Jesus Hid

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“When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.” This sentence from John 12 sticks with me this morning. Jesus, after speaking of glory and light and his own death, found it necessary to be alone, away from crowds and people.To me this shows how truly human he was. I see myself in this action, and feel strengthened by knowing Jesus had that same need for solitude though with a much greater weight to bear.

We know Jesus spent time alone praying, and I’m sure he prayed this time, but the feeling is different. The need was personal, not outward. The choice was not in which disciples to choose or in receiving renewal to continue the mission. Rather it was about him and the Father glorifying each other and Jesus finding the strength to push forward, assuming our guilt and shame, taking our place of judgment.

I believe Jesus was overwhelmed by the events to come. Knowing that this was the culmination of his earthly life and that all of human history hinged on his next steps, I believe Jesus mourned for what he was giving up, namely his holiness and his purity. Not that he lost either, but that he surrendered them for our sake. He took on all our sin, becoming sin for us. To a Holy God sin was abhorrent, untouchable. Which is exactly why Jesus had to be the one to take it on. Only a Holy God could turn darkness into light. Only a Holy God could bear the condemnation resulting from his own holiness.

In this moment of hiding away from the crowds the human and the divine are fully revealed. Abhorrence for the sin to come is met by the pending pain of torture. Separation from God is separation from himself. The mental, emotional, physical and spiritual anguish is fully felt by Jesus in these moments. Here is where he battles for humanity. Here is where the real decision is made.

Jesus in these last public moments spoke of glory, light and his death. Then he retreated away from the crowds. His remaining time was to be spent with his closest friends and the one who would betray him. The time was fast approaching when the Son of Man would be glorified in order that the Father would be glorified. Such glory came with an incredible price.

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Dying Alone

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Max Rakov, Jeannette Zeltzer“I don’t want to die alone.”

These words are spoken with fear and pain by an 81-year-old woman I recently befriended. Alone and isolated, a survivor now and yet a victim still, she spews her anxiety to me. Once she has “vomited” as she likes to call it, she is calmer and less anxious. Knowing that nothing she says, no matter how outrageous or blasphemous, will shock me or make me turn from her is like water in a parched land to her. For the moment she is strengthened and encouraged. Tomorrow the fear will return.

“I will probably die alone.”

These are the words that swam through my head 11 years ago as I watched my mother on Christmas Day 2002, dying of cancer so far spread that we hardly had a diagnosis before she was gone in January. As she slept in that sunless Alaskan hospital, I saw my potential future. It broke my already broken heart. I had just lost my husband and before that my baby, two very different kinds of death. I knew then, even as young as I was, that I would never have a child to sit by my bed keeping watch while I died. Fall and winter 2002/3, as I so clearly remember, was one of fear and great pain for me.

Since meeting and getting to know my 81-year-old friend, these memories have come back. I find, however, that the pain is not there although the fear would like to grab me if given the chance. If I let it, if I succumb to the lies that I believed for so very long – that I wasn’t loved or lovable, by parent or spouse or myself – I would fall into to such a place of fear I’d never be able to pull myself back out. Facing the next 40 years with a lie so toxic would put me in a place of utter desperation, just like my friend. Fortunately, I know the truth. It is this truth that I use to fight the lies of the enemy, within and without.

Over the last year I have been incredibly blessed, not because of a new job or new place to live or new stability in my finances, but because I have come face to face with the truth of who I am and have repented of the lies I believed for most of life. The power in knowing the truth that I am God’s daughter changes everything. Not only am I made in his image, but I also bear his name. I am loved simply by being me. I do not need to try to earn that love or to prove that I’m lovable. I am. Simply am loved. God is my father. God is love. I am loved. There is a sense of power and authority that comes with this. It isn’t a power to abuse but one to surrender and pour out, just as Jesus did. We have the power to love others freely and unconditionally. Our position as God’s children changes everything.

I don’t know if God has someone for me to grow old with. I hope so. I’d be a better person for it, and I think he would be too. But regardless if that is God’s plan or not, I know I will not die alone. This goes beyond my certain knowledge that God, my father, is with me always and forever, which is no small thing. I know that I have friends who are like family to me. Sisters not of blood but of heart and mind and spirit. Sisters I trust with my life. I have family I love dearly and who have my back no matter what. I have other relationships that are growing and developing both family and friends. The future looks full and joyful with these people around me, something I could not say a decade ago.

When I look at my 81-year-old friend who craves relationship yet does not know how to relate even to herself, I see the pain in her heart and see the fear that a Godless life has created. I see what I saw in my mother on that Christmas day, a woman who sought her own way and found herself alone in a frozen wilderness. One day I also hope to see my friend like I saw my mother the day after Christmas, humble and praying to God with a resulting peace overwhelming her face.

