My way or the highway . . . to something greater

IMG_9514Adeline started pre-K this year at the public school in town.  She has been in preschool two days a week for two years, but now she goes to the “big school” everyday (half day).  She loves it!  I pick her up in the carpool line each day full of excitement!  And from that point on we are showered with stories from her day.  Her teacher will send messages home to parents each day, that encourage us to ask specific questions about the day that spur on details in regards to what she is learning.

She eats it up.  And even more so, I guzzle it down!

“What color apple did you like best today” or “What did you learn about Sally sneeze today?”

Such questions lead to not only answers to those questions but also open windows to other stories about the day, other kids, who made her teacher “sad” that day or which new friend she played with outside.

Stories!  Lots of stories.  It often takes leading questions to spark her memory, but once things get going . . .

But the point of her story is not the story itself.  It exposes something greater.  The teacher doesn’t send home questions to ask our children simply to keep us informed about what they are learning.  Although, that is part of it.  Even more so, it helps the students recall what they have learned and then reinforces it.  This happens when Adeline tells me something that begins with the letter “A”, followed by a new song she learned, topped off with an account of how another kid responded during that song, which leads into the craft they did and how “so and so” didn’t help clean up, and . . . . you get the point.

Typewriter close up shot, concept of story, Once Upon a Time

Stories matter.  Why?  Because telling them paints a picture, and usually that pictures unveils something greater than the story itself.  For Adeline, each day after school, the story she tells about circle time connects to the learning she engages with each day.  This is why I am telling my story, my story highlights something greater too.  That something greater is Jesus.

As a believer it is impossible to tell My Story without sharing God’s Story.  God’s story becomes the main event as I share mine.  That is what makes my story SO good. It is not my role in the story that makes it worth telling, it is His  It is not about me and what I can do, but instead it points to what he has done in my life – for me and through me.  The something greater has nothing to do with me, but instead it has everything to do with Him.

I would like to interrupt the story of the Prodigal Son to point out something in 1 Peter.  Believers are referred to as “exiles” or “foreigners”.

“To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia . . . Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”

exile1So in the early church believers were sent out to share the good news about Jesus (the resurrection), they were sent into a world that stood in stark contrast to their mission and moral compass.  Therefore, they would live like foreigners, even among their own culture and people.  Why?  Because the Holy Spirit had convicted them to live a life according to the teachings of Jesus, to the Word of God.  The problem was that everything around them would defy that.  This is still the case today.  Following Jesus often contradicts culture and it is not uncommon for a Christian to feel like they are a foreigner in their own culture.

When I was 18 I decided that I didn’t want to be an exile anymore.  I was tired of being a foreigner.  The problem was I thought I could trade in my citizenship and live a joy-filled life belonging to the world.  This would mean I could stop living as Peter describes and start fitting in better with those around me.  I figured I could be content outside of God’s purpose for me, worse off, that I could find peace and happiness engaging in feel-good behavior and attempting to deny my heritage as a daughter of God.

Therefore, I attempted to become a citizen of the world, instead of a “citizen of heaven” as Paul names it, a member of God’s kingdom.  The world would be just fine for me.

This was not true.

I never found joy.  I only found sorrow.

There was no peace, only anxiety and depression.  Even though I denied it for a long time, and attempted to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, I found nothing good in doing it.  I was still an exile, a foreigner, one seeking a place to belong.  Nothing had changed, except that everything had changed.

Much like the lost son, I found myself in great need.  And also like the lost son, I tried to fix it myself, to fill the void, to meet the need, to resolve my own issues.

Last week I talked about the younger son packing up and leaving.  I likened this to my choice to put my faith aside when I went off to college.  Scripture tells us that the son  

“squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.

So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.

He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’”

Crossing out Plan A and writing Plan B on a blackboard.

It didn’t take long for him to be in need, to be in trouble. His need was bigger than he was, and the resources he had fell short.  Still, what did he try to do first? He tried to solve the problem on his own, his way. 

He tried to hire himself out, but that didn’t pan out for him.  He determined to go home and beg his father to hire him as a servant, as he was no longer worthy to be his son.  Still not quite it.

His ideas.  His plan.  His solution to the problem.  The problem, by the way, that he created in the first place.

