Unbroken

“Your King is coming to you.  

He’s gentle, riding on a donkey, on a colt,

a young pack animal.”

Matthew 21:5

Picture this:  Jesus is preparing to make a very public entrance into Jerusalem.  His fame has been mounting . . . crowds have  been growing . . . everyone was talking about Him, both fans and foes.  It seemed He was at the height of public attention and popularity.  Jerusalem was buzzing with the stories of this Prophet’s miracles and words. 

His chosen transportation for this grand entrance?   A donkey.  A young, unbroken donkey.  Everyone knew that trying to ride a young, unbroken donkey was downright dangerous.  Impossible! 

But Jesus was used to pulling the most unlikely into His work.  That donkey hadn’t been trained, or officially licensed, or most likely even considered for providing transportation for any person … much less a Prophet being lauded as a King!  The Messiah, no less!

Yet, at Jesus’ bidding, that’s what took place.  That young, unbroken donkey carried the King of Kings through the crowds of people waving palm branches, shouting “Hosanna!!”, all the way down the mountain slope and up to Jerusalem, where the Temple glistened in the sunshine.

Imagine, for a moment, that unbroken, young donkey’s experience.  It’s natural instinct would have been to go crazy and do whatever it could to escape the whole situation. . . including making it impossible for the rider to hang on.  

Has Jesus pulled you into service for Him in ways that seem to go against everything in you?

Have you experienced being “broken” in order for Him to use you for His Purposes?  Have you found yourself wading into groups of people who you find terrifying to be with?  You’re not “trained” for?  Hadn’t ever considered serving in the ways you’ve been commissioned to serve?

You feel totally out of your element?  You’re unqualified.  You always thought you’d spend your life doing basic, fairly familiar tasks. . . nothing even close to being in the spotlight with the King of all Kings.

Jesus left a trail of unqualified, uncertified, unexpected, and most unlikely humans in His time on earth.  And He continues to use people who have simply accepted His invitation to follow Him.  His closest circle while on earth included men and women, people who had been simply going about their rather ordinary lives.  But at His Invitation … His Choice, He pulls us near to Himself.  

In that closeness to Him, we become broken, and useful for His Purposes.  

Treasures of Darkness

“I will give you the 

Treasures

of darkness.”

Isaiah 45:3

The finest Lace is created in a dark room.  The intricate weaving of the fine threads takes place in a dark room. There is but one small window overhead through which the sun’s light beams onto the threads being delicately woven by hand.  Only the piece of lace emerging from the weaver’s fingers is illuminated.

There is a lot of darkness in life.  In the bigger picture, much of it is only momentary.  But there are those times . . . seasons . . . when the darkness seems to surround us.  We cannot see the path ahead.  We may not even be capable of seeing tomorrow.  We stumble over things on our way that we had not known were there.  We may not be aware of any others with whom we share the darkness.  The next step to take is not clear, and a sense of dread and fear begins to surround us, making its way into our thoughts . . . into our hearts.  

We long for some light.  We long to have a sense of ‘Where am I?”  “Where am I going?”   Fear begins its paralyzing work.

But God is there.  From the Beginning, He has brought His Light into our darkness.  It may seem like only a small flicker of Light, but it is enough to permeate the darkness, even if it seems but a little candle’s flame.  

When we find ourselves unexpectedly in darkness, the minutes seem to last longer.  Whatever we were doing slows or stops.  I stop.  Awareness of anyone else’s presence in the space becomes greater.  Interactions increase.  Focus changes.  

I’ll never forget sharing an elevator in a tall building with a deaf woman.  I barely knew her.  We had only nodded a simple acknowledgement to one another when we entered the elevator from the top floor.  The door closed, the descent began, …and all the power went out!  Elevator stopped.  Lights gone.  Utter blackness surrounded us.  And fear.  What was happening???    Then, her hand found mine, and we began fingerspelling into each other’s palms…Helen Keller style.  By the time the power returned, we’d made a very unexpected connection.  The moments of darkness created a moment of relationship.

The God of Light (“…in Whom there is no darkness…”) steps into our darkness and into our dark world, and “…then there is Light…”   The darkness makes us long for the Light.  

And He is there. . . intricately weaving the Threads that will create something very beautiful.

THAT Neighbor

“The commandments,  Never commit adultery; never murder; never steal; never have wrong desires;”  and every other commandment are summed up in this statement:  

                                 ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’

Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor. Therefore, love fulfills Moses’ teachings.”

