Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Awakening – Really?

Do we really want a spiritual awakening?

If your answer is yes, then you are dealing with some sense of dissatisfaction. We want something more than the normal we are experiencing. We are not content. What does one do with spiritual discontentment and the longing for something more? I think a lot of us that are hungry and thirsty for God’s Awakening think about this matter and discuss it with hushed tones and with feelings of guilt as we recognize our lack of contentment with the current spiritual condition around us. We love to shout that we want more of God, but at the same time we know our wanting more is rooted in a discontentment of the way things are. We don’t want to shout about that… because we fear.

We worry about not being content because aren’t we suppose to be? We are concerned about not being graceful, because if we are discontented, then are we not trusting the grace of God? We draw back at the very thought of offending others because if we are discontent with the spiritual condition of our region – ie, the people around us and how they are pursuing God or living out their lives, then aren’t we getting in their business and causing offense? If we say that there needs to be an Awakening, then in essence, we are saying that people are asleep. That can be offensive. If we say that there needs to be change, then we are saying something is wrong.

Let’s face it, sometimes the spiritual atmosphere is bad and a paradigm shift needs to happen. Don’t we first need to get over our worries and traps of the enemy and just be honest? I’m for it. I’m tired of wrestling with these trappings… I’ll say it. “I’m tired of the deadness and I want the Life – the Good Life!” Don’t we need to realize that there is a problem so that we can begin to move out of it and into something better? An alarm is sounding – will we be honest enough to realize that we are sleeping? Will we be bold enough to shout to others so that they may awaken too?

What do you do when God has set you in a place where the ground is hard to plow? God does that, you know. He calls strong mission-minded people to go to the hard places – to do the things others will not do. Pioneers endure a lot of hard terrain. Someone must till the land and nourish it. Sometimes you just have to find the old wells and un-dam the streams so that the water can flow and break up the furrows and soak through all that is dry. A pioneer, a visionary, a fore-runner pushes into the unknown places. This makes others angry who want to stay in their nicely defined status-quo lives where little is required. Most people do not like the untrodden path. They especially do not like anyone telling them they should move to a new land – to a new way – even if it is a very good place. Joshua and Calebs are rare. Most people don’t want the Promised Land. They don’t want the Awakening.

God loves the land. He loves the spiritual land. He needs workers in all His fields. Are we willing to go and then to stay in the difficult needy places? At anytime, you can pick up and move to where the land is softer, more fruitful, and more beautiful. You can go to the places where years of labor have made it easy to reap a harvest. God always gives you freedom to take the easier road. He will still love you. However, when God has called you to a place, even though the ground is dry and hard, you must stay until the mission is finished. Longing to see the vision He has planted in you will give you fresh strength. Perseverance through every difficult thing will make you stronger.

Awakening is such a buzz word these days, we like to pretend it is happening. For many of us, we look around and know that it is not. Rather than face the fact of our excruciating need for the touch of God and how our ways keep us so far from that wonder, we go through the motions of “church as usual” and “life as usual,” hoping that something is going to suddenly and wonderfully change everything. It will not happen unless we pursue it. We must be committed to it. God is continually looking all across the earth to find those who are zealously longing for Him. (2 Chron. 16:9). God is jealous for us. He wants to be pursued. He wants us to call out to Him and He wants to show Himself strong.

Recently in a worship service here in the Appalachian Mountains, which I love and dream of seeing set ablaze with the Glory of the Lord, I looked around as people sat back completely disengaged from worship and I thought, “Couldn’t we give Jesus so much more?” There were those who were so aloof, sitting and fiddling with other things, talking, bored. It’s a common scene. The worship music was inviting, the anointing was there, the artists on the platform were giving it all for the Lord – they were serving. Yet, the majority of people, who had bothered to get ready, spend gas money, and come, sat there as though they were watching a tv commercial – and they weren’t buying! My thoughts were, “If this is what happens while we are in a purposed time of ‘worship’ and so few are really after the Presence of God – then what does the rest of the week look like for these children of the Most High One – my brothers and sisters. It grieved my heart... and honestly, it irritated me.

