I am…

the disciple Jesus loves!

This weekend I spoke at our college’s Awaken gathering and this was the title of my message. I wanted to teach out of John’s letters, especially about the concepts of living in the light and proving our love for God by our submission to his commandments. In the midst of studying that, I made a connection between the John who wrote so adamantly about devotion to Jesus and the John who referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

The John who expects the highest standards from his “beloved children” in the faith is the John who found himself the only disciple at the foot of the Cross. It would be easy to take his letters as legalistic impossibilities unless you remembered that this is the John who never referred to himself by his own name but only as the disciple Jesus loved. A commentary I consulted made a strong point of this: John’s identity wasn’t even in his own ability to love Jesus but was in the love that Jesus had for him.

Living up to Biblical standards can seem difficult until you put it into this kind of perspective. The amazing thing about grace is that it is unending, unfailing, unlimited, and unmerited. (That’s two awesome golden oldie song lines stuck together – how great am I?) John knew that. John knew that if we lived in the love of Jesus for us, we could live up to the high calling of faith.

My challenge to my listeners Friday, and my challeng to you today, is to live in that place of His love. Not in your ability to do it all right. Not in your good intentions or lofty ideals. Live in his love. I think you’ll like the view from there – it just might make living in the light seem a little easier!

Mountain Dew for the Soul

Eugene Peterson may be one of the most gifted writers of our time. His paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, is one of my favorite reads when I need some inspiration. It’s the Bible, but translated with a fresh language that reminds me this Book of all Books is true literature.

Today I needed some encouragement…something to help me get through the day…something besides a Mountain Dew at lunch. (Seriously, I tried it and it really didn’t work.) Dan and I talked at lunch about how much we need to bring more discipline into our everyday lives. Part of that means learning to look to God for comfort instead of to sugar or fried goodness.

Nothing especially trying is going on in my life (except maybe Chemistry – could that be considered a trial?), but, still, it is just a day that needs SOMETHING. : )

So, I decided to try Dan’s idea and went straight to BibleGateway.com after lunch. I typed in “encouragement” and clicked the drop-down menu to put it in The Message version. Here it is, folks, in all its simple beauty:

Romans 15

3-6That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!

Drink it up, friends! That is the washing of the Word!

A Rare Find: The Sacred Echo

The day after one of my earliest publications, author Margaret Feinberg left a compliment on my blog. I was moved by her generous spirit. I sent her a return email and found her to be a charming and gentle soul. I had already read parts of a book she had helped pull together and now went right out to buy The Organic God. I finished it the same day on a road trip.

In her new release, The Sacred Echo, Feinberg’s topic is prayer, and the conversation is framed by a prayer list in the back of her Bible. It is a prayer list that doesn’t neatly dissolve into a pile of yes’s or no’s. It is a list of names, and Feinberg shares the stories behind them as she offers her insights about her own prayer life.

I say offers because what I love about Feinberg’s approach is her humility. As a reader you never feel that Feinberg is repeating a line from a theology book or rattling off the advice of a noted speaker. Instead, you walk the journey of discovery as Feinberg allows you to look over her shoulder and be introduced to some of the people she prays for everyday. She is as likely to admit to not understanding God as she is to pull out fresh interpretations of well-read scriptures. So, while the trek through the book is guided by the familiar essayist’s style, the inspiration will sometimes be unexpected.

I appreciate that. For me, prayer has never been easy. I’m a rules person and I like the idea that if you follow the rules you will win the game. That doesn’t always happen with prayer. Almost six years ago I delivered premature twins knowing their lives were in danger. A large network of friends and family went to prayer immediately. (And I’m not talking about dinnertime blessings – I’m talking about intercessory gatherings.) Those baby girls were brought before heaven; God was petitioned on their behalf. And, still, one of them lived and the other one went home to Jesus.

