Saturday, August 27, 2016


Also: in addition to

At the very beginning of the book of John, we meet an adult Jesus stepping into service.  His official ministry is beginning and he heads to the capital-c Church (the Temple in Jerusalem) for the Passover celebration. But when he reaches the Temple, he does not like what He sees. In fact, he creates a very big ruckus with a whip and some very pointed words. (Jn2:13-17)
He was extremely incensed by what those religious people were selling.
John tells us Jesus taught and performed signs anyway and then he offers this chilling summation of Jesus time with the religious elite:
 “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.” John 2:24-25
“But Jesus would not entrust himself to them…”

John 4
His throat was parched as he sat to rest in the blinding heat of the full force of the noon day sun.

His eyes squinted to the overwhelming light force that hid nothing.

The woman approached alone and he reached out with a simple request,
“Will you give me a drink?”

The woman startled at this request and smartly required more information. The man was a Jew and she was a Samaritan and this interaction was ridiculous. A pious Jew would never, NEVER share a cup with a Samaritan Woman.

The man returns some nonsense about a thing he calls ‘living water’ and how he has it in his possession to give to her. Her derisive disbelief is unmasked.

So is her soul.

“Go, call your husband and come back,” the man speaks.

She replies simply, “I have no husband.”

The Jewish man then goes on to fully disclose her life story—one of the most painful parts. The five divorces that left her marked and scorned. The insecure and dishonored way she lived currently: “…and the man you now have is not your husband.”

How, exactly did he know that?

The woman’s face is turned. The derision altered.

“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.”

She follows with a curious comment.

Since the moment she approached the well where this confounding Jewish traveler rested she had moved within clearly delineated facts:

You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. (Jn4:9)
You are not greater than ‘our father Jacob’. (Jn4:12)
Living water is impossible and thirst can never really be fully quenched. (Jn4:15)

And then, in the light of her own painful and sordid reality that the Jewish man somehow simply knew she repeats one further discriminating separation.
A statement with an ‘us vs them’ quandary of sorts interjected into this odd conversation at an intriguing time.

“Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

Was she changing the subject?
Was she asking a question?
Was she hiding from the embarrassment of her current circumstance?
 Was she scared? Amused? Arrogant? Humiliated?

I’m not sure.

But I DO clearly know what that Jewish man returned to her.

“Woman,’ [he] replied, ‘believe me, a time is coming when YOU will worship the father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”


Every difference and the most derogatory life circumstances clearly illuminated all out between them and the man leans in to say clearly,

“You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet, a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The man acknowledges the divisions and even offers a reason why…but he adds one very redeeming ALSO.

The act of worship is accessible to YOU ALSO. And, woman, the place, the locale and any past claim to land and heritage isn’t going to matter anymore!

The time HAS NOW COME when true worshipers will meet with God in a NEW WAY.
In Spirit and in truth.

What do you suppose the word ‘truth’ meant to the woman who had just had her whole shattered history spoken out loud between her and this stranger?

No more hiding? No more differences?

United by Spirit.
Freed in truth.
The truth of all of us.

Water forgotten, she persists with the quenching conversation carefully.

“I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes he will explain everything to us.”

I can almost see his smile here, as he stands with the full weight of sunlight bearing down and proclaims,

“I the one speaking to you-- I am he!”

“I am He!”

With resounding declaration, right in the unlovely truth of this woman’s life and pain, the darkness of exclusion and rejection floods brilliant with thirst quenching light and Jesus reveals himself as Messiah.

He entrusts himself.

Not at the Temple.
But to a Woman from among ‘those others’ who had lost far more than she had gained.
Until that day.
It is well.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
John 3:19-21

God sees and knows the truth of all of us.
But many fear the light because they will be exposed first.

Characteristics that differentiate and segregate stand as waypoints—
Moments of awareness that cause us to stop and consider.
Moments that cause us to choose.

We can step into the intrigue and value of difference.
We can seek for deeper understanding.
We can hear and respect.
We can ridicule and disdain.
We can turn our backs.
We can deny.

We are daily offered vast opportunity to choose well.

All the Different Things command the spotlight in many arenas while we witness and participate and observe as foundational values are vastly spoken, challenged, debated and considered.

For my part, I pray deeply for the courage of Jesus

To work the ALSO.

Jesus made space for ‘in addition to’. He allowed the ‘the others’ in.

He actually went to find them.
(Jn 4:4 ‘Now he had to go through Samaria…’)

His whole ministry was fraught with this most daring grace.

“But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Luke 5:30-31

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is as sinner.”
Then [Jesus] turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair…. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--as her great love has shown.”
 Luke 7:36-39, 44,47

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you pray for those who mistreat you.”
Luke 6:27-28

“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals---one on his right, the other on his left…. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’
But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
 Luke 23: 33 &39-43

“But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’
‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
Acts 8:3 & Acts 9:3-6

“Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right….
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.”
Acts 10:34-35 &44-45

It takes courage to awaken my sensitivity to every ALSO…

No one can choose this for me. I must rehearse it diligently.

My story matters.
But it is not the only one.

My experience matters.
But it is not the only one.

My choices are important.
But they are not the only ones.

