Once upon a time.
This is how a parable begins.
We hear once upon a time and when it comes from Jesus, we listen for morals and look for lessons of what we should do.
Once upon a time there was a steward. A steward who was accused and then fired. A steward who then set out to cheat his master in order to protect himself.
This steward brought in all of his master’s debtors and reduced each one’s debt, thus stealing from his master but incurring debts of gratitude for himself.
Once upon a time there was a steward who was then praised by his master for having the prudence to care for himself.
It is bothersome and uncomfortable, this steward who is commended for being unjust. It is not what we expect from Jesus. It is not the moral lesson of selfless service we presume that Jesus will teach.
The moral seems to be, instead, that we should cheat our master.
This looks so out of character that we try to explain it some other way. We search for ways around it and try to find sermons to explain it away.
Yet what if the moral is as it appears? What if the moral truly is cheat your master? How could this possibly be a directive from Jesus?
What changes it all, what turns everything on its head (which Jesus is prone to do) is the discovery of who the master is.
It all turns around when you understand that the master is the world. It is the world whom we are to cheat. The firing is our notice that our lives here will soon end, and before that day comes we are to cheat this master with all of his own tools.
If he gives us riches or beauty, power or abilities, we are to use them for our own purposes rather than for his. We are to use them for intentions that align with the goals of God’s kingdom.
For if we won’t do that even with the world’s kind of property, Who will trust us at all with the true kind of treasure?
If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? ~ Jesus
So cheat your master. Cheat him with all of his own temporary tools so that you can store up your own, lasting sort of treasure with God.
To live life well is hard.
It is difficult to live deliberately, to continue to work for the good of yourself and those you love. It is easier to coast, to react, to let things slide.
For myself, it is easier to let the clutter pile up than to keep our house feeling like a home. It is easier to read mind-candy sorts of novels than to ponder the nature of our God and this universe. It is easier to let my children learn on their own or through their schools, to allow my girls get away with small acts of unkindness and to be passive in the way they discover God than to fight for their hearts and their minds. It is easier to let my relationship with my husband drift, to sit in our separate corners in the evenings than to work to know him and enjoy him.
Often I do not want to fight. I do not want to fight for what is good. I do not want to fight for what is God-honoring and God-pleasing.
Yet I fight anyway. I fight because I love and, in this world anyway, loving requires you to fight.
I don’t fight perfectly, though. I fight in fear of the needs that others have. I fight in fear of my own inability to give anything good. I fight in fear of doing the wrong thing and causing irreparable harm.
But still I fight, imperfect as it may be. I fight in obedience to One who fought for me.
Just like you. You go and you fight. You go to the bedside of the sick or even the dying and you fight. You go to the home of someone who is lonely and you fight. You go to a meeting of a church group in need of volunteers and you fight. You go to the food pantry, the orphanage, the shelter, and you fight. You go to funeral, the party, the study, and you fight.
We go because it is where His way leads us; and again and again we are blessed by our going in ways we can never anticipate, and our going becomes a blessing to the ones we go to because when we follow His way, we never go entirely along, and it is always something more than just ourselves and our own emptiness that we bring. ~ Frederick Buechner
So keep going. Keep fighting. And be blessed because when you go and when you fight, you are never fighting alone.
Art credit: photo of Christ carrying the cross by Asta Rastauskiene
I am a writer.
I think I can say that now.
I have always been an artist and I have always been a reader, but writing? Writing I have only toyed with. Until now.
Two years of steady writing.
Two years of writing several times a week, sharing a new essay or poem every single week.
I have worked hard and have come a long way in the practice of my craft. I still have a long way to go.
I began this blog as a result of a stirring of the Holy Spirit. I felt that God was asking me to write and to share what I wrote. I don’t yet feel released from that request, so I will continue to share what I write.
Besides, it’s kind of fun.
I love words and I love visual art, and I love crafting the two together to form my own kind of art. I also love studying and learning.
So I will continue to write for myself.
I love when what I write connects with someone else. I love when I hear that I have touched someone or helped someone with the words that I have put down. We are made in the image of a relational God.
So I will continue to write for others.
I love that this studying and writing process has helped me grow closer to my God. I love how much I have learned about Him and how my learning makes me fall more in love with Him.
So I will continue to write for God.
