Holy Week: Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper. The foot-washing.

The wounds of the heart are an underground cemetery of seemingly lifeless things. There lies our secret shames, internal struggles, deepest pains, open wounds, wells of pride and legions of anxieties.

On this Maundy Thursday, I think of my wounds.

On this Maundy Thursday, I think of my pride.

And then, On this Maundy Thursday, I think of my internal struggles and hidden agonies.

I think of all these things often as I get older, and I soothe them with the balm of Jesus.

Jesus.

On this Maundy Thursday, I see Jesus taking care of some things. After all, it was his last day to be alive in human flesh. For Jesus, that meant breaking bread, feeding those around him and than doing the unimaginable: washing the feet of his friends…

Yes, He washed their dirty feet….This cleansing was a job meant for a servant, not a friend, and certainly not a king. Yet, Jesus ministered to his disciples in His final hours. His hands touched their feet and cleaned them in a tender servant-sacrifice preview.

It was an outrageous, beautiful, humiliatingly glorious act.

Peter could not handle this. But, I say that we are Peter, too. We cannot handle His healing touch on our lowly feet. For though His touch washes the dirt and grime from our bodies, it also brings the fire of conviction into our souls.

It says to forgive, even when when the offender is unrepentant. It says to let go of offense, even when we’ve been wronged. It says to surrender our hearts to humility, even when we are due the reward recognition. It says to WASH THE FEET OF OUR BRETHERN (literally) yet we run away from the foot washing basin, run away from the call of Jesus and STILL call ourselves obedient and here……

Here, we are Peter too, unable to handle the touch of the Servant-King on our feet while wildfire Spirit flame flushes conviction throughout our veins.

For, if we could “handle” it, than we would not need Him. We would not need His healing touch, His perfect sacrifice, the resurrection leap, that bridged the chasm of sin and death.

If we could “handle it”, then we would not need Jesus, who was humble to the point of washing the feet of His betrayer on the night He was to be betrayed.

If we could “handle” it, then we wouldn’t be deceived by anxieties, fears, and we would walk perfectly in meekness, mercy and tenderness like Jesus did …..

We would be on equal footing with the One who walked straight to the foot washing basin to the cross; who chose to lay down His life for his friends AND His enemies.

We can’t handle it!

However, it is okay indeed, because Jesus knows us AND our secret burial grounds. With Jesus before us, we can bare our ignorance and our bare feet because despite being fully known, we are fully loved and that’s LIFE.

So, on this Maundy Thursday, let us remember our former wounds, for it is there God has encountered us with healing balm in his hands. He ministers there, healing, re-creating, molding and cultivating beautiful souls, readying them for their debuts, and equipping them for the battles ahead.

So, let us sit to rest with Jesus, but not hide our feet from Him. He has come to wash them…and we would do well to receive.

And finally, let us look forward to the coming Resurrection Sunday. For in Jesus Christ, we have a soul saving, Lazarus raising, tomb raiding, death breaking, life resurrecting, forever crushing the oppression of shame, awakening us to the revelation of love, servant-King, kind of Friend.

And you know…

I can’t handle it, that all consuming, all-welcoming outrageous love that is Jesus, but Maundy Thursday reminds me that Jesus can handle me, from my hidden depths to the agonies of reality, all the way down to my aching, life trodden feet.

Jesus.

Jesus.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me so well. Amen.

Cruise Ships

Cruise Ships

Once upon a time, I  went on a cruise. 

It was pretty amazing. We picked our rooms before we purchased our tickets but the highlight wasn’t the room…it was the expanse of ocean all around us, the incredible food, and the multiple events, programs, and things to do.

We built every single part of our trip to make it special, selected a couple of excursions, and had the best time relaxing amongst family and new friends.

When we got home, we discovered that we all gained 5-10 lbs…well, everyone except Isabela, because at 4 years old, she hated all the food on the ship!

Going on a cruise was fun…but expensive.

When I  think about the modern church building, church – seeking process, I can’t help but remember our cruise selection processes. 

  1. Right location/time, aesthetic: check.
  2. Right programs for our kids: check
  3. Right price (reward) for the product: check
  4. Good food, good entertainment: check
  5. Freebies, good reviews: check.

Hmmmmm

I  can’t help but think that God didn’t intend for us to choose our churches quite like this…devoid of prayer meetings and HS leading, yet many of us do.


However, most distressingly and even worse…our churches are being built, formed, and marketed just like a cruise ship.

  1. Right location/time, aesthetic: check
  2. Right programs for our kids: check
  3. Right price (reward) for the product: check
  4. Good food, good entertainment (“modern” worship concert vibes): check
  5. Freebies, good reviews: check.

What does this produce?

