Of rocks and “rolls”…

poppin_fresh_pillsbury_doughboy copyright Pillsbury

Oh, drat, a rock in the toe of my Tevas!   Occupational hazard when you’re walking on a street in the foothills in the desert. But instantly a thought flashed into my consciousness, a thought of all the people of old who walked deliberately with a rock in their shoes where it would hurt the most to show God their penitence and piety, to do penance for their sins. I thought of the people I’ve read and heard about who crawled on their hands and knees to a shrine, arriving bloody to show God how sorry they were for things they’d done. And just as quickly I thought of the scornful taunts Jesus endured, the crown of thorns on his head, 39 lashes of the whip that Jesus took for me, the nails in his wrists and feet, the spear through his heart. Who in the world would I think I was to think anything I could do to cause myself pain could in ANY way add to or make more sufficient what Jesus did for me?

Before I throw any of those stones in my shoe at those people, though, Lord knows, and the Lord does know, how quick I am to self-flagellate with regrets, “if only’s,” all too conscious of the mistakes I’ve made even inadvertently. It’s a twisted form of pride masquerading as humility, and it does God absolutely no honor at all for the ALL-SUFFICIENT sacrifice He made for me through Jesus.

“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.’

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. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:1-10 NIV

https://youtu.be/XgjJ_CR9oEY

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

He will not always accuse,

nor will he harbor his anger forever;

he does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

 as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

 As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

 for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

 The life of mortals is like grass,

they flourish like a flower of the field; 

the wind blows over it and it is gone,

and its place remembers it no more.

But from everlasting to everlasting

the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,

and his righteousness with their children’s children—

with those who keep his covenant

and remember to obey his precepts. Psalm 103: 8-18 NIV

 

 

Jesus told us to go make disciples, not penance:

 

 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 16-20 NIV

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give…. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matthew 10: 6-8, 42 NIV

THAT is my reverence, that is my response, that is my job description now. Soo …I sensibly, gratefully took off my shoe, shook out the pebble, and thought about the responses God does want from me for his freely given totally all-sufficient gift of forgiveness. Stones? I could sweep them from my neighbor’s sidewalk. I could buy some new tennis shoes for a child who has to walk barefoot to school. Crawl on my knees? I could gladly bend down and reach under my car to get the ball the neighbor kids accidentally rolled onto my driveway.

Give a cup of cold water? Here is where the rubber meets the road, the gratitude and freedom sets me truly free. I could take a jug of ice water down to the homeless people in the park, hand out cups of cold water, say, “In Jesus’ name I bring you this water,” as if I, the blessed, was stooping down to them, the oppressed, out of my own magnanimity, and think I’d fulfilled righteousness – but that would be just another disguised stone in my shoe. In truth and honestly, you know what I’ve learned in the last five months? That wouldn’t be the right thing to do at all … unless I sat down with those people, looked them in the eye, asked their names, understood their heartaches and frustrations and their own perhaps deeply held self-condemnation, listened to their stories, ate one of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I’d brought with them as I listened, held their hands and prayed with the ones who wanted prayer.

Now, lest you think I am being “holier than thou” here, let me hasten to admit it took me over 50 years to come to this realization. Yes, I pick up math pretty quickly, but in some of the things of God, I’m a terribly slow learner. Fifty years ago I went with the other junior high and high school girls in our World Friendship Girls group, the junior version of the Women’s Society of Christian Service at our church to the Wesley Center downtown. We’d spent weeks blowing out dozens of eggs, dying the shells, filling them with confetti and gluing crepe paper frills on top to make cascarones for people at the center to give out as prizes in the game booths at their fund-raising fall fair. But did I ever strike up a conversation with any of the girls at the center? Yes we put on an overnight slumber party for the girls, but did I ever get the phone number of a girl so I could talk to her again or take her to the movies with me sometime?

It took me over 50 years to finally get it that God wanted me to sit down with Harlan and Betty in the park, learn who they are, treat them as equals, laugh with them, and pray for them as we ate together. I am a slow learner, but I hope, like “Poppin’ Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy,” or rather like “Little Poppy,” I’m still soft and pliable enough in God’s hands, even at my advanced age, for the Lord to poke me in the belly sometimes. When he does, I hope I can and will giggle, or at least smile, that God is still concerned about me and loves me enough to keep conforming me more to his heart, his compassion, his truth, his passions, what matters to his heart.

I guess I’m not “done” yet ….

https://youtu.be/RnpoD0hlqpQ “The Scandal of Grace”

 

Grace, what have you done?

Murdered for me on that cross

Accused in absence of wrong

My sin washed away in your blood

Too much to make sense of it all

I know that your love breaks my fall

The scandal of grace, you died in my place

So my soul will live

Chorus:

Oh to be like you

(To) Give all I have just to know you

Jesus, there’s no one besides you

Forever the hope in my heart

Death, where is your sting?

Your power is as dead as my sin

The cross has taught me to live

In mercy, my heart now to sing

The day and its trouble shall come

I know that your strength is enough

The scandal of grace, you died in my place

So my soul will live

And it’s all because of you, Jesus

It’s all because of you, Jesus

It’s all because of your love

And my soul will live

Chorus:

Oh to be like you

(To) Give all I have just to know you

Jesus, there’s no one besides you

Forever the hope in my heart

 

Any rocks you need to shake out of your shoe today?

