I once was blind…

qw

Picture of a boy rescuing his sister from their bombed house in Syria!

When I see this picture I get it- what Jesus was trying to say all that time when he walked and talked to all those people. I get what he’s trying to say even today.

I understand what he sees when he looks at us. I know why he wept…

I understand how fragile life is, our lives- the lives of one another. If we could see each other as this brother and sister see each other, there would be no more war, no more aggression, no more hate against each other- there would be only love, only grace, only forgiveness.

How can we hate when we were created to love? How can we turn our back on one another, when we were meant to reach out and hold? How can we cause or do or bring about harm, when we were meant to reach out in love, hope and compassion.

When I see this picture- I see Jesus. When I see this picture- I see love, unconditional, sometimes hurting but always yearning- love.

What do you see?

Same issue, different days…

We all deal with different issues each and everyday… and sooner or later, with God’s help, we can work through them, however, as people we often times find ourselves with a dilemma… we really need to learn how to just let go-

2 Peter 2:22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire…

Disgusting but true. How often do we do the very same thing? How often do we return to the very thing which sickens us? Which makes us hurt or feel worthless or not good enough or unloved? How many times do we go back and revisit some past hurt, instead of relying on Gods assured hope of a future?

God doesn’t make trash and God doesn’t make mistakes… so how can we allow ourselves to wallow in the mire and filth of this worlds lies? If God, in all his wisdom and mercy, designed us to spend an eternity in fellowship with him… if God loves us enough to allow his son to come this place, be kicked by the world, despised, unloved and unwanted, and still, allow himself to climb on that cross, that tree, and be crucified for our sins, our unworthiness, so that he might prove to us, once and for all, that we are worth it, that we have value, that we are good enough and beautiful enough.  That we might be given eternal life, by a God who sees our value, who sees our worth, who can look beyond the dirty rags of this world that we so easily disguise and cover ourselves up with, and see the real ME, the real us, and desires for us to share his kingdom, his reward and his paradise with the likes of us…

As long as we keep our eyes turned towards the ground, turned towards the darkness inside us, in our own lives… As long as we do everything but look towards the promise he has made for us, the covenant he has established… As long as we refuse to look outside of our own lives and instead towards Him who paid the ultimate sacrifice, Lord Jesus the Christ- then all we are ever going to see is the shadow that seems to be attached to our feet… the darkness of all our remembered past failures, or regrets, or all the bad garbage in our lives… all the times we were wronged or made fun of, or belittled, or unloved, or unwanted… the list, according to the world can go on forever-

But we believe in a God who promised us that as long as we turn our eyes to the sky, towards the heavens, towards his Son Jesus, and the promises he has made to us through him, of eternal life, of an eternity of fellowship… of a walk to remember, that he will deliver us from the depths of our despair, that he will deliver us from the chains that wish to drag us down, that he will, wash the mud from our feet and the sadness from our hearts and eyes, and will bring us into blessed union with the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.

So ask yourselves this question… if we know it to be true, if we have heard it a million times that we are good enough, loved enough and cared for enough… why do we persistently revisit the mire, our vomit?

Why do we constantly drag up all the things that have hurt us, made us feel less of a person, bogged us down? Made us feel inferior?

God is the answer, the truth, the light, the life and the way. This is the reason God sent his Son, for as a parent loves and cares for his child, so the Lord watches over and cares for his own.

We are his children. We are his beloved creation.

A Parent wouldn’t let his child run through life covered in filth… a loving, caring parent wouldn’t let his child continue to roll in the mire and the dirt… no, he’d sternly and lovingly, deliver that child from these current filthy conditions, help him wash up, put on new clothes, a new perspective, and return again to that place he has so lovingly prepared for them…

All we have to do is answer his call, turn our eyes to him, and see the bright and early morning sun, rising in the Eastern sky.  Keep our attention turned His way until everything else is blinded from our eyes, heart and mind.

He will lead us home, this he has promised.

It’s time to claim that promise.

The Joy of Gardening

Oh, the joys of gardening.

I love this time of year.