Does it produce Mary’s sitting at the feet of Jesus? Or Minister Martha’s forever laboring away to build a large cruise ship of attendees so that the enormous bills and salaries can be paid (and the church will be successful)?

What makes a church a success anyway? I think we need to redefine success in context of the church (Acts, Jesus, the widow and the orphan).

I think we have it all wrong.

You see, we say we have a church family. Yet who has a family of over 100-500 or 5000 people that they actually know very well and actually stay involved in all their lives?

No one. It’s impossible…IMMEDIATE family is the power in family. This is the smaller group of people who don’t just live together once a week, but they, just like in Acts, live life together, commune around the dinner table, play on the weekends, and of hopefully, rest on Sundays. They may fight or quarrel, but the closeness of immediate family life requires constant reconciliation, forgiveness and quality time.

Can we have a church family in our modern churches? Or are they just buildings filled with cliques?

I’m done with cliques. 

The sons and daughters rising up are sick of the show. They are sick of the building of shrines and perfect songs and manipulative ambience. They want TRUE family, where papa and mama are all in God and the sons and daughters are brothers and sisters with a heart for mothering, fathering and nurturing each other.

They want honest worship- not karaoke …love songs face to face with God and teaching around Jesus’s feet. There is a growing desire for raw intimacy (that cannot be found in formulaic structure) and this inner revival will be the tongues of fire catching the American church watchmen and bursting it into wildfires.

The deep and the more, the indigenous and the community driven – versus copycatting-is changing more lives all across the world and growing kingdom exponentially ,…except for in America, because here we commercialize and industrialize everything until discipleship is a program and not a relationship. We build celebrity, and worship talent over teaching yearning spirits how to press into worship EVERYDAY with God (not just church services), a God who is meek, humble, and chooses to speak in a whisper to us (versus displays of power and splendor). Then, we are in shock when we see that the influence of the church in the States is in decline.

It’s time for the sleeping giant to wake up! Programs and performances are not bad alone, but they are not the heartbeat of the church. Yet, the desire to look young, grow fast, and sound modern is lulling so many to sleep. And guess what? Sleepers cannot train, cannot transform, cannot be equipped, cannot even toddler walk into maturity. Yet we have thousands of sleepers planting churches and building careers at the expense of the body of Christ, the very people who they are meant to nurture. 

God help us. Building the American church is fun but it sure is expensive. 

Unshed Tears of a Military Child

“I can see them. As we read books together before bedtime, I see them. I see the side of her mouth trembling a little, just like her dad’s does, keeping it all in because in this world,  STRONG is what we teach.

As we read, I go over the day in my mind:

  • The 3 times she broke out into weeping, the prayer we prayed in carpool, the goodbye, the dropping her off at school, the text to her wonderful teacher asking to keep a tender eye on her…..
  • The alarms I set on my phone to remind me to pray for her and myself, too…..
  • The more than 5 times she broke out into tears over small things, so small I don’t even recall what they were…
  • The arguing over her not doing her chores and the inevitable consequences…
  • The letter she wrote me, apologizing and explaining that she feared she would never be able to be a good girl because she isn’t strong when her daddy is gone…
  • The tugging of my heart and the sheer panic rising as I calmly try to determine the next step….
  • The walking of the tension between punishment and grace…..

And then, in a blink of an eye, I’m back to reality and I see them. Fluid waters of grief held at bay, they are.

Unshed tears, they are.

All of a sudden, my heart is squeezed with pain over what I cannot undo, over what I cannot fix. I see the unshed tears; I wonder what is keeping them in and than it hits me. She doesn’t want to disappoint me. She wants to be a strong little girl even though her emotions are wild and confusing and overwhelming.

Where did she get that? Why does she think that? How did this happen?

Even in this sudden realization, I know that there is nothing I could have done or not done to prevent her from exercising her will. After all, she is her own being, and this is her worldDad is gone, mom is running the show, and even though she loves mom, her world is rocked every single time he has to leave.

And so, she weeps and she cries, but the time comes,  even for an almost 8 year old, where she chooses to leave her pain untended to so she can experience something – anything – else besides it.

As she reads to me, I wonder,

Why do we teach being STRONG with such fervor? If anything, maybe we should forget about being strong and just try to be TRUE. Maybe, we should  pay attention and tend to the unshed tears around us…in our families, in our communities, in our sons and daughters….our sweet military children in their untended grief.

We should! I should!

You know, I don’t know a lot about how to be a “great” mother. Who really does? But, I do know this. I will notice her tears…shed and unshed. And I will welcome them.  I will love her and I will be here, standing in the void, every time her dad leaves….wiping away all those shed and unshed tears. I will tend to her in her pain, and help her carry the burden of unspoken grief and separation from family. “

Guys…this is just a small little snapshot of my normal life.

