Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Lazarus Experiment Day 28

After being dead, and then being alive, everything else is extra.

Sucking in that first breath, Lazarus may have jolted with the awareness that the simple draft of air was a gift. A freebie. Extra. He didn't deserve it. It came out of nowhere, unexpected. Dropped into the middle of a tomb, that one gasp, filling Laz' lungs with oxygen, was grace in gaseous form. He breathed it as wonderful. And he took another.

We grow used to the idea of living, until losing life comes very close. If you've ever been close to death, you may know a little how Lazarus felt about his new life breathing. I lost my older brother when I was about twenty. I remember such anger for losing him to death. But I also remember a determination not take life for granted; to seize the moment and all that. From the grave's edge vantage point, every moment looks like a gift. Each day is extra.

Why is it that it takes a funeral, or a dramatic illness, or a birth, to bring us back around? Why can't we live in the extra every day?

To be a Christ-follower means squaring off with the realities of our situation--we willfully break the relational bond with God, and we become aware that we're doomed. Death is the only option. But Jesus has performed the impossible: he's purchased a means to restore the shattered pieces of our intimacy with God. When we recognize the gift and give ourselves to the truth, all of life becomes extra.

Abundant life is living out of the extra. Your next breath is grace. What will you do with it?


Suggested Scripture For Today: John 10:1-18

Suggested Ideas:
1. Go outside and take purposefully deep breaths with your eyes closed.
2. Set a timer on your phone to go off every 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, ask: Am I using this moment as if it's the most precious moment in my life?
3. Set a time on your phone to go off every hour. When it goes off, do something completely crazy, generous, and spontaneous.
4. Buy a gallon of ice cream and deliver it to a friend without announcement.

Walk through the waters,

The Lazarus Experiment Day 27

The crowds were gone. All the hoopla and partying was over. Lazarus, having slept soundly for the first time in three days, woke up to Martha's usual breakfast aromas. He stretched and yawned, and every muscle reminded him that he was alive. Again.

He remembered his agenda for the day and bounced out of bed. Now that the crowds had dispersed -- mostly to prepare for Passover -- he had a little better chance of pulling off his plan. Jesus and his disciples had gone out to the wilderness for a few days to cool off the wave of publicity that was beginning to crest in Judea. Mary and Martha had a major clean-up to accomplish after the wake/re-birth celebrations had ended. And Lazarus needed to get back to Bethany business. But first, he just wanted to sneak away and be alone and - well - he knew what needed to be done. It wasn't going to be easy, but he had been formulating his decision for days.

After breakfast, Laz kissed his sisters goodbye.

"Are you sure you should be going back to work? Maybe you should take a few more days to rest up."

"Mary, really, I'll be OK. I've been fine ever since I crawled out of the hole." He hugged her with assurance, firm and strong.

"Don't forget your lunch," Martha said, handing him a basket of bread and dates and dried fish. Lazarus lifted the cloth covering the food and smiled. There was enough for ten men.

"You know how hungry you've been!" Martha defended the volume of her preparations. Laz gripped the lunch and walked out of the door into real life.

"Why are you skipping? You look like a child!" Martha called out. "You're going to trip and fall you silly man! You don't want to end up going back to the vault so soon!"

He skipped anyway. He headed down the road the direction of his business, but once he was out of view, he took the detour, around the olive grove, down the hill, and to the graveyard.

At the tomb, he sat down on a stone outcropping near the entrance. It wasn't his plan to go in. It was his plan to visit. Once. Only once more, and then never again.

It was all such a blur, and the memories that were more clear he hadn't confided to anyone. But as he stared down into the darkness of the cave, he choked, the tears coming down his cheeks, his eyes pouring out what his heart had held in since . . .

That hole in the ground--that was the enemy. He knew that now, more than ever. His visit here today was to make a declaration--of war, of victory. He wasn't arrogant, and he didn't raise his voice. But he spoke into the grave. He talked to the nemesis.

"That's it, you know. You can't have me again. See here? I'm living. I'm alive and breathing and running and skipping. My heart beats and my sweat stains my shirt and everything else is working fine. You had me once. And yes, I know I will probably die again. But listen carefully to me now: YOU DO NOT OWN ME.

Laz thought of all the times in his life when death, subtly and imperceptibly, had crept in and soured his life. He envisioned the cloud that used to hang over him; maybe he only really saw it for what it was after he'd heard Jesus call him out. But that cloud was gone, and he was here to vow that it would never return.

"I know this now. Jesus is life. He is everything. He knows no enemy that he cannot vanquish. Because he is life, I have been raised from the dead; Jesus has purchased my freedom from you. Jesus has exposed you for what you are, a manipulative, weak, shell of a reality.

"I'm here to tell you this: You lost. Jesus won. You no longer have power over me. This is over."
He stood and faced down the hole. Pointing at the darkness, he shook out the words. "You do not own me. You do not own me. YOU. DO. NOT. OWN. ME."

He grabbed his lunch, turned his back, and skipped away. He never visited that place again, for the rest of his life.

Suggested Scripture For Today: I Corinthians 15

Suggested Ideas:
1. Skip where people can see you do it.
2. Have a praise gathering of one in a cemetery. Sing loud, but don't disturb the mournful.
3. Offer to babysit for a young mom and dad to give them an evening alone.
4. Bake three loaves of bread. Give one to your neighbor, give one to a family member, give one to a stranger.

Hope in him,

The Lazarus Experiment Day 26

There are life-altering moments that forever change the way you communicate with another person.
I once learned that an older man I did not like at all, who was arrogant and rude and obstinate and enjoyed it, had lost a child at a very young age. I still didn't particularly like the man, but I talked to him much differently after that revelation.

I remember another older man, who seemed very quiet and stand-offish, came to me with an extraordinary gift that I'd done nothing to earn but needed very much. We had never talked about the situation before, but after that moment, he and I could talk about almost anything.

Think of the month before your honeymoon and the month after. Something changed, and communication would never be the same.

Imagine Lazarus talking to Jesus before the whole resurrection thingy. Would things have changed afterward? I think it was altogether different. Why?

I see it this way: Jesus and Laz knew one another and were even friends. That's a certain basis of relationship, and a certain kind of communication flows from it. But when Jesus got into Lazarus' head from the other side of the tombstone and called his name and urged him out, the relationship was altered; the level of communication was never the same again. There must have been an intimacy there, formed from the life-giving gift of a savior, and the nature--the very core of that relationship--would have been forever altered. That means that the form, style, level, and content of communication would also be profoundly magnified.

How did you talk to Jesus when you first began your relationship with him? Has it changed?
Listening to a new Christian pray is one of the most refreshing things to a dull spirit. The honesty and lack of pretension is daring. The naiveté of non-religious words is thrilling. The intimacy of those prayers is heart-rending and beautiful. That's Lazarus prayer.

But over time, our prayers become saturated with spiritual jargon. We lose the intimacy for the sake of expediency. We stop our dependence on that communication and start considering prayer a chore, an appointment that must be kept because someone told us that this was a "discipline" and that we had to do this to make sure we didn't lose out on all God's blessings. We began to see prayer as good karma: if I do this, he'll give me that.

In reality, it is those blessings--all that is enjoyed as part of the abundant life--that is the engine to joyous, intimate prayer. But we change things around, alter the air waves of communication.
We're learning to live like Lazarus. The way Lazarus communicated with Jesus, (i.e. prayed) would have been dramatically changed on the other side of the grave. How does your prayer-experience reflect new life? What would today look like if resurrected Jesus walked through it with you?


Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 145

Suggested Ideas:
1. Today in our country we celebrate "Take your child to work day." Pick one day this week, and invite Jesus along. And then act like he really is there with you, and let your communication with him all through the day be just as real and as pertinent as if he was physically present.
2. If we talked to our friends the way we talk to God, what would our conversations be like? Spend an hour talking to God as if he were a close friend.
3. Ask someone to stand-in for Jesus. Tell them they don't need to say anything, but just to listen to you as if they were Jesus. Then talk to him.
4. Use sticky notes on the mail boxes on your block, and write some words of hope and encouragement. (Make sure it's not too windy!)


The Lazarus Experiment day 25

Why is it we only connect with some people at funerals?

It would be interesting to surprise the guests at your Bereavement Dinner by showing up between the carrot Jello and the sliced ham and scalloped potatoes. "Hi there! I'm back!"

Which is just what Lazarus did. The period of mourning was still in full swing when Jesus called Lazarus back to life. Lazarus crashed his own death party: "Surprise! Thanks for coming! Who brought the brownies?"

