Grab your FREE eBook and exclusive content for Subscribers only:

Subscribe

FREE eBook:

Subscribe

FREE updates delivered to your inbox

Subscribe

Don't Miss A Post!

Subscribe

Best of 2011: When you need a New You

I received many emails in response to this post. In different ways, many of us relate to the life-themes presented here. Thank God, who gives us all the same message of hope and restoration!

 

Five kids, one dirty dog, one messy house, and one demanding husband into life, she lost it.

Took her daughter to the ER one day ~ I remember sitting in the van while we drove her there ~ and she walked out of that ER loony.

She went missing and even after they found her and her frightened daughter, it took a while for us to really “find” her.

It was just like her mom before her…and her mom before her. Just like generations of moms past as far back as I can trace. I come from a long line of women who’ve up and gone crazy, lost their minds, gone stark mad.

It’s terrifying.

My own mom would use it as a weapon. “You remind me of your Aunt Levale,” she’d tell one of us, and it was meant to mark us, wound us.

It did.

I learned there were some hidden things, terrifying things, measures of darkness that no light could reach.

Hopelessness existed. And if I wasn’t good enough,  I just might be headed straight for it.

When this is the disease that runs through your blood, you start looking for answers. Oh sure, maybe there is a time when you’re optimistic. You think you’ve beat the odds. You’re young and strong and you’re sure you’re the one the infection won’t touch.

Then life piles up. The symptoms start showing up.

And shopping trips can’t cover it and friends can’t make it go away and make-up can’t camoflauge it and that last hope religion? Can’t fix it.

And then you know the truth. The truth that we can only pump through our veins the blood inherited from the forefathers and we’re all children of Adam and there is no one righteous and this disease, with the specifications of your lineage, it’s not going anywhere. It’s under the skin. It fills every cell. It’s you.

That’s when the question becomes “How are we going to deal with this?”

Strangely enough, it’s a question many Christians never get to. Rather, they spend their lives trying to treat or cover up the symptoms, stacking nightstands and filling ipods with strategies and tools to live the best life possible for whatever life remains.

We try to prove if only ~ finally ~ to ourselves, that infected blood hasn’t seeped all the way through. That we aren’t what momma said about us. We aren’t our worst fears. We aren’t “Aunt Levale.”

We’re going to make it.

There’s good news and bad news. The bad news? It’s that bad. It isn’t a nightmare and it isn’t Aunt Levale anymore, it’s you.

The good news? “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Jesus, Mark 2:17)

And there is One Name given among men by which we must be saved. ONE NAME (and it isn’t the name of our best loved authors, teachers, friends, or pastors, by the way.)

He didn’t come to salvage our lives. He came to give us new blood altogether.

Someone give me a breathing mask because I’ve got to start gulping new life in. I need the blood transfusion ASAP.

And it strikes me one day, why so many of God’s people never breathe it in. Why we never let the Physician do the full work He offers us: Some of us are content to stay on the other side of the Jordan.

Like the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manassah, we are happy with the land just short of the Promised Land. (Josh. 22:1-4)  We decide our symptoms aren’t that bad, the prognosis is tolerable, and there are far fewer risks involved. Who wants to spend their whole lifetime fighting to gain territory, anyway?

We’ll settle for stuffed bookshelves and too-busy lives and the intake of so much caffeine that it needs it’s own budget….we’ll take what we can get and make the best of it.

But then there’s folks like me, folks so sick with the sin-disease that you puke it all over your kids. Daily. hourly. Some days you can’t even get your emotional self out of bed you’re so sick, can’t plug in to the life around you. And you know you’re infecting everyone in your path.

Something’s got to be done. There’s not enough caffeine and the workbooks leave empty and you’re so worn and weary of performing. So you stop pretending and you decide, even if it kills me, I’m crossing that Jordan.

Those people of God who stay on the other side of the Jordan have just as much of God as I do. They are not inferior or unloved. They may even be able to make a nice little picket fence life for themselves.

