John 12:1-11 Jesus arrived in Bethany where Lazarus lived. The home that they were in didn’t belong to Lazarus though, it was, according to Mark 14:3, “Simon the Lepers” home. Most of us would never ever think of eating in a lepers house. And many of us would never consider adopting an HIV+ child or allowing the HEP C child to play or wrestle with our kids in our living room. But Jesus went there to eat. Jesus would play with the HIV+ kid, He would give His love extravagantly back to the down syndrome baby and the child crying at the side of the road. Jesus gave His life extravagantly. It was a good time at Simon the Leper’s house. It was also a place where something miraculous and truly great took place. Mary enters the room and brings Jesus a God honoring offering. She approaches Him, breaks open her alabaster jar, and pours it all over his head. She then falls to her knees and pours what is left on his feet and wipes it with her hair. The fragrance of the perfume fills the room as tension fills the air. Judas rebukes her. But the Lord Jesus is just as quick to honor her. Jesus blessed her gift and made sure that her selfless act would be remembered forever. Jesus visits the home of the Leper, dines and then allows a prostitute to pour out the oil she bought from selling her body in sin to men onto His feet. This boggles my mind. Jesus enjoys when sinful people extravagantly honor Him in serving Him, in glorifying Him. Mark 14:9, “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Today my (neice in law-that means my brother in law’s niece-) was laid to rest. She was 10. Her name was Giovanna. She died of cancer. I think about how blessed she was to have extravagant love poured onto her as a child surrounded by loving parents and family. I know that had she lived to see her wedding we all would have wanted to pour the expensive champagne.
I think specifically about a little boy named Baxter in Eastern Europe who is HIV+ who may never have a chance to learn how to read or ride a bike because no one was extravagant enough to ‘bank on God’ and pour extravagant love onto him…I cringe and am brought to tears in thinking that he could die without one person laying vigil at the side of his bed. And I think about how he has a ‘disease’ that if treated is totally manageable…if only someone was willing to be extravagant enough to bank on God and pour their savings on him (like Mary did to Jesus).
Today I was at a birthday party where two adopted children were pampered and surrounded with love. I think about my little girl and my friend’s daughter and I can understand how their lives are worth well more than extravagant love..the kind of love that would fill a room with expensive flowers on their wedding days. I remember how my girlfriend and I prayed for these children and how it seemed risky to ‘invest’ in these children who were qualified and considered by some to be ‘unplanned’ and ‘unwanted’.’ But in ‘banking on God’ with them the incredible thing is that we are the ones that feel like we are soaking in some kind of expensive oil of Christ’s love.
What is more risky? To commit to abiding by Pure Extravagant Religion by ‘banking on God’ or sitting comfortably while the ‘world’ or ‘wall street’ brokers control our life savings….? Shouldn’t we want to be saving lives rather than committing our lives to saving?
When the groom comes back to His bride (the church) after being gone for awhile, and asks, “So how are my children? Have you been making sure that you are caring for them?” What are we going to be able to say?
I hope we can turn to the One and say….”Beloved I poured out everything we have on these children because you told me that in order to honor you I had to take care of them and not be influenced and polluted by the world…so I took all we have saved, every flower from our garden I have bathed them in, every rich fruit I have fed them with and with the most expensive linens I have clothed them with…….and I am amazed to see that new flowers are growing, new fruit is budding and I have filled your closet with the finest silk and velvet from gifts that have been laid at our doorstep…”
What do we believe in ?
There are 147 million orphans…many are dying today. Some of these children do not have one person to care enough to even pray for them. Some are left to starve naked because they are handicapped and have no one to even bring them a banana. Christ wants us to clothe them, feed them and open our homes to them (Matthew 25:31-46).
I remember being on the fence with not knowing whether we should throw an investment onto our children via adoption. I remember being afraid but I know now that I am not going to ever regret the choice we have made to ‘bank on God’. I will never regret pouring what we had saved onto the feet of God’s call to ‘go’ and adopt these children. I know that had I been a goat standing in front of God as someone who failed to recognize the face of Jesus in the eyes of these children I would have wished I had taken the step to join in participating in “Pure Extravagant Religion” while I was still able to.
My children may never get the 1 million dollar wedding. But I no longer judge or criticize the work I do. I realize that there are times that as parents we should pour into our children in celebrating their lives extravagantly. It just grieves me knowing that each life deserves celebrating but for 147 million orphans that rarely means a birthday party. It grieves me to realize that each birthday deserves the special party with tea and dress up and gifts, but so many children have no one to say “we are so glad you were born!”
Get out the good oil….pour it into God’s bank…live your life extravagantly for Him. Believe in Him and be able to look Him in the eye and say “we recognized you when you were a stranger, an angel unaware in the form of the orphan child .We took you in and poured out the finest scented oil on you….then we celebrated Your life and lived and practiced Pure Extravagant Religion for the rest of our days!” And it is a pleasure to be where we are surrounded by the pleasure of Jesus.