Imagine working the room. There's Aunt Betty, who would not miss the opportunity to get in on all the latest family gossip. You shake hands with your cousin, twice-removed, Bob, who you remember married someone who divorced him, so he technically is not part of the family anymore, but he still enjoys the funereal atmosphere. Your wife is there, of course, and she's happy to see you, but there are people in the room you've never met; at least you don't remember meeting them.
"So, do I know you?" you ask.

"Not really," they say, "I'm just here for the rolls." And you have to admit, the rolls are pretty good.
Would this second-life change the way you look at this room full of people? Close your eyes and do a panoramic shot in your head of the people sitting and noshing at the tables AT YOUR FUNERAL DINNER. Who are they and why are they here? What did life look like the first time on the train? Now that you've been dead and have realized new life because of Jesus, does anything shake down with this group?

It would seem to me that being given a second go-round would motivate a dramatic change. It would prompt me to reconsider shallow connections, too-casual friendships; it would make me ditch the relationship-lite nature of my dealings with other people. No more skimming, no more thin love, no more red-punch-and-cookies fellowship. Cotton-candy relationships are the old way of handling these people. I understand now that life is too short for all that fluff.

Your new life calls you to take on the hurt, the pain, the struggle, the wrestling of deep relationship. Jesus has breathed resurrected life into your once-dead lungs, and part of the package is to engage in the raucous party of people all around you. Finding a tiny house in the middle of the Northern Territories hundreds of miles from another human being is not what Lazarus longed for. (Well, maybe for a week!)

So, look around. It's time to stop breezing through with the people you love. It's time to start going deep. Not snorkel-deep but scuba deep. Submarine deep. What have you got to lose?

Suggested Scripture For Today: Romans 12 (Read it first in your usual translation, then The Message)

Suggested Ideas:
1. List the relationships in your life that demand a deeper, more vital connection because of new life in Jesus.
2. List ten ways to take those relationships deeper. Pick one relationship and do the first thing on your list.
3. Write a note to someone today expressing in clear, solid words why they are precious to you. Don't make it a Hallmark card, make it real and make it yours.
4. Going deeper will be messy. But messy does not need to be permanently damaging. Tell someone you're willing to get messy with them.

Fifteen days left. Time to jump-start your good intentions and finish well.

The Lazarus Experiment Day 24

"And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors."
You, living-over-one, are on a mission. A mission from God. You are the Reconciled, and your mission is to reconcile.
The big, "now what?" for Lazarus must have been a no-brainer. Really. Once you've tasted death on your cold hard rigor-mortised tongue, and returned to the light of day, is there really a question about your plan for the future? You are not going to hit the recliner and spend your days watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. (Although I intend to watch Ken Jennings win another million this week!)
No. There is a buzz in your heart that will not be satisfied unless you can do one thing: share what you've got with somebody else.

I don't think this realization hit Lazarus in the early days. I believe he was reeling--first with excitement, then with great grief due to Jesus' own death. But once Lazarus recognized that Jesus himself had beaten death, and the full weight of the glory and awe of all that hit him over the head and situated itself forever in his heart, I think Lazarus knew. This is the message. This is the truth. Jesus puts death away, forever. And I am the proof. (Go ahead - sing that!)

As participants in that new life ourselves, our mission is clear. We are the Reconciled. And we represent the Possibilities. We are ambassadors of the Life-Giver. And so, like Paul, we can say, "HEY YOU! YES, YOU! BE RECONCILED TO GOD!"

As bearers of the Ministry of Reconciliation, we have our joyous work cut out for us. Reconciliation means bringing persons together. Business partners who are threatening to sue one another are reconciled when they work out their differences and pack up the lawyers. A husband and wife who are pulling farther apart every day are reconciled when they take the courage to get close again. God and Person A who can't possibly carve out a relationship because one is Holy and the other is NOT! are reconciled when Jesus applies permanent stain removal to sin. And we--the living, breathing, examples of that spiritual reality--get to help MAKE IT HAPPEN.

So, what will you do, oh Reconciled One? Where will you apply the special spiritual glue of reconciliation?


Suggested Scripture For Today: 2 Corinthians 5 (You really need to read this. Read it as if you were Lazarus reading it. It makes so much sense!)

Suggested Ideas:
1. "Irreconcilable" is nonsense if God is in the picture. Look for "irreconcilable" situations and begin to pray about them.
2. The most powerful reconciliation is the one where you've been part of the problem. With whom could you reconcile today?
3. Make a list of ten people who need to be reconciled to God. Now pick one of them and do something to push that agenda one step more.
4. Form a "Reconciled Posse" of people who will help pray for each other and the Ministry of Reconciliation God has for you.

The last ten days of The Lazarus Experiment are coming up, and I want to encourage you to invite some friends for the Big Finish. I know it's hard to do forty days (Good on you for doing that, by the way!). But anyone can pull off ten days. Think about who you'll invite.

The Lazarus Experiment Day 23

Lazarus is the poster-boy for do-overs.

Just imagine sitting in a spot on a mountain between two valleys. From this place you can see what has transpired in your life up until this point - the trail, the historical markers along the way, the life and times of you. But now, looking down the other direction, you have an opportunity to reverse course. Because you've been given a second chance, you can take more responsibility for blazing a trail that is new, and because you've hiked the one trail, you know what to avoid this time around. You also have new ideas about what makes the hike really great.

"All things have become new," and a new path is possible. When you started your new life in Christ (and I hope you have*), you were given a clean slate. A do-over.

And there's no reason to think that today is any different. You have a clean slate now, in this moment, on this day. It's never too late to live like Laz.

So what will you do differently? If yesterday is prologue, what will today be like? If yesterday was old-living, what will today's new life bring? How can you determine to intentionally cut a trail that will not revisit the same potholes, the same traffic jams, the same besetting bogs? How can you decide to traipse into new wonders, new vistas?

Jesus Christ, the Bible says, is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I am not. Lazarus was not. You are not.

You are new. Blaze a provocative, thrilling, Jesus-following trail today. It's a do-over, but you don't have to travel the same road.


Suggested Scripture For Today: John 8

Suggested Ideas:
1. Ask God to help you make a list of the roadblocks that keep coming up in your life. If it's sin, you'll need to repent and confess. Pick out one, and pray that he would give you the route today that cuts a detour. What is that detour? What will you do to follow it? Share it with us.
2. It's always better to blaze new territory with a friend. Ask someone to be a trail-blazer with you.
3. Give flowers to someone who has done nothing to earn them.
4. Do something hard, so hard that you've been unwilling to even consider it. But do it with God's strength.
You may have noticed we're ramping up the equation. Hold on, and pray. It's going to get interesting.

*If you started this journey without a real connection with Jesus, this would be a great time to get that relationship off the ground. Let me know if you'd like to talk about it. Message me, email me find my information in my profile.

The Lazarus Experiment Day 22

Will you risk losing what he gave to you?

If you lose your cell phone, and you go for four days without it, and then your husband finds it in the planter by the front door, you will probably learn your lesson and keep better track of that phone. You won't let it get far from your purse.

If you lose your credit card, and you don't know where it is for four days, and you have to make all the calls, and then the barrista at Starbucks calls you and says you left it on the table, you will make sure you never do that again. You won't take it out of your wallet.

If you lose your kid, and he's missing for four hours, and you're frantic and panicked and about to lose you mind, and then a neighbor finds him walking with a stranger, and brings him home, you will tie a leash around his waist and make sure they're never out of your sight again.

If you lose your life, and you're dead for four days, and then Jesus brings you back to life, you may determine that you will do whatever it takes to protect yourself from disease, from ill health, from danger, and from anything that might threaten to take life away from you again. And you would lock yourself away in your house, in a big antiseptic bubble, and wear gloves.

And you'd be wrong.

I wonder if Lazarus ever thought about these words from Jesus: "Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." I wonder if he thought, What if it's my second life? Does that count?

If you have been handed your life back after it was taken away, would you hoard it and protect it and keep it in a little bottle so that no one could ever take it from you again? Or would you give it up?
We're going to get real serious now. We've been at this thing for over twenty days. We've been celebrating new life. And it's fun, and it should be.

But it's not yours. You've been handed a life, one you didn't deserve, and it belongs to the one who gave it to you. And in order to keep it, to hang onto it, to make sure it's not ripped away from your hands by the Ultimate Enemy, you can't keep it; you're going to have to give it up. You're going to have to give it back to the one who gave it to you. It's the only way to make sure you will keep it.
Yeah - it doesn't make sense.

