You Want Me to Show You My What?

hemofgarmentWhat is the one thing you are most ashamed of, most embarrassed about? We’ve all got something. For many of us there are probably several things. They are things we may not like about ourselves or things from our past that we want to be free from. We may be the only one who knows about them. If only someone would just heal that part of us or set us free from whatever it is that continues to haunt us.

Now imagine that Jesus is coming to visit your church. You’ve heard He can heal the sick, free the demon-possessed and even raise the dead! Certainly, He could do the same for you. So, you, along with hundreds of others, go to see Him and you hope that maybe, just maybe, your path will cross His. You also hope deep down, that maybe that will be enough – just crossing His path might be enough to bring about the healing you seek. You stand elbow to elbow with hundreds of others at the foyer of your church to welcome Him. You’ve heard He’ll be arriving soon. You’re hoping that whatever you are seeking healing from is not visible to others.  At the same time, your heart longs to at last be free from it.  The energy in the crowd begins to shift as word travels that He has arrived. You check your appearance, straighten your clothes, and take a deep breath. Your nerves tingle as you wonder if He’ll notice you and what you will do if He does.

Then the moment arrives. You see His smiling face as He makes His way into the crowd. You soak up His presence but secretly wonder if the healing within you has already occurred. Is it gone? Am I free? Will I know when it happens?   You hope He sees you as He passes through.  Then suddenly He stops right in front of you.  Your nerves surge through you as they never have before.  The crowd urges Him on towards the sanctuary but He is not willing to move forward.  You can’t take your eyes off of Him.  He turns and faces your direction.  More nerves.  The smile on your face takes a dramatic fall as His eyes catch yours.  The crowd continues to urge Him on but He has focused in on you. Your heart is pounding out of your chest but you’re not sure you’re even breathing.  You try to look away from Him but can’t.  The people around you begin moving away until there is no one between you.  You and He are standing face to face. He smiles and calls you by name.  You try to smile back as your eyes fill with tears.  The crowd is now silent and all eyes are on you. Then He says, “Show me.” The pain, shame, and hurt come surging to the surface.  You know from His question that the one thing you have been hiding from the world for as long as you can remember is what He is asking to see.

I recently re-read a few of the healing stories we find in the Gospels. There is the man with the withered hand in Mark 3:1-6; the woman with bleeding issues from Mark 5:25-24; and the man who was an invalid for 38 years sitting at the pool of Bethesda in John 5:2-9.  What I saw in these stories that I had never seen before was the fact that the one thing that these three people probably spent their lives hiding from others or carrying as their greatest shame was exactly what Jesus asked to see. To the man with the withered hand He said, “Stretch out your hand.” To the woman with the bleeding issues who touched His robe in secret He said, “Who touched me?”  And to the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years He said, “Get up and walk.” In all three of those moments, Jesus was asking each of them to trust Him with their greatest vulnerability. And, when they did, He restored them. He healed them.

Jesus asks the same of you and me. We can say that we trust Him. We can even believe that we do. But have you truly given over to Him that one thing that you don’t want anyone to know about? If He said to you, “Show me,” would you?  Just knowing that Jesus knows about our issues is not the same thing as showing them to Him.  He wants that intimacy with us, where we feel safe and secure in Him enough to share our deepest hurts.  And He assures us through His Word that His desire to see our deepest need is not to condemn us or embarrass us. It is in order to heal us, to connect with us at our most vulnerable place.

St. Paul brought to the Lord three times his “thorn in the flesh” and specifically asked for God to remove it from him. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) In each case, God’s answer was not to remove it, not to heal Paul of it. But what did the Lord say? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (v. 9) Paul didn’t receive healing, but He received God’s grace and a greater dependence upon God’s power. Like the three other examples, Paul had that intimate, personal moment with the Lord over his greatest weakness.

Being vulnerable with our Lord isn’t about what we get out of it. It is about Who we get out of it. I am not suggesting there is a magic formula for healing. If you just show God your most vulnerable issue, He’ll set you free – guaranteed! That’s not it. God calls all of us to an intimate and personal relationship with Him. He does heal. There are countless examples not only in the Bible but in our world today. But beyond healing, God seeks to transform His children. I propose that what Paul received was far greater than a physical healing.  He was forever changed to be more deeply connected to and dependent upon God.  He wants that for us. He is always moving us closer and closer to Him.

