So I’m standing on the beach in Ocean City, Md. in 50 degree weather. While I’m in the morning prayer circle with EPI Ministries, I’m contemplating removing my shoes so I can feel the ocean water as some of the others are doing. Anyone who knows me is already nonplussed that I’m on the beach in the cold at 7 am on an end-of-October morning. And can hardly believe i’m even considering baring my feet. But I am. And I came all this way. And I don’t want to miss out on anything because I believe the Lord has something planned for us when we stretch out beyond our comfort zone. And I’m next to the oldest in the group and don’t want to be “too old” to try something different.So the contemplation began.
What if the water is entirely too cold?
If I put my feet in the water, how will I dry them?
How will I get the sand off my feet?
I wonder if anyone brought towels from the pool room.
And before I could conjure up another barrier to the blessing…Although we were standing well beyond the line the wave had previously reached…And before any of us could react…the wave came up and totally bathed, baptized and embraced our feet and ankles with a chilling but loving wet smooch that superseded my check list.
I’m so glad he doesn’t let my misgivings allow me to miss out on his giving.
I speak their names…I’m not sure why the Lord has apparently entrusted me with the task of remembering the wonderful people in my life who’ve touched me in ways they can’t even imagine. I’m am often sparked with a moment of flashback to the face of one of the women who helped me become a woman. So this list will grow.
You can only do anointed ministry if you love the Lord.
Ministry happens in the overflow of the Lord’s presence.
Ministry happens in the love moment
Ministry happens without the involvement of our hands
You can only do anointed ministry if you love the Lord more than these.
Who or what are the “these” in this sentence.
Do you love me more than these other guys love me? That was the question Jesus posed to Peter in the days following his resurrection and preceding his ascension
We think about the disciples having to face, in the day, the ongoing persecution meted out to them because it was clear to everyone that they had indeed been with the Lord. You can’t really hide it even if you try.
It oozes from your pores.
It shines on your face
It’s in your touch.
It’s in your heart.
Everyone knew they’d been with the Lord, and their lives still weren’t safe.
*They would have to deal with the persecution and you see what happened to them in the early days- imprisonment, beatings, they were constantly under threat of death.
*They would have to deal with people who would come to join them. Don’t think there weren’t crazy church people back in the day. Not long after they got started, people were already arguing over communion and how it should be shared
They were already arguing over who had the best gifts.
They were already creating strife and divisions of class and gender
They were already church as we know it, without the benefit of cell phones or the Internet and social media.
Jesus knew they would have to deal with church people.
*They would also have to deal with each other. Again, divisions and conflict. Replacing leadership. Wondering how long they’d be operating until Jesus’ return.
*They would have to deal with newcomers who’d never been with Jesus, but claimed to know him better than they. Paul being one. Saul the persecutor. Saul who had threatened and set out with governmental permission to kill them.
Imagine Ananias’ shock and awe when the Lord told him to go find this zealot and embrace him with God’s hospitality.
Go where? Do what? Did you mean me? There’s another dude named Ananias down the road a piece and I think I heard he was especially gifted in this area.
*They were about to demonstrate the effortlessness of fishing if you follow the direction of the Master. Their haul was too much to handle. Especially in contrast to their earlier fruitless effort in the same water.
The only difference was Jesus.
As it would be as they ministered all over the known world under the leadership of God’s Holy Spirit.
The only difference was Jesus.
For us the only difference is Jesus.
Jesus set the standard. Jesus paved the way. Jesus made the difference.
Love the difference.
Love the One who makes us different.
Love the One who helps you live with the difference.
Love the One who helps you see the difference as a blessing.
Maya Angelou said people won’t remember the words you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. She was so right. When I’m in my feels I remember people who went out of their way to show extravagant kindness. One suchmoment happened at the Double T Diner in Catonsville, Md about eight years ago. It was a yearly Father’s Day gathering and we sat at a specially arranged long table in the inner room. Our gatherings are always so loud that everyone participates or gives those glaring glances as if to remind us we’ve forgotten our indoor voices. We do forget. Whenever we’re together. The good time outweighs any negative “feel waves” we might have encountered since the last gathering. We are blessed to be a family-in-training for how love and grace really work together. We don’t have it yet. But I’ve got to tell you I’m blessed to be in this bunch.
Anyway everyone was eating and I was overjoyed. You see, all my children were gathered. Even Adrian. I didn’t birth him but he’s been mine since he was seven months old. Even went to court to keep him after he’d been with me for seven years. He’s always been an odd bird and much of it is attributable to the experiences of his early months that led to his being in our household. Abandonment. Deprivation. Things that left indelible marks on his soul. Marks that the abundant but imperfect love we tried to lavish on him just could not erase. And for reasons we still can’t understand led him to choose life on the street. And yet he seems happy in the life he’s chosen. And yet he seems overjoyed to be with us whenever we can track him down. And his sisters find him weekly to be sure he has his necessaries to sustain him.
So he’s not always available for family celebrations. But he was here for this one. And he hadn’t done due diligence as far as personal hygiene. His face was dark with street dark. His clothes were unkempt and unclean. His locks were unruly and untended and he looked and smelled like a “homeless” guy. We didn’t care because he’s our “homeless” guy and we love him. But he’d drawn stares from the time we got out of the car. And they continued throughout the meal. I’m not throwing shade. I might have stared at someone who looked like him. But he’s my son and I was just thrilled he was with us.
