Relationship: Death by Religion

You know that moment you realize you don’t want to be associated with that person. You are happy to reach down and help them, but you don’t want to be lumped in with them. In public you try to show somehow that you are not on their level.

Maybe you haven’t.  With sorrow, I admit I have found myself hoping the person I want respect from sees me differently than the person beside me.

Reading the account of the sinful woman who anoints Jesus, my heart is rent with conviction and wonder at the heart of God.

If there’s a time Jesus should have wanted to distance Himself from some one, it was now. Already, tension hung thick between Jesus and the religious leaders, but tonight Jesus was dining at the home of Simon the Pharisee.  It would have been a great opportunity to secure an in with the who’s who of the day and create some report with His host.

Except that SHE comes in, and begins to make a scene over Jesus’ feet.  Everyone in the community knows her – she is infamous for her misdeeds and scorned for her past.

As a pharisee or a teacher, to be seen or associated with such a person was to be unclean, casting a dubious shadow on your character, and Simon immediately discredits Jesus as a prophet.

I love Jesus’ response:

Simon, look at this woman.  When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash my feet, but she has washed them with 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 didn’t anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.  I tell you, her sins – and they are many – are forgiven, so she shows much love. But a person who is forgiven little loves little. (Luke 8:47)

Two things impact me deeply.  One is how Jesus sees each person according to the spirit, not the flesh.  We too are called to evaluate others this way. (2 Cor:16)

Rather than rebuffing the woman, Jesus truly sees her and elevates her to His level.  He places the greater honour on someone no one valued.

The second is this:  the chapter before tell us the religious leaders refused to partake of John’s baptism of repentance.  Jesus sees that Simon comes with a critical and judgemental spirit, but the woman comes in repentance.  He tells Simon rather than judging her, he needs to be like her.

Do I strive to be perceived as a leader with everything together and no need for repentance, or do I walk in humility with a contrite spirit before Jesus and men? Am I the pharisee, reclining in judgement, or am I the woman, weeping at Jesus’ feet.  Only one of them went from that table full, and it was not Simon.

How do you see those the world has discredited and shoved aside? How do you come to the table, as Simon, or the woman?

To Touch a Leper

The weight of isolation is easily born when chosen, but when forced upon you like the rent garments of a leper, desolation eats at your soul like a relentless pack of jackals, hounding a carcass.

It was five years ago I fearfully exposed my flesh to the priest. Five years ago he declared the curse of “leprosy” over me, gingerly handing me the leper’s clapper, as he backed away.

“You must never approach another person.” He spoke emphatically, his face twisted in an odd mixture of fear and pity “You must call out unclean; not allow anyone to touch you. Ever.  You can never dwell in the community as long as you are afflicted”

The deformity progressed, until my hands bent like claws and walking was impossible without the cane I fashioned from an olive branch.  My soul, parched as Gehenna followed in my body’s wake.

Until Jesus.  The day He walked into my life, I knew for the first time what it means to be fully known.  Fully loved. Not as I once was or perhaps could be, but for who I am in this moment, clad in rags, soul shrunken in pain.  At His touch, the shackles of isolation fell away, and the warmth of love, so unconditional it wraps around the gnarliest places in the inner man, flooded my life.  I knew regardless of what happened or did not happen in my body, my soul would never be held in the grip of lonely desolation again.

I can only surmise what the Samaritan leper in Luke 17 felt as he encountered the healing power and transformative love of Jesus. As  grace flooded the deep desire of the soul to be fully known and fully loved only Jesus can assuage.  In some it’s a wild kind of loneliness that calls out “unclean”, pushing away all who would come close. In others, it erects a mask of perfection and togetherness only Jesus can shatter and rebuild into a masterpiece of peaceful imperfection.

As I walk deeper in relationship with Jesus through victories as well as dark watches of the night, He fills the deepest part of that longing and empty feeling of being unknown with an assurance of matching intensity that I am accepted.  Perfectly loved as I am where I am.  Completely qualified and lacking in no good thing simply because I am His.

And as this realization sinks in, and I receive Perfect Love, the fear of  the leper leaves in its wake a confident love that sees the broken as they were created to be, but loves them deeply as they are. I too, can touch the leper and tell them they are known and loved and bring them to Jesus.

One of the 10, when he saw he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting “Praise God!”  He fell at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done. (Luke 17:15-16)

I pray today you know the intimate touch of Jesus that says you are fully known and fully loved as you are but calls you to grow into what you were created to be!

 

The Master’s Music

I spent last week nestled away in a rustic cabin-like studio, recording songs Jesus gave us through the last 6 years of marriage and healing from Lyme.

There is something about music that moves me like nothing else can.  Some songs take on the spirit they were written in and draw you in as if you were part of the song itself.  These are the songs that cause one to weep, to dance, or to set one’s heart forward once again.

I am not deluded enough to think I am a great musician, but I am wise enough to know that the One who gives the songs is the Master of all musicians.

The gentleman engineering the album reminds me of Jesus and what He does with the music of our lives if we let Him.  Taking the words and melodies, he weaves a tapestry of sound to embrace the song, bringing it alive with strands of harmonies he can hear in his head before ever played on an instrument.

Intertwined through the songs, are threads of pain, hope, frustration, beauty, and the unwavering faithfulness of Jesus in our circumstance.   The Holy Spirit has taken these threads and created a melody where sad minor notes lend a genuineness to the major, giving underpinnings of hope.

Looking back on the week of recording, I see miracles sprinkled throughout.  The trip there took most of my energy, and a bug took my voice out on Tuesday, leaving me exhausted, confused and ready to call it quits.  Our perceptive hostess prayed with us Tuesday evening, claiming everything God had for the week, rebuking every plan of the enemy, leaving a feeling of peace to trust God in His promises.  Meanwhile, back in balmy Abbotsford, several feet of snow fell and temperatures plummeted so David was able to close his work site and stay, making me food, bringing me honey lemon tea, and massaging my aching muscles.

Each day, God gave enough energy to lay down the tracks we needed, and after resting my voice for a day and a half, we were able to add vocals, finishing an hour or two before we left for home, in awe of the faithfulness and kindness of Jesus!

This week was another lesson in resting in trust, rather than being disappointed when the miracles God spoke of don’t look look like I expected or it seems in the moment like He hasn’t kept His promises. It was not an easy week, but there was a richness, resting in dependancy on God, where we saw His provision in ways that could not have been shown had we not needed Him every day.

What key is your life’s song playing in today?  This week, month, year? What promises of God are you still waiting to see fulfilled?  I pray over you today, grace and peace to trust and depend on Him for the fullness of every one!

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful!  (Hebrews 10:23)

Happy Valentine’s Day!