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Posts Tagged ‘Luke’

lords-prayer-lukeI don’t know. Just sayin’ and I really mean it. First of all, it’s slightly different in Matthew and Luke. And for so so many years, I was like the rest of the Western Christian world and was speaking it in King James English. For heaven’s sake, what is that all about? It renders the thing beautiful but archaic. It became a rote kind of thing with little understanding or meaning.

But then, for a long season, about a year and a half, I practiced a lay version of “Praying the Hours” and the Lord’s Prayer as well as the Gloria Patri and they always played a key part of those days. I became somewhat entranced by the power of the Lord’s Prayer and spoke it often and daily. Since that time, I have lost its potency, nor is it practiced much in my current church home.

So what is God saying to me today?

If it is true, as I understand it, that Luke’s version of the gospel was always geared to the non-Jewish believers. In essence, the same people we are trying to reach in our local church. Then we should be teaching them to pray this simple prayer:

Father, hallowed be your name (God – your name is holy and sacred)
Your kingdom come (Bring your domain to us, we surrender)
Give us each day our daily bread  (Feed us when we are hungry, just enough)
Forgive us our sins (Give us amnesty for our mistakes)
For we forgive everyone who sins against us (We understand we have to do the same for other people)
And lead us not into temptation (Block the way when we try to go down the wrong road.)
Amen. That’s it.

And there’s one other key here which I picked up during that year and a half. This prayer has always been and will always be a WE prayer, not an I prayer. When we prayer this prayer, we’re doing it together with a lot of other folks and we’re praying for them just like they are praying for us. This is a humanity prayer. Dogs don’t pray it and trees don’t pray it. Just us. Humans. And each and every human needs it. No strings attached.

I’m coming back to this prayer. You should too.

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Don Quijote by Octavio Ocampo

Don Quijote by Octavio Ocampo

What is your outlook on life? What is mine, really? Am I a visionary or am I looking down at all the ruts in the road? Do I see a panorama or have I become tunnel visioned? Do I face each day with anticipation (because anything can happen) or apprehension? Do I keep things “in perspective” or is my world askew . . . because of my outlook?

 Listen, your eye, your outlook, the way you see is your lamp. If your way of seeing is functioning well, then your whole life will be enlightened. But if your way of seeing is darkened, then your life will be a dark, dark place. So be careful, people, because your light may be malfunctioning.  [Luke 11:34-45, The Voice Translation]

It’s probably a little of both, but today, I want to be aware. I want to be sensitive to my default way of looking. What is drop-back to normal really like? I have a bad feeling about this assignment today. I talk a good talk; I write a good write. But how do I really look at the world around me?

Be brave. Be true.

I am a visual person mostly. I take the world in through my eyes. But have I lost much of what is out there to see?

Back in the day, I had the honor of playing Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker by William Gibson. And although it’s a dramatic moment  the movie to watch Helen Keller suddenly “understand” her world and give water a name, it is even more mind-blowing to live it onstage with another actress fully engaged in the role. Helen Keller saw in a way that most of us never will. She met her  world head on and embraced it.

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unfairHow many times have I heard my children complain about a decision of mine not being fair? No matter that last year or month or week, a similar decision probably benefited the complainer, but it’s all about the moment and it’s all about them. It’s unfair today. I can even remember counting Christmas presents when they were little to be sure the numbers came out even (I created my own monster). To what end? But am I any different when it comes to the things of God?

The older brother got really angry and refused to come inside, so his father came out and pleaded with him to join the celebration. But he argued back, “Listen, all these years I’ve worked hard for you. I’ve never disobeyed one of your orders. But how many times have you even given me a little goat to roast for a party with my friends? Not once! This is not fair!  [Luke 15:28-29, The Voice translation]

I am questioning God’s judgment all the time. Whenever I look around and compare myself and my situation to those around me, I am judging God’s direction. When I get frustrated with my children, my marriage, my body,  my aging, and more, I am actually saying my life could be better if only. . . !

But would it really? They say people tend to re-create their negative circumstances even when given a fresh start. Women divorce to get a better husband and find the next one equally unbearable. Running away from what is does nothing but delay the learning.

I am who I am. I have many gifts and I have many flaws. I am a follower of One God. And I have said over and over again that I trust that God to protect me and guide me. That journey will never look like anyone else’s journey.

