Parking Limited

After we bought our car overseas, I noticed that cars seemed to multiply like rabbits in our neighborhood. Every day, at least every week, a new shiny car found a home in a parking spot near me. Each new car made parking a bit more competitive.

Parking spots close to our apartment took it to a new level. The stakes were high with kids, shopping bags, strollers, and a third floor address to herd them all towards. A close spot made everything easier.

I’d actually get resentful to the new cars and their owners who made life harder for me. Where did they live? Would they compete for my favorite spots? What right did they have to get a car after me?

Ha. Well…every right! Just because I bought one first, how does it exclude others from pursuing the same goal?

Driving home late began to mean that I didn’t even have a slot in the complex and had to park on the street. Not fun. Why would so many people want to get cars when it was becoming so inconvenient?

The same reason we got a car! It made some parts of life easier and more peaceful.

At some point I began to see how my annoyance revealed my arrogance. Just because I bought a car first, I deserved to have a parking space. Anyone who came after me was now a threat to my comfort and ease. In my mind they even had less right to the life I lived for no other reason than timing.

Kinda ugly. Even as I write it, it strikes me how easy it is to drift down that lane.

Eh…its just a parking space and it doesn’t really matter, right?

I’m not so sure. I feel like this same mentality gets played out in much bigger issues daily. It hinges on the tendency we have to believe that resources are limited. The pie is only so big and welcoming another threatens our livelihood.

Yet, if God is really God, He is able to provide for us and for others. If His plan really was to multiply and fill the earth, why are we afraid when that happens?

Probably because we’re human and our world is filled with oppression and injustice for which we all suffer–some much more than others. There doesn’t seem to be enough and that proves we need to compete, right?

I think that’s what the enemy wants us to think–it goes along with his mission to steal, kill, and destroy and we play into it by taking the bait.

But there’s hope because the fullest meaning of humanity is that we are made in the image of God. We don’t have to live in human competition fighting for limited scraps.

It’s fitting that Jesus described Himself as a spring–a constant stream of clean flowing water that fulfills us eternally.

And He describes Himself as the bread of life–sustenance for all who come to Him.

Throughout the Bible is clear condemnation of injustice, oppression, and selfish power. There is also clear guidance for how to live a generous life that takes care of the poor and the immigrant.

It is part of God’s plan everywhere that His people know that everything they have is from God so everything they have is to be stewarded with a view to sustaining all those created in His image.

So we can hope and expect that life can be different. I can be different. Our world could be very, very different.

Come, Follow Me!

It probably looks really sweet to the observer. My boys with a hand around my waist and close by my side guiding me. Little do they know this action is totally self-serving and only happens when they think mom has talked to enough people and we really need to get home and eat, for goodness sake.

My boys seriously detest waiting around while I talk to people. Schools, grocery stores, on a walk, in church. There are so many places we see friends and I do what most women do, I seize the opportunity to gab.

They’re pretty effective at moving me along while I’m talking to them about poetic things like the gift of community.  But, they’re not buying it yet. I get it. I grew up waiting in this big room called the narthex (what kind of name is that?) staring at a world map while my parents spent hours, I’m sure it was hours, talking to people at church. I’ve always been pretty good at geography.

Sometimes I wish it was possible to do this for people in their spiritual lives. Escort them a little forcibly to the next destination. But it is not so. My husband pointed out to me simply, God is on the move and people have to leave stuff to follow Him.

I should know this. It’s not like I haven’t seen it time and time again in the Bible. Come, Follow Me! But my eyes have skipped over this passage so many times, I began to miss it.

Each person He invited had to leave something. A job. A task. An appointment. A lifestyle. Friends. Family. A home. To answer the call, they had to move physically from their present activity and start walking. img_7629.jpg

Jesus didn’t come over and force them. He didn’t escort them around their waist along the road. He invited and only the willing accepted the invitation. They left what they were doing, and followed Him.