Will you trust Him with your deepest vulnerability?   He may grant you a miraculous healing or freedom from it.  If not healing, He will bring you to a new level of intimacy you never thought possible with the God of the universe.

Thank you, Lord, for your depth and desire to grow more intimately with us. Thank you for the examples of faith you preserved for us in your Word. Each one of those men and women were willing to risk showing You what brought them pain, shame, and disgrace. Help each of us to have the faith to trust You with our greatest weaknesses that we may grow closer to You. Thank you for loving us more deeply than we can even imagine and for always wanting to transform us into being more like Your Son. In His precious name, amen.

How Simple It Can Be

It was two weeks ago, when I first noticed her.  She is a young gal in her late teens, early twenties, pretty girl with long blonde hair.  She was sitting in the same section I sit in at church.   Just before the service began I saw her go over to a gal about her same age who had just sat down by herself a few rows in front of me.  The young blonde made her way down the stairs from where she was sitting, greeted the other gal with a hug and invited her to sit with her and her friends.  They both made there way back up the stairs and sat together with a group of about 4 others.  I thought nothing of it at the time until this past Sunday.  A similar scenario… a young gal, rather heavyset came in a sat down by herself.  Not more than 30 seconds had passed before the young blonde came to the gal’s row.  This time though instead of inviting her to where she had been sitting, she asked if she could sit next to her.  The gal agreed and I saw the blonde introduce herself and shake hands.  It’s so simple – but so powerful.

This gal has a ministry!  It may not be to preach in front of a congregation.  It may not be to teach a Sunday School class, or to visit the sick in the hospital and pray for them.  But you can be sure, this young woman has a ministry.  As I thought of her it dawned on me that about a year ago she sat with me too!  I usually sit alone on Sunday mornings and this same gal came and asked to sit with me.  (I’m embarrassed I don’t remember her name and it didn’t dawn on me until just a couple days ago that I too was a recipient of her kindness.)  She was delightful!  She asked me how long I had been coming to the church and if I was involved in any of the ministries.  She was kind and loving and just didn’t want me to sit alone that day.

What an incredible gift this gal gives every Sunday.  How many of us are thinking on a Sunday morning… “Gosh I hope the sermon doesn’t run too long,” or “Could the music be any louder?” or “What am I going to have for lunch?”  But not this gal.  She is looking for opportunities where she can bless someone else.  She is secure in knowing that she has something to offer… herself.  She’s not preaching the gospel to the people she’s sitting next to.  She’s merely offering her presence as a gift – a smile, a handshake, a simple conversation.  And the Lord is using that offering to touch others with His love.

I haven’t talked a lot of “being the glove” in recent posts.  But when I saw this example, how could I not be reminded of how the Lord wants us to be the glove on His hand!  What an amazing example of how simple it can be.  She is open.  She knows God has equipped her.  She is looking for opportunities and not focused on herself, or her comfort, or her needs, or what she wants from everyone else.  And she gives what she has to give… herself.  God does the rest. 

We have the same opportunity each an every day!  Every person that crosses our path is a person we can touch with the love of Christ.  It doesn’t have to be reciting scripture to them or preaching to them.  It is being available to let His love touch them through us.  What an amazing privilege we have every second we’re alive IF we’re willing, we’re open, we believe that He can use us, and we’re actively seeking the opportunities He gives us.

Lord, bless this young gal!  Thank you for letting me be blessed by her and for allowing me to be a witness of her incredible example.  May we all keep our focus on you, not ourselves, and may we be actively seeking ways in which you can use us to touch the lives of others.  Thank you for wanting to love others through us.  Help us to never take that for granted.  We love you.  Thank you for loving us so much that you fill us to overflowing.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Misplaced Roots

photo 1(1)It was a beautiful rose bush still in its plastic container.  At some point while the house was vacant it must have tipped over.  The bush laid on its side for who knows how long.  I was amazed that somehow it stayed alive.  Just a few weeks ago there were dozens of roses in full bloom bursting from the thick branches.  But now it was finally time to prune it and plant it in a place in my new garden where it could grow and flourish and be enjoyed as it should be.  I had hoped it would be as easy as picking up the plastic container and moving it… I was wrong.