But crossing the Jordan? Well, that’s God’s plan all along and the Promised Land is “God’s land” and I want all, every little bit, of what He intended. (Josh 22:19)

The truth is, I can’t survive on the other side of the Jordan.

My blood runs too perverted, my resources too few, my prognosis too bad. I’ve either got to enter in or die in the wilderness.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

 

If it’s the Father’s good pleasure (and it is) then why shouldn’t I enter in?

There is no real good reason.

Because even when the darkness is  within your own soul, pumping through your own veins, under your own skin, He says He’ll give you the kingdom and the kingdom is within you.

.And I get it: There is no such place as hopeless.

There is no darkness impenetrable, even when it’s within.

Even when there are giants bigger than Aunt Levale in my promised land. It’s my land, not theirs.

And the King, the One by whom comes salvation, has just declared war.

 

Related Posts: Injecting Mud

How to Really Change

Best of 2011: What if I’m an Esau?

This was one of the most visited pages this year. If you relate to being an Esau, my prayer is that you find comfort in the character of our God.

 

“We’re sending you guys to a bed and breakfast for two nights… will even take care of childcare too.”

Our pastor told us this three weeks ago and we were shocked and delighted and so Friday we dropped the kids off and packed our suitcase and drove an hour to the B&B.

It was while standing in the kitchen with our host, Eric, that we knew. We weren’t here simply for a getaway. God had sent us on a mission.

“My friend Woody is here,” Eric told us. “We won’t get in your way. He stopped by here to say goodbye…he’s on his way out to the mountains of Colorado. He’s got hot spots all over his body and he’s headed out there to die. Alone in the Colorado mountains.”

We tried to connect with Woody all day Saturday.  Mr. Woody made himself scarce.

Come Saturday night, we ordered Chinese take-out and sat on the bed with paper plates and chopsticks and talked about what we should do. “I say let’s go down and just tell them we don’t believe in coincidence and ask to pray for each of them and see what the Lord does,” I suggested.

My husband, he’s more direct. His fire is burning and he wants to just go down with his Bible and lay it all out.

Either way, if we want to talk to Woody, we’re going to have to be obvious and direct. No casual, “natural” opening is happening.

We finish up takeout with fortune cookies and husband cracks open his cookie and reads, “Don’t wait for others to open the right doors for you.” We laugh. There you have it, we have to go knock on some doors. The fortune cookie said so! {smile}

We go downstairs with our Bible tucked under arm and they aren’t inside and the two men are outside talking where it’s dark and cold …and we go out and chat and ask if we can share breakfast with them in the morning because we’d like to pray with them and talk to them about God.

Um hum. We did.

They said sure and it was clear they were just being polite and we wonder if Woody will really show up at the breakfast table. Did we do the right thing?

8:30 Sunday morning the four of us sit down together for breakfast.

“This is only the third or fourth time I’ve ever sat down with guests,” Eric tells us and we share some missionary stories and language blunders and we all laugh pretty good.

Then we get down to business. We ask Woody about his relationship with Jesus.

“You know,” he begins. “I used to have faith. But some things happened in my life that made me wonder if what I had was real. People done me wrong…I’ve lost absolutely everything. The only thing I have left is a guitar and my old truck…and now I have to sell my guitar.

He continued.I read through the Bible in search of some foundation…I needed to know if what I thought I had was real. I came to conclude that I don’t have real faith.”

What he said next caused my eyes to well up and I didn’t really fight against it because it was the love of Christ within me coming out and didn’t he need to see it?

“I think I’m one of those that have to be slaughtered for someone else to be saved. You know…like in the book of Job, all his children were killed for Job to see and know God better. God’s going to do what God wants to do and I’m one not intended for His blessing.”

“I’m okay with that if that’s the way it’s supossed to be.”

…And my heart is shattered and I can’t believe what I’m hearing…

“I’m not one of the elect,” he says.

Eric chimes in. “I feel the same way,” he says. “What if I’m an Esau? You know, ‘Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated.’”

