Windswept

The whole nation has been caught up in this George Floyd tragedy, while I confess, I have been focused more myopically on my own little world…and that’s bothered me.

I just had a baby.  Well, I didn’t have a baby…my horse did, but my horsey-friends understand it when I say I had a baby.  My first baby in over 30 years.  He’s flashy.  This beautiful, high-stepping bay colt with four matching white socks and a quirky little off-centered star that’s resembles a setting crescent moon and what looks like a white paint stripe sloppily dashed on right down his nose.  He’s a cross between an Arabian and a Rocky Mountain.  For those of you who knows horses, you can imagine how he moves—a lot of lift and action in those front legs of his.  I think it’s because he is so flashy and high stepping and full of personality in the front end, that it was easy to overlook that something was wrong with his back end.

baby

He ran around and pranced and jumped in the air, delighting everyone with his antics, but I was concerned that something was wrong.  I mean, I didn’t know for sure.  I hadn’t really done this before.  I was just a kid the last time, too young to remember much and my mom was looking out for things that time.  I could tell something wasn’t right about his back legs, but they all come out a little wonky and crooked anyway.  I asked a friend on day two, “How long until his legs straighten out?”  “Oh, it takes a couple days, and look – he’s running around great!  He’ll be fine!” was, more or less, her quick reply.  I didn’t want to be that mom, the one who panics over every little detail because it’s their first time and they don’t know better, so I stuffed my concerns.  I should’ve clarified my concerns a little, and sent a video that showed what I was seeing, versus the one of him running around at a distance where you couldn’t see the issue.  I also should have clarified just how many days I should wait before I should be concerned; it was already a “couple” of days in after all.  But I was determined not to over-react and so I thought I’d just wait a few more days.  All the while, my concern was growing and his legs weren’t growing straighter.

I casually mentioned my concerns to a few onlookers and friends, most of whom didn’t really know horses.  No one really saw what I was worried about.  He’s fine!  He’s running around; look at him!  He just spent 11 months in a womb, of course it’ll take a few days for him to straighten out—I wouldn’t worry about it.  It was true, you could see from the way his legs were bent how he must have been folded up in her belly.

By day five I reached out to my friend again, “Exactly how long should it take for those legs to straighten out?”  Her response was different this time.  She told me to get him to a vet.  “It usually only takes like two days.  I’m sorry; I should’ve realized the last time you left a message, it was already two days.  You know horses and if you’re concerned, you should trust your gut and take him to a vet.”  I got an appointment a few days later.

As I was waiting for the appointment, watching my baby with the crooked legs and wondering if I’d ever be able to ride him, the riots were going on all around me.  A dear friend of mine was in tears every time we talked, totally wrecked over tragedy of George Floyd’s death.  My friend was praying and asking God, “What can we do?  What can I do?”  I was asking the same question, but I confess, I asked it more often about my horse than I did the brokenness in our nation.  And that bothered me.

I was praying about it in my journal.

People around me are weeping for racism and conflict in our country, and I’m weeping about the baby horse.  It seems so less, Lord.  I want a better heart.  I want to care more for the things that break Your heart.  Which doesn’t mean caring less about the baby or any of the things on my heart, but more for things beyond that.

As I was praying about this, I began to see some parallels.  God answered my prayers by showing me a connection between my horse and our nation.

It strikes me, my beautiful baby is a symbol of the nation.  Beautiful.  Flashy.  Healthy in so many ways.  And because of that, and because his front end is so flashy and he moves fast and big, it’s easy to miss the brokenness.  But he’s crooked in the back end, where the power comes from.  It’s debilitating, or it will be if not corrected.  He can’t function like this as he was intended to.  Won’t carry the load he’s meant to bear.  Won’t have the speed or the agility… But so many people have assumed, “Oh, he’ll be fine.  It’ll sort itself out with time.”  I hoped it would.  But some issues won’t fix themselves. Sometimes we need help.  Outside help.

He needs a vet.  Our world needs the Great Physician.  We’ve spent too long hoping time would heal.  Hoping things would naturally sort themselves out.  It hasn’t happened.

And frankly, with this baby, the longer we wait, the more he learns to be crooked, learns that crooked is natural.  The more he learns coping skills which become ingrained… the more true health and balance and rightness will feel un-natural, not right.

I fear we (in our nation) have grown so accustomed to brokenness and imbalance that it actually feels right and natural to us.

Lord help us.  We will never be the people, the body of Christ, the nation, the world we were created to be if we don’t let You heal our spine, the hidden places that are broken, tweaked, off-balance, out of alignment with Your will, heart and law.

Show me, Lord.  Adjust me.

