Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Giving Up His Spirit

FinishedIt’s the last breath, this “giving of the spirit.” We breathe in an out, minute by minute and day by day, but then, there is eventually the last breath. And so it was for the Christ.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. [Matthew 27:50, NIV]

The one thing that has crawled around inside my head ever since Mike died is a simple question: Was Mike really done? Had he accomplished his mission, his purpose? There were so many plans yet and so many possibilities. Was he really done?

And as I reviewed the stories in Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, of Jesus’s last day, especially his time in the garden, I sense a similar question. For he does ask in verse 39 (and 42 and 43), . . . “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will,” or some version of this. There are many treatises on this request, but for me, today, I am simply caught with the similarity to my own question. Could Jesus be asking, “am I done?” “Am I done already?” “Is it enough?”

God’s answer was clear. To that point, what needed to be done was done and what needed to be done next, had to be endured for the completion of the whole package.

Jesus’s moment was in the garden, the moment he let go one more time, and trusted in the Spirit of God that indwelled him.

There was another flash of crisis I think, on the cross, before he last breath. In verse 46, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lamas sabachthani” –which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Another question about the end? Is this it? Some have written that Jesus was separated from God in that moment as he took on the sins of the world. But I’m not so sure. I believe God spoke and it was private. And God said, “Come.”

I believe the same for Mike, who lay on the floor alone, in much pain, and probably cried out to his God, to his Savior, and he was no longer alone but joined to the world of Spirit who said, Come. It is finished.

And he too, gave up his spirit, into the loving care of God of gods, King of kings, Lord of Lords. Rest now, my husband and my friend. I give you into God’s care now too.

Necessary Thing

Mary Martha 2Having been a Martha type most of my life, it takes some strong intention on my part to return to the “one necessary thing.” In our Lenten devotional, the word for this week is Service and the first meditation is on Mary and Martha and I am reminded again, that service must come out of devotion or burn-out comes next.

The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.” [Luke 10:41-42, CEB]

A group of us at the church are participating in the Daniel Fast for the next 21 days, right up to Easter Sunday. And although there’s a lot of talk about the foods and food preparation (basically vegan – very Martha), the essence of it needs to be Mary, or the entire process becomes another diet or fad.

Clearly, we clutter our bodies with junk food & drink in the same way that we clutter our minds with noise, screens, and distraction. Where we can cleanse our bodies by changing our diet, it seems harder to clear our minds. This is one of the reasons why we all need times of solitude and silence. We need to stop multi-tasking and instead, put our single focus on God, on Christ, on the Holy Spirit, on the Word. Pick. Be. Rest.

In the journey toward simplicity, the questions that must be answered over and over again are, “do I need this?” or “do I love this?” Having just been through my first downsize, I practiced these questions quite a bit. Nonetheless, and despite giving away over 35 boxes of book, I still have eight shelving units filled with the books that remained. It’s a process. But I am getting better at it. Triage.

And I’m thinking this same process happens in the mind and spirit. Do I need think about this right now? Do I love contemplating upon this? Is it edifying or destructive? Will this practice move me closer to God?

Presence 2What do I really want? I have struggled with this question for years. I’m not quite sure how it became such a stumbling block. Sometimes I think I feared that if I spoke my wants, they might sound petty and mundane. Or, worse, I would put my wants out there and they would never be fulfilled. Clearly, by revealing my wants I feel vulnerable.

You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever. [Psalm 73:24-26, NIV]

The synonyms reveal the complexity of the word “want:” choose, need, crave, prefer, require, wish, ache, aspire, covet, fancy, hanker, hunger, long [for], lust, pine, thirst, yearn, and of course, desire. And here’s one answer to my query. Want is generic and covers a broad range of seeking. It’s ok to “want” the daily things of life, from a cup of coffee to a red dress. But want does not capture what God is asking of me within.

In Psalm 73, the word “desire” is more like “take pleasure in” or “delight in.” This is not about longing or wishing, it’s about a state of being, a contentment in being with God, in God. So often, I find myself leaving that place and “hankering” for something else. I am ambushed by the world’s noise and images; every commercial on television, every ad on Facebook, every magazine is telling me what I should be wanting. More, more, more.