Feinberg’s gentle voice comforts me. I know from experience that just praying harder or longer or louder is not the secret. Prayer is about learning to listen to the Sacred Echo – to know the voice behind the sounds. This book will wash over your condemnation and burn-out and help you move back in the direction of relationship. Feinberg’s language and style are simple, just what they should be to complement a sacred but practical pursuit of prayer.

Little Celebrations

This is a picture Claire drew for me this weekend.

Most people (even doting mothers) would admit that there is nothing spectacular about this simple drawing. But if you know Claire, then you know that this piece might as well be the Sistene Chapel!

See the blue at the top – that’s the sky. See the sun? See those blue and red people? And, look, that is Claire’s name (almost) written at the top in her favorite color.

Here’s why its awesome: Just a few months ago, Claire couldn’t remember the letters in her name or get even close to writing them in a way that they could be recognized on a page. Even though she is nearly six, because of her too-early start as an extreme preemie, she has been playing catch-up for all those years. Her sister is 15 months younger and can spell her own name and all of her friends’ names in perfect capital letters. With Claire, we’ve been working solely on that five letter name for MONTHS!

See the “r” in the front of the “C”? She put that one there because the “r” in the name the first time was “wrong”. This picture is quite possibly one of the best things I have seen for a long time!

Now, think about yourself. You may feel like the drawing of your life is a little messy and unrecognizable. But hang on! If what you are becoming is better than what you were, then your’re moving in the right direction. And God isn’t just looking at your accomplishments and saying, “Wow. That could be better.” Nope. He’s probably posting you to his blog right now!

Confession: I Play Fantasy Football

I started watching sports in junior high so I could have something to talk to the boys about. Some things never change.

I picked some teams and got hooked. Soon I didn’t need to watch so I’d have something to say in homeroom; now I actually watched for my own enjoyment.

My favorite sport was college basketball. March Madness, baby! I could even watch college football on Bowl days and enjoy that. But I didn’t often get behind any professional sports outside of baseball as background noise during a Sunday afternoon nap or the NFL for the Superbowl.

Well, I’ve been converted by the boys one more time. A couple of years ago my husband asked me if I wanted an entry in his fantasy football league. He promised it would be easy and I could do it without even watching the games – kind of like filling out a bracket for March Madness based on which team had the best mascot…it is just good, clean fun.

But I couldn’t stop there. Oh, no. I started watching a game here and there just to see how “my guys” performed. Then I got to know the players and their stories and their teams. And then I was hooked again. This week was the opening of the NFL season and I was actually looking forward to it…it was a happy thought for me. Crazy.

Someday I’m going to write a feature on why women should play this kind of game for the sake of their marriages! It’s so much fun, and now when Dan wants to watch a football game I actually want to keep an eye on the tv, too. I’m sure there are a million and one things we could do to learn to enjoy one another more, but this week you might want to jump into something just for the sake of your relationship with someone else…you might find a surprising new enjoyment in your life!

More Diamond Connections

I took a strengths indicator test from the people at Gallup Press a while back and they tell me my greatest strength is Connectedness. I think this is one reason I LOVE the Internet so much. Becky’s blog party yesterday was just Wonderful for a person whose strength is Connectedness!

This comes from the book that describes Connectedness:

Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger.

Isn’t that the best thing about taking a personality quiz or a what-kind-of-dog-are-you quiz – the recognition of something true about yourself that had not previously been identified in words? I love that feeling – probably because I love Connectedness!

I think this is also why I love analogies; a good analogy demonstrates the connected nature of our universe. Comparing women with precious stones (diamonds et all) reminds me of how smart God is, how he has encoded all these messages within creation just waiting for us to discover how they connect to us.

Here’s a good one about diamonds from this article:

The medieval Italians who were fond of seeking some hidden and significant meaning in the names of precious stones, in the case of the diamond (diamante), read the phrase amante di Dio, or “lover of God.” (Italian MS. of the fourteenth century in the author’s library; fol. 41b.) This was a reason for regarding the brilliant gem as a sacred stone and one especially suitable for religious use.

Lovers of God – that’s us! I feel SO connected to you right now!