the scent of Jesus

I look across in church and see a man

his shirt and trousers suggest he’s not in regular contact with a washing machine

the bulging bag beside him may be filled with most of his worldly possessions

his beard is more bush-chic than hipster trendy

his skin is worn and coloured with a life lived outside of comfort

I think he maybe smells

and I see his love filled eyes

and I see his weathered arms raised up without a care in worship

I see the way he cradles his bible like it is the very source of his life

and I am reminded of Jesus 

Jesus, uninterested in possessions, or trends, or being in with the crowd, never preaching about making a good first impression, at home in the company of anybody

I look again at this man to my left –

clinging to the words of God like they are his daily bread
worshipping with all his heart unembarrassed by the judgement of others
nodding and agreeing loud with truth even if it doesn’t make him look cool

and I am blessed in church
not by the slick
not by the lights
not by the perfectly balanced sound
not by the witty statements

I am blessed by the man whose name I don’t yet know
the man who expresses so eloquently the kind of Christian I want to be – here,
right here with all his heart ready and longing to meet with Jesus,
not finding excuses to not get here,
not looking for things that need to be improved,
here hungry to meet, expecting to meet, once again with the God he loves.

And I want to look at my Bible the way that man looks at his, to cradle it with wonder, awe, expectation, delight. I want to hold it with the reverence I give to something that is the most precious and costly thing I own. I want to drink it all in like it holds the elixir to eternal life.

I want what he has and he blesses me.
I think he smells like Jesus.

on making pearls

sometimes when I am lost away in – I hesitate to use the word worship, because I think worship is so much more than a Sunday song session (much as I love those) – I feel like if it were only me and God how much I could do for him.

If I had no responsibilities to others, no mothering, wife-ing, working, caring, daily tasks to do,

if I had no friendships to attend to

…all of that…

what a wonderful, influential, all out there person I could be

and I feel like I hear this,

Miriam, dear one, those people and responsibilities and conflicts and relationships – those are my gift to you to grow you into the woman I want you to be. To grow you into the woman you could be.

It’s back to that old chestnut of iron sharpening iron and even the most wonderful of husbands, wives, children, extended family, friends…. all of them will get under my skin some days, they will hold up a mirror and reflect back, they will point out I’ve made a mess.

Those people, the ones I like, love, long for, cling to… they bring out the worst in me sometimes. Sadly, they see the worst of me too. But they are a gift to me – a gift from God who is more interested in the development of my character than he is in exploiting my talents and abilities for his purposes.

It’s like God is opposite of an agent – it’s more important to him that my inner self is beautiful and well developed than I make him ‘money’ from my outer self. An agent doesn’t care about how well their client will cope with the spotlight, an agent wants to make them famous and rich. Truth be told if it were left to me I’d be looking for ways to be launched into the spotlight rather than ways to do the hidden work of character development.

I am reminded of the oyster – for an oyster to grow a pearl something has to get under its skin and irritate it. It is the irritant that produces the response in the oyster that grows the pearl. Left to myself I’d be a delicious oyster,

but, as I rub up alongside the irritation of others who don’t allow me to be the diva I naturally would become I might just, with a lot of irritating help, produce a pearl that lasts much longer than an entree on someone’s table.

Maybe the most irritating thing in your life right now is actually a gift from God…

does it hurt to read that?

Isn’t it so much easier to get rid of the people who irritate so I can get on with the job of being a big juicy oyster? Maybe I’m being invited to the road of making a pearl….

I think I’d quite like to be a pearl. 
I just kind of forget that when the irritation starts.
Maybe this Lenten journey is about embracing irritation for the gift that it might be.
* it’s not to say for a second I am not so, so grateful for the beautiful, generous, glory-reflecting, inspiring husband, children, family and friends I have. They are my joy and my delight and the very best of all God has blessed me with.

righteous anger

There is this bit in the bible where Jesus walks into the temple,

God’s scared space, and he loses it with the temple sellers.

He really goes for launch,

tables go flying,

there’s a whip,

I’m pretty sure the words he uses aren’t quiet and calm.

…. can you imagine the awkward pause afterwards?

The thing is these temple sellers were making big money from poor people. People had to have the right kind of sacrifice to bring – perfect – and unless you were in the business of doves or lambs you didn’t have the goods….

enter the entrepreneurs – we have the perfect dove right here and you can make the right sacrifices for the right money

All of a sudden coming to bring a sacrifice became an opportunity for some people to make money….

some people were being denied access because they didn’t have enough

suddenly there was a roadblock

…. and the cross stops it right in it’s tracks …

Matthew 27v50-51 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.

the enormous curtain torn from top to bottom,
suddenly entry to the temple isn’t just free,
entry to the holiest place where only the most purified can go,

that place

entry to that place – is open

the walls are broken down and the access is clear
there is no longer any criteria because no one could meet the criteria

in all of the universe only Jesus

and so we see how it breaks God’s heart, it causes Jesus to make a public spectacle, this thing of making it hard for people to get in.

All around the world we observe people who are denied – education, water, health care, rights, faith…. and we cannot say that doesn’t matter to God.

