Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Make It So

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” 
Luke 1:38

Mary’s response to the angel’s commission to give birth to the Savior of the mankind is nothing short of extraordinary and deserves digging into. While I am not a Greek scholar, a little internet searching reveals a rich gold mine of truth. 

This simple phrase “let it be to me”, genoito (ginomai) in Greek, means "to become, and signifies a change of condition, state or place" (Vine, Unger, White, NT, 109). It is written in the voluntary mood indicating a wish and the middle voice meaning it was done to her. Putting these together, we get something like this: This is my voluntary wish that this be done to me—that my condition change to be what you say.

Mary was giving a firm, binding “Yes” to God. She was, in effect, saying, “I see what you are doing, Lord, and I give myself heart and soul to your plan. I voluntary sign up”.

The depth of Mary’s response is further emphasized when we look at the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 6:1-2. Here, he used me genoito, the opposite form of “let it be to me”: What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means (me genoito)! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Further internet searching reveals how vehement Paul was. To demonstrate how much he refused to accept this idea, he used the strongest word possibleakin to a swear word. By no means! May it never be! Absolutely not! God forbid! No way! In outrageous indignation, Paul exclaimed "h-e-double-hockey-sticks...NO!"

With that insight, we can surmise that Mary’s response was just as forceful. She was saying “Absolutely, unequivocally, [strong expression]...YES!” 

I am brought up short by Mary’s quick surrender of her will and future to God’s plan. Too many times, I respond to God’s call with a timid, "Ok, if you want me to, I’ll try" or "Well, if you insist, I don't think I can do it, but...." Mary gave no list of buts, no conditions, no hesitation...just yes! And that yes went without any explanation of the details, guarantee of the results or assurance of other’s reactions.

When I read Mary’s response, my mind immediately jumps to a well-known phrase spoken by Captain Pickard of Star Trek fame. Whenever he wished for something to happen, he simply said, “Make it so”. With complete faith in her God, Mary replied, “Make it so”. And following her example, so do I. 

What is God asking you to do? How will you respond?

PRAYER
Lord, as I look to the New Year, would you "make it so"? I surrender my will and believe that your plans are best. Sign me up for whatever you wish. H-e-double-hockey-sticks, YES.

Stand Firm

I was a bus monitor in 6th grade. (Ha. My autocorrect just turned “monitor” to “monster” which is perhaps more accurate!) I took my job very seriously, so when a few of the boys were disrupting the quiet line order, I demanded to know what was so engrossing. That was my introduction to The Hobbit. My school mates challenged me to read the book before I judged it and so began a lifetime of fascination with all things Lord of the Rings. (Thank you, Tim, Myles and Mark!)

I tell you this because whenever I hear the term stand firm, I think of Aragorn in the movie version of The Fellowship of The Rings. In a dramatic scene, Aragon realizes the enemy is advancing and to save the ring, he must let Frodo go on ahead. This means that Aragon must deal with the advancing army of orcs—all alone. Aragorn draws his sword, whips around and—stands firm. He is grossly outnumbered yet he does not run. Rather, he stands his ground, faces them and begins fighting madly because he represents the side of goodness and truth.

Like Aragorn, King David’s mighty men knew how to stand firm. Once, Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. (2 Samuel 29:10). And Shammah took his stand in the middle of a lentil field and defended it, striking down the enemy Philistines (2 Samuel 23:11-12). 

Standing firm is a familiar theme in Scripture. In Philippians 4:1, Paul tells us, “Therefore, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!”

In this instance, to stand firm (in Greek steko) means to persist or persevere in godliness and morally correct behavior or thinking, (i.e. righteousness) and in one's fellowship with the Lord.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul says to hold fast to the teachings he passed on. In 1 Corinthians 16:13, he says to be be on guard, courageous and strong. And in Philippians 1:27, he admonishes us to strive together for the faith. 
In good hermeneutical fashion, I have to ask, “What is therefore, there for” and “What does in the Lord in this way mean”? Paul is pointing back to the previous chapter where he painted a picture of our citizenship in heaven and our transformation by God’s power (Philippians 3:20-21). He is saying that this enables us to stand firm. “The way believers stand in the Lord is through the transforming, reigning, resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Sandra Glahn).