Fairness is relative. When my children accuse me of being unfair, I want to scream! Everything I do for them and with them, is for their good, for love, for a future. Circumstances will never appear particularly fair. One day, they will learn that lesson too.

God forgive me for my own childish tantrums.

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busy busy busyMy mind has been churning all morning as I contemplate the reading for today (Luke 18:10-14). Although I understand the overt message of the illustration between the Pharisee and the Tax Collector praying in the Temple, I also find myself resisting an all out dip into “worm” theology. Part of my problem is that I have slid into “self-condemnation” over the years and it can be quite debilitating. Where is the balance between self worth or self-esteem and humility?

Now imagine these two men walking back down the road to their homes. Listen, it’s the tax collector who walks home clean before God, and not the Pharisee, because whoever lifts himself up will be put down and whoever takes a humble place will be lifted up. [Luke 18:14, The Voice]

It’s a matter of perspective. It’s a matter of source: where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord. [Psalm 121:1]

If I can reach the point where my inner self is truly united and led by Spirit, then this quandary would be moot. I am the “human doing” in my family and in my community. I am always on the go and there are projects to be tackled everywhere. Although I have survived my period of perfectionism, I can still be quite manic about a job well done. I am interested in everything. On Saturday, I attended our library’s volunteer celebration to thank the many who come to our library to give of their time and energy. On the way there, one of my volunteers talked about her basket guild and I thought, wouldn’t that be great? I could learn how to weave baskets. At the event, the speaker was a Master Gardener and I thought, wouldn’t that be great? I could have a vegetable garden in my back yard or a container garden on my deck. On our way home, another volunteer talked about cooking. Wouldn’t that be great? I could learn about gourmet cooking. I could write a book. I could paint my bathroom. I could re-organize my closet. I could put my dog into obedience school. I could take a photograph every day of the sunrise on the water. I could. . . I could . . . pant, pant, pant.

Look what I’m doing Lord! Look at me being busy!!!

But what would God have me do?

If God is in the doing, then it’s all about God anyway. And not about me.

Take a breath.

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 servingThe devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”  [Luke 4:5-8]

This is a disturbing passage; not because Jesus resists the enemy but the devil’s claim that the earth belongs to him. In essence, until the great coming of the Christ, there was little opposition to the presence of evil. The prophets would warn and encourage the following of God’s laws as a bulwark against the arrows of Satan and his demonic forces. But, this was a losing proposition. The longer evil ruled, the more difficult the light was to find and follow.

And so, God sends the Son to become the ultimate sacrifice for everyone. Grace instead of the law is offered to the people. The presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the new way to fight the good fight against evil.

But still evil is not defeated. The Hitlers (Germany), Mugabes (Zimbabwe), Gadhafis (Libya), Husseins (Iraq), Castros (Cuba), Jong-ils (North Korea), and Stalins (Russia) poured out much bloodshed; the terrorists continue to frighten and murder; people die of hunger [25,000 a day] and disease such as AIDS [1 every 20 seconds] all over the world. Where is hope for victory? Where is the new Ruler of this Earth? How much longer will the earth groan [Romans 8:22]?

I can choose to keep my head in the sand and pretend that my extravagant living makes no difference in the world (one of the techniques expounded in C. S. Lewis’s wonderful book, The Screwtape Letters, or I can stop. I can open the door of my heart to the pain around me and touch it with the truth of the Spirit in me. Do I believe that God within, Christ died and risen, changes every day life or not?

Joshua asked, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . ” [Joshua 24:15] but really, this is the question I am asked every day.

Perhaps I can’t transform the whole world, but I can metamorphose my use of time and impact my circle of friends, colleagues, and family by being a vessel for Spirit. I can pray with intent and not just lists of names. I can show up. I can be present. I can be open. I can choose life.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
[Deuteronomy 30:19-20]

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Fig Tree by Dee Schenck Rhodes

Fig Tree by Dee Schenck Rhodes

A parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” [Luke 13:6b-9]

One more year; one more growing season to change; one more opportunity to work with the gardener and produce fruit.

We’re not so great at parables anymore, or maybe we’re just as dense as the disciples were back in Jesus’s time. So many times the disciples had to ask Jesus to explain the stories. But not this one; this one is up to us to figure out.

Who is the owner of the vineyard? Who is the one who cares for the vineyard? Who is the fig tree? What is the fruit? Why didn’t the tree produce fruit? How would the soil be fertilized? And what does it mean to be cut down?