Jesus died to give us access, to invite us to boldly approach the Throne of Grace

What in my life makes it hard for people to find The Way?

Do I hold onto a faith that subtly agrees with buying/earning/working my way in to the Holy Place?

We are all justified because none of us can be self-justified – that is the cross. We cannot come in without the cross that says all were denied and now all are welcome.

In the journey to the cross I must shut my eyes and ears to the voices of the ones who try to sell me the way in and accept the rugged, blood stained, difficult walk to the foot of a messy cross that offers salvation that cannot be bought or sold. 

Too expensive for me to ever purchase, and yet free.

Limping on to Good Friday, one overwhelming step at a time.

Hebrews 4v16 So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help.

sometimes the old hymns say it best

were the whole realm of nature mine
that were an offering far too small
love so amazing, so divine
demands my soul, my life, my all

today I am looking to Lent as a chance to soak in the brilliance of the hugeness of the Love that sent Jesus up a hill, cross on his back, to claim victory for the whole realm of nature
and even if it were mine to give, the whole realm could never equal that love
love so amazing
love divine
freely given

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Values are so easy when you’re talking about them

I love people

I believe in people

I know that we are all touched all over with the fingerprints of the Creator….

But in the heat of the moment,

when I am met with defiance in the classroom

or unhelpful people in less than ideal systems,

then I find my ideals are imaginings and words, they are wood, hay and stubble in a furnace.

Show me your faith without deeds I read, and I smart from the sting of their truth.

Because actually my deeds, my responses, my demanding…. that’s all the real me on show right there.

When the rubber hits the road and things are hard and fast and noisy that’s when I forget the wonder of my perfect ideals and I come down to the heat of rubber vs tarmac and it’s hot and smelly and painful.

When the centre is only words then it doesn’t hold fast in the storm.

I am broken and breaking. I am failing and failed. I am loved and beloved.

and therein lies the contradiction and wonder of the cross – an imperfect me exchanging garbage for treasure.

I didn’t earn the treasure.

I will never earn the treasure and, even after I have left with the treasure, I find bits of the garbage stuck to the bottom of my shoe, still lingering inside my pockets, still hidden in my heart.

I need the cross because I need a daily exchange. I need a new chance today. I need forgiveness for yesterday. I need grace for tomorrow.

I need Lent everyday because I need a daily infusion of grace, of hope, of forgiveness.

Today my Lent is recognising the junk, acknowledging a need for grace, and a daily gratefulness to Jesus who dealt with it all, who carried its shame, my shame.

Today I know Jesus is sufficient. He is enough for me.

I fall at His wonderful, nail scarred feet and let my tears of failure be an anointing of thanksgiving.

The shock of the Cross

I’ve been failing at Lenting…. it’s like it has slipped past me as I have rushed the other way.

I have felt it, the lack of lent, hovering like some kind of hologram completely unrelated to my here and now.

I have this dream of journeying well and being in every moment face up to behold the son. Instead, I am distracted and distractible, disagreeable and doubting, busy and all business….. and I miss the moment. My eyes flit from one demand to another and my ears tune out the wordless whisper of invitation and hear only the clamour of a million insignificant noises.

I have missed the journey to the cross and so I find myself unprepared for its confrontation.

Instead of holding the grief well and partaking in passover with love and understanding I find myself suddenly caught sleeping in the garden, I am overtaken by an angry mob who’ve come on the attack and I am blindsided.

Jesus was ready for the cross – he set his face to the journey, he gathered in and encouraged his loved ones, he agonised in the garden.

The disciples were ambushed by the whole thing… in a way, they had been invited to a lenten journey – Jesus had hinted and talked and they had missed the boat. When they finally realised they were in the midst and it was too late for finding inner stillness and trust, they were rudderless.

Perhaps that’s why I need the journey of Lent – because the cross is carried in a million ways, everyday.

The cross is carried in quiet discipline that no-one sees.
The cross is carried in the tongue kept still when it wants to lash out.
The cross is carried in the extra un-noticed mile in the workplace.
The cross is carried in the daily surrender of my right to rule.

When I forget to take these million small ‘cross journeys’ then I suddenly find I am crushed and overwhelmed. I found myself undisciplined, answering back, doing only my dues, demanding my rights…. I find I am in fact  sprinting away from the cross not journeying towards it.

Lent is disappearing and the cross looms large on the horizon…. may I find the courage to lay down the demands before me and take up the yoke I am invited to. Friday is coming but there is time to prepare my heart, to fall in step with Jesus once again as he walks determinedly up that hill.

Because I know Easter will come, there will be chocolate and buns, there will be celebration and family but I will have missed so much if I just tune in on Friday and Sunday.

Lent is an opportunity to drink in the fullness of what was achieved for me at Easter and it’s so big, and wonderful, and life giving that 40 days of giving myself over to it is hardly even enough to prepare myself to stand again and marvel at the love that poured out.

If I don’t tune in until Friday I have missed out and I don’t want to miss out on the depths of love and grace and freedom because I only gave it a couple of days across one weekend on my calendar….

how is your Lent?
If you are missing it then perhaps we could pick it up a little late and walk it slowly together?

Miriam xx