Misfits Turned Radical Lovers of Jesus

Jesus called twelve misfits to join him in his ministry. Even though they dropped everything to follow him, all along the way, their imperfections were screaming, “Losers – the whole lot of you”!

Jesus knew they were all a mess. He could have complained to God like Moses did, “Oh, Father, far be it for me to question your judgment, but isn’t there someone else you could come up with for this monumental task? If I’m going to babysit these whiners and complainers for the next three years, how can I get anything accomplished?” But he acquiesced, “Okay, fine. Not My will but Yours, Lord.”

I don’t know, but I’ll take a stab at God’s reasoning. Okay, I’m a liar. I do know because there are a bazillion verses in scripture about boasting and none of them elicit a high-five from God. Which I’m assuming speaks volumes about our stubborn prideful humanness.

I’m thinking Jesus had a list and chose them as the least-worst disciples to pick from. They had nothing to boast about, but they would anyway. At least at the beginning of that three-year adventure with Jesus. Of course, that all changed after Jesus died. Then you see a lot of their teachings in scripture about not boasting. Like 1 Corinthians 1:31, James 4:16, and Ephesians 2:9, just to name a few.

Another question that often comes up is why the disciples so readily followed Jesus in the first place. I’ll take a stab at this one too. Here were twelve guys hoping for a shot at greatness. Surely by now, they had heard of the crowds Jesus was drawing. He was charismatic and charming, and, WOW, those miracles…impressive, huh? Of course, that’s why they went.

After all, this Jesus seemed different from most of the influential leaders of their day. He seemed like a winner they could get behind. Perhaps they hoped for an upper management position. But what do I know? I wasn’t there.

Thinking in terms of the culture today, Jesus might have hordes of people in line around four city blocks hoping to be chosen, as if it was a shot at some reality TV show! Okay, maybe not.

Anyway, we know the disciple’s faith and trust in Jesus waxed and waned throughout his ministry. Except for Judas Iscariot, who checked out early, it wasn’t until after the resurrection that their passion caught fire, a passion that would take them to their own deaths. At that point, they were beyond holding out for a life story that would make them famous.

(Oops…wrong disciples!)

Anyway, think of the difference between the guys who scattered when their fear got the best of them and those same guys who became faithful and fearless after Jesus’ resurrection, despite their continued limping along an uncertain path. That should give us all hope. Why? Because if we are honest with ourselves, we too are misfits, doubters, seekers of power and acclaim, liars, and cowards.

Well, that makes me eager for Judgment Day. How about you? As for my sorry imperfect self, I want to run and hide! My imperfect body makes me cranky. My imperfect faith makes me scared to die. My imperfect emotions sometimes look like fireworks on the 4Th of July. My imperfect mind likes to stay awake at night, reminding me of what an idiot I am – or what a moron someone else is.

Brene’ Brown, in her excellent book, “The Gifts of Imperfection“, tells us it’s okay. How is that possible? She says, “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness….I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” Brown tells us that the gifts of imperfection are courage, compassion, and connection.

When we dare to own our own worthiness, then, and only then, can we reach out to others and use our God-given gifts to make a difference in this broken world we live in. The darkness needs your light. The doubts and fears of your neighbor or coworker need your courage. The hopelessness of the world around you needs to know the reason for your hope (1 Peter 3:15).

So, there’s your challenge and your call to use the gifts God has given you to take into this messy world! Now is not the time to question or doubt that you are called to serve, that you have anything to offer, that you can make a difference.

It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. You don’t have to cure cancer or win a Nobel Prize (although you can if you’re so inclined). Just give your lonely widowed neighbor five stinking minutes of your precious time! Smile at a teenager you don’t know and act like you’re not afraid they’ll mug you. Take flowers to that crotchety grocery clerk you’re constantly judging.

NOW is the time to come out of hiding, shake off that fear, and jump!

Photo by Renan Lima

Linda, Listen to Me!

I know many people, and I’ll bet you do too, perhaps even you, who can’t believe God has a plan for them. Over the years, I have encountered people who don’t believe me when I tell them my story. “Oh, really?! God told you to do that, huh? Right!”  To be honest, I wouldn’t have believed it myself if he hadn’t gradually brought me to a place where I could trust him, even if I was fearful and had no idea what he was up to. Which, frankly, is still most of the time.

God has always longed to grow me into the person he meant me to be. It was me resisting; me not being present to him; me missing the mystery and majesty that surrounded me because I was just too busy to notice, or more likely, too afraid. So instead, I skipped along, trying to drown out his voice, “Lalalalalalalala, I can’t hear you!”

For years, there were little promptings that, in hindsight, proved to me he was on the job (Romans 8:28). Then bigger ones that required more trust and offered way more grace than I deserved. God opened my heart in ways I could not have imagined. Though I still mess up – and often – I know God’s response is out of love for me; his admonitions tell me that he loves me too much to let me stay stuck in my messiness.

We are so used to being in a world that is loud and demanding of our attention. We busy ourselves filling in uncomfortably quiet places. That’s how we miss God’s “still small voice” or “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). Sure, he’s good at those show-stopper whirlwinds and earthquakes and fire. Even what I have called 2×4 moments but they didn’t leave marks like the ones my mother inflicted. Because of her, I was always on guard for those “laying down the law” whacks that I expected from God too, when I messed up. But, I believe he more often speaks through Spirit’s whispers of pure grace.

We can be so enmeshed in and blinded by the things of this world we miss out on our whole purpose for being here. So if you are going through life day after unremarkable day, schlepping through the same routine to ad nauseum – STOP IT! Your life has a purpose that God depends on you to fulfill. You matter that much!

We are all called to holiness, called to use the gifts and talents already given us for God’s kingdom work right here – right now. It just takes awareness on our part. (I would highly recommend Anthony DeMello’s book by the same name, “Awareness”).

Leo Tolstoy’s novel, “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”,  considered a masterpiece, was written just after his own “profound spiritual awakening” and conversion experience. While lying on his deathbed, Ilyich ruminated about the reality that his entire life was superficial and self-serving, and he profoundly stated, “Maybe I didn’t live as I should have done?” In the end, he posited a question that Tolstoy must have pondered himself, “What if I really have been wrong in the way I’ve lived my whole life, my conscious life?” Oops, a little late, buddy!