And husband turns to me and says, “Do you want to share anything?”

Yes, I do want to say something. It’s burning within me. It’s so close to my heart that I’m breathing shallow and my pulse is pounding and oh, I get this.

“There’s a reason he asked if I want to say something,” I begin, breathless.

“It’s because he knows I’ve struggled with the same things.” And I wonder how I can boil everything down to a simple conclusion. How can I talk about stumbling and distrust and wondering if God really loves you…about dark nights when you think you had something with God and then you are shaken to the core and you wonder if you were ever founded on the right foundation?

I take a deep breath. Everyone is looking at me. The weight of responsibility for my words is heavy on my shoulders. How can I ever say the right thing?

“The conclusion I’ve come to is this,” I tell them. “It comes down to knowing and trusting the character of God.”

They’ve read the Bible before, so I explain. “You know John the Baptist? How he spent his entire life preaching Jesus and then he was arrested? And while he was in prison, waiting for his head to get cut off, he sent friends to ask Jesus, “Are you really the One?”

“His faith was shaken to the core. He was doubting and in a very stormy place.

“What Jesus said is very interesting.  He told John to evaluate things on the basis of scripture, not circumstance. But then He said something very important and insightful. He said, “Blessed is the one who does not stumble on account of Me.”

“And I looked up that word “stumble” and did a word study on it, because that’s where I was at: a doubting, stormy, afflicted place in my faith.

“And this is what I found that changed everything for me…”

{Click here for Part II of our conversation }

Best of 2011: You’ve Got a Friend

This post tells the powerful story of love and forgiveness. If you are looking at reading some life-changing books during 2012, make sure you add The Heavenly Man to your list. Also, check out ‘The Bookshelf” for other reading recommendations.

 

When I shook his hand back in early ’02, I had no idea that needles had been shoved under those fingernails, that an electric baton had been placed in his mouth, that he’d shrunk up so small his own family didn’t recognize him.

It was his mother who finally confirmed his identity through a tiny birthmark on his shriveled, malnourished body.

Husband and I were standing in the parking lot of the missionary training center. “They are headed to your country,” our mutual friend said and a translator interpreted the introduction. Husband and I beamed, fresh and inexperienced, ready to change the world for Jesus’ sake. Ready to forsake it all. Ready to give our lives.

I had no earthly idea that I should have dropped to my knees right then and there and washed this man’s feet.

He shone Jesus. He oozed Jesus. He was filled with the joy of the Lord.

It wasn’t until later that I read his story, an absolute incredible story of a life filled with Jesus and poured out for Jesus and used by Jesus so powerfully and I couldn’t put the book down!

It was in those pages that I read of Brother Yun and a crazy man named Huang:

One morning the director of the prison called me to his office. He courteously offered me a cup of tea and asked me to sit on a soft chair. He said, “Yun, I know you believe in Jesus. Today I’ve decided to give you a special assignment.”

I thought he was going to ask me to report on other prisoners, but the director continued, “In cell number nine is a murderer named Huang. Every day he tries to kill himself. He is crazy and tries to bite the other prisoners. We’ve decided to send him to your cell. From now until the day he is executed we want you to watch over him and make sure he doesn’t harm himself or the other prisoners. If you don’t remain alert, and he kills himself, we will hold you fully accountable.”

When I heard this news I immediately felt Huang was a precious soul the Lord had given us to rescue.

When Huang was brought into our cell the next morning, I thought he was like the man possessed by a legion of demons, in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Mark. He was handcuffed behind his back and had chains manacled around his ankles. He spoke filthy words and kept trying to mutilate his body by cutting himself with his ankle chains. He was ferocious and full of hatred, and just 22 years old.

In cell number 9 the prisoners had treated him like an animal, kicking and punching him. They’d refused to feed him for days. Instead, they mocked him by deliberately pouring his food over him. His clothes were covered with food stains.

