Friday, November 18, 2011


Being committed to Christ is the re-orientation of an entire life.  It is not a Sunday commitment, a retirement plan, a hobby, or a part of a whole.  It is the whole.  It is everything.  There are deep parts of us that love the idea of such a makeover.  We get a sense of real rest.  Indeed, God planted this desire in us.  But, the idea of giving our entire life to anything is pretty scary and unfamiliar.  A life that is not devoted to me, but to someone else is about as foreign as would be rolling out a red carpet and a special entrance to board the least-sophisticated, lowest-mile, three-carry-on-bag travelers onto an airplane first.  Unheard of.  I mean, unless it’s opposite day.   

Jesus once encountered a man who, without being asked, said: “I will follow you Lord; but first let me go back and say goodby to my family.”  In response, Jesus said: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 10:61-62)  Many of us, when presented with the Gospel would say, and have said,  “I will follow you Lord.”  It is quite easy to say.  We often then say, though, “but first let me . . .”  I know this “dot-dot-dot” very well.  I bet you do too.

I will follow you Lord, but first let me … see a clear sign that what your word says is true, that your promises will hold up.  Let me know that if I buy what you’re selling, it won’t, in the end, be for naught.  

I will follow you Lord, but first let me … grasp fully how the whole thing works.  There are so many books out there, I don’t know where to start.  The Bible is really thick and I don’t understand so much of it.  I want to understand every detail first so I can defend my decision if asked.

I will follow you Lord, but first let me … know that my friends and family will not think I’m weird, and will still accept me.  I want to be liked and admired and if I commit my life to you, I’m afraid I will lose friends.  My family won’t understand.  The people I’m trying to impress may find me less impressive.  

I will follow you Lord, but first let me … visualize what my life will look like if I do.  What are you really asking of me?  I know your Word says I must live like you did (1 John 2:6), but the way you lived seems a little uncomfortable to me.  You had no home.  Your people rejected you.  You were spit upon, crowned with thorns, beaten and laughed at.  Your path was constantly interrupted by those who lived unworthy lives, did bad things, and suffered from disgusting diseases.  You were nailed to a cross and killed.  I have plans, Lord.  This would get in the way, I think. 

I will follow you Lord, but first let me … explain to you that I’ve got things under control.  My finances are in order, my health is good, my family is thriving, I’m moving up in my job, and my golf game has really come a long way.  

 I will follow you Lord, but first let me … tell you that I can’t abide any more rules and instructions to follow.  Each year at work, I get an employee handbook and although for the most part these are pretty easy to follow, I have to remember and follow them.  There are speed limits, tax requirements, bills to pay.  If you add on another set of rules, I just don’t think I can do it.  I know the Ten Commandments and I have failed them over and over and over and over.  And I have tried really hard, but I keep getting tripped up, often by the same ones and there seems to be no end to the resulting frustration.

I will follow you Lord, but first let me … help you to understand that I can’t get ahead in this world if I am not fully devoted to getting ahead right now.  I know you said you were here and experienced the world, but I think it was different for you.  After all, you are God, and it just had to have been a little different.  I am climbing a ladder, you see, and there are people just at my heels.  If I stop, they will surpass me and I won’t get the promotion or the raise or the praise or the offer to speak.  Without those things, I will be nothing.

I will follow you Lord, but first let me … get a few things straightened out, you know, clean myself up a bit.  I still do some sinful things.  I’m just on the verge of overcoming them, I just need a little more time.  

I will follow you Lord and let me confess to you that

I see what you’ve done in my life, the times when there is just no other explanation for my deliverance but you; I look at my children and know that there is something more here than the effort I’m putting in.

I don’t know how it all works, but you have shown me enough for me to believe, and in fact, sometimes when I’m alone, I can actually feel you inside me.

Sometimes living just for me feels a little narrow and I get tired of myself and all the consuming and doing.  When I do things for others, it actually feels pretty good.

I’m a little tired of trying to keep up and often look for a place to be alone and sit still, you know, to just be.  The things I'm seeking happiness in don't seem like they're helping.  I just want more and more of them.

On the outside, there is much comfort, but to be honest, there is restlessness in me and some uncertainty about what this has all been about.

I’m not so sure I’m in control.  I look around and see things fall apart in other people’s lives and know that I’m next.  I know that my finances, as safe as I may try to keep them, are subject to things I just don’t control.  And recently, a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.  But she was really successful and healthy.  My family has had some disputes lately and things are a little rocky when certain issues are raised.

I think I need some help.  I keep sinning and can’t seem to stop no matter how hard I try.  I think I might need some help to get it all straightened out.  And I have done some things that I would give anything to let go of and be forgiven of because they have become so heavy. 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matt 11:28-30)

No more dot-dot-dot.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

God Is Here

At church, our worship leader said, “God is here,” and I began to cry.   I repeated this phrase to myself.  God is here.  God is here.  I wiped the tears, feeling the deep truth of this suddenly and unexpectedly.

Then, as a body, we sang “Holy, holy, holy.” The tears continued.  I looked around, wondering if it was just me, so touched in this moment.  Those around me did their own adjusting to His presence.  Couples moved closer to one another.  A mother wrapped her arm around the teenage, rebellious son.  God is here. 

I listened to words about the kingdom of God and our lives within it and a rush of perspective moved through me, over and under and around.  What is real is that God is here.  

I walked in a daze to the bookstore to find a book that includes a map of where Jesus was teaching as described in Luke’s gospel.  My daughter and I read it together every night – one night she reads and the next I read.  But, we really need a map.  Where is the Sea of Galilee? Where is Capernaum?  And where are these places in relation to Bethlehem and Nazareth?  She asks me these things as we read and I just don’t know.  I find a book with maps and pictures, broken down by each book of the Bible.  At the beginning of the section on Luke, there is a map of the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Bethlehem, and Nazareth.  Tears formed in the backs of my eyes and my throat ached slightly as happened.  These are real places.  I ran my finger over the map, stunned.  God is here.  

I sat at a high table reading and waiting for my daughter to return from her weekend retreat with the junior-high ministry.  I watched people come and go, mostly in groups of two or three.  They held things – coffee, Bibles, journals, bags, purses, children, hands, tragedies, triumphs, hurts, healings.  They talked about the afternoon game and their favorite coffee flavor.  God is here.

My daughter’s purple suitcase sat sandwiched between two others with a little green tag with her name.  I pulled it out, “This one is mine.”  The yellow buses pulled up and kids poured out.  “Where is mine?”  I saw her small-group leader and searched the sea of faces for the one I knew so well, the one I saw take its first gasp of air.  And there was the face!  My breath caught in my throat and tears rushed in again.  I shouted her name over the noise and she turned, knowing my voice.  She smiled and ran to me.  I smelled her hair and felt her fingers and knew again.  God is here.  

On the way home, she told me of some verses in the Bible she had discovered.  She told me that she underlined them and read them during her “solo time.”   When I asked her which was most meaningful to her, she said it came from Matthew 6.  And from the back seat, she read it slowly as if for the first time:

Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who
sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to
but rescue us from the evil one.

God is here.  Yes, God is here.