God is the owner. Jesus is the farmer/caretaker. I am the tree. But what is the fruit?

I did a little investigating and apparently the fig tree was one of the most valuable trees in Israel at that time because it bore fruit three times a year. So, in the parable, that means that this particular tree, still hadn’t produced fruit in any one of the seasons that had passed. So, why keep this tree? It was planted for the purposed of yielding fruit. That was the job of the tree, not acting as a shade tree, not as an art object, and not as a road marker. Fig trees bear figs. Fig trees don’t bear apples or peaches or cherries.

Each human “fig tree” has its own fruit as well. Oh, sure, there are the fruits of the spirit (See Galatians 5:22-23 if you want to review the list). And certainly, all trees should have these attributes. On the other hand, a friend of mine said that the fruit of the tree is more believers, more followers of Christ, more like-minded, like-spirited people. This interpretation makes me feel like it’s a numbers game (how many people have you “saved?”).

No, I’m much more interested in the specific and unique fruit that comes from me. Or you. Or any other believer. We each bring something to the table of community and to the Body of Christ. Sometimes, it’s a complex recipe and my part may be small compared to another, or vice versa. I know there are seasons I have missed. But I am grateful for a merciful gardener who is willing to tend and nurture my soil. I am still growing. I am still in the orchard.

The soil is fertilized through prayer and study and relationship.

I can only say, I am still here. And as along as I am, then I will take comfort that my seasons are more fruitful than I may realize. It is not I who must judge the harvest.

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miraclesA man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child ” . . . Even while the boy was coming [toward Jesus], the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. [Luke 9:38; 42-43]

Oh, I know. It’s uncomfortable to talk about demons, the devil, miracles, and all that stuff outside our normal understanding of how stuff works. Some people can’t even stand the word “evil” as though excluding it from one’s vocabulary will make it non-existent.

And yet, I contend, if we have accepted any part of the Christ story, we must be willing to consider the reality of the other parts. In other words, there are ways that our lives can and are impacted outside of a three-dimensional world. There is a spirit world and within it, forces move in a way that we may not understand, but that does not mean they don’t exist.

In recent weeks, I was instructed by a doctor to read a book about the importance of the mind in regards to pain in my body. It’s not that the pain isn’t real, it’s that the pain is camouflage of other things going on and the mind, can indeed, intercept it. But I must be aware of this possibility before anything can happen differently. And I’m thinking miracles fall within this category, we have to have knowledge and acceptance of the possibility. This is the groundwork for healing. This is the groundwork for transformation.

It’s not important to know the “how,” but simply to surrender to the power of God to do.

What is even more interesting is that Christ empowers believers to do the same for others. Whoa! Prior to Jesus meeting up with the father and the demon-possessed boy, a few of the disciples had been given a crack at it. Nada. There was still a disconnect. This story is actually told in three of the gospels (Mark 9:37-45 and Matthew 17:14-23) and Jesus explains that both faith and prayer are the cornerstones of miracles. Not faith in ourselves, but faith in the God who has the power to do (or not do).

Of course, there is another truth I’m seeing in this passage. I know that miracles are wonderful, particularly for the suffering human. But I don’t believe that miracles happen for the sake of the person. They have to be within God’s purposes, God’s scope, God’s plan. That may sound harsh, but let’s be honest, if it were otherwise, ALL would be healed. We are not all healed. Sometimes the human journey is full of heartache, illness, poverty, and sorrow. I don’t understand that any more than the next person.

So, what is my role? Do I ask for the miracle or not? Do I ask for the demon to be cast out or not? Do I ask for the healing or not?

One mistake in this asking process is to add the little insurance statement at the end, “if it be your will.” Well, that covers all the bases then, doesn’t it? I have a little back door when the healing doesn’t happen: must not have been God’s will. Yada, yada, yada. It doesn’t, however, do much for the faith angle though, does it?

So here’s the bottom line for me: “Don’t ask if I don’t believe it IS God’s will.” And if I don’t know, then don’t pray, because honestly, that’s perverse. That’s so maybe. It’s a disservice to my God who can heal and cast out demons in a moment. Silence is better. Prayer is better in private then, asking God for clarity and faith, courage and heart, vision and transparency. These then, would set the stage for God to work through me (or you).

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