Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Recipe for Extraordinary

It wasn’t just another ordinary Sunday afternoon at Bob Carr. It was a magical journey. 

A journey taken by the vastly eclectic audience – music lovers, proud parents and grandparents, somewhat bored younger siblings, teachers, mentors and friends. The 'no videos and flash photography' announcement blatantly disregarded - but, no one seemed to mind.This was as much a family gathering as a cultural event of the season. 

It was also a  Hobbit-like, hair-raising, nerve-wrecking, sometimes delightful sometimes dreadful journey taken by countless volunteers scurrying around the back-stage making sure the pizza is served to the hungry players, the shoelaces are tied and the sheets of music are in order amidst all the creative crazy chaos reigning behind the curtain.

Lastly, it was a spell-binding journey taken by every boy and girl, teenager and adult sitting, standing, jumping, hopping, swinging their little legs too short for the ‘big’ chair – 200+ radiant faces performing together, glowing in the limelight of the reputable stage.

The MAYSFEST, the 2012-2013 season finale concert presented by Jonathan May Foundations was a distilled to perfection time capsule – filled with music, of course, wonderfully diverse music, as versatile as the age and the skill level of each player on that stage. But it went beyond music.  For one could also hear the emotion bubbling up, and passion, tender nuances of grief and loss, courage and hope, and the irrepressible power of joy to take us beyond ourselves and into the glorious world we often forget exists.  

Inside this time capsule – strong and vibrant legacy of the past… for everything beautiful, noble and good we get to taste and enjoy today is deeply rooted into the rich soil of the days, years and centuries past. The classic legacies of Mozart and Verdi sharing the stage with Hot Cross Buns and Chicken in the Country. Late Jonathan May certainly on everyone’s mind. The icing on this multi-layered cake? The grand finale of the world premier of Mondo Rondo by Daniel May.

Did you feel the vibrations? Our son asked after the concert.

We did, indeed!

Inside this time capsule – the dazzling hope for the future…For no one is too young or unskilled to be welcomed and included, loved and nurtured.  We all had to start somewhere. We all miss a note, a beat or even an entire measure sometimes.  But, when we listen beyond the audible, when we listen to the future we will see and hear those imperfections as the opportunities to care for, invest in and even sacrifice knowing the future will eventually reveal the rewards.

Inside this capsule – in the present moment, a credit due is a credit graciously given to each and every one, with the humble awareness that none of us could do it on our own - not even Emily, Mrs. May and Mr. Miller, aMAYsing and capable as they are.  The sum total of each person’s gift contributed – the talent, the time, the treasure – far exceeds the reach of any individual. And we are suddenly struck with awe at the tremendous privilege God has granted to all of us to participate,  whether our part is big or small.

Mix it all together and you get an unforgettable dream-come-true, a - not a moment but a - movement of life-changing transformation – one child, one family, one community… one note at a time.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Does the Queen Like Pizza?

‘It would give me a great pleasure’, she said, I repeat the Queen’s words after I have closed the door behind me. Suddenly, I feel dizzy and quite overwhelmed. 

The Queen knows our name! She knows where we live… and… and she wants to have supper with us, I announce to my husband who has just reappeared from the bedroom, dressed more appropriately in the formal bathrobe attire. We actually match... perfectly. 

You mean ‘dinner’? The Queen wants to eat with us?!!! Wow! I knew it!  I knew sooner or later  the European Debt Crisis is going to affect the UK, but I had no idea that the monarchy is hurting this much!

I look at him, not quite sure whether he is being facetious or dead serious. I choose the middle road to avoid another flare-up of argument while the Queen of England is standing on the other side of our front door. 

This is not about the European economy and the Queen needing a handout from us! It’s… it’s like… She said, ‘It would give me great pleasure to have supper with your family.’ It sounded like… like she wanted to hang out with us… get to know us and let us get to know her… as she really is… not the way the tabloids portray her, or movies or books portray her… or even what we project onto her from our own ideas about who she is.  I think she wants us to get to know her the way she really is... the way her close her friends know her…

That's cool! In that case, what are we waiting for?!!! Open the door! Invite her in! He suddenly pauses, as if he just remembered something very important.  He frowns and asks, not necessarily expecting an answer from me, since Sunday night's dinner is his responsibility:

What are we having for dinner tonight?I wonder if the Queen of England likes to eat Papa John's pizza?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Resurrection 101 - The Queen is W-A-I-T-I-N-'...

I look at him – a hunk dressed in his birthday suit except for the towel, and then, I look at the Queen still smiling, seemingly unperturbed by the sudden appearance of my freshly showered husband.  I do what any responsible citizen of the Commonwealth would do if they had the Queen standing at their front door, staring at a nearly naked man. 

I slam the door shut right in her face.

What are you doing?!!! I yell in a half-whisper. You can’t greet the Queen dressed like that!

Oh, really? I guess I didn’t get a memo that the formal bathrobe attire is required, he retorts looking at my wardrobe ensemble for the occasion. Plus, it looks like somebody forgot to send me a memo that the Queen of England was coming to our house.