When Lazarus finally got around to asking the question -- What now? -- I think he must have considered the options. Keep it safe, don't take any risks, use a lot - A LOT - of hand sanitizer, and never, ever hang out with those Jesus fanatics who are just looking to get themselves killed. Or . . .
Or lay my life down; surrender it, sacrifice it, call it done, and give it over completely to Jesus.
One way you'll save it. One way you'll lose it. Again.

Suggested Scripture For Today: Matthew 16:21-28

Suggested Ideas:
1. Give something precious away.
2. Make a plan to give time to a stranger or a needy person. Don't make it easy. Pick something to do or someone to help that you don't really like.
3. Do something embarrassingly silly and childish.
4. Express your love for someone in a way that is uncomfortable for you, but is easy to see for them.
Happy Mothers' Day, (if that applies, and you celebrate the day),

The Lazarus Experiment Day 21

Your worst day with Jesus is better than your best day without him, and your worst day alive is better than your best day dead.

Lazarus gained a working heart, a functioning brain, and five or more senses that worked when Jesus re-issued his permission to live. But he also gained one amazing view - the panoramic vista of abundant life.

Do you have a picture in your mind of a scene that changed your life completely?

I have several burned into my memory. The first time I saw the Grand Canyon as an adult. Looking out from the Capital Building in Washington D.C. at the space between there and the Washington Monument filled with hundreds of thousands of men. Holding my daughter, April, in my hands on the day she was born. The breathtaking sight of my wife, Linda, coming around the corner of the doorway on the arm of her father on our wedding day. Holding my grandson and looking into his big eyes for the first time. To say these moments were life-changing reduces them to a cliche. They leveled me, and I have never recuperated.

They also have framed my life and my perspective. Every moment of my life are cast with the color of these scenes, like lights on a stage play.

Now, translate all that to Lazarus and the bandages removed, the eyes open. He would never forget. And everything else is sawdust.

We here at TLE 2014 have already seen this perspective alive and active in the hearts of our participants. Some are looking at renewed and enlivened vision. Some are experiencing painful memories. Some, questioning and wondering. And there are others, some whose stuff we know, and many whose stuff we will never know, but they're hanging on to this central truth - I have today, and I have Jesus, and that is enough.


Last year, in the midst of great pain and loss, Debora used these words: "living in the now." Now can be brutal.

But you have Grand Canyon eyes. You have new baby eyes. You have wedding bliss eyes.

The rest? Sawdust.

Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 116

Suggested Ideas:
1. When the ebb and flow of your day brings you to the lowest point, stop and be Lazarus in that moment. Don't try to bail. Live it out. Tell us about it.
2. Share some of your life-changing moments with someone who's never heard them before.
3. Write a thank-you note to Jesus for the life-altering Lazarus perspective.
4. Dance with someone you love. Or a stranger.
Do something outrageously loving!

The Lazarus Experiment Day 20


You're half way through this experiment! How are you doing?

I don't know some of you. I may know your name, but I don't know your life. But I can be certain that right about now some or all of these things are true:

1. You're wondering about why you got into with this whole Lazarus thing.
2. You're feeling guilty because you're not keeping up.
3. You've had some kind of major upheaval or life problem.
4. You've run out of ideas for The Experiment, and you're just looking back on your day and trying to come up with something that seems like something that maybe Lazarus would have done sometime.
5. You're tired and weary and worn out and you don't have any energy left.
6. You wish Lazarus was around so he could try "The (insert your name here) Experiment" and see how he liked it.
7. If Lazarus was really alive, and you met him in the street, and he started in about how wonderful life is and how everything was just going great and that if your life is with Jesus then you have the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in your heart -- well, you might just have to punch him in the nose.
This will not help, but you may want to know that this happens to me every year. That's why I want you to do one thing.
Don't give up.
Here's what I've noticed: if I keep at this thing and get through to the end of the forty days, something amazing happens. Lazarus gets into my head. The whole idea of looking around me and seeing things through the eyes of a resurrected person takes hold and begins to be a more permanent thing. Each time I do this Experiment, my life gets reoriented a little more, and I get a better hold on what abundant life is engineered by Jesus to be.
So keep at it. Determine that you will hold on to the end. Cut loose of all the guilt and pressure. Sit with Jesus a few minutes. Read John 11 again.
And then tomorrow, not today--tomorrow, set about to do one thing that gives dramatic evidence to your life in Jesus.
You can do this. I'm with you. You'll be happy you stuck with it.

Besides, punching Lazarus in the nose would only hurt your hand.

Suggested Scripture For Today: John 11

Suggested Ideas:
1. Take the day off TLE.
2. Grab a song book or hymnal and sing for 30 minutes to yourself.
3. Write a love letter you didn't intend to write.
4. Call a friend and take them for an ice cream sundae.
May God back up his dump truck of grace and unload it in your front yard,

The Lazarus Experiment Day 19


Do you think Lazarus ever got tired of telling his story?

The first week was probably exciting, and I would assume that Laz told anyone willing to listen all about his real-death experience. Scripture makes it sound like word about Lazarus spread quickly, and there were probably loads of people who were gathering to touch "The Man Brought Back From Death." I'm sure Lazarus was asked hundreds of times, "So, how did it feel when you were dead?" and "Did you know right away that it was Jesus calling your name?" and "What was the first thing you wanted to do when you came back to life?" (How do I know that people wanted answers to these questions? WE'RE STILL ASKING!)

I wonder if the thrill wore off. After countless questions about the same thing, and press conferences covering the "Amazing Events at Bethany," and the conspiracy theorists hatching plots about zombies and cannibalism and "The Dead Amongst Us" - I think Laz must have tired of the whole thing. At some point, maybe he just answered every question with "Jesus - it was Jesus."
And then, of course, Jesus himself died. What would that have meant to Lazarus and telling his story? Would he hole up at Bethany and pull into the countryside to hide for fear of the Jewish leadership and the Roman cross? They wanted to kill him, too.

We have fair evidence that Lazarus eventually told his story again. He became a prominent advocate of the gospel - the good news - and was responsible for getting that news out to the world. And who better to do that than Lazarus? He knew first-hand - literally first hand - what it meant that Jesus came to save sinners from the devastating consequences of sin. Eventually, Lazarus stopped worrying about the political correctness of new life in Jesus, stopped being afraid of the consequences, and started opening his big mouth.

To live like Laz - we've got to open our big mouths.

If you know Jesus enough to have tasted the same death-to-life experience, you know the gospel first-hand, too. Your story may be tired and old to you. Or you may not think it's especially exciting or germane. Lazarus may have come to the place where he considered his story old and worn. "You don't want me to tell you that whole thing again, do you? Really?" But I think people genuinely wanted to hear it. I want to hear it!

So to, your story needs to be told.

There's a great old gospel song that starts with this phrase: "Sing them over again to me - wonderful words of life."
This story - the one where Jesus makes you all new - this story never gets old. Tell someone. Tell everyone. God did something great with you, and he deserves the credit.

Suggested Scripture For Today: John 9:1-25

Suggested Ideas:
1. In two or three paragraphs, write your story, then mail it to five people who've never heard it before.
2. Ask someone you know as a Christ-follower to tell you their story. We may know several believers, but we may not have ever heard their story.
3. Arrange to take a meal to your neighbor, or mail a treat to a distant friend.
4. Take one hour to spend with Jesus alone, with the express purpose of thanking him specifically for all the things he did to hunt you down and love you into his family.

the Lazarus Experiment Day 18


There may be no surer evidence for grace than friendship.

I love the descriptions, scant as they are, of Jesus' relationship with the Lazarus family. It sounds so easy, so warm. I like the eating and the relaxing and the hanging out. I think it would be great to have dinner with Jesus and just occupy with each other for a couple hours.

But that's probably not going to happen soon, unless Jesus decides to return this week or call me home. Until then, it could get lonely - very lonely - and I need the flesh-and-blood evidence of his grace and acceptance. So do you.

That's what friends are for.

It would be a Lazzie thing to do to connect with your friends. To say a random "Hello!" without warning. To send a card or a token of love. To hide a surprise or to plan a trip. To share coffee or tea or a beer. Those connections are grace-fuel, and we dare not go too long without tanking up. We're not made to run on fumes.

If you know me, you realize that I am a devout proponent of Facebook. I think it is amazing, and one of the most innovative and radical technologies in the last decades. It promotes connection and it's been so very good to make friends across all kinds of barriers - space, time, relational. It's easy.
And that's why I would say that if your relationships - especially those that are grace-rich - are on Facebook only, and if that's the only way you're making the connection work, you need to step it up. Sure, you can pull grace from that. But you need more. You need face-to-face. Somehow, Jesus lives in those moments.

