What Can You Give?

Have you ever heard the story of when a woman broke open a bottle of perfume and poured it over Jesus’ head? I’m guessing that even if you’re not a person of faith, you’ve heard that story. And, interestingly, Jesus himself said that people would be telling her story for generations to come.

This is Holy Week. The week that Christians celebrate the last week of Jesus’ life. From Palm Sunday (when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey) to Easter Sunday (when he rose from the grave) and everything in between.

About this time in the week, just days before he was crucified, he was hanging out at a man named Simon’s house. Simon was a Pharisee. A leader in the Jewish faith. There was no room, really, for a sinful woman such as she to enter his house, but there she was. She came in, wept at Jesus’ feet, dried her tears with her hair, and broke a jar of perfume, pouring it on his head.

This was a major act of repentance and, on Jesus’ behalf, an act of forgiveness. We know it is about repentance and forgiveness because Jesus went on telling a parable about just that.

But, I see something else here, too. Sacrifice. A repentance so deep, a love so deep, that this woman was willing to give up probably the most valuable thing that she had. And, by their grumbling about giving to the poor, everyone else in the room knew of the perfume’s great value, too. She didn’t care. She was there for one thing only. To anoint Jesus for his burial.

It’s early in the morning, and this is the passage I’m reading for today as I too celebrate the life and death of Jesus this week. Only this week is truly unlike any Easter season I have ever experienced. Never have I ever been separated from my family and friends as I am now. Never have I felt the crushing blow of learning that so many of my fellow citizens, fellow humans, would potentially die of an illness that we know little about. Never have I felt the loom of a desperate economy struggling to catch up. I’m not sure I’ve ever before seen so many friends who have lost their jobs and truly do not know what the next step is. Yes, I’m old enough. Yes, I lived through other recessions. Yes, I lost much in 2008. But this seems. . .different.

I think of this unnamed woman in the Bible. Her story can become our story, can’t it? See, in these times, we can be so incredibly close fisted. We can be frightened for the future and unwilling to give. We can feel the need to stockpile for the future. We hoard our money, our resources, our things, our time, our safety, all of it, because the future is so incredibly uncertain. We can’t possibly give, or give more, because one day it all might be taken from us.

Did this woman care about that? No. She went right into a place where she was not welcome and did something so big, so extravagant, that Jesus himself said her story would be told for generations to come. And look at us proving him right.

As you look at Easter, how can you come to Jesus open handed? What can you give? How can you sacrifice? Are there needs around you waiting to be met? Is there something that you can sacrifice for Him?

This week, and any week really, we can come to Him desperate yet willing to give it all. We can come to him open handed rather than close fisted. We can come ready to give, ready to serve, ready to love. Our needs are still there, and our fear may be great, but He is worthy of everything we have. He is worthy of our greatest gifts. Anoint Him today, and the rewards will be worth it.

A Choice

 


For several days now, my home state has had in effect a Shelter in Place order. Not since the cold war’s “Duck and Cover” have we even heard such words. Nor have we had to think about such tragic circumstances invading our communities.
But it’s here. Now.
Many of us have had our lives completely turned upside down. We can’t go to work, and we have to work from home. Our work has changed somehow, evolved. There’s no specific place, no office with a door, so it seems like we’re always working or we’re never working. Some of us don’t have jobs. Or we have a suspicion that our job won’t last forever. And, the kids. Schools are out, kids are home. Even the big ones. Colleges are shut down, dorms closed, and grown children are once again sharing space with their parents. Speaking of parents, we’re all worried about ours. Will they get sick? Will they make it through this? What are they thinking right now?
What are any of us thinking?
The world is a crazy place to be right now. Never would I ever have thought we’d have to argue about our older children wanting to hang out and go for a drive. Just go. Wait. No. You can’t. Sorry. I know it’s lame, but people are counting on you to do this.
My world is at a standstill and spinning at the same time. How does that even happen?
When my world is so out of my control, I feel like giving up. I feel like shouting to the whole world that I don’t really have a choice. I don’t.
But that’s not true, is it? I always have a choice. Always.
I’ve noticed that I’ve been saying things like, “did you watch the governor’s report today” (ours addresses the state every afternoon) or “have you heard from your friends in Italy?”
I’ve noticed that I don’t mind turning on the news again, even though I gave up that habit nearly two years ago. I keep watching and waiting and watching. Even if it makes me anxious.
What I know is that I have a choice. I can have fear or faith. I can choose to be anxious about everything or delighted in the little things. I can follow the rules, fight the fight, keep the faith.
You have a choice, too. You can let your family get on your nerves, or you can relish this unique time to spend together. You can snip at your co-workers, or take a deep breath and remember that we are all struggling.

