Archive | March, 2012

Cloakless

31 Mar
When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
   “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
  “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
   “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  
                                                                                     —Mark 11:7-10
 

Indianapolis is in crisis.  The Colts played the 2011-12 season without Peyton Manning.  The Super Bowl was here, but the Colts didn’t even make the play-offs.  And now Peyton Manning is leaving for Denver.  Colts fans are conflicted –  wear a #18 blue jersey, or take it off?

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem His cheering followers whipped their cloaks off, covering the road in front of the young colt upon which Jesus sat.  I have a mental picture of a cloak-wave forming in front of Jesus like football fans at halftime in a stadium.  The “Hosanna’s!” were deafening, drawing more people to the procession who added their cloaks to the patchwork road-quilt.

Jerusalem celebrated as it never had before.  This was their King, not a Roman imposter.  This rabbi who taught with authority was a Jew, a Son of David, and they hoped, the one who would free them from centuries of oppression.  So, one after another, they stripped off one of their most precious possessions and laid it in front of Him.  Reserved for royalty, this simple gesture was anything but frivolous.

  • A cloak was a costly investment due to the time-intensive construction process: cultivating and gathering the raw material (flax for linen, or a sheep’s fleece for wool), cleaning it, spinning the thread, weaving the cloth, and finally, sewing the garment.
  • A cloak was personal.  An individual would be recognized from afar by his cloak, which was custom-made to fit his stature and shape.  Sometimes a cloak identified to which tribe a Jewish man belonged.
  • Today, tribes in the Middle East still put robes on when the merciless sun cooks everything exposed to its relentless rays.  To a Jew, his cloak was both sunscreen and personal air conditioner, necessary protection from the harsh sun and brutal sand storms.
  • Not everyone could afford to own a cloak.  Simply wearing one bestowed a certain amount of status; and the nicer the cloak, the higher standing in the community.

Taking a cloak off stripped a person of all the above.  That day status, comfort, individuality, and a prized possession were not only laid in the dust before Jesus, they were also trodden under the hooves of a donkey.  His cloak-less followers all looked much the same in their simple tunics – vulnerable and without distinction… and out-of-their-mind crazy for their King!

The press of the crowd wanting to be near Jesus must have been so great, that there was no retrieving a cloak right away.  Slowly, the parade passed by and the dust settled, revealing cloaks caked with the dust of hundreds of exuberant feet that had danced over them.  Many of the cloaks were probably torn and ruined, totally unwearable.  Anything left behind by the donkey was ground in by dirty sandals.  Those able to get their own cloaks back, wore a reminder home of what had happened that night.

What had happened?  Were those who picked through ruined cloaks filled with joy from such a personal sacrifice for their King?  Or did they stand there as the dust settled, confused and cloak-less, regretting their foolishness?  Had they been carried along by the frenzied crowd, fair-weather followers; or were they changed because they had been with Jesus?

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Heart-check for Sunday

Are status, comfort, individuality, and possessions more important than worshiping Jesus, or can I lay all of these at His feet with joy?  If I don’t lay these down, what kind of worship can I give Him?

Do I want to be changed in His presence?  Or will I shake myself off tomorrow and go home no different than when I came in?

My heart’s desire is to be changed– to take pretension and all I cling to off, to lay it down, never pick it up again…  and simply be His.

Inner Child

26 Mar
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.  Mark 18:8
 

The look on their faces was a magnet, drawing me in.

Giggling while sharing secrets with tender hands cupped from mouth to listener’s ear, sister and brother turned front-and-center on cue to sing about the Resurrection.

No fear.

They didn’t know any better – that they were supposed to be terrified because being on stage is scarier than death.  Instead, every ounce of their wiggly bodies belted out “It’s all because of Jesus I’m alive!”  The lack of  self- or audience-consciousness made watching the moment between these two heart-wrenchingly sweet.

The hearts of three other friends, all grown up, were painfully wrenched from their understanding.

Before the sun rose the morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome entered the tomb where Jesus had been laid.  They came to the right place, but the scene was all wrong.  Their Lord had been crucified and entombed, but the stone was moved and his body was missing.  A man was there.  He told them to go tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus had risen.  The three women trembled (scared out of their wits – literally) and were so bewildered (confused or disoriented so that grasp on reality is lost) that they fled, shaking uncontrollably, faster than their sandal-ed feet had ever carried them.

These two scenarios collided in my mind this morning, and I wondered if children had been the first to see the angel and to hear that Jesus had risen, if their response would have been different from the women’s.

When my sons were young, they eagerly investigated what they didn’t understand.  Skipping toward a billy goat with happy curiosity, they were stunned when they got head-butted onto their bottoms, but they dusted themselves off and chased after him.  Their drive to run toward the unknown was insatiable!

Twenty centuries of hindsight is 20/20; I understand that.  It’s risk-free for me with the four Gospels lying on my lap to wish I had been the first to enter the empty tomb and talk with the angel.  (I have so many questions I’d like to ask him!)  So today I’m praying for childlike spiritual curiosity – the boldness to run toward the unknown, arms outstretched in eagerness and anticipation as my spiritual feet cover the ground of empirical knowledge in an instant.

Because at the end of my sprint, my Father waits with strong, wide-open arms, and I will launch with abandon into them.

————–

Heart-check for Sunday:

What keeps me from running toward God?  My own understanding?  Fear?  Something else?

What is the root of these things?  What would God have me do with them?

How can having childlike faith change the way I lead others?

Truth to remember

  • Perfect love casts out fear.  1 John 4:18
  • A little child shall lead them.  Isaiah 11:6
  • Unless you become like little children, you can not enter the Kingdom.  Matthew 18:3
  • The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous run to it and are safe.  Proverbs 18:10
  • The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  1 John 4:4

Satisfaction

9 Mar

 

 

 

“Yep.  He’ll be there tomorrow morning,” dad assured our neighbor as he returned the heavy plastic handset to its black cradle.

He and my brother had a man-to-(almost)-man talk about the mowing job that had just been settled.

Tim was 12.  I was 13 and almost a head taller than my brother, but I had become invisible.  Because I was a girl.  In my dad’s mind, girls didn’t mow lawns.

Without meaning to, my dad initiated me into what it meant to be a female in the last half of the 20th Century– not quite equal.  Never mind that my chores around home didn’t differ from Tim’s.  I carried logs for the fire every bit as big and heavy as my brother did.  I shoveled, painted, and even hammered alongside both of them, pulling my weight in sweat and sore muscles.  So when the first-ever paying job came along, being the oldest, I thought I’d have the first shot.

I was incensed.  I played the “it’s not fair!” card, and worked even harder to demonstrate the fact.  But I wasn’t the one who hopped on a bike the next morning headed for a $5 paycheck.  In retrospect I’m glad I wasn’t the one biking a couple of miles on a sandy road and pushing a mower during black fly season, but it still hurts when I remember what it felt like to be passed over without any consideration.

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate… had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified.  Mark 15:15

Before breakfast, Pilate’s work day began as all the Jewish leaders and an angry mob brought Jesus before him and accused Him of pretending to be God.  Pilate spent very little time on the case, asking just a couple of questions before he pronounced Jesus’ sentence and went on with his day.  Deep down, however, he knew Jesus was innocent.

Pilate’s greatest offense is not that he condemned Jesus to crucifixion, but that he spent so little of his precious time on the King of Kings standing before him.  He passed over him with little consideration.  His eyes barely paused on the bloodied face before resting on the object of his affection – the crowd.

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Heart check for Sunday

Leadership built on Truth and principles is hard work.   Bowing to the crowd is easier in the short term, but it almost always comes back around later like a cat-o-nine-tails, wreaking more havoc than the original issue.

What is my crowd?  On what is my attention fixed instead of Jesus?

What or who am I hoping to satisfy other than Him?

The Rooster Still Crows

3 Mar
 
The rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him,“Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.  Mark 14:72
 

Even if all the other disciples fall away, Peter intended to follow Jesus to death.  I believe he meant what he said.  In fact, after the rest of the disciples did fall away, Peter followed Jesus, if at a distance.  He stuck close enough to Jesus through the last night of his Master’s life that he got called out three times by strangers as having been with Jesus.

Peter declared he would follow Jesus, and he was the only one who actually did.  And the only one to deny Him three times in the darkness of a long, cold night.  His intentions and actions were well-meaning and heartfelt, but they were not enough.

In high school I spent a month living in Central America with relief workers out in the agrarian barrios where a sense of time came from the rhythm of life, not an electric timepiece.  Nights there are deep darkness– no street lights and very few lights of any kind break into the absolute black.  Life stops and everyone goes home to sleep under a mosquito net until dawn returns.  The roosters know when it is coming.  They begin with sleepy half-crows, but in just a few moments full-fledged morning announcements are erupting, answering one another, just before the sky turns one shade lighter than night.

I think that’s how Peter missed the first crowing that appears as a warning in verse 68.  But there was no missing the second one– or the cacophony that crescendo-ed until the sun appeared.  The roosters didn’t crow two times the morning of Jesus’ crucifixion and go back to sleep on their perches; they continued crowing incessantly with every muscle and feather for what must have seemed to Peter, an excruciating eternity.

And they crowed the same way the next morning.  And the next.  Every cry a brutal, ear-splitting accusation that cut deep into Peter’s soul.

After His resurrection, Jesus restored Peter three times, once for every denial.  After receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter went on to be the Rock he was named for and laid the foundation of the Church.  He did miracles, led a growing movement, and was killed for following Jesus.  (See the Book of Acts.) The same man who was afraid of a servant girl’s question before Jesus died, is mightily used by God after receiving the Holy Spirit.

His intentions and actions without the Spirit fell short of his desire; but inhabited by the Spirit, Peter accomplished what was impossible the night the rooster crowed.  Until he died, every morning when the reminder of who he was without the Spirit divided night from dawn, I believe he whispered a prayer of humble gratefulness to his Redeemer as he woke to serve Him another day.

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Heart-check for Sunday

Is there anything blocking the Holy Spirit from working through me?  Unconfessed sin?  Distractions?

While leading others in worshiping God, do I allow the Spirit total access and control, or does my focus shift to my own inadequacies or abilities?

When I realize that I am relying on my own strength, do I humbly confess immediately, acknowledging I can do nothing on my own, but all things through Him?

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