I didn’t know she was coming either! I snap. And, here we are now, arguing and bickering while the Queen of England is chillin’ her heels on our doormat, waiting. I start vigorously biting my lower lip, as is my habit when I am stressing out. 

What does she want anyway?

I have no clue.

Why don’t you ask her?

‘Why don’t you ask her’ – just like that, huh? As if it’s the easiest thing on the planet, asking the Queen what the heck does she want, knocking on our door at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning!

Have any better ideas?

I stab him with THE look, and slowly turn the doorknob, cracking the door barely open this time.  The Queen is still there. I still can't believe my own eyes. I clear my throat before I begin:

Excuse us, Your Majesty, but, no offense intended by the question, Your Majesty, but we would like to know what does Your Majesty want? Why ... why did you come here, Your Majesty? We think there might have been a small mistake... not to imply that Your Majesty makes any mistakes... Perhaps Your Majesty's driver took a wrong turn... or the GPS...

I shake my head in disbelief listening to myself talking nonsense. I start batting my eyelashes at the speed of hummingbird's wings, hoping it would make me look less stupid. 

Oh, it is not a mistake, my dear.  Not a mistake at all.  The Queen laughs, gracefully ignoring the rapid blinking movement. This is the S' residence, is it not? 

I nod silently, mystified that the Queen knows our last name and our home address. 

Well, then... Very well. I was hoping that I could have a supper with your family today. It would give me a great pleasure.

She enunciates the last two words and punctuates the statement with a royal smile. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Resurrection 101 - And There is No Queen of England!

So one day I hear a doorbell followed by a knock on the door. It’s still early and we are not expecting any visitors. Who could it be? I wonder, when more knocking ensues.

Knock, knock!  

Honey, somebody is at the door. My husband yells from the bathroom, having just finished his shower. Would you please open it? He is wrapped in a wet towel, and certainly not in the position to do the honors, possibly stunning our early-morning unsuspecting visitor with his dazzling great looks . 

I roll out of bed, put on the bathrobe over my pajamas and shuffle towards the door.  I fumble for a while, trying to get the key to open the wobbly  lock, curse under my breath, when the key finally clicks. I swing the door wide open and I blink a few times, blinded by the bright morning light.  As my eyes slowly adjust to the glare, the silhouette standing in front of me on our dusty doormat takes recognizable shape of … the  Queen of England!

Good morning.  How do you do? She smiles at me, from under her wide-brimmed hat, speaking with, of course, perfect British accent.  I wonder if this is some kind of a joke, but a look behind her onto our normally quiet street sends panic up and down my spine.  The street is swarming with security guards and long black limos, and flashing lights.  I open my mouth trying to say something… anything… but all I am capable of producing is a faint,

Eeer…. Eeeerrrr…

From behind, muffled by the rushing sound of blood pounding inside my head, I hear my husband’s voice,

Who’s there? I muster all my articulatory powers to answer his question, knowing full-well how it's going to sound to him:

El- Eli- Elizabeth… I mutter. The Queen.  I finally regained my voice, so I add an explanation. The Queen of England.  

He laughs outloud and responds with his best Titan impersonation:

"You're living a fantasy, there is no Easter bunny, there is no Tooth Fairy and there is no Queen of England."

He turns the corner separating the kitchen and the hallway, dressed in nothing but a wet towel, his dark hair still dripping, leaving a trail of water behind. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Resurrection 101 - The Queen is Moving In!

The Cross opened our way to God.  The gaps, the gaping holes of our sins filled.  By His blood. Not just barely scraping the bottom, but, overflowing. 

It is finished. 

His sacrifice - sufficient. Our debt – paid in full.

The veil of the temple was torn at the time of Christ’s death indicating that now access has been granted to one and all… who will.   24-7.  Into the command center of the Universe, into the heart of hearts of God the Father.

If, for example, I scored a jack-pot and got a multi-entry no-expiration date pass into the Buckingham Palace, with unlimited text and talk with the Queen of England on Her Majesty's private line, I would be a fool not to take advantage of it, realizing what a first-class privilege it is.. 

Now, if my Buckingham Palace pass turns out to be not a special privilege granted to a special few, but is, in fact, a special privilege granted to all who would bother to receive it… ? 

Wouldn't you think a little messed up...

Wouldn't you think a little screwed up to say,

Nah.  I have more important things to do. Or,

I think I'll just wait until Tomorrow.... Or, 

I’d much rather live more exciting vicarious life by hanging with all my virtual friends on Facebook, or Twitter, or drool over boards on Pinterest…

Every day – including today, April 26, 2013, we are invited, encouraged, welcomed to draw near, to come in - as we are - into something much greater than the Buckingham Palace. …Our ticket? His blood.

The Command Center of the Universe is also the Throne of Grace.  A place of mercy and undeserved, lavish love and a sole distribution center of strength, and courage and power for every need that arises in our lives - daily! 

But that’s not all.

Ten days after Jesus ascended to heaven, and sat down at the aforementioned Command Center of the Universe, something even more outrageous happened than us getting a pass into the Buckingham palace.

