Why should I love _____ if they don’t love me?

This question came up in one of the first Divorce Care classes I attended at my church. Ironically, the church name included the words ” of Grace,” and the first thought that came into my mind after I heard that question as I sat in a room filled with broken-hearted Christians was another question, “Why shouldn’t I love, when God could ask that same question of all of us, yet loves us all even when we didn’t and don’t love him?”

Here I go again, writing on the only thing worth writing about: the relentless,  implausible, passionate, selfless, giving love of God, dramatically and emphatically and irrefutably shown by Jesus – Y’shua,Isa, or whatever you call him in your language – living out God’s  love, dying on the Cross for each one of us out of God’s love, and rising again in the eternal life he offers us out of God’s love. If I sound like a broken record, I don’t care. All I truly care about is helping others see, understand,  apprehend and grab onto that love waiting abundantly for them to receive.

As I walked this morning, the email I received from Truth For Life would not let go or let up in my spirit, heart and mind. Here it is, words of Charles H. Spurgeon following words of John the Beloved and Jesus, that clearly express my reasons for writing anything, reasons for acting practically out of Christ’s love for people who couldn’t possibly give me anything in return, my reason for being:

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:17-21 NIV

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.    Matthew 5: 43-48 NIV

Why should I love someone who doesn’t love me? If the words above aren’t enough to answer that question for you, I hope Charles Spurgeon’s may make the answer even clearer:

Passion to Save Souls

Truth For Life

DAILY DEVOTIONAL DECEMBER 7, 2016

I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
1 Corinthians 9:22

“Paul’s great object was not merely to instruct and to improve, but to save. Anything short of this would have disappointed him; he desired to see men renewed in heart, forgiven, sanctified, in fact saved. Have our Christian efforts been aimed at anything below this great objective? Then let us correct our ways, for what good will it be at the last great day to have taught and moralized men if they appear before God unsaved? If through life we have sought inferior objects and forgotten that men needed to be saved, then we will be held accountable.

Paul knew the ruin of man’s natural state and did not try to educate him, but to save him; he saw men sinking to hell and did not talk of refining them, but of saving from the wrath to come. To accomplish their salvation, he gave himself up with untiring zeal to spreading the Gospel, to warning and beseeching men to be reconciled to God. His prayers were persistent and his labors incessant. His consuming passion, his ambition, his calling was to save souls. He became a servant to all men, working for them, feeling a woe within him if he did not preach the Gospel. He laid aside his preferences to prevent prejudice; he submitted his will in things indifferent, and if men would just receive the Gospel, he raised no questions about forms or ceremonies. The Gospel was the one all-important business with him. If he might save some, he would be content. This was the crown for which he extended himself, the sole and sufficient reward of all his labors and self-denials.

Dear reader, have you and I lived to win souls to this extent? Are we possessed with the same all-absorbing desire? If not, why not? Jesus died for sinners. Can we not live for them? Where is our tenderness? Where is our love for Christ, if we do not seek His honor in the salvation of men? Lord Jesus, saturate us through and through with an undying zeal for the souls of men.”

  • Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2003, Good News Publishers and used by Truth For Life with written permission.
When people look at me curiously whenever I affirm that I love one who yes, did hurtful things to me out of that person’s own wounding and sometimes admittedly I let it happen, enabled unknowingly out of my ignorance, all I can say is Jesus loves me unconditionally, or rather I receive his unconditional love when I do the one condition God requires: repent for the sins I know I’ve committed and then receive out of gratitude the gift of forgiveness Jesus’ death and resurrection give me. How can I live out of less than the way my Lord and  Master and the Lover of my soul lived and died and gave his all for me?
I’m not Jesus, and I can’t be the Holy Spirit to anybody, and sometimes the wisest love is tough love that lets natural consequences bring the loved one to repent and seek God. But I can pray for those who don’t love me, who don’t know Jesus, and in fact must live sacrificially, reverentially, gratefully, compassionately, forgivingly, lovingly if I presume to call myself  by the name  of Jesus, Christian.
A”…BUT…” to pray: Oh, Father God, Lord Jesus, I admit its hard for me to love _____________________________________________ and sometimes I’d rather ask for “justice,” but justice is your business, not mine. My one call is to live like Jesus so that other people can see you are real, true, and alive in me, so Lord Jesus, when I have a hard time loving _________________, please help me to ______________________
______________________________ and give me wisdom to know how to show that,  and when and how to employ “tough love”, not bitterness, so that my love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that I may be able to discern what is good and best. And always, Lord, help me to sense, know, believe YOUR love FOR me, so I can act out of a heart filled with YOU. In Jesus’ name, Holy Spirit, I’m listening ______________________________________________img_1267
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Fire burns in the ashes

Rose Jackson © 8/3/2009

Fire in the AshesSome journeys take you to unexpected discoveries in familiar places. Walking through the most difficult time of my life through the smoking ruins of a destroyed relationship, I find Jesus waiting to meet me. . Recently my friend Sharon’s daughter, Charity, told me she wanted to take me on a journey through “the Father’s house,” a spiritual journey into Jesus that had given her a breakthrough in a challenging time in her own life. The idea was to “walk” through God’s house to find Jesus. Hungry to experience God’s presence more deeply, I sat with her in Sharon’s bedroom and lifted my sanctified imagination to the Holy Spirit’s voice.

