I was interviewed by Rev. Albert Hahn about entering the Wilderness during Lent. It turns out I spoke more about life’s wilderness experiences. Please watch this and hopefully be blessed. Check out his facebook page for more resources.
Thoughts on John 19:17-30
In John’s account, you sort of fade into the background of the scene. In the foreground are Pilate and the chief priests, the soldiers, and the witnesses.
Pilate had to state some reason for your death, so he wrote out the political crime you were accused of committing: “King of the Jews.” In your death, even before your resurrection, the chief priests were bested. Infuriated, they demanded the title be changed. But unknowingly, Pilate became the voice of God, Jesus died to be King of the Jews. And King of all.
The soldiers, oblivious to the deaths they were administering, looked to take advantage of what little worldly possessions you left behind, your clothing and your tunic. Maybe they thought it might be worth something one day, who knows. Oh Jesus, I don’t want to be like the soldiers, mindlessly crucifying you, while benefitting from your death; taking your grace for granted by choosing sin.
The witnesses, the women who loved you and the disciple you loved. Even the pain of dying couldn’t diminish the care you take for humankind. Giving Mary and John to one another proved your great desire to comfort, support and unite the ones you love. You take individuals and make them a family, proving your divinity. Thank you, Jesus.
“I thirst.” You were dying, your physical body needed a drink, proving your humanity.
John’s account is the gospel story in miniature: God’s overarching omnipotence, Pilate was your tool; my abundant need of your grace, blindly gambling in the light of your sacrifice; and your transformation through love.
I live in the shadow of the cross.
Thoughts on Matthew 26:14-25
You sit with your closest friends and announce, “One of you will betray me.” One by one, they ask, “Is it I?” Eleven ask earnestly, but one deceitfully. Judas Iscariot had already made a deal with the chief priests to deliver you into their hands.
You know the truth and yet you remain in relationship. Yesterday, you told Peter the truth about his future denial of you, today you reveal the potential betrayal in the hearts of the ones who follow you. Only one of the twelve had actually committed treason, but the others were wise enough to not trust their own estimation of themselves, instead they asked you to examine them. They suspected their hearts held the possibility of betrayal.
Lord, I will follow their example. Within me lies the possibility of denying you; sadly, my soul has its own 30 pieces of silver that could buy my loyalty to you. So, please examine me; I do not want to betray you. “How is it I, Lord?”
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong – then guide me on the road to eternal life. Psalm 139:23,24 The Message
Thoughts on John 10:31-42
The conflict between you and the Jews is heating up, again they are ready to stone you. They can’t argue against your works, they are all good, life-giving deeds, so they take issue with your words, call you a blasphemer. OK, words it is, you best them with your logic and knowledge and they attempt to arrest you, but you escape. You go across the Jordan, to the place John was first baptizing. The place you were baptized.
When conflict rises, when temptation is great, when there is a formidable task ahead, go back to your baptism. That’s what Jesus did. He went back to the place where he heard God’s voice speak his identity, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Remembering who you are gives you strength and resolve to face your life.
Thoughts on John 8:21-30
You had been making some stupefying comments and the crowds were seeking some clarity. For instance, earlier you invited some to follow you, now you are saying where you’re going they couldn’t follow. “Who are you?” they earnestly asked. Your answer, true to your character, “I’m who I told you I was from the beginning. I have not changed. I am sent by the Father to love the world into redemption.”
A lot of what you explained about yourself went over their heads. huh? what? But you said it anyway so it could be recorded for posterity. AND (this is one reason I love the scriptures, because I see myself in every sentence) you said it aloud to remind yourself of who you were and what you were about. You used “self-talk” to help keep yourself on track.
Boy do I need such “talk.” I often forget who I am and what I’ll called to do and be. It helps to speak it aloud, keeping it on the front burner lest I lose sight of my goal.
Debby, who are you? I am God’s chosen daughter, precious and pleasing. I am one who wakes each morning to hear God’s voice of love and shares it with the world around me. I am a treasure in the field that God purchased with his own blood, sweat and tears. I am broken, a screw-up, yet beloved and beautiful. I am sent by God and the Holy Spirit never leaves me, for I do what is pleasing to the Father; and what pleases the Father is acknowledging my love and utter dependence upon God’s mercy and grace.
Thank you and amen.
My friends, I ask, Who are you?
Thoughts on John 8:1-11
I have always loved this incident in your life, Lord, it shows have compassionate, brave and wise you are.
You were minding your own business sitting among the people and teaching them. First of all you were not standing over or aloof from the people, but sitting with them; saying with your posture, I want to be your rabbi.
Then the religious crew stormed in with a plan to trap you, bringing into the crowd a woman, literally caught in the act of adultery. Oh my gosh, how awful, the poor woman! Did she stand there with only a sheet wrapped about her? Shamed and fearful? She was an object to the Pharisees, they cared not about her, only how she could be used to accomplish their goal – get Jesus into trouble. Standing you receive them.
This is where you shine, Jesus. You bent down. All eyes in the crowd watched you; bending and writing something in the dust drew the attention off of the poor woman and onto you. In bending you covered her shame.
Standing you offered wisdom. It was true, according to the law of Moses, such an act’s punishment was death; but in wisdom you said “Examine your own heart first, can you honestly say that you have done nothing that is deserving of death according to the law of Moses? If you can find no charge to bring against yourself, then go ahead, cast away.”
“And once more you bent down.” What a risk you took. One person throwing a stone would have generated a stone throwing frenzy. Mob mentality would have taken over the group and you and the woman would be dead. Yet you remained near her. You kept writing something in the dust, maybe words you wanted her to know. How brave you are; how strong your desire to communicate to the world how willing you are to suffer with us. Thank you Jesus.
The crowd melted away, beginning with the eldest, and left you and the woman alone. Perhaps, in her shame, she had kept her head lowered, eyes downcast. Remaining bent you looked up at her, and addressed her directly, “Where are your accusers?” How humble and compassionate you are Jesus. It is only from this position, with your body lowered beneath her that you could have contact with her downcast face and hold her gaze; she looking down and you looking up. With her eyes held by yours, you speak the words of freedom.
Thank you Jesus, you sit with me and teach me; you stand before me offering the chance to understand myself and act with wisdom; you bend before me, keeping near and eliminating my place of shame. I am not condemned. I can go and sin no more. Amen.
Thoughts on John 7:1,2,10,25-30
You went to Jerusalem incognito, privately. Once there, though, you took up your teaching, publicly; causing confusion amongst the people about your identity. Were you the Christ? How could you be, they knew from where you came. But you challenged this thought. They thought they knew you and where you came from, but they were wrong. You were sent by the True one. The people did not know the True one and they couldn’t know you. They wanted you gone, but they couldn’t accomplish your elimination because your “time had not yet come.”
Why did you make sure this piece of Jesus’ story was preserved? What important truth have you to teach me?
- The gospel takes risks. It goes where it is not welcomed.
- The gospel doesn’t need a lot of fanfare or glamor. It is attractive enough as it is.
- The gospel arouses conflicting thoughts. It forces one to rethink what they think they know.
- The gospel challenges the religious status quo. It is not about ritual, it is about knowing the True one.
- The gospel serves the purpose of God; sending and timing are in God’s hands.
- The gospel is guarded by the power of the True one. The messenger is perfectly safe in God’s will.
Oh Lord, let me be a faithful messenger of your gospel; quietly, faithfully, truthfully, undeniably, trustingly sharing your good news as you send me. thank you and amen.
Thoughts on Luke 1:26-38 (the Annunciation)
Such 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,
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.
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
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.