It seems the reason this abandoned bush had bloomed so abundantly was because its roots had sprung from the thin plastic container and made their way deep into the soft, moist soil.  I was literally unable to budge it from any angle so I began to dig around it.  Surprisingly the camouflaged roots were thick – nearly twice as thick as the large branches on the surface.  The paving stones that surrounded this toppled plant seemed to provide no space at all but these roots were determined to settle in.  They found all the room they needed beneath the heavy stones.  Dislodging a half dozen or more led me to the end of one set of roots, but when I tried to move the plant I found another set stretching in another direction… and then another.  Some roots were more than 6 feet long traveling under the dead sod and whatever else stood in their way.

If you had only smelled the flowers and examined the roots of this bush you would have photo(3)sworn this was a healthy plant in a beautiful rose garden.  Instead, it was a topped mess in a pile of dead weeds and stones with the remnants of a plastic container still around it.   And what is left of the beautiful bush…. just a few empty branches and whatever roots I could salvage.

This plant with misplaced roots reminded me of something that happened to me while I was house hunting this past Fall.  I was a few months into the search and already growing anxious and impatient.  I decided to look at a very old home (100 years old) that had been on the market for months.  Its description was enticing and I knew it would be a fixer-upper, but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I saw.  There isn’t enough space in this blog to describe the problems with this home.  But, here’s the worst part… I actually considered it!

“Why?” you might ask.  Was I really that desperate?  I will admit it may have been desperation that nudged me, but it was something else that made me think about it seriously.  I tend to be a little on the creative side, crafty, and a do-it-yourself kind of gal.  I certainly noticed all the flaws of this place but that DIY side of me saw projects and potential in endless supply.  Looking back at it now “endless” is an understatement!  In all of eternity that house would have never been finished and no guests I know would have ever stayed there.  But I really was tempted until the Lord got my attention.

Thankfully, later that same day He showed me a house that was beautiful… the nicest one I had seen so far.  It was exactly the distraction I needed to get my mind off of “The Money Pit.”  What He taught me from that experience was that I could have “bloomed” at that 100 year old house.  I could have laid down some roots and used the gifts of creativity He had given me to work on it.  But my roots would have been misplaced.  It’s not where He wanted me to be.  It’s not how He wanted me to spend my time, money and energy.  And if I had laid down roots there I would have turned out just like that rose bush… laying on my side in a pile of rocks and weeds with flowers blooming that no one would enjoy.

I believe each person is uniquely gifted by God.  He places talents, skills, and abilities in each of us and He has a plan to use them.  He wants to use what He’s given us to bless others and He knows precisely who, what, when, where and how.  He has a plan for each of us, a plan that will bring glory to Him and His love to others.  But sometimes we allow our roots to get misplaced.  We may entrench ourselves in the comfortable.  Even though we know He wants to move us out of our comfort zone we stay put, letting our roots dive under rocks and weeds.  Or, we get impatient.  We lay down roots even when we know the Master Gardener’s got a plan to move us to a perfect spot.  We may at times bloom using the gifts He’s given us.   But if they are used without Him and outside of His plan, they are like the blooms of a toppled rose bush in a vacant yard.  No one enjoys them.

Where are your roots?  Are you content in your plastic container waiting for the Master Gardener to move you to the perfect place?  Or, are you entrenched in your comfort zone sending more and more roots down to keep you secure for fear you might be moved?  Or are you firmly planted where the Lord wants you to be, growing and blooming with Him as your Master Gardener, pruning you when needed and constantly nurturing and feeding you?

Lord, thank you for caring about where our roots are planted.  Show us where you want us to be and where we can be the most effective for you.  Thank you for having a plan for our lives.  In your Son’s most precious name, amen.

Being Vessels of Light

photo(2)The lamp is pretty tattered.  Lighting it has been a part of my daily quiet time for years.  It came from Israel.  It’s a replica of a first century oil lamp.  It’s a pretty simple source of light… a clay vessel with a modest design, a few ounces of olive oil and a wick.  The vessel isn’t too stable, to be honest.  It’s so saturated with oil, the oil seeps through and onto any surface it touches.  It’s charred in the area closest to the flame marking the times it was used to light without enough oil.  And it is completely dependent on the wick for light.  Olive oil only burns on the wick.  It cannot be burned without one.

