The life of faith always requires movement from one allegiance to another.
"The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look the Lamb of God!" When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus." John 1:35-37
Jesus' disciples, then and now, have to make choices every day. We must choose who we follow and we must choose what we pursue.
Countless loyalties and allegiances are available to us and are continual temptations to our commitment to Christ. We can choose to follow the powerful, the beautiful, the radical, the popular, . . . We can choose to pursue money, power, possessions, success, prestige, control, beauty, pleasure, approval, self-promotion. Fear is a great motivator of our choices. Fear invites us to try to "eliminate" risk by choosing certainty, safety and security.
Human beings’ history of bad choices is long and sad.
God is speaking:
Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven [the Babylonian goddess Ishtar]. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger. But am I the one they are provoking?, declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame? Jeremiah 7:17-19
Henri Nouwen wrote, "The movement from illusion to prayer is hard to make since it leads us from false certainties to true uncertainties, from an easy support system to a risky surrender, and from the many 'safe' gods to the God whose love has no limits." From Reaching Out
Lord, by your Spirit and because of your love which has no limit, help us to fix our eyes on you and to be faithful to our allegiance to you on the soul’s journey?
"Everyone, at some time and in some areas, is a follower, and it is just as important to be discriminating in choosing whom to follow as it is to prepare to lead." From Servant Leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf
We are "the fragrance of God, the aroma of Christ to God among those who are perishing and those who are being saved."
What do you smell like?
Our aroma gives us away. Like walking in the house and smelling fresh baked bread, or beef brisket, or richly seasoned Italian sauce, the truth that these have been baked, roasted, or simmered is all taken in the moment we step foot in the door. Mouth-watering, hunger-raging, "When do we eat?"!
What is the fragrance of God that emits from us? The Message calls it an "exquisite fragrance" and a "sweet scent rising to God." It is Christ In Us. It is the aroma of Christ Jesus Himself. It is the aroma of life redeemed and released. It is peace that makes no sense at all except by God-mercy, God-grace and God-love extended and received.
Terrible aroma is also a quick give away. Opening the garage garbage can tells me there are dirty diapers or rancid foods within.
What would it take for the aroma emanating from me to be rancid?
A bitter, unforgiving spirit?
A greedy, stingy, self-serving heart?
Pent up anger and self-righteousness?
A critical, judgmental spirit?
Disordered loves and attachments?
Arrogance and independence?
These produce a rancid aroma that repels relational connection and intimacy with God and with others. Room freshener Febreeze sprayed over a nasty pile of garbage may cover up the truth for a time. But what produces death in our souls will eventually be exposed and known for what it is.
The good news−by God's grace and mercy toward us, the love and sacrifice of Christ and the indwelling Spirit of God produce the sweetest aroma imaginable. Like fresh baked cookies, it is an aroma that draws others in. It is an invitation to come, taste and see the goodness of God.
Lord Jesus, I want to exude the sweet aroma of your life and love. Search me and know me. See what evil and rancid way is in me. Remove, Redeem, Reconcile me.
Do what you will so that I may be evermore a wooing and fragrant invitation to others to come and receive you and your life lived out in them. Amen
I’ve heard them called “ear worms.” Those songs that get stuck in your head. One line that loops over and over until you want to scream. There is a billboard in terminal B at DIA that did me in the last time I traveled. A picture of a man, Mr. Robinson, with the quote, “And here’s to you, Mr. Robinson.” I spent the next day and a half singing the Simon & Garfunkel lyrics.
And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson,
Jesus loves you more than you will know. Oh, oh, oh.
God bless you, please Mrs. Robinson.
Heaven holds a place for those who pray,
Hey, hey, hey
“Heaven holds a place for those who pray.” At some point during that day and a half, I began to connect the dots. Ear worms can be prayer. And, when one is in a posture of spiritual receptivity and intentional listening, ear worms can be a spiritual discipline.
One perspective of prayer is that we are invited to join the eternal conversation already in progress. The communication among the Father, Son and Spirit has always been happening. In Christ, we are invited to enter into the communion that is already occurring in the heavenly places.
The eternal conversation is also happening within believers. Prayer is often considered something we “do.” I believe it is something we “receive.”
By day the Lord directs his love,
At night his song is with me--
A prayer to the God of my life. Ps 42:8
Lord, sing your song in my subconscious until my distracted mind and heart wakens to your music. Then, courage Lord. Courage to hear and courage to respond. . . . Amen
Ruminations from my Journal for: January 6, 2009
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to reap;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
This morning, I turned my chair around to face the painting that hangs behind it. The Cycle of Life, a hand-painted lithograph by Canadian artist Donna Kriekle. An apple tree branch is woven into a wreath that gradually and naturally moves through the seasons.
It tells me this: life flows from one season to the next. Winter gives way to Spring, Spring to Summer, Summer to Autumn, Autumn to Winter, Winter to Spring. . .
What time is it today?
Yesterday, I spotted the first emergence of my earliest tulips! Already, January fifth, Spring is pressuring Winter to let go of its grip.
Yesterday, too, my eighty-three year old mother surrendered another part of her life to an end that is pressing us all. Her body is letting go.
Is this, then, a time to weep or a time to laugh? A time to mourn or a time to dance?
Could it be both?
You, Lord, created time and existed before time. In your love and wisdom, you orchestrate events and lives, births and deaths, to accomplish your will in salvation history.
The birth of John – prepared the way.
The birth of Jesus, Emmanuel – brought God to us.
The death of Herod – brought the end of oppression and exile.
The death of John – brought Jesus’ ministry into focus.
The death of Jesus – brought salvation and reconciliation to all he created.
My tulips are emerging into Spring. My mom is dying into eternal life.
Today is a time to weep and a time to laugh. As we mourn, she is preparing to dance!
January 2, 2017 Postscript: My mother died just a month after this journal entry. Eight years, already?? Wow! Time flies!
But the question remains: "What time is it now--in my life? and in yours?
A little weeping, a little laughter, and always a heart full of worship. Amen