“Please, God, I don’t want to conjure this out of my own imagination,” I silently cried out.

Long ago I had sat beside a boyfriend in a “spiritual” Sunday evening church service, the hair standing up on my arms, my spirit filled with the suspicion that the “spirit guide” the pastor was listening to absolutely was NOT Jesus. I wanted nothing to do with that kind of experience ever again! But I know Sharon’s and Charity’s heart and faith, and my own as well, so this day I could sit in confidence believing that Jesus guarded my thoughts and nothing of the Enemy could enter. I set off in my mind’s eye up a long driveway. We talked about what we were “seeing,” and my friend Sharon described a beautiful mansion in vivid detail. I was having some trouble, my analytical brain questioning whether what I was sensing was me or the Lord, but I pressed on in faith, believing God truly did want to speak something to my heart.

Crossing imagined polished hardwood floors, walking into large rooms whose vague details disappeared as I tried to focus on them, I just wasn’t getting anything. Sharon’s words were awash in love and amazement as she narrated her journey.

Hmmm . . . . No such experience for me. Why was I getting nowhere? After much mental wandering through an empty mansion, I decided to follow the tug on my heart to go “out back,” and as I pushed open a worn, green wooden screen door, I smelled my Grandmother’s apple tree. As my friend saw glorious flowers and a beautiful river filled with gems, I sat on the old wooden swing hanging from the tree and felt someone pushing me. Oh, could I dare to believe this was Jesus? So natural, so common, so familiar, so ordinary . . . so wonderful! What I was experiencing wasn’t at all like the things Charity had seen in her own walk, wasn’t like the things her friend who’d first shared the journey with her had seen on her own walk, wasn’t like the splendor Sharon was seeing now. Simply so simple. So free. So familiar in family love.

Now Jesus and I sat in the grass on the edge of my Grandmother’s garden, and I smelled dill and rich, warm earth. “What does Jesus want to give you?” Charity asked.

“That’s a good question!” I thought. Nothing was coming into my vision as my hands dug beside Jesus’ hands in Grandma’s deep brown, moist soil. Ha! My hand playfully put a smudge of black dirt on Jesus’ left cheek, and I sensed -or maybe dared to believe – it pleased him. This wasn’t the grand spiritual adventure, the overwhelming breaking in of the Holy Spirit that I had hoped to receive. This wasn’t Acts 2 in the upper room. This was sitting on the grass with my hands in dirt, my hands beside another set of hands, feeling completely at peace and joyfully loved. This was awfully ordinary for a powerful spiritual encounter.

“Jesus wants to give you something. What is it? Ask him,” Charity gently encouraged.

Vaguely I sensed something like a gold brooch in an extended hand, sensed rather than saw, and I got the impression the gold setting held an opal. He was holding it against my chest. “Ask him what it means,” Charity offered.

“Uumm . . . . ,” I was determined NOT to attach any meaning that wasn’t absolutely of God onto this experience. The still small voice of God was so quiet, more a trickle of understanding seeping into my mind. I know many precious stones are mentioned in Revelation 21 where John describes the foundations of the walls of the New Jerusalem, but I wasn’t at all sure opals were among those stones. “Opals – really pure, beautiful opals – are fiery,” I recounted. “Maybe – maybe Jesus is saying, ‘Don’t let the fire go out in your heart.’ Or maybe, ‘I won’t let the fire go out.’”

Tears erupted from my eyes. My heart is under siege – has been for the past six years. This wasn’t the encounter I wanted with the splendor of God, but a sweet communion with the passionately loving heart of Jesus, and if he wanted to run under me on my Grandma’s swing and wear a smudge of dirt from my hand, that was more than fine by me. He was telling me there was no place he’d rather be than here in my heart.

