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Putting Down the Gun

gun

 

 

 

 

gun

 

 

I’ve been totin’ a gun.

It’s actually been part of my daily garb for many years,  tucked away just out of sight.

But I have a little problem. You see, I’ve been trying to get rid of the gun. How do you ditch a gun? I mean, I could just put it in the garbage, but that doesn’t seem safe or practical. Plus, you don’t just put guns in the garbage unless you need to be arrested for something.

Perhaps a couple of monks can help you understand my predicament. These monks live in Snowmass, Colorado at the St. Benedict’s Monastery and one day, an unnamed monk was working alone in the vegetable garden.

A second monk happened upon the first and tells the story: “I squatted down beside him and said, “Brother, what is your dream?”

He just looked straight at me. What a beautiful face he had.

“I would like to become a monk,” he answered.

“But brother, you are a monk, aren’t you?”

“I’ve been here for 25 years, but I still carry a gun.” He drew a revolver from the holster under his robe. It looked so strange, a monk carrying a gun.

“And they won’t… are you saying… they won’t let you become a monk until you give up your gun?”

“No, it’s not that. Most of them don’t even know I have it, but I  know.”

“Well then, why don’t you give it up?”

“I guess I’ve had it so long. I’ve been hurt a lot, and I’ve hurt a lot of others. I don’t think I would be comfortable without this gun.”

“But you seem pretty uncomfortable with it.”

“Yes, pretty uncomfortable, but I have my dream.”

“Why don’t you give me the gun?” I whispered. I was beginning to tremble.

He did, he gave it to me. His tears ran down to the ground and then he embraced me.”

 

~~Monk story from Ruth Haley Barton’s book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry“~~

 

Ruth Barton goes on to say, “Most of us have a gun- some way of protecting ourselves and making ourselves feel safe, hidden, under the robe…Holding on to our self-protective patterns is one manifestation of our unwillingness to surrender ourselves to God for the journey that is ahead.”

I know it. I mean, I really know it.

My gun, my self protection, is what’s hindering God’s work in and through my life.

And though I’ve been a Christian for a long time…even taken some risks… left home to live my life working overseas...I still carry a gun.

I’ve known the problem of my self protection for some time. In fact, the monk story has been sitting in my drafts since 2/25/12, waiting for the right moment to be shared.

I’ve struggled hard to put the gun down.  The sad truth is that I’ve not been willing to take the risk required. Give up the control I hold so desperately to.

Maybe I’ve been waiting for some dramatic moment, some monumental point of decision, like when God touched the blind man’s eyes and he was healed of his infirmity.

Self protection is an infirmity.

Some of us know that. Some of us see how the disease has manifested itself in our relationships.

It isn’t pretty.

But Jesus didn’t always heal the same way. For these, he told them to go. Go in obedience, in faith, taking one step after the other in the direction of holiness. They were healed, not instantaneously, but as they went.

And I’m pretty sure that’s where God wants for me to go. Down the foot path. One foot in front of the other, pushing through the fears, doubts, pain, one step at a time.

I’ve been putting it off long enough.

It sort of reminds me of Pikes Peak. I’ve been there a few times. I’ve driven up the thing and for a girl from the flatlands, it was a frightening drive to be sure. I’ve taken the tram up. Beautiful and scenic. But I’ve never walked up. That’d be hard. Risky, even. And certainly not quick. The view at the top is the same either way. But for those who’ve climbed, the scenery is sweetened by the victory of the journey, the sense of accomplishment, the fellowship, the win.

I could get the workbook on overcoming self protection. I could do the bible study, take the tram up. And I could laugh shallow and say I’ve been up Pikes Peak.

But I do believe God is gracious enough to tell some of us there isn’t the direct route plan in our trip agenda. There is no instantaneous healing, no quick fix. The is no car, no tram.

There’s something better. There’s ownership. There’s a hard climb and each step is a victory and there’s this sharing in his cross and crown.

Yeah, there’s fellowship.

Maybe that’s what the self protective heart needs more than anything.

Intimacy. Finally.

So I’m on the journey, the difficult foot path. And my loving husband told me, “Why don’t you take Complete and do the 21 day journey and apply it to this area of self-protection? I’ll help you.”

And at first I balked because that just would be over the top and what if I can’t? And what if it doesn’t work? What if it’s too demanding and how will I know what to do? And a thousand other what ifs. Can you believe that? How audacious I am?

Of course I must do it!

Last night Jackson and I stayed up late talking about it. Self protection is THE thing that is standing between me and my promised land. I simply cannot run from it any more.

So friends, I’m doing something very scary. I’m publicly declaring war on the giant in my land. Yes, I’m trembling in my boots. When it comes down to it, I’m no Caleb. And yet I do know without a doubt that the Lord has given me this land; and not only that, He has graciously given me a battle plan specific for this: Isaiah 58.