One day, out of sheer desperation and pain, Huang waited until nobody was watching and rammed his head into the wall as hard as he could, in a bid to kill himself. He survived, but left a dent in the wall.

…For many days he had not washed because of his chains, so he smelled terribly. Because of the love of God in our hearts, we loved Huang. The cell mates pointed to me and told him, “This is Yun. He is our leader and a Christian pastor. Do not fear. We will take care of you.”

I asked everyone to give Huang some of their precious drinking water. We filled a basin and I carried it to Huang’s side. I tore off part of my shirt and dipped it in the water. Then I gently cleaned the dirt and dried blood from his face and mouth.

After drying his face I tore off part of my blanket and cleaned the cuts formed by his handcuffs and foot chains. I used a little toothpaste to disinfect his raw wounds, then carefully bandaged them.

Huang didn’t say a word. He just sat there with his eyes wide open and stared at everyone. I knew the Lord was already touching his heart.

At lunchtime we each gave some of our rice to our new cell mate. I used a spoon to feed Huang…

Dinner that evening happened to be the time for our weekly mantou (a small piece of steamed bread). All the brothers looked at me. I knew they were so hungry. I told them, “Today we’ve already shared our rice and water with our new friend Huang, so we can eat our own mantou tonight, but I hope you’ll share some of your soup with him tomorrow.”

I fed Huang first and then started to eat my own meal.

When I took the first bite of my mantou I felt like crying. A tender voice welled up inside me, saying, “I died for you on the cross. How can you show me that you love me? When I am hungry, thirst, and in prison, if you do these things to the least of my brethren, you do them unto me.”

Immediately I knew God wanted me to sacrifice what was left of my mantou and give it to Huang. I bowed down and wept. I said, “Lord, I’m also starving. I feel so hungry.

A Scripture from the Bible came to mind, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35)

I wrapped the rest of my mantou in a handkerchief and placed it inside my clothes, saving it for Huang. Immediately peace and joy returned to me.

The next morning’s breakfast consisted of watery noodle soup, containing just a few strands of noodles. We all shared with Huang, but he wasn’t happy even with his larger portion so he shouted to the guard, “I’m going to die! Why don’t you give me a good sized meal? Are you trying to starve me before you execute me?”

Right then the Lord told me, “Hurry, take the mantou from your shirt and feed him.” With my back turned towards Huang I broke the bread and placed the pieces of mantou in his soup bowl. Immediately Huang’s stony heart broke.

Huang dropped off his chair, knelt down on the floor, and wept. He said, “Older brother, why do you love me like this? Why didn’t you eat your bread last night? I am a murderer, hated by all men. Even my own parents, my brother and sister, and my fiance have disowned me. Why do you love me so much?”

I knew this was the time the Lord wanted me to share the gospel with him. This hardened criminal tearfully accepted the love of Jesus into his heart.

~From Brother Yun’s biography The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun, one of those books that will change your life. Brother Yun also tells what happened to Huang after he received Jesus. Truly amazing.

 

And this man reminds me of the tender love of Jesus and how we are to owe no man anything but love and do I love like that? Do I allow myself to be loved like that, to know the love of Jesus that deep?

To experience the deep, tender, passionate love of Jesus means I allow Him to use my body as His means of expression, as the vehicle of His demonstration. “God is love and the one who abides in love abides in God and God in him. By this, love is perfected…” I John 4: 16-17

Perhaps my body goes hungry. Perhaps my body grows tired. Perhaps my arms ache and my feet blister and my heart hurts. By choosing to love, God’s love is perfected in me.

So when I hear of a mom and son in our area for medical observation, I jump at the chance to be His hands, His feet, His expression of love. Will He really allow me to play such a part? Amazing! 

It’s not much, but it’s a Holy Spirit prompting and I follow it. I print the card and glue it onto construction paper and write on it, “You’ve got friends in Memphis.” And I attach it to cookies and deliver it so they know that Jesus is with them and Jesus people are here for them and even if they are far from home they are never far from His arms and we are ready to make sure they don’t ever forget.

