Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kept from Recognizing

These three words from Luke 24:16 stop me short. Jesus had come alongside Cleopas and his friend on the road to Emmaus. Even though they were deep in conversation about Jesus, they didn’t realize it was Jesus himself who had joined them.

I don’t blame Cleopas and his friend—after all the text says, “they were kept from recognizing him”. My question is why, why were they kept from recognizing him?  Wouldn’t God want me to know that Jesus is right there with me, walking beside me when I’m in the midst of the hard questions of life?

The questions swirl around:
She always wanted to be a pastor’s wife …
He graduated from seminary with distinction …
We thought God wanted us to serve Him overseas …
Why is life not matching up with expectations? Expectations that seem good and right and God’s will. Why is God keeping himself hidden?

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” This is God’s admonition to Peter and James and John in Matthew 17. Am I so busy reviewing all that I hope for; all that seems logical; all that is surely God’s will that I am not listening? Perhaps God wants me to stop reviewing disappointments and question marks and be quiet enough to listen. Maybe what I think is best isn’t best.

I’m learning to ask:
What is it that you know will give me life?
What are you saying about these circumstances?
What cautions should I be aware of?
God, what does it look like to trust you in this situation today?
God, how should I be praying?
God, would you give me a glimpse of yourself?

“Everyone who is of the truth listens to my (Jesus’) voice.”
Luke 18:37; parentheses mine.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Open Eyes, Open Scriptures, Open Mind

Or, The Process of Belief.  I am following Cleopas and is faith journey in Luke 24. I'm on the same road.

What a gift to me that Jesus chose to appear to Cleopas, a yet to be believer, after the resurrection. Cleopas is familiar with Jesus; and he almost believed that Jesus is the Messiah. He definitely wants to believe. "We had hoped ..." Cleopas and his friends hoped that Jesus was the one. They describe him as a prophet and mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. They don't know him personally.

Thank you, Jesus,  for coming to me when I almost believe that you are the answer to my hopes.

Cleopas and his friends are in deep conversation (at first they don't even notice Jesus coming up beside them) reviewing all that happened and their dashed hopes. Jesus joins their conversation and invites them into dialog. Again, all their dashed hopes are rehearsed, this time to Jesus.

I'm there. How often I spend more time reviewing my dashed hopes instead of reviewing the truths of Scripture. Ouch. God, thank you, that you are the author and the fulfiller of hope. Pleases help me to keep my eyes on truth, not circumstances.

Twice Jesus opens the Scriptures to Cleopas and his friends. It seems that open Scriptures do not communicate unless hearts are open as well. The first time Jesus opens the Scriptures nothing is recorded about Cleopas' heart.

As Cleopas and his friend near the home where they were going, they invite Jesus (or whoever this person is who joined their conversation) to stay with them. At dinner Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them; the first ah-ha moment. Their memory of other times when Jesus broke bread floods back; their eye are open and they recognize Jesus!

Thank you, Father, for pictures that you give me that helps me to recognize you. Please keep my eyes wide open.

Open Scriptures plus open eyes are good; there needs to be more. Jesus appears to this group a second time. Again he reviews the Scriptures. This time he opens their minds (their hearts) to understand the Scriptures. Life-change happens. Now they are described as full of joy and worshiping. Their dashed hopes evaporate.

Father, please keep my heart open to the truth of your word.

"Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,"
Luke 24:45


Friday, March 9, 2012

A Flourishing Finish

“The righteous flourish … grow…planted in the house of the LORD … flourish … still bear fruit … declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” 
Portions of Psalm 92:12-15

Early in her treatment for ovarian cancer as Patti was scheduling her chemotherapy and planning an important family event, her doctor encouraged her with these wise words,
“You have cancer; cancer doesn’t have you.”

Those words set Patti free to live out her passions and priorities for the next seven years and to leave us a testimony of a flourishing finish as she exemplified Psalm 92.

Four snapshots of a flourishing finish:

  1. The last time I saw Patti was four months ago at the Navigator National Staff Conference. The hotel kindly created many cozy sit and talk spaces in the wide corridors outside the meeting rooms. Patti often sat on one of those sofas and many—including me—enjoyed a few minutes of conversation with her. I left uplifted and blessed … and I bet the others did too. A flourishing finish means listening to what is going on in the lives of your friends and encouraging them.

  1. The last written communication we received was Ron and Patti’s Christmas letter. It featured their four adult children. There was no mention of their move to California; there new home; their new role with The Navs; or how Patti was doing in her battle with cancer.  Just four pictures of their sons with their wives and their daughter. Patti was so proud of her kids. A flourishing finish means living out your mother’s heart. 

  1. The last electronic communication Patti and I had was via text four days before she met Jesus face to face. A flourishing finish is taking time and harnessing the strength to respond to text message from your friends.

  1. The last snapshot Patti left for me was at her memorial service. This snapshot is really a collage of many beautiful pictures that spoke of Patti’s values. The frame that encased all of these snapshots was a frame of faith—faith in the goodness of God. It was vividly communicated by the lyrics of the songs we sang—that Patti chose—ending with “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” A flourishing finish means allowing your life to speak faith to your friends even after we no longer hear your voice.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish”
Philippians 1:6, The Message

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Tribute to Patti

After a seven year hard-fought battle with ovarian cancer, my friend Patti died last week. Up till four days before she stepped into heaven we were texting back and forth. She was asking about me and how I was doing. If I didn’t know she was on home-hospice, I would not have guessed from her kind, up-beat texts.

Those seven years were full with lots of family milestones that she and her family generously shared with their friends. There were graduation parties; a kick-off party as one son embarked on the same career as his dad; we celebrated the weddings of their three sons; we thrilled with the birth of their first GRAND-daughter, Lily Ann. I love this picture of Patti with Lily Ann. I love Patti's smile and the joy she is obviously feeling as she holds Lily Ann. I think all my memories of Patti are with a smile.

But life was not all wonderful for Patti and her family. Besides her cancer, there were other hard circumstances. Patti shared vulnerably as her family walked through these scary valleys. She allowed us to pray for her and the family and walk with them in those days. Family and prayer were both very important to Patti.

Patti had a huge heart for women’s ministry and stayed involved locally and nationally. Her heart to serve came out as she willingly volunteered for lots of the administrative details or was involved in speaking at conferences. She did both with equal enthusaism. Thank you Patti! 

She often ministered by opening their home to others for meals and meetings partnering with her husband Ron. She was just as comfortable with her fellow believing friends and those yet to know Jesus.

She and I supported each other with our home-based businesses. And we were both dog-lovers.

Then there were the times that we shared as I drove her to Denver for her chemotherapy appointments. Those times always included lunch and lots of talking at a favorite restaurant afterwards before the affects of the chemo kicked in.

Patti was gracious in receiving. Many of us helped with meals over the last several years. And other friends helped her in other significant ways—like flying to California to help Patti settle in to the new home when they moved last summer to be closer to their four children.

I remember Patti sharing how the Psalms were ministering to her deeply during those seven years. She knew she was walking in the valley of the shadow of death. It was evident from the peace she always exuded that the LORD was indeed her shepherd.

I miss you Patti, my friend.

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”
Psalm 116:15

Friday, March 2, 2012

Slow Hearts, Burning Hearts, Doubting Hearts

Luke’s conclusions as he describes the hearts of the people who encountered Jesus in the hours after the resurrection in Luke 24 ring true for me today.  

Slow Hearts
Two followers of Jesus are walking on the
Emmaus Road
on their way to Jerusalem a few hours after the discovery that Jesus’ tomb is empty. They’re rehashing in detail all that happened. They can’t believe it; it wasn’t supposed to be that way. They are very sad. Suddenly Jesus is beside them, walking with them, entering their conversation, asking questions. They are clueless that this stranger is Jesus. As they related their sad story, one used the words; “we had hoped …” Therein lays the key to their sadness. Their reality did not match their expectations. Jesus calls them slow of heart and then goes on to remind them of all that is in the Scriptures concerning himself.

We had hoped. I had hoped. I find myself in that place often. Life isn’t supposed to be this way.
I had hoped …

When I take time to ponder my hopes and my reality, I often return to Scripture and realize my ponderings default to my interpretation of God’s word, the way I want to understand it. My theology is incomplete and askew.  I am slow of heart.

Burning Hearts
Jesus accepted the invitation of his walking companions to stay for dinner. The followers still have not recognized him. As the meal commenced Jesus took the bread, blessed and broke it. An “ah-ha” moment. Jesus gave them a picture they understood. They knew about the feeding of the 5000, perhaps they were there. And the last supper that Jesus shared with his disciples was only a few days ago. Their memory was fresh. It was Jesus who walked with them and came to share dinner with them. Then Jesus vanished.

Their commentary, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road,”
Jesus walked with them, talked to them, revealed himself to them. Their hearts burned within.

I love these mountain-top moments when I’ve listened to the voice of Jesus. My hearts burns too. I live off them—for a while. I share them with friends. Everything is clear and encouraging. Then they begin to fade. Life gets in the way. I forget.

Doubting Hearts
Luke next recorded Jesus’ third appearance since the resurrection. The disciples (Jesus’ closest friends) continued to talk among themselves about Jesus being with the men on the
Emmaus Road
and breaking the bread before their eyes. As they discussed, suddenly Jesus is among them again. They are startled, frightened, and thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesus knew their fears and met them where they were. He showed them the nail scars on his hands and feet; he offered for them to touch him; he asked for something to eat. A ghost does not have flesh and bones; a ghost does not get hungry. Jesus asked, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Once again Jesus reminded them of the Scriptures and opened their minds to understand it.

Do I consider myself a friend of Jesus? Yes.
Does my friendship with him exempt me from doubts? No.

Jesus gently addressed their doubting hearts:
*He invited them to touch him—something that makes sense to them.
*He again reviewed the Scriptures with them and opened their minds to understand.   
*He affirmed them—you are a witness to these things.
*He left them with a promise-the Holy Spirit.
*He led them out to Bethany and blessed them.

Dear Jesus, when my heart begins to doubt, please help me to see your invitation to me in my doubts; your affirmation of me; and your promises and blessings to me. Amen.

“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road,
while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Luke 24:32, ESV