If I’m sporadic around here over the next few weeks, it’s because I’m camped out on the mountain somewhere in the wild. Living this thing out with God. Battling the giant. Living Complete.

It’s time.

Oh, how it’s time.

{I anticipate having lots to share~ wink~}

Newtown, Orphans, and Where is God?

 

 

The bus swerved on the mountain road and I looked straight down from my window seat to see sheer drop. Nothing but mist lay beneath us. We were mere centimeters from death.

Mountain climbers call this exposure, the condition of “being on high vertical rock with full consciousness that nothing exists between you and the distant ground but thin air.”

And there are times in one’s life when you come into full consciousness, when you know nothing exists between you and death but the invisible sustaining of God….

 

The orphanage jutted from the side of the mountain and as we climbed the steps to enter, I saw faces of the children peeking out from behind doors.

We spread food out on tables. Children ran up to snake packages of cookies, crackers, and candy into their pockets. Some sat down to eat the fried chicken we brought, others just horded, waiting for their own private feast.

All the children but one had special needs. The healthy children get adopted out to homes around the world. The rest stay behind.

“If you have any language ability,” the director of the trip tells us, “please spend time talking with the children.”

That’s me. I’ve worked hard to learn this difficult language. The thought crosses my mind:

“What if I’ve learned this language for a time such as this? To communicate the love of Christ to children abandoned up the side of some mountain in the middle of nowhere?”

So I approach child after child, see mouths of rotten teeth and clothes with holes in them. I offer warm arms and warm words and I pray Christ takes broken pieces and nourishes the hungry soul anyway.

Then…

I’m standing by the director of the trip when she says to the group, “There is one child that hasn’t come out. The child is tied up in the room next door.”

A child tied up? Mercy. My heart starts to pound.

“They told me the child can come out if someone takes the child and does not leave their side,” The director informs us and I see raw panic in the eyes of our group. So does the director. She turns to me. “Arabah, will you take this child?”

I stammer out a “Yes, of course,” and follow the house parent to the room where the child is tied.

It’s a girl standing at the window. Her hair is chopped short and it’s hard to tell if she’s a girl or boy with her clothing, but I look in her face and I see the spirit of a girl, the feminine beauty.

I want to cry.

The window is open, even in this cold, and she is tied to a security bar at the window. Her eyes are bright and I take her hands into mine. They are freezing.

I look in her eyes and speak softly, asking if she wants to go outside for awhile. The rule is that I must keep her on the “leash,” a thick strip of fabric tied around her torso, and that I can’t feed her.

I soon find out why.

She rushes the food tables and grabs trash off the floor to eat it. She smacks food out of other children’s hands and tries to stuff food and debris down her throat.

I adjust to this child. A child with food issues. I think of my Little Bit.

I steer her away from the food tables, but not before grabbing a wrapped bun. The house parent told me not to give her any food, that this little girl who lives tied up had already eaten.

I don’t listen. I’m sorry, I can’t.

I give her the wrapped bun and she tries to eat it, only to realize it is secured by packaging that she can’t open.

“Wo bang ni,” I tell her. “Let me help you.”

I want her to receive food from a stranger, to know generosity, to realize there is kindness. After a life of abandonment and abuse and pain and isolation, I want to move her one step closer to trust. She needs to know there is hope, there is a good future. There is a Maker who is also a Father.

Is this not why we go in His name?

It seems preposterous for me to try to communicate to her that she doesn’t have to self-protect and look out for her own interests. She’s lived in a dog-eat-dog world. This is a stretch for sure that seems better left undone.

But I try anyway. I get down on her level, face to face, and repeat the words to her again and again, “I can help you. I will open it for you. You are so special and so beautiful. Slow down, everything is okay.”

She glances up at me quickly. Finally, she hands me the bun.

I rejoice at the victory. I open the package and give her the bread.

She devours it.

We repeat this over and over until she’s had chicken, buns, cookies, crackers, juice.

I spend an hour with my little friend, oblivious to everything else going on. At the end, she finds a shiny gold ornament that fell off the Christmas tree. She picks it up and for the first time, she smiles. She speaks. She holds the ornament and rolls it around and around in her cold hands.

“It’s yours,” I tell her. “You can have it.”

I speak words of love over her and when it is time to go, I ask the house parent to take her. “No,” she tells me, “You must go tie her back up.”

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life… tying a child up.

And then leaving.

The words are even hard to write.

But as I get ready to leave the room, I notice I’m the only adult there and many of the other children have returned. They are lined up in wheelchairs and every single one of them is staring at me, with hopeless eyes. I touch each one and try to speak words they can understand.

They don’t. Their eyes tell me the words are meaningless. They stare at me dark and hopeless and so I speak just one word. Just one word again and again and again. It’s the only one they need know, really.