Romans 13:9-10

She came riding up in a cloud of dust on her bicycle.  I’d never seen her before, and she was smokin’!   (Not a cigarette….it was more like coming out of her ears…)   I was new to the neighborhood, and wasn’t sure if this was a local custom of welcoming or what.  I greeted her with a smile and a friendly “Hello!”   She in turn, began shouting something about our chickens, her bird-feeder, and her sister’s dog.  Trying to push the image of the Wizard of Oz character on the bicycle out of my head, I gathered that our little brood of free-ranging chickens were visiting her birdfeeder each morning, scaring a small dog, and the rooster was announcing himself and his ladies far too early in the day.  

At the conclusion of her welcome-to-the-neighborhood speech, she climbed back onto her bicycle and disappeared into the cloud of dust from which she had come. (Heading to the house to report our ‘visitation’, I did give into the temptation to hum the little theme song from that bicycle scene in the movie.) 

It had been easy to “love the neighbor” directly next to us. So warm, friendly, hospitable.  But the Bike Lady was another thing.  

God doesn’t give exceptions to the Neighbor Rule.  In fact, that Rule sums up all of the Commandments and Moses’ teachings.  He provided a very basic practicum in living out all of those ageless Commandments. . . literally right next door.  

So next time you have a visitation from That Neighbor . . .  😉          

You get the Idea. . .     

Simple Faith

“If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree,

‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; 

And it would obey you.’”

Mark 11:22-23

While Jesus was here in human form, He often stopped to point out very simple realities of daily life.  He liked to challenge His close followers to believe God more than they did.  The miracles He showed them were done in His human form.  He didn’t “transform” into a different being, but remained in the human form in which He came to us.  He used practical things of life, and modeled to His followers what Faith and Trust in God could be and do.  There was a simplicity in His actions.  But Divine reactions took place.

When I was around 3 years old, my mama was laying on the living room couch and holding her ear, in obvious pain.  I remember her calling me over and, in tears, saying, “Honey, would you pray for Mama’s ear?  It hurts SO much!”  I put my hand on her “owie” and simply said, “Dear Jesus, please make my Mama’s ear get better….amen.”  She turned her head, looked at me, and said, “It’s gone!!   The pain is gone!  Jesus made it all better!  Thank You, Jesus!  Thank you, honey!” 

I went back to whatever I was playing with.  But I learned that day that I could ask Jesus for help, and that He would hear me.  He was there.  Pretty significant truths to get into my little heart.

There are so many examples in the Bible of Jesus’ interactions with nature and with people, and miracles that took place as a result.  He used an earthly simplicity that even a child could see and mimic.  It was another way that He stepped into our human reality and made a difference.  He demonstrated the possibilities.

But a Key piece of the picture lies in my (and your) own heart.  Do I believe Him?  Do I trust Him?  Whatever happens or does not happen . . . am I His?   

The Greatest Commandment

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, 

with all your mind, and with all your strength.

“The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. 

There is no other command greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31

I am curious as to why God’s Word [aka Jesus] lists four specific commandments, and then lumps the other 6 of the 10 into “every other commandment.”   Are those 4 the most common ones we break, or the ones most important to God?   I don’t know, but He sums up all of the rest into a command to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”   That is the simply stated bottom line.

God knows us SO well….He knows that we tend to analyze, dissect, and complicate everything.

And we look for “loopholes” that will get us out of hot water.  

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself” is as simple and basic as it gets.  We all have a neighbor on a practical level.  There’s always that “somebody” in our lives who is near enough to us that they can be an annoyance, irritation, or worse.  Even if you live miles away from the nearest neighbor, there’s always someone in our lives.

Maybe God chose the “neighbor” to keep these primary Commandments real and practical in our lives.   Not just “some nameless somebody out there” in our excuses.  God makes it clear that He cares about how we practice LOVE in everyday life, someone right next to us.  Up close.  Maybe it’s even in the “neighboring room” at home.  

God makes it as basic as it can get to obey His 10 Commandments…..LOVE the one nearest to us everyday, and measure how well you’re doing it by comparing that to how you love yourself…

Basic.  Practical.  All day long and through the night. Food. Water. Comfort. Rest.  Friendship.  

His Kindness and Mercy keeps it clear and simple in this complicated world we humans have created.

How are you doing?

Sharing

“I can guarantee this truth:  

‘Whoever doesn’t receive the kingdom of God as a little child receives it 

will never enter it.’”

Mark 10:15 & Luke 18:17

Much of my daily life involves children.  I have 12 grandchildren from the ages of 13 to 1 year.  And they’re all within a half hour’s drive from me, four even right on the other side of the door.   I learn a lot from them.  I see myself in them.  And I often get to see the world through their eyes.  

