Resurrection: Just the Right Time

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But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise. Luke 24:1-7 


Remember how He told you?

Remember when He was walking the familiar, interacting with your world, He got very transparent and told you the horror that would unfold…

… and the victory we’d see over the unraveling and rebellion and grief?

It was all true. He was harmed for our infractions, tortured for our choices, pierced because we kept running away.

The path. The story. The game. The cross. The curtain. The tomb.

He walked the path to his execution… and told the story of another world… and embraced the criminal on the other cross while gasping for His own breath. He became the Mediator, ripping that temple curtain once and for all… and then lay abandoned in the earth and stone He Himself created before the start of time.

There is one God and one Mediator between God and us—the man Jesus, God’s Anointed,
Who gave His life as a ransom for all so that we might have freedomThe testimony was given to me at just the right time.  Timothy 2:5-6

Are you with me this Easter Sunday? Are you hearing this testimony, this message of freedom, “at just the right time?”

You may be like Simon of Cyrene, bravely trying to start a new chapter in life. Maybe you’re the nameless women, overlooked and grasping for redemption in the wrong places. Or maybe you’re hiding your fear with arrogance, trivializing your pain like the soldiers. Are you void of purpose like the thief on the cross, alone in your poor choices and lacking any hope of restoration? Or like the centurion, you may be seeing truth for the first time ever and feel like it’s too late. Maybe you’re collapsed in grief, confused at how your life’s unfolded like Christ’s followers the night they placed Him in a tomb.

Friend, this ransom, this freedom, is for you, and it comes at just the right time.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

Why do you keep trying to start over one more time? Why do you hope in only what you can see? Why do you cover up your pain? Why do you sit paralyzed, stagnant, thinking you’re beyond redemption? Why have you left the table, convinced it’s too late to join the conversation? Why do you sit defeated because you’re not in control?

The answers are not there. No, He has triumphed over all of your grasping. “He is not here, but has risen… so that we might have freedom.”

Ah yes, this testimony, this truth, “comes at just the right time.” Go worship.

Happy Easter.

photo source | Blake Richard Verdoorn

A Time to Speak

prophet“And now, Lord, take note of their intimidations intended to silence us. Grant us, Your servants, the courageous confidence we need to go ahead and proclaim Your message while you reach out Your hand to heal people…” Acts 4:29,30

I get confused sometimes.

My heart pounds with empathy as suffering weeps in silence. I reach out to touch the wound that’s not mine to touch. And my fingers linger on the scar as I long for healing to flow forth.

The job of Savior is already taken. 

And I get intimidated sometimes.

Responding to hurt and binding up wounds is often easier than opening up my mouth to proclaim abrasive truth.

Do you follow? I want to be the healer instead of the prophet.

“Christan, you need to stop bringing home your clients’ angst,” a friend told me, the social worker hoping to save my corner of the world. Years ago, I had a 14 year-old client whose story came home with me everyday… whose fragments felt like my own brokenness, for I tried to piece them together in my mind all night long. I stayed awake night after night thinking and pondering and carrying a shame that wasn’t mine to hold. I still think of her.


“Is now the time, Lord — the time when You will reestablish Your kingdom in our land?” (Acts 1:6) Fresh from witnessing the resurrection, Christ’s friends were still feeling oppressed… still feeling taken advantage of… still wanting a political hero to rescue them from Rome… still full of fear at what they might find just around the corner.

Have you waited incredibly long to be rescued?
Have you yearned and longed while injustice rips through the flag of freedom over and over, tearing it to shreds?

“Here’s the knowledge you need: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you will be my witnesses, first here in Jerusalem, then beyond to Judea and Samaria, and finally to the farthest places on earth.” Acts 1:7-9

You will speak and reflect Me among what’s familiar
…and among people and cultures just a tad bit different
…and with those whom you fear and scorn and judge
…and with those you’ve never even thought of before.
That’s what you need to know for now.
You’ll open your mouth.
You’ll speak truth without fearing what others think.
You’ll boldly proclaim My love for those right in front of you,
for those that don’t look like you, for those who make decisions you would never make, and for those you’ve forgotten about. (Acts 1:7-9 paraphrase)

“You will speak, and I will heal,” says the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

Oh. But I want to do the healing. I want to bind up the wounds and see brokenness transform before my eyes. I want to do something meaningful, and healing seems significant.