When we are faced with hard choices, we rarely walk away proud that we did the easy thing. Usually, when we do the hard thing, in the end we are grateful for the outcome. Thankful for the lessons learned. Blessed by the opportunities.
Today, I pray that you look fear in the eye and don’t let it consume you. Don’t give it a chance to take you down or discourage you. Instead, make a choice. Do good. Be kind. Bless others. Love well. Have hope.

 

A Liturgy for When I Feel Alone

Father, I feel alone.
Grant me peace in this trying time. Grant me courage to face my doubts. Show me in love how to face my fears.
I know, Lord, that I am never alone. Not truly. Not really. I know that you are with me. I know that you have gone before me. You know the future, and what it holds.
Oh, how I long to see that future. If I know the end, how it unfolds, what is about to happen, then I can get through. Right? I just need you to tell me what’s next.
But somehow Father, I know that you hold that Truth. That reality. That future. And, I realize that it’s not for me to know. Not yet. So, let me cling to you. In my fear, in my loneliness, in the waiting, let me cling to you.
Hold me tightly, Lord.
Don’t let go.
Help me feel safe.
Grant me peace.
Give me courage.
Make me strong, even strong enough for others.
Let me go about this day, and future days, with a peace that assures me that you are with me every moment of every day.
Guide my darkened path with your everlasting light.
Amen

Unite in Love

Friends,

Over the course of my life, I have seen many things. I have lived many places, including over 10 years in Italy, a place for which I currently grieve alongside my beautiful friends. I, my husband, or both have been in some kind of ministry related field for over 20 years. All of the things I want to express I have seen first hand. I am not speculating. I am not making things up. I am not trying to get political gain. I have no agenda. I just know people. I love people. I have a heart for Jesus and the gospel message. I want to be the biggest and best light out there. I desire to give, to serve, to make people happy, to win them to the Kingdom. And, for many of my friends, I think that you do, too. Maybe we have forgotten how.

Yesterday I did some personal shopping for nine different families. Yes, I spent about nine hours in stores, on my feet, in my car, and at people’s homes. Some of them were in wheelchairs. Some just had surgery. Some are imunocompromised. Some have sick children or babies or businesses to run before the economy takes a hit. And some, many, didn’t get the things that they needed. Legitimate things that are on their list every time I see them. Normal things that shouldn’t be hoarded. Then, today while out with my family, my daughter is told by a mom that she is stressed out because she has a 7 month old baby and there were only 5 packages of wipes in the store. For everyone. At the next store I watched as my daughter picked up wipes (that she buys consistently and uses for her face) and then later put them back without purchasing them because someone else probably needs them more. Life is full of decisions.

The government has begun to shut down public gatherings. Sporting events. Universities. Schools. We are being told to stay home. My mother, who works in a nursing home, has to have her temperature taken before entering the building. She has to sign in every time she goes to work. There are no more visitors to her (or any in our area) nursing home. They may have to begin eating in their rooms as early as tonight.

We live in a community that offers free breakfast and lunch for our public school students. A community where, at the time of implementation, 83% of our students qualified for a free or reduced lunch. There are a number of kids that I know benefit from this and struggle when school is out of session.

I know many teachers and school staff. My daughter works for the YMCA and they will close tonight at 10PM and be closed until the end of the month. People will be losing work, and therefore compensation.

Friends, remember when I said that I think you want to shine? I know that you want to do right? To spread love? To take care of others? Today I’m telling you that you NEED to. We need to. We need to band together like never before. We need to set aside differences and work together for good. We need to lift others up, not drag them down or leave them behind. I want to share some ways that you can show your faith by your loving deeds. Just in case you have forgotten.

Remember that not everyone will make the same decisions as you. I have an autoimmune disease. Because of this, I know others who suffer like me. We have a little “club.” Not really, but definitely a camaraderie. Maybe there will be a time that they decide to stay home. That’s it. They need to stay well. Respect that decision. They are not silly. They are not overreacting. They probably hate it, hate their bodies, are embarrassed, and probably very lonely. Check up on them. Call them. Like with a phone. And voices.

Those sweet, sweet seniors in nursing homes. They must stay well. And protected. But, some of them didn’t even have visitors before. You may have relatives in a nursing home that you “forget” or “get too busy” to visit. How lonely that must be. If they end up losing their dining hall time, how sad that would be to lose the only time you have for being around other people. Call them. Pray for them. Send a note or a card. Face time so they can see your home. Buy them a treat, and have it sent in.