And there was this waitress. I wish I knew her name. Every time this memory resurfaces my heart just melts at the thought of her. She was a White woman, brown hair, slight built. Heart of gold. She waited on my son as if he had been the visiting king of a neighboring country. She saw to his every need. She regarded him with kindness and hospitality as if he were a guest in her home. She even anticipated his needs and made sure he had enough of everything he ate.
I thanked her without gushing and we tipped her well as we always do. But there was nothing I could have given her that would have compensated her or even matched the extravagant kindness with which she treated my son that day. God knows who she is and I pray that even today, probably eight years later that God would lovably some gift, some kindness on her that she won’t even understand. Not to pay her. To overwhelm her so her cup of kindness continues to overflow and rebound to bless her and everyone she meets.
Imagine receiving this email from the Lord in your inbox;
I’ve spent most of your time on earth trying to convince you of my love. We didn’t have that problem when we were together in heaven before I formed you in your mother’s womb. We were great friends and were in constant communication. And I want the same thing with you now.
But it’s so hard to get your attention.
You keep looking at your scars. I’m looking at your wounds. You keep looking at the marks you bear. I’m looking at the testimonies they tell. You keep looking at your sins.
And all I see is Jesus.
I see the wounds he wore to free you, the stripes he bore to heal you, the blood he shed to deliver you. You look at your attire. I look at the righteousness in which you’re clothed.
And all I see is Jesus.
I see the love he has for you. I hear the prayers he prays for you. I see the Comforter he left for you.
You look at your lack and I see the inheritance you have as a joint heir with Jesus.
I have loved you with an everlasting love and have established you in my love.
Don’t look down. It diminishes you.
Don’t look back. It distracts you.
Don’t look east or west. It delays you.
Look to me. Look up. Your face is engraved on the palms of my hands. And I love to see your face because when I look at you,
All I see is Jesus.
I love this passage early on in the biblical vine conversation in Isaiah 5:1-5. It demonstrates God’s own faith-in-action plan for us to emulate. In preparation for a good harvest, the vine dresser chooses good ground or a healthy environment for the project. He then builds a fence around it to protect it from earthly predators. He gathers out the stones to give it optimum chance of agricultural success. He then plants the vine, the star of the show. After that he builds a tower, right in the middle. The tower distracts airborne creatures who would otherwise zero in on the vine.
And right away, without waiting for the end of the season or the sight of the expected harvest, he built a wine press to process that harvest.
This is the way to live faith.
Make all preparation, from beginning to end, and walk in the expected manifestation.
This is our God making ready for the realization of his own dream in our lives.
Our only job is to rest and flourish in the life he has already designed.
Let’s look at it some more.
Jesus restated the same process in John 15 when he said, “I am the true vine.” You see, the original vine spoken of in the Hebrew Scripture was the intended bearer of God’s standard, the nation of Israel.
But Jesus bottom lines it. I am the true vine. I’m the real thing. I am come to do what could not be done in any other way, through any other vessel. And my life is the lifeline for you to be likewise. I’m the true vine. My Father is the vine dresser. He’s the one with the original plan. He’s the one with all the right steps in all the right places with the original vision for the perfect outcome.
Imagine the vine. He says we are the branches. So in his Sonship, we are attached, as joint heirs, to the One who will usher us into eternal life, here on earth, and in the prepared hereafter of which he spoke to his disciples.
We are the branches. We are attached to the true vine. But the benefit is much more than physical life. The real benefit is that as we are attached and give permission, the life of the true vine then flows into the branches. The same life. The same essence. The same character. Just as grape vines produce grapes – the essence of the vine…just as apple trees produce apples…just as banana trees produce bananas – the true vine of God, God’s Son Jesus Christ, produces in these saved branches, the character of Jesus Christ.
We become as he is. We love as he loves. We grace as he graces. We dispense mercy as he is merciful.
The fruit of the spirit is the character of Jesus Christ. And it is that character that is produced in us as we remain in the true vine of God.
And all we have to do is remain. Remain. Abide. Relax.
Make ourselves at home in God’s love. This is the vine life:
Being able to rest in him; to allow him to move with his plan in our lives.
Being able to allow him to work out his vision for our lives even when we can’t see and even when it makes no sense.
Being able to walk in it, with grace, when each next step is sheer mystery.
Being able to wait for it – the “exceeding abundantly” thing that he does that we could not possibly have imagined with our finite minds, not even with our soul vision.
Their worship is beyond amazing. You’ve heard it without recognizing what it was. You’ve been in worship with 15 people in the congregation and 5 choir members. Singing was good. Worship was pure. But you had to open your eyes and peep. Because Suddenly it sounded like a multitude surrounding you and a multitude above you. Way more than the 20 people you knew to be in the building. And when you peeped it was as you suspected. Angels join in because our worship is irresistible.
They worship God on the regular. But they were created in heaven to worship in heaven.
Their story is different from ours so is their testimony.
So they sing their song but are attracted to the song we sing. Song born out of joy, song born out of passion, song born out of pain and tragedy. Song born out of…
Song based in the overwhelming thanksgiving for redemption and grace; song born out of hearts overcome with love and mercy. Song born out of gratitude for escape, for deliverance, for healing and for memory.
So sing your song. Sing it regularly. Don’t leave anything out. Sing your trials. Sing your victories. Sing your fear. Sing your peace. Sing your tragedy. Sing God’s rescue.
No one in heaven or on earth is equipped to sing your song. Not the right key. Not the right notes. Not the right verses. No where near the right refrain. No one.
God is due your song. He deserves it. He’s worthy of your song.
So throw back your head and let it go. Don’t hesitate. Don’t equivocate. Don’t wait for Sunday or Wednesday.