It is at this point in the story where we see a difference between the parable and God’s story in reference to the “inheritance”.  There was a limit to the son’s inheritence, and he spent it— quick!  It was gone and he was left with nothing, nothing but need.

The inheritance that God gives us is different.  It doesn’t expire or dry up.  It never run outs.  Like I did, we can misuse it when we fail to live into the promise given to us, but we can’t use it up.  Mainly, because it is not ours, but His.  A gift from the Father to us.

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”   ( 1 Peter 1:3)

An inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade can be hard to grasp.  In the story, the son goes through his inheritance and is left with nothing.  So what does he do?  He concocts this plan to return home, beg for forgiveness, and ask to be taken back by the father, but only as a hired hand and not to be fully restored as his son.

Why? Because to be the son gives him a place of honor and importance.  It places him at the table with the father, as part of his family and therefore an heir to all he has. He spent his inheritance and didn’t deserve his place at the table with the father, or so he thought.

His plan verses the plan of his father; two very different ideas.  You see, the son was simply going to ask for what he deserved.  Where as the father planned to give him more than he deserved.  The father would welcome him back with love and restore him to his place of honor.  His father would shower him with undeserved love, with grace – he would show him mercy and forgive him.  Because what the son didn’t realize, is that his father was waiting for him to return home all along.

My plan was different from God’s too.  I thought I could earn my way into God’s good grace.  I thought I would fake my way back in by half-heartedly attempting to re-establish my faith.  I pretended I could find my way back on my timeline and in my way.  God had a different plan. The My way or the highway threat may work with my kiddos, but it doesn’t cut it with God.  His way IS the highway, the only way, and even when we don’t know it we are on it.

Our plans and His can be very different.  Yet, some how we tend to think our idea is the best one, our way will work better, our plan will outdo his.  At least I did.  But through the prophet Isaiah, God reminds us he is bigger than we know.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”

IMG_9689God is the one with something greater in mind, greater than we could ever imagine, a plan beyond comparison.  The God of irrisistable grace and unending love, not to mention mercy and patience.

I was on the highway and I didn’t even know it.  Amidst pretending to determine my own destiny, God already had the plan worked out.

This is the “something greater” my story speaks to.  It is not about the fun I had as a wild child or even my journey back to the Father.  It is about more than the mistakes I made, the bad choices, or the irresponsible decisions.  Those are the necessary details in my story, but not the point.  If we focus on those we miss the something greater.  We miss the saving grace.  We miss His story.

Hidden in Adeline’s recollection of daily events at school is something big: she is learning each day more than she knows, and she is loving it!  Her stories lead to this.  I don’t want to miss this.

My story leads to God’s story.  It uncovers the undeserved love and unearned grace, and exemplifies God’s faithfulness in spite of my unfaithfulness.  It reveals the something greater: I thought I was off squandering my inheritance in wild living, far from the Father, when in reality he was right there with me, all along, waiting with open arms for me to not only decide to come home, but to be embraced by the very one from whom I ran.

I thought I had it all figured out, the perfect plan in place.  But God had other ideas, ideas I could not even begin to imagine.  Grace and love I had yet to discover.  But I was still a few years away from this part of the story.  My journey back takes awhile to recount, but it’s worth the wait.

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The Wild Child

IMG_9341Maisie is our wild child.  At just shy of 17 months she has already made it clear.  She is the daredevil climber, the jumper, the explorer, and the one who demands what she wants and won’t stop until she gets it.  This little girl could scream for an hour, while pointing at the proper location of the item she desires, without even blinking an eye . . . real tears and red faced-rage.  She is one strong-willed little girl, and we love her (although I am pretty sure she is responsible for most of the grey, um I mean blond, hairs on my head).

Adeline can be a tough cookie and she is a strong personality, and don’t get me wrong she can be brave – but she usually takes her time getting there.  Her method involves using caution to try new things, mastering them first, and in this manner she bravely, but carefully conquers fears and attempts new things.

Not Maisie, she just dives right in without a thought or plan, or care about the consequence.  Our cute little Dominican beauty has redefined “strong-willed” for this Mama and Popi.

If we are at the park Maisie wants to climb up the slide, dive head first into the mulch, stand on the seesaw, and fly high on the swing.  And no one is gonna stop her!  She is our explorer and no doubt one day her boldness at the park will transfer into other areas of her life.  This is the part that puts the fear of God in me, and the daily reminder to trust Him because she is his daughter first.

