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How to Walk in the Heavenlies

We sit at the table together, books scattered and colors all around. Little brother “helps” as the girls and I do school.

“Find four mice and one cat. Then color them green.” I give the instructions and hand out the sheets. Then I repeat and wait.

“Can we color the grass?” Little Bit asks.

To answer her, I repeat the instructions.

Both girls find the animals and color them green. Then Little Bit reaches over to grab a blue crayon. She starts coloring the grass.

“Are you supposed to color the grass?” I ask her.

She puts the crayon down and looks at me hard. No, the instructions don’t include coloring the grass but she isn’t satisfied with those rules. She wants the grass colored. She looks at me like I’m depriving her of her rights, I’m the reason for her un-happiness, I’m a terrible mom that won’t lighten up.

Surely parenting this girl has brought out insecurity in me like never before. In a split second, I wonder….

“Is it really that important? Are following the instructions really a big deal? I mean, we’re supposed to be having fun…right? What if I’m teaching her to hate learning? Should she be treated differently because of her emotional hang ups? Am I being too hard? Should I really lighten up? What is the right thing?”

But I know that following directions is the foundation for learning and until we “get” this, we can’t truly receive anything worth having. We can’t learn how to read…we can’t learn math…we can’t learn how to build a lego ship or put a dollhouse together or follow a recipe to its delicious end.

Following directions carefully and closely is the key that unlocks the treasure chests of life.

Isn’t this why God tells us to obey?

Where did we get the notion that we obey because He is mean and wants our robot-like performance and will strike us dead if we don’t? He asks our obedience not because He’s tired of a messy world and wants somebody to help keep things orderly. It isn’t because His name and reputation are at stake so we. better. behave. pronto!

No, it is because careful and close adherence to His instruction is the path to life. Joy. Fullness. It’s because He’s jealous for us to have that life.

As Little Bit glares at me, I long for her to understand this. As it is, she thinks I’m a mean mommy. She completely misunderstands my intentions whenever I give her instructions. She still doesn’t know my character. She doesn’t trust my intentions.

The Whisper fills my inner places and I know it’s true, how His children do the same. We want to color in the grass because we think our lives look prettier that way, and really, what’s the big deal? Or so we think. We don’t understand that life’s greatest things come through carefully following His plan, His ways that are in such contrast with ours.

Things like forgiveness.
Like humility.

Like generosity.

Like service and sacrifice and hidden-ness.

We would never color our own lives like that. And we will never learn advanced spiritual mathematics and practices without first learning to follow little, seemingly meaningless, instructions. “Don’t color the grass.” “Use a yellow crayon.” “Find the cat without a tail.”

How long will we continue believing that when He tells us “no” He’s just a big meany who wants us to suffer and who keeps good things from us?

Isn’t the opposite true? He tells us “no” because He wants us to learn to listen to His voice, trust His character, and move on to walking by faith through the spiritual realms. He wants us to live in the spiritual realm, a place we will never be able to understand, fathom, or live in apart from simple trust and obedience.

He wants us to stop our spiritual scribbling and start walking in the heavenlies.

He wants us out of Kindergarten.

We get there through following simple instructions.

I watch two daughters…one daughter is following instructions, learning letters, putting sounds together to make words; she will be reading soon. I see the other daughter glare at me every time I give the slightest command. She lags behind, mimicking sister but never really getting things for herself.

Which daughter am I, I wonder?


Which daughter are you?

Pssst…Do you know this secret?

What if… from now on, for the rest of your life, every time you sin, God says you are not under the law but under grace? No matter how many times it takes, no matter how old you are when you finally figure it out, no matter what the mistakes have been.

What if… God has already predetermined to forgive you. Period.

What if… you really are not in bondage to sin and self?

What if the gospel is really true and Christ really has paid it all and we really are totally and completely free?

We have permission to get back up.
We have permission to live holy.
We have permission to honor God with our bodies.

The gospel is true and we have permission. (See Romans 6)

{I needed to preach it to myself today. Maybe you do too?}

Out Of North Korea

 

 

Today is the release date for a book I recently learned about entitled
“Out of North Korea: A Korean Boy Tells His Rescue Story in Pictures.”

This is a “stirring story of a rescue you won’t hear about in the news, a true story about a boy you’ll never forget. To stay in North Korea meant starvation. To leave meant risk of capture, torture, and even execution by North Korean police.

