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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Cotton Candy Daddy

Rose on swing image1Family in Salt River Canyon 1956In motel pool in Phoenix 56

My big brother and I walked with Daddy in the deepening twilight. I was four, Dave was eleven, and Dad had taken us to the small carnival in our little town for some fun after dinner. Tongue out, I happily lapped in the pink strands of cotton candy from the cone held in my right hand, my eyes more on the sticky confection than where I was walking. Suddenly Dad stopped, and I ran – SMACK – pink sugar and all, into his gray wool dress pants. With horror I saw the wet wad of candy sticking to Dad’s trousers and felt instant pangs of accountability – yes, even four-year-olds can feel responsible for their actions.

Dad turned as tears sprang into my eyes, but the only words from his gentle heart were, “Uh-oh! We’ll have to clean that when we get home. Are you okay, Rosie?” My giant of a hero was heroically there for me again. I have absolutely no memory of any ridiculing, blaming, or invalidating words ever coming from my father (or my mother, for that matter). Dad never bubbled over with affection, either – he was a quiet man by nature – but he was always quietly, warmly present and welcoming.

I don’t remember if I ran into Dad and Mom’s bedroom in the mornings or in the evenings, but I do remember climbing up on their bed when I was five with the jolly request, “Make a hill, Daddy!” He’d bend his knees in bed and obligingly let me slide down his legs. I wish in later years I’d asked him what he thought of this silly game; his answer might have surprised me with what it meant to him. And I wish I’d had the insight to tell him how much he influenced my understanding and perception of God as Father.

I see God as approachable, kind, listening, welcoming, valuing, approval-giving, merciful, dependable, honest, gentle when we fail. Rarely have I thought of God as a mean, hard master just waiting for this child to mess up so he could denigrate me and put me in my place. Frankly, only the insults and blame from a person whose opinion I valued and integrity I trusted, out of an emotionally absent father in his young life, have pushed me into shame and cries to God for his mercy for my mistakes. Did God tell me, “You’re just not doing it for me?” No, but a man with a huge Father Wound did, and in recent years I’ve seen what damage the Father Wound does in young hearts, spirits, and even literally in developing young brains.

Gordon Dalbey on the website abbbafather.com, writes: “No pain strikes more deeply into a man’s heart than being abandoned emotionally and/or physically by Dad. No pain, therefore, more directly beckons the saving power of Father God.”

See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. Malachi 4:5-6 NIV

Because the Father Wound is so destructive, Satan, the enemy of our soul, the father of lies – our mind, will, and emotions – is “Hell-bent” to hide the truth of this destructive wound and twist, pervert, deny the Fatherhood of God and leave a man, as Dalbey states, “divorced from his destiny.”

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44 NIV

Crushing criticism kills; dismissing identity and value kills; abandonment kills. Attachment disorders, narcissism, personality disorders, anger, abuse, abandonment, all trackable to Father Wounding. Epidemic in our culture today, the Father Wound impacts daughters as well as sons, depriving girls of their inherent dignity, beauty and value, robs boys of their integrity, courage, strength and awareness of Father God’s call to servant-hearted brave leadership and true manhood in their lives.

Because I knew my father admired me and loved me, no way would I allow a boy to take advantage of me. To a man who asked why I didn’t immediately hold his hand and give him a kiss, I replied that holding a man’s hand, and even more so, giving a kiss, meant something to me and I didn’t give either expression of affection and trust casually. A man had to show me his character to receive the gift of my proffered hand. My lips were – and are –sacred ground.

Where I did sadly cave in to ungodly demands was actually in my marriage to a man with a huge, unrecognized and denied Father Wound in his life. Neglect and callous comments from his mentally-ill father short-circuited the emotional wiring in his developing brain and sent signals of insecurity and invalidation that set up such static in his spirit that he said he’d never heard, felt, seen or experienced God as he saw others had. The empty heart he held up in his hands to his earthly father left him mistrusting his Heavenly Father’s intentions toward him. No amount of my affirming that God did love him and value him, that he was a creative and capable person I admired and God cherished, could make up for the hurt in his heart and spirit. The wound from his emotionally absent father put a distorted filter over the eyes of his understanding, and he began to view God as a big disappointment.

We can’t fill that hole in us that destroys our own and other’s lives out of our own weaknesses; we can only go to the source of unconditional, unmerited, healing love in God found through Jesus.