A week and a day after he was born, we got some answers.  He’s “windswept.”  A perfect name for the condition—that’s exactly what it looks like.  It looks like the wind has blown so hard his legs are swept together.  He has an 85% chance of healing naturally if I rehab him right.  (And if he doesn’t, surgery is a possibility as well.)  His treatment?  Rest.  First and foremost, rest.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death.”  This is what I have been pondering as I think about the doctor’s advice, because I had been doing it all wrong.  I wasn’t resting his little legs, I was working them.  I’d heard his legs would get straighter as they got stronger, so we were encouraging him to run around even more.  All my efforts to help him were actually hurting him, exacerbating the problem.   The two responses that came naturally to me, to do nothing, wait and see, and to work harder and do something…both of those were unproductive responses at best, counterproductive at worst.

I fear this is what I’m seeing in our nation as well.  We have thought that because we did away with slavery, the issues of racism would heal themselves in time.  They haven’t.  Clearly.  Then, when something flares up, like it has with George Floyd, our impulse is to do something.  Riot.  Protest.  Stand in solidarity.  Just something… anything.  We are all asking ourselves and each other, “What can we do?”  And then we do whatever we find to do because it feels good to be doing something.   Because our hearts are in the right place, the place of wanting to do something, wanting to fix a wrong, heal that which is broken.

Jesus came to heal what was broken.  When we want to heal the broken things, we have His heart.  Look at this; it’s the first thing He said about His purpose on earth—He quoted Isaiah 61.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;[a]
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;[b]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.[c]
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

Doesn’t this perfectly capture our heart for this world of ours and the brokenness we are all seeing around us?  Isn’t this the thing we want to be part of?  Don’t we just long to repair the devastations of many generations?  Yes!  Our hearts are all crying out, Yes!  The question though is how do we do that?

I don’t have answers to give nor am I wanting to criticize what you or I may have done, but I am going to keep on with this horse-parallel because it’s speaking to me and maybe we can learn from it.  It speaks to ideas and ways of thinking more than prescriptive answers, so please don’t take offense as if I’m calling anyone out for the stance they’ve taken.  I’m not.  I don’t know enough to do that.  But I am questioning, just based on what happened with me and my little baby, if possibly our hearts are in the right place, but our actions are not.  (If they had been, wouldn’t we have seen more progress to date?)  There is a way that seems right to a man… remember?  Of course, we all assume our responses are right.  And I do believe we usually have right intentions.  Just as I did with the baby.

It took the vet to set me straight.  I had to go see her, spend time with her.  Talk to her about the problems I was seeing and get her advice.  The solution was beyond me and my experience.  She didn’t say to exercise or power through it or strengthen up his muscles.  She said he needed rest.  LOTS of rest.  So, he and his mama are cooped up in a small space for several days.  This is hard advice for me and for him.  I want to do something.  I want to train and work with him and watch him frolic about…  He wants to run and jump and play.  This is not fun advice.  And I doubt his mama likes it much either, being cooped up with a nursing and pesty baby and not able to move about.  The problem is (as I understand it anyway,) that the tendons in one of his back legs aren’t ready to bear the load of his body yet and when they get too much use they bow out.  They need rest and time to get stronger and move properly before they have to carry so much weight.  So the activity I was encouraging him to do, the “get stronger through work and exercise” approach, was making it worse.

I wonder if there’s something to be learned in this for our nation.  Maybe what we need isn’t more activity, protests, demonstrations, etc.  We definitely need to take time to search the Lord and ask Him what we should do.  He is the great physician and He knows how to heal our nation.  But what if what He told us was something more like what the vet told me for my horse.  Take time to rest.  Get in small spaces with others and be still with them.  Don’t just do nothing; rather spend time in rest and stillness.  A few verses come to mind.

  • For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
    “In returning[c]and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”  (Isaiah 30:15)
  • 14 If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
  • Trust in the Lordwith all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
    In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

There are more, so many more, but you get the point.  If we want our nation healed, if we want things to be better, if we want true racial reconciliation…we have to go to the Great Physician and ask for His help.  We have to get His understanding, His prescription, and let go of all the things that make sense to us.  We have to forsake our own understanding and humble ourselves under His perfect wisdom.  I’m not sure what He’ll prescribe but I have a strong suspicion it may start with a strong dose of rest and repentance.  And I do know this, that like my little horse, our nation may look good to outsiders, but for those of us who have eyes to see, the brokenness is in the back end where the power comes from.  There is a misalignment, a wrong movement that is crippling us and we will never be all that we could be until that is righted.

Posted in Cultural Commentary, Horses (and other animals), Object lesson, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recreating Art. Imitating Christ.

