to be saved, we must first lose

But there must be a real giv­ing up of the self.
You must throw it away ​“blind­ly” so to speak.
Christ will indeed give you a real per­son­al­i­ty:
but you must not go to Him for the sake of that.
As long as your own per­son­al­i­ty is what you are both­er­ing about you are not going to Him at all.

C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity


(scene from The Chosen when Jesus heals Mary)

To be saved, we must first lose.

The concept of losing doesn’t make much sense to the mind of a 21st-century individual.
Especially to a 21st century American…losing is not something Americans are accustomed to.
Nor is it a concept on the minds of many Americans who are busy with protesting
rioting and looting…losing is not on their radar.

Burdened by so much that is taking place around this pain-racked Nation of ours,
I turned to a new devotional written by the writers of The Chosen.

The following was the entry for Day 3:

To save our lives, we must lose them.

That’s a mind-bender, for sure, but clearly vital to understand.
Jesus said it to the disciples after they’d already dropped everything to
follow Him from town to town.
They sacrificed their careers, homes, and relationships for the man
they believed was the Messiah.
Life as they knew it had turned upside down,
but more would be required of them, and Jesus was doubling down.
He knew what lay ahead. He knew He was leaving.
And He knew they would become pillars of the early church,
in charge of spreading the truth about salvation to the world,
disciplining the masses, and claiming Christ in the face of imprisonment, torture, and death.
They would lose their lives on earth—figuratively and literally–
for the sake of all they would gain in heaven.

And they did it well because their testimonies,
their personal stories of what Jesus had said and done,
were potent demonstrations of His transformative love and power in their lives.
They shared the gospel with an unstoppable, contagious, relentless passion that—
to be honest–seems kind of rare these days.

How come?
Well for starters, they weren’t in love with themselves or their own stories.
They weren’t branding their Christian narratives for maximum personal benefit,
approval, or sump[athy…or for clicks or likes.
They weren’t assigning themselves the hero role or belaboring their “before Christ”
dysfunction with all its juicy, sensationalistic tidbits.
When you look at biblical examples it’s amazing how few words are given to their broken pasts–
the almost exclusive focus is on Jesus.

Take Mary Magdalene.
The fact that she was delivered from seven demons is a crucial aspect of her
testimony because it showcases Jesus’authority and why she responded to Him
the way sed did.
And then that’s it.
That’s all the detail we need to know.
In other words, her autobiography wouldn’t have been titled
The Dark Years with three hundred pages dedicated to describing the monsters within.
Fascinating?
Sure.
But powerful and effective and glorifying to the one who rescued her?
Not so much.
There’s a reason we meet Mary subsequent to her healing—because that’s where the real story is.

There are a few other things we know about her:
(1) she followed Jesus and financially supported His ministry until His crucifixion,
which means she gave everything she had to follow Him;
(2)she endured the crucifixion and stayed close to Jesus while He suffered and died;
and
(3) as mentioned in “Delivered”, she was the first person He appeared to after
He rose from the dead, and she was the one He sent to tell the disciples
the universe-altering news.
All because the old was gone and dead.
Jesus had given her new life.

Which means that even if you’ve been a believer for all of ten minutes,
those minutes are entirely more relevant than the twenty, forty,
or eighty years of darkness prior to your conversion.
Reason being, we’re called to represent Jesus and to die to the lives
He saved us from. When we do that, and when He stays the hero of the story,
our words and lives become real-time, potent demonstrations of
His transformative love and power.

The Chosen
40 Days With Jesus

I am Peter…

Then Jesus said to Simon,
“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for men.”

Jesus speaking to Simon Peter
Luke 5:10


(the actor Shahar Issac who plays Simon Peter in the series The Chosen)

I could be Legion—a devil hoard
I could be the Magdalene—an abused self loather
I could be Judas—a misguided traitor
I could be Matthew—selfish and financially driven
I could be Peter—willful, defiant, sarcastic, and hopelessly lost…

I could be, or better yet… I am each and every one of these.
We all are, are we not?

These thoughts came to me this afternoon as I propped my phone on the kitchen counter
to watch Episode 4 of The Chosen while I was readying supper and waiting on
the arrival of some friends.

The app has been sitting on the screen of my phone now for months–
ever since I first saw the story about this unusual movie series and actually
shared its story here, with you.

And yet it’s simply sat, untouched.

Time you know.

Carving out roughly an uninterrupted 40 minute moment has not, up until most recently,
been possible.
And it is for me to remember that it is indeed sitting there on my phone.

To remember that all I must do is to look down and see the tiny face of Nicodemas
staring at me each time I look at my phone, swiping through the various screens.
He stares up at me, with a sideways yet knowing look as if to say, Julie,
click and watch another episode won’t you?

And then my attention finds its original quest, or a new chore calls even louder.

These past months, now weeks which are turning into endless days, have been
more than overwhelming for all of us.

A virus, death, pandemonium, lockdowns, the shuttering of life…
and now the madness of a devolving civilization is heaped on top
of an already surreal moment in time.
Embers piled upon older embers.
Reigniting the flames.

And yet this afternoon, in my kitchen, chopping squash, I am reminded…
I am Peter.
Or was that Matthew?
What of Mary…
or worse, might I be Judas?

But thankfully, I have not yet traded my soul for gain.
Or have I done so inadvertently?

And thus I am reminded…
He calls…

He calls not simply Simon bar Jonah the poor fisherman, or Matthew the
greedy taxman or Mary the broken and abused or even Judas the traitor…
He’s calling me.
He’s calling us all.
Now.
Today.

Will I listen to Him or will I allow the misery of our times to consume me?

My angry, depressed, and most bewildered heart…?

Pierce my heart for your sake oh Lord…

https://studios.vidangel.com/the-chosen

Sense of scent

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

― Patrick Süskind

DSCN8407
(perfume bottles on a silver tray / Julie Cook / 2014)

Opening the door I immediately smelled March.
But this is November, how does one smell March in November?
It was the humid damp warmth mixed with the grey sky.
More mild than cool, more heavy then light.
Not sweetness but rather warm dampness–but not so warm that it was enveloping.

Not long ago, I randomly bought a jar of facial night cream by Lancome. When I first opened the jar, in order to use it, I immediately smelled my grandmother, Nany. Not in that sickeningly sweet grandmother smell that borders on cheap perfume, hair permanents, and medicine, but the smell of sudden nearness. A palpable longing for someone who has been gone for what seems forever.

I am five, standing in her bathroom. I’m at the vanity on the right standing by my cousin as we are readying for bed during a tiny special spend the night party– a grandmother and both of her granddaughters. It was as if I was actually standing in that bathroom as the memory was so strong. Not only did I smell the smells, I even saw the captured moment frozen in time in my mind. The white cabinets, the double sinks. . .

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing in my own bathroom, alone.

On a recent trip to Target, I wandered down the candle aisle. Picking up a candle, I give it a good sniff, I close my eyes as I draw in the warm scent. Immediatley I am transported, as if by magic, to a candle store at the mall near where I grew up. It’s the early 70’s. I’m a young teen who is wandering around the mall as I walk into a new store that sells candles. On a round brown table in the center of the store, I notice a small candle in the shape of a little red convertible VW bug with a blue top, my dad at time had a blue bug. I loved the smell, sweet and light, being drawn to the fact that it was a cute little VW bug– I made the purchase, proudly adding the little candle to the growing eclectic treasures of teenager’s room.

Opening my eyes, it’s just me, standing on the candle aisle in a Target, alone.

I recently bought a bag of mothballs, not even knowing if they still made those things. I had brought home a box of old papers and what nots form Dad’s. I wanted to preserve what was in the box but there was no telling of the minisucule critters that were already doing damage to the yellowing papers and books.
I thought that when I repacked the “archives” in a new plastic bin, a few moth balls thrown in might ward off any unsuspecting and unseen nibblers.

When I opened the sack of moth balls I was no longer standing in my son’s old room but rather I was crouched in Mimi’s closet, my mom’s mom. Her house, in Atlanta, was built in the early 20’s. It was old and she had a cavernous closet in her bedroom. I was playing hide and seek. Disappearing deep into her closet, pushing past clothes, shoes and boxes, all the way to a back corner, I’m consumed with a smell that to this day reminds me of my grandmother. Dotting the floor, the flat old light brown carpeting, are a myriad of tiny white balls. Moth balls.
Moth balls will always smell like Mimi’s. To most people the smell might repel, to me, it’s Mimi.

When I open my eyes, I’m no longer hiding in a closet at my grandmother’s, but standing in my son’s old room, alone.

It is said that scent is most often considered the greatest of our senses because of it’s exceedingly strong association with memory. The olfactory bulb in the brain, the part of the brain which processes scents, smells, odors, is linked to both the amygdala and the hippocampus, the parts of the brain responsible of both the processing of emotions as well learning.

The smells that we draw into our brain though the nose, which are caught by the olfactory receptors, allow our brain to process and then link the individual smell with those initials smells from childhood, the time we begin in earnest the association of events with smells. Yet researchers have even determined that we are actually exposed to scent while in utero, which is actually when the imprinting, processing and associating of smell with memory begins.

It is often noted, particularly in Catholic teaching, that there exists a “scent of sanctity”
It is a very real and very strong smell or odor of perfume, specifically floral in nature, that emanates from “the saintly” just prior to the time of death or immediately following. It is said that those who have seen or sensed the presence of various saints were first overcome by a powerful scent of “perfume.”

We know that the making of perfume dates back to early Egypt, followed by both Greek and Roman cultures.
The use of perfumes and scented oils was essential to ancient Jewish customs and rituals, in particular the burying of the dead. There is biblical reference of the woman who came to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus. There is the story of the woman, thought to be Mary Magdalene, who had brought a very expensive perfumed oil in which to anoint Jesus. It is a story symbolizing the future anointing of his crucified body yet some believe it symbolizes his bringing the grace of forgiveness into an unforgiving world. This is also one of the few stories which is included in all four gospels.

And so it is, on this March smelling November day, there is indeed a change in the air. Rain is on the way, and with it the cold and the comforting fragrant balm of crackling fires. . . I can smell its presence in the air. As the scent of change swirls about, dancing lightly in the wind, those thoughts and memories of days gone by, gently drift, sweetly woven to the very air which sustains my life, waiting to be brought to the forethought of recall by the simple act of breathing . . .

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task.
2 Corinthians 2: 14-16