 

Jesus.

 

“Don’t forget,” I tell them. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

It seems a pitiful attempt in the face of such pain and hopelessness. It seems so meaningless, so impractical. Why bother? Why pretend that it matters, that it is somehow significant?

When I return home, I cry with Jackson and Jackson tells me the news: Newtown and 20 children and a devastated community and a nation that grapples with the Why?

Hearts wrenched and wounded and devastated and this is why we self-protect and just look out for ourselves and quit believing in Good. This is why our hearts grow numb and we die that way and why we don’t bother with the small attempts because what is the point, really?

But there’s that one word, that Name, that God-man who left heaven and came down for the express purpose of entering into our pain.

He’s called the “Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

And He didn’t have to be. He could have stayed far removed. He didn’t have to climb the mountain and untie the sash and speak the good news to a broken world and make Himself bread and become the Lamb who took stripes for us and now promises to never, ever leave us … He didn’t have to do all that but He did.

He wept and He didn’t run from the hopeless, evil, and dark pain of our lives but entered into it so that He could overcome it and give us our heart back.

We really can believe there is Good. There really is a future and a hope. Life really is worth living. 

Where is God?, we wonder.

And I have no answers but a word: Jesus. Emmanuel. Bread of Life. Freely Given. Shepherd and Savior and Close to the brokenhearted. Binder of wounds. Healer. Sustainer. Weeper and Empathizer. Comfort. Light in our darkness. The Way, Truth, and Life. Redeemer. Overcomer. Victorious One. The Pearl of Great Price. Lamb of God.

He’s everything and He’s right here with us.

And I realize: In our moments of exposure, when all the safety nets and securities are removed,  in that place where we understand how close we really are to thin air, we can see Him.

 

 

 

 

 

To live Fearless

In a world that says, “Have it your way, serve yourself, look out for your own best interests, spend your life…your resources…your talents…on yourself…,” there are the rare voices that say something different: live counter-culturally. Give your life away.

It’s true. We can live for something greater than ourselves.

The question is,   Will we?

 

Here’s the storyof one man who did.

 

 

 

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When You’re On Your Belly in Enemy Territory

It’s true that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

It’s one reason why I blog…tapping out the struggles and victories, the testimony…it solidifies the gains. It firms the footing.

But it also invites opposition. The public declaration is a smoke signal. It invites war and I’ve learned to think twice before hitting the “publish” button. I know I’ll be tested.

“You sure you want this ground?” the filthy snake mocks. “I’m going to make you fight for it.”

And Sunshine girl, she reminds me how to fight. She lays in bed at night when she’s scared and she says out loud, “It is written…It is written…it is written.” And she decides she isn’t going to run to mom and dad, she’s going to use Words instead, the Words Jesus used to defeat the darkness… and she does.

She does.

It is true that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the words of our testimony.

It is also wise to understand that it isn’t without a fight.

So it is with a bit of trepidation that I scratch this out, this declaration of war from a battle worn soldier deep in the brush and inching forward not on feet or even knees, but slithering through enemy ground on the belly.

I’m tapping out my intent: I’m here to take back my ground.

I’m here to take back my children.

I’m here to reclaim the inheritance.

I’m here to renounce the sins of the fathers that we as God’s people have persisted in.

I’m here to lay down my life if need be. I’m here to win…if not for myself, than for the girls and boys I tuck in at night.

And the message spoken is heard and the skies break open and fury is unleashed and darkness creeps in and I shiver in this downpour and I think of my Sunshine girl.

“It is written,” I whisper fiercely against the howl. “It is written…”

“Though my life I lose, it is written!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Solomon, begotten of God, broke God’s heart. He turned to other gods and the Almighty tore the kingdom away from Solomon because of idolatry. In I Kings 11 He gave ten tribes to Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, with a promise…

“About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone out in the country,  and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces.  Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes.”

 

But Jeroboam, when he was up to bat with bases loaded and a no-fail plan in his favor, well Jeroboam failed to believe the promise! He had been given everything by the Only One who matters, yet he failed to believe it.

Instead, he caved to fear.

“Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built up Peniel.

Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”

After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.

Jeroboam built shrines on high places…”

 

“What if I lose control?”  Jeroboam thought. And in his fear, he devised a plan: He introduced a false god.

Jeroboam decided to maintain control through idolatry.

It worked.

For generations the kings followed in the ways of Jeroboam. Even after 200 years, God was saying: “Jeroboam enticed Israel away from following the Lord and caused them to commit a great sin. And to this day, their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.” (II Kings 17:40-41)

Some sins are generational in nature.

They are so woven into our culture and background that we can scarcely recognize them, much less call them what they are: idolatry.

Quite simply, idol worship is a way of life.

