When Something Rotten Becomes Something Good

You can tell a good recipe by the stains its card bears. Whenever I pull mine out for banana bread, I have to laugh because it is covered with…I’m not even sure what anymore…age perhaps? 

I noticed the bananas getting past their prime eating time a couple days ago and told my man that I didn’t want them to go to waste, especially when the grocery store shelves are emptying out faster than the stockers can fill them back up. Besides that, you all have read about how frugal my Granny was and while she is no longer physically with me, her words about wasting food still echo and I still listen! 

Oh, I could have peeled and frozen them for future smoothies. But there’s something soothing about doing something familiar in unfamiliar times such as these. 

So, I got out my bowls, measured out the ingredients, gave them a good stir, popped the bread pans in the oven and voila’

…from something rotten comes something good! I like to think Granny’s hanging with the great cloud of witnesses and nodding in approval as the aroma of her banana bread reaches the heavens. 

**********

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV) 

These are the words of Paul. A man who has done some pretty rotten things. He was zealous against the Church and all Jesus followers before becoming one himself on the road to Damascus when he had an encounter with Christ and ended up with scales for eyes. (Acts 9

These are the words of a man who has had some pretty rotten things done to him as well. He was beaten and left for dead, shipwrecked, thrown in jail, chained and put under house arrest. Many of the books he wrote in the New Testament, he did so under dire circumstances, filthy circumstances, rotten circumstances. 

And yet, his ancient assurance rings just as true for us today. This pandemic brings about some rotten stuff…loss, quarantines, uncertainty, fear, death, hysteria…and yet the same God who worked all things for the good in Paul’s day is the same God who will work all this out as well. 

Warren Wiersbe encourages us with these words concerning Romans 8:25-30: God is concerned with the trials of His people. The believer never need faint in times of suffering and trial because he knows that God is at work in the world (v28) and that He has a perfect plan (v29). God has two purposes in that plan: our good and His glory. Ultimately, He will make us like Jesus Christ! Best of all, God’s plan is going to succeed!  (The Wiersbe Bible Commentary New Testament p431)

We can trust that God’s recipe for taking something rotten and making something good is stained with what makes our hope ring eternal…the blood of Jesus, His One and Only. 

It’s why Paul could say, If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:31, 35, 37 NIV)

Because of Christ. 

It’s why Paul could write about contentment, peace and joy while standing in the middle of the city’s sewer system. It’s why he could face the things he faced knowing that he served a God who can take something rotten and make something good. 

**********

We’ve seen it in my local community and I’m sure you have to…people sharing, caring, giving with big hearts, open hands and a strong determination to be a people who takes the stained recipe of the cross and bring the sweetest balm to those around them. 

The church being the Church. Not hoarding but helping. Not bucking but obeying. Not being fearful but faithful. Not without hope but hope full. 

We can trust that the same God to whom Paul referred, is the same God we serve today. And that cloud of witnesses that I’m sure my Granny’s hanging with these days? They are cheering us on as we fix our eyes on Him, the Author and Perfector of our faith. (Hebrews 11:1-3) May the aroma of our kindness in crisis be to them as sweet as my banana bread has been to us. 

I pray we can close our eyes and smell the aroma of the sweet. I pray we can open our eyes and see the good works of the One whose works are good. To Him be the glory.

kw

Handling the Manic of Panic

I caught myself doing it the other day. Allowing my mind to wander to a place it shouldn’t. That place where fear freezes any part of the brain that is logical. I told my man, I feel vulnerable. You see, I’m healing from not one but two recent surgeries, first to repair a tendon tear from which I still can’t put full weight on my right leg or move certain ways. The second was for some surgical sites that weren’t healing. That one stitched up the open wounds but made my vocal cords mad from being intubated again, so they are refusing to work above a whisper. 

As we were talking through my I feel vulnerable statement, I recognized where fear moved straight into the frontal lobe of my mind (where logic lacks sometimes) without so much as a knock on the door. He pitched his tent and set up camp like he owned the place. 

You’ll never be able to outrun this thing. And you can’t even scream for help. 

This “thing” being the coronavirus. Have you heard of it? 

This thought was a flash. A momentary blip blinking in my brain. 

Ridiculous right? 

How does one outrun something they cannot see? Even with both legs working, this was the stuff and nonsense that was making me feel defenseless. 

Now I had a choice: let it spiral me into a manic of panic or let faith be bigger than my fear. 

The writer of Hebrews says it this way: The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. (Hebrews 11:1 The MSG)

Faith is my firm foundation. My handle on what I cannot see. 

Will I have faith? Will I fear what I cannot see? Or will I trust the One who sees what I cannot? The One who knows the number of my days (Psalm 139:16)

**********

What if you have let that flash of fear in your frontal lobe lob a rocket of irrational thinking with no return ticket to sanity? Let’s use the word calm as an acronym. (I know, I know. The last thing you want is for someone to tell you to calm down but it’s better than throwing a cup of cold water in your face and is what’s needed in this madness we’re experiencing.) 