I saw God’s hand evident in my life nearly every day. God wasn’t in the trees, but trees bore God’s fingerprints, trees were OF God, just as the dollhouse my father made for me was OF my earthly father’s love, and the train layout he made for my brother was OF his love. How many hours did my Dad put into carving “bricks” in the block of wood that became a “fireplace”, wiring my dollhouse so the lights truly worked, cutting real shingles into tiny squares to roof my dollhouse. How many hours did he spend laying track and making plaster mountains and tunnels for my brother’s train?

How many hours did my Heavenly Father, Abba, your Father and Abba too, spend creating me and creating you in your mother’s womb? How deeply was he grieved when your earthly father wounded you?  How gentle has he been when we “run into his pants” with our sticky messes, simply inviting us into relationship while he cleans up the messes we make, or helping us as we gather up the courage to admit our wrongs and mistakes to the people we’ve wounded and ask for their forgiveness?How deeply, passionately, fervently does he want to heal your wounds? Will you let him?

The most profound memory I have of my mother was the evening she bent down by my bedside to ask my forgiveness for unjustly accusing me of lying. The most profound memory I have of my father, even beyond all the wonderful times I spent with him in childhood, was the evening when I was thirty when Dad came out of a church service and quietly, simply, broadly smiling, said, “Rosie, I love you.”

Perhaps you know someone with a deep Father Wound. Perhaps you carry a deep Father Wound that you’ve never been able to honestly admit before. Perhaps you’re a man and realize now that you unknowingly, out of your own wounding, created Father Wounds in your children and don’t know how to clean up that mess. Perhaps you view Father God through a distorted lens of that disappointment, mistrust, and deep longing for unconditional love. The wonderful thing about our Father God is that, when we lift our sticky hands and messes to him, he turns and bends down to embrace us with his smiling, approving, limitless, healing, joyful love.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 14-19 NIV

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure…  This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 3:1-3, 4:13-16 NIV

A “…BUT…” to pray: Father God, may I call you Daddy? I know sometimes I’ve pushed you off and held you at arms’ length because I though you were/would ______________________________________________________________________ if I did what I wanted to do and run into your arms. My own father ______________________________________________________________ out of his own humanity and woundings OR thank you that my own earthly father __________________________________________________________ out of his human love. Abba, I “ran into your pants” when I __________________________________________________________________. Thank you that you walk me home to simply clean up the mess. I made an even bigger mess when I ____________________________________________________________________________ and I confess that I thought that would end your acceptance and love for me. I was wrong. You can’t deny your nature, and your nature and character are love, so Father, Daddy, I run to you today and say _________________________________________________________________. You call me your beloved, period! Help me walk in the security of your love as I ___________________________________________________________. In the name of your beloved Son, my Savior, the lover of my soul, Jesus, who made me clean to be your very own cherished child, Amen!

Absolutely, Positively!

“Oops, here we go again,” I’d think as I edited and fleshed out the books I helped my friend and much admired pastor write. My job was to add background and supporting material, all the while maintaining the author’s voice. It was, after all, his book, his name on the cover, his reputation that he entrusted to me, and I took my responsibility seriously. He was and is a visionary, painting, as one of our editors at the publishing house observed, “in broad brush strokes,” often splashing the canvas of his compelling ideas with the words everywhere,everyone, no one, always, never. I took my “blender brush” to soften, tone and blend his concepts, transforming those words to many, some, sometimes, usually.

In real life as in writing, it’s generally true: you can’t apply a blanket statement to people. You and I live in an age of increasing moral relativism, which only makes this generality seem all the more universally applicable. After all, we’re adults, not preschoolers who see the world in black and white. We know better; experience has matured us. BUT . . .

I raised two precocious sons and worked with young children in classrooms and churches, so I’m accustomed to dealing with “Why” generators and “I do it myself” machines. My second son, 11 years younger than his brother, grew up in a climate of continually trying to fit into adult conversations and activities. Argument was the fencing foil he wielded (effectively, I might add) to insert himself as an equal into the family. If I said the sun was yellow, he’d reply, “No, it’s more golden orange.” Aaugh! Did we have to verbally dissect even the names on finger paint containers?

I asked him one memorable day when he was four why he needed to argue so much, and he thoughtfully replied, “Well, if I do long enough, one of these day’s I’ll be right.” Touché!

Eric at 4 in mask and fins hallmark

Right, wrong. Black, white. We are adults and know better; experience has matured us. There is always room for divergent opinion because everyone has his or her own ideas. After all, Chinese people use red to paint the sun….BUT…. Just as I wrote for my friend under obligation to “speak” in his voice in his book bearing his name and his reputation, so we all “write” our lives under an Author – the Author and Creator of the Universe – to bear his name and his reputation.  According to the one who engineered life and the cosmos, me and you and everybody else, yes, absolutely, positively, he has some absolutes, some brush strokes broad enough to include us all.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 NIV

Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. Ecclesiastes 7: 20 NIV

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Romans 3:11-12

Oh come on, God! Don’t the good things I do count for anything? I‘m not THAT bad, am I? Isn’t there some kind of cosmic tally sheet I can rack up my comparative score on? Don’t tell me I have to measure up to Jesus! You know I’m better than ______   Just like preschoolers, we don’t like to be told who we are or how we should paint our lives, or how truly – let’s use a word we don’t hear often, but it fits – reprehensible our sin is, even in the “best” of us. “Why, God?” “I’ll do it MY way! My way is just as good as his/hers/yours.” “I’m not a sinner; I’m more of a good person who occasionally …”

Absolutely, positively, God redirects us to the consequences of “I’ll do it my way” – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Absolutely, positively God counters our protests and culturally logical arguments through convicted surrender to truth via a flawed human being named Isaiah, a man of self-confessed unclean lips, equally tempted to moral relativism as we all are, and amazingly, God counters our arguments with truth for a very POSITIVE reason: LOVE.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to her/his own way; AND the LORD has laid ON HIM (the Savior Jesus/Yeshua) the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 NIV

and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:24 NIV

I viewed a TV nature program recently and saw the story of a seal with a runny nose. Vets suspected a brain tumor, but found the problem was an equally deadly infection in the seal’s canine teeth. Left untreated, without removing the hardened infected tissue in the seal’s nose and the abscessed teeth, the seal would have died with nothing visibly wrong beyond nasal drip. We can be, and usually are, oblivious to the abscess of sin endangering our own lives. Rather than making us LESS than we are, admitting our complete and utter helplessness to will ourselves or act ourselves into any resemblance of true goodness puts us in the perfect place to be cleaned out, cleaned up, made perfectly righteous BY the only Righteous One who ever walked the planet, Jesus/Yeshua/Isa/whatever His name is in your language. Yay and thank God for this positive absolute! Absolutely, positively we are relentlessly loved!

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father BUT through Me. John 14: 5-6 NIV

By this will of God, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all. Hebrews 10:10 NIV

 But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations]. If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts]. If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness[everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action]. 1 John 1:7-9 AMP

Again, the former successive line of priests] was made up of many, because they were each prevented by death from continuing [perpetually in office]; But He (Jesus) holds His priesthood unchangeably, because He lives on forever. Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them. Hebrews 7: 23-25 AMP

Now mature adults, both of my sons looked aghast at themselves in their early years in family photos and asked me, “Mom, why did you let me go out in public dressed like that?” My answer was, “Because you wanted to. You insisted on wearing purple shorts and over-the-knee tube socks pulled up as high as you could get them. You thought you looked cool, and I let you have your way.” Wardrobe relativism at its zenith!

Oh, God, my Father in Heaven, don’t let me go ”out in public” dressed in popular culture’s compromises like engaging in sexual intimacy before marriage, adultery during marriage, doctoring accounts, keeping so tight a hold on money that I can’t even see the needs of the poor, divorcing my spouse just because “I’m not happy, and my happiness matters above all,” peppering my conversation with profanity, “if it feels good, do it,”   “everybody has to find their own way to self-actualization/spirituality.” I can’t, I choose not to dilute or adulterate the colors of the life God wants to paint in and for me with muddy values and a stubborn “I do it myself! The sun is purple! If I argue with God’s Word long enough, eventually I’ll be right!” attitude.

The primary absolutely positive, positive absolute God will not change is salvation by faith through Jesus, no matter how I’d like to argue the point, and frankly, looking back over my life seeing some of the ways I “dressed” myself apart from Jesus, I don’t want to argue! I’m bound by God’s love and friendship, and more than that, his Lordship, to “dress myself,” to speak and love, live and write out the story of my life in the voice of the Author and Finisher of me, who does speak in absolutes for my positive good:

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:20-24 NIV

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 NAS

Imagine that – YOU are the “joy set before him,” absolutely, positively, finger paint and tube socks and all. Rejoice in the only one who COULD do that and DID do that for you, simply because he loves you.

I hope you enjoy this positive song about the absolute Way, Truth and Life, “No, Not One”

If you’d like to kick up your heels and dance along to your own copy of this song, you can find it on my friend Greg Picard’s album “Boundless Love” sold on Amazon. You can also read his blog on  current culture and Christianity at

http://upstreamatbittercreek.blogspot.com

A “…BUT…” to pray: God, you are my Father, and Jesus, you are the author of my faith, the author of my very life. I know I’m tempted to water down the depth of the sin in my life when ______________________________________________ and it’s probably because I fear _______________________________________________________________. Help me to stop arguing with you, God, about ______________________________________________________ knowing that you want me living by your word so my life can be _____________________________________________________ and I can __________________________________________________ to experience the fullness of life you want me to find through Jesus. I’ll do it your way, Father, for all the love you have for me. In Jesus’ name, amen!Absolutely, Positively!

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!

Sandwich Hugs

Children speak so eloquently straight from the Spirit.  Smelling the cinnamon rolls my older son was baking for breakfast, I showered and dressed for church on Mother’s Day morning at his house. From the master bedroom I heard my six-year-old granddaughter’s invitation, “Grandma, come and cuddle!”  She’d spent the night in the big king-size bed with Daddy and Mommy so I could sleep in her bed overnight, and that’s where I found her curled up against my daughter-in-law.

Dressed or not, how could I refuse such a wonderful request? I crawled under the sheet and snuggled up next to Elsa for a big hug.

“Hey, we’re making an Elsa sandwich,” I laughed. Elsa is well acquainted with sandwich hugs, securely squished between Daddy and Mommy, and often with her brother Evan as part of the “filling.” Sandwich hugs were part of our family ritual on weekends when my boys were growing up, too.

On guided tours, night camps and during summer camps when I worked at the Zoo, we always made “instructor sandwiches” to keep the groups of children safely between us adults so no one got lost. I told the children they were the peanut butter, jelly, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, pickles, salami, onions, olives, mustard, mayonnaise – whatever they wanted to be, and they always called out plenty of disgusting combinations to make things fun. I enjoyed encouraging them because it built camaraderie between us. No, we didn’t bunch up into one big hug, and granted, the “filling” tended to ooze out the sides, but we never lost a camper when they stayed between us.

I asked Elsa what kind of filling she was, and she replied, “Cream cheese.” We put our heads together, literally, and tried to decide what Evan might be. “Jelly? Or bologna (or rather, baloney)?” I joked. We tried to figure out how to fit the entire family into one sandwich hug and decided the best “bread” to be between is God our Father and Jesus the Bread of Life.

“One day we all WILL be!” I offered. “Hmm, but what about the Holy Spirit? Are we a triple-decker sandwich? ”

“Oh, he’ll be sprinkled on top of us like poppy seeds,” Elsa smiled, “or like olive oil!”

What a hug that will make with the oil of the Holy Spirit poured out on us! And yes, I do believe in a God so intimately loving as Father that he probably can’t wait to have us all safely in his arms. I suspect that’s where we are in this life too, when we make him our Father, whether we feel it or not.

Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.  Deuteronomy 33:12

Then Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty . . . All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” John 6: 35-39

Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you . . . He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”  John 14: 20-21.

Do I feel lonely since I lost the man I loved? Yes, of course I do, painfully so sometimes, and I long for arms to wrap me again securely in faithful love. But till that time, and even after, I sometimes do truly feel God’s presence and always will believe the one with me is the One who reminds me, “The one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.” He doesn’t want any of us lost.

I call that a hug to be cherished, don’t you?

Six-year-old arms are pretty wonderful, too: “Grandma, you and Mommy are blueberry bagels today.”

A “ . . . BUT . . . “ to move:  God, I feel so alone sometimes. Even in the middle of a crowd, and even in the middle of family, still I long to truly feel your arms around me. I want all my family with me in that hug, BUT no matter how far they are or how far I feel from you, I’ll let you be the bread of life and dare to believe that you want to ____________________________________________________________________________________. Scandalous intimacy, I know, but a scandalous love wraps me in an eternal sandwich hug!

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