However, it is not just my life. There are so many of us military families with struggles that are specific to our subculture. I can tell you through veteran eyes that it is difficult and that there is truly very little support. But the world has enough stories about people like me…..Not saying mine isn’t important. NO, not at all.

But, I challenge you to think about the child, the children, of military parents. As adults, we know how to function and we aim to protect our children. But there are realities we can’t always protect them from.

  • Mom or dad may be going to war or already there….
  • They may friends who have lost a parent in the line of duty…
  • Mom or dad may go TDY a lot …
  • Mom or dad may work insane hours because manning is low and the reality is that military members do not have the option to keep their family first…..AND
  • The kid starts to learn about war in school and the revelation hits them that mommy and/or daddy is in the military too and they could die…..

This,my friends,  it does more than affect our children. It helps form them, their dreams and their perspectives. Every story is different…but I am certain that the grief of missing mom or dad is the same….

This is the burden of the military child…

Prayer:

May all our children encounter the true, non-discriminating love of God, who promises to wipe every tear from our eyes, accepts us unconditionally, and knows what each tear drop carries- shed or unshed.

Amen.

Too New

In this quiet house,

It’s too quiet

In this clean room,

It’s too clean.

In this still moment,

It’s too still.

In this empty space,

It’s too empty.

I’ve loved so much.

Your loss invades every second.

My whole world is so much LESS.

I’ve grieved ,

And, time passes.

But I still expect to see you as I turn the corner each morning.

Routine,

How you betray me!

Time,

How, you ignore me!

It’s all too new,

And….

This new,

It’s too new.

Christmas: The Promise of Rest

Advent:

I  was talking to a dear friend of mine. This friend, like me, LOVES the Christmas season. 

Yet, this year, my friend is experiencing more gloom than joy, more weariness than hustle and bustle, and more frustration than Christmas cheer.

All around, the world turns mad with hurriedness. A party here, a church event there, school functions here, everywhere, Christmas shopping…….and before we know it, we are numb to the excitement that traditional holiday rhythms bring.

I’ve been there. It’s neither right nor wrong; it just IS.

Advent simply means “coming.” In this season of Advent, we wait and prepare for the celebration of the nativity of Jesus Christ AND the return of Jesus at the Second Coming. 

We not only celebrate a baby, but we celebrate a KING.

We wait; We prepare.  We remember our ancestors, who endured thousands of years in darkness and oppression to see Salvation light in the form of a sweet, tender, meek, and mild, divine baby.

Are you struggling today?  Are you tired, anxious, aching for a rest?

What a burden you share with our ancestors…trekking day after day, yearning and longing for true REST and wondering, “Is the day at hand? “Is the Christ come, yet?” “How many more days til the celebration?” “Am I ready?”

Have heart my dear friends. You are closer to Christ than ever before!

And, when that day comes, lift up your head. For in this darkness, you will be warmed by the glorious light of Christ.

Have hope, for He has come to the weary, so that they, so that WE will know rest. Rejoice, for He will not rest until all is made right in our souls. Receive peace, for he is gentle, humble and kind. He is not angry or disappointed in you. He celebrates you! He laments with you! He loves you!

So…be ready, for ready or not, Christmas Day is coming… the Redeemer of weariness is coming! The day of increase is coming! “And the zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”  (Isa 9)

Feliz Navidad!

Alicia 

God, the Dream Maker

 

When I was a child, I prayed constantly.

For hugs and for money

So that we wouldn’t go hungry.

And, for love that would find me 

So that I would not feel lonely.

 

This is the broken child’s dream.

 

And… as the years went by, 

I thought God ignored my cries.

I never realized

My dreams were being molded on The Potter’s wheel….

 

And I….

Got married, bought a house, 

Had a baby, moved all around….

 

When, suddenly!

I remembered those broken-hearted dreams

Imagined by a child in her most favorite high tree.

I would climb until I felt I was on top of the world.

Those magnolia branches made me feel so powerful!

 

There, I’d pray:

“God, will you give me a real home one day?

And a husband who will love me, despite all my pains.

And a child who will bring me love I’ve never known…

Oh God will you give me a home all of my own…”

 

Today,  I awaken and it springs unto me.

God has answered this precious prayed dream!

I have everything I’ve wanted so desperately

I have a home because You brought one to me…

 

I have a home because YOU brought one to me

 

Time

I can see the sands of time

Spilling freely through my hands.

To many moments to memorize

To little time to take it all in.

 

Too fast, too slow

Where did all the sand go?

 

But now I see…

This sand is a vapor,

A mist floating through grasping hands,

A fading flower, a withering grass.