Common sense. Use it. There are mandates and restrictions in place for a reason. You may not agree with all of them, but this isn’t just about you. You may be fine, but others are more vulnerable…like the elderly and immunosuppressed. 

For the love, stop hoarding like it’s the zombie apocalypse! Some folks can wipe their rears for the next century! They will be long gone and the only inheritance their children will get will be the 24 packs of Charmin divided 4 ways that will still be stored in their basement.

Be smart. Stock up but don’t hoard. 

In God’s economy, what good is prosperity if it isn’t shared? Divine vitality breeds hospitality, and hoarding is appallingly unholy. To love self without loving neighbor is to know nothing at all of the love of God. (From Chasing Vines by Beth Moore pg 221)

My God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (From Saint Paul, Philippians 4:19NIV) 

Abide. In Him. Before you turn on CNN, CNBC or Fox News maybe try reading the Good News. 

It’s no coincidence that I have been reading through a Devotional Psalter each day for my morning devotion. I say each day, but I got “behind” a couple days. There is no such thing as behind in God’s timing. I read through a couple in one sitting. Hear the words of King David in Psalm 31: 

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame….be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress…But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “you are my God.” My times are in your hand. (vv 1-3, 14-15) 

Or how about this commentary on Psalm 33 from the author of the same book: 

The resounding note of Psalm 33 is the endless rule of God in heaven over all that happens on earth. Over all the madness and chaos of this world, all the political conflicts and military endeavors and voting booths and family dysfunctions and physical illnesses and financial meltdowns—God reigns. His sovereign supervision directs all that unfolds here in this life. 

Was I behind in my reading? I think not. I think my behind was right where it needed to be…in His word and His timing was perfect. 

Never mind the fact that I am studying Ezra for an upcoming Bible study where this same God moved the heart of King Cyrus to allow the people to be freed from exile so they could go back to their city and rebuild the temple, the walls and their worship. All at the expense of the king’s treasury…they didn’t have to pay for any of it. 

Are you listening fear? That’s the same sovereign God, my God, that rules today! Not one single thing happening in the world today is a surprise to Him. Not one. 

Light. Be it. Shine it so the darkness does not win. Let the Church rise above the pandemonium and BE the church. Love the least of these. Check in on your neighbor. Share. Care. Be there. (If you are healthy and able.)

It’s times like these that we have the opportunity to show Jesus to others and I sure don’t want others to think Jesus is a jerk because of the way I treat others during a time of crisis. You know, like, grabbing 25 cans of tuna and the last 6 packs of TP on the shelf. Or running like your life depended on it to the meat counter at Costco. 

Maybe we need to take Jesus literally when He tells Peter to feed His sheep. Maybe we need to stop talking about Jesus and show people Jesus instead. Maybe Jesus comes in the form of a jar of Jiffy.  

Lots of churches are joining together to collect food for the kids who rely on school breakfasts and lunches now that all schools in Ohio are closed for 3 weeks. This is my church being the church.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and our clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25: 35-36, 40 NIV) 

Mind. Manage it. There’s much we can’t control so we need to control those things we can. Watch what you take in. Be informed but limit your exposure to the mayhem. It’s so easy to get caught up in the media’s magic of mind control. 

Read a book. Learn a new language. Put a puzzle together. Listen to your favorite music. Memorize scripture. Go outside. Get some sun on your face. Put your hands in the dirt. Meditate. Go to coffee with a friend and talk about anything BUT scary things. Pray. Do something kind for someone. Smile. Start a gratitude journal. Light a candle. Play a board game with your family. Exercise. Clean. Laugh. Love. 

I have a daily choice. I can let fear win. Or I can let my faith be greater. I will leave you with this: I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NIV)

Here is a link to 25 verses to help ease your anxiety. I pray it helps you like it helps me. 

kw

Let Nothing Be Wasted

My Granny was a frugal woman. We would recycle our Cocoa Cola bottles, carefully placing them back in the carton for their return trip to the store. Once there, we would put them in the big basket to the left as you walked in and let the cashier know as she rang up our purchases how many cartons we brought back. We got a little credit towards our grocery bill. Granny recycled out of necessity, not to be green but because we needed the green. 

She would do things like rinse out our sandwich bags and reuse them in our lunches. She sewed most of my clothes, saving the scraps to make what was called “rag rugs.” She grew a huge garden and canned most of our food, so we were always “clean-platers” because she worked hard for what was on the table. 

She would keep the slivers of soap and put them all together so at some point you had a “new” bar of soap to use. That made for an interesting bath time. There would be a bouquet of feeling Zestfully clean with an underlying hint of Irish Spring, the real beauty that Dove promised with an occasional grit of exfoliation from a sliver of Lava that surfaced to the top. 