Why? Am I being judgmental or am I simply observing the lack of connection to the Holy? The Holy is the place where the transcendental connection is made. It is the place of fresh water for our dry land. It is the place where all the hard things we have to put up with in this life fades away and our souls find refuge. It is the place where peace is given freely to hands that reach for it. Who doesn’t want that? Who would stand back and resist that gift? I don’t understand. Isn’t this the everyday gift of salvation that is our Blood-covered reward?

As I stood there pondering, I realized how my opportunity to engage was being stolen, so I tucked my grievance away in that box of disappointment that looms at me when I hope for revival in our region. I decided to ignore the atmosphere around me… because I wanted to change it… even if it was only the atmosphere within me. I closed my natural eyes and opened my spiritual eyes. I want to see Glory. I opened the ears that hear sounds of adoration to the only One who deserves it. Every word I heard became a praise. I lifted my hands and reached for the rhythm of Heaven. I opened my mouth and sang a new song. Standing there, I wanted to touch Jesus in that place, in that time, in that moment… so I pushed away the distraction and discouragement. I pressed beyond the atmosphere, closed my eyes and focused my attention on who God is and all that He has done for me. Immediately, without any striving, there He was – Jesus. There it was – The Holy. Do they know it really is that easy? Do they not want that Beauty? How did I learn to worship? What brought me to a place where I cannot resist this Beauty? I worshiped… and I was changed. Worship does that – changes us. I was face to face with my Jesus in that moment. That’s what mattered. Where they were seemed less important. The burden of their poverty had been removed from my hands, mind, and heart… at least momentarily. After all, I thought, “I don’t have to carry this burden.”

I don’t have to carry this burden. Is that true? It’s their life, their prerogative or their problem… right? Yet, here I am writing about it. As I pour out words that previously only were frustrating feelings of discouragement, it is like I’m taking some of the doubt out of that disappointment box and releasing it. Writing is art. Perhaps when I look at it through the lens of art then maybe I can make sense of it… and as others view, read, and ponder with me, then maybe wisdom will come in our connected contemplation. Should we not contemplate these things together? Isn’t this bearing one another’s burdens? Picasso said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” I’ve got some dust in my soul about this matter…

I love the unending ways that people express or experience worship. Someone sitting quietly can be worshiping in more depth than one who is raising hands and singing praises. I’m not referring to outward expressions only. However, when there is no connection to the divine in a worship service, and in our lives for that matter, it is obviously and painfully evident. Worship does create a certain atmosphere. One thing I always say – “Worship looks like something. It does not look like nothing? Though not grammatically correct, it is true – God is not interested in our “nothing.” I believe he wants our “something.”

I definitely have lots of questions concerning this matter of collective worship. It would be easy to say to myself (as I have before) –“Just focus on my worship to God and let everyone else do their own thing - don’t worry if they are not worshiping.” But honestly, that’s easy to say and even sounds “gracefully-correct” but for those of us who have been in times of collective worship where many were engaging Holy Spirit and the Glory and Presence of God is experienced because people are hungry for it, and then contrastingly to be in a dry worship service where people disengage and almost rudely reject the Presence of God, well…. I think you may understand my longing for something more. Hopefully you will understand my groaning to understand why people don’t want to awaken to such beauty. I hope you will also hear that it grieves my heart to know that perhaps they really do not know the Glory – the Presence. How do we build a bridge? This is what I want to ponder. I have certain things I believe about this… therefore my frustration. Perhaps I have in my mind a hopeful scenario or an expected experience…. I think I do… but most of all at this point, I have questions. I want to know what it takes to see the manifest Presence of God bombard a church, a region, our hearts. Will you join the conversation with me?

Let us contemplate:

  • Why do some people not worship?
  • Is it judgmental to notice that others are not engaging God?
  • Should we care that people are not experiencing worship?
  • Is there something about collectively pressing into worship that causes the Presence of God to manifest in a place?
  • If many, rather than few press in, will the Presence and the Glory be greater?
  • Is worship simply an invitation or is it a responsibility – even a command from God?

Questions often spark more questions, so if you have some of your own… please feel free to throw them out.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Beautiful Brokenness

Break our hearts God. I hear the rushing wind of the Spirit. I feel the refreshing rains coming closer – closer still. How close will we allow our Beloved? How close will we go to Him? Are we broken? Are we heart-sick for our Beloved? The weightiness of His Presence I long to hold in my vessel, my jar of clay. Wasn’t I made for this? To carry this all-surpassing power in the jar of me?