We've already seen that one of the first things Lazarus did when he was up on his feet was to throw a party and be with his friends. He knew they needed to see him, to touch him, to talk. He needed it, too. And I think that, once Jesus was removed from earth and caught up into heaven, Lazarus probably hosted many more gatherings.

Need grace? Jesus is the source, but he often uses other people as his delivery system.


Suggested Scripture For Today: I Corinthians 12:12-26

Suggested Ideas:
1. Connect in a surprising way to a friend. Go out of your way to show grace.
2. Take a loaf of homemade bread to your neighbors.
3. Take a lonely person to a ball game or shopping for groceries.
4. Carry a pack of post-it notes everywhere you go today and write encouraging notes - could be for specific people you know will find them, but could be for anyone who might wander by and see them! Leave them everywhere!
Have a great day,

The Lazarus Experiment Day 17

Ever watched an episode of Hoarders?

Then you'll know where we're going here. You may even decide you can skip this because, a) You already get it that clutter if of the Devil, or b) You don't want to get it at all, and you're just fine with all your devil-worship and stuff.

I know. Sounds extreme. But really, you haven't seen my garage. The devil may live in there. But if he does, he'd be hard to find.

Lazarus would have spent a significant amount of his new-found life the first month or so getting rid of clutter. The stuff in his closets. The junk in his garage. The mountain in his yard. The amazing gathering of seemingly inconsequential crap in that one drawer by the phone that holds keys that don't work, batteries that don't fit, coins that jumped from my pockets, bent paperclips, rubber bands, pens that don't have ink, a grocery list from 1987, the business card of a guy who wanted to interest me in some investments and I thought, Hey, maybe someday! and I stowed the card but I no longer have any money to invest because of all the junk I've bought since then.

Wait, we were talking about Lazarus! When did this get so personal?!

Here is what I surmise: Once you're on the other side of that tombstone, all the junk doesn't add up to much. It may have before -- in fact, it may have been your whole life. But now that your whole life has been spent, and a new one has taken its place, all that clutter just tends to muck things up and make life go slower. And if there's one thing you don't want in your new life, it's for it to be weighed down by a bunch of junk.

The Lazzie thing to do is to start right away and clear it out. Here are some places to start. Pick one. You may need some help. And a counselor who specializes in hoarding:
* Kitchen
* Garage
* Bedroom closet
* Hall closet
* Pantry
* Basement
* Crawl space
* Car trunk
* Attic
* Friends
* Work
* Hobbies
* Habits
* Thoughts
* Heartaches
* Fears
* Miscellany of every sort

OK. Pick one. Show us before and after pictures (unless it's time to get rid of all the picture!). Time to de-clutter your life. Call the refuse trucks and let's get started.

Suggested Scripture For Today: Hebrews 12:1-2

Suggested Ideas:
1. Pick a drawer and clean it out. You'll be surprised how good it feels.
2. Do a de-clutter of your email inbox. 
3. Take a look at your Facebook friend list and make some decisions.
4. Walk through your house on a thanksgiving journey, thanking God for each thing by name. This will help in two ways: it will stimulate your gratitude, and it will clarify your real need for any more stuff.

Grace and peace, all you wonderful people..

As for me and my house we will serve the Lord...

I took a huge step and decluttered my house in October.,  Like I hired one of those hoarder companies and seriously decluttered my house.  I donated probably $5,000.00 worth of clothing, furniture, medical supplies (there was a very very nice wheelchair and a walker among other medical type things).  It was a completely liberating experience.  Now while they did NOT do what they said they would do (completely have my house party ready by the Sunday following) what they did was also a blessing.  they boxed up all that remained and deposited each box into the room that was it's intended home and left.  

What happened later was nothing short of a miracle.  I was able then to continue purging.  I seriouslty rid my home of more than 2/3rd of what was previously in it.  It was awesome.  My heart was lighter, I was able to "see" my home for the first time in probably more than 10 years.  I am so thankful to my two besties who were intrumental in getting me through it (because of lot of it was my late husband's and I could  never have done it without them).  They held my hand, they walked me through it, they scolded me, they praised me, they congratulated me and they cried with me.  It was so hard but absolutely the most liberating experience of my life.

I highly recommend it!

So instead of being horrified when my door bell rings, I proudly and with great pride, I open the door wide and invite anyone and everyone in.  I've had parties -  lots of parties!  I have invited in strangers who want to teach me about the love of God, I have entertained people I've never met as friends of friends.  I'm so proud of my home!!

And I just entertained my new preacher!

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Lazarus Experiment Day 16


Joyous and happy, Lazarus floated through the first week of his post-death existence with a smile on his face and a dance in his heart. He woke up smiling, and he didn't stop with that silly grin all day long. He would catch himself shaking his head in full-out wonder, and then offer praise to God audibly and in front of anyone who happened to be close. He did not blush to praise Jesus; to tell the story. He must have told that story a thousand times if he told it once. He could not come down off his new-found abundance. Life was full, faith was energized, joy was abounding, and then he sinned.

Then he sinned.

Not a another single person knew. It was Tabitha again, with her cloak pulled back just so and her shoulder bared for just a fraction of a minute. And that look. THAT LOOK! Martha had to poke Laz in the ribs to get his eyes back to his work, but later that day he nursed the glimmering memory, and it became sin.

Do you remember the first time you sinned after you came to Jesus? How did that make you feel? What did it do to your new life?

I think Lazarus may have been blown away.

{"All things new" and all that--sounds peachy keen--but this is not new. This is old. This feels as familiar as a stick in the eye. I've been here before. I thought all this was over, that I was a "new man," that Jesus was enough. And now I've spoiled it all. My new life isn't so new after all. It's back to the same-ol', same-ol'. So much for a new and improved Lazarus. Crap.}

He may have become physically ill at the thought that he had betrayed everything Jesus had just accomplished. The awareness that sin was still possible and probable and that guilt still smelled just as foul as before crushed him.

"Hey, Jesus and the boys will be coming back from their camping trip today, and I've invited them over for a little get-together tonight," Mary announced. "Hope that's OK."

No. Not OK, Lazarus thought. What will I say? Where will I go? How can I hide?

Visit the scene. Lazarus is lounging, visiting with neighbors as the party gets going. Jesus walks in, surrounded by his disciples. Lazarus moves away a little. He avoids eye-contact. He finds a corner and munches on some grapes, head down.

But Jesus manages to get back there without being noticed. Before Laz can dodge him, Jesus grabs his elbow and pulls him around. The eyes of these two close friends lock, and Lazarus searches there. It is clear that Jesus knows. There is sorrow and pain. But there's more. Jesus' eyes brighten, a smile forms, his face lights. Jesus wraps his arms around Lazarus and pulls him tight and whispers into his ear.

"I've already taken care of that, Lazarus."

Sin lurks around, waiting for a chance to bring death back, to resurrect guilt and shame and fear, to repaint the blackness of our hearts. Jesus' gift of new life powers the battle to fend off sin's advances and deliver them empty. Lazarus had a choice: Believe that Jesus had accomplished what he could not do for himself, or go back to the losing battle and cycle down the familiar path of guilt.

You have that choice. What will you do when you sin?


Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 51

Suggested Ideas:
1. Creatively express the truth about sin and your new life using words, music, art, or photography. Be sure and share the results with us.
2. Take time out of your day to sit with Jesus and confess what he already knows. Confession is saying "yes" to his appraisal and "yes" to his remedy.
3. Tell a close trusted friend that you need them to sit in for Jesus today. Tell them that you just need to have Jesus present while you tell about some things that are tempting you, tripping you up. Explain that sometimes you long for Jesus to be physically present, but you know that's not really possible yet, so your friend will have to do. Then spend an hour unloading your junk.
4. Cheer and clap all day long for anyone who does anything remotely good and right -- the checker in the grocery store, the McDonald's drive-through worker, your kids, your spouse, the bank teller, the customer. Holler and clap and draw genuine attention. (People will be suspicious - try to do it in a way that is authentic or someone may thing you're being facetious.)

Here's a special note to you - you know who you are:
I know you're still wondering what this crazy thing is all about. You may just feel like you don't have time for this thing. You may feel like you have nothing to offer and nothing to say. You may feel like you're already 15 days behind and you can't catch up. You may be wondering - when will all these posts stop showing up in my Facebook?