We lived on my Gramps’ one income, a blue-collar factory working man with an eighth-grade education who didn’t really bring in a lot of dough. But Granny could take that dough and make some really good stuff out of it! Nothing was wasted when I was a little girl. 

**********

I was listening to a talk by Jo Saxton from the 2019 IF conference recently. Her message was on a story as familiar as “the quiet old lady who was whispering hush” in the book Good Night Moon. 

We find ourselves on a mountainside with 5000 or so of our closest friends, hiking our hardest after an acclaimed Miracle Maker, wanting to see what the hubbub is all about. We aren’t disappointed as lunch is served, bellies are filled and not one person goes hungry all because one boy’s Momma remembers to pack his lunch box with some fish and bread. 

And Jesus gives thanks for what He has.  

There’s no discounting the freakish amount of folks fed with such frugal findings nor the fact that the twelve disciples gathered twelve baskets so they, too, could have full bellies. It’s this line that Jesus says that’s got me thinking: 

Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. (John 6:12NIV)

**********

Gather the pieces…

The pieces, that which is broken, gathered was the bread, something the Jewish culture considered to be a gift from God. It was required that scraps that fell on the ground during a meal be picked up. Think about their time in the dessert when manna, bread like wafers, fell from heaven as a provision when food was a luxury. I can imagine every morsel melting in their mouths, not in the mud.

Broken pieces. On the ground. Squandered away? No.

They were gathered up, put into baskets, enough to feed others. 

The leftovers. The left behinds. The last of the least. 

Gathered up and used to feed. 

What if God can take our broken pieces and use them? What if He can take those parts that feel torn off like the crust that no one wants, the cast down, thrown away, torn apart, and useless and use them to feed those around us? What if we could have the courage to see those things that God breaks in us and around us as gifts from Him? Trusting Him, that He will, like He did so long ago, gather the pieces, and feed those that need fed from the basket of our own stories.

Let nothing be wasted. 

Wasted, in the original language, is to be lost to the owner, anything that perishes. 

What if we trusted that Jesus means what He says? He will let nothing be wasted. Not one single thing. 

Not one tear shed.

Not one pain felt. 

Not one loss grieved. 

Not one diagnosis given.

Not one dream dashed.

Not one (more) diaper changed. 

Not one career move made.

Not one failure flop.

Not one guilt trip taken. 

Not one misery met.

Not one stormy season. 

Not one prodigal person.

Not one dry dessert.

Not one single thing is lost to the Owner of us who claim Christ as our Savior. 

He will gather up our pieces, just like He did on that mountainside so many years ago and feed the people from our baskets of broken if we’re brave enough to let Him. If we’ll trust Him with the story we’re walking right now. If we’re still enough to be allow Him to work through us and use us as only He can do. 

He sees us. You and me. Waiting to be gathered. Feeling like the crust no one wants. Waiting to see how He’ll use this season we’re in. Will you trust Him to do what He says He will do? 

That one line: Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. 

May it be so. 

I am undone.  

kw

Dear Jane,

What started as a letter to a man named John has now taken somewhat of a turn. I had all this stuff I wanted to say to him as if he has any idea who I am. There are many things that have already been shared. Thoughts on a drum that’s already been beaten. I sat down twice to write it and deleted it each time.

I went outside for some fresh air and sunshine. There’s something therapeutic about working in the garden. It’s mostly been put to sleep, as it is now the end of October. I had saved the Christmas lima beans for last for they have taken over the fence nearby, climbing up and through the nooks and crannies. They weren’t big producers of fruit but sure had a lot of fluff. 

Lady Lima got out of control! 🙂

That’s when it hit me. This box of beans got so out of hand that it was hard to get in the garden gate but once you did there was a ton of goodness on the other side. The limas got a lot of attention simply because they stood out loud and proud. 

You see, Jane, while I don’t agree with his tone or the manner to which he told Beth Moore to “go home” amidst the cackles and snickering of his compadres, nor do I wish to “hock jewelry” or be devalued by his buddies. I really don’t want to give him more attention. His type of argument and arrogance will be around long after I am not. 

By giving him an ounce more consideration, I only perpetuate the fanning of his fame. No. That’s not what I want to do at all. 

As I was tearing down that loud lima, our Dad reminded me that dear John is not the keeper of the gate and we don’t get our value and worth from the words and commands of a patriarchal group of grouchy men. But rather from a Book He wrote long ago as a reminder of who we are and Whose we are. 

Our gifts are determined by Him, a Father who loves us dearly. How we use them (or not) is determined by us. With that said, dear sister, as Paul did for Timothy, I want to use mine to fan into flame, yours! 