When a potter spins a pot on the wheel, the pot will take on many variations in its shape, size and strength. Often the flexible clay pot will break, even while the careful potter holds it gently in his fingers. The pot is like a living thing as it rises and forms. I am a pot in the Potter’s hands. Water has to be continually added to a spinning pot. Often the rhythm is fast and the shaping seems to move quickly and smoothly. Other times, the rhythm is slower and the pressure of the forming is more intense and I feel as though I will fall apart, but being in the Potter’s hands gives me assurance that even if I experience brokenness, he will put me back together and shape me into His perfect design. A pot breaking on the wheel can inspire a new shape, a new design. The Master Potter never wastes any clay. He reshapes, redesigns, and makes masterpieces out of fallen clay.

The woman of Bethany who poured on Jesus the perfume from her alabaster box knew something of brokenness. She was an out-cast. She had been looked down on, rejected and dismissed. She lived in shame and dishonor. She had lived a sinful life. She knew the brokenness sin brings – the death that robs one of life. How was she, the reject, allowed into the Pharisee’s house? My guess is that her shame gave her access to certain places. The ones who dishonor others always allow the rejects to come around. That day, rather than being there for dishonorable purposes, she had come to bestow honor on the Most Honorable One. She held one thing of honor still within her possession. No one could take away her alabaster box – it was the one thing she had reserved that was pure and valuable. She had bought the costly perfume. She had paid for it and gathered it within that alabaster jar. It was hers alone to give. She had saved this for the man she would marry. Through all the shameful brokenness, she held onto the belief that one day a man would actually honor her, would adore her, and would be the love of her life.

She observed as Jesus came into the house. His beauty filled the room. She had seen him in the streets among the people. She had heard him teach and saw the way he poured out a supernatural love to everyone who looked to him. This is why she had come with her alabaster box – she had decided that no man she would ever meet could compare to the honor and beauty, strength, and love she had seen in Jesus. She had to give him her jar of perfume – nothing else mattered but to honor him with the only thing she had that was honorable. If she never overcame her life of brokenness and shame, she would have at least done this one thing for this Honorable One. Somehow she knew that would be enough to last a lifetime.

Simon, the Pharisee seemed to greet everyone of importance with the utmost honor, kissing cheeks - yet he did not honor Jesus– did not really acknowledge him. The sinful woman caught a glimpse of Jesus meekly overlooking the projected offense. He was dishonored, yet still a picture of soft strength. She noticed the dishonor and it grieved her. She watched as Jesus was seated at the table, though no one had offered him water to wash his dusty feet. How could Simon not offer any water? Why would he want Jesus to recline there at the table with dirty feet? She thought of her shame – her dirtiness – and how it seemed that no water could wash that off her feet. Every step she took, it followed her. It left a smear everywhere she went. She felt the breaking open – the shame – the fear and grief. But then, she looked back to Jesus, and even though His feet were dusty, his radiance was still astounding. His beauty permeated the atmosphere and she knew she had to get closer. At all costs, she had to give Him her gift.

The closer she moved toward him, realizing the stares and whispers from everyone in the room were intensifying, she still yet could not turn from Him. She had to pour out her honor. She had to love Jesus – in that very moment – in that difficult place. She felt her own brokenness, and like never before she wanted to be rid of it. Her eyes focused on Jesus as he turned to stare through to her soul. As she held her jar of perfume, which had not yet been broken open, she seemed to smell a new sweetness in the air. “ Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out.” (Song of Songs 1:3) The atmosphere was changing! She felt her whole world was shifting with each step toward him. She noticed her brokenness was shifting. Shame was dropping off with each step.

A new kind of brokenness began to resonate within her. The weighty lightness of the new brokenness softly rent the fibers of her heart. She was overwhelmed. Jesus was the Most Honorable One and she was sweetly broken open at the realization that he was not backing away from her – that he even seemed to long for her to come closer. She began to weep at his kindness, though she could not look away from him. This was a new brokenness: a brokenness which brought life; a brokenness that was cleansing and reshaping her rather than boxing her into a grave of shame. She knew she was worthy of His love… and that… she had never felt from any other man. She tenderly and joyfully broke her perfume box.

