Fragrance? Free!

Has someone you passionately love ever treated you like an enemy? Ever sat across a courtroom facing someone you longed to give your life for, who was set on destroying yours for the sake of his or her own perceived happiness? My heart has cried out, “God, do you have any idea how much this hurts? Do you have any idea how I feel?” And then I remember in a certainty that stills my cries that yes, he does, because in answer to my first questions, he both was, still is, and did.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past three years, it’s how broken God’s heart is precisely because he ferociously loves us, we who are bent on doing things our way for our own ends and would be quite happy if he’d look the other way, or better yet, go away, and let us. As much as I love Jesus, more often that I’d like to admit I ask him (without realizing I’m doing it) to vacate his throne as Lord of Life and let me call the shots.

That’s why Jesus had to come, why there is this event called Christmas, and why it is inextricably tied to the crucifixion and the resurrection and Jesus as our King and high priest of a new covenant. In short, yes he knows exactly how I feel because he felt it.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4: 14-16.

I need to remember that truth. One year after Christmas I asked my husband to split a piece of the trunk of the aromatic fir-tree we’d admired for weeks and turn that log into a cross-shaped candle holder for us to use on our table at both Christmas and Easter, looking forward and looking backward to see both as one astonishingly loving whole, offered by a heart of wholeness who wants that wholeness for each of us.

Can a heart be both broken and whole? When it’s God’s, yes, and here is my disclaimer: in no way do I measure or explain God by my experience. Rather, I understand or at least try to make sense of my experience through who he is.

Thirty-nine years of loving someone who would turn against and reject me makes no sense. Yes, interject the concepts of co dependence and misunderstanding motives and differing love languages, and the destruction can be explained, but it still makes no sense. There is no victory, no glorifying God, no ”happily ever after” that ends any truly satisfying story – and we all want out stories to end well. I will not dishonor anyone by verbally patting you on the head and tritely mouthing, “Well, if you learned something, it was worth it.”

“Better luck next time” still sounds like second place or a limp consolation prize, and all of us want desperately to be winners. The only thing that makes this make any sense for me is if I’ve somehow come to know and experience more deeply the immeasurable love of the Heart who was rejected so I truly and eternally never would be. A friend recently told me – and yes, I did know this, though I wish I didn’t first-hand – that a rose gives off its greatest aroma when it’s crushed. From my vantage point stuck here in this time, honestly, that stinks.

This only makes sense and I only bear it if what comes from my crushing is the pure fragrance of Jesus’ love that can somehow linger as the scent of truth and validation in other people’s lives. For that I’ll taste the tears; for that I’ll be “hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed and hang on to the promise that “God, who said,’ Let light shine out of darkness,’ WILL MAKE his light shine in (my) heart to give (me) the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 6

Did God do this? Did he destroy our marriage? No, all that junk that people write so many self-help books about did. Selfishness did. Thinking of a lover like an enemy did. Can God make anything good come from it? I still fervently hope for much better than I can ask or imagine, but for starters I gladly take this essence and oil and fragrance of how relentlessly God loves me and desires relationship with me. He did, still does, and always will. Now that’s validation and deep reward, a “happily ever after” that does come true for me and for you if you let Jesus take his throne and welcome you to sit in arms that felt what you feel for the sake of  forever with you.   That’s the ending I long for: to be a winner just by letting Jesus love give me deep wholeness! 

 

With a smile I hear him say,”You want a piece of me?” and I shout ,”Yes!”

 

Your  “…BUT …” to move: Jesus, this _______________________ really stinks. You know it; you felt it yourself, BUT you felt it so that I can know _____________________________________________. Truly, make my life a Designer fragrance, and you can call it ________________________________________________________!

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Take to Make My Dad Glad

Take to Make My Dad Glad

Overcome with the holiness of God so powerfully that I almost had to pull off the freeway. It’s funny how God sneaks up on you and takes your breath away. The only analogy I have is the science experiment I’ve seen at several science centers where sucking the air out of a chamber causes a floating feather to fall to the bottom as though made of lead, but that analogy completely fails in this instance. I suddenly felt I wanted none of me, but all of him filling me. His presence so spilled over that I had to find someone or someplace to share it.

The trail that led me to this moment began last week in a Christian singles course. The topic this month was the differing brains of men and women and how that shapes our differences and understandings of each other. The guys shared what men valued about being male, and the women shared what they valued about being female. Men truly enjoy being leaders, action, results, and success oriented, taking the point position, carefully calculating risk versus outcome when it comes to the people and things they hold in their care. It was an “Oh my gosh, it’s who they are, what they need, and how they’re validated” eureka moment for us women. Then one man raised a question about Jesus: he was a man here on earth, so did that mean his male brain bound his thinking and relating with others? A quick and passionate debate erupted about both male and female qualities emanating from the totality of God, ending in our admission that all we can see from the Gospels is that Jesus was a man of action and purpose who was totally relational, leading yet nurturing, analytical and yet completely integrated between the hemispheres of his human brain – the answer beyond our knowing.

But it set my mind musing two days later as the reality hit me: for a man to take on the responsibility of providing for a wife and family is a huge act of courage and commitment, all our cultural expectations aside, and at its purest core completely selfless. ”That’s God!” I realized, and extrapolating from the light bulb moment in the singles group when the truth hit us all that we actually value the differences in each other, it dawned on me that the part of God from which masculinity was birthed actually delights in courageously, faithfully and selflessly providing for his children.

“You mean you LIKE to be Jehovah Jireh, my provider, my healer, my strength, my wisdom, my life-giver? It rocks your socks, God, to be my source, all I need, more than I expect or can ask for?”

That’s when his holiness hit me: a pure love that doesn’t need anything from me or anybody else to be completely whole, YET who chooses to give to me just because of who he is. And I had to look for the nearest off ramp – encounters with cosmic reality distract my driving – and like a child bouncing eagerly and trustingly for another ride on her Daddy’s shoulders ask for more, more, more of who “I AM” is and wants to be in my life to give him the greatest pleasure possible.

“Fill me so there’s none of me and all of You!” I cried, responding in my usual over-the-top passion when I realize anything new about God.

I am not being sexist: when I read “son” in the Bible, I recognize it means “child,” I know many women provide for their families, and many men are nurturing. And yes, I know men can flake out and abandon and abuse their families, and yes I know women can grasp and cling and nag, but that’s the twisting power of that archaic-sounding word called sin that perverts in us the best we were created to be out of a heart so whole, so vastly secure, so deeply loving that He wants us to be the best and all we long to be, an accurate, powerful reflection of who our Father is. The Prodigal (meaning lavishly bountiful) Father painfully permitted the Prodigal (meaning extravagantly wasteful) Son to run out the full extent of the consequences of his folly, but the Father’s heart was always set, bent, intent on and committed to welcoming his son back to the fullness of his identity in the family. And how the Father rejoiced when his child returned! Now he could bless again!

“’My son,’ the father said, ’you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:31-32

I’m re-reading Cindy Jacobs’ book on intercessory prayer Possessing the Gates of the Enemy. Zephaniah 3:17 leaped out to me in the chapter on the power of praise: “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy (the Hebrew word gwul, meaning to spin around under the influence of violent emotion) over thee with singing.” Cindy writes that as she thought about why God commands us to praise him, “Right in the middle of my thoughts came the words, Am I selfish? I  sensed this question was from the Lord. I replied immediately,’ No, Lord, You are never selfish. It is impossible for you to be selfish.’  Then why do you think that I desire to be praised?  I considered this for a while. Before I gave my answer He went on, Cindy, I want you to praise me because when you do, I become what you have praised me for . . . I come into your situation and meet your needs.” (Jacobs, Cindy, Possessing the Gates of the Enemy, Chosen Books 1994, 189-190)

I want to drink more from a deeper well till I’m filled and washed, inside and out, with Living Water. I want to find and be filled with the best of me, and I know somehow that comes only from the fullness of God in me, so I’m going to ask big time. I hope that counter-cultural need and desire in me gives my Father pure happiness to meet!

A “. . . but . . . ” to move:  Father God, my life doesn’t look like you want to bless me right now. I see a big circumstantial disconnect between the reality I’m living in and what I believe your Word says you want for me, especially in ___________________________________,  and frankly I’ve sarcastically said, “Oh, really?” to you more than once. I’m driving down the freeway at 75 mph trying to make good things happen out of my own sense of responsibility for the outcome,  BUT I will believe you’re more ready to give good things to me than I am to receive them, so I dare to ask you now to ____________________________________________________________________________________ to make my life a victorious, glorious reflection of who you are!