So for me today, this means that because of Christ's power in me, I can maintain allegiance to Christ and courageously cling to the teachings of Scripture. This does not mean I can stubbornly or obnoxiously focus on minutiae or destroy relationships in an attempt to hold to truth. I am standing firm “in the Lord”, not in my agenda or my ego or my reputation. Sometimes standing firm is just continuing to faithfully serve where I am planted even if it seems mundane or uneventful. Sometimes standing firm is fighting a huge battle such as Aragon did.

The way to stand firm is to remember that this world is not our home, to await our Savior, to focus on the fact that Christ will bring everything under his control and our bodies will be transformed.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58 

What battle do you find yourself in today?
In what ways are you standing firm?

PRAYER

Father God, teach me to conduct myself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then I will stand firm in one spirit, contending for the gospel, without being frightened by those who oppose me (Phil 1:27-28). Help me to stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured (Col 4:12).

Friday, December 1, 2017

Power in Creating

“Why pay $39.99? I can easily make those,” I said to my husband. We were wandering the shops of McKinney, Texas while on our anniversary date and the varieties of stuffed pumpkins caught my eye. I am a great copier. Not many of my ideas are original. But I can take a sample or a pattern and expand it to make it my own.

So I hunted ideas on Pinterest (a crafters heaven), pulled the sweaters out of the Goodwill give-away bag, and began creating pumpkins. But crafting is a slippery slope. My pumpkin spree (and a new front door) led to decorating my entryway. Pine Cones from East Texas turned into a new wreath. Salvaged logs doomed for the fire pit added height and dimension. Old fence wood—also destined for the fire—became a painted Burkholder wall hanging.

Before I knew it, I was on another crafting binge. I made five wreaths, twenty pumpkins, four entryway signs and eighteen tissue box covers. 

I love crafting. In my teens years, I learned to tie macrame knots which resulted in dozens of wall hangings, plant hangers, belts, necklaces and even a lamp shade. (And yikes, these designs are back in vogue.) For many years, I made macrame Christmas ornaments to give away every year. While serving in Indonesia, I helped design and instruct local sewers in various small projects that were sold in a successful business. 

My crafting comes in spurts and phases. I find an idea, ruminate on it, experiment and make dozens of the same item. My husband thinks I obsess and make too many, but when my ideas and materials run out, I stop. I move on to the next idea. Some of my crafts are fleeting like the origami vases and others are long lasting, like the annual Christmas card. One project—the pressed flower and homemade paper cards—actually resulted in earned income. Over the years, I have made scores of other projects.

Crafting and creating—especially for my home—brings me life. I am happiest when I have a project underway. But I also wonder if my life-giving activity is too introspective, too solitary. Given a choice, I would stay home and craft. I must force myself to also choose time with others. 

Last week, my pastor taught on Abraham’s faith. Yet [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised (Romans 4:20-21). He then reminded me that one of the ways God demonstrates this power that builds faith, is through creation. God creates from scratch and brings life to dead things.

Whereas I need inspiration from others’ designs and I rummage for materials that exist in my piles, God needs no Pinterest and creates from nothing. His incredible power gives me fuel for my faith. When I know God is powerful, I then believe he will do what he says he will do. 

In what ways do you create?
What are your life-giving activities?
How does God’s power seen in creation build your faith?

Prayer
My Master Creator, thank you for the ability to create even though my crafting is so puny compared with your great power. Making my little projects reflects your image in me. Thank you for the joy and revitalized life I experience when I create. But help me remember that creating is not just for me alone. I seek to be renewed so that I can pass on life, bring beauty to others and be reminded of your power. You can do the impossible and therefore, I believe. Strengthen my faith as I create.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Joy and Crown

As the nip of autumn fills the air, my mind turns to Thanksgiving. This is my reminder to thank you who make my ministry possible—you who intercede and give. I struggle every year because words seem inadequate. A gift card or a souvenir is too small. But a larger gift is a conflict of interest. How can I take funds from carefully sacrificed donations and turn around and spend them on a gift to the giver? Such is my strange lifestyle and predicament. 