Somewhere along the way, fathers cave to fear and try control instead of trust.

With bases loaded and a no-fail promise spoken over their lives, mothers and fathers still cave to fear. We take matters into our own hands.

Some control through legalism.

Some control through hard work and making money and buying security.

Some control through networking and gaining friends.

Some control through self reliance and others through self righteousness and others through self preservation.

And it becomes a way of life, the American way.

It becomes OUR way of life.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me,    the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns,    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jer 2:13

And when I dare put names to the idols, the broken cisterns in my life, when I renounce them and take a stand against them, the filthy dark creeps up with a low blow and says, “Are you sure you want to go there? You know I’m going to make you fight.”

He looms large and dark overhead and I wonder how a simple, weak woman dares defy his greatness.

Is this how he intimidated Jeroboam?

But Jeroboam died in his sin and now I’m the one up to bat. With bases loaded and a promise over my scrawny little neck.

Perhaps I’m the least likely to succeed, but it’s not about me.

It’s about the Word spoken over me.

So I speak Words out loud: “I renounce secret and shameful ways. I renounce the sins of the fathers…” II Cor 4:2

I will not cave to fear, I will cling to promises.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I know what it’s like to be battle worn. I know what it’s like for those promises to get buried under the mundane of life, under the urgent, under the weight of responsibility and the defeats of life.

And unfortunately, I know what compromise looks like.

If he can’t get us to surrender, the snake talks us into compromise.

But every now and then, when it grows almost too hard, I see the gleam underneath the grime, that buckle of nobility strapped to my waist and I remember the promise and the oath and the calling…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hezekiah spoke to the Levites, the priests of God. “Consecrate yourselves! Remove all defilement! My sons, be not negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before Him and serve Him, to minister before Him and to burn incense.”

And I imagine the noble throne, the royal Name, the Awesome God I’m chosen to stand before. We are chosen of God! We are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people so that we will proclaim His praise.

And so that we will stand.

When you are in the brush on your belly, remember you were chosen to stand.

Don’t be intimidated! Rub the grime off and sweep the mundane back and see the significance. The nobility. Remember the promise!

We are set apart to serve Him and minister before Him and burn incense to Him, the fragrant offering of our lives.

We and our children fulfill a noble calling. We serve our God. 

Today we are up to bat, you and I. It is our turn and bases are loaded and the enemy, he taunts and he mocks and he reminds us of the odds.

But we have a Promise and we have a Purpose and we have a Presence.

May we stand on our promises and say, “Here am I and the children the Lord has given me! We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 8:18)

From every bush and brush scattered around enemy territory, may we say, “We will not retreat and we will not fear. For “it is written…”

 

Now let’s hit the ball out of the park.

 

 

Heather from Raising Mighty Arrows  is another mom standing on her promises and going to bat for her kids.  She is hosting a giveaway today with two winners~ a great chance to snag a copy of Energy Explosion~ smile! I hope you are making plans to join us for the Group Challenge coming up March 26. For details, click here.

 

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What it means to live by faith

I get the text around 9:30 am. “Mr. Jay’s gone to glory. 7:15 this morn.”

I’m standing in the kitchen and I look up at the scroll hanging on the corner wall, the scroll with the pink flower and the scripture. “The Lord preserves the faithful.” Psalm 25:10

Ms. Reva gave that scroll to me a few months back. Ms. Reva is grieving the loss of her mate this March morning.

While others go to work and buy their coffee and live like everything is normal. For some, nothing is normal.

It’s easy to believe God when He moves in big ways…when the cancer is healed and the cupboards are full and the gas tank is too. It’s easy to praise when prayers are answered with a “yes” and mountains move and relationships are oiled and everything goes according to plan.

But what about when God pushes you into shallow water where you break your neck, as Joni Tada has described it? And what about when God allows, perhaps even sends, a drunk driver to hit you head on, causing your life to never be the same? What about when God lets your cupboards be empty and your gas tank too and your relationships to sour and your soul to cry out?

What then?

The Lord preserves the faithful.

The faith-FULL.

I look at the scroll hanging in my kitchen and I say it out loud:

The Bible says the just shall live by faith. Isn’t this what a true believer is? A faith-FULL person?

Full with the faith of Abraham, who went out, not knowing where he was going.

The trust Gideon had, who faced the enemy not knowing how victory could ever happen.

The trust Sarah had that said a baby at her age was, in fact, possible.

The trust Stephen had even while being stoned to death.

The kind of trust that even dies believing.

“For these all died in faith, never having received the promises.”

 And I wonder why we put so much emphasis on so many other things when we should be living out what’s really important: faith.

Right there in the kitchen, I look my giant in the eye. “I know whom I have believed,” I say it straight out.

