Wednesday, May 16, 2012

longing

What do you want me to do for you? Mark 10:36, 51

What a question!  It kind of cuts right to the heart of the matter doesn’t it—direct, to the point, no messing around?  It also gets to the heart of what we really believe about life, and about longing, and about God.  Our answer to this little question tells us so much about what we most deeply desire, and what we believe God most deeply desires for us.  In fact, if I’m really honest, it’s not the kind of question I would expect God to ask.  I mean, “What do you want me to do for you?”  How can he ask that question?  Who knows what kind of crazy answer or response he might get.  But now that I think about it…He knows.  Ultimately I think this question is about longing, and about God’s desire for his beloved children to discover what their deepest longings really are.  If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.  How would you answer that question?  What is it that you want Him to do for you?  Your answer to this question will tell you a good bit about what it is you really believe will make your life work? 

For James and John it was to sit on his right and his left in glory.  For them life was all about jockeying for position.  Their answer to his telling question screamed, “I want to be somebody!”  It showed their hand—the true state of their hearts—even after all the time they had spent walking with Jesus.  It revealed that, in their heart of hearts, they still believed that position, importance, and significance were the things that would give them the life they were desperately longing for.  They still didn’t really get it.  They still didn’t really understand.  They still didn’t really see.

Enter Bartimaeus, a blind beggar of Jericho and Jesus’ perfect opportunity to show his friends the true state of their hearts.  Although James and John were not physically blind, they were still unable to see, and Jesus was going to use the blind man to show them that.  For Bartimaeus the question was a different story altogether.  For him it was easy, at least on the surface anyway.  I want to see.  I’m not completely sure whether his response was referring only to his physical sight, or something much bigger than that, but I am pretty sure that his response was bigger and deeper than he could’ve understood or imagined at the moment.  It was almost as if he was saying:  Open my eyes, Lord—literally and figuratively.  Help me to see, really see.  Help me to see life as it really is, and faith as it really is, and you as you really are.  And low and behold, he is touched...and healed.  And the first thing he sees once his request is granted—once his eyes are opened—is the warm and tender face of Jesus.  And when he sees that face, in one incredible instant the deepest longings of his heart are met completely and his life, and more importantly his heart, are changed forever.  Who knew? 

...Jesus did.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

laugh

So I had a conversation today that was ten years in the making.  That’s right, ten years.  For ten years I’ve been showing up, being present, initiating conversations, asking questions, and praying that one day the door might swing open and I might have the conversation with a dear friend that I have always dreamt of and hoped for—a conversation that was genuine and real and vulnerable, where we talked about things that really mattered; the matters of the heart and soul.  Well, today was the day…and it was absolutely wonderful!!!  Even as we talked I was thinking, “This is it!  This is the conversation I have longed to have with you, but could not possibly orchestrate, manipulate my way into, or control.”  It was a total gift—as most things of the Spirit are—and one I had waited for and looked forward to for oh so long.

Somewhere in the middle of the walking and the talking a comment came, “Oh, I’m reading your book.  I’m on day eighteen.  It’s really helping me reflect on all that God is up to in my life these days.”  That this dear friend would care enough to read it in the first place was totally overwhelming, but to hear that it had actually been helpful…that was more than I ever could’ve hoped for.  I left our time an incredibly grateful man; grateful for my friend, grateful for his life, grateful for his desire to trust Jesus in the midst of it, grateful for his vulnerability, grateful for his courage…grateful, grateful, grateful.  As a matter of fact, when I got home I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of it all that all I could do for the next hour was sit, and reflect, and savor, and pray.  And as I did, I remembered what he said about being on Day 18 in Reflections that day, so I went back to see what it had to say.  It is a reflection of the parable of the sower in Mark 4, how appropriate is that?  And here’s part of what I read:

     One other truth the parable reveals to us is that ministry is a lot like farming.  It is hard, slow work.  It does not feel very heroic and involves a lot of difficult and mundane tasks.  It involves knowing your land well—constantly walking the fields to check their condition and to stay attentive to what needs to be done (and when).  It is work that’s messy and will get your hands dirty.  There is no way to do it from a distance—you have to be in it up to your elbows.  It is not just a hobby, but an entire way of life (a calling).  It is a life filled with tilling the soil, and weeding, and digging.  It is a life filled with plowing up the hard ground and breaking up the rocky soil.  It is a life filled with doing whatever it takes to make the soil (soul) as receptive as possible to the seed of the Word.

And I just had to laugh; of course it would say that!  God speaking to me, reminding me of the beauty of His truth...through my own pen.  Haha, isn’t that just like God?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

garden



“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him,
for he shields him all day long, and the one the

Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”
(Deuteronomy 33:12)

I’ve never really thought of myself as a gardener; and still don’t, really.  But I have discovered an undeniable interest in planting things and watching them grow.  And not just any things, but beautiful things, flowers mostly.  I guess that’s the difference between a gardener and a farmer—gardeners plant flowers and farmers plant vegetables.  I’m definitely a flower guy; which is a little hard to admit.  The words flower and guy don’t particularly go hand-in-hand in my mind, but I really like them nonetheless…and more and more as I get older.  It’s kind of like watching birds; it is something I could’ve never imagined enjoying back in my younger days, but as I have gotten older I have discovered I really like it.

Well, this new-found interest in gardening has begun to work its way out into my life…and into my yard.  In fact, I have this space in my backyard that I absolutely love.  I call it my spot.  It is a peaceful and quiet place that I escape to from time to time for silence and solitude.  And, as a result, it is a space that I take special care of; a space I am very intentional about, one that I try to plant beautiful things in…two azalea bushes a couple of years ago, two small dogwood trees last year, roses and rhododendron this year.  Add to that a couple of chairs, a fire pit, a bird feeder, and two bluebird houses and there you have it.

The other day, as I was creating a little flowerbed to plant some of these beautiful things in, I began to realize that what I was doing in my yard was really what I most deeply desire to do in my life—to plant something beautiful within the hearts and souls of those that God brings across my path.  Not something of me; nothing that I have created or dreamt up, but something of God; something beautiful that He has planted within me.  Maybe that’s really what ministry is all about; listening deeply to Him, recognizing the beautiful things He is planting within us, and offering those things to folks in our lives and world.  And maybe the only question I really need to pay attention to is: “God, what beautiful thing—that you have planted in me—do you want me to plant into this dear one that is sitting with me at the moment?”

That’s where the Deuteronomy passage comes in.  Moses is at the end of his life and mission; he has finished his race and has passed the baton of leadership on to Joshua.  Now all that is left for him to do is utter his final words.  Can you imagine the care, and the prayer, and the thought, and the intention he put into the process of choosing the words he—and more appropriately God—wanted ringing in the ears of the nation of Israel at this key moment in their life and history.  You can almost see the smile on his face as he thinks of each tribe individually, considers the state of their hearts, and his hopes and dreams for each of them.  And after all the thinking and the considering and the hoping and the dreaming and the praying, he gathers the entire nation together in order to give each of them a blessing.  And what a blessing it is!  In fact, as he blesses each tribe, it’s hard not to get the image of him simply trying to plant something beautiful within their hearts and souls; something that will bring life and bear fruit for years and years to come; something that will help them be exactly what both Isaiah and Jeremiah imagined—a well-watered garden.  And maybe that’s all a blessing is anyway—planting something beautiful in a heart or soul.   And maybe that’s exactly what a blessing was intended to do in the first place—to create life and bear fruit.  So he plants the words of blessing in the soil of their souls, and prays that it will begin to take root.  And what rich and beautiful words they are…“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”  And the garden of God’s delight becomes, a little at a time, more and more beautiful.