But the job of Savior is already taken.


Again…
“And now, Lord, take note of their intimidations intended to silence us. Grant us, Your servants, the courageous confidence we need to go ahead and proclaim Your message while you reach out Your hand to heal people…” Acts 4:29,30

I see the accusers pointing at me. I see their hate …and confusion …and fear. Everyone has a story that’s led them to today. But I will proclaim what’s real without intimidation. I will not wait in silence. I will open up my mouth and exchange shame for courage and proclaim a Gospel-driven message of love and wholeness. For now, I will speak.

And I’ll watch my Savior reach out His hand to heal those I love. I’ll see His hand with that deep, deep scar cover the wound. I’ll see Him touch the scars and bring a restoration I never could.

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

 

photo source | john sting, portugal

4 Ways to Uproot Bias

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It was quite a year: 2016 forced us to consider the refugee crisis… the #BlackLivesMatter movement… kneeling during the national anthem… a polarizing, words-heavy presidential campaign season. Yes, we saw numerous headlines forcing us into self-reflection, sometimes catching us off-guard, and we’re still reading similar headlines. What are our gut reactions to the latest stories? How did we get those opinions, and how did we get so confident in our views?

How did we get so… biased?

Five years ago, I conducted an interview with an African American woman on racism, and she kept redirecting the dialogue toward stereotyping. I’m finally beginning to understand why.

It’s getting near impossible to ignore our biases — those thoughts many of us ignore yet are influenced by daily. Current events shine a light on our thought patterns. It’s uncomfortable, for when news stories call us to sort through our own perceptions of people groups, we come face to face with the ugliness of our hearts.

So what do we do about it? We know we were made to live in community, and we want to. But stereotyping and silent prejudices have us facing the highest of relational walls. How do we uproot biases that have been lodged discreetly (and not so discreetly) in our hearts?

I’m clearly not an expert, and I’m stumbling along, but Scripture is full of guidance. Verse after verse, story after story, we see our Rescuer’s heart and His value of community, unity, the marginalized, the oppressed, and misunderstood people groups.

The apostle Peter, surprisingly, has a lot of relational advice. The man who betrayed his friend, Jesus, and then hid when it really mattered, eventually drank from the cup of forgiveness and grace. (John 18, John 21)

But time often has a way of bringing back our self-protective patterns. And Peter, the guy with the flaring temper and abrasive personality, is openly prejudice as he tries to lead the first century Church. We see him excluding people because of their race and refusing to eat with anyone who doesn’t share his ethnicity. (John 18, Galatians 2)

In true redemptive fashion, God pursues and restores him again, transforming Peter into an advocate for healthy relationships. The one who was an open racist is now giving advice on how to get along with others.

Our Redeemer can do the same transformation for us today. Sure, you may not prohibit someone of a different race from eating with you in the office cafeteria, but are you judging her and feeling superior as you eat together? Where do your thoughts jump when you pass a young man dressed differently than you? In a matter of seconds, we can make judgment calls on someone’s intelligence, value, and worth, all while feeling better about ourselves.

Here are some principles on how to uproot bias in our hearts — even when it’s in there deep.

Bravely Enter into Self-Examination
When we hear about injustice and oppression in our community, we often want to do something. I have been challenged over and over by others lately to first look inward. Sometimes it’s easier to join a movement of mercy or establish a cause for justice than to examine your own heart.

“Get yourselves ready, prepare your minds to act, control yourselves, and look forward in hope as you focus on the grace that comes when Jesus the Anointed returns and is completely revealed to you… Put aside the desires you used to pursue when you didn’t know better.” I Peter 1:13-14 

Choose to engage in self-reflection as you search your mind and heart. Get ready for what you’re about to find. But don’t stop there. Look forward in hope to the grace that’s available to you.

A few questions to ask yourself:
What stereotypes and biases have I been entertaining?
What do I assume about certain people before we’re even introduced?
Why am I scared to self-examine?