The Apostle Paul found himself in a similar situation. He relied on the gifts of others to complete his missionary journeys. While in prison, he needed the family of God to send him money and encouragement. And he had absolutely nothing to give in return. So, he wrote letters. Thank-you notes, if you will. To the church at Philippi, he said, I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now (1:3-5). 

Along with gratitude, Paul’s deep affection for the church was expressed throughout the letter: God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus (1:8). My brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown (4:1).

The frequency of Paul’s gratitude—every time I remember you—and the strength of his expression—my joy and crown—challenges me. How often do I remember you who are so vital to my life? Are you my joy and crown? Can I say, as Paul did in I Thessalonians 2:19, that you are my hope, my joy, and the crown I will be proud of when our Lord Jesus Christ comes?

So, following Paul’s example:
I thank God for you, not just this month, but every time I think about, pray for and communicate with you. I rejoice in your accomplishments, your growth, your commitment to multiply God’s church around the world. The sacrifice of your prayer time and hard-earned cash makes me proud. I love each of you because you care about those who have yet to know and experience freedom in Christ and you entrust me with the privilege of serving workers who strive to make that freedom a reality. You are my joy and crown. Thank you.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

In The Boat

 Lake Brienz, Switzerland. Photo: Mark Burkholder
     (Mark 6:31-34) Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.
     But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
    (Matthew 14:15-20) As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
     Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” 
     “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. 
     “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

Lord God, I have been coming and going a lot lately. Those around me are coming and going. I haven’t been still. I feel harried and rushed. Sometimes it seems as though I don’t have time for even the necessary things like eating and sleeping. I am hungry. Hungry for time with you. Hungry for a break. Hungry for deep connection.

That’s why I love your invitation to go with you to a quiet place. For there are many people coming for help and I need rest. At my core I want to be the kind of person, like Jesus, who attracts those who need healing and help. But at the same time, I don’t want too many. I want them on my time frame. I want them to not be too needy. And sometimes, I wish they’d just go away. Teach me compassion, Lord, when I see a need and remove my annoyance when it isn’t convenient. Show me when my best laid plans to rest need to be delayed.

When life is like this, I must be with you every moment. Teach me to rest on the journeyin the boatas we travel, along the way. Whether the boat ride is long or short, I can rest, for true rest is not the location or the ambiance or the length of time (although these are helpful). True rest is YOU, abiding in you. Even though there are times I don’t get the quiet place that I envision, You still invite me to rest and I can climb in the boat with you.

Hungry people come to me, and I don’t know what to do. I want to send them to someone else because I am afraid I cannot help or I am inadequate or ill qualified. But you tell me to give them something to eat. You take my few loaves and fishes and you multiple my abilities so that I can help others. I give you myself, Lord so that you can feed others through me.

But I am also one of the crowd. You, Lord are available to me whenever I need it. I do not need to go to other sources to find my nourishment. I need only come to you. You will feed me. And when you do the feeding, I am satisfied and there is abundance all around with leftovers to spare for others.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Adrift

Twelve weeks ago, my fatherthe last of my direct ancestorsdied. As I adjust to a world without dad, unfamiliar feelings are rising in me and I have been struggling to put words to them. Is this simply grief? Or is it symbolic of more? 

I feel like I am sitting motionless in water. Adrift, unmoored, untethered, rudderless, foundation-less. My tie to my forefathers was cut and I am unattached. Grief and responsibilities toss me to and fro and I no longer guide my course. I am insecure. I am an orphan. It is all very weird.

Now the mantel of matriarch rests on me and my siblings. Perhaps this is “adulting” in its final form. What is strange is that I haven’t relied on my father for decision making or financial provision for many years, and yet I feel his loss. He symbolized provision, care, protection and now he’s gone.

My father’s death forces me to change, to adjust. It stretches me. It takes me out of my comfort zone. I am handed unwanted tasks that make me feel small and inept. I am required to deal with a world that is different, to steward new financial gifts, to relate to and cooperate with siblings on a new level, to help disburse his assets. These are the things that, to me, take extra energy and grief has sapped mine.

