Gethsemane again

This morning as I spread jelly on a bagel, I heard stinging words that were hurled at me over a piece of toast years ago. Rather than launch me into anger,  those words – thank you, Jesus –  brought me back to a truth I realized many years ago, though it isn’t written into the Gospels. I’m not even sure this truth hit me at Easter, but when it  hit me, I fell to the floor in worship.

Think, Christian, of your Redeemer and Savior King kneeling in the dirt beneath the olive trees that night. Think of the lies, challenges to his identity, insults and slurs hurled against him by the “religious” power structure – just listen, and remember:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.But  Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8: 3-11 NIV

The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away. Matthew 16: 1-4 NIV

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’?
“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19: 3-9

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him.25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your feet.”’[e]

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22: 15-46 NIV

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.  Luke 18: 31-34 NIV

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2: 23-25 NIV

Scripture enough, truth enough to remind us that throughout his ministry, Jesus was continually challenged, “traps”laid out to trip him up by the “religious” leaders who saw him as a  threat to their power base. Baseless,  senseless, unreasonable, self-centered, irrational, and yes, flat-out evil. These are the very ones Jesus came to save, to spill his blood for and redeem IF ONLY they  would recognize their sins and need of his atoning Blood, IF ONLY they would turn in true repentance and reverence to him, turn in true gratitude at least, if not in awe and wonder at such selfless, sacrificial, dauntless, courageous, relentless, passionate  love. What, if not this kind of love, would cause the ONE who knew HE WAS THE SACRIFICIAL LAMB OF GOD to cry out FOR the people he would suffer and die for:

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23: 37-39 NIV

So what thought came to me about  the thoughts of Jesus as he knelt there in Gethsemane? HE SAW YOU! HE SAW ME! HE KNEW OUR LOVE, HEARD OUR PRAYERS, HEARD OUR SONGS OF THANKS AND PRAISE! That’s what helped Jesus stay  the course and walk through the insults, the agony, the weight of OUR sin falling on HIM: that  we would see the truth,  embrace it  with joy and run to HIS forgiving, gracrious, merciful, true love!

And what was his grief? THAT SO MANY  WOULD NEVER SEE, NEVER RECOGNIZE, NEVER KNOW, NEVER UNDERSTAND, NEVER COME TO HIS LOVE FOR THEM! Oh, I feel that  same anguish! 

That’s the sole,  singular reason I write this blog: to tesitfy to GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST JESUS in fervent hope that some  who don’tknow HIMmay readthis, see and  hear Him,and come to HIS passionate love for them. And so that those of us, you who read this and know HIM, may be encouraged to run with the great GOOD NEWS THAT JESUS SAVES! Don’t hide your lamp under a  bushel! Don’t say someone else will do it! Don’tsay it isn’t your  calling, because IT IS YOUR CALLING! However you are grace-gifted, it is your calling! MAKE  JESUS KNOWN! MAKE  HIS LOVE AND TRUTH FAMOUS! DON’T STOP TILL THE WHOLE WORLD HEARS – even your neighbor, even your brother-in-law, even your boss, even that person who hurls insults at you.

This is why about 25 of us ordinary  women gather every Monday morning to fervently sing and declare Scripture and passionately

pray for three hours for ALL THE WORLD TO KNOW THE AMAZING GRACE AND  SAVING  LOVE  OF GOD IN JESUS, OUR REDEEMER, SAVIOR, FRIEND, GOD AND KING!  Here’s  an ordinary  guy singing what we ordinary  girls  sing. Oh ordinary person, come to and lift up  your EXTRAORDINARY SAVIOR AND GOD!

Today, pray your own honest “…BUT GOD…” Lord, Jesus, Savior, I confess I’ve held back and not shared your love when I could, and I don’t know  why it scares me, unless I fear the rejection of people more than the approval of God. I’ve kept quiet, BUT NOW AS YOU HELP ME I WILL_______________________________________________________________, and Holy Spirit,  speak LOUD and CLEAR to me, in Jesus’ name, AMEN!

 

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Undercover High Divers- or,God Takes Me Into Places I’d Walk Away From!

No, it’s not about me. It’s NEVER about me. It’s always and ever about who GOD is, what GOD says and  does and where GOD leads me, and when He “sets me up,” it’s for goodness I could never have engineered myself.

Disclaimer: I’m not one of “David’s mighty men” who  did “exploits” and took  out  Israel’s enemies with their muscle, courage and swords. No, I’m one of God’s  daughters who loves her family, read Bible stories to my sons and knelt  by their beds to pray with them every night, put band aids on boo-boos,  rode bikes with them around the block, threw together costumes for plays, and basically tried to be a loving, encouraging, supportive mom and a giving, respecting  wife. Exploits? Swords? Battle? Not me! “I’m a lover, not a fighter!”

Or have I been looking at battle and exploits the wrong way?  Have I thought victory  depended on my muscles and courage?  Is bravery only going face-to-face against nasty people?

Maybe I need a new lens in my spirit and mind’s “telescope”! The Warrior is Jesus; the shield is HIS faith! The Sword is the Holy Spirit,  and the Victor and  empowerer and King is YHWH Almighty, Olam El, Everlasting God. Does that mean I’m irrelevant? What’s my part in the battle for God’s Kingdom to come and  His will to be done again, fully, on Earth as it is in Heaven?  I’m thinking it’s discerning my TRUE enemy (NOT the people who bring strife into my life, but the ungodly spirits whispering and lying to them)  worship, prayer, and bold kindness.

So… are you ready for a story? The latest “what is GOD up to” happened yesterday, and as usual, He started it long before. About five years ago I started going to a nearby Healing Room  (http://healingrooms.com) for some prayer and insight into an  emotional/spiritual battle in my life. And a disclaimer here: surrendering a year before that, and understanding what surrendering meant and why God wanted me to,  would have limited the wounds I needed healing for. From time to time since then, I’ve gone again, and always God has spoken loving, caring word to me. I went again last week, and God spoke about a tangled mess of cords and said, through the intercessor, that He was patiently, capably, lovingly untangling the problem. The intercessor told me, “The Lord says,’ Don’t you worry – you’re still plugged into ME.  I’m your power source! I have  enough for you – even more than you know. Say My name, plead My Blood!”

Wow! God’s arm around my shoulder and His hand on my heart, faithfully.

Are you ready for more of God’s dot-to-dot? Saturday night I  needed to  get out of the house, so I decided to go to the Saturday evening service at the church that  hosts this  Healing Room. It  was very informal but VERY SIMPLY YES, we KNOW God’s Spirit lives in us, so of course we expect to see His hand and power in our lives and we get “out there”  and live as though it’s  true. They announced prophetic prayer the next afternoon for anyone who might want some, so I signed up. Yes, call me a junkie for God’s voice and Presence! My tentative plans for later Sunday were to have dinner with my younger son, who was in town visiting some of his  friends, so I signed up for a  later time slot.

But on Sunday, my son texted me that his friends had dinner plans, so could we do breakfast on Monday instead.  Hmm… I usually drive 85 miles south on Monday mornings to attend an amazingly anointed worship intercession group (and yes, it’s more than worth the gas and time), but this was a chance to see my son, and then up popped an email about the Monday noon hour prayer here in town, so I could do breakfast with my son and still do some intercession. His friends suggested a coffee shop in the downtown area, and I agreed. Off I went  to  the church, and gosh, there were more people than I expected to see there. People ARE hungry to hear God’s voice!

What I heard from the man and the young woman, Carl and Elyse,  I sat down with, two total strangers, spoke directly into my life. Carrying the fragrance of Christ, and levels, Carl reported, going new places in different ways, prayer critical beforehand.  Elyse smiled and said as she was writing  down in her notebook what she was hearing from God, Carl had been saying the same things! The word she heard, though, was “high diver,” and she insightfully pointed out that the higher a diver dives from, the deeper the plunge, the deeper the impact. “Holy socks, God,” I thought,”you mean I’m going to go through more than I already have???!!”

Let me insert here that  I’ve never jumped off any board higher than about three feet above the pool, and then I stood on the edge and bent over and did a very shallow  dive. Usually I enter a pool by the steps! I avoid confrontation when at all possible, like to keep the peace, and may have an Achilles’ heel of mercy. Exploits and boldness are not  natural to me, nor is diving off a high board! If I have any courage and boldness at all, it’s God’s Spirit in me, not me myself and I!

Elyse said I’d/we get to choose to respond to God’s higher and deeper or not, so the next day I hopped in my car, allowing an hour for commuter traffic, and set off to meet my son for breakfast, expecting nothing more than coffee and giving him his belated Valentine’s Day card and  gifts..

The traffic on this unusually low cloud-covered day was lighter than usual due to, I suppose, the Presidents’ Day holiday. I followed my phone’s GPS, not the usual way I’d have chosen to drive downtown, when, turning up the 101 onto surprising heavy traffic, I saw a hole in the thick clouds ahead of me. Was it …no, I wasn’t dreaming … a heart-shaped hole in the swiftly moving clouds? It  was! And darn my safety conscious self, I did NOT take my hand off the wheel and my eyes off the road to switch to the camera on my phone and take a picture to show you. Trust me; it WAS a heart! And it dissolved in about five minutes, but I was aimed straight at it,  or I might have missed it. Thank you, Jesus, for  Your directions and Your Love!

I arrived at the coffee shop twenty minutes before  our scheduled time, so I got an iced green tea from the barista, Emily, at the counter. If my son’s friends hadn’t recommended the shop, and if I didn’t  know they’re solid Jesus followers, I might’ve walked back out the door after I saw the painting of a winged, horned  being with a pointed tongue on the back wall! God is  amazing and God is pure love in the places HE leads us! I noticed, thankfully, a picture of Hong Kong harbor on the changing TV screen on the wall. Hmmm…. almost nobody else in  the place, so after commenting on how  much Emily must have had to learn to make all those drinks, I asked her if she’d like to hear about a miracle. She smiled and replied yes, so I told her about how God arranged nine years earlier to make the connections I needed in Hong Kong when my granddaughter started arriving  eleven weeks prematurely. No kidding, I counted 21 miracles on that trip!

 

My son arrived, so we ordered, sat down, I gave him the photo flip book I’d made him for Valentine’s Day, along with the extra  copy  I had of the photo book of his niece’s early arrival (how had I thought to bring that to him this day, when I’ve had it since 2010?). When Emily brought our food, there on the table was the photo record of the miracle I’d shared with her!

Shortening this long story, after we ate, I asked Emily if she’d like a copy of the devotional book I had (happened to have two copies) in my car. She said  she would, and told me she’s seeking, so I gave her a book, and she asked if I’d come back before she leaves this job for another one in a  few weeks. Don’t you know I will! This was TOO GOD to be coincidence!

Off I flew to the noon hour prayer, where 50-ish of us poured out fervent prayers for our nation, our  leaders, our infrastructure, our schools, our national character. High diving?On my “usual” Mondays, 25-ish of us pray for loved ones, friends, ministries, other faiths, governmental leaders, nations, and terrorist groups to come to know Jesus as Savior, as Lord of  their lives and Lover of their soul. Again, high divers, andLord  willing, deep impact, because noneof these 85-ish people pray for their own financial gain, fame,or easy living; what we/they pray for are the concerns of God’s passionately loving heart. Here’s what the meeting I missed prayed for: “Sharing about discernment of the  enemy’s works and God’sleading us to worship and praise Him for His Sovereignty over the as He goes to battle. In our praise, pain will turn to JOY as we see Him. He will not let us go. He is LOVE and has given us Himself!”

Boy, howdy and hallelujah! God LOVES ME! GOD LOVES YOU! HE  GIVE HIMSELF TO YOU A ND FILLS YOU TO BE HIS LIGHT, HEART, HAND, VOICE,  COMPASSION, PRAYER VICTORY HERE! If anybody thinks  this is religion talking, then you don’t  know HIM! God is RELATIONSHIP, not religion!

Yes, I guess we DO dive from the high board! Lord God Almighty, Holy One, One and Only Lord Most High, yes, by YOUR power  that inspires us to PRAY, may YOU FILL and cause our prayers to have deep, lasting, powerful, redeeming, delivering, life-transforming impact in lives, hearts, minds, bodies, spirits, wills, people YOU created all around the world, for their Eternity’s sake and Your Glory, Your delight, YOUR praise and pleasure and relentless Love’s sake, in Jesus’ name, amen!

IT’S ABOUT YOU, FATHER, JESUS, HOLY SPIRIT!

WHO AM I – WHO IS THIS READER –  TO YOU IN THIS?

And that’s enough to throw me flat on my face on the floor in worship and awe, asking YOU to give me the courage to take a  deep breath and dive as YOU make of this what YOUR HEART DESIRES!

 

a “…BUT…” to pray (yes, this is your most powerful weapon!):God, I may be – heck, I am – timid, scared, small, powerless in myself, BUT YOU SAY I am Yours, so fill me with Your courage and help me ____________________________________,  by Your Holy Spirit, for Your glory, in Jesus’ name, amen!

A Smidge of Midge

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This would likely be a Midge-ism too

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I’ve probably known Midge since 1992 or so, when she almost certainly  became the favorite “Aunt” figure of every woman at the Joy women’s retreats. Midge worked for a Christian publishing company as a representative, and boy, did she have the stories to tell when she spoke on Friday nights or Saturdays, giving a short devotional talk before our sessions that moved us every time. Midge’s voice was and is warm with a twinkle, gathering you into what you knew must be a great secret she was about to share with you. I still remember, though the details are sketchy so many years later, Midge talking about walking one day up on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona and the eagle she suddenly saw flying high above her, a sign from the Lord she loves that He was with her.

I don’t know how long Midge has been a widow, nor do I know how many grown men look to her as a truly loving Mother/Grandmother figure who very likely touched and turned their lives around while they were incarcerated in the city jail. That’s no doubt where Midge’s humor, common sense, and deeply faith-filled light shone the most brightly, as light does in the midst of darkness.

I thought of tiny Midge going into the jail, sharing her faith with criminals, and I was amazed. She went where we suburbia-chained girls feared to tread. Oh, we’d make up food baskets for the needy, sew clothing for orphans in other countries, but GO THERE? Go to the homeless, the hungry, the dirty, the war-torn, the drug addict, the time-serving burglar or grand theft auto thief? No, no, no, that was for trained seminarians and counselors, not for us clean-living ladies. But hmmm…….

…. Where did Jesus go?  I honestly admit it took tragedy in my own life to help me accurately answer that question by driving me into the arms of Abba God when nothing I could do could change my circumstances. The ocean of love I found there, passionate, fiery, giving, relentlessly forgiving, gave me new eyes to see others, I hope,  as Jesus sees them, and the weird thing is, that takes away your fear of the “differences” between you and them and closes the distance between you.

Midge, you inspired me! You are one fearless lady, powered by the love of God, and you showed me that age is no definer of purpose; God’s purposes throw off the “be sensible” constraints of “age.”

“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been borne by Me from birth
And have been carried from the womb;

Even to your old age I will be the same,
And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you….

Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.

“Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,

Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’ Isaiah 46: 3-4, 8-10 NIV

So gray hair doesn’t mean sidelined, benched when you’re on God’s team?  MAYBE it also doesn’t mean I’m “entitled” to simply sit on my lawn chair on the beach at Club Med and watch the waves roll in or play Bocce with buddies  in my comfortable 55+ retirement community in while people whose lives matter to God sit discouraged, angry or filled with shame in the city jail, while shoeless children have to stay home from school in my own town, while the hungry homeless sit on park benches and wonder if they matter to anyone, while kids in the neighborhood of my church flounder in school because their family can’t afford a reading tutor?

Maybe my life can still have great meaning and purpose even after I qualify for the senior coffee at McDonald’s? Maybe my life can have great meaning and purpose BECAUSE I qualify for discounts at the movie theater. I think I know where Midge would NOT want to end up

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green ( full of sap and very green {NAS}, healthy and flourishing {KJV 2000}) , proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him” Psalm 92:12-15 NIV

I didn’t notice that punctuation until this morning. Not “like a cedar of Lebanon planted in the house of the LORD,” but “like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish ….” That sounds pretty doggone intentional to me, like maybe God meant for us to be vigorous, green, bending like young saplings when we need to, standing for God’s Truth when we need to, knowing the difference and speaking the truth always out of and in love, getting over ourselves to see others through YOUR eyes and rub shoulders and love them like YOU would. Sigh, even senior-coffee-qualifying I have been planted by the Heavenly Gardener in God’s garden in order to flourish and bear fruit even in (ugh to youth-conscious Americans) my old age.

When I interviewed for a night job at the zoo that was filled mostly by college students, I honestly offered, “I know I’m older than anyone applying for this job, but if it doesn’t bother you, it sure doesn’t bother me.” Oddly, I got along just fine with those men and women 40 years my junior, and we had fun together!

Oh, Midge, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as vibrant as you, unless it’s your buddy and mine, Sharon, who treks off to Guatemala with those cute pillowcase dresses for girls that the suburban ladies DO make out of love and plants herself into the dust of their villages with an infectious smile on her face. Midge, you rubbed off on us!  If I call you “sappy,” I know you’d giggle your giggle and get it and be proud to be “sappy” for Jesus!  Midge, Sharon, can I join your club? And hey you out there, the one with the cheap cup of coffee in your hand while you’re reading this, ask God if it’s time for you to be “sappy” for Him somewhere you didn’t imagine.  And hey you out there, young person, can you take a new look at those “sappy” old people you’ve been praying it will take you a LOOONG time to look like, and commit to God’s “sappy” purpose for your life right now?

I want a smidge of Midge in me forever! (And yes, I held snakes,cockroaches, skinks, and nice bunnies …. who’d a thunk?)

They will still bear fruit in old age, they will be full of sap and very green ), proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him…. For I am (HE is!) God, and there is no other; I am (HE is!)God, and there is no one like Me (HIM!), declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My (GOD’s!) purpose will be established (in YOU), and I will accomplish all My good pleasure (IN  AND THROUGH YOU!)’ the Rose Paraphrased Version

A “…BUT…” to pray: God, I know I’m __________________________ years old and not getting any younger, BUT that doesn’t mean my life is pointless. Right now put a “smidge of Midge” in me and point me to Your purposes for me, wherever and with whomever you plan to plant me, maybe ________________________________ to be “sappy” for Your Kingdom reasons! In Jesus’ name, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening _____________________________________________

 

 

I’m Not Buyin’ It

Our culture sells it in a very appealing way, a self-validating and inflating way, but the cost is simply too high. The twisted view that a woman only has real value in terms of how she stacks up against a man or a man’s performance in the workplace and society is an insult to women. Yes, a woman can be and millions are as intelligent as men, but our value has nothing to do with our IQ. A woman should be paid what a man is paid for the same job and have equal access to jobs, but at the same time our value has nothing to do with the position we hold or the money we bring in.

I know many women work because they have to bring in a paycheck to survive. Some women work simply because they want to, some because they have to. Yes, we all need a roof over our head, food on the table for us and, if we have them, our children, clothing, and the list or needs goes on and on. I applaud and uphold my sisters in this boat. I am right now, not by my choice.

At the same time, I’ve seen the tremendous price our children have paid for the absence of a nurturing mother in their early, critically formative years. I’ve worked part-time in public schools and in a private daycare since 1981, and I’ve sadly seen the cost to children placed in day care from their infancy. I gave my best to 35 children in a classroom but once they got home with their homework, and questions, did they have a supportive parent to encourage them, catch their mistakes and trouble-shoot with them so that 1) the child could feel free to know that mistakes are part of learning and correcting them is a GOOD thing, and 2) the someone cared enough about them just as a person to invest some time and attention into their lives.

I gave my best care and my smiling nurturing to five infants and toddlers at a time, but in no way could I replace a mother’s love and validation and security, even though several of them bonded with me and ran (toddled) to me when I came into the room. They needed to know 1) they were loved and 2) they wouldn’t be abandoned – that they were secure. The glaring truth from child development is that if a child does not develop a strong bond with a primary caregiver (and folks, that’s Mom, not their daycare teacher) in their first five years, the “wiring” needed to be able to develop attachments to others does NOT develop in a child’s brain and that child will grow into adulthood unable to establish significant relationships with others. That child will go through life trying to find someone to validate her/his worth and identity.

How much is your child’s emotional and mental health worth? I vividly remember my mother 60 years ago cutting out Betsy McCall paper dolls from “McCall’s” magazine every month, gluing each “Betsy” to cardboard so I could play with “her” over and over. The time came when we cut the clothes out together, and then I could by myself, but that was so much more than cardboard and paper. My mother gave me both the security of her gladly involved time and love that said I was a person of value, and an outlet for my own imagination and creativity. What is that worth in today’s marketplace? Is that worth as much as being Chairman of the Board? To me it was a priceless gift that bore fruit in the creativity I brought into teaching children in school, grown women in Bible studies, kids and parents in the playful activiti9es I created for the Education Department at the Phoenix Zoo – nobody else would get down on a child’s level and cavort to sing “Did you ever see a monkey to this way and that way” or pop out of a large vinyl zippered “egg” with a chicken comb headband on and peep for the toddlers.

I was a National Merit Scholar. I graduated second in a class of 660 in high school. I am neither stupid nor lazy, but a good friend of mine gave me a backhanded compliment that sounded like criticism when she said about ten years ago, “I though you’d have the Nobel Prize in chemistry by now.” THAT did wonders for my self-esteem… until I looked at the children I played with at the Zoo, and more importantly, at my own children: two God-honoring men of amazing abilities, yes, but with courage and integrity and compassionate hearts that give into their own families, to colleagues at work, and to “the least of these” also.

I don’t want to be a man. I don’t want to fight for my equality with a man, or turn myself into someone more like a man to make other women admire me. I am GLAD to be a woman, glad to be wired to nurture and love and create and value and affirm and encourage, as well as wired to write and teach. My value and identity comes from who I am, who God says I am and the immeasurable price He paid for me through Jesus to be adopted into his family, through my character, my commitment to the people I love and care about, my integrity as I walk and now work in the world representing his character and love.

My children never had a boxcar-sized flat screen HDTV or summers in the Bahamas or travertine tile on the floors of our expansive house, but we rolled balls and trucks back and forth on the linoleum and watched meteor showers from the comfort of sleeping bags on the grass in the backyard. While I pulled in $120 a week from the two days I’d substitute teach, or occasionally more if I did a week, we made gingerbread houses and cinnamon-and-applesauce cutout Christmas ornaments. I helped them with their homework after school and was their Den Leader for Cub Scouts – and I have two Eagle Scouts to show for all the junk I collected and turned into art projects and the mess on my garage floor every week. They drew greeting cards and stationery to give their grandparents as gifts, and my younger son is now a designer. We didn’t have a swimming pool, but they took the heads off the in-ground sprinklers and ran through geysers in the back yard, making a huge puddle of mud to squish in and never mind, the grass would grow back.

We prayed together every night, I read them Bible stories, we went to church every Sunday, they went to Vacation Bible School with me in summers, and I had the joy of seeing both of them accept Jesus as Lord of their lives.

No, I didn’t win a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Though I’ve helped write five books, I never won a Pulitzer Prize. I’m happy to say my treasures, my “Pulitzers,” are named Eric and Ethan.

Where is your treasure? Where are your treasures? In front of a big-screen HDTV with controllers and your daughters playing shoot and kill video games or I have to look like a queen to be beautiful avatars, your sons telling their teacher at after school care as they finger their I Pad, “No, that isn’t blood coming out of his head – it’s Kool-Aid” as they grow desensitized to violence and disregard for human life?

If you’re a working mom who has to work, I pray God gives you stamina and creative ways to bond with and spend quality time with your children. If you don’t have to work, and you are only working to give yourself a sense of validation and identity, might you rethink that if you have young children? Your treasures need you to treasure them. You are woman, and your are mighty in all that means. “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” and in many ways that is absolutely true. Where did Isaac Newton come from, who was Abraham Lincoln’s primary influence, who gave Harry Truman such a compassionate heart and wise understanding?

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:25-30

That I’m “buyin'” and investing in! Selah!

Lord Jesus, let me always point to you in all I say and do.

That I’m “buyin” and investing in!Ethan and dioramas Ethan gingerbread house