All those open doors for God to pour Christ’s light into!

Capistrano beach sand heart

 

 

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.Colossians 4: 2-6 NIV

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9: 4-5

 

Twice in as many days, and this isn’t to honor me ,but  to brag on God and His timing and open doors, his loving, caring, compassionate heart, and what happens if we’ll just be, as Patsy Clairmont said in the title of her humorous devotional book,”Cracked Pots” who let the Light shine through our humanity. On Tuesday morning at the opening women’s ministry meeting, I hung my purse on a chair, only one woman I didn’t  know sitting there , brought back a plate of fruit, and began engaging in conversation with the four  other women at the table. Nothing earth-shaking – just friendly conversation. That led to me  connecting with Peg. She told me  later  she was a bit unsure but got the Holy Spirit’s nudge to talk with me. And the result was me being able to drive Peg to the Tuesday night Healing Room at Two Rivers Church, to intercessors  who’ve blessed me many times, so she could get some words from the Lord. When I heard the laughter coming from the prayer room, I knew I’d done the right thing, and Peg indeed got her “socks blessed off.” Way to go, Abba God!

Then this morning, for whatever reason, I decided to pop into the grocery store I’d visited on Tuesday to see if any of the reduced price protein drinks were still there. so I pull into a parking  lane and wait for the older (says she who is 68!!) woman to  walk  by before I pull into a spot. She’s getting a cart at the entrance as I walk up, and she motions me to go ahead,  but  I say,”No,  please go  ahead.” As she walks in, she jokingly says, “Open sesame!”  and I reply, ”Oh, you must be magic !” That  silly little exchange opened the door  for her to share that she’dpaid a large bill by check, put it in the mailbox,  but the letter carrier dropped  that envelope, someone picked it up, “washed” the  pay to line,  and chased her check. Now she was in a tight financial  bind. I touched her  shoulder and prayed with her for God to bring her vindication, and restitution, and she thanked me and  said, “Amen!”

Twice  in two days straight, after Carol had shared on Monday about being Holy Spirit-nudged to pray  with a woman  in the produce section of Wal-Mart, motivated by the lack of plastic bags readily available! And Melanie on Tuesday driving back to give some encouragement and affirmation to a woman she’d passed, standing on the sidewalk,  who said  thanks  after Melanie simply said hello to her! Linda’s had those encounters, and so have Donna, Libby, Lily, the other Carol, Yolanda, Val, Debbie, Julia ……

It ain’t me!  It doesn’t just happen to me! It’s God pouring out HIS light, love, encouragement, empathy, compassion, smile, validation, affirmation, acknowledgement  to people who need a bit of light, a word of cheer, and breath of hope from The Almighty Himself, just poured out through us “cracked pots”!! All we need to do and  be – all YOU need to do and – is available and ”cracked” enough to get over yourself and your insecurity (yes, I get it; me, too!) and start a conversation! I’ve lost track of how many times God has done this through. (See my past post about “Connect the Dots” for a few more).

Oh,Rose and ________________  (fill in your name), why do you ever doubt Jesus loves you?Why do you ever doubt the Holy, Almighty, Creator and King of Kings DOES want to live and love through you,to be a vessel of His Light and Love and Truth and Word on Earth?! Why do you think you’re the power that moves in these Divine encounters? As in the opening words of the book The Purpose-Driven Life, “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!”

Soooo …… as Jesus told us, HIS “disciples” meaning “sent ones,” “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9: 4-5  Carry HIS Light! Be that “cracked pot” that God’s  Light can shine through. Night IS coming, and we need to  get out into the Harvest fields of people all around us and share God’s  Love through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit who DOES live in you and me and us who call ourselves Christ Followers, not just Sunday morning  pew warmers. 

Your”…BUT…”to pray: God, I admit it ,sometimes I’m downright too insecure and chicken  and people-pleasing/people-fearing to open my mouth and say hello to someone, much less pray  WITH them, BUT YOU ARE ABLE, so help me get over myself and_______________________________________and help me SEE  the next open door YOU open in front of me so I can help someone who needs to see and experience YOUR LIGHT of LOVE right then and there. Holy Spirit – gulp – I know YOU will help me, so I ask this in Jesus’ Name, amen!

