Polka-Dot Love

15 08 2015

As a parent, I came to appreciate the uniqueness of each of my seven children. Their little personalities were varied, their needs different from child to child.

I could not offer a one-size-fits-all kind of love or attention to them. Each one responded to different styles or interactions..the Five Love Languages, and all that. Part of my role as their mother was to figure out what each one needed, then supply that need.

As adults each of us have ways by which we best feel love. We have a heavenly Father who knows how to best meet that need, and He does so. His ways of communicating with us are as varied as the number of people in existence.

He’s a good Father.

When children are adopted, they come with ‘baggage’ from their family of origin. The challenge for the adoptive parents is to overcome what the child ‘knows’ about a father and/or a mother, for his or her concept is often skewed. When the new parents are patient, gentle, and persistent, the child comes to accept that they are loved, and slowly replace what they thought they knew about what a mom or dad is, with the new reality.

This can be a lengthy process, one that tears at the hearts of their new parents until breakthroughs begin to occur.

Right after my second birthday, I was adopted by my new step-dad. Unfortunately, he wasn’t interested in winning my heart – only in winning the imagined competition against my father. Sadly, he didn’t want the ‘trophy’ (me), that came with ‘victory’.

Kids aren’t equipped with the mental ability to understand that a parent is broken, and unable to love…so they call what they receive “love” and believe their experience to be the true definition. The rest of their life most will continue to define love by what they learned from their father.

As most are wont to do, I superimposed the treatment I received from my ‘dads’ over what I expected from God. I wrote about my experiences her: Unlock Your Shackles

When God adopted me, He ‘had His work cut out for Him’, as they say. It’s been a lengthy, slow process, but His love never fails and His patience is enduring.

At first I trusted Him not at all. He persisted, though, and has used methods that are unique to me in order to win my heart. This blog is filled with such stories: pink shoes, heart-shaped rocks, a gold lambskin jacket, provision when we had no food (for six months!), heart-shaped potatoes, and so forth.

While this looks like He panders to my materialism, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

My love language is not shopping!

Being Spirit in nature, He cannot wrap me in His arms, stroke my hair, or hold my hand. (However He did dance with me one day! See: Shall We Dance?) Consequently, He’s been creative in the ways He communicates His love to me. Each of the things listed came with a special lesson for me to learn about what a good Father is like.

Severely put off by what I believed about fathers, this unlearn/re-learn process has taken decades. Because He loves me and wants me to be secure in Him, He’s gone out of His way to demonstrate His goodness.

When others’ experiences with Father differ from ours, we must guard against undoing His work. What offends our senses may be merely because the experience was not meant for us. Unless their ‘take-away’ twists God into a heinous creature, we do well to rejoice with them in their breakthrough.

God knows how to best reach every one of us. He relentlessly pursues us and teaches us just how good He is.

As a kid, I was fond of polka-dots.

As an adult, I am fond of His polka-dot love for me…specially and deliberately designed to melt my heart.

He’s a good Father!

*Oh, the three verses I promised to share will be in my next post. 😉





Replacing Jesus

14 08 2015

Many paradigm shifts have taken place this season. Necessary ones. This one concerns Jesus.

How does Jesus relate to my current activities? To housework, homework, to life in general? Does He merely make me a good steward of time and money? Does He make me honest and a good rule-keeper?

Is this why He came and died…to make me honest??

I sense a shift any minute – one so monumental that it will change everything for me. I don’t want to miss this. it has weight (glory!) attached to it.

I read The Great Dance by C. Baxter Kruger. It was eye-opening, although I had to struggle with the concepts at first. My mind could only barely grasp them in the beginning.

The church (at least in America) teaches a “good-cop, bad-cop” God. It’s like having a touchy, militaristic father and a placating, intervening mother who steps in and places herself in the line of fire and takes the brunt of the father’s anger.

Sometimes her attempts fail, though; and that’s when ‘all hell breaks loose in our lives,’ or so we think. Calamity, hardship, ill health.

Mom couldn’t quite assuage father’s fury, and we ‘got it.’

{No wonder the Spirit seems more like a doting aunt who pops in and out long enough to drop off one trinket or another. 🙂 }

The relationship (trinity) of God has been replaced by the holiness (law and order, crime and punishment, blind and cold justice – as we define it) of God. Holiness has been defined as ‘legal perfection’ and ‘moral rectitude.’

This begs the question: “Do I enter into relationship with people for the primary purpose of getting them to ‘shape up’?”

“True holiness is the joy and fullness and love of the Father, Son, and Spirit, their mutual delight and passion, the sheer togetherness of their relationship, it’s harmony and wholeness. Rolled into one word: holiness.” (The Great Dance, p. 25)

I want to tattoo this on my arm:

“Every time God forgives us, He is saying that His own rules do not matter as much as the relationship God wants to create with us.” (Falling Upward, Rohr, p. 57)

Isn’t that Good News?? The best ever, and a far cry from “I came that they might behave better” stuff we hear from spiritual leaders on a regular basis…a ‘re-translation’ of John 10:10. (“…I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”)

Galatians tells us that the law was never meant to be kept, but to be a tutor that shows us that we can’t ‘behave better’ on our own. It was meant to drive us to God…not to cause us to shrink back as utter failures.

So we teach Christianity thus:

1. God is holy (in a legal sense)

2. Humanity fell into sin and is liable to punishment

3. Jesus Christ came to satisfy the holiness and justice of God

4. On the cross, Jesus bears the guilt of the world, and God punishes Him instead of us

5. God’s justice is satisfied and we are forgiven – morally clean

In this model, Jesus came to rescue us from God.

The cross replaces Jesus as the point of eternal significance; thus, after the crucifixion was complete, He ceased to be of any real and practical value.

No longer needed, He bows out and lets God and the Holy Spirit get on with their business.

At best, He remains important as a shining religious example for us to follow – and to remind God of His sacrifice.

Justification replaces adoption as the heart of the Christian message.

Forgiveness is necessary, but it’s not the sole point of the grand story…it’s not even the main point!*

The focus and goal is inclusion into the existing relationship of the Trinity.

This is the purpose of adoption!

One who has been adopted has been welcomed into a family – given their name, protection, provision, and inheritance along with the other members of the family.

No longer on the outside looking in, they receive all the benefits, love, and treatment of the original family. No ‘Cinderellas’ here! Unless an outsider was told, they would not be able to tell the difference between ‘natural’ children and an ‘adopted’ one.

Further (unless they’re warped!), a couple chooses to adopt because they want someone else to love…more people to love, not someone new, to the exclusion of the old.

In a word, they want:

Relationship!

With all the focus on Jesus as mediator between us and an angry God, we’ve lost the beauty of the Gospel message:

Our adoption as sons and daughters.

Jesus doesn’t exist to protect us from wrath by reminding God that He took our punishment so now God ‘has to’ love us.

He is the connector between us and the Trinity; He mediates the triune life of God – to us!

According to western teaching, once Jesus has the ‘sin thing’ fixed, He returns to heaven and observes us from a distance. This leaves us seeing ourselves as ‘merely human.’

There is no inclusion into the Trinity, no divine life, no divine dance. Life is merely secular…ordinary. Except, of course, on Sundays.

We have no idea who we are!

The western world is crying out for spiritual meaning and the Church has none to give it. We only know how to encourage others to behave better.

Our Jesus is too small.

*YES! The Gospel of Atonement is vital to our right standing with God. Why is it necessary? Because we are born spiritually separated from God. THIS is the problem Jesus came to solve…Adam and Eve ‘unplugged’ from the tree of Life (God as our source for life), and ‘plugged’ into their own knowledge. They made themselves the source for life.

Apart from His death, burial, and resurrection – at which time He entered the Holy of holies once for all and placed His blood on the Mercy Seat – we were without hope.

Thanks to Jesus, we are now welcome to come boldly into the Holy of holies; to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

You won’t find a ‘bouncer’ at the entrance, replacing Jesus.

*****

(In my next post I want to share three verses that took me by surprise!)

This post is far above my ‘pay grade’. I’m still processing much of what I’ve learned – and cannot yet articulate as clearly as I’d like. Thanks for your patience while I work this out!





Get Your Bold On

13 08 2015

When I think of the word “boldly” from Hebrews 4:16, the last thing that comes to mind is the scene in Luther where Martin is crawling up the stairs on bloody knees in order approach God ‘properly.’

The ESV translates the word as “with confidence.” Well, that’s better, but still not entirely accurate.

Let’s get the definition from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. It reads as follows:

Parrhesia: all outspokenness, frankness, bluntness, publicity; by implication assurance.

That’s a far cry from groveling, hat-in-hand humbleness, or scraping and bowing, isn’t it?

Why am I picking on this word today, you ask? Because sometimes life blows up and we’re in no condition to scrape and bow as we sort things out. There are times when we can’t calm down enough to remember we’re wearing a hat – much less that we ‘must’ remove it.

King David had lots of episodes like this. No doubt he had confusion and frustration…not to mention fear for his life. And all this came about after he’d been anointed as king. There are many such Psalms recorded. Let’s look at just one:

Psalm 13

How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death. Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”; lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

David’s been through it. His idyllic life as a shepherd is a dim memory. Saul’s relentless pursuit in order to kill this young man wore him down to his last nerve, and Saul was using it like a trampoline.

It is for this reason that I can’t envision David standing humbly, hat in hand, speaking this in soft, reverent tones. That might be the way we sing it, but I doubt that’s how David expressed it!

Look at his wording: how long? Will You forget me forever?? Consider and hear me! Enlighten my eyes!

I’m gonna die here!! Don’t look now, but the enemy is winning!

Tap…tap..tap…is this thing on??

We cannot insist that people grovel before ‘Awwmighty Gawd’ – when their life gets trashed through no fault of their own. If they can’t be honest with God, then to whom shall they turn?

It has been my {gulp} abundant experience that I can come boldly, speak frankly and even bluntly to my God without being shunned for doing so. In fact, the exact opposite has been the case.

Once I shed the ‘nice Christian lady’ stuff and got real with Him, He revealed areas in my heart that needed attention…not always fun, but necessary; and then He began to work in my circumstances.

This short ‘journal entry’ by David is most likely because he carried on and got it all out of his system. This is as much of it as he remembered later! Can’t prove it, but I’ve done the same thing. Once all the emotion is released, most of it dissipates. I can only remember bits of what I said.

Because I can speak bluntly – “Hey! I don’t get this!! I need some help! I need some insight!” – all the stuff swirling in my head is dumped out. My thinking clears up, and I begin to see things from His perspective.

It is only then that I can say with David:

“But I trust in Your unfailing love. You have been good, You will be good to me.”

Read David’s closure to his rant:

But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.

It’s not until we feel safe enough with God to be real with Him

that we feel safe enough to trust in Him.

Please note, this is not our usual interaction with God. In fact, after I unload and get to a better place emotionally, I end up apologizing for what I said and how I said it. He is, after all, God!

More than that, He is my Father who loves me dearly. I didn’t mean to be rude or disrespectful. However, He understands the why behind the way I spoke. Every time, He’s responded in gentle tones.

Every time.

Not one, “How dare you? Don’t you know with Whom you are speaking? Get out of My face and come back when you can show some respect.”

Never happened.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16





The Playfulness of Abba

27 05 2015

When I prayed in March of 2014, I had no idea what God would do with my request! It was during Jim Bailey’s Legacy class. The prayer was something like this:

“Father, you came to heal us, to give us sight, deliver us, and set us free. Would you look under every rock, and overturn every stone in our hearts? Leave no place untouched by Your Spirit.”

Okay, we asked God to search our hearts. No big deal, right?

The next month, life was leveled by a series of events that left me in a broken heap, with little faith left in God. I didn’t talk to Him, and certainly didn’t want to hear anything He had to say.

During Legacy, I met Cheryl Stasinowsky, a very gifted counselor. We’d gone to coffee once during the summer. When life fell apart, I realized that our meeting was orchestrated by God. He’d opened a door before I knew I had a need. I had enough sense to step through it.

In September I began to meet with her every week. It’s been a difficult, although fascinating journey.

At the same time, kidney stones made themselves known. Gall stones as well. If you’ve ever had either, you know that they are not fun.

Week after week, Cheryl and I would address another stronghold within me…and I would pass a kidney stone, or two, or three! Not in the usual, painful way, though. I could feel them at the base of my kidney, then feel them drop down the tube into the ‘holding tank’. That was weird!

For the gall stones, I found a homeopathic remedy online – and it really worked!

Each time, after the Lord took down a stronghold, stones were ejected!

Abba was, indeed, looking under every rock and overturning every stone.

However, during this period, I also developed a massive kidney infection. It annoys me to have to go to a doctor to tell me what I already know – just so I can get an antibiotic!!

She did her fancy tests, and confirmed: Kidney infection. I took the written prescription and headed for the pharmacy, then went home to wait until it was ready to be picked up.

By the time I returned for the pills, the infection was gone.

Completely gone!

It seemed silly to take pills for something I no longer had, so I stuck them in my drawer, knowing that I’d probably need them at a later date.

Fast-forward to last weekend.

By Thursday night, the packing was done and ready to be loaded into the car for our long weekend at the coast.

Friday morning I woke up with strep throat and bronchitis.

Great, I thought, I’m going to sleep away our vacation.

I’ve had to go to the doctor while we were out of town (kidney infection!), and it cost almost $600. I didn’t want to do that again.

Our doctor was on vacation, so a quick stop for a prescription was out of the question.

“Oh, Lord. What am I to do?”

The unused medicine came to mind. Where had I put the pills? That was several months ago.

After I found them, I looked up the medication online and discovered that it was also used for respiratory infections and strep throat.

Woohoo! By Saturday I was feeling much better.

On Sunday afternoon, we sat on the gravel beach at Dry Lagoon (just north of Trinidad). The waves were slowly advancing, for high tide was on its way.

Our quest: agates.

I’ve been reading Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge who said that you can tell a great deal about an artist by his work.

Since I was holding a handful of stones, I began to really look at each one. I realized that in my hand were more than 20 different types of rock!

I began to share what I’d been reading with my husband, and said, “This beach is evidence of the extravagance of God. You know, God could have given us one type of rock, one type of grass, of bush, of tree, and even soil. He didn’t have to give us a variety.

“After all, He didn’t spend millennium in the lab trying to figure out an ecosystem that worked. HE decided how it would all work together. He is the originator of the ecosystem…and, therefore, is not limited by it.

“Yet, He chose to give us such a diverse and interesting planet on which to live. By His work, we can see how amazing He really is!”

“WAVE!” my husband yelled, grabbing for his backpack.

I grabbed my flip-flops and scrambled for higher ground. The ‘sneaker’ wave rolled over my pants before I could get clear.

Finally on my feet, I walked up the incline.

“Hey! We were talking about You…and nicely, too,” I said to the Lord with a grin. “You owe us an agate! Oh, all right. I know. You don’t owe us anything.”

Moving to a new spot, I looked down. At my feet was…

…a beautiful smoky agate…

…in the shape of a heart.

AbbaLovesMe

I love the playfulness of my Father!





Root – Shoot – Fruit

26 05 2015

My rose bush produced the loveliest pineapples this year. Last year, it bore oranges.

Without much thought, you immediately knew that those statements were false. Why? Because what you plant is what you get.

A rose bush will only produce roses. (Unless you’re a genetic engineer who tinkers with this stuff. 🙂 )

This is also true concerning spiritual matters. The fruit we produce is determined by our root…our source of life.

Going back to the two trees from which Adam and Eve could choose, Life or the Knowledge of Good and Evil, I want to explore the fruit each tree bears.

Let’s begin with Evil:

The fruit on this branch of the Tree of Knowledge is guilt and shame. Our behavior gnaws at our conscience. Fear that we will be discovered develops. Unchecked, the conscience will become seared, and eventually we are no longer aware of shame at our core. It is possible that this will continue to spiral into deeper and darker behavior.

Think: Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler, or Saddam Hussein.

Ugh! That’s definitely not us. Let’s move on to Good:

The fruit on the “good” branch of the Tree of Knowledge should be much better. Love, joy, peace, and all that.

Surprise! 

The fruit that is produced by our “good” behavior is this:

Self-satisfaction – “I am so good.”

Condemnation – “What they did was bad. They should behave better.”

Judgment – “What they are doing is evil. They should be punished.”

Comparison – “At least I don’t do ______ (fill in the blank) like those people.

Criticism – my group is the only one who has Christianity right. They need to behave like we do.

Vigilance – ever watchful of self and others to determine who is good and who is evil.

Social club mentality – carefully screen every person to determine whether they are “good enough” to be in our club. Avoid obvious sinners, lest they make us look “bad” in the eyes of other Christians.

Self-effort – strive to do the “right” thing, avoid the “evil” thing regarding actions and words.

Religion – a checklist by which we prove ourselves to be “good.”  (Went to church – Check. Spent my obligatory time reading my Bible – Check. Spent 15 minutes in prayer – Check. Did a good deed when I didn’t want to – Check… You get the idea.)

Opinionated – due to endless mental effort, I have the answer to every problem. “You’re doing it wrong. Do it my way and all will be well.” When it comes to doctrine and theology, I will fight to the death for my view. I’ve studied my Bible for years and know the (little ‘t’) truth.

 

Of course, if we failed to meet our criteria of what a “good” Christian does, then we feel “bad” and avoid “eye contact” with God, certain that He is displeased with us, certain that punishment is coming.

You can see that love, joy, peace, etc. are nowhere to be found on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

As I stated in my previous post,

“Evil and good come from the same root. That root is self.”

The end result of eating from this tree is death.

Here’s our dilemma:

Whenever we choose to ‘live’ by the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, we are the judge of what is good…and what is evil.

The determining factor is self.

How does it make me feel? How does it affect me?

In this, we become our own god. Our life is small, for we are the center of our universe. Everyone else exists for our own good pleasure…and they must please us, or risk being judged as “bad” and then rejected.

Sadly, most Christians I know (myself included) live this way.

Is it any wonder that the world isn’t beating down our doors to “get” what we have?? 

John 15 is full of information about what it means to abide in Christ – the Bread of Life (read that: “Fruit from the Tree of Life):

  • Fruitfulness (love, joy, peace, etc.) – Why do we interpret fruit only as “a big ministry” or “lots of converts”…productivity??
  • Consistent answered prayer – because we have intimacy with Him and He tells us what He is doing…thus showing us how to pray.
  • Confidence that we are loved – no need to hide, fearful of punishment.
  • Full of joy – the burden of controlling the world, getting people to behave better, is lifted from our shoulders!
  • Able to hear His voice, and so know what to do/say/understand in any given situation. We ask Him to explain what’s going on, instead of allowing the enemy to fill in the blanks.
  • Filled with the Spirit – ever present to teach, guide, give insight, and flow through us to reach those around us.

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  ~ John 7:38

When we are set free from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and partake from the Tree of Life, true transformation begins. We see others in a new light…and love those we previously judged to be unworthy of our good company. 😉

Further, when we can drop all the self-imposed”duties” required to run the world, we enjoy a lightness that cannot be described. All the mental energy consumed when we were absorbed with how to fix everyone around us left us drained. We come to life when we let the mental gyrations go!

Do not miss that the Tree of Life is all about relationship – with the Lord, and with others.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, on the other hand, mostly destroys relationships – with the Lord (we’re sure we haven’t measured up, and so hide from Him), and also with those who don’t meet our standards.

What I am sharing with you does not originate with me. Consequently, I wish to give credit where credit is due. Since the beginning of April, I have been listening to Bob Hamp’s Foundational Class series. Just five videos – available online at no cost. No signing up, or signing in.

For this “try harder to do better” woman, the message contained within these videos has forever transformed me. (He also wrote a book, Think Differently, Live Differently.)

People are beginning to ask about the changes they see. How cool is that???

Funny, folks didn’t want to know where they could get some of my critical, judgmental, opinionated, argumentative behaviors and attitudes. Seems the world already has enough of those characteristics.

“You shall know them by their fruit.”

By what fruit are you “known?”

***Keep in mind that what I write is “what I did with what I heard” from the Lord through Mr. Hamp’s messages, and not exact quotes from the videos or his book, unless so noted.***