February 2019 Archives


Joy

Joy

I don’t think there is anything that gives God more joy than when His children work together for each other’s benefit.

I felt His good pleasure today at the food bank where I volunteer one morning a week.

I thoroughly enjoy this opportunity to serve. There is always plenty to do—weighing donations as they arrive; checking expiration dates; pulling out-of-date items; stocking shelves; preparing USDA grocery bags; pre-packing items such as flour, sugar, and salt; filling orders for clients; breaking down boxes or organizing plastic bags.

Today we had a flurry of activity all at once: a local organization donated over 500 pounds of food that all needed to be shelved, eight clients seemed to arrive at once for supplies, and one of the volunteers had just returned from the grocery store with several carts full of bulk toiletry and pantry items that also needed shelving.

Pure delight overwhelmed me as the ten of us—all from very diverse ethnic, financial, spiritual, and educational backgrounds—worked as one to get everything completed.

In the 2016 book The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, “. . . ultimately our greatest joy is when we seek to do good for others.” The Dalai Lama agrees and adds, “we are in fact one group—humanity.”

Paul expresses this similarly in 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27–

For just as the body is one but has many parts; and all the parts of the body, though many, constitute one body; so it is with the Messiah. For it was by one Spirit that we were all immersed into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free; and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

For indeed the body is not one part but many. If the foot says, “I’m not a hand, so I’m not part of the body,” that doesn’t make it stop being part of the body. And if the ear says, “I’m not an eye, so I’m not part of the body,” that doesn’t make it stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If it were all hearing, how could it smell? But as it is, God arranged each of the parts in the body exactly as he wanted them. Now if they were all just one part, where would the body be?

But as it is, there are indeed many parts, yet just one body. So the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you”; or the head to the feet, “I don’t need you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be less important turn out to be all the more necessary; and upon body parts which we consider less dignified we bestow greater dignity; and the parts that aren’t attractive are the ones we make as attractive as we can, while our attractive parts have no need for such treatment. Indeed, God has put the body together in such a way that he gives greater dignity to the parts that lack it, so that there will be no disagreements within the body, but rather all the parts will be equally concerned for all the others. Thus, if one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; and if one part is honored, all the parts share its happiness.

Now you together constitute the body of the Messiah, and individually you are parts of it.

Unified diversity . . . there is nothing more delightful!

Hearing

Hearing

“Whoa . . . what? . . . wait a minute . . . what did that say?”

Tucked away in the parable of the sower, its explanation and an admonition about not hiding our light under a basket was, “Pay attention, then, to how you hear! For anyone who has something will be given more; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he seems to have will be taken way.” (Luke 8:18)

“Pay attention, then, to how you hear!”

Despite having read it many times in my pursuit of the Rabbi, I was taken aback. Scholarly biblical commentaries left me dissatisfied as I searched for richer meaning. Yes, I get it, “listen up,” “pay attention,” “Yo, this is important.” I had said those things many times to my students over the course of my career as a middle school teacher when trying to stress something that was especially significant.

Yet there seemed a calling to something more profound centered around the use of the word “how.”

As has become my habit the last couple of years, I floated my inquiry past my thoughtful cousin for his enlightened insight.

. . . basically, all of it seems to be calling us to hear with our heart… Yet the word heart falls short, because it is a word made up by the mind, ego-mind, body-mind, to speak to other ego- minds in the beliefs of separation…

So with parables Jesus points beyond and inward, a direction the ego-mind cannot grasp but the heart, prior to all words, knows … Jesus is always speaking past mind-body identities, to what truly hears, to what we truly are, the same as that which is speaking through him…

Only God sees God, only God hears God, only God calls to God… So God through Jesus is calling to what we truly are, and enjoining us to hear (and see) ourselves in each other …

While his words ruminated in my heart, this verse from 1 Corinthians 6:10 came to mind, “Or don’t you know that your body is a temple for the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) who lives inside you, whom you received from God?” and then a vibrant, vivid picture story from the Old Testament came alive.

When the Israelites moved through the desert after the Exodus and when they encamped, God prescribed an arrangement of the 12 tribes in such a manner that the Tabernacle, also known as the Tent of Meeting, and all its Holy articles were at the very center–three tribes to the north, three to the south, three to the east and three to the west.

At the heart of the Tabernacle was the Most Holy Place where ADONAI’s Glory appeared. This most sacred place contained the Ark of the Covenant which housed the two tablets of the ten commandments—God’s Word.

God’s holy people living, moving and listening as One.

My cousin was right, the word heart does fall short because it isn’t our heart . . .

. . . it is His Heart through which we listen.

Surprised by Grief

Surprised by Grief

Grief took me by surprise . . .

“My heart is filled with overwhelming thoughts and feelings this morning, Abba, thoughts of love and thoughts of sadness . . . I need you desperately, yet I know I won’t do what you tell me to do . . . I don’t know, LORD, I feel so angry, so pissed off . . . this house, I think it was the right house, but I miss the other house so much—in a way I feel like I’ve left my mother behind . . . you better pull me out of this funk . . . I can’t do it . . . when all is said and done, I’d like to say ‘I trust you,’ I’m just not sure I do . . .”