Discover What’s Been Missing from Your Narrative
While intentional steps are needed to move forward in combating our bias, it’s worth pausing and figuring out what got us here. What’s your story? What were you not told in childhood textbooks? Were photos of different races missing in articles you read throughout high school and college? From TV shows to history lessons and everything in between, sometimes what’s missing from the narrative imprints our hearts as much as the noise.

“You know that a price was paid to redeem you from following the empty ways handed on to you by your ancestors; it was not paid with things that perish (like silver and gold), but with the precious blood of the Anointed.” I Peter 1: 18-19

Peter urges his readers to remember that the blood of Christ shed on the cross — the heart of the Gospel story — can cover the “empty ways” passed down, which includes our ignorance. Once you see, you cannot un-see. And God graciously restores our ability to live in community as He reveals what has been missing from our life’s narrative.

Be in Relationship with Those Different From You
“Live as those who are free… Respect everyone. Love the community of believers…” I Peter 2:16-17

When we develop friendships with those who are different from us, our view of other races and cultures expand. We still see color, for our creative God has proven His love for diversity in the creation of humans and the physical world. But our stereotypes of others don’t have as much power over us when we’re in relationship with people who represent various histories, values, and customs. Instead of “that Asian woman”, I now see a woman that reminds me of a friend. Instead of “that black man”, I remember the seminary student in my small group. Instead of “that poor white guy”, I think of the man who is a greeter at my church.

Relationships turn people into people instead of just members of a larger group.

Crave Truth
Be hungry to learn more. The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. Peter describes it like moving from infancy to maturity:

Be like newborn babies, crying out for spiritual milk that will help you grow into salvation if you have tasted and found the Lord to be good.” I Peter 2:2-3

When we wrap our minds and hearts in humility, when we listen to learn and not refute, truth will prevail. As we enter into the tension of what we’ve always believed to be true compared to new discoveries God is revealing, we can thank Him for stretching us into the community He intended.

Self-exploration and discovery are uncomfortable, but growth is often preceded by discomfort. Listen first as God reads your heart back to you. And then relying on His forgiveness and mercy, move toward relationships and advocate for truth like you never have before.

photo credit | patrick tomasso

The Aching Orphan

In honor of World Orphans Day, November 14, 2016…

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The Jesus Storybook Bible was given to my children long ago before their questions were as big as they are now. I read it to them, hoping truth would etch their hearts – enough truth to carry them through middle school and high school with all its drama and doubts and failures.

But it became a love story for me, shouting on some days but usually whispering until streams spilled out of my eyes as we read the last lines of each entry. The Jesus Storybook Bible remains one of the biggest influences in helping me understand the Gospel. Oh, I had known it for years, but this amazing work helped me grasp God’s love for me like never before.

One day I stumbled upon this random picture on Facebook. A boy was holding our Bible.

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Study it. See the orphan. See him tucked in a boring mosaic of mass-produced decorating, locked in a pattern of sameness.

See his name taped to his bed, identifying the only space he calls his own. Known to no one. But not really.

See his hands holding the Love Story of all time. 

Maybe he’s been in an orphanage his whole life and can’t know what he’s missing. Maybe he doesn’t grasp how alone he truly is because he’s never known what it’s like to be a son.  But still, he’s human, and our hearts are created to ache until we give them to Someone, until we surrender to the Rescue Plan.

And His heart just might not ache anymore. The boy, he holds the key to an eternity of being known. An eternity of being Someone’s son.

Hidden to the world by a sea of yellow blankets and identical headboards, the Maker knows his name. And as His heart spills over with love for the boy, God defines his worth different than culture and society.

The Maker, He knows my name, too, as I hide among houses that look the same from the sky. As I spin and race and keep searching for a life of meaning. Yes, He knows my name even when I forget to turn my face to Him. Even when I forget to open His Love Story and read it again.

God sees the boy and me both, made to love Him back. Regardless of how alone and forgotten I feel, regardless of how I stumble awkwardly trying to live in community — by believing I was made for a different world, I can truly live in this one.

