Being His Hands and Feet

“The Messiah also suffered for you, 
leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 
 [as it is written in Isaiah 53:7]:  

“Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth;” 
and while being reviled, He did not revile in return;  
while suffering He uttered no threats, 
but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”   
1 Peter 2:21-23

I grew up hearing lots of sermons and Bible lessons about “being Jesus’ Hands and Feet” in this world.  Lots of examples of how to serve our families . . . neighbors . . . world, using our energy in Godly, practical ways.  The world can glimpse and taste the heart of Jesus through our lives.

But recently I have been taking a closer look at the stories of Jesus as He faced His own looming physical experiences of His human hands and feet  in going to the cross.  

It’s one thing to consider His hands and feet as He moved about on this earth:  Walking through the land of Israel . . . stony dirt roads that he traveled, visiting fishing villages around the Galilee, hostile towns in Samaria, or the annual trips from Nazareth to Jerusalem for festivals with his friends and family.  Stories of desert travel, navigating through hilly terrain along rocky, dusty paths, Jesus passed through villages, both friendly and not. He moved through the Land of Israel teaching about Life…Love…and His Father’s love and glory.  Seashores, mountains, desert, and unpaved, stony roads are the setting for so many stories of Jesus’ Words and miracles as well.  

Those stories inspire us to step out of our familiar routines and make time to interact with people in practical, caring ways.  Like Jesus did.

But I had never given much attention to the “hands and feet” accounts of what Jesus experienced  in the hours leading up to His death on the cross.   At least, not in the implications of how I may be Called upon to use my own hands and feet in ways that would physically hurt for the sake of others.   That’s a whole different level of “being His Hands and Feet” to my world.

Being inconvenienced to serve others is one thing.  But to go to the point of real physical discomfort or pain for the sake of others is not what is common in our practical experiences of following Jesus.  What He endured through His crucifixion, both before and during the Cross, is far beyond what we can imagine.  What His Hands and Feet went through was excruciating.  And beyond that, there was the lashing of His back, the huge thorns in His head, the psychological torment, and more.  The emotional torment of experiencing God’s “abandonment” throughout the whole physical torture would have been incredibly brutal in itself.  Extreme public humiliation was woven throughout His trauma.

It was all on our behalf.

The next time you sing a worship song about “being His Hands and Feet,” don’t take it lightly.  For the sake of our lost world, it may cost far more than simply “giving” and “going.”  

Are we willing to bear that?

Measuring with the Wrong Stick

“… Until we all come unto the measure

of the stature

of the fullness of Christ.”

Ephesians 4:13

I have a friend who is from a different country, but lives here in the US.   He owns property in his homeland, and still loves to return there for time with family and friends…lots of good memories.  

With his repeated visits to his homeland, he decided to build a house as an investment as well as for his own use when visiting there.  But he did most of the decision-making concerning the new building via telephone with his contractor.  He had his plans drawn out and sent to his builder.   But there was one detail that they both missed, because they were each using the measuring system with which they were each most familiar.  For the builder, it was in metric.  For my friend, it was feet and inches.  Not the same!

Because the systems of measure of each man was such an assumed, usual daily practice, it was never mentioned that one was thinking in metric, while the other was thinking feet and inches.  

When my friend went to see his new house for the first time, he was shocked to find that it was a very large house….far bigger than he had planned and expected!   They had used common numbers, but the values of the measuring system of each was very different.  They’d both made their own plans using their own measuring system, never realizing they were entirely different systems.  Everything had been built according to the plan.  But the end result was NOT!

We all tend to measure the realities of our lives according to the measurements used by our own little world.  We may silently compare our own life details with those of others . . . our looks, our homes, our children, our spouses, our jobs, our income, and even our spirituality.  But we don’t realize that we are “measuring” all of those things with our own system of measurement.  We’ve learned to assess values, sizes, talents, and lives according to our own frames of references . . . our own experiences in life.  We believe that our “measuring system” is true and common to everyone around us.

But we’re not using the correct measuring tool.  We’re just using our own device, or the measuring devices used by the people of our personal world.

The only True Measure is God’s. . . the Creator of All.   If we miss that foundational fact, we’re making constant mistakes concerning what should be.   