Sometimes I find myself trying to do a little more than just invite. I smooth the path extra flat. I try to make an offer they can’t refuse. I bend over backwards to wait around and hope they start moving towards Jesus.

But I can never make the choice for someone. There is no detour around the fact that we must leave things to follow Jesus. And the truth is not everyone will answer the call to become a disciple, a learner of His way. Some people will not leave their way to follow Jesus’ way.

It saddens me as it must have saddened Jesus. They’re missing out. There’ll be a price.

But I cannot ever force someone to be a disciple. I can only invite. They must answer the call themselves. They must make the decision to put aside what they’re doing to move with Him. Only then can they be with Him.

As a former youth pastor said, wherever you go, there you are.

So stupidly profound.

Blood, The Color of Love

I reached up and opened a card. It looked promising. I read the inscription which dashed all my sentimental hopes. My only hope these days for meaningful inscriptions is a blank note and my own pen.

Valentine’s Day gets a lot wrong. Romance for romance sake. Elaborate, one-time displays of affection honored more than the constancy of daily warmth in the grind of life. Crude and scoffing cards meant to illicit laughter at the expense of respect.

But, it gets one thing right. The color of love is red.DSC_0039

Red is the color of blood, the color of oxygen infusing a liquid that brings life to the body. Red is the color of the dirt from which God created man in His image. God delighted in man. God loves humans. God loves you. God loves me.

Then, God loved enough to take on a body that pumped blood. After that, He loved enough to be tempted in every single temptation. He knows our pain, our sorrow, our sin. He took on all the hurt, pain, wrong, and disgusting perversion of every person on the planet and bled for it.

The color of love seeped through the pores of His skin and offered us release from death. We, the living dead, can be born from above.

Last year and again this year, I read the uproar about movies and porn and abuse, my heart aches and it was and is appropriate to grieve. Grey is what we get when we forget that love requires the unselfish giving of ourselves to another.

Grey is the color of death and death brings mourning…or it should.

But, red. Red is the color of life.

 

Blood, The Color of Love

I reached up and opened a card. It looked promising. I read the inscription which dashed all my sentimental hopes. My only hope these days for meaningful inscriptions is a blank note and my own pen.

Valentine’s Day gets a lot wrong. Romance for romance sake. Elaborate, one-time displays of affection honored more than the constancy of daily warmth in the grind of life. Crude and scoffing cards meant to illicit laughter at the expense of respect.

But, it gets one thing right. The color of love is red.DSC_0039

Red is the color of blood, the color of oxygen infusing a liquid that brings life to the body. Red is the color of the dirt from which God created man in His image. God delighted in man. God loves humans. God loves you. God loves me.

Then, God loved enough to take on a body that pumped blood. After that, He loved enough to be tempted in every single temptation. He knows our pain, our sorrow, our sin. He took on all the hurt, pain, wrong, and disgusting perversion of every person on the planet and bled for it.

The color of love seeped through the pores of His skin and offered us release from death. We, the living dead, can be born from above.

Last year and again this year, I read the uproar about movies and porn and abuse, my heart aches and it was and is appropriate to grieve. Grey is what we get when we forget that love requires the unselfish giving of ourselves to another.

Grey is the color of death and death brings mourning…or it should.

But, red. Red is the color of life.

 

The Finding

We opened the door on Sunday morning, Palm Sunday morning, and brought in our newspaper. I noticed a toy store ad that is usually not included. As toy sales, spring dresses, and candy ads spread out in a pile on my floor, I realized Easter is a big deal in America.

I absorbed the message. Kids receive toys, new clothes, and fun on Easter. I didn’t know. My husband replied, wisely, that is what stores want me to think about Easter.

In the shadow of my father’s death, this treatment of Easter feels especially offensive. We are all placing more of our hope than ever before in what happened that weekend so long ago. If Christ was not raised, we are still in our sins. My dad is still in his sins. My dad is forever separated from God if Jesus was not raised. My dad is on his way to hell if Jesus was not raised.

