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Archive for March, 2013

In my last writing, I mentioned how Mary Magdalene was so wrapped up in looking for a dead Jesus that she didn’t recognize Him when He was standing in front of her.

If she was thinking of Jesus solely as a man, it’s only natural that she’d want to recover His dead body and return it to the grave. She knew him as the guy who was “so human.” However, Mary was so into Jesus’ humanity that she missed His divinity. This could explain why her only concern was with the recovery of his lost or stolen body.

This is where the God-human or human-God gets tricky. Sometimes, the opposite occurs. We get so immersed in His divinity that we find it hard to understand how He could possibly relate to us as a human.

Yet, Mary’s lesson is also our own. We can get cynical about His empathy with us mortals because we figure He had the unfair advantage of being God while walking around in skin. Are we subtly telling ourselves that He didn’t really suffer the way we do because he had some cosmic threshold of pain?

What’s a believer to do? Jesus answers this question by rewarding Mary’s quest. She sought Him and He was going to make sure she found Him. Yes, she was off in presuming that He was dead and gone forever. But Jesus is concerned about the heart. Here was a lady that was literally following Jesus to the grave. It’s obvious by her consternation about His body that she loved Him beyond words.

Jesus kindly solves her riddle because He knows she got the first part right in a good way. He WAS human and suffered and she was there to witness all of it. Now, it was time for the perplexing part. He would rent the veil between heaven and earth and allow her to “see” the God-Jesus. Mary finds out what all of us must discover if we are to fully appreciate His inherent goodness and the most audacious claim He made while on earth: that we who are human would get to be like the divine. Is this why Jesus is referred to as “the firstborn of the dead?” (Revelation 1:4,5) Like Mary, you never know what you will discover on an Easter morning.

It’s beyond our imagination that somewhere beyond the sky is an eternity where His Mary-like followers will be raised forever.

SOMEWHERE BEYOND THE SKY: At our Easter Sunrise Service, a large cross appeared in the blue sky as if to suggest that the divine truly intersects with humanity.Image

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Looking For A Dead God

Other than the Apostle John, I can’t think of anyone who was more grateful to Jesus and whose love for Christ was more endearing than Mary Magdalene.

So the resurrection weekend scene is a bit mystifying when she goes to the tomb. She is looking for the dead body. In fact, the same internal question surfaces three times: “Where is he? I’ll go get him.”

Once to herself and Peter. Once to a pair of angels. Once to Someone she thought was the gardener. Check it out:

“So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”  At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” (John 20: 2,11-15 NIV)

Wow! What love! What devotion! She’s going to go get her dead God and bring Him back to her.

If we’re looking for a dead god in Jesus Christ, we will never find Him. If she had asked, “Where is my alive God?”, she would have recognized Him when she saw Him.

It’s so easy to play Monday-Morning-Quarterback with biblical characters until we ask the same questions they did with regard to specifics in our lives.

Do we look for a dead god when we are scared, vulnerable, depressed, sick or needy? Or is He alive?

In one of the most touching scenes in human history, Mary recognized Him when Jesus simply said her name.

Isn’t that what we really want? To come across a God who understands our pain and confusion about what has just happened in our lives and calmly puts the fears to bed by simply saying our name?

Dead gods don’t talk like that.

Look for your alive God instead of trying to bring a dead one into your life.

May the glorious truth of the resurrection, complete with all the obvious springtime symbols Image God could muster up, make you also come alive.

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When uncertainty decides to pay me a return visit, I often become this mindless butler. Now life may be about as predictable as the stock market, but doubt doesn’t have to give the butler his paycheck.

I was wrestling for the thousandth time about some critical decisions that I had made based on my belief that I had heard from God. But, alas, things haven’t always turned out the way I thought they would and it has often left me sitting under clouds (and sometimes downpours) of second-guessism.

When hope is the only thing you are really holding on to, it’s best if hope is still there! While it may be, I began to wonder recently if I had lost my grip. It’s not an innocuous condition. It borders on sin if it isn’t one.