Jesus said that we have a lot to learn from children. . . a lot about His Kingdom.  He made enough statements about this, that at least two of His twelve wrote it down in the same way.  From His Divine Perspective, He modeled and spoke of this “child model” enough to have it echoed by both Mark and Luke.  

So how does one “receive the Kingdom of God” as a little child?  If you don’t live with any little child, invite yourself to somebody’s home who has one.  Even better, bring them something you know they’ll like….(you can ask their Mom or Dad for a suggestion.)  It needn’t have a “Kingdom-level” price-tag on it to bring smiles and joy.  

Then, sit up and watch the “receiving” experience.    Do they:

  • Analyze it
  • Evaluate it
  • Calculate it’s value
  • Study through all the tiny writing on the box
  • Cross-reference its value from multiple sources
  • Wait to see if something better is coming
  • Immediately hide it so nobody can touch it
  • Etc.
  • ?

One of the most memorable child-gifting experiences I ever witnessed was in the desert refugee camps where a big chunk of my heart is.  Toys are pieces of sticks, rusted chunks of metal, stones, … you get the idea.   One of our teammates had brought a brand new doll for her host family’s little girl.  She was so excited to see what was in the package that she enthusiastically tore it open.  As she pulled the pretty little doll from the box, she immediately jumped up with shrieks of joy, ran out of the tent and into the open waving the doll and shouting, “Look what WE got!!!  Look what WE got!!!” to all her little neighborhood friends.  And they came running . . . 

I suspect this may have been the kind of reaction to which Jesus  was referring when He repeatedly spoke to us of “receiving the Kingdom as a little child receives it . . .”   

His coming to this earth was His Gift  . . . His Kingdom in human form.  It wasn’t meant for us to hide it in a closet, keep it to ourselves, analyze it to death, or refer to it as something for ‘someday.’  His Kingdom is something we are already part of if He is our King.  So much of our world is waiting to hear . . . wondering . . . fearing, and trying to do life without Him. 

Live it!  Share it!  Announce to your world, “Look what we got!”

United Nations Fourth Committee*

The Question of Western Sahara

October 2021

Petitioner:  Janet Lenz

Honorary Saharawi Citizen

I was introduced to the Saharawi people in the refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria in 1999.  To say that they have changed my life is an understatement.  What I have experienced firsthand with the people in the camps has made it impossible to move through my days without the echo of their lives and words being ever present.

As we sit here today, in a clean, comfortable room, discussing their future, the Saharawi are likely in their tents, appreciating the cool, evening air.  Or perhaps circled around a small fire under the stars, quietly sharing news or stories of the day over their sweet, hot tea.. 

As we sit here in comfortable chairs with climate-controlled air, they are likely in their tents, on the ground, hopefully finding a reprieve from the day’s heat.  It’s the “month of the flies” now…adding to the scene.

We sit here today discussing their future with clean, bottled water to sip. The Saharawi are quenching their thirst with water collected from a neighborhood container from which all the neighbors had dipped their buckets to carry back to their tents.  

We made our individual journeys to this building, riding in vehicles that were clean and comfortable…streets paved and well-marked.  In the camps, walking through the sands with worn, open sandals or old boots is tough.  If a vehicle is available, it is likely old, and coated with sandy dust inside and out, its passengers jolting along because the shock-absorbers wore out long ago.  

As we sit here today discussing the present and future of the Saharawi people, there is

an array of delicious food outside the doors of this room.  Each of us has the freedom to choose whatever we like.  There will be plenty available.  We have the money in our pockets to buy and eat.  For most of us, it’s a part of life that we rarely have to think about.  But in the camps, couscous, rice and beans are the usual.  It’s cheap and can make the long desert journey in trucks to the refugee camps. 

We sit here wearing clothes and shoes of our choice. . .able to change our outfits easily.   In the camps,  clothes are shared, and often come in containers from far away places where they’d already been worn.

We came here today of our own free will, from states, cities, and nations where we chose to live.  The Saharawi dream of and desperately long for their rightful, beloved homeland, where their memories were created for generations.  It’s where the stories of their parents, grandparents, and their own memories originated.  It’s where their history was written.  

But it’s been taken from them.

As we sit here today, discussing the future of the Saharawi people….the Saharawi nation, they long for a seemingly impossible dream:  The ability to live freely in their own homeland, where their history took place…the land from which their family stories were passed down;  their homeland by the sea, the memories, traditions, and their history.  The older generation remembers the smell of the sea, the same ocean waters that touch the shoreline of this city.

We sit in this room today discussing “The Question of Western Sahara.”  For every Saharawi on this planet, in their heart of hearts, there is no “Question”  about it.  

                                    ASK THEM!  Give them the promised Referendum.