Where do we begin? What’s the best way to fight back? It’s not by flinging insult for insult. I’d like us to walk through scripture together one book at a time, one chapter at a time, one day at a time. I can’t explain it but our Dad’s words give encouragement and hope, courage and grace, instruction and discipline. The more the world roars, the more we need the whisper of His word. 

There is something sacred about keeping it simple. With an expectant heart and mind and ears leaned into listen, pen and paper at the ready, won’t you join me as we walk through the Bible together. 

Let me know if you want to join the private Facebook group I started called, Take a Walk With Me. It’s imperative we read a little bit of scripture each and every day. It won’t be hard but it will be beneficial. The invitation is always open! The start date is November 1st but you can join us at any time!

Stay faithful! To His word and your calling!

kw 

What About Martha? (Sheology Part 4)

My sister and I are as different as night and day. She’s adventurous. I’m…well…scared of the carwash among other things.

We approach life much like getting in the swimming pool. She cannon balls. I enter slowly, step by chilly step. 

I’m more of a thinker. She’s a doer. 

Often times when I hear women talking about the sisters Mary, the thinker and Martha, the doer, they will pick one or the other with whom they feel a connection. 

Is that a bad thing? Must we choose between doing and thinking? 

***

The first time we meet Martha, she is hosting a party for Jesus as he passed through the town of Bethany. Dinner wasn’t the only thing steaming. So was she.

Babes ready to be born. New life is coming!

Her sister Mary (as we’ve already seen) was learning at Jesus’ feet instead of helping in the kitchen. Martha,boldly served up some roasted lamb with a side order of attitude. 

Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! (Luke 10:40 NIV)

Boy do I get this. If you’ve been involved in church or ministry work at all, then you know the 80/20 rule that says 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. It’s so easy to serve with some Martha ‘tude. I’ve been her and also been served by her.

Jesus’ response? Martha, Martha, (whenever he says your name twice…oh dear!) you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

Only one thing is needed.

Jesus wasn’t drawing lines or categorizing women by personality type and interests, He was defining priorities for all of us, and more important, drawing Martha into a deeper relationship with himself.  (When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James pg 223)

Choose the better thing. 

I can get so caught up in the serving part that I forget the sitting part. Without the sitting part, the serving part can become a bitter thing I do, not the better.

***

Babes are here! Needing care, feeding, teaching.

The second time we see Martha’s boldness is when her brother Lazarus is sick and Jesus delays coming so long that he dies. 

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, bu Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been her. My brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:20-22 NIV) 

Martha’s daring drives her to the One who can calm her concerns. I love that Jesus doesn’t rebuke her but is ever the Teacher as he reveals a bit more of himself as the Resurrection and Life. He challenges her by asking, do you believe this? (John 11:25-26 NIV)

Some would call Martha brazen and brash, disrespectful. Mary’s response was perhaps much more appropriate. But we don’t have to put a lid on our wants and wonderings. We can be fearless in our asking of questions and laying out of our concerns. 

We can therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 CSB)

Theology begins with doubts that make us dig. ‘Tude or not, he can handle us just fine. 

***

The last time we see Martha, she’s back at it in the kitchen minus the ‘tude towards her sister. There’s another dinner party being given in Jesus’ honor. It’s just six days before Passover and while Mary takes her pint of pure nard to anoint the feet of Jesus as an act of worship, John tells us, 

Martha served. (John 12:1-11 NIV)

Two little words with a powerful punch. We find Martha using her gifts as a form of worship and not to wage war with her sister. When we each bring our gifts and talents to the table, the church and ministry of Jesus is so much better. The world needs to hear the good news of the gospel and whether that’s washing dishes or feet, both are important. 

She’s learning and so am I. 

Empty nest means these babes have been nurtured and can fly on their own.

I am just as content teaching a Bible study on even given week or gathering dirty communion cups after Sunday service. Reading a commentary on the book of James or pulling weeds. Planting seeds whether in the garden or over coffee with a distraught woman. 

Theology doesn’t disconnect us from life or weaken our willingness to do the next thing. Knowing God, makes us mobile to do the very thing he calls us to. Those of us who know God find sacred in the simple as well as the sensational. As strange as it may seem, theology belongs in the kitchen just as much as it belongs in the classroom at seminary or behind the pulpit or in elder meetings. 

I don’t believe we have to choose between Mary and Martha, between being a thinker or a doer. I think we are meant to be a blend of both. 

Learning, leaning and loving make for some sound theology. 

kw

Worship is Never Wasteful (Sheology Part 3: Loving)

The babies have grown and flown….just like they’re suppose to. 🙂

I’ve never felt very courageous. I scored 0% in the category marked “Adventuresome” on one of those tests everyone takes. Like Walter Mitty in his secret life, I would daydream an awful lot…can you hear me Major Tom? 

But then again I have five kids, which takes lionhearted courage and I was the first of my big family to go out of the country to Zimbabwe on a mission trip. My pastor sent a text the day before I was to leave, You can do this Mrs. Mitty. He knew.