Wow! Sharon and Charity may have been a bit puzzled and underwhelmed, but I was overcome. I remembered I have a small opal pin at home. I checked both my jewelry box and my concordance as soon as I got home. Yep, there was the pin with four small opals, though the tiny white stones in it aren’t very fiery, and nope, opals aren’t mentioned in the Bible. Did that mean my experience had come solely out of my own imagination? I left a message asking about the significance of opals with a friend who’d spoken a year or so ago about gems in scripture to ask her about opals. When she returned my call, Amy said nope, it was a mystery to her, too. The Bible doesn’t mention opals. Amy explained some information she’d found on opals, and my heart soared as God’s assurance settled deeply in. This information wasn’t in any of the geology books we had at home: Opals are semiprecious stones treasured for their fire and light. Very fragile, opals deteriorate in heat and cold. They contain water, but lose water easily in dry air and become brittle, so opals need to be worn next to flesh so the oils from the body can seal in their moisture. To clean an opal, you must wash it in pure water. Left to dry, an opal will crack and lose its brilliance and beauty.

There it was, God’s word to me: my heart is like an opal, and just as fragile. He washed and cleansed my heart in pure water, the Living Water of Jesus, and seals it daily – if I let Him – with the oil of the Holy spirit. My heart is meant to be – God WANTS me to be – filled with Jesus, my heart pressed close to his so it doesn’t dry out and lose its fire, brilliance, and beauty. There is absolutely nothing common or ordinary in that truth!

In this dry, hope-sucking valley of the shadow of death that I walked through where the Enemy is working to destroy my heart (are you walking that valley too?), God wants above all else for my heart (yours, too!) to be whole, beautiful, and filled with his fire, pressed against his chest in a place of safety, sustaining, and love.

Your experience of the love of Jesus doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s. He loves you too much to let you be less than the unique person He created you to be. Yes, Jesus is the only way to eternal life, the only one whose blood was costly enough to buy you back from the hand of Satan, but the road He has to lead you to himself may be more like the screen door out to green grass than a superhighway to ivory columns and marble floors. Don’t let anyone impose the counterfeit forms of empty tradition on you when what God wants to do with all of the you that you are and in all the you He created you to be is conform YOU to a reflection of the likeness and love of Jesus.

I clasped my opal pin on the chain of a necklace I hadn’t worn in many years, hanging beside a gold-colored, jagged-edged half circle inscribed with these words from Song of Songs 2:16: “I am my Beloved’s.”  Hanging on the chain, the opal pin looks like a cross . . . .

A ” . . . BUT . . . ” to pray: Oh, Abba Father God, my heart feels crushed, ground into the dust, broken, BUT your word says, “All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” (SOS 4:7) and you promise I can count on your love and power as “(I) wait in hope for the LORD; he is (my) help and (my) shield. In him (my) heart rejoices, for (I) trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon (me), O LORD, even as (I) put my hope in you.” (Psalm 33:20-22) Restore the lustre, beauty, fire, and water to my heart even in the driest place with the Living Water of your love, Jesus. Thank you that my heart is precious to you and you hold my heart close to yours! You created me with all of this in me ________________________________________________, the good and the flawed, the simple and the complex, the humble and the royal reflection of you in my talents to ________________________________________________________ and my desires to ________________________________________________________, my limitations of ________________________________________ that are the possibilities for you to ___________________________________________ out of your strengthened power to bless _______________________’s life and to bless the world by you doing ___________________________________________ in me and out of me anyway! Open the screen door for me,Jesus, to hear you say ____________________________________________________________________________ to me today. ” . . . BUT . . . ” Abba, Father, Beloved, my heart is weighed down with ________________________ BUT I know you desire to restore my heart, so I give you ______________________________________________ and I receive your _________________________________________________. Take me to that place where your heart resides in me. Amen!

Conformity? Really? Really!Sitting on the front steps of Grandma’s  house. My mother Helen, her sister Bonnie who died tragically in her early 20’s,  and my Grandma Ruth, whose garden was the place of this  wonderful encounter with Jesus

Ginny’s Balloon

In my email this morning was a notification I’ve never received before: an orange balloon with the message “April 16th is Ginny M______’s 58th birthday.” A wave of shock and sorrow crashed over me, with wondering like seaweed wrapping around my mind. I never even knew the date of Ginny’s birthday! Who sent this? How and why did this reminder come to me?

The last time I spoke with Ginny was in November, 1996, when, moved by a nudge inside me from God’s Spirit, I told the prayer team at our women’s retreat that I didn’t think I could lead the team the following year. Ginny stepped up and said, “I know God has been calling me to do something, but I didn’t know what. Sure, I’ll take over!” Sure enough, my husband took a new job and moved us across the country in September of 1997. For several years after that Ginny led the prayer team, a group of amazing, fun, passionately praying, ordinary, extraordinarily loving women

But why did I get this “Birthday Alarm” email? I don’t even know about a website called Birthday Alarm!

These questions swirled as, oh, God, I broke down in tears for Ginny, remembering the sweet spirit she showed, her compassionate heart, the prayer warrior she was, her struggle to understand and to survive on a small income from a non-profit job after her husband’s betrayal and their divorce. I prayed for Ginny’s family for comfort today and on her birthday, because Ginny took her life over ten years ago.

