Saturday, September 26, 2009

Treasure in a Pot

Remember 2 Corinthians 4 and this idea of carrying around treasure in a jar of clay? I've written about it before

Why is it that I keep trying to make life all about the jar? I get so frustrated with myself! Now I don't think I'm the kind of person that you would suspect is stuck on herself. Prideful , puffed up or boasting. No, my vanity issues are cleverly disguised as insecurity and self-doubt. I lose sight of the unsurpassed value of the treasure when I take a magnifying glass to my jar. Pouring over each scratch and chip and mourning every flaw.

I was thinking about this metaphor and the fact that we don't have houses full of clay pots like they would have thousands of years ago. So, I thought, maybe it's like.....carrying around your diamond necklace in a plastic grocery sack. How strange would that be? How silly!

I was grinning and thinking to myself, that's kinda funny. I like being funny. But my new metaphor doesn't hold water, and I mean that literally....ha!

The absurdity of tossing your fine jewelry in a Walmart bag may give us clue into how wonderful, how great, how glorious the treasure of the good news of Jesus Christ and how ordinary we are as carriers of this treasure. But it really doesn't work for one reason:

Isaiah 64:8 Yet, O Lord, You are our Father.

We are the clay, you are the potter,

we are all the work of your hand.

Each earthen vessel was cupped in the hands of the Father. He sees the potential in a lump of clay, and with his own hands he forms us. Every grove, every line a reflection of his fingerprints.

The beauty of this metaphor is not only that the fragile nature of the jar only serves to make the treasure more glorious but that we are each uniquely created to carry and spill out this light, this truth, this life in a way that no other vessel can. We are all the work of his hand.

I am in awe and overwhelmed that I've been trusted to carry this treasure.

Lord, let each imperfection only serve to draw me deeper into dependence and help me to value the unique expression of your glory that flows through me!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Take Courage

I just love this little phrase "Take Courage". It's active and brave and it comes to me whenever I am shrinking back. Take courage, rise up, reach out, grab it! Two of my favorite Bible verses (Psalm 27:14 and Psalm 31:24) carry this thought and I was on biblegateway looking them up the other day, when I found my call to action in a few more places. How exciting!

Jesus actually spoke these words to his disciples and the story is recorded in 3 of the 4 gospels so you know it must be important! Jesus had just finished feeding the 5,000 and then he tells the disciples to get in a boat and go ahead of him to the other side. He climbs the mountain to spend some time alone with the Father and then in the middle of the night he comes walking across the lake...walking on the water...Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water with Jesus, AMAZING....

As I was reading over it I noticed a few things.

It WAS Jesus that instructed the disciples to get in the boat and go across that night. Don't you think they remembered that when they were out there and the waves were kicking them around? What was Jesus thinking, surely he knew that there would be a wind advisory tonight and he sent us out here anyway! Hmph! In Mark's account it says that Jesus went out to them walking on the water and was about to pass them by! Can you imagine? They were straining at the oars, tossed around by the wind for hours and Jesus would have passed them by. What was he thinking? Didn't he see the waves? Didn't he feel the wind? I'm sure he did. But remember, Jesus had just come away from time with the Father. I think he was full, so at rest, trusting the Father completely and none of that phased him. He knew his life on earth, and his 12 followers were safe in the hands of the Father and the wind couldn't change that.

The disciples think he is a ghost and they are scared out of their minds. The Bible says that immediately he spoke to them....I love that little adverb Immediately, that is my kind of response time! It is precious to me that Jesus was quick to respond to their fear. He says to them "Take courage, it is I. Don't be afraid" There is great comfort in knowing that Jesus shows up right there in the middle of the wind and waves. We are never alone and he is mighty to save!

I read in Matthew Henry's Commentary that "it is I" could also be read "I AM he" Henry saw this as a reference to the name that God gave himself when he was speaking to Moses. Standing there on the lake, Jesus says to his exhausted, distressed disciples "I AM". The God who delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt is here to deliver you! I can hear Jesus speaking this to us in whatever we are facing. Wind and waves, storms come at us but just as we are straining, struggling with our circumstances Jesus reminds us "I AM". The God who strengthened and healed his children in the desert is here to strengthen and heal you. The God who brought them out with joy and singing is here to bring you joy. The God who led them with fire by night and a pillar of smoke by day can lead you too! When we're wondering "How are we going to make it to the other side?" Jesus says I AM, the God who provided food from heaven, water from a rock and clothing and shoes that didn't wear out in forty years is here to provide for you. Mighty to deliver, mighty to heal, mighty to save!

An interesting thing happens when Jesus climbs into the boat, the wind dies down. I don't know what wind is blowing in your life or what waves are rocking your world. I know that just this week I told my husband "It felt like waves were crashing over me." Sometimes life just comes at us like that. When I feel that way I have to remind myself to Take Courage! I AM is with me, standing right beside me and he is not shaken by this storm!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Zacchaeus Was A Wee Little Man

This past weekend we had the privilege of hosting Ricardo Sanchez as our guest worship leader at Shoreline. It was such an honor for me to be a part of that service! At our rehearsal the day before Ricardo shared some great thoughts with our team. One story has stayed with me all week. He talked about Zacchaeus and how he ran ahead and climbed a tree so he could see Jesus. Ricardo said: leaders go first, they don't look for a way out they look for a way through. They move up higher and gain a different perspective.

