Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Sighs of God


Once upon a time, a little girl was looking for the “right size puppy.” What is it she keeps asking for? the volunteer asked. “Puppy size!” replied the mother. Well, we have plenty of puppies, if that's what she's looking for. We have seen most of them, the mom said in frustration. Just then her little girl came walking into the office Well, did you find one? asked her mom. No, not this time, She said with sadness in her voice. Can we come back on the weekend?

The two women looked at each other, shook their heads and laughed. The volunteer shared that one never knows when we will get more dogs. Unfortunately, there's always a supply. Our little girl took her mother by the hand and headed to the door. Don't worry, I'll find one next weekend.

Sure enough, our little one and her mom were the first ones in the shelter on Saturday morning. By now this little girl knew her way around, so she ran right for the section that housed the smaller dogs. She walked slowly from cage to cage, kneeling periodically to take a closer look. One by one the dogs were brought out and she held each one. One by one she said, Sorry, but you're not the one.

It was the last cage on this last day in search of the perfect pup. The volunteer opened the cage door and the child carefully picked up the dog and held it closely. This time she took a little longer. Mom, that's it! I found the right puppy! He's the one! I know it! She screamed with joy. It's the puppy size!

But it's the same size as all the other puppies you held over the last few weeks, mom said. “No not size... The sighs.” When I held him in my arms, he sighed, she said. Don't you remember? When I asked you one day what love is, you told me love depends on the sighs of your heart. The more you love, the bigger the sigh!

The volunteer and the mother looked at each other for a moment. Mom didn't know whether to laugh or cry. She stooped down to hug her child, and did a little of both. Mom, every time you hold me, I sigh. When you and Daddy come home from work and hug each other, you both sigh. I knew I would find the right puppy if it sighed when I held it in my arms, she said. Then, holding the puppy up close to her face, she said, Mom, he loves me. I heard the sighs of his heart!

Close your eyes for a moment and think about the love that makes you sigh. I not only find it in the arms of my loved ones, but in the caress of a sunset, the kiss of a Spring wildflower and the gentle rush of a stream. They are the sighs of God. Take the time to stop and listen; you will be surprised at what you hear. I believe life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

God watches over us as we reflect: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” (Psalm 150:6).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends whose support and prayers are always appreciated. Love the people who take your breath away with their love and kindness.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Take A Risk

For the disciples fishing seemed like a worthy escape. But, their fishing expedition was not going well. They hadn’t caught anything. Jesus realized their frustration and he said to them, “cast your net on the other side of the boat.” They did and the result was huge. They had responded and in the process they caught 153 fish, an overwhelming catch.

I believe that when Jesus told the disciples to cast their nets on the other side of the boat he was challenging them to break away from what they knew and try something different. Following Jesus means venturing into unchartered waters, going where we’ve never been. It means expanding our horizons, or developing new relationships. It means leaving our traditional, formal ways and being spontaneous.

One evening a father was stressed out and his son sensed his frustration. This young man invited his father to go for a ride in their paddleboat so he could watch his son fish. The son had taken an interest in fishing and had accumulated an impressive amount of tackle. Reluctantly his dad went along, thinking all along of everything he needed to do.
They paddled out into the middle of the lake and the young man made a long, smooth cast, near the place where a fish had jumped. His dad noticed a blue heron, standing on a log by the shore. One leg was pulled up under his body. He pointed him out to his son. The bird sensed he had been detected and flew away. “He likes that log over there,” the son said. “He’ll be back. Do you hear the crickets?” His father was suddenly aware that they were surrounded by crickets. This frustrated man realized that he had not been listening to such sounds since he was so obsessed with work. Being in a more sensitive state he heard bullfrogs and a far-away dove. He heard fish splashing. His son began casting and the father could hear the sound of the slow squeak as his son reeled in his line. “I like this time of day,” the father said. Now he had forgotten all about his things-to-do list. He son said, “Just wait, in a little while the trees and the sunset will reflect off the water. It is so beautiful.” “I will wait,” said his father. Then he thought about what he would have missed if he hadn’t joined his son on the lake. He watched his son, who had learned to find his way and at the same time he was helping his father to find his.

Sometimes God may lead us to places we’ve never been, new destinations that don’t seem rational. Our willingness to make changes and try something new can result in meaningful experiences.

In the past Jesus had always said, “Have you no faith?” But after the resurrection he might be saying: “Aren’t you willing to take any risks?” This time he gives them encouragement and doesn’t question their lack of faith.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who need a break from the chaos and need to “go fishing” or do something to get their minds out of the doldrums. Let them take a walk, go fishing and simply listen to your voice in the breeze that says “you are going to be alright” follow me and you will find your peace of mind and soul.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Of Course--All Is Forgiven

Jesus leaves no room for fear because he no sooner pops in on them and he says, "Peace to you!" He says it immediately the way he always does. He says "Peace." He says "Shalom." He says it's all right. He speaks a word that is the opposite of fear and so squelches shame, puts away and banishes any thoughts the disciples may have had about Jesus' bearing a grudge. He was not out to settle any old scores but to create a whole new situation.

Jesus never says a word about their past actions, their betrayals and denials. He does not even overtly say, "Forget about it" or "I forgive you." Instead he gives them a Spirit that tells them, in a way more compelling than words alone, that of course all is forgiven.

One of the more famous images of Scripture comes from that line in Revelation when Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Ordinarily when someone knocks at a locked door at your house, you know that it's up to you to get up and unlock the door and open it. The good news of Easter is that even if you are too afraid to do that, too ashamed or too paralyzed by this or that feature of your own life, the lock won't stop Jesus. He will appear right in the middle of your locked-up heart and before you even have the chance to say or do a blessed thing, he will say "Peace to you!" When he does, all I can plead is that you will take him seriously.

Given what he went through to secure that shalom for you, all you can say in response is what Thomas said a week later, "My Lord and my God!"

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who would confess that we're not quite there yet. Help us to realize this holy day is all about, a restoration of shalom. We still fretting that what is inside there is so bad that even Jesus can't deal with it; still fretting that we would be ashamed and embarrassed if anyone else looked into our closets. Jesus always comes looking for us, starting in those locked-up places of our hearts. My sisters and brothers, peace to you. There is no better a parting word for Easter than that. Peace. It's all right. You are all right. Peace. Shalom. Amen.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

God Weeps With Us

There are the moments when we prefer to lock the doors of our hearts and be left alone. Behind closed doors is where we find the apostles after the death of Jesus. The disciples were afraid that those responsible for the death of Jesus might hunt them down, get rid of the whole movement, root and branch, once and for all. They were afraid of public ridicule. You know: “You’re a bunch of losers.” They were afraid to go home—after all, they had left all things to follow Jesus—and admit they were wrong. Better to hide till it was all over.

In moments in which we have more questions than answers like the death of a child, we weep, just as Jesus himself wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.  Even if we knew the answers to the questions that rise so naturally to our hearts and minds at times like this, there still would be no adequate explanation for this loss. It is painful. And I believe it is also painful to God, who created the world intending for it to be perfect. Let me remind you what Jesus shared: "It is not the will of your Father that one of these little ones should perish."

There is a special place in the heart of God and amongst the angels for the little ones of this world just as there is a special place in our hearts for any newborn who has died.  And so we weep when this happens.  And so too I believe - “God weeps with us.”  There isn't much we can say that will help.

Let me point to the gospel story about doubting Thomas and tell you about Jesus. His disciples were like all parents whose child has died hiding in fear behind locked doors. Jesus appears in their midst—and here you must notice, cannot fail to notice—he appears with his wounds! Maybe, Jesus feels, if he, like all parents whose child has died, can appear before them wounded, they will let him back into their hurting lives.
Are you getting the message? When it hurts too much to hope, when life has wounded us, when faith is exhausted, know that the risen Jesus with his wounds is waiting to get into our wounded and fearful lives and call us out of our fears.

Jesus got his wounds on Good Friday so that we might let him in on Easter.  He is willing to come through the doors we have used to shut Him out and is standing outside with those terrible wounds searching out our terrible wounds, letting us know He understands where we are coming from and that He can give us peace and restore our broken hearts.

God watches over us as we pray: “Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” (John 20: 26-28).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who can’t or don’t feel like praying. Go away on your own and simply repeat these words, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Give your wounds to the wounded Jesus.