“Gilsu, with his family, decided to risk his life and leave North Korea to seek food and freedom in China. His mother worked in China to provide food but was arrested at her work place and repatriated to a North Korean concentration camp. Devastated, fourteen year old Gilsu went back inside (North Korea) and frantically searched for his mother.

“Weeks later, he escaped out of North Korea a second time alone, brokenhearted and starving.  This time, only a miracle could save him.”

(Taken From book description)

In this book, co-authored by Hope Flinchbaugh and Jessica Austen, Gilsu tells his story in graphic pictures; this is a disturbing account, intended for adults only.

This important resource raises awareness to what the people of North Korea actually experience. It will equip the body of Christ to stand in the gap for those in desperate need. Consider prayerfully purchasing this book? A portion of the proceeds go to help those escaping North Korea.

I am… I AM

 

 

When I awake, old voices haunt.

They’ve been on the prowl, like mangy, hungry beasts just waiting for the moment of consciousness to arrive… then they lunge and sink fangs into one barely aware, one scarcely awake.

I’ve hardly a chance.

Even before eyes open, old messages are there, telling me who I am. Telling me what I’m worth. Telling me how I’ll live this day. They make predictions over me and rob the best of the day from me before I even get out of bed. They take from me life, all ability to impart nourishment and grace to my children. They rob me of warmth and blessing to give my husband.

Outside the sun is shooting orange rays across the sky. I hear finches as they flit about this wondrous day, joyously feasting on seeds they did not produce. Their provisions come from their Creator. They do not worry, just fly.

But to me, the day seems bleak. It stretches before me with foreboding and try as I might, I can’t will my eyes to see it differently.

I start to panic. Feel overwhelmed. Thing is, I’ve started countless days like this. I’ve also looked all over for answers. There have been many perks I’ve fallen back on through the years. Western lifestyles make these a normal part of our lives.

Yet I’ve finally accepted and embraced one simple truth: “You will keep her in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.”

“Get to Jesus,” I whisper to myself. “Just get to Jesus.”

But how does one really connect her heart to Christ? How does one latch on to the Vine and drink in its nourishment and receive its Life-blood poured out and abide in that place of protection and succor? I need to know because this is where I want to live, where I need to live.

In this, Moses mentors. He faced a day, a challenge, a task, a life purpose, far beyond himself. “Who am I?” he cried to the Lord.

“I AM,” God said.

That’s supposed to be sufficient. “I AM” is sufficient.

And like Moses, every time those inner voices say “look at what I am,” God says, “My child, that matters not! Look at what I AM.”

Inner voices say I am rejected…. but He says I AM Acceptor of the beloved, and I’ve given you a new identity and transferred you to the kingdom of my Son.

With each accusation, I AM is there to counter it.

I am abandoned…. I AM Father to the fatherless, who has taken you up

I am unworthy…. I AM Worthy, and have shed My Worthy blood on your behalf

I am unlovable…. I AM Love, who has wrapped you in everlasting love that cannot fail

I am beyond redemption… I AM Redeemer, who makes all things new and nothing is too difficult for Me

I am a failure… I AM Faithful, who will not allow your foot to stumble and I work all things to the good of those who love Me

I am a mess up… I AM in control

I am too sinful… I AM a friend of sinners and I came to seek and to save lost. It is the sick who need a Physician, not the well

I am unable… I AM able….and willing!

I am faltering… I AM your bread, take and eat! My body is broken and given for you!

My hungry, craving soul begins to take nourishment. The broken body, the blood freely spilled, it imparts life. Trembling, I reach out and lay hold. I bring to lips and swallow down and it is sweet to the taste, like manna.

“I am” thoughts are replaced with “I AM” thoughts and I am well.

Here I will stay.

 

The Way He Loves Me

 

Dark skies split open and thunder cracks loud, waking me up. By the time I get to the airport several hours later, the storm moving up the eastern coast has caused major disruptions to flights, including mine~ cancelled.

The airline re-routes me but another delayed flight means that I’ll likely be spending the night at the airport.

“There’s no other flight out to Memphis tonight,” the attendant tells me. “There’s a chance your connecting flight may also be delayed, but don’t get your hopes up. I’m reserving you a seat on the 6am tomorrow.”

I’m prepared to spend the night in the airport…but I’m not giving up yet.