Ten days later, fifty days after Easter, it was as if the Queen of England herself showed up at our doorstep, hat, gloves and all, and announced that she was moving in!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Too Much, Not Enough or Just Right

Those who don’t know the whole story might be inclined to say that Peter was a naturally-born leader, a logical pick, a no-brainer choice. Well,  he certainly was.  And yet, his natural talent and ability wasn’t enough for God to use him for His purposes. Or perhaps, it was too much.  So much of Peter that there was just no room for God.

Not enough.
Too much.

I teeter between the two.  A lot.

You are not enough. Spells inadequate.

You are too much.  Spells trouble

And sometimes, it's both at the same time!

I can try and try to fill the gaps… but the sum total of my gaps is much greater than the sum total of me.  It's hopeless. I need something… someone much bigger than me to fill my gaps.

I try to stay out of trouble. Honestly, I do.  But, try as hard as I can, trouble always seem to find me.  I can't explain it.  In fact, often the harder I try to stay out of trouble, the deeper I dig myself in.  My best efforts to stay out of trouble actually get me into trouble all the more. How hopeless is that?!! 

Until... until Jesus comes alongside – arguing  neither for nor against - and whispers into my ear.

You are just right… in Me. You are not too much for Me to handle. And those gaps? I AM... enough, for all your gaps, for every empty place ... .

Just right. I savor those words like dark chocolate melting on my tongue. 

Not too much.

Not not-enough.

Just right.

In Him.

The Cross opened our way to God. His blood filled my gaps and yours. It is finished.  His sacrifice fully sufficient. Enough. What we couldn't do for ourselves, God did. 

Your sins are forgiven, wiped clean, taken away.

Hard as it may be to wrap our minds and hearts around this, it is only a part of the story. There is more.  

There is more?!!!

Yes, there is more...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Resurrection 101 - The Incredible Power Functions

Our son’s love affair with LEGO® blocks started when he was four years old. We were on a cross-country road trip when our friends’ daughter in Tucson, Arizona gave him a zip lock bag with a dozen colorful plastic pieces. Those twelve pieces occupied his attention all the way to California and back to Florida.  Our lives would never be the same.

Over the years his LEGO® collection has exploded from that dozen to several thousand pieces, carpeting his bedroom floor and spilling into common areas that we had to stop walking barefoot inside the house. His engineering and artistic skills continue to grow and flourish. He became a subscriber to the LEGO® magazine where he first learned about Power Functions.  The possibilities created in his mind over the battery operated motor and associated gizmos were endless.  He was willing to invest a small fortune - $29.99 with free shipping and handling - of his own money to purchase the set.  We placed the on-line order and then we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more. Daily trips to the mail box. Several daily trips to the mailbox.

Has it arrived yet?

Nope.  Not yet.

The disappointing, empty feeling filled his heart as his little hands remained empty for what seemed to him like forever. He continued building space ships, and cars, and tow-trucks, pushing them around on imaginary Interstates, wondering if they would ever be infused with power from within.

Will the day come when the plastic pieces would come alive, energized from the inside out?

Waiting is difficult.  It positions us as powerless, dependent and not in control. I am yet to meet a person who volunteers for any of these positions:



Not in control.

I am on the beggarly, receiving end of this equation and honest-to-God, I don’t like it.  I want to be in control.  I want to be strong and independent.  But the chisel of waiting carves it out of me.

Right before Jesus left to go to the Father, He instructed the disciples to wait for the special delivery of the ‘power function all-inclusive set’ – the Holy Spirit. They remained in Jerusalem not really knowing what exactly they were waiting for. They prayed.  They  stuck together. They aligned their lives to the revealed Word of God.

But, when the day finally came, life as they knew ended and the new era begun.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Season Finale At Last!

I am yet to meet an 11 year-old boy who sees practicing violin anywhere near the top of his priority list.  Our son is not an exception. Most days, getting him to move on the routine is as agreeable as pulling teeth and as aesthetically pleasing as the proverbial nails-on-the-chalkboard.  It's a chore, but he does it, despite his mother's frequent threats that she wants to quit. Dysfunctional family dynamics or not, the music (or the screeching) goes on in our household and  for the past couple of years he has had a tremendous privilege of playing in the Metropolitan Area Youth Symphony (MAYS). 

Even on the best of days, distractions, pressures and frustrations are numerous, and to be honest, sometimes the music he is given contributes to the problem.  Playing in an orchestra, his artistic director hands him only his individual part.  He is not privy into what’s on the music sheets of other orchestra members.  This makes his daily practice quite a challenge. He has no idea how his part fits within the larger whole. One particular piece, for example, has a number of rests, some of them several measures long, when he does nothing but count, and then at just the right time, after extended silence, he finally gets to pick up the bow again. 

Today we had an exceptional opportunity to be at the dress rehearsal before the season finale concert scheduled for next Sunday.  All the different orchestras comprising MAYS (eleven groups in all) were in the same room, bursting with unbelievable talent and energy, silliness and immaturity. At one point during the rehearsal a couple of hundred students were all together, their eyes glued on the director as they gave their best.

It was electric.