12029845_10153548982011327_8717189117240193459_oMaisie knows what she wants and goes after it.  She doesn’t take no for an answer and once her mind is made up, well it is made up!  And she is quick to make up that little mind of hers.  She makes a decision and goes for it.

Decision made.  And usually this means, NO TURNING BACK!

It was much like this for me when I made the choice to “leave home” and walk away from the Father.  Without a lot of thought (and definitely no prayer) I chose the college party lifestyle and moved comfortably into a posture of self-reliance and self-searching, a position I would maintain for awhile, a place where I would stay for quite some time.

I left Messiah and went to JMU for the spring semester of ’99.  Decision made.

I cut contact with many friends, fellow believers who might try to sway me back to my “old” life.  Decision made.

I put aside my faith and headed out for a more normal life.  Decision made.

I slapped on a new identity, Party Girl. Decision made.

The Prodigal son moved quickly, didn’t he?  He made his decision and that was that.  His father gave him his inheritance and he took it and left town.  In Scripture the story says this, immediately after his father gave him his inheritance:

““Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.”

He decided.  He went. He spent. He needed.

It happened quick.  Maybe.  We don’t know for sure, the time line that is.  I can tell my story in a matter of minutes (the short version at least).  But I spent 8 years “squandering my wealth in wild living”.

vintage-suitcase-vintagesI took my inheritance and ran with it.  The inheritance”  that God had given me.  If we see God as represented by the father in the story, we know that the Father gives the son something he didn’t earn or deserve, something he felt entitled to but had no real business possessing.  I would say this is also true for me.  My inheritance being the grace God gave me, undeserved by me, his forgiveness, his love, the promise of eternal life and a relationship with Jesus, my identity in him  – all part of my inheritance.  It is as if I packed it all up, put it in a suitcase, took it with me, and squandered it for 8 years.  

I pretended I didn’t owe God a thing, that what he gave me had no real value (it didn’t really matter), and even worse that I didn’t need it . . .  or really, that I didn’t need Him.

I could handle things on my own for awhile.  After all, I couldn’t sow my wild oats by staying at home with the Father.

Just like the son I took 3 simple, but life-altering, steps:

1. got together all I had

2. set off for a distant country

3. squandered my wealth in wild living

First thing I did was get together all I had: who I was in Christ, my identity as the Father’s daughter, the truth about his love and grace, my faith, my relationship with Jesus, and even the trust of people in my life.  I checked them all off the “packing list” and headed out.  They became disposable when I left town with them in a suitcase.

Second, I set off for a distant country: JMU (from Messiah to JMU).   But not just there because after college my life continued the same as I moved back to NJ and taught and coached down the shore.   After all, the distant country is not an actual place in our story, although it can be represented by one, or by many.  But really it is anywhere we go as an attempt to get away from the plans God has for us, to flee his presence, his love.  The distant country for me was choosing to live outside of the will of God.  The distance was spiritual, not just physical.  

party girlThird, I squandered my wealth in wild living.  I wasn’t that different from most college kids, I was your average 18-year old, until I took it too far.  Partying and the wild life became my identity, I slapped a brand new self-made identity on and began living right into it, in plain sight for everyone to see.  I was more than happy to be the party girl as I searched for meaning, acceptance, and affirmation (mostly unknowingly).

Casual drinking turned to insane amounts of alcohol, black-outs, drinking games, and excess galore.  Alcohol lead to pot, that opened the door to coke, that exposed ecstacy, that lead me to meet more people just like me.  Partying.  Having fun. Searching and seeking for an identity, happy to give ourselves one that would make us a thrill to be around.  Eager to fill a void and willing to use anything that felt good to do it.