I know for a fact I will not die alone whenever that day may come. My mom did not die alone, physically or spiritually. And if I could determine it neither would my friend. However, the real choice is not mine. She needs to choose. Will she be God’s daughter or not? Will she die alone? Or not?

Door!

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This is my neighbor’s door. I’ll call her “M”. You may remember M from Power in Silence. As you can see from M’s door, it’s not very weather tight. In fact, this is what the door looks like when she is not home. The towel helps keep the air from blowing directly into her trailer. When she is home with her fun dog Delilah, pillows, weather-stripping and more towels are added to block the air. It is a chore just to come and go. It is also expensive since her thermostat is directly in front of the door, three feet in. This is clearly not a very good situation.

For Advent Conspiracy the Wauconda ‘Village’ of Fusion Church wanted to do something special. Since God had planted me in Woodland Village Mobile Home Park and our goal is to bring real love to our neighbors, we decided to bless someone I had established relationship with and who we knew had a different kind of “Christmas” need. This would also serve as a pilot run for future endeavors with my neighbors. M had two clear needs: her shower was unusable and her door was junk. With a hard winter hitting us, we chose to do the door.

Brandon felt a real urge to help and so led the way for the rest of the team. In December he assessed the situation, got the door and was just waiting for the right time to install. Unfortunately, M’s brother became gravely ill and passed away soon after Christmas. It was a hard time for her, as you can imagine. We held off until she was ready.

That day was today and we couldn’t have asked for a better one in January. The temperature wasn’t as frigid as it has been and the snow held off. So at 9AM Brandon, Brad and Eric met with me at The Barn (aka my apartment). We prayed together. I prayed for creativity and wisdom. As it turned out both were needed. What was also needed before the job began was some minor chiropractic work on Brad’s back, helped by Eric.

At M’s the guys unpacked the tools and jumped right into taking off the door. Rotting boards, loose screws, broken weather-stripping were all uncovered. What more would be uncovered was yet to come. Since the door would be off and the temperature would be falling inside, M and Delilah finished their walk and then visited me.

Over the next couple of hours, M and I talked. If you have not read Power In Silence, please do so now and then come back. You’ll have a better feel for M and our initial relationship.

Done reading? Good.

My goal in talking with M was to love her, not push her, and to speak with her as I would anyone. We talked of many things, covering many topics. I shared more of my story and I talked with her about my mom’s dying. She did ask me, “You aren’t afraid to die, are you?” “No, I’m not.” With her brother’s death so fresh, thoughtfully she said she was. Despite her belief in God, she was afraid to die. Gentle conversation followed about that fear. We talked about how some religious people are harsh and judgmental. I couldn’t deny that. I simply spoke about what God wanted to show us through Jesus: that God wanted to know us and, more importantly, he wanted us to know him. He wanted to free us from the garbage in our lives and bring us joy. It isn’t about do’s and don’ts. It’s about grace and freedom. Relationship not religion. It’s about being God’s child and living as such.

I told her about Fusion Church so she would understand my work here a bit better. She found out that I intentionally moved to Woodland Village with the goal of helping my neighbors. This was something new to her. We talked about how Fusion was started with a drug addict coming to Christ and bringing his friends with him. I told her about the goal of Fusion, as I understand it: to love God by loving other disciples and loving our neighbors. We talked about other churches. I told her Fusion’s goal of growing the church wherever people met, that it was not about a building but people. And as women are wont to do, we even talked about men . . . in a general sort of way, of course.

Speaking of men. . . . Back at the trailer, hard work was going on. It turned out that the new door was about an inch taller than the old. Since they had already removed the door, they cut the area bigger. Understand that the only thing they needed to cut way was the inside panelling. There was no structural header over the doorway, indeed it was just the outside of the trailer and the inside panelling without any kind of insulation. With a few runs to the hardware store, they moved forward.

One key element was insulating above and around the door. They caulked, sealed, insulated and made the door the most air tight opening on the entire trailer. Brandon with his expertise was the lead on the job, but Brad and Eric were key contributors to the endeavor. (Brad also kindly documented much of the work for me while M and I stayed warm). With new framing outside and reinstalled inside framing, the door became a thing of warm beauty.

With pizza we celebrated the installation of the new door. The guys were able to love on M with power tools, pizza and providing portals without wanting anything in return. Love freely given. In the spring, or at least when it gets above 50, we will paint the door and look at a screen door for the summer months. But for now, M has experienced her version of the feeding of the 5000 where God not only cared for the people’s spiritual needs but their physical needs as well. For M, every time she opens her door, she’ll know that Someone cared.