It was too late for Ilyich, but not Tolstoy. He discovered his purpose and rejected his aristocratic life to follow Jesus’ teachings – particularly the Sermon on the Mount. Years later, his writings profoundly impacted Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and countless others.

Soooooo, what are you waiting for? You must still be breathing, or you wouldn’t be reading this. That’s a start. Incredibly, no matter how you lived your life to this point, it’s not too late to begin again. New beginnings are God’s specialty!

“To infinity and beyond!” God coined that phrase, you know. Don’t believe me? HUMPH! Check out Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” 

Alrighty then, you’re pumped and ready to go, right? You’ve packed your sandals, camel hair coat, and checked Google Maps – for what? A sign from God?

HTTP://ministry-to-childern, Carlos Bautista

Stop! Take a deep breath. Maybe start by sitting quietly with God and waiting.

Don’t look to anyone else to give you a formula or a checklist to send you on your way to your destiny. But I will tell you this: You cannot love and serve others (which is our greatest calling) until you can love yourself. And you can’t love yourself utilizing any of the myriads of self-help books on the market. You can only do that by growing in the knowledge that you are deeply and passionately loved first by the God who created you! And you can only do that by being in relationship with him, which requires your time and attention. You are his son/daughter with whom he is well-pleased (Matthew 17:5). Let that sink in. We are all deeply loved sinners. It’s high time we act like it, don’t you think?

Absolutely, go to church, take the time to read scripture, and pray, But mostly, LISTEN! Geeeezzzzz, we’re so bad at listening.

Jesus Encounters What’s-Her-Name

(Originally posted April 16, 2012)

Do you find it beyond interesting that many women in scripture are not named? The “woman caught in adultery” (John 8:1-12), the “woman at the well” (John 4:5-30), and “the woman who bled for twelve years” (Mark 5:25-34). How do you feel about that? Some of you may feel a bit of “it’s not fair” huffiness. Or you may not have even given it a second thought. As for me, I love it! Why?

It’s as though their namelessness encompasses every woman who has lived the same circumstances. It doesn’t matter if she was Jewish or Gentile. Her age doesn’t matter. Her hip size, family size, brain size – none of it matters. To her surprise and mine, sinfulness doesn’t even matter. The only thing that matters is the love Jesus pours out on her and the relationship that follows.

Each of these women has pointed me toward Jesus, whom they met on the road, by the well, and in the court of rejection. Each has given me the courage to lay my burdens and sinfulness at his feet – only to be surprised by LOVE – immersed in grace. I want to speak to just one of these stories and how it relates to my own life.

 The woman at the well  (John 4:5-30, The Message) This is a long one (I took the liberty to shorten it a bit), but it is laced with pearls! So first, grab a cup of coffee. Now, read it as though you are right there.)

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To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village…. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon. A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?”

The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water?”

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst.”

The woman said, “Sir, give me this water, so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”

He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”.

“I have no husband,” she said.

(Jesus) “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”

(The woman replied) “Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”

(Jesus) “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem….But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

(Jesus) “It’s who you are and how you live that count before God….That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.

The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”

“I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

Just then, his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman.

The woman took the hint and left…. Then, back in the village, she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.

This woman was ostracized in a town where everyone knew her business. She could not hide from the other women’s ridicule or the condemning stares. So she avoided the courtyard in the early morning when the other women were there, choosing to go when she could be alone. And then…

Here comes a miracle!

Jesus chose to reveal himself (verse 26) to this lowliest of women, to a hated and rejected sinner – to me, “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

By the time I reached my early twenties when a suicide attempt had failed, I often drank myself into a stupor to numb the pain. I was divorced and had a miserable off-and-on relationship with someone as messed up as I was.

And then it happened – suddenly and without warning – Jesus showed up at my empty well! It’s funny; in our misery, we muddle along day in and day out. Days stretch into years. Pain and sorrow become as commonplace as your morning bowl of oatmeal. No surprises. No hope. No desire or longing to cling to. We do life anesthetized. But just leave the slightest crack for Jesus to enter, and all of heaven breaks out into thunderous applause, dancing and singing, and all sorts of merriment! With a wink and a nod from God, Jesus joyfully erupts into our lives!

Does anyone besides me remember Mighty Mouse? I sing the song from that cartoon to my grandkids, and they look at me like I have two heads! But I do it anyway because it’s fun. But then, the other day, I heard my granddaughter singing it, “Here I come to save the day”! That is the picture I get of Jesus when he shows up in our lives. It is awe and wonder in the very midst of our messiness. There are indeed those still-small-voice moments. But I believe he saves those for when our hearts are open to him.

When I drift too far from the well, Jesus becomes a man on a mission, touching the depth of my heart—taking my breath away. Literally! Just like the woman at the well who was blown away by her Jesus encounter. She ran as fast as she could to tell everyone about it. She no longer cared one rip about what people thought of her. She was a new creation in Christ, a beloved daughter of the King, and no one would redefine her ever again! She was forgiven and loved more deeply than she ever thought possible – and so are we – every last one of us!

So, let us not find ourselves at the well of the lost and broken ready to judge and condemn them. Let us not participate in the ridicule of others so many so-called “Christians” piously denigrated in God’s name. I sadly confess that I often forget the sting of being judged as I become the judger – Lord have mercy on me.

You cannot encounter the Living God and not be changed – it’s impossible. So, get yourself over to the well, leaving just the teeniest crack in your heart, and then hang on for the ride of your life!

Let heaven rejoice,

Let the earth be glad,

Let all creation sing!

What’s-her-name

has made her claim,

as a daughter of the King!

Amen and Hallelujah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mary’s Trepid “Yes” – Our “NO THANKS!”

Here we are in Advent again – sitting in darkness, in wonder and awe, anticipating the birth of Christ. Each year, we imagine Mary, not so quietly, sitting in prayer after Gabriel shook her world to its foundation!  She had to be blindsided by Gabriel’s visit to her.

Imagine that encounter, if you can. “Hey, Mary! I have some exciting news! This Christmas will be a bit different for you because you’ve been selected – drum roll please – to be the Mother of Jesus! You’ve been chosen from several applicants, some of whom had some pretty sketchy character flaws, I might add. Anyway, I know you have lots of questions. Like, ‘why me?’  or  ‘whose Jesus?’  or better still, ‘what’s Christmas?’. We’ll get to all that eventually.”