So I want to say the same to you, dear reader: “You’ve got a friend.” Jesus is with you and Jesus people are here for you and even when it seems like you’re all alone, the love of Christ is there, compelling another to express His love to you.

You are loved and you’ve got a friend.

Can I express it to you, dear friend? Here, take my mantou and know the love of Christ…

 

Best of 2011: 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.

 

For the rest of this week, I will share some favorite posts from 2011. These are some of the most commented on or most shared.

The Gift

For five long years it sat on a shelf in the closet.

Amidst shoes and winter sweaters and baby clothes, its bright pieces beckoned a child, promised cheerful play.

Except the children were all gone and there was no one to notice a simple 8 piece track with matching bus the color of sunshine.

Then, Christmas 2010, the family returned! From travels and adventures spanning the world, they returned to this place for the holidays. This is the place they call “home.”

After the children are in bed, we visit the closet in Grandma’s house, sorting through stored belongings and taking out old toys that will be re-wrapped and discovered all over again this Christmas.

We find the sunshine set and I lock the pieces in place while husband finds a screwdriver to bring life to the matchbox-car sized school bus.

But when a new battery is inserted and the switch turned on…nothing.

Our hearts sink at the ending of the toy that brought firstborn son so much joy. “He played with this set for hours,” Husband says, and I nod sadly and finger the small bus.

“I wonder if they could just push the bus?” I mutter it as I place the bus on the board to see if it would work.

My fingers feel the familiar curves; my eyes imagine a little boy’s laugh as I push the bus around the track time after time. When I stop, the bus rolls just a split second…then keeps on going!

The wheels have come to life and what I thought was a thing of the past is new and moving and real and will be the joy of not one little boy on Christmas morning but 4 little ones, eager to have a turn arranging the pieces and seeing little bus go.

Something inside me awakens too.

It has been many long years since I dared to go there. It has been stored away, placed up amidst other memories and seasons gone by. It was a nice thought… once. A noble idea, a soul dream….but I moved on. I had to. Life didn’t have room for me to take it along, like an overstuffed suitcase. Dreams had to stay behind, parked on a shelf in a closet far, far from me.

And when I chanced upon the dream again, I fondly fingered its beauty, remembered with bitter sweetness its joy and awe. But it doesn’t work now. It can’t. It’s a thing of the past and cannot be resurrected to fit my present.

Except suddenly, when the wheels of the sunbeam bus are nudged and encouraged, Divine fingers seem to reach down and nudge and encourage the place of dreams in me.

And just as little bus drives around track on its own, awakened again by fresh power and a little coaxing to un-freeze his wheels, so the message reaches my heart: in its time, the dead can come to life.

Isn’t this what Christmas is about?  “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son…”

Years and years of waiting…of wondering, “Is this the One?”…of longing…of finally closing the book for 400 years and placing it on a shelf in the closet of silence.

Until…

The time had come.

The darkness behind earth’s closet doors pierced through as the Light of the world opened the womb of a woman.

Hands that Created brought Life to us and what we once thought dead and hopeless and just a dream of the past became living and real and not just for us to open but for a whole world to receive and awe over and find joy in.

The time has come. For you.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.

Today is the day of the Lord’s favor. Today is the day of salvation. Today.

Heaven has come down. Life has been given. Today is the day. Rejoice!

And like the wheels on little yellow bus, we can come to life.

We can Come to Life.

 

{Repost from last year, still living alive!}

Are you encouraged here? You can receive free updates by clicking here

When Love Needs Skin

“How is it that you are so crazy about me?” I ask him.

I marvel at the love of a man for a woman. He could have anyone he wanted, but he wants me.

“You’re my bride!” He exclaims. “Any man who isn’t crazy about his bride has one of two problems: He either married the wrong woman or he isn’t right with God.”

