Sense Memories and a Mission

A sense memory is a sound, touch, smell, color—something that uses one of your five senses—to recall a memory. Since I am very sensitive to smells, my sense memories are usually of the olfactory type.

One of my most favorite scents of all time is a summer thunderstorm on the horizon. The electricity and water in the air, the smell of rain hanging heavy in the clouds and mist that has yet to fall, the deep, rich colors that no longer need UV filters (photography) or UV protection (sunglasses) to be seen and the pressure building that causes temporal rumblings in the sky….absolutely delicious. I even love the humidity brought on by a summer thunder storm. The dampness on my skin, the weight of the air… You think I’m mad, right? Completely bonkers? The thing is, the smell of coming rain, no matter the season, jogs memories of mine. I can almost feel the large, squishy droplets on my skin as the air begins to clear, and a chemical reaction in my brain screams “peace.” Whether it’s Winter Solstice, crisp, clean air, or the previously described Summer rain, there is nothing in the world that has ever been able to break through the peace and joy I feel when the weather changes like that. It is marvelous.

Lately, I’ve been trying to be more consciously aware of the emotional sense memories that have been stirring. As I am not used to them being quite so vibrant, it took me a while to recognize what these latest sensations were reminding me of.

This week, another one of many families will be making their way into the life of missionary work. As a church body, we are used to sending people out, across borders, oceans, continents…it’s what we do to honor the commission of the Almighty God. It’s a beautiful thing. The miraculous part about this is that in my life, this particular cause has finally come full circle. Wash, rinse, repeat: FULL CIRCLE.

Let’s start at the beginning. When I was 10, my best friend’s parents announced from the Sanctuary stage that their visa’s had been accepted and they were moving to Cairo….as in Egypt… as in Africa….as in the other side of the planet. Crazy sauce in my 10 year old opinion, but also very cool. Because there were pyramids and camels and history…right? I watched my mother help her mother pack. I sat on her bed and the two of us hiccuped and cried over being so far away that only the postal service/par avion could connect us. It was heartbreaking. But it was part of a larger plan.

As I think about the day she left (the first time), I realize that this amazing family is facing the same cliff, the same leap that my friend’s parents took. But now, instead of being the 10 year old friend of the kid whose parents are missionaries, I am the same age as the parents, praying over their children, asking Jesus to guide their feet, watching them stand where my friends’ family stood 24 years ago. It erupts in me a sense memory that I haven’t felt in years. Do you know what that is? When a Jesus Christ circle completes itself in your life, a realization comes to the surface. It’s the feeling of air being pulled from your lungs, sucked from your being, as you hurl your body, 100% into faith, believing that Jesus’ reach will cover and protect, will shelter and provide, will grow and change for his glory, willing hearts, faithful people. It’s the leap of faith that the Bible talks about. While some of us remain home, steadfast, as anchors holding onto lifelines, others are taken to the cliff, told to grab the end of the rope and leap, flying head first into oblivion.Mark Turner Leap of Faith Cover

The best part about this process is what I have come to realize. I heard people say many times, “who would take young children to a place like that? Who would do that to their family? Why would someone take a risk like that?” The answer is simple, overwhelming, and beautiful. Because Jesus asked. If we truly believe that Christ is the holiest, almighty, universe creating, soul protecting God he says he is, then answering God, going where he tells you to go, doing what he tells you to do….isn’t an optional thing. It’s not a fear based response. There’s no worry over safety, provision, or anything else. It’s a simple, yet supernatural response to a very singular question, loaded as it may be; to a Savior we trust.

We go because God asks. We go with love, in love, and because of love. We go because of Christ. We go because God asks.

As it turns out, coming full circle, feeling the hot sun bake my body into the coming Summer, filling my senses with memories of breaking heat, planting of gardens, and the picking of blackberries off thorny little vines, I remember one more very small, incredibly significant thing. They will be to someone else what a missionary was to me. And there is no greater purpose for their life than to work for the Glory of Yaweh, and to bring his light to life.

With hands held high and hearts anchored deep, we pray for open eyes, joy in the awe of spectacular creation, and the light of the eternal, living Christ to be their guide.

Amen? AMEN!

Shepherd, I bless you for what you give me.

If nothing you give me, I also do bless you.

I follow you laughing through roses and thorns, through brambles and thistles I joyously follow.

With you when there’s plenty, with you when I want.

Still always with you.

 

–Anonymous

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:27

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Helloooooooooo Out There!