And how I want my Heavenly Dad to pack my life with all he wants to give me.Do you think I look like my Dad? I hope I do!

Stand on his feet . . . .

Boys Wife 1974No clear path, everything that seemed promising turned into a short walk to a false hope, every interview turned into a discouraging  “You were our second choice,” too much unsettled and my life hinging on what I can’t make happen for myself. I want to follow God’s will, and the last thing I want to do is start whacking in panic through the underbrush of the tangle that is my life right now with an “I guess I’ll have to do it myself” mental machete. It seems I’ve done that and only wandered my way further off the trail, deeper into disappointments that feel every bit like a detour from God’s intention for my life. At least I HOPE he intended good for me, but when the lyrics of the old song “God will make a way where there seems to be no way” sound more like a taunt than encouragement, what is a person of faith to do?

In incredible opposition to our western culture of self-reliance and self-determination, I think some of the sweetest words to God’s ears must surely be “Father, I CAN’T!” As I threw my hands heavenward in complete frustration and defeat today, what floated down was one of my earliest delights as a small child: reaching up to put my hands in my Dad’s, planting my feet on his big shoes, and going for a ride on my father’s feet. It’s vaguer than a memory, nothing but a wisp of simple knowing, but I know felt treasured and safe then before the harsh realities of the world threw me off balance. My Daddy wouldn’t walk me off a cliff or into oncoming traffic; he knew where he was going, and he was having fun taking me for a ride. I sensed his pleasure in this act of trusting bonding. A decal on the rear window of a car in front of me this morning reinforced the message: “Semper Fi – always faithful.”

I witnessed the same kind of trusting bonding with our first dog Amy, decades ago. A tiny puppy, the black speck of fur that she was all but disappeared into knee-deep Michigan snow with every bound as she ploughed ahead of us, trying to break trail.  Her strength gave out in just a few hundred yards, and what she did next both completely surprised me and convinced me she possessed uncanny intelligence: Amy turned and leaped directly onto my husband’s snowshoes, landing and looking up with trusting puppy eyes as if knowing where greater strength, direction and security lay. “I tried it my way in my strength. That didn’t work at all the way I planned. Now take me where you want to go.” I still have those snowshoes in the garage here in the desert, a reminder to me that I have a place to rest when my “woof” is worn out.

How often I wish I had the simple trust of a dog or a three-year-old! Because I wish I did, I decided to do something radical today after yet another job interview: I reached my arms up again and curved my fingers around two unseen and unfelt hands that once were stained with rivers of blood, picked up my right foot, then my left, and in my choosing planted my feet on the two that walked on water.

For me, I sense that my struggle of the past three years is largely about HIM and who I believe he is. Maybe I’m your test case and this blog merely records some experimental data. This is your journey, Jesus. I’m pretty sure the only way I can keep my feel from straying off the trail away from what God wants for me is to “stand on his feet” and let him do some walking for me. It would be totally crazy if I didn’t recognize – or in this season, against all the earthly evidence to the contrary just decide to believe – that God is my loving Father, he knows where he’s going, and it isn’t off a cliff. If I can’t trust the economy, if I can’t trust my resume or online job search engines (which all too frequently post jobs that have already been filled), I guess I’m going to have to trust my Heavenly Father.

How odd will it be if this is what he’s been waiting for: to delight in taking me for a ride and bonding us so closely that I’ll take this memory of his pleasure into eternity when I REALLY SEE his smile.

“They will come with weeping, they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s (and MY) father . . . .” (Jeremiah 31:9)

“He will not let your foot slip –“ (Psalm 212:3)

“If the LORD delights in a (wo)man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:23)

A “ . . . but . . . “ to move:  God, this may be the craziest thing I’ve ever done. It certainly seems senseless, abut I have to admit that I can’t make any change or dent or progress in ______________________________ ,BUT here goes: I’m going to reach up for your hands, plant my feet on your big shoes, and trust you to take me _______________________________________________________. I’d love to hear your chuckle as you lead me to ____________________________________________________________________________________________.

Amy in the spring minus snowshoes, but still trusting