Each child was playing his or her own part, as they've practiced it all along, but they could finally see and hear how it all fit together. They looked at each other, thoroughly amazed. 

Wow! We didn’t realize we could sound THIS good!

Their faces were beaming with pride and passion and pure joy.  At the end of the piece, the room exploded with spontaneous applause.

Many times in life I feel like my son. The discipline that is required to live a life in step with the Holy Spirit sometime feels more like a chore, like practicing  scales and my own little seemingly nonsensical, disjointed, insignificant part of a larger orchestra piece. I have no clue how it all fits together. I often get annoyed by my fellow-orchestra members for not sticking to the script, for not keeping an accurate timing, for passionless, mediocre, sloppy performance which makes us all have to run through the piece again and again. 

It’s hard to be faithful.  It’s hard to stay focused, day-in, day-out, keeping  my eye on the music and on the Orchestra Director, waiting for His timing, honoring the rests, sticking to the script, while playing my part with heart and passion.

But, I need  to remember that there is the season finale… and that day, when the curtain of this world is pulled aside, we will finally get to see and hear how it all fits together… and we will be truly amazed that He could make us look and sound that good.

And it will be said in that day,“Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation. Isaiah 25:9

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Power Up - What's Filling Up Your Tank?

We were trudging along on our way to school, a stream of cars passing us by when our son started with the barrage of not-so-out-of-his-character series of outlandish questions.

Mom, can cars be powered by magma fuel?

My eyes still glued to the pavement to make sure I was putting one foot in front of the other, I mumbled:

No, cars can’t be powered by magma fuel.

What about the geyser – can they be powered by geyser energy?

No, cars can’t be powered by geyser energy.

What about…?

But before the impromptu Power Source Inquisition proceedings could continue any further, I interrupted and launched into a weary sermon on the nature of the obvious.

Cars can’t be powered by magma fuel. And they can’t be powered by geyser energy. And any other energy except what they are designed for. Cars must use the kind of energy they are designed to be powered by. Some are made to use fossil fuels. If diesel, you must use diesel. If gasoline, you need to use appropriate grade. If it’s an electric car, it uses electricity. You must use the right kind of energy as its source of power. Anything different is not only ineffective but can also ruin the engine...

Suddenly I paused. We had a rough morning and all our attempts to resolve the ever-increasing tension seemed to create more frustration, which in turn, added more tension. I was drained and the day had not even started.

… And God’s children, I continued, lowering my voice to a near whisper as my lungs were filling with fresh air, God’s children are designed to be powered by God’s Spirit. Trying to get power from any other source is both ineffective and can ruin their engine… God’s children must get their power from God’s Spirit…

Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts.
 Zechariah 4:6

Friday, April 19, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Peter and the Gift of Power

Jesus is getting ready to bid his final goodbye to His disciples after giving them ample evidence of His resurrection and the revolutionary implications it has not only on each of them personally but also on every man and woman, boy and girl that ever lived or will live on our planet.  Even with forty days of listening to Him of this new God-life manifested to them, it's almost too much to take it all in at once.  There is still so much they don't understand, so many promises left unfulfilled.  

How does it all fit together? Are we going to see God’s rule finally established on earth as it is in heaven… in our lifetime? Is the time now? By the end of June?

Jesus’ answer to the inquiring minds who need to figure it all out is simple:

It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. Acts 1:7-8

As much as I feel I need to know the whos and the whens and the hows of the coming kingdom, what I need, what I really need is the power.

Ability. Strength.

The physical and moral enabling to do what I know I need to do.  What I know I should do, but am too weak, too crippled by fear and doubt and memory of past failures  to graciously live out in this uncooperative body with a mind of its own.  

What I need is the life-giving energy of the Spirit of  God to allow me to live the kind of life that reflects His gracious rule in my house, on our street, in our neighborhood, in our city. In my Jerusalem. My Judea.  My Samaria... all the way to Papua New Guinea and Lesotho. 

The life that is not ashamed of Jesus Christ in the world, among the people who are ignoring or rejecting Him, whether its through misunderstanding, lack of knowledge or arrogance. 

And that’s exactly what Jesus promises to His disciples.  

But, before they get it, they must wait.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Peter and the Impossible Game of Comparison

Peter considers the path laid out before him and the one he leaves behind. He remembers the day when following Jesus became too much for many, and they chose to opt out.  But, opt out for what? Opt out for whom?

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. John 6:68

The choice is really a non-choice. There is no one else. Everything else, a dead-end.

But, his own history tells him that following Jesus is as impossible as not following Him.  

Is there anyone else feeling the same way?!!!

Peter turns around and sees John.

The beloved.

What about him? Is the path set out for John as strewn with thorns as Peter’s is going to be?

I want to know…  I need to know that I am not alone on this journey, Lord. That others share in the same suffering. That the bitter cup is not mine and mine alone.

What are You going to do with him? Will he be taken to the places he doesn’t wish to go? Will the fierce storms assail his horizon? Will he be tested?  Will he be tried, like gold is tried in the furnace?

Or will You shelter and protect him…

... unlike…

... me?