Every once in a while we open our eyes, steady our thoughts, shift into neutral and think—Jesus is really far away. Feeling alone, our anxiety, crankiness, and need for control take over. Let’s stop there. No lies, no preconceived notions, and no stupid bumper sticker sayings that belong in a 5 cent fortune cookie. Sometimes Jesus really does feel far away. It’s like staring through a tunnel, knowing that something is on the other end, but the visual is out of sight. It’s moments like those that remind me there is a dependency that is imperative to my survival. Jesus isn’t far… I just have so much junk that has piled up between myself the access road to his palace at the center of my hearts that getting to him is so….exhausting!

Business Woman Climbing a Pile of Files

Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling writes it so elegantly. In the message today, Jesus says, “You are mine for all time. Nothing can separate you from my love.”

Nothing can separate you from my love. Pause, digest, repeat; nothing can separate you from my love. That pile of junk that I believed got in the way, that same pile that keeps us from really sitting down and having a heart to heart with Jesus—might look a little something like this, give or take.

  • Work
  • Stress
  • Messy house
  • Pile of laundry
  • Rebellious children
  • Marriage strain
  • Miscommunication
  • Poor financial planning
  • Weight
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Ego

The list goes on. But the Bible states in Romans 8:38-39 that NOTHING can separate us from the love of Jesus. Not the dirty jeans you’re wearing on day 5 of skipping the wash, not the screaming children or the lack of healthy food in your fridge. Why? Because it’s his love that renews our energy, helps us with those every day disciplines like picking up the house, wearing freshly laundered clothes, encouraging us to use our finances to better serve Christ, giving us joy, keeping our ego from being in charge, etc. It also serves to help us reach for that much needed help in our darker hours when we struggle to find the light of life that is Christ’s love.

The message is short today, but it packs a punch. Forget the bumper sticker that says “are you far from God? Guess who moved.” That only serves to remind you of your failings. In fact, every time I see it, it annoys me—even though I know it’s not Jesus who goes anywhere. I know I’m the sinner, and I know I’m the faulty one. But what I need isn’t a reminder of how bad life gets. On that note, whenever you think about how far you are from God, say this to yourself—Nothing can separate me from Jesus; because you belong to him for all eternity. Now isn’t that a sigh of relief for your soul? It is for mine. I can’t pile up enough stuff or walk far enough away to separate myself from Jesus. And neither can you.

Potato Sacks and Super Heroes

I want to talk about those pesky resolutions. Why? Because it’s January, and like every other  fool on the planet we’ve all decided that this year is THE year that changes are going to happen. The potato sack of expectations that weighs almost as much as you do has been precariously stacked on top of your shoulders. The winding, mostly foggy path lay ahead. We adjust our clothing, straighten our hats, and double check the clasps holding that lumpy bag o’ resolutions to our bodies.

carrying_a_heavy_sack_of_potatoes

I am going to call this the cycle of crazy. Yep. I said it. Cycle. Of. Crazy. Every year we put together this list—and we think that each one of us is going to turn into the instant superman (or woman) of resolutions and stand on our mountain of glory eating perfectly boiled and cream cheese mashed potatoes. It’s time for a reality check. It’s time to be honest with ourselves and come face to face with the Maker of our hopes and dreams and desires. It’s time to take that ever lengthening list that magically appears every January and set it on fire at the feet of Jesus. Get your matchbooks out, folks.

 Let me explain.

God, Jesus, the Spirit of the Living Word—HE WANTS YOU TO BE HAPPY. Repeat that out loud. “Jesus wants me to be happy.”  He also wants you to be polished and refined and unafraid to get your elbows dirty; he wants you to change for the better as well…hence the overwhelming list of crazy that you thought was a grand idea. But I believe in my heart that Jesus wants you to be practical in your leap of faith. Instead of flying oxygen free through the universe like the Green Lantern to some far away planet where you rescue whatever person in distress all the while looking AMAZING with your svelt, 24 inch waist and bulging biceps, put your feet solidly on the ground. Bend your knees and open your hands. Press your knees into the floor and reach up to the Changer of Lives and ask him to help you with that bag of scattered potatoes lying somewhere behind you on the floor. Talk to him.  It should go a little something like this.

Jesus—I want change in my life. I want positivity. I want (list your wants here): weight loss, healthier habits, stronger will power…I want to read my Bible every day (or longer every day), I want to keep my laundry done, my garden in order, my car clean…I want to finish my degree, travel the world, learn a new language….