But Jesus was raised. 37 years ago, my dad responded to the news and changed the course of his life and our family for eternity. One of the most influential books he read at the time was Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

kolekolecross2
The cross at Kole Kole pass was removed in the 90’s. It stood on Schofield Barracks Army Base for decades after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Credit for this picture is: 1SG Gary Haynes at togetherweserved.com
It all happened in Hawaii. After my brother sustained a broken bone in a freak accident, my mother pushed a return to church. My dad complied. Then, he sought out the truth for himself.

One day, he came literally to the foot of the cross. A huge white cross used to stand in the valley where the Japanese planes flew to bomb Pearl Harbor. He ran to it and his soul cried out for more. It wasn’t long after that his soul was satisfied.

The Lord loves it when we come looking for Him.

Jesus is like my kids when they were young and we played hide-and-seek.. The goal of hide-and-seek was always for us to find them. Success was in the finding. Coughs, squeals, chirps erupted from their lips as we crept around “finding” them. We always knew where they were, but we played along.

Jesus’ wants us to find Him. He chirps through nature. He squeals through the Bible. He coughs through suffering meant to lead us to Himself. He longs to reveal Himself and there is great joy in the finding. Eternal joy in the finding.

As my dad suffers the effects of a growing cancer in his brain, he still rejoices in the moment of finding and being found.

When he told his story again a few weeks ago, we marveled at how little he really knew at the time. As one who has taught many the nuts and bolts of how to communicate what it means to trust Christ, it’s ironic how little he knew. He seemed only to know he needed to make a decision about following Jesus.

He decided. He found and He was found. The joy of Easter is that the finding lasts forever. The joy comes with being freer and freer and, then, finally, free.

There is some anger that is worth feeling about the Easter holiday these days. It’s worth letting sink in and disturb. Easter is more than amusement.

The ads get one part right, though. Easter is about new. It is about finding. It’s just that it’s about new life that lasts far longer and satisfies far more than a toy. And, it’s about a hunt that leads to more than a colorful, hard-boiled egg.

That Man, Joseph

In the midst of the Christmas season, I find it hard to rest and engage with the Story of Christmas. Maybe it’s all the presents to buy and send, the goodies to bake, the events to attend. Last year I encountered the same problem! Today I want to take the time to look at another person in the story.

When I found some time last week to take a longer look, I noticed Joseph, a man caught up in an event that centered around others.  Mary, the unwed mother who needed protection.  Jesus, the baby who needed protection.  The Roman government that offered no protection and Herod, the ruler, who pursued Joseph’s charge in order to murder him.

In all of this Joseph thought of himself only once according to the account in Matthew.  Before being let in on what was going on, he thought about his honor in marrying a woman pregnant by who knows who.  But even in that, he meant to keep it quiet and protect Mary from the society they lived in that stoned women in situations such as hers.  He still protected even in that moment…even in that moment when all appearances said he was the wronged one.

Then, an angel came to him and spoke to his heart.  I love this.  The angel first spoke to his fear.  Do not be afraid.  The angel went on and gave Joseph his role in this monumental event.  Take Mary as your wife because she is carrying the One who will take away the sin of the world.  And…he did it at great personal cost to his reputation.  A cost that stayed with the family all their days.  DSC_0093

The story takes some wild turns too.  Learned astrologers and scientists come from distant lands with loads of gifts far greater than what a carpenter ever saw in his life, I assume.  Then, another visit from an angel to the one, Joseph, charged with the protection of the One destined to save the world.  This time, marching orders.  Flee and flee now and then wait.

Joseph’s life again centered around protecting this Child and His mother and this time the cost was leaving their homeland under the dark of night without any explanation to loved ones.  They became sojourners in a distant land.  Jesus became a Third Culture Kid spending the young years of his life in Egypt.  Joseph made a way for them as a refugee. His profession as a carpenter served them all well.