God, the Creator of All that exists, laid out tons of measurements for His Creation to follow . . . concerning the realities of this Earth, and the human race and how it was intended to work.  When we turn away from His Measuring Rod – His One Absolute, and begin using a different system, everything goes awry.  All that was Planned comes out way off from the Plan. . . relationships, homes, families . . . the Earth itself.

Our only True Measure is Christ Himself.  

What measures are you using?    

In My Father’s House

“In My Father’s House are many rooms.  

If that were not true, 

would I have told you that I’m going to  

prepare a place for you?”

John 14:2

She had come toddling down the long hallway to my door, climbed up the big step and grabbed my hand.  I didn’t know what the little blue-eyed munchkin had in mind, but she was clearly on a mission.  She determinedly pulled me to my own great-grandmother’s rocking chair, patted the seat, and made it clear that I was to sit down.  Then, snuggling onto my lap, we had a little “rock-rock” together.  It wasn’t very long, but it was oh! So sweet!  Unplanned, unscheduled, just a minute . . . but it was a delightful way to begin my day.

And I wondered . . . 

Does Jesus get those heartwarming moments with me?  Does He delight in my moments of pursuing time with Him?  Just a simple closeness in the midst of my busy day?  My hand grabbing His Finger, patting the rocking chair seat, and simply crawling onto His Lap while He holds me?  As He pulls me close, near to His Heart, is it warmed by our quiet moment together?  Does He wish it could last longer?  

Jesus knew in those “last supper” moments with His nearest Followers that His Time with them was drawing to a close.  He would soon make the ultimate Sacrifice to secure our eternity with Him in His Father’s House.  

As a groom prepared the new home for his bride, as part of the home of his own father, 

Jesus knew the Sacrificial Work it would require, all for us, His Bride.  He knew the details of the Work He was about to carry out.  He knew the pain involved, as the Roman crucifixions were a common sight along the roads outside of Jerusalem.  

Yet, fully knowing the Price He would pay on our behalf, He chose to lay down His own life to secure our Home with Him in Heaven. . . in His Father’s House. 

May my heart draw near to Him, choose to be close to Him in many moments throughout my day.  May my hand reach out for His, and hold tightly to the Finger of God.  

    Not Alone

“The Lord your God is with you,

    the Mighty Warrior who saves.

He will take great delight in you;

    in His love He will no longer rebuke you,

    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Often,  when we are in the middle of doing something that we feel God has put in our hearts to do, doubts and whispers of discouragement come. . . seemingly out of nowhere.  A shadow begins to creep into your mind, bringing a sense of doubt about whatever step of obedience you are taking.  

As I write this, I am in the Sahara Desert, in a huge refugee camp that has existed here, waiting for justice, since the 1970’s.  It’s very challenging to be here, in every way.  As I read the words of Zephaniah this morning, they took on far greater meaning than ever before.

First, he addresses the feeling of being all alone.  Prophets were often literally all alone as they moved about announcing things that most people didn’t want to hear!  They led lonely lives. Imagine what it would be like to live with someone who was always getting Messages that no one else was hearing, and they were usually not messages anyone wanted to hear. . . bad news that shook  people who were on a wrong path, or warnings of coming judgment, or maybe messages that would describe the listener’s own demise.   Thankfully, my words are of Good News, and I am being loved well here!

The Enemy of our Souls loves nothing more than to mess with our emotions, thoughts, circumstances, and relationships, especially when we are determined to obey what He has asked us to do.  When our obedience ‘rocks the boat’ of people in our lives. . . people we want to please. . . people whose opinions really matter to us, it’s particularly stressful.  We need to know that God is with us.  

Look at Zephaniah’s list of the ways God showed him He is with us:  

  • “Mighty Warrior who saves”;  on the field, fighting the Battles alongside us, and saving us;
  • “He takes great delight in you!”   You bring a smile to His face…JOY in watching you do what He has asked, like a proud Daddy watching His child obeying Him, even when it’s hard.
  • Loving Words are spoken . . . not scolding or critiquing, as He sees you doing as He has asked;
  • Like a proud Father, He demonstrates His joy and delight as He watches you doing what He has told you to do, even when it’s hard.  He cheers you on…not taking His Eyes off of you as He watches you “go!”