Capistrano beach sand heart

Making the most of the sands of time

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On No One’s Coat tails…

“I see a generational line of pastors and teachers in your family line. I feel a sense of culmination to this point in history, that you are facing a giant, a battle, which has been ordained that you should fight ….” She’d never met me before, had no idea who I am, and yet the words Charity spoke were solid, right on.  How could she know there are pastors and preachers in my mother’s mother’s  family line, including my great-Uncle, and many before him?

Even with this heritage,though, I know that I know that I  know that I can’t call myself Christian because any of my ancestors were.Christianity is not an ethnicity, not an inheritance passed down by your parents. Sitting for decades in  church doesn’tmake you Christian any more than sitting weekly in the garage makes you a car or  wading in the ocean till you’re pruny makes you a tuna! Christianity, being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, not just a lip-service pew sitter, comes down to one thing and one thing only: a personal choice to acknowledge that 1)yes, I am a sinner,  2)yes, sin (even one) separates me from relationship with a Holy God, 3) no, I can’t  possibly DO anything to merit  God’s grace 4) Jesus made  the ONe and ONLY fully adequate, fully covering, fully atoning sacrifice of his own life on the cross to pay the  Blood price for my forgiveness required by my sins and 5) I have to REPENT AND CHOOSE and daily choose  to live in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice  for me,  receiving God’s unmerited grace, favor, unfathomable mercy, forgiveness and matchless love.

MY SINS – CHRIST’S DEATH ON THE CROSS. What an almost unimaginably priceless, inconceivably costly gift, freely given by Jesus! And all I have to do is agree with God  that I’m a sinner in desperate need of His grace to receive it  and walk forever, here and in Eternity, in joyful fellowship and relationship with My Righteous Father God Almighty! No, that doesn’ t give me license to keep on willfully sinning. What a slap in the face to Jesus that would  be, to think I could presume upon his boundless,  pure  mercy and live in a way that dishonors, trivializes,  and disgraces God’s costly  gift to me! I receive his unmerited grace, mercy, forgiveness  and love, and out of reverential gratitude and eternal thanks, I choose  to live to please, honor, serve and worship God Almighty, helped daily by God’s Holy Spirit present with me.Do I blow  it sometimes? Yes, and then I’m right back on my knees confessing, repenting, and staying in relationship with God as his chosen daughter. Yes, God chose every single one of us before the foundations of the Earth, that we should come to know his boundless love and live in fellowship with HIM. And yes, God “recklessly” gave us the freedom to accept His Gift or go our own  way, trusting in our own goodness, which God’s Word says is like filthy rags, instead of in the freely given Righteous Blood of Jesus ALONE.

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long. Who do YOU choose  to worship, choose, revere,love,  follow, and trust?  Today I quote an entire chapter. These aren’t just my thoughts, but  thoughts straight from God’s Holy Spirit, yes through a human being, but not humanly reasoned out! We’d think  “religion” is enough. God knows how inadequate anything  but the Blood of Jesus truly is (my bold):

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’[a]

First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.”He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
    after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds.”[b]

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
    I will remember no more.”[c]

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

A Call to Persevere in Faith

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”[e] 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”[f]

38 And,

“But my righteous[g] one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”[h]

39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Hebrews 10 NIV
Who in their  right mind would refuse boundless  love and grace,  freely given, despite their failures, rebellion and weaknesses?
10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep.  John 10: 10-15 NIV
NO  “But’s…” about it: not Great Uncle Cyrus,  not great-great-grandpa whoever, no building, no just  words creed, no mindlessly recited prayers, nothing and NO ONE and NO WAY but Jesus, now and forever, PRICELESS LOVE, amen!

Kaleidoscope: the Broken Pieces

I never dreamed  when I wrote this for our women’s ministry retreat devotional book in 2004 that my life  would completely shatter five years later. Ironic, but maybe yet a blessing, that I’ve had to live out the truth of this message. Every broken one of you, here’s the BUT:  God says you can be and ARE whole, a beautiful picture patterned after His love and grace and redeeming power.

