A Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Beginning to 2014

It’s almost February and I have not made a resolution, set a goal or stepped into a gym. I have hit snooze on my alarm almost every morning and shaken my fist at all world-changers arising before dawn.

I’m ready for 2015. Is it too early to say that?

This New Year, this new beginning, is off to a horrible, no good, very bad start. On day six I had to put my dog down. It was horrific. I knew that I would be sad. I did not know that I would be wrecked. I like to think of myself as a rational pet owner, fully aware that she was indeed, “just a dog.” But apparently I do not know myself.

Reality shows that I am not a rational pet owner. I am a crazy dog person. I put my dog down and then cried for two days straight (and a little bit almost every day since).  The Dog Whisperer says that dogs do not think human thoughts and we should not ascribe a voice to them. I’m sure this is rational. But I am also sure that my dog did have thoughts, very human-like thoughts. I could almost hear her speak.

Most days when I arrived home she had her snout against the bottom pane of the French door and was very clearly thinking, “Oh good, you are home. Finally.” And then she sauntered to greet me at the back door to say, “I am so glad you are home. You’re my favorite.”

This morning I finally arose somewhat early to run. Typically I would walk into the Scout-dog’s room and she would abound with glee seeing that I was wearing the running visor, running shoes and running shorts. Almost shouting, she’d proclaim, “Yes! A run. You’re up. Let’s go!” And we would go. As we turned down the hill for the Rose Bowl Loop she would raise her head and drop her tongue with great elation. She knew exactly where we were. She was ready for the 3 miles and every quarter mile she would look over her left shoulder to say, “Hurry. Faster. Faster. We can go faster.”

But this morning there was no Scout-dog. No tail wagging. No four-legged fortitude to keep me going. But God gave me friends. Other two-legged companions to keep me on pace. It’s a new year. A new beginning. It started with a bit of a limp and a great amount of sadness. I want to be careful to not run too quickly to some worked-up-giddiness. I want to grieve – even when it’s “just a dog”.

I’ve found tears to be such a gift. A friend told me that Lady Bird Johnson once said, “People must be given the opportunity to hurt out loud.” It’s such a human thing to cry. I think this is why Jesus wept. He had no desire to be stoic or strong. He was the most human human to invade the planet. He had to weep. He had to hurt out loud. And in doing so he gave us all permission to do the same.

Happy New Year (20 days late).

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~I am honored to do some writing this year with some amazing bloggers and friends. If you’d like to read more about new beginnings, start with http://www.growingplaces.us/in-the-beginning/ and roll through the circle from there!

Why We Matter and the Glory of God

Our identities can get a little whack when we seek to understand ourselves through comparison, competition and social media. Who are we and why are we here are questions of identity. Someone (Calvin? Augustine?) once said that if we desire to know ourselves we must know God and if we desire to know God, we must know ourselves. We’re about to dive into a 7-week study in Ephesians 1-3. It’s all about the love of Christ and who we are in him. Feel free to join us.

Download the fillable PDF study guide : Ridiculous Love: This is Who We Are [Ephesians 1-3]

Ridiculous Love

Re-Meeting Jesus: Day 16/Mark 16

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Questions I have for Jesus Today:

  • I don’t understand this part about picking up serpents and drinking deadly poison and laying hands on the sick. Jesus – this seems dangerous. And why are not all people healed when we lay hands on them and pray for them?
  • When you “reproached” the eleven for their unbelief, what did you say?
  • What does it mean that after you were “received up into heaven” that you continued to “work with” the disciples?
  • What does it mean that you are in heaven and at the right hand of God? What does that really look like?

 What Delights Me about Jesus Today:

  • That you rose from the dead!
  • That you first appeared to women who adored you, worshiped you, cared for you.
  • That you specifically wanted Peter to know that you had risen.
  • That your disciples still didn’t get it – that you would be resurrected from the dead! This delights me because they didn’t get it but you didn’t abandon them – they still received your call into your work of taking the gospel to the world.
  • It’s your work, your sending, and your message.

Re-Meeting Jesus: Day 15/Mark 15

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How do you categorize the crucifixion? It seems simplistic this morning to break this event into lists of disturbing and delightful. It is disturbing, but it seems evident that something world-altering is happening here. I’m stunned by all the people – Pilate, Barabbas and an angry mob; Mocking soldiers and a traveler solicited to carry the cross; Executioners and criminals; all the women, so many women and courageous Joseph. So many witnessing the crucifixion of Jesus. So many participating in this horrific, bloody, sad, sad day.

And the veil of the temple being torn in two, from top to bottom. Mark includes this detail for a purpose. Who tore it?

