Jesus is Enough

Have I None

Acts 3

Peter reached deep into the pocket of his tunic and turned up a wad of lint where a coin should be.

That’s what I like to think, anyway.

The man whose feet and ankles would not support him — leaving him to the limited care of others who would carry him to sit by the gate and beg the equally limited mercy of yet others who would pass by him — he asked Peter and John for alms and I like to think Peter first dug deep into his pocket in search of something substantive to give him.

The text doesn’t say so. I just like to think it sits there between the lines the Spirit found fit to put into print.

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When Jesus Creeps You Out

 John 6

He didn’t bill the hillside seminar as a Lunch ‘n Learn, but when the crowd approached at mealtime, he divided up rations sufficient for just a small boy into portions enough to feed around 5,000 folks and still send doggy bags home with the twelve.

The people let full bellies do their thinking, and thought then to make the Miracle Man their king.

He slipped away to the hills before they could get a good grip on His robes.

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The Big Thing

Luke 10:38-42

Mary was a slacker.

There. I said it.

Mary was a slacker and an underachiever and lacked ambition.

Oh, I know — don’t I know — that in side-by-side comparisons, it would be Martha who was found wanting. Martha, who planned and prepared and executed with perfection — He would peer straight through Martha’s heart and say, Your sister has chosen the better thing.

But Martha understood the importance of the Rabbi’s visit that day. She knew the social mores. She sensed as though instinctively the need to honor their guest with a proper meal, in a properly prepared home. This was a really big thing.

And she was the one that got that. 

Mary, she was  the one you’d find lying on her belly in the grass, picking daisies when there was the wash to do. Always talking about light and color and the moment.

Mary was all about the wonder.

And she never got a thing done.

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Reimagined

Reimagined

Reimagined

Her words, beautiful as they are, haunt me. Still.

Through grief that wanted to defy words, she found them. She heard them, His tender whisper rising just above mourning.

I know. I was there. I am here.

My eyes follow the letters, lined up between periods, now in my own editor.

And I freeze.

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Enough

Enough

Enough

I travel light.

It’s a point of personal pride, really.

And yes, it was before the days of hauling my laptop wherever I go, but on a two-week trip to Korea I traveled with a single carry-on bag. No checked luggage.

If I couldn’t carry it in one hand, I didn’t need it.

Preparing for a mission project in Buenos Aires several years ago, I forced my rules for packing for international travel onto a group of high school and college students. The instructions were clear enough:

Pack only what you absolutely cannot live without.

Knowing what most of them would consider absolutely essential, I asked them to go a little further.

Then take out half and leave it behind.

Now, close up your suitcase and carry it around the block.

When you catch your breath, take out half again.

What remained in their bags, after taking out, carrying weight and taking out again, was all they would truly need.

It was, to their surprise, enough. (more…)


Forget the Big Thing

Forget the Big Thing

Mary was a slacker.

There. I said it.

Mary was a slacker and an underachiever and lacked ambition.

Oh, I know — don’t I know — that in side-by-side comparisons, it would be Martha who was found wanting. Martha, who planned and prepared and executed with perfection — He would peer straight through Martha’s heart and say, Your sister has chosen the better thing.

But Martha was the one who truly understood the importance of the Lord’s visit that day. She knew the social mores. She was deeply aware of the need to honor this guest with a proper meal, in a properly prepared home. This was a really big thing.

And she was the one that got that. The only one.

Mary, she was the flighty one. The one you’d find lying on her belly in the grass, picking daisies when there was the wash to do. Always talking about light and color and the moment.

Mary was all about the wonder.

And she never got a thing done.

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Could Use a Little Truth Over Here

I twisted a little in the chair and felt my shoulders pull in tight. The edges were fuzzy, but the conversation was starting to come back to me in pieces as I sat at the kitchen table drafting a report into the evening hours.

I said that?

I wanted to be sure, so I texted her.

Did I really say there was a third brother?

Yes, she answered back. I think you did.

Blast.

::

Fresh from ten-plus days at the edge of night with Heman, my heart felt a little achy and exposed. I probably should have taken a nap. Instead, I let my mind loose on the playground a little longer, until it hung upside down on the monkey bars of one question: Did Heman’s light ever come back on, or did his world stay dark until the end?

Earlier that morning, our adult class spent some time on the swing set of Luke 15. We looked at the brother that went all wild, exhausting the riches stashed in his pockets from his father only to be washed away in an even wilder grace that rushed him while he was still on the road to home.

And we looked at the brother who witnessed redemption and seethed, angry that grace should be so crazy and not better measured.

We thought together that much of the time, we find ourselves to be one brother, or perhaps the other.

But that afternoon, in my petulant brooding, I determined to be neither.

There was a third brother, I barely recall saying. The brother nobody talks about. The father built a shed out back and put the third brother in it because they didn’t know what else to do. That’s the brother that is me.