 

Kaleidoscope

Rose Jackson © 2004

 

“Rumble, KLUNK, rumble, KLUNK.” The shards of broken colored glass tumbled into ever-changing pattern and I drew in my breath as I excitedly turned the revolving end of the kaleidoscope tube, trusting something beautiful would fall into place as I watched. Decades melted away as I stood in a small booth in the antiques store. This red tube with pictures of swirling six-pointed patterns and the slightly frosty plastic cover over the opening was exactly like the one I cherished fifty years earlier. It was one of my favorite toys then, and I never tired of turning the tube to gaze at the shifting images. Sometimes one of such splendor would tumble into place that I held my breath and my hands steady to capture and drink in the spectacle. So much beauty from bits of glass and happenstance.

 

Odd bits and happenstance: that could be the title for my life, or so I often think. After all, what have I really accomplished so far? Room mother, den leader, Vacation Bible School teacher, wife, mom, occasional substitute teacher . . . a long list of odd bits that don’t seem to mean anything, or to fit together in any coherent way, or to serve any good purpose. Then there are the broken pieces of hopes so long delayed – or never materializing – dreams that took a detour, my own failures, a relationship scarred by a breach of trust, grief from losing my father to the slow death of Alzheimer’s, leaving everything I loved behind in a move across the country . . .  How could goodness or purpose come from all that “junk”?

 

Turning the old kaleidoscope over, I examined the pieces of glass at the end: formless, meaningless junk, and not much of it, either. But when I looked through the viewing hole as I rotated the tube, glorious patterns appeared, made from those same broken pieces. What made the difference? It was what I couldn’t see inside the tube. Inside were three long mirrors set in a triangle along the length of the tube. Light coming through that “junk” and reflected off those three mirrors that made pattern, beauty, and glory.

 

A Christian’s life is like a kaleidoscope. Yes, there are broken bits and “junk” that we don’t understand in our lives, but the light of God shining through that “junk” and reflected through the Father, Son, and Spirit brings pattern, beauty and glory from our lives.

 

  • Insignificant? Teaching Vacation Bible School all those years doesn’t seem to amount to more than countless sock puppets, making clay bricks, and pouring Kool-Aid® . . . but our older son is a missionary. The story of the boy who shared his sack lunch with Jesus to feed 5,000 people has taken on a larger, deeper meaning to me now.
  • Formless? Moving across the country and saying good-bye to family, to friends of twenty years, and to what seemed to be the beginning of a productive new career certainly seemed more painful than purposeful . . . until I connected with a ministry to women dealing with the loss and anxiety of moving. I never would have understood their grief if I hadn’t experienced it myself.
  • Meaningless? That’s what seven long years of repeated hope and disappointment in trying to conceive our second child seemed . . . until I understood that God’s plan wasn’t for just A child, but for this specific child, who wouldn’t have been conceived at any other time. My faith is growing up into trusting God for his best in everything, including a prayer whose answer I’m still waiting and believing I’ll see, now nineteen years after I first lifted it to God.

 

Three mirrors are in my life: Father, Son and Spirit. Granted I don’t hear “Rumble, KLUNK,” as God works in the pieces of my life, and often I have to just trust that beauty and form are there somewhere, but now I realize my life isn’t “happenstance.” In fact, as my life “turns” through the years, I see the same bits coming together to make new and different patterns as God brings new people and avenues of ministry into my life. I know that even the broken pieces and the bits that seem unimportant and disconnected have the potential for beauty, purpose, and glory as I choose to focus through the “viewing end” and see my life reflected through the three-in-one God. Will I one day see an image of such splendor that I catch my breath in wonder?

 

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”                     Ephesians 1: 18

 

 

Give God your broken pieces. Look

at your life through God’s focus,

and let his light

shining through your life create BEAUTY from the broken pieces!

 

Kaleidoscope

A “…BUT…” to pray: God, loving Father, my life is shattered. I see no reason, no pattern,  no “why” to ________________________________________________________________________________________ that’s broken _____________________________ in my life. BUT today I hand you the broken pieces, to reflect Your beauty, pattern, and indescribable love. I will trust you to create something beautiful fromtjese broken pieces, and Holy Spirit, speak to me as I listen to Your voice, to hear the truth of who I am in You still ____________________________________________________________________________ Use this,  Almighty God, for YOUR glory!

 May His love make you whole!29395-cc_wall0115_HeartGloves_1280x1024

Trophy Bride

Trophy Bride(Please do read this, even if you are male, and substitute friend for bride if you can’t get past the feminine nature of the word bride.)

Rose Jackson © 9/22/09

How ironic that the answer to the cry of my heart came out of utter destruction. Over a year ago I prayed to really experience God’s love for me, to move knowledge from my head to reality in my gut. So many of my friends seemed to slip so easily into his heart for them, like stepping into a beautiful ball gown (the sanguine friends) or sliding into a soft, slouchy cashmere sweater (my fellow melancholies).

Maybe I’m so analytical that it took this much agony for God’s Spirit to override my analysis. Whatever the reason, unless you have found yourself as a crumpled shell in the desolate, burned-out crater of the loss of all you once loved or of all you hoped for, you probably can’t comprehend an utter emptiness that is deeper than death – and the resulting desperate longing that compels you directly into the flame of the blazing, ardent, passionate, jealous love God has for you. It takes courage to admit your emptiness and offer it up to God, perhaps the most courageous act any heart can summon the strength to do, because to human understanding, it feels like death.

I found my answer, and how poetic that it came during the Fourth of July weekend – a celebration of freedom.

Again and again in my daily reading in June I came upon verses containing the word “shield.” “Blessed are you, O Israel, a people saved by the LORD. He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword.” (Deuteronomy 33:29) “Okay, nice metaphor,” I asked God, “but painful things are hitting me like flaming arrows. What does it really mean that you are my shield?”

Then over the July 4th weekend I house-sat for some friends for four days, partly to help their home look “lived in” while they were away, and partly to get away from the relentless stress I was under at home. Sitting on their front porch that Sunday morning, listening to birds chirp in the mulberry trees and delighting in the crisp white picket fence bordering their lawn, I opened my Bible for my devotional reading and it fell open to Song of Songs – a place I never go for inspiration. There it was, nonetheless, Song of Songs 3:1: “Come out you daughters of Zion, and look at King Solomon wearing the crown, the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, the day his heart rejoiced.”

Hmmmm . . . okay. And then my eye crossed the page to 4:7

“All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”

Tears streamed from my eyes. In my spirit I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me (and you, too!) that the Father put a crown on Jesus the day I (and you) came to salvation and became his own, our “wedding” day with him. On that day Jesus’ heart rejoiced! He sees me as absolutely ravishing, with no flaw at all, thanks to his righteousness which robes me.

Caveat here – I don’t get visions or dreams from God. How I wish I did, but the way he sometimes speaks to me is by pouring sudden understanding like a heap of treasure into my mind and heart. I dig into the pile, pulling up sparkling strands of thoughts and images that come together in beautiful clarity. Frequently the thoughts take the shape of analogies from unusual places. That morning the first strand I pulled up was a scene from the movie “Cleopatra” (not at all a spiritual motion picture!), specifically to a scene of a triumphal procession into Rome. Almost instantly 2 Corinthians 2: 14 came up in my other “hand”: “Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ,” entangled with Ephesians 4:8 “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” I could hear trumpets and drums, but it wasn’t Cleopatra and her retinue marching in; the captives Jesus led into the throne room of Heaven, including me, including you, are not the conquered, but the rescued and ransomed! Aha! I saw myself standing on the steps of the throne of God, alongside the victor, Jesus, who holds his sword and shield . . . .

Two days later at our weekly Bible study, our church outreach director spoke on Ephesians 6 and the armor of God. Trumpets up again in my memory, God poured another armful on the pile of my understanding. Ephesians 6:12-13 reads: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm, then . . . . ” In quick succession, two friends in the study who didn’t know what I am going through shared these verses:
Genesis 15:1 “Do not be afraid, I am your shield, your very great reward.” NIV

Exodus 14:14 “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” NIV

Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. NIV

Wait a minute! Christ holds his sword in his left hand, so if he is my shield and glorious sword . . . that means I am on Jesus’ left side, sheltered behind HIS shield! If I am on his left, and he is at the right hand of God, then the Father is on my left side, and I stand sheltered between them both.

Aha! I sensed that my warfare now is simply standing, and where I stand in this battle is on the steps of the throne of God at Jesus’ left side, his shield (that’s his faithfulness) in his left hand covering and shielding my heart, mind and spirit, and his right hand (his promises and his sovereign power) fighting the battle for me. My job is to stay out of the way of his sword-swinging right hand and simply cheer him on with my shout, “Yes, Jesus, do all you plan and purpose and desire!”

The chains of my captivity to the effects of betrayal, fear, and anger lie thrown down on the steps of the throne of God as a trophy of Jesus’ victory in my life on the day I took him as my savior and he took me as his own beloved. I am a trophy of Jesus’ triumph. I am a TROPHY BRIDE! I am FREE (no matter what is going on in my life), and I am ecstatic to be in Christ’s embrace as he lifts me upon his shoulder and shows the hosts of heaven, “This is one I have set my love upon!”

I know Song of Songs can be seen as a metaphor for the love God has for us, the Bride of Christ, the Church – not the institution, but the individuals who comprise the Church – so I believe the “extrapolation” (there goes my analytical mathematical side again) God gave me to us as individuals is not heresy. I sensed the Holy Spirit affirming (to you, too, even if you are a man!) that the Father put a crown on Jesus the day I (and you) came to salvation and became his.

He rejoices in you, his trophy and prize, the one he fought for, the beloved one whose salvation is a crown upon his head! In the middle of whatever battle you are facing, even if you feel you are chained to your past or sitting in the smoking ashes of your hopes, dreams, health, relationships, security, and future, REJOICE in the truth that Jesus ended all of your captivity and fights now for you! Stand and rejoice in whose you are and where you stand!

“You Raise Me Up”
Brendon Joseph Graham, Rolf U. Lovland

When I am down, and oh, my soul so weary,
When troubles come and my heart burdened be,
Then I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit a while with me.

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains,
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong when I am on your shoulders,
You raise me up to more than I can be.

A “…BUT…” to move: Almighty God, my Warrior Savior Jesus, I’m facing a battle bigger than I can win in ________________________________________________________l. I feel ________________________________________________ BUT I know, my God, you’ve said ________________________________________________________________________________ and I know that I know you love me, even when I don’t feel it . I may feel conquered, BUT you are the Conqueror, so in faith I ask you to __________________________________________________________________ and I proclaim, by faith in your power, goodness, and love, that you are even now winning and conquering _______________________________________________
______________________________________________________________. If/where I messed it up and tried to take Your sword myself, or my own small dagger, and ____________________________________________________________________, help me to truly believe that no playoff Yours can be thwarted, not even by me! (Job 42:2) and many are the plans in a man’s heart, but your purposes prevail! (Proverbs 19:21) Oh, Jesus, you said”The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27) Help me to stand, to put on the armor of God and stand proclaiming You love me, and daring to proclaim you are able to turn __________________________________________________________________________________________. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Trophy Bride

(Please do read this, even if you are male, and substitute friend for bride if you can’t get past the feminine nature of the word bride.)

Rose Jackson © 9/22/09

How ironic that the answer to the cry of my heart came out of utter destruction. Over a year ago I prayed to really experience God’s love for me, to move knowledge from my head to reality in my gut. So many of my friends seemed to slip so easily into his heart for them, like stepping into a beautiful ball gown (the sanguine friends) or sliding into a soft, slouchy cashmere sweater (my fellow melancholies).

Maybe I’m so analytical that it took this much agony for God’s Spirit to override my analysis. Whatever the reason, unless you have found yourself as a crumpled shell in the desolate, burned-out crater of the loss of all you once loved or of all you hoped for, you probably can’t comprehend an utter emptiness that is deeper than death – and the resulting desperate longing that compels you directly into the flame of the blazing, ardent, passionate, jealous love God has for you. It takes courage to admit your emptiness and offer it up to God, perhaps the most courageous act any heart can summon the strength to do, because to human understanding, it feels like death.

I found my answer, and how poetic that it came during the Fourth of July weekend – a celebration of freedom.

Again and again in my daily reading in June I came upon verses containing the word “shield.” “Blessed are you, O Israel, a people saved by the LORD. He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword.” (Deuteronomy 33:29) “Okay, nice metaphor,” I asked God, “but painful things are hitting me like flaming arrows. What does it really mean that you are my shield?”

Then over the July 4th weekend I house-sat for some friends for four days, partly to help their home look “lived in” while they were away, and partly to get away from the relentless stress I was under at home. Sitting on their front porch that Sunday morning, listening to birds chirp in the mulberry trees and delighting in the crisp white picket fence bordering their lawn, I opened my Bible for my devotional reading and it fell open to Song of Songs – a place I never go for inspiration. There it was, nonetheless, Song of Songs 3:1: “Come out you daughters of Zion, and look at King Solomon wearing the crown, the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, the day his heart rejoiced.”

Hmmmm . . . okay. And then my eye crossed the page to 4:7

“All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”

Tears streamed from my eyes. In my spirit I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me (and you, too!) that the Father put a crown on Jesus the day I (and you) came to salvation and became his own, our “wedding” day with him. On that day Jesus’ heart rejoiced! He sees me as absolutely ravishing, with no flaw at all, thanks to his righteousness which robes me.

Caveat here – I don’t get visions or dreams from God. How I wish I did, but the way he sometimes speaks to me is by pouring sudden understanding like a heap of treasure into my mind and heart. I dig into the pile, pulling up sparkling strands of thoughts and images that come together in beautiful clarity. Frequently the thoughts take the shape of analogies from unusual places. That morning the first strand I pulled up was a scene from the movie “Cleopatra” (not at all a spiritual motion picture!), specifically to a scene of a triumphal procession into Rome. Almost instantly 2 Corinthians 2: 14 came up in my other “hand”: “Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ,” entangled with Ephesians 4:8 “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” I could hear trumpets and drums, but it wasn’t Cleopatra and her retinue marching in; the captives Jesus led into the throne room of Heaven, including me, including you, are not the conquered, but the rescued and ransomed! Aha! I saw myself standing on the steps of the throne of God, alongside the victor, Jesus, who holds his sword and shield . . . .

Two days later at our weekly Bible study, our church outreach director spoke on Ephesians 6 and the armor of God. Trumpets up again in my memory, God poured another armful on the pile of my understanding. Ephesians 6:12-13 reads: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm, then . . . . ” In quick succession, two friends in the study who didn’t know what I am going through shared these verses:
Genesis 15:1 “Do not be afraid, I am your shield, your very great reward.” NIV

Exodus 14:14 “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” NIV

Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. NIV

Wait a minute! Christ holds his sword in his left hand, so if he is my shield and glorious sword . . . that means I am on Jesus’ left side, sheltered behind HIS shield! If I am on his left, and he is at the right hand of God, then the Father is on my left side, and I stand sheltered between them both.

Aha! I sensed that my warfare now is simply standing, and where I stand in this battle is on the steps of the throne of God at Jesus’ left side, his shield (that’s his faithfulness) in his left hand covering and shielding my heart, mind and spirit, and his right hand (his promises and his sovereign power) fighting the battle for me. My job is to stay out of the way of his sword-swinging right hand and simply cheer him on with my shout, “Yes, Jesus, do all you plan and purpose and desire!”

The chains of my captivity to the effects of betrayal, fear, and anger lie thrown down on the steps of the throne of God as a trophy of Jesus’ victory in my life on the day I took him as my savior and he took me as his own beloved. I am a trophy of Jesus’ triumph. I am a TROPHY BRIDE! I am FREE (no matter what is going on in my life), and I am ecstatic to be in Christ’s embrace as he lifts me upon his shoulder and shows the hosts of heaven, “This is one I have set my love upon!”

I know Song of Songs can be seen as a metaphor for the love God has for us, the Bride of Christ, the Church – not the institution, but the individuals who comprise the Church – so I believe the “extrapolation” (there goes my analytical mathematical side again) God gave me to us as individuals is not heresy. I sensed the Holy Spirit affirming (to you, too, even if you are a man!) that the Father put a crown on Jesus the day I (and you) came to salvation and became his.

He rejoices in you, his trophy and prize, the one he fought for, the beloved one whose salvation is a crown upon his head! In the middle of whatever battle you are facing, even if you feel you are chained to your past or sitting in the smoking ashes of your hopes, dreams, health, relationships, security, and future, REJOICE in the truth that Jesus ended all of your captivity and fights now for you! Stand and rejoice in whose you are and where you stand!

“You Raise Me Up”
Brendon Joseph Graham, Rolf U. Lovland

When I am down, and oh, my soul so weary,
When troubles come and my heart burdened be,
Then I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit a while with me.

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains,
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong when I am on your shoulders,
You raise me up to more than I can be.