Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I will show you


So, maybe you already know that we are moving.  Leaving the house we've lived in for 24 years.  We accidentally sold it really fast - well, God did that.  I blogged about making the decision to put the house on the market and boom!  Suddenly I was hearing from people, "Can we come look at your house?"  My realtor, who had just given me a three page list of Things To Do To Make This House Sellable, did not approve of this.  But some of them were friends, so I let them come over and gave them a tour.  And one of these couples said, "We love it.  We want it.  Throw away your list."  So we signed a contract with them on the day before we left for an overseas trip to Bologna, London and Cape Town.

It was an amazing trip, but now we are back, and it's time to pack.  Arley said, "Just start somewhere," so yesterday I pulled out all my non-essential dishes and got out the boxes and paper.  And then I sat down on the floor and cried, I was so overwhelmed.  Thank God for a sister-in-law who recognizes panic when she hears it and comes to the rescue.  So now we have begun the dismantling.

Everyone wants to know where we are moving.  So do I!  Mmmk, yeah, we don't have a clue.  Tomorrow I will go look at houses for the first time in 24 years.  That same wonderful realtor who gave me to To Do list is calmly assuring me that there is A House Waiting for us to discover, yes, we will find it.  And meanwhile, we might live in an apartment.

I believe her when she says we will find it.  Because the same God who said, "Leave the place where you are," is the God who promises, "and go to a place I will show you."

The Lord God said to Abram:  Leave....
and go to a place I will show you.
- Genesis 12:1

That is exactly the promise he made to Abraham, the father of faith.  And it is a two-part process:  there is the leaving, and there is the going.  Right now we are living in the tension between those two.

Almost every day I write something on the inside of my wrist. It might be one word, or a phrase—some bit of truth that I need to remember that day.  I got the idea from my friend Nicole Hannah, who has a tattoo on the inside of her wrist, one word: loved.  When I first saw Nic's tat, I was just being convinced again that God did love me so much, and I wanted to get the same tat, but for me, the word changes too frequently.  God is always teaching me something new that I need to carry around with me and absorb, so for me, a Sharpie is the best tool.

These days, I am walking around with these words on my wrist: "I will show you."  Every morning I get up and write that promise again, and I watch for God to fulfill his promise.

I know I'm not the first or only person to leave somewhere and go, to pack up and move.  The past two weeks' travel has been part of God's timing in "showing me" something, as I have spent time with missionary friends in Bologna, London and Cape Town.  I have seen how simply they live, how lightly they hold things, how much they do with the home they have.  I watched many of them sell everything, turn their backs on their home and go, not knowing where they would live, not having a realtor.  I have seen how they have made the place God showed them a real and welcoming home.  I hold this as a template as I sort and pack and decide what to take forward with me.

I share all this with you to say:  I know there is tension in your life, where you live between the place of leaving and the place of arriving.  Where you cannot see what your new destination will look like.  Maybe you are also sorting and packing, deciding what attitudes or actions or relationships or things  to carry forward with you into the next part of life, what you need to put down, give away, leave behind.  I tell you this with all confidence:

He will show you.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Love Story Week 17: save the date



Pay careful attention then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise.  Make the most of the time, because the days are evil.  Don't be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.
- Ephesians 5:15-17


The week before I married Dennis Worley, I woke up every night in a sweat.  I had the worst nightmares. In every one of them, my wedding was a disaster.

I dreamed that someone had taken pinking shears to my dress, making it tea length and wickedly uneven.

I dreamed that someone had stolen all my shoes and left only a blue pair.

I dreamed that as I came down the aisle, the groom who turned around was Not Dennis, but nobody could hear me screaming, "Not him!  Not him!"

I dreamed that I was out playing tennis (tennis?), and they came looking for me, crying, "It's time for your wedding! You have to come now!  No, come just like you are!"  I was sweaty and my hair was frizzy, but a bouquet was shoved in my hand and I was sent down the aisle in tennis whites, crying, "No, no! Let me get ready!"

Seriously, I was so relieved when I actually got to the church in the dress and the shoes with the right groom.  Everything after that is kind of a blur.

I was thinking about those dreams this week—especially the tennis one (tennis, what?)—because this is our last Wednesday Bible study, and the story is about a wedding and some girls who were not ready for it.