I wonder if they heard reports of the massacre that took place after they left?  How did they feel when they returned and all those other families saw their son, Jesus, and remembered their own sons murdered?  I imagine the benefits of their departure caused friction in relationships. How could others restrain their feelings of jealousy in the grief of a lost son?  I bet Joseph endured a lot.

Joseph disappears from the story by Jesus’ adulthood and most suggest he passed away.  I don’t like that the story goes this way…that Joseph misses the chance to see the fulfillment of the promise the angel told him.  But the legacy this man leaves is truly tremendous.  He protected the Savior of the world at great personal cost but he also raised James and Jude, Jesus’ brothers who became pillars of the early church.

Whatever feuding existed during Jesus’ ministry gave way to broken hearts in His younger brothers’ chests.  I imagine that is Joseph’s legacy as well.  Raising humble men willing to sacrifice their lives for others because of the One who takes away the sin of the world.

That’s the mark of a man, humility.  Mary gets plenty of press, but I still think Joseph deserves more than he usually receives .

That Man, Joseph

I slacked off my writing last week.  My parents dodged snow storms and smog storms to arrive for a Christmas visit a week and a half ago.  Snow storms delayed their departure and smog here changed our travel plans.  When freeways close because of smog I give thanks for trains!  In the midst of the Christmas season, I find it hard to rest and engage with the Story of Christmas.

When I found some time last week to take a longer look, I noticed Joseph, a man caught up in an event that centered around others.  Mary, the unwed mother who needed protection.  Jesus, the baby who needed protection.  The Roman government that offered no protection and Herod, the ruler, who pursued Joseph’s charge in order to murder him.

In all of this Joseph thought of himself only once according to the account in Matthew.  Before being let in on what was going on, he thought about his honor in marrying a woman pregnant by who knows who.  But even in that, he meant to keep it quiet and protect Mary from the society they lived in that stoned women in situations such as hers.  He still protected even in that moment…even in that moment when all appearances said he was the wronged one.

Then, an angel came to him and spoke to his heart.  I love this.  The angel first spoke to his fear.  Do not be afraid.  The angel went on and gave Joseph his role in this monumental event.  Take Mary as your wife because she is carrying the One who will take away the sin of the world.  And…he did it at great personal cost to his reputation.  A cost that stayed with the family all their days.  DSC_0093

The story takes some wild turns too.  Learned astrologers and scientists come from distant lands with loads of gifts far greater than what a carpenter ever saw in his life, I assume.  Then, another visit from an angel to the one, Joseph, charged with the protection of the One destined to save the world.  This time, marching orders.  Flee and flee now and then wait.

Joseph’s life again centered around protecting this Child and His mother and this time the cost was leaving their homeland under the dark of night without any explanation to loved ones.  They became sojourners in a distant land.  Jesus became a Third Culture Kid spending the young years of his life in Egypt.  Joseph made a way for them as a refugee.

I wonder if they heard reports of the massacre that took place after they left?  How did they feel when they returned and all those other families saw their son, Jesus, and remembered their own sons murdered?  I imagine the benefits of their departure caused friction in relationships.  How could others restrain their feelings of jealousy in the grief of a lost son?  I bet Joseph endured a lot.

Joseph disappears from the story by Jesus’ adulthood and most suggest he passed away.  I don’t like that the story goes this way…that Joseph misses the chance to see the fulfillment of the promise the angel told him.  But the legacy this man leaves is truly tremendous.  He protected the Savior of the world at great personal cost but he also raised James and Jude, Jesus’ brothers who became pillars of the early church.

Whatever feuding existed during Jesus’ ministry gave way to broken hearts in His younger brothers’ chests.  I imagine that is Joseph’s legacy as well.  Raising humble men willing to sacrifice their lives others because of the One who takes away the sin of the world.

That’s the mark of a man.  Mary gets plenty of press…and Joseph does too…but I still think he deserves more.