Jesus’ parable of the farmer scattering seed is pretty common one.  It’s in three of the four gospels and it talks about how the Word of God (the seed) is scattered among people and the different ways it takes root.  For some it never takes root because Satan snatches it from their hearts before it has a chance to take root.  For some, they take it in immediately and joyfully but as soon as temptation hits the roots die and they forget the good news they once knew.  For others, the distractions and circumstances of life choke out the good news that they heard like weeds around a healthy plant.  They can see nothing beyond their circumstances and they never grow in their faith.  And then there are those who hear the Word, cling to it, and the roots of what they hear grow deep and strong.  Over time a great harvest is produced.  What was once a few seeds, becomes a harvest of good fruit.

What is interesting to me is in both Luke and Mark, Jesus follows up the telling of this parable with the parable of the lamp.  He says, “No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed.  A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.  For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.  So pay attention to how you hear.  To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given.  But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.”  Luke 8:16-18

I guess I always thought of this parable like I did the song I learned as a child in Sunday school, “This little gospel light of mine, I’m going to let it shine… let it shine, let it shine, all the time, let it shine.”  I always thought that meant to be a good example.  To do the right thing.  To be a “light” meant to me that I needed to be Christ-like in what I did.  I still think it means that.  But, when I read this parable in the context of the scattering seed parable I think it means much more.

I believe the parable of the lamp is especially for that last group of seed-receivers, the ones whose roots have grown deep in God’s word and through whom God is producing a harvest.  I believe God is saying, “I have filled you and will continue to fill you with the ‘oil’ of my Word.  I have placed in you the ‘wick’ of my Holy Spirit that I will light in you. Now… you can’t help but to be LIGHT in the places I put you.  Pay attention to what you hear.  Let my Word penetrate you.  Don’t quench my Spirit that is in you.  Shine in the darkness that I place you in.”

More than being a good example and a witness to my faith, I need to be aware of the fact that I am the vessel God is using to shine light into darkness.  He doesn’t want me to hide what I know of Him or what I learn from His Word.  He has given that oil to me in order that it may seep out.  In order that everything I touch would be left with a residue of Him on it.  Just as I am filled with His love so that I can love others, I am also filled with His Word in order to share it with others.  That doesn’t mean I think He wants us to quote Bible verses with everyone we meet on the street.  Who did the apostle John identify as “The Word?’  JESUS!  It is Jesus that needs to seep from within us.

Like my clay lamp we are fragile.  We could no more produce light on our own than a lump of clay could.  It is His Spirit within us that produces the light.  We are not the light.  We are only the vessels used to carry His light.  And if we try to be “lights” without being filled with Him and the oil of His Word we will be scorched, charred, and leave a residue of soot and smoke in our wake.  We must draw upon that daily filling of His “oil” and we must go boldly into the darkness that He places us in.

What God taught me from this parable created a huge shift in mindset.  This isn’t about me “being good.”  This isn’t about just being a good example to others or a good witness for Him.  Our purpose as lights is much greater than carrying oil, and a wick, and occasionally being lit when we hear a good message at church or read a good devotional.  He wants to fill us up daily so He can use us daily to shine His light into the dark hearts of the people He puts in our paths.  How else will they see His light if we are not the vessel?  This isn’t about me… it’s about THEM!  It’s about shining light in places that are dark, hidden, and painful.  (And we all have those places in our lives.)  It’s about seeping with His love and with His Word.  It’s about listening carefully and learning from the Spirit that is within us and willing to teach us each time we open His Word. The more we take in the more we will be given.  The more we crave that oil, the more He will fill us up.

Lord, fill us to overflowing with Your Word.  Help us to listen carefully.  Teach us so that we can be used by You to shine Your light in the dark places.  Make us vessels that are useful to you.  Make us aware of the fact that you have a purpose for us, a place for us to shine everyday and with every person we encounter.  Thank you for the gift of Your Light, Jesus, that saved us.  May we help You deliver that same Light to others who need it, who need Him.  In His precious name, amen.