Knowing that the Lord our God is with you . . . 

                                                         to Save you . . .

                                                                Delighted in you . . .

                                                                         Loving you without criticism. . . 

                                                                               Singing with joy over you.

That’s the image of God I want to keep in my mind and heart . . . especially in my “deserts of life”, . . . especially when the shadows come!

The Gift of Washed Feet

“Jesus loved His own who were in the world, and He loved them to the end.

… He got up from the table, … took a towel and tied it around His waist.  

Then He poured water into a basin 

and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel.”

John 13:3-5

It was July, and our travel thermometer read 130 F.  Unbelievable desert heat was taking a toll on our team of Wisconsinites, whose home state rarely breaks 100 in the summertime.  I had been bumping around in a tough old truck, having meetings and checking on the children’s programs our team was involved with in the Saharawi refugee camps.   Afternoon “siestas” were an absolute necessity, as our cool-weather team struggled to find any relief.

I had gone into a tent, leaned back on a pillow, and the next thing I realized was that someone was gently washing my feet, one at a time,  in a basin of water.  It was like floating in a dream.  One of our team ladies was on her knees, silently pouring water over my dusty, dry feet over a basin,  wiping away the fine sand that seemed to find its way into everything…even closed suitcases.  

I gently came out of the dream, wishing  I could have stayed there all day!  

The experience communicated care, love, tenderness . . . all in a simple, very practical act.  Walking around in a desert includes sand getting into everything…hair, ears, eyes, teeth . . . and every piece of fabric you are wearing.  So, washing someone’s feet includes addressing a very practical need, but also the tender, personal care given.

In a moment that Jesus knew would be His last personal time with His closest inner circle of friends, Jesus washed their feet.  This could have easily taken an hour or more, going friend to friend.  On His knees, His Hands would have taken their sand-weathered feet, one at a time, bringing each into the basin of water He placed before each man.  Rubbing away the tiny grains of sand that seems to find its way into every crevice and pore takes time.  With a gentle massaging motion, the clean water becomes cloudy as the sand loses its grip on the skin and nails.  The repeated changing of the water for each person adds to the unhurried time spent together.  There is time to speak with each other as the harshness of the earth slowly floats to the bottom of the bowl, and the refreshing sense of being cleaned and soothed by someone who has been on their knees, the position of a servant before you, leaves a lingering experience of the sweet, humble, personal care of a friend.

Jesus knew exactly what lay before Him in the coming hours.  He knew that this would be the last time they would share the Passover Meal together.  The circle of friends did not know what He was facing in the coming hours and days.  He chose to take the time to be with His twelve. . . to model very personally what He wanted them to be like as they carried on without His physical presence.  

Have you allowed Him to wash your feet?  Can you sit still long enough to let Him sit with you?  Look into each other’s eyes?  Can you allow Him to see, and wash away the things that cling to you as a result of where you’ve walked?  Can you accept His loving care for you . . . or are  you too embarrassed or ashamed to let Him come that close to the life you’ve been walking through?  Can you accept that His Purpose is to share His Table with you, having washed away all that Life has held, and held onto you?

You are invited.

A Little Glimpse

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, 

and I will give you rest.”    Matthew 11:28

Is this a bit of what it’s like for You, God?   We’re Your children, Your busy babies.  So very busy exploring, touching, tasting, rarely pausing for a bigger picture than what is immediately at hand.

But soon something happens that gets in our way, blocks or stops us from what we were after.  We get frustrated . . . mad. 

We start to cry.  Then wail.   All we can feel is our frustration at not getting what we wanted.

But, loving Father that You are, You pick us up, wrapping Your Arms around us, and hold us close.  We feel immobilized. . . blocked.  Stuck.   

In reality, we’re being held in Your Arms.   Arms of love.  Near to Your Heart.  Snatched away from what we’d set our eyes on.  Away from what we wanted.  It takes a while to begin to stop fighting.  We only see restraint.  A barrier.  Watching what we wanted going out of our sight…out of our reach.   We try to pull free.  Sometimes with a lot of crying.  