The thing is, Jesus already knows the desires of your heart, but he just LOVES when you share them with him anyway. It opens communication and deepens your relationship. Instead of furiously scribbling out a list, sit with Jesus and make the list together. He knows a thing or two about changing lives. Jesus also knows your limits—when to push them and when to slow your stride. Don’t you think he can help you prioritize and whittle down that list of New Year’s resolutions? (maybe bake up a batch of mashers, too) Don’t feel defeated, please. There is a positive twist to this. The best part about slow and steady change is that throughout the year (instead of all at once at the beginning) you can add new goals. (Slow and steady finishes the course.) New goals equal greater accomplishments.

Let’s focus.  Jesus wants you to gain discipline, but he doesn’t want you to overwhelm yourself, stress yourself out, or run into that crazy and overwhelming cycle of I CAN’T DO IT!”  Jesus doesn’t want you to give up and fall apart, scattering your sanity to the closest wind tunnel. Failure is going to happen once in a while, but with his help, you won’t get crushed underneath that list of resolutions, AKA that overwhelming mound of potatoes falling from the sack you tried to stack on top of yourself. Jesus wants you to succeed, to do more than you thought possible, and to allow him to refine you, making you into a pretty super (almost heroic) kind of person. But for that to happen, you’re going to have to let go of that list…that sack of potatoes.

Take that list that you made and burn it. Yep. Burn it. Toss it. Whatever it takes. And make a new list while sitting in the presence of your Savior, Jesus Christ; death defying, soul protecting, life giving, all seeing, more amazing than Superman himself, Jesus. When your list is done, take his hand, and side by side, jump into the New Year—take that leap of faith—sans potato sack – and change your life, one goal at a time.

“The forest didn’t start as a plethora of full grown trees…it was grown one small seed at a time, under great heat and pressure, until at last each  seedling broke through the earth, reaching up toward the light of life.”

nature-landscapes_hdwallpaper_wooden-ramps-to-a-gorgeous-rocky-shore-hdr_20595

My New Year’s resolution is this: to take all of my goals, all of my hopes, all of my dreams and desires, and to place them at the feet of Jesus. Only he can remove the debilitating stressors of unhappiness and failure and pick me up. Only he can clear the path ahead of me, no matter how rocky, that will bring positive change into my life. Only he can change my perspective. Only he knows how much I can handle and what is most important for me to change first. Because only he knows how many potatoes I can truly carry. (smile)

Psalm 37:4-5

Seek your happiness in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desire. Give yourself to the Lord; trust in him, and he will help you.

A Beautiful Death

People pass away from this life, leaving us in their wake, until the day we approach the threshold ourselves and come face to face with the Almighty Creator.

In the past year, more funeral marches have been played than I can count. But what have struck chords in my flesh are the families connected to them and the stories they have to tell. Whether a person fades away quietly from this earth or exits in a violent, instantaneous end, the veil must be crossed. In both frames, whether peaceful or not, death has a purpose, and the soul beneath the shell of those bodies creates something beautiful when the time finally arrives.

In thinking about today’s topic, one woman’s voyage from here to the hereafter continues to stick in my mind. From the exterior, I can only assume that her end was painfully violent and abrupt. Understanding why she was taken so young from this life is not something I can explain. What I believe is this: I believe that her death was a sacrifice, and it saved the life of her child. I believe that she hoped she would live, but knew in all reality that she would die to save her child.  As the life and death moment approached,  it probably gripped her heart with adrenaline, but her decision to comfort, hold, and protect her child at any cost was already made. I also believe that in her prayers she asked for peace— and in her passing received it. In all honesty, she probably prayed that her entire family would be saved and clung to the fact that her Savior held her life in his hands, never dreaming of leaving her family behind. (take a deep breath)

Ancient cultures believed in something called a beautiful death. To die whilst giving life a purpose offered a person’s family honor and respect. Usually this happened in battle—taking the sword for another, fighting to save when all should have been lost… Moreover, giving a life to save a life, using your flesh to protect and save another. Sacrificial was the usual way to earn this, though sacrifice is not always a physical event. These are extraordinary and beautiful actions. Hence, the mother who wrapped herself around her child so that in the moment of death, when the blow struck, her body would take the impact and within hope upon hope, her child would live — She is picturesque of a beautiful death.

In the same vein we see the offering of Christ. What madness drives a person to leave the safety of their seat belt to climb into the back seat of a car and wrap themselves around a car seat? It’s the same madness that drove a man to be beaten almost to death only to suffer (and when I say suffer, the weight of that word is not nearly heavy enough) the most hideous and painful death imaginable so that I would live, you would live, your children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors, etc. would live.

“Where there is love, there is life.”

