The Found Challenge

Since God has found me, what have I been doing with my “foundness”?

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.” (Jesus, quoted in Luke 11:33, ESV)

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Photograph by Moyan Brenn, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/aigle_dore/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

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Published in: on February 29, 2012 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What would you buy with your birthday money?

I might buy an iTunes giftcard.  Or scarves.  Or more science and documentary movies.  Or a neck pillow.  Or something cute from Etsy.  Or jellybeans.

I wouldn’t by a vase for rice.  That wouldn’t even cross my mind.  I don’t like rice that much.  I have a pantry and fridge of stuff I do like–plenty of it.  Meat, cheese, bread, cheese, cereal, cheese, veggies, cheese, fruit . . and I think I have some cheese, too.

For me, birthday money is about what I want, not about what my family needs to survive.  I don’t have to worry about bugs or moisture getting into my food.  I think life is bad when my back hurts or I have to get the oil filters in my car replaced.  I would be dejected if I had to spend my birthday money on some kind of necessity.

But for one 11-year-old girl in India, dejected wasn’t at all the tone of her thank-you letter to me for birthday money.  She explained how my little gift had bought her family a container to hold their rice so it wouldn’t spoil.  She sent “heartfelt thanks” and “loving thanks and love once again” and just to make sure she got the point across, closed “with loving thanks”.

It makes me wonder . . how much the world would change . . if everyone spent their money as selflessly as this 11-year-old girl in India.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? (James 2:14-16, NLT)

If God is stirring your heart to help a child, you can sponsor a child and share the love of Jesus Christ through Compassion International today.

Click here to sponsor a child from India.

Or here to sponsor a child from anywhere in the world.

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Photograph by McKay Savage, profile on http://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

Thorns

Thorns are a part of the curse on the earth resulting from Adam’s sin, and Christ wore a crown of thorns when He died on the cross.

In the moments of His trial, ridicule, and persecution, Christ offered his body, mind, and soul to receive the curse for us.  And on the cross, when the Bible tells us He was not even recognizable as a human–something no picture or movie can ever portray–Christ was opening His hands to invite the curse we deserved onto Himself.

Then God said to the man, “You listened to what your wife said, and you ate fruit from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat.
    “So I will put a curse on the ground,
       and you will have to work very hard for your food.
    In pain you will eat its food
       all the days of your life.
    The ground will produce thorns and weeds for you,
       and you will eat the plants of the field.” (Genesis 3:17-18, NCV)

The soldiers twisted some thorns into a victor’s crown, put it on his head, and threw a purple robe on him. (John 19:2, ISV)

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Photograph by Les Chatfield, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/elsie/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Published in: on February 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm  Comments (1)  
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If we have ever loved, we know God exists.

If we have ever loved, we know God exists.  And that is one reason why we are without excuse if we say there is not enough evidence for God.  As we need no evidence for love, even more so we need no evidence for God.

God is love. (1 John 4:16b, NIV)

From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.  (Romans 1:20, HCSB)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Who’s lacking?

Peter was a follower of a man named Jesus.  Jesus represented everything Peter hoped for in the Messiah.  Jesus performed miracles, He spoke with great power, He revealed the hidden nature of people, and He loved people with a love no one had seen before . . . except there was one thing more Peter hoped for in a Messiah: kingship.  Peter thought Jesus lacked one thing: taking back their nation from the oppressive, radically immoral, foreign-nation government.

And because Peter thought Jesus was lacking in something, he failed to see God’s plan.  And because he failed to see God’s plan, he abandoned Jesus when He needed friends the most.

Jesus proved that He could live without sin without any friends.

The question is, can we live without Jesus?

Without the intervention of Jesus in prayer and the words He gave Peter before Peter abandoned Him, I think Peter would have committed suicide.

When we think Jesus is lacking, we are the ones who go without.  We lose touch that He is God, and He is the Upholder, not us.

He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of his dear Son, by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven.

Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things. For through him God created everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities. God created the whole universe through him and for him. Christ existed before all things, and in union with him all things have their proper place. He is the head of his body, the church; he is the source of the body’s life. He is the first-born Son, who was raised from death, in order that he alone might have the first place in all things. For it was by God’s own decision that the Son has in himself the full nature of God.Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son’s blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven. (Colossians 1:13-20, GNT)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Good News Translation: Scripture taken from the Good News Translation in Today’s English Version- Second Edition Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.

Man upstairs

I know the Man upstairs!  His Name is Jesus!

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. (John 8:42, NLT)

Published in: on February 25, 2012 at 1:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Why it isn’t such a good idea for me to feel “super” all the time

For all these things my hand has made, and they are mine, says the Lord; but to this man only will I give attention, to him who is poor and broken in spirit, fearing my word. (Isaiah 66:2, BBE)

Published in: on February 25, 2012 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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Phone calls, tiramisu, and agape: For anyone who’s ever felt worthless, been at the bottom of the popularity food chain, or hated God

                 

14 years ago, I traveled to Hungary with a group of teens for 3 weeks.

