Tuesday, April 26, 2011

John 15:1-2 Edward Scissorhands I am not

In the movie Edward Scissorhands takes several big green blobs and shapes them into something beautiful. I can't really do that.


Today I took some time to start the gardening process in my new yard. Unfortunately my new yard has been neglected for some time, so I have quite a battle ahead of me. I got 3 bushes trimmed. It took me an hour and a half, so trimmed probably isn't the best word. I cut them down to about 1/3 of their size. About 5 minutes into my job, I stopped thinking about what it would look like and just cut out as much as I could. (BTW, they ended up a decent size which was my goal. Pretty? I don't know.) That got me to thinking, I'm glad God doesn't garden like me. I just hacked at it and cut off everything I could. I found many places that were overgrown and starting to budge in on other plants. There were dead areas that no one bothered to cut out. There were live areas that took a whole lot of effort to cut out. With every bush, there was at least 1 other plant growing up through it. I'm not too good at cutting something, then removing it. So sometimes I cut the same piece two or three times. I'm not a good gardener. I'm glad God is.

Of course, as I was working I couldn't help but think of the parallels to the Christian life in what I was doing.
1. God doesn't hack at us. He gently prunes. Pruning isn't easy, but it sure is better than hacking. Because if we aren't pruned, we start growing into places we weren't meant to be. Our branches start getting in the way of other people. Our roots start pushing other roots out of the way and starving some.
2. The overgrown parts happened because someone didn't care for them. Pruning is a part of the caring for us process that God has. God loves us enough to prune us a little here and there, just like a good gardener does. Are you loving others enough to help prune them?
3. Our dead areas need to be cut away as well. If not, they are just taking up valuable space in our lives. Are you holding on to any of your dead parts?
4. If we aren't pruned, then some things take hold and it becomes very hard and painful to cut them out. However even when it is painful, these parts still need to be cut out. Is there something deep rooted you need to cut out? Do you need to help someone with they are cutting out?
5. When you do cut something out, throw it away. Don't leave it hanging around. It will only get in the way of other stuff. You might waste your time and energy cutting at it again when it is unnecessary. It might be covering up something else you do need to cut out. Just because something isn't a problem for you anymore, doesn't mean you still need it around.

God takes a big blobs and forms them into something beautiful as well. Just like in Edward Scissorhands, this process involves some trimming here and there. But all this trimming really is for our good. It prevents more painful hacking later. There are those we see everyday who are going through this hacking process. Let's not judge too harshly when we find that. Let us try to support them through it all. Let us be more like God the gardener.

Art Project


Ben had some fun with the watercolors from his Easter basket today. He was concentrating so hard. It was super cute, so I had to snap some photos. When we had to switch papers because the first one was too wet, he didn't think it was a good idea. That led to our water cup being spilled and the paints being spilled. But it was all cleaned up, Daddy made lunch, and we were all happy.
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Did I seriously say that?

So this Easter there were probably at least twice, where I had a thought and then responded to myself with "Seriously?"  With all the thoughts that have been going around in my head this Easter season, I thought I was prepared for Easter.  I was really going to understand it better this year.  I wasn't going to get caught up in the "Easter Bunny"ness of it.  Yesterday we delivered a few dyed eggs and fruit snacks to a few older people in our neighborhood.  (I don't claim the idea for this.  Go here for the full story.)  I was feeling pretty good about my attitude.  It was a crazy busy weekend (e.g. being gone from our house from 1:30pm -10:30 pm Sat. and from 7:30 am - 4:00pm today) and that did negatively affect my attitude a couple times.  That is the nice way of saying I got really annoyed and thought some nasty things several times.  So maybe I wasn't really as ready as I thought.  And that showed up a couple times today.


During the Easter drama, 'the crowd' has to shout.  Once it was, "Blessed is he!"  And the other was, "Crucify him!"  Being a backstage organizer (Helping Drew get in and out of costume and get bloody and unbloody.), I helped yell as well.  When I yelled "Crucify him!", I thought "Oh my gosh! Did I just say that?"  And the immediate answer to that was yes.  I really did say that and I do say that every time I look more at myself and less at him.  When I get all obsessed about what is going on with me and in my life and my opinions, I am saying that all over again.  I am putting him back up there on that cross with my sin.  That makes me sad.

The second time is related to the first one.  After church, I was helping Drew get more unbloody.  I saw he had a mark on him.  I asked him about it and he said it was a mark from the whip the guards were using.  They  missed the cross once and hit him by accident.  (Hitting the cross made the appropriate loud noise and whipping sound.).  I thought "Oh that must have hurt.  I hate that got hurt doing that."  Wow! Did I just say that?  He is reenacting what happened 2000 years ago.  Jesus really was whipped.  He really did have a crown of thorns on his head.  He really was crucified.  He really did carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.  And I think, "Aww..sad about a little mark."  Wow, just wow!  To reinforce the idea, here is a photo of the mark on Drew.


