Tag Archives: humility

Staring At The Dirt

Today has been a day of water.  Water in the form of torrential down pour, hail, sleet, snow flurries and misty wet wind. With this water comes mud.  I hate mud. I am surrounded by it. Everywhere I look it has either been tracked in, or clings to  shoes, fur, coats, pants.  It covers the driveway, and the yard and you can’t glance outside and not see it.  Gone is the blanket of white hiding the dirt. Now is the season where you have to look at dirt.  Wet, sticky, heavy, clingy, odorous….dirt.

I don’t find it a coincidence that today has overwhelmed me with water and dirt, as today is also  Maundy Thursday.  This day of Holy Week we celebrate the remembrance of the Last Supper.  We remember the Savior’s aching plea to observe and remember.  His powerful demonstration of service when he laid aside his rabbinical robes and donned the garb of the servant…a towel, and poured water into a basin and washed the dirt from off the feet of his disciples.

John 13:3-5  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus, from his secure place in the Father’s love, humbled himself as a lowly servant and looked at the dirt on his disciples feet.  He didn’t just stare.  He didn’t point out who had the dirtiest feet, he didn’t comment on nail fungus or callouses,  he poured water, and touched them, and wiped them clean.

What a lesson for ministers of  SoulCare-are we washing from a place of identity that is securely fastened in the love of the Father?  Do we know deeply whose we are, and where we are heading before we pick up the towel?  Have we seen our Savior wash our own dirty feet,  before we ever dare to look at the dirt of another?  The dirt of the journey through this broken world that clings to the peace of the wounded bringing them shame, and the inability to move freely. The dirt that dries like concrete, and rips the skin off when bumped too harshly.

Jesus didn’t use a scrub brush.  Jesus didn’t stare at the dirt.  He saw the heart under the sandals he unlatched.  He wasn’t moved by the dirt, because he himself was the living water, the walking pool of Bethesda, the wine from the water at Canaan, the baptism of Jordan, the rock of water that followed the Hebrew children in the wilderness.  He is the river of life, no dirt can cling to the soul of the one who is washed by this eternal stream.

My prayer this (muddy) Thursday is this:  May we remember the washing as we gaze at the mud.  May we  allow our souls to be reminded of our identity in the Beloved.  May we lay aside any robes of entitlement and reach for the towel as we kneel before the sandals in our care.  jesus-washing-the-feet-calvin-carter

 

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Sifted

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,
 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Luke 22:31-32 ESV

I have been sifted.  I know the Riddler’s voice in my head.

“You aren’t strong enough, brave enough, good enough, righteous enough, you aren’t enough.  No one sees, hears, knows, cares, loves you.  He doesn’t love you…He isn’t even real.  What if this is all a lie?  What if this is all there is?  What if they are right? What if you are alone? How could a good God-”

I know what it is to stare at a black canyon at midnight at 70 mph.  I know what it is to not believe the spark of life inside of me is worth fanning into flame. I know what it means to take my hands off the wheel and just quit.  I know the selfishness of self-absorption.

I know what it is to make grand declarations of allegiance to a Savior I wasn’t so sure I would die for.  I know what it is to wrestle with the whisper of “is this real” and “is there really a God who loves you anyway?”  I know what it is like to run away from the fellowship of hand warming when a babe questioned my walk. I know Peter, he is my brother.

“…but I have prayed for you”

Those words.  Some of the most powerful words to encounter my life became for me a living stone.  A God made flesh, incarnation of love in me reality.  A memorial of the way I was spoken back into existence and caused to stand upon feet firm and solid in faith.   He prayed for me.  My Intercessor asked for me to receive strength to not lose heart. To not give up. To find true faith. He made a way in me to Him in the middle of the dark forest of my wandering. Because he scattered crumbs from the table of his presence I did not die in my rebellion. When I was his enemy, he fed me. He prayed for me.

“and when you have turned again-“

I know what it is like to have sunlight pierce midnight.  To have words form inside of my spirit blast against darkness.  I know what it is like to hear the footsteps of love approach my wretchedness and  transform the hanging ropes of despair into ribbons of grace.  I know what it is to come groping into the light blindly waving my hands in front of my face to catch my stumbling steps, only to feel the steady grip of acceptance upon my shoulder.

“strengthen your brethren”

Can you really heal wounds if you yourself have never bled? Can you give hope when you know nothing of darkness or the pressure of the sieve? Can you lead anyone if you yourself have not turned resolutely to life? Can you teach anyone to pray, having not felt the posture of humility before the greatness of His love? Can you war, if you have never lost?

I know the sound of tempered steel.  I know what it is to be weighed on the proving grounds, and waged in battle.  I know now the treasure of  whom I have believed.  I know the way of narrowness and I have light for midnight. I know the fight of faith is a good one, a noble race run. I am at last able to say, I follow Christ because I know Him.  I know as I have been known.  He lives in me. I live in Him. I know the life I live is not my own, and I know he will finish what he has started in me.  Be of good cheer, He has overcome the world.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 ESV

peter-denial

Bondslave

 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:3-5 ESV

Throughout this journey I have been struck with the posture our Lord takes as he leads his beloved disciples.  He is confident, present, and alert to the slightest whisper of the Father’s voice.  Here now, on the eve of his Passion, when he could have been consumed by a thousand other things, he has love on his mind.  

Spurgeon said it best when describing this night:  “The Father had given all things into His hands.” You might suppose that He would stand up, in a very dignified manner, and put on a purple robe and a golden belt, but, instead of that, He rose from the supper table, laid aside His garments, and took a towel, and girded Himself. He knew that He had come forth from God and that He was going back to God—and He performed this action on the way home to His Father. O dear Brothers and Sisters, if Christ thus stooped, how humble ought we to be! No office should be counted too lowly, no work for His servants should seem to be too humiliating, since Jesus “took a towel and girded Himself.”

The saying goes that in the light of a man’s departure, you can tell what really ruled him.  Here, knowing that he had come from God was returning to God, and that all things were in his hands Jesus humbles himself and in his own extravagant outpouring of love washes his beloved friends feet.  No fear, no remorseful regrets, no frantic last minute lessons, just love and simple devotion.

He is about to face the greatest agony of his soul, where all will betray him and he will be left alone to face his accusers.  We find no aloofness, no separation of his heart from theirs.  Oh how he loved.  How he took such care with the souls entrusted to him. How he still cares!  I gaze at the passage and am amazed at how he not only washed but he wiped.  He finished the work.  Jesus puts Himself in the place of a slave and He performs a slave’s duty tenderly wiping the water from their feet, not leaving the work undone.

I stand at the basin Lord.  Wash me, and I will be clean.  Let me have a portion in you.

jesus-washing-disciples-feet-by-takla

Alabaster Life

Preaching without spiritual aroma is like a rose without fragrance.  We can only get the perfume by getting more of Christ. –A.B.Simpson

 

The devotional today is centered around a moment of pure worship, as Mary breaks the alabaster jar of her inheritance, and “wastes” it in one movement of extravagant, lavish affection. For this great act she is not lauded by the populace, she is despised and ridiculed.  All opinions in regards to her actions seem to be in agreement, except for one. The only One who really matters.

Jesus, the great Rabbi and benefactor of her affection demands she be left alone, and declares something truly radical- that the fullness of the gospel is not proclaimed unless her story is told right along with the Good News of Chris’ts birth, life, crucifixion,  burial, and resurrection.  Yet, how often have you heard her story?  Really heard her story?

Mar 14:6-9 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” ESV

I have wondered at the house of Bethany, the place where Jesus could be “himself”.  The place he frequented more than any other, the place of his friends.  Bethany means date house, or house of figs.  This rings of the symbolism of the nation of Israel which is often called a fig tree.  Perhaps here, he envisioned the true Israel.  A house of welcome for the Messiah, a place of friendship and easy graces. Laughter and study, and food.  True food.

The nation was turning it’s back upon him. Would declare him accursed and deliver him up in a short while, but here, here he was among friends and in that place a woman believed what the others had refused to hear.  He is going to die.  They are going to kill him. In that revelation, she longed to show kindness to him while he was still in her midst, and to give him everything she had, everything she could.  Her love as perfume filled the house where they were sitting and everyone was marked by the fragrance of her devotion, and the declaration of his death-and it made them mad!

Grumblings were heard, eyes were rolled, costs were tallied, some perhaps covered their nose to get away from the smell.  Judas felt his pockets tingle with the loss of such revenue, and they did what most do when they are uncomfortable with someones “over the top devotion”, they accuse her motives.

“Look at how selfish she was, that could have fed a whole village of lepers for a month! Such a shameful waste, such a loss!  Look at it there on the ground…they will never get the smell out of this house!”

Perhaps, that is what she wanted.  To never have the smell leave.  To step into the room and instantly remember where he sat, how he smiled, the words he spoke.  Smell is the greatest trigger of memory, and this moment would forever remind her of her love. It would remind him as well.

I can imagine the beautiful Son of God closing his eyes as the fragrance slowly rolled down his hair, the sides of his beard, onto his shoulders, to his hands, his feet.  Drenching his robe.  Was he in that moment remembering the fragrance of Heaven?  Did he feel the love of his Father in her actions, remember the glory he laid aside, and would take up again?  Did his heart fill with joy at the recognition of this little Eve, this little girl in the garden with her eyes open to the Tree of Life, choosing him, choosing love, choosing to worship in spirit and truth. Doing what she could with what she had?  Did he remember his words to the serpent, and his promise to the woman and know that at this moment enmity was at work, and the battle was raging towards the cross?

Leonard Sweet in his book:  Jesus:  A Theography, mentions this story and makes the statement that Jesus came into this world smelling stable dung and straw but left it smelling perfume.  The fragrance of that oil would have stayed with him through the long night in the garden, through the beating, the crown of thorns, the lashes, the crucifixion.  The aroma of love would still be on him, mingling with his sweat, his tears and his blood.

The question was asked:  “When have you allowed your love and devotion to Jesus to let you do things that other people wouldn’t understand, and might ridicule?  All for the love of Jesus?!”

I close my eyes and remember the fragrance of my devotion, the times when I have abandoned my heart to Him this way.  Intimate times when I have poured out my tears, and my words in longing love.  Delightful moments when I have whirled with childlike abandon in meadows of camas, and weak, humble times when I have lain prostrate before Him.

I remember the sweetness of just wanting to sit at His feet, know the tenderness of His love, hear Him speak to my heart in familiar tones, to just say my name and say his back to Him.  I have been ridiculed, and pushed away, corrected, and chastised for the way my heart is at times lavish in its expression.  It is this story that reminds me of my inheritance.  It will not be taken from me.  He receives my love even if others question my motive.  I remind myself when I find the stiff gazes of the cold religious fixed upon my face, that He is my audience of One.  I live for Him alone, unto Him alone.

My prayer oh Lord is that you break me open and pour me out. That, the devotion of my life would be lavished upon you as oil.  That you would remember me as the joy set before you as you delight in the fragrance of my worship.  Draw me, and let us run together!  Help me tell your story from the place of the fellowship of our hearts.  Make me a Bethany of your presence and may our love burn at the hearth a never ending flame that even death can not quench.

martha-mary-jesus

On Jordan’s Banks

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”  And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Mark 10:35-36

What a dangerous request. A moment ago he had “loved” the rich young ruler….to death.  Agape love, self sacrificing love.  He loved him with the truth, with the honest reality that he lacked the greatest thing in the world, that was a death to self and a life lived in the Messiah standing before him. Now the boys are pulling on their intimate attachment to the Rabbi, and asking for position, power and influence in eternity. I could feel the Master’s gaze upon them, seeing into and beyond the moment.  Loving them.

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Mark 10:38

The word baptized in the Hebrew that corresponds with this passage is only mentioned once, it is the world tabal, and it means to dip, plunge, to immerse oneself into.  It happens to be at the dark waters of the Jordan with Naaman the leper commander of the King of Syria.  Angry that a messenger was sent to tell him to take a bath in a muddy river he storms off in his self-righteous indignation talking to himself:

 But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of Jehovah his God, and wave his hand over the place, and recover the leper.  Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. 2 Kngs 5:11-12 NKJV

Humility is the theme of today’s devotion, and I have come to find it is the most elusive attribute and the costliest of all garments.  How often I have come to my Lord demanding attention to a need, or request of selfish gain and when he “loved” me enough to withhold the object of my desire, I pouted and stormed at His righteousness.  I have raged  with leprous pride ,ambition and envy.  Stumbling from the soreness in my flesh, longing to be free in my soul, yearning to know peace but refusing the unclear waters of the Jordan. Refusing the messenger of glad tidings from the heart of Father, because it didn’t come by direct revelation.  Because I didn’t approve of the wording, or the method of the messengers of grace.  I have been like the Zebedee boys and I have stormed off like Naaman, reciting the attributes of my own ways and means over the direct instruction of my God.  I have often refused to wash and be clean, and blamed my God for my lack of wholeness.

 And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?  Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 2Kings 5:13-14 NKJV

The Spirit moved me to the banks of the Jordan to stare into the murky water.  The water of the ways of the mystery of God’s dealings with man.  So often shrouded in darkness, bathed in lightning, and trumpets and smoke, and mud. What does it mean to wash? I run my hands under the water of the Word and wait.

The word for wash in the above scripture is rachats.  It means to wash the whole or part of a thing, means wash basin, and there in its root form, it means trust. Like a servant who washes his master, trust.  Like a mother who washes her baby, trust. Like the way the healer washes our wounds, trust.  For the kindness to succeed, trust is the necessary response of the recipient.

I sat quiet for a long while staring at the invitations to the Jordan that have been extended time and again and my justifications that have kept me soul sick and ineffective.  It was always about trust.  I could feel Him Agape me.  Love me to the truth of the matter, the root of my leprosy was that I didn’t trust the nearness and goodness of God.

Oswald Chambers said that the root of all sin is the suspicion that God is not good. I was horribly suspicious of what I could not see.  The call to step into the muddy water in full trust of his goodness provoked terror.  I could feel the Spirit whisper to me:  “Would you be clean?”

Father, I wait on the banks of the unclear, unknown waters of your ways.  I declare my ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts. I yield my prideful heart to you.  Wash me, and I will be clean. Save me, and I will be saved. Feed me and I shall eat.  Call me, and I will come. Make me whole precious Healer, as I place my trust in the goodness of your heart alone.oak_creek_fall