Tag: Jesus Christ

Our son was at the age where he was losing the last of his baby teeth. He was also at the age of uncertainty of a tooth fairy. He was leaning toward believing this was another fable parents told their kids much like the more famous one about, well, you know…..the fat guy in a red suit.

Jonathan called out to his dad one morning. The tooth still under his pillow, finally, he knew the truth. With his father standing next to him as he lay on the upper bunk, our son was explaining that, in fact, no tooth fairy had come. During his tale, his dad managed to slip money under his pillow without him knowing. When urged to look again, he found the money. Since his dad was standing there the whole time, there could only be one answer: there WAS a tooth fairy.

Some years ago I was attending a youth conference and one of the sessions was about truth. More specifically, it was about how the younger generation was deciding truth for themselves. So many not having grown up in the church, they couldn’t just accept the words we believed written by divine inspiration as truth. Truth became a personal possession. A choice. You could have your truth and I’d have mine.

We enjoy carrying on these traditions for our children. We like the age old fables of fairies and elves and Easter bunnies. Some might consider them alternative facts. That’s the new term, isn’t it? And it seems more and more are choosing these alternative stories as their truth.

At Christmas, we’ve seen the celebration of Santa become the main event. Who wouldn’t choose a story that has turned into “gimme, gimme, me, me, gimme, gimme, mine”? It’s a much grander story than that of a baby born to, apparently poor, parents. They couldn’t even find a hotel room. And then angels appear in the sky? Talk about a story!

Quieter still seems to be the Easter story. The one that began with the Christmas story. You can’t have one without the other. They are entwined in an inextricable way. Birth, death, eternal life. Truth.

But others would choose to believe in spring and nature and a bunny who lays eggs? Who doesn’t like a good change up here and there. It’s all in fun. And it’s far easier to believe in Easter bunnies who only want to give us chocolate and require nothing in return than believe in a Christ who asks us to take up our cross and follow him.

So there is truth but it’s only another alternative fact of the day.

Henry and I have these discussions. I seem to understand the notion of choosing ones truth. He doesn’t. He struggles with the thought that these men he loves and serves and preaches the word of God to day after day could think the bible is anything but truth. THE truth. That Jesus is THE truth. Perhaps more accurately, the truth is Jesus.

We will celebrate Palm Sunday. Several of our residents will be chosen to read the scripture for the day. They may not believe the words they read but we know they are sharing truth. And when God’s truth is read He is honored.

We will host a expression of the Seder meal and walk through the meaning of God’s salvation to the Israelites and to us, through Jesus.

We will prepare a prayer labyrinth for them. A walk through several stations as they are guided to consider their relationship with Jesus.

Good Friday will be recognized and the price Christ paid will be told in graphic detail. We will consider our sins and his forgiveness.

And Easter Sunday we will come together outside with the sun just over the trees. And we will sing and we will proclaim our truth that Christ the Lord has risen today. Alleluia!

We’ll also have plenty of those chocolate eggs. Most of them are hollow, just like the truth they hold.

faith hope Salvation Army

“To obey is better than sacrifice, I want more than Sundays and Wednesday nights….”

Those lyrics by Keith Green come back to me like a haunting. I haven’t given up anything for Lent in a few years and obedience? Does consistency count?

I think Lament is a better theme for this season than Lent.

As I understand it, the meaning of Lent is clear: sacrifice. Give up something. Not just anything, but something you like. Something you really don’t want to give up but you will. For Jesus. Not forever, of course, just 40 days, not including Sundays, for some.

I get rather lost in the weeks and it takes intention to focus on this specific season. I choose to do it through looking at Jesus’ ministry, recalling his encounters with people and considering how even touching the edge of his clothes can be life-changing. Mark 5:24-34

They are familiar stories to me, ones I don’t get tired of hearing, like favorite songs on a playlist.

There are a lot of miracles in the stories, dead people brought back to life, long-time illnesses healed in an instant. And the made-for-the-movies exorcism of a demon possessed guy. I can’t begin to imagine what George Lucas could do with that!

I’m particularly drawn to the people Jesus took time with and that they were mentioned specifically. He ate at the house of  a man who was a crooked businessman.  He spoke with women, in public. He defended an adulteress. The men he called to follow him, the disciples, were mostly common folk. One was a tax collector, several fishermen and others no profession was mentioned. They hadn’t lead extraordinary lives. They were, I think, a lot like me.

These stories seem crammed into the Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament. Some chapters contain several miracles and it would seem Jesus is well on his way to being accepted as the Messiah. The one the Jews had been promised and looking for.