I still have much fear in my heart. I am afraid that my writing is not very beautiful. I am afraid that people will not like it or, perhaps still worse, will not even read it. I am afraid that I will get something wrong and God will be disappointed. I am afraid that I will reveal my heart and people will turn away.
This kind of fear is not from God.
I still have big dreams. I have dreams of publishing articles. I have a book written that I don’t know what to do with. Yet my time is mostly taken with these little ones that have been entrusted to me and there is little time left after my writing to pursue publishing. So perhaps this is a season of practice, of preparation.
Chances are that God has something in mind for me. Chances are that it is not what I expect.
This is where I am after two years. Still writing. Still hoping that my writing will help others. Still pursuing God through my writing.
I will end this second year as I began:
Whatever the reason for my writing, here I am in this space. I will continue to obey, even though it is hard and often causes my heart to feel fear. I will write. God will listen. I pray He will continue to be pleased.
I lost a friend this week.
She was one of the most beautiful women I have ever known.
She has suffered for too many years, enduring pain and sorrow, kidney transplants and countless hours of dialysis. Ever since her second transplant failed, her agonies had seemed even worse.
Yet through it all, her heart remained fully God’s. She was selfless, compassionate towards others while she was the one in pain. Even when the limitations of her body sent her emotions spiraling, she still knew and would declare unequivocally that emotions can play you false and that Love was true regardless of how you feel.
When I got the word that God had taken her home, my first emotion was relief. Relief on her behalf that she is finally free at last. Free from her physical body that so limited her spirit.
Yet as I think about this initial reaction of mine, I wonder why I don’t feel this way with everyone. Surely, as Paul said, to depart and be with Christ is better by far, so why did I feel such sadness when Kristina died, when my Papa died?
Surely I don’t want to bring anyone back here to this earth, to this broken world. Surely I don’t want to carry them away from God, away from being free from pain and sorrow.
I search my own heart and finally realize that what I really want is to join them.
I am not sad that they are not here, rather I am jealous that I am not there.
It is not a desire for everyone to stay here with me but a longing for everyone here to be there. With God.
What I really want is for God to come back now. I want Him to make everything right again. Perfect. New.
The Church often gives confusing messages when it comes to death.
We seem to bounce back and forth between the medical view that death is an enemy to be conquered by medical technology and the Ars moriendi view that death is a friend to be embraced because it moves us from the hated physical into the desired spiritual.
It seems to me, rather, that the Christian view, the view that comes from watching how Jesus Himself died, is that death is an enemy, but one that has already been defeated.
This allows for the reality of the sadness that we all feel when someone we love dies and at the same time acknowledges our hope for the future, our hope in the power of Jesus’ resurrection and in His grace that will let us share in that resurrection…that physical resurrection.
I am saddened by death. I hate death’s power to destroy and bring loss.
And I long for the day when God will make our world and our bodies new again, perfect and free from pain, sorrow, and death.
And so, as I mourn the loss of my friend, I embrace my weeping.
I weep for myself, for my brokenness and for the years in which she will not play a part in my story, and I weep with a profound yearning for Someday when all of our stories will finally reach
Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
There is a stillness and a hush.
There are words that shred her heart.
It is after the man of light, speaking words of miracle.
It is after the shepherds of dirt, speaking visions of angel army chorales.
It is after the star of God, shining spotlight on her baby.
It is after the scholars of heavens, laying rich treasures down.
There is the temple and the sacrifice and the consecration of a baby.
There is a man who raises hands and speaks words of praise to God.
There are words that shred her heart.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
There is a stillness and a hush.
And ever after, she lives and follows Him, trusting that God will keep His promises. She is faithful in her trust.
And she stands at the foot of a cross, watching her innocent child as He is brutally tortured and murdered. As He is pierced with a sword.
And her own soul is pierced as well.
It cannot have made any sense at all.
The murder of innocents never does. Death itself never does.
There is a cross.
There is ugliness and pain and sorrow and grief.
There is beauty and rescue and hope and the promise of life for all time.
There is faithfulness and trust in a God Who keeps His promises. Always.
In the stillness and the hush,
In the joy of angels singing
Trust in our God whose Word never fails.
I pray for a joyful Christmas for all of you, worshiping the God who makes all things beautiful in His time.