Need a loving poke in your belly? God, our Father God, gladly, kindly will.

 

A “…BUT…”to pray: Oh, Father God, loving Lord, I see now that I’ve held onto shame, guilt, regret over _______________________________ BUT you truly, absolutely, forever removed that from me when Jesus took it upon himself. Jesus, I won’t minimize what you did for me by trying to ”make up for it” by my own actions, so God, I will thankfully, gladly let you _________________________________________________ in me, through me, for me. yes, please poke me in the belly when I need to be more pliable and ____________________________. I know I’m not ”done” yet, so Holy Spirit, I’m listening _______________. In Jesus’ name, make it so, amen!

 

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I AmNot the Ocean

surfer-waveSurfing caught on like crazy when I was a teen, and in sand-locked Arizona, how we all looked forward to a summer trip to the California coast. Surfers still wait on beaches all over the world for the “perfect wave” to ride in to shore, proving their prowess over the waves. I remember singing this song when my two sons were in Cub Scouts:

Super California surfer, expert on the ocean.
Even though the most of them
Do not use suntan lotion.
When they hit the waves too hard
They always cause a motion.
Super California surfer, expert on the ocean.

Um didle iddle iddle um diddle lie,
Um didle iddle iddle um diddle lie,

Because I was afraid to surf
When I was just a lad,
My father took my board away
And told me I was bad.
But when I learned the word
That every surfer knows,
The biggest word you ever heard,
And this is how it goes…

Super California surfer, expert on the ocean.
Even though the most of them
Do not use suntan lotion.
When they hit the waves too hard
They always cause a motion.
Super California surfer, expert on the ocean.

But … what would a surfer be without the ocean?

sand-surfing

Woo-hoo! Shoot the, um, dune. Catch a dune  and you’re sitting on top of the … sand.

What possible spiritual meaning can this have?  To my horror, and very likely to all of our collective horror, I’ve watched our culture become more and more narcissistic, everything  drive by MY desires, MY happiness, MY  needs,  MY wants, MY opinion, MY point of view, MY definition of __________, MY success.

Take another look at the  ocean. For  that matter, take a look at  your big toe. Did you create that? Can you in any way cause your big toe to suddenly change shape, size, or by the mere exercise of your will, color your toenail? Did you create hydrogen and oxygen atoms? Did you create a  large spinning rock with molten iron core, cover it with a crust of  decomposed  rocks called soil, scoop out canyons and seabeds? When’s the last time you gave life to a dead ant, much less make an ant and give it life?

If you (and I) can’t create an atom of  anything out of nothing, create by mere though a single grain of sand, give life to a dead ant or make living ant to begin with, then why do you/I/we  feel so powerful when you/I/we ride a board on a wave? Why do you/I/we feel such a need to assert our own desires, “self-actualization,”  MY will MY way in MY time, and reaching for possessions and earthly “happiness” as TRUTH and RIGHTLY DESERVED RIGHT? Who do you/I/we think you/I/we  are/am?

Genesis 1: 1-5 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Genesis 1: 13-14 And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear [a child,] when I am [so] old?’ Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son”

1 Chronicles 29:11 – Thine, O LORD, [is] the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all [that is] in the heaven and in the earth [is thine]; thine [is] the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.

 

Deuteronomy 32:39
‘See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.

Psalm 18:31
For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God,

Psalm 62:11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,

Isaiah 45: 4-6“For the sake of Jacob My servant, And Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor Though you have not known Me. “I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other,…

Colossians 1:15-18 (speaking of Jesus)   He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him—all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers—all things were created through him and for him. He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him.  He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead so that he himself may become first in all things.

Ephesians 1: 18-22 I pray 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 his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength  he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,  far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

Someone I cared about deeply said to me, “I know God hates _______, BUT I WANT _______” and to my abject horror, that sounded all too much like the words of someone else  who was handsome and gifted and honored by God until he wanted things his way:

How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate:“Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the man who made the world a wilderness,who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?” Isaiah 14: 12-17

I couldn’t do a thing to change that person’s heart or mind. I am NOT the ocean.  I can’t create one  molecule of water. Neither can I save anyone’s soul. What I can do, and what I’m called to do (and so are you if you call Jesus your Lord and Savior)  is  ride  the wave of God’s Presence and His Spirit in my life, speak  what He has spoken to me, share all the  good things God has done for me, and show His love, forgiveness, grace, truth, healing power, compassion, and relentlessly giving heart  to as many people as  I possibly can. That will no doubt irritate the heck out of the one who said, “I will…but I’d rather take  a  spill in the ocean of God’s grace and love than try to surf on the sand in  Hell by pressing, pushing, shoving, and demanding my own  will, way, and  honor.

1 Peter 5: 5-7 And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, so that in due time He may exalt you. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.…

So…Super God, I’m just a  surfer;YOU have made the ocean.
Even though we thump our chests and  make quite a commotion.
Help me ride your waves of love and  show your grace in motion,
Super God,  make me a super servant on your ocean!