I get it. But can I encourage you to just jump in? Maybe just for a day, or the next several days. Just try it, give it a little time, interact a little bit, and see how it goes. I'd love to know your impressions--positive or not.

If you don't try it out, that's OK. There have been participants in TLE who never post at all, but read all of it everyday and tell me later that God used this little band of former zombies to change things in their hearts. So please, lurk on and keep reading. It's OK.

Have a great day you Lazzie peeps.

And my Day 16 thoughts:

Had a great day - lunch with the daughter in law, time with the grandson, did a favor for my bestie with had us talking about the church sermon yesterday, home to the not so young one and that's where the fun ended.

He is wonderful and an incredibly old soul who never ceases to amaze me with his love and insight and compassion and empathy. But sometimes his desires for what he loves to do get in the way of my perception of family obligation/responsibility (read - you should eat dinner with your mother without grumbling and she should have to remind you to tell me good night - it should be something you already enjoy doing each night.)

That being said and as I was eating alone - I took time to read the DEVO for the day and decided I would take Ron's advice and have some conversation with Jesus about what I perceive to be my faults, shortcomings, sins, sinful desires, areas I need help to do better, think more clearly, or just "be" better.

So, suffice it to say, Kleenex has a new invester, my heart is lighter, my soul singing a quiet song... I'm no Carrie Underwood, but you'll get the idea. (Translation: Grant Us Peace) which he did... (and now if you'll forgive me, I think I'll go hide for a while!)

The Lazarus Experiment Day 15

Space. The final frontier.

I'm not talking about a trek to the stars. I'm talking about the space in your clock; in your calendar; in your day. It's the final frontier because everybody seems unfamiliar with the territory and afraid to go there. Those who do go there are labeled as lazy or crazy.

Space is all the holes we think we must fill or die trying. The twenty minutes in our day that is not scheduled. The one evening this month where you're Daytimer is blank. The rare minute that may slip by without a detailed agenda for its budget.

You are overbooked. Overstressed. Over-planned. Over-scheduled. Overdone.

And overwhelmed.

Lazarus would have tossed his watch and his calendar in the Dead Sea.

"But," you say, "what about redeeming the time, making most of every opportunity? Doesn't Jesus demand that we stay busy for the Kingdom?"

It never ceases to floor me that Jesus needed space. Sometimes he just dropped everything and took off. He even dropped his closest friends and went alone, because friends take up too much space.

We have been taught that idle time is the devil's playground. What if he claimed it because he knew that we needed the space to connect with God?

In our busy-every-moment-or-we-will-fail-like-a-toothless-bum-in-the-gutter-of-life world, space makes us feel guilty, like we're not doing anything.


We even go to great measures to plan our free time, so that it's not free anymore -- it's planned! Booked! Spent! Expensive! Not Free!

When is the last time you just sat and looked out a window. No book. No computer. No friend. No pet. No music. No TV. No Bible. Space.

Lazarus, to his administrative assistant: "Cancel my appointments. For the rest of the day I'm doing nothing. Not one thing." Do the same. Boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before.


Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 131

Suggested Ideas:
1. Carve out 15 minutes a day for a week and do nothing during them.
2. Take off your wrist watch for a week.
3. Go camping alone, or take a long walk without your iPod.
4. Sit in a coffee shop where you can see the door and pray specifically for every person who walks in.

Don't be discouraged, friend. We're getting into the hard part of The Experiment. It would be easy to give up. Don't. The best rewards are yet to come. Hang in there and fight it out to the end. You can make it.

My day 15

A glorious day. Church was awesome and spoke right into my not so little boy's heart. Which he admited and agreed he and I had both let distractions take us away from God and were letting the evil one get closer to getting a hand on our ankles. (remember my temper tantrum at the yard sale - yeah - like that... shaking my head...... tut tut tut..). We went to lunch after church and had a whole day together.

The Laz moment came as we were walking to church. We had fought all morning about whether or not he could wear his cleats to church. For the life of me I couldn't imagine why he wanted to wear his cleats. Um NO! Wear your shoes - it's not only because it's not church on the field but it's a safety issues = cleats on polished floors is a recipe for disaster - slipping and seeing little noggins busting on the floor.

He finally said he wasn't going - which did not sit well with me at all and I furiously gave him till I got to 10 to get his shoes on and get into the car. The GRUMBLES and GROANS (from both of us) were relentless. We were holding hands and walking into the school (we're a new church meeting at a local high school for now) and he was limping. I asked him if he were hurt. He says, no why? I remarked about his limp. He said, "Oh, it's okay, When I got all that oil on my shoes it broke down the inside of my shoe and it's like I'm walking right on the ground. It's just uncomfortable".

Well now why didn't he say that at home? We never would have had words if he had said that at home. So right after church, when he thinks we're going hom, we went to the shoe store and bought him new shoes (can his feet stop growing soon please?). He snuggled up to me on the stool at the store and said, "Momma, we both let the devil get a hold of us this morning and he became a distraction. I don't want that to happen any more. We need to work together more don't we."

I love it when they get it.... and I even didn't mind it when I got a V-8 smack in my forehead.
Then home to relax together. It was a fantastic day/nigh

The Lazarus Experiment day 14


(Written previously - flood is over for this year - I hope!)

As I write this morning, the boundaries of my backyard have moved. I did not make this happen. It was not my choice. I have no guarantee that the boundaries once established will ever return the way they were. We've had a flood.

Don't be concerned. It happens every year. And every year the majority of my yard goes submarine for a week or so. Most of the time, it returns to normal. But there are always subtle changes under there. Water just pushes things around.

Crises in our lives are like floods, pushing the boundaries around. Sometimes the changes are slow, and not dramatic--just gentle tucks and pinches here and there on the landscape of our relationships and our time.

Major turmoil, however, can completely dismantle the shape of things. Boundaries are rocked by earthquakes, seismic shifts radically alter where we say yes and where we say no. Storms and floods make changes in who we allow to love us, and who we decide to love, and how.

Death is the Great Boundary Shifter. Nothing rearranges the landscape of our personal lives like death. Except maybe for life after death.

The life-death-life reality for Lazarus must have disturbed his boundaries.

Boundaries are those places where we draw lines in our lives. They are the borders of where we can say "Yes - I can do that," and "No, I won't do that." Boundaries help us to determine "You can be an intimate friend," and "You are going to have to stay away."

Finding new life at the command of Jesus - like Laz did or like we did - means that a powerful force is now active and working and pushing things around. The boundaries will never be the same.

How have your boundaries changed because of new life in Jesus? What boundaries need to be changed still? If you were Lazarus, what boundaries would you re-do after you'd been brought back from death?

You're alive. Now. Maybe it's time the edges of your life reflected the truth.


Suggested Scripture For Today: Matthew 5:33-37

Suggested Ideas:
1. Push some edges of your life out as far as you can take them. Stop holding back.
2. Make a list of relationships. Score them on the basis of "Promotes new life in Christ," or "Diminishes new life in Christ." Where can new boundaries be established? Where can old ones be removed?
3. Try going through one day without saying "no" unless it causes you to sin. Say "yes" to everything else.
4. Do something today that you would do if today were the last day you were alive.

I prayed for you by name today. Some of you are going through some tough territory. Don't let it bury you. You're alive.

My day 14
It was community yard sale day and I decided at the last minute to participate. My son and dil came up to sell their baby things (poor girl made $8.50 for the whole day  ) and I decided to put out my jewelry. I have been feeling a little depressed about my lack of sales and was questioning whether I should continue or just sell it all. I honestly sold more on Saturday than ever before so I decided that was my sign. I just have to "keep workin' it!"

At any rate, we spent the day together, not even realizing the time until they had to leave suddenly for another appointment and it left me with ALL their mess - all their stuff still laid out everywhere - in my driveway so I couldn't move my own car to go anywhere hoping they would be back to recover their belongings.

Instead, what I got was a phone call asking me to please take photos and sell it for them on my groups. I was both frustrated and irked. As many of you know, I don't move around very well. My legs are shot (need total knee replacements in both knees but can't do it yet) my hips are both out of place and won't stay where they belong which exacerbates the knees and they wanted me to play "fix it all queen" once again. My initial DANG IT ALL hit my heart.

Then a big deep breath hit me. A big calming breath... What would Laz do, ringing in my ears. Over and over I asked myself the question. I never heard anything definitive. And rather than give in to what they said, I decided I would help them do it but I would expect a portion of the selling price for my efforts as well. It is my gas that will be used to meet people to make the sale. My camera and time to take the photos, my bags to seperate all the items into groups to sell, blah blah blah - And then there Lazarus was shaking his head... "My my my how totally depressing and rude. You've completely missed the mark Lissa."