In Song of Solomon, the bride calls out for her bridegroom. He is not near her and she is heart-sick. She says, “Daughters of Jerusalem, tell me if you find him… for I am love-sick; I am faint with love.” She longs for the lover of her soul. She goes running frantically through the streets, searching for him. Nothing else matters to her but to be with him. This is beautiful brokenness. “I will search for the one my heart loves.” (Song of Solomon 3:2) This is the heart-rending ache that will draw us closer and closer to our Beloved, Jesus. How much do we long for Him? Are we love-sick?

Do we search after Jesus, our bridegroom, like the bride in Song of Songs? Do we seek Him? David, in Psalm 63, said, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

In a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Spiritually, a dry land is a place where there is no refreshing. A desert, if you will – a place where the heat of circumstances, loss, burdens, and sin dries up the sweetness of life. The death that robs life and pushes us into the grave of shame dwells in a dry place.

The bride in The Appalachian Mountains is wondering around in a dry place.

Is she thirsty yet?

Even as the streams of our mountains are being eradicated by the overburden of blown-up mountain-top beauty through the destruction of Mountain Top Removal, likewise, our spiritual land is becoming more and more dusty and dry and void of refreshing water. Where there is no water, I thirst for You. My soul thirsts for you, O God. Our land is weary. Break our hearts, God. We need Your Water.

Like the clay pot on the wheel, we need the pouring of the water to keep us from breaking in dryness. How many times must we be reshaped and put back on the wheel because of our unredeemed brokenness? May we find a new brokenness – the brokenness that leads to true repentance, not just survival – the brokenness that causes us to evermore crave our Beloved. We in the mountains should cry out to find our Beloved, the one who brings refreshing. The one who is Living Water. “Who is this coming up from the desert, leaning on her Beloved?” (Song of Songs 8:5) She is the bride who says, “When I found the one my heart loves… I held Him and I would not let him go.” (Song of Songs 3:4)

Psalm 65 is my prayer and my proclamation for these Appalachian Mountains. “(Father), You care for the land and water it, you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers… the grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows…and the valleys… shout for joy and sing.” May we sing a new song… a song of beautiful brokenness… a song of Joy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Be Still and Know


Lying on the pine covered earth, damp and soft underneath my frame, I run my fingers through the needles and the year’s death now coming to life again. I am taken aback by the mesmerizing beauty of the moment – the light coming through the trees, the rustling of the wind, the new life springing forth at every glance. A tiny mushroom reveals itself as I pull back the layers of texture in my hands. How can a fungus be so beautiful? The smell of the woods is so overwhelming. It is the smell of earth, the stuff I am made of. The stuff I am made of?

How beautiful it is to lie here in my Sunday clothes – not fancy clothes though – just a sundress with tights and a sweater. I’m pushing the season… never been so excited about Spring. My Sunday clothes are kinda simple and I love that… because religion in the Appalachian Mountains did not always allow me this simplicity. Though I love the sweet feminine simplicity, the clothes are not made for hiking, but I am anyway – hiking in my dress and my boots. I take my boots off lying there in the woods and feel the damp coolness underneath my feet through my nyloned toes – this barrier of artificial thinness keeping me from being completely rooted to the ground though my fingers dig through it… falling in love.

The flit of the birds making their Spring home arrests my spirit… or is it merely my soul that is awakened to it? Nevertheless, the holy words rush to my mind… even the sparrow has found a home for herself. Where is that home? Where is Home? In His sanctuary. In the temple of God… yet today… just today – I left the sanctuary of our church where I had went to pray because I could not breathe its carpet, its sheet-rocked walls, and echoing air… I needed nature. I needed new. I needed growth. So I hiked in my Sunday clothes. And I prayed.