The unspoken fears and insecurities, the insidious power of comparison to erode, to divide must be stopped before it infests the minds and the hearts of the disciples.

That, dear Simon, is  none of your business. What I do with him, is Mine and Mine alone. As for you, follow Me.

So, Peter learned that day that it is hard to follow Jesus while keeping an eye on what everyone else is doing. That one can't really follow Him while trying to measure and balance on the faulty scales of comparison the weight of Jesus’calling on somebody else’s life.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Peter and the Debt of Discipleship

Peter rolls around the word of Jesus in his mouth, the gritty texture grinding at the remnants of his crumbling ideas of success, strength, sacrifice, service. The word is bitter… and it is sweet.





The sheep that will stray over and over again and do stupid things, you wouldn't believe if I told you. 

The sheep that will wear you out, exhaust you, drink you to the drags. 

The sheep that will keep you awake at night, and bring in the torrents of fears and tears and prayers you know nothing of yet. They will tempt you to throw in your towel, and go looking for better pastures with better shepherding material somewhere else.  They will push you to the limits of what you think you know of yourself, and then still further…

But when you find yourself hanging on the last thread of your rope, remember this, Simon. Remember that they don’t belong to you.  

They belong to Me. 

They are not yours.  

They are Mine.

I am the good shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep.  And I love them, just as I love you.  

So, you, Simon, show them… show them how I have loved you…

Simon, son of John, do…you… still... love… Me…MeMe?

Yes, Lord… you know… everything… You know that I love You.

There is still more, Simon.  For when you were young, you followed your own desires believing, sincerely believing you are following Me, serving Me.  But those days will come to an end. And when they do and all the youthful energies and passions and longings are done away with, you will be taken to a place where you do not wish to go.  Follow Me, there, Simon. And, I will meet you in that place.  I will be with you.  And you will know My love for you, Simon Peter.  And My love for them...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Garden

I planted a garden in front of our son’s bedroom window yesterday.  It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that has been germinating in the back of my mind for years.  On that side of the house is the location of the ugly sprinkling system manifold. Since ugliness generally attracts ugliness, we decided to generously pile more of it by keeping the yard waste bins there, in addition to scrap fence pieces and excess plastic flower pots. In the corner against our neighbor’s fence is the compost pile where all the organic matter not consumed by our household is rotting in the central Florida heat and humidity.

Such  has been the view from his bedroom window all these years.

I worked hard all morning and well into the afternoon, the dumpy area slowly reclaimed, taking modest shape of beauty and foreshadowing future glory.

I will remember April 15 as the day this garden was born, I thought, and the thought filled me with much satisfaction and joy.

Then, I came in and heard about the 
explosions at the finish line of Boston Marathon.  The thought of the memory of April 15th as the birthday of the beautiful garden in front of our son’s bedroom window mocked me, spitting venom into my face.  It was as if the bomber reached beyond the marathon path, across the fence and into our back yard and planted  the deadly device amidst the gladiolas, day lilies, jasmine and petunias, leaving devastation and carnage behind.

The day will be remembered for mutilation, dismemberment and death… the smell of burnt flesh, He scoffed. ...It will be forever remembered as the day of fear and terror and the  power of evil to kill and destroy everything noble and beautiful and kind……So, why bother, then? Why bother planting the gardens and sowing seeds and training the vines…? Why bother creating beauty out of ugliness…?

The last thought hit me even stronger than explosion of hopelessness and despair.

Because... because there CAN arise beauty out of the compost pile…And there IS  a greater power in patience and prayer, love and life then momentary power of destruction and death.

And so the garden now growing in front of our son’s bedroom window became an intersection where life and death, love and hate collided...  A place of remembrance and prayer that in His time, God who gives beauty for ashes would bring about His goodness and glory, His manifest presence in and out of Boston just as He has done in the Boston Garden in our own back yard.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Peter and the Three Simple Devotional Words

The rocks under Peter’s bare feet cut into his flesh like knives. The tender words of the Master cut deeper still. He knows that he knows  that he knows that he loves the Lord.

But, how do you look in the eyes of the One you betrayed and say... that you love Him?

Lord, You know all things.  You know... that I ... do ... love...  You.

In that moment, right there on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus doesn’t change Peter’s past, because the past, even with the resurrection, can not be changed.  But, with three simple words, three ordinary, common words, He forever re-frames it.  And with that, He also reframes and defines Peter’s future.




For, you see, Jesus doesn’t need Peter to proclaim his loyalty to Him before all his Facebook friends and Twitter followers. He doesn’t need Peter to defend Him with the sword. Nor does He need Peter to go to prison with Him or to die for Him. At least not yet.  The disciple would end up both in prison and eventually on the cross for his Lord… One day he will actually have opportunity to fulfill his own word…

What Jesus needs from Peter right now…is somebody to feed… His… sheep.

Simple. Rocket science. Of loving Jesus.

For when you love somebody, you don’t feed them sugar-coated, nutritionally-void substitutes, starving them to death even as you stuff them with the surrogates. 

But how do you know the difference between real food and a substitute?