Those families who rely on free breakfast or lunch? What might be a very big deal to them, might not be a big deal at all to you. Help them. Reach out. Don’t judge. That’s the last thing a loving parent needs right now. Make sandwiches. Buy some granola bars. Drop off some canned goods. Love your neighbor no matter who they are. Yesterday is done, tomorrow is a new day. Start over. I had a sweet friend message me today telling me that she made a big pot of soup. She said that this world needs our love, and if I knew anyone who needs a hot meal, let her know. They want to share! That is showing our God to the world, people. That is doing the right thing.

The people losing out on work? Yes, for now there will be safety nets and systems in place. But, in the long run? Will the sweet lady you see every day at the Y or your favorite server at your favorite restaurant need a little help? Help them now. Drop off a note, a $20 bill, a bag of groceries. Say, I know it’s tough not knowing your future, but I care about you. Just knowing someone cares sparks something big in us! No one wants to be the jerk who stops the succession of cars paying for the person behind them in the drive through. Kindness grows. Kindness is contagious. Start something little. It might turn into something big.

Friends, I care about you. I really do. And, I know you care about your neighbors, too. Please, let’s remember how to take care of each other.

A Liturgy by the Sea

Good and gracious Father,

Oh how I love the sea. Thank you, dear Lord, for giving us water.

I watch the waves crash and roll back out to sea. The infinity of it all my mind just cannot grasp.

I am mesmerized, Lord. I am calm. I see you in the blue waters; in the deep I know you rest. Keep me calm for all of my days. Help me to remember what it is to explore your creation. Help me to see how deep and vast and wild is your design.

Just as you have fashioned man, you have fashioned nature. The land and the sea, they are yours. The earth, the sky, the deep, you rest in it all. You make your home everywhere, and in the sea I see your nature displayed.

Lord, you are wild. You get angry. We sometimes enrage you with our sin. We sit in our shame, but then you call us. You beckon us back to you. Like the waves roll back out to sea, so we race back to where you rest. I am blessed to be able to sit with you. Even if just for a moment, I am so very blessed to be in your presence. You are calming. You are loving. You are God.

But I know that I cannot be here, be by the sea, forever. I must go home. I must continue my routine. I must engage in my daily life here on earth. But, I am thankful. My soul rests in you. I find my peace in knowing that you are everywhere, and I am grateful that I cannot escape your presence.

 

A Liturgy for When my Schedule is too Tight

Dearest Lord,

Why? How? Father, you have asked me to leave space, to leave room for you. Where did that room go?

Lord, I am overwhelmed. I am too busy, too tired, drowning. The day ends and there is nothing left. Nothing is left for me. Nothing is left for you. I am drained.

How do I manage this life that is being thrown at me? What choices can I make to follow you better? Where do I turn when the wheel is spinning too fast? How, Lord, can I stop the cycle?

Father God, help me. I want to live as you desire. I want space and scripture and margin and sabbath. I want peace and rest and joy and love. I need you and I need your word. You have created me; you know everything about me. Please, Lord, instill in me a desire to change, to slow, to stop.

Give me wisdom, Lord. Help me listen. Tell me when to say no. Allow me to feel your presence encouraging me to put down the device or to stop saying yes to everything, even good things.

Father, like a child, your child, I need guidance. I am at the end of my rope and I don’t know where to turn next. I am worn. I am weary. I am tired. I wasn’t there when you created the earth. I often do not know of your ways. But I know that they are good. Your ways are good and true and higher than my ways. My way isn’t working, and now I’m asking you to instill in me yours. Your truth. Your plan.

Ease this daily struggle. Help me to create margin. Help me to rest. Give me time. Give me grace. Give me courage to say no. Allow my family and friends the pleasure of my presence, and allow me theirs. As I begin to see what can be, help me to desire it more.

Thank you, Lord, for your constant presence in my life. May I recognize it. May I be encouraged by it. May I know it. May I feel it.

Grant me peace.

A Liturgy for Beginning a New Year

Oh dear Father,

I look ahead, but first I look behind.

Remind me, Lord. Tell me. May I acknowledge the past year?

How many? How much? How often?

How many times did I listen, truly listen, to the person that you placed in front of me? How many times did I give to those who asked and not turn away those who were in need? How many people were made better because of something that I did or said?

How much did I give? How much did I receive? How much did I learn, grow, fast, pray, question, or hear?

How often did I grasp the lesson that I was being taught? How often did I care? How often did I disciple, encourage, model, teach, or be present?

Father, I want to remember the good I’ve been blessed to be a part of. I want to hold on to the ways in which I’ve been shaped and formed by you and others. I want to be thankful for the moments that I made the right choice, said the right thing, helped the right person.

But Lord, I am also so aware that all year long, all 52 weeks, all of the plain old Tuesdays, I have desperately needed your grace. I have needed your mercy. I have needed your love. Last year I needed you as my guide. You were guiding; was I following?