The fern, awakening from the death of winter still held itself tight in its perfect design. The old leaves from last year’s growth or maybe from a late frost were hanging on to its outer visage though the inside was peeking new-growth green. The way the leaves laid upon one another, still curled up tightly, needing that curl and that connection to the leaf next to it, reminded me of the intricacy and the intimacy we have with all things – how all things work together – how God places all things and all people in our lives to work together for our good. Thankfulness lifts itself out of a pushed down place and flows over my tongue and I sing of the goodness of God – of the Divine Creator who draws my heart to him through the simplicity of an emerging fern. My song echoes… unfurling as the fern will as she pushes herself upward toward the soon rushing days of light that are even now upon her. She will unfurl into her glory. She will become all that God has created her to be. She will reveal the glory of her perfect design. The fern will glorify God just by being a fern. Are all things that easy?

Reveal the Glory. What about the frailty? Sometimes realized frailty pushes against my Faith and I lose the strength I think I have obtained. Live in the Spirit. Reveal the Glory. Romans 8 pushes into my thoughts. Can there be a revelation of the glory inside or somehow wrapped up in the frailty?

I lie there on the ground, resting so contently in the presence of the moment… just listening for God’s stillness… his Small Voice. I look across the meandering earthy tangle of death and growth that is directly in my line of vision as my head rests on my “Just Be” tote bag and I see at an arm’s distance a leaf… actually it is only the frame of a leaf… the bones of a leaf. I take it in my fingers, careful not to harm it. It is a frail thing… weathered by the past seasons’ harsh blow of ice and wind and rot. It is curled into a wad of frailty… so much that I am afraid to uncurl it because I assume it has become brittle under the breakdown. Yet, I try anyway. The beauty of its tiny veins and minute patches of what it once was… a green leaf… urge me to open it and see it all. Pleasantly surprised, it is not brittle – it is as flexible and strong as leather – it opens easily in my cautious fingers. No part is broken away – I see its full glory in the structure of its veiny bones. I peer into the tinyness of it wishing that it could be magnified, yet the smallness and the study of it makes me realize how amazing God is that He would take such care to design something so intricate even though most will never look close enough to see the beauty. It is a single leaf revealing the beauty of the Lord – the goodness of the Lord. How overwhelming it is that an unfathomable number of leaves on every tree and in every season reveals and testifies of the beauty of the Creator. A new place in my heart opens to His Wisdom. I look through the leaf structure – tiny patterns of frail hardly-there veins - and a new beauty shows itself to me. I love leaves, especially ironic beautiful dying autumn leaves with all their glorious color. How could this frail dead leaf be so gloriously beautiful? I hold it up above my resting head and I see through the “what is left” small windows that which is beyond, above, and around me. I can see the birds and the squirrels in the trees through the tiny openings. I can see the light shining and the clouds beyond the tree-tops. The movement of my hand lifted from this earth toward the heavens in praise is evidence of the forward-moving life that is beyond the beautiful death of that leaf. I drink in His message. He uses frailty to teach me of His ways.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Appalachia's Awakening

The art-piece and the poem below are part of a show called Thinking Like a Mountain, which is an exhibit involving several artists, poets, and songwriters and their expressions of living in the Appalachian Mountains. I'm honored and happy to be a part of this exhibit which will be on display at the Ellen Von Dehsen Elmes Gallery at the King Community Center, SWCC in Virginia. The show will be on exhibit from Jan. 13 until Feb. 11, 2011 and will possibly travel to various locations throughout Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina.

This piece is prophetic proclamation of Appalachia's awakening. Within her, a higher calling, a higher place of understanding which effects all elements of life, is arising. There is a lifting. She will no longer be based in a poverty mentality that is tethered to greed-driven industry. She is rising to a new place of revelation - a new place of beauty. Appalachia will awaken, she will rise with wings of intricate beauty and humility. Her time, her season, is here. The paradigm has shifted!

Appalachia's Awakening


Appalachia's Awakening

Mixed Media/Collage - 28" x 48"


Appalachia’s Awakening

We are mountain – living ones.

We are earth –fallen ones.

God's grace covers.

His light brings growth.

His love brings mercy

and wisdom to show

the way to hide –

to go within –

and find the answers

with no pretense.


In the deepest throws of prayer –

in the hiding place –

He'll give us truth –

a voice to tell

the way to come

out of this shell –

out of this hell.


We're coming undone

from this evil within.

This hunger for power –

it's wrong – it's sin

to treat your brother

like overburden –

like sludge and slurry

in the valley below –

covering over all the flow

of the pure,

the right,

the living.

