Saturday, April 24, 2010

Double Fruit

The Turning, Thoughts on Hosea 14 (condensed)

Come fully back to me
because your sins have made you fall!
(God was addressing the tribe of Ephraim)

Come back to the Lord
and say these words to him:
"Take away all our sin
and kindly receive us,
and we will keep the promises we made to you.

No country on Earth can save us,
nor will we trust in houses, banks or the government.
We will not esteem as divine what we ourselves have made."

Our gracious Lord says,
"I will forgive them for leaving me
and will love them freely,
because I am not angry with them anymore.

I will be like the dew to saturate my chosen ones
and they will blossom with the beauty of the lily,
their roots will be as firm as the great cedar.

They will be like spreading branches,
like the beautiful olive trees
and the fragrant cedar.

My people will again live under my protection.
They will grow like the grain,
they will bloom like a vine,
and they will be as famous as the bouquet of a prized wine!

Do not look for my replacement. I, the Lord, am the one who answers your prayers and watches over you. I am an evergreen tree; from me is your fruit found.

A wise person will know these things,
and an understanding person will take them to heart."

"I AM an evergreen tree, from me is your fruit found."
The fruit of this evergreen is eternal. It does not pass away. It cannot be precious one day and common the next. This has all the permanence that worldly treasures lack.

I believe God is telling those who will listen that at this moment of confusion and loss, of financial uncertainty and fog, of a lean time in many households, businesses and ministries, HE will bring the dew to sustain us. Even more so that we will in these lean times spread out our branches, heavy with fruit and fragrance.

Living in Alaska we don't often get fruit that tastes like what is appears to be. It may look like a peach or a tomato but it usually tastes like cardboard. And we sure pay a dear price for such tasteless fare.

When John David went to basic training in Georgia I told him to eat some peaches. He told me a story of how they were on a run one day and the most luscious and compelling fragrance saturated the air...peaches...ripe on a tree. JD and a few friends waited until lights out and sneaked back to find the tree and eat their fill. He said he had never known that a peach could taste like that.

I believe our Father wants us to lift our branches and reveal His sweet and eternal fruit to a world hungry for something real. In days of drought our roots will have moisture. In days of lack our branches will be full. No prosperity gospel just something God is telling us to be. How will that be possible in times of such difficulty? I AM.

I will dream of fruit, I will cup my leaves to catch the dew of heaven, spread my branches and release His fragrance. What is broken, barren and unproductive I will let go of. What is lost I won't spend time looking for. I will be too occupied with what is ahead of me to concern myself with what is done. Spring, summer, fall and winter there will be PEACHES because I am His!

Remember Jesus walked around with thousands of fish and fresh loaves of warm bread inside of Him and He knew it. The only difference today is that we don't know they are inside of us. We may suspect they are crammed into some persons we credit with more spirituality than us but inside of us? Never!

Look at the beginning of Hosea. God is not addressing the College of Cardinals. He is not addressing the Overseer of the Church of God. He is talking to a tribe He had called by name (the tribe of Ephraim) had Himself named "Double Fruit" who then forgot Him, messed up and were counterfeiters! Sounds like us.

So when God says, "My people will again live under my protection. They will grow like the grain, they will bloom like a vine, and they will be as famous as the bouquet of a prized wine," He is looking ahead for us and calling those things which are not as though they were. He is looking at nothing and saying to it, "I AM!"

He is looking at our empty bank accounts and our empty branches and is reminding them that He smells peaches. He is asking us to turn once and for all from the things that get in the way and go into partnership with Him with a whole heart. We will find the fish only AFTER we leave our own nets. After we say, "Yes.'

The clock is ticking and the hour is late. He is coming back just as he said.

LORD, I lift my empty branches and I am saying, Yes!"

...A wise person will know these things, and an understanding person will take them to heart.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What's So Good About Good Friday?

It is easier for us to meditate on the Cross if our image of it involves plaster and paint. I grew up in the Catholic church where there was always a life size image of the crucified Christ. For years I looked up at Him and He looked down at me and there was a hint of reality, more so than in the empty crosses in many Protestant churches.

The Protestants say that Jesus isn't on the cross any longer and I get that but He was on that cross and it was anything but empty. It was His real flesh and blood and not plaster. An exhausted, exsanguinated Jesus was made to carry that very cross. He was pounded onto its rough, splintery surface by hands that were far from gentle. Then He hung there an hour for every day of Creation in plain sight of His suffering mother and in obedience to the will of His Father.

Mary had once answered the call of God on her own life with, "Be it done unto me according to your word." Looking up at her son now does she for a moment wish her answer had been different? The Stabet Mater used for the Stations of the Cross says, "Bruised, reviled, cursed, defiled, she beheld her tender child, all with bloody scourges rent." As a mother I can't even go to that place but she lived there with Him for all the long hours of His Passion. "Father, if you will, let this cup pass from me but not my will but yours..." sounds so much like "Be it done unto me..." He was her son alright and He was dying.

Many books, songs and sermons have been written to tell us what's so good about Good Friday. My heart tells me just this one thing: That when the flesh of His hands and feet pulled against the nails, when the splinters impaled his torn back, with blood filling his eyes, He looked up and out across time and He saw me sitting at this keyboard loving Him... and it brought Him JOY!

Enduring love and the joy of who I would become kept Him on that filthy cross when they taunted Him to prove His power by summoning legions of angel deliverers. He kept faith with me when I didn't even know Him. When I didn't even exist except in His mind. When emails and blogs had yet to become an instrument of praise.

We were all part of the drama and we were all part of His joy. The scriptures attest to it. For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross disregarding the shame...Hebrews 12. Joy for shame. That was the trade the day Grace took the hammer from our hands.

One dark afternoon long ago, on a hill that reeked of blood and fear and death, Love radiating from the Cross reached all the way to this moment, to this woman...and to you...and that's what's good about Good Friday.

"Upon the cross of Jesus my eyes at times can see

The very dying form of one who suffered there for me;

And from my smitten heart, with tears, two wonders I confess:

The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross your shadow for my abiding place;

I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of his face;

Content to let my pride go by, to know no gain nor loss,

My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross."

by Elizabeth Clephane

May you abide in the shadow of the cross for a few moments today remembering that He willingly stretched Himself out upon it for love of you.

The Sixth Hour