“And He will never leave me or forsake me. He will help me and uphold me with His righteous right hand. I will not be afraid, tho the mountains crumble and the earth shakes. For His steadfast love will never be removed from me. His covenant of peace with me will stand.”

The Lord preserves the faith FULL.

And I am FULL.

Live Loved

It’s a hot Thursday afternoon in June when I take the kids to the mall because the back yard is off limits due to an invasion of bees.

I’ve got 5 dollars to spend and we go to the carousel, the one where 3 years and under can ride free. Except after I pay my $5 and we go to get on, I discover they’ve done away with that provision and I owe $2 more dollars for all of us to ride.

“You only paid for 3 kids and you have 4 riding.”

“I’ll skip,” I tell the lady with white hair, a grandmother no doubt.

“You can’t skip. You have to ride with the young ones,” she says.

“Okay, I’ll see if one of them doesn’t want to ride.” They all do.

“I don’t have any more money,” I tell her. “Don’t the young ones go free?”

“No.” She pauses then says, “Do you want to change your mind?” Her eyes are a cold hard blue as I look into her face.

I would normally say yes, get my money back and go my way, but something in me prompts and it is out before I can stop it: “Do you give grace?” I ask her softly and smile. The kids have already found their animals on the carousel and can’t wait to start.

“Not today,” she says and turns and walks away.

And I know this woman doesn’t owe me anything but it is funny how old feelings are so easily and oddly triggered. I suddenly feel anxious, a twinge of rejection, like my survival instinct button was pressed. The same I felt as a child when I was helpless and asked for rescue from the adults around me and was walked away from.

The grandma with white hair, walking away with her back to me, triggers old baggage. I can’t buy my kids a ride on the carousel. I feel like a loser. And the fact that a strange woman won’t have grace on us somehow really cuts. If I was prettier, she would have. If I was more suave and charming, she would have. If I was more gracious, had softer eyes, had better hair, had whatever it is I’m always deficient in, then we would be allowed on.

The lie hisses and targets my heart, then unfurls with a strike: Something is wrong with you to make her not let us on the carousel. Something is wrong with you.

“We’ve got to go, kids,” I call to them.

They don’t understand. I told them we could ride. My inner anxiety caused from the triggered lie makes me grow impatient with them. “I don’t have enough money for us to ride,” I tell youngest daughter, who is upset to have to get off her horse.

I glare a threat at her whining face and tell her to “Come on already.”

Then I stop.

I fear rejection from a stranger because I somehow think it reflects on my value and worth? Don’t I know that we each bow down to what we fear and that is why we are to fear nothing and no one but God Himself? And I’m bowing to this fear of rejection and I’m offering children up on the altar of past pain?

I’m really going to bow down to this?

No, I will not. It is unacceptable. I know that a lie is behind all of this and I am only hurting those I love the most by not facing it head on. Even though it feels like the lie is true, that I am somehow deficient, not good enough, I must choose to believe that this in fact is not the truth.

“Don’t be a Saul,” I remind myself.

Hadn’t Saul been chosen by God? Hadn’t he been hand picked, set apart and Spirit filled for the task? Yet when they cast lots and Saul was shown to be the one selected by God, he was hiding out in the baggage. Instead of believing and receiving the position of honor God had given him, he was hiding in baggage.

“Stop hiding in your old baggage,” I counsel myself. “Old junk makes a poor cover-up. Accept your royal robe of righteousness.”

And didn’t Saul fail as a king because he shrunk back? He never did live up to the promises God had given him. He chose to be a coward.

It’s a temptation women face too, at the oddest of times.

I call to mind how Samuel hosted Saul at the very beginning:

“Then Samuel took Saul and his servant and brought them into the hall and gave them a place at the head of those who were invited… Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the portion that I gave you, concerning which I said to you ‘Set it aside.’” Then the cook took up the leg with what was on it and set it before Saul. And Samuel said, “Here is what has been reserved! Set it before you and eat, because it has been kept for you…”" I Samuel 9:22-24

 

And I counsel myself with the words of a prophet. I have been reserved a portion. There’s a leg that’s been set aside just for me. I am loved and cherished and nourished and well tended. I am cared for. The Lord is my Shepherd and I will not be in want. It is against His nature to neglect His own.

“Live loved,” I tell myself, “Because you belong to Love Himself.”

And I know I will never be able to convince myself that I am worthy- for years I tried that- So instead I bring to mind the nature of my God. I’ve found the secret is in His worthiness, never mine…and He offers Himself to me, calls Himself “Yahweh, your God.”

I recount the ways in which He has expressed His tender care for me. The ways He has called me out, spoken tenderly to me in the desert, carried me in Shepherd’s arms.

And that old hissing lie that struck my heart is routed and I’m safe in the arms of my Yahweh, the One who teaches me to prosper and leads me to green pastures and beside still waters.