 

A “..BUT…” to pray: Oh God, I’ve taken you for granted. I’ve looked and pushed for my own happiness apart from  the joy of simply being yours, I’ve sometimes used others by ________________________________ in order to exalt  or promote myself in ___________________________________. That is wrong, flat-out sin,and I repent of it.  Show me how and where I have offended your sovereignty and will, Father God:_____________________________________________________. Lord Jesus, help me to lift you high above all others in my life, your will above my own. Holy Spirit, open the eyes of my heart and the ears of my spirit to hear  your voice and see your hand in my life. 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,(including the enemy of  my soul) for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God;may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.(Psalm 143:8-10)

Speak to me, Holy Spirit; I’m listening____________________________________

 

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Little Boxes on the Hillsides

IMG_1135So began an irreverent song in the 60’s, but as I walked back down the hill toward my house in the foothills today, a thought I’d had  earlier in the week driving home struck me again. What are the conversations going on in the minds of the people in these  custom and semi-custom houses? In reality, all they are is boxes.

Unvoiced perhaps, but perhaps subconsciously thought, going up from these boxes: “ My box is bigger than your box… My box sits higher up the hill than your box…. I’m glad my box isn’t down there below the river …My box is full of more stuff, fancier stuff than your box… My box makes me important… My box tells the world who I am and why I’m important…” and perhaps some voices  down below the  river: “I wish I had a bigger box up on the hillside … I deserve a better box than this … .” Surely, and true, many people may be grateful for the boxes they have, that they have a box lid over their  heads, that  they have a place to sit and eat and sleep.

Yet up here on the hillside (and even down below the  river)  nobody asks who the real lien holder on the land is, who holds your hill in his hands, who created the minerals in that mine far in the background, who can call in the loan at any time.

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Psalm 33:6
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

Psalm 24:1
A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

Psalm 50:10-11
For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.
I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.

Job 41:11 Who has first given to Me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heavens is Mine.

Nehemiah 9:6
“You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You.

Haggai 2:8 —

” ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

John 1:3

Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 — “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God in your body.“

Colossians 1: 15-17 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.…

Walking down this hill that my mind and hand could never make, that no land developer or geologist or  architect or construction engineer could ever create from pre-existing molecules,let  alone from nothing. I bow in holy awe of the One who spoke, “Let there be earth,” shaped these hills, spun the earth to create day and night, gave me cells and DNA and breath and life, because without His Spirit and breath, I’m the same as the sand beneath my shoes.

“Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades! Never-ending, Your glory goes beyond all things! And the cry of my heart is to give you praise – from the inside out, Lord, my soul cries out to you… consume me from the inside out.” Be all you are in me,and how totally implausible is that for me to ask of God Almighty? I have no right to ask that, EXCEPT that through Jesus I am adopted into God’s family,called his own,  filled with his Spirit, loved, no matter  what  size or shape box i live in, how it is filled, how empty it may be, or who shares it with me.

And when I stand before Jesus, I wonder, will he ask me how big my box was, how much I had in it, how high on the  hill it sat? Or will he ask me  what I did with the time and the life and resources I had, all that He  gave me, while I was here? Will He ask,”Who did you love? How did you love? To whom did you reach out? To whom did you give a ride to their job? To whom did you give a loaf of bread? Whose child did you clothe? Who did you comfort in their grief? Who did you share me and my love with?”

“‘When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’”

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:38-40 NIV

Jesus speaks a sobering word as I sit in my box and  look out at  the boxes around me down the hill:

Matthew 25:15-29English Standard Version (ESV)

To one he gave five talents,to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed,  so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’  But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.  So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

I hope, I pray, I have answers for those questions that  will gladden the heart of God.

Lord God, I am eternally grateful for a roof over my head, a place  to sleep, food to eat,clothing to wear, family and friends  to love, and, improbably, for my very life, a  gift from you. Help me to manage all that you give me with love and faithfulness,  out of love for who you are and all you’ve already given: the priceless blood of your son Jesus as a  ransom for my life and soul, my righteousness, my life  forever with you in your house.

Coming home into my box, I fall on my face on the floor in reverent awe of the Holy One who created, differentiated, gave life to, and sustains it all and us all.

 

A”…BUT…” to pray: God Almighty, I may not have much in the sense of possessions, or I may have more than enough, BUT no matter what I have or lack, I have YOU as my Creator, Sustainer, Provider, Provision, Father,  Savior, Loving Lord,and that give me  value no one can take  from me. You say I am yours, and that alone makes me ___________________________________________________________________ and I thank you for your Spirit within me! Holy Spirit, I’m listening, and who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Not a post, just my favorite new praise and worship song

Yes, you may see my candle held high in the sequence with Bill Bright and Billy Graham at Explo’72 in the final scenes in “Woodlawn,” and somebody else was there  with me, too,holding a candle high right after we mutually said,”I do … till death.” Well … I tried to keep my promise.The bigger truth is that the ONE who loves us with relentless, fiery, passionate,never-ending love, the One we were holding our candles high for, still loves me and gave a piece of His heart to love with everlasting love, so in a  way,I win even in my loss.

Johnny Cash sang several times at Explo ’72. Boy, I admire his faith ands and June’s lasting love. Yes, self-confessed Jesus freak here, and even though Country music isn’t on my iTunes playlist, a few weeks ago I woke up with this song going through my head. Instantly I  realized it’s a wonderful  song for  worship, everything  true about twelve Johnny sings about being truer still about the two-way love affair we’re meant to have with God through Jesus.

So,  for all of you Country fans out there,and for  those of you who aren’t, here’s a new way to look at Johnny’s immortal ballad:

I Walk The Line

By Johnny Cash
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time.
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine,
I walk the line
I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when day is through
Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a fool for you
Because you’re mine,
I walk the line
As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right
Because you’re mine,
I walk the line
You’ve got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can’t hide
For you I know I’d even try to turn the tide
Because you’re mine,
I walk the line

 

Yes, I did, and would have eternally with the first one,  will with a new one, and thanksgiving ever to the ONE who’s always walked with me, Yeshua,  Jesus,  however you speak  his name in your language,  still the faithful Lover of  our souls.7701932_SMK5n

My Father’s Sweater

Spin Me Around the StarsI’m not sure how old I was when I claimed and started wearing my Dad’s old brown cardigan sweater. I think I was around eleven, but I do know I continued to wrap myself in it till I was fifteen. I think I must have felt like I took on something of my father’s nature when I wore his sweater. It was soft with wide, flat ribs and moth holes in the sleeves – definitely not a “Mr. Rogers” sweater, but perfect to wear on chilly nights out in the garage.

That’s where you could find my Dad almost every night: at his workbench repairing something one of us had broken or building something amazing. I thought my Dad was the smartest man on the planet. None of my friends’ fathers sent Morse code messages on a radio or made science-fiction movie sound effects with a home-built Theremin. None of my friends got to watch miniature lightning shows in their garages from a Van Der Graaf Generator!

Somehow I felt secure in that sweater (and in on some great secrets) standing beside my father at his workbench, even when I had to stand on tiptoe to see what he was doing. I still associate the smell of hot solder and freshly sawn wood with Dad and can hear the sound of his table saw ripping through boards on their way to becoming furniture. He built a split-level ranch-style dollhouse for me, complete with a fireplace with hand-carved “bricks”, a chandelier that worked, and real tiny shingles on the roof. Dad went through several very 1960’s phases, too, most of which involved the overpowering (and probably brain chemistry altering) fumes of melting plastic that became bunches of grapes and the clacking, conservation of momentum and energy-demonstrating plastic spheres of a “Newton’s Cradle.”

My father let me help him plane wood, drive nails into odd bits of scrap wood, and sweep up sawdust, all while wearing his old brown sweater. When I was a sophomore in high school, Dad helped me draw out, saw, sand apply sealer to, and wrap with copper wire a walnut hardwood bangle I put on a necklace that looked, very much before its time, very much like the Nike “swoop.” I felt so proud that my father was a builder and creator who guided me to create as I stood beside him, wearing his sweater, at his workbench.

Maybe those hours spent in Dad’s sweater standing at his side account for some of my freedom and desire for intimacy with God, my Heavenly Father. Oh, if I could, I’d love to stand beside my Father God at HIS workbench and see what HE is creating!

Do you know what’s cool? My Father God lets me help with his projects. In fact, he WANTS me to get involved! Those amazingly validating times when I get to speak some word of affirmation to another person or meet someone’s need absolutely delight me, because I sense that I’m standing at my Father’s side and can almost see him smile. What amazes me, though, is what God my Father gives me to wear while I’m at his bench: not an old brown sweater, but the righteousness of Jesus! “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Romans 3:21-22

“I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness.” Isaiah 61:10

Today I bought three pair of shoes for the church “Kicks for Kids” fall shoe drive for children in impoverished school districts. On learning I why I was buying the shoes, the clerk at the sporting goods store gave me an extra discount. Knowing my ABBA and what he likes to do in people’s lives, I asked the clerk how I could pray for her, and if she knew Jesus. ”Well, yes… but…” she replied, and then told me she’d ask prayers for her young daughter Sharon with Type 1 Diabetes. Aha! My Father God handed me a ”board” of his word and prayer to sand, and I jumped at the chance to pray for this woman, her daughter and whole family, and share how cherished, chosen and beloved this woman is and how much she means to God. I believe God intended our meeting to do more than put shoes on three children; he also wanted to put his love in the heart of someone who needs to run back to her Father and needs to know he welcomes her.

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth…. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Timothy 2: 14-15; 4:1-2 NIV

How many days, how many times, does God my Father hand me some work from his heart to help him build into the life of another person? Hmm, how many times do I completely miss seeing hammer placed in my hand, the opportunity to work beside my Father in building his Kingdom in hearts and lives?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice

and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Isaiah 58:6012 NIV

Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep. He asked me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” He answered, “Do you not know what these are?”

“No, my lord,” I replied.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’” Zechariah 4:1-7 NIV

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Mathew 5:13-14 NI

It takes my breath away sometimes when other people see my Father through me! Oh, God, let me stand beside you at your workbench as you create beauty, goodness, honor, kindness, integrity, compassion, truth, love, and living faith in the lives in this world so precious to you. Guide my hands and heart and words and prayers to help you. And wow, thank you that through faith in Jesus I get to wear a garment that looks like YOUR nature! You ARE the smartest Father in existence, and I want to be more like you. Thanks that you invite me to spend time by your side!

A “. . . But . . .” to pray: Oh, ABBA, Daddy, Father, you are incredible! All creation, all wisdom, all power, all authority, all goodness, all truth, all justice, all righteousness, all life comes from your hands that are still building, repairing, restoring, and creating today and every day. I may feel small, untalented, inarticulate, incapable, BUT standing by your side wearing YOUR righteousness, I know you’re calling me to ____________________________________________________ beside you and I know you’ll guide me as I ___________________________________________________. Tap me on the shoulder in my spirit every time you have an opportunity for me to tell someone or show someone how much you love and care for them, and give me the courage to know that, even if my words are simple, limited or halting, or not as fancy as some others might say, and even if I don’t know where in the Bible the words come from, they are still your words sent to strengthen, build up, encourage, correct in love, restore, repair, and create a place for YOUR hands to work in another life. I give you permission to destroy my excuses right now, and here they are ___________________________________________________________Help me to remember it’s YOUR work, not mine, and YOUR Spirit, not mine, truly at work in my encounters with others; you jut need me to open my mouth and open my heart so YOUR words and love can come out. I hope others see YOU in me! In Jesus’ name, amen! Holy Spirit, I‘m listening ___________________________________________________

Sea Glass Wars

The Sea Glass War

Rose Jackson © 7/15/2008

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The rocket attack came from out of the blue. My husband Cliff and I were standing in the long line in front of the auditorium the night of our younger son’s final high school chorus concert, when Chris called on my cell phone to ask if he could borrow some money so a fellow singer who hadn’t had dinner could get something to eat before the show. Phone in hand, I turned to Cliff and explained, “Chris wants to borrow some money to help . . . .” I asked my husband if that would be okay, and he angrily fired off, “He’s your son!” Whoa – where did that come from?

Shell-shocked, I couldn’t imagine what provoked his angry attack or even what his comment meant. I didn’t know we were at war! Our son came out to get the money and told me it was for a good friend from church. “It’s for his friend from church, Anna,” I related to Cliff, thinking an explanation would help, and he snapped, “Don’t tell me that. I don’t need to know!” Two rounds fired! This was no accidental friendly fire shooting! Instantly my defensive shields went up. I felt angry and confused, but I couldn’t lob any verbal grenades back at my husband because the women’s ministry director of our church was standing three people ahead of me. Trapped! I was pinned down, unable to defend myself.

Usually I’d launch a verbal retaliatory strike, or at least set the launch codes and fire later when I had the opportunity. This night, though, I resolved not to return anger for anger. I didn’t want to cause a scene in line or ruin the evening, but I also didn’t think it would be healthy to let the incident go and pretend this conflict never happened. “I’ve responded that way too many times in the past, and it only made me resentful,” I recalled as I took a deep breath. What to do? In an unusual step back from the brink of mutual annihilation, I decided to de-escalate, make a hopefully permanent change,  and quickly resolved to look for a way to deal with the conflict in a way both respectful to my husband and healthy for our relationship. I silently sent a prayer SOS, “Jesus, please tell me how to handle my anger,” and held my fire.

I didn’t say anything when we got home that night, but the next morning I prayed again to discern a positive way to express my feelings while bringing a healthy resolution to the issue for both my husband and me. At the breakfast table I calmly told my husband, “I feel your words last night were intentionally hurtful. Would you speak to people at work the way you did to me?”

“No,” he said, “but I don’t think what I said was hurtful.” Inside I was thinking, “Oh, come on,” but I made a conscious choice and effort to quickly subdue my frustration. “Would you speak to your associates that way?” I repeated. My husband replied that he wouldn’t, because no one at work would speak to him the way I did. Puzzled because I hadn’t said anything nasty to him the night before, but feeling a peace that surely came from God, I replied, “Your comment indicates that you do realize the words were hurtful.” I honestly, simply stated, “I can’t think of anything I said last night to merit those hostile words. Did I miss something?”

I’d presented my case without becoming defensive. What would happen next? Amazingly my husband’s demeanor changed, and he acknowledged that he had been angry and intentionally used those words to drive home the fact. At that point we were able to identify what had actually angered him, discuss the situation, and come to a healthy resolution.

God turned what could have been explosive and damaging into something healthy. Because it was unexpectedly healing, and because I felt enabled to uncharacteristically say something that maintained my dignity while still respecting my husband, to me the encounter was profoundly beautiful. Years ago I wrote an analogy comparing anger to broken glass on a playground, shiny and attractive, but you’d warn your child not to pick it up because, attractive as it looks, broken glass easily cuts anyone who handles it. Anger cuts and wounds relationships. If she or he picked up a piece of broken glass, you’d immediately ask your child to either drop it or carefully hand it to you, so you could take care of it safely and properly. In the analogy, I wrote that the proper thing to do with anger is hand it to Jesus so he can dispose of it safely.

After our “chorus line” battle, though, I realized Jesus did more than just dispose of my anger. When I resolved to respect Cliff and our relationship and placed my anger in his hands, Jesus transformed it into something precious that restored rather than destroyed. Shards of broken anger became beautiful like rounded sea glass, a powerful affirmation to keep choosing my resolution. At www.americancraftworks.com/TheStoryofSeaglass.html I found a description of the process that turns trashed, broken bottles into beautiful sea glass:

“The ocean’s saltwater and sand combined with the various tides act like a giant rock tumbler & (sic) eventually turn sharp broken glass into beautifully rounded frosted jewels that wash up on the shoreline. . . . !”

I handed Jesus the broken glass of my anger and he returned to me healing communication with my husband, something beautiful to be valued and prized like a sea glass gem. That day I changed my reaction and witnessed a battlefield turn into a beach.

Our feelings are our feelings, but we do well to look deeply within and pray to discern the hurt, disappointment, or expectation unmet that pushed a ”hot button. “We all have them hidden inside, hurts, slights, fears and insecurities in childhood that we didn’t know how to process unhealthy ways then. The longer I go through life, them ore broken people I find: people with wounds from an absent or present but controlling and rigidly unloving father, abandonment either emotional or actual from their mother, burying deep inside them the questions, “Will anyone love me for who I am? Do I matter to someone? How can I find the love I need?”

Legitimate needs and questions, but how we express them to others can bring healing or raise up like quills on a porcupine’s back, pushing others away with our angry barbs aimed at them personally, rather than expressing the need we have in clear, positive ways others can respond to.

God has much to say about anger.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1 NIV

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. Proverbs 15:18 NIV

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19: 11 NIV

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. James 4:1-2 ESV

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. Proverbs 16: 32 ESV

 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person… Matthew 15: 18-19 NIV

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil….

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen….Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:26, 29, 31-32 NIV

But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[a] with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.,,,

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3: 8-10, 12-13 NIV

 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,[a] and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,[these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:1-18, NIV

Please, If you are, or have a loved one with, a deeply entrenched chronic anger issue, please seek professional help for both the angry person and the one(s) living with them. It may be rooted in a deep wound All of us easily speak before we think, and we tend to react, rather than respond, when someone ”pushes our buttons.” My prayer for myself and others is a cry, hands lifted to God, to help me/us do what we instinctively can’t, and bring to the light of His healing the hurts that lead us to speak harshly. What beautiful gems God can make of us when we give our anger to him for his understanding, compassionate, and passionate healing. The wonderful truth is that God WANTS to heal our wounds!

A “…BUT…”to pray: Oh, Loving Father, I do feel angry when __________________________________, and when I do, I know my words can wound like broken glass. You don’t condemn me because I have needs and desires, BUT please help me to see deep inside myself to the root of the emotions that drive me to express my needs and expectations in hurtful ways. Holy Spirit, I open myself to you now and give you permission to show me things you long to heal deep within me _____________________________________________________________________ . People in my life do irritate me, including ______________________________________________________.Help me to respond in Godly, honoring, solution-focused ways when ______________________________ says _____________________________________________________. Put a guard around my mouth, Holy Spirit, and the next time that happens, help me to lift it to your hands to shape my response and turn the broken glass into a beautiful gem. In Jesus’ name, Amen, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening _______________________________________

As Simple as it Gets

As Simple as it Gets

I couldn’t find the bunnies, flowers or rainbows in my circumstances. I was so crushed yesterday, and I recognized my deepest grief is the contradiction between what I know and read of God from the Word – nothing shall be impossible for God – and what I see in the free will He allows us all to walk in, often to the wounding and discouragement of others. What I heard for 18 months was a grand and hideous silence and contradiction. This morning it even hurt too much to let God’s word in and listen to any of my favorite Bible teachers. That contradiction slapped in my face again was more than I could bear.

“When your words came to me, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty. . . . Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive (intermittent) brook, like a spring that fails?” Jeremiah 15:16, 18 NIV

So, the question to me on my morning dog walk was simply which side of this razor’s edge I’m going to fall on. Do I believe my circumstances reveal the character of God, or do I believe somehow, against all the grief within me, that God’s character gives meaning to my circumstances? I want with every fiber of my being for God to change my circumstances, BUT . . .

I love, I hope, I’m crushed – I rise in love, I hope, I’m crushed – I crawl back up to my feet in love . . . . I genuinely understand why sometimes people feel death would be easier than this life. BUT . . . it all comes down to the cross, and the cruelty I see Jesus bore for me. He was taunted, and their taunts were true. He COULD have called down legions of angels and taken himself off the cross, but the end of Jesus’ pain would have begun eternal torment for all the rest of us. Real, raw honesty here today, I have come close to despairing of life, just two months before God brought the faint dawn of a new hope into my life. I don’t doubt for a minute that there is someone who will read this and identify exactly with my feelings. Keep reading!

It all comes down to the cross. For love, Jesus emptied himself of all his majesty and rights as Deity and took our betrayal and rejection of him, even my imploring questions now. He loved, he hoped, he was crushed, he rose up in love. What could it have meant to Jesus to be stripped – willingly, but stripped nonetheless – from all that incomprehensible union with pure joy and love and Oneness with the Father? Whatever it meant, it meant winning me.

No, I’m not at all equating myself and my suffering with Jesus. It’s just that now I begin to understand the ferocious depth of his love for me. He IS love. I don’t BEGIN to grasp how much, but I desperately want to soak myself in him.

Words water down the impact of this truth.

Aaugh . . . as much as this still – hurts isn’t strong enough a word – grinds me to dust emotionally, I will not let my circumstances and the horrifying choices someone else is making inform me about the nature and love of my Jesus. Whatever meaning comes out of this in the end, it will be the meaning LOVE incarnate gives to me.

“Come under my wing,” God whispers, and we cry out, “Rescue me from my enemies, O LORD, for I hide myself in you “ Psalm 143:9

“Shelter Me” by Tab Benoit

The earth can shake the sky come down*

The mountains all fall to the ground

But I will fear none of these things

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

Dark waters rise and thunder pounds

The wheels of war are going round

And all the walls are crumbling

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

Hide me underneath your wings

Hide me deep inside your heart

In your refuge – cover me

The world can shake

But lord I’m making you my hiding place

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. 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. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart! Psalm 32:7-11 NIV

In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues. Psalm 31: 20 NIV

Why, my soul, are you downcast?Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. Psalm 43:5 NIV

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,  and he began to teach them. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5: 1-10 NIV

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'” Revelation 7:17 NIV

“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 . . . . If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8: 31 NIV He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 NIV. . . For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither height nor depth , . . . nor anything can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:38-39 NIV

A “,,,BUT…” to pray: Sometimes God, and it might be right now, it feels like the whole world is against me because ____________________________________________________________________________. I tried to _________________________________ but __________________________________. BUT God, help me remember hat YOU are greater than the world, and if YOU are for me, then you must have a plan to bring something good out of _________________________________________________________________. Show me where you are, Father, and Jesus, help me truly feel in my deepest heart how much you love me. I never asked you about your feelings on the cross. Jesus, what did you feel? Can my love for you bring you joy? It CAN! Then I trust you enough o give you ______________________________________________________ and let you work something good from ___________________________________________________. I have to “hand it to you,” so I will, by a choice of faith. What do you want to tell me today? Amen in Jesus’ name, and Holy Spirit, I’m listening ________________________________________________________________________________________

Grace – Freedom FOR Responsibility

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If we’re honest, probably most of us long for the job, or the time, or the money to allow us to be free FROM responsibility. That’s part of the appeal of retirement and financial independence: no accountability to anyone but ourselves, for nothing but pleasurable purposes. Fun! Me time! Freedom!

How long, I wonder, would that lifestyle provide meaning and satisfactions to us? If today I could go anywhere I wanted, do anything I wanted to do, eat whatever I wanted, buy whatever I wanted, would I feel validated as a person? Isn’t that what that kind of “freedom” means when we examine our motives in wanting it?

If what I truly long for is validation, a sense that my life matters and has meaning … then I look to the Cross of Jesus, the sacrifice that set us free from the law, keeping an interminable set of rules, constantly failing in some point and feeling the sting of knowing we didn’t “measure up.” Performance: we look for it in cars, from each other on the job, and sadly from each other in relationship. “I will love you IF you …. WHEN you…BECAUSE you ….”

Grace turns that kind of thinking radically on its head, where it belongs, swept away from our lives, thoughts, actions, and relationships because of the immeasurable grace God gives us daily in the death of His son Jesus on the cross in our places.

“What do you mean, God, I can’t do anything to EARN your grace? What do you mean that I can’t possibly measure up? That means I have to ADMIT that I can’t measure up, and that makes me invalidated, worthless … doesn’t it?”

NO, it means exactly the opposite; each of us has immeasurable value to God, just because he WANT us in relationship with Him. How in the universe can that be? Because He is love, period.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[a] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3: 21-24 NIV

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2: 19-20 NIV

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom,  because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2: 12-13 NIV

Responding to that merciful love means I want to show it, return some measure of my limited love to that limitless love. I WANT to give! Love is the illogic that stands logic on its ugly head and liberates everyone who embraces it to FREELY give, to take on responsibility with a joyful, willing heart.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10: 8 NIV

My neighbor was living on rice and beans, and I had the ability to buy a package of chicken at 50% off the usual price. Was I legally responsible for my neighbor? No, but out of love, could I say she was loved in a tangible way? Yes, freely.

 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3: 16-18 NIV

At a fund-raising yard sale at my church, a woman admired a red two-piece suit I had for sale. She couldn’t afford the yard sale price. Did I OWE it to her to give it to her? NO, but did God’s GRACE, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense, give me freedom to give away something I could give to bless the heart of someone else? Yes, and to joyfully put the $5.00 in the mission fund myself! Wow, she was going to feel beautiful in that suit!

I hurt someone’s feelings. But God, they hurt me, too. If I apologize – no, if I say the dreaded three words “I was WRONG” – won’t that diminish my value? Won’t that make ME wrong, mean I failed and I lose my worth? NO – grace gives me the freedom to admit I was wrong, knowing the person I hurt is immeasurably valued by God AND so am I! He wants right relationships for our mutual good.

Freedom to BE responsible, freedom FOR responsibility toward God and toward others.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8: 1-5 NIV

 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 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. Romans 6: 11-22 NIV

Purify my heart, my longings, my desires, Jesus! Set me free from selfishness and self-absorption to live freely and give freely. As the song says, I am free to love, I am free to dance, I am free to live for YOU, I am free!

A “…BUT…” to move: Oh, God, your mercy for me, your unmerited favor you lavished on me through the gift of your Son Jesus given freely for me to bring me into family relationship with you as your child and friend gives me the heart to be glad to return Your love in serving. I admit I’ve lived for myself and my own pleasures in ________________________________ and frankly, that never gave me the value and worth that living freely IN your love to GIVE your love GIVES to me. I want real freedom! Show me who needs your love today as I ________________________ and give me the courage of love to _________________________________. In the name of the awesome lover of my soul, Jesus, AMEN!

Grace for Greatness

Praise-God-christianity-30399917-450-227I could have pretended when the lizard ran across the trail in front of me. I was walking with a man, and I could have clutched his shoulder, turned my head into his chest and squealed, “Oh, “_______” (he shall remain nameless), a LIZARD! I’m so scared! Throw a rock at it! make it go away!” And after he did, I’d look up into his eyes, bat mine, and in a higher register than I use to speak with my female friends, I’d swooningly say, “Oh “_________,” you’re so brave and strong!” And if he took the bait … I’d be calling that man to a level lower than his true courage, integrity, and valor. Pardon me saying this, but PUKE! In spiritual terms, that translates to “abomination.”

