Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Love Story Week 10: Put out into the deep

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. 
Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
- Ephesians 1:11-12 The Message

Last week was Spring Break here in Williamson County, so we were also on a break from Wednesday Bible study.  I am so ready to get back to it, especially to learn this week's story.  It's another one of those stories you think you know, because you've heard it, but when you start to learn it well enough to tell it—when you start to picture it happening—you realize you didn't know it at all.  

If you grew up in church, you probably learned this story sitting in a circle in front of a flannel board, as your teacher put the pieces of the story in place:  Jesus, Peter, the boats, the fish, all the people on the shore.  You probably learned the shorter version, found in Matthew or Mark:  Jesus was walking by the lake.  He saw some fishermen: Peter and Andrew, James and John.  He called to them, "Follow me."  And they led their nets and followed him.

You might have learned the little song that comes from Luke's version of the story:  "I will make you fishers of men, fishers of men, fishers of men..."

I love this story and am happy that it is time to learn it, because it makes a big turn in the larger Love Story of what God is about in the world.  Up to now, we have learned that we are part of a great love story—that we are, in fact, the focus of God's love, that he set his heart on us before he ever spoke the first word of creation.  We've learned that there is competition for our hearts, that we are prone to wander, that God is a faithful pursuer and that in Jesus he has rescued us from the wreckage of our wandering.  But there is more to God's plan that just being rescued from.  We are rescued to.

When he was finished teaching, he said to Peter, “Put out into the deep water now, and let down your nets for a catch.”

Peter said,  “Oh, Master.  We’ve been out fishing all night, and we haven’t caught anything!  But because you tell me to, I’ll do it.”

So they took the boat out into the deep water and let down the nets.  And the fish swarmed to them!

Peter had to call for help, and pretty soon the nets were full, and they hauled them into the boats, and the boats were on the verge of sinking, there were so many fish!  
- Luke 5:4-7

Every week, in every story, there is a realization that takes my breath away, that brings me to tears.  And this is when it happened to me this week: And the fish swarmed to them!

There is a moment in your life—there must be that moment—when you realize that you were rescued to be part of something greater than just your one life.  There is Someone greater at work around you.  It is His story that is THE story, HIs work that is THE work.  And you have a part in it.  

A man who'd spent his life on the sea took the Lord of the Sea out in his boat, and the fish came swarming. The water began to ripple as their fins crested, the deep blue swirled, and the boat spun as they swam up and up and up, leaping into the air, into the boat, leaping for joy at the feet of their Maker.  

"Peter," Jesus said, "From now on, you're going to catch people."
-Luke 5:10

I think he was laughing when he said it.  Laughing as the fish flipped and flew around him.  I think Jesus was laughing because he could already see the day when Peter would preach in the power of the Spirit and three thousand people would swarm to Jesus. (Acts 2:41)  I think Jesus was laughing because he already knew and loved by name every member of the church he would build upon this Rock, this fisherman who didn't even know yet that he was a Rock.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.

Put out into the deep water.

There is fear in that.  Risk.  Potential.  And more.  Oh!  There is so much more.

When I was a little girl, I remember standing on the edge of the diving board, shivering at the deep end of the pool below.  My Dad was treading that shimmering water, holding out his arms to me and calling, "Come on!  Jump in!  Don't be afraid!"  He was laughing as he said it.  He was laughing when I jumped.  He was laughing when he caught me and as we swam to the edge together.

Click here to listen to the story of Peter's leap of faith and download the Bible study.

Who will you tell this story to?

Friday, March 14, 2014

TGIF: blessings, beards, big Friday fun

What I'm Trusting:
That God is always doing something kind and wonderful, even when it's hard.  This week our Wednesday Bible study story was Jesus' birth.  The angel Gabriel says to Mary, "Good news!  God is doing something kind and wonderful, and you have a part in it."  And then he goes on to explain how her world will be up-ended by a miraculous pregnancy and a baby who will divide the world.  Nothing about this is easy.  Right now, people I love are walking paths that are hard.  I trust that the God who called them and loves them is doing something kind and wonderful, even though for them it is not easy.

