I don’t consider myself to be a reckless person. Bungee jumping, parachuting, sky diving, roller coasters — all of these seem reckless to me. These are things I might participate in but all of them are steeped in risk. I know there are others who would not consider these to be risky activities. I agree to disagree.

When I consider God and his interaction with humankind, his actions seem a bit outrageous, perhaps reckless. While I live my life, calculating risk in every area, it seems God jumped right in there and willingly took a risk to break the yoke of sin and death. What kind of love would motivate complete abandonment of personal comfort to secure another’s freedom?

Once access to God through Jesus was restored, he keeps searching for me (Jesus’ parable of the shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the 1 who wandered off); remains faithful to me when I wander (read Hosea and learn of God’s faithfulness to Israel even when she followed after other gods); never forgets his promises (Genesis 12 promises a Redeemer who appears thousands of years later).

God’s interaction with me is nothing less than outrageously reckless by human standards. I tend to write someone off after one or two negative encounters. Shucks, I have been written off after one or two negative encounters. I certainly don’t show the same commitment to relationship exemplified by God in both the Old and New Testament.

As I meditate on this concept of reckless grace, David comes to mind immediately. He commited adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband to cover it up and it all started with shirking responsibility as the king. According to the law, David should have been stoned along with Bathsheba. And yet, God showed grace. (See 2 Samuel 11 for the full account.)

Earlier in Israel’s history, Rahab the prostitute, concealed Joshua’s men and was rewarded with her life. Her only act of obedience was to hang the scarlet rope from her window and when the walls of the city collapsed, she and her family were saved from destruction. Not only was she included in the kingdom of Israel, she played a pivotal role in the genealogy of Jesus as the mother of Boaz who was the great-grandfather of David. (Matthew 1:5-6)

I can only believe that God sees something different when he looks at people than what I see. When I examine Rahab and David, I see adulterers, murderers, compromisers. God sees obedient, humble, repentant, a man after God’s heart, promise, future.

So was God really taking a risk when he sent Jesus? He knew that some would respond, some would take him up on his outrageous offer, some would be restored. Others would not. But for those who respond, it is worth it all!

Sunday in our worship service we sang “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury. I was challenged to consider my response to God’s outrageous love for me — for all humankind. Does he really relentlessly pursue me like this? Am I afraid to be found? Am I comfortable having the lies in my life dismantled? What is the most uncomfortable aspect of this kind of love?

What about you? Are you hiding from God? Behind lies, wounds, walls? He never gives up on you because what he sees when he looks at you is possibility and future! Wow! And he pursues you tirelessly!

As I listened to this song I was arrested by this lyric “…fully known and loved by you. You won’t let go no matter what I do. And it’s not one or the other – it’s all truth and ridiculous grace to be known, fully known and loved by you.”

What does ridiculous grace mean to you? Do you feel comfortable with the term ridiculous grace? Is that a characteristic of God and, therefore, one that Jesus embodied here on this earth?

Join me and let’s explore that this week!

Happy Monday!

OUT OF THE CHAOS 07.12.2020

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat.  When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other.  But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“That’s right,” Jesus said. 

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet.  You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 

Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Luke 7:36-48

If only Jesus were a prophet, he would see this woman for who she really is – he would know her past.

Jesus did see her – he knew her sins were many and, yet, he accepted ministry, love, attention from this woman.

Jesus – help us to see what you see, to prioritize what you value, to honor the ones you choose. Thank you for seeing me in all of my brokenness and failures; for calling me your child, forgiving my sins, making a place at the table for even me. You are El-roi – the God who sees me!

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed {right} hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.”  Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!  At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.

Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11

Jesus noticed the man before the man noticed him.

Jesus knew the religious leaders would accuse him of breaking the law.

Jesus acted without regard for his own well-being.

I want to be more like Jesus.

May your Saturday be filled with blessing and rest. May your spirit be renewed and your heart made glad in His presence.

I am reading “The Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. It is a book on understanding the Enneagram and discovering your type. (The Enneagram is an ancient tool to understand personality types and how each one interacts with the world.) I just finished reading about Type 2 – the Helper. The 2’s sense and meet needs all around them but fail to acknowledge their own need for fear of rejection. Sometimes they are not even cognizant of their needs.

There is Someone attentive to our needs even when we don’t acknowledge them, shove them down or excuse them away. The man at the pool of Bethesda was one such man.

Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches.  Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches.  One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! 

John 5:1-9

Thirty-eight years this man lay by the pool waiting to go in and be healed. He wasn’t crying out to Jesus for help; as a matter of fact, he didn’t even know who Jesus was. But Jesus saw him and he knew. He knew what he needed and didn’t hesitate to approach the man.

Jesus’ interaction here has always caused me to pause. Of all the people there — and there were crowds of people — why this man? What drew Jesus to him? I don’t know, but I take comfort in knowing that Jesus sees me and knows. He knows my limitations and my desires; he knows my level of readiness for his intervention. He sees me even when I feel lost in the crowd and unable to help myself.

He is El-roi – the God who sees me! The crowd isn’t hiding you. He hears the cries of your heart and is moving to help. Even if you don’t know what you need or how to ask.

Jesus noticed the woman who endured physical infirmity for many years. He saw her, acknowledged her value and she was healed. Jesus does the exceptional all the time by noticing those who are notoriously overlooked — women, children, slaves, sinners, diseased — the outcasts of society.

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.  But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Luke 19:1-8

Several noteworthy elements stand out to me in this account. First, Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus but there is no record that he cried out to him or attempted to call attention to himself; he just wanted to observe Jesus walking past. And he was willing to do whatever it took to put himself in a position to do that. Imagine how humiliating it might have been to climb a tree to see Jesus. Perhaps it is just me, but that is a bold move! Overcoming my physical limitations to accomplish something. Impressive!

Secondly, Jesus called him by name! Jesus knew him, he saw him in the tree, he called out to him. There is nothing quite as precious or personal as my name. To be called by name, especially unexpectedly, conveys value, worth and dignity. While the people expected only treachery from Zacchaues, Jesus knew something more. He knew that, more than anything, Zacchaeus needed to be seen. In response to Jesus’ acknowledgement, he turned his life around and made restitution for any taxes collected deceitfully.

Sometimes it takes one person to see my potential. This man was an outcast because he collected taxes. His occupation also made him rich at the expense of his fellow villagers. As was his custom, Jesus looked beyond the exterior and saw the heart. He dealt justly with Zaccheaus and opened his eyes to a new way of living.

Have you given up? Has your life gone in a direction you never expected and, perhaps, don’t even like? What are you willing to do so that you might “see” Jesus? Are you willing to “make a fool of yourself” in order to position yourself to encounter Jesus? He sees you. He knows your name. He wants to have dinner with you tonight and he doesn’t care what anyone else says about it!

What will you do?

El-roi – the God who sees me. If Jesus expresses the very character of God, does he also see me? See individuals? As I pondered on this question, my mind was filled with instances where Jesus did see individuals. Sometimes he initiated contact, sometimes the individual reached out to Jesus. But without exception, Jesus saw them!

As Jesus went with him (Jairus, a synagogue leader), he was surrounded by the crowds. A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

Luke 8:42b-48

At times, I desperately need to be seen but I am afraid. Afraid of what people will say if I am bold, if I reach out to Jesus. But I need to be seen, to be touched, to be acknowledged.

Jesus not only knew that someone touched him, but touched him with need. The woman in the scripture cited above needed something desperately. She maneuvered into place and figured she would just touch him and slip away. She was so filled with faith, though, that her touch released something inside him. He knew. He wasn’t going to let it go unnoticed. He acknowledged her.

It might even be fair to ask if her healing was sealed when Jesus acknowledged her faith. I don’t know, but I believe being seen was important for the woman.

How about you? Hoping you can sneak in and touch Jesus’ garment without drawing attention to your need? Afraid to come forward and be noticed? This woman had everything to lose, and yet she didn’t. She gained both physical healing and emotional wellness. She was a new person inside and out.

Jesus is El-roi – the God who sees me! And he sees you, too!

January 6, 2018 marked the beginning of one of the greatest, most courageous adventures of my life. Dave worked from home beginning in mid-2016 and in the winter months of 2017, January to March, he traveled to Florida often. The second winter (2018), we decided to rent a house in Bradenton, Florida which allowed us to spend more time together while he worked from a southern home base.

I confess, I would have cancelled the whole thing up until the moment we were pulling out of the driveway in Indiana. I never wanted to spend the winter in Florida and it felt like I was giving up a lot to do so. I left my family in Indiana; I knew no one in Florida; the one couple I who wintered there were not coming that year; I had no connections at a church. Everything I relied on for security was pulled away.

We arrived at our rental house late Friday afternoon. As we unloaded the car and put away the few things we took with us, I hit bottom. Tears flowed as I felt the full force of loneliness overtake me. It was great to be with Dave, but he would be working and traveling. There would be many hours when I was on my own.

Early in my winter sojourn, I read Genesis 16. This is the account of Abraham and Sarai devising their own solution to barrenness. Abraham should take Hagar as his wife and through her, they would have an heir. As soon as Hagar knew she was pregnant, she treated Sarai poorly which in turn angered Sarai. Turning to Abraham for help, he blessed Sarai in dealing with Hagar however she deemed proper. Sarai mistreated Hagar until Hagar finally decided to run away. Sitting in the wilderness beside a spring of water, a visitor came to Hagar. It is through this interaction that Hagar experiences God in a personal way. She used the name El-roi to describe her experience. It means “the God who sees me.” Immediately I knew that was what I needed. I needed to be seen him, El-roi, the One who sees me! And I began to pray and entrust the next three months into his hands.

It helped a lot to have visitors and, boy, did we have visitors. After all, who doesn’t want to spend a few days in the sunshine rather than snow and cold? My daughter, sister and mother came in January and helped the first month to be less lonely. I sewed. I discovered Goodwill shopping. I learned to hunt for shark’s teeth. I navigated on my own in unfamiliar places. I was doing all right.

February brought more visitors, with my children coming to vacation, a friend spending a week, a weekend in Indiana and new friends visiting. Soon it was March.

The second weekend in March, we came home for a surprise 40th birthday party for a close friend. It was good to be home and yet I was also ready to go back and finish the winter in Florida. The final three weeks provided some of the most challenging times I experienced.

While having visitors certainly made time fly and the days less lonely, it also prevented me from making new friends in my neighborhood or from developing routines that would sustain me when I was alone. And suddenly I was alone. I remembered Hagar and her visitor in the desert. I believed God was the same today as he was then. And I prayed again. I asked God to see me and provide what I needed.

I am an introvert by nature, but I knew I would need social interaction to remain in a healthy place. Some of the ways God met my needs the last few weeks required effort on my part. A text to a friend, courage to go somewhere alone, saying yes to invitations I might otherwise overlook – all worked together to help me not only survive but to thrive! Other times, it seemed God arranged the perfect person/people to sit beside me or attend the same event I enjoyed. As I experienced his provision I, too, could say “You are the God who sees me!”

I believe there are times when we all need to be seen, to be called out by name, to be noticed. It might be when relationships are difficult, life is lonely, raising children is stressful, sickness visits, finances get tight, a pandemic hits. At times, I find myself sitting by the well in the wilderness wondering how I arrived at this place and where am I going from here. If I listen carefully, I hear the Lord calling my name.

Hagar’s predictament was the result of disobedience on Abraham and Sarai’s part. They determined to find a solution to the barrenness they experienced. It brought heartache and pain not only to them, but to Hagar. Two things stand out to me in this — God did not leave Hagar to figure it out on her own, even when her involvement was not a part of his promise to Abraham. Secondly, God didn’t ditch Abraham and Sarai. He continued to be faithful to his promise even when they failed to trust him to fulfill his word.

It doesn’t matter where you are today or how you arrived there, God is present. He is El-roithe God who sees you!

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

I want to be seen. Not just out of the corner of someone’s eye or as an afterthought. I want to be seen! God sees us. Jesus sees us. How have you been seen?

In preparation for this week, take the time to listen to this song by Nicole C. Mullins. Where do you need to be seen?

Jesus said others will know we are his disciples if we love one another. It isn’t if we attend church, build impressive structures, preach moving sermons, develop successful ministries or write inspirational blogs. Purely, it is if we love one another. Love for others was a marker of the early church; it attracted individuals even when they knew that association with these crazy Christians meant persecution.

How’s your love for others doing? Is it growing? What keeps you from really loving?

Jesus Film Project produced a movie on the life of Jesus based on the gospel of John. I love it for many reasons, but one is that the producers did an excellent of developing Jesus’ character. He is shown to be happy, smiling, laughing, compassionate, kind, caring, winsome…all the qualities I believe Jesus embodied. The following song by Chris Tomlin utilizes scenes from the movie. Take a few minutes to watch. I pray you might be blessed as I was.

May your Sunday be filled with worship wherever you are!