I’m not gonna lie, like Mary, I also questioned God’s wisdom when he approached me with some fun new adventure.

ME: “Wait, WHAT?! ME? You’re kidding, right?”

GOD – “NOPE!”

Though she was blessed with extraordinary parents who excelled at Parenting 101, training her up by their example, she was still just a teenager. Would she accept God’s call? Of course, we know she did humbly offer her “yes” to God. That response had to come from the depths of her heart even amid the doubt and fear.

I was just a teenager when my daughter was born, and I can assure you that if I would have had the good sense to consider the magnitude of raising a child and loving her well, I would have been scared to death! Unlike Mary, I had no positive role models to emulate. It was trial by fire and I made plenty of mistakes, later requesting a do-over from God – which he never granted. However, in his infinite love, mercy, and forgiveness, he tenderly held and began healing those broken parts, infusing his love into my relationship with my daughter. I suppose you could call that a do-over.

I still question God’s thinking each time he comes up with a new plan, sending me in an uncertain direction. Thinking I know myself better than he does, I want to leave my options open. Okay, I’ll go this far, but no further. I’ll wait this long, but no longer. I’ll trust you with this, but not with that. Admittedly, it’s usually in hindsight that I see the progression of things God put in place to provide everything I needed short of my “yes”.

Years ago, I recall striking out on my own to do “volunteer work”. Those efforts usually failed because they were never born out of longing or purpose, only an effort to garner praise from others and hopefully God. To get a few brownie points for heaven. But, in short order, I would lose interest or burn out because there was no real passion for what I was doing.

And guess what…you’re not off the hook either, my friend. God has called each one of us to be Christ-bearers. Scary, huh? Take a deep breath. It’s okay.

When we can’t see how we could possibly accomplish the task God sets before us, it takes trust and faith, like Mary, to say “yes” in the midst of our doubts and fears. And let’s get this straight now, it won’t be “Savior of the world” that job’s taken! Sorry.

And keep in mind God doesn’t do ordinary. He does PASSION AND PURPOSE – OVER THE TOP!

When it’s God’s plan it will not fail. He will see it through to completion. Jeremiah tells us so (29:11). Think of it, if he relied on us to figure it out by ourselves, we would surely mess it up and make him look bad. This, in turn, may cause others who are watching to reconsider any thought of trusting him. “WOW, Linda! You royally screwed that one up! And wasted a whole lot of time and energy in the process. No thanks. I’m not goin’ there. I have better things to do.”

Keep in mind that it’s God who initiates his plans for us, not the other way around. He doesn’t consult us for anything! Take Job for instance, he found that out the hard way! It wasn’t pretty when God confronted his whiny self, “Hey buddy, I’m curious, when I was creating the world out of nothing, I don’t recall seeing you there or consulting you on how to keep the oceans in their place or how to make a Zebra from scratch (and, yes, that was intentional).

Did I ask you for pointers on how to paint a breath-taking sunset? Whew, I outdid myself on that one. That was brilliant! Even if I do say so myself. And, of course, the myriad of other uniquely spectacular feats of creation that on one has been able to top.

And what about my grand finale? Humans. Huh? Yeah, I know, that was genius. Sure, there have been a few hiccups along the way – okay fine – major human failings. But that’s not my fault! It’s you guys never seeming to get your part right.”

So, this Christmas, as we are reminded once again of the remarkable story of Christ’s birth – God’s love coming to us with skin on, I pray we will listen for and accept God’s call to us to be Christ-bearers in whatever way he has prepared us, just as he did with Mary.

Go ahead, allow yourself to sit in the darkness with God, and bravely ask him what you are here for. His answer will surely surprise you. And I guarantee you if you utter that one little word, “yes”, be prepared because there will be no more business as usual.

My prayer for this Christmas is hope for a better, more peaceful, and loving world that begins with God and is manifest through us, just as it was with Mary and Jesus so long ago.

The Good News Reimagined

For three years, Jesus walked with and taught his disciples. He dared to love those cast aside by society. He healed the sick, turned unbelieving hearts toward God, and challenged those who believed they held the ultimate power.

The problem was that his disciples wanted to follow him on their terms. But, time and again, they failed.  Why? Their desire to change was ever frustrated by their inability to know God as Jesus knew him. Their frame of reference for God’s love was within the realm of deserving and undeserving. It was something they could control through their actions.

In Jesus’ Passion and death, they witnessed his total self-giving to his Father. So likewise, God revealed his radically gratuitous love for his Son, the disciples, and us through the resurrection. Though that love is given freely, it calls for a response from us. I can’t help but wonder if that’s why we, like the Israelites, settle at the foot of the mountain in a comfortable, risk-free faith. “Nuh-uh, I ain’t goin’ up  there!”

Before Jesus’ crucifixion, all of his wishy-washy disciples ran away in fear of meeting the same fate. (Just a little reminder here: the women stayed! You know that, right? Power to the women!) Anyway, the manly men finally came out of hiding and ran headlong into Jesus transfigured. There was now no denying that what they witnessed they were compelled to share with a lost and hurting world. That reality released within them an unshakable love beyond their human capacity.

Can we possibly grasp the implications of that love in our own lives? We zealously take care of “number one” in a world laden with mistrust and fear. How does that correlate with the fact that we were made in the image of God? It doesn’t.

As Christians, we too, were created anew by the resurrection and empowered by the Holy Spirit. That is Good News! And we have a mandate to take that Good News into the world. If fear holds us back, it is grounded in the denial of who we are. God’s sacrificial love is meant for all, and I am to be an instrument of that love, or my faith response is inadequate.

Confession time. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be an “instrument” of God’s love on my own terms, just like the disciples, and I blew it – big time – just like they did! But I’m still breathing, so I still have time for a course correction. Sooooo, let me get all my “stuff” out there now and pray for that clean slate God is so good at freely offering us. You might want to fasten your seatbelt!

You see, I always felt the need for certitude about something, anything, in my messed up, confused, and broken life, but I wasn’t sure about trusting that to God. I mean, up to that point, he didn’t seem to pay any mind to me or my trials. So, I was convinced I was screaming into an echo chamber when I complained about the raw deal life handed me. It sucked for real! So, I went about creating a new and different me, and it seemed to work just fine – on the outside – for a while.

