Maundy Thursday

When I was around eight or so, I dropped the communion plate full of grape juice on the brand new light green carpet at my church…in the second row. Who thought that was a good idea to pass that plate around the pews FULL OF CARPET AND PEW STAINING GRAPE JUICE?

Thursday of Holy Week marked the first Last Supper. It marked the time when Jesus revealed the new covenant of living forward to the disciples. That each time we break bread, we drink that we should remember Him, that we do this as a remembrance to the body broken, the blood spilled for us.

I was diving into some commentary on the first Last Supper and found an interesting point from The Christ-Centered Exposition that defines how the Passover was the perfect time for the Last Supper, the reminder that one exodus long ago would also bring forth another, a lasting exodus freeing us from sin and enslavement to it forever. The lamb sacrificed then would be the One given of Himself for us all, so that we would take and remember it each time we ate or drank-which is every single day.

I think about the pew stains on carpet there in the church, how there’s still a hint of it almost 30 years later. And I think about the sin stain of the world, cast across the people that God loved dearly but that broke His heart. I see the eternal blood there in the wine cup, the blood of the Perfect Lamb covering us all in order to make us white. The red of Him made us white in His eyes. It took away our need to sacrifice at Passover, and replaced it with the covenant of bread-breaking, cup-bearing daily. It ushered in freedom where we were once bound by the marks of slavery, of stains cast all around us and on us.

As we greet and walk through Maundy Thursday this week, I find the Last Supper what draws me in, to see my desperate need for cleansing in Him, to be reminded of His brokenness and blood-rending that is coming tomorrow. The arrogance of Peter there, even as Christ foretells of his desertion and my own walking away at times. The need for prayer in the deepest parts, in the times where I feel alone and deserted, there’s the draw to my knees and communing with God alone.

The sacrifice for my stains awaits tomorrow.

I have been wrestling with thoughts of “Is this it? Is this what the next 40 years will look like God?

And I wallow in it y’all. I find it pulls me into a darker existence, questioning circumstance, a future and not allowing any room for hope in the midst. At times it can be all-consuming, filling and overflowing within and out. Sometimes it is just a passing whisper of a moment.

But it is there.

In my mind, rolling about like a pinball that keeps banging off the bumpers, and never quite hitting the pocket to complete the round. Instead it gets bumped into prayer in a light hearted way, then stronger into a frustration and then a cry of desperation to God.

“IS THIS IT?!!?”

Then I read a small phrase, blinking or hurrying through reading would make me miss it. In fact I did until someone pointed it out. There it stands, maybe not mattering to you in Numbers 21:4, but hitting me so hard that I had to sit in it’s power almost breathless.

“But the people became impatient because of the journey.” (HCSB)

That’s it. The mic drop moment God had with me. Oof.

The Israelites had just come from battle, and the journey was growing longer as we all know if you’ve looked at Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy or went to Sunday School as a child. The journey was dragging on, and their impatience in it grew by the day.

Right there is where I see myself. Where I see the thoughts of “Is this what it’s like from now on?” I am the impatient one on the journey. He doesn’t want me focused on the next thing, the next goal or project or the bump in my career (or a completely new one). He wants me focused on His leading, just as He led them with a cloud through the wilderness.

There’s a covenant and a hope of eternity in the promised land, just as He did with the Israelites. But in this time, season, in the now? He desires none of that extra. He knows me better than myself, and that the extra tends to get made into idols that are worshiped rather than Him. Idols of work. Idols of distraction. Good things in and of themselves that I then fashion into false gods that sit on a throne that is only made for Him.

Just as it’s guaranteed that a journey will involved mountains, valleys, and plateaus there is also the guarantee of rest, or I simply wouldn’t continue. Just as they came to a rest after the battle at Mount Hor, time dwelling on our own desires for ourselves instead of resting in the Presence right before us allows for impatience to grow. It’s part of the journey to take a rest, to give time to re-energize before taking up your pack once more to journey. While we often have maps or trails that allow us to see the destination, the end point, I must realize and trust there’s an eternity on this path with Him. I already know the conclusion, as His promise is sealed. The means by which to get there-a relationship with Him, is the end as well.