I was so comfortable in this life that I kept on going, teaching Monday-Friday and partying all weekend.  Varsity Field Hockey Coach, “coach of the year”,  all while abusing alcohol and drugs on the weekends.  Putting my life in danger, and those around me, seemed like nothing – it was part of any normal weekend.  And my colleagues and peers had no idea who I was outside of school.  When would it end?  What was the point?  Maybe it was normal at 19, but now at 26?

welcome-home-greenI take no pride in this, but until recently great shame.  It has taken me a long time to give that shame to God and then decide to tell my story publicly.  I never wanted to glorify my time “away”, or send a message that it is okay to go crazy and wild because you can always come home.   To say it like that would be oversimplifying the story and twisting the truth to justify poor choices for 8 years of my life.  Although God always welcomes us home, and it is His greatest desire for the lost, coming home and recovering from my time away has not been easy.  There are lasting effects from my “wild living” that I still deal with today.   It took me a long time to see that God embraced and welcomed me home with joy.  It was difficult to accept his grace for me personally, to receive his forgiveness, and to admit that he spared me: from death, from addiction, or even worse from harming or killing someone with my reckless lifestyle and poor choices. I squandered friendships, family relationships, finances, but most importantly I shattered  myself.  My party girl identity was not working out all that well.  I wasn’t as “happy” as I thought I would be.  I was empty, depressed, alone – in need of something I couldn’t even name, or begin to understand.

I started to see that my plan left me with much need, little hope, and even less joy.  But the good news centers around the fact that this is not the end of the story.  As a matter fact, it is not even close.  It is where the story shifts from being about the son, to being about the father . . . from being about me, to being about Him. Because leaving home tends to be the quick and easy part of the story.

But the coming home, well this is where things get good.

Going Away

Woman with a suitcase takes on a rural road

In order to come home, one must first go away.  Too obvious? Maybe.  But if I am being honest, I tend to focus more on the “coming home” stage of my life than the one “away”.  Yet, I believe that in order to really get the beauty of coming home, you have to know what it was like to go away.  So let me start from the beginning – going away.  Well, let’s start with the decision to go away, the first step.

It has taken me sometime to understand how it all happened; how I got where I am; where God was in all of it, His role and my role, and why it happened.  Many of the questions remain unanswered, at least in full or to my complete satisfaction.  Yet, the mystery contributes greatly to the grace in my life because it reminds me how small I am in the scheme of God’s big plan.  But I am thinking either you, or someone you love dearly, can relate to the “going away” part of my story.

We all have a “going away” or a “leaving” part of our story, it lies somewhere in the story we have to tell (whether we talk about it or not).  Some are still “away”, others get what it means to “come back”, and maybe for some this part of the story is yet to come.

8-14-2010 Cowtown Rodeo - 001-MQuick review: I grew up in south jersey, raised in a Presbyterian church, went to a small high school, surrounded by farms (and a rodeo) – all of this with two loving parents, two incredible sisters, and a number of amazing friends.  I was a straight A student, Varsity athlete, Girl Scout, youth group attender, peer leader, part of the Drama Club, Babysitter, Lifeguard – – you name it I did it . . . and I did it well most likely.  I was “that” girl in high school.  The homecoming and prom courts were filled with my best friends, or those I played a sport with . . .  things were good.  Bottom line: I had a great (and pretty easy) life.

4982_1178358536168_3962220_nIn high school my Christian faith sprouted through participation in the youth group of neighboring town’s Baptist Church.  Sunday night, a bunch of my closest friends and I did the youth group thing.  We did the winter retreats, some were baptized, and we even invited friends to be part of it.  I think it is safe to say that, at least for grades 10-12, Jesus was at the center of my life.  Enough so that Senior year I resolved to attend a Christian College.

Messiah.

I lasted one semester (this is a story for another blog entry).

By Spring semester of my freshman year I had transferred to (JMU) James Madison University.  This was my official send -off, into a long anticipated journey “away from home”.  You see, I got a taste of supposed “freedom” after graduating High School in June.  No longer an official athlete or committed Peer Leader, I felt the need to experiment with what so many teens had done for years.  Why not (I thought)?  It seems to be working so well for everyone else.  They all seem so happy living the party lifestyle.

So I made my own choices that summer after graduating.  It was normal.  Wasn’t it?  It broke down barriers between me and my non-Christian friends (who had been begging me to join in for years).  I was simply doing what everyone else around me was doing.  I was making my own choices and putting God aside.  I was doing what I wanted.  I was being normal.

jmuI very clearly remember saying something like this to God when I left Messiah to go to JMU, “I’m gonna do my own thing for awhile.  I just don’t feel like including you in my decision-making anymore.  I want to live for myself.  I’ll be back.”

I’m going away, I’ll be back.

