Monday, August 26, 2013

Take What You Need

Years ago, I spent some time in Romania. I was part of a small group of people who wanted to touch the lives of children there – both on the streets and in a large regional children’s hospital. There were many moments during those years that have stuck with me, but one I often think of took place in the children’s hospital. We spent time whenever we could on a floor where children were basically residents. Perhaps their parents had been given no hope for their child’s recovery. Some were abandoned. The ratio of children to workers was impossible, so we went just to hold little ones, talk to them, look them in the eye, play with the ones who could interact.

During one visit, a young woman from our group was holding a child in her arms. I don’t know how old the child was. It was often hard to tell because of “failure-to-thrive” or other factors. I don’t even remember if it was a boy or a girl. But I remember the child in Deborah’s arms, head on her shoulder, and Deborah saying quietly, “Take what you need.”

Take what you need.

It’s what Jesus said when he said, “This is my body, which is given for you…this is my blood, which is poured out for you…” (Luke 22)

Take what you need.

It’s what Jesus said to the woman who had suffered sickness and loss for 12 years and risked whatever she had left when she dared to touch his hem with her hope. (Luke 8)

Take what you need.

It’s what Jesus said when he declared, “It is finished,” and died for you. (John 19)

Take what you need.
Just take it.
Get close to Him and soak it up.
He already offered it all to you and it’s there for the taking, everything you need.
Take what you need.

Ambushed by God in a memory,

For Deborah, who embraced a stranger’s child and whispered, “Take what you need.”
For Cheryl, who sits with the dying and the family in loss and says, “Take what you need.”
For John, who gives his days to the prisoner and the homeless and says, “Take what you need.”
For so many others who rescue babies, embrace mothers, attend to the sick, befriend the lonely, and day after day, reveal Jesus saying, “Take what you need.”

And for someone who hasn't yet reached out to take it.
Take what you need.



Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Mess

If you’ve ever browsed the greeting card aisle in a typical American store, you’re familiar with the sentiment, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

We like it on cardstock with a watercolor flower printed behind it. But when it comes to life-actually-lived, I tend to go for, “Are we there yet?!” I don’t think I’m alone in that.

My boys were painting the other day and the three-year-old had his paints squirted out into little blobs on the paper-plate-palette, just the way he’d directed me to do it. Fifteen seconds later, he’d made this beautiful mess:

I looked down at that and thought, “This time, it’s definitely about the journey!” The process was so pretty, I had to take a picture. But by the time that paint was on the canvas, it was all one shade of greenish-grey and the lovely, swirly rainbow-wheel was gone.

And half an hour later when I came around the corner from having left them alone with paint for only a moment and with explicit instructions to “not move from this spot!,” I found this not-so-lovely mess:


There was a trail of paint through the house, on walls, floors, armchairs, doorjambs, and wall-to-wall in the bathroom. (It was my acrylic paint, not the washable kid stuff.) The process was not so pretty now. It was a hot mess.

I was looking at a picture today of Jupiter’s storm. It’s violent. It’s a hurricane twice the size of Earth. It’s also gorgeous. Well, from a distance, anyway. If I was in the middle of it, I’m sure I’d see it as a scary mess. And it’s been going on for as long as we’ve been able to see Jupiter through a telescope. A perpetual, scary mess.

But set aside for a moment the conversations about where storms (the kinds in our lives) come from, and what God’s purposes are or aren’t in those hard, messy seasons. The real wonder is that He is in the storm. Period. He doesn’t have to be – no more than I have to be in the eye of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. But He enters into my messy journey and yours, step-for-step, and He isn’t afraid of the messes. At all. Ever. He already did "whatever it takes" to clear up the mess between us and Him. It doesn't get any messier than that.

The journey’s not always pretty, but it’s where life happens. Somebody probably already wrote that on a greeting card somewhere.

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”

(from the beginning of Romans 10, The Message; emphasis mine)

Ambushed by God, even in the messes,