It quickly became one of the worst experiences of my life.  In a way, it was actually harder than my father dying because I had no one who loved me around me.

I was poorly fed, I became sick, fatigued, and I rapidly lost weight.  I injured my back and I’ve never fully recovered from it.

If it had only been that stuff.

I was attacked, belittled, devalued, isolated, scorned.  I felt so worthless I just . . I didn’t know what to do, so I kept going.  My posture, my body language, and my social skills began to aggressively reflect how little I thought of myself—and people picked up on it.

The details are humiliating.  I kowtowed to the teens in my group, longing for acceptance that seemed to keep fading further and further into the distance.  It wasn’t everybody who treated me bad.  And I was very sensitive.  And I had bad social skills.  This isn’t about condemning the teens in my group.  I pray God’s grace over their lives.

Just now.  For the first time.  The scar I got from that trip is deep.  I was so often embarrassed and felt so worthless that I had to cover who I was with a faker and faker self.  Even so, I got to a point I have never been where I could start sobbing at the drop of a hat on a bus, in a church, in the middle of the night, and not be able to stop.  It didn’t even take the drop of a hat.  I told everyone I was homesick (and myself) to cover.

Not homesick.  Humiliated.  I felt like a stray dog.  Only uglier.

There were two things, two things that meant hope in my life: phone calls and food.

Not God.

God did not mean hope in my life.

Just phone calls and food.

I did not talk to God, but I talked at God.

“I know God hates me.  He hates me.  He hates me.”

The thought—somehow–became comforting.  Like—the battle was over.  I’d lost.  No matter.  In that time, in that misery, for me there wasn’t going to be eternity.  There was just right here that went on forever.  If God didn’t love me right here, why would I want to see Him in eternity?

I was numb, dull.  Shut off.  Fake.  Grinning, now bawling.  Grinning, now bawling.  Pariah.  Trash.  Not worth God’s attention.  Not worth anybody’s attention.

Well, almost anybody.

There was the phone calls.  There was the tiramisu.

The twenty-year-olds in the group threatened to guard our phone calls.  I got that we were not to tell bad things.  I was scared.  So scared.  I was afraid for them to see me call.  I was afraid to talk on the phone.  But I desperately, desperately needed to hear my mother’s voice.  Desperately, desperately, desperately, desperately.

I can still remember the phones in the student campus we stayed.  They were pay phones, old fashioned pay phones.  They were in the middle of the lobby.  Everybody could see.  I was so afraid.

And then there was the overweight man in probably his fifties who worked there.  You know, I never realized until just now why I always wanted to date an overweight guy with a belly.  Funny–now I get it.

That’s how powerful he was in my life.

This is how it happened.

I was making that phone call, daring to call home.

And I began sobbing uncontrollably.  Sobbing, sobbing.  Hysterically.

And suddenly, he was out, out in my world.  I’d seen him before, but he didn’t matter to me.  He was just the guy behind the desk.  But suddenly, he was my connection to home.

It wasn’t like he dignifiededly beckoned me in his world.  Oh no.  He came out to me, gestured big, and he begged me to come behind the glass wall that separated me from him.  He begged me to come to his office.

I will never forget the feeling of standing in the room behind the glass.  I will never forget it.  It was my harbor.  The waves couldn’t get through.

And he loved me.  He absolutely loved me.  He absolutely, undeniably loved me.

He smelled like pipe smoke.  I don’t think, as long as I live, I will ever dislike pipe smoke.  (Probably not in eternity either.)

We couldn’t speak to each other, but I knew this—he wanted to help.  Oh no way—it wasn’t that he wanted to help.  He was frantic to help.  He pointed to his phone.  His office phone.  He and his office mate shielded me from the lobby, their backs to the door, and all of the sudden . .

I got value.

Instant value.

There was not a blessed thing or an unblessed thing or any other kind of thing that the leaders, especially the one who so hated me (in my eyes), could do.  I was in that office for safekeeping.  I could make my phone call.  I could say whatever I wanted to say to my mother.

I was free, and I was safe.  There is no more I could ever ask.

Oh, wait.  But there was more.  I was loved.

You know, I was so vulnerable that day, and every day after I went to that office.  If that man had tried to misuse me, I can tell you he could have.  But he didn’t.  In no way.  He wanted no harm for me, and it wasn’t about me giving him something.  It was about him sheltering me.  A true shelter.  He never touched me—it wouldn’t have crossed his mind.  All he ever did was give me free access to his phone, access I could never ever pay him back for.