After that trip, every time something came up that would take courage (car wash anyone??) I would tell myself I could do this thing. After all, I’d been to Africa!

So maybe bold is a better word. I can speak to big groups but get a bit sweaty palmed small talking with folks I don’t know. I don’t mind being in the spotlight, the center of attention, but like to control when said light is turned on. 

I’m a nine on the Ennegram, a Peacemaker, doing almost anything to avoid conflict and choosing the path of least resistance. I like routine. I don’t like to be the center of controversy. Though I can debate and have an opinion different than yours, I need a nap afterwards. 

But sometimes you just have to be bold. 

***

The third time we see Mary of Bethany she’s at another dinner party, this one being given in Jesus’ honor. (John 12:2 NIV) It’s just six days before Passover and time is drawing close for Jesus to be arrested, beaten, put on trial and crucified. He knows it. 

I wonder if Mary senses it too? I wonder if she picked up something different in his teaching lately, an urgency, a preparedness, a warning of what was coming. 

The disciples were jockeying for a pristine position on his right and left in this new kingdom Jesus came to establish. (Mark 10:35-45 NIV) They’ve politicized Jesus’ ministry thinking he would become the new king of the country instead of King of Kings. 

Not Mary. While the others are eating Mary takes a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NIV) 

This was a bold act for several reasons: 1.) Society expected her to be serving food not wasting time at Jesus’ feet. 2.) Touching someone’s feet was considered degrading (imagine the disciples surprise when Jesus washes their feet!) 3.) A woman was never to take her hair down in public…never. 4.) The perfume she poured out was more than a year’s wages and her dowry that she’d been collecting. It gave her value for a favorable marriage in the future. All poured out, wasted as some of them were saying. (Based on the book Insight’s on John by Charles Swindoll) 

The boys in the room didn’t like it. They thought it was a big waste and were vocal in their “concern” but Mary didn’t care. She didn’t just bust open a jar, she broke open the box society had put her in. She lived out the full life Jesus came to give her. 

***

Being a woman of faith can put you in a position to step outside your comfort zone and into the war zone, to do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do to take a risk and pour it all out there with a boldness you’ve not known before. 

We have to be ready. We can’t walk into battle armed only with what we learn from a person behind the pulpit on Sunday morning. We aren’t meant to fight with the men (they are not our enemy) or even in their shadow but beside them armed with sound theology from our own digging daily in scripture. This war zone is no respecter of gender. 

It is on the battlefield that a woman will discover the power and usefulness of her theology. Mary’s third portrait should have a profound impact on how we see ourselves as women, in the home and in the church. When we take this definition of ourselves seriously, the home, the church, and the men will only benefit. Conversely, to walk away from this hurts us all. (From the book When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James)

Mary shows us much about what it takes to be a theologian. She sat at Jesus’ feet and learned. She learned what he was all about and who she was because of who He is. But it’s so much more than learning.

She fell at His feet and leaned. We lean in to what we’ve learned; which enables us to endure those storms that could rock our world otherwise. It puts our faith to the test and helps strengthen and mature our theology.

She worshiped at His feet and loved. When we begin to understand who Jesus is and what he has done (and does) for us we want nothing more than to love him, to pour out our best for him. Worship is never wasted. 

Mary is such a great example for us to follow. But…

What if I’m more like Martha? I’m so glad you asked…

kw

If Only…(Sheology Part 2 Leaning to Live)

Strong roots begin with good theology but need some storms to help them develop and grow deep. (OSU campus)

I lay there curled in a fetal position, recovering from a DNC and replaying the last couple of weeks in my head. The excitement of the OB appointment. The look on the doctor’s face as he searched for that water-in-the-womb swoosh swoosh swoosh. The slim hope that the Doppler just missed picking up the tiny sound. The ultrasound techs somber expression as she too searched with her wand. 

I’m so sorry. 

Words I had not heard the previous four pregnancies. Words I didn’t want to hear now. We had already told everyone. How was I to face the looks, the questions, the sorrow, the sadness. Oh the grief! I now understood how one weeps for someone you’ve never met, someone not fully developed but fully human, a life not lived. 

In the darkness of night with my arms wrapped around my empty womb I cried out to the Creator of all things, where are you in all of this Lord?  

***

They sent for their friend, the one who could help them as their brother’s sickness took a turn toward the inevitable. They’ve heard him speak and watched him heal sicker people than this. Surely he would get there in time. Surely he would come quickly once he got word how sick their brother Lazarus had become. 

They waited and prayed while Jesus delayed….yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:6 NIV)

When Jesus got there (finally!) Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:17 NIV) 

Mary stayed in the house until her sister Martha told her; the teacher is here and is asking for you. 

The Teacher. The One who welcomed her, invited her, taught her, discipled her, valued her, befriended her and loved her. The One whose feet Mary sat at to learn are the same feet she fell at to lament. 

