Monday, October 07, 2019

The Beauty of Inefficient Presence

  I went to a conference put on by the Navigators recently. It was on being a neighbor and how to love your neighborhood. It was deeply encouraging and I had good practical things to take away from it. But it ended with this quote that I feel sums up so much of what I feel like I tell others. 

“It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not a simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that too my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing should be to know the people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not silly like them, but truly love, them.” ~ Henri Nouwen

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Is not Jesus enough?

A friend recently reminded me of Lilias Trotter, missionary to Algeria and watercolor artist. I had a book of hers that I had mostly ignored since I first received it in college. I’ve been going through it and finding it incredibly rich — including this passage and the accompanying attached painting. 

“The thought of Christ’s intercession has taken on a new preciousness these last days.  I was reading how God had given a wonderful gift of prayer to two friends.  They would fight through together till His answer came over in showers.  And the thought came – oh that we had someone among us here able to pray like that.  Then with the vividness of an audible voice almost, the thought came:  ‘Is not Jesus enough?’  Since then the sense of praying with Him alongside has been so beautiful.”     
23 March 1904

There is so much delight as I pray for you, knowing that I have Jesus alongside me interceding for us!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Golden Bowls Full of Incense

Last week, I played with paints and did a first draft of an image that has long been stuck in my head as incredibly beautiful. I’ve tried to re-create my internal vision so many times, but nothing matches what I imagine from this verse in Revelation. And just from the bolded portion.  

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. ~Revelation 5:8

The Old Testament is full of imagery about pleasing aromas from sacrifices, and then the New Testament adds how we are the aroma of Christ (who is our sacrifice). But that our prayers could fit into the same category of producing a pleasing aroma before God? Whoa! 

So I pray without really understanding everything that’s going on… and that’s ok.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

The Pleasing Aroma

The first place Scripture talks about the pleasing aroma is Genesis 8:21. Noah offers a sacrifice and the Lord smells the pleasing aroma and makes a promise never to again curse the ground because of man.

But over and over again in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers the "pleasing aroma" comes up. The daily offerings, monthly offerings, each feast and festival, all have sacrifices that are burnt as a food offering, a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And it's not just the smell of barbecue; the pleasing aroma is also tied to grain offerings. (Maybe it's not really about the smell but what it represents?) Honestly, the repetition here feels a little monotonous at first and then I remember how many times I have to hear things before I really take notice. (Like... LOTS!)

Finally, however, we make it to Ezekiel and things get all dark. The Israelites were offering their pleasing aromas to idols instead of God. Interesting that their offerings were not equated the burnt animals, but that the essence of the offering was actually the pleasing aroma.

Then Ezekiel 20:41 uses the phrase as a simile to describe the restoration of Israel saying, "As a pleasing aroma I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered. And I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations." Here the people themselves will be accepted in the same way as the Lord accepts the pleasing aroma of the sacrifice. Nice, right? How does that even work?

Shazaam! The New Testament explains!

2 Corinthians 2:14-16. "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?" 

1. The aroma is still to God.
2. It's not always pleasing to people (for some it's life for others death).
3. The aroma is still of the sacrifice: Christ Jesus!
4. It is the aroma of his sacrifice that we carry with us that grants us welcome to God, thus fulfilling Ezekiel 20:41.

There are other verses that expand on this related to the fragrant offering of Christ, but this popped out to me with just the word "aroma".