Rooted in Love

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ… (Eph. 3:17)

You prophets, bold speakers of Spirit-truth, we need you.  Your words make us brave.  Brave enough to love well.

You servants, compassionate care-takers of the practical, we need you.  Your hands and feet free us to listen.  We hear the drum-beat of Spirit-love in your quiet footsteps.

You teachers, increasers of insight and understanding, we need you.  Your stories help us grasp love with our hearts and open us to be grasped by Love.

You encouragers, you gentle walkers-beside, we need you.  Your capacity to listen well helps us know that we are heard.  Your words ring true in our hearts because we know we are loved.

You givers, free-flowing vessels of grace and provision, we need you.  Your generosity lets love trickle into corners it couldn’t otherwise reach.

You leaders, influencers of mind and heart, we need you.  Your voice points us in the right direction, helping us encounter Love for ourselves.

You mercy-givers, edge-sweeping holders of the broken, we need you.  Your hearts bleed love and we notice.  You see the ones the rest ignore, and we cannot escape it when you are around… you are covered in the aroma of Love.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. (Romans 12:6)

But our gifts are not to be hoarded.  Not to be locked up inside of us.

No.

Our gifts are for the body.  For a desperately needy world.  For the Giver.

Your gift is valuable.  Indispensable.

It’s only together that we have power to know the width and length and height and breadth of Love.

A Love that changes everything.

And they came

The house was packed, there was no room left.

The road was rough, it took all their physical strength.

Jesus was busy, there was no guarantee they could push their way through.

And they came.   (Mark 2)

Their friend was sick.

They knew the One who could help.

And so they came.

Surely digging through a thick mud roof wasn’t their original plan.

But they were desperate, ready to do what they must.

And so they came.

What did Jesus see when he looked at this spectacle?

Not an interruption to his sermon.

Not a gaping hole in the roof.

He saw faith.  Belief.  Faithfulness.

Can I be honest for a second?

There have been times in my life that my prayers have been the desperate pleas of a woman digging through a thick mud roof, intent on getting through to the Healer one way or another.

But usually?  Usually they’re not.

I say lots of things to excuse and explain, but the plain truth is this:

I need to make time to come.

Even when the house is packed and the road is rough and there’s no guarantee.

I know the Healer and I also know dear ones for whom I need to start digging like mad.

Maybe you do too.

Now is the time, friends.

May it be said of us that it was hard and inconvenient and sometimes a little crazy.

But we were desperate.  Desperate for our dear ones to know the Love, the healing that we do.  And ready to do what we must.

And so we came.

When grace is in the receiving

Today we meet Jesus in the synagogue where he’s teaching with authority and casting out evil spirits. (Mark 1:21-28)

His disciples are amazed.

Amazed at this man who teaches with power, who calls out his enemy and sends him away.

And we are challenged.

When is the last time we’ve stood amazed at this Jesus?

I have stood amazed, no doubt.

The night when words I’d heard hundreds of times before flashed hot and bright behind my eyelids, fluttering in my little girl heart because I got it.

The day when Jesus yanked me out of my adolescent angst with an ultimatum to which the only response was where else could I go?  You alone have the words of eternal life.

The time I prayed for a daughter and everyone told me it never happens like that.  Except that it did.

And when I pleaded with Jesus to be done with foster care and his answer, one thing, brought a Little One who is one of the greatest joys of my life.

The times I’ve watched Love win—in my home.  In my classroom.  In court.

And plenty more.

I figure I’m good.

And so through the closing song, I wrestle with another thought that thumps and throbs.

Maybe I’ll write about it soon.

And then church is over.

And I’m gathering my coat when Jesus shows up in the chair next to me wearing the skin of someone I barely know.

Words of kindness and affirmation tumble over me, then a tangible gift of grace offered freely.

Too much.

Too much from someone I barely know.

But the answer is yes and thank you.

I know this too.

Because the Jesus who speaks with authority is here.  Heavy in these words that I want to shrug away but cannot.  In this freely offered gift of too much.

And so I leave church today standing amazed.

Taken aback again by the extravagant love of One who knows that sometimes

Grace is in the receiving.

With

It’s a little word, one we don’t think about much.

But today, it’s the word that captures for me the whole story of Christmas.

The whole story of life.

With.

It’s a joining word, a connector.

Emmanuel.

God with us.

With in the joy and celebration of permanence, of forever family done and done.

With in the endless chatter and toy-strewn house and perennial sleep deprivation that is toddlerhood.

