Before the Miracle

Far be it from me to not believe

even when my eyes can’t see.

And this mountain that’s in front of me

will be thrown into the depths of the sea.

We sing about moving mountains this morning.

About keeping our eyes on Jesus.

And here he is.

A crowd clamoring about, they’ve heard he’s healed the sick

Or seen if for themselves and they seek him out, needy.

Hungry.  (John 6)

The Bread of Life turns and asks his friends where they will get enough bread for everyone.

And we chuckle because we know how the rest of the story goes.

But I can feel Philip’s panic.

And Andrew’s floundering attempt to bring what they could find to Jesus.

They were just learning about this Bread.

I doubt I would have done any better.

And Jesus takes the bread, the tiny offering of a child.

And he gives thanks.

Eucharisteo.

A pocket of sacred space, of breathing gratitude.

And everyone eats and has enough.

Friends, did you see what preceded the miracle?

Gratitude.

I don’t know about you, but there are a few miracles I’m praying for in my own little world right now.

Mountains that seem too big.

Crowds that look too hungry.

I feel like I’ve been banging down the doors of heaven for release, for deliverance.

But this week, I’m going to take a step back.

Take a moment to remember that my resources are too small.

Laughably puny.

But my resources in the hands of a gracious, almighty and all-sufficient God are a completely different story.

This week, I’m going to leave a pocket of sacred space, of breathing gratitude.

This week, I am going to give thanks before the miracle.

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Take Heart

They’re in the upper room.

They’ve had their feet washed by the Teacher, watched him stoop to serve.

They’ve shared a meal together, lingered long at the table.

And now Jesus seems to be talking in riddles.

We, of course, know what awaits them all as they step from this place in mere moments.

They, clearly, did not.

In this world you will have troubles. (John 16:33-34)

The poor guys didn’t know the half of it.

The next few days would lay their hearts, their intentions, bare.

They would deny.

They would run and hide.

They would watch in horror, wondering how this One who called them to follow could actually die.

They would sit with the silence, with the questions.

With the grief.

Maybe they would scream at the Father.  Surely they would doubt.

But take heart,

The Teacher spoke.

Have courage.  Be brave.  Hang on to faith, and even joy.

Take heart,

The Teacher speaks.

In the horror.  In the silence.  In the questions.  In the grief.  In the screaming.  In the doubt.

Friends, this is a word for us too.

As we live, like the disciples, in the heavy hours after Good Friday and before Easter Sunday.

In the middle place of the Kingdom, in between the now and the not yet.

Courage.  Bravery.  Faith.  Joy.

The Teacher spoke these words to his dear ones even here.

Even when he knew the darkest hours lay right ahead.

We know this is not the end of the story.

But it’s where my heart lingers tonight.

For, you, dear one, wrestling in the middle place.

The Teacher still speaks

Take heart.

Audacity

We’re talking today about when it feels like God is silent.

I’m not in that place right now, though I’ve been there before and I will be again.

And if you are there today, let me just say

There is no shame in those dark nights.

You are not alone.

I’ve spent the week feeling restless and also emboldened, which is how I sometimes feel when a need is heavy and my words just don’t feel adequate but I can’t stay silent.

I’ve been storming the gates of heaven for a few dear ones this week.

Hard core.  Full stop.

And this morning I’m challenged to ask even bigger.

I’m challenged to pray with audacity.

To pray for the Kingdom to come on earth, right here in this middle place between now and not yet.

Friends, our God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21).

So let’s imagine big.

Big like mamas and daddies living into the reality of their identity as Beloved.

Big like safe homes for all the Little Ones.

Big like enough schools for every child in Haiti to receive an education (help make that happen here!).

Big like physical healing and freedom from addiction and restored relationships and changed hearts.

Big like churches unified and peace reigning in our cities.

Can I tell you a secret?

Sometimes I’m scared to pray with audacity.

It feels, well, audacious.

Presumptuous, maybe.  Like who am I to ask for so much?