But God wants me to enter into the Presence, abide there, and rest.

Giving to God

Pastor Jess Bousa of Restore Church tells an interesting story about a woman who called up a pastor to give the church broken pianoher piano. When they arrived to pick it up, she explained that she had purchased a new piano and no longer needed the old one. And so she gave it to the church. I am “convicted” as they say by this story. After all, is that the intention of giving to God, our second, third or fourth best? Or, is it supposed to be our first fruits? In other words, not the old piano but the new one. That’s a sacrifice, that’s giving something of true value. We so often treat the church like the used clothing store. I have been guilty of this too.

Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. [Deuteronomy 12:11, NIV]

What choice possessions have I given? I am close to the full tithe. Not completely, but close. I’m still negotiating, I know. It’s fear based. I know that God will bless me if I give out of my faith. But when I withhold, my faith becomes dented, like a dip in the road. Or worse, maybe it’s whack against my foundation. For a while, my house will continue to stand, but if I allow enough whack, I shouldn’t be surprised if there’s a collapse. I’m just sayin.’

But outside of money, what else is there to give? Our church collects clothing for swaps and the like. It’s amazing the condition of items that are given: stained and torn, sometimes it would do better in the rag bag. Is there pleasure in this kind of giving? Or during the holidays, we are encouraged to “adopt” a child and purchase gifts for him/her. We finally had to spell it out, “spend $75” on your adopted kid because people were going to the dollar store, buying the cheapest things, the least valuable.

freedom-writersAbout a year after we adopted our Russian daughter who was struggling with English in high school along with white, middle class bullies. At the same time, she had never known people of color, so I took her to see the film, Freedom Writers. In this film, a teacher, played by Hilary Swank, inspires a class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education (a hope for a future). But before the teacher got there, these same students, mostly poor, were given the worst supplies, the shabbiest books, and so forth. The administration reinforced the expectations that the students were unworthy. The teacher in this film took a risk and gave them new books and opportunities never afforded them before. She gave her best. And she commanded their best. [For my daughter, this opened her own eyes as well, to prejudice of all kinds and she turned a huge corner.]

Once I admired a pair of earrings a woman was wearing. She told me they were her favorite earrings and she, too, liked wearing them. The next time I saw her, she gave me a small box and inside were the same earrings. Not new, no, but the very ones she loved the most. And now, they are one of my favorite pair as well. A small gift she gave, but from the heart. She gave the earrings to me physically, but in essence, she gave them to God.

letting goI’ve been doing a lot of downsizing as I moved into a smaller house. I literally had to let go of most of my furniture and when I could, I sold it. But really, not all of it would sell. Among these things was my very expensive bedroom set. It was two days before moving day and still no one would buy it and so, I gave it away to a family in the church. And I felt better about that giving than any dollar I earned from anything else. simplicity

Slowly, I’m getting the idea. It may take one more downsize, one more letting go move, to really “let go” of the stuff, to experience true simplicity. For I’m thinking that it is out of simplicity that generosity flows. I will no longer “rate” the value of what I have and give the less or more valuable, but all of it is a feather in the wind.

Sacrifice

mother sacrificeSacrifice is a mystery. One of the many throughout the scriptures and human history. I believe people are wired for life. Oh, I know there is still large numbers of suicides, people who chose otherwise. But still, for now, the norm is to live. Our bodies work hard to keep us alive, sometimes under terrific stress and pain. Stories of torture, starvation, and deprivation abound with the resilience of human courage and yes, even faith.

For this reason, in my view, any story of life sacrifice for the sake of another is hero time: people who leap into rushing waters to save someone or, in broader terms, our first responders and military warriors who go into battle for the sake of others, or parents who die while covering their children from harm, or teachers in the face of murderers shielding their students. Something within causes them to act.

Why do they do it? Love, honor, commitment, and perhaps destiny.

