Light for One Step

 

panoMingusLookoutSome things we learn theoretically when life is going smoothly are the things we’ll need to apply practically for getting through the “test” successfully when life throws ugly curves at us. I still clearly see in my mind the dark night we were walking back from the overlook  on Mingus Mountain to the youth camp. Because the ground was uneven, strewn with rocks and fallen trees, I had to shine my flashlight directly in front of me, not out ahead of me, to see what  I needed to step over or around. It occurred to me that all I needed was light for the next step. I shrugged off the knowledge that a skunk could be anxiously poised  two feet away from me, unseen in the dark, and planted each step in the patch of light I had for it.

Oh, Rose, remember! Believe!

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

Easier said than put into practice and lived, BUT, nevertheless, regardless, God has been that steady mini Maglite on my path the last eight years, even though I confess I’ve tried to shine it far ahead of me, scanning the future to see where God’s blessings might lie, and yes, missing two that were right under my feet. Did that mean God stopped loving me? Does that mean God stopped blessing me? NO!

If you’ve read this blog or look over posts of the past eight years, you read how God has been faithful to me even while the winds and waves thrashed around and towered over me. Just as He led the Israelites across the Red Sea on a miraculously dry path, God has led me into His blessings and goodness, even though I’ve wandered around as much as  they did, partly because I listened to well-meaning but unwise advice, and simply because God’s blessing didn’t look like I thought it would. Truly, “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.’”… Lamentations 3: 22-25 NASB

Twice in the last five months GOD has brought HIS opportunities directly into my path. I didn’t  scan the horizon looking for them; God simply put them “right under my feet.” People came looking for me. Now it’s my job to use what God put into me, empowered by His Holy Spirit, to make the most and  best I can for God’s Kingdom purposes and victories from them.

As my friend Donna Partow wrote, “This Isn’t the Life I Signed Up For.” Hmm, well, maybe it is, and I just didn’t know it at the time I “enlisted.” What I DO know is that God IS good all the time (ironically and NOT coincidentally the title of a women’s devotional gift book I  was just asked to write for Christian Brands). O Lord, how You love me! I do call it irony, but lovingly – and firmly -You’re reminding me that 1) YOU are in charge, and 2) You love me, and 3) You see value in me, and 4) You WANT to accomplish Your purposes in me, and 5) You are good all the time and Your will for me is good, and 6) You aren’t done with me yet!

I lean into God’s Word every day because I NEED to! I NEED Jesus to be my loving Lord, Guide, Shepherd, Sword, Shield, Father, and Almighty King.

Oh you foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith…He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. Galatians 3: 1-9, 14 NIV

Yesterday as soon as I awoke, three songs came into my thoughts in succession:

  • Holiness, Holiness Is What I Long For
  • The Strife Is  O’er, the Battle Won
  • Lead, Kindly Light

Holy Spirit of the Living God, speak to me (loudly, please, with mercy for my sometimes deaf ears) what You are saying in those songs, and help me to walk in the one foot of light You give me today. I pray you help my emotions, my over-active brain, and my spirit to rest and trust in the Light of the World, even twelve inches at a time.

Simply Amen! In Jesus’ name, God, get YOUR glory!

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God doesn’t “grade on a curve”…

Reunion 3

Grade school and high school buddies, decades later, still friends ! And yes,Thea, I’m glad ,too, the school photo is blurry!Thanks, “Mo,” for sharing it.

I still shudder when I remember the day in seventh grade when our teacher handed back math test papers, handing the papers for all the row to the first person in the row. As the boy in front of me handed the stack back, my paper now on top, he loudly proclaimed, “Ooooh, Rose got an 85!” The whole class echoed his “Ooooooh!” as though I’d done something dreadful, an unimaginable, unspeakable horror. Never mind that he didn’t announce HIS grade to the class, nor did any of my classmates; all that mattered was that I didn’t have a perfect score.

I cringed, sighed, and knew one “B” wasn’t going to impact my semester grade that much. For those of you who laugh at the nerdy characters on the television sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” let me shed some light for you. Gifted students deal with other people’s expectations of their perfection, or near-perfection, ALL the time, and often base their sense of self-worth, validation and value on meeting the expectations of others. Does that sound like a weight you’d like to live under?

Flash forward to Calculus 102 in college and the soul-shaking day I got back another test paper, this time with a horrifying 69% on the top. My psyche rapidly started crumbling, until the professor put the grading scale on the board, and I realized I’d made an A. I breathed sigh of relief, though I still didn’t feel good that I hadn’t mastered 31% of the material. If the bulk of the class scored a failing percentage, evidently neither the textbook nor our professor had adequately explained the material. That was one day I was VERY grateful for the concept of grading on a curve, determining letter grades based on the highest achieved class score.

I suspect we’d all like to think God Almighty “grades on a curve” when it comes to standing before His judgment throne, and we’d like to think we’re good enough, love-able enough, to earn God’s love and grace on our own merit. That just tells me how insecure in ourselves and in trusting God’s lavish love for us – not based on our performance, but on how HE sees us and who HE says we are TO HIM in Christ!

After all, God does say in Hebrews 9:27  “It is appointed for men once to die, and after this the judgment.” Notice in this sentence the facts that 1) everyone dies – that’s truth; 2) we only get one “shot” at life, “ONCE to die”; 3) death is not the ultimate end, “and after this…” ; and 4) we all will face God’s judgment.