That I would be angry at them to that degree. Did I have a right to be frustrated? Sure I did. But I didn't have a right to be knit picky about it. They need the money and can't get to Williamsburg where the better market is all the time. I should be commending them on seeing the opportunity and this time - this one time - I will do it but, I will do it with my dil so I can help her learn to do it for herself. that way she will be able to put more of her things out for sale with out needing me to help her. She has the time, she just needs to be taught. Like Jesus taught us about forgiveness, compassion and unconditional love.

And well, you know - give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.

I was glad God stepped in and made me breathe... glad He got to my heart. Glad he walked me through that instead of just telling me what to do...I'm so blessed.......

The Lazarus Experiment day 13

Lazarus was one lucky fella.
I wonder if, on his last birthday, Lazarus blew out all the candles on his birthday cake with one breath?

Or, at the big Bethany Rosh Hashana party, did Lazarus dig into a Vasilopita and find a coin? Maybe Laz carried around a rabbit's foot. Maybe he hung a horseshoe upside down over his front door to gather in the blessings. Maybe he grew a lucky bamboo.

After all, something was going Lazzy's way. Something tilted the scales of fate in his direction. Lazarus won the Beat Death Down Mega Millions Lotto. Maybe it was because he never stepped on a crack in the dusty roads between Bethany and Jerusalem. Or maybe it was because he always stepped on the cracks, and therefore, broke the devil's back.

I know you probably don't believe all that tripe.

But we sometimes catch ourselves thinking that if we only do something right, even something spiritual, in the right order, in the right way, with the right words, using the right scripture, sitting in the right place, and if we make sure we say, "In Jesus name," or "Lord willing," at the end, Jesus will magically appear, the bucket at the end of the rainbow will be full, and everything will turn out OK.

Actually, the story of Lazarus' death leads us to the exact opposite conclusion. We can't breeze past the obvious: Lazarus died. Mary didn't want that to happen. Martha knew it didn't need to happen. Even Jesus understood that it wasn't a good thing. We might say, "His luck ran out."

Martha seems to think that maybe if things had been different, Laz would still be alive. "If you had just listened and come when we called you, Jesus!" Sure, she plays the diplomat and tries to be all nicey-nice. But you know what she's thinking: "Hey! Pay attention next time, Jesus! My brother's dead and it's all because - why? You wanted to spend a little more vaca time with your buddies in the wilderness? The golf course was calling your name? It was more important to feed the nameless hoards some more bread and fish? YOUR BEST FRIEND IS DEAD, BUCKO! THANKS A MILLION FOR BEING HERE!"

(And then she made lunch.)
The thing is, this Jesus-life, it's not about the timing or the luck or the ritual or the manipulation of the stars and the universe. It's about leaning into him, in relationship.

Magic is when we do something religious to force the gods to do what we want.
Faith is trusting the One and Only God that whatever he does is the best for us.
Lazarus threw his rabbit's foot away after he died and came back. There is no need for luck when Jesus is in the picture.


Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 103

Suggested Ideas:
1. Do you have a lucky shirt? A pair of lucky shoes? Some kind of object that is a talisman--that you think gives you an edge? What would Lazarus do with that stuff?
2. Spend an hour with God, asking him to show you when you've traded a relationship with him for a formula for success. It could even be a spiritual formula. Ask God what he wants you to do about that.
3. Identify five rituals you perform routinely in your life. It could be the way you brush your teeth, or the route you take to work, or the phrase you use to your kids when they go to bed. It could be one of hundreds of things we do ritually, habitually. Pick out five of them and don't do them today.
4. Tell ten people today that it's Jesus who makes you smile.
It's time to step it up out there! Let's do some intentional, outrageous stuff over the weekend! And we want PICTURES! VIDEO! EVIDENCE!
This is truly amazing. Do you see all the things God is up to? I hope you're relishing these days.

My Day 13
My birthday was lovely and filled with surprises. I was on my way out the door to get a mani (Happy Birthday to me) when my son, Daughter in Law and sweet grandson came over to spend the day with me. They took me to lunch and I offered to pay for lunch but they actually bought me lunch, AND dessert at Extraordinary Cupcakes (and holy Moses it absolutely was extraordinary).

Dalton came home and we went out together then loaded up and had a great night at the lacrosse field where his team were 1 and 1 for the night. It was a beautiful surprise to have one of my dearest friends and her whole family come out and watch the games with us as well as not so little boy's Big Brother (from Big Bros Bis Sis's).

Then off to dinner (which was a new restaurant we hadn't tried and it was terrible but oh well LOL). We stopped by my bff's (and I knew they didn't know it was my bday so I was really looking forward to some quiet down time with my friends to cap off my day). Before I knew it two of my girlfriends had a cupcake with a candle pulling me aside for some quiet personal time together. We are three wacky individuals, completely different people but despite all our differences, we do love each other. It was quite sweet. One of them started talking and the entire candle burned to the icing before she realized she was stll telling me how much I mean to them. I was really touched. Then two other folks who had left shortly after I arrived returned with a cake and a beautiful boquet of flowers. I was so so surprised and touched by their love. I felt really really blessed.....A truly spontaneous ALL DAY! (well except for actually going to the game LOL)

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Lazarus Experiment Day 12


What are you afraid of?

Whatever it is that brings me fear has a finger on the control switch of my life. Whatever causes us to be afraid has power over us.

“I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease." Yann Martel, Life of Pi.

Awareness came to Lazarus, I think, in waves--like the strips of graveclothes being removed. The dawning of resurrection, that he was alive, followed the reinvigoration of his senses; touch first, then hearing, then smell, taste, sight. He came out of the fog in his brain, memories popping back into place, a lifetime of learning reestablishing the library of his intellect.

Put yourself in Laz's place, and imagine the process of coming back to life. Step by step, you emerge from the tomb on Jesus' command. Step by step you regain the elements of life - your breath, your heartbeat, your mind, your heart, your fears.

What about those? What would Lazarus do once he came to full awareness and remembered? All at once -- his situation, his illness, his wound, his death -- all that came rushing into his recollection. Including the fear. I should be afraid . . . Shouldn't I?

(Recollection. Interesting term. "Re-collection." Collecting again. As in, "I have a collection of fears in my life. And sometimes I lay in my bed, at 2:00 in the morning, and I collect them all again." Recollect.)

All the things that Lazarus had ever feared waited on the edges of his consciousness for his permission to enter and reclaim the power they once had. Just waiting. Just over there. All he had to do was say, "Come." And he gathered them all in, and re-collected.

We're not told what Jesus' first words to Lazarus were. Maybe he said, "Welcome back, friend," or maybe Jesus just whispered Lazarus' name in his new-claimed ear. Someday maybe we can ask Lazarus what it was Jesus said.

But I've got a guess. I think I know what Jesus would say to me, if he raised me from the dead. I think I know what I would want him to say, if I had been dead four days and then was alive again. I would want Jesus to look at me, right in the eyes, and speak.

"Ron, you have no reason to be afraid anymore."

And if Jesus spoke those words to Lazarus, what would be the proof that the words were true?
Life. New life. Life after death.

Look - once "death has been swallowed up in victory," is there anything to fear? If Enemy Number One has been put down, what else is there to be afraid of? All the fears of all of life from infancy to death are like so many dominoes, lined up across the landscape of our histories. And when Jesus screams, "Come out!" at the mouth of the tomb, all the dominoes of fear in your collection fall down, impotent and powerless.

At some point, Lazarus faced a choice: open the gate to all those Big Scary Things waiting impatiently to rush in and take control again of his life, or believe that what had just happened to him was the new reality, and allow Jesus to have the control instead.
If you've found new life in Jesus Christ, there is nothing to fear. You have a choice.
Listen. You have no reason to be afraid anymore. Time to stop the fear-collecting hobby.

Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?


Suggested Scripture For Today: Psalm 27

Suggested Ideas:
1. Make a list of things that you will be happy to not fear anymore when you're in heaven. Then identify which of those fears are worthy of your concern here on earth since you have new life in Jesus.
2. Do something that makes you scared. Public speaking, holding a spider (one as big as Rob's picture!), riding a roller coaster, what?
3. On a deck of playing cards, write with a permanent marker your fears. As you write on each card, stack it up, building a tower of fear. When it's high - take a picture to post. Then smack it all down, just as if Jesus was in the room.
4. Fill in the blank: If I wasn't afraid of anything, I would feel great about taking a risk to ____________________ . Then go do it.