As I look out our kitchen window, across the backyard and towards our garden. All the fresh goodness we’ll be harvesting from it anytime now, fresh robust tomatoes, sweet cucumbers, crisp lettuce.  I can even remember how it all began, our garden that is. How we took our time and really planned its location, just enough sun, just enough shade… did the ground drain correctly when it rained?
And after we picked our spot we carefully, and with much sweat, tilled up the rich dark soil, turning it over again and again until it was just right, fertilized, watered, prepared. Afterwards we fenced it all in, closed the gate and waited, with high expectation, till the last signs of frost were gone from the air.
Then, when everything was just right, we planted. Boy did we plant, rows of tomatoes, for salsa of course, bunches of red and green peppers, rows of tender leaf lettuce, mounds of zucchini and clusters of cucumber. Then, last but not least, we planted just a few big beefy tomato plants with visions of BLT’s dancing in our heads, for nothing can beat the taste of a fresh, juicy tomato plucked right from the vine and sliced into heavenly portions, yum.
We watered and prayed, weeded and tended. We spent hours each day making sure everything was going just right, that the garden was growing as we had intended it too. We pruned when we needed to, and cut where we had too. We made sure that the tender young plants growing in the rich deep soil had just the right amount of light, water and fertilizer to grow so that they might achieve their very best harvest.
Boy did they bloom. We were so proud. And we enjoyed the fruits of all our hard labor as well, many times over…
And then, after all the anticipation of spring, all the long hard hours put in making sure everything was right for harvest, in comes the heat and humidity of summer, in which we continued to enjoy the fruits of our labor, all the canning, picking, eating… but during this time, as we began to approach August and September, when the newness of all our work, when the anticipation of all our harvest, began to wear off, we let the weeds come in. We didn’t spend as many hours tending or caring, for you see, the garden appeared to be just fine, we were seeing results, gathering the fruits of our labor… but like I said, the weeds were slowly but surely returning, and since we were tired and worn out, weary, and since it was approaching the fall we figured what the heck, it’s okay that a few weeds appear, we can always pull them out later, when we have time, when we have the energy… just not now. Live and let live I always say.
Wrong.
Granted, our harvest has been good, and we definitely enjoyed all the fruits of our labor, and the seeds we had so carefully planted in our oh so perfectly tilled ground, had indeed grown, blossomed, become independent.
But that’s not the point, for as much as we did these things; we also let the weeds come in. We scaled back our time, to weed, to prune, to properly care for , so yes, everything might have appeared fine at the time, and we were still getting our harvest, but we were also satisfied with the slowing down of the plants, and if a few took disease or appeared to wither, then that was okay, after all, we’d already done our part, it was up to God and nature now to take care of everything else. After all, we can’t do everything, can we?
This possibly explains the lack of members setting in our church pews as well.
We start out with good intentions, revel in their growth as the seeds we have planted begin to stretch out, reach towards the sky. We water them carefully, tend to their needs, follow-up… and when they begin to produce the fruit we so desire, we celebrate with them… all the while thinking that we’ve done our part, we can put them on cruise control and just let them be the people they were meant to be. The Christians God intended them to be.
In other words… it’s okay if they grow a little weedy, if they seem a bit more wandering than usual. They are still doing okay, producing fruit and for the most part, staying green.
So what if they are a little brown around the edges…
There was another garden planted a long time ago, and the keepers of that garden also thought a few weeds, or a serpent, wasn’t all that bad, after all, things were going along just fine, fruit was being produced, their needs were being met, their bodies fed when in all reality, under their very noses, blight had entered their little kingdom, and instead of pruning or weeding, they let that blight continue to grow thinking nothing of it, until it was too late and they had to suffer the fruits of their own apathy.
It’s not just our job to till the soil, or fertilize it, and yes, we can enjoy the fruits of our passion and hard work and labor… but we didn’t do it all on our own either, God provided the sun and rain, the rich soil, and yes, even the seeds. In other words, he did all the hard part. All God ever expected of us was to be watchful, be goo d stewards. God expected us to weed and prune and tend his garden, to watch the fruits of his labor- to make sure that what he has planted doesn’t wither or blight.
It’s more than just bringing in new members. Sometimes that’s the easiest part. It only gets hard when the new wears off, and we don’t tend like we need to, or prune, or water, or watch over… until often times, it is too late, and the weeds have begun to invade and soil’s getting dried out.
It’s our job to make sure that what God has planted continues to grow.
Each and every one of us have a responsibility, and that responsibility never ends, never goes away… the gardeners are never too old or too frail or too tired or too busy to mind the harvest, because each one of us are in a garden of our own, and it is each our responsibility to watch over the others at all times, to care, to tend, and yes, to prune and weed when needed. Most of all, we have been asked to lovingly care for that which he has planted.
So don’t be like the workers in the vineyard, absent on the day of their lord’s return. And don’t be like the bridesmaids holding empty lamps when the groom desperately needed light. Tend to your garden, make sure it’s soil remains fertile, watch over, weed and prune when necessary… and when the time is right, when there has been enough sun clouds and rain, revel in the harvest that is sure to come and remember… our job as caretaker and gardener never ends, for the season of growth never ends.
All around us the fields are white and ready for harvest. All around us, a new season of planting and growth is beginning.

What have you done?  Have you done your part?  What are you going to do now?

Something to think about…

“I do not love God. I never did… And yet, to be so employed of God!” John Wesley, theologian, speaker, founder of the Methodist movement.

What a powerful and honest statement. But is it one we would ever admit today?

Wesley was 63 at the time he wrote this. He’d preached more than 40,000 sermons, wrote countless books and hymns. How can anyone so dedicated to working for God even utter such words?

