…okay—downright impossible. We can only get through with you. Help us. Sustain us. And we will give you thanks…and a testimony.

Sermon Seeds (Way in advance): Stones

I was enjoying a long walk in the coolness of an Arizona morning, when all of a sudden I noticed a sharp pain in my left heel. Somehow my shoe picked up a hitch-hiker:

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I limped over to a railing and extricated the little freeloader. I laughed to think that something so small could stop me dead in my tracks. The pointy edges on this pebble shot pain through my entire body.

Rocks know how to get our attention.

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When Jesus came into Jerusalem on the day we celebrate as Palm Sunday, the people lauded him. Their praise concerned the Pharisees. They told the people to be quiet. Jesus’ response: “If they get quiet, the rocks will cry out.”

Are there those in your sphere of influence who seek to silence your testimony? Will you let them?

God will be praised.

Ain’t gonna let no rock steal my praise!

Sermon Seeds: Build Them Up

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ (Colossians 2:2, NIV).

Way back when I first began my journey in ministry I felt led to this verse in Colossians. Without consciously deciding, I made it the purpose statement for my life: encouraged in heart and united in love, so that the folks I am connected to will be moved to deeper (complete) understanding of the mystery of God, Jesus the Christ.

My life has been spent encouraging others, and working toward unity.

Truth be told: it can be pretty exhausting. Some days I feel like a cheerleader who never gets to rest. And who isn’t always appreciated. I’m sure if you’ve ever been to a sporting event you’ve been trying to carry on a conversation while those responsible for morale and keeping you focused on the game keep yelling louder and louder to try and engage you. They can be enormously annoying.

And don’t get me started on the up-hill battle for unity these days. Everyone has an opinion, and it’s the only one that matters. People would rather be right than in relationship.

Being right. Even if it means putting someone down. Even if that process involves untruth. Even if it means trashing their character.  Even if.

Jesus knew this. The Pharisees and leaders of the day had to be right. And Jesus stood between them and control. So they trumped up false charges. Had people lie about what Jesus did and said. They forced people to break the ninth commandment by paying them to perjur themselves.

And he died, a horrible, cruel death.

They didn’t realize then…and we forget today:

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Prayer thoughts: God help to be more concerned about building each other up. Help us build bridges that result in better relationships and deeper understanding of who you are and how you want us to be. Amen.