While I grumble in the moment, asking “What now?! Is this it?” He’s saying “Am I not enough?” He wants this moment, this season, this life with Him, in His Presence more than anything else we could fathom. Because He wants us. He wants good for us. He wanted a relationship with us so badly He gave Christ for it. It’s for this time when I would choose Him above the doubt of the next thing, the impatience of a slower journey, or the unknown of time that is not my own.

I may utter words of prayer that ask “Is this what it looks like?” while He is continually responding, “Isn’t it worth spending with me?”

Oof.

Stomach Bugs, the Wilderness, and His Presence

Recently my nephews both were on the sick bed with the stomach bug circulating around. One of them reacted a bit differently to the suffering by writhing around and wailing, “Why me Lord? WHY?!” (I have no idea where he gets the dramatics from, none whatsoever)

It got me thinking that I often (non-verbally) have the same reaction to anything that makes me uncomfortable, shifts my plans, or that just isn’t what I had in mind.

If I am really honest, I look alot more like the Israelites that Moses was consistently frustrated by in the wilderness than I do Moses up on the mountain with God.

God’s feeling far from me? I make work, friends, my plans idols instead. I do my own thing and point to His absence of presence in my life. (Which is NEVER the actual truth)

God’s not providing what I want? I complain about thirst or bread that I didn’t do anything to deserve and say it was better to have been a slave than where I currently find myself, which is with Him.

God has given me opportunity after opportunity and now He’s allowing my choice, my stubbornness to take me on without Him? Oh then, that’s when I say “You wait just a minute. I am not going anywhere without Your Presence.” While I believe that He’s going to rubber stamp my plans, my way of doing things.

As much as I want to judge the Israelites for their moaning, complaining and stiff-neckedness I find that especially when God says “Well have it your way then. I’m not in this,” is when I want His Presence. When He says He will not go with me into this is when I yearn all the more for Him.

Something I forget is that He is always with me, and will never depart from me. He won’t be okay with the choices I make without His counsel and guiding, He won’t approve that in my life, no matter how much I try to manipulate Him or the circumstances. Even in the midst of the wilderness, when I am given nothing but provision from Him, protection by Him and guidance in my journey I want to do it my way, managing His will for my life.

It’s in those tension points where I must find humility, seeking not my own but His. Knowing His Presence, Provision and Providence come before any of my desires for my own way. It’s difficult, that I won’t try to deny. It’s relinquishing control, of “I know better” and allowing His sovereignty to govern my life again and again.

I like to think that once I have addressed this, it won’t happen again. One and done. But just like those stomach bugs my nephews were battling recently, it circulates back around at some point. It’s moments of refining, discovering and understanding more of Who He is and being less of who I was.

A Small Detail: Noticing God

I love details of a story. It’s something I have always been fascinated with, and often find myself giving details that probably no one else but me seems to care about. With the exception of a couple of friends. One in particular shares such detailed stories that I often pray they’ll turn them into a book someday. I become just entranced by the way they lay out the scene, develop the story and provide such context for the person who wasn’t there.

In my daily life though?

Well I tend to get bogged down in the details. I find myself in the weeds of the minutiae day in and day out to the point where I get frustrated and frazzled. I miss moments and find myself becoming a person I am none too happy with by day’s end.

I wonder if Moses was having one of those days, out in the desert, doing his job tending a flock on the far side of the wilderness nonetheless. He’s probably thinking about the new lamb born, where he’ll need to set up for the night, wondering if there are far worse things than the wilderness with just a flock of sheep to keep him company.

Then it happens.

He spots a bush on fire. It’s on fire but not being consumed. I like to think here Moses and I are alike, he says out loud that he should go see this sight up close. Yeah, get closer to that fire that’s unexplainable. That’s such a me thing to do.