I think I know how. I think I know what he was talking about. For if I truly loved God I would have:

Served him more and myself less

Given more, even though at times I have not had an abundance

Lived more of my life for him who gave up his life for me

If I truly loved God, I would have taken the time to care for the widow, fed the hungry, and visited those in the hospital and prison, given comfort to the weak and the grieving…

If I truly loved God I would have given water to those dying of thirst, even if those dying never knew such water exited or that they were even thirsty.

If I truly loved God, I would have realized that all that I have been given is a gift, one that I did not deserve, but was given to me anyway.

If I truly loved God…

Would those collecting the offering today come forward-

Father, thank you for loving us… even if we have been more selfish then giving, more blind than seeing, more about building our work and our kingdom, than yours. Open our hearts and minds to the realization that yes, in the end it is all about what we do with what we have been freely given. Build in our hearts and minds true stewardship- over our time, our talents and our gifts. And let us never forget the gift of your Son, Jesus the Christ, who suffered and died that we might live life’s more freely, more fully, and more committed to building your kingdom here on earth.

In Jesus name, Amen.

Jesus Is Disappointing, And Me Too

This article was originally posted at http://clearlyvague.blogspot.com/2010/03/jesus-is-disappointing-and-me-too.html

Jesus Is Disappointing, And Me Too

I found out I disappointed someone today. Actually, it was a few people.

And I think I am okay with this.

Because I am trying to learn the discipline of disappointment. I call it a discipline because it is intentional. Sometimes you must be down right deliberate about doing things that you know will disappoint others. Most people seem to have an agenda for your life. Or at least expectations of what you should be about and what you shouldn’t. And sometimes that agenda they place on you doesn’t line up with the one God is forming in you. And it takes discipline to align with God’s agenda for your life to the point of saying no to the agenda and expectations others place on you.

A few weeks ago a couple asked me to do their wedding. They laid it out there that they needed someone to do it and had really connected with me as a pastor. Then there was an awkward silence as they waited for my offer to do the wedding.

I never gave it. And I referred them to someone else.

They were visibly disappointed.

But had I jumped in and rescued them from their disappointment by saying, “Okay, I’ll do it”, it wouldn’t have truly been for them… it would have been for me. It would have been to make me feel better.

The reality is this. There are only so many hours in a day, only so many meetings I can go to, and only so many items I can give my attention to.

So someone is going to be disappointed. And that is okay.

I have been fascinated recently with reading all the stories in which Jesus disappointed someone. It happened really often you know. Reading through Luke, and looking for the different ways in which Jesus disappointed people has led me to finding that Jesus was pretty good at the art of disappointment.

To be honest, I think I would have been disappointed with Jesus had I walked along side him 2,000 years ago. I only say that because it seems like most everyone else was disappointed at some level.

He disappointed the religious leaders because they expected him to be a righteous observer of Torah. Which he sort of was, but then there was that little Sabbath issue he had from time to time.

He disappointed the sick in various town because at some point he had to say “no” to healing them in order to move on to the next town or get some much needed rest. How would you like to have been the next in line to be healed only to hear him say, “I’m sorry I can’t get to you, I have to get going to another town now. Have a great day though.”

He disappointed his family to the point of them searching for him so they could implore him to stop acting the way he was acting.

He disappointed John the Baptist to the point of John sending his own disciples to ask Jesus if he was wrong about him.

He disappointed the Jewish nationalist by refusing to be roused by political tensions and instead calling people to watch over their own hearts.

I have never considered that following Jesus may mean learning to disappoint people for the right reasons. And that is the key. I don’t want to disappoint people for the wrong reasons.

Disappointing others because I am angry at them and want revenge is wrong.

Disappointing others because of apathy is wrong.

Disappointing others to make a point to them is wrong.

But disappointing others because I prioritize my time with family… right.

Disappointing others because of my convictions about how God has called me to use my time… right.

Disappointing others by choosing not to do something for them out of guilt… right.

The reality is that everyone you surround yourself with has expectations of you. And sometimes those expectations don’t line up with what is best for you, the calling God has placed on you, or your family.

And nobody will say no for you. But saying yes to someone out of fear of disappointing them is more damaging in the end than saying no. Saying yes for the wrong reasons leads to a detachment of the self. It leads to resentment. And it leads to a life completely out of balance.

So let me just put it out there now.

If you know me, I will disappoint you.

I will not be able to return every call or every email. And sometimes it will be intentional because I just have to be about other things, whether it is work related or time with family.

I will not be able to attend every wedding I am invited to.
I will not be able to meet for coffee with everyone who may want to.
I will give a teaching you do not like.
I will say things that make you shake your head.

I will do my best to make sure that these things are done with the right motivation and intentions. But will fail in that as well.

But I will follow the Jesus who disappoints for all the right reasons. And I will be at peace with that.

Posted by Jason Mitchell at 12:06 PM

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

I came across this quote-

In Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, there is this wonderful scene between Charlotte the spider, who is nearing the end of her life, and her friend Wilbur the pig. Charlotte tells Wilbur, “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

I would have to agree!