After my husband and I were married, I became a card-carrying member of the Catholic Church. Then with a cross around my neck and a big fish on the bumper of my car, I sat and waited for the angels to break out in song. It never happened. I never got so much as a thumbs up or atta girl.

For several years after my official dunking, I still lived in a state of doubt, always questioning the very essence of my faith. I read the Bible from front to back even though my eyes glazed over, trying to wrestle with the Old Testament. Still, I came away from that experience believing I now knew everything about everything God, Jesus, Spirit, and leprechauns (Okay, not leprechauns, I just threw that in to see if you were paying attention), but God, Jesus, and Spirit, yes!

I was also good at making you look bad to make me look better. I could easily admonish you for all your faults and failures without skipping a beat. I could even quote scripture verses to shore up my convictions. “Oh yeah, you think you’re a shoo-in for heaven? Well, I’ve got news for you – you’re screwed. Matthew says so, ‘For the gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few – very few – almost no one!’” (Matt. 7:13–14). I hate to tell you (NOT!), but this is not your lucky day, and tomorrow ain’t lookin’ too good either if you don’t change your ways! Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You’re welcome!

Jesus side-eyed me for my attitude more times than I care to admit!

Then, one fine day in 2006, I was accepted into a graduate program at Aquinas Institute of Theology! Yeah, surprised the hell out of me too! Now, I thought I would have even more ammunition in my arsenal to judge and condemn others while promoting myself. Sweet! I have shared my experiences at Aquinas in previous posts. So, let me just say that, like Paul, I was knocked off my high horse and taken to task because of an arrogant assessment of myself. It was not pretty.

Since I am very stubborn and hard-headed (duh), my transformation was is, very slow. Truth be told, I muddled along for several years after graduation trying to sustain my convictions. After all, who would I be if not this person I created to shore up my sense of self, albeit a very fragile and false self?

So I trudged along searching – for what? I didn’t know. Longing for something out there that could give my life meaning. I tried desperately to fill the void. I left the Catholic Church in frustration and wandered into other Christian churches. Some sent me running out the door with my hair on fire! Why was I struggling to find a faith with the correct beliefs that spoke to me? For a moment, I considered communing alone with nature! Then I saw St. John the Baptist running naked in the woods, eating bugs and swatting mosquitoes! No thanks.

And then – my glorious and long overdue AHA moment arrived at my doorstep unannounced. In my search for a belief system that I could buy into, I suddenly realized what I was actually longing for. At that moment, experience and dogma clashed head-on, and I understood that I wasn’t searching for correct beliefs. That has never been what drew me to God. The experiences along the way showed me God’s love beyond anything I had ever known. It just took this long to accept that God could love me like that. Experiencing God in relationship, not knowledge of God, wells up within the very depth of our hearts – where he resides. I was finally home within my very being – where my deepest longing and hunger reside.

I could beat myself up for all the years I wasted wanting faith on my terms, but God has spoken tenderly into my brokenness and heartache. That voice was not a voice of condemnation that I was taught to believe was God’s. It’s not helpful that we are reminded every Lenten season that he had his beloved Son killed because of our wretchedness. NO! I believe Jesus was killed by a power structure that feared him. He lived a life that he had to know would get him killed, but he did it anyway out of a self-giving love at the core of his being.

I now trust that the God I long to surrender to also longs for me. The God who knew his Son would suffer terribly and die showed us his unwavering love and mercy, compassion, and forgiveness in the person of Jesus. John 15:12-13 tells us: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Seeing Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in the context of John’s gospel of love has cast a new and beautiful light on what I now see when he says, “I am the way”. His life and love show me that if I follow in his way, I will be living my purpose: to love unconditionally, serve where I am called, and offer freely the same forgiveness and mercy God has shown me.

The Easter question for us becomes, “What do you believe about me?” What I say I believe must manifest itself in the way I live my life, or it is a lie.

A Blessed Easter to you all!

God’s Full Refund Offer

It seems like such a stretch…no…an impossibility, for us to accept what God really desires from us and for us: Not a list of commands we can tick off like the rich guy in Matthew (19:16), not a quick rote prayer on our way to more important things, not a list of complaints we keep bringing to him until they are heard and remedied.

And so, here we are, stuck in our miserable small lives, blaming our unhappiness on God or some inept human and demanding the universe be reordered in our favor! All the while, we seem to be oblivious to life’s special moments with friends and loved ones, majestic sunsets, breathtaking rainbows, the pure pleasure of chocolate, and most of all, a magnificent life full of richness and purpose. All planned out for us by a God who doesn’t do ordinary and never did.

Do you ever think about why we stay stuck there? I believe we are afraid of intimacy. Deny it, poo-poo it, thumb your nose at it. But think about it. Keeping ourselves at arm’s length from our relationship with God and others requires nothing from us. Intimacy is too scary. But surprisingly, it too makes no demands. By its nature, it cannot demand.

Intimacy is the love relationship modeled for us by the Father and his beloved Son through the work of the Spirit. It is self-emptying and gratuitous. It seeks the best for others over our own wants and needs. It is life-giving and what God longs for with each of us. He beacons us into a relationship with him, and he will court and swoon and get all mushy over us until we let go of our fears. But intimacy requires trust and vulnerability, and we’re terrified of being vulnerable and exposing our weaknesses. Yeah, I tried that once and got smacked silly. No thanks. If we could just realize that vulnerability is not a character flaw to be conquered. It is integral to our relationship with God and is meant to be transforming. It means accepting and loving who we truly are, sins and all. It is birthed in the grace of God, not shame.

We continually believe that we’re not good, perfect, or “holy” enough.  Who told us that? I can think of several people in my life, beginning with my parents, especially my mother. Countless more people have been eager to reinforce that lie over the years. It’s incredible when you think about it, that we allow other broken people to define us and determine our worth. Then point to them when we try to prove to God that we are not worthy of love.

Truth be told, it’s the ego that holds us back, which is a paradox, actually. The ego is our sacred cow. And yet, we live this meager, paltry, desolate life tethered to our fears while pumping up our false selves for display to anyone who threatens our fragile sense of self. I wasted so many years trying to defend myself against the lies and blamed God for all my misery. In my lowest moments, I accused him of not caring, “If you loved me, where were you when I needed you?! What was I supposed to think when you were silent while my mother abused me?”  More silence. “Yeah, I thought so.” Proving my point, I could go off and do what I damn well pleased. You’re on your own, Linda. I’m pretty sure God was silent in those moments because he knew I was a hot mess, that my heart was too closed off to hear him. I wasn’t interested in healing; I just wanted him to bring down fire and brimstone on everyone else.