Have you seen this quarantine fun?  People are recreating famous paintings in their homes, with whatever they have.  I love it!  So creative and fun.  Some are better than others.  Some are more creative than others.  Some are more exact than others, while some take more liberty with the concept than others.  Some are serious, some are funny.  But all do a good job of communicating an imitation of the original.

5e9e9de76f960-art-recreation-at-home-getty-museum-challenge-8-5e9d86e3e3c33__700

This is what it is to be a follower of Christ.  We are to imitate Him, to live in such a way that people see the connection.  They should look at us and think, “Wow, that looks like Jesus!”  “That reminds me of that time that Jesus healed the sick.”  Or “The way you just stopped to talk to that homeless person reminds me of that time Jesus talked with the woman at the well.” Or “The way you loved on that kid made me think of when Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come unto Me.’”  Some of us do so more literally, some with more creative license.  Some are better than others at it, and some are more serious, others more comical.  As Christians, however, we are all “little Christs”, imitators of his life, meant to point people to Him.

We are familiar with this concept, but what if we had fun with it like they did with these art reproductions?   Can you imagine if we got together with our kids or friends or church group and made it a challenge to recreate some scene from Jesus’ life?  To the best of our ability, using whatever resources we had—what if we just tried?  Not in the normal, serious, disciples of Christ kind of way we usually do (which has its place, I’m not criticizing), but in this fun, playful, creative kind of way people took on this art project?  This should be our lives, every day, and maybe we could have a little more fun with it.

In the referenced article, they posted pictures of the recreations.  I’d love to hear your stories in the comments, of recreations you’ve witnessed…people who have imitated Christ so well you saw the likeness.   

Posted in Corona Quarantine | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dark Places

Dark places kind of have a bad rap.  We associate dark places with scary movies and evil things happening.  With loneliness and pain and isolation.  This makes sense, of course.  In the movies, bad things happen in dark and scary places.  Storms are dark.  Even the Bible says in Philippians 5:5 that we are “children of the light and of the day.  We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.”  But lately I’ve been reminded that dark places are also places of protection and gentleness and kindness, and even blessing.

Think of sitting next to your kid in a movie and something comes on you don’t want them to see, it’s too scary or too mature, so what do you do?  You cover their eyes.  That’s a protection and a kindness to them to put them in darkness for a minute and take away their sight.  It’s not to harm them, and it’s not to take away something good from them in their experience of the movie.  It’s to ensure they get the most good out of it without something tarnishing it for them.

Think of Moses wanting to see the glory of God.  What did God do?  He hid him in the cleft of the rock behind His hand.  Think about that.  He was literally in a rock and a hard place, in the darkness.  And that was God’s goodness towards Moses.  He wouldn’t have survived seeing God’s fully glory, so Moses was protected.  He was also positioned so that He could see God’s glory pass by.  That darkness was that Moses could see something amazing!  So that He could see more of God, see His glory!

moses-glory-of-god

God is a good father.  Sometimes He puts us in darkness so we can’t see all the dangers lurking nearby.   We don’t need to know and He doesn’t want us to be afraid.  Sometimes He puts us in darkness so we are positioned to see His glory.  And sometimes, I believe He puts us in the kind of darkness that is reserved for lovers—that darkness of privacy and intimacy where we can have late night pillow talks and intimacy with Him.

This time of quarantine has a feeling of darkness to it.  And I think we have a choice how we are going to see this darkness.  Will we choose to see it as an evil, scary darkness where evil things lurk and the enemy waits to take us out with invisible germs and isolation?  Or is it the good kind of darkness, where we see God’s loving hand protecting us from things we don’t need to see?  Or Is He positioning us to see His glory pass by in a new way?  (How exciting is that?!)  Or is He maybe turning off the lights because He wants to woo you, His beloved bride, into deeper intimacy with Him?  Possibly, it’s all three, because He’s God like that.

Personally, this dark time has me excited.  I can’t wait to see His glory pass us by and I long to hear His voice better and become more intimate with Him.  So, I’m trying to be like Moses and willingly submit myself to that dark, hard, lonely spot in the cleft of the rock.  All of Israel was invited, but only Moses submitted Himself to the darkness, and only Moses saw God’s glory up close.  He came away glowing with the glory of God.  What if that is the invitation for us today?  I suspect the only way we get there is to willingly submit ourselves to the darkness and see it is a good thing, rather than chafe against it.

P.S.  I mentioned in Declarations that my family has been memorizing Psalm 91.  Have you noticed how many times darkness is mentioned in the first few verses?  It’s both something not to be afraid of because God protects us from the evil that lurks there, AND a place of protection, as we abide in his shadow and are covered under his wings. 

