I Wanted to Be An Elephant for Christmas

Posted by on Wednesday, Dec 27, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

In the wild, when a mama elephant is giving birth, all the other female elephants in the herd back around her in formation. They close ranks so that the delivering mama cannot even be seen in the middle. They stomp and kick up dirt and soil to throw attackers off the scent and basically act like a pack of badasses. They surround the mama and incoming baby in protection, sending a clear signal to predators that if they want to attack their friend while she is vulnerable, they’ll have to get through 40 tons of female aggression first. When the baby elephant is delivered, the sister elephants do two things: they kick sand or dirt over the newborn to protect its fragile skin from the sun, and then they all start trumpeting, a female celebration of new life, of sisterhood, of something beautiful being born in a harsh, wild world despite enemies and attackers and predators and odds. Scientists tell us this: They normally take this formation in only two cases – under attack by predators like lions, or during the birth of a new elephant. This is what we do, girls. When our sisters are vulnerable, when they are giving birth to new life, new ideas, new ministries, new spaces, when they are under attack, when they need their people to surround them so they can create, deliver, heal, recover…we get in formation. We close ranks and literally have each others’ backs. You want to mess with our sis? Come through us first. Good luck. And when delivery comes, when new life makes its entrance, when healing finally begins, when the night has passed and our sister is ready to rise back up, we sound our trumpets because we saw it through together. We celebrate! We cheer! We raise our glasses and give thanks.” (Jen Hatmaker ) This is a #sheforshe community. Life is beautiful and hard. And it’s God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s people who help live well in the hard. We need each other to remind each other of God’s story about who we are. I need you to help me see myself clearly. We need you. I need you. “Encourage each other and build each other up.” (1 Thess 5:11) This is about cheering, reminding, encouraging, and inspiring each other to continue to live and love like Jesus. Two women do this very well in Scripture. Elizabeth was an older woman and in her culture that meant highly respected, regarded, and sage-like. She was a prominent family and so was her husband. They lived in the suburbs of Jerusalem, the hippest spiritual town in Israel. As you know, Elizabeth was with child, a fact...

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This Christmas Season She’s Teaching Me

Posted by on Sunday, Dec 17, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

It’s Christmas season and the three weeks of Advent, the week we speak of the spirit of joy. I think many of us struggle with rejoicing during this holiday season. There’s beauty in life but there’s also hard. And sometimes we wonder what’s the point. I think it’s fitting that it’s now we talk about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary’s life was not easy and yet she trusted, she rejoiced. To trust means to have faith when you can’t see. (Hebrews 11:1) She trusted what was unusual in her life, the difficult journey of her life, and that through her life God was bringing hope, healing, and life to the world. We heard Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1. Mary had no Bible training, yet she’s the first one in Luke’s Gospel to interpret Scripture. She quoted Scriptures from Gen 17:19, Deut 10:17-18, Psalms 24:7, Hab. 3:18, etc. In the Magnificat, she declared the Good News that God was breaking in and establishing his kingdom on earth. King Jesus was coming. Caesar was out; Jesus was in. If Caesar heard her, she’d be killed. If King Herod heard her, she’d be killed. The Magnificat is a subversive fighter’s song. In the 1980s the government of Guatemala banned any public reciting of it because it was deemed politically subversive. She goes on to say she’s blessed to be a part of God’s plan to change the world. Luke uses Mary as the prototype for what it means to follow Jesus. Later in Luke 5, Peter’s response to Jesus’ invitation to follow him reflected Mary’s response to the angel Gabrielle. Don’t miss it – this Good News Mary speaks of – she says she’s blessed because she’s a part of it. Favored, blessed. God is with her, and she said he has done great things for her. When we hear someone is blessed or God is with them or they are favored, we tend to think that means they are in good health, have financial stability, a good job, their relationships are good, or they are safe in their space. But when we look at Mary’s life, we’re challenged to reconsider what it means to be favored, to be blessed. Mary is young, most likely between the ages of 13-16. She lived in a “no nothing” town, and she was a woman of lowly status with no family pedigree; notice Luke mentions Joseph is from the line of King David but nothing about Mary. (Luke 1:27) He’s someone; she’s no one – a nobody from nowhere. Yet God used this young woman to give birth to the Son of the Most High, the savior of the world. Most women rejoice when...

