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An Open Letter to Jose Molina

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Jose,

Not all Americans are like those you encountered at the town hall meeting last Thursday.

Not all Republicans are.

And although you may find it difficult to believe, given your current and likely future experience, not all lawmakers are either.

I need to tell you something. I need to tell you I’m sorry that you were treated so. I’m sorry that you, an 11 year old child, was denied compassion and left defenseless in a crowd of adults who should know better.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that self-serving people would callously use you and your situation to whoop up support for their own cause. I’m sorry that when you reached out for help, you were patronized and mocked and discarded like yesterday’s newspaper.

You need to know that there’s a nation of people looking at what happened in that town hall meeting and we’re saying to ourselves, “What a bunch of morons.”

We are astounded at the ignorance.

But to you, they aren’t just morons who carry on in ignorance and without shame. They are people who could have cared. They are people who could have seen a scared, vulnerable person needing at the very least, compassion. To you, they are lawmