Behold, She Stinketh!

8 06 2015

Whose ‘skin’ fit best? A good question – one I had not considered before, really.

When reading Scripture, I search for Jesus in the stories – especially the Old Testament. I’ve learned much about Him using this method.

On this day, however, two separate people made the same suggestion:

Find yourself in the story to see what the Lord desires to show you.

The posts I wrote concerning Lazarus came to mind. Which one was me? Easy: Lazarus!

I still recall the day I met Jesus for the first time. The Sunday school teachers told us about Him and His great love for us. He captured my heart that day, and I welcomed Him as Lord and lover of my soul.

We became fast friends and I could ‘listen’ to Him talk for hours (through His Word, through pastors and teachers).

Then came the day when I was desperately ‘ill.’ Others went to bid Him come and heal me.

Imagine my hurt and confusion when He tarried, and seemingly allowed me to slip from life.

Dead.

Cold.

Isolated.

Surrounded by darkness.

So bound that I could scarcely move.

I thought He loved me. How could He treat me this way?

Just when all hope was gone, a light broke into my tomb, and I heard Him call my name.

Despite the tight cocoon-like wrapper, I managed to get to my feet. Shuffling along, I made my way back to the light of day.

Every movement brought a fresh whiff of the stench of death.

Then I heard Jesus command that my bonds be loosed by the onlookers.

Some looked on in horror. Others covered their noses and drew back, repulsed by the sight and putrid odor.

Thankfully, some braved the mess and began to set me free. Even some of these were overcome and also pulled away.

Bit by bit the grave clothes were removed.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that beneath the wrappings I was naked!

What to do?

At first I clung to those disgusting rags. I didn’t want to be exposed.

Awkward!

Embarrassment and humiliation became additional shrouds to be peeled away. I didn’t want anyone to see me in this state.

I had a choice to make: maintain my dignity and remain in bondage – or submit to being stripped bare in humility.

Finally the stench became so nauseous that I could no longer endure it. I surrendered to the gentle hands as they removed layer after layer from my heart.

Still in a weakened condition, others had to bathe me. At last I was dressed in fresh, clean clothes.

We marveled at the miracle of which we’d been a part.

‘Happily ever after’ loomed large on the horizon.

Instead, I found myself a target! I was hunted like a fugitive by Jesus’ enemies from that time on.

That’s a loose paraphrase of Lazarus’ story, laid over my own.

I found myself overtaken by ‘disease’ through no fault of my own.

As a teen, I began to ask Jesus to come heal me. He said He loved me, so a prompt response seemed like a no-brainer.

Instead, He took His time…so much that I was inwardly dead when He arrived.

Hopelessness, despair, unbelief that He could do anything at this point – these were the emotions I felt.

Abandoned.

Forsaken.

Forgotten.

These are the lies I believed.

Nevertheless, He called me from death to life and asked for volunteers to do the unpleasant work of releasing me from my putrid ‘grave clothes.’

Some didn’t know how – and shrank back.

For others, the mess was overwhelming. Offended by the stench, these also slipped away.

Some even tried to shove me back into the ‘tomb!’

A few brave, compassionate souls, though, came forward one by one and began to gently peel away my bonds. This took many years of counseling and prayer. To these women I will be forever grateful.

These sweet ladies not only removed the mess, but lovingly bathed and dressed me.

What amazes me most is that, instead of being seen as a living example of Jesus’ ability to bring life from death, the ‘religious’ folks did their best to ‘kill’ me. They would have liked nothing better than to see me bound up once again, and removed from sight. Sadly, some of these I once called ‘friend.’

Go figure!

************

That was an entry from my journal last October. It’s been a smelly, messy ordeal that took more than a year this time. I’m in the ‘being bathed’ phase at long last, and am not as stinky. God is good!

Jesus came to give us life to the full. He stated His intentions in Luke 4:18-19:

The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to
the poor;
He has sent Me
to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to
the blind,
To
set at liberty those who are oppressed;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

He heals our wounds by revisiting memories with us. He gives us a new identity. He gives insight and revelation – a fresh perspective on old thoughts, and delivers us from the hands of the evil one. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Jesus doesn’t heal in this way. I am walking, living, breathing proof that He does!

Salvation is so much more than a future home in heaven. It is eternal life, beginning now!

I wonder, which Bible stories most resonate with you?





Life-Giving Grace

8 01 2015

“Hello, my name is (Name Your Failure Here).”

Ever felt that way? Believed it deep down? This is how I secretly ‘defined’ myself for years.

There’s good news for us:

Grace is radical!

I don’t think we even begin to comprehend the freedom we have because of this marvelous characteristic of God.

This shackle-cutting truth escaped my understanding, for sure. Thus, most of my life, I’ve lived from a position of “because of my failures, I am unlovable” and worked hard to earn Father’s love.

However, grace is not something we earn. It is a gift, freely given by God. (Ephesians 2:8-9). In fact, the very faith by which we believe in Jesus is a gift, and not something we “worked up” in order to become His.

Where my ignorance nearly became my undoing is in the area of failure.

Sometimes these were unexpected outcomes. I never saw it coming. For these I can believe there is grace.

However, sometimes the failure came as a result of premeditated sin. I chose to do the wrong thing. The end result was failure on many levels.

God didn’t “owe” me grace for my eyes-wide-open sin. I messed up. There were consequences, and I just had to buck up and get through life as best I could.

Is this the kind of life Jesus died to give me??

Reality check: When Jesus died, all my sins were yet future. Even those I have yet to commit. (Yes, because I am still breathing, I will continue to sin…even if it is confined to my thoughts. Um, so will you!) See Romans 5:8.

NO!!

He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

While we were yet sinners!

What I discovered this last year is that I have been tolerating much in the name of “consequences” for my premeditated sin. There was no grace for this, in my mind. I did it. I deserved what I got as a result of my choices.

What did I do, then, with one of my cornerstone verses: I know the plans I have for you…plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope?

I had it figured out that, because of my poor choices, I would just have to “gut this out” for the rest of my life. My ‘hopeful future’ would now have to wait for heaven…and I longed for death so I could get there.

With enough effort on my part, once I arrived I wouldn’t be stuck as a shoe-shine girl on the corner of Celestial Avenue and Heavenly Way.

Underneath all of my “understanding” was seething hatred of a God who could be so harsh as to leave me where I was with a “Tut-tut! You should have chosen more wisely.”

I believed that God was withholding His promises from me because of my own stupidity.

I would tell you that God is good – but didn’t believe it for myself.  My private opinion of His character was that He was cruel and unloving.

How could He tell call Himself my loving Father – and yet demand that I live my life as a victim as a ‘consequence’?

I believed that due to my failures I was no longer worthy of anyone’s love. “This is your new normal. Deal with it.”

I believed that all I could expect from Him was ‘just enough’ to make it through life.

This, my friends, is what happens when we seek man’s concepts about God, grace, love, and all the rest – instead of asking God Himself. We can, and should, seek godly counsel; but don’t stop there. Take their words to the Lord and ask Him to reveal what is true and what is not (Acts 17:11).

Well-meaning spiritual counselors and advisers spoke Scripture into my situation…but I don’t think they stuck around to see how I processed what they said; what their words looked like after it went through my “God” filters.

I’ll bet they’d have been horrified.

Satan also used Scripture to try to derail Jesus. No doubt he continues this today. Since everything I ‘thought’ I heard turned out to be a lie…and the oldest lie in the Book (God is holding out on you), I know he was an active participant in how I understood what I was told.

Here’s what I know today:

My failure(s) did not create me; therefore, they cannot define me. Only God can tell me who I am…and He calls me “Beloved,” “Delightful,” and “Princess.” I am fully forgiven. {sigh of relief!}

Yesterday, I had to do a “Hard Thing.” (I’m loving Havilah’s study!) On the way back to my car, I sidestepped a large rock. When I glanced at it, I noticed that it was a heart!

(I have a mound of them. They are God’s special communique to me of His love.)

He was letting me know that I’d done well, and that He is proud of the steps I’m taking to walk in victory at last.

His grace is radically sufficient…for even me!

My Father loves me!

My Father loves me!





The God of Second (Third…Hundredth) Chances

6 01 2015

January 1, 2015 began a new year, new beginnings…another chance.

When I opened my Bible app for the Verse of the Day, guess what it was?

Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; do you not perceive it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19.

This is the same verse I received last year!

As I read the words for the umpteenth time, I sensed the Lord’s smile as He let me know that I have a “do-over.” I get another run at this promise. That’s good news!

Last year, I had expectations of what that would look like for me. Those are now gone. I have no preconceived notions of what He has in store…only that He will be faithful to complete the work He has begun.

Life took a crazy turn last year. As I look back at where I was last January, I am amazed at the growth He’s wrought in me – despite my confusion and disappointment. Through all that, the Lord took my faith in Him to a new level.

He used the trials to reveal some very ugly things that I believed to be true of Him, and replaced them with a greater understanding of His infinite love for me.

The training received on making disciples – have no opinion in other’s situations, do not judge, do not advise, only love them – was well-tested. I had ample opportunities to walk out what He’d worked in.

I didn’t do it perfectly {gasp!}.

However, I did much better than ever before.

Progress!

Nothing is resolved yet, but this year I have hope…hope for a brighter future, hope for transformation and restoration.

How I appreciate the fact that the Father loves us where we are, with all our messed up thinking about His character; and that He continues to pursue us in hope that we will finally see Him more accurately.

I said some really mean things to God last year, all borne out of my misunderstanding of what He is really like. My words did not deter Him. He didn’t throw up His hands in exasperation and write me off as a lost cause.

Instead, He continued to tenderly whisper that He loves me, that He understood my confusion but wanted me to know that what I believed was simply not true. He asked me to trust Him with the hard things I’m dealing with, and to believe that He will work all this for my good.

I saw this quote on someone’s blog earlier this week. It resonated with me, and so I share it with you:

“Everything is going to be fine in the end.
If it’s not fine it’s not the end.”

-Oscar Wilde-

And so I begin this year with my hand in my Father’s, trying to match my steps with His, in full confidence that He has this. It will be fun to look back over this year in 2016 and see all He has accomplished in, around, and through me.

To God be the glory! Amen.

How about you? Do you find this the Year of the Great Do-Over? Do tell!

PS If you live in Northern California, the Legacy class (disciple/mentoring) begins soon at The Stirring in Redding. Jim Bailey and his wife Amy are amazing, and very gifted teachers. Don’t miss it!





A Time to be Silent (Part Two)

11 09 2014

If you didn’t read Part One, you must before reading this post!

*****

When we look at our lives through the lens of Scripture, we can make sense of our situations. Romans 15:4 states:

“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

As I considered the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, I discovered many similarities between their episode and my own life:

  • I prayed diligently for God to intervene and resurrect a part of my life (Sorry, no details. Use your imagination!)
  • When this seemed improbable and utterly hopeless, I quit asking the Lord to move in my situation.
  • I resigned myself to a life of barrenness (not literally – I have seven children!).
  • God spoke to me through Isaiah 43:19 in January (and with this verse many times since) to say He would answer my prayer this year.
  • More bitterness, resentment, and anger toward the Lord erupted than I would have thought possible. “Now??? At my age??? Thanks a lot!”
  • Further, I didn’t believe what He said.

Interestingly enough, by this time, I’d found myself without a “voice.”

  • Every ministry I’d been involved in came to a close (except for Lessons by Heart).
  • I had nothing to write that was uplifting, encouraging, or even something with which to exhort others, which explains my few posts. :-/
  • We were at a new church, with few people whom we knew. I had no one to spew on!
  • Music was silenced as well – very rare for me.
  • Our circumstances were such that I couldn’t ‘process’ with the Lord in my customary way. It had to be done silently.

His timing was everything:

  • Much inner healing needed to take place in me before I would be ready for what He is currently doing.
  • I needed a preparation time; opportunities to practice the necessary skills in order to handle what was coming. This was done through our guest, and was what I suspected, as I wrote in Stupid Distractions.
  • My identity in Christ needed to be solid, or I would have self-destructed.

It would appear, then, that I am in labor…a messy process. At the end of all this is the delivery of a promised child. What it will look like is yet to be seen, but at last – and because of this story – I have hope.

His promise to me?

Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19

Sadly, I had a lot to work through with the Lord when He made this proclamation. It took several months to get to the place where I believed again:

God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Numbers 23:19

 Don’t know the ‘due date,’ but I am, at last, rejoicing in the upcoming delivery!

*****

Some observations:

While Zechariah may have been unaware of what lurked in his heart, God wasn’t. It would seem that when He briefed Gabriel, their conversation might have been:

“Gabe, I need you to go tell Zechariah that he and Elizabeth are going to have a baby.”

“A baby? That’s…well…great. Hey, didn’t they quit asking for one years ago?”

“Yeah, but the time has come. He’s not going to be as excited as you might expect.”

“At his age, shocked might be more along the lines of expected responses.”

“Well, Zechariah and I have some things to sort out. His first reaction will be to question Me. You need to shut that down. We don’t want his issues with me to take the shine off Elizabeth’s joy.”

“How shall I do that?”

“Well, let him know that he won’t be talking to anyone until after their child is born. That will give us enough time to work things out.”

You see, although Zechariah had been offended by God, yet God called him and Elizabeth righteous and blameless. God understood the why of Zechariah’s reaction. It was time to address the matter. In other words, God does not hold our offenses toward Him against us, but continues to pursue and woo us.

He’s been doing this with me again. (And I thought I was through believing lies about Him. 😦 )

He loves us with an everlasting love. That amazes me.

Despite Zechariah’s lack of faith, God was faithful and answered their prayers at the right time. His delay went way beyond giving a couple a sweet little baby. He had something very special in mind for them all.

With God, timing is everything. He knows far more about what’s needed and precisely when. For this couple, having John so late in life was actually an act of mercy toward them. They would be spared the horror and pain of John’s untimely death. Instead, they would be there to greet their son when he slipped through the veil between this life and the next one.

This has been a lesson learned – even after I knew it all!!

His patience and lovingkindness overwhelm me. Concerning the issue at hand, I have been faithless. I gave up asking Him to act a few years ago…figured I’d have to wait until heaven for relief.

I doubted His goodness and His love for me. I didn’t realize how confused my understanding of Him had become. While I can state with conviction that you are loved by Him with an unending, deep, and passionate love, I’ve believed this didn’t apply to me.

In His perfect timing, He brought these things to light so we can get them settled. I am soothed by His gentleness as He tends to these wounds in my heart. Truth is the balm He uses to heal what was so diseased.

I wonder, what have you learned about your own life as you look through the eyes of Scripture? I’d love to hear about your lessons!





Remote Control Words

31 07 2014

Most of my adult life has been spent ferreting out the lies I believed about God as a result of treatment by the men in my life. It’s sad, but true.

Children do not have the emotional maturity to distinguish between their parents behavior – especially their fathers – and God’s character and nature.

Because these are our parents, it is assumed by every child that they love us. Consequently, we define love by their words and actions. We lack the experience necessary to discern our parents’ shortcomings, and assume that we are the ones to blame…that we are bad and don’t deserve any better.

They are all we have in the way of security. They are all that stand between life and death for the child, by his or her limited understanding.

As we get older, and interact with more people, we may begin to feel a sense of injustice about our relationship with our parents, but due to utter dependence upon them, are powerless to change our lives.

Many end up with a shut-down heart, and an intense hatred for and distrust of God.

As a child, I went to a vacation Bible school, and fell in love with Jesus. He didn’t seem to share other’s opinions about me, and that made Him as attractive as a magnet to a fridge in my mind!

We didn’t go to church much, though. After while, He faded into the background…

…until I made a mess of things at the age of 12.

My cousin and her friend decided to have some guys over while her parents were gone. We set up a table in the garage with booze and snacks. (Where it came from, I’m not sure).

However, I’d never me the fellow they’d invited to keep me company. I was a nervous wreck, so helped myself to some of the alcohol…then more…and more.

I don’t remember anything about that evening. I was already blacked out by the time they arrived. Still on my feet, but completely unconscious.

By the time my aunt and uncle returned home, my body was rejecting the alcohol. I ‘baptized’ their house from one end to the other.

The next day, instead of yelling at me and carrying on, my aunt sat me down and gently spoke to me about her concern for my future, and how sad Jesus was about what I’d done.

Grace.

Her act of lovingkindness caused me to determine to become a “good girl” and go to church. I picked out the nearest one and began attending Sunday school, morning and evening services, a prayer breakfast for teens, the mid-week service, and youth group.

Jesus loved me, I knew this for sure.

Too bad His Dad hated my guts!

Just like my dad and step-dad…and nearly every other man I’d ever met.

Religion became a chain tightly wound around my neck, choking the life out of me. God had so many rules, and seemed so hard to please. I never knew what was going to set Him off.

Just like my dad.

Meanwhile, Jesus loved me, coaxed me to walk with Him, to trust Him.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I realized all the lies I’d believed about God because of experiences with men.

I thought God was altogether like them.

Today I have a loving relationship with my heavenly Father.

He is nothing like my dad.

For many years, I was angry with God for choosing the parents He gave me. After all, He could have given me healthy, whole, God-fearing parents. Was this all He thought I deserved?

Then I realized that in order for me to be created, it took a specific sperm, and a specific ovum to combine. Any other combination, and I would not exist! This had to come from my mother and my father…no one else on the planet could have done it.

He didn’t hand-pick them; He chose me!

All this to say,

“Men, you have been given the responsibility to bear the Father’s likeness to the world. It’s a high calling.

“These are big shoes to fill, and you will fail in some respects. You will need Abba’s heart if you are going to do this well.

“The men and women in your life need you to reflect the Father’s love, to speak His heart to them, to empower them to become the person He intended the day He chose them.”

A woman’s voice does not carry the same weight as a man’s.

Not when it comes to identity. 

Here are a couple of quotes by William M. Struthers (from Wired for Intimacy, p. 150):

“The masculine voice of affirmation spoken to a woman lets her know that she is loved because of who she is and that she is worthy of pursuit.”

“The masculine voice is received as a voice that speaks unchanging truth. Just as we think of the Word of God being truth that is unchanging, so a man’s words speak what he knows to be true.”

Because men are not nurturing, as a rule, their words are received as concrete truth – whereas a woman speaks from her heart to make things better. Man ‘sees’ the truth and speaks it out.

That’s how humans perceive your words. Did you know that?

It is for this reason that we are told that there is power of life and death in the tongue.

When a man we perceive to be an authority figure makes a judgment call about us, good or bad, we believe it.

Please be certain that your words reflect God’s heart. They will remotely control people for years to come.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29