Here’s the other sobering fact: God doesn’t “grade on a curve.” God is Holy as well as loving, and we can’t ignore or deny God’s holiness.

“I am the LORD, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King.” Isaiah 43: 15

Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders? Exodus 15: 11

Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders? Psalm 77: 13

For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. Luke 1:49

Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor. Habakkuk 1: 13a

“You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel; I am the LORD who sanctifies you,…” Leviticus 22: 32

But the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness. Isaiah 5:16

But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 1 Peter 1: 15-16

Uh, you ask, isn’t God expecting too much from human beings in asking us to be holy? And what IS the standard for holiness, anyway? I certainly don’t do the evil things some people do. As a friend said to me one day regarding an issue in his life, “If that’s the worst of my sins, it’s not so bad.” In other words, isn’t it good that I’m better than a mass-murderer? Won’t God cut us some slack like my Calculus professor and grade on a curve?.

Jesus raised the grading scale on what God considers right living: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Matthew 5: 26-29 NIV

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” James 23: 10

The eternal grading scale is actually pass-fail, but it takes 100% to pass

“From the holiness in God’s character we can understand His righteousness and justice. The man who does evil sets his will against God’s will and against the principle upon which He conducts the universe. Such a man has placed himself where he must either turn back and forsake his sin or take the inevitable consequences of resisting the purpose which God is fulfilling.” Henry T. Sell

Jesus said: For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.  And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. John 5: 21-29 NIV

“NOT FAIR!” we shout. Hey, I’ve blown it just like you have, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….” (Romans 3:23) sin meaning to “miss the mark,” and “all” means me, too, so I’m NOT here judging and condemning you. I AM here to share some incredible truth with you: you aren’t made right with God because of anything you do, and no way you blow it can ever end God’s deep love for you.

It wouldn’t be fair, UNLESS God Himself made a way for us to pass, to in effect score 100%. God did exactly that in sending Jesus to draw us to God’s love and grace, to die on the Cross and rise again to eternal life, not for wrongs HE had done but for every wrong you and I have done and ever will do. He gave us, you, me  the grade Jesus earned! You aren’t made right with God because of anything you do, except for one thing – receive his free gift of salvation and righteousness through confessing your inability to be perfectly righteous and receiving God’s gift of Jesus’ 100% ability!

God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us (a complete offering to atone for sin), so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3: 23-26 NIV

In offering himself in Jesus as the One complete 100% payment for sin who could make you perfectly 100% right with himself, the holy God completely satisfied both his holy righteousness and his relentless love for mankind! God values you SO much, sees so much beauty and worth in you that HE HIMSELF made a way for you to be completely righteous. The world had never before or ever since seen such incredibly powerful, passionate, relentless love!

For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57: 15

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. “By His stripes you are healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1: 5-9 NIV

God doesn’t grade on a curve; thankfully God grades on Christ’s Cross! And you get an A!

 

A “…BUT…” to pray: Holy God, I know and confess that I’m a sinner, yes, a sinner, and I’ve blown it, missed your true standards, in many ways large and small, BUT what they were doesn’t matter to you. What matters to you is what I choose to do with your gift of perfect forgiveness, grace and unmerited love to me through Jesus, so I say _________________________________________________________________! And now I want to live out of that gift, live the good, upright, wise and loving choices you enable me to do through your Holy Spirit living inside of me, So Righteous Father God, I ask you to help me daily __________________________ and, as I need to, daily confess my sins and come back to knowing I’m completely forgiven when I do. In Jesus’ name, thank you! Holy Spirit, help me to listen __________________________________________

 

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Trust in the … Where’s the Lord?

Trust in the … Where’s the Lord?

img_1427 Driving through New Mexico not long ago, we passed two commercial trucks, one right after the other, and I heard God’s “Heads up –  this is your culture, and the choice I offer you.” The first truck carried a logo with a “lucky” 7, horseshoe,  and four-leaf clovers, and instantly I thought how much people trust in luck or their own intelligence and resources, rather than trusting in God, his wisdom and His loving goodness. No offense to this trucker; I thank him/them for being part of this nudge from God. The proliferation of magazines named and devoted to SELF and the  plethora of casinos in our country and folks who go there for recreation (hmmm….what happened to local, state and national parks?? tongue in cheek, not judgment) is only  symptom of the love of self and money that consumes so many of us, love of self I suspect out of hidden insecurity and not knowing how loved and accepted we are by God, and love money for the sake of security, money for the sake of things we can buy, money for the sake of money itself, rather than money as a tool God gifts us with to bless and further his Kingdom work and purposes in transforming lives.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Almost two thousand years ago the apostle Paul warned his discipled “son”  Timothy :

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV

Times have changed due to advancing technology, but I venture to say people haven’t changed at all. I’ll include myself, because I’m not free from own shortcomings, openly admitting here to an inherited internal sense of fear that many of us grew up with, being children of children the Great Depression and World War II. The fear caused me to let go of some blessings God placed squarely in my hands in the last few years, so I don’t pretend to be Wonder Woman of Faith; I’m as frail as anybody when I  trust in myself or let the enemy of my soul pour lies and doubt into me.

BUT, and you know there is always a BUT…, God is gracious and slow to anger,and He will not always accuse …

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. BUT from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts. Psalm 103:2-18 NIV

 

So the second truck we passed was a truck from Covenant Transport. I didn’t know  at the time, though I guessed, that Covenant Transport is founded on Christian principles and values. You can check them out on their website http://www.covenant transport.com,and no,I’m not getting any kickback from mentioning them, though I do think they are worth  considering  if you’re looking for a trucking company

 

covenant-transport-truck1

Covenant, and keeping covenant,  matters to me because it matters to God, and despite  tragedies in my life, I will not( okay, I even admittedly stubbornly refuse to)blame God for the tragedies or walk away from his love and goodness and faithfulness. What I will walk away from is swallowing Satan’s bait of bitterness that would poison my heart, walk away from doing evil to people who have hurt me,  walk away from hiding God’s  goodness in my life from others or ever being ungrateful for all the second and third and unlimited chances for  blessing God gives me, and gives you, too, if you call him Father and call Jesus Lord.

What and who we are to walk away from are the things and  people Paul told Timothy to avoid in 2 Timothy 3: 1-5. Paul goes on to warn and  encourage Timothy:

Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone. You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconic and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,  while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,  and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:5-17 NIV

James echoed the same warnings and encouragement in his  letter,and he includes a few BUT’s:

You adulterous people( note: an allusion to covenant unfaithfulness; see Hosea 3:1.), don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? BUT he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud BUT shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:4-10 NIV

 

So trust in 7’s, horseshoes, clovers, my own intelligence,technology,luck,theocrats table or slot machines to be the source of my blessing? As someone l loved was so fond of saying,”I just don’t think so.” I remember a verse  we used to add in the old gospel song “Give me Oil in My Lamp” when I was in senior high Methodist Youth Fellowship: Give me  gas in my Ford, keep me truckin’ for the Lord…”

Solomon said much the same thing in Proverbs 3, and I inserted Do’s where  appropriate for contrast and emphasis:

Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
(Do)Bind them around your neck,
(Do) Write them on the tablet of your heart.
4  you will find favor and good repute
In the sight of God and man.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.

(D0)in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; (Do) Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

8 It  will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.

9(Do) Honor the LORD from your wealth And from the first of all your produce;

10 So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine.

11 MY son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof,

12 For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

13 (Do) how blessed is the man who finds wisdom And the man who gains understanding.

14 For her profit is better than the profit of silver And her gain better than fine gold.

15 Sheis more precious than jewels; And nothing you desire compares with her.

16 Long life is in her right hand; In her left hand are riches and honor.

17 Her ways are pleasant ways And all her paths are peace.

18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who hold her fast.

19 The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, By understanding He established the heavens.

20 By  His knowledge the deeps were broken up And the skies drip with dew.

21 (Do) My son, let them not vanish from your sight(Do) Keep sound wisdom and discretion,

22 So they will be life to your soul And adornment to your neck.

23 Then you will walk in your way securely And your foot will not stumble.

24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

25 Do not be afraid of sudden fear Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes;

26For the LORD will be your confidence And will keep your foot from being caught.

27Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in your power to do it.

28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it,” When you have it with you.

29 Do not devise harm against your neighbor, While he lives securely beside you.

30 Do not contend with a man without cause, If he has done you no harm.

31 Do not envy a man of violence And do not choose any of his ways.

32 For the devious are an abomination to the LORD; BUT He is intimate with the upright.

33 The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, BUT He blesses the dwelling of the righteous.

34 Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet (aka BUT) He gives grace to the afflicted.

And Shepherd King David gave us sound,wise advice in Psalm 37:

Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORDTrust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him(my inserted confession,this is one weakness I deal with in  being too impatient for God to move and act in  his time and ways,and I would have saved myself a lot of pain and grief and instability and turmoil if I’d stayed put where he first put me and not listened to well-meaning but not the best advice from people instead of listening for GODs voice back in 2009!! )
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. (Do) Cease from anger and forsake wrathDo not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, BUT those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land. Psalm 37: 3-9 NIV

Sighing for my own impatience, I remind myself that in April of 2014, the Lord showed me very plainly and sovereignly in three successive license plates: Justice Christz Chronos

I thank God that  he doesn’t give up on me ever, his faithfulness never leaves me, and he never  forsakes me. Instead, God “inscribes me (tattoos)  on the palms his hands”

“Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me. Isaiah 49: 16 NIV

God writes me on his hand Just as he does Jerusalem and Zion, because I’m part of his family and a citizen of his  New Jerusalem and Zion. I have his Word on it, and so do you if – yes, this is the condition  to receive his unconditional love – IF  you confess your sins, repent, and call and truly receive Jesus as your Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and Lover of your soul.

So a “…BUT…” to pray today is all the BUT’s in the Bible passages above, and any of your own that God’s Holy Spirit speaks precisely and patiently and lovingly to you: ________________________________________________________and in Jesus’ name a big AMEN,make it so, Father God, for Your Glory and Your Kingdom come here on Earth as in Heaven and Your Victory in my life for all the world to see!

 

“Leave your table looking like …”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA(No, I am not scolding him; I’m actually praying a blessing on each child)

Reward, success and insight come in the  strangest places.

In the third week one of my least favorite jobs, I listened to the assistant principal decisively tell the room full of fifth graders that if they didn’t clean up their table and sweep the floor after their lunch period,before the sixth graders came in, they’d be sitting in his office. That went over like the proverbial lead balloon, and I thought, “I’d better find another way to inspire these kids  or it’s  going to be a very, very long semester for us all.” I give the Holy Spirit credit for the  thought that came to me. I began going table to table, cheerfully and positively telling the boys, “You’re young men of valor,courage, integrity, commitment, teamwork, strength, and honor. I know you want to leave your table looking like a man of that true strength was sitting here,” and to the girls, I said, “You’re beautiful young women of honor, virtue, strength, courage, compassion and kindness. I know you want to leave your table looking like that kind of  beautiful woman was sitting here.”

Completely puzzled looks met me, but I simply smiled and moved to the next table,and  repeated the process for every grade level that came into the multi-purpose room for lunch. One eighth-grade  girl had the surprised confidence to respond, “Miss Jackson, nobody ever talks to us like that!”

“Well, I’m going to tell you that until you believe it!” I  replied,  and her face lit up. Encouraged, I repeated the process for the rest of the week, for fun throwing in situations to the boys like, “You’re the pit crew, and you want to take care of  this ‘car’ and leave the pit ready for the next crew, looking like dedicated, capable,  smart, honorable men were just here,”and similar  girl-themed situations for the girls. Table after table, boys raised their hands and asked if they could be pit boss, and girls asked if they could be the head attendant at the coronation.

For three weeks,  grade by grade, twenty-minute lunch period by  period, I repeated character affirmations to the girls and boys, young men and women, from fourth grade up to seniors in high school, and in those three weeks, something wonderful happened: children started asking me for the rags, spray bottles, and brooms.  No threats of detention, no raised voice, no wagging  finger, just an affirming call to be someone higher, greater, and to have the power to lead by a servant-hearted example of true strength and grace. The assistant principal was surprised by how clean the room and tables were, I was enormously glad  that my venture worked, the students  felt good about themselves, and even more importantly and delightfully, I began to develop good relationships  with quite a few of the children.

It occurred to me at the same time that I was also telling myself something important about myself, as well as others: this is precisely what Father God wants for us and from us as His  children: to conduct  ourselves in such a way that  we leave our corners of the world looking like women of inner beauty, valor, value, honor, strength, kindness and compassion were “sitting here,”and men of courage,  strength, integrity, commitment, teamwork,  and honor were “sitting here.”

There was not time and no place in the multi-purpose room for, “It’s not my job. Oooh! That’s yucky! I don’t want to. Somebody else can.” May I propose that there is no time and no place in our  families, friendships, relationships, work associations, neighborhoods, churches, cities or world  for those kinds of self-centered, self-serving, weak, uncaring, and flatly irresponsible attitudes either. God may not call us into his “office” or wag his finger in our  faces, but we can be assured of  this certainty the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman believers:

You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Romans 14:10-12 NIV

Sadly I see a spirit of taking offense and entitlement rising in our nation, perverting the idea of individual liberty (which ought to include individual accountability and responsibility) into narcissism. This  attitude is nothing new,and sadly, it isn’t limited to immature children. Jesus dealt with this attitude among his disciples.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

“We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 35-45 NIV

We should take  Jesus’ words very seriously, but can we put the same affirmative spin on this command that I put on cleaning up the lunch tables? Can we live out our lives in the strength, beauty, dignity, honor, commitment, kindness, and courage of  humbled service, knowing how it positively impacts others,  how glad it makes our Father God, and how much  true strength, validation, and outright joy we will find within ourselves when we live our lives with an eager, enthusiastic, “May I please have the rag and spray bottle?” attitude? If it was good enough for Jesus,  theKing of KingsandLord of Lords …. then there is true greatness in  every act of giving, listening, sharing, forgiving, mess-cleaning helping, and walking alongside one another.

And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Matthew 23: 9-12 NIV

I know the children  at that school with a high academic reputation were and are not  simply brains to be filled, but lives to positively, affirmingly, enthusiastically shape for a lifetime of real valor, courage, strength, kindness, beauty, dignity, commitment, compassion,and serving.

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A “…BUT…” to pray: Father God,I  admit I’ve looked down on people who work at jobs like ______________________ and I’ve drawn back from_______________________ because I thought it would be yucky,time-consuming,  no fun, someone else’s job, beneath, or __________________. I seen I have missed opportunities to rise to true strength and dignity, integrity, honor, courage,inner beauty,commitment, and compassion,  BUT you never tell me it’s too late or I’ve missed and messed up too much. Awaken me to opportunities to live  my life in Christlike ways. Holy Spirit, what could I to today,this week? Where and for whom could I “leave this home,job, relationship, community, world looking like a man/woman of  those  values was ‘sitting here’?” ______________________________________________________________ Please  remind me to pick up the “broom”  or ask for the “spray bottle” where and when I can, and help me remember that bending and sweeping and wiping and serving lifts me up to the greatest I could possibly be within me, not justified by works, but reflecting the character and powerful love of Jesus.

It Will Never Be “Okay”

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I sat in a room filled with deeply shattered people, and though their stories were different, their grief was the same: one loud cry of “Injustice!” Our facilitator brought up the topic of helpful and toxic people when you’re dealing with traumatic, tragic loss. Sadly, it’s the people in closest relationship  with you who can be the most toxic. They mean well, but what they have to say that sounds  encouraging and sympathetic to them rings very differently in the cavity of a needlessly emptied heart.

People look with sympathetic eyes and tell you, “It will be okay. Just move on.God has something better for you.” What those of us who’ve tragically lost someone we love  want to say – but generally are too “nice” to reply, is  the loud anguished cry I heard at the meeting last week through all the pain in the room. “NO! It  will NEVER be ‘okay’!”

Really? Have those of you offering your helpful advice ever had the dearest, most beloved,  cherished person or relationship ripped out of your life by the callous indifference, thoughtless carelessness, complete selfishness, or brutal anger or malice of another person? Would it be okay if a sniper’s bullet just took out the spouse, child, friend sitting next you in your secure home? How about your cherished dog or cat? If the blood of your child spilled across your floor, would it still be “okay” and would you simply wipe up the floor and “move on”?

No, what we  want to say in that moment –  and now I know it’s much the same whether  the loss comes from an unwanted and cruel divorce brutally ending  your marriage or through the homicide or manslaughter death of a loved one – is this: “STOP! STOP THE WORLD! Everyone,pay attention;something horrible just happened! This treasure has been taken,this life  cut short, this family shattered! Bow your head,cry out, weep with me, because this is INJUSTICE!” Frankly, the survivors feel like  the earth should stop turning, everyone in the world should drop their  “to do” lists filled with mundane, routine urgencies, and weep for at least a few minutes over the loss of somebody or someone precious and wonderful, someone whose life held potential and goodness and joy for  themselves and for others,whose absence now means  tragedy, loss, pain,and emptiness for those left behind. Stop,weep,and say, “YES,  it matters! YES, it hurts you terribly!” and allow for the very present and very real continuing sorrow. THAT is what is okay: to grieve,  to feel the hurt, to acknowledge the loss,to allow yourself to care and love  and feel the loss of love.

Trust me, survivors feel guilt and re-run  the tapes of  what could have happened to prevent the loss. Someone should have seen this coming, told me or  told someone who could intervene what he/she was saying, someone should have paid attention, stepped in,  done something, said something, intervened somehow to prevent or circumvent this tragedy.

Sadly everyone seems think it’s someone else’s job, it would be too hurtful to tell you the truth, somehow that person will turn around or get the help they need. After the fact, after it was years too late to change anything or help anything, people told me what “he” had told them or had done ten years earlier. “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings  – I didn’t want to get involved – I didn’t want to upset you” was the common reasoning I heard for  the silence of my neighbors and my family and friends. Last  week we  all listened to each others’   unreported red flags  in  one horrible tragedy after another:  teachers who overlooked a student’s  sudden plummeting grades and changed behavior  but never looked into the reason, bartenders and bar patrons who watched someone drinking excessively and never asked who would be driving them home, bosses and people who looked the other  way when they should have spoken into an addicted life, no one taking seriously the mental illness or emotional dysfunction they saw in a person.

I vividly remember sitting decades ago in  a room with my elderly aunt, who had undiagnosed Alzheimer’s that her neighbors  thought was some form of mental illness. Due to “privacy”rules, she had to be the one to commit herself for observation. Really? The mental health system expects a mentally ill person to have the  sanity and presence of mind to see they need psychiatry?   Isn’t  that  like expecting a bank robber to suddenly realize,”Oops,  I shouldn’t be stealing other people’s money”? My father and I had to, gently and lovingly as we  could, tell her firmly that something was wrong with her. That confrontation was one of the most horrible experiences of my life, but after the fact, we realized she might have seriously hurt herself  or someone else if we hadn’t intervened,and more than that, she wouldn’t have received the diagnosis and care she genuinely needed. We did the right thing.

I  attempted the same intervention many years later  with another loved one, but sadly, that person needed to see the dysfunction, but because of  dysfunction, refused to see or admit it. That story had a tragic ending, a deeply hurtful injustice. God  himself spoke that to me,and though I’m glad God knows it, still that doesn’t diminish the pain. So weep with me,  hold me, rage with me at the injustice, tell me you’ll be here for me tomorrow, but be courageous enough to be here for me three months or  three years from now if that’s how long my  grief lasts.Walk with me. Take me on a picnic, BE  with me in real life if you truly want to help my healing, but  don’t ever judge me for feeling, for crying, or tell me  to cover my scars in your presence so I don’t upset  anyone. Don’t tell me I need to be the nice and thoughtful person mindful of the feelings of others  when someone has dealt me a malignantly ugly harmful, unkind blow. Rather, look into the ugliness of  genuine, tragic loss and marvel that I’m brave enough to  still be alive.

Angry? In my own  situation, when two psychologists and a  psychiatrist didn’t  see his disorder, despite me telling the truth of what  I’d live in, angry? When a pastor saw disorder in the man and simply labeled it ”demons” and gave no direction to help or counseling resources? In a lesser injustice,was I angry when teachers passed on my neighbor’s daughter, struggling pitifully in math, because they “thought” her Hispanic last name meant she had issues understanding English, yet she only spoke English and I saw in one ten-minute session with her that she had no idea of the number line in her head?  You bet I feel angry! You bet survivors  feel angry, but friends and society expect us to be the “nice”  people who “suck it up” and act like  we’re okay when we are anything BUT okay  with the injustice we’ve suffered.

WHY MUST  WE KEEP SILENT? WHY MUST WE HAVE NO VOICE? Does hurting someone else’s feelings matter more than the wrong of taking someone’s life? The wrong of destroying a family and shattering lives?

We know we  have to forgive. Forgiveness is a gift I give myself, to set my own heart and mind  free from, and see I’m not the one to bring, the justice I want and need to right the wrong, but don’t ever think  it comes cheaply or easily. Forgiveness  costs me,  big time, but it’s the price of my freedom from bitterness.  For me as a Christian, forgiveness is the example  Jesus gave, the command – not just the suggestion – to forgive seven times seven IF the one who wronged me repents and asks for my forgiveness.

“If your brother sins,  rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”  Luke 17:3-4

And if the one who wronged me doesn’t repent? I’ve felt the sting of no remorse. The disciples replied to Jesus, “Increase our faith!” I still have to find a way to forgive, to give the anger and hurt over to Jesus, handing him the broken glass to turn into “sea glass” in the ocean of his love, for him to redeem somehow,  to bring beauty from ashes and  meaning from senseless tragedy.  I have to pay the costly price of giving up my right to true justice. For those going through an ugly, unwanted divorce, the only true justice would be true heart-felt reconciliation. For homicide survivors, the only real justice would be their loved one back alive and whole again.

“Just move on”? YOU try it after tragedy, and only then do you have the right to tell me and others  to. Till then, look me, or look your friend or family member,  square in the eye and  tell me/them you can’t imagine how much it hurts.Tell me/them  you’ll be there. Tell me/them  you won’t walk away even when I/they spurt some ugly tears.

No, I can’t “just move on.” Neither could any of the people in the room last week, and the counselors  recognized that hard truth. For us,the survivors, it would have been less painful if we had died; there would have been a welcome end to our grief and agony. No,we don’t need to be committed to an institution: we need to  be understood, heard, wept with, our feelings of loss validated by the people who care about us. We need “the system”  to work quickly  and justly. We will always carry the scars the wounds, and no, my friends, don’t tell me to put on a happy face as “makeup”to cover my scars so YOU don’t have to look at something “ugly.”  In truth, it isn’t “ugly” – it’s the beauty mark of genuine love.

When my father died after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s, we knew he was free from a terrible disease and, because he loved Jesus as Lord and Savior, Dad was with his Creator, God, King, Lord, Savior, and truest Friend. Same thing when my other passed away 14 years later. She was free from pain of arthritis and vascular dementia, home with Dad and her parents and siblings at that big reunion potluck, and enjoying the blessings and bliss of eternal life with Christ in Heaven. Closure. But truthfully there is no closure with sudden, tragic or traumatic death. There is no real closure with divorce, no “acceptance” except the hard reality that we will have to learn to live with the injustice and the pain and loss. Christians have the certain hope of God’s eventual redemptive justice, though it may well not be the kind of justice, the wrong-righting that we wanted to see. Still, we hold our hands up to receive our ongoing healing and blessings from a good, good Father. Till then, allow us to feel, walk with us, and help us  go forward into  the life we have yet to live, the purposes we can yet find, with our beautiful scars of love.

Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31: 7-8 RSV

Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.
Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me,  spouting malicious accusations. I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:10-14 NIV

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49: 15-16 NIV

I remember singing the song “Lonesome Valley” at church camp. We changed the lyrics a bit to reflect a better truth than the song originally speaks, a truth that the verses above proclaim.

“Lonesome Valley”

You gotta walk that lonesome valley
And you gotta walk, walk it by yourself
Nobody else can walk it for you
You gotta walk, walk it by yourself.

Jesus walked this lonesome valley
And he had to walk it by Himself
Nobody else could walk it for Him
He had to walk, walk it by Himself.

Oh, you gotta walk that lonesome valley
You don’t go there by yourself
For now there is One who walks beside you
You needn’t  walk it by yourself.

You must go and stand your trials
You needn’t stand it by yourself
For now there is One to stand beside you
You needn’t stand it by yourself.

 

Amen, Lord Jesus, walk beside me,  stand with me, carry me  when I can’t go another step, be my light on  the dark path  ahead of me, be  the voice of comfort in my days of pain, be redeeming love in my life, put my broken pieces back together and bring me out into a new, beautiful hope and victory that only YOU can bring.

 

DO do What You Need to Do in Me!

I’m just not the bling and sequined frou-frou kind of girl. I do like to get dressed up, and I enjoy wearing jewelry and perfume, but I’m just not a ruffles and matching purse/matching shoes/matching nail polish/matching bling woman. I’m not even sure I’d feel comfortable doing that if I could afford to (which I can’t). I hear from God in analogies, and while I admire other speakers who get to deliver the pretty boxes with ribbons and bows kinds of messages, God never seems to speak to me through pretty, girlie things. I “hear” him through tent stakes, roller coasters, and cheeseburgers. Nevertheless, I was surprised this morning by what God used to teach me something: picking up after my dog in the side yard.Jengasitstight2

All I intended to do in the yard this morning was take advantage of rain-dampened ground to pull pesky spurge, the bane of my gardening, from the back yard. Weeding is unpleasant enough, but as I crouched down working my way beyond the orange tree, I came to a huge patch of spurge smack in the middle of a field of doggie doo. Aargh! I like dogs, but when our son wanted a pet ten years ago, I voted for a hamster – they only live a couple of years, and they don’t shed all over the house. My husband staunchly vetoed my vote, asserting, “If we’re going to get a pet, it’s only going to be a dog.” This is the man who innocently remarked, “Gosh, honey, I didn’t stop to think you’d be the one home with the dog all day,” when we were housebreaking our adorable Springer Spaniel puppy Katie.

Flash forward through ten years of me brushing, feeding, medicine giving, ear cleaning, ball throwing, bone cooking, daily walking, hair vacuuming, and doo-doo picking up. Yes, our son used to do some of the walking and picking up, but he moved away to college four years ago. Yes, my husband occasionally cleans up the back yard and walks the two dogs (we now have our older son’s dog also) maybe two evenings a week and sometimes on Sunday mornings, and yes, he’s the one who works to buy the dog chow and pay the vet bills, but this morning, as usual, I’m the one whose nose is eighteen inches away from the recycled dog chow covering the back yard, and I’m not happy about it.
Two thoughts, “We could hire someone to do the yard work but no, we can’t afford it,” and my habitual complaint, “Why does it have to be me picking up the poo? He has time in the evenings to do a little bit if he really cared. I’m not the one who wanted a dog!” had only briefly, sarcastically flashed through my miffed mind when, on their heels like Katie after a pigeon, came the thought, “Even if you hired someone to pull the weeds AND pick up the doo-doo, it wouldn’t take care of the real issue. What stinks the most is not the doo-doo in the yard, but your attitude. . . .” I knew that idea didn’t come from me! God patiently humors me a lot, and I recognized his heart in the thought. Hiring someone to clean the yard would still leave me with doo-doo in my heart, and a stinky attitude is not what God wants for me, or what I really want for myself.

“Okay, I’ve tried the positive thinking thing before,” I countered.  “Cleaning up the dog poo is a way to show our son I love him, because he loves the dog. That gets me through three minutes of picking up, maybe. Jesus, I need you to really get hold of my heart in this.” This morning I needed more than just a cheerful veneer, because I want this change to be lasting. I don’t want weekly deposits of resentment in my heart. I want a clean heart more than I want a weed-free, poo-free yard.

God gave me the thought, “Bless your husband as you pick up the poo. Yes, I know you’ve tried before, but this morning make it not just words of dry obedience, but truly bless him.” So I did. As I looked up, I saw opportunity all around for plenty of blessing!  I prayed, “I don’t like what my hands are in right now, but bless the work of his hands today. He works so hard for us. Give him satisfying work to do with his hands, because I know how stressed he feels doing nothing but paperwork. I know I’ve made some stinky choices he has had to ‘pick up.’ This doo-doo reminds me that he hangs in there with me when I’m not so pleasant to deal with.” I honestly felt a shift in my attitude. God moved through my willing-to-change heart. If I bless his hands as mine are doing something I don’t want to do, then this doo-doo can become a springboard (a Springer board?) for God’s healing changes in me.

Can you guess what I heard from my husband that evening?   “I had a great day today!  I actually got to sit in the cockpit and play with the radio.  Maybe next week I’ll get a ride to check things out!” God blessed him even as I was praying.  Retrospectively, that made the doo-doo duty, while not pleasant, even something better: rewarding. I could almost hear the laughter in Heaven. Gosh, God is fun! Why don’t I remember that in the middle of my messes?

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you

to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,

with all humility and gentleness, with patience,

showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent

to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Ephesians 4:1-3 (NASB)

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body,

arm yourselves also with the same attitude,

because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”

1 Peter 4:1 (NIV)

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4: 8-9 ESV

 

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24 ESV
Has someone else made choices that leave you with doo-doo to deal with?

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying! I’m not promoting co-dependent behavior or cleaning up other people’s messes and removing consequences of poor choices from them. I’m talking about my heart, your heart – how we handle the fallout of choices other people make that impact our lives in burdensome, frustrating, irritating, even painful ways. Society often tells us the answer is to get rid of the doo-dropping person. Sometimes, and in cases of abuse, that is the safe and appropriate thing to do. For most of the messes we deal with, though, that isn’t a good, healthy, or effective solution, and it doesn’t deal with the heart issues that are left behind. Sometimes you can’t change what you have to deal with or get around it: you just have to pick up the doo-doo. But you can choose your attitude, and choose to bless, which can change you as well.

I can’t get rid of our dog Katie; our son would be crushed, and I’d actually miss her, too. As God revealed to me this morning, though, Katie isn’t the critical issue. It’s my heart that matters to him, and thank God it does! My husband and I can work out the clean-up schedule . . . or I can keep blessing him as Katie drops me reminders!

I share my own flawed humanity here in hope and faith with one of you who needs God’s transforming power to turn something stinky in your life into an avenue of blessing and healing for your heart attitude today. I’m confident no women’s ministry director will ever ask me to speak on this topic, so this is the only place you’ll hear it.

Maybe one of these days yet God will give me a message through a pretty box with ribbons, or jewelry, or nail polish?
A “ . . . but . . . ” to move: Father, as much as I want to, I don’t have the persistent commitment in myself to change my stinky attitudes – and I admit that sometimes I don’t even want to. I’m quick to spot the doo-doo from other people’s choices and often blind to the messes in my heart, BUT you are kind enough to both reveal them and set me on the path to healing and peace IN mind. I don’t want to live in denial of what’s going on in my life; I want your sound mind and wholesome, positive attitude in everything and with everyone I deal with, even when those things and people don’t change. Thank you that you DO do in me all it takes to transform _________ and ME into an avenue of blessing!

Your own “ . . . but . . . ” to move: Tender Father, I struggle so with a bad attitude over ___________________________ BUT I trust you, and I know you will help me have a better attitude about ____________________________________________. I give you permission, Holy Spirit, to show me any “stinkin’ thinkin’” in my heart and thoughts, and I ask you to replace them with thoughts of ways I can bless ______________________________________________________________. God, you are the Creator and author of creativity, so I dare to ask you for creativity in my attitudes to create in me a truly clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. I know this is a prayer you’ve been waiting for me to offer up, so I know you will help me! Thank you, and I look forward to the new ideas, attitudes and gratitude you’ll put into my heart through Your Spirit in my spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen! Holy Spirit, I’m listening ___________________________________________________________________________________.

As Simple as it Gets

As Simple as it Gets

I couldn’t find the bunnies, flowers or rainbows in my circumstances. I was so crushed yesterday, and I recognized my deepest grief is the contradiction between what I know and read of God from the Word – nothing shall be impossible for God – and what I see in the free will He allows us all to walk in, often to the wounding and discouragement of others. What I heard for 18 months was a grand and hideous silence and contradiction. This morning it even hurt too much to let God’s word in and listen to any of my favorite Bible teachers. That contradiction slapped in my face again was more than I could bear.

“When your words came to me, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty. . . . Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive (intermittent) brook, like a spring that fails?” Jeremiah 15:16, 18 NIV

So, the question to me on my morning dog walk was simply which side of this razor’s edge I’m going to fall on. Do I believe my circumstances reveal the character of God, or do I believe somehow, against all the grief within me, that God’s character gives meaning to my circumstances? I want with every fiber of my being for God to change my circumstances, BUT . . .

I love, I hope, I’m crushed – I rise in love, I hope, I’m crushed – I crawl back up to my feet in love . . . . I genuinely understand why sometimes people feel death would be easier than this life. BUT . . . it all comes down to the cross, and the cruelty I see Jesus bore for me. He was taunted, and their taunts were true. He COULD have called down legions of angels and taken himself off the cross, but the end of Jesus’ pain would have begun eternal torment for all the rest of us. Real, raw honesty here today, I have come close to despairing of life, just two months before God brought the faint dawn of a new hope into my life. I don’t doubt for a minute that there is someone who will read this and identify exactly with my feelings. Keep reading!

It all comes down to the cross. For love, Jesus emptied himself of all his majesty and rights as Deity and took our betrayal and rejection of him, even my imploring questions now. He loved, he hoped, he was crushed, he rose up in love. What could it have meant to Jesus to be stripped – willingly, but stripped nonetheless – from all that incomprehensible union with pure joy and love and Oneness with the Father? Whatever it meant, it meant winning me.

No, I’m not at all equating myself and my suffering with Jesus. It’s just that now I begin to understand the ferocious depth of his love for me. He IS love. I don’t BEGIN to grasp how much, but I desperately want to soak myself in him.

Words water down the impact of this truth.

Aaugh . . . as much as this still – hurts isn’t strong enough a word – grinds me to dust emotionally, I will not let my circumstances and the horrifying choices someone else is making inform me about the nature and love of my Jesus. Whatever meaning comes out of this in the end, it will be the meaning LOVE incarnate gives to me.

“Come under my wing,” God whispers, and we cry out, “Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD, for I hide myself in you “ Psalm 143:9

“Shelter Me” by Tab Benoit

The earth can shake the sky come down*

The mountains all fall to the ground

But I will fear none of these things

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

Dark waters rise and thunder pounds

The wheels of war are going round

And all the walls are crumbling

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

Hide me underneath your wings

Hide me deep inside your heart

In your refuge – cover me

The world can shake

But lord I’m making you my hiding place

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! Psalm 32:7-11 NIV

In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues. Psalm 31: 20 NIV

Why, my soul, are you downcast?Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. Psalm 43:5 NIV

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,  and he began to teach them. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5: 1-10 NIV

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'” Revelation 7:17 NIV

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose . Romans 8:28 . . . . If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8: 31 NIV He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 NIV. . . For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither height nor depth , . . . nor anything can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:38-39 NIV

A “,,,BUT…” to pray: Sometimes God, and it might be right now, it feels like the whole world is against me because ____________________________________________________________________________. I tried to _________________________________ but __________________________________. BUT God, help me remember hat YOU are greater than the world, and if YOU are for me, then you must have a plan to bring something good out of _________________________________________________________________. Show me where you are, Father, and Jesus, help me truly feel in my deepest heart how much you love me. I never asked you about your feelings on the cross. Jesus, what did you feel? Can my love for you bring you joy? It CAN! Then I trust you enough o give you ______________________________________________________ and let you work something good from ___________________________________________________. I have to “hand it to you,” so I will, by a choice of faith. What do you want to tell me today? Amen in Jesus’ name, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening ________________________________________________________________________________________