And so I am resisting this new level of growing up. I want to default to the familiar, the comfortable, the easy. Let my days be same and boring, without event. This constant change and needing to call on my “adult self” is too much. I want to be taken care of, to be coddled.

Deep down, I realize I am anxious. Anxious because things have changed. Anxious about the new choices and decisions I have to make. Anxious about the level of interaction I must now have with my siblings. Anxious about my future because life is temporary.

And so I do what I always do in times like these. I turn to the Truth. I tell myself that
God is my Security: I find him an anchor for the soul, firm and secure in Hebrews 6:19 
He is my Provision: Psalm 37:25 reminds me the righteous are never forsaken or will their children beg for bread. 
He gives me Guidance and Protection: He is my hiding place. He will protect me. He will instruct me and teach me in the way I should go. He will counsel me with his loving eye on me. His unfailing love surrounds me as I trust in him. Psalm 32:7-11 
He is my Connection: God has not left me as an orphan. He has come to me in the form of the Spirit of truth. He is my advocate to help me and be with me forever. I am in him and he is in me. John 14:16-20
Father God, help me to be a true adult, to be rid of co-dependency and the need to be taken care of by my daddy, my husband, my boys or anyone else. There will be times I need to rely on the help of others - but not from a place of soul neediness. Today, I rely on You, my true provider. I trust You, my protector, and I come to You to fill me up. I talk to You, spend time with You, connect with You. I ask You to guide me through each task that is difficult or uncomfortable. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Treasure and Ponder

Recently I watched Anne with and E on Netflix. This is the newest episode version of the classic Anne of Green Gables story. There is a scene in this series where Marilla opens her closet, reaches high up on a shelf behind other things and pulls out an old box. She lovingly opens it to reveal a bundle of old love letters tied up with a bow. Then she sits down in a rocker and slowly opens a letter, remembering the love of a former beau. This is what we often do, isn't it, with items of sentimental value that we want to keep and treasure. 

I imagine Mary doing this in a figurative sense. Mary’s heart was pierced over and over. How did she manage to remain a faithful disciple of her son? How do we too, live with and survive a pierced heart?
Mary gave us beautiful practice we can imitate. Luke 2:19 says that Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. Treasured (syntereo) means to remember or keep in mind lest it be forgotten and pondered (symballo) means to consider, dispute mentally or reflect. Further insight into this practice is found in Luke 2:50-52 they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them...And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. Treasured in this instance (diatereo) means to keep continually or to store in one's heart.

I believe Mary "was continually keeping all these things in her heart, the picture being of her carefully guarding and keeping them together in her mind as in a treasure chest. She brought them all together and joined them with other thoughts so she could carefully compare and reflect on all they mean." (Principles from Women of the Bible, Book 1)

To illustrate what this means for us today, let me bring Mary into the 21st century. If Mary were alive today, I think she would find or make a treasure or keepsake box for her love letters from God

First, she would rememberPsalm 71:11 says remember the works of the Lord. In her box she would put (in either objects or words form) what the Angel told her and Joseph and the Shepherds, what Elizabeth and Simeon and even Jesus said. This way she could remind herself again of the promises, the miracles, the dreams, the amazing visitors, the fulfilled prophecies and how God kept them safe over the years.

Then she would reflect. II Timothy 2:7 says reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this. As Mary touched and took out each item, she could consider what it all meant, the words, the miracles, the promises, the pain. She wrestled in her soul to make sense of it.

And finally, she would retain. Luke 8:15 says But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Mary kept everything to refer to in the future, to give her comfort and faith when the next piercing came along. 

I have my "love letters" from the Lord in my “Treasure Box”. I don’t literally keep a box, but I have these truths on cards and bookmarks and flowers and in the notes on my smart phone. Here are some of mine that I remember, reflect on and retain:




How can we, like Mary, not say "let it be to me" when we treasure and ponder all God had done for us in the past and ask him to help us understand what he is currently doing?

May I suggest that you make your own box of remembrance or collection of objects or a special file on your computer or some unique way to help you remember, reflect and retain. I would love to hear how you treasure and ponder.