The Gate

Jesus emphasized, 

“I can guarantee this truth: 

I am the gate for the sheep.”   

John 10:7, 9-10

When you have sheep, you KNOW that you’d better have a good gate.  And a good fence.   And a really good pair of running boots.  

When my son and daughter-in-law decided that they wanted to raise a flock of sheep, I was thrilled.  I’d always been fascinated with all the references to sheep in the Bible, and had studied the passages about sheep / shepherds  more than any other single topic.  I read books about it, taught Bible Studies on the subject, and felt a strong connection to the stories of both sheep and shepherds throughout my life.  

But I had never lived with sheep.   That fact has changed.

We chose the breed of sheep we wanted . . . “Baby-Doll” . . . and went to check out a local flock, hoping to buy 2 or 3.   A deal was struck, and a delivery date set.  As the date drew near, the seller decided to include the rest of her small flock . . . 4 ewes.  The day before the delivery, we learned from the seller that her one ram had apparently been visiting the ladies each weekend while the owner went to church. . . they were all now expecting lambs.   And it wasn’t long until those little lambs began appearing.

What alerted us to the arrivals in the middle of the night, was a phone call from our neighbor, who had awakened to the sound of coyotes howling in our field.   A lamb had been born, and rejected by it’s mother.  The cry of the little lamb had drawn almost 20 coyotes in the night, encircling the small pen in our field.  Their eyes glowing, they began howling and closing in on the tiny, bleating cry of the rejected lamb.  My son hurried out in the dark to the small shelter where the tiny, rejected lamb was crying.  Looking at the glowing eyes of the hungry coyotes closing in on the shelter was chilling.  A rifle in one arm and the tiny lamb in the other, he brought the fragile little black lamb to our house, where she stayed for several weeks until she could join the ever-growing flock of now 17 sheep.

We had not been prepared for the almost daily additions of tiny lambs.  The glowing eyes and chilling howls of the predators would have been the doom of the lambs if it weren’t for the “Gate” of my son’s presence with our small flock out in the field that night.   Not only did the sheep need that Gate to secure them safely inside the shelter, but the predators encircling the little flock had to be kept out.  The defenseless ewes and lambs would have surely been devoured.

Our Good Shepherd, Jesus, stands between us and the Enemy of our Souls who  prowls about us in the shadows of night. Jesus stands as the Gate of our souls. The fact of the matter is that our only true defense is our Good Shepherd, no matter how hard we work to create our own sense of safety.   That is His promise to us, His sheep.   

“I  Lub You”

My little 3-year-old Thaddeus often comes for a “‘nuggle” with these words.  He can’t say his “v’s” yet. Nor “S’s”.  We ‘big people’ would tend to want him to practice his “v’s” and “s’s”,  but I honestly wouldn’t want him to change a thing right now.  It’s his unique way of expressing his heart to me…for me.

Does our Father in Heaven have similar thoughts about our flawed but sincere expressions of our love for Him?  Does He require  well-enunciated, dignified words when we address Him as His child?

I think not.

OVERFLOW

“You received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live as Christ’s people. 

Sink your roots in him and build on him. 

Be strengthened by the faith that you were taught, 

and overflow with thanksgiving.”      Col. 2:6-7

Can you remember an experience where something (or someone) ‘overflowed’ on you?  Maybe it was a good overflow . . . maybe it was a bad overflow.  Maybe you have overflowed at times.  Maybe you were able to enjoy the overflow.  Maybe you had to scramble to stop an overflow from creating damage (like when your upstairs overflowing tub starts creating a new design on your kitchen ceiling, only to find out that your kids thought it would be fun to cover up the overflow valve on the tub so they could scuba dive.)

Choosing to open our hearts to Christ Jesus begins a process that is meant to involve “overflow.” 

  • It begins with the personal choice to receive Him into my life. 
  • Then come the choices to live as His Own…as His person;
  • Sinking my “roots” into Him…going deeper by intention leads to
  • Building stronger . . . making Him your life’s solid Foundation;
  • He, with others along the way, teaches us things we did not know,
  • By which our faith is strengthened.
  • Then from that new Life growing within us comes a deep sense of gratitude…thanksgiving …. 
  • …To the One Who has Loved first.

I was 3 years old when I began to learn that Jesus loved me, and I opened my heart to Him.  That’s when it began for me, this life journey that has been filled with both the very good and the very bad.  I am so grateful that I had a foundational knowledge of the One Who loved me and has been with me throughout my whole life.  The words of this verse describe a life-long journey, with an outcome desperately needed by this world.

My hope and prayer is that those streams that have overflowed out of my life have left behind a touch of Jesus’ Presence.