But I digress……

This isn’t about the stories. They are what connects me to a life lived thousands of years ago. This started about obedience and sacrifice. About the giving up of the Lenten season. This focus of doing without, because Jesus life was a sacrifice. I get the metaphor and the way we can participate.

sacrifice prayers

place of sacrifice
Garden of Gethseme

sacrificeIt’s just that, this seems an easy way out. Not that sacrifice is easy. Don’t misunderstand me. But those words from that song so long ago…the ones about obedience, they call out my sinfulness. They call out my show of sacrifice.

In the Old Testament, God had chosen Saul to be King and given him a command. He didn’t follow it exactly. Instead of killing all of the livestock, he had his army only kill what was no good. The rest they kept. When questioned about this by Samuel, Saul said they kept it to sacrifice to God. Ah, the excuses I know so well.

But Samuel replied,
“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, (emphasis mine)
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT

It’s not about either or, sacrifice or obedience. It’s about me letting a sacrifice substitute for the more important act of obedience.

That’s the personal meaning Lent holds for me. It shines a light on my stubborn will I take back again and again. When I don’t hold my tongue when I should. When arrogance rules instead of humility. When anger oozes out of my pours (again, arrogance). When I manipulate to get my way.

When I fully recognize my inability to be or do what I know I should. And after the wrestling of guilt and shame, I know He still loves me. And that Jesus will do for me, what I can’t do for myself.

faith

“Because life is hard and it might not get easier…” sings Amy Grant. The words come to mind often and when they do it’s a comfort that fills me. A strange comfort of words reminding me life might not get easier.

The creator of the commercial with the Easy Button was genius because we all want that button. No one wants a difficult button or challenging button. We want easy. When there are no red lights to stop you on your morning commute, when babies coöperate when you’re dining out. When teenagers unplug for just a moment to hear your voice and acknowledge your presence with a smile. Easy.

Life saver

I wonder why those lyrics bring comfort and it’s knowing that I’m living life. And living it, easy days, hard days, sad and happy days, living it with joy somewhere in the depths that bring comfort.

It’s not me. I was not wired that way, no, surely not. Not this fretting mama who is anxious still for her grown children. Anxious when they fly across the ocean, anxious when they contemplate life decisions.

It’s something God seems to be working in me, revealing to me all is grace. Grace to be part of real life. To savor life is about all of life. Losing friends and family to death and holding more to their precious memories and the gift of knowing them. Learning through the hard things and knowing the grace of second chances. Being hurt to the core over a child’s missteps, aching for what you know lies ahead and being given grace to survive it with more love than you ever knew possible.

Life saver
Life saver

Our life is surrounded on a daily basis by men on the edge of failure. One wrong decision can and has taken their lives from momentary sobriety back into devastating addiction. Often I write of this and the hard parts of life. A mother with Alzheimer’s who, last week, put a framed picture in her microwave and turned it on. Three thousand miles away from me, workers and caring staff, stepped in and catastrophe was avoided. Life is hard and sad and never fair. But I have hope that is beyond these earthen vessels.

The bible calls it a peace that passes understanding. It surely passes my understanding. I don’t know it but I know Him. The Giver of life who gives me grace to savor life.

“Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

7-12If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.”           2 Corinthians 4:6-11 the Message

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“The great test, alike to Time and Eternity is this: How far do we know and love and live Jesus Christ?” – William Booth, Founder

Mama’s yearbook from her Training College days carries that old book smell. It bears the date 1959 and it’s pages seldom opened. Mostly, it’s opened to show her picture and others. It’s a special keepsake I’m glad to have. Today this yearbook serves as a reminder to me of the sacrifices made by officers of that earlier time. We know nothing of that kind of sacrifice.

The War Cry publication is still printed today

During that time period, an officer’s allowance (never called salary) wasn’t guaranteed. As they were sent to communities to carry on the Army’s work that not only meant leading a congregation and serving needs in the community but to also be able to raise their allowance.

The Officer’s allowance is determined by years of service and a “children’s allowance” is added for each child until they are 18 years old. (Then it goes away :() All officer’s draw the same allowance according to these guidelines. It doesn’t matter if you serve in a poor or affluent area, the allowance is standardized.

Salvation Army Lassies

For our parents, and officers in those earlier times, all bills were paid for the local unit before they drew their allowance, meager as it was. The collecting route was common in those days and was often where the officer would get their allowance.

Mama has said in their first appointment she would often have to “collect” to provide their salary. With tambourine and War Cry in hand, the officer (usually the woman) would go into businesses offering the War Cry for a donation. Sometimes, the collecting route would also be done at night going into bars. Can you even imagine that today? But bold as the Army has been, these Lassies would make their rounds and manage to garner enough for their family for that week.