It is so cool to be learning about each of you, getting to know other people around the world. As you can see, The Lazarus Experiment has assisted in making some close lifetime friendships! Be sure and interact with all of us online, and you'll make some Laz-buddies for eternity.

I really appreciate your being here,

My response to Day 12

Fear - an interesting word because I've lived in fear most of my life. And when you get rid of one fear another one seems to rear it's ugly head. And then I become afraid of fear. When I was young, I was afraid of everything - we moved to a new city when I was 8. Within months terrible things were happening to me that I couldn't tell any one. I became introverted and afraid - afraid of my body, my neighbors, my thoughts, afraid to leave my room and afraid to stay in it.

At 14 I began to build some trust and faith in myself and my future and within 8 months, I learned to fear all over again. Became afraid and distrustful of all men (or the entire male species except for my daddy), became resentful of my body, became afraid of trying new things, exploring my own talents to see just how far I could go with them, afraid to blossom and become the woman I was supposed to become. It got worse in college and despite finding a good man to marry, he also proved to me that men just can't be trusted.

I paid a lot of money to a wonderful woman for three years to discover my own strengths, talents, goodness. She taught me to become a survivor and to stand tall and proud but then I became a mom and a whole new round of fears took over. Fear of being a bad mother (though I had the most wonderful, wise and incredible mother ever),, fear of failing my children, fear of failing myself after having spent such good time learning to be good to me, fear of getting fat (I'm a career anorexic and indeed I am not a little person but I destroyed my metabolism), fear of never being a whole person because of my own fears.
When my husband died, the worst of my fears came out - my fear of being alone is huge. After losing my daddy (lost my beloved momma in 97) 18 months after my hubby then my bff this year I am more alone than ever before and more afraid than ever before.

The other fears I have are fear of never losing weight
Fear of not seeing Dalton through to adulthood.
Fear of the illnesses I can't ever be rid of
Fear of the public *though it's not a debilitating one, I am happy to stay home for ever
Fear of being alone (as in growing old in the house all alone)
Fear of being made fun of (yes - it does happen to adults)
Fear of not being able to teach my child how to really stand tall in the face of adversity and take it on with all his might.
Fear of failing God.

So there we have it....

I decided to tackle the first one immediately - I have put together a list of appropriate menus, possible affirmations to repeat (chant!) to myself when I start to be demeaning to myself, activities I can do as opposed to looking at those I can't. I have put this up in my kitchen right beside the stove and on the refrigerator. AND..... I know that the only way I'll get through this is with His help so I am calling on Him often with praises, and requests for direction and strength. Baby steps..... this was the easiest one to handle...........

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Lazarus Experiment Day 11


One of the recurring questions that I've dealt with over the years as a pastor is, "How do I know that Jesus is for real?" Lazarus was one of them. After being raised from death, Lazarus settles in for a nice quiet life in the Jerusalem burbs. But unfortunately, news got out real quick about what had happened. Someone went and told the Pharisees. Bad move.

 John 11 tells us that the religious leaders were all aghast at Jesus' actions - the great Bethany Boo-Yah! - and they accelerated their plans for extermination of the pest. Jesus decided to take his closest friends on a camping trip to Ephraim to avoid the hassle. But Passover was approaching, and Jesus knew Jerusalem was the final destination. John records that six days before the celebrations, Jesus brought his followers back to Bethany, and Lazarus and his two sisters threw a little soirée. (Side note: Martha served; Mary "wasted" some perfume).

 According to John 12:9 - "When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead." Lazarus was now proof. Living, breathing, walking, talking, partying proof that Jesus was the real deal. Lazarus was dead. Now he's alive. Jesus did it. What more do you need? Our lives - having been raised from the dead ourselves because of Jesus - are the proof that Jesus is who he claims to be. I am all the evidence anyone needs to verify the accuracy of Jesus' claims.

 Oh my. As I sit here at my desk writing these words, it burns me that when people look at me they might see more death than life. They might notice more proof against Jesus than for him. I so want people to see that Jesus has redeemed my life from the pit. But often my life looks like I'm still living down there, wallowing in self-pity and wondering why life is so crappy.

 At TLE, we've been pushing ourselves to live like we really are. If you know Jesus, and have anchored your whole life on him, you've been brought from death to life, just like Laz. Who knows this? Who is chasing you down to find out what happened? When is the last time you had a party at your place, invited Jesus and a few of his friends, and then invited the whole town over to tell the story again about your own personal BOO-YAH moment - your resurrection?

 Here's an interesting thing: Lazarus never says a word. NOT ONE WORD. Because of that, I think Lazarus was a shy person. He let Mary do the talking, I think. But I think Lazarus lived out the proof of Jesus' actions on his behalf every day of the rest of his second life. In fact, rumor has it that he eventually lost his head in France because he would not stop telling people about what Jesus had done. The proof that Lazarus provided made the enemies of Jesus angry and frightened--so much so that Lazarus was added to their hit list.

First, take out Jesus. But that's not enough, because as long as Lazarus is still around, there's undeniable proof. They decided to kill Lazarus "because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus."

 Have you made any enemies of Jesus upset lately? I long to have it said of me, "As long as Benson is around, there's undeniable proof that Jesus is the real deal."

What if that could be said of all of us on The Lazarus Experiment? We could change the world? 

Suggested Scripture For Today:
John 11-12

 Suggested Ideas:

1. Write out the story of how you came to Jesus and how he saved you from death. Mail it to three people who may not have heard it before. Just tell them, "I really wanted to make sure you knew about this, because you're my friend."
2. Host a Lazarus party at your house. Invite Jesus and a few of his friends, and invite some people who have never met him. You'll never know what might happen.
3. On the back of several Laz cards (attached), write out a one sentence testimony and your phone number. Leave them in places where people might find them. (Yes, this is risky. Lazarus would have taken some risks. In the past, TLE participants have put the cards in library books and on restaurant tables).
4. Answer this question by making intentional changes TODAY in your life: "What could I do to make my BOO-YAH new life more outrageously visible to others?"

 Have you read these posts? Are you as amazed as I am about how God puts this group together and does His thing? You - yes you! - are changing lives through TLE. Your posts, encouragements, comments, and prayers are making an eternal difference.

Keep living like Laz!

My day 11 response:

Day 11 Look out everyone, I've become more and more spontaneous and I might actually like this "spur of the moment" thing.

Today I got an email from not so little boy's algebra teacher. (Just as a little background, he was sick 135 out of 180 days last year and catching up with his math was really tough - as in he failed the first two grading periods.) We've been a little trepidatious about the Standards of Learning test coming up in 4 weeks since he did so poorly the first.

Right after that I got an email from his other nemesis, English, which he also failed the first two grading periods.  He has struggled with English since his 5th grade teacher made fun of him in front of the students and parents at an "Author's Day" celebration. Additionally, he and this teacher have NOT gotten along - at all. She's way over the top stern and obviously needs to retire (I say this as a past teacher and daughter of three generations of teachers and educators.). Her email was really simple but emotional.

 "We took a test to assess and check their skills for the upcoming SOL… Dalton scored an 89%!!!! YAY!!! So proud! J "

I took him to his favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner as a gift to show him how proud I am (we don't go out often). We had excellent conversation over dinner and he opened up to me about some other thngs too. It was all in all a great afternoon. We just simply celebrated the moment! So awesome. God is good, We celebrated the resurrection of not so little boy's self esteem.  SO proud!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Lazarus Experiment Day 10