Are you stuck in a pattern of sameness? Pacing through the status quo?
Are you convinced you lack significance? Lack a life of meaning?
Have you wondered so long you don’t realize the fullness you’ve missed?

Friend, turn and stare your ache right in the face. Run to it. Wrestle with it. Thank God for the boring routines. Hand your loneliness to Him as an offering. The ache is a gift, for He’s telling you there’s more. Telling you that He’s more.

It’s only in giving our hearts to Someone that the ache will be forever healed. Forever satisfied.


You have the fountain of life that quenches our thirst. Your light has opened our eyes and awakened our souls. Psalm 36:9

The Spirit you have received adopts you and welcomes you into God’s own family. That’s why we call out to Him, “Abba! Father!” as we would address a loving daddy. Through that prayer, God’s Spirit confirms in our spirits that we are His children.  Romans 8:15-16

#WhatADoctorLooksLike

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167 reactions. 109 comments. 109 comments! It’s quite a response for a woman’s mid-day, quick Facebook post at work.

She could have referenced an experience from a college class she teaches. Or what it was like to be the speaker at a Breast Cancer Awareness Tea. Or treating patients here in St. Louis. Or how she goes about mentoring medical students. Or her recent submission for the medical column of a local paper. Or her fairly recent, annual medical missions trip to Malawi.

But no. Dr. Hooks-Anderson didn’t pause to tell her Facebook friends about good news. Instead, she wrote:

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Dr. Hooks-Anderson is African American. And despite all she has accomplished and how much she is respected, this was still her reality on Tuesday.

What do you say? No, really — what do you say when you’re white?

I first met Denise when she and her husband applied to our school for their daughter. The Director of Admissions at the time, I asked to hear their story of why they wanted to send their little girl to our community. I should have asked them why they trusted us to educate and care for their daughter.

When I read Denise’s post on Tuesday, I wasn’t yet aware of the Delta story. But I’m aware now as I’ve viewed countless #WhatADoctorLooksLike posts swirling around social media. I hope more swirl around and take the world by storm…

rain

…Because when it rains, we pay attention. When it storms, we pause and plan before going about our normal routines. We’re more prone to contemplation when the world shields itself from torrents and the weather has halted our plans. We’re less distracted. We’re more focused.

Sometimes we think a little too much, but maybe that’s not a bad thing in this case. For eventually in our pausing and contemplation, we realize it’s not so much about what we think about bias and stereotyping but how our thoughts materialize into behavior.

What do we find when we pause and bravely engage in self-reflection? What is there to discover when we examine our own hearts?  What makes us assume something about a person before introducing ourselves?

Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am.
    Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain.
Examine me to see if there is an evil bone in me,
    and guide me down Your path forever. Psalm 139:23-24

While intentional steps are needed to move forward in combating our bias, it’s worth pausing and figuring out what got us here. What’s your story? What were you not told in childhood textbooks? What images were missing in articles you read throughout high school and college? Sometimes what’s missing from the narrative imprints our hearts as much as the noise.

Self-exploration and deep digging and discovery are uncomfortable. But growth is always preceded by discomfort.

We’re a culture that wants to say and do something. Maybe our doing is listening as God reads our hearts back to us. We’ll cringe. We’ll deny. We’ll make excuses and point to those who are “worse” than us. But eventually, soaked with God’s grace and tenderness, we’ll shake our heads in shame and boldly surrender to the truth.

 Like a devoted gardener, I will pour sweet water on parched land,
        streams on hard-packed ground;
 I will pour My spirit on your children and grandchildren—
        and let My blessing flow to your descendants.
And they will sprout among the grasses, grow vibrant and tall

        like the willow trees lining a riverbank.
One will call out: “I belong to the Eternal.” Isaiah 44:3-5

He comes every time. The Devoted Gardner comes and restores and then invites us to join Him in the restoring. He transforms the storm we once feared into cisterns of self-discovery and streams of humility. He pours out His Spirit and grows us up into change-agents whose love is a reflection of His own love for mankind.

Might we say, “I belong to the Lord” and have people believe us.

So what does a doctor look like? One of them looks like this:

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photo source | mario calvo