But, friends, I know who I am.

I am a daughter of the King.

I am invited, empowered to approach the throne of grace with confidence.

And, this week, I am choosing to pray with audacity.

Pray Continually

As you may have guessed, I am a words girl.

I love savoring them as they roll off a page, through my eyes and into my imagination.

I love listening hard for them and feeling the fiery spark when they resonate in my soul.

I love stringing and restringing them together until they feel just right.

I love sending them off into the big, beautiful world as a force for good.  For truth.  For love.

And then there’s prayer.

Oh, yes, sure, when I’m “on” in Bible study or grace-saying or goodnight-benedictioning, I can rock some prayer words like the good preacher’s kid that I am.

But alone with Jesus, I’m almost always speechless.

Pray continually (I Thessalonians 5:17)

Yes.

But sometimes prayer is messy for a girl who likes tightly woven words.

Sometimes it’s hearing the pain behind a story and just sitting with Jesus in the heaviness of it.  And letting him hold the heavy.

Sometimes it’s holding hands with sisters praying in Creole and feeling the thick, undeniable presence of Jesus and saying just “yes” because your brain doesn’t understand the words but your soul knows they are right.

Sometimes it’s walking into a situation with Jesus-eyes and being open to seeing things differently.

Sometimes it’s just one word.  Hold.  Help.  Jesus.

Sometimes it’s straight silence.  Hard, focused silence that brings you to the end of yourself.  To the end of your words.

Sometimes it’s a victory fist and tears of joy.

A few times for me, it’s been pictures.  Pictures that I want to wrap in beautiful words but can’t because they are not meant for sharing.  They are just for that still, vulnerable moment.

Sometimes it’s hearing a word and getting up out of your seat to go do (or say) something very specific.  I love when this happens.  And also I hate it, because I’m a wreck that it will be crazy-awkward.  Friends, sometimes prayer is awkward.  Sometimes following Jesus is awkward.

And sometimes when you finally say yes, the words coming from your own mouth surprise you because one second ago, alone with Jesus, you were speechless.  And maybe, just maybe, those Jesus-words are exactly what somebody else needs to hear.

And so.

Whether you are a words girl or not, know that words aren’t the only way that prayer looks.

It looks like hope.  Like authenticity.  Like openness.  Like obedience.

And sometimes, to be fair, like groaning or crazy-awkwardness that, in the hands of an infinitely gracious God, end up beautiful.

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.

Lament

Fifteen years ago, I was young and idealistic.

I was on mission for Jesus—literally.

I was in the orientation week before a year of full-time ministry.

My faith was real.  And it was strong.

It had already held me through loss and betrayal.

Though not yet through the grown-up anxiety that I’d meet the next year.

Fifteen years ago, innocence shattered.

The world as we knew it was changed.

And I was challenged to write a lament.

I tried.

Looking back, it feels simplistic.

Too chirpy and hopeful.

I had not yet wailed on my knees.

I had whined and fussed in my adolescent angst,

But I had not yet ugly cried over a little one gone too soon.

I had not yet stifled sobs over missing someone so hard that it physically hurt.

I had not yet screamed at Jesus in my car with hot, angry tears puddling in my lap.

Y’all, I feel like I could write a lament today.

Not for me.  Not for my babies.

But for dear ones that I have come to love.

Jesus, we don’t know how to do this.

And we are so far from knowing how to do this well.

This has been my prayer a lot lately.

To a God who isn’t scared of my ugly cries or my screaming.

To a God who is big enough to take them all.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…

Our fumbling, inadequate words.

Our hard, honest questions.

Our big feelings.

But we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence

Honestly.  Boldly.  With all our mess.

So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4)

Not easy answers.  Not quick fixes.

But the presence and patience and grace of a God who sympathizes with our weaknesses.

A God who isn’t offended by our chirpy, hopeful prayers.

The ones that feel too simplistic in retrospect.

A God who isn’t scared of our ugly cries.  Our screaming.

A God who hears our laments.