Here in the light of day, that’s outrageous. And even as the words appear in front of me on the screen, my stomach goes soft and my shoulders clamp tight, and shame drips down around my neck.

I’ve just rewritten words that drew life from His lungs.

::

But I stop, and consider. While in adding a new chapter to His parable I may have been less nuanced than usual, I see I am a revisionist through and through.

I footnote and annotate and asterisk where His Word clearly stands on its own. Yet I feel compelled to qualify His truth and articulate the provisions that might just not apply to me.

Why must I think I stand outside the reach of His unrelenting mercy?

Where did He ever say such a thing?

And when will I cease to deny the power of the Gospel with my slimy, proud disbelief?

::

I stood some feet away and looked at the Word, still open to 88, to Heman’s painful cries of anguish from a dark place. And I asked Him, quiet, not to ask me to go there again. Please. Let’s move on.

He smiled, it seemed, and so I took to my place on the floor and turned pages. In mere moments I rejoiced over the Rock of my salvation right there in 95, just like it had been waiting for me to arrive.

And mere moments later, I doubled over as though sucker punched.

I wasn’t. God doesn’t do that.

But it felt so all the same.

This song of rejoicing, it ended badly. It was Heman and his bestie the darkness all over again.

They shall never enter My rest.” (95:11)

Was this the answer to my jungle gym question? When I wonder if Heman died in the dark (and by implication how that might have anything to do with me), this is what I hear in response?

“They shall never enter My rest.”

Quick, read backward. Read backward. Read backward. Hurry!

I read backward a lot. What did He say before that?

What He said was do not harden your hearts.” (95:8)

I slumped back and let out a long draw of air.

You know what is true. But you harden your heart against it. So yes, it will be tiresome and dark and you will not rest. Not until your heart is soft and you take the truth as it is written and stop writing your own.

You will not rest until your heart is soft enough to believe that when He said it is finished then it really is. And when He says He is enough then He really is.

And so, yes, I know what is true. I know it is finished and He is enough and grace doesn’t run out and mercy reaches me.

I know.

Oh, how I know.

And oh, how I forget.

::

So how would you like to help me out today? Because I could sure use a little truth over here.

Tell me some truth.

The rules are simple:

  1. It has to be the truth. That is, God has to have said it in His pages.
  2. It has to be the truth. That is, I don’t need an ego boost; I need Jesus.
  3. It has to be the truth. That is, unqualified, no-asterisk, straight-up truth.

Here’s your chance to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Ready to preach me some Gospel? Go!

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Photo: sad swing by Jonathan Malm via Stock.xchng

Shortening God’s Arm

Just how long is Your arm, Father? How long is long enough for me?

The question formed as I knelt beside a queen bed in a hotel squeezed between Iowa cornfields. I rose early and lingered there before joining the growing crowd of family in the breakfast nook downstairs. I flipped through thin pages looking for Isaiah 59, wanting just one thing. I felt hungrier for the sustaining words of this one short verse than for an AmericInn breakfast no matter what the ads say.

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. (Isaiah 59:1)

But I’m not good at just one verse.  Raisin Bran would wait a little longer while I held up my bowl like Oliver and begged, “Could I have some mo’ please?”

I got some mo’.

Mo’ than I know what to do with.

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Laish, Paris Reidhead, Riding in the Trunk, and What if Hell Awaits?

Poor Laish.

Not only did it burn to the ground in a merciless attack by the tribe of malcontents Dan, I keep pushing it around from one place to another.

I schedule writing on my calendar, marking days I intend to post here (don’t start with me). When I know, I’ll note what I intend to write on.

Laish has now appeared on at least 10 separate days, including today.

It will move again, because this post is not about Laish.

Mostly not, anyway.

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One Thing

He knew things.

Well, he knew one thing.

This one thing he knew: that he would live long enough to see Hope.

It opened his eyes in the morning. It eased him into sleep at night.

He knew one thing.

He lived for one thing.

And when the time came, he wrapped aged arms around fresh life and breathed in the fullness of that One.

Simeon was about one thing.

Only One.

And that singular focus garnered him a moment with God in his arms.

God in his arms!

Can you imagine?

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Peace with a Massive Wingspan

classified strip

I’m experiencing a little déjà vu these days.

Just over five years ago I was in the hunt for a job. The claims operation I was a part of was closing, leaving many folks like myself without work. Knowing my tenure with that company was winding down, I had an ambitious three-part goal: secure another job, reach my vesting date, and work until the end. This would have allowed me to collect my sixteen weeks of severance pay, take along my portable retirement benefits and walk straight into a new job.

I decided that two out of three wasn’t bad.

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The World Isn’t Fair, Calvin

When times are good, be happy; 
       but when times are bad, consider: 
       God has made the one 
       as well as the other. 
       Therefore, a man cannot discover 
       anything about his future. (Ecclesiastes 7:14)
::
Calvin and Hobbes cartoons have always had me rolling on the floor. Recently I discovered a website listing Calvin and Hobbes quotes. The cartoons aren’t there, just the quotes. It’s like reading through philosophy class. The Calvin conversations stand up remarkably well even without the little characters nearby.
I ran across this one which seemed to fit well with the verse of the day that popped up on my iGoogle homepage yesterday. Calvin’s dad said, “The world isn’t fair, Calvin.”
Calvin replied, “I know. But why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?”
::
Seems we know that life isn’t fair. We tell people that, especially our kids, all the time. We even believe it ourselves sometimes. 
But isn’t there a little Calvin in us too? We wonder why we can’t be on the other end of the unfairness just once in a while. 
In his endless – and seemingly fruitless – quest for meaning, Solomon came to the conclusion that there would be good times and there would be bad times. So he encouraged us to make the most of the good times, but keep in mind that the bad times would come as well. Life is made up of both. The Message translation puts it this way: “On a good day, enjoy yourself; on a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won’t take anything for granted.”
Centuries later, Paul encouraged the believers at Philippi to be content no matter the circumstance, whether life seemed fair or unfair. He told them, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)
::
If you’re like me, fairness or unfairness isn’t the biggest question. What tears us apart instead is just wanting to understand it. 
Wanting to make sure the uncertain. 
Wanting to nail down Jell-O.
Solomon has a word for us on that as well. Try as we might, we just won’t get it. We won’t figure it out. We weren’t meant to. The New American Standard Bible finishes that verse this way, “so that man will not discover anything that will be after him.” 
I figure God already knows that the more I think I comprehend, the less I sense my need to trust. 
::
Life’s not fair.
And sometimes we just won’t understand. 
I’m learning to live with this.
::

 

When times are good, be happy; 

       but when times are bad, consider: 

       God has made the one 

       as well as the other. 

       Therefore, a man cannot discover 

       anything about his future. (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

hobbesCalvin and Hobbes cartoons have always had me rolling on the floor. Recently I discovered a website listing Calvin and Hobbes quotes. The cartoons aren’t there, just the quotes. It’s like reading through philosophy class. The Calvin conversations stand up remarkably well even without the little characters nearby.

I ran across this one which seemed to fit well with the verse of the day that popped up on my iGoogle homepage yesterday. Calvin’s dad said, “The world isn’t fair, Calvin.”

Calvin replied, “I know. But why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?”

::

Seems we know that life isn’t fair. We tell people that, especially our kids, all the time. We even believe it ourselves sometimes. 

But isn’t there a little Calvin in us too? We wonder why we can’t be on the other end of the unfairness just once in a while. 

In his endless – and seemingly fruitless – quest for meaning, Solomon came to the conclusion that there would be good times and there would be bad times. So he encouraged us to make the most of the good times, but keep in mind that the bad times would come as well. Life is made up of both. The Message translation puts it this way: “On a good day, enjoy yourself; on a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won’t take anything for granted.”

Centuries later, Paul encouraged the believers at Philippi to be content no matter the circumstance, whether life seemed fair or unfair. He told them, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)

::

calvinIf you’re like me, fairness or unfairness isn’t the biggest question. What tears us apart instead is just wanting to understand it. 

Wanting to make sure the uncertain. 

Wanting to nail down Jell-O.

Solomon has a word for us on that as well. Try as we might, we just won’t get it. We won’t figure it out. We weren’t meant to. The New American Standard Bible finishes that verse this way, “so that man will not discover anything that will be after him.” 

I figure God already knows that the more I think I comprehend, the less I sense my need to trust. 

::

Life’s not fair.

And sometimes we just won’t understand. 

I’m learning to live with this.

::


Small is the Gate

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

I’ve chosen the narrow road.

I’ve picked the small gate.

I have to wonder why Jesus makes a point of one gate being small, one being wide. Does He want us to believe that we have to work harder to get through the small gate?

That only the really special people get to go through?

I doubt it. Doesn’t seem to match anything else He ever said.

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He said that those who seek Him will find Him. And He also said that nobody gets to the Father by their own specialness, but only through Him.

So why the narrow road? Why the small gate?

Why not a little more openness, flexibility?

Big people don’t get through the gate.

The only way to get in is to drop off all the stuff that makes me big — my own specialness,  my accomplishments, my good works, my brilliant spirituality.

My striving and effort and self.

There is only room through the small gate for me to walk with Jesus beside me. I have to slim down, leave the baggage behind. It’s just not wide enough to take my stuff with me. 

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On the narrow road, through the small gate, there is room for me.

And Jesus beside me.

And that’s it.

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