He restores my soul, and from a silly carousel incident!

I reach my arms out to crying little girl and say, “Hey! We’ve got 5 dollars! Let’s go see what we can spend it on!”

I’m determined we’re going to eat every bit of our portion. And it’s good. It’s good.

**A personal word for you? Live loved, my friend, not on the basis of your lovability but on the basis of His limitless love abundantly poured out. He choose to lavish His love on you! Take your portion with relish. Live loved.

Deadly Cocktail

I’m addicted to strong drink.

It started when I was not yet five, a wisp of a girl with long hair and stick legs.

They took me to places I shouldn’t have been. They made me do things I shouldn’t have done. They told me things I had no business believing.  And it all felt so horribly good in a dark, evil way, that when the cup was passed, I drank it too.

I didn’t even think.

I just drank and the numbness set in and the darkness wasn’t so frightening and I was hooked.

I never saw the lies for the poison they were, smoothing over lips and tongue and entering the belly. I only saw the relief they gave.

The lies, the strong drink can become a way of life.

And then something comes along that shakes a stick at you, calls intoxication for what it is and tells you that you aren’t the victim you thought you were, you’re a drunkard.

You’ve done gone and made yourself inebriated on the stuff and you can’t stop. You’re addicted and there are no excuses.

Oh, it gets ugly alright.

It’s happened to me. And as I read Judges 6 again fresh, I see the cocktail.

Right there on the pages of scripture, there’s the deadly brew that has ensnared many and it was my drink of choice and it flows free still to anyone willing to try it. It’s the liar’s deadly mix that he’s specialized in serving up to God’s chosen people, people like Gideon. People like me.

I’ve drunk it. Not only that, but I’ve been addicted to it. Maybe you have too? Maybe you still are? Perhaps this post is for us, you and me.

Before God could use Gideon to fulfill His miraculous purposes…before God can use you to fulfill yours… He had to expose the strong drink Gideon had been feasting on his whole life. Isn’t this the way it always has to be? God shows up in our lives and it is interesting to note that what we start saying at that point reflects the stuff we’ve been drinking.

“Then Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles? But the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”  Judges 6:13

Let me stop and ask you, has God shown up in your life and given you a vision for something great, something that you are a part of?

And what has been your response?

You see, Gideon’s response exposed the lies he’d been drinking. His answer to an incredible vision from God wasn’t faith but doubt.

This is the first part of the deadly cocktail: Doubt in God’s goodness.

This lie has many faucets. It doubts God’s intentions towards me. It doubts His Presence. It doubts His provision. It doubts His power. Gideon’s response reflects all these things.  The conclusion of this lie is that “God has abandoned” me.

And if God has abandoned me, I’m on my own.

Herein is the set up for the second part of the deadly cocktail, by which our enemy seals our fate and reduces us to blubbering fools, unable to live and lead the victory that God has granted.

“He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house…” (Vs 15)

The first part of the cocktail says, “God won’t.” The second part says, “I can’t.”

Yes, that’s the strong drink I’ve been addicted to. The “God won’t” and “Surely, I can’t” mix.

The mix that rolls over and says, “This is out of my league, leave me alone so I can wallow in numbness some more.”

I for one have had a belly F.U.L.L of this stuff. There’s good news for bellies and hearts made sick with this!

God’s response to Gideon is pretty astonishing if you really think about it:

“Surely I will be with you and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” (vs 16)

The antidote for the deadly cocktail we’ve drunk is “God will and I can.”

Now perhaps it needs to be said that we can only through Christ who strengthens us and that we can do only what God gives, not what we desire for ourselves. This isn’t a blanket statement to pursue either self effort or self interest.

Even so, God tells us He will and we can, for whatever purposes He has for our lives.

Have you drunk the elixir? Have you caved in to thinking you will never…. (fill in the blank)? That you can’t…..? That God has given up on you or that His power isn’t enough for your situation?

Set that strong drink aside, my friend. Take the bottle and smash it.

Pick up this one instead: “GOD WILL and I CAN” and drink deep.

Sing and Soar

I barely get to the kitchen table and open the pages when little one sounds off.

I quickly jot down the grace of orange across sky and pause as bird stops outside the window.

She sings for a bit, then moves on.

I savor the sight of her, delaying the inevitable start of noise and chaos, wanting to suck all the life from this moment.

All during the day, I notice the pattern of the birds: Sing… then Soar.

Sing…Soar. Sing…Soar.

I think how different I am from the birds.

The bird is not concerned about being overwhelmed. She does not worry about what may be asked of her, what price may be exacted from her.

She sings and she soars.

And when her belly tells her it’s time to eat, she finds food.

Me on the other hand? I’m so fearful of the unknowns, of how I’ll handle just around the corner, that I clamp down and clam up. Yes, that’s it, I’m a clam.