All –

Streams, valleys,

sisters and brothers –

they are the Creator's beauty.


Is there no hope,

no place to go,

besides this sacrifice we've known?

Do you not believe in God –

the One who prods

YOU

to believe

in resurrection

in life

in love?

Why will you not embrace

the transformation,

the reconciliation,

the restoration,

Appalachia's Awakening?


Appalachia is awakening.


Like the caterpillar we crawl,

but the butterfly's time is coming.

As we steward

He will rise.

We will rise.

We will fly.

Appalachia flying, rising, soaring

Appalachia without all this whoring

Grace is for it.

Faith proclaims it.

Hope endures the waiting.

We will pass through the cocoon.

Metamorphosis is soon.


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Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Provoking Love of God

There is only one thing that matters in life – love. Above and beyond every other thing – love conquers all. The love of God is the most precious thing that we can ever obtain, give, or understand. Love covers a multitude of sin. It breaks through every barrier. It makes sense when nothing else does.

What is love really? What is the love of God? Does love require us to be doormats? Does it require us to go along with others even when we see things differently? Does it require us to stay in situations that are unhealthy – for the sake of love? Does it require us to cower?

Knowing that Jesus was love, is love, and always will be LOVE – I look to him for the answers. While he was here walking the earth, Jesus was the epitome of all the gifts of the Spirit. He was kindness. He was gentleness. He was love. While reading the Scriptures, filtering it through my own natural flawed understanding, it has seemed to me that there were times when Jesus didn’t exemplify love – not the way I would naively comprehend the expression of love, anyway. Though my natural understanding brings me to this way of thinking, the Spirit of God stirs up my spirit and causes me to understand a deeper aspect of love. There is a deeper understanding that surpasses my na├»ve ignorant understanding of “nice” love.

In Matthew 15, we read of how the Gentile woman came to Jesus begging for him to heal her daughter who was demon-possessed. This woman was in a desperate situation and I imagine she was very distressed and a pitiful sight. The scriptures say that she was crying and begging. I can see her pulling on Jesus, begging Him not only with her words, but with her tear-stained eyes – her overall countenance reflecting the sorrow, torment, frustration and fatigue of her situation. But he answered her not a word. (verse 23).

What? He didn’t say anything? How could that be? How could Jesus – the Beautiful One – the Healer – the Deliverer – not say one thing to her? Did he not have compassion on her? Did it not grieve him to see her worn-out state? Did he not care?

Certainly, we know that Jesus cared. Isaiah 53:4 foretold of him: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” He cared from the moment he saw her. So why did he ignore her? Why did he not readily help her? He ignored her until even his disciples asked him to send her away because she was annoying them by crying after them. I imagine her pleading must have gone on for a considerable space of time, being that the disciples where so tired of her. Why did Jesus ignore her?

The desperate woman continued to beg Jesus for help and mercy and he finally spoke to her, telling her that he had come only for the people of Israel, implying that he would not help her. I’m sure her heart sank as the feelings of unworthiness shrouded over her hopes. I imagine the reality that she was not “one of God’s people,” but that she was an outsider, weighed upon her. She was only a Gentile. In that moment she had the choice to react or respond. She could have reacted with anger, insecurity, bitterness, rage, cowardice, wrath… or she could choose to respond with humility, worship, confidence, hope, and ultimately, faith. I believe that in that moment she saw directly into Jesus’ face. She looked into his eyes. She saw his Glory. She saw the Healer. She knew he was the one who came to bear all our burdens and take away all our infirmities. She chose in that moment to look beyond his human frown and look into his divine smile… and she worshipped him.

In verse 25, we read: “But she came and worshiped him….”

This was it! Jesus, in all appearances, had been cold and aloof with her. He had ignored her. He had seemingly rejected her. However, in his great love for her, he had drawn her in closer to himself. He did not want to make her feel unworthy, as some commentaries on this passage will explain. No. He wanted her to realize that she was beyond begging – that she could come to him confidently – that beyond all the rejection, all the excuses and reasons why she should not be blessed – that he saw her, he cared; and that more importantly, His love was greater than she had ever imagined. He loved her enough to spur her on to faith.

