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Posts Tagged ‘Father’

Do we still honor the builder? I think not. I am as guilty as anyone else. Sometimes, I can’t remember the author of a book, much less an architect. I was terrible at “music memory” in grammar school and worse at signers of the declaration of independence.

Hebrews 3:2b-4
. . . just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.

Instead, I get absorbed by the end result, the “house,” the object.

This morning, a friend and I spent a couple of hours at Panera Church over latte and coffee discussing how differently she looks at humanity than she did five years ago. For so long, she said, it was still about “us and them”–the believers and the non-believers. “Thems” were a shadow of humanity: they were out and we were in. They were a house without rooms. They were a shell. But now, she finds herself within the teeming masses of people, all built by the hand of God, all sacred in a way that only God can create. She sees the builder behind the human.

There are people who are still building and using their creativity. There are inventors struggling to find a place for their inventions (they even have their own reality show now); creative artists abound, longing for ways to get their work out to the general public, to share their creations. For these people, they are giving out a part of themselves. Painters, writers, composers, craftsmen, architects, and many more creators, are trying to tell us: this is how I see the world, come with me.

God is a creator too. The earth is one aspect of God’s message to humanity. And more, living things are another, animals, fish, and people included.

Today is Mother’s Day in the U.S. and we celebrate the women who carried us within their bodies and nurtured us as best they were able. Together, a female and male parent came together to create another human, endowed with a personal spirit, unique to the world in which we live.

Let us give thanks to the Builder today, the Creator, the Mother/Father of us all. Let us look at everything and everyone and remember the source of that idea, that word, that color, that shape, that sound. Amen.

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When Paul’s cohort (more than likely, all men) lived and worked in Thessalonica among the new believers, they had a dual role: mother and father. It’s no different for us, for me. And I don’t mean replicating what it was for us, but what it could be.

I Thessalonians 2:7, 11-12a
. . . but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. . . For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God . . .

Like so many of us, I grew up with a dysfunctional family life. I wouldn’t say my early season as a believer was much better. There were “teachers” aplenty and people who were sure they had all the answers, but not too many who role-modeled mother/father love.

One role meets those basic needs like food, shelter, clothing and above them all, unconditional love and holding (this is how I see the mother who cares for a small child). The second role expands on this one with encouragement, comfort, and advocacy. The first role builds up within the safety of a known environment and the second role sends out into the world.

Jesus did the same thing. He taught in the small circle and gave his disciples everything they needed to thrive and then sent them out to build on what they had learned. Build strength; use strength . . . to grow even stronger.

Have I done this as a parent? Only in fits and starts. Have I practiced these roles as a friend? Not as much as I could or should.

Sometimes I blame my abdication from one or both of these roles because I didn’t get the benefit of them, or at least, it doesn’t seem that way on first blush. It’s not true, of course. God provided everything I needed to move me forward in the world, but in less traditional ways. My God is creative in loving and sending me forth.

In my first year as a believer, it’s true that I didn’t have a caring core to carry me through my questions and disappointments. There were no clear mother/father faithful around me. But I also remember a specific night when I prayed to God, a time when an hour in prayer was nothing because I was on fire and so hungry for the Holy Spirit. And in those early weeks and months, many of my prayers were in Latvian, a language I grew up with as a child. My birth father never did learn English and so up to his death, this was the language we shared. And so, on this night, I talked to God in that child-like way, in a language I hadn’t really exercised much as an adult. The result? I distinctly heard, in Latvian, God speak to my heart and claim that father-place. He would be the father I lost. He would comfort, encourage, and send me forth.

” . . . for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! Assuredly not!” [Hebrews 13:5, Amplified]

Selah! [Pause and think of that]

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Paul is certainly confident as a prototype for believers: become like me, follow me, imitate me. Paul was a zealot before he met Christ and he was certainly one afterward. I could no more imitate him than I can imitate Christ. Ah, there’s the difference. . .

Galatians 4:12
I plead with you, brothers, become like me, . . .
I Corinthians 4:16
Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
I Corinthians 11:1
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Philippians 3:17
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

To follow Paul is an outside/in method while following Christ is an inside/out endeavor.

Despite the freedoms Paul articulates as a follower of Jesus, having been a Pharisee for many years, he still had a very law-based mentality and world view. He was an administrator, an organizer. He could see how things would work out best. He loved his churches and he loved his people, but he did get frustrated. He was impatient. He continually aimed for perfection (Christ) and condemned himself often (not in a bad way, just as a confession) for missing the mark. He knew he was less than perfect and only Christ within made up the difference. Nonetheless, it was Paul who set up the churches with structure. He was an academic. He laid out the reasons for everything he said. He was a man of logic and reason. I’d say a good portion of our modern day churches have evolved out of the teachings and interpretations of Paul.

But when Jesus calls us to “follow him,” I think he is drawing us to the Kingdom. It is Jesus who consistently lays out the paradoxes of internal following. Everything is the opposite of what we would think: turning the other cheek, loving our enemies, going the extra mile, meekness is victor, weakness is strength and so on.

For Jesus it is not really “become LIKE me,” it’s become ME.

This is much more mysterious. When Jesus taught about “eating his flesh and drinking his blood,” a lot of disciples fled. This entire teaching on Jesus being the “bread of life” terrified most of his followers. [John 6:41-66] They fled because they understood, not because it was beyond them. Every time Jesus spoke bluntly about his intentions, there was an uproar.