With in the moody angst and pointed words and wishful independence that is pre-teenagerhood.

With in the job that I once loved but now leaves me feeling exhausted, angry and incompetent every day.

With in the silent death of little dreams, the little griefs that feel too silly to even name.

With in the vast expanse of adventure ahead, all shiny and wide and possible.

God with us.

Why does this matter?

Because this Word that was with God in the beginning (John 1:1) had to be with us.

Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.

(Hebrews 2:17)

The Word made flesh had to be with us to bridge the gap.

The gaping chasm between a holy God and broken, rebellious, decidedly unholy humanity.

Broken, rebellious, decidedly unholy me.

This is the story of grace.

The story of Christmas.  And Easter.  And every single day.

This is the story that changes everything.

This.

If there’s one thing my journey through foster care is teaching me, it’s how desperately I need rescue.

It’s easy to “other” when you’ve never met.

But when you’ve held a dear one as her heart spills onto the hard tile floor of the courthouse lobby, things change.

You realize that you’re not so different after all.

The truth is I am a few bad choices and one giant social safety net away from disaster.

The very same kind of disaster that was so easy to “other” before.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

I learned this verse once upon a time… mostly to beat other adolescents over the head with my Bible so they could escape hell and believe what I believed.

But this is not the end of the story.

Not the end of the sentence.

Nope.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

(Romans 3:23-24).

As my eyes flit over the familiar words, I am amazed at how well this one sentence sums up what I believe, what I want my life to be about.

Friends, we are a mess.  A much bigger mess than some of us who have grown up in church would like to believe.

We are broken.  We fall short.  We are in desperate need of rescue.

But this is not the end of the story.

The good news shows up right there in the same sentence as our mess.

Jesus.

Because of Jesus, we are redeemed, bought back.

Because of Jesus, we are justified, set right with a holy God.

Because of Jesus, we know grace, ridiculous love when we deserve condemnation.

This, friends.

This is the truth.

This is the good news.

This is what we desperately need our lives to be about.

One Hope

They snatch me up in the lobby, two sweet friends, and just come out with it.

How can we pray for you today as a white mama of non-white babies?

I don’t know the answer, exactly.

But I do know that this, this right here, is church.

Asking the brave question, the question that sometimes feels like an elephant in a room full of ostriches.

And praying, standing with, even when the only words that seem right are

Help, Jesus.

It’s hard enough for me to grapple with recent events as a follower of One who I see ever sweeping the edges, ever championing the underdogs, ever acknowledging great value in the ones marginalized by society.

But when it comes to my babies.  The babies that I love, unquestionably, more than life itself.

Oh.  Dear.  Goodness.

I lose all rationality.

And also my mind.  In your face.  If you spew some foolishness that rings hollow in my mama-ears.

One hope.

I settle into my chair after having church in the lobby.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while.

And here it is again.

…you were called to one hope when you were called… (Ephesians 4: 4)

The calling is simple.

Not easy, mind you.  Sometimes very hard.

Love God.  Love people.

The hope is real.

Not fully realized.  Not always see-with-your-eyes-able.

But real.

Friends, I have no hope for the violence and hatred and ignorance and division I see.

Except one.

Jesus.

Not love or unity or some inherent goodness of humanity.

Not gun control.  Or mental health services.  Or public policy of any kind.

Just Jesus.

Jesus is my one hope.

And so I will go on loving my babies.  And trying also to tell them the truth.

And struggling with all of it.

And blessing the ones who ask the hard questions right there in the lobby.

The ones who pray without having the answers, without having the words at all.

The ones who know what it means to be church.

Grace Running

Let your grace run free

we sing.

It makes me wonder if we are the ones that trip grace up sometimes.

We church people with our unspoken rules and our haughty glances.

We church people struggling to be known by our love instead of our political persuasion, instead of (gasp) our imposition of a standard of morality.

I think about how I’ve seen God work, and it rings true.

Grace running.

Not accepting our offer to work off the money that we squandered.  Not entertaining our apologies and excuses.  Not even waiting for them.

But spotting us a long way off.

And running.

Embracing.  Celebrating.

(Luke 15:11-31)

This is the gospel.

This is the good news.

It makes me wonder if this grace trips us up sometimes.

We church people who grumble like the brother in the background.

We church people who want our good choices, our noble deeds to count for something.

Grace running feels too easy somehow.

It’s not.

In fact, it cost everything.

This too is the gospel, the good news.

For all of us.

Let’s not trip grace up.

And let’s not trip up on it.

Let’s let grace run free.