Life with God is like ten bridesmaids who took torches and oil and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish bridesmaids took torches, but no extra oil.  The wise bridesmaids took jars of oil to feed their torches,  The bridegroom didn't show up when they expected, and they all fell asleep waiting.
-Matthew 25:1-5

What happens next?  You'll have to listen below to find out.

But here's what we know from last week's story, the end of the book, Revelation:  There is a wedding feast.  There is a Bridegroom and he is coming for us.  Soon, he says.

When is soon?

Close your eyes and try to forget everything you know about weddings today.  Try to hear what Jesus says:

I am going to prepare a place for you.

That's what bridegrooms did in Jesus' day.  They pledged themselves to a woman — actually to her family.  And then they went off to their family's compound and prepared a place for their life together. They built a little house or a room on their family compound, and they furnished it.

If I go away, I will come back for you.

When everything was ready for that life together, the bridegroom came for his bride.  Maybe even in the middle of the night, he came striding through the streets of the village, all his friends with him. And they were singing.  And the bride's friends all ran out to meet him, torches in hand.  And they sang and danced as he came to claim his bride.  And then everybody went to his house and partied 'til they dropped.

That's what's going to happen, Jesus said.

When?

You don't get to know that part.

No one knows the day or the hour, not even the Son.  Only the Father.

The bride doesn't set the date.  We don't manage the guest list.  We don't even pick out the dress.  God does.  Life with God doesn't work like life in this world.  The wise person understands this and lives accordingly.

We don't get a "Save the Date" from Jesus.  So we save every date.  Every day is the day he could come for us.  When the Father says, "Ready."

Are you ready?


Click here to listen to the story of the Ten Bridesmaids
and download the Bible study.

Who will you tell this story to?

Friday, May 9, 2014

TGIF: The best is yet to be



Grow old along with me.  The best is yet to be—
the last of life, for which the first was made.
Our times are in His hand 
who saith, "I whole I planned."
Youth shows but half.
Trust God!  See all! Nor be afraid.
- Robert Browning

Those words by Robert Browning were part of my wedding vows to Dennis Worley.  Thirty five years ago, I thought the first of life was the best, the point.  And it is wonderful to be young and in love, to get to do life together with the person who makes the world a magical place.  But to get to see it all together, trusting God every step—that's even better.

What I'm Trusting:
Coming to mid-life, with an empty nest, I was wondering if our best days had been.  But God plans a whole, not a half.  And the past few weeks have unfolded some of God's next plans for our family.  Big things are in store for the Worleys! We don't have all the answers.  We are in that space like Abraham, where God says, "Leave the place you are and go to a place I will show you." We are just in the leaving-this-place in our hearts.  We've been saying goodbye to the picture of us raising boys and discovering what it's like to be a couple again.  What it's like to love grandchildren and get to help raise them.  What it's like to encourage and empower grown sons and their families. What it's like to serve in ministry at this point in our lives.  And in all those areas, we keep hearing God say, "I will show you."



How I'm practicing Gratitude:
This week we made the decision to get our house ready to put on the market, to look for our next home.  We've lived in this house 24 years this July.  We'll probably be moving out about the same time we moved in all those years ago.  This decision has been percolating for a year.  When we finally felt God say, "Leave this place," I cried.  This is where we found out we were pregnant, where we raised those babies, where we grew a marriage and a family.  Every place I turn there is a memory.  At first that made me incredibly fearful and sad.  Now as I am making lists of everything that has to be packed, downsized, given away, I look at every photo, every fingerprint on the wall, every bin of old school jerseys, every tree we planted, and I thank God for getting to make those memories, getting to be here for that life.  Evidence of his blessings are all around.  As I start to make an inventory for what will go to the next part of life, I take an inventory of the blessings of the first half.


What Inspires me:
My boys, making lives for themselves and their families.  Going out bravely into the first part of their lives.  Last week Seth turned 30 and sold his house, the first little house their babies lived in.  Watching Seth and Arley go through this transition has given me a template; I'm walking in their footsteps, right behind them.  This time last year, we were helping Matt sell or give away everything he owned that could not be fit into two crates and shipped to South Africa.  This year he has followed God so closely that I've never seen him put his foot down without setting it in God's footprint.  He has shown me that your life is not where you live, but how present you are there—how you love  the people in the place God shows you.  This year Ben has lived on his own for the first time.  He'll never forget this first house he shared with a bunch of other starving musicians.  He has made his own first home.