As her faith was rising, Jesus provoked her to step in a little further – to trust him a little more. As we will see by his next comment he even pushes her to declare this new understanding and faith that was rising up. He said to her as she begged for his mercy again, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” To the dogs? She had already looked into his loving glory. She had beheld her reflection in his eyes. She had just been embraced by his love – so she then boldly said, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” At this point, I believe she said this with a posture of confidence as the way one would speak winsomely yet humbly to a trusted friend. She had said it! She proclaimed that she was worth something – that she and her daughter, her people, were worthy to receive the blessings of God. She had proclaimed that she understood how great was his love for her. This love – the love of Christ – was bigger than the boundaries. It was stronger than the fear and pity. It was kinder than mere politeness. It was bold enough to provoke her to a deeper place. It was real. She got it.

I can imagine a huge loving smile shining across Jesus’ face as he immediately said to her, “Dear woman, your faith is great. Your request is granted.” Her daughter was healed instantly.

Though faith for her daughter’s healing was the Gentile woman’s focus, I believe Jesus’ focus was to get her to understand his great love for her – that she would walk away that day knowing that she was not “less-than,” or rejected or unworthy, but that he thought of her as worthy, strong and full of faith. Healing her daughter was no big deal for Jesus. Nowhere else do we see that he required that the ones being healed meet all these standards and go through this kind of procedure. The entire thing was a divine way for Jesus to show his great love for this woman and to let that love transform her from a pitiful begging weak wretch into a confident, loved, empowered woman. He was showing off his Glory. He was showing it off in her situation. She was changed and he was glorified. The love of Christ was made known to her and I believe she carried that love onward from that day.

Sometimes, love does not look pretty. It can even look harsh. It can be an uncomfortable process getting to the deeper understanding of God’s love and truth. The road to a deep faith is a hard journey with lots of tests, trials, confrontations, and hurt-feelings along the way. As in the story of the Gentile woman, I believe Jesus still works this way today with us. He provokes us to stand up and truly declare not only the nice things of God, but the powerful things. He provokes us to look beyond the face-value of Christianity, which often defines us as the poor wretched beggars, and instead, look into his design and purpose for us – which is that we would be transformed into carriers of his glory and power. His words are not always nice – but they are always powerful. As C.S. Lewis says of Aslan in Narnia: he is not tame, but he is good.

This one thing I know… He is good.

Scriptures: Matthew 15: 21-28 (New Living Translation)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Connecting

Would love for you to follow my blog and join with me in faith for the Appalachian Mountians. God is doing some amazing things in these mountains and the words we release collectively are shifting the atmosphere. I invite you to follow, comment, and even message me with your questions and ideas. If you have a blog, I'd love to know about it too. Even through our blogs, we are collectively being built together to become a dwelling place for Him. (Ephesians 2:21.22)

In the Depths of the Bloom


Wayne gave me a single pink rose. The smell is almost ethereal. Today, as I buried my face in the full bloom of its beauty, I noticed how, though it is fully bloomed, it still has a small bud inside that is tightly wrapped. There are many more petals to unravel and bring beauty and fragrance. This made me think of how it is in our lives. Sometimes we come to a place where we think we surely have fully bloomed, the fragrance is good and we’ve become “mature.” If we will bow our faces deep and “take it all in” – even naively, as though we have never smelled a rose before, I think we will find that there is still a tightly wrapped place inside us… and inside life – a place of more beauty and depth – a place of fresh revelation, just waiting to unravel its petals.

In our region – the Appalachian Mountains – the churches in our area – well, actually, almost the whole religious structure here, has an atmosphere of complacency and apathy. The churches here are set in our ways – we have pressed the petals of ten year-old-roses between the pages of our bibles and our minds. We have built memoirs and monuments to the old experiences. We have settled. We have lost the passion of our first love. Well of course, aren’t we mature now? Have we arrived? Have we fully bloomed? Is this all there is? I hope not.

There is a remnant of people in these mountains who are pressing their faces into the rose. They are seeking the fresh fragrance of the knowledge of Christ – the renewal of love for Him and Him alone. It is as if they have never known Him before, never smelled His fragrance. There is a tightly wrapped bud of revelation and goodness that is getting ready to bloom and though the outer petals may become spent and drop away, the fresh new fragrance of knowing Him is going to overtake the atmosphere.