Fear makes no sense. It denies us a loving, generous, merciful, forgiving, extraordinary relationship with God, and in turn, with others. Instead, we settle for crumbs. We live in defiance of our truth because it seems impossible to believe that God would really “desire” our broken, self-centered, imperfect selves. What Glennon Doyle calls “this crappy version of ourselves.”  Instead of embracing it, we give up trying because it’s just too hard to be the flawless human we’ve been led to believe God requires. We’re sure that we are a disappointment to him. That he’s tallying up all our transgressions. That nothing gets past him. It’s really annoying.

Fear has a source that God continually warns us about. I love this quote from John Eldridge:

When we don’t believe in our blessedness, we begin to doubt and fear, just as Peter did when Jesus invited him to walk on the water (Matt 14:29), and that’s just where Satan wants us. So, how do we get beyond that? How do we learn to embrace; to love what God sees in us? Perhaps we should start with this truth: Even if your parents failed to love you well, it’s okay. It really is okay. You are okay because you already possessed an innate capacity to love and be loved before God formed you in your mother’s womb. Our mothers, no matter if they love us well or totally suck at nurturing, are not the creators of our essence. That distinction is God’s alone. Got that? Let that soak in.

I was able to begin my long journey of change when I came face-to-face with this God who seems to forget our offenses even when we can’t. Not a change that signifies accomplishment but a change that allows me to embrace my messiness, brokenness, and imperfections.

One of my most powerful growth moments came when I realized that my mother, my mean, abusive mother, was loved by God. But, sadly, she was never able to grasp her truth. When I was younger, I hated her and told her so. She lived and died, never having known the person God longed for her to accept and embrace as His beloved daughter. What I wouldn’t give to have her back. What I wouldn’t give to offer her the forgiveness and love that I now know. But when she was alive, I was too lost and broken myself. God knows that and has been relentless in his pursuit of my heart so that I could forgive myself and offer his love to others. I honestly feel that the moment I could forgive my mom, even though it was long after she died, our spirits connected and that mysterious, mystical love of God transcended all our barriers and healed our hearts. I could deeply sense it even though I couldn’t explain it. Of course, as soon as you try to “explain” mystery, it is no longer mystery.

When we allow ourselves to open our hearts to God, the magic begins. Suddenly, our worldly longings don’t seem so significant. We stop demanding anything from anyone, ourselves included. If we can get just a tiny taste of the peace and indescribable joy God will bring to our lives when just sitting in his presence becomes everything, it is tantamount to heaven because it is heaven.

Jesus said to all with ears to hear, which has never been many, “For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (my emphasis). Luke 17:21. You don’t have to strive for it or wait till you die.

Saint Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive”.  Conversely, the joy of Satan is man sound asleep. Are we even aware that there is a battle raging in the very depth of our hearts that is continuous and unrelenting? Jesus warned about it, but we’re not listening because we don’t think it applies to us. Why is that? How much of scripture do you believe is meant for us today; is intended to be a guidepost for how we should live and move and have our being? And how much do we toss away as irrelevant? That, my friends, is Satan at his most cunning. Like that pesky snake in the garden, “Oh, come on, you don’t really believe all that stuff do you?! God wants you to have a fun-filled life with no worries! Party on, munchkins”.

Jesus warned his followers then and warns us now, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they (you and me included) may have life and have it to the full.” John10:10. Do you feel like you’re living your fullest life possible, that you are the best version of yourself? Or does it feel like one hurdle after another to overcome, barriers and heartaches and detours that wear you down?

I believe God has a challenge for you if you’re willing to give him a chance. Ready?

“Try me out for thirty days. When you arise in the morning, come talk to me first. Read some scripture, tell me what’s on your mind, what breaks your heart. You may already be doing that, but, I would ask you to go deeper because this is where it gets real. Give me ten or fifteen quiet minutes of your time without expecting anything. Then, if you don’t feel something stirring within you (by the way, that would be Me), I will give you your miserable life back! What do you say?” – God

I see you there, thinking, “Yeah, been there, done that, and got lost in a maze of “rules and regulations” from days gone by. I’m busy, and this is complicated. Can you just give me the bullet points?” I think we have the notion that God doesn’t understand our obsession with bullet points in this hurried life we live. Look how we are drawn to articles that provide 5 Easy Steps to _________ (fill in the blank). Actually, four would be better. Just get to the point! For example:

4 Easy Steps to permanent weight loss (I could offer this in 1 Easy Step):

  • Stop eating crap. BAM! See how easy that is?

And reading scripture? Really?! How many attempts have you made to read the Old Testament before your eyes glazed over? Exactly.  If God could just make this easier. Actually, he did. Perhaps he made it too easy, and we can’t wrap our minds around something so simple. Ready?

1 Easy Step to permanent peace and joy:

  • “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 – Any questions?

 And this, dear ones, is what I hope and pray for you:

Why You Care Matters – BUT – How You Care Matters More

I recently read Alan Cohen’s quote, Please show me is one of the most powerful prayers you can speak.”

I bulked at that, or more accurately, painful memories and an ego ever on high alert, bulked, “It’s not that simple! Life is not that simple!” That comes from a place long ago when I learned not to trust anyone but myself (how scary is that?!).

As a child, I needed to trust my mother, so I could learn to trust the world around me. But she proved to be untrustworthy, which, in turn, meant the world was also untrustworthy. The world loves those who don’t know who to trust and empowers the ego to guide itself right off every unmarked cliff until we begin to doubt ourselves.

My ego-driven mind wanted every aspect of my life to be certain and laid out clearly. I believed the Spirit I dealt with didn’t care much about its guidance in my life, “You’re on your own, kid. Good luck!” Old memories, combined with my return again and again to my default settings, dredged up my monumental failures to prove I was right – hoping that Spirit-guy would finally see that I had good reason to question everything.