What's Fun:
This week Matt flew back to the U.S. with a ring in his pocket and asked the girl he has loved for 7 years to marry him!  Their happiness is so golden, so huge, and it is shared by so many of us who have loved them and rooted for them to be together.  I'm so thankful they get to begin planning the first of life together!  They have so many questions to answer about the future!  But God will show them, just as he is showing us.


24 years ago, when our realtor handed me the keys to this house, could I have ever imagined that on this Friday I would be walking through it with her again, this time making a list of what to do to get ready to sell it—on the same day that my daughter-in-law-to-be is graduating from grad school with a brand new engagement ring on her finger?

Out times are in his hand
who saith, "A whole I planned."
Youth shows but half.
Trust God! See all! Nor be afraid!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Love Story Week 16: When God sings for joy



He meant us to see Him and live with Him and draw our life from His smile.
- AW Tozer, The Pursuit of God


My friend Michael Boggs has a wonderful song out called "What Would Jesus Undo?"  People have been posting their answers to that question—beautiful answers:  injustice, poverty, fear, shame, loneliness, cancer, betrayal, prejudice, grief.

I was thinking of that song this week as I learned the story for Wednesday Bible study this week.  In this week's story, John gets to see that Jesus will indeed undo all of it, and more.


In my dream, I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old one was gone forever!  
- Revelation 21:1

John hears a song being sung.  This is my favorite song in the Bible, because God is singing it! When God gets what he wants, what he set his heart on from before the creation of the world, this is what he hummed to himself as he brought light and oceans, mountains, giraffes, lilies, sparrows and stars into being.  This is what he sang as he worked the dust into a body and breathed his life into Adam.  Maybe he came humming it to himself as he walked in the garden in the cool of the evening.  Maybe he stopped humming and listened, because Adam & Eve were not waiting for him as usual.  They were hiding.  In the stillness, he could hear the heart-thumping sound of shame.  This God, the great Lover who pursued us, who kept closing the separation between us, was working all along through history for this moment: to restore it all.  To have us back.  And in John's dream, he heard God's heart swell and a soaring melody of pure joy erupt from the Throne of Heaven.  And this is the song God sings in John's dream:

Now I will be with my people!  I will live with them, 
and they will be with me, and I will be their God!
- Revelation 21:3

God will undo separation.  That is what he has done in Christ, and is doing through the church.  When God gets what he wants, he gets to be with us.  When he sings for joy, this is what he sings about.

I understand that.  Nothing makes me happier than knowing my kids are coming for dinner.  I sing while I chop and mix and bake.  Nothing is better than all of them together, laughing and enjoying each other.  As I write this, Matt is flying home from South Africa;  his girl is standing at the gate waiting for him.  My grandchildren are coming over to play this afternoon.  The best part of my day is when Dennis Worley is headed home.

We just want to be with the people we love.  And so does God.


That's why we tell these stories.  This is the assignment Jesus gave us:  Go tell everybody everywhere that God wants to be with them.  Close the gap.  Undo separation.

Everything we do is about getting everybody to that moment.  Because he is on his way.

I can't even imagine what it will be like when God starts singing for joy.


Click here to hear how the Love Story ends, when God gets what he wants
and download the homework.  

Who will you tell this story to this week?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Love Story Week 15: Whoosh!



When Ben Worley was still little enough that he would let me read to him every night,  I read him the Harry Potter stories.  (Harry Potter haters:  Hang on.  I'm about to tell you how good can come from The EvIl Literature.)

It should come as no surprise to you that I love to read stories aloud.  All sorts of stories, but especially ones with characters who have distinctive voices, and most especially ones with characters who speak with a British accent.  I neeeeed an excuse to speak with a British accent whenever possible. Mary Poppins.  Winnie the Pooh.  The Chronicles of Narnia.  Lemony Snickett.  Anything by Roald Dahl.  And Harry Potter.  These all afford me proper excuses, so I went at reading Harry Potter with Anglo enthusiasm.  In fact, the best moment was when Ben and I went to the first Harry Potter movie, and Ben turned to me part way through and whispered, "They got the voices right."