What I'm Grateful for:
Arley Worley.  She is an amazing passionate mom and wife, a friend who gets in the trenches and fights for people she loves.  She is creative and generous and beautiful.  And wickedly funny.  This week, in a group text, my guys were comparing beards.  (Matt is growing a gruesome one at the moment.)  Arley shut us all up with this photo:

What Inspires me:
This week I was part of a workshop on Bible storytelling, led by this amazing team.  Their passion for figuring out how to tell the story of God to a particular people is contagious.  Their faithfulness to just tell the story all over the world all the time is moving.

What's Fun:
Sleep-over tonight with the grandkids!  Who wouldn't want to hang out with this:

What's your TGIF?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Love Story Week 9: Mary said "Yes"

The doorbell rang one spring afternoon.  And there stood my precious teenaged friend.  I love this girl with all my heart.  I didn't have any daughters, so she has always been my daughter.

I hadn't expected her, but I was so glad to see her.  And then I really saw her.  Her face was wet with tears.  Before I could say, "Come in," she burst through the door and into my arms.  For the next few minutes she sobbed out her story to me, and I listened to the hurt and the longing, and I sought for something comforting to say.  I stroked her hair.

"Sweetheart," I began, "You are SO special."

"Yeah?" she sobbed.  "Well, being special sucks!"

I wish I could find a nicer word to use there, to tell you this story without shocking you.  But the truth is what it is.  And here's the truth:  As much as we all want to be special, to be chosen, to be picked, to stand out, to be crowned or handed the rose, being special is sometimes lonely.  And scary.  And hard.  And feels more like "Don't eat the paste" special than "Here she is, Miss America."

To be set apart carries a burden.  It has a dark side.  It comes at a cost.

That's why, when the Angel Gabriel tells Mary, "Good news!  God has chosen you!" I'm surprised that Mary said, "Yes!"  Especially when he explained what she'd been chosen for.

You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.
This will happen through the power of God's Spirit.
Therefore, the child you will bring to birth will be called the Son of God.
- Luke 1:31, 35

In the words of Mark Lowry's beautiful Christmas lyric, Mary, did you know?  How much did you know?  

Surely when the angel said he would be from the line of King David, he would rule forever—when he started using the language of the prophets—Mary realized he was talking about the Messiah, the one they'd all been waiting for, the one God had said would save his people.  God's Promise Keeper. And maybe she was up for being the mother of the King.

But did she remember what Isaiah had said about him?  

He will be beaten, and we will have peace.
He will be whipped, and we will be healed.
He will die paying the price for our disobedience.
And this was God's plan all along.
- Isaiah 53:5, 6, 10

Did she say yes to the whole plan?  

I've been wondering about this as I learned this week's story for Wednesday Bible study.  Last week, we learned those promises in Isaiah;  we learned what God's Promise Keeper would do.  And this week, the Promise Keeper, Jesus, is born.  And it begins when an angel comes to a virgin named Mary and says, "You have been chosen."

You have been chosen to have your life completely up-ended and your marriage to Joseph put on the line.  You have been chosen to become miraculously pregnant, the hometown scandal. You have been chosen to love and feed and raise this baby and then let him go to his destiny because he is not your son, he is the son of God, who will save us all.

Some people will reject him, and that will be their greatest undoing.
But many will choose to follow him, and that will be their greatest joy.
This is his destiny, and it will break your heart.
- Luke 2:34-35

Mary knew that when she left the temple, after dedicating her new baby, after meeting Simeon, who'd been waiting to set eyes on God's Promise Keeper.

Sometimes I like the idea of being chosen, of having a part in what God is doing.  At first, I am ready to take the leap.  I am like, "Let's do this!"  And then, there is the reality of doing it.  And maybe that's what happened to Mary.  What I know is: she took that baby home, and she raised him.  And she stood at the foot of the cross, as a sword pierced her heart.  And she went to the tomb in the first light of that third day, to find another angel with equally stunning news.

How much did Mary know at the beginning?  She knew that God said, "Nothing is impossible. And you have a part."

So Mary said, "Yes!"

Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
believed every word would come true!
Luke 1:45

Click here to listen to the story of the birth of Jesus
and download the Bible study.

Who will you tell this story to?