Two events that always come to mind are: (1) writing a book and (2) attending graduate school. Both were significant and frightening decisions that did not turn out the way I had planned. It then seemed that the outcome of these events was confirmation that Spirit-guy could not be trusted either. And just to remind him, we had a little review:

 1) One day, out of nowhere, you clearly told me to “write a book”. That was you – right? Admittedly, after laughing hysterically, I finally did believe you and wrote the damn thing. That led to me imagining myself becoming a famous and sought-after author. But that’s not what happened, is it? No!

2) Then how about this? When offered the unbelievable opportunity to attend graduate school, after much consternation, I acquiesced. Even though I fully believed I would be discovered as a fraud and be tossed out on the street. When I finally realized I might actually accomplish such a crazy endeavor (which took nearly the entire three years I was there), I began to imagine myself becoming a beloved Pastoral Associate—fulfilling my need to be somebody special. But, that’s right, that’s not what happened either. Are you still with me, Spirit-guy?

When I read, “You can avoid painful errors and trials by letting the Spirit guide you”, my “failures” seem to confirm that that did not apply to me. But in a rare moment, I sat quietly and prayed. The response came quickly. I suppose because it has been the same obsessive struggle I have had for years, and you were probably peeved, weren’t you?!

Spirit (eye roll here), “Sit down and take a deep breath, Linda. Ready? Here we go for the bizzilionth time.”

1)  Yes, I did prompt you to write a book and attend graduate school. And, no, it did not catapult you into fame, fortune or recognition. No associate position in the church or loads of book sales. But it did develop into your blog, which has touched lives. How many? It really doesn’t matter because that’s not the point. The experience has changed your life in ways you never could have imagined beforehand – right?

Can you not see how much your faith grew and flourished when you cared for the dying as a Hospice volunteer? Then, working with the homeless, you showed them love, when they only knew rejection. No award, book contract, or flurry of accolades will come close to invoking those tears of love and compassion you reveal every time you reach out to those who suffer.

Maybe a review of Luke 15:4-6 is in order here. You know – when Jesus dropped everything and went after ONE (you!) lost sheep. ONE! And then he danced and sang all the way back to camp like he had hit the lottery!!

2) Admit it, Linda, it took these experiences and many others to strip away enough of your brokenness (not all, but enough for now) to open you to the love of God that had been gathering dust in your heart for a very long time. And, yes, I’m still going to be there, as always, to offer you some pearls of wisdom, even if you pretend not to notice me – the elephant in the room!

Anyway, those are the things you would probably never have considered being capable of before God wrested your shallow ‘faith’ from you and replaced it with a love for others.

Purpose can never be driven by the world’s definition of success. So, stop already putting expectations on the outcome!

Now, come on, we have lots of work to do, and you aren’t getting any younger, you know. Just sayin’.

Can you relate? Have you experienced your own come-to-Jesus moment, but you’re not sure what that means for you?

When Jesus said, “follow me,” it was a radical call, not an invitation to tea. It wasn’t the Jesus version of Simon says, “Touch your toes. Wiggle your nose. Bend your knees. Pat your head. Here’s your prize.”

You realize, don’t you, that Jesus never said, “Go to church”. Never. Church is where we often hear the Word of God, rejoice for a millisecond, and then go home to cut the grass. Following Christ means living the Word; it means being Christ to others. He told us, “I have suffered the hatred of those in power to serve those at the bottom – the forgotten and rejected. If you follow me, you will do even more and, yes, you will suffer for your efforts as well.” Our response to that call should be a resounding, “Yes”! But, it’s often, “I’ll get back to you.”

Remember that all the disciples ran for cover when Jesus was taken away. When they saw the empty tomb in unison, they proclaimed, “Bummer, this is not how we imagined it turning out.” (Does this sound familiar?) So, when Jesus showed up unannounced at their pity party, he was surely in the same place Spirit-guy has been with me so often, “Okay guys, let’s try this again. First of all, let’s get this out of the way – none of you will be sitting on any throne no matter what aspirations your mother has (Matt. 20:20-21). You’ll be sitting in the muck and mire with the least among you and, get this – you’re going to love it there because that’s what you were created for, selfless love and compassionate care for the lost and hurting.”

Today, we have been inundated by images and news concerning Covid-19, our broken economy, hunger and homelessness, and the BLM protests that have shed an uncomfortable light on the inequities in this country.

People are suffering and dying every day because they have been victims of Covid, hatred, or both. How are you affected by these realities? What do you think of when you witness this most profound moment in our history? Do you turn off the TV and retreat to your safe place? Do you pray or send a check to a food bank? – I’m not discounting those things. Both are needed for sure. But, is there a tugging on your heart to act on that reality?

This is a time of reckoning for all of us who consider ourselves decent human beings. Never mind any label you may attach to that: Christian, Jew, Atheist, none of the above, whatever – just decent human beings who know deep down we are called to lift our “caring” to a whole new level.

I love the expression: “Bidden or not bidden, God is still present”. God still lives and moves and has his being in the very depth of your heart, whether you believe in him or not. And even if you don’t, he just hangs out there, hoping you will one day acknowledge him and, in turn, recognize who and Whose you are. He’s like the heart whisperer, “I love you, you are mine, and your life matters.”

If I ever sound like I have totally got my act together, don’t think for a moment that it’s true. We are all a work in progress. We have all sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23). I’m just thankful that God’s love and grace know no bounds. Our weaknesses don’t anger him, and our fears won’t push him away. On the contrary, he is merciful, forgiving, empowering, and likely has a wicked sense of humor! Oh yeah, and he has never been untrustworthy. Not once.

So, let’s do this. Yes, sitting quietly is important to discern how and where you are called to serve. But then, like Jeremiah, get off your butt and get over yourself because God will give you all you need to do what he calls you to do. That’s a promise we can all trust.

I will end with this wisdom from Anthony DeMello, SJ:

Once upon a time, a disciple asked the elder, “Holy One, is there anything I can do to make myself Enlightened?”

“As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.”

“Then of what use,” the disciple asked, “are all the spiritual exercises?”

“To make sure,” the elder said, “that you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.”

Regrets Have Expiration Dates

(Originally posted 5/15/2012)

In January 1994, my mother died of heart disease. Eight months later, my father died of cancer. Because they hadn’t belonged to a church, a minister was provided by the funeral parlor.