It’s not until God sees that Moses notices and turns towards it that He speaks.

This week a friend pointed this out in a devotional I was reading. This small detail has me enamored with Moses right now. Because it showed the very real presence of God noticing us. God showing up, showing up big, but waiting for Moses to turn towards His sign, His call before He speaks. He longs to be noticed by us. He delights in sharing His words with us, if we but turn towards His sight.

He promises He is with us, giving us Immanuel in the flesh, putting His spirit within us. Yet we miss Him too often because we aren’t noticing. We aren’t turning to look. This detail of our lives is so important y’all that I am just in awe of how He desires us to notice.

It’s a turning from our own self-talk, pride, regret, hurt, anger, busyness, worry, lust, infatuation to simply notice God calling to our lives. Not only that but when we turn to notice, He speaks. He speaks, to us! He gives us words as we approach Him, we approach that moment, that place. Removing our shoes because this is holy. It’s what He wants to have with us, each and every moment of the day. He wants us to not miss His call for our lives, His designation of goodness for us, specific and fulfilling.

Instead we get wrapped up in a to-do list, a time constraint, our calendars, our expectations of our lives, and our assumptions of others. We miss it because we don’t notice. Alot of things turn our heads and our attention spans these days, I pray that I would be of the noticing lot. The ones who look like Moses in this instance, where we meet God at holy ground, hearing Him speak, desiring to be a part of the unexplainable He enacts in lives. I pray that’s you too.

That we be noticers of God, hearers of His speaking, and worshippers on holy ground of His truth.

Accepting Obedience

I was not an obedient child, at least not instantaneously. Oh I would eventually do as I was told (mostly by my mom or sister, because I was a good kid to everyone else), but not without some fussing and fighting on it. There were tears, there were hurt feelings, there were defiant stances and stuck out lower lips. I was not one to go quietly, nor easily when it came to obedience.

I think the same holds true many times in my relationship with God. I will war and wrestle with Him on what He has asked me to do. After much struggling, and lessons learned I will go obediently about His business. As we study God’s Unfolding Story at church I was drawn into the small narrative of the Passover today.

I am familiar with the story, and the significance it has within the larger context of both the Jewish and Christian faiths alike. It is a ritual that reminds us of the captivity, bondage and saving grace of God. But I had missed parts of this story before as I dwelt in the meaning of the Passover within the confines of the story of Moses and the slaves.

Moses has just gotten Word directly from God. It’s a good word, but it’s also very specific in instruction. They are to go and bring a lamb into their home to slaughter. The blood is to be drained and then painted upon the doorposts and lintel of the home. This will save them from the destroying angel. They cannot leave their homes until morning. They were to share the story with their children, as they performed the ritual each year then. But nestled right after all these words is two sentences that have wrung me out…

So the people bowed down and worshiped. Then the Israelites went and did [this]; they did just as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.

After being given instructions to save their first born males, after being told specifically to paint in blood on their homes they accepted and submitted-worshiping God for His command. They fully accepted His word as truth, going forth in obedience and did. They didn’t argue, they didn’t wrestle with the decision, they didn’t try another way before giving in to that way as the answer.

\No, they are the picture of what God wants from us. When He speaks (and He does, we choose other things to hear many times) He desires for our hearts and minds to follow Him. That we would openly submit, worship, and obey. Until seeing that the Israelites worshiped in the midst of their obedience, I hadn’t thought of it being significant.

But it is y’all. Worshiping is submission and obedience too. It is giving God His glory back, pouring back our praise on Him for His goodness towards us, His love outpouring on us to guide us and lead us in every aspect of our lives. It’s saying we are lesser than, recognizing that He is greater….than any and every thing else. When we worship in our obedience, we are submitting to Him who we are and asking for Him to use us for whatever means and whatever ways.

When we accept obedience without pouting or fighting, we are praising Him for His sovereignty and goodness. We are faithfully obeying a God who will do whatever He needs to do in order to save us, and that to me is worth accepting and obeying all that He asks of me.