Friday, March 7, 2014

TGIF: come away

What I'm Trusting:
You need to trust God enough to believe He knows what He's doing in your life right now. A friend sent that quote in an email this week. I'm trusting this, not just for myself, but I'm trusting this especially for my kids. I'm trusting it for unanswered questions in ministry. When I'm tempted to worry, and I often am, I'm stopping to say,"He knows."

What I'm Grateful for:
Dennis and I are away for several days this week at our favorite spot in the mountains. I'm grateful for quiet, rest, woods & sky, mountain air, sunshine, naps, walks, good books, conversation. I'm grateful for this man who loves me, who is my best friend & still makes my heart beat fast, who says to me, even after 35 years, "Come away with me, my love."  This week, we found out that some friends in ministry's marriage has taken a great blow. Even as our hearts ache for them, we come away on this trip knowing even more that life in ministry is challenging. That it's important to protect your heart. Grateful for a man who makes that a constant priority. 

What Inspires me:

What's Fun:

Pharrell Williams' song Happy, from Despicable Me 2.  It's a dance party. I can't resist. 

What's your TGIF?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Love Story Week 8: the love language of God

Last week Dennis and I were talking about Love Languages.  You know Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages?  According to Dr. Chapman, there are five primary languages that say, "I love you."  They are: acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and physical touch.

We all say, "I love you," in one or more of these ways.  And we all hear, "I love you," in one or more of these ways.  (And why isn't Food a sixth love language? I don't know.  It seems a very important way to say "I love you.")

For instance, I tend to speak and hear love through words of affirmation or quality time.  (I also like to receive gifts.)  Dennis tends to speak and hear love through acts of service and physical touch.

What if a spouse—let's say Dennis, for instance— is knocking himself out to show me he loves me by taking out the trash, washing and folding towels, fixing things around the house.  But what if the other spouse—let's say me—is wishing my husband would show up with flowers instead of a stack of clean towels, or put down the socket wrench and take a walk with me?  He could be screaming love in his language, but I don't hear it.  It's all Greek to me.

And yes, poor Dennis.  He's always showing up with a stack of clean folded towels, and I'm always like, "What, no diamond ring?"

I was thinking about love languages this week as I learned this week's story for Wednesday Bible study.  8 weeks ago, we began learning a set of Bible stories that all together show us a God who loves us, who had us in mind as the target of his love at the very beginning of time, and who promised to deliver to us a life beyond anything we could go and get for ourselves.  And God, who is the author of love, of course speaks all the love languages.  He makes trees and gardens and oceans and stars, the breeze that cools our skin and the sun that warms it.  He made our bodies and a delight for each of its senses.  He gives every good gift.  He, the maker of time, is prepared to spend endless time with us.  And we have a Bible full of his words of affirmation.  And in this week's story, we see that he shouts his love with the ultimate act of service.

Isaiah is the messenger who announces, "God is about to keep all his promises by sending his Servant, his Promise Keeper."

Who would've thought God's Promise Keeper would look like this?
There will be nothing attractive about him.  In fact, we will turn our backs on him.
He will suffer, and we will look away.
Isaiah 53:1-3

When God said to his people, "I love you, and I am coming to save you," they were expecting love to look like military might.  Love would appear as legions of armies.  Love would appear wearing a jewel-encrusted crown of power.

He will be beaten, and we will have peace.
He will be whipped, and we will be healed.
Isaiah 53:5

Instead, he wore a crown of thorns.  He brought them a basin and a towel and said, "Here is love."  

Here's the thing about Love Languages:  Whatever your way of speaking love is, you are delighted to do it.  People who say, "I love you" through acts of service don't go off to the laundry room sighing, "Ughhhhh, another stack of towels."  People whose love language is quality time don't keep looking at their watch or checking their Twitter feeds.  As the Apostle Paul put it, "Love compels us."  As in, "Try and stop me."  Or as Bob Goff puts it, "Love does."

He'll see that it's worth it, and he'll be glad that he did it.
Because of what he does, God's Promise Keeper will make it possible
for everyone to know and return the love of God.
Isaiah 53:11

Click here to listen to the story of the Promise Keeper, 
the one who made us able to hear and speak God's love language.

Who will you tell this story to?