When you love somebody, you don’t just sit there and watch them gorge themselves on poison that tastes good.  

But how can you tell the difference between a treat and a poison?

And what are the GPS coordinates of the Feed Store where one can get all this good food to feed all these hungry souls?

And Peter realizes that dying for Jesus might be actually easier, a lot easier, than living – truly living for Him.  

Friday, April 12, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Of Sheep and Shepherds

When I was about eight or nine years old, I went to visit my mom’s family who lived in rural Croatia. My uncle was a shepherd with a large herd of sheep. One day he asked me if I would like to help out by taking the herd out for the pasture. Having lived in the city all my life, I was unaccustomed to being entrusted with any real responsibility,  so I jumped at the opportunity.

His request wasn’t as outlandish as it appears at first. Everyone my uncle ever knew grew up taking care of the sheep. Children as young as six would pasture the flock without adult supervision. They knew their sheep. They even called them by name – no kidding!  They knew their personalities and temperaments,  what they liked and disliked. They knew their heartbeat from the day they were born ‘til  the day they… ...well, shepherds need to eat, too, you know. In my uncle’s eyes, I was old enough to be a pro in the family business. Shepherding was like breathing for him. He couldn't imagine anyone different. It didn’t take long, however, to prove him terribly wrong.

I took the herd that morning, marching proudly ahead, when I realized I didn’t know where I was going.  My aunt assured me that the sheep knew their pasture and I would be just fine.  She guided me in the general direction, and turned around when she thought I could take it from there. I was on my own.

To my dismay, when we reached the grassy area instead of staying all huddled together, the sheep scattered every one whichever way.  I raced around, jumping over the cow patties, yelling at them but they just ignored me. In ones and twos, they wandered off and eventually settled in one particularly lush spot far beyond where I was told we should stay.  They finally seemed content, happy, and most importantly, they were all together, making my job really easy.  

I let them munch away and since everything seemed under control, I sat on a nearby rock, pulled a book out and started to read. Deeply immersed into the story, I was quite startled when I heard my aunt screaming.  She was racing down the field, yelling and flailing her hands as if the house was on fire.  I jumped up and ran towards her.

Get them out of there… Get them out of there right awaaaay!!!!

You didn’t need a degree in psychology to detect panic in her voice.

The sheep lifted their heads at the sound of her voice, their eyes glazed with stupor. Then they turned back and kept grazing as if hypnotized. When she finally reached them, the rod in her hand got their attention.  They started moving, very slowly at first, but eventually we rounded them up and got us on the way.

What happened? I asked, wondering if my aunt had lost her mind, for she kept yelling and cursing under her breath.

They were not supposed to go there.  That #$?%$!! grass is poisonous for them. It could make them sick and even kill them, she said.  They shouldn’t have been allowed to wander off there.

We walked in silence the rest of the way, a moving wreckage of the world views and lifestyles collided on the intersection of ignorance and unrealistic expectations. Next day, over breakfast, I looked at every member of the family with new set of eyes.  To my nine-year-old mind it was clear that their rough shepherd exterior was just a disguise for a rocket scientists hiding underneath. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Peter and the Déjà Vu

This is not the first time that Peter and the boys came home empty-handed after an all-night fishing trip.  The scenario that changed the direction of Peter’s life back then is replayed with uncanny similarity.  They go from empty to overflowing at a word of a Stranger standing on the beach and they know this is not just a coincidence.

It is the Lord!

Indeed, it is.  Jesus makes an early morning breakfast for the seven exhausted, floundering disciples.  He breaks the bread and hands it to them. Another déjà vu. The memory of that night sweeps over Peter in wave after crashing wave.

This is My body, broken for you... for you... for you...

As the breakfast is wrapped up, and dishes put away, the silence becomes deafening.  

They all failed Jesus.  They all fled. They all left Him alone in His darkest hour.

But, Jesus doesn’t offer reproach.   He doesn’t scold them with an embittered I-told-you-so.

He turns to Peter with a simple question that sinks with laser-sharp precision into that unscalable black hole, catching that rusting nail of regret by its head:

Do you love Me?

Do you love Me?

Do you love Me?

And Peter reaches in, deep within, beyond words, beyond proclamations, beyond fear and lies and betrayal, beyond tears, and grief and regret and finds that he does love his Lord. He loves Him, he loves Him, he loves Him...

But, how do you look in the eyes of the One you betrayed and say... that you love Him?

Lord, You know all things.  You know... that I ... do ... love...  You.

And right there and then, Jesus doesn’t change Peter’s past, because the past, even with the resurrection, can not be changed.  But, with three simple words, three ordinary, common words, He forever re-frames it.  He re-frames it for Peter … and He re-frames it for me and you. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Peter the Distracted


For years I’ve been scratching my head over the 21st chapter of the Gospel of John. Not that I ever argue with the word of God, but it feels like the Gospel should have ended with John 20:30-31. Nice little bow to tie around the amazing story of God’s redemption of His hopelessly straying, sinful mankind.Chapter 21 makes it … kind of messy…? It opens a new can of worms…. It would have been much easier, much neater to finish off with a Christian version of happily-ever-after.