My interpretation may offer strengthening diversity to the whole conversation.
But my interpretation is not the only one.

As a proclaimer of God’s truths, as a chosen witness of His work I must tell my personal stories in such a way that allows you to also tell yours.

Jesus was the master of this.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world...” John 3:17

To gain the empathy and wisdom that is a very solid way through all heartbreak, we can create spaces to make this possible.

Work the also…

I should never tell my own story so that it shuts off or confines yours.

I can choose to readily accept that my experience exists in addition to yours.

This can make a dynamic difference in a million barely ways.

I see you.
I hear you.

Work the also…

Honoring grief is imperative to this process.

We must recognize that grief compounds.

(And every single act of isolation or marginalization across all of time begats grief into communities and identities and nations and souls.)

It is wise to honor this.

We do not ever sorrow over one thing at a time.

Our psyche sorrows en masse.

Whole body. Whole soul. Whole witness. Whole history.

En masse.

Likewise, forgiveness is forever ongoing and much like grief will never accept the boundaries of experience or completion established by any other person.

In fact, I believe the process of forgiveness and grief to be far too important to be defined to a beginning and end; there may never be a cut off.

The working through of forgiveness and grief offer much to our development in too many imperative ways.

We absolutely NEED the empathic expanse of acceptance that the processes of forgiveness and grief implore and defend.

Work the also…

This is my story
In addition to

Paul has some things to say about this:

“In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. So then, when you come together it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat…” 1 Cor 11:17-20

Those things that distinguish us can also divide.
(Jewish/Samaritan, male/female, religious leader/scorned woman, rich/poor)

And so often we divide to claim “better than”.

This competitive distribution of favor is not the way of Christ.


Communion (coming together) which fills, sustains, and proclaims is offered to all equally.

Jesus offered bread even to his betrayer.

Why would he allow anyone else to be left out?

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
1 Cor 11:23-26

Betrayers and women still neck deep in rejection.
 Jews and Samaritans.
Oppressors and mockers.
Disciples and leaders still afraid of the light.
The Gentiles!

The feast of His Table is a communion of every ‘ALSO’.

“Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”
1 Cor 11:28-29

“Discern the body of Christ.”
 His physical body.
 And His church.
Discern it.
Perceive and recognize it.

Around His table, set for every beloved one we discover:

Forgiveness which frees
Fellowship which comforts
Friendship that comes alongside and stays

Truth that shelters us into Himself

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world...” John 3:17

He is for you.
All of you.

Go be like Him.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Immeasurably More

Last spring our dear friends the Vaughn family began to seek a way for their Tori to visit with us in Uganda over the summer. The details of her travels came together in short order and we decided in all the planning to keep Tori's arrival a secret and surprise our kiddos with this blessing in a fun way. So with resolve and dedication we all stayed quiet about Tori's plan. 
It worked brilliantly and poured encouragement into our home in more ways than we even dreamed. 
God is good like that. 
Our Faithful Father of  every 'immeasurably more'...

A few months ago, Kinley came into the kitchen while I was cooking supper and started talking about missing out on stuff. This is a common conversation in April-May-June for our family. When the proms and awards and graduations start rolling through social media we all struggle a bit with what we are missing. It's healthy to discuss and my kids are so resilient through it--counting blessings and hanging in tough--but sometimes we still feel sad too. Anyway, at the end of Kinley's thoughts she said, "Mama, I just want something big to reset my heart. Some event or something to look forward to. I feel like I need some time with friends."

I was DYING!!!! I stirred and shifted pots and pans and nearly bit my tongue off! I had this assurance that Kinley was going to be granted exactly what she was asking for but I was consciously choosing not to tell her yet with every desire to make the moment ahead amazing and brilliant and fun. And then it hit me--This is what our God feels all the time for us. He KNOWS the GOOD AHEAD FOR US, even as we hurt and wait and long for things. He KNOWS THE ANSWER ALREADY! Oh, friends, I was so effected by this moment.

And I continue to be.

Some years ago—I had the honor of praying for the Vaughn family as they transitioned their lives and ministry from Benin to the United States. I was given a list of specific things to pray over, but for some reason it was Tori and her siblings that entered our family’s focus. My children were touched by the fact that the Vaughn kiddos would be courageously transitioning into new schools and new friends. Every evening as we circled to pray before supper we would petition for Tori and her siblings and for their transition to school specifically.

Not one single one of us knew what in the world we were joining into with that prayer—but our Lord knew. These kids of mine who had never even met Tori would ask for God to make a way for her and her siblings through school and with friends and with adjustment.

How could we have ever known or understood God’s answer to that prayer? 

Somehow, by His Spirit, the Cash family was granted a place in Tori's story and she garnered a beautiful, strengthening place in ours.

And this is exactly how our God shapes things. 

His good plans are always ahead of the need.

Our fellowship with the Vaughn family is completely wrapped up in that truth.

We’ve communed in the glory of His provision the last three weeks and for that we are so grateful.

I am staggered in every good way to witness God’s faithful work in these beautiful, warrior hearts.

Come back and see us Tori Vaughn. 

You have had a place around our table for a long, long time.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21