I had only one option. I repented. It was as if a child was promised a trip to the beach, but began rebuffing the father even though there was still snow on the ground. Impatience and hope can make for a violent concoction. It’s either one or the other.

While I don’t think God is anemic in His manner of dealing with our doubt, I have also found him fairly tender and the most touching story along these lines comes from John 21 (stay with me, it’s worth it):

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Fish and bread? Does this sound familiar? I cried when I re-read this passage. The disciples had put their hope back into their safety net – in this case, one that catches fish. So Jesus, being as patient with them as He is with me, decides to revisit two representations of His power and His ability to sustain: a couple of food groups by no coincidence.

After I had repented of losing hope the other day, Jesus did the exact same thing with me. He revisited the most temporal reminder I have of His faithfulness toward me: a plant. That’s right. A plant. It was given to me by Pastors Steve and Karen Lalor upon the opening of my hearing aid practice in 1997 along with prayers of blessing. It was a tiny potted plant. But it grew….and grew….and grew. Every time a new shoot would appear, jokes would surface about opening up another office somewhere and that became near the truth. Like the plant, our practice sprawled. Eventually, we called in a plant doctor because the plant had reached the ceiling. She was able to cut it, separate it and replant it in the same pot and now there are two plants.

Upon my contrition the other day, I immediately Imagenoticed a shoot.

Jesus was revisiting. I sent an ever-hopeful butler to let Him in.

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A fleet-footed chickadee dashes up a snow-laden branch in the forefront of a wintry scene in my side yard. I don’t tell him something is wrong with this picture. The wisteria vines seem solemn and chomp at the bit under an icy glaze, but they must lay limp upon my pump house. It is not up to them.

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Inside, “March Madness” players dash up and down the court, whirling and twirling in some dramatic trump. But my hoop is frozen in place in front of a pool that looks more inviting to aImageImage skater than a swimmer and the pool pump sits idly and peacefully as if hibernating.

 

There is a time and a place for everything, but some “times” do appear to be “frozen.” Waiting and expectancy seem to drag and serve as seeds of doubt rather than corn. When March offers snow instead of tree buds, we inch our ways to the edge of seats.

Will this winter never end?

When is God going to come through?  

If we hadn’t so much experience in witnessing the transformation of Winter into Spring, we might even doubt that our crocuses would ever show their head. Yet, it is  hints like the changing of seasons that can help us twist our heads from worry toward certainty.

This dramatic tension between anxiety and the sure-thing probably brings us into a necessary crisis of faith.

I look toward my back yard and there is a stunning sunrise as the clouds purse their lips a bit and allow light beams to to squeak their way through.

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Another symbol. Just like the robins that were spread across the lawn the other day.

There is a metaphorical dance and it can be romantic and enriching or it can give us a sprained ankle. So when He asks, “May I?” Say, “Yes.” And let Him lead.

May hope “Spring” eternal.

 

 

 

 

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Poor Pope

 

 

By all accounts, Pope Francis 1 is much like his namesake, Francis of Assisi, who just happened to follow…Jesus Christ.

American leaders on both sides of the aisle could learn a thing or two here.

The new Pope literally “walks” his talk about the poor. He shunned a car in Buenos Aires, often taking public transportation.

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Contrast that here. photo copy 7Instead of judiciously using a $180,000-an-hour jet, our presidents often use them for slightly-shaded personal trips and “official business” when, in fact, they are campaigning or reinforcing their voter base or meeting with political allies. Both parties have done this. BTW, the figures for Air Force One are in the multiple millions for certain trips. Look it up and it may make you throw up when politicians tell you they are into “green.” They’re into your green alright,  even when it’s not St. Patrick’s Day.

Pope Francis 1 lived in modest quarters versus living in the Cardinal’s home in Buenos Aires. The White House is valued at more than a billion dollars and if it went to auction, it would probably go for more than that if things went wild with the bidding!