I think there’s a reason why Jesus said “Consider the birds of the air,” not “Consider the clams of the sea.”

In my attempt to miss the pain, not take the risk, cut the losses, I also miss the good. Can I learn from the birds? Can I learn to just sing and soar?

I try it. Like a baby bird learning to use her wings.

The winds blow and I chirp, praises to God. Then I dive headlong into the winds.

Sing…plummet…

Caught by the Eagle on Wings and we soar.

I’ll try again.

And Again.

And I’m starting to understand. Sing…Soar.

Sing…Soar.

Unspoiled

I drove home from evening church early. The kids had reached their “point” and so I took the little ones and headed home.

I looked for stars, but there weren’t any. It was a night that belonged to darkness. The heavens were muffled with clouds.

I saw something moving in the road ahead and slowed. I approached and saw and my stomach lurched and my heart did too and I felt stunned and sick all at once.

A raccoon, on his back, shaking and trembling and clawing at the empty air, eyes wild…living his last few moments in the throes of death.

Alone in the dark.

On a cold asphalt road.

I know it sounds sappy and a long time ago I closed my heart to being sappy; but since I’ve reopened my heart to life and love and joy and pain, I guess to some I’m considered sappy again and that’s okay…but raccoon dying in such a terrible way hurt.

I felt it inside.

And I didn’t know what to do with it.

I guess I’ve never quite known what to do with pain.

Next morning I read this story of tremendous heartache, and when I pray on knees and tears for this family, I feel it again and wonder, “How do we do this? How do we live in a world of such heartache?”

Do we just pad our lives so that we don’t have to face pain? Do we seek as much comfort as possible so we don’t have to be acquainted with the real, terrible suffering of others? The poor? The oppressed? The lonely? The taken- advantage-of-ed? The ones without recourse in this world?

Or do we focus on pain, isolate it, encase it like a shrine, make it an idol? Do we think that by worshiping it in this way we can keep it at bay, as if it will do our bidding?

What if we can hurt healthy?

Pain tells us there is only one road to pursue: Be an Untouchable.

Put yourself out of pain’s reach.

The pain of rejection…”Be untouched by pleasing people.”

The pain of failure…”Be untouched by not risking.”

The pain of insignificance…”Be untouched by putting on pretenses.”

The pain of desperation…”Be untouched by not putting yourself in that position, whatever the cost.”

The pain of being robbed of dignity, voice, “rights” …”Be untouched by becoming strong. Self-reliant. In control. Independent. Become a person of means.”

The Words come then…”Not untouched, but unspoiled” … and I know that is what Jesus can do.

The simple truth? All of us are guaranteed some pain in this life and I’m tired of being afraid of it, letting that fear curl me up and close me off and I’m ready to know how to hurt healthy.

History, both world and personal, show that we will each be touched by pain and heartache. We can be knocked down by it, dragged to the stake by it, offered up as a living sacrifice on it.

But we can still be unspoiled.

Which do we really want? Untouched or unspoiled?

My friends, I know what my new choice means. I know that pain will come and shake me to the roots and do everything it can to spoil me.

But when choosing between untouched or unspoiled?… well I’m changing from the first choice to the second.

‘Cause Untouched is Impossible.

Untouched is really a deceitful lie, a temptation to curl off and close up and not engage and spend yourself and all you have trying to live a life that doesn’t really exist anyway.

Choice #2? Well it is possible. It can happen. It can be reality even when pain touches, scalds, sears, enters, and scars.

Still, unspoiled.

It’s how the early followers all died…

John exiled on Patmos

Stephen stoned to death

Matthew stabbed to death

Mark pulled in two at the legs by horses

Luke cruelly hanged

Peter, Philip, and Simon crucified on a cross

Bartholomew skinned alive

Thomas pulled apart by 5 horses

James beheaded

Little James cut in half by a saw

James the brother of the Lord stoned to death

Judas tied to a pillar and shot with arrows

Matthias’ head cut off

Paul martyred under Nero

Not one was Untouched. But all died Unspoiled.

It is Deceiver who says, “Oh, see? You must try to live a life untouched! You must fear. You must do all you can to be Untouched. Maybe you can escape it.”

And he is happy to give us his plans of escape, too.

Life and Truth says, “It’s a lie. There is no such thing as Untouched. Open your eyes and you will see. But there is something better than Untouched… It is yours if you want it.”

And I do.

I do.

Youngest one falls and bumps his head and feels pain. I give him the only thing I can and in that moment I get it. I get why deceiver wants to lure us with “Untouchable.”

Pain’s companion is Presence.

It’s what I gave youngest when he felt pain. It’s what we all look for, what we all really need. It’s what makes pain endurable.