We laugh a happy laugh that we married “right” and I fall in love again with his uncomplicated outlook, his straight forward and un-reserved passion that doesn’t get tangled up in all of life’s “what if’s.” To him, a man loves his woman wild and there’s something wrong if he doesn’t.

I still wonder at this kind of love when I arrive at church and the service begins~ I’m alone this morning, my Wild husband insisted on being the one to stay home with the sick children. I settle into my seat and hear again of the Savior who took on flesh, indwelt a body marked for death, because of crazy love for me.

I marvel still, trying to grasp it.

Then. I hear of Dr. Orlando, a man from Chicago who was in a car accident one night while with his wife. He was uninjured but his wife was severely hurt and needed an immediate skin graft in order to prevent infection.

When they arrived at the hospital, there was no skin donor available, so Dr. Orlando of course volunteered his own skin.

When they got to the OR however, there was no doctor available to do the procedure…but him.

So he prepared for surgery, took the scalpel, and with no anesthesia for himself, took graft after graft of his own skin to heal his wife’s injuries.

As his skin peeled and his blood flowed, the nurses and staff assisting him in the OR wept…but Dr. Orlando could not afford tears for his own pain. His agenda was his wife.

Steadily he worked until the procedure was done and everything had been supplied for his wife who desperately needed help.

Why would somebody do that?

Because it’s the way a man loves his woman.

And why would God peel back the glory of heaven and put on the skin of a man? Because of love, the love of God-man for His bride. For didn’t He take on skin so that He could give it up for the healing of His bride? And didn’t it “please the Father to bruise him?” And didn’t He, for the joy set before, endure the cross and despise the shame and reach down and peel back the flesh?

And isn’t it by His own stripes and wounds that I am healed from the curse and consequence of sin?

He went to the uttermost, all the way, loved to the very end, until He was able to say “It is finished” and only then did He bow His head and give up His spirit.

So I could be helped. Healed.

Redeemed. Salvaged. Restored.

LOVED.

The Lamb, slain before the foundation of the world, was given out of love…for me. For you. For us, His bride.

“How can God be so crazy about me?” I wonder.

Then it hits me. This question assumes His love is somehow associated with my worthiness. But just as my husband’s love is no credit to me but to him…he is no boy with immature feelings…he is no half-man who loves for self-profit…he is a man who has moved beyond childishness, who knows how to love another and does it well…

So it is with God.

God’s love for us was never intended to be to our credit, but His. This wild, heart thumping love that pushes to the most drastic of measures is a reflection of the Giver, not the taker.

He is God and there is none like Him.

He loves lavish. He loves tender. He loves softly, madly. He woos and whispers. He sings and dances. He hides expressions of His love throughout our days for us to discover. He pursues and beckons, He invites and waits.

He is God and there is none that loves like Him and it is impossible for anything to separate us from His love.

His love is a credit to His God-ness and I would be a fool to persist in trying to understand why He loves someone like me.

So I’ll just believe it. Embrace it. Tell Him “YES!”

I’ll delight in waking up to His warmth each day, in finding and opening His daily gifts.

And I’ll whisper to Him, “You love me so well. Can we do that again? I think I’m learning how to love You back…Shall we practice some more?”

I’ll love Him because He first loved me. Together, we’ll dance the dance of Lovers.

{Repost from the archives}

Encouraged here? You can receive updates automatically by subscribing to this blog  

 

How Christmas Comes

Her words fall soft in my inbox, “Can we bless you?”

I’ve never met her and her husband, just swapped emails every now and again, two sisters sharing virtual hugs. But when the words flutter soft, I suddenly know what Christmas means.

I know Christ all over again.

Christmas is Christ, the expression of God’s goodwill towards men.

Christ, the gift that cleared up any misconceptions about His intentions toward us.

How else would He prove to a world gone dark and spinning out of control that He hadn’t given up on us? That He had a plan and everything really was under control after all and we could finally believe that His intentions are safe?

His intentions are safe!

So the Son came as a baby.

Hasn’t it been said that the most vulnerable place to be is in the womb of a woman? And to prove His desire for us, His willingness to forgive, His undaunted love towards us… He shot His only Son out like an arrow, pierced the womb of a woman, and became the weakest, most vulnerable among us.

This is how Christ comes.

And with that, the bruised reed need not fear that He will break them. The smoldering wick need not fear that He will snuff them out. We can finally, fully trust because He has lavishly, extravagantly, extrovertedly proven His love.

This I see as one woman takes on the form of Christ and becomes His ministering hands and feet. She becomes weak so that I may become strong. She gives so that I may not be in want.

Surely Christ is with us, wooing and calling and giving and asking us to become like Him so that we can become His expression to another: “Fear not! I’ve good news from God. His intentions towards you are good! You can finally trust and be at peace.” 

 

Thank you to each dear reader who has blessed me with kind words, link backs, shares, and faithful readership this past year. May the words shared here on Arabah be a gift of grace to you, an expression of love from the Father. Much love, Arabah

If you would like to receive updates automatically, you can subscribe to this blog (it’s free) by clicking here.

Five Principles for Staying Nourished in Hard Times

 

 

Life presses in and the cold does too and I can feel my bones turning brittle.

I know it’s coming, that driving bitter wind, so I stop by the local Walgreens and buy tubes of lotion while they are on sale.

I smile because it reminds me that women throughout the ages have used lotions and oils to keep soft and healthy. It reminds me too of the wise virgins who kept oil in their lamps. Buying lotion certainly does not make me wise…yet isn’t it the wise woman who recognize the season for oil, the time for extra kneading, for keeping things supple and soft?

Everyone in our home needs the extra touch. I’m the momma and momma sees these things and momma knows we are getting brittle, drying up, needing some oil.

And like the widow in Elijah’s day, it’s always momma who keeps the oil jar.

Momma has to know how to stay soft. She’s gotta know how to keep the bones strong and the spirit supple.

While the little ones sleep, this momma studies in the morning hours and takes notes on how to knead the hearts and souls of her children, husband, and self. Oh, the oil is rich and the notes, they become five principles for staying well watered and supple (click each link for more):

1. Live counter-intuitively (Keep Pouring Out)

2. Guard your heart and don’t be your own naysayer!

3. Trust instead of stress

4. Forgive…and Keep on Forgiving!

5. Sow Kindness, especially when you feel like using force, control, or harsh words

 

The dry, cold season is here but I’m armed with my oil. When the joints ache and bones resist and the skin thickens, I pull out the principles. What ingredient needs to be poured out for softening the heart? Which lotion will work best?

I take up the oil of truth and I knead.

 

Lessons from the Year of Conquest

“Mom, why did Gideon not want to trust God?” Sunshine girl asks while I’m trying to get the printer installed and working.

“Well, because he was scared,” I tell her.

“But why was he scared? Is it because he thought he was going to have to fight all those people in the army down there?” 

She pauses then she says is straight out:  ”But really all he had to do was blow his horn.”

I turn to stare at this little girl. Yes, that’s it exactly. We think we have to be the Victorious One when all we really have to do is blow the horn, raise the banner, call on our God and step out in faith.

The battle never did belong to us.

How we fall prey to our own fear. The secret is knowing that victory is ours…but it isn’t up to us.

Victory is a gift, granted us by the Victor.

And didn’t pastor just preach this on Sunday? That our greatest and last enemy is death and even that will be defeated? And Jesus, He lets Jairus experience the death of his daughter so that He could show us all what to think about this great enemy of ours.

Past the weeping, the wailing, the hopelessness and unbelief…Jesus enters the room and shuts it all out and He speaks tender words of endearment: “Little lamb, get up!”

And pastor says that term would be like us saying to a daughter, “Sweetie pie” or “Honey”… and how Jesus didn’t say strong words like “Come forth!” but soft ones, like He was waking her up.

“Sweetie pie, wake up. It’s time for breakfast.”

This is how our Savior faces down death.       Glory be.