Scripture tells us, when Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32 NIV) 

If only…

***

How many times have I said and heard and wondered the words if only?

If only you’d been there, Lord…

…in the darkest days of depression. 

…in the emergency room.

…at the doctor’s during the diagnosis.

…when abuse was happening.

…in divorce court.

…at the casket of a loved one.

…when my child died.

…in the middle of a panic attack.

…in the wondering and wandering and worry.

…in the confusion of identity. 

…in the wilderness

Anybody else have an if only you had…? Does he even care?  

***

Mary is sitting at a pivotal place in her theology. It’s one thing to learn, to know the lingo, the language, the churchy words. But living it out is something entirely different. 

What kind of theologian am I if I can use an intelligent system of words and ideas but have never experienced despair and confusion or wrestled with God and walked away limping while wondering what he is doing in the world around me. Those words will seem crass and uncaring. 

True Christian theology does not stand aloof from life but fearlessly gets its hands dirty in our everyday lives. (Carolyn Custis James) 

Most of us probably have not experienced the kind of miracle we see with Lazarus being raised from the dead unfold in our lives. The divorce happened. The abuse left some scars. The child is still gone. The womb still empty. The night is still dark. Hearts still hurt. 

Jesus is there. Right beside us. Weeping. Knowing there is a bigger story to be told. Knowing that if you believe, you will see the glory of God. (John 11:40)

I have to hold on to this. He can use our heartache and hurt, our pain for a purpose. My story is for his glory. 

We sit at his feet and learn so we can lean in and live during days that are hard. We learn of the goodness of God so when life is not good we know he is. We live in the presence of his peace when chaos abounds. We lean in more knowing he is our strength and help; a refuge in times of trouble. We fall at his feet and cry out our questions, our if only’s because we believe in Him, the One and Only. 

That’s sound theology. That’s good sheology. 

kw

Whirly Birds, Wheat Fields and a Wise Woman (Sheology Part 1 Learning)

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight (Jeremiah 15:16)

I could hear the chug of the church bus rounding the corner at my Mom’s house. It was a rare occasion that I got to spend Saturday night with her and go to the fancy big church in town as my Granny called it. No country church for me, where the wooden pews and people smelled of must and old age and the “facilities” were still outside. Not this weekend. 

They were having a contest and my younger sister asked if I could please come with her so she could earn her hat for bringing a guest. The special bonus, if there were X amount of kids that Sunday, the pastor, John Maxwell, would eat a live goldfish. We were all in. 

The kids were singing, as kids do, at the tops of their lungs We’re Whirly Birds for Jesus, we live for him each day… I soon caught on and wanted to be a Whirly Bird too. I wasn’t sure about this Jesus but I really wanted the cap these kids were wearing, a red beanie with a little helicopter on top. You could earn pins for it too (!), which filled my people-pleasing-award-winning-accomplishment-doing-soul right up.

I soon learned that being a Christ follower was more than donning a Whirly Bird beanie heavy laden with bling from winning contests. Souls were at stake after all. Mine included. 

***

I discovered a classmate of mine also went to the fancy big church in town and happened to be at movie night. (Movie night? At church! Fancy big church’s meter pegged to the right of cool.) We settled in with some popcorn and candy and sat beside each other ready to watch the 1970’s film called A Thief in the Night. 

Our popcorn grew cold, candy uneaten as Micky and I watched the confusion and mayhem of this woman who had been left behind. At the end of the movie the youth pastor got up and explained how Jesus was coming back and how we needed to be ready or else be left here to suffer. He read Matthew 24:36-51 to us. 

That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:39-40NIV)

I wasn’t exactly sure what all that meant. We didn’t own a hand mill nor did we have fields but we did have a garden and canned a lot so maybe that counted. What I did know was that I did not want to be without my Granny and left in a place where the people were weeping and gnashing their teeth. (Matthew 24:51NIV) Obviously there were no Whirly Birds there.

So Micky and I went forward to accept Jesus as our Savior whatever all that actually meant. This movie scared the hell out of me but didn’t drive me to a place where I would come to really know Jesus. 

For two more decades I would wax and wane between singing with my beanie on and running to escape the fiery flames. Always working to be good enough, missing the mark horribly, feeling the shame of things I’d done and things done to me, asking forgiveness for things that were already tossed as far as east is from west. It was a vicious cycle of rinse and repeat, rededicate, renew, return to old ways. 

Until life spun me in a different direction and landed me in a place I’d never been. 

***

Tucked in the Gospel of Luke are five little verses that introduce us to two sisters from Bethany, Mary and Martha who find themselves with a dinner guest by the name of Jesus. While Martha is busy in the kitchen, we find Mary had managed to make her way to where Jesus was and took the posture of a student, a disciple, a learner at his feet. 