In my faith tradition, the story of Jesus, the Christ (Messiah) is a story of sacrifice for the same reasons, but for the sake of the many, not just the one. In the mystery of God’s story, humanity needed a reboot. And only by sacrifice would it work. This idea is foreign to our modern culture. And yet, for 2000 years, embraced and believed.

sacrifice2For Christ didn’t enter the earthly version of the Holy Place; he entered the Place Itself, and offered himself to God as the sacrifice for our sins. He doesn’t do this every year as the high priests did under the old plan with blood that was not their own; if that had been the case, he would have to sacrifice himself repeatedly throughout the course of history. But instead he sacrificed himself once and for all, summing up all the other sacrifices in this sacrifice of himself, the final solution of sin. [Hebrews 9:24-26, The Message]

None of us know what we will do in the face of emergency. Will we rise to the moment? Will I? I don’t know. But I am grateful for the One who did die and rise, bringing the world full circle. And I thank the individuals who model sacrifice as a way of life, for their actions inspire.

Giving of Self

Mike Brown.

Mike Brown.

Today, Feb 23rd is my husband’s birthday. My deceased husband, that is. And I’ve rather put that fact on the back burner all day. I did a little Facebook post, but in a hurry, keeping the feelings at bay.

But now, the day is winding down and it’s time to ponder today’s devotion. So, what jumps out at me, “They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.” [2 Corinthians 8:5b, NIV] But not like this, the words come out more like this: “He [Mike] gave himself first of all to the Lord, and then, by the will of God, also to me.”

Like many men, Mike, never fully trusted the women in his life. And yet, of all the women, he trusted me the most. And I can say that with some appreciation for a fight hard won. But whatever he might have withheld from me, he held nothing back from God, from the Christ. To God, he was devoted. I benefited from his faith, for it led the way to our marriage, our adopted children, and our 32 years together.

Mike was peculiar and saw everything through a unique lens. He didn’t really expect anyone to look through the same lens with him, but he did ask that people respect his point of view. It took me a while to get that. The Sarah in me wanted to change him. The Eve in me wanted to turn him. The Bathsheba in me wanted to lure him. But he was a steadfast man, even stubborn, which served his faith.

It wasn’t like he didn’t change over those years. He did. We both did, becoming less conservative and perhaps more progressive in the way we wanted to walk out our love for God. Mike was the first to reach out to people outside the box from men in prison to orphans in Africa. He could talk to just about anyone.

Mike gave hours and hours to the church, particularly our current church in its mission to reach people far away from God and bring them closer to new life in Christ. It’s a mission that resonated with Mike, but behind the scenes.

He was a good man. And today, we would have gone out to dinner and toasted to another year of blessings, and he would have said, one year closer to retirement, that is from his day job. Mike would have worked tirelessly for God until the end. Well, he did that anyway. I know his last word would have been the name of Jesus.

Daniel Fast

fruits and veggiesThe roots of the Daniel Fast come from this portion of the book of Daniel who circumvented the commands of King Jehoiakim of Babylon, who conscripted several bright men from the Israelites to be trained and to serve in the king’s palace. But part of their training was to eat and drink from the royal food (something most people would jump at the chance to do — something like being invited to the White House to eat 3 squares for 3 years]. But Daniel considered the food of Babylonia defiled and came up with a test:

Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. [Daniel 1:11-16, NIV]

So, a few of us at Restore Church  will be working a modern day interpretation of this fast for 21 days. Susan Gregory wrote a book about the fast and has promoted it around the country since 2007. It’s actually a “partial fast” which means that we will only be fasting from certain foods and not others. In this case, we will be abstaining from all meats, fish, dairy, coffee and carbonated drinks. The Daniel Fast website has a complete food list.

The first question everyone asks is why? It’s a good and valid question. Personally, I have done a pretty good amount of fasting, at least once a year. But in all of those cases, I have done a complete fast, finding the partial fast too difficult. But I am drawn this time to the regimen and sharing the experience with others. During this time, I will continue to add my other Lenten practices. Basically, I’m curious. And there are health reasons too. I am testing these waters as well. Will I feel better?

There will be more food preparation and in some ways, I worry a bit about the time involved, something that full fasting releases me from having to think about. Nonetheless, I am forging ahead. And perhaps, there will be a mind-body-spirit integration that I could not have predicted.

Day one begins March 6.

%d bloggers like this: