5 ways to be like Mary (thoughts on the annunciation)

Thoughts on Luke 1:26-38 (the Annunciation)

thumb_design_1024Such a familiar passage, can you make it new/fresh for me in some way?

Here’s what I get. God’s word to Mary through Gabriel was that she was favored; meaning she was sought by grace, surrounded by God’s approval and showered with God’s blessings. Such news disturbed her, it unsettled her, she needed to get her mind around it. Our gracious God gives her reassurance, “it’s ok to not quite get it; trust my words; you are my favored one.” She had some questions about her identity and role and brought them to the interaction allowing God to unfold the details about who she is and how she will be used for the sake of the Kingdom.

Totally relatable! Like Mary, I’ve been given words from God that are hard for me to take in and believe. God calls me beloved, precious, loved, valuable, and my mind says, “What? How can this be? I’m still stuck in the muck of sin habits.” Thank goodness, God is not surprised by my questioning of God’s appraisal of me. Mary’s encounter with the messenger of God gives us hope and a path to follow.

1. Put yourself in a place where you can hear God’s message. Mary lived in a particular place at a particular time and was engaged to a particular man. She was being herself, living the life she had been given. Not lofty, not flashy, just ordinary. God comes in the regular routine of your extraordinary life. Look for him, listen for him. He speaks your name in the doing of chores, faithful one; the chirping of birds, attentive one; the teaching of children, one after my heart. Train yourself to hear the quiet greeting of God’s heart of love for you.

2. Gather the names God gives you. As you read the scriptures, pay attention to the words of affirmation and affection God offers. It’s easy sometimes to identify with the warnings and the admonishments God speaks, we know how deserving we are of his correction. But there are probably just as many words of affirmation as there are judgment. (I’ve never actually done a comparative study, but I bet someone has!) Read through Zephaniah 3 for example, daughter, delightful, rejoiced over, praised, honored, gathered; or Hosea 14, loved freely, splendorous, beautiful. Don’t be afraid to claim the love of God, even if it seems hard to believe.

3. Admit the ways it seems impossible for such names to be your reality. Mary had no husband, I have no perfection. And yet God says with him, all is possible. God announces my belovedness. I counter with the ways I am not worthy of being loved; I’m impatient, often grumpy when I don’t get my way, ready to point out other’s faults, how can such a sour, selfish person be lovable? Bringing these traits into the light, admitting them is the beginning of the transformation. It reminds me that love is based on love, not performance.

4. Let love woo you to want to be more beloved than broken. Face the direction of God’s love and walk toward it. Focus on God’s delight, God’s choosing, let your heart want to not let anything rule your mind but God’s truth. Trust in God’s word’s and action more than your own experience of yourself. I really screwed up that interaction with my husband, I’m embarrassed and ashamed. I should hide myself. God says,“you are accepted, sin has broken you, come into to the light and let me cleanse and restore you to my picture of you: beautiful and valued.” Breathe. Remember it is a process, a journey, each faithful step takes you closer to your kingdom reality.

5. Act like the person God sees in you. Mary called herself the handmaiden of the Lord, call yourself God’s beloved daughter. How would a beloved daughter act? She would trust her parents to care for her in every way, so why worry? Why be greedy? Why be jealous? When you forget who you are, look in the mirror God provides, wash off the smudge of sin you see, adjust your crown and walk with the dignity of a child of  the King. Thank you and amen.

With you on the journey,

Debby

God’s little finger!

I’ve been on vacation for the past week, but I’m back now. I hope you missed me!

Thoughts of Luke 11:14-23

Okay, you’re going about your business, bringing wholeness to broken people. You cast out a demon that kept a man from speaking, and when he then spoke, the people were divided. Some marveled, some doubted your source, some demanded more of you. You saw into their hearts, their motives and addressed what you found there.

These responses reflect the whole of my heart. Sometimes I marvel at your amazing acts of kindness and mercy; sometimes I minimize your power, overlooking it or discounting it, not recognizing the acts of God in the ordinary; sometimes I take for granted the goodness you’ve shown me and expect more from you than the generosity you’ve already shared with me.

You speak to me of my need to be one with you, I cannot sit on the fence; I’m either all in or all out. Ah, I confess my doubt about my ability to unite my heart with yours, I know myself so well. My intentions are good, but my old self, my “demon,” with its habits and demands is a strong man, who guards his residence very well.

You speak to me of the power in the mere finger of God. How all the good and healing and wonders I’ve experienced because of my trust in your name, are but a finger-full of the power you can and want to exercise over the “demon” that keeps me from speaking; how you are a stronger man than the one who resides in my heart.

I declare my desire to be with you, not against you; to gather the pieces of my heart and offer them to you. Increase my marvel, decrease my doubts and my demands. Thank you and amen.

 

It all begins with mercy

Thoughts on Luke 6:36-38

Jesus invites me to a life that resembles his Father’s character. It begins with God’s mercy; to the degree that I’ve received it, I am told to give it. When I pause and think about how much mercy has been shown to me, count the ways God forgives and restores, remember how God’s patience extends beyond my failings, how can I not offer the same forgiveness and patience to my world today.

Jesus knows his audience, his teaching shows how well he understands the human heart. He knows we are stained by sin, that selfishness is in our dna, so he appeals to our natural, survivor instinct. “You want mercy? then be merciful. Want to avoid judgement and condemnation? then don’t judge and condemn; Forgiveness? then forgive; to receive in abundance? then give abundantly.”

Thank you God for training me in righteousness like I trained Ellie to go outside to pee, reinforcing her good behavior with a treat and a hearty good girl. Now she has

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Me and my good girl, Ellie

learned the proper place to go to the bathroom. So you teach me, a reward for living holy until holy living is my norm.

Thank you also, that I can’t out-give you. I give my little and you give me to overflowing. Like brown sugar, you pack in the blessings.

It all begins with your mercy, it is new every morning. Thank you.

 

What to do with people who voted differently than you.

Thoughts on Matthew 5:20-26

Hearing these words must have been discouraging for the crowd. How could they, ordinary folk who were busy living their lives be more righteous than the people whose whole existence was dedicated to religiosity? What? OK, I can manage not killing someone, but to never be angry? to never use my words to describe another’s flaws? to never label someone a fool? Such things are natural, normal, my right, not reasons for judgment and hell. (seriously, hell?)

But you state clearly your standard of righteousness. To be right before God, I must be right with my neighbor, even if they are wrong. I must do what I can to be at peace with the one who has a problem with me. This places unity and relationship above correctness. In this political climate of finger pointing and accusations how do we manage this?

Jesus doesn’t dismiss the differences between people, he doesn’t tell us to abandon our principles or our understanding of justice, he acknowledges there will be reasons to go to court, but he emphasizes the value of maintaining the relationship. “Make friends with your accuser,” he teaches. In Greek, the phrase translated make friends, means to “wish one well, to be be well disposed, of a peaceable spirit.” I am to desire my accusers well being; I am to approach him with my soul grounded in peace. This is possible because I know the only one who has a legitimate charge against me has made a way for us to be reconciled. God has made me, the one who has violated his law of love over and over again, to be at peace with him. How could I not offer the same peace to the one who I accuse or who accuses me?

Lord, whether we think Donald Trump is your gift or Satan’s tool, have mercy and teach your people the way of peace. Thank you and amen.

It all begins with the ASK

Thoughts on Matthew 7:7-12 and then a couple of questions for you.

In the midst of your discourse on life, you give assurance of answered prayer; ask, seek, knock.

Ask, given; seek, find; knock, opened. The parabolic father gives only good to his child, he would never harm the one he loves; the perfect Father will do so to an even greater degree.

Let’s start with the ask. This is where it begins, determining what I want or need. What do I want to ask of God? Or taken from a different angle, what is it that God wishes to give me and is waiting for me to ask it of him? Now that’s a good question.

I go back to the Psalm I read this morning (138:7,8) to see what exchange took place between you and David, what did he ask for? What did you give him? Strength of soul, preservation of his life in the midst of trouble, deliverance from his enemies, fulfillment of his purpose. Is this a model of what I should ask for? of what you want to give me?

All right, Lord, I’ll do the ask.

I call on you to be with me in this moment, let your presence astound me, assure and encourage me. You are with me, your strength is mine. Your Holy Spirit is the rebar in the foundation of my life. Thank you.

Let’s look at the trouble I walk through. First and foremost I thank you that the troubles I walk through are so minor; they are troubles of my soul, the texture of fine sand. Unchecked they could clog the machinery of my heart and need to be dealt with, but I have food, water, health, safety. So many of your loved ones don’t. My heart is grateful for your kindness toward me, and I pray that I will not forget the ones that need your kindness to be given them through me.

There is good news and bad news about the trouble I walk through. The bad news is that the troubles are not going away. The good news is you will keep me safe as I walk through them. My sand-y, gritty troubles revolve around choosing obedience and trust rather than indulging my appetite and consumerism. Face it Debby, these will always taunt you, tease you, lure you. Jesus you are the guardrails that boundary my day’s path, holding on to you as I walk will preserve my life. Thank you.

Some enemies, though, you intend to remove from the landscape of my soul, to deal with once and for all. Thank you for that deliverance – I have no fear of death, I am assured of love, I am a treasure you have redeemed, I am a arrow in your quiver. Thank you. I ask: continue this deliverance from the remaining enemies that populate my world.

I never read The Purpose Driven Life. My apologies to Rick Warren, I’m sure if I had read it I would have found it useful for the Kingdom’s sake. But I resisted it because I wanted a life driven by the Spirit, not by a purpose. I still want my life to be more consumed with being rather than doing, so my doing is born of my being. Yet your word suggests you have a purpose for me and you are determined to fulfill it.

I am compelled to ask, “What is your purpose for me?” Ah…you remind me of my mission statement. “I wake up every morning eager to hear your voice of love and then to share it with the world we so love through my writing, my words, my acts and my relationships.” This is the desire of my heart, given me from your heart. You will fulfill this purpose. Thank you.

Interesting, embedded in the asking, is the seeking and the action required of me to cooperate with grace. The good is given generously, is found by my seeking heart and empowered by trust and obedience.

Thank you and amen.

You know these thoughts come from my morning prayer journal. I hope they are helpful for you as you pursue God’s heart. Will you let the Spirit guide you in your prayer as I was: What do you ask of God, or better yet, what does God want you to ask? What are the troubles you walk through? From what has God delivered you? What purpose is God fulfilling in you today? It all begins with the Ask. 

With you on the journey,

Debby

The essential prayer

Thoughts on Matthew 6:7-1

No empty phrases, no need to even put words to my heart’s needs, you know better than I what is needful. Instead you teach me the essential prayer. God is our Father, I am in a family. God is in heaven, he sees and rules all. Such news awakes awe and respect within me. I chose to subject myself to your authority and align myself with your good will, here today, it is practice for heaven. Take care of our physical needs; and forgive the many ways we violate love, as we forgive those who violate love against us. Walk ahead of us so we can avoid temptation, and rescue us from the evil that lines the path we take. I forgive, forgive me. Amen

I’d love to hear how you would you paraphrase the most prayed prayer to make it fresh and yours? 

With you on the journey,

Debby

You are low hanging fruit!

Thoughts on Luke 5:27-32

You call Levi from his tax collecting office with an invitation, “Follow me.” And good old Levi left everything and did just that. He gave himself a going away party, inviting all his old tax collector friends and the whole lot of unseemly co-operators with the Roman regime. The Pharisees heard about the shindig and began picking on your disciples, wagging their fingers, pointing out how inappropriate it was for them to be hanging out with such a sinful crowd. You took up the argument on behalf of your disciples, explaining your purpose was not to hang out with the well, the well didn’t need a doctor, you came to to be with the sick.

Interesting how the religious crew, the righteous ones, harass the disciples when their real argument was with you. They weren’t looking for a way to eliminate the threat of the disciples, it was you who undermined their authority, yet they look for the lowest hanging fruit to pick a fight with. Thank you for standing between the disciples and their accusers. You do so even yet. Your great enemy, stands accusing me of all kinds of inappropriate actions. Even though he has been defeated, he still exercises his lagging power to torment me. “You aren’t doing it right, you aren’t bringing God glory, you are screwing up.” And you know, these accusations are founded on truth. I do do things wrongly, with impure intentions, that is why I need a doctor. I don’t claim to be perfect, I claim to belong to you.

So, Jesus, let them accuse; I don’t deny the acts that I am charged with, they are my reality. The enemy’s voice is loud, demanding my shame and despair. Thankfully, you intervene. Your voice is clear, calling me to turn toward you and away from the false need to be righteous. Whose voice will I listen to? I admit my habit is to believe the accusers, convinced I am not good enough. But Jesus, this Lenten season I will let you defend me, I will hide behind your love and trust you. I will hide in your grace. Thank you and amen.