Saturday, April 30, 2016

H#ppy B==thd3y WhQ9it??!!








Recently I received the most peculiar birthday card ever.  It wasn’t actually an old fashioned card-stock card but one of those nifty e-cards. I get them every year on my birthday (different cards, of course) from the same senders. Wonderful, thoughtful people who over the years have wished me many a beautiful wish and prayer on my special day. I love those cards. Besides the frosting and the presents, it’s one of my favorite things I get to enjoy each birthday.

This year, however, what I got was, for lack of better word, plain gibberish. 

I stare at my screen filled with utterly meaningless, random string of nonsense. Try as hard as I may, I can’t detect a single meaningful word, much less a word of encouragement or the customary wishes for many blessings in life under God’s gracious wing.  If I didn’t know the senders and a thing or two about electronic communication including a smidgen about coding, I would have been stunned.

I find the coincidence too good to pass.

See, sometimes God’s messages of love arrive in my life IN-box looking just like that - a bizarre mess of gibberish.  I can’t make out any sense of what he is saying.  Because the 'love' message appears too difficult to decode, and I don’t have the right decoding software, I am tempted to hit ‘delete’.

Pain.

Delete.

Delay?

Delete.

Disappointment?

Delete.

Loss?

Delete. Delete. Delete.

In my little world, there just isn’t enough space for both love and pain, love and disappointment, love and loss.  So when one is present, I tend to ditch the other.

It’s rather immature, I know. Or simply human response.

I want to insulate my heart and my life from all the pain, loss, disappointment and heartbreak. My brain says pain and love can’t coexist side by side.

This is why I need the Cross of Christ every day. It is the key decoding software for God’s apparently jumbled love messages to me and you. It’s the place – perhaps the only place – where perfect love and utter heartbreak are inseparably mingled together. 

It’s also the gateway to a richer and deeper communion with Him.

And the birthday message? Well, with a click or two I found the ‘translation’ of the code  – words, graphics, music, the whole nine yards.

It’s message is true for you as much as it is for me.  So I pass it on as my birthday wish to you today.

Happy Birthday Doug. I love you!

On the day you were born
God celebrated your arrival.
He covered you with His grace
and filled you with His love.
He promised His presence and
His provision on your journey.

Today I join in celebrating you.
May His grace and love continue
to flow through you to touch
every one you encounter, to reflect
God’s presence in your life to all of creation.

In the year and years to come may wisdom,
kindness and faithfulness be hallmark
of your life as you live out the good works
He has prepared for you.
May grace and love follow you
all the days of your life.

Friday, April 29, 2016

BTW, It's Good Friday






Today is Good Friday. No, really.  It feels awkward to even write these words when everyone around me has pretty much forgotten all about Easter.  In our fast paced world, it appears as if it was a century ago.

In my fast paced world it feels like it was a century ago!

Nevertheless, the Orthodox believers, and even some who don’t believe in anything yet but happen to belong to the eastern hemisphere, are remembering the death of Christ.  

A single event that altered human history forever.

A single event that has power and potential to alter a life trajectory of each and every individual that ever lived on this earth. To radically change how you and I see ourselves, God, and others this very moment, this very day.

This makes me scratch my head a little. 

I heard long time ago,

 If you were the only person on Earth, Christ would still both want and need to die for you.

I want to object.

How’s it possible that both Mother Theresa and Hitler need a savior??!! How can it be that both Ghandi and you and I are equally desperate for Somebody to get us out of the mess we are in? Both judge and the defendant. The referee and the returner. POTUS and Putin as much as the Pope and your pastor?

Each of us has a fatal flaw.  You know what it is. And so do I. But, we hide it. We make sure nobody sees it. It can be cleverly disguised as strength.  It can be a whitewashed weakness. Try as hard as we may, we can’t make up for it with money, looks, education, reputation, mission trips, church retreats, endless religious activities, busyness. It doesn’t matter where you were born, or when, nor where do you live, whether you are poor or rich, smart or stupid.  All our credentials, our resumes, the applause we received and the accolades, all of it and more falls like chaff before crucified Christ.

This thought is tremendously humbling and tremendously liberating.

I can never be enough – good enough, smart enough, hard-working enough, fill-in-the-blankety- blank enough… Nor can you.  
 
None of us are! Not one.       

So, I don’t have to pretend, put on a show, act like I have it all together. And neither do you. 

I need this reminder, even if the rest of the world has gone off on their merry busy way.


It rolls a huge burden off my shoulder.  And I hope it does the same for you too. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Good-looking Duds






While the western world has long moved onto other things, Orthodox Christians are entering into the final week before Easter.  This year the two dates separating the same holiday are more than a month apart! One was back in March the other is coming in May!!