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Pondering From Luke 8: 4-15

Posted by on Monday, Oct 27, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Pondering From Luke 8:4-15 This parable is a familiar one. I didn’t even want to write about it. But Jesus spoke, and so I write. In this parable there’s seed, which is God’s Word. And there are four kinds of soil (or ways people respond to Jesus and his message). We have seeds on a path, on the rock, among thorns, and in good soil. Jesus explains … 11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest. Obstacles to our walk with God clearly exist. They not only exist but pull hard, trying to loosen our grip. While we cling to God’s hope and promises, they pull … trying to loosen our grip. Satan. Worry. Riches. Pleasure. And trials. It wasn’t but a few  years ago that I almost lost my grip. A tsunami hit. I wasn’t even aware it was coming, and my faith was rocked. For the first time, I wondered if living for Jesus was worth it. I considered leaving the ministry. I struggled believing his Word. I felt abandoned, betrayed, and lost. Pain can cause the heart to harden. I tried to move towards him even in my pain. I couldn’t read his Word, so I listened to it online: http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/. And slowly, ever so slowly, Jesus started warming my heart again. He does that. Makes our hearts soft. I’m so grateful that when I was about to let go, he didn’t. This passage reminded me that there are obstacles, and they are pulling – hard. If we are going to cling to God’s hope and promises, we must go to Jesus. And listen. Jesus said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” (Luke...

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Pondering From Luke 7:36-50

Posted by on Monday, Oct 20, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

Pondering from Luke 7:36-50 Today’s story is a familiar one. It’s about the sinful woman who wipes, kisses, and anoints Jesus’ feet during Simon the Pharisees’ dinner party. Simon has invited all of his Pharisee friends over to eat with The Teacher. It’s supposed to be a nice night, but a sinful woman who disgusts him comes in, and Jesus does not ask her to leave. When Simon reacts negatively to this, Jesus responds with a parable whose moral is that “those who are forgiven much love much.” Furthermore, Jesus restores this woman to community when he says, “Your sins are forgiven… go into peace.” One theologian remarks, “The forgiveness is not a result of [her] acts; rather, [her] acts testify to love’s presence in gratitude for the previous granting of forgiveness.” (Bock, 703) I love this picture of her: she’s weeping like a rainstorm, then wiping her tears with her long hair (hair down is a major no-no in these days), then kissing – feet, Jesus’ feet – over and over again. Finally, she breaks out the expensive bottle of perfume and anoints his feet. The others must have felt awkward. Wild love for Jesus makes us nervous. I relate with this sinful woman. In many ways, her story is mine. I grew up a pagan in an abusive home. I made bad choices and was a train wreck waiting to happen. Unbelievably, in the middle of my pagan life – in the middle of sex, drugs, and rock n roll, God reached down out of heaven into the sewer and pulled me out. God did not wait for me to straighten out before he saved me; God saved me while I was in the middle of my sin. And after he saved me, slowly, over years of hanging with Jesus in his Word, I became healed and whole. For the first ten years of my new life with God, I would frequently sit and sob over my salvation. I just couldn’t believe that God would save me. Sometime after I became whole, I lost my memory. With memory loss comes love loss. Our being wildly in love with Jesus is directly tied to our exact understanding of our desperate need for him. Every once in a while I need to be reminded just how far Jesus was willing to go to save me. What about you? How’s your love life? How long has it been since you’ve stood before our Holy God and remembered who you are in light of who he is? How long has it been since you’ve cried over your salvation? Irwin McManus, in his book, The Barbarian Way, makes this comment, “I’m happy...

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Pondering From Luke 7:17-23

Posted by on Monday, Oct 13, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Pondering from Luke 7:17-23  Mary, the mother of Jesus, went to visit her cousin Elizabeth when she was pregnant with Jesus. When Mary entered the room, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt. Elizabeth’s child was John the Baptist, and even in the womb this child knew. Later, in the wilderness, by the Jordan River, John the Baptist also knew. More than once, he proclaimed what he knew: “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) John the Baptist’s assurance about who Jesus was did not exclude him from struggle. On the contrary, for he later finds himself in prison, waiting to be beheaded. He had rebuked Herod for marrying his brother’s wife. Herod put him in prison for this rebuke, and Herod’s new wife demanded the head of John the Baptist. When John the Baptist heard of his impending death, we must wonder whether or not he questioned himself, and the Lord. Maybe he asked himself if he had given his life to the right things. Maybe he wondered if he loved his parents well. Had he honored God? It would not have been the first time John the Baptist questioned Jesus. In Luke 7:19, he asks Christ (through his disciples): “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Jesus responds to John’s disciples: “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf here, the dead are raised to live, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” And tell him, “God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.” (Luke 7:22-23) So we learn that Jesus miraculously heals and saves the needy. And if that’s not enough, we get to hear more stories about how he saves; Jesus heals a centurion’s slave and raises a widow’s son from the dead. So how are we understand why Jesus does not step in to save John the Baptist’s life? Seriously, how’s that for fair? Have you ever said to Jesus, “Really, you can heal but you won’t heal me, my brother, mother, child?” Jesus spoke to me as I read this passage; he said, “Jackie, what I’m doing is bigger than you. And yes, I can heal, but whether or not I do is not for you to decide. Be faithful. Trust me. I AM.” Following Christ isn’t always safe. As Irwin McManus in the Barbarian Way states so beautifully, “This is the sticky part of the barbarian call. It’s not fair or equitable. When you hear the call, when you follow the call, you...

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