It even makes pain worth it. “That I may know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings…”

Presence.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you. When you walk through the waters, I will be with you…” See Is. 43:1-3

Instead of fearing pain, I will seek Presence… For I must walk through the valley of shadows, but I will fear no evil.

I will not be Untouched, but I will be Unspoiled.

For He is with me.

One Mina

We traveled to Texas and stayed in a room next to the couple on Viagra.

All during the night I feel sick. I feel my insecurities, my inadequacies, I wonder if my husband wished I’d take a pill.

Morning comes and he knows me so well. “I stopped being desirous of sex a long time ago,” he says it soft, and it shocks me because I know him too, but he wasn’t done. “I’m desirous of you.”

Oh how I know it. Oh how rich those words are, how full of life and love.

How he shows me every single day and how I grasp for it and why can’t I just accept it and let it shape me? Why can’t I let go of the past?

Ever since before Christmas, he’s been telling me. He’s a January birthday and he turns 40 this week and he’s been telling me what he wants for his present: 100 Days.

It scares me. I have issues. I think, “I’m not up for this,” but then I pray, “God, I want to be.”

“I want to be for him. For You. For our relationship. For me.”

Is it possible? Can someone like me find healing and grace and “energeo” for 100 Days? I mean, I’ve made a lot of progress, am still making it. But 100 consecutive Days?

If I could only believe…

If I could believe this is for more healing than I can think or imagine… if I could only believe He will take this and do above and beyond all I ask or think…if I could only believe that with God all things ~ even 100 Days ~ are possible.

I think of Ann’s 100 day calendar I’ve downloaded but not printed. { Somehow I don’t think this use for it ever crossed her mind? }

I push the thoughts away for the day, knowing I’m running out of days before THE day, and I say a weak prayer. “Help me, God. Fill in the rest of these thoughts, write the rest of this story. And please, PLEASE, don’t let me miss out because of unbelief.”

Later I go back and print that calendar…because I’m afraid of missing out on something BIG… and I put it with his birthday card. With, but not in. I’m not committed yet. I’m still waiting. Still terrified. Still praying for something.

Can I do this? Can YOU do this?

I go outside and trample more snow. I go to the edges, where there are no footprints…unclaimed territory. I walk back and forth, making long furrows in the snow. I think of the gift of this snow and all it has shown me this week and I know He is for me. “You are for me,” I thrill over and over out loud as I tramp and tread and claim new ground.

I think of the conquests Joshua led. Victory was never in question; only finding God’s strategy for each battle was essential. Relying on God, not growing self-reliant, not ever forgetting that Victory is a Person.

Strategies are tailor made and I have no clue what the strategy for this particular giant should be and I dare not go into this without a strategy from Him.

“If You’ll give me the strategy, If You’ll go with me each step of the way, I’m in. But I’m not going without You.”

I search scriptures, I cling to promises, I touch my toes in the waters. Will they part?

3 days left before The Day I do a Bible search. Is “100 days” anywhere in the Bible?

It is. Once.

At first I don’t get the connection, think it is just a grasp at straws. Then I see it.

I’ve been given a mina, 100 days worth of provision.

I’m to invest it. Not bury it out of fear. I’m to give it my dog-gone all, no holds barred, come what may.

Maybe I’m not a servant with ten minas, but I’ve been given one and will I invest it or will I cave to fear? The question is not whether I can do this or not, but whether I will see this as a gift, as something entrusted to me. And with the gift come the provisions.

One mina.

I recognize the battle is against fear and will I learn His strategies for overcoming it? Will I let Him teach me?

Hands shaking, I go get the card, the calendar. “The Lord is with me. I will not be afraid. The Lord is my helper.” I say it out lout, tasting the words, testing them. I’m familiarizing myself with the strategy. I’m going to need to know it inside and out.

I fold the calendar and place it in the card. “If God spared not His own Son, how then will He not also freely give you all things?” More strategy, spoken out loud.

I am more convinced that this is about fear and He wants me to conquer it.

In the shower I try more strategy: “Do not be afraid! I will help you! Surely I will uphold you with My right hand.” 

I know what I’ve got to do. I exit the shower and go sign the card, slip the calendar inside, and seal it. Three days of waiting in anguish, with fear breathing down my neck seems like doom.

I repent of fear. I get on my knees and I repent of the selfishness fear demands, the retreat, the inward focus.

The card is ready. So am I. Finally.

When husband comes home, I ask if he wants to open his birthday gift early.

Update**The snow is melting now, liquid love dripping. It came, a gift, and ministered. And today His mercies are new and the mina’s provisions continue…we are over 2 weeks into our 100 days!

This post is humbly linked to Ann’s Walk with Him Wednesday where today we are talking about the Gift and Practice of Marriage. Care to join in? Check out this chocolate (with giveaway!!)

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