Father, now I look ahead. The party is over. The food has been eaten. The friends have been hugged. The toasts have been said. Our ways have been parted. My kitchen is a mess, yet I look ahead.

This year, this precious year, what will it bring? I search not for a resolution, but a formation. A transformation. Make me better. Mold me to be more like you. Open my eyes to need. Open my heart to others. Let my life be used. And changed. Grant me opportunities to be your hands and feet. Give me reasons to be challenged. Don’t allow me to choose to remain the same. Though I don’t know if I will be given 12 more months or 52 more weeks or 365 more days, if I am, if you choose to give me one more year of life, let me not waste even one minute. And when I do, thank you for the grace and mercy that will bring me back to your plan and your ways.

A Liturgy for Sabbath

Lord,

I’m not great, Heavenly Father, at this idea that you call Sabbath.

Our world, it moves so fast.

We move so fast.

I move so fast.

You ask me to slow, to stop, to think, to be.

I’m trying. I am. I want to Sabbath. I want to Sabbath well.

Help me, Father, to listen.

Help me to stop.

Take away all distractions. My phone, my computer, my schedule, my worry and hurry, let them all belong to you today.

Take each piece, each simple component of my day, and make it yours. Make my day your day. Give me rest, true rest today.

Let the others in my household know peace today, as well. Let them relish in the stillness. Let them know you more today. Watch us and guide us as we do our best to put you first in all things. As we listen and obey your command for rest.

Let your way become my way today. Let you and I become one. Let your thoughts become my thoughts and your rest become my rest. May the stillness not be difficult, but delightful. May I spend my day of Sabbath enclosed in the Peace that passes all understanding knowing that your way is best.

A Liturgy for Moments of Anxiety

Lord,

I am anxious.

I feel it in my bones.

Why, o Lord?

Why is my heart beating so fast? Why does everything feel strange?

Tell me that I can do this, Lord.

When my heart is racing and my mind is racing and my thoughts are coming at me a mile a minute. When I feel inadequate and like I can’t measure up. When I feel like everything I do is wrong and everyone knows. When it seems like everyone is staring yet no one cares.

Then.

Then, in that moment Lord, when everything begins to collide, grant me peace. Please, good and gracious God, be merciful with me. Allow me to breathe. Allow me to rest in you. Give me a peace that passes all understanding. Give me a moment of tranquility in my life. I desire, dear Jesus, to feel the rest from my wandering brain and anxious heart. A rest that I know can only come from you.

God, sometimes I feel like a fraud. I feel like I’m a fake and soon everyone will know. Everyone will know that sometimes the person you created me to be fails. I falter and I freeze. I fear. I fear too much. I fear irrationally. I fear for things that will never come to pass.

Help me to realize that I am enough. With your grace and the Holy Spirit, I am enough. With the realization that I am yours for eternity, I am enough. I alone am not enough, but with you I am capable of all things.

Continue to guide me. Continue to help me feel capable. Continue to grant me that peace that I feel coming from you. But, more than anything, help me to see those blessings. Help me to see every step that you take towards me beckoning me to come and rest in you. And let me rest, dear God, let me rest.

 

A Liturgy for Doing the Dishes

Our Good and Gracious God

Enthroned above.

May I first say thanks. May I first express my gratitude to you for every ordinary moment in life. As I do this, as I thank you, with each moment I find mundane, help me to see it anew as extraordinary.

How extraordinary it is, in fact, to wash these dishes. How beautiful to view the plate that you have given me as it reminds me of the food that you have blessed me with. How telling to see the cup that has quenched my thirst and know that the giver of this earthly water is in fact Himself called Living Water.

As I stand here in this place made sacred help me to recognize every good and perfect gift that has come from you. Help me to acknowledge your presence in each moment, in each chore, in each chance I have to serve others.

Lord God, as I wash and scrub and clean and wipe help me to reflect. Help me to look back on this day. Where have I been a blessing? Where have I been used for your Kingdom? Where have I helped others along the way?

Also, Lord, where have I done harm to others? Where have I hurt others? Where have I wronged You or your people today? What can I learn from today’s activities? What do you have to teach me in this moment?

Allow this time for reflection. For quiet. For peace. For rhythm.

Give me silence for this time. This moment. Let me hear, really hear, your precious voice. Cut through my wandering mind. Bring me around to what you have to say. Fill me with your voice, your love, your mercy, your grace.

Teach me. Fill me. Use me.

Once again I thank you. Whatever else is there to do in this moment but be grateful? May this blessing be poured out from me into all others I encounter.

Thank you for the water, the dishes, the soap, the bubbles, the clean, fresh scent. Thank you for the towel, now damp and lying on the counter ready to be hung and used again for this glorious purpose.

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