April 1, 2014

Take Up Your Pallet and Walk

When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. (John 5:6-9)

Jesus knows our brokenness, our need of healing, our loneliness, and our humiliation. He didn’t have to ask the man because He already knew. Even as he lay there, so worn out and beaten down by his sickness and burden that he could hardly move, Jesus knew him and his heart. So Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed — he gave him an opportunity to ask Jesus who He was… and to ask Him to do what He CAN do.

The thing that strikes me is that the man doesn’t ask who Jesus is. He doesn’t say YES!! Instead, he offers excuses… why he hasn’t found healing yet, the obstacles he faces to receiving healing, the difficulties that stand in the way of finding healing in the way he expects to receive it.

Jesus has something entirely different in mind. He doesn’t make him say, “I want to be healed.” He doesn’t wait for him to ask, “Can you heal me?” or “WILL you heal me?” Jesus gets it. He gets that it’s hard and complicated, that the guy is jaded and worn out. Jesus gets that he’s not looking for something different or radical or shocking… he doesn’t want something dramatic or spectacular. He just wants to be healed like so many other people at the pools.

But Jesus doesn’t ask questions, he doesn’t wait for comments, he doesn’t challenge his faith. He tells the guy to rise, pick up his baggage, and walk. Jesus didn’t tell him he could leave everything behind and go on.  He doesn’t say, like he said to others, “Go, your faith has saved you.”  No, he tells him to pick it up — pick up that thing that has been a constant part of his life for 38 years, and take it with you.  Be healed, but you can’t forget where you came from.  This is a sudden change in direction, ability, and perspective, but life still has to be lived day to day. 

Is that you? Just sort of lying there, feeling burdened and broken and worn out? Waiting and hoping that Love will pass us by and reach out to heal what keeps us paralyzed in fear and doubt and anxiety? KNOWING that you have baggage to carry even as you pull yourself up in the shadow of the Healer and walk on?

I know it’s me. I get this guy, too… because I am that guy. And while our expectations might be that IF ONLY I could do this, see this, hear this, go to this place, say these prayers, meet this person… Jesus usually has another idea in mind. His healing — the healing that repairs, redeems, and restores — is better trusted than any of our own ideas anyway. IF ONLY we could have the trust to believe that when He begins works of healing in our lives, we believe it’s true… hope would tell us that it’s only a matter of time before we look back on our lives with the Lord as He says, “See, you ARE well!” (verse 14)

Maybe the hardest part is knowing that it’s slow going.  It’s not always miraculous, eventful, or shocking.  For this guy… for this guy, it was.  But it’s not what he was looking for, afterall.  He just wanted to be healed.  And he ended up in the Temple, giving thanks to God for his healing, without even knowing who Jesus was.  

This journey… yours and mine and ours… it’s crazy.  And just when we’ve encountered the Lord — even to experience something incredible that we can’t quite understand — we realize we haven’t figured Him out much at all. 

March 30, 2013

Mary:

This is one of the greatest posts on discernment and living life that I have ever read.
“His plan is alive, dancing in eternal motion and weaving the free choices of His children into the tapestry of history. He reverences and exalts our free will while simultaneously guiding and directing our steps into His own.”

Originally posted on Look Before You Live:

powerwheelBW

Some time ago I encountered a humorous scene on the factory floor. The reflections it stirred are, I suppose, as good a place as any to begin these posts. I walked into the wire-coiling department to find that a man I work with had brought in his 5-year-old son Jimmy for the day, who was busy cruising around some stacks of scrap metal and machinery in one of those Fisher Price Power-Wheels. In speaking with the father I learned that it was his son’s birthday, and he wanted to let Jimmy try out his new present in an environment that was not only full of obstacles and opportunities, but also where he could watch him, protect him, and share his joy. Of course, such a great privilege came with a specific set of strict rules, which I could see Jimmy was well aware of.

At first I was amazed at…

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March 29, 2013

I love you. Let me.

I love you Let me

 

I love you, let me heal you.
I love you, let me eat with you.
I love you, let me teach you.
I love you, let me feed you.
I love you, let me pray for you.
I love you, let me wash your feet.
I love you, let me suffer for you.
I love you, let me die for you.
I love you. Let me.

 

December 24, 2012

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November 14, 2012

The Groaning Within Us

Growing pains.

It’s that awkward tension between who you were and who you might be.  The bitterness of realizing that aren’t what you could be, but don’t know how to get there.  That painful in-between, where nothing is really certain.

It seems so unnecessary, but it is unavoidable.  It throws us out of comfort, into searching.  It leads us to the Lord, and it opens us to possibility.  But it isn’t easy.  And the way it hurts, well… it’s different for each of us.

 

I remember when my feet hurt so badly during elementary school.  I hated P.E., I didn’t run at recess, and my dance lessons weren’t much fun.  Mom thought it was my shoes, then that I had inherited my dad’s flat feet.  I’m sure I whined, but I blame it on the shooting pain that ran up the backs of my legs when I walked.

Nothing we tried seemed to work, so we finally went to the doctor.  He took some x-rays.  We waited.  He brought the scans in and tucked them up on that little light box in the examination room.  “Growing pains,” he said. “The plates of your heels are growing, your legs are growing, and they’re hitting each other because there’s not enough room.” He smiled. “They will get better on their own, but it might take a little while.”

I had to learn to cope.  I got some new shoes, put little heel inserts in them, took painkillers, and just… waited.  Waited until I grew.