William Booth, Founder

When I read this quote from William Booth (top of post) I thought about ‘how far we live for Jesus’ and how far our forebear’s lived for Him. Today, there’s no worry about our allowance. There is no collecting route or more modern type of solicitation for this. There’s no worry it won’t be there. How far do we live for Jesus? I dare say it’s not nearly far enough.

Salvation Army

“Put up or shut up” is what I’m hearing in my heart today. Events from last week prompted yesterday’s post on scandalous love and just when I thought things were starting to quell they didn’t. The next wave caught me off guard like the waves of the ocean do when you think the water is starting to even out. And I hear God saying to me, “put up or shut up”.

Does he speak to you that way? You may be surprised in some of the ways I hear him. He can’t always be too soft-spoken with me because I’m so busy “doing” I forget to listen.  I hear him when it’s quiet. When I’m quiet. When I give him the space he deserves but the one I seem to try to take over. That space.

The words that fill this blog aren’t for you. Not really. They are for me. Thoughts nudging my heart, reminding me and working things out on who God really wants me to be. It seems all the words are meaningless if not lived. That’s what he’s reminding me today. What he’s telling me by more disappointment, more challenges. Am I really going to be merciful? Put up or shut up. Will I really jump all in and love the unlovable? Put up or shut up.

Sometimes I’m writing to sort out how these ideas, directions, beliefs, how they should look when lived.

This is what I think:

I think they are not always the same.

I think they are messy.

I think heartbreak can be involved.

I think others won’t always understand.

I think I can’t worry about others.

I think I may be criticized.

I think I shouldn’t care about criticism.

I think scandalous love and offensive mercy may not look fair.

I think I should do it anyway.

There’s a story about Jesus meeting a scandalous women. Her reputation wasn’t good. In today’s vernacular she might be called a whore. When Jesus met her, when he spoke to her, this woman with the scarlet letter branded on her for all to see, he became the scandalous one. Jesus broke the rules. He spoke to her. He asked her to get him some water. And when the religious leaders questioned his actions, he told them if any had not sinned they could pick up the first rock and throw it. No rocks were thrown.

They, the religious élite, shut up when Jesus put up. Maybe I should put those words on my office wall.

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Depending on where you live, you may have noticed more attention on Salvation Army efforts this week. This is the 59th year of a week recognized in the US as National Salvation Army Week. It was first declared by President Eisenhower in 1954 as a time for Americans to consider what they can give to help others. It’s not about money, but giving from the heart, giving from your storehouse may it be time, talent or money.

It coincides with the Postal Food Drive that local food banks, many of them organized by a local Salvation Army unit. My mom organized that food drive many years in Yakima, WA and now my sister coördinates it. They are the primary food bank provider for the Valley. We were blessed with volunteers to help organize the hundreds of boxes of donated food when we were stationed in Gainesville, FL. Just one way for neighbors to help neighbors.

Some communities issue proclamations and many large communities host events. In our county, the Salvation Army hosted a large health fair today with many local providers offering free testing and screenings.

These events are just reminders of the varied services provided or coördinated by the thousands of Salvation Army units throughout the United States. Our mission statement is a clear reminder of why we do what we do:

“The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

Motivated by love. The love of God. Preaching His gospel of love through actions, actions of serving others to meet their needs in the name of Love without discrimination. May it always be so. And may through these acts of love may real Love be known.

faith Salvation Army

Sobriety winning Mike (on right) with 2 years

Mike stood to his feet and in his deep, radio voice, said “Here is what sobriety has given me: I answered my phone to hear my 5-year-old grandson say ‘Hi, grandpa’. Grandpa. That is what sobriety has given me.”

My daughter and son-in-law were with us that day. I saw my daughter tug at her husband’s arm, the smile on Tim’s face, his head nodding in affirmation.

Another man, one of our truck drivers that stops in on occasion, stood to his feet to tell of his two years of sobriety and his upcoming trip to see him mom he hasn’t seen in 20 years.

How can I not be encouraged, moved, brought closer to the edge of God’s mercies and grace?

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,” Romans 5:20 NIV

The days are full of disappointments. Men leaving with no plan, relapses, faking their way each day. But where this seems rampant, grace increases all the more.

“…so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:21 NIV

A few months ago I saw Mike in the Center on his lunch break. I asked how he was doing and he told me he was going to his grandson’s preschool program. He was  honored to be invited, included in his grandson’s life. Mike keeps his eyes on that gift sobriety has brought him. I only pray many more will see the gifts awaiting them.

recovery Salvation Army