With Jesus, what seems impossible is possible; what is lost can be found; what dies can be raised up.

In the face of these kinds of truths, do the outer trappings really matter: Robes or no robes, dunking or sprinkling, wine or grape juice, men or women, buildings or no buildings, and so on.

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” [John 14:20]

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I know God is trying to get my attention: sometimes through people telling me of roadblocks ahead while other times through circumstances. But, like a bull in a china shop, I tend to charge right in. On occasion, the china escapes unscathed. But too often, there’s a great sound of shattering glass.

II Corinthians 12:20
For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.

My independent streak started at a young age. My father died when I was only nine and I was a latch key kid for several years. My mother was a difficult woman who suffered from bipolar disorder (we only figured that out much later). She was unpredictable and ultimately, for me, unsafe. I told her as little as I could and I made many of my own decisions. These choices included getting married at eighteen (I was already a Junior in college), because I was sure I was ready to be out on my own, divorcing 5 years later, moving to New York City to be come “rich and famous.” These early years set up lots of walls.

It’s hard to hear or see warnings when a person is so doggone “capable.”

Somehow, I have allowed myself to believe that warnings are a negative thing. They are restrictions. They are penalties. But today, I have a new view.

God’s warnings are actually lighthouses. The beams of light give instruction and information: be careful, danger is nearby, be alert, watch! Everything is fine, just be on guard for challenges. Avoid unnecessary consequences. Change course if necessary. There is always another way to get there. I love you. I care about you.

As a parent, I have tried to be a lighthouse for my children. And don’t I do this out of my love for them? Would God do any less?

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The whole idea of the “judgment seat” has always given me pause. Today, as I encountered this verse, I wondered again, would I be shuttled off to the “left side” with the goats? [Matthew 25:31] But then it occurred to me: Hey, I’ve got a lawyer.

II Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with, and given himself and his attention to accomplishing].
[Amplified]

I think there will still be a conversation and revelations about this life of mine (in the body). I’ll understand my mistakes in a way that I have never understood them before. I’ll be able to see the right turns as well as the wrong turns. I’ll learn how my actions manifested in the lives of others. I’ll get the whole picture.

There will be confession and forgiveness. There will be joy and appreciation. There will be knowledge.

And although I’m sure there will be an great array of missteps and even rebellion, my advocate will step forward and the one choice I made to follow, as best I could, the Christ, will be my defense.

Thanks be to God.

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What do my heart letters say? So many people have written onto my heart: some with joy and some with pain; many with indelible ink. But what has God written on my heart? Can people even read it or is that letter being crowded out?

II Corinthians 3:3
You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

I know there’s a lot of junk mail in my heart. Like my email inbox, I hang on to things too long, thinking I might need that information someday. In my basement, I still have boxes of letters from old friends. There was a time I kept every letter ever written to me. I’m talking about way back, like the seventies and eighties! I keep thinking I’ll go back and re-read them. I’ll glean some truth from them, some insight. Or, I’ll develop a story based on the content. But each box is taking up room in my storage area and I haven’t opened them once since we moved into this house twelve years ago.

I have given too much space to the junk in my heart as well. Unlike the unopened boxes in my basement, I replay these letters over and over again. I read the painful ones in particular, again and again, allowing more blood to flow. I replay the sentences. I reconstruct the circumstances. I play the “if only” game (if only I had said such and such . . . if only I had walked away sooner, etc.)

The Holy Spirit has written more then one letter on my heart. I know this. When I am quiet, some of those words will float up and I can hear and read of the love of the Father/Mother for me. I experience a contentment of soul.

I don’t think it’s just about the busy-ness of my life, although I do fill my calendar too readily. It’s about the junk mail. Today, I’m going to start tossing this stuff out. I’m going to hit the “delete” key. I’m going to give more room to the words of God on my heart.

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Mercy is the best thing ever, particularly when we’re on the receiving end. But, it gets a little dicey when we see some other “undeserving” soul get the good stuff.

Romans 9:14-15
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” [Exodus 33:19]

God is at the bottom line and no matter how hard we try to understand God’s distribution of suffering and mercy, we will never be able to get it. What often appears “unfair” is not for us to judge. Scripture promises that God is just; our understanding is not required in God’s dimension.

My essential characteristics, my natural abilities, my intelligence, my body, my mind, my spirit: these were the ingredients God put together to make me into “me.” These, along with the circumstances and environments out of my control (where and how I grew up) including my parents and genealogy, all come together as my life’s infrastructure. Upon these, I can add building blocks while others can add to the structure as well. I grow, I become, I change. . . or not.

God’s mercy has kept me alive these many years. There were roads I supernaturally avoided that would have led to my early death. There were dangerous people that I fortunately bypassed. There were places I never had to visit. I wasn’t just lucky, I was under grace.

But there was still my willfulness and it narrowed my journey and brought me to turning points that I chose; many of those choices were not wisely considered. For good or ill, they brought me to this day, this hour, this life.

I cannot go back and relive or choose differently. I cannot project who I will be tomorrow. I can only walk out today, being mindful of the gifts, the mercy, the presence of God, the possibilities.

Oh Lord, what will we make of this day together?

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