Here God is again …

IMG_1778God surely knows how much I/we need Him, His Presence,  His affirmation,  His love in my life/our lives.Today again, perfect timing in the midst of a “goof” I made in the time of an  appointment. Being over an hour early, I decided to run to the bank to take care of something I’ve needed to.First the map app on my phone directed me toward  the wrong bank (and my duh, when I didn’t see the first entry was an ad, not the search I’d  put into my phone). I did a quick course correction, found a branch of my bank, and met with a friendly, positive banker, then had to leave the bank while the request was being processed to go back to the appointment, which was a great connection with an accountant who is a man of faith.

An hour there, then back to the bank, but the banker I’d worked with was at lunch. Okay, pop across the street to Taco Bell, and oh look at that: the second bank I needed to visit had a branch right on the  same corner!  Check off that from my list, hop across the street, meet quickly with the banker with the change all finished.

Hmm… now can I go to the county offices to see about getting a new passport? I slip right in, find out what I need, and the clerk tells me that there’s a Costco just down the street where I can get my necessary photos at one-third the price of the drug store. Super! Drive down to Costco, have the (why are they always so unflattering?) photo taken, and then I dutifully stand at the corner of the counter, right at the entrance to the store, while I wait for the pictures to be processed. Less than five minutes into my waiting time, who should come pushing a cart  right past me but Kate, a friend from a Christian singles group and Sunday School class whom I haven’t seen in three years!

Coincidence?  All of those other errands and timing, my mistakes included, had to happen in exactly the  right timing for me to be there when Kate came into the store!

Yes, it was wonderful to see Kate, catch up with her, share a hug and how tightly we’ve both had to hang onto Jesus through troubled times. but the deeper message to me was God’s reassuring message, “I’m still here beside you, with you, still in control, and I still love you deeply! And yes, I  am able to lead you even in what you think  are your ‘mistakes!’”

Oh, thank you Jeremiah for speaking the truth: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

And thank you, David:

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.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
    but the Lord’s unfailing love
    surrounds the one who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
    sing, all you who are upright in heart!  Psalm 32: 8-11 NIV

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.  Psalm 143:8-910 NIV

I take to heart today the acronym I heard on the radio yesterday: I truly am a DORK –  Daughter Of the Risen King!

God Almighty, good Holy Spirit, again and again shows me he’s doing exactly what he says he will do. God keeps his promises, and his Word IS his true and faithful promises!

A “…BUT…” to pray: Lord, Holy Spirit, sometimes I think I must be the biggest  goofball on the planet, and often I  don’t feel your presence or your love, BUT you promise to lead me, so help me FEEL you in my heart, because you know how much I need that reassurance, help me trust you even when I don’t trust myself and can’t feel you beside me, and help me know you keep your Word and ___________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________, In Jesus’ name, amen, and Holy Spirit, today HELP me to listen and hear you _______________ ____________________________________________________________________________________.

 

 

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Cover it?No way!

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“ Step up to perfection.” Really? Perfection from a bottle that will enhance my brilliance? (or at least how people “see” me)

“Hate that grey/?Wash it away!” so went the commercial for hair coloring, though I think more accurately the jingle should have said, “Hate that grey? Cover it over.”  Covering, sadly, including blame shifting and excusing, seems to be the first response of Homo sapiens when we know we’ve done something wrong. Case in point: Adam and Eve:

The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12

That  comment came after Adam and Eve ran and hid from God in the Garden. Not unlike many two- and three-year-olds I’ve taught …..so it must be that, early on,we ARE  able to recognize our sin. Hmm….did God place a center for a sense  of justice/injustice in our brains? I know every one of us is born selfish and me-first, since “me” is all we come out of the womb knowing.  today again I’mSO grateful to have been born into a grace-based family. Oy, yes, I knew  early on what  the  paint  stirring stick  was for, but honestly I can’t remember the  rebellious deeds I did  that brought the paint stirrer out, so well did my Mom continue to show me love afterward. In our  grace-based family, when I  messed up, I learned that had a price, and I learned from my errors. I learned something priceless, too.

I’ve written this before, but one of the most powerful  memories I have of my mother came when I was around eight years old. I still can picture this in my mind. The cotton swabs disappeared from the bathroom, and my mother had accused me of using them without telling her. I  hadn’t, but she  didn’t believe me, and I got  paddled for lying. That night,  however, my mother came into my bedroom, knelt down beside my bed, and said, “Rosie, I was wrong. Your brother used them, and he did just tell me. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” Of course I did, but something powerful happened in that exchange..

My mother taught me a truth that’s become core to who I am: it’s always  right, always necessary,  to honestly admit your wrongs and ask forgiveness from the person you’ve wronged. It’s right, it’s necessary, AND it’s freeing. AND it frees two people: one from guilt and one  from bitterness. That’s a grace-based mindset. Not everyone grows up in a grace-based family, though. Many people grow up in shame-based families, and  that’s deadly to both relationships and to genuine relational faith.  Shame-based relationships cause people to cover their sins and wrongs, because shame attacks you at the level of your identity: I did something wrong, I must be a bad person, but I don’t want people to think I”m a bad person,so I need to find  someone else to blame or some way to cover/minimize/transfer what I did so I can still feel good about my self.

Hiding in the Garden. Blaming the other person. Denying it hurt anyone. Minimizing the pain I caused – all because I/you fear the consequences from a person in authority who will think poorly of me/you, stop loving me/you, see who I/you really am/are and  turn away in disgust.  That deep fear-based distrust and insecurity plants terrible consequences in other lives and in our relationship with God. Do we not know that, yes, God clearly sees our sin, BUT yes, God loves us  as we are and wants  good for us and wants to be in loving relationship with us anyway?

I’ve seen first-hand what a shame-based identity destroys. If I grew up shame-based and I offend you, now you come to represent shame in my life. Every time I look at you, I see, not forgiveness, but my shame, so I can’t be in a loving relationship with you, or I have to somehow shift the blame to you so I can still feel “good”about myself without truly admitting my wrong and “coming clean”  to you. This completely disables and short-circuits the freedom that the whole God-ordained for  wholeness process of confession, repentance, forgiveness and mercy can so powerfully bring!

I know that I know that I know that freedom,  wholeness, grace  and loving relationship are the reasons Jesus said: “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” Matthew 5: 21-14

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.  Proverbs 28: 13-14 NIV

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long…. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. Psalm 32:3, 5

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NIV

I know that I know that I know that harboring grudges is deadly, both to the offense holder and to the offended person. Again, Jesus says,“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and theunrighteous. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5: 43-48

No, you aren’t God, but copy  your Father in Heaven. Do what he does, give like  he gives to you, model your life, Rose, after your mother who showed you God’s grace both in her courage to admit her wrong and her humility and integrity to ask forgiveness from an eight-year-old when she could have ignored the truth to “maintain her  authority.” Oh,Mom, you gave me a priceless gift in teaching me  to forgive and to confess my sins and ask forgiveness!

I saw the other side of this truth when, also  at age eight, I accidentally found a Mickey Mouse wallet that I knew Mom had hidden in the yarn container, to surprise me at Christmas. Horrified that I’d spoiled a surprise, convicted that I’d done wrong, I decided to “run away,” but I’d only gotten a few hundred yards down the alley when I realized what a dumb idea that was, went back home, where I knew love and grace lived, and fessed up to my mother. Rather  than chastise me  for spoiling the surprise, my mother calmly,and even sympathetically said, “That’s okay. I know you didn’t do it on purpose,” and she gave me the wallet.

That’s what God does for us when we come to him confessing that we aren’t perfect, that we’ve sinned, that we can’t possibly in and of ourselves ”perfect”or ”lovable” (if your family of origin idea of love  is based on performance, not true love) and we receive God’s gift of atonement, his complete “not guilty”, and salvation  when we accept Jesus’ death on the Cross as the complete and total payment for our  sins.  That step is both liberating and humbling, because yes,  you do need to admit that you aren’t “good enough”in and of yourself to “merit” God’s love, but hey, isn’t that the whole point of true love anyway? “I love you just as you are, even though out of love I can’t enable you to continue doing wrong.Now let’s wipe the slate clean and start fresh.”Out of that kind of love, I WANT to do what’s right!

Back to thedifference between blame-shifting Adam versus my-sin-taking-upon-himself-innocent God in the flesh Jesus:

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:17

“O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you.” Psalm 69:5 NLT

“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 confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1: 5-9 NIV

In replying to a person who wrote he’d committed too many sins for God to forgive and so he didn’t even care anymore, Billy Graham wrote: “No, it doesn’t shock me, but more importantly, it doesn’t shock God! God knows all about you and your rebellion; in fact, He knows you better than you know yourself. The Bible says, “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

But here’s the amazing thing: Although God knows all about you and what you’ve done, He still loves you! If He didn’t love you, He never would have sent His Son into the world to give His life for you. But He did, and He yearns for you to turn to Him for the forgiveness you need so you can go to be with Him in heaven forever. The Bible’s words are true: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

You say you’re not sure you even care, but you do care or you wouldn’t have written me. That’s not the real issue, however. The real issue is that God cares deeply about you and doesn’t want you to continue wasting your life. Nor does He want you to enter eternity without hope.

Why spend another day apart from God? Instead, confess your sins and your need for God’s presence in your life today. Then trust His promise of both forgiveness and new life. You need both—and Christ stands ready to give them to you.”

Back to 1  John 1: 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin  for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIVWe love because he first loved us.

Who wouldn’t WANT that kind of unlimited, unending, passionately giving love and the identity as a loved – in spite of my weaknesses and wrongs – cherished child of God?

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NIV

Charles Spurgeon wrote:

“There is no light in the planet but that which proceeds from the sun; and there is no true love for Jesus in the heart but that which comes from the Lord Jesus Himself. From this overflowing fountain of the infinite love of God, all our love to God must spring.

This truth is foundational, that we love Him for no other reason than because He first loved us. Our love for Him is the result of His love for us. When studying the works of God, anyone may respond with cold admiration, but the warmth of love can only be kindled in the heart by God’s Spirit.

What a wonder that any of us, knowing what we’re like, should ever have been brought to love Jesus at all! How marvelous that when we had rebelled against Him, He should, by a display of such amazing love, seek to draw us back. We would never have had a grain of love toward God unless it had been sown in us by the sweet seed of His love for us.”

I remember singing the song,”Because he first loved me, that’s why I love him. Because he first loved me, I care for you.”

Sin hidden in fear and shame is sin that poisons us with more fear and makes us hide from God. BUT God’s forgiveness in Jesus’ Blood covers, truly washes away, all of our sin. Hate that “grey’ area of your life? Show it to your Heavenly Father, admit it, ask forgiveness, and  it WILL be washed away  in the grace  that flows from the cross of Christ.

He gave that  priceless  treasure to me, the shed Blood of Jesus – and I’m to offer it, out of unmerited love that I can trust always, to others. That, in a nutshell, is Christian faith and discipleship.

A”…BUT…”to pray: God, loving Heavenly Father, in some ways I’ve really had the wrong idea about who YOU are, and so I’ve had the wrong idea about who I am to you and about the relationship You want to have with me, BUT I see that in truth You _____________________________________________________________________ and to You I am _____________________________________________________,so I have the courage to confess to You that I _______________________________________________ and I confidently receive your kind, gracious, everlasting love.help meto give  it away and keep it flowing so I always have plenty to live in and to give. In Jesus’ name, amen!

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Forgetting Brought Blessing

THIS year I made sure I remembered to bring my iPod docking station to have plenty of volume for the songs I planned the women to sing during the devotions I was to give. I planned so thoroughly – I thought – until I dug into my suitcase on Friday night  at the retreat center and realized what I HAND’T packed: my ipod with the music!

Panic hit me like a hammer, and chagrin at realizing I’d left it on the clock radio charger beside my bed that morning. Humbled, I pressed into God – the only thing a meaning-seeking, analytical,  faithful servant (see my tongue in cheek now, but then I was serious ) could do.

The retreat theme was “God is Able.” Was he?

“Maybe, Jesus, you just want to hear our voices? Maybe, God, you’re teaching me that Jesus is enough, and we don’t have to sing to hear your Spirit. Or maybe, God, you just want us to hear you singing over US like in Zephaniah 3:17?”

Humbled up, I told the prayer team my dumb mistake. “Hey,” one of the women I didn’t know smilingly cried,” I have my iPod. I may have the song you need! What is it called?”

My face lit up like the Verde Valley sunset outside, and I told her I’d get her the name, for in all honesty, I couldn’t remember it off the top of my head. I checked my handouts and told her I needed “How Great is Our God.”  She wasn’t sure she had it because as she advised, she regularly dumps old music to ad new.

Sigh. Okay, God, I thought, I’m still prepared to believe you want just our voices accapella, or you just want to sing over us  . .  . “ I knew it would be fine either way, and even thought how much better it would be without the accompaniment.

I was so much in that frame of mind, in fact, that the next morning when another prayer team member, Kathy, extended a Cd into my hand, I almost refused it. She was dumbfounded herself. “last week I was in the Christian bookstore buying CD’s. I hadn’t planned to buy this one, but I saw it and the thought hit me that I should get it along with the others. I really don’t know why I did.”  Right in my face was Chris Tomlin’s CD with the title “How Great is Our God!”

I still can hardly believe that I was so caught up in the “Oh, it will be okay” reverie I almost refused to borrow the CD! Reality hit me that God was putting manna in my hand. Was I going to be “so heavenly minded that I’m no earthly good?” I laughed out loud as I spoke that chuckling “tsk, tsk” from the Holy Spirit, and yes I incorporated the humorous story as the introduction, and  we sang along to the miracle CD on Saturday morning.

Sunday morning was a different story. It was 7:15, the devotions started at 7:30,and I still didn’t have the final song I wanted to use that morning. Written on the handouts was a song I couldn’t do accapella – I tried, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. “Okay,” I sighed, “we can just say the words. . . . or maybe I can find a different song.”

The worship leader had some CD’s in a stack near the CD player, so I threw one in and frantically started skipping through tracks.  At track 5 I caught my breath.: “Be Unto Our God.” I love that worship song, a hauntingly beautiful waltz tempo. A thought leaped into my mind: “Could I? Do I dare?”

My message revolved around my blog post entitled “My Father’s Sweater,” all about standing at my father’s workbench wearing my Dad’s old brown sweater (and yes I’d remembered to bring a brown sweater), and  how we now stand at our heavenly Father’s workbench robed in Christ’s righteousness. I set my mind to ask the women to do something abandoned and silly and daring, and to heck with the consequences.

““I know you’re Lutherans,” I began, ”but you’re loosed Lutherans. Did any of you ever stand or dance on your father’s feet?” I asked, and at a few nodded heads and quiet  affirmations told me I was okay to go for the audacious. “Then I want you to get up, move around so you have enough space to move, because we’re going to dance on our Father’s feet!”

The lovely melody lifted from the speakers, and oh, my heart raced! Lovely daughters of the King of Kings began to sway, twirl, spin and waltz  in the arms of their God! Tears flowed, heads lifted in a wave of validation affirmation, invitation celebration!

“This was the best mistake I ever made,” I gratefully prayed as I danced along and enjoyed the laughter of Heaven. If I’d remembered my iPod, none of these miracles would have happened.

“Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. Highest praises, honor and glory be unto Your name, be unto Your name.”

Note to self:

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

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in All things at ALL times, having ALL that yo need, you will abound in every good work.  1 Corinthians 9:8

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever.! Amen.   Ephesians 3:20

A “. . . BUT . . .” to move:  God, you have such a sense of humor and fun, and you can do SO much more than I could ever even think to do by my own efforts – definitely more than my mistakes! Step in, take this dance of my latest mistake in __________________________________________________________________ and make it a beautiful waltz of your Glory and goodness!

God of My Steps and Missteps

(entering the cave before descending to Mooney Falls, Havasu Canyon)

“Who would have thought,” I mused, “that parking at the wrong end of the mall would turn out to be so much fun?” What a morning of mistakes and missteps! They started when I read the wrong appointment card for my hand surgeon and missed a day of work, cutting our dogs’ walk short by 20 minutes so I could fly out the door, leap into the car, and speed to what I thought was a 9:00 am appointment. The puzzled look in the receptionist’s eyes morphed into a bemused grin of “Oh, this poor confused old lady” as she sadly informed me that my appointment wasn’t until four that afternoon. Wrinkles from too many hiking trips move younger people to see senility instead of a love for the outdoors in my appearance!

“Oh, crumb!” I chided myself. “I must have read the ‘4’ I wrote as a ‘9’!” Quickly shrugging off the $72 I had just lost in missed pay, I opted to make the best of the situation and save gas by popping over to the quick-fix jeweler in the nearby mall to get two bent prongs on my engagement ring repaired.

June in Arizona marks the beginning of the season when one is willing to walk from the farthest spot in the parking lot as long as it’s under a tree or even a healthy bush offering a spotty patch of shade, so I rejoiced in finding a parking space not only close to a mall entrance, but also beneath a leafy canopy of shade. Imagine my consternation to discover that the store whose entrance I parked near didn’t open for another hour! Grumbling at misstep number 2, I tramped back to my car and drove around to the northeast side of the mall, where surely the generic mall entrance MUST be open at 9:00 a.m. And true enough, it was.

Misjudgment number 3: the jewelry repair shop was in the northwest corner of the mall, so I had to walk the entire length of the mall!

“I needed the exercise anyway,” I philosophized, still leaning into optimism – or at least leaning away from mounting frustration. That meant I had to hike the length of the mall again at 10:00 when my ring was fixed, running the gauntlet of the now-open kiosks that flanked the food court.

“Have you heard of Dead Sea Minerals?” a young man called as I attempted to zip by.

“Yes- are you Ahava?” I shot back breezily, hoping to brush him off.

“No, we aren’t . . . ,” he replied.

“Oh, what the heck?” I thought, “I might as well get the nails on one hand buffed.” That’s fully what, and all, I expected to happen. Twenty minutes later, though, I wonderingly waved good-bye to Avi and Elan after chatting with them a bit, sharing what I recently learned of the meaning of the Hebrew letters Yud, Heh, Vav, Heh (the hand of grace nailed in grace), Isaiah 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions . . . ,” and praying for the success of their little stand and for peace in Israel.

Elan was genuinely touched that I would pray for them. Yes, I walked away with a nail care kit, too, but I walked away with an awed joy that Jesus continues to use me, even in my brokenness, to touch other people’s lives with his love. After the person you’ve trusted the most tells you that you are worthless, hearing from Jesus that you are precious enough for him to speak through absolutely rains down worth, dignity, value and a joy that sets your heart dancing!

Oh, those blessed missteps that led me to a God encounter! Abba, can I dare to believe that even this trek through a valley of shadows deeper than death is, in fact, a pilgrimage under light I simply can’t see – a journey to a victory more beautiful than I can imagine?

Some days – days of mistakes and missteps – my heart dares to trust this is, in fact, the truth I can hang my heart on!