  • I’m intrigued by the envy that caused religious leaders to condemn God.
  • I wonder at Barabbas – Jesus taking his place. The guilty freed by the innocent.
  • I wish I knew more about the criminals also hanging on crosses.
  • I do love the courage of Joseph, desiring to give Jesus a proper burial.
  • And the women, all the women. Of course they are following this Rabbi who has radically opened the door for them to learn and follow and be disciples!

Re-Meeting Jesus: Day 14/Mark 14

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Jesus, today I am thankful for your humanity. I am thankful for all that you experienced and grappled with when you came to dwell among us. I am thankful that the things that break our heart are things that you have felt. Thank you.

What Delights Me about Jesus Today:

  • Jesus I love that you surround yourself with lepers and women and Pharisees and Scribes and followers and betrayers.
  • I love that the one who betrays you is from your inner circle. Certainly this is disturbing but it means you know the sting of betrayal that touches everyone.
  • I love that you know distress and trouble. There is no place for the Pollyanna in Christianity. You did not pretty up your impending death and you were not afraid to ask for the circumstances to change. This moment in the garden is filled with so much truth: you call God the Father Daddy; you pray and that same God who is your Daddy says “no”; you surrender to the will of God even when it seems horrific.
  • I love you because you know betrayal and abandonment. Your closest friends leave you in the moment you need them most. Peter denies even knowing you.
  • I love that you let the woman anoint you with oil – it seems she might have been the only one to accept your message of your impending death.

Re-Meeting Jesus: Day 13/Mark 13

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What Delights me about Jesus Today:

  • I love that you warn your disciples of what is to come.
  • I love that the Holy Spirit gives words to the persecuted.
  • I love that the Lord shortened the days so that people could be saved.
  • Your words will not pass away.

 What Disturbs me about Jesus Today:

  • All of the horror and tribulation and persecution.

Questions for Jesus:

  • How would you have me read this passage? I have a sense that those in countries that face horrific persecution for their faith in you, read this very differently.
  • What does it look like for me to be alert?
  • Why “must” wars take place?
  • Why do you allow the false teachers and those who claim to be you?
  • Why are you telling your disciples to pray for this tribulation not to come in winter? Can’t you make sure that it does not? Please help me better understand prayer.
  • How are false prophets able to perform signs and wonders?
  • Who are the elect? Is it as the reformers suggest or something else?

Re-Meeting Jesus: Day 12/Mark 12

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What Disturbs Me about Jesus Today:

  • I have always loved the story of the Widow placing her two small coins in the offering.  I loved how Jesus honored her generosity and willingness to give all that she had. But this morning this passage disturbed me. I don’t really know what to do with it. Jesus seems to dismiss the gift of the wealthy because they give from their surplus and esteems the gift of the widow because she gives all that she has. I’m disturbed. I don’t know what to do with this? I give from my surplus. I don’t give all that I have. Of course, my temptation is to seek some balance here – to quote some proverbs about debt, to note that Zacchaeus only offered half of his possessions, that surely God does not want me to be stupid. But, I fear if I go too quickly to my rationalization I might miss something. Jesus, speak to me.

 What Delights Me about Jesus Today:

  • It delights me that Jesus is so wise with his stories and answers and teachings. But I felt sad as I read most of this chapter. I felt the sadness of Jesus as he tells this story of the Father sending one servant after another to collect what was rightly his from those he had entrusted his vineyard. I felt the sadness of Jesus as he forecasts his impending death at the hands of those who are supposed to be anticipating him, receiving him, delighting in him. I felt the sadness of Jesus as he answers the questions of these religious leaders knowing that they are not seeing him – the Christ, the Messiah, the Lord of David, and the Savior who is right before them.  He says, “Is this not the reason that you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?” Oh my. Lord, help me not to miss you in the Bible, help me not to reduce you or use you or mold you into the image of the god I want rather than the God who is. Jesus, I do not want to miss your power. Show me your power.
  • It does delight me that Jesus amazes them and that the crowd enjoyed listening to him. I wish I could have been in that crowd. I think.
  • I love that Jesus’ teaching penetrates the heart of the Scribe in verses 32-34 and gives him hope.
  • I love that Jesus points the religious leaders to loving God and loving others. “There is no other commandment greater than these.” Amen.

 Questions for Jesus Today:

  • How can I hear your voice and how you want me to give? Am I hoarding too much in the name of savings?
  • Why didn’t you MAKE them understand you, recognize you, honor you?
  • Why this way? Why the death of a son?
  • What happened to the widow after she gave all she had?