I reach Cleveland. It’s 5:20 and my connecting flight leaves at 5:40, on a different airline, at a different terminal and I have no idea where to go to get there. It’s not looking good at all.

I’m standing there, looking around for departure information, trying to figure out where to go. Out of nowhere, a man is beside me. He’s carrying a bag and wearing a white “Continental Airlines” shirt. “Where are you headed?” he asks.

“I’m on Delta at 5:40,” I tell him.

“Alright, you’re going to need to go down these stairs and then walk down the people mover.” He’s not a chatter.

He is by my side, move by move. Each step of the way, he coaches me… down stairs, around corners, through construction areas, out of terminal D and into terminal A.

“Just keep walking,” his voice is behind me, urging me on, directing me where to go. We are running through the airport.

 He takes me straight to the gate. “Thank you, sir,” I tell him, near tears. “I’ve got 4 babies at home wanting to see their momma tonight and without you, I’d be sleeping here. God bless you.”

He nods and disappears. An angel.

The plane is already boarded. The jetway is closed. “Has Memphis departed?” I ask the attendant. He is processing the next flight: Houston.

“Yes ma’am,” He says. “But let me just check…”

The clock behind him reads 5:26 and says that gates will close 15 minutes prior to departure time.

Another attendant appears and I ask, “Is there anyway I can make this flight? If not, I sleep here…”  My voice trails off and I can see he is receptive. Here is another of Cleveland’s best, a young black man with the energy of my 8 year old son. He looks at me with favor, grace.

Gift.

“I don’t know if there is a seat left,” he tells me. “Let me run check…” Before he exits through the “Authorized Personnel Only” door, he turns back. “Come with me!” he says.

I grab my bag and run. Again.

We run down stairs and outside through the rain.

“Hey!!” He yells it up to the flight attendant on board, waving his arms to prevent the door from shutting.

I’m standing in the rain with my bag. I see the staircase at the open door and I know I’m on this flight. Thank God, I’m going to see those babies tonight.

He runs ahead and checks for a seat. There is a single, solitary one remaining onboard.

And it’s mine.

I thank another Cleveland angel and everyone is watching me as I pass to the back of the plane and I’ve never felt so loved in all my life.

I sit down next to a lady headed to Pheonix and I know my face is beaming. It’s gotta be.

“It’s a miracle you’re on here,” she tells me.

“I know,” I smile. “I know.”

All the way home the rain disappears and I look out over cloud formations of mountains and canyons and islands floating…and I bask in the provision He made and the strangers He touched for me to get home.

I think of all the years I felt unloved by Him. The years I wondered. The times even now I’m tempted to doubt.And I praise Him for the eyes to see His love for me. He was sent to give sight to the blind and today I see. Today I hear. Today I know….the way He loves me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Child’s Spiritual Markers

 

 

 

 

It is one of the greatest tangible gifts I ever expect to give my children and Today I’m at Raising Homemakers sharing about it. Preserving your child’s spiritual journey is easy!

I would love to “see” you there…

 

“Then the Lord said, “Write this in a book as a memorial…” Joshua 17:14

 

The Beautiful Wounded

 

 

The man, I notice him when he walks through the doors.

I’m placing toilet paper and laundry detergent on the conveyor belt of the local Dollar General. Before she even rings me up, there he is- in line behind me. He’s holding two quarts of car oil in his dark, worn hands.

I nod and smile and turn back to my cart and kids now bubbling all over the front area of the store.

He speaks to my inner place and I hear Him quiet, “This man needs to know I love him.”

“Okay, Lord,” I say. I turn back to the man with sunken face and smile again. “How are you today, sir?” I ask.

“Good, good, just hot.”

This is the South and it’s always the weather we fall back on when we talk small. Never mind the man is shrunk up to nothing, that his lip is bleeding, that his teeth are all gone, that he is literally wasting away for all to see...no, there is only the weather to tck tck at.

Youngest keeps reaching for the toys near the register and oldest is pushing on the cart to play with Little Bit inside. I’m trying to use coupons and pay the cashier and keep the buggy from running into my heels while instructing daughter to put that back already.

“Let me get out of this caldron first?” I ask Him as I grab my sacked paper goods and round the kids up and herd everything towards the door. Sometimes its all I can do to think straight.

We get outside and I park the cart.

 The man is already out the door and I try to bargain with God. “If he comes by here on his way to the car, then I’ll tell him.”

I glance around and notice he is already at his car- on the opposite side of the lot. He won’t be coming my way. A lost sheep has to be found. I’ll have to be a shepherd and leave the fold.

For a split second I consider forgetting it, going my way and excusing myself. But I don’t want to miss what God is doing, and I don’t want to quench that Voice, that Spirit that I crave so much in my life.

“C’mon, kids,” I round them up. “I want to go speak with this gentleman.”

They listen quickly. Grace.

I approach the man and his van. He’s got the front hood up and is pouring oil. “Sir?” I ask. “Do you need to make a phone call? I have a phone you can use.”

It feels so lame, so silly, so moronic. But it’s the opportunity given and I take it.

“Oh no ma’am.”

“Well are you from out of town? Is there something I can do to help?”

“I appreciate that, but no, I just need to put oil in every now and then. We live out in the Acres and we’re moving today to be near my brother.”

I glance inside the van and notice a woman in the passenger seat, window down, asleep.

“Well sir,” I turn back, “I just want to tell you that God loves you.” I reach out my hand and place it on his frail shoulder. “God loves you.”

We are strangers and I hope I’m giving dignity to the man and not taking it by being so bold as to touch him, but all I can think of is how Jesus touched the untouchables. Up close, the man’s bleeding lip reminds me of the leper. Or hepatitis. Sometimes the greatest way to love is to touch. 

“Yes, well….” the man trails off and shifts on his feet. He doesn’t know what to say to that.

I look back in the van again, trying to speak with the woman. I never want a woman to feel threatened by me, oh no, I’ll be quick to wash feet. 

The woman is still asleep. I am aware of the kids around my legs. “Momma, why did we come here to talk to this man?” Youngest daughter asks. The man is listening, probably wondering himself.

“Because God loves him and maybe he needs help and we can help him,” I tell her and glance at him too.  He’s wrapped up and ready to go. I turn to take the kids back across the lot when I hear the voice.

“Ma’am! Ma’am!” It’s a woman’s voice and I turn to see her awake and sitting up.

“Are you a believer too?” she asks. Ups and yells it out the window.

“Yes ma’am. I am,” I say.

She does a little jig in her seat and stretches her arms out the car window. “Oh! Oh!” She is downright giddy. “I am too! It’s so good to meet another believer!”

I walk over to her and take her hands in mine. I smile into her eyes. “Oh, it’s just so good to touch another believer,” she says.

She is as frail as her husband, but she’s beautiful. And witty. I know that maybe she’s strung out. Or maybe she’s trying to work me. Or maybe she’s a little off her rocker.

But what if she’s for real? What if she really has met Jesus and she doesn’t get the chance to go to church?

I squeeze her hands like there’s no tomorrow and we talk. She is visibly moved. I can’t believe this is put-on. Her husband, the man Jesus loves, is growing antsy. I’ve about worn out my Southern welcome.

“We’ve got to go, hon,” he tells her. I invite them to church tomorrow and we exchange names and she is such a beautiful Jan.

“Well let go of her,” beloved man tells her, already in reverse with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake.

“I’m trying,” she says and laughs, eyes twinkling.  We give one final squeeze and release each other.

“God loves you,” I tell her and she almost cries. We turn to leave and they pull away and I wonder what just happened.

I buckle the children in and as I pull out of the parking lot I ask Him, “Why is it that I feel such an affinity with people like these? Why do I feel such at home?”

I think of the Good Samaritan and I wonder if there was a reason why he stopped to help the wounded man. Had he been wounded at one time himself? Did he know? Did he serve from experience? And did the wounded man heal and go his way to help other wounded?

I wonder.

“That’s why,” He whispers to me. “You belong because you’ve been the one wounded and left for dead. And I saved you.”

And it is later, when others turn their nose at sordid past, don’t care to hear of dark nights and imperfect days, as if Barbie is real and makeup covers more than wrinkles… It is when others can’t see beauty in scars that He reminds me:

“It’s not the well who need a Physician, but the sick. I came to save sinners, not the righteous.” 

I ponder the man in John 5, who after he was made well tucked his invalid mat up under his arm and went his way. That mat, it was his past. He carried his scars as a reminder. He remembered what he had been. He remembered what Jesus had done. And he remembered those who still lay at the pool, waiting for Someone to pass their way.

And aren’t we His hands now? Aren’t we His feet? Aren’t we His body? Can we not go to the wounded and weak? 

Isn’t He within us compelling us to go?