But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”  Luke 9:58 NLT

The Pope often made his own meals. Is it only because he preferred his cooking? Recently, congressional leaders and the President went to an upscale hotel WHILE they were talking about budget cuts. Can you say “indigestion?”

“Seeing a fig tree by the road, he [Jesus] went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.

You think Jesus was a little hungry? You think?

I’d say that our leaders, especially those that purport to want to serve the poor as their major platform, could learn a valuable lesson on poverty of spirit from this man.*

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 5:3

Bravissimo!

 

*P.S. I believe we all need to reflect on this. I know I need to.

 

 

 

 

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Missing Mercy

Grace, hope, love, faith and the like should never disappear from any home. Yet, just three hours ago, our household was in crisis. We were missing Mercy… our cat, that is.

I looked in places I didn’t think I could fit. “Fit.” That’s the right word. I was having a fit. Why the worry?

Mercy has been doctorin’ and worry is the natural side effect of our trips to the vet. She just doesn’t miss breakfast or second breakfast for that matter.

The All-Points-Bulletin yielded nothing. I even checked our “tunnels.” These are on the third floor, accessible only by miniature doors.

Hours past, but the worry didn’t.

Finally, Michael awakens and blasts his IPhone. I run down to his room, thinking that she may have been under his bed. Not so. But he did spot our missing Mercy. I run down yet another flight and there she is, “mercilessly” sprawling out on the living room as if our family’s collective rising blood pressures were of no concern to her.

Fast forward a few hours. I finish a skype with a company from India and field an urgent call from Massachusetts and I’m down to the wire on picking up the grandkids. In my distant memory there is something about a missing cat.

Was my anxiety just a waste of time? In the end, there was no basis for my nervousness. Mercy had overslept. If today is a microcosm of my life, is there a lesson here about worry?

Mark Twain must have been thinking about Mercy-Me when he said,”I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

I have to go get those grandkids right now. Mercy looks at me as I leave. I tell her I’ll miss her.

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Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Phillippians 4:5-7

 

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A Royal Stroll

Most everyone learns to walk somehow.

When a child attempts a stride, we call “cute” what is really klutzy. But our perspective as a parent or onlooking adult is one that is generated from love. That’s why our spin on their first step is that it is adorable, not clumsy.

In part, I metaphorically figured out how to put one foot in front of the other with the help of my mentor and father figure, Royal Cutler.

Royal had a mature way of looking at my good walking, my missteps and everything in between. It was because he loved me and knew how much his heavenly Father loved him. It was through this lens that Royal viewed me and it was from this vantage point that Royal could show the patience of a saint.

Walking through life is an art. Every good movie or story or song usually includes a stride that is accomplished and that is what brings a tear to the eye. The interesting thing is that walking side be side, versus alone, has the power of the mega-bonus of a video game. It elevates the learning curve to a new level because of the synchronicity factor.

Usually, the pupil gets a little more out of the experience in the sense of advancement. But the teacher gets the joy in beholding the change.

I used to think that walking with God was to get somewhere. This is true. He does have a plan for our lives and there is much scriptural backing to this interpretation. Yet, there is really something about just having someone next to you, and when needed, someone just ahead.

Royal’s gate was as perfect as an adopted dad could get.

I still chuckle when I recall the time that Royal and I went for walk when he had just turned 90 and I was in my early 50’s. I was suffering from a painful-to-walk condition called metatarsalgia. The nonagenarian asked me if I would like him to slow down. That hurt almost as much as my foot problem! He was so sincere in his offer and so kind in sensing my humiliation that I think he subtly slowed down hoping I wouldn’t notice.

When God says that He will walk side by side with us, He’s hoping we will pick up more than just our pace. He’s out for a royal stroll. 

BELOW: THE LIGHT-ON-ONE’S-FOOT (AND DAPPER) GUY IS ON THE RIGHT.

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