Tag Archives: Bible

1/2 Marathon

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It was December 2010 and I had determined to cross “half-marathon” off of my bucket-list. With a house-full of kids, carving out time to train was exceptionally difficult, but I kept at it and trained up through about 7-8 miles.  I felt pretty good about my progress since my previous record was only a 5K, so race day came and I joined the hundreds of other runners on that frigid morning with great expectations.  The starting gun goes off and it takes another ten minutes to cross the starting line. The crowd opened up after a bit, and my pace increased. I passed my 5K record feeling great. Mile five and six were even enjoyable! Rounding out mile number seven, my left hip popped and soreness immediately threatened my course completion. By mile eight I was doing that funny looking limp-run-walk where you pull the arms up tighter to give yourself and others the impression that you are actually moving faster than you are. By mile nine, I was numb, but still walking.  My mp3 player had recycled the same set of songs at least three times, so they were now far more annoying than motivating. All the blood in my body had migrated to my lower extremities, which were pulsating and heavy. By mile eleven, I was ready to call an ambulance. After all, my husband had stayed home with the kids and I had no one waiting to cheer me on at the finish line. No one would know if I gave up except for me. Could I handle giving up? How disappointed would I really be in myself? I was debating whether or not I would really follow through with making a “maybe sometime in the future” second attempt, when I noticed that even the sound of my labored breathing was like fingernails against a chalkboard, and there was no water station anywhere in sight. When I thought I couldn’t go another step, I hear a voice on my left, “Hangin’ in there?” “Barely,” I confessed.  She admitted that it would be nice to have someone to talk to on the final stretch. Tired and sore we made it through the last two miles. When I looked up and saw the finish line, I nearly cried with joy. She turned to me and said, “Finish strong?” Neither of us was certain whether it was a question or a command, but I replied, “definitely!” We burned up the last ounces of energy we had picking up the pace, and to this day I don’t know what my time was when I crossed the finish line. I wouldn’t have been able to meet my goal that day had it not been for her. She could have done what every other runner did, and just pass me by. She could have passed judgment on my inadequate training or simply kept quiet. By speaking up and coming along side me, her encouragement made all the difference. I haven’t done any half marathons since then, but in considering life as a race, I strive to take her example into every relationship and to help others finish strong.  So hang in there.  God’s not done with you yet.

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Worship

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Today I heard the most beautiful sound.

It wasn’t a symphony or chiming bells.

It wasn’t a seagull calling out over the ocean.

It wasn’t the man I love professing his affection for me…

Today I heard the most beautiful sound.

It was a little girl standing behind me in church and singing praises to Jesus at the top of her lungs, with misshapen words and a few forgotten notes…

And I cried…

The most classically trained, perfectly tuned, ethereal utterance could not compare with the unashamed purity of emotion poured out by this sweet little girl.

That is Worship.

Worship is not something presented for our entertainment, to be critiqued, or to impress an audience of many.

Worship is singing, dancing, working, teaching, sharing, writing…

        For an audience of One

        Not to win His admiration,

        But because our love overflows and we just…can’t…keep…quiet.

Today I heard the most beautiful sound,

And I felt the heart of Jesus.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” Matthew 19:14.

 

Surnames & Identity

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“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” or would it? Five Japanese people are suing their government over an 1896 law that requires them to take the same surname to legally register their marriage. One of them argues that, “By losing your surname…you’re being made light of, you’re not respected…It’s as if part of yourself vanishes.” A Japanese constitutional scholar contends that, “Names are the best way to bind families.”

I would like to offer that both perspectives fall short of convincing. While family heritage plays a large role in our identities, the surname itself is always borrowed from another relative. Sure, you can blend and hyphenate names, but how long does the name become in order to identify oneself fully? If marrying someone causes you to feel disrespected, then why are you getting married? If you are partnering, “becoming one,” with another person, but don’t want to share their name, is it not an indication that you are rejecting their family and heritage? On the flip side, simply suggesting that it is the “best” way is also a statement of opinion, along with fears of “destroying social stability, the maintenance of public order and the basis for social welfare.” How, exactly, are either positions to be quantified, or reconciled?

I know of only one way…When God created man and woman, He did not give them separate names. “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). They were collectively named “Adam,” meaning mankind. It was the man who gave the woman a different name, “Eve,” and defined her as the “mother of all the living.” So the idea of individuality is coupled with separation – distance.

If people are wrapped up in the idea of being their own person and separated or distinguished at a distance from their spouse, then what is the point of being married? Is it not entirely, then, a self-serving enterprise? How well do those marriages generally turn out? When two people desire to come together, the goal is not individuality, but oneness. Each brings their own uniqueness and heritage to the table and creates a new entity, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family” (Genesis 2:23-25).

Personally, I have dealt with divorce and remarriage, and the surname issue was a big deal for me. In my first marriage, I did not wish to entirely take on his name. I didn’t want it hyphenated, so I kept my maiden name as a second middle name, but made certain it was written on everything. It didn’t take me long to understand that my hesitation and uneasiness was because something inside me didn’t trust him or respect his leadership. After divorce and reconnecting with Jesus Christ, I set my focus on following Him, and He brought into my life the man who would become my second husband. This man also shared the same direction and desire to follow Jesus, and I trust him implicitly. He leads where I am weak, and is willing to be submissive to my strengths. I had no doubt that I wanted to take on his name. Though our relationship hasn’t always been easy, it has grown me and strengthened me more with each passing day. While it was his name from birth, I proudly claim it as my own, and I am closer now than I have ever been to being the woman that God made me to be – the woman I want to be.

Regardless of earthly names, titles, labels, roles or relative position – first and foremost, my husband and I are children of God and carry His name. We are His ambassadors, sent to share the love of Jesus and to testify to His kingdom. Our goal and desire is to be unified and of one mind with Him. My perspective will be different than those who choose to follow any other path, because we have a different filter and focus.

Marriage, for me, is not about a political or social movement, a whim, a flight of fancy, or romantic notions that any other human could “complete me.” As a follower of Jesus, I can call my marriage (oneness, unity, relationship, etc.) by any name and it will still be as sweet because it is defined by the One who created my identity.

Reference article: “Debate on separate spouse surnames heats up before Japan court ruling.” By Elaine Lies. Reuters, December 10, 2015. http://news.yahoo.com/debate-separate-spouse-surnames-heats-japan-court-ruling-002048548.html

Photograph courtesy of Rebecca L. Jordan, 2015.

In the Middle of the Storm

178294-e7dd0b80-12d9-11e4-9633-5d2eb5bc90d6In the Middle of the Storm – You are there

When the Wind is a Gale – You keep me grounded

When Debris wounds my Spirit – You sustain me

When I can’t Catch my Breath – You fill me up

When I can’t see my way through – You can

When all seems lost – There You find me

When I can’t hold on – You take my hand

When my song is a whimper – You give it life

When my Endurance fails – You are my champion

In the Middle of the Storm – You are there

You hold me close

You are my strength

You are my Advocate and Judge

You are my Father and my King

Lord, Jesus, I will praise You always

Through the tears – I will praise You

Though bruised and battered – I will lift up Your Name

You are more magnificent than the greatest tempest

And Only You can calm the Storm

In the meantime, Stay with Your student and be my Teacher

Coaching the Underdogs

running-shoesAmong the many nicknames I have for my soon-to-be twelve year old daughter, the most accurate may be “Speedy.” We can’t recall a phase in between crawling and running. She’s always been one of our most physically active kids, playing soccer and running 5K’s for fun. While those are interests that define a little bit about her and how she spends her time, there’s one that I find of much greater value. At the end of each soccer practice, twice a week, the girls run a mile. Audrey usually comes in at the head of the pack, often by a considerable distance, but one day she noticed one of the heavier girls struggling. Instead of speeding on past and lapping her, Audrey slowed to jog alongside her friend and took an extra full lap in order to spend time encouraging the discouraged and embarrassed teammate. The team manager took note of it and seemed impressed, as did some of the other players, but she didn’t do it because anyone was watching, and she didn’t understand why she was getting praise for something that “anyone would do.” While technically she had the best time on that run, it was certainly not her best – but she doesn’t remember what her time was because that wasn’t her focus. She finished first and last that day, because she didn’t want to leave anyone behind.

article-2155133-13783754000005DC-940_634x832In a world where we pride ourselves on individualism and reaching the top, people often get shoved to the side or even trampled in the process. The reason it is so refreshing to see a humble competitor is because it resonates with each one of us. We all want that extra encouragement – someone to be there with us when we’re playing the role of the underdog. We all want a pat on the back that says “you did it!” – no matter how long it took to finish the job. It resonates because every great story is a reflection of what Jesus did for us. Jesus – King of Kings and Lord of Lords, fully God and fully man, didn’t come as a conquering hero, but as a helpless, poor infant. Born to a single virgin mother and adopted by Joseph, Jesus taught and demonstrated mercy, compassion, justice, and love. He was first and became last, lowest, bruised and beaten. He was blameless, but took on our shame so that we would not have to bear the burden of our own guilt. He spent every ounce of His limited human strength in order to offer us the limitless and divine gift of grace – a pink slip marked “Paid in full.” Whether we finish first or last, He offers us the free gift of eternal life with Him. Because He is perfectly just, and our great debt had to be paid, He paid your debt and mine. You don’t have to accept it – If you don’t want to follow Him, don’t like who you think He is, or just want to be your own coach – He isn’t going to force you into having a relationship with Him. He will give you everything you think you want – but it will still fall short of true satisfaction. His gift is FREE – Yours for the taking – You can’t earn it. You can’t loose enough weight, exercise enough, run fast enough, climb high enough, make enough money, feed enough poor people or attend enough church services to earn your own way to heaven. The one and only way is to accept His gift, take His hand, and let Him pick you up, heal you, coach and encourage you throughout the race.

Hebrews 12 New English Translation (NET Bible)

The Lord’s Discipline

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. You have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed in your struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons?

My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline
or give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.”

Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? 10 For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. 11 Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed.

*Now, keep reading…He has so much more that He wants to share with you!*

P.S. Full disclosure: the picture above is not my daughter, but another awesome young lady who went the same “distance” for another competitor. You can read her story at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2155133/Meghan-Vogel-Inspiring-photo-shows-Ohio-runner-help-carry-competitor-finish-line.html

Time Is…

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“Time is Fleeting.”

“Time is Infinite.”

“Time is of the Essence.”

“Time is Money.”

 Our understanding of time colors our perception of the world around us. There are essentially two modes of time: kronos and kairos. Kronos is chronological time. It involves punching a clock, scheduling, and prioritizing. Efficiency and productivity are its goals. Kairos is more elastic. It measures time in terms of relationships and events. Let me give you an example…If I asked you what you were doing at precisely 3:17pm on May 14th, 2014, you probably would have a difficult time recalling, and even if you could remember, the answer provided would be clinical, like reading it out of an appointment book. However, if I ask you to think back to your last birthday or the last time you went to your favorite restaurant with that special someone…Now the memories and related emotional responses begin to surface and flow. You can smell the food, remember the ambiance and tone of the lighting and perhaps hear background voices, even recalling whole conversations from that event – a look, a touch of the hand – it all becomes almost tangible again…

Our memory resides in kairos time, though western society functions in kronos. Most of the world still functions entirely in kairos time – punctuality is not as highly prized, getting straight to the point is considered rude and breeds distrust, and face-to-face communication is highly valued. Western-style-kronos-club members are convenience-driven. If a phone call or a text will suffice, business is done. Emails and conference calls may well close the deal – but keep them brief and succinct so the audience doesn’t fall asleep or tune you out.

When and why did we change? The key point in history came with the Industrial Revolution. Productivity became more important, with everything now being tied to earning potential. Money becomes king. As a follower of Jesus Christ, how do I reconcile that? Hmmm…

We have the concept of “free time,” meaning time not previously committed to some other endeavor, namely one that generate income. Perpetually busy, we fantasize about what we might do with our “free time.” How much money can we throw at it? And then, returning to work, the cycle begins again…

Our time, all of it, is actually free. It is a gift that God freely gives us because He is exceedingly patient…and yet it was not without a magnificent cost…

Every year, Americans celebrate Independence Day where we enjoy the freedom to participate in parades and fireworks shows, to grill hamburgers and hotdogs, go swimming or take in a baseball game – but the freedom we prize so highly came, and continues to come, at an incredible cost. Our military budget dwarfs all other nations, though we can’t seem to budget to care for our veterans when they return home – if they return. The lives lost or crippled may be quantifiable, but their value is incalculable…This is why we say that “Freedom isn’t free.” Likewise, True Freedom, that which no government or earthly authority can dictate or take away, was bought with the blood of one perfect individual – fully God and fully man – and we did nothing, nor can we accomplish anything to deserve His sacrifice. So…if Jesus bought our eternal freedom with His own blood and our time is a measure of His grace and mercy, then how should we use that gift to say, “thank you?” We are not merely stewards of the money, resources, and relationships entrusted to us, but also of the time we’ve been afforded – in whatever amount that is. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20a reads, in part, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” Luke 16:10-13 says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you’ve not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?…No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

When Jesus said, “Come follow me…” to Andrew and Simon Peter, they walked away from their money-making livelihood and obeyed…imagine if they’d said “What about my job?” or “Can I pencil you in tomorrow?” But they knew the value of the One who called them. He may not be calling you to walk away from your job – Simon and Andrew were fishers, therefore Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.” If you are not a fisherman, then this is not likely what God has in store for you…Are you an architect? It may be more likely that He is grooming you to build others up. Are you a teacher? Oh, wow, does He have a tall order for you! Are you an accountant, or a bus driver, or a journalist…Jesus didn’t call all of His disciples to be “fishers of men.” He called them as He had already equipped them.

If “time is fleeting,” then we shouldn’t let it go to waste. If “time is infinite,” then we should approach everything with an eternal perspective. If “time is of the essence,” then we should walk with His Spirit, seeking His wisdom and guidance, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on you own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own estimation; fear the Lord and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7). If “time is money,” perhaps we would be better served by serving God with our time, talents, finances, prayers and relationships, and let Him handle the rest.

Resurrection Day

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We’ve had a few brilliant moments of clarity this month as we’ve traversed through the seven year old being sick, and then myself, car problems, and extended family health issues. One of those perfect windows where everything seemed right with the world was Easter weekend. This year as my older boys ran around hiding sugar-filled eggs for my younger girls to find, and the picture-perfect weather between storms was calming my sinuses, my thoughts wandered back to the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah. It may sound like an odd connection, but bear with me as I chase this bunny rabbit. Nehemiah traveled 1,000 miles with permission and protection from the king of Babylon to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. These walls had been rubble for generations at that point. The people were seemingly lost in despair. Before something beautiful could be constructed, Nehemiah had to take a long, hard, honest look at the damage, and then set out to clear away the debris. So often I’ve thought about something that I’d like to accomplish, but there is too much rubble in the way – too many hurdles – too many inconveniences – and somehow I convince myself that must mean it’s not God’s will for me to complete that particular project. This is exactly what kept Jerusalem wallowing in shame and destruction for so long – it seemed too great a task and they were discouraged, brokenhearted, and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the damage. Our metaphorical damaged walls and lost-ness can have the same debilitating effect – leaving us feeling powerless and ineffective. The answer is not to wait until God sends a Nehemiah, but to follow Nehemiah’s example. He prayed for four months for the city, and then God prompted the king to ask Nehemiah what was on his mind, opening up the conversation and the possibility of healing. Which brings me to the second point: Nehemiah didn’t do it alone. He had others come along side him. God used the king to provide the resources and provisions. Nehemiah’s distant relatives, most of which he’d probably never met, all pitched in and had their section of the wall they were responsible to build and defend. Just fifty-two days later the walls were built – project complete? Not hardly. The clearing of the debris was necessary to build the wall. The building of the wall was necessary for the next step, getting the heart of the city right with God, and people right with each other. There are stages to healing. Where is the debris so thick in your life that you’ve determined to just ignore it? Are you trying to do it alone? The reason that people are supposed to be in a church community is not because it’s the right club to belong to, but because we need to be there for one another, loving each other and helping each other to clear away our rubble and rebuild. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV).

Sin is simply anything that separates us from God – it is us deciding what is right and good instead of leaning on His perfect design and plan. If a builder decides to go solo on a whim and deviate from the architects plan, it could create a big ‘ol mess or at the least distrust between team members who thought they were all on the same team with the same goals and methods in mind. When parents aren’t on the same page regarding the training of a child, distrust and brokenness can result and a rift develops in the heart of the child, which continues to impact other areas of their life and relationships. Destruction begets more destruction. We all have some level of brokenness that we have to own up to. Looking in another direction will not make it go away. Ignoring it won’t make it better. Hiding it will only cause it to fester and rot. How do we begin to clear it away? Where do we start? Start with the one who understands every inch of our lives. He was the architect who fashioned an amazing floor plan for each of us, and it was all-good until we decided to confiscate the tools and change up the design. He is perfect, loving, forgiving, and He can make all things new. In the Russian language, the word for Sunday is pronounced Vos-kre-sen-ye. It literally means “Resurrection Day.” But before Christ could be resurrected, He had to die to clean up our mess. It is too big for one person, but not for God. He is the King who provides us protection in the midst of disaster, and whose limitless resources are available to us through Jesus. “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14 NIV). The light of Christ will expose all of the ugliness that we face, but it will allow us to see our way through it – one stone, one hurt, one apology at a time. No person, no Christian, no church is perfect. When Jesus was asked why He was hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes, He responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31 NIV). Our souls can be healed – even though we were dead in sin, separated from God, sick, and alienated from the church because of imperfect people that treated us poorly. God has a lot of patience and a lot of patients. While this life will never be perfect, He can take all your imperfect parts and employ others to help you rebuild the walls of a structure that will shelter others during their storms. You may be the answer to a prayer just 52 days from now that someone else is seeking. Shine a light on it. Find others who are following the Architect to help you resurrect this life, and rise each day in the knowledge that He loves you. He invested His whole self in you. You were an investment worth dying for, and you too can be resurrected with Him.

Born to Do This!

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When I was starting out in college (the first time around) I came across a letter-sized black poster with a white swoosh symbol on it. Being familiar with the commercials for Nike and the tag line, “Just Do It,” I put it on the wall in my dorm room as a reminder that no matter how tired I was, or how directionless I felt, I could not give up. The problem I had was never a lack of determination, but a longing to understand my purpose. Why did God choose to place me in the time period that He did, with the family and in the birth-order that He did, and what in the world was I supposed to do with any of the talents and resources that He’d handed me? I’d heard people with regard to this or that say to me, “You were born to do this!” But was I? Just whose voice was speaking on behalf of God? Who should I listen to?

Our oldest child wasn’t much for listening through his teenage years, but after becoming a father at age twenty on Christmas Eve 2014, he’s started asking a lot more questions, and really taking to heart the answers given. Our second oldest is getting ready to go off to college and is struggling with which university to pick. When I was where they are now, though I believed fully in Jesus Christ, I didn’t truly understand what it meant for Him to take the lead, or for me to follow. I still attempted to do things in my own strength – to do what seemed rational, logical, or responsible rather than asking the Lord AND WAITING for Him to answer. He knew I would do that, and He graciously carried me through a host of poor decisions anyway.

So I’ve walked quite a bit farther since then, but focused on keeping more in step with Jesus and His Word, and I’ve learned a lot. One of the many things He’s taught me is that (See Exodus) the enemy is always in hot pursuit. If I am listening to anything other than His Words or following any other path than the one He’s carved out for me, I will get distracted and overtaken. The enemy will pick me off and consume me. If I will wait, listen, trust Him, and follow, He will make straight my path. That path may not lead to immediate prosperity – I may wander in a desert for 40+ years – but in the midst of that, He still provides (quail, manna, water). The banquet is yet to come.

So what am I born to do? I am a missionary. It is my life’s mission to be actively involved in an intimate relationship with Jesus and to introduce others to Him. How? Find where you are motivated – What stirs you up, brings you tears of joy or frustrates you the most? As an example, when I was seven years old, the Reflections art contest theme was “I Have a Dream…” patterned after MLK Jr’s famous speech. My dream was for every child who was too poor to have a birthday party to come together and a celebration would be provided for them. When I received an allowance at age thirteen, the first thing I wanted to do was sponsor a child, which I began doing through World Vision. Imagine my tears of joy when, years later, World Vision added birthday celebrations once a year in every village and I get to be a part of it! The point is not to pat myself on the back, but to point out where my obvious motivation always was (never discount the passions of a child – there’s always an underlying theme). Take that motivating factor and mix it with the talents, abilities, and interests that God gave you & presto! You’ve got a good idea of how He wants to shape and mold you – you’ve got your starting point. You still need the light of truth that only He can provide to guide you step-by-step. My starting point is a compassion for others that leads me to combat injustice through service. The gift He’s provided that I’ve used most prolifically throughout my life is my voice. Most people thought that meant I had to perform on a stage and live in a tour bus, but God had other plans. I am a voice-over actor. I am a teacher to my children and of preschool music in my church. I am an encourager and editor to my husband (who’s soon to be a professor/preacher). I am learning to translate into other languages. I still sing – but now for an audience of One.  I am a writer, passionate about research and sharing God’s Word. And I will not give up, shut up, sit down or stop moving forward as directed by His Word until the day He calls me home. What are you born to do?

Security vs. Significance

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Significance is a noun indicating, “the quality of being important…having notable worth or influence.”  Each human being is important, so says John 3:16, and whether they realize their worth or feel influential or not, each life impacts everything in its environment.  I have often underestimated the significance of my own existence, preferring to remain comfortable in the shadow of my wonderful husband’s contagiously animated and outgoing nature.  When given the option, I have settled for security more often than not.  Security may be defined as, “the state of being protected or safe from harm.”  Safety may be thought of in physical terms, but I would submit that it is more often related to emotional comfort that is coveted, whether that is borne from fear of being alienated, different, or simply being uncertain which direction is best.  How many of us have determined at some point of decision, not to make a decision at all, simply because you know and understand where you are, and may be too afraid to take the “wrong” next step?  So foolish are we who act as though our security can ever be found in the shadows, in keeping quiet, or in hiding behind excuses or other human beings!  The Psalms are full of praises to God for His protection.  Psalm 32:7, “You are my hiding place; you protect me from distress. You surround me with shouts of joy from those celebrating deliverance.” Psalm 73:28 says, “But as for me, God’s presence is all I need. I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter…” Psalm 119:57 tells us, “The Lord is my source of security…” I cannot hide from the world and be an effective, significant support to the Church.

Significant is an adjective, defined by Merriam-Webster as, “large enough to be noticed or have an effect.” When I look back at “significant” events in my own life, I think about the “light bulb” moments – times when a new truth became clear – times when overwhelming darkness gave way to peace – times when someone dared to risk their own emotional or physical security to reach out to me. “Large enough” doesn’t have to be huge. It could be that a simple note of encouragement, a hug, or time spent praying on behalf of another that makes all the difference in the world. No one lives in complete isolation, and attempting to isolate yourself isn’t “safe” – it’s lazy (speaking from experience). Baby steps are a fantastic start – but start you must if you ever wish to finish the race that God has uniquely marked out for you. Trust that His plan is not only the most significant of your life, but the only one that will also provide all the security you’ll ever need. It’s time to step out of the shadows and engage…

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Defining Treasure

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As St. Patrick’s Day approached, I began pondering the concept of treasure.  That, and the question:  How in the world do tiny people called leprechauns fit into the picture of a holiday proclaimed as a result of Christianity being brought to Ireland by a Roman Catholic former slave?  So I started digging.

The Irish concept of a leprechaun began with an ancient people called the Tuatha De Danann.  This group worshiped various gods or spirits, most of whom were related to elements of nature.  The Tuatha De Danann were, themselves, worshiped by some as gods. There were said to be four things the Tuatha De Danann actually treasured:

1) The Stone of Fal, which would cry out under the king who took sovereignty of Ireland

2) The Spear of Lug, which provides victory in battle

3) The Sword, which none could escape, and

4) the Cauldron of Dagda, which left none unsatisfied.

 The father of this ancient Irish tribe was called Nemed, who traced his lineage from Scythia and Noah’s son Japheth’s line of descendents (via Magog).  This people group was driven underground, though not exterminated, by the Milseans (also from Scythia via the Iberian peninsula).  Over time, and as Christianity eventually gained a foothold, the importance of the Tuatha De Danann diminished, along with their figurative stature.  They seem to have leveled out at approximately 3 feet in height according to legend.  The myths surrounding their magical qualities endured and these shoe cobblers, known for stashing their gold coins at the rainbow’s end, were also said to be capable of granting three wishes to anyone capable of capturing one.  For a great tribute to the ancient legend, look into the Disney movie and Sean Connery’s second performance in a film, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People.”

 The notion of “luck” associated with the early Irish peoples was borrowed from the Latin Fortuna, the goddess of luck or chance.  Luck may be defined as, “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”  Chance is, “a force that causes good or bad things to happen.”

 Fast forward to the 5th century AD.  A teenager named Maewyn Succat was taken from his home in England to become a slave tending sheep in Ireland.  After six years he escapes and, through a series of misadventures, finds himself learning about monasticism in France.  He feels convicted that he must return to his previous captors in Ireland and share the good news of Jesus Christ with them.  The Roman Catholic Church warned him against serving there, as previous missions were unsuccessful and the Irish were thought to be unreachable, savage, and violent.  Maewyn Succat is determined, and upon becoming a priest, adopts the name Patrick (Patricus), which means “father-figure.”  He already knows the language and customs of the Irish people, and their traditional worship of nature and spirits.  He employs these ideas that they already understand, such as with placing a high value on the shamrock, to communicate the more complicated Christian concept of the Trinity or triune, but singular God (three heart-shaped leaves, but one flower with one stem).

 Patrick met them where they were, loved them regardless of his own negative past personal experiences during slavery, and is reputed to have performed signs and wonders so that the Tuatha De Danann, the Picts, the Gaels, and the Celts might come to know that the Lord God is sovereign and good.  Patrick died on March 17, 432 AD leaving over 300 churches and more than 100,000 followers of Jesus on the Emerald Isle.

 Like the early Irish, we are still in need of guidance and direction in order to understand what treasure really is and where it can be found.  Our treasure is not in pots of gold at the end of some rainbow.  It is not found in earthly utensils of war.  Our Stone of Fal is the Solid Rock that we stand on, the only stable foundation that is a relationship with the One true God.  Our Sword that none can escape is the Truth that Jesus is the way to abundant spiritual life, and that no one can come to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6).  Our Spear of Lug, our victory in battle is knowing that Jesus has already won!  He made the ultimate sacrifice for us so that sin would not eternally keep us separated from our Creator! Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again.  But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).  This is our true Cauldron of Dagda that leaves none unsatisfied.  He is what nourishes us and will never leave us wanting!  He is our treasure!

 The Bible has more than a few other things to say regarding how we should perceive earthly treasures:

 Colossians 2:3 refers to the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

 “Your riches have rotted and your clothing has become moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver have rusted and their rust will be a witness against you.  It will consume your flesh like fire.  It is in the last days that you have hoarded treasure!”  James 5:2-3

 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Matthew 25 explains that the way we treat others is a reflection of the love relationship that we have with God, that will naturally overflow into serving and helping others, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me” (Matthew 25:35-40, New English Translation).

 What do you value? Who do you value?

 A few other interesting tidbits about the modern history of St. Patrick’s Day:

 1) Light blue was worn on armbands and collars by members of the Irish Citizen Army in honor of St. Patrick until the Irish Rebellion of 1798, when green became more common.  This was the same group which prompted the 1916 Easter Uprising against British rule.

 2) The 1st St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in the United States (1792 in New York City).  By 1848, nearly 3 million people would line the streets to watch 150,000 participants march in the 5-hour procession.

3) Ireland has only been officially celebrating St. Patrick’s Day beginning in 1903 when the Irish politician, James O’Mara introduced a bill at Westminster to formalize it as a holiday.

4) Being a heavily Catholic country, Ireland’s bars and pubs were legally closed on St. Patrick’s Day, and no alcohol was to be sold or consumed (as the holiday always falls during Lent) until the law was repealed in 1961.

5) Dublin’s first celebration was not until 1931, and Belfast would not celebrate the Irish festival until 1998 because of Protestant hostility toward Irish symbols (seeing them as associated with Catholicism or British rule, depending on who you ask).  The present-day ceremonies are championed by the only flag that all parties can agree on and are proud to wave: The flag of the Shamrock.

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