For most of us, the Lazarus account is a very profound analogy of our new lives in Christ Jesus. Hardly any of us have really been brought back to life after four days of being dead. (If you have, I'd like to come and talk to you!)
I know I haven't. So I can only begin to imagine Lazarus' reactions and emotions. How did he feel when he heard his name? What was his reaction to being loosed from the strips of cloth that held him tight? And this question keeps coming to me: What happened when those who were tending to Lazarus finally began to unwrap his his neck, his head, his mouth, his eyes.
That moment right there.
The moment when the final wrap, perhaps with some padding, was undone from around his head, and his eyelids fluttered, and his pupils went ballistic at the daylight, and the blur of morbid sight cleared, and his eyes adjusted to life, and . . .
Eye to eye. Face to face. Jesus staring right into his brain, into his heart, into the core of him--now alive. Is that a smile on Jesus' face? Are those tears streaking his cheeks? Is that forgiveness in his features? Is that love--right there--in his eyes?
If Jesus had brought Lazarus out of the grave and then left before the rags were removed, I think Lazarus would have been changed. He would have lived differently, and would have made the most out of his second-chance life.
But I think Lazarus was changed more by that one look than anything else that happened to him that day.
That look is powerful. Why do you think so many gospel songs talk about seeing Jesus? Having him look into our eyes. Telling us to look into his?
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in his wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.
It's a nice analogy. But I think it's more than that.
We have spiritual eyes that allow us to see him. And that sight can change us forever.
Whatever this Experiment does--whatever changes you make, habits you start, alterations in attitude that result--the one thing that supersedes all else is seeing Jesus.
If it does anything, I want it to reacquaint me to that moment. I was blind, but now I see. I was in a pit, and he rescued me. I was poor and helpless and wounded and dead, and he called my name and brought me out. And I have looked him in the eyes, and I can never be the same.
Everything we do as a part of this exercise springs from that moment. What difference will it make to you?
Suggested Scripture For Today: Revelation 22:1-5 (Ask yourself - what does this picture remind you of?)
Suggested Ideas:
1. If Jesus were your sibling, or husband/wife, or very close friend, and he wasn't with us physically, we'd probably write him a letter, and part of the letter would include telling him how much we would love to see him in person. Write that letter.
2. Spend ten minutes with your eyes closed and imagine being Lazarus and opening your eyes to the wonder of Jesus' gaze. How would that change you? What would be different?
3. Someone helped get Lazarus out of the rags and into the presence of Jesus. Someone helped you, too, to see Jesus clearly. Have you thanked them lately?
4. If you're artistic (and even if you're not), can you draw a picture, or take a photo, or write a poem, or a song, describing and illustrating looking into the eyes of Jesus? If you do, POST IT SO WE CAN SEE IT!
We are 25% into this thing! Don't get discouraged - you're doing great. Keep up your spirits, look to Jesus, and tell us about what's going on. The best way to get the most benefit from this endeavor is to interact with each other online. Don't worry about missing some days, just jump in when you can. AND TOMORROW IS CRAZY PICTURE DAY! HAVE YOU PICKED OUT YOUR PICTURE?

My Day 10 response:

Day 10 - I did what Ron suggested and sketched the first time Jesus revealed himself to me but it's so flat. It can't come close to glory of Him. I looked long and hard at the various times He has come to me and the circumstances, the differences in the revelations, the people who came with him. Each time He has come to me it has been at a crossroads. It was a time when things could potentially go very bad or had gone very bad (in earthly terms). It was always a time where I had to just trust.... to just let go and keep the faith no matter how heartbroken I was. the first time I was 14 and had just escaped being molested for 5 years. (*coincidentally, I was having my first vision of the most beautiful thing I have ever seen at the same time my darling husband was being born... how's that for God writing your story?!!) I was with several other people and all of us were wrestling with some life changing moments that would determine a lot in our futures. One of us was struggling with sexuality. One of us was struggling with his place in his family, and there were more stories. There were 6 of us in all. He came to us when we needed him most to show us His love and comfort - and help us renew and keep our faith.
He has come to me, surrounded me with such joy, such love, such comfort that I have come to be hopeful that He will come to me more often but I sure don't want to "wear out my welcome". And I REALLY don't want to keep experiencing these moments in my life where my heart takes another hit.
So I drew my picture of the magnificent Lord... but it pales so much in comparison with His true glory that I just put it in my prayer journal... A reminder of the first time when I was just a little girl and a reminder of this day, when I chose to compare and contrast all the times I have been graced by His presence and I learned two really big things.
1) I have had my fair share of trauma and I really could use a break but for whatever reason, I know I'm being prepared for something...
2) Each time, it's been following a trauma and it has made my faith even stronger. I'm firmly rooted and I know that - an unshakeable foundation but these visits, these amazing reveals that I've been blessed to see, have cemented my feet firmly in Christ. His Glory and Magnificence are huge and I feel the need to honor Him by my life and living the way He would want me to, being the person He would want me to, being the mother, daughter, sister and friend He would want me to. I want to live in the Glorious place. I want to know it in my eternity and it fuels me to do better and better.
That being said it makes me quite a basket case when I falter. It brings on self deprecation that is my giant. I've hit that giant so many times with that same old Rock..... and yet I know I've never used the one rock that would truly slay it.... I've never once said, NO! In Jesus' name I will NOT do that to myself. I have no idea what's holding me back.

The Lazarus Experiment - Day 9

Let's say Lazarus started a diary.
Day One. Hello diary. Today, Jesus called me out of that hole! After I got unwrapped I went around to everyone gathered for my funeral and hugged them. Lots of good food and good friends. We danced, partied, and generally had a great time until about 3:00 a.m. I'm beat!
Day Two. Dear diary: I love being alive! Today I couldn't wait to get out of the house! Me, Mary and Martha, and a small group of friends took a long hike with a picnic around Galilee. (Peter could barely stand not being able to cast a net!). After we got back I dug up about a half acre of dirt in the backyard. I'm going to put in a garden!
Day Three. Dear Diary: Went sightseeing in Jerusalem - preparing for the festival. Jesus has plans to head down there - not sure that's a great idea. Worked all day doing errands for him, just to make sure he'll be safe. Haven't been to the city for a long time. Whew! Glad I went, but I'll sleep good tonight.
Day Four. Dear Diary: Decided to get up early and exercise an hour. Got to get this dead old body in shape! Don't want to die (again!) too soon! Had to finally get some work done, since somebody has to pay the bills now that I'm around.
Day Five. Dear Diary: A couple friends decided to pay me a visit and we went hunting. The old bow still performed amazing - I can take out a antelope from 50 years out! Felt more alive than ever. But I need to sleep.
Day Six. Dear Diary. What a day! The air was crisp and cool, and it just demanded that I get some work done. So I finally went down to the crypt to clean things out. Scrubbed the walls with vinegar (oh man - the smell I left in there!) and cleaned up some of the spices and stuff that was left around. (Not sure that stuff works all that well!). Gotta get the place ready, just in case, I guess. My arms feel like they're going to drop off.
You get the picture.
Lazarus, I'm sure, was eager to live life. But somewhere during the first week or two, life reached up and smacked him around. His energy drained. His feet got sore. His back was stiff. It was time to rest.
At some point, Lazarus realized that his new body still needed respite care. After several days of pushing it - testing the very edges of the endurance of his new life - I think Lazarus crashed.
Our Lazarus Experiment needs to factor in some rest. Some of you have already written about naps. That's great. But maybe a whole day of Sabbath is in order.
Since I'm a pastor, Sundays are not ideal for any kind of Sabbath-keeping. I sometimes have to force myself away from work and busyness to get quiet rest.
Lazarus would have realized, as we all must, that there will always - ALWAYS - be something on your to-do list that is urgent, necessary, and vital to your well-being and the happiness of those around you.
After the first week, Laz may have put his to-do list on hold, recognizing that life is too short to burn it out all at once.
Rest, friend.
Suggested Scripture For Today: Matthew 11:25-30
Suggested Ideas:
1. Schedule a day, soon, and attempt to accomplish nothing.
2. Take a day off from The Lazarus Experiment.
3. Turn off all electronic devises for one 24 hour period. No TV. No computer. No cell phone. No radio. No video games. Go tech-cold-turkey.
4. Spend half a day with God alone. Take only a Bible, a pen/pencil, a notebook. Get as far away from other people as you can. Make it your goal not to see another person except God for at least four hours.
Well, we're a week in, and already the relationships and connections and encouragement and practical love is ALIVE and GROWING at TLE 2014. Every year I sit back and watch with awe how God knits and molds this group into existence, and then the Spirit begins to make us move in response to His new life in us. Who knows what will be the result?
Wednesday is Crazy Pic Day! It commemorates the 25% mark in The Experiment. Things get serious sometimes, so let's have a little fun. Post your pictures on Wednesday.

My response to day 9

Day 9 I think this embodies all Lazarus felt he could and should embrace when he woke up. I hope to live up to half as much. Today I talked at great length with a young lady who wants to give up. She wants to seriously pack it all in. She attempted three weeks ago and had 5 days of inpatient therapy. Do I think I can suffice? Oh heck no - but I do have a lot of experience with PTSD and that's her giant. Maybe I can help my own giants (remember - I do to avoid - but I'm trying to face head on) in the process. Today, she's calm for a while. Today some one talked with her for a while that helped her feel like she's not alone and there are people who understand. And maybe that's enough for today.
This guys right here puts it all into perspective. With God ANYTHING is possible!