I get on my knees and I thank Him for beautiful Jan, for marks and reminders, for nail scarred hands that reached and touched and anointed us to do the same, for imperfect days that remind me I’m the kind He came for.

The Beautiful Wounded.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Afford What Really Matters

We step over gooey gum in the parking lot. Oldest carries the sack lunch and everyone but Little Bit herds to my side of the van to get in.

I call for her to come join us. I buckle youngest into his seat and Little Bit still hasn’t shown up.

“Little Bit,” I call, “Come around to this side and I’ll help you get in.”

Nothing.

I’m afraid she’ll wander into the parking space adjacent us so I go to check on her and there she is, standing at the back of the car, eyes hard, arms tight. For reasons only known to her, she is threatened by my instruction to come to the other side and has decided to resist.

The sight of her standing there like that in full blown rebellion makes my blood boil just about instantaneously. Here we are trying to make a fun family outing and she wants to pull a rebel stunt in the middle of the parking lot over something absolutely inconsequential.

I want to reprimand her. I want to slather her in harsh words. I want to exercise my parental “rights,” and re-iterate my expectations. I want her to know it is unacceptable to ignore instruction and impolite to hold everyone up with her silly games.

I want her to pay for the interruption in our plans.

Except there is something else at work in me. Something that reminds me this way doesn’t work. Something that asks, “Is this really what you want?”

The flesh in me cries out for relief. Yes, it is what I want. I want to lash out and exact payment, all in the bounds and guise of correction of course.

I know this voice well. How often it tells me that I need to teach my children a lesson; that a few well placed, hard words will bend them to my liking and will prevent future mishaps; that in order to get the appropriate response I want, I must listen to my emotions, lay down the law. I surely must address this and nip it in the bud. If not, my child will run wild and I’ll never be able to “control” him or her again. I simply can’t afford anything other than strong armed parenting.

Except the voice has been proven a liar.

I’ve been down a parenting road or two that I don’t ever care to visit again.

This is one of them.

But how to find the way out? Because it is a dark road, not well marked, and finding your way back isn’t easy.

And just because I’ve learned that Shepherd’s staff trumps Egypt’s whip doesn’t mean I always know what the staff looks like…how it plays out from situation to situation. It can all be so frustratingly ambiguous. What exactly am I supposed to do?

The refrain echos from the chambers of my heart: “Live Loved,” it says once again.

“Be rooted and grounded in love, so that you may be filled up with the fullness of Christ. Be imitators of God, as dearly beloved children. That is, walk in love, just as Christ also loved you. Lay aside the old self and put on the new self.” Ephesians 3:17-19; 4:20-24; 5:1-2

Living loved is what enables one to give love. I can never muster up enough forgiveness, enough grace, enough kind words for parenting my children…unless I live in the love God has for me.

I can never deal well with life’s interruptions and little slights and rejections and hurts…never can I live humble and meek in a dog eat dog world… unless I live in the love God has for me.

But when I live loved, I can afford forgiveness. Generosity. Gracious Speech. Kind words overflowing.

I can afford to take a beating.

I can afford to suffer a wrong.

I can afford costly inconveniences and painful slights.

I can afford to lay down my life, quarter by quarter.

In fact, living loved is the only way I will ever be able to afford to give my kids the things that really matter.

I’ve tried holding it together myself, being a good mom, being morally and spiritually impeccable. And I’ve flat out failed so many times that I’ve come to the realization that I’ll never be my own Savior. It is not in trying harder and being more spiritual that I have a hope to be a better mom. No, only in receiving the Love He has for me do I have a hope of giving grace, pouring kindness, taking risks, letting go, bearing it all.

Isn’t this why both Colossians and Ephesians couch the “put off the old/ put on the new” passages with instruction to live as beloved of God?

It’s the only way to afford love: live loved.

“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (I John 4:12,16)

I stretch out my hand and take Little Bit’s. “Come on, Little Bit,” I tell her. “We are going to have a picnic and I need you to be my big helper. Can you do that?”

I lead her around from behind the van to the side door.

The flesh and the law hates to let go of the inner tirade it wants to spew out. But I see little lips tugging into a smile and I know I can afford oh, so much more. How well I’m loved!

“Silly ol’ girl!” I tell her and reach down to tickle her belly.

She laughs and I’ve just lived and given.

And deep within, I can almost feel Love being perfected.

 

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