The mark on Drew


So while I do think I have grown in faith this Easter season, I still have a very long way to go!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My house

I love my new house!  There are the obvious things, like a master bath, an enormous basement, and a back porch.  But there are also the less obvious things, like a hallway to separate the living room from my son's room, the brick half wall on the carport and the wonderful 1970's wallpaper.  And I'm kinda serious about the wallpaper.  It makes this place homey.  It won't always be here and that is a good thing, but for now, I love it.  I love having a bed time routine to perform in my bathroom.  Laundry and dishes seem to be easier.  Keeping things clean and put away seems easier.  I'm starting to feel like my "wonder woman always getting the chores done on time" mother.
Not quite my style.

This stuff in the Master Bath might stay.  It's kitschy cool.
Ben added a little something.
Love the shelves!

More shelves!



Pretty bushes

 
New Entertainment center
Still more shelves!!


Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Emotions

I have had the outline of this done since Sunday, but I have no clue how to start this or what to title it, so I keep sitting on the idea and hoping something will come to me. I still have nothing, so I'm just going to start talking. The last couple weeks I've been thinking about Pilate and a couple others in the Easter story. I have a few more thoughts. The emotions felt surrounding the cross were not unusual to the human condition, but Jesus' response to it was unusual.

Fear
Both Pilate and Peter showed fear, fear of the people. Peter denied Jesus 3 times based on his fear of what the people might do to him. Pilate seemingly went against what his heart was telling him out of fear of the people. Whether he KNEW otherwise or just suspected something was different, he didn't explore it. He let the crowd convince him they knew better. He didn't want to do otherwise because of his position or something else. Did Jesus face fear? Absolutely! In the garden, he certainly did. What did he do with this fear? He prayed and he prayed hard. He sweat drops of blood over this prayer. He didn't want to face it, but what was his final word. "Not my will, but yours."

Anger

The Jewish Leaders and the crowd showed anger. He challenged their way of life. He didn't fit their plan for a Messiah. They saw how it all should go and he didn't work that way. Jesus also had reason to be angry. He had the sins of the whole world on him. He was innocent, but he was carrying all the sins of the world. He was carrying our sins. He was receiving what we deserved. He had reason to be angry, but he said, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Sadness
Not all the emotions were coming from sins. The women at the cross were sad. Somehow that word does not capture the entire emotion. They were despondent with grief, who wouldn't be. Jesus himself was also despondent, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani." He did not refer to God as his Father, but as My God. He was carrying the sins of the world and he knew God could not look on him. He knew God is a just God and can not be where there is sin. He knew God was far away from him. So he called out to him with the full knowledge of what sin does. It separates us from God. It emphasizes His holiness and His righteousness and our total lack thereof. Even through that grief, he was still calling to his father. However he was also planning for those around him. He was thinking of his mother and said, "Woman, here is your son."

One last thought on this Good Friday, John 19 says that Jesus gave up his spirit. It doesn't say he lost it or it was taken. It says he gave it up. To me that indicates he made a decision. He waited until the right time. On the cross with the weight of the world on him and the physical pain of crucifixion, he made a decision that his Father's will had been accomplished. He didn't just pass out and die from pain. He wasn't beaten, shot, or anything else. He chose to give up his spirit at the right time. Wow!

If you want to the scripture to go with what he said, there is a wonderful video here. Be aware the video clips are from The Passion.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

John 19:19-22: Where is his kingdom?

19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”

22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”


The note on the cross was one last effort by Pilate to prove his point. He stood up to the religious leaders and left the note on the cross. However, neither he nor the religious leaders understood the situation. He still didn't get it because he was trying to make the crucifixion okay. He knew he was doing something wrong, but was trying to fix it his way. He didn't understand what Jesus had told him previously. He didn't understand where Jesus' kingdom was.

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”


Contrast this with the other thief. He recognized and acknowledged that Jesus' kingdom is above. He knew he couldn't find his way there on his own, so he asked Jesus to help him. No one else understood where Jesus' kingdom was or how to get there.

How often are we like Pilate? How many times do we recognize our wrong and Jesus is right, but don't follow through? We try to fix it our way. We make his kingdom smaller by trying to fit it into our realm. How often to we ask Jesus, get our answers, and still not understand it? How often do we stand up to the dissenters without ensuring Jesus is behind us? What are the eternal consequences of us trying to 'make it okay'?

How often are we like the other thief? Do we recognize our place and Jesus' place? Do we understand how to get to his kingdom? If we do understand, do we act on it? Do we say the words out loud to tell others of our short comings and the ways Jesus makes it okay?