I’m going to spend my inheritance. I am choosing the world, over you – but you’re cool with that, right God?  Right, Father?  I mean it’s just something people do.  It’s normal.  And remember, I will be back . . . . . . . . .  maybe.

So off I went, with my inheritance in hand, to live as the world lives.  To get my moral compass from the world, to live by its standards, and do what is deemed appropriate.

It helps here to pay attention to the very beginning of the parable of The Lost Son.  This comes immediately after two parables about lost items, a coin and a sheep.  But with the parable of The Lost Son, Jesus goes a little deeper and speaks into a more specific situation.  He speaks to the one who leaves home, the one the Father lets go.  This story speaks to the one who started at home with his father, journeyed away, and then at the end, returns home. I find it important to note that it is the father who gives the son all he needs to go – his inheritance.

leaving11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not lon
g after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.

The father (God) let his son go, he gave him his inheritance.  It doesn’t say, but I think it’s safe to assume, that the father didn’t think it was wise or that it would work out for the son, but he let him go.  He gave him exactly what he asked for, what he thought he wanted.  He let him make his own mistake. A big one.  A costly one. A life changing one.

We never see the father try to talk him out of it, or change his mind, or even give him advice about what he should do with his inheritance.  Not this father.  Maybe some, but not the father of this son.

What does this say about how God interacts with us, how God loves us? 

One thing it says to me is that God knew better than I did.  Maybe he knew the only way for me to really get who the Father is, and who I am as his daughter, was to let me go.  I had to see for myself that the freedom I so desperately sought after was found in Jesus, not in the world.

I had to spend years in “the world” trying to fill an emptiness in me that God alone could fill.  I needed to experience the harshness of life without God in order to really grasp the depth of His grace.  I had to attempt to flee his presence in order to know the true peace found in His midst.

And for me, of course, it had to be a first-hand experience.  I couldn’t learn these truths any other way . . . than to go through them.  Personally.  Painfully. Permanently.

god-the-fatherWhy?

I have no idea.  God does.  Maybe he will tell me one day, or maybe one day my desire to know won’t be so important (it is already fading quite a bit).  Questions remain somewhat, but being back in the arms of the Father has a way of silencing them.

And here lies the first part of the story: the decision to leave, to go away, to spend my inheritance out in the world – far away from the safety of the Father.

EXCEPT, as it turns out he was never all that far away.

beautifully in over my head

I would be lying if I said I never felt like I was in over my head.  It would be untrue for me to say I have it all worked out and everything just flows perfectly.  Who can?  I mean really.  It would not be accurate to report that I balance my family and the church perfectly, or that all my relationships are 100 % healthy all the time, or even that I have the ideal schedule figured out.  But it is absolutly the truth, and a necessary one to speak, that there are just days when I feel like I am in over my head.

IMG_8111You may relate to such a day.  You know? The day where nothing seems to go right . . . when you are late to everything . . . when your shirt is stained with something that you don’t even remember eating, touching, or coming near . . . when your kids seem to do nothing but whine and cry over nothing all day . . .  when your patience disingrates by the minute . . . and when at 9am you are cruelly taunted by the idea of sitting on the couch with a glass of wine, watching a non-cartoon tv show, because this means the kids are in bed, your meetings are finished, and you get to try all over again tomorrow (hint hint: to do things better).

In over your head.  I feel that it might be safe to say we have all been there (and we will be there again).

Nehemiah was there.  He was a cup bearer to the King.  He prayed for God that the king would show him favor in allowing him to return to Judah to rebuild the city.  Scripture says, “the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on [Nehemiah].” (2:8b)  So he went to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall.

He was totally in over his head, rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem as his enemies surrounded  him and were “scheming to harm him” (Nehemiah 6:2b).  As if the external threats were not enough, Nehemiah was confronted with internal problems as people grew weary, tired, and discouraged.  But the wall had to be rebuilt to fully restore Israel, as they needed protection from such enemies.  God had placed this on Nehemiah’s plate.  It was his mission.

And he was in over his head.

nehemiah-hasmonean-wallHe continued to rebuild the wall because it was the mission God gave him.  His enemies were relentless.  They persisted to discourage him:

They were all trying to frighten [them], thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

But [he] prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

When Nehemiah’s hands were weak he prayed for God to strengthen them.  He needed his hands strengthened to finish the wall, and God did so, to complete the mission of God.  He was in over his head, but thankfully not in over God’s.                 And guess what?