 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

under his wings

Posted in Corona Quarantine, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Declarations

I learned about the power of declarations at Kanakuk Kamp in the summers when they made us chant “Act enthusiastic and you’ll be enthusiastic!”  Of course, we only had to chant that when we weren’t feeling enthusiastic.  But it worked.  Every.  Time.  You literally could not say that (over and over again) without your enthusiasm and energy amping up a little with every repetition.  I actually remember resenting that it worked.  I wanted to BE tired and just relish in exhaustion and feeling sorry for myself that I had to go do stuff and couldn’t just rest.  But then they’d pull out that chant and make us all get into it.  And before you knew it, I was there with the rest of them in a frenzy of enthusiasm despite myself.

I’ve been reading and listening to Dr. Caroline Leaf who is a Christian neuroscientist.  (If you aren’t familiar with her, look her up—she will blow your mind!)  She explains how our brains work and how science is proving what the Bible has been saying all along, that there is power in what we say.  Creative power.

It should come as no surprise.  We are made in the image of a Creator God who spoke the worlds into existence.  Literally everything He said was a creative miracle.  Is it any surprise, then, that we too have power to create with our words?  Our words, which come from our thoughts… so it follows that our thoughts have creative power as well.   I do believe, though, that there is something extra powerful about what we speak partly because we have gone a step beyond thinking it and actually acted on it.  We brought it into existence.

Anyway, this general idea is fairly in vogue right now so I won’t belabor the point or try to prove it.  But, assuming you agree that there is power in what we say, what a good season it is to work on declaring truth over our lives!  Our family has been memorizing Psalm 91 and saying it out loud (daily, in theory) during this season.  I challenge you to find a verse or a chapter that ministers to you in this season and speak it out every day.  Memorize it.  And see what it does.  See if you don’t become enthusiastic when you declare enthusiasm.  See if you don’t become peaceful (and lose your fear) when you declare Psalm 91.

I don’t know what you lack or what you’re struggling with in this season, but I do believe that if you can find a scripture for that need and speak it over yourself, you’ll be amazed at the power in His Word, and the power in your words as you declare His truth.

Are you declaring any scriptures over your life right now?  Share!  Here’s Psalm 91 from my family to yours.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge[b]
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.” – Psalm 91

 

Posted in Corona Quarantine, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geodes, Covid-19, and Great Gifts in Bad Packaging

2.5-3" Geode Chunks - Cracked Open Geodes - Volcanic Rocks ...

I wrote an article a few years back about how sometimes great gifts come in bad packaging.  It seems appropriate for this season to revisit it. (You can read it here:  God is such a Guy!)  I know this quarantine is not what we were expecting.  It’s not a package any of us would have chosen to unwrap.  I also think, like a geode, as ugly as it’s been on the outside, there has been some real beauty inside of it.

The Bible is full of these stories as it teaches us to look, even in the worst of circumstances, for God’s ability to work all things for good.  We just celebrated Easter, and isn’t that the ultimate example of this principle?  Jesus’ death was a horrible circumstance, but the payment of all our sins is the best gift!

So I’d love for us to take a moment and share some of the hidden treasures we’ve found in this time.  How has God turned this around for good?  How has he blessed you?

  • For me, one thing is that I feel like I’m returning to my childhood where I would sit for hours and write in my journal and pray and watch the sunrise / sunset. I’m recovering a part of myself that I’ve missed in my grownup productivity and multi-tasking and busy-ness.

And, because I’m a movie person…  what stories / movies can you think of that have this principle in them?  I’m asking this question because I think it could make for a great family movie night!  Jesus always spoke in parables, and if he were on earth today, I’m fairly certain He would meet us where we are at and take some of our pop culture stories and use them for teachable moments.

  • I think this principle is more pervasive in our stories than we realize, because I’m struggling to think of clear examples, and at the same time, I see it in every story I can think of. But, how about Cars?  Lightning McQueen got that ticket in Radiator Springs and had to stay there for a while.  It definitely turned out for his good, even though he didn’t see it as any kind of gift at the time.10 Fast Facts About Cars | Mental Floss

Please add your thoughts!  And think about doing a movie night with your family and looking for this theme.  What a great way to train your children to look for God’s goodness in all things!

Also, to read more on this topic, read God is such a Guy!

I just know that my “fear,” if you will, is that this time of quarantine would be wasted.  That I would find out later that there were treasures in this season that I didn’t unearth, unwrap, recognize.  I don’t want to leave any treasure behind.  I don’t want to find that the biggest “gift” I got in this time was to clear out my Netflix queue or organize my closet.  If we are going to go through something like this, then by golly let it be worth it!  Let us scrape every last drop of goodness out of it!  Let me learn every lesson He has to teach me, lest I have to take the test again.