Yes, love is madness (bold, italics, repeat!!!)–but what love offers is life. Love is what shows us that death has a purpose, and that we must fall through it to come face to face with it. Love is Christ. Christ is love. And on that note, the love of Christ is life. (John 3:16)

I wonder at it, that if faced with such a decision, would I be so secure in the love of my Savior that I would remove the safety harness that protects my life in order to save another. To my magical, mysterious, fantasy driven mind, I want to say yes—I desire a beautiful death. But the reality is that I also desire to fade away painlessly, quietly, peacefully in my sleep, dreaming of heaven and the stars that shine above it… beautiful in a minimalistic, “she’s met the creator of the unimaginable” kind of way. Still a beautiful death, but much more quiet—like the first star fading into the morning sunrise.

July 10, 2013 Prayers of the Faithful

Do you have a favorite prayer? Is there a phrase or blessing that you repeat regularly, especially when you are lost for words at the feet of your Divine Maker and still feel compelled to speak? Luckily, God has shared with us many of his faithful followers and their prayers. Their words often times fill the need, the void, and give strength to the soul while connecting our spirits to our Creator. Gifts from God!

To be perfectly honest, I’m a fan. Sure, I like to speak to God directly from my heart or sit down and write out my own words, words given to me by God, words I heard spoken from another, or words that come from a broken, human spirit….but sometimes, words fail me (sitting in silence allows us to listen to God. Do not feel that you must always have something to say. God will put words on your heart if they are needed as you place yourself before him.)  Sometimes my mind and heart need a little oomph, a little encouragement. Today, I offer you a few of my favorites….when I am lost for words ( I know, I know—when am I ever lost for words!) and need a little push opening my heart to my Savior. Some of these are “newer” prayers while some are directly from scripture. Please read all the way through to the end of the post, and then with your Bible, look up the last few.

When I am about to eat or am preparing food…

“Bless, oh Lord, this food to our use, and us to thine loving service. And keep us ever mindful of the needs of others, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 

The Prayer of St. Francis—committing your heart and soul to Christ’s work

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

 

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

 

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

 

A Scottish Blessing….

Personally, this is one of my all-time favorites. Part of it is my cultural ancestry. Part of it is the poetry of the prayer. (Plus, I really love nature) Part of it is that I feel the writer had discovered the spirit of the living God burning inside his soul, and attempting (in human fashion) to relate a passion for life, a spirit of Grace, and restoration to his people through an eternal, living God wrote these words.  I will often personalize it….Lord, may the blessing of your light be upon me….may your blessed light shine on me like a great peat fire, etc. (people are drawn to the light of our Lord!).

May the blessing of light be upon you — light without and light within. May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire, so that stranger and friend may come and warm himself at it. And may the light shine out of the two eyes of you, like a candle in the window of a house, bidding the wanderer to come in out of the storm.

 And may the blessing of rain be upon you—may it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean, and leave there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines, and sometimes a star.

 And may the blessing of the earth be upon you, soft under your feet as you pass along the roads, soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of the day; and may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it. May it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be out from under it quickly; up and off and on its way to God.

 And now, may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly. Amen.

 

This next one I will let speak for itself. I have not suffered nearly what many of the faithful have. But to offer your heart in the smallest suffering, to offer your soul to your Savior and give him praise is a hard lesson for most of us to learn. This particular prayer, while listed as written by “Anonymous,” was pulled from an old Presbyterian Planner. It tugs at my heart so much so that I have it pinned to the wall by my front door, so that I must see it every day as I enter into the world.

To our eternal and faithful shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ:

Shepherd, I bless you for what you give me. If nothing you give me, I also do bless you.

 I follow you laughing through roses and thorns, through brambles and thistles I joyously follow.

With you when there’s plenty, with you when I want.

Still always with you.

 

Now it’s time to do a little Scripture reading.

These are just a few of the prayers in the Bible:

By Paul :

Colossians 1:9-12

Ephesians 3:14-21 ( I just LOVE Paul’s Words at the end of this passage)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 1:15-23

I encourage you to continue looking up and researching prayers. The Lord himself offered up prayers to our Heavenly Father. Words of passion, beauty, and life. Most of us know “the Lord’s Prayer” by heart. If not, now’s a great time to commit it to memory.

What is your favorite prayer? Is there a particular word from Scripture, from God’s faithful followers that speaks to your heart? Have you heard someone pray so honestly that the connection between themselves and God still rings in your ears?

We pray because we believe that God hears us.  With that being said, may you be filled with prayer, body and soul! Amen!