And then there was the tiramisu.

I finally got so sick, that the leader (the one I felt hated me) took me to the doctor.  She seemed disgusted to do so.  I was wasting her time.

In order to take me to the doctor, she had to take along a translator.

And in walked the tiramisu.

This is how it happened.

I was not looking forward to spending the day with my leader.  Yes, I had wanted to go to the doctor.  But a whole day alone with her?  I had been allowed to spend the day before in bed—what a precious relief.  I had been allowed, but I knew that was it.  No more.  I would have to get up and work from then on.  How on earth.

I followed her and she did not seem happy.  This was going to be ridiculous.  This was going to be awful.  Already, a day or so before I’d asked her about the doctor and she’d scorned me.  I felt like trash to her.  Now I was traveling trash.  And we were alone.  I wasn’t afraid she was going to hurt me.  I was afraid that she was going to scorn me long enough that I was going to fall into shreds right before her eyes, and no one would care to carry those shreds back home so I could see my family again.

Somebody had packed sandwiches for us and they were weird.  I think they were for breakfast.  But weird or not, I was hungry.

We got on the bus.  And we were joined by a translator.

And I don’t know why.  And I don’t know why.  And I don’t know why.

But he loved me.

Instantly.

He  was a translator.  He translated how I felt and he understood at least some of it, because he showered me with compassion.  He told me I was brave and he repeated it.

The doctor gave me antibiotics.  I drank out of a cup to take my first one that I thought was clean.  I found out it was a cup another patient had drank out of.

Really, I didn’t care much.

(I wouldn’t get to take many of those antibiotics, and I wouldn’t get over my sickness while I was in Hungary.  Rather than giving me—a 14 year old—the antibiotics, they gave them to the leader directly overseeing me.  I would plead with her to give them to me.  Sometimes she would.  Sometimes she wouldn’t.  She had control over them.  It became so condescending, I just didn’t care if I got them or not.)

After we got my antibiotics, we went to a mall.  We ate lunch.  I got a good lunch.  I can’t even tell you what it was.  All I remember was the translator walking off with a purpose.  He came back with a cup of tiramisu.

(Later, when he gave me one, my leader was disgusted with me for eating on it without offering anyone else some and embarrassed me in front of everyone and said I had to share it with everyone.  That was probably the ugliest moment for me on trip.  It was my tiramisu.  It was the only time on the trip I had something that made me interesting.  Not only that, but I was the one person who they would not translate my money over so I could have enough money to buy good evening meals after almost no breakfast and a small lunch.  I didn’t get my money translated until the day we bought souvenirs, like the day before we left.  Then I had too much money because I translated too much.)

As I said, he got me a cup of tiramisu.  From a KFC in Hungary, actually.  I’d never had tiramisu.  I didn’t even like coffee.

On that trip though, I learned something about being hungry, really hungry.  Food is good.  The body stops discriminating the way it does when you are full or know food is in plenteous supply.  And I discovered something.

I loved tiramisu.

Picture this, if you will: I stood at a high barstool table with the leader who seemed to hate me the translator walked up and gave me the tiramisu for being brave.

Can you imagine how she felt?

Now picture this: I stood at a high barstool table eating a dessert in front of my enemy.  It wasn’t about me having it and her not having it (although, yes, I thought about that).

It was about that I had been honored.  Honored.  Honored trash.  Nothing I have ever eaten has ever tasted better on a spoon.

Two things, two things I took back good from my trip.  Phone calls and tiramisu.

But it wasn’t phone calls and tiramisu.

It was value and honor.

I left Hungary feeling like a dumpster.  I had hate, anger, bitterness, and a real longing for vengeance.  I had grief, depression, anxiety, and timidity.  And I stamped myself with worthless, unbeautiful, fake, stupid, and a big old black hole of waste.  And there was another stamp I gave myself: God made me this way.  And: because He hates me.  And: God has favorites—and I’m not one of them.  And: God has least favorites—and here lies my name.

I wanted to leave God in Hungary.

And herein lies the wild irony of this tale.

The man in the lobby who gave me his phone and the translator who fed me in the presence of my enemy—

—were such vivid, astonishing, unmistakable allegories of Christ that I couldn’t have done better if I’d made them up out of thin air.

And what is tragic and absolutely incredible is that I didn’t even know they were revealing to me a little glimpse of the nature of Christ.

I would love to share more about these men and how God, in all His wisdom, tried to lead me to Him through them.  I hope to share more in blogs to come.  But first, I have to address what I just said.

Yes, I did say tried.

Did I just say, God tried?  What do I mean?  How can God try at anything?  Am I saying God can fail?

Never.  God tried and when God tries anything, He is perfect.  God can’t fail.