Before my mother’s wake, the minister gathered all twenty kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. He asked us to tell him something about this woman he’d be eulogizing the next day. He wanted to relate some happy memories of my mother at her funeral. In complete silence, we looked at each other, incredulous, thinking, “Come on, somebody. Come up with something!” Digging into the recesses of our memories, we slogged through the anger and sorrow. Trying desperately to recall a long-forgotten quip or enlightening conversation, maybe a silly habit, a favorite joke, one particular Christmas tradition, or what about that time when…?

Nothing.

At the end of my mother’s life, her family had absolutely nothing to say about her. Well, nothing you would say at a funeral. You think it, but you don’t say it. Seeing that there’d be no wealth of joyful material from which to draw his comments, the minister politely excused himself to hunt up some old familiar one-size-fits-all sermon. That experience left me numb.

My father’s death was like suffering through a bad movie for the second time: The same cast of characters, the same setting, and faulty plot line. Again, the twenty of us couldn’t come up with a thing. The silence was deafening – and, yes, I was angry. I wanted to shout, “How could the two of you do this? How could you inhabit this earth for over seventy years, at the epicenter of a family you were supposed to love, and not leave behind even the faintest happy memory?”

I hadn’t expected this level of grief. I didn’t understand it. How could I grieve for the parents who had left me nothing to miss? Eventually, though, I came to see that I was grieving the absence of love. I longed for my parents’ love all my life, but I had just been fooling myself. And now…that longing would remain unfulfilled.

Those two funerals, and my indignant response to them, proved pivotal to the changes in my life that would follow. I was inspired to set two goals: To seek the love that would draw me closer to God and to share that love with others, especially my family. I hoped I’d have a different funeral someday, a different legacy than my parents. I wanted to be remembered as someone who had loved, someone who had honestly and openly confessed to others when I’d failed or fallen short, someone who had needed and known God’s mercy. And I wanted everyone who attended my funeral to have a smile on their face! – a smile that reflected the joy we’d shared, the compassion we’d known, the forgiveness we’d received, and the love we never doubted.

As scripture tells us, “…if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

After determining my two goals and reviewing my life accordingly, I could see that a mountain would indeed have to be moved. And, in all honesty, I also felt that it might be impossible! Did I even have the strength of character to become the person I envisioned?

That was fifteen years ago, and I can tell you with absolute conviction that it is not only NOT impossible, but it is God’s promise to us and will be fulfilled by him! He simply needs our mustard seed of faith, shaky knees, sweaty palms, and trepid “okay, I’ll give it a go” response. The result is not ours to know. However, it is God’s already set-in-place plan if we’re willing to cooperate with him – and trust.

Perhaps, unlike everyone else in all creation, you are privy to the date and time of your demise. But, even then, you may or may not have LOTS of time to fix all the messes you have made in your life and the lives of everyone around you. Otherwise, procrastinating on this one is probably not a good idea.

Welcome to My Groundhog Day!

(Originally posted 2/12/2014)

I recently celebrated my sixty-fifth birthday. I think sixty-five years is a loooooong time to be doing the same dumb things over and over. I’m sure God agrees! I believe that’s why he is intent on repeating himself until I – hopefully (hope springs eternal) – change.

Let me say that God has done some pretty incredible work in my life! And there have been significant changes over the years. But there is one thing, and unfortunately, it is the main thing I have failed to succumb to: Humility. Oh, sure, I can lay claim to superficial humility. You know, that surface stuff that implodes the first time some poopyhead gets on my bad side!

And so, like our poor friend Phil, I go to bed every night with good intentions and wake up the following day finding myself stuck in the same place.

Remember when Phil said to Rita, “I have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned, and every morning I wake up without a scratch on me”? That would make a great metaphor for my life and probably all our lives to one degree or another, except for the “without a scratch” part.

Here’s how my life has unfolded:

I was once a concept of God’s wild and magnificent imagination. I can envision all the angels in heaven dancing for joy at the sight of every single creature God brings to life. Then, without warning, I was plopped into a broken world, and life immediately began re-creating me into the person God no longer recognized. And the angels fell silent.

I, too (metaphorically), “have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned”, first by those entrusted with my care. Then, by my own attempts to live within the context of that person. Everything this original Creation was supposed to be, became unrecognizable. My focus was not on living with joy and the fullness of life promised to me. My focus became simply a matter of survival, like Phil waking up every day in a world that never changed.

I tried to end my pain too. I didn’t have a groundhog strapped to my steering wheel, and it wasn’t on railroad tracks. Instead, it was me drunk in my little MG on the highway, praying that I would crash and die. When his attempt to kill himself failed, Phil’s reaction was, “Ah, nuts.” Mine was the same. I think my exact words were, “Great! I can’t even do this right!” I remember getting out of bed that morning and going off to work: same empty life, different day.

Over the years since that not-so-fatal day, much has happened. As I said before, God has done some remarkable work in my life, considering my incessant resistance to the death of my own will. We have been through so much together! When I think about what he has accomplished in this continual wrestling match, it has been nothing short of a miracle!

fighting-150x150

After Phil described his torture, he exclaimed that there was “not a scratch on me”. I couldn’t say that, but I did think that “not a scratch on me” meant symbolically that no one ever noticed that I had changed. Considering that has made me, and God, very sad. Since God recently raised the issue again, and not so subtly, I knew that a lesson was coming, and it wouldn’t be pretty.

Sure enough, I have embarked on a new meditation titled “Bridges to Contemplative Living”. A compilation of the works of Thomas Merton and other Spiritual Giants. I know God is ever so gently loosening my white-knuckled grip on my self-will.

You know how you get a song in your head and can’t escape it? How about just a word: Humility. Of course, as is God’s mysterious way, and because I have been in total denial of my lack of humility, I am confronted almost daily with examples of “Who do you think you’re kidding, Linda?”

I’ll give you one example, but my head and heart are still reeling from the raw truth of many more! Reality bites. Can I just say that?

Within all of our relationships lies the truth of our faithfulness and sinfulness, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. If we’re not afraid to face that truth, there are powerful lessons to be learned.

So…humility. I recently had a conversation with my husband. Okay, let me restate that. I had an angry confrontation with him concerning a family matter that I felt was going badly. I wasn’t angry with him, but I wanted him to know how I felt about the situation. So God sat quietly while I whined and wailed and wore myself out. Then he stepped in and stuck a big fat mirror in my face!