The western world has already ‘been there done that’. Those Lenten sacrifices, insights and resolutions for most of us are long forgotten. Chocolate’s back in, deprivation’s out!  Life settled again where it had been, the resurrection along with the colored eggs and Easter bunny a faded memory buried under the real life burdens and pressures.

Perhaps it’s supposed to be that way, similar to a flower that falls off a fruit tree. 

This reminds me of something which caught my attention on this Easter rerun. Something which, being a city girl now living in suburbia who picks apples and grapes off the Publix produce shelf and not off a tree or a vine, I don’t often think about.

Just days before the betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection, there’s a curious incident that took place on the way to the place of worship. The main protagonists, Jesus and a fig tree.

This tree apparently had everything going for it. It looked good. It was in great location. It was nice and green and seemingly quite healthy. Lots of leaves on it.

But when Jesus came looking for fruit, there was none!

I know that there could be a number of reasons why a tree doesn't produce. A worthy study for some other occasion.

But, what struck me this year was how much this tree is like some of us, self-proclaimed Christ-followers.

A lot of talk, good talk. But, nothing solid to support it.

A lot of words, sometimes even excellent words but no content.  

A bunch of great, healthy-sounding, green verbiage, but no substance. No nutritional value. No real life transformation.

Sometimes we may look so good on the outside, that we mistake the leaves for the fruit!

Ouch!
This is rather convicting, and humbling, and yes, inspiring also.  Because, I know that you and I don’t want to be good-looking duds. When all is said and done, we don’t want to be, like Spanish proverbs says, Mucho ruido y pocas nueces.

And sometimes, that’s the first and the biggest step towards some delicious, juicy, yummy fruit-bearing that nourishes the hungry souls.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

How Are You?






How are you?

She looks away,
shying away
From the
I don’t know…
I remember this ‘you’
Like last year’s snow.

She is running, running,
Her PR’s good… she says,

But I wasn’t asking about ‘her’,
I press,
I was asking about YOU.

I’m running too.
Running and hiding,
From this ‘you’ you’re asking
About…

I don’t know if the ‘you’ is still here,
I must have lost it in the atmosphere.
It must be buried in the atmosphere.
I don’t know who and how I really am,
But now I’m running every a.m.

But, I was asking not
What do you do?
But simple question,
How are you?

Oh please let me go,
I want to run,
I want to run with a crowd for fun,
I want to be a part of the race
A race where I get to lose my face
In the crowd,
For fun,
I want to run.
‘Til I am a blur
Against the setting sun.

Please don’t ask me
Again
‘How are you?”
Never again
About that you!

Please…
Don’t stop…
Asking…
Even though I’m running
Even though I’m hiding…
Never stop
Asking…

How are you?

Monday, April 04, 2016

The Unexpected Journey





I’d picked up the desk from the curbside mall years ago. It was discarded most likely for its obvious imperfections. 

A wobbly back leg. 

A bleached out stain that marred its beautiful mahogany.  

Still, at least as far as I am concerned, it was a love at first sight.

The corner of our living room became its permanent home. When we originally brought it into the house, I thoroughly (or so I thought) cleaned it from top to bottom, including its carved legs and all its nooks and crannies.  Since then, I’ve walked by it several times every day. Every month or so, not to appear overzealous, I remove the knick-knacks that sit on its top and dust its surface.

With years, I’ve come to know every curve and all its imperfections, and I love it all the more not in spite but because of them.

I thought I knew this desk as well as one could know an inanimate object.

Perhaps that was my downfall.

Somewhere between all this knowledge and the resulting familiarity, unbeknownst to me, grew a contempt of sort.

Just as we were about to officially announce that the egg hunt was completed, our son walked over to the desk and with a mindless gesture pulled at its decorative bottom.

Suddenly a large drawer – the size of its entire surface - slid from the desk’s underbelly!

Where did that drawer come from?!!?? 

Mom, it’s been there all along. That’s where I keep my wireless keyboard and mouse, see?

I stare at the desk, its mouth still wide open, for something like eternity.

It preaches a sermon I may not want but I need to hear.

So many times in life I think I know.

Just as I think I know my desk, I think I know myself, my family, my friends, and what life is all about. I am so thoroughly familiar with the details of the Easter story I can predict its ending!  I think I know the mind of God?!?!!! 

And somewhere between this nook of knowledge and the cranny of familiarity, I grow contemptuous.

I become jaded.

I get smug.

Been there. Done that. Yada, yada, yada. Same old. Same old.

Until God, in His infinite mercy and kindness, pulls out an entire drawer from under the desk of life.

Surprise!

And with my eyes and my mouth open wide, I squeeze out from that tight place where love withers and contempt grows and become a Bilbo Baggins of sort,  back once again on quite an unexpected journey of life.