But You see an over-tired child of Yours.  A child You love, and know that a nap is needed.  We struggle against Your strong arms of love wrapped around us.  You are unrelenting.  And we complain . . . and cry.   

After a while, Your child’s complaints begin to quiet.  The struggle to be freed weakens, and we begin to relax in Your strong Arms.  The weary little head begins to rest on Your chest.  Near to Your heart.  

Peace comes.

And at last, sweet rest.  Sleep.   

And you smile.

Thank You, Father, for loving us enough to make us rest.

Removing the Stone

“Deeply moved again, Jesus went to the tomb.

It was a cave with a stone covering the entrance.

Jesus said, 

‘Take the stone away.’”

There was a dead person behind that stone…a dear friend.  Jesus cared deeply…He wept.  But He also saw life for the dead one lying behind that stone.  And He was the One who could bring life again.

I think we’ve all probably experienced a major stone in life.  We’ve gone through something that caused  a part of our heart to die.  We couldn’t fix it.  We couldn’t heal it ourselves.  So we sealed it up and pushed a big old stone in its way, so that we wouldn’t have to see it, or feel the pain again.  We had to move on with life, somehow.

But there is One who knew not only of the “death” we experienced, but grieved with us.  Although He could have stepped in and prevented it, or “fixed it” before it was too late, He didn’t.

He allowed it to play out in our lives.  And He grieved with us.

But, as in this story of the death of His friend Lazarus, it wasn’t the end of the story.  Although it seemed to be the end, seemed to be too late…it wasn’t.  He came.  He grieved along with those who had suffered such a great loss.  He spoke words of love, kindness, and understanding.  And He wept.

But then, He gave a directive to “move the stone” that stood between those who were grieving the death, and the death itself.  It couldn’t have been easy.  Those big old tomb stones weren’t meant to be moved.  They were meant to be a permanent seal to prevent anyone from passing into the place of death.  The idea of the dead one ever coming out was not even a thought.

We all have experienced “death” . . . whether of a loved one or of places in our own hearts that were too painful to bear.  In our attempts to protect ourselves from the loss, the pain, and the finality, we have sealed up that big old open wound with a stone that will be quite impossible for us to move on our own.  

There is only One who can command the stone to be moved.  Only One has the Love and Power to bring Life out of the decaying remains of Death.  Only One has Heaven’s Authority to regenerate a dead heart . . . and to create a new heart in the human life.  Only One can give a dead soul, new Life.  Hope.  Peace. And even Joy.  He experienced the sadness that makes us weep.  He experienced death itself.

Whatever “stone” has come to your heart is not too much for Him.  He may pull in others to help with moving that stone.  But He is right there, and is the One Who can bring new life that awaits on the other side of that stone.

That Shining Moment

“Mary said,

‘My soul praises the Lord’s greatness!

My spirit finds its joy in God, 

my Savior!’ ”

Luke 1:46-48

When you look at the spectrum of your own life, what would you say was your “shining moment?”  What was that moment in time when you had a sense that what you were experiencing was extraordinary . . . unexpected, meaningful . . . probably life-altering in some way?  You sensed that this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.  Perhaps it was a literal moment, or a season in your life.  

Mary’s words erupted from her deepest place when she realized that the Messiah was coming, and that she would be the one to literally bring Him into this world.  Her words were an echo of another ancient mother, Hannah, who had also experienced a miraculous pregnancy and birth, that of the great prophet, Samuel.  

Mary and Hannah had been written into God’s Story as it has unfolded on this earth.  Their “shining moments” were specific to physically bringing two Divinely-appointed babies into the world.  Both sons’ lives  would impact their world and history itself.  

But what comes after the “shining moment” in life?  Do we try to hold on to it?  Make it last?

Mary’s life continued, with all of the realities of raising, caring for, teaching, and nurturing her son.  She was often there, but not in the spotlight.  Her quiet presence was noted many times.  Many significant moments she still shared with her Son, including His death, but those times were only an echo of her role of giving birth to Him.  From what we read of those events, she was a gentle presence.