I had to sit with that and realize that my anger stemmed not from the current situation but from many years of trying to defend my fragile ego and pride. It isn’t just with this particular person but everyone who pushes my ever-so-delicate buttons. And I hear God say, “Humility…Linda. Let’s give it another try.”

Here’s what God has been showing me in the process of mediation, prayer, and almost daily experiences that provide the litmus test of how I’m doing. I think it’s some pretty awesome stuff. Let me know what you think!

What I believe has set this entire process in motion did not begin in the last couple of weeks. It started with my hospice training and work with dying patients. You get a much different perspective on life when you sit with the dying. It is impossible to fully understand the richness and beauty of life if you cannot face the reality of death. They are both part of one continual journey and cannot be separated. Though death is something you can choose to ignore, participation is mandatory. For some people, death is just one thing on a long list of “How did that happen?” moments:

  • Every day he ate a carton of ice cream on the couch, watched TV, and got fat. He scratches his head and wonders how that happened.
  • She was doing 90 in a 30 with no driver’s license and went to jail. How did that happen?
  • She was walking on the tracks, got run over by a train, and died. How did that happen?

Anyway, the beauty of humility seems more and more appealing to me as I sit vigil with those who are actively dying. Things that always seemed to matter diminish in significance. I witness what’s really important to those with so little time to fool with ego, pride, and self-centeredness.

If we consider the wasteful things we busy ourselves with, it’s astounding. Like we’re going to be here forever. Yet, working with hospice patients has finally begun to awaken me to the truth of my own life. That Ground of Being hidden behind the false self I created long ago.  

The Scriptures and meditations I want to share with you were not “dug up” by my efforts. They unfolded before me just as God planned. This, by the way, should be a powerful lesson for anyone who thinks that God does not want to be deeply involved in the details of our lives. This has happened too often for me to believe otherwise. Now, if I can just get out of his way, perhaps humility is not impossible – even for me.

The following is a list of thoughts, scripture verses, and quotes that have gradually caused me to loosen my grip on my pride so God can do what he does best: Love me. I hope and pray that I will surrender to that Love and be the empty vessel he desires me to be.

  • Matthew 4:25, “Great crowds…followed him.”

Meditation from “The Word Among Us”: “People are going to be attracted to Christ in you – not you (my emphasis). Your joy, your peace, and your love will grow, and that will attract people to you.”

OH, MAN!!!! I thought it was all about me!

  • Have you ever felt rejected? I have, most of my life. Even today, there are people I feel rejected by, and I react to them with unkindness. But, how often do I consider the times I reject God by those thoughts and actions born of pride and cultivated in arrogance?

Lord, I pray for your forgiveness for putting so many things ahead of you. You love me so much and feel my rejection so profoundly. You cannot make me love you, though you love me unconditionally. Help me to sit in silence in your presence and teach me how to love. By your power and grace, help me to let go of the things that fill my thoughts and keep me out of relationship with you and those you bring into my life.

  • Mark 6:34 says, “When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them.”

Not so much the hearts of his disciples. All they did was complain. Jesus said to feed them. And their response? “What, are you kidding? There are thousands of them.” They counted the meager change in their pockets, “You can’t expect us to just call out for pizza. Let ‘em’ get their own food!”

Jesus always shines a spotlight on our doubts and fears. In those moments, there are always thirteen disciples. I’m standing there with them all, focused only on my weaknesses and inadequacies, forgetting the Source of my power. He’s trying his best to get through to them, and me, and you. He even humbles himself, for heaven’s sake! “I can’t do anything without my Father!” (John 5:30) But, do we listen?

We are all called to have faith and trust in our God, who provides all we need. None of this is remotely possible if it is not born of a heart filled with awe and wonder at God’s magnificence, power, and glory. None of it!

  • Matthew 3:13-17, “Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, yet you are coming to me?”

There is a whole bunch of humility going on here! John the Baptist never felt worthy to tie Jesus’ sandals (Mark 1:7)”. How often are we willing to decrease so Jesus can increase?

Think of Jesus himself allowing John to baptize him. He wasn’t a sinner and didn’t need to be baptized. Yet he humbled himself to lead the way to his Father.

What I had to consider this day was the fact that I am not Heartland Hospice’s Chaplain. My
ID badge doesn’t claim that I am; my supervisor, although recognizing that I “qualify” as a hospice chaplain, reminds me that I am a volunteer.

Up to this point, I have made it a practice to tell people I was a “volunteer chaplain” –”I had to get it in, and technically it’s true enough. But, I have slowly, and ever so profoundly, been admonished by God. He rolls his eyes and repeatedly shakes his head at my need to pump up my false self. But the more I sit with dying patients, the more I realize how little it matters. No one has ever said, “Thank you for being a chaplain.” They say, “Thank you for coming.” That’s it. They thank me for my presence, not any vast wisdom or knowledge I think I possess, and they need to hear. They’re dying. They could care less about my degrees or accomplishments.

Andrew Murray, in his amazing little book titled, guess what? – “Humility” (catchy, huh?) says, “Our humility before God has no value except as it prepares us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellowmen.”

This morning, as I was rereading and finalizing this blog to post, I came across God led me to the following scripture verse: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Reading that verse was like a one-two punch. No, God doesn’t punch, but I’m telling you, he flicks! I have been flicked often enough to know. And it hurts. Because he’s not flicking my head, he’s flicking my heart!

You see, everyone I know, friends and family, know I have a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Studies. How many of them, I wonder, look at how I treat people and make a note to self: Mistreating people must be okay if Linda is doing it. After all, she’s the “holy” one”. 

I am supposed to be, as we are all supposed to be, giving witness to God’s love in a hurting and broken world. But if all others see is my brokenness, how will they ever have hope?

When we go our own way, we obey the parts of God’s command that are easy and discard the parts that don’t appeal to us: Love your neighbor – check. Love your enemy – scratch. Are we putting forth an image of ourselves – more importantly – an image of God that others can use to justify their own sinfulness?

I want to say that I have finally conquered this one, but I know better, and I’m pretty sure there will be another lesson tomorrow…

                                   and the day after that…

                                                                          and the day after that!

It’s funny; the scripture verses here are not new to me. “HOLY COW, I never knew God felt so strongly about THAT!””Liar! They have just been an inconvenient truth. They demand something I have not been willing to submit to. I pray that is all changing. The power of humility lies within every one of us. We have no excuse to believe or act otherwise.