The Israelites had a 40-day quarantine themselves, but because they didn’t respond correctly, that 40 days turned into 40 years—because they didn’t find the treasure (learn the lessons) God had hidden for them in the wilderness.  They missed it, and God in His mercy gave them another 40 years to finally get it!  I don’t want to prolong this season any longer than I have to because I missed the treasure.  It’s like a video game where you can’t go to the next level till you pass this one.  Let’s not get stuck on the Corona level any longer than necessary.  Let’s not turn 40 days into 40 years.  God has treasures hidden for us in this—so let’s share with each other where and how we are finding them!  This is a collective gaming experience.  We, the body of Christ, are together in this, so let’s help each other along!

Posted in Corona Quarantine | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bringing our Lunchables to the Covid-Table

Feeding of the Five Thousand and Feeding of the Four Thousand ...

Most of us are familiar of the miraculous story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (more if you count the women and children) with some boy’s 2 little fish and 5 loaves of bread, basically a Hebrew lunchable.  Similarly, there’s a story in Mark 8:1-10 about him feeding 4,000 people.  Jesus tells his disciples that he has “compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.  And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way.  And some of them have come from far away.”  But the disciples aren’t sure what to do.  “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

I think this is how many of us feel right now.  There’s a lot of need, and frankly, we are all in a desolate place of sorts.  Even if we can see the needs around us (which is hard to do if you’re really observing quarantine), how do we meet them when all our natural avenues are cut off?  We can’t give a hug.  We can’t go over and celebrate together or mourn and grieve together.  We can’t meet up or go out or even buy a roll of toilet paper!  Add to that, we are worried about our finances and our jobs and our savings…so we aren’t quite as inclined to send money or buy groceries to help someone in need.  I have found myself thinking, like the disciples, how can I meet the needs of the people around me here in this desolate place and time?

Perhaps surprisingly, Jesus didn’t ask them to solve the problem.  I think, because we know the end of the story (we know that the problem was solved), we miss this point.  Christ never said, “How are you going to fix the problem?”, personally or collectively. He did ask them, “What do you have?”  Well, more specifically, he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”  The issue here was clear and pointed—physical food.  Jesus had been ministering to their spiritual needs already; what they needed now was food.

Seven.  They had seven loaves.  Total.  This time we don’t know where it came from.  Were there 7 loaves from among the 12 disciples, or had they sourced some from the crowd as they did when feeding the 5,000?  I don’t know.  I do know that at no point does Jesus criticize them that they only have 7 loaves among all 12 of them.  He doesn’t go after Thomas for forgetting his at home and Peter for a lack of discipline when he ate his earlier, not thinking he should save it for the group.  He doesn’t say there was a lack of planning or foresight.  He doesn’t even fault anyone for a lack of variety.  I mean, the kid who offered his lunchable to the 5,000 at least had a protein in there with those carbs!  Jesus doesn’t say a thing about what wasn’t there, not in quality or quantity.  He simply gave thanks for the loaves, “broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd.”   (Is it interesting to anyone else that the bread always gets “broken” before it’s handed out?)

Also, it seems to me that Jesus doesn’t ask the disciples to crowd source and see what all is available.  He just asks them to give.  He asks them what they have.  Asks them to set the example and lead by sacrifice and generosity.  I have been pondering this lately – did the crowd have food that they then offered up once they saw the disciples giving what they had?  NOT that I’m trying to minimize the miracle of God multiplying the food.  It’s just that I’m curious how it all happened.  Both could be true.  Jesus multiplied the food miraculously, and some people in the crowd were also inspired to be generous with what they had?  But, if everyone had food, there would be no miracle needed and Jesus wouldn’t have been concerned about sending them home without feeding them.  No doubt there was a miracle involved and food was multiplied, supernaturally.

In this text, however, I find it interesting that after the disciples say they have 7 loaves, and after those loaves are prayed over and distributed, it adds, “And they had a few small fish.  And having blessed them, he said that these should be set before them.”  I don’t know if the fish came from the disciples or from some hoarder in the crowd who decided to add their roll of toilet paper gold to the communal good, all I know is that God multiplied it all.  7 loaves and a few small fish turned into a full meal for 4,000 people with 7 full baskets of food left over.  There was more left over than what they started with.

In many ways, we are in a similar situation to the disciples all those years ago.  We are surrounded by people who are starving.  Starving for social interaction, for spiritual answers, for meaningful connection, for laughter and support and a host of other things, not to mention the needs people have right now.  People need toilet paper!  They need people to get groceries because they are too at risk to go out of their homes, etc., etc., etc.   We are surrounded by need and, like the disciples, I’ve been asking myself, “How can I feed these people/meet these needs here in this desolate place?”  I’ve felt a bit overwhelmed by need and inadequate with my little loaf of bread.  What can I do?  What do I have that will make a difference?