What a mighty King we have, what an awesome God we serve, what a glorious Savior we’ve been given! HE is our victory.

Yet there are the moments before the conquest, before the victory, before the resurrection. These moments have to be lived, and how?

The same way Jesus urged Jairus to live his “in between” moments: “Do not fear any longer. Only believe.”

For the just shall live by faith.

It has always been this way, the call to faith.

The invitation has been given to turn our eyes away from the current reality, away from ourselves, and focus on the Word breathed out. Let Him hold our confidence.

There comes a time when He tells us to set aside our fear and take hold of faith. Because He goes before us to the battle ground and needs only say to the enemy there, “Sweetie pie, it’s over. Let’s go eat now.”

Our job is always, only, to simply trust that He’ll do what He said and that He is who He says He is.

This, the Year of Conquest, has taught me Victory comes through trust.

And trust goes out and blows some horns.

So Sweetie Pie, get up. We’ve got some horns to blow and besides, breakfast is ready.

Q4U: What is your greatest enemy right now?

What does God say about it? (Hint: You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength!)

How can you step out in faith and blow a horn?

 

 Are you encouraged here? You can subscribe for free updates by clicking here.

What if Jesus Really Is Among Us?

The Furman family goes up front to light the Hope candle and Little Bit squirms in her seat beside me.

We read aloud of a baby born, one who had no form or beauty that we should desire Him. One whom men hid their faces from.

He was Despised and Rejected.

“Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?” Isaiah wrote it and I wonder it.

We all stand to sing, us all dressed in our Sunday best, heels and ties and I can almost see it stretched into our faces: We think we would do much better. We would welcome Him and serve Him and celebrate Him. We would honor Him as rightful King.  We would not treat our Precious Savior so.

Yet behind our exteriors, I feel the pain of hidden faces, faces turned from deep pain and need. I feel the rejection of one having no form or beauty. I enter the vulnerability of weakness. And aren’t I acquainted with being passed over, of not making the cut?

I glance at Little Bit. She sits there in her black velvet dress, hair flowing and blending and sticking up just a bit with static.

We are like black sheep, I think.

I think of the cardboard box she was found in, the umbilical cord severed and pulsing fresh. Cut off and Despised. Rejected. Passed over.

And it strikes me…what if Jesus always comes just as this? Weak and without beauty?

And why do I tend to look for Him among the stately?

“By oppression and judgement He was taken away,” we read the words, but I can hardly voice them.

This is how we treat Jesus?

“He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.”

“Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.”

And I think He is right here, sitting beside me.

Jesus amongst us.

Doesn’t His name mean God with us and isn’t He close to the brokenhearted and doesn’t He say that when we do something to the least of these, we’ve done it unto Him?

How have I been treating Jesus?

The vulnerable child…the unlovely teenager…the obnoxious family without form or beauty…those with no fancy presentation, no black velvet dresses.

Have I been seeking Him at the Inn when He’s in the stable?

It’s not going to win me popularity or acceptance or an easy life, this seeking Jesus among the beasts and straw and dung.  Staying at the Comfort Christian Inn with all its safety and amenities would be so much easier.

But He’s not there.

I see Little Bit coloring in her seat. I see all her un-lovelies, the rejection that has scarred and marked and distorted. And I see Jesus.

I’m like Mary, birthing the Divine in the stench and cold of a barn. There are no fancy fixins…but there is Immanuel. And being given the opportunity to nurture and love the least of these, the weak and unlovely? Well it’s the opportunity to love and serve Jesus Himself.

For this is how He comes.

I set my Bible down and pull Little Bit into my lap. I wrap my arms around her tight and whisper into her hair. “I love you.” I say it fierce. “You are a precious girl and I’m so glad to have you.” She makes a loud, obnoxious noise right there in church and I just squeeze tighter.

I am in the stable and Jesus is among us.

Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

~Isaiah 53

 

Are you encouraged here? You can subscribe for free updates to this blog by clicking here. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...