So one night I was reading the book in which Harry, Ron and Hermione go to the world cup Quidditch matches.  There Harry finds that there are schools like Hogwarts in other countries!  As they walk among the tents of the opposing teams, they hear French, German, Russian.  Harry wishes he could understand them.  And Hermione, who is more accomplished with her spells than Harry and Ron, waves her wand as they pass each tent—and they can understand what's being said!

"Wouldn't that be awesome?" Ben interrupted.  "If you could do that?"

"Ben, that's in the Bible," I said

"Get OUT!" he shouted, and I told him about Pentecost, how the believers were all in one place when there was a rushing of wind and flames of fire and the Spirit descended, and they all began speaking about God in every kind of language.

He slapped the covers.  "WHY have I never heard this?" he whooped.

I don't know.  What an excellent story to tell to a 9 year old boy.  If I were the Sunday School teacher of 9-year-old boys, I would certainly want to tell them this tale.  An amazing story, mostly because it's true.

I was thinking about that conversation this week because in this Wednesday's Bible study, we are learning to tell that story.



They were all together in a house.  Suddenly, there was a sound like a rushing wind!  No one could tell where it was coming from, but it filled the whole house!  Then flames of fire settled on each ot them! God's Spirit came upon them, and they each began speaking in different languages as God's Spirit gave them the ability. 
- Acts 2:1-4

Why had Ben never heard this?  Probably because he grew up Baptist.  Baptists don't tell this story much.  Baptists, we don't exactly know what to do with the Holy Spirit.  When he shows up, the Order of Service is out the window. At least, our Order of Service is out the window.

Whoosh.

"The wind blows where it wills, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going," Jesus said, and it made Nicodemus nervous.  It makes us nervous.  Which is ironic, because Jesus was introducing a topic that Baptists love to talk about: born again.




New life.

Whoosh.

When the Holy Spirit shows up, God's Order of Service starts happening, and he is all about new life.

On the day the Holy Spirit showed up in this story, more than 3,000 people got new life! Have you ever heard that?

Whoosh!

Are you all about new life?
Are you all about people being born again?

Then you should love this story.

Whoosh!

Do you know why the Holy Spirit was given?
Do you know what happened when the Holy Spirit was given?
Do you know what God wants to do through His Spirit in you?

You should listen to this story. And find out.  Even if it makes you nervous.

As my friend Esther Burroughs says with a shiver, "Embrace the whoosh!"




Click here to hear the story of the gift of the Spirit
and download the Bible study.

Who will you tell this story to?



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Love Story week 14: new life




For we were buried with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory the Father, so we too might be raised to walk in the newness of life.
- Romans 6:4


When I was growing up, our pastor said these words as he baptized people.  "Buried with him by baptism into death," he would say as he leaned them back under the water.  Lifting them up, he would proclaim, "Raised to walk in newness of life!"  As kids, we would snicker because we thought he was saying, "Raised to walk in nudeness of life."  We all wished someone would pop up out of the water—nude!  It never happened, but the thought of it was enough to shake us silly and get us shushed by disapproving adults nearby.  I've never seen a nude person come up out of the water, though some baptismal robes are startlingly thin when wet, and they should warn women about colored undergarments.  I did once see a woman's wig come off and float away when she came up out of the water.  She was a cancer survivor, so everyone applauded and she laughed, just glad to be alive—alive for now and alive forever.

Newness of life.  I think about those words every time I see someone baptized.  I thought about them on Sunday, Easter Sunday, when two women, sisters, were baptized in our service.  Newness of life.  What does it look like?   It looks like those sisters taking their first steps following Jesus.  It looks like the new engagement ring on my friend's finger and the glow in her face at lunch last Thursday.  It looks like the bride & groom turning to face the congregation this past Saturday evening.  It looks like the pink skin and tiny fingers of the new baby girl born to my friends last Wednesday.  It looks like the upturned faces of at least three women in our choir who survived breast cancer this year and stood up to sing praises on Easter Sunday.  It looks like my friend, shaken with grief, standing by her sister's graveside on Good Friday.  Her sister, who was alive here on earth last Friday and is now—unexpectedly but gloriously—alive in Heaven.  

Resurrection:  It means, literally, "to stand again."  In the Greek, anastasis.  To have the rug yanked from under you by unforeseen events, but find your footing.  To be blind-sighted by grief or joy or pain or love and make your way shakily into a new normal.  To be hurt and forgive.  To face change and make adjustments.  To not only survive, but thrive.  To leave behind and to become.