Unfortunately - or not! - John disagrees.  There is some unfinished business that needs to be taken care of… and Jesus doesn’t leave it undone.

And so we find ourselves on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias with seven disciples who have been with Jesus for three years, day in, day out. That’s almost 9000 hours of living in the presence of God incarnate! They’ve seen what no eyes have seen, they heard what no ears have heard, they saw their Lord betrayed, crucified and…  risen from the dead, eating with His nail-pierced hands.  They went beyond the shadow of a doubt regarding the convincing evidence in the reliability of Christ’s resurrection.  

And yet, within just few weeks of Easter morning, Peter announces:

Huh??? You are going fishing?!!! You gotta be kidding me, Pete!! After everything that happened, after all you’ve seen and heard, you want to go… fishing????

But, nobody says that. 

In fact, Peter being the natural leader that he is, in addition to being previously endorsed by no less than Christ Himself as a spiritual leader of the brand new living species, gets immediate following.  Nobody probes. Nobody questions.

However, deep inside Peter’s heart there is a nail.  Or, perhaps, a gaping bottomless black hole. A gnawing sense of failure.  Regret.  Self-doubt.  The scene from the courtyard is replayed on the back of his mind over and over again… It haunts him during the day.  It torments him during his fitful sleep.  How he wishes he could turn the clock and undo that night.  At least, undo his part during that awful, dark night.

But he can’t. Even with the resurrection, the past can’t be changed. And the burden of that reality makes Peter question everything he learned from the day Jesus set His eyes on him... his suitability as a disciple of Christ. His calling. His future.

So Peter goes back to what he knows best. To what is familiar, where his past successes reside.  Where he is an expert. And he takes half of the apostles along with him.

That night the seasoned fishermen caught nothing.  

Monday, April 08, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Peter the Denier

As genuine as Peter’s love for Jesus was, there were certain both internal and external spiritual realities that were beyond Peter’s grasp at this time.  All he knows right now is that he is ready to go both to prison and to death with Jesus. Within 12 hours, however, those yet undisclosed realities will collide and forever shipwreck the passionate fisherman’s trust in himself.

The denial creeps up on Peter unawares.

When asked to pray with Jesus, Peter can’t keep his eyes open. The heart indeed is willing, but the body is weak.

When the traitor arrives, Peter thinks the hour has finally arrived to prove his devotion to his Lord. So, he wields the sword and chops off the ear of the High Priest’s slave!  But, the kingdom of God is not about swords and bats, nor about violence and bloodshed in defense of one's personal rights or religious beliefs. Jesus doesn't need Peter (or me!) to defend Him

When Jesus is arrested, Peter slinks surreptitiously behind, and follows Him at a distance. But, one can’t follow Jesus while trying to keep a safe distance.

And so, the seasoned veteran, the pillar of the Church of God, gets knocked off his wobbly faith-feet by a girl. According to the word of the Lord. As he tumbles headlong into all-out denial, the rooster crows. Just as Jesus had said. 

The deafening sound of the screeching bird suddenly silences the disciple and he looks at Jesus. The Lord turns and looks at Peter.  Against the backdrop of the paling sky, against the backdrop of the extinguishing fire, against the piercing echo of the rooster's crow, Peter remembers the word spoken. And weeps... weeps bitterly.

The world as Peter knew it ended right there, in that courtyard.  The crucifixion later that day was the final nail in the coffin of Peter’s crumbled universe.

When the Easter morning arrived, and Peter found the empty tomb, something utterly new awakened in the bosom of the broken follower. A fresh hope? Then the Lord appeared to them - the nail scars and all. His presence generated irrepressible joy, and disbelief, and wonder… But, one sharp nail still remained inside Peter's bruised heart.  And there was only one person who could take it out. 

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Unfinished Business... Meet Pete

To fully appreciate the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel of John, we must go back in time and get to know a bit of history of one of Jesus' first disciples.

We meet Pete aka Simon in the earliest days of Jesus’ public ministry. It’s Pete’s little brother, Andrew who introduces him to Jesus first.

Simon, meet our long awaited Messiah, Jesus.

Jesus, meet Simon, my bro.

But, Jesus needs no introduction. With one look He sees into Simon, skips all the pleasantries and changes his name:

You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas (which is translated Peter (meaning Rock). John 1:42

Jesus sees something in this weathered fisherman that nobody else sees and names it.

Peter. Rock.

The seasoned fisherman experiences the biggest catch of his life, only to realize that he has been caught in the net of God’s purposes far exceeding his wildest dreams or expectations. And he is terrified.

Go away from me, Lord.  I am a sinful man. Luke 5:8

I am not Your kind of guy, Lord. I am damaged goods. Second-hand material.  Go, find Yourself somebody else, some seminary-educated, cream-of-the-religious-crop polished dude who doesn't swear and cuss... who isn't...

But, Jesus is not deterred. He knows He has just the kind of guy He needs for what He desires to accomplish... 

Do not fear.  From now on, you will be catching men. Luke 5:10

Peter responds to Jesus with wholesale abandon, dumps his old fishing nets and follows Him.