During a more lucid moment hours before her death my mother said, “I wish we could all go together.” The three of us had done so many things together over the years, from many memorable vacations and cross-country trips to day in day out living—just the three of us living life together. So, of course, she would want us to die together.

I thought at first this was her desire because she would miss us.

Finally, here at the end of her life, she was thinking about herself. She very rarely ever thought of her own wants and desires; she was and still is the least selfish person I have ever known, always putting my father’s and mine wishes and necessities before her own. No form of conditioning made her this way. This selflessness came purely from a heart full of gratitude for all that God had given her.

I was wrong.

Dad and I were still first in her thoughts. Her final wish for us to go together was because she knew how deeply we would miss her and it was her greatest yearning to save us from this staggering pain.

“How can you be so sure?”

Because prior to and until her final breath, she begged and pleaded repeatedly with “Mary” saying over and over again, “why; why not; why can’t they?” I just know!

Almost three years have passed since she moved on and the magnitude of the grief returned almost full force these last couple of weeks. Why?

Two life changes very close together . . . retirement and moving. One of my very wise daughter’s-in-love said that moving would make her death seem more permanent.

She was right and yet just knowing that makes my mother’s aliveness more real and available.

Grief is like a kaleidoscope. The pain fractures Light into unimaginable patterns of deep hope, profound awareness, and intense insights.

As far as not being sure I could trust God . . . I trusted Him with my doubts and that’s all He needed.

Remember

Remember

My father said, “there’s more of those in the world than people.” Seated in the backseat of the car, maybe 10 to 12 years of age, I looked up to see the hind end of a horse being towed in a trailer.

Being rather naïve, I had no idea what he was talking about. But since getting my driver’s license and driving for 44 years, I now understand his inference.

Recently as I was waiting at a stop light to turn right, the person behind me honked his or her horn after the light turned green. I—and the person in front of me—had nowhere to go as the traffic was backed up.

What did this person expect us to do, magically fly over the traffic? He or she could clearly see that no cars were moving. Up until the horn honk I was very patient. Once I heard that blaring beep, however, I let go with my own slang description of a horse’s rear end.

Which leads me to the one conditioned behavior that I have the most difficulty shedding—the belief that I am unworthy of being loved.

How can God possibly love me when I mess up so frequently?

I think it is this erroneous belief that prevents many people from turning to and acknowledging God. They mistakenly believe that they have to quit their “bad” behavior before professing their faith. “As soon as I (fill in the blank), I’ll talk to God.” Essentially, they are saying, “I’m not good enough for God to love me.”

That’s the point, isn’t it?

None of us is “good enough,” yet “we are precious in His sight and He loves us” (Isaiah 43:4).

Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife to save his own hide. Jacob twice tricked his brother out of his birthright and his blessing. King David had an affair with a married woman and then had her husband killed. Rahab, the mother of Boaz and great-grandmother of King David, was a prostitute. Forbidden for Israelites, Samson married a Philistine woman.

Yet God used all these people in miraculous ways because they trusted Him in their “unlovable” state.

As soon as the profanity popped out of my mouth I said, “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” The native people of Hawaii call this Ho’ppono, a powerful act of redemption and remembrance.

In a book study at church this morning, we discussed the book of Deuteronomy and how Moses spent his remaining hours on earth reminding the Israelites repeatedly to remember . . .

“. . . that God was as personal as they themselves . . . that He spoke to them and listened to them . . . that He expressed His love for them . . . that He was merciful . . . that He longed for them not to forget Him when things were going well . . .” (The Bible Jesus Read: Why the Old Testament Matters by Phillip Yancey).

“I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.”

Let this be your prayer of remembrance.

I’m working on it.

Resurrection

Resurrection

After five years of trying and multiple miscarriages, a daughter was born to a young couple. Her great-grandfather referred to her as “the most wanted baby” when he received the news of the birth of his twenty-second great grandchild.

The new parents continued to try to have other children, with little success until three years later when another daughter was conceived. However, things did not go well. With a due date of February 14, 1962, she died in utero sometime before Christmas of ’61. They were devastated.

The doctor advised them to wait for the situation to resolve itself naturally; the distressed husband, concerned for his wife, did not want to wait.

With heavy hearts, they endured the stillbirth; the expectant mother never giving up hope that the child within was still alive.

After fighting cancer, many years later, the beloved mother died. The only daughter, now grown, was going through her mother’s papers and found a small note written in her mother’s familiar handwriting.

“Sarah Marie, you have a wonderful daddy and sweet little sister who love you very much. Even though I didn’t get to see you, I love you.”

John 11:25-26, Yeshua said to her, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life! Whoever puts his trust in me will live, even if he dies; and everyone living and trusting in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

She did.

I do.