One-a-Day Friday 5/9/14

number 1Warning: this poem–if you can call it that–kinda blindsided me.  It’s not what I intended to write today.  And yet, it’s what came out.  Read gently.

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it (Matthew 5:14).

When will I let go?

I am a child gripping candy in his fist.

I won’t let go, even though the candy is old

and foul

and sticky

and no good for me.

I scream and wail and weep because you ask me to give you

that which only rots my teeth

and, frankly, tastes awful.

It’s been on the ground, but I’ve scooped it up.

I rubbed it on my shirt, but still it’s covered

with dirt

and grit

and nasty bits.

I can’t possibly enjoy it, but I will

not

let

it

go

no matter how you ask.

Why must you ask?

Why must you be so gentle?

Tear it from my hand, Lord—I know you could.

Ignore the shrieks of protest.

Ignore the tantrum.

Just do it.

Because if you wait for me to give it up, I fear I never will.

Because if I…

if I give it up, what if there is nothing else?

What if, in spite of your promises, this sticky

filthy

nasty

mess is all there is or ever will be

of life

of self

of me?

What if, once lost, I am never found?

Oh God, you curse me with a freedom that is more than I can bear.

Quickly now, before I can think about it

like a splinter

or a bandaid.

I hold my breath

and grit my teeth

and close my eyes…

and release.

One-a-Day Thursday 5/8/14

number 1If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).

There is a man in my area who has a cross.  It’s a full-size, heavy, wooden cross, very authentic looking except for the wheel at the base.  This man, as far as I can tell, spends his days walking the highway and byways, sharing the gospel without saying a word.  To see him dragging that cross along the road is surprising, and comforting, and yet a little disturbing.  It’s a reminder that I do not always appreciate.  All of which is probably why he does it.

I admire the man, though I doubt that this is what Jesus meant in the above passage.  I kinda wish he had.  I mean, as tough as dragging that piece of wood undoubtedly is, it’s cake compared to the cross Jesus is talking about.

The cross of self-denial.

The cross of it’s not about me.

The cross of true humility.

What does your cross look like today, Beloved?  What will it mean for you to deny yourself so that you can be with Him?  Your cross will look different from mine, but it will be heavy all the same.  And yet…the reward.

To follow him.

To walk with Christ.

No matter how big, how ugly, how brutal your cross may be, his grace will enable you to lift it.  He wouldn’t tell you to do it otherwise.

Trust him…he’s earned it.

Heave-ho Beloved.

One-a-Day Wednesday 5/7/14

number 1Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4).

Other people annoy me.

I know I’ve said it before, and I shouldn’t say it at all, but there it is.

The problem is, other people never seem to put me first.  I mean, I could put the other person ahead of me once in a while, if I were confident that they would be putting me ahead of themselves at the same time.  Then, you know, each of us would get to be first.  But what happens is, I put them first, and they put them first, and I’m left out in the cold.

But it’s not about me.

At least, it’s not supposed to be.

Why do I do it, Beloved?  Why do I keep score, like there’s a cosmic points system and I’m afraid of falling behind?  When will I learn—really, in my heart of hearts learn—that God will meet all my needs, and that I don’t have to look to others for my validation?  When will I be truly free to serve without keeping score?

I’m glad you’ve got it all together, Beloved.

Me—I’m a mess.

One-a-Day Tuesday 5/6/14

number 1For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought… (Romans 12:3).

“Yes, but I deserve…”

Dangerous words.

I can’t tell you how many times those words, or at least that spirit, has flashed through my mind when I had the opportunity to help/serve/love someone.  If it’s going to take any sacrifice on my part, my brain immediately jumps to reasons that I shouldn’t have to do it, why I deserve better…or at least why I deserve recognition for my noble sacrifice.

And then, if I’m lucky, I remember.

It’s not about me.

This verse comes right after Paul’s urging to offer ourselves, “As living sacrifices,” and to be, “Transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  The thread here seems to be that if we belong to God and he is truly at work in us, we will be able to see ourselves as we really are, with eyes that are unclouded by pride and self.

In those moments, when God allows me to see myself as I really am, I dare not utter the words, “I deserve…”

Because I know what I deserve…and it ain’t recognition for my noble sacrifice.

Take a good look at yourself today, Beloved.  You don’t deserve much, and yet you are worth everything.

And so is that person God is calling you to serve.

One-a-Day Monday 5/5/14

number 1…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

The theme of this week’s One-a-Days is, “It’s not about me.”  It covers many reasons you can be glad I’m not God…

I want to be like Jesus.

Mostly

I mean, the teaching, the leading, the healing—I love that stuff.

The prayer, the compassion—I’m there.

Clearing the temple—are you kidding me?  Give me a whip, and let’s go!

But the serving…

I’m OK with serving, as long as it’s on my terms.  Who I want. How I want. When I want.

But God doesn’t usually let me set the terms.  And that bugs me, because it can be so inconvenient.

Like, I suppose, the cross was inconvenient.

Beloved, I wish I could tell you that I really want to be a servant like my Lord.  Right now, the best I can say is that I really want to want to be a servant like my Lord.

What about you?  How is your heart this morning?  Are you looking to serve—any time, anyone, anywhere?  Or are you, like me, just praying for the desire?