But I think this has been one of the things I have most loved about this crazy Corona time we are living in.  I’m watching as people all around me are answering Jesus’ question, “What do you have?” and giving Him their loaf.  Or their fish, because goodness knows, this is a time of diverse offerings!    Everyone is bringing their lunchable to the table without questioning if it’s big enough or if it’s good enough.  They are just desperate with compassion to do something, to give something.  And that’s all God has ever asked of us—to give Him what we have and let Him bless it and multiply it and use it.

I know this is a hard time, but I am also convinced that we are all gathered together in a weird, isolated, socially distanced kind of way.  We came with nothing to eat, but God has directed us as He directed that crowd so long ago to “sit down on the ground.”  And He is taking our offerings of talent and inspiration and laughter and community and creativity and service … and He is giving thanks to the Father for them.  And maybe He doesn’t have to break them, because we have already been broken ourselves, and He gives those offerings back to us, as He gave the loaves back to His disciples, “to set them before the crowd.”  And I believe that we are going to find that, all said and done, this was a time of feasting for us all.  That we will be satisfied and have an abundance left over of all the things we think we are missing out on.

So here I am, joining the rest of you as I, too, want to offer up my little lunchable.  I do have some ideas about what that might be in the future, but for today, I’d like to just start by offering a place of discussion and community.  What are some of the fish and loaves that have most inspired you?  I’ll leave a few of the ones I’ve appreciated below.  Also, what are some of the things you are most “starving” for in this season?  I’d love to hear.

A Few of my Favorite Lunchable Offerings:

  • Humorous memes to keep us all laughing, because laughter is good medicine.
  • People like Jennifer Garner on Instagram telling people, as recitals and graduations and so forth were all being cancelled, “Show us what you’ve been working on and we will show it to the world”, because I love to see people using their platforms to serve and show case others, and because she’s encouraging everyone to offer up their lunchable.
  • Neighborhood quarantine flash mobs and birthday drive-byes, and happy hours and Zumba classes social distancing style, because community matters and people are beautifully creative about getting it!
  • People learning new skills and / or spending this time being super creative and sharing their creativity, because it’s beautiful and inspiring to see the (good) ways people are using their time, and because we imitate our Creator God when we, too, create.
  • All the people who offer up worship music and teaching and encouragement on Facebook live because God is good, even in the storm, and sometimes we need to be reminded of that!
  • Tommy Nelson’s Quarantine Bible School, because, well, I just love Tommy Nelson and what a time to plug in and learn from him!
  • The way our church (as just one example) is partnering with food banks and all the other people who are donating so that they can distribute food to people in need each week and the way they pray over everyone they bring food to—because people need help in so many different kinds of ways, and God cares about them all.

 

Posted in Corona Quarantine, Cultural Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ant-Man and The Wasp – Movie Discussion

Ant-Man-and-The-Wasp-Main-Image-678x381

I’ve heard it said that if you want to reach your dreams, help others reach theirs. Similarly, Jesus that whoever wanted to save their life would lose it, but whoever would lose it for His sake, would find it (Matthew 10:39, not a direct quote). Ant-Man and The Wasp gives a great illustration of this truth.

Without even attempting to explain the science-y part of this, Ava is a troubled girl. She appears to be the villain, but we find out that she’s just desperately hurting and if they don’t find some help for her problems, she’ll die soon. So, because of her pain and because of her imminent time line, she starts grasping. She hurts people and is willing to let others die so that she might live.

Meanwhile, Scott and Hope (Ant-Man and The Wasp) are trying to free Hope’s mom from the void. They have the technology and knowledge to help Ava, but they are determined to get Hope’s mom (Janet) free, first. (Her timeline is more pressing than Ava’s.) But it is all in danger because of Ava.

Dr. Foster is the one man Ava sort of trusts, and he keeps telling her that there is a better way. He tells her to let them rescue Janet because she will likely be able to help. Ava doesn’t listen to reason. She’s like a drowning man who is a danger to his rescuers. Her own pain has blinded her to anyone else.

In the end, Scott and Hope do manage to rescue Janet, and it is Janet who is the key to Ava’s healing.

Janet: Your pain. I can feel it.
Ava: It hurts. It always hurts.
Janet: I’m sorry. I think I can help you.

Janet understands her pain because Ava’s pain comes from the some place Janet has just been delivered from. Janet gives her the compassion she needs and she touches her with love and healing.