When all [their] enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of [their] God.

Nehemiah was in over his head.  But he was not their alone.  He was there with God, because God called him in over his head . . . securely in His hands.

God then provided the strength needed to build the wall, the protection necessary to keep him and his people safe from their enemies, and the endurance to finish the mission.

Being in over my head can be a good thing.  It can be a bad thing too.  If I am cramming my schedule so full and trying to do too much, if I am overwhelmed because I am busying up my schedule, taking on things to make myself feel important, etc. . . .  then I am in over my head because I have put myself there.  This is bad.

But if I am in over my head because God has called me to to trust him, and intends to bring glory to His Name through it, then it is a beautiful thing.  It means I am in over my head, beautifully in the hands of God.

We call this walking on water or trusting God.  It means standing out in the waves of the ocean trusting that God has called us right to that place and will then provide for our safety while completing His mission through us.

So to be clear: I am not talking about taking on so many things that I feel overwhelmed, or like I am drowning in water over my head.  But instead, I am talking about that one thing that places us amidst the dangerous waves, in the middle of the ocean, all while positioning us in the protective hands of God.  This position brings attention to God, not me.  It places me in His hands.

But it means I am in over my head.

So go for it, dive in over your head . . . beautifully in over your head!  Step out in trust, but only if you are stepping out because God has asked you to do so.

Get in over your head, and right in to the hands of God.

Check out this youtube video.  It is a song called “in over my head” by Jenn Johnson (Bethel).

Maundy Thursday: Jesus is a Warrior

Experience PassionOn Maundy Thursday, Jesus prays for a long time.  Luke tells us while he was sweating blood in prayer, his disciples were sleeping.  He asks God to take the cup from him, but then surrendered to the will of the Father.  John’s gospel reveals in detail the prayer of Jesus.  Not only did he pray for what was about to happen, but he prayed for the ones sleeping when he asked them to take watch.  He prayed for the one who would deny him, the ones who would flee, the ones who would remain, and the ones who were yet to come.

The hour arrived, he was about to be arrested, beaten, tortured, and crucified, and he prayed, and he prayed, and he prayed.  He prayed for his disciples.  He prayed for me.  He prayed for you.

When he finished his prayer the guards arrived to arrest him (because of the tip they received from Judas).  John tells it like this:

4 Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “Whom are you looking for?”5 They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.”Jesus replied, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground. 7 Again he asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken, “I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.” 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. 11 Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Let’s review.  When things get intense and Jesus’ life is threatened what does he do?  Jesus prays.  What do his followers do?  They sleep. They flee. And then there is Peter, who pulls out his sword.

They all react a little different.  But Peter’s reaction seems to be the complete opposite of Jesus’.

But you see Peter and Jesus actually have something in common.  They are both warriors.  And they both use a weapon to fight their battles.  Peter is ready to go to battle for Jesus, to fight for him.  He just doesn’t understand the most powerful weapon is not a sword.  It is the weapon Jesus relied on the most, prayer.

Jesus prays because through it his heart is aligned with the the Father’s perfect will, his purpose is clear, and he is strengthened to fulfill it, to drink from the cup that the Father has give him.  He surrenders.

Peter tries to be a warrior, just the wrong kind.  Jesus is a warrior, the right kind: a prayer warrior.  He battles the enemy with the one tactic that can’t be defeated, surrendering to the will of God in prayer.

I get Peter.  I would be tempted to do the same.  To defend Jesus.  To jump in and fight.  To save the day.  To rescue the very one who came to rescue us all.  I admit I have even done this from time to time (maybe not so much with a literal sword).  I have reacted like Peter.

But just like he did for Peter, Jesus steps in.  He tells me to put away my sword and surrender to the will of the Father.  If Jesus is okay with surrendering to the Father, I guess I am pretty okay with that too.

Song: So here is a song to help you surrender to the Father in prayer.

Community Event: Pray!  Pray for your community today.  Your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends, your kids’ teachers, the person who rings you up at the grocery store or pumps your gas at Wawa.  Where ever you are when you read this take time and pray.  Make prayer your weapon of choice today.  Maybe there is something the Father wants to remind you, that he can only do when you put down your sword and pick up the the most powerful weapon.