 

Tomorrow’s too soon.

Tomorrow’s too far.

The number of my days

So short, yet so long.

 

But God keeps me

Preserves me like jelly.

I’m the joy in the sweet,

I’m anxiety-free.

 

I don’t have to worry about this sand…

This vapor,

These days.

I don’t have to fret about

The number,

The wasting of my flesh.

 

I’m preoccupied,

With  Glory before me,

Wonder within me,

This Deity I’m breathing .

 

I’m love-derived

Created in mystery.

 

So time, spill freely through these hands.

And I’ll waste myself for Heaven’s plans.

And when my world begins to fade

Oh the time, I’ll get to gain!

“What would you do if no one ever heard you? Would you keep singing your song?  What if you sang BECAUSE the only person you want to hear your lilting voice is God’s searching ears?
 
That, my friend, is the best reason of all.”

The Desert Season

I walked in that desert place.

I made my bed in the wilderness.

I reclined on a parched heart and soul.

I distracted myself with mirages of false hope.

 

I became acquainted with blackened dead lands.

I dug in the ground for hidden waters.

I came up weary, with empty hands.

I remembered the comforts of my home.

 

I was thirsting for the wellspring of life

I was craving the taste of well-seasoned truth.

And searching for refuge from the sun and from the cold.

Instead I found the darkest nights, without a fire and all alone.

 

And then I saw the green on the horizon.

A forest of trees planted by living waters

I inhaled the fragrance of winter turned to spring.

And tasted the flavor of hope on the 4 winds coming.

 

And suddenly, I understood grace

In ways, I’d never had known

If I never had walked through the desert

If I never had that wilderness home.

 

And,

There is a feast in the famine

Jesus prepared for me.

There is a river in the drylands

only the “come like a child” can see.

There is safety in the night

From the covering of Sovereign peace.

And God, Himself, handed it all over to me!

 

There is drink to end all thirst,

Honeyed wine reserved for me.

It’s the essence of the Spirit that has

Made Her home in me.

There is rest under the green,

The perfect shade of all dreams…

Sent to refresh and to breathe

Winds of mercy over me.

 

What an untamed flood,

Carrying away the desert sands.

What glorious waters, breaking away these man made damns!

What a voice of love speaking dry bones into life!

The 4 winds released their breath – prophesied me into flesh!

 

I have a Watchman, keeping and guarding me.

Shining within, enlightening me.

Gracious  and kind,

Merciful and favored…

Peace is the result,

I’m forever grateful.

 

Yielding Up My Wounds (2017 Journal entry)

I know you, He says. You are not hidden from me.

You turn to false loves, but they cannot cure you. They cannot heal your wounds.

Seek me. Return and repent (vv. 3, 14-15, my paraphrase).

The past two years have reaped of bleeding wounds. Even worse, they were old wounds. To put it plainly, it was like I took a knife in my own hands and strategically cut them open.

The devastation of cancer, loss and waning friendships struck something in me. A fear, and anxiety that I would be left behind.

I would be abandoned.

Even at 37, I feel like a small child, forgotten and locked away, at times.

It is nonsensical.

I am a grown woman. But, you see, my heart was aching from these internal wounds that festered, yearning to be healed but refusing the balm of Divine ministry.  So, instead, a thick scar tissue formed and became a barrier to permanent healing and restoration. As a result,  the scar tissue grew and grew until it became so hardened that I took a knife and ripped it open…

But the gushing and throbbing pains that resulted did not cure me. Instead, they reminded me of the fresh agonies of life, and in a most childlike way, I  ran and….

I hid.

It was then, I discovered a void that expanded in me, an undiscovered wilderness land.

What do I do? Lord….I call and hear nothing. Even in your arms, I am unsettled.

I don’t want to live unsettled.

This is not what you have for me. This is not from you or because of you.

I know that:

You see me hiding…

You see me injuring myself.

And, you prowl around my heart like a lion, guarding my heart, thwarting my attempts to run and hide, and protecting me from a full on prodigal rebellion ….

God, I  know you are with me.  I  know you are inside my darkness, with me, holding me, and hedging me in from myself.

Today, I finally hear you.

And, you are saying, “Nothing can heal your wounds but me.”

O God,

Help me to stop injuring myself. Help me to stop ripping apart old wounds. Take this   hardened scar tissue and seeping wounds and regenerate it with new flesh.

I lift my sick and bruised and battered body to you….

I  allow you to minister to my self-inflicted wounds….

Balm of Gilead,

Here I am……

You’ve called me and I’ve come, Lord. I am ready to be healed.

Uncover my darkness  and contend with it like the conquering Lion you are.

Amen

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