It shakes everything when God unveils newness of life.  What perfect timing that in Wednesday Bible study this week, we are learning to tell the story of the resurrection and Jesus' appearances to his followers afterward.  Every one of the them are stunned, shaken, confused, not sure what to believe, where to go next, whether to hide out.  All of them are getting their bearings, trying to stand again in God's new world.  Peter goes fishing.  When the world is strange and dangerous, the stablest place he knows is the sea.  And Jesus goes to find him there. To give Peter a chance to stand again.

Jesus is waiting by a fire.  The last time Peter saw Jesus, he was by a fire, and he failed his Master.  The rooster has crowed, the stone has rolled, and the world has turned upside down since then. Now, by the fire, Jesus asks three times, "Do you love me?"  Three times the chance to stand again, to say, "I do love you."  And to be given new life with a new assignment: "Take care of my people." 

Jesus told Peter that he would have his own work to do from God, and that it, too, would lead to death.  Looking over his shoulder at John, Peter asked, "What about him?" 

"What about him?" Jesus replied.  "Peter: You follow me."

It's so tempting to compare paths, isn't it?  To ask, "What about him?" instead of standing up and following.  The truth is that newness of life will look different for each of us.  It will come in different ways and shake us and wake us and call us to become.  We are all becoming.  We are all being buried and raised, only at different times and in different ways.  We are all blinking in the light, shaky on resurrection legs, stammering, "Yes, I do love you!"

Newness, like nudeness, is shocking.  It's a shock to our systems to find that we can stand again, start again.  To be given a Next.  To be raised by the power of the One who calls that which was not into being.  It's shocking to be always becoming.  We come out of the water gasping and flailing like a newborn taking her first breath, gripping the one who plunged us under.  And this happens every single day.

Every day is an Easter.  Ready to stand again?  It's a new world, but we know the way:  "Follow me."



Click here to hear the story of Jesus' resurrection 
and Peter's chance to stand again
and download the Bible study.

Who will you tell this story to this week?


Friday, April 18, 2014

TGIF: Good Friday



What I'm Trusting:
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand!
All other ground in sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand!
All other ground in sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.


What I'm Grateful for:
That though I am fickle and an emotional roller coaster, Jesus is steady.  This week in Wednesday Bible study, our story was a contrast in Peter and Jesus, as this awful day approached.  Peter is all over the board emotionally, but Jesus knows where has come from and where he is going.  He knows this is his hour.  And he is steadily heading toward it.

There is a moment in that story, when Peter cuts off a guard's ear, that Jesus says, "Did you think for one minute I would not do what my Father planned?"

These days, I'm an emotional roller coaster myself.  And so I'm grateful that Jesus is steady and always steadying me.  In the course of any given day, I feel like it/don't feel like it, step up/back down, change my mind.  I'm grateful Jesus did not change his.  He went to the cross, no turning back, which is why we remember on Good Friday.



What Inspires me:
New life, which is everywhere in all forms.  Green sprouting up everywhere.  And, of course, resurrection.

Just the other day I had a wonderful conversation with a friend who is getting married.  I got to listen to her hopes and dreams, her fears, to consider with her what a wonderful and terrifying thing it is to begin a new life with someone.

I'm inspired by the new life Ben Worley is building for himself as a young adult on his own.  How brave he is with his many talents, like this new podcast The Lemonade Stand.

I'm inspired by good friends Jim and Lisa Baker, who are beginning a new life after retiring from amazing years of church leadership.





What's Fun:
Today Matt sent us this picture of him playing Thomas in the King of Kings Easter passion play. This picture makes me happy on so many levels.  Remembering Brentwood Baptist Easter pageant rehearsals, when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus and the disciples shot them with water squirt guns.  Remembering hours putting together all those costumes with Mildred Hoppe, standing knee deep in fabric scraps.  Remembering the year Matt was 3, when he played a tiny Aladdin-like king in the parade of Wise Men.  Knowing that he is celebrating this Easter in South Africa, celebrating in a church that is a s dear to us at Brentwood Baptist. Knowing that all over the world this weekend believers will dress up in Biblical garb or Sunday best, sing loud, get up with the dawn to celebrate the truth that Christ is risen and we have new life in him.




Happy Easter!