I’ve seen it, girlfriends. I’ve listened as you did it, and even if you are truly afraid of lizards, do you think falsely building up a man’s esteem calls him to greatness? It may salve his insecurity, but Jesus wants more for him and from him than a false hero status. God wants him to live in  greatness. Guys, give that woman a second and third look and then tell her that her husband doesn’t appreciate al she is? God wants her to live in greatness.

Gentlemen, I’m addressing this to you, and ladies, to you as well.  Today is Pentecost Sunday, 50 days after Passover and the Resurrection, when God’s Spirit fell on Jesus’ disciples and followers in the Upper room. They were, we can imagine, staying there in Jerusalem not just in response to Jesus’ instructions, but also in some sense of confusion and fear, not knowing what would come next or where they would go, or how they could go on about life as usual after having walked with the Son of God, so real and present in that room with him after his resurrection, so many days and weeks absent now.

The lizard ran across the trail in front of me, and instead of shrieking – gosh it was just a small striped lizard, terrified of my big feet clumping down the trail close on its tail – I gave a very fake shriek, feigned terror (after having told him I like lizards) and then in all seriousness said, “________,” if you want to show me how courageous you really are, if you want to make this Christian girl swoon, load a “mortar round” of prayer and lob it at the Devil for me! THAT is courage! THAT is a true hero! God’s Grace to propel into greatness!

And I wasn’t  kidding.  This guy has fasted for me and prayed for me, and if I truly care about him as a friend and brother in Christ, my job is to call forth the greatness in him, the greatest greatness he can live. I can’t encourage him in sin, no matter how tempting it might be to lead him into a false sense of superhuman stature just to get his affection. Math teacher in me, I’d be degrading him to the “Lowest Common (cultural) Denominator”. Oh, gag, how insulting I would be if I even thought of encouraging a brother to sin, and how denigrating I would be if I didn’t believe in the greatness Jesus has instilled in him through the Holy Spirit to call him to courageous action, to the “Greatest UN-common Denominator” of the best, truest, and most courageous life God has for him, conforming to the likeness of Jesus as a Blood-bought child of God. “My agenda” for him means nothing’; God’s agenda for him means everything. GUCD!

I acknowledge here that I did do something for my former husband that allowed him to think the sin he was in, by his own words, “Wasn’t so bad, and if that’s the worst of (my) sins, well, God made me this way.”  Oh, vile lie of the Devil!  Did I think I was being submissive to enable him to sin without consequences or speaking to him that HE was worth more than that?   Was my compliance being an obedient wife, or was it allowing him to stay in a level far below the true courage, integrity,  honork, dignity, purity and valor God intended that man to live in and live out? I don’t take responsibility for his sin, but I am responsible for how I responded to it. Oh, if I’d had the courage to trust God enough to speak up out of loving truth and called him to righteousness in his choices.  God would’ve  taken care of me no matter what his response was, as long as my motives were for his best, for his true grace-given greatness.

As I relate to others now years later, I recognize that I cannot call forth less than the greatest from my bothers and sisters.  When I consider the price God paid for her, for him, when I think of the treasure that person is to God’s heart, how can I use, manipulate, or hold her or him to less than the most meaningful, vital, alive, on-fire life from all God’s Spirit has poured into them, to live in and live out of them?

“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.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”  1 John 3:1-10 NIV

I love the old hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.” Knowing the price God paid in watching His beloved suffer whipping and then the indignity and agony of the cross, how can we think God means for grace to do anything less than call us to greatness, true greatness? Ought we to do less, ought we to lower our expectations of each other and give flattery instead of encouragement to greatness? Why would I want to allow someone I love to live in anything less than the grace and greatness God gifted her or him with when she or he made Jesus Lord? If Jesus is his Lord, her Lord, then he is a son of the King of Kings, and she is a daughter of the Lord of All, grace gifted through Jesus to rise in strength, courage, compassion, valor, dignity, kindness, purity and truth to live a life and leave a legacy of greatness .

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

My stand cost me dearly, because I couldn’t let a loved one live out less than the greatness God his Father  called him to. Others – “friends” and colleagues spoke into his life to encourage him to conform to the standards of the world and live far below the integrity God wanted him to live in and live out.  Was that true love?

Today I want, and I pray you may consider, to call the people you love in your life to the truest greatness they can live in and live out. a measure of our love is the measure of grace-gifted greatness we call forth in and from eachother.Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we  should be called the sons and daughters of God.

Two songs to share with you: the first is the why and how, and the second is what we can become as we encourage each other to greatness.

How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

I will not boast in anything

No gifts, no power, no wisdom

But I will boast in Jesus Christ

His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

So then, what does this measure ask of us? All I want to do is be a soul on fire for the love and purity of God and call it forth in the hearts of others! So, my sisters, my friends, my brothers, lob a grenade of prayer at the enemy in the lives of those you love today! Selah! Amen!

My “…BUt…” to move: God, I’ve settled for less than courage in my own life. I’ve even tantalized others to live in so much less than the greatness of Your grace in them to flatter them and make them like me or to “get” something from them, BUT today I purpose to,and ask you to help me to call ____________ to the best in ________________________________________ that you long for him/her! 

I’m Not Buyin’ It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 31:25-30

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

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

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