A couple interesting points here. First off, in trying to save her life, Ava nearly lost it. The solution for Ava was in helping Scott and Hope fulfill their mission. Once they fulfilled their mission, Ava’s solution was at hand. If Ava had helped them rather than hinder them, she would have found relief that much sooner. Second, when we get delivered from something, when we come through a trial, we often (if not always) hold the healing for someone else in that same struggle. And when we reach out to them with love, hear them, have compassion on them, and touch them with loving hands…that is often the very means by which God brings them the relief and healing they seek.

Questions for Discussion:

  • How did Ava almost sabotage her own healing?
  • Have you ever, in fighting for your own needs, found that you did more harm than good? That you actually sabotaged the very solutions you needed?
  • What difference would it have made if Ava had decided to help Hope and Scott rather than fight them?
  • What do you think Jesus means that when you try to save your life, you lose it? And when you lose it for His sake, you’ll find it?
  • Why do you think Janet was specifically able to help Ava?
  • Have you ever come through something, and then been able to help someone else in that same struggle?

 

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Volunteers for Slavery?

I read this great challenge in Voice of the Martyrs’ newsletter (2018 photo issue).

Among my heroes are two Moravian missionaries who 300 years ago attempted to sell themselves into slavery because it was the only way they could reach the lost in a remote slave colony.  They were willing to sacrifice their freedom in order to reach the ends of the earth, considering it an honor to be able to serve Christ in this way.  I think often of how they described Christ as being “worthy” of their sacrifice.  Have we internalized Christ’s great worth?  Do we consider it an honor to have the opportunity to sacrificially serve Him? 

So convicting.  I. can. not. imagine. selling myself into slavery like that, not even for Christ.

Posted in Inspiring People, Quotes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Avengers: Infinity War – Movie Discussion

avengers long

**Spoiler Alert**

In the Avengers: Infinity War, the universe is being threatened by a great evil, Thanos. Thanos argues that he is trying to save the universe—that overpopulation threatens to consume all the resources and therefore the only way to save it is to wipe out large populations of people, genocide. Of course, he gets to decide who lives and who dies and he himself will, naturally, live.

This brings up the issue of the dangers of a poverty/scarcity mindset. When you are afraid that there won’t be enough for you, the temptation is to grasp, hoard and control resources. Thanos didn’t care who died, so long as his comfort and provision was secure. It’s quite a contrast to the Avengers who sacrifice themselves for the good of others. The Avengers have more of a Christlike/Kingdom mentality. See how Paul encourages the Philippians to live like Christ and serve one another:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11)

The Avengers risked their lives to protect the weak and vulnerable. They even fought with each other for the opportunity to sacrifice their lives that each other might live. They didn’t try to hold on to security or comfort or even their own lives. They didn’t worry about there not being enough. Their mindset was that they weren’t thinking of themselves, but of others. They generally felt there was enough for everyone, and if the time came that there wasn’t, they would give what they had. They would do without. This is a Kingdom mindset, the one Christ encourages us to have.

As the Avengers fought Thanos, it wasn’t looking good. Dr. Strange was able to see into the future, to see every possible way things might turn out, and out of “fourteen million six hundred and five” he told the Avengers, they only won one of those iterations. That’s okay—its’ The Avengers, after all, and we know they’ll win. They only need one option. So, with great confidence in the storytellers and movie producers, we viewers went along and watched, confident in a coming victory.

But then they lost. Or at least, it seems that they have. They all are erased. They disappear into nothingness… and the movie ends. (Sorry for the spoilers.) Well, the movie is on pause, anyway, until the next installment.

I confess, I was angry. It seemed the whole theater was mad. None of us were prepared for that ending. I didn’t know it was only part 1 and not a complete story.

THIS is just a small idea of how the disciples must have felt when Jesus died. They were certain of a victory. They trusted Jesus; trusted God from whom He came. God is a good author. He doesn’t lose, doesn’t fail, doesn’t leave things unfinished. And yet, Jesus died. The story seemed unfinished and over all at the same time. It seemed good had lost and evil had triumphed. That’s NOT the way things are supposed to go!

We have the benefit of knowing the story will be continued. I know the story isn’t over, it’s just on hold. I don’t know how on earth the writers will redeem it, but I know they will. Right as he was disappearing, Dr. Strange told Stark, “There was no other way.” That’s an encouraging statement—it means this way was not an accident or a loss; it was intentional, and it was good. When Jesus was it the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked His Father, if there was another way to choose that one… He didn’t. Because Jesus’ death, too, was the only way. It was intentional, and it was good.