It was a long ugly year. It was also one that I will never forget. I learned so much about ugliness this year and discovered pure amazing beauty as well . I learned that when we step out to reveal our own ugliness, we disarm pretense, we create a safe house in our presence for others and we find that there is liberty in expressing truth and ugliness. It is sort of like washing off the thick make up we had been wearing for weeks on end just to go ‘au natural’ with a clean and freshly washed face. Each wrinkle, sunspot, pimple, mole, in the light of day is beautiful in its authenticity. Kicking off the three inch heels we have worn to give us stature only to run barefoot, feeling the sand, mud, water, in-between our toes, shows us how alive we really are when we walk in humility. Exactly a year ago I released my book, “TO BE A MOTHER.” I was reluctant at first to tell my story about the abortion I experienced and the deep pain, regret, shame, guilt and remorse that I felt. But through prayer it was clearly revealed that this story of God’s grace and redemption must be told. The day before the book was released it dawned on me how naked I would be and how ugly the truth was in my past. I was so afraid and doubtful but knew it was God’s will for it to be written in all of its naked ugly truth. The best lesson I have learned this year is that God loves me as ugly as I can be and as ugly as I have been. I have stood in front of women (whether it is one woman or a crowd of women) in my ‘ugliness’ and reminded them that they are loved and of value because God tells us that we are significant in our imperfection and ugliness. We try so hard to keep the make up applied, the high heels on and the pencil skirts pressed. But sometimes our quest for beauty just makes us feel dirtier and uglier by worldly standards, when we refuse to let the scars be shown. Sometimes the most beautiful parts of us are our scars, moles and age spots that we try to hide.
I expressed my ugliness to a Mexican woman walking into her abortion and gave my testimony for the first time ever in bad Spanish. She ended up keeping her baby. She smiled and waved to me as she left the clinic. I felt beautiful even though I was wearing sweats and a baseball cap.
I told a crowd of women of the ugly day that I wanted to kill myself post abortion. Later, after the event, a woman volunteered to help me carry my things to the car. She confessed her own abortion. I was the first person she had told in 27 years. She cried. We laughed in liberation in the empty parking lot outside of a conference center. We both saw how free she felt once she confessed. It was a beautiful day even though it was cold and rainy .
This summer I was present when a baby was born that had been close to being aborted. I had shared my ugly story with the mother. She shared many ugly stories of her life to me. We both saw Jesus in the face of this child and felt beautiful even though we both hadn't slept in 48 hours.
I was present when a friend of mine had a nervous breakdown in front of my eyes. I don’t believe she would have been able to express her ugliness had she not known of mine. I watched later as she pulled herself out of it and developed an acceptance of her own ugliness. We found beauty in Christ’s grace that day….
I am a different woman now. I have been transformed through ugliness this year. I am so grateful to Jesus for moving the mountains inside of me to make me comfortable enough sometimes to sit in the ugly valley and know that I can make it up to the mountain top to view His beauty too. The ugly valley in all of its ugliness is sometimes where He wants us to be in order to show others HIS true beauty.
I thank God for surrounding me with women comfortable with the ugliness of this world. I thank God for friends like Carolyn, Traci, Leslie, Cindy, Diana who will pick up an ‘ugly’ HIV + child and open their arms and homes to them only to see God in their eyes.
I am grateful for my new friend Teresa who will go into orphanages in the Ukraine and hold and hug an ‘ugly’ child left to starve to death because he has cerebral palsy.
I thank God for Lynette, Sundy, Deborah who will shine a spotlight on the ugliness of human trafficking.
I praise God for Denice and Pam who are relentless in their passion to save the ‘ugly’ unborn babies.
I thank God for Rebecca and Madonna who hold their 'ugly’ down syndrome babies and love them unconditionally.
I thank God for Jodi who is willing to go to ugly places like Haiti and Uganda or advocate for the orphan in DC revealing the ugly truth about an at times flawed process...
Thank you Jesus for Eileen who with her relentless Kolfe Mama attitude unorphaned Solomon who is sure to breathe new life into America representing all of the 'ugly' street kids and discarded children in Ethiopia.
Thank you God for Elaine who has never met a teenager or young adult that she didn’t want to put her arms around and call ‘child.’ There are too many young adults who never know the comfort of a mother. I have to believe the world is a better place because she faced her own ugliness and was able to embrace their’s with joy and acceptance.
I am not the same as I was a year ago. The ugly truth has been a direct and fast path to witness unbelievable beauty that was unavailable to me when I tried to cover up my spiritual blemishes. My friends are beautiful with dirty fingernails that have dug into the messes of this world. I feel so much more put together these days as I walk with these ‘dirty fingernailed’ women. We dig deep, searching to find, as Mother Teresa put it “Jesus in disguise,” in the orphan, trafficked, post abortive and so called flawed children of God with their ugly diseases, birth defects and so far from ‘Gerber baby’ demographic faces. The women I call my friends these days are not the ‘pretty women’ type by worldly standards either. But I believe it is fine with us because our quest is not to fulfill an image of acceptance from the world. We are ‘ruined’ for the world and may never be perceived as beautiful to anyone looking at us with expensive designer rose colored glasses. My friends and their children are beautiful even if the world calls them ‘ugly’ sometimes…WHO THE STINK CARES!!!!! We are alive and more beautiful walking with mud in our toes, dirty fingernails and our messy, imperfect children. Such an honor to dance next to girlfriends like mine with their muddy feet and scars exposed for all of the 'pretty perfect people' to see….
Thank you Jesus for beautiful friends bold enough to run, walk, stumble and fall in a very ugly world!!!!!