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Friday, September 26, 2008

My children

Teaching is such a consuming occupation. My alarm goes off before 5 a.m. every morning so that I can arrive at school by 7:00. I am rarely out of the building before 5 or 6 and often spend weekends there as well. Many of my nights are spent grading papers or working on my lesson plans online. At times I resent the power of my career to consume my life. I have agonized many times in prayer about whether I am where God intends me to be. I still entertain thoughts about another career at some point. I certainly hope that God does not leave me in this career for 30 more years.

However, one morning when I first returned to work after Abby's birth God sent me a strange, but beautifully clear vision of what it is that I do every day. You see, I enter into a room of 20 small children with a specific mission. Every year there are children in my class with stories that make me vomit and have nightmares. God showed me on that morning, several years ago, that those are the children that belong to me for 177 days out of the year. The vision was a very LOTR influenced thing. I was standing on a hill with a sword drawn and my "needy" children were sheltered behind me as a huge dark, swirling cloud of shapeless evil forms hurtled toward us. The sword that I held glowed as it parted the darkness around the small children behind me. Every year I see this played out in my classroom. As I pray over my children, God reveals himself and uses me to love the unlovable. For some children, this is a brand new experience for them. To be loved completely with abandon by an adult. It is hard and draining and leaves very little of me left to share with anyone else. It interferes with the ministry that I would like to do. But...God has demonstrated his hand in what it is that I do and until he allows me to go a different direction I will walk in faithfulness with my sword drawn, protecting my children.

Please pray hard for one of my special friends. Today he asked me to go home with him to keep him safe from harm. I need great wisdom in dealing with his situation and patience with the behavior that is coming out of his need for love. Seriously...beg God to protect my precious baby.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

I think that it is probably not spiritual to be excited when I find traces of Jesus' temptations in scripture. It is a perverse thing about humans that we feel better knowing that other people are fighting against temptation, too. Today, in Matthew 11, I saw a hint of frustration in Jesus' voice. Maybe I am projecting my own emotions into the passage, but maybe not. Jesus is in the middle of a monologue about people's opinions about the messiah and about the sin of the cities and how Sodom would have repented if they had seen the signs and wonders Jesus was performing. His monologue seems to be growing in intensity verse by verse. The He abruptly ends his monologue and breaks into prayer. After his prayer, he resumes longer angrily but tenderly. Now obviously Jesus is without sin in this passage, but I wondered if he was tempted in that moment to really, literally blast the people and had to abruptly stop to pray. I don't know....but it seems to me like a good technique to try. When I can not control my mouth any longer, maybe I should try shutting up and praying before I finish my conversations.

When Jesus was through praying, he said, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me -watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." The unforced rhythms of grace.... that's a word choice that I have contemplated all day. I think that I make the religion thing too complex at times. I love how Jesus says to just walk beside him and watch him at work and learn about true religion. It's just that easy - and just that hard. I am easily distracted. Then there's also the part of me that wants God to watch me work or I assume that I know where He's going and rush ahead, totally in the wrong direction. I feel like I still need my floaties on in the pool when it comes to discovering the unforced rhythms of God's grace. But I am looking forward to a lifetime of seeking to fully understand what that looks like when lived out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

10 follows 9

In all my years of church and Bible study I had never realized that Matthew chapter 10 came right after chapter 9. Now...obviously I can count....I do teach 1st grade. What I mean is that chapter 9 closes with Jesus praying for workers for the harvest and chapter 10 opens up like this..."The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields." I had never connected the two passages. Shawn will probably say that he has preached on this before, but it was probably when I was tuning him out, or on bedrest, or listening to the music in my head, or daydreaming or something. Seriously, when I pray for workers for the harvest, it never occurs to me that God might answer that immediately. I need to have more faith, and be more aware of looking for God's immediate provision.

Then all of chapter 10 is like the instruction manual to the first church planters. Hello...never noticed that before either. It's like I have never read this chapter. Maybe it was missing in my other Bible. Seriously, maybe I should go check. Listen to these ministry guidelines from vs. 5-8, "Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously." Dude...I don't think that matches my ministry description so well. Talk about living large and courageously and boldly and ooooh...awesome! I want to get me some of that power!!!!!

Then there's vs. 9-10, "Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light." How much easier would that make church? If people were our only equipment. How much less stress. Certainly adds some perspective to ministry.

OHHHH, and I love this verse, vs. 16, "STAY ALERT. THIS IS HAZARDOUS WORK I'M ASSIGNING YOU...." Definitely a different take on ministry. Not a cushy, easy, cruise ship lifestyle. But way more exciting. I love good spy movies and occasionally entertain daydreams about being a sexy, secret agent (Okay you can stop laughing now and finish the rest of the blog you silly's not like you don't daydream, too).... so I guess I love the the drama in this verse and the reminder that we are on a critically important mission....maybe not a covert operation, but certainly not a safe one either.

Vs. 38-39, "If your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you'll find both yourself and me." Many of God's principles are backwards and upside down. But this is one that I have discovered and rediscovered many times over in my life. It is only when I am emptied and filled back up with Christ that I am able to really know who I am and what my purpose is in life. When I am pursuing my own desires, I am never satisfied.

Vs. 40. "We are intimately linked in this harvest work." I know that this is talking about our relationship to Christ. And it is a beautiful truth that when we are on mission for Christ we enjoy an amazing intimacy with Him. However, I have also found this to be true about my relationships with people on the launch team. It is as we have gone into "harvest work", aka, "missions" together that our relationships have become so amazing. The people that have walked with us on this journey have very much become part of my family. I can't believe that I never knew that the Bible talked about this relationship growth that occurs when you are involved together in ministry.

Anyway, this is the most a passage of scripture has spoken to me in a long time. I condensed, edited, and cut out several other points due to the length of the blog. You'll just have to read this chapter for yourself. I love the way the Bible is eternally new. That no matter how many times I read a passage, I never have it all figured out. There is always so much more to learn and apply. God is cool like that.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Matthew 9:18-26 ... Story is that a local official finds Jesus to say his daughter has died, can Jesus come heal her and bring her back from the dead. So Jesus immediately abandons what he is doing to go with this official. On his way he is interrupted by a woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years. She slips through the crowd, touches the hem of his robe, and is healed . . . at the risk of public embarrassment.... the risk of making an entire crowd unclean according to Jewish the risk of being seen as forward...touching a Jewish male in the risk of the risk of failure....maybe it wouldn't the risk of anger from the crowd and from Jesus. So what does Jesus say? "Courage, daughter. You took a risk of faith, and now you're well." Then Jesus continues on his merry way, heals the dead daughter, some blind men, casts out some evil spirits, etc.

I just loved the way Jesus commended her for taking a risk of faith. Wow. It has been in my biggest moments of the greatest risks in my faith where God has shown up in amazing ways. Yet, still I struggle with taking big risks. I want to chase the Lion in a pit on a snowy day!!!! (reference to Mark Batterson's awesome book) Somehow I spend way too much time on the mundane and the safe. I am done with safe.