Whether by invitation or an act of bravery, Mary knew she wanted to understand more than the bits and pieces she put together as she went about her duties or heard secondhand from her brother and those that knew him personally. She wanted and needed to know Jesus herself. 

So she sat at his feet, listened and learned. 

This first female New Testament theologian will glean much from this meeting. While we don’t know what Jesus was saying, I wonder if she was beginning to understand that this Man brought a different message than the culture of her day. 

Jesus tells those who are listening, Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42 NIV) In a culture where women are not invited to sit at the table and learn this changes everything. 

***

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were going to church every time the doors were open. We served. We sang. We served some more. If a spot needed filled we were there. And yet my marriage was falling apart. My adult version of being a Whirly Bird was crashing fast. Those gnashing teeth were hot on my heels.

I soon discovered a foundation of theology built on service alone and the things I “do” is like shifting sand that soon crumbles when hard times come. All of my do’s are paltry compared to what has already been done. I needed to know the doer of done. Not just those bits and pieces I heard from the pulpit or Sunday school teacher. 

Sound theology starts with sitting and soaking at the feet of the Teacher Himself. Not just on Sunday mornings or even Wednesday nights. But every chance I get. 

Knowledge of his character, recognition of his voice, learning about his heart and compassion doesn’t keep us from walking through seasons of difficulty. Life happens and happens hard sometimes. But we weather storms differently when we know who is taking us through them. When we know the One who holds the compass.

Learning is the first step to being a sheologian. We wrestle with texts. We ask questions. We wonder. We wait. And then we are given opportunities to practice. To put feet on our faith. To live out what we’ve soaked up. 

There’s more to Mary’s story. And mine. As you’ll soon see. 

kw

Creeping People and Itching Ears

This reminder in nature that eventually we can’t rely on others to feed us. Instead we must learn to feed ourselves.

You could see the battle going on in the woman’s mind that sat across from me. Her husband had coercively, emotionally abused her for many years. While I could see her making strides toward gaining some confidence, she was struggling to answer the question I asked. 

What do you want to do? 

I really want to leave him….but I can’t. 

Why not? 

Because if I leave him, God will leave me. He hates divorce. 

While it is written, I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel. (Malachi 2:16NIVit also says this of God, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5NIV)

My heart broke for her as she shared with me that she was told by “the church” God would rather she stay in the abusive marriage than get a divorce. She now recognized the affront for what it was but what was she to do? We talked, searched scripture and prayed for direction.

Unfortunately her story is all too common. Being duped, damaged and deceived by half-truths and truth twisting is a play by the enemy that is as old as the Garden of Eden. She knew just enough scripture to believe deception but not enough to refute it with truth. 

Anybody else been there? We may not be in an abusive relationship but there is a half-truth believed to be the whole truth. A twist to scripture you’ve never untwisted.  

Enter the creeping people:

For among them are those who creep into households… (2Timothy 3:6ESV)

Who are these “creeping people”? The Message tells us they look like this: 

People who are self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. (2Timothy 3:1-5MSG)

That’s quite a list, yes? Instead of women being creeped out and recognizing religious fads that calls itself “truth”(2Timothy 3:7MSG) these people are creeping in and taking every advantage of us and many times we don’t even notice. Does this fire up anybody else?

These people prey on the weakness of women, the guilt of women and the passions of women. (2Timothy 3:6) Listen, it is not God’s desire that women be weak in discernment…theological, Biblical, and moral discernment…so that they are sitting ducks for creeps. 

What makes these women (and us) gullible and easy to deceive? Let’s look at the reasons in reverse order: 

The Passions of Women. The emphasis here could be sexual in nature but we women can be passionate about a lot of things. We can lust after…the perfect house, job, family, body etc…we are so intense with our passionate pursuits that we leave no space or place for sound Biblical study. 

We find our value in the stuff we have or the things we do instead of the One that’s already done it for us. We passionately pursue after our purpose instead of purposely placing our passions in the hands of our Pursuer. 

There’s nothing wrong with having goals and dreams, pursuits and passions as long as they don’t have you. 

The Guilt of Women. These are women who are loaded down with sin. This isn’t fun to talk about but here we go. We cannot surround ourselves with people who never speak truth to us, who let us do whatever we want. I have a handful of girlfriends who are my biggest cheerleaders, yes, but who also keep me in check if I’m out of line. 

This alignment keeps me out of the line of enemy fire and able to recognize his schemes. 

Paul warns Timothy about this a bit later when he says, For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2Timothy 4:3-4NIV) 

Don’t circle yourself in with best friends who scratch an itch with a feather. Surround yourself with grace full truth tellers. You’ll grow stronger and keep the creeps out.  

The Weakness of Women. The creeping people who are mentioned in Timothy are smooth talkerswho prey on women with every new religious fad that calls itself truth. Oh, it’s subtle and slick most of the time. There’s just enough Jesus sprinkled in to make it sound good and Godly but the underlying message is more like did God really say…as said by the serpent of old.  

What do we do so we aren’t misled? 

In a word: Theology. 

I know, I know. It sounds boring or maybe intimidating or too churchy. But theology isn’t just for the men. We will be judged based on what we ourselves know to be truth not what somebody else did or didn’t tell us to be true. We have a responsibility, as women, to become sheologians. 

It really isn’t as tedious or terrifying as it sounds…as I hope to show you over the next few blog posts. Theology isn’t just about reading textbooks like Lectures in Systemic Theology, trying to get a grasp on the knowledge of God. James tells us that even the demons believe that there is one God…and shudder. (James 2:19)

We are in a battle that is fierce. Carolyn Custis James says, Soft theology won’t sustain us on the battlefield. Marching into battle with superficial, false, and flimsy ideas of God is like going to war with a popgun tucked under your arm. (When Life and Beliefs Collide pg 95)

Theology is more than just knowledge. 

Sound theology brings a bazooka to the battlefield enabling us to keep the creeping people out and our itching ears scratched with the Truth. Sound theology grounds us when life picks us up and spins us around. Sound theology prevents us from believing half-truths. Sound theology helps us recognize wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sound theology engages the intellect, leans in after a loss and warrants us to worship.

Are you ready? 

kw

Into the Wilderness

Photo cred: Mackenzie Crumpacker

Sometimes you go. Sometimes you’re sent. 

Does anybody see you? 

Does anybody care? 

Is the Lord even there?

You didn’t choose this desert space, this wilderness place. 

Or maybe you did. 

However you land there doesn’t really matter, it can be horrible yet the most hallowed place you’ll ever be. 

In the last blog post, Forcing the Pieces, we met Sarah who desired to have the children God promised her and her husband. But God’s timetable wasn’t hers so she suggested they get the party started with a romp in the hay between her man and her maidservant. Alas, it worked and Hagar (AKA Fertile Myrtle the maidservant) does indeed get pregnant. 

Sarah gets angry about the whole thing, blames Abraham. Abraham throws his hands in the air and says you deal with it. So she did. 

Then Sarah mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. (Genesis 16:6 NIV

Hagar ends up in the wilderness of the desert.

Sometimes you have no choice but to flee for your own well-being. You choose to take a stand and with such courage and bravado say, Enough! Sometimes you have to leave behind the familiarity of community, a job, a home, drugs, comfort, provision, abuse, friends, tradition, others opinions. Walking away from what you know, all you’re familiar with and what makes you fit in can be one of the toughest and best things you do.

Sometimes it’s simply the season of life you’re in. You run your kids around like you’re an Uber driver at Kentucky speed way and you miss adult conversation. GNO? What’s that? Or you’re an empty nester who gave all your time and energy raising a family and now what do you do? You’re a student who lives, eats and sleeps studying, classes and tests…social life? What social life? Your child has special needs and demands time and energy, doctor appointments and round the clock care. You love them to pieces but could sure use a break. 

Dry desert air makes for a thirsty soul. Thirsty souls wander and wonder.

Flip over a few chapters and we’ll see Hagar had gone back (in obedience to an angel), had the child and once again, because of Sarah’s jealousy, got banned, this time….for good. 

Sarah said to Abraham, “get rid of that slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10 NIV)

So Hagarwent on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. (Genesis 21:14 NIV)

Sometimes the choice is made for you. A husband walks out. Kids rebel. People distance themselves. A diagnosis is made. A death happens. And don’t think for a minute this century doesn’t have “Sarah’s” in it…using you for a means to an end manipulating and mean, then tosses your butt out like a rag doll. 

Either way, here you are. According to Brene’ Brown, The wildernessis an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand. (Braving the Wilderness)

The wilderness is full of uncertainty and certainly feels like you are the first and last one to blaze this trail. Surely nobody gets it. Or you. Check out my journal entry for January 18th

Twice Hagar found herself in the wilderness, the unknown, the scary place. The first time she was seen by God; the second He heard her cries. Both times He brought comfort and provision. Wilderness has wild in the word because it’s a crazy time of walking with the One. 

Hagar’s time in the wilderness, that time of searching and solitude, allowed her to experience things she never would have otherwise. She is the only woman, a slave woman at that, who names God. You are the God who sees me, for she said I have now seen the One who sees me. That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi, it is still there. (Genesis 16:13-14NIV)

He continues to be the One who sees. Now and forevermore.

Don’t be afraid. Keep moving through. 

You’re among good Wilderness walkers. It’s where the prophets and poets live for inspiration. It’s where the risk-takers and trailblazers thrive. It’s where Jesus beat the devil at his own schemes. 

He sees you. He hears you. Lean in and listen. Walk in the wild and be free.

kw