She never saw the baby her daughter was carrying at the time when Ginny’s pain and grief outweighed her hope. Why, then, this strange email – a shocking reminder of her grief and yet a memory of her warmth and love?

In the middle of my tears, doubled over on the floor in grief, I asked, “This is from you. It must be something deeper than Ginny, isn’t it, Jesus?”  Immediately I “saw” other women on their own floor in tears, and I began praying for others who may today be on the brink of suicide as Ginny was, needing a real hand of love and hope outstretched to them, someone somehow breaking into their life with real, tangible hope, a message of love from someone that can keep them going one more day and believing that God has good ahead for their lives. In all honesty, I know what Ginny felt, because deep love loves deeply forever, grief and despair overwhelmed me two summers ago and I almost went the way Ginny chose to end the pain of her loss. Sweet friend Ginny, I know what you felt, because you and I love with the heart we asked Jesus to give us.

“This is something deeper than Ginny, isn’t it, Jesus?”

It’s a call to all of us to do two things: first, to let the incredible love and compassion of God push out the walls of our hearts, open and expand our prayers beyond our own immediate concerns, beyond our own families and jobs and wants, to make our hearts big enough to contain the cares and hopes and sorrows and desires and urgencies of our Father’s heart. Secondly, it’s the call to listen and act on prompts God gives us to pray for others, not to shrug them off as our own ideas, but take them as a call to come alongside Jesus as “priests” beside him as he prays for those unknown to us but intimately loved and known by him.

Thirty years ago I felt a nudge to make an appointment with my hairdresser David to get a haircut. He was going through a divorce at the time, but we had never talked about how it was impacting him. I had errands to run that day, so I pushed aside the thought and didn’t come back to it for two weeks. I called the salon at last and asked it I could make an appointment with David. “Oh …. ,” the receptionist paused, “haven’t you heard? David drove his car off the road in North Mountain Park last week. David is dead.”

Could a conversation with him, a prayer with David have given him hope enough to hang on? I’ll never know.

But I know I will never again ignore a nudge to call, to stop and speak to someone, to pray.

A friend asked me to speak at her church’s World Day of Prayer service in 2007. I wondered what message God wanted me to bring to them and waited for inspiration. A few days later I was looking in the bathroom mirror, concerned for all the wrinkles starting to show on my face, and  I began praying, ”Oh God, please increase the collagen production in my skin …” when God interrupted me with the memory of a local police officer who’d been burned over much of his body when his police car crashed into a vehicle he was chasing. His car was engulfed in flames. I’d seen a story about him on television, how he was still trying to be a positive husband and father to his family, even though he had no nose and no ears and his face was horribly disfigured. My words changed in mid-stream, and I prayed instead, “God, please restore healthy skin to Jason’s face and body. Bring him a miracle of new skin. And Jesus, others are struggling with burns and scars …. Jesus, heal THEIR skin!”

I glanced at the small artificial “bonsai” tree sitting on the bathroom counter, and the Spirit gave me the message he wanted to deliver: “I need a bigger pot.” I need, we all need, to stop living in tiny containers, pruning our “roots” and stunting the growth of our prayers to only reach as high as our own immediate concerns. God calls us to let him grow our “roots” to take in the needs and concerns and urgencies of people all over our world. We’re meant to be 50-foot tall Oaks of  Righteousness, not dwarfed bonsai imitations, whose roots reach out to others near and far.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV

Oh, sweet prayer warrior Ginny, you did it. Your memory moved me beyond my own sense of loss to take in the loss someone else is feeling out there today, to pray and, I truly believe, to activate God’s plan to send angels or his people – maybe YOU, my reader friend – with hearts full of love, encouragement, hope, and real physical help where that’s the pressing, vital need today for some hurting, grieving, barely hoping heart.

We need pure hearts, big hearts, hearts refined by the relentless love and compassion of God. Someone, somewhere, needs your prayers today! Needs your phone call today! Needs your text message or email, but most of all, your physical presence beside them today! I wept on the floor and sang this song as a cry to God to enlarge my heart again:

Purify my heart, let me be as gold, and precious silver. Refiner’s Fire ….

I was almost in Ginny’s spot not so very long ago, and miraculously, Praise God, I’m still here. Thank God if you don’t know the bitter heartbreak of betrayal, but Jesus does, and I think He sent me this reminder today to flatten me on the floor in awareness to pray for women I’ll never meet, men I’ll never know, but who need Jesus’ power and presence released in their lives in tangible, mighty, loving, powerful ways today.

I’d love to send up a thousand prayer balloons for Ginny!

Can I ask you to join me, to ask God who in the world needs your prayers, and to pray today to honor our Father’s precious daughter Ginny?

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Under the Tree

Autumn and apple trees: caramel apples, bobbing for apples, apple pie all are practically synonymous with fall in temperate lands. But an apple tree holds a deeper meaning for me now.  Out behind the bedrooms of their tiny house,  in my Grandma Ruth’s backyard, stood a wonderfully full and tall apple tree. I can still remember the smell of green apples wafting in through the open window as I lay in the big old double bed with such a hollow in the center of the mattress  that I had to hold on to the sides of the bed to keep from rolling onto my younger sister. The best thing about the apple tree, though, was the rope swing with a board seat that hung from the thick lowest  branch. I loved to swing –  and in all honesty, I still do.  That’s why something the Holy Spirit gave me several years ago at the beginning of a long journey of loss is so precious to me.

Charity, the daughter of my dear friend Sharon, “took” us both on a “walk through the Father’s house” in a meditative inward reflection. The idea was to imagine you were in God’s house looking for Jesus. No way was I going to conjure up something from my own imagination; I wanted the Spirit to lead my thinking, or,I inwardly purposed, I would have no thoughts at all. Sharon was seeing a huge house with marble floors, gilded furniture, beautiful paintings; I imagined something like the Clampett’s mansion from the old TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies,” but the house I saw had no furniture at all, and I felt very strongly that I was looking in the wrong place. Up the stairs I wandered in my imagination, but no Jesus. Sharon was out in a beautiful rose garden, then saw a stream filled with beautiful jewels. Heaving a sigh, I decided to follow my first inclination and go out the back door, which turned out to be the faded green wooden screen door of my Grandma Miner’s house. The next thing I sensed was me sitting on the old board swing, and somebody was pushing me. Up into the branches I swung as whoever was pushing me did a run-under – something my own sons called an “Underdog,” and I flew even higher, brushing green leaves with my toes.

I went on in my imagination to sit by the edge of my Grandma’s garden with Jesus, but the imagery of the apple tree stuck with me, so tender and personal.  Two months or so later I was reading the Bible in my morning devotions, curled up  sitting sideways in my favorite wing chair. Yes, guilty as charged, there is still a core of childhood in me and a bit of tomboy lingering from the close relationship I had with my older brother Dave. But there is grown woman in me enough that my heart raced as I read a passage from Song of Songs 2:3. The beloved speaks about her lover: Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade . . . .  I drew in an astonished breath remembering Jesus pushing me on the swing under my Grandma’s apple tree.  I know it’s debatable what sort of fruit tree the original Hebrew in that verse refers to, but to my heart, apple tree meant apple tree and the tenderness of a Savior who doesn’t discount or take lightly or dismiss as childish the things He knows touch our hearts so deeply, individually. I should say child-like rather than childish, and what could come more from the Father’s heart than something that delights his child?  At the same time, Song of Songs is a deeply passionate love story. Who loves us more passionately and fervently than Jesus?

Three years later I mentioned this experience on my Grandma Ruth’s swing in a morning devotional message at a women’s retreat.  I was amazed and humbled beyond words when one woman said during our closing circle, “I came hoping for God’s Spirit to move or speak in my life. It didn’t happen Friday night. It didn’t happen on Saturday. it didn’t happen until this morning when I heard the words “my grandmother’s swing.'” Jesus, you did it again: connected something so intimate in my life with something so personal in another’s! It isn’t just my heart you know; you know every heart in unique loving detail. Scandalous love!

My musings continued as I remembered my younger son  telling his Grandma, my mother, that he was going to take apple seeds with him to Heaven when he died so he could plant an apple tree there for her. My mother had such an intolerance to sugar that even eating the fructose in an apple would give her a migraine headache. Ethan knew she’d have no headaches in Heaven and knew how much she missed the sweet crunch of a ripe apple.

Will there be apple trees in Heaven? I don’t know. If Ethan has any say in things, there will be for Grandma. I do I know there are trees in Heaven: the tree the apostle John saw and related to us in Revelation 22:1-2:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

I know those trees – because, tomboy that I still am, I climbed a tree with Jesus that morning and realized with a sudden flash of insight just what tree we were sitting in. I realized just as quickly what tree we all stand at the foot of for our healing: the cross of Calvary. 1 Peter 2:24: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds we are healed.

I suspect it’s no coincidence that I feel such healing love when I remember sitting on the swing under that apple tree. What kind of god from any story of mythology, from any other faith, exudes such passionately personal love as the One God made flesh in Jesus, offered up willingly out of the greatest heart that beats at the center of all creation, for all of His creation? My heart, still so broken for my human beloved, finds healing from the Lover of my Soul under the tree.

A “. . . BUT . . . ” to move:  Jesus, people disappoint me, even betray my deepest trust and confidence. I betray myself sometimes and disappoint others, BUT your love for me is so intimate, so tender, so powerful, so profound, that I fall to my knees in humbled wonder saying ______________________________________________. Take me to that secret, special place you share in my heart, and I share in yours: _________________________________.

Popsicles or Presence?

Once again I have to be amazed that it’s when I’m speaking to a child or a child speaks to me that I recognize a truth about God’s character as our Father. I spent eighty minutes each week in the spring semester at the school where I work tutoring Jacob, whose native language isn’t English, in reading while his classmates have their Spanish lesson. The previous aide in this classroom advised me that the only way she’d been able to get Jacob’s cooperation in reading was to reward him with candy, so I continued her policy when I took over her position and “inherited” Jacob and his reluctance to study.

As we walked down the hallway toward the school library for our last session of the semester, Jacob began complaining that the students in Spanish were having a party that day.  “Why don’t I get a treat? They’re getting Popsicles!” he asserted.

Using the “love and logic” approach to discipline, I returned a question. “Jacob, do any of the other students in your class get candy for reading?”

“No.”

“And what do you say when the other children ask why you got candy and they didn’t when we come back into the classroom?”

Silence and a glare from eyes hooded by his wrinkled brow.

Grudgingly Jacob admitted they didn’t get a candy reward for reading, but he still was incensed at the “unfairness” of his situation. I could see that words alone weren’t going to open his eyes. Jacob resentfully pulled out a chair at the library table and plopped down, his arms folded.  I took out the log of our reading sessions and asked him, not out of frustration but out of compassion, “Jacob, can you count by two’s to help me count how many pieces of candy you’ve had since we started meeting together?”

“Two, four, six . . . ” he counted as I kept turning pages in our log, “ . . . eighty, eighty-two, oh, eighty-four.”  In silence I let that truth seep into his awareness before I asked, “How many treats do you think the other children are getting from the Spanish teacher today?  Are they getting eighty-four?”

“No,” Jacob admitted, and his uncrossed arms showed me he was beginning to get the message.

“Jacob, you’ve had a party every day.”

He sighed heavily. I understood his childish frustration that could only see how the other students were partying back in the classroom today while I was asking him to read, something that feels like work to him.

“Jacob, you can read any book you want to read today, even the easy Dr. Seuss books that you like so much.”  I knew how he loved to read books with silly words and rhymes. I saw the value in asking him to pick out rhyming words, including rhyming nonsense words, and make new rhymes with them. Even those books could be a challenge for his fluency.  Jacob zoomed over to the shelf and brought back the easiest book he’d read this semester, no challenge to him now, but I knew he needed some joy and success today. He flew through the words. Then I offered what I knew would surprise him.

“Jacob, why don’t you choose a book you’d like me to read to you today.”  In disciplining with love and logic, you can’t omit the love.

Jacob directed me to a story we’d never read about a silly chicken in New York, and I let all the actor in me take the stage as I ever read the Yiddish in a voice like a chicken.

But as I read, I was hearing a familiar voice in my heart reciting a story in theBible I’d read many times about two brothers. the younger one took his inheritance early, left his work at his father’s house, left home and wasted his life and the money. The older brother wasn’t at all happy when his brother returned, broken and truly sorry, and their father threw a lavish party. “The older brother became angry and refused to go in . . . . ‘But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’  ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours . . ..’” Luke 15:28, 30-31

How often I yell, “Unfair!” and feel I need a “treat” every time I see someone else blessed. Good grief, I already have the biggest, sweeties blessing: I  get to live in my Father’s “house” every day, enjoying an intimate relationship with God that is in itself a treat and treasure and party. Even when God’s teaching me and asking me to stretch and work, he showers me with unexpected provision, people in my life, and the rejoicing I feel when the love he promises me in the Bible takes root in my heart. The Father IS the party!

Why am I concerned about how other people who “do me dirty” seem to be enjoying today’s  “popsicle” when I’ve already inherited assuredly more than eighty-four blessings straight from my Father’s love? How many times has God’s Spirit connected me wonderfully with someone who needed to hear of his love, with someone who had a word for me straight from God’s heart to mine? Who’s the one enjoying a party every day? Me!

And I – in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.  Psalm 17:15

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.  Psalm 16: 11

Right in the middle of a reading lesson, I reminded myself of the most well-known and beloved Psalm in the Bible:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.   Psalm 23: 5-6

With an overflowing heart I cried out to the Father of love, “You are my celebration! Living in your love is my reward. Bring the lost ones home to know you, too!”

I gave Jacob the rest of the bag of candy to tuck into his backpack and take home. And guess what – the Spanish teacher gave him a Popsicle, too.

The greater truth is this: neither of us teachers, and none of the rewards we gave, could ever out-give or even begin to compare with the abundant riches of knowing and dwelling in God’s presence daily, the security of his character as a mightily giving Father, and the party I can have when I let him love me every day.

A  “. . . BUT . . . ” to move:  Father God, I get so miffed and even angry sometimes when people who don’t honor you seem to prosper, or when other people get victories and blessings I don’t, BUT I’m reminding myself today of two truths: I get to spend every day as your child you choose to honor with working in your fields for your kingdom to come, and I have the joy of living in your presence every day. You are the party, so I’ll uncross my arms, lift up my eyes, and listen to you tell me, your child ________________________________________________________________________________ . I want to throw a party to celebrate YOU, Father!

Ask only if you mean it . ..

Only if you want to carry the love . . . 

Oh, the relentless heart of God! Four years ago I asked Jesus to give me his heart for my beloved when I felt my feelings for him slipping. I knew it was wrong to let my heart’s flame burn low, and I knew it was my responsibility to “guard  your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). My charge alone to guard my heart and thoughts. Yes, that process began in me before the deepest betrayal of my life, and I’m grateful it did. Two things I’ve learned: 1) no one can kill your heart, but you can and do when you poison it with resentment, unforgiveness, selfishness, believing your own misperceptions, bitterness and contempt, and 2) don’t ask Jesus for his heart for someone unless you want implanted in you a relentless love that lays down your own wounds to look deeply into the inmost heart of another life and value that person with a love and with forgiveness that WILL NOT be quenched, period. 

It is that blazing passion for us that bared the back and stretched out the hands of Jesus to take the scourge and the nails and say, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”  Love like that, in those circumstances, at the hands of betrayers and despisers?   “YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME” is what “rational” people who look out for themselves say. Look out for yourself, do what feels good and move on and cut your losses when it doesn’t. That’s what most rational people claim and advise to be mental and emotional health. But a note to us in the self-preserving, personally validating culture that is rapidly consuming the world: some choices are not good, period. 

Look out for yourself? That’s not what I hear Jesus say, and this is where it gets hard and in your paradigm: “You have heard that it was said,’Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ BUT I tell you:Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons (and daughters) or your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)


Do what feels good for you. I remember the two older boys who held me under in the deep end of the pool when I was nine years old. I’m guessing it felt good to them to exercise their power and watch me flail. I frankly thought I was going to die. That’s what we do to each other, sometimes on purpose, more often unintentionally (that would be me in some dumb mistakes): we hold on to hurts, lash out and lacerate, exercise our rights and power, want our way and our ends by any means necessary to preserve what we think feels good for us. We see the leak in the boat and decide to take the one life vest and slide overboard instead of helping plug the hole; we look at the one – okay, even two – engine(s) out in a four-engine plane, put on a parachute and bail, rather than putting our body weight to the rudder with the pilot and landing the thing safely. 

But the heart of Jesus is relentless, and he comes up loving even after being held under by our “I’m perfectly capable of and justified in and frankly enjoy doing life my way,thank you very much.” He was betrayed and despised, and we still do it to him, BUT HE DID WHAT WAS FAITHFULLY LOVING ANYWAY and came up gloriously victorious, forgiving and giving and breaking down the walls that kept us from the longing to receive us arms of God. Love doesn’t always feel good. TOTALLY IRRATIONAL!

Yes, God’s love IS IRRATIONAL – why on earth would HE give himself for the messes that are us –  which makes up a huge chunk of what makes God Holy, and wholly Righteous  and Good and Pure, wholly matchless, wholly unfathomable and wholly breathtaking. 

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

IRRATIONAL? Absolutely! He plugged the hole, put his weight to the rudder, all for relationship with us.

Oh, yes, I’m co-dependent: dependent on this Love Incarnate for my next heartbeat and breath, holding his hand for dear life as I go into the future single with no hope of ever being able to earn enough to support myself, and glad to wrap the tassels of my prayer shawl – his “wings,” his promises – around my hands clasped by HIS as the hand of bride and bridegroom join together in the wedding ceremony. God binds himself to you by his promises and his Son; is that a thought to set your head and heart and rationality reeling? The Creator who spoke infernos of stars and dark matter and gravity and neutrinos and optic nerves and DNA and embryos into existence binds himself to you when you come to him through Jesus. God binds himself to YOU! Then he has the audacity to call you Hephzibah (delighted in) and Beulah (chosen) and rejoices over you! (Isaiah 62: 3-5)

So go ahead and ask for that heart, but be prepared to receive a passionate, unquenchable love for those who’ve done you the most wrong. It will hurt. If that prospect offends you, don’t even ask Jesus for his heart for another. But if you dare to, what he gives you  in return is a heart free from bitterness, contempt, pride, anger, unforgiveness, and all the wounds that chained you to the pain of offenses. 

Did it get me my husband back? No – dare I risk the wrath of my friends who want good for me in saying not yet. And I admit maybe not ever, my marriage and hopes laid on the altar, but if Jesus asks me to be Hosea, I will be and will rejoice. Go figure when you dare to ask Jesus for his heart . . . . If Jesus doesn’t, then I rejoice that my heart is bound by the promise of my Kinsman Redeemer Boaz himself and his gift to me of a piece of his precious – a word far too small for his indescribable- love.  

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God,because God is love.  . . This is love: not that we loved God BUT that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, BUT if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”  (1 John 4: 7-8, 10-12)


Beloved, as John the Beloved would say, that’s a risk worth taking and a love worth bearing. 

All I Have is All He Is

The Word in the middle of silence. The Word in uncertainty and no clear path. The Word in pain and grief. I hate to admit it, but so many times I have cried out to God that I need more than scripture; I need a visible sign of his hand at work in my battle. But there have been no signs. Oh, there have been apparent breakthroughs that turned into closed doors, promise stolen, and plenty of those. Friends see visions, have dreams, receive miracles . . . but not me. All I have is God’s Word from verses that have leaped out to me.

Is that enough to sustain me/you in the deadliest battle and hurricane-strength storm? Maybe that’s what I’m here to learn. I don’t know for certain, but maybe why I’m here is to tell someone else going through Heck that God’s Word IS enough. Right now I’m listening to a live worship CD “Let Your Healing Flow” with an inspired prophetic song/word from Andre Ashby: “My word is sure, and it will stand forever and evermore. My word is sure and it will not return void unto me, for I am a faithful God and I see your need. And I’m drawing near to you, I’m drawing near to you to touch you, to heal you, to make you whole. My word will stand forever. Come boldly unto me, come boldly to my throne of grace, for my grace is sufficient for all you need. Come boldly unto me, come boldly, for I will prove myself to you, I am a great big God. There’s nothing too hard for me, there’s nothing that I cannot do. I am all you need, and I’m here for you.”

And he’s all I have. I have no power to change my husband’s choices, his stubborn selfishness and hard heart, his rebellion against God, newest betrayal and full-speed-ahead hardened will to divorce. All I have is God’s Word that I have been praying and confessing over communion every morning for the past year. BUT I know that Jesus is the Living Word, that he is his word – who he is IS his Word – that God watches over his Word to perform it:

The LORD said to me, ‘”You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.” Jeremiah 1:12

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth . . . so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55: 10-11

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. Psalm 130: 5-6

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Almost every moment of every day, as soon as I open my eyes in the morning, I am aware of my complete helplessness to change my circumstances and the heart and mind and will of my beloved husband. BUT I am not falling into the void, even though I feel like it many times. Even though the word some days seems like the thinnest thread I cling to on the edge of a bottomless abyss and I can feel the winds of destruction swirling up from the depths, YET my life is not determined by my husband’s choices, so says my God’s word:

The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. BUT the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Psalm 33: 11

I am God, and there is no other . . . I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. Isaiah 46:10

Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

And the word tells me this much of God’s will for sure: rejoice in the LORD always and in everything give thanks. He promises to be my shield and sword (Genesis 15: 1 and Deuteronomy 33: 29) and he will fight the battle for me (Exodus 14:14 and 2 Chronicles 20: 15,17)

Not much from me, but much from the Word today. All I have to give you is all I have to live, hope, trust and rejoice in: God’s Word is God himself, and he cannot and will not deny it, no matter what my circumstances look like and no matter who wars against me. God is love, his love endures, and the purposes of his heart will bring me victory somehow, some day, some way, for sure.

So I will bless my enemy and pray for the one who bitterly abuses me, because God’s word tells me to, and I know the Spirit will pour out upon my husband every spiritual blessing and weapon against deception from the coals of the altar of Heaven, where Jesus lives as the great high priest to speak and decree and make intercession and send his living word for him, and for me, too.

Does that give you something to cling to? I hope so. My greatest praise to God and the greatest work of my life may just be trusting in his Word and living in the peace, hope and victory it brings, and encouraging some other grieving heart to do the same. Whoever you are, I love you, and I pray for victory for you, too.

A ” . . . BUT . . .” to move: Jesus, all I hear is silence, all I see are closed doors and looming defeat, BUT you are your Word, and you promise to deliver on your Word when I confess it and cling to it. Because I know you don’t lie and you don’t dishonor your Word or your people who believe it, I will hang onto this thread knowing that your Word is stronger and more powerful than hammered steel. I will trust you, even when it doesn’t look like I should, and I will rejoice in all you are. Amen!

You own ” . . . But . . . ” to move: Jesus, I feel desperate, lost, without hope, BUT I trust that you _________________________