Where do you say his kingdom is? Where do you show his kingdom is?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blessings: To be or not to be

I watched Ben running around the yard, tripping in a hole, and throwing leaves around and I thought, "I am so lucky."  Then I thought of this post I read this week and this one from a few months ago.  I think, "How can anyone not know how special times like this are?"  I know being a parent is hard, but how could someone allow any child of theirs to get to this point.  It breaks my heart.  Maybe you are like me and it breaks your heart to.  You can go here or here and do something to make it better.

I was reading books to Ben tonight.  He was cuddled up on my lap (sometimes climbing all over it).  I had my cheek against his hair reading to him and hearing him repeat parts of it.  I get choked up thinking about it because there are so many kids that don't get that.  They go to bed hungry.  They go to bed without getting a hug or a kiss.  They go to bed cold.  They go to bed sick with no hope of medicine.  These kids live all over the world, including here in the United States.  When these little ones grow up, they become users or pushers.  They become the dregs of society.  We look down on them and think how much better we would all be without them. Somewhere between toddler and teen something changes.  I teach in middle school and I like to think I'm making a difference.  I'm showing kids they can go to college.  They don't have to take the 'easy' way out.  I'm trying to show them someone loves them.  Some days that just doesn't feel like enough.  Some days it isn't enough.  Some days we fail and they become the dregs of society.  And I think I knew them when.

Sorry for the depressing tone tonight, I just have some stuff hanging heavy on my heart.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dreams

One of the many blogs I read is at jonacuff.com. The other day I started feeling lame because I'm reading a blog about chasing your dreams, but I don't have a dream. I'm living my dream. I have a wonderful husband, a great kid, a good job, and a nice house. So I don't have a dream to chase. Then I thought, "What kind of a freak am I for not having a dream?" That was followed by, "Maybe it means I'm pretty good with God because I'm open to His will." I left it there and kept reading the blog. Today I was reading a few different posts including one by Jon Acuff. God showed up in my classroom and showed me what 'being open' meant. OH MY! I was not ready for it. I am overwhelmed by it, challenged by it, and maybe a little excited. Um, but maybe not the excited yet. I don't think this is anything that will happen soon and I don't really want to talk about it yet. But in a few years or several years, my life may have some big changes. I think I can say I now have a dream.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A few of my favorite things

1.  Ben laughing so hard he can't breathe and then coming back for more.  Tonight he counted to 10 and then skipped to 20.  I said that isn't the way it goes and tickled him, so he kept repeating 20.

2.  Ben praying with me.  Tonight he said several parts of our Now I Lay Me... prayer. (Now I lay me down to sleep/I pray the Lord my soul to keep/May Angels watch me through the night/ and keep me in their blessed sight.)

3.  Getting 2 loads of laundry done AFTER class tonight.

4.  Getting the dishes done also.

5.  Getting another box unpacked and counter tops cleared off.

6.  Not having to wear an eye patch.  More on that story later this week.

7.  Finding an actual pajama outfit for Ben's class tomorrow.

8.  Sitting next to my husband at the end of the day.

9.  Reading wonderful blogs by so many talented people.  A list of those with a short description will be forth coming.  It might take a while, but I have a plan to do it.

10.  Learning about the African Wild Cat

Monday, April 11, 2011

The posse redux

This week has been a very long one!  We moved into a now house, had the area revival 4 nights, and then went to a minor league baseball game tonight.  Through all of that, we have had a few interesting experiences related to meeting new people.  This is always an exciting moment.  You have been invited to hang out with some new people.  You are all excited because they like you enough to see you more than the required time in that meeting or conference or wherever you met.  This is the opportunity to share your story with someone new and to hear their story as well.

As adults, the obviously optimum place for this friend test is a restaurant.  So the initial part of this test is simply discussing and deciding where this will happen.  Some times you have a vote on this and some times you don't.  If you do, then you worry about being pushy with your suggestions or not having an opinion and looking too timid.  The place of this test does get decided and you leave for this restaurant.  Of course you drive separately and when you arrive the tension builds.  If you arrive before this new friend possibility, you have worry about not being in the right place or about where to stand so they will see you or whether or not to put your name in.  If you arrive after, then you have to track that person down and worry that you made them wait too long.

Well anyway, we get to the restaurant and sit down to eat.  We start with a pleasant conversation reviewing important points in our life history.  We are expecting one more and the one more enters.  Only it isn't one more, it's like 5 more.  And I think, "Oh great."  All those hopes I had of having meaningful conversations are gone.  Your new friend test has been ruined by the entrance of 'the posse'.  You know that group of people that follow around the cool person you were hoping to know.  Your life history points now pale in comparison to the inside jokes.  Your inquiries into their life are now one upped by questions concerning real problems about which the posse knows.  Your dreams of riding horses with your new friend are crushed by the posse who has already done this.