How do you handle the after of your “Moment?”  Do you try to keep it alive?  Do you focus on what was?  Do you try to re-create it, or perhaps attempt to orchestrate a new Moment?

Or, can you let your “soul praise the Lord’s greatness,” not looking for personal recognition of how He has used your life?. . .  Can you let your “spirit find its joy in God, your Savior.”   Can His work and pleasure be enough reason to praise Him for what He’s done in and through you?  Or do you long for on-going praises from people?  Whatever He did through you was a way of showing Himself to others.  That kind of Revelation is what will stick with people, and hopefully inspire them to cooperate with God in however He chooses to use them.  Treasure your shining Moment…or Moments…but move forward praising Him, knowing His Ways are perfect, and He welcomes imperfect people to join Him along the way.

Better Than Laughter

“Sorrow is better than laughter,

Because a sad face is good for the heart.”

Ecclesiastes 7:3

This is NOT my favorite verse!   I’d much prefer beginning my day with a happy verse that can set me on my way to a happy day of sunshine and little happy birds flitting and twittering in my garden.  It’s January, very cold (-10 F), and I will have to go out there soon.  Not only that, but the new COVID strain is at its height where I live.  

So, here is the verse with which I begin this day.  It is part of a long list of verses that have a similar message.  Honestly, I’d prefer to crawl back into my warm, comfy bed and sleep until April.

BUT, I know these words are absolutely true, whether I like them or not.  Sorrow has become a part of my life, especially in the past five years.  Its entrance was part of drastic changes to every aspect of the life I’d been living.  And it’s made me have to hold to God more tightly, see Him more clearly, and know Him more deeply.

Picture a garden that has produced a lot of vegetables over the years.  It’s been happy, and fruitful.  At a certain time, the gardener decides it is necessary to plow up all the ground, exposing the rich earth below the surface.  The surface ground needs to rest and mix with the rich, deeper soil for a season.  A plow with sharp blades begins cutting into the garden’s soil, churning up the richer soil below.  It’s turned upside-down, now exposed to the sunshine and rain (and snow!) that will become part of its new season.  

Does the churned-up soil freak out?   Try to get back to where it’s been?  Get mad at the gardener?   Run from the big blade?  

No.  Sorrow is the tool that moves the ground in a way that the seeds that are planted will grow stronger, richer, and more healthy to provide the nourishment for those who will be fed from its fruits.  The intentions and purposes behind the process of the Gardener are all good.  The sorrow and the pain of this part of the process will bring about all good things in their season.  

So wait . . . because good things are to come.


Simeon’s Moment

“Then Simeon took the Child in his arms and praised God by saying,

 ‘Now, Lord, You are allowing Your servant to leave in peace as You promised. 

My eyes have seen Your salvation, 

which You have prepared for all people to see. 

He is a light that will reveal salvation to the nations 

and bring glory to Your people Israel.’ ”

Luke 2:28-32

One of the most treasured pieces of art on my wall is a picture of old Simeon, the priest in the Temple who held the tiny newborn named Jesus in his arms as he spoke the ancient words of dedication to God of God’s own Son.  It was the first picture on the wall of my little cottage home, and has the place of honor.

Why does it speak to my soul so deeply?   

Maybe it’s seeing the aged, weathered old man holding the tiny little baby boy, tears of unspeakable joy flowing down his cheeks as he recognizes Who this Baby is;

Maybe it’s the tiny, black-haired infant snuggled against the heart beating inside this old Man of God’s chest . . . he had been waiting his entire life with the impossible Hope of seeing his Messiah with his own eyes.  He could never have imagined holding Him in his arms;

Maybe it’s the subtle outline of the continents of the world woven within the fabric of the old priest’s robe…as the whole world continues to wait, largely without the awareness of what . . . WHO . . . they are waiting for;

Maybe it’s the deep awareness that this Baby Boy had come in the most fragile human state . . . for the sake of the whole world, for all of Time;

Or is it the gratitude that wells up in this old heart of mine for drawing my heart to His when I was just a small girl. 

With the deepest gratitude, I know the One for Whom I wait.  Now it’s just a matter of when I will see His Face, and run into His Arms.