I’ll pray for you today, Beloved.  You pray for me.

Breaking Point

I have a ladder which I like quite a bit.  Apart from its inherent Load limitusefulness, the thing I appreciate most about this piece of household equipment is that it clearly communicates its limitations to me.  There is a bold sticker on the side that says, “Max. wt. 300 lbs.”  If you weigh in at 350 and you hoist yourself up on my ladder, you’re going to have problems—and don’t come crying to me about it.

Ladders, bridges, fishing line—they all have a breaking point, and they all come clearly labelled so that you don’t expect more of them than you should.  If only people…

Today, a story of breaking points. Continue reading

One-a-Day Friday 5/2/14

number 1You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven  (Matthew 5:14).

This little light of mine, I’m gonna

Sorry.

You know, sometimes I don’t want to let my light shine.  It just seems so little, so dull—I can’t imagine anyone glorifying God because of it.

I’m sure you never feel that way.  Just humor me.

I am writing this from atop Zanja Peak, a wannabe mountain a few miles from my home.  It’s 11:00 at night, and I’m in the middle of a night hike.  As I worked my way up here, I remembered something important.  Nature gets dark at night.  Really dark.  So dark that if Mandibles of Death, the fluffy yet vicious golden retriever, weren’t with me, I might be a tad trepidatious.

I have a head lamp, and yes I do look silly wearing it.  That’s not the point.  The point is, at home the light from the head lamp looks pretty mild.  I sometimes have to double check to make sure it’s on.  Out here, in the ohsovery darkness, it’s a different story.  As I hike along, if I hear something go bump/slither/growl/snarl in the night, I click my trusty headlamp and the world is ablaze with light.  It’s so bright that my night vision is ruined for several minutes, which can be an adventure all its own, but that is also not the point.

This world is pretty dark, spiritually speaking. That little light of yours may not be much to you.  To a lost soul, it may seem like the very glory of God.

Which, in a way, it is.

Shine for him today, Beloved.

Happy Friday.

One-a-Day Thursday 5/1/14

number 1You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot (Matthew 5:13).

Salt is a funny thing.  Too much of it will make you gag.  Too too much of it will kill you outright.  And yet it is essential to life.

Salt is easy to overlook, easy to forget about.  When you’re cooking, it’s fun to focus on the interesting spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom.  Who notices salt?  But just leave that pinch of salt out of your recipe and see how bland your meal becomes.

Salt is preserving.

Salt is healing.

Salt brings out the flavor of food.

 

People are funny.

God can use us to bring out the best in others.

To heal

To preserve

We are sometimes overlooked, but we are an essential component of God’s plan for the lives around us.

And yet, when we put too much of ourselves into the mix—when we try too hard to be noticed—we mess up the recipe.

Look, I know this is an awkward analogy, but I’m sticking with it.

You are the salt of the earth.  Your saltiness—that which makes you useful to God—is the Holy Spirit working in you.  When you try to work in your own power, you lose your saltiness.  There’s too much you.  And you mess things up.

And your work is pretty much worthless.

Don’t try to work for God today, Beloved.  Instead, let him work through you.  Let him sprinkle you where he will, and let the Holy Spirit do his job in the lives around you, using you to bring out the best that is in them.

It’s a lot easier, and it won’t make people gag.

One-a-Day Wednesday 4/30/14

number 1Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

Did you ever read Foxe’s Book of Christian Martyrs?  It tells the stories of men and women who suffered death—in various gruesome forms—rather than deny the name of Christ.

Intense.

And humbling.

I have never been threatened with death for following Jesus.  Chances are, neither have you.  Throughout history there has been persecution.  Even today, there are many in the world that risk imprisonment or worse for following Christ.  But not here. Not now.  For better or for worse, we live in a society that allows us to worship God openly, without fear of reprisals.

For the moment, anyway.

I’d like to think that, if real persecution came, I would stand firm, braving whatever might come with a song of praise on my lips.

I’d like to think that.

But I just don’t know, do I? Frankly, I sometimes crumble in the face of the micropersecution that does come my way.

The odd look.  The occasional raised eyebrow.  A little mocking because I don’t speak or act in the way that the world does.  It’s amazing how little it sometimes takes to send me packing.

Today, as we head out into our respective Wednesdays, let’s act in such a way that we stand out for Christ.  If that results in persecution, let us embrace it and rejoice.

Stand out.

Stand up.

Stand firm, Beloved.

One-a-Day Tuesday 4/29/14

number 1Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).

Jesus is a peacemaker.

Peace between God and Man.

Peace between Man and Man.

Peace that passes all understanding, yet guards our hearts and minds.

The Son of God is calling you to follow in his footsteps today.  So, take a good look at the day ahead of you.  What potential conflicts are waiting?  What person will likely push your buttons and make you twitch?  What raging interpersonal storms do you get to sail into?

These are all opportunities.

Oh, I know they don’t feel like opportunities, Beloved.  Except perhaps opportunities to practice your stress management and work on finding your Happy Place.  But they are, in fact, opportunities to walk as Jesus did—to be a peacemaker.

Will you take the opportunity today, Beloved?  Will you be a child of God?  Will you stuff your pride and walk in grace and humility?

Oh, I know it’s hard.

Will you do it anyway?