I have to admit, I walked away a little upset to have missed this opportunity.  However, later in the week, I learned a little something, well 2 little somethings.  1. It's easy to fall into this by accident.  You see 1 person here and another there and all the sudden your posse is formed.  (Sorry Amanda and Seth.)  2.  When you do find yourself up against the posse, stop thinking that way!  You might make several new friends instead of just 1.  I was being judgmental.  I was limiting myself and not opening myself to the possibilities that were out there.  So next time, I'm going to be more positive and hopefully walk away with a few new friends.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The posse (AKA The lost post)

I had a really cool post about a little revelation I had this week.  Evidently the computer gods thought it wasn't good enough because they erased it.  So in protest, I will not retype the whole thing.  That wonderful revelation and the words that described it have been lost to cyberspace.  : (

And I was too tired to think of trying the undo button!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pilate vs. Judas

So with Easter coming up, we have been talking a lot about the arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Something that occurred to me for the first time is the way Jesus was watching out for them even while they were in the middle of their sin. Obviously both Pilate and Judas sinned. Jesus spoke directly to both of them, Judas at the last supper and Pilate during the trial. Judas ran off. Pilate asked questions.

Pilate tried to convince the people otherwise. He went back and asked more questions. Depending on how you read his words, he put his own neck on the line to admit that maybe Jesus was a king. Ultimately, he did sentence an innocent man to death. He did bow to the will of the crowd. He sinned. However Jesus didn't just leave him there. He answered his questions and comforted him in his time of need. Even as Jesus was in the last hours of his life and in pain from the beating, he is still trying to bring people to him. We don't know what happened to Pilate after his encounter with Jesus, but I think it is safe to say that he walked away changed. He had a very clear path back to forgiveness. Even though it was his word that put Jesus to death, Jesus showed him love. Pilate made the decision to react openly and honestly. He looked toward Jesus for the answers to his questions.

Judas had walked with Jesus for 3 years and heard his teachings. Numerous times Jesus has talked about the falseness of the religious leaders. However in the middle of his sin, he regrets his decision. Now what does he do? He returns to the priests and seems to become despondent when they don't respond to his regret. Obviously, Jesus wasn't really available right then, so he couldn't really go there. However, he doesn't go back to God either. Hasn't he seen Jesus go off and pray? Hasn't he seen Jesus' miracles and heard him thank God? Hasn't he been paying attention? I guess not. If he had been paying attention, then he would have known where to go.

I am amazed at these observations. Even in the middle of his trial after he had been tortured, Jesus is replying to Pilate's curiosity about him. Not Herod's curiosity, but a genuine 'who are you?' curiosity. Jesus is replying openly and honestly. Jesus is replying with love and concern for Pilate as a person. He knows this man will bow to the pressures of the crowd and of his position. He knows this man has sentenced him to be tortured and will put him to death. What is Jesus' response? To recognize his Father's role in all this and give Pilate words of comfort. To give Pilate a way back to him later.

He would have done this for Judas as well. All Judas had to do was turn back to him. However, Judas so determined to keep his life the way he knew it to be that he would rather kill himself than to change the order of things. He would rather hold on to the outdated religious structure of the time than to accept the love and forgiveness of Jesus. It was more important for him to be right than for him to be loved by Jesus.

It was not just these 2 men to whom Jesus offered himself. The 2 thieves on the cross received this opportunity. One of the two called the other out by announcing who Jesus was. This one also admitted his own guilt. Jesus' response, "Today you will be with me in paradise."

The soldiers were sinning. They were doing their job and that job was causing them to sin. However that is not an excuse. As he was dying, as he was being sacrificed, he pleaded with God, "Forgive them for they know not what they do." He was giving them a way back as he was doing the work of allowing forgiveness.

What can we take from this? A couple things. There is nothing beyond the realm of God's forgiveness. Don't say "He can't forgive me." Jesus will always give you a way back to him. However, you have to be willing to put yourself aside. Put aside your life, the way you live it, your pride, etc. It can't be you and Jesus. It has to be just Jesus.

Another thing is the reaction of people to Jesus and his offer. Some react violently to his purity (religious leaders). Some welcome it. (Theif, Pilate, sinners.) Some deny it (Judas). When you are met with these attitudes, don't be surprised. Jesus met with them too. Do what you can and move on. (It is really important to put Jesus first, so you know what it is you can do before you move on.)

This Easter season I have seen the story anew. Maybe I'm starting to understand a smidgen of the love and forgiveness that Jesus really has for ALL of us.