Those thoughts really resonated with my heart. And I've actually never considered Zacchaeus a lesson on leadership, so I've stayed here in this story for several days. Reading and re-reading and each day I see something's fascinating actually...

Here is the passage from The Message Luke 19:1-10

The first thing I notice is that he "wanted desperately to see Jesus". Zacchaeus had a desire, a dream. But there was some opposition to this desire. There was a crowd in his obstacle to him seeing what he wanted to see. There is always opposition. Notice that he doesn't pout about it. Waaaa, there is a crowd in my way, I'll never see my desire because of this darn crowd. God, can't you do something about this crowd?

But not only does Zacchaeus have this obstacle in his way, he also has his own limitations. Poor fellow, he's short or as the Sunday School song says, he was a "wee little man". Bummer. If I were might have heard me whine just a bit. I'm so short, I'll always be short, nothing I could do will ever make me taller. God, why did you make me this way? Why couldn't I be tall like Ricardo? :) The truth is we all have limitations that would try to keep us from our desire.

Instead of staying stuck in the muck with his obstacles and resigning himself to his limitations, Zacchaeus does two things. The passage says "he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus." He ran and he climbed. He did what he could do to see what, or in his case who, he wanted to see. He put forth some effort to gain his desire.

The amazing part is that he got so much more than he had bargained for. God is a so much more God! Not only did he get to SEE Jesus, Jesus invited himself over for dinner. Jesus said...Zacchaeus, I want to spend some time with you, let's get to know each other. You matter, You are valued. You were "out" but now you are "in". The meal they shared was so much more than food!

A funny thing happens at this point of the story and it just donned on me today. This place where Zacchaeus' running and climbing intersects with seeing Jesus is a powerful place. The Message says he just stood there, stunned and stammering. Hello! I can identify with this spot. That feeling of whoa, what is going on here? This is way more than I had hoped for and suddenly I feel really, really uncomfortable! I think this is the place where we start to get a glimpse of who Jesus says we are, who he thinks we can be even when we are are so stinkin' short! Jesus didn't dismiss the crowd or miraculously change his stature. Those things don't stand in Jesus' way.

Zacchaeus responds to the love and acceptance of Jesus by making things right with those around him. Taking care of the poor, and making restitution to those he had wronged. Jesus said "Today is salvation day in this home!". Everything changes when Jesus comes on the scene!

My favorite part of the story is summed up in Jesus' last statement. He says "for the Son of Man came to find and restore the lost". We might make the mistake of thinking that Jesus responded to Zacchaeus' efforts. Way to go Zacc, run ahead, climb the tree! You go boy! I'll be waiting for you down the road after you get your act together. Nope, thank goodness. All the while Zacchaeus is seeking to see Jesus...Jesus is seeking him. Seeking, finding and restoring the lost. Beautiful isn't it? Jesus restoring lost sons and lost daughters. Jesus restoring lost or broken desires and dreams. That's what he came to do!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Stressed-Out but Stressed-Toward

Last week, I was struggling with a challenge. Wanting to learn and grow but feeling very tempted just to chuck it all and quit! As the day of the challenge arrived I grew more frustrated with my insecurities and more anxious about having to press through them. I went up to my room for a good cry! Thankfully, I've learned over the years where to direct those cries! I picked up my read-it-in-a year-Bible and turned to the passage for the day. Seriously, just flipped it open, hoping to take my mind off all my mess!

This is what I read:

2 Corinthians 7:8-9 I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don't feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I'm glad—not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him.

Paul was following up with the Corinthians after his first letter had been received. He had written to bring correction, to encourage them in truth, to challenge them in their faith, and it caused them stress, just like my challenge. I felt so validated that I too allow my stress to bring me toward God. I felt like God was speaking right to me. Baby, I know this is hard. I see you are upset. But we are going to turn this around for good, you and me. So that's when the tears really started to fall.

Then I read the very next phrase: The result was all gain, no loss.

All gain and no loss. This momentary stress, this little bit of pain, brings with it gain, growth, progress. That's a good thing. Paul was saying in his letter, that good thing was worth every bit of discomfort.

Paul goes on: 10Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.
11-13And now, isn't it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You're more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you've come out of this with purity of heart. And that is what I was hoping for in the first place when I wrote the letter.

No one says in the middle of their stress...Isn't it wonderful? Well, I guess Paul does. I would much prefer "Isn't it wonderful to live stress-free with complete confidence in the face of any new situation." That is so much nicer. I prefer things to be nice. But nice isn't the same as wonderful, is it? Who doesn't want to be more alive and more passionate? That IS wonderful.

I was so touched by the way this passage was speaking directly into my life in that moment. It was overwhelming. All I could think is...this book really IS alive and powerful! So I cried some more. :)

My dear son walked in and of course was curious about all the commotion. He asked why I was crying and I explained to him that I was challenged to sing during our worship team leadership class and I was feeling so nervous about it. He replied with the honest truth "Mom, you sing all the time"

"Thanks, I know, this is different and it feels harder and I'm not sure I can do it, but when I picked up my Bible it was like God was speaking right to me, encouraging me."

Pause....little boy thinking.....

"Maybe God told you that because He thinks you can do it"

Out of the mouths of babes.....