I encourage you, as you wait for the resurrection of the Avengers to happen, take a minute to think about what it must have felt like to be in the aftermath of Jesus’ death. What if you didn’t know there was a part 2, a resurrection coming? What disappointment and shock and surprise must they have felt? And take a minute to think about your own life, too. Are there areas of seeming loss and defeat where you are a bit stunned? Does it seem that evil has triumphed in some story line you are a part of? Let me remind you that we serve a God of resurrection, and that sometimes there was no other way. Take your disappointments to the Lord. Wait for Him there. There is a sequel coming… maybe on this earth, and maybe on the new earth and new heavens. I cannot say when, only that God is not done yet. He finishes what He started. And He wins!

Questions for Discussion:

  • What is your response when you don’t feel there is enough to go around? Does fear set in? Do you start to want to look out for number one? Or do you start to worry that someone else might not have all they need? Do you trust God to provide for your needs?
  • Do you spend your energy protecting and providing for yourself, or protecting and providing for others? Which did Thanos do? The Avengers? Jesus?
  • How did you feel at the end of the movie? How might that relate to the way the disciples felt when Jesus died?
  • Are there areas of seeming loss and defeat where you are a bit stunned? Does it seem that evil has triumphed in some story line you are a part of? How can waiting on part two of the Avengers movie encourage you to wait and trust God with “part 2” of your story?

Click here to read quotes from Avengers: Infinity War.

Posted in Movies, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life of the Party – Movie Discussion

life_of_the_party

When Deanna’s husband leaves her, she goes back to college to finish her degree…alongside her daughter, Maddie. Here are some of the positives and negatives of the movie, and questions for discussion.

  • Maturity is more than the number of your years. Deanna has a lot of wisdom and perspective in some areas, but in others, it’s her daughter who is the wiser of the two. While both parents are having mid-life crises and making huge mistakes (her mother is shacking up with a college student… someone half her age that could have been her son, for example), Maddie has grace for both of her parents and their mistakes. She is the one who reminds her mother of why she came to college (to finish her degree, not have sex and party). This reversal of roles (while sad on Deanna’s part), reminds us that maturity is not about how old you are, but how wise and how well you live. Paul encouraged his young protégé: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). How did Maddie set an example for her mother? In what ways did Deanna set an example for others, and in what ways did she not set a good example? What did you think about Deanna’s (and her ex-husband’s) behavior? What do you think God would have thought about Deanna’s behavior?
  • Attractive is so much more than looks and coolness.   I know someone who used to say that “everyone has a neon sign on their forehead saying, ‘Make me feel special’.” There are beautiful people and cool people in the movie, but Deanna is truly winsome to everyone around her—not because she’s cool or beautiful, but because she makes people feel special. THAT is the most attractive quality there is—making those around you feel special and loved. Deanna had a lot of faults, but she loved others well, and because of that, she was asked to be part of the sorority, to go out socially, and even was hit on by a cute college boy. (Which I am not condoning … nor am I dealing with his obvious issues… just pointing out that people who love others well become so very attractive.) On the other hand, the Bible says that a beautiful woman without discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout (Proverbs 11:22). Or, as Proverbs 31 puts it, “charm is deceptive, beauty is vain (or fleeting), but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.” While the movie doesn’t really show women of discretion or women who fear the Lord, it certainly shows that charm and beauty are nothing more than rings in pigs’ snouts, when they are adorning something ugly on the inside. Kindness and love are far more attractive than physical beauty.  Why do you think people liked Deanna so much? How much do you think outer looks really matter in the long-term scheme of things? What makes someone truly attractive to you? How do you feel about people who make you feel special and loved—how attractive are they to you? What can you learn from Deanna about making people feel special?
  • Don’t lose sight of the goal. The Bible says (John 10:10) that Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy. So it’s no surprise that he will come and distract us from our goals, trying to steal them from us. Deanna lost her goal of graduating college the first time because of a pregnancy. She nearly missed it again because of essentially the same reasons…sex and partying. She got distracted from her goal. If she had followed the Bible’s guidelines and chosen to keep sex within marriage and to keep from getting drunk and high…she wouldn’t have lost sight of her goals. Satan uses sin to steal from us and distract us and keep us from the full life God intended for us. We tend to think of God’s laws as party-poopers and buzz-kills, but can I just point out that even in this godless movie where the characters have no real moral compass, even here they ultimately return more to His standards of living in order to achieve the fullness of life they dream of. God’s not out to take our high, He’s out to ensure we get the most joy out of life. He just knows that some temporary pleasures will do more to rob us of it than it does to provide it. Any goal worth reaching requires some sacrifice and discipline along the way.  How did Deanna’s temporary fun (her sins) nearly cost her her joy? Do you think of God as someone who wants to rob you of fun, or protect your joy? How might God’s rules for life be more about protecting your dreams than robbing you of them?

 

 

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment