Friday, February 27, 2015

Lent: Looking for the Cross - Day 7

Photo:  Linda Cannon
One of my favorite old hymns is "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."  The words declare, "the world behind me, the Cross before me... no turning back, no turning back."  It communicates a steadfast resolve to turn our back on our old, sinful ways and to look ahead to the daily glory of living with our eyes on Jesus, our hearts and lives given to Him. 

When I peer back in the rear view mirror of my life I can see the Cross - in mercy and grace, woven amidst each day, even when I was not living for Him. He was still loving me, seeking me.  Even when I didn't want to hear and ran with all my might to pathways far away... dark paths that left me empty and broken. The Cross was calling me even in those selfish, sin-laden days of disobedience and rebellion, extending love and forgiveness. 

Gaze turned forward... the Cross before me.  Communicating life, hope, the promise of now and forevermore with Jesus. Now I live for Him, now my life is His and my future is in His hands. And while the journey may have bumps along the way, and turns I may not anticipate or understand, my heart rests in the peace and confidence that I am in His will, and He is in control. 

So as I travel forward, no turning back, I can't help but think of the fitting lyrics of a modern song of praise:  "Jesus, Take the wheel!"

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lent: Looking for the Cross Day 4

Photo:  Linda Bush Cannon
This is my coworker and friend Bob.  He commutes by train, and on the first morning of Lent he was met by a priest at the Princeton Junction train station from Trinity Church, where they have a program called "Ashes to Go".  The priest was administering ashes right at the station. 

The church reaching out to people - and proving that God doesn't need a fancy sanctuary for worship - it can be as simple as a train station platform!

Finding the Cross on the station platform... beautiful.

Lent: Looking for the Cross Day 6

Photo:  Linda Bush Cannon
In the bitter cold of the darkness, as the moonlight turned the powdery snow into a shimmery blanket of diamonds, I took off my glove and drew a Cross in the frozen canvas.  I stood there in the silence and prayed, my breath carrying my frosty petition up to Heaven.  The near zero air hurt as it entered my lungs, so I gasped a hasty “Amen” and bolted for the warmth of my kitchen door.

Looking for the Cross –  God, am I so secure in my warm little world, enveloped by the creature comforts and affluence of my American Christianity, that instead of seeking You I choose instead to run back to what I perceive to be the easy safety of my daily existence?  Do I whisper a pious prayer of routine that I add to my checked off To Do List, then escape the possibility of discomfort, inconvenience… even danger?

Oh God forgive me.  Take it all, take it all… just give me Jesus.  Break my heart for all that breaks Yours, give me Your eyes, Your plan, Your will.  

Psalm 83:16  “Cover their faces with shame, Lord, so that they will seek Your name.

Deuteronomy 4:29  “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

1 Chronicles 22:19  “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.

Psalm 27:8  “My heart says of you, ‘Seek His face!’  Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

Lent: Looking for the Cross Day 5

Photo:  Nicole Portine Ott, taking a photo of her daughter Abigail with her Daddy, Curtis.
Looking for the Cross...

The simple act of a precious child touching her father’s hand.  Laying one chubby little soft finger over the strong, working hand of her daddy.  

God is that close to us.  Always reaching His hand, His heart towards us.  All we need do is respond, reach out to Him, grab hold tight. Our heavenly Father - eternally there, guiding, loving, seeking us.  Offering His unconditional love and strength.  Seeking our best, with plans for a life we can’t even begin to imagine… And when we seek Him with all our hearts, He is there… always.  It's a promise.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

Lent: Looking for the Cross Day 3

Photo:  Linda Bush Cannon
This morning I was getting gas at 5:30 and the temp was 4 degrees -- and I was feeling sorry for my little, cold self, UNTIL... the poor gas attendant came up to my car, looking like the little brother in the movie "The Christmas Story", all bundled up barely able to move. Suddenly I felt guilty for needing gas!

As I sat there in my warm, comfy car across the road a guy was riding his bicycle (I'm assuming to work) - complete with flashing lights and those glowing reflector stripes on his coat. This is obviously his regular mode of transportation.

Lent -I am looking for the Cross. I am seeking Christ and to be like Him and to clean out the mind/body/soul/space clutter.

Forgive me, Lord, for the clutter of being so self centric that I don't realize each moment all you have given to me. For when my eyes are on me, they aren't on You.

Thank You for my blessings this morning as I sit in a warm car and a warm office, space heater fully cranked, drinking a hot cup of tea. I am humbled at how wealthy and privileged I am to have so much. Teach me to be more appreciative for the little things that really aren't! And help me let go of all the blessings that I have turned into "rights" or become so blinded to in my selfish endeavors of greed and comfort.

The photo is a picture of my car logo... Funny how I never saw the Cross until this morning.

Lent: Looking for the Cross Day 2

Photo:  Heather Bush
The Cross is humbling. The path of the Cross takes many turns, but is never more than one step at a time. It beckons us come, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and Christ will give you rest. Too often, however, we are so busy or distracted that we never see the Cross… even when it is before us at the very next turn.

Look down at the pattern of the Cross in this kitchen floor.

It is only when we lower our head that we can “see” the Cross. It is in the everyday, the mundane, the walking across the floor to get a cup of coffee, the mindless acts we perform without a second thought. The walking dead. We trample the Cross, walk right by, completely oblivious to its message and gift. Too proud to believe. Too weary to care. But there it remains, day in, day out, whispering your name. The Cross… ever before you, ever loving you, offering you life, abundant, eternal life.

Take time today to sit in your kitchen, the common room of most homes, often the heart of the home, lower your head, and spend time with the Christ of the Cross.

Lent: Looking for the Cross Day 1

Photo:  Linda Cannon
Lent Day 1

I am looking for the Cross. I want my eyes to be laser-focused to see the Cross everywhere I am, everywhere I go. Because we see what we look for in life. Look around and notice everything red. Now close your eyes and remember everything blue. See what I mean? You remembered what you were trying hard to notice.

This Lenten season I have challenged myself, and my friends, to find the Cross. In the obvious, and in the obscure, in the natural, and in the most bizarre. I’m doing this as a reminder to myself that all I am, every breath I take and every moment I am given life here on earth, needs to be built on Christ, and the Cross, and all He has done for me, on all His blessings and promises, and His return. I am basing this on Hebrews 12:2 – keep your eyes on Jesus!

Today I took this photograph of a handicapped bathroom stall. The symbols screamed out to me. First, you can see from the highlights (mine – the walls/floors were not stained in any way) that there are crosses everywhere. So even when I think my life is “in the toilet”, the Cross is there with me. And as a former bulimic, who was handicapped for so long in the chains of this eating disorder, a handicapped stall took on a whole new meaning for me. There are handrails in this stall – embedded in the Cross tiles – I know He will hold me up and help me in my weakness. There is water – dirty and clean – symbolizing how He washes me and flushes away all my sin. And it’s not polite to talk about, or politically correct to show a toilet – and I love that because the Cross was never meant to be polite or politically correct. 

And finally, there is the realization that the great equalizer in life is that EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs a bathroom, rich or poor, celebrity or common folk. Just like the Cross.

This is my gift of praise to Christ my Savior on this first day of Lent.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dr. Jeckyl to Mrs. HIDE!

In a recent sermon I heard by Dr. Tony Evans, he used an illustration of the Christian as a sponge.  He said (and I’m paraphrasing from my unreliable memory) that when you squeeze a sponge what comes out is what has been stored on the inside.  So when you are put in a pressure situation, what comes out of you in the process is exactly what has been hidden within.  That analogy has stayed with me, and sadly, hit home in a big way over the last few days.

I’ve been under a lot of little pressures building layer upon layer, and have felt them rumbling and bubbling and churning inside me like molten sewage, furious to erupt.  The more I felt squeezed, the higher it rose in my chest, and within the last week I have watched it gush out in muddy sludge, spewing negativity, eye-rolling putrid attitudes and a sickening 3-V vocabulary (vicious, vitriolic and venomous).  I have been ugly and sinful, embarrassed at the sloppy slurry of slime that is being squeezed out of me… ashamed and disappointed in myself that I am not who I had hoped I was at this point in my walk with the Lord.  This is not to say that I have to be little Miss Barbie Perfect 24/7/365, but I have so not been the example of Christ, and this above all is what saddens me.  Out of the abundance of my heart the mouth speaks, and the abundance in this heart has NOT been the treasure trove of that which is true, honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent or praiseworthy.  The quiet and gentle spirit which I seek to cultivate and nurture has morphed into a spirit of grumbling, screeching, discontent from one hot mess of a person I do not like or wish to be around.  I have gone from the proverbial Dr. Jeckyl to Mrs. HIDE!!!  

So today, on this first day of Lent, it is time to start again.  I seek forgiveness for my words/attitude, from both Christ my Lord and those who have been caught in the shrapnel.  I humbly learn the lesson that my maturity level needs serious work, and ask the Lord to squeeze until every drop of me is gone, that I might then absorb His Living Water and be filled to a juicy, dripping overflow of His Holy Spirit.