 

I still feel that pain.  It’s not in my heels anymore, but somewhere deep within, aching.  Maybe it’s my heart.  Maybe there aren’t words to describe what it is.  But the clashing and the grinding is real and present… because I feel the throbbing pain.

 

 

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.  Rom 8:18

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July 22, 2012

Compassionate Zeal — Mission Laredo 2012

“Be complete, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Tim 3:17)

We spent our week on mission trip talking about how to live the Christian life; how to be equipped in order to be complete.  We hear that we’re supposed to “fight the good fight” (1 Tim 6:12) and “run so as to win” (2 Cor 9:5), but what do you do when you’re paralyzed at the starting block?  We need humility, to know who we are and to what we have been called.  We need discipline, to know our destination and to train and condition ourselves for greater endurance.  We need fortitude, the mental strength to trust in God beyond any hardship.  We need to live in hope, always conscious of the victory that was won for us.  And in the end, all our formation, our preparation, our growth in these things leads us to action: to compassionate, zealous love for God and for one another.

We can run with all the speed and strength in the world, but it will bear no fruit if it has no purpose.  Why do we fight?  Why do we run?  Because we realize how the Lord has loved us: with boundless love, mercy, and compassion.  His love pursues.  It doesn’t fail.  It never gives up.  His zeal for us is unimaginable.  And when we are truly convinced of the great love He has for each of us, we are compelled to love one another.  If we truly understood HIS love, we would be zealously, fiercely compassionate for each of our brothers and sisters.

So much of our work in Laredo was for and within the Catholic community.  And as great as that is, to build up those parishes in the spirit of the New Evangelization, I long to know how we could have responded to the desperate plea of the rest of the world — a world longing to catch a glimpse of the love of God.  It is so easy to be compassionate for those who are similar to us, for those who are grateful for our work and affirming of our sacrifices.  But what about the rest?  Can we find that compassion and zeal in our hearts for those who are unimpressed by our good works?

.

I was in Dallas, walking the streets of downtown with some girlfriends after dinner at an upscale restaurant.  As we approached a corner to cross the street, a woman started walking with us.  She didn’t try to stop us or demand our time, but she wanted our attention.  Could we give her money to stay at the shelter another night?  It was free the first couple nights, but costs ten dollars after that, and she had only found one torn, crumpled dollar in a street grate so far that night.

“No, I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash,” replied one of my companions, her voice inflecting a fake sincerity.  “But God bless you!” she added cheerfully, hardly shifting her eyes from the light up ahead.

I’d like to tell you that I didn’t do the same.  I’d like to tell you that when she froze in her steps, dejected, I stopped too.  I’d like to tell you that her courage and humility was enough to convict me to be generous.  I’d like to tell you that I ran back and heard her story, looked into her eyes and shown her that she is worth more than she knows.

But what killed me, what tore my heart open, was the look on her face when she saw everyone look away and heard the words, “God bless you.”  It was such a mixture of hopelessness, resignation, and disgust… a disgust that I readily identified with, but for myself.

How badly I want to turn around!  How much I want to give, how fiercely I want to run to her and hold her hands in mine, to give her whatever she asks and assure her that the Lord provides in generous, abundant ways.  That His grace is sufficient for any weakness, that His peace is greater than any trial, and that the hope we have in Him goes beyond the needs and desires of this world.  How much I want to pray with her, to hold her heart in mine, to offer up her struggles in solidarity with my own and lay them at the throne of God.  How badly I desire to love her.

But we walked on that night.  I was ashamed, humiliated and disgusted by my own inability to love.  I was embarrassed to have rejected and abandoned that woman, whoever she was, because I knew I had turned my back on Christ in her.

I have faith that the Lord is stronger than my weakness, and I trust that my failure that night will not bear weight on her salvation.  But I have felt how heavy the burden of rejecting another person, of giving her reason to doubt the Lord’s goodness and to be disgusted at the thought of His name.

Yes, it was complicated.  Yes, we had places to go.  No, I didn’t have much to give her anyway.  But when I ask the Lord what it means to be zealously compassionate, her face replays in my mind.

“God bless you.” But we did nothing.

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This past week on mission trip, I began to see again the depth of God’s goodness.  We are incredibly blessed to know that He loves us.  But we are more blessed, by grace, to participate in His work and to bless others.  Through our service, we made manifest the love of God.  We brought love to life through our action.  We didn’t just say, “God bless you,” but we let Him use us to do so.

Truly, we loved that community.  We gave everything to those we may never see again… and what a testament to the love of God!  Unrestrained generosity, unmatched love.  Our effort, our everything, poured out to be a sign of God’s prodigal love for us all: undeserved, surpassing expectation, and productive.  There is so much greatness and humility in planting a garden you will never enjoy, building a shed you will never be delighted to use, or preparing a space in which you will never pause to pray.  The surge of gratitude from the people whom we served will be directed to us, but also to the Lord.  He asks our faithfulness and our work… that what we do and who we are might be seen as a gift from Him, that others might recognize God in our giving, and that they will be blessed — not by word, but by deed.

We practice humility, we strive for discipline, we endure with fortitude, and we live in hope.  But if our hearts are not inclined to love — if we are unmoved by the compassion of our zealous and faithful God — we are not a people that will bear fruit.

Be equipped for every good work.  Be transformed by the unrelenting love of God.  Be transformed by HIS compassionate zeal.  Be equipped to work, to move, and to make the love of God a tangible reality.  Trust in His goodness — for “as God has so loved us, so we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)  …for as we understand how God has loved us, so we also will be compelled with compassionate zeal to love one another.

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