Over the years, we see Peter walking on the water with Jesus... as well as sinking - in more ways than one.  Out of Peter’s mouth come some of the most profound truths and some of the dumbest statements recorded in the New Testament.  But, in all his bumbling devotion to Jesus, one thing is abundantly clear.

Peter loves Jesus.

He may not always understand Him.  He may not always like what Jesus is saying. In fact, at times, he is positively upset with Him.  

But he loves Him. 

He loves Him so much that he is even willing to die for Him. 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Resurrection 101 - From Thomas the Doubter to Thomas the Believer

What turned Thomas the Doubter into Thomas the Believer was intensely personal encounter with Jesus.

There was nothing abstract, generic or platitudinous in that room that day.

Thomas might have thought that he was using hyperbole and figurative language when he’d demanded the proof of resurrection few days earlier. It was safe to say it, for what likelihood was there that he would ever be called on the carpet for it?!!

But, Jesus knew Thomas better than Thomas knew himself. Jesus loved Thomas beyond his questions and doubts and He made this one special trip just for this one skeptic. He met Thomas right at that point - the finger and the nail, the hand and the side – and put fears and doubts to rest not only in Thomas’ mind but, more importantly, in Thomas’ heart.

The encounter goes beyond awkward. It goes beyond the boundaries of personal space and one’s comfort zone.  It reaches deeper than the layers of the epidermis into the vast uncharted regions of soul and spirit.

How do the nails in the flesh heal the sins of another’s soul?

How does the spear in the side breathe life into another’s spirit?

Thomas saw it…

The nails that pierced the flesh, pierced his Lord’s flesh.

The spear that stabbed the side, stabbed his God’s side.

Thomas saw it and believed.

My Lord and my God!

Jesus said to him, 'Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed'. John 20:29

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Resurrection 101 - Thomas the Doubter

Thomas missed the boat.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples they were all together. Everyone, that is, except for Thomas. Consequently, when they all were bubbling with the excitement and wonder of the incredible turn of events, Thomas wasn’t buying it.  

Name an exciting gathering of a group of enthusiastic believers, and one can count on a latecomer, a skeptic, a cynic in their midst.  I’ve been the one more than once.  

Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place for the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe. John 20:25

Oh, Thomas! Do you realize what you are asking for?!!!

Oh, Thomas! You blunt, honest fool, speaking forth on behalf of all of us, unbelieving doubters, who will come after you!

Unless I see… Unless I touch…I will not believe.

Like Thomas, I, too, need more than empty emotionality…

I need more than human naivety, and wishful thinking, and mind games and illusions...

I need something solid.  A rock- solid place where I can stake my life upon.

A place that would hold me when the world around me falls apart.

A place that would hold me when the world inside me crumbles.

A place inside the imprints for the nails on His hands….?

Into His side where the spear went through?

Of course, I don’t realize what I am asking for. Nobody ever does. 

Eight days later, Jesus shows up and says to Thomas:
Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.

Put your finger here…where the nails used to be…Put your hand here… where the spear pierced My side and the water and blood gushed out…It’s the only place, the only solid place to stake your life upon…

Monday, April 01, 2013

Resurrection 101 - It is Written...

What a roller-coaster those last few days must have been for the disciples. 

They watched Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, heal a blind man’s eyes and a rich man’s heart; they saw Mary pour a fortune’s worth of perfume over Jesus, they danced and skipped around the donkey-riding Jesus during the spontaneous parade as He entered Jerusalem.  They were flabbergasted when He created an uproar in the Temple market and mystified over the withered fig tree. 

Then, there was the Passover meal, difficult to understand words and even more difficult to understand actions. Like Jesus, Master, Lord washing their stinky feet!  And after that everything becomes a blur, a tailspin of happenings - Judas’ kiss that led to Jesus’ arrest, the torture, the betrayals, the cross, the burial… the grief, and now, the empty tomb!  

Can you imagine living through all these moment by moment?!!!

 I get tired just thinking about it.

The disciples, of course, didn’t have the slightest idea how eternally significant the wild ride they experienced over the past couple of weeks was. At the time, it was just a bunch of disjointed pieces of a very confusing puzzle. Often, I feel exactly the same way about my own life! Something happens, and it's already over before I can ask,

What was that all about?!!!

But, when the resurrected Christ comes to them, He takes them back to something that is old and familiar. Something that has been with them all along, what disciples knew and heard since childhood… he takes them back to the Holy Scriptures, and He makes the old and familiar words fresh and bursting with new life and meaning. He takes them back to what was written and explains the significance of the words penned long ago by Moses and Isaiah, by Zechariah and David and connects the dots for them then and there. 

Connects the dots for us, here and now.

It is written… and now it is fulfilled.

There is something incredibly humble and powerful when the eternal, living, breathing, creative Word of God who spoke the worlds into existence and who has just defeated Satan chooses to remind His friends, to re-utter and reaffirm, expound and explain what was written long ago.

And so, from the dusty old pages of an ancient book, the written Word of God lives and breathes again…