But we can fail.  I think it’s jaw-dropping to realize God places Himself in our lives, draws us to Him, and lets us—lets us—fail to respond, if we want.

Whoa.

The man inside the lobby didn’t force me at gunpoint into his office.  How would that have changed the story?  And the translator didn’t force my mouth open and stuff tiramasu inside.  I wouldn’t be ordering the dessert today if he did, I can tell you that.

Amazingly, incredibly, God doesn’t make us respond to Him.

God tried to catch my attention, draw my love, through value and honor.

And I failed to see.  I totally did not see.  I idolized the two men who helped me, and that was that.

Would you believe, could you believe, that God would do something neither of those men could have, or would have done?

That man in the lobby was kind, but if I had refused to enter the protection of his office, I don’t think he would have asked me again.

But what if he had kept asking me for 12 years?

WHAT????????

And the translator.  He was so compassionate.  But if I had pushed away the tiramisu he offered, would he have given me another chance the next day?

Would he have kept offering his free gift to me for 12 years?

Who could have the will, or the grit, or the love to do that?

The same God who sends a hotel clerk and a translator to a teenager He knows will have no acknowledgement or appreciation of Him sending them.

What is that?

What is that called?

That is love.

That is phone call love.

That is tiramasu love.

That is the love of a God who breaks His body on a cross for the people who mock Him, spit on Him, and hit Him with their fists.

That is agape—

–the love only God can own.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18, NIV)

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Photograph of tiramisu by Peter Alfred Hess, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/peterhess/

Photograph of pay phone by jmconn1, profile on http://www.flickr.com/people/jimconn1/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

My dad’s favorite shows were Ed Sullivan and Lawrence Welk–but only while he was sick

I grew up with a dad who thought Lawrence Welk reruns about as interesting as mashed potatoes without gravy.  I remember him surfing channels with what little time he watched TV, and when he’d hit PBS at 7:00, he would look to make sure I was around and then stop.

The theme song would be playing.  He knew I hated the theme song.  He’d get up and dance.  It was just the most hilarious dance I’ve ever seen.  He would “partner dance” without a partner, spoofing the dancers on the Lawrence Welk floor.  One time, he surprised me and grabbed my hand and started dancing.

I can only ever dance with my daddy, I’ve found out.  Anybody else, and I’m a nervous wreck and stiff as a board.  But Dad could make a mannequin look like it had rhythm, I think.

Dad thought Lawrence Welk was ridiculous.

That is, until he got Lou Gehrig’s disease.

My dad had dementia, and not everybody has dementia with Lou Gehrig’s disease, but my dad did.  I watched this very puzzling and heartbreaking change in my father.

I got my dad a chunk of plaster from the original Ed Sullivan show off Ebay for his birthday.  What was I thinking, I don’t know.  I was trying–trying to . . connect to my new father.

But his changes didn’t stop at Lawrence Welk and Ed Sullivan.  He wasn’t funny anymore.  He didn’t seem to like me a lot of times.  He liked a stuffed dog I had, and pressed a button over and over to make it talk.  In fact, he even liked the real dog I had–and he wasn’t ever keen on dogs before (except Shelties, which I never had).

I am convinced from my father’s dementia that salvation is locked in the soul, not the mind or heart.  I don’t mean to say that I believe a person can never lose their salvation.  I don’t know about that–I wouldn’t try it.  But I do know that God, being the God that He is, protects our salvation in our souls, even when we can’t remember in our minds.

How do I know?

I know because God is good.  Jesus said about His followers,

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:29, ESV)

My father’s last words were written on a Magna-Doodle on September 22, 2004, to our pastor and music director who paid him a visit: “Pray for me.”

My dad literally lost everything about who he was . .  except his love for Christ.  And I don’t mean to say He even knew He had that love.  I don’t think he could have even explained who Christ was.  His mind was lost.

But something had caught in his mind.  It was the request he’d made over and over again, when he had known in his mind who Jesus was: Pray for me.

I refuse to pretend my father mentally had Jesus at the end of his life.

And I refuse to believe Jesus would ever let him go.

It isn’t even a refusal.  I know it more clearly than I know that the sky is blue.  If a husband can love a wife with Alzheimer’s, if a father can love his child after complete memory loss . . how can we ever question that God would love the person He died to save, even if they a disease has destroyed in their mind who He is?

I can smile now thinking about the Lawrence Welk theme song.  It reminds me that God’s love is big enough to save us–even when we don’t remember He’s our dance partner.
Hold on to me, take all of me
Don’t let me lose my way
Hold on to me

–Busted Heart, King & County

If I take the wings of the morning or live in the farthest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me and Your right hand will hold me. (Psalm 139:9-10, NLV)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Leveler

God’s grace is the ultimate leveler.

“The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” (John 8:7, The Message Paraphrase)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV)

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 10:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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