Golly! I last blogged in February. I sit. Open my laptop. Sign in. Position my fingers on the key board. Wait for it . . . nothing. Next thing I know it's April. I'm learning in my 50's that the greatest danger in always having something to say is actually believing I always have something to say.
It's the Lenten season. 40 days of repentance, prayer, and fasting to prepare our hearts for the coming of Easter. It's a season of self-examination and quiet reflection where the crooked places in our hearts are made straight in the merciful presence of God--if only we will bend.
Isaiah 42:16 has resonated with me for years. Rounding the fourth week of Lent this year it rings through my soul. A high-pitched sound that pierces my ego and gently gathers yet another fragment of my childhood, long held hostage by fear. With out-stretched arms I reach for my Redeemer the way small children signal the desire to be lifted and held. My hope in Christ is anchored, and in His mercy my soul fills with a new song of praise.
"I will lead the blind on a way they do not know; by paths they do not know I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them, and make crooked places straight."
More on "crooked places made straight" after Easter. Today, I leave you with an excerpt from The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. I find his words so relevant to my journey of daily conversion that it's actually displayed on a wall in my breakfast nook. I invite you to ponder these cherished words and then reach toward heaven with childlike faith. Divine Mercy awaits.
We made our way along that lonely plain
like men who seek the right path they have lost
counting each step a loss till it's found.
When we had reached a place
where the cool shade
allowed the dew to linger on the slope,
resisting a while longer the suns rays,
my Master placed both of his widespread hands
gently upon the tender grass,
and I, who understood what his intention was,
offered my tear-stained face to him,
and he made my face clean
restoring its true color,
once buried underneath the dirt of hell.
You are not alone,
Published on Sunday, April 7, 2019 @ 9:50 AM CDT
"The unalterable basis of an open heaven is a grave, and a crisis at which you can come to an end of your own self-life. It is the crisis of real experiential identification with Christ in His death."
Scripture Reference: Mark 3: 1-6
Jesus is not a fan of "red tape." His M.O. on any given day is "to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death."--Notwithstanding the Pharisee rulebook which clearly defines when the light of God can lawfully shine.
In full submission to his Father, Jesus enters the synagogue on a Sunday and straight away notices a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees give him the stink-eye and watch to see if He hooks the man up with a new hand and thereby breaks a rule.
I imagine it like this:
Jesus to the withered-hand-guy: Come here. And while you're at it, stretch out your hand.
Withered-hand-guy: Wait, what?
The Pharisees: Hold up, Rule-breaker! It's the Sabbath!
Jesus to the Pharisees: "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save a life or kill" (Mark 3:4)?
Jesus basically says to the Pharisees: I'm aware. But are you so attached to your rules for rest that you would call an effort to do a man good on the Sabbath, evil? (Crickets chirp in the background.)
Verse 5: "Jesus looks around at them in anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts," and says to the withered-hand-guy, "Stretch out your hand." So the man extends his little California-raison-hand out to the rule-breaking Messiah, and booya (!), his hand is restored.
After church, the Pharisess meet up with some other folks who also hate Jesus and plot to destroy Him as they sip sweet tea and wait for their lunch to be served. I imagine they were lousy tippers.
This story is a practical illustration of how we can unknowingly hinder our healing in the very presence of our Healer. If the man had been too afraid to do as Jesus insructed, he would have inadvertently rejected the miralce of restoration.
The early church recognized the phrase: stretch out your hands as a prelude to death by crucifixion.This is serious business. When the man stretched out his hand to receive restoration, he died to the belief that it was unlawful to be healed on the Sabbath. Jesus killed two legalistic birds with one stone that day.
The Pharisees relied on their laws for protection--and healing. Rules made them feel safe and in control. It's human nature to attempt to create and control our own restoration. Healing from abuse and truamatic betrayal is frightening and painful. But when quick emotional fixes take the place of trusting God's instruction, we refuse our own repair.
Do you need to die to an old belief to receive the miracle of restoration?
- I need to be drunk to face the pain of my childhood.
- I need a new dress to feel beautiful.
- I need to be in a romantic relationship to feel loved.
- I need a new car to feel valuable.
- I need to hurt you before you hurt me.
- I need to _______________________.
If you're not ready to give up drinking or dresses or dudes or whatever it is you do to get from one day to the next, will you consider inviting His Holy Spirit into your everyday choices?
I know this sounds a little nutty, but you might be surprised by the outcome. In 1991, I was raising a six-month-old baby and two young boys, alone. I'd had a *"terrible, horrible, no good, very bad-day," and all I wanted was a stiff drink. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried out to God: Please calm my nerves the way I know for a fact a shot of vodka would.
His peace I received. Know what else? If I had opted to drink, He wouldn't have condemned me.
"There is now therefore no condemantion in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).
How about it? Will you stretch out your hand? The one that holds the drink, or the dress, or the hand of a man who cannot possibly heal you--sweet as his kisses may be.
We all have a little California-raison-hand in need of restoration. Are we willing to die to the old belief that what we hold in that hand is life-giviing?
"He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside, and he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, 'Is there not a lie in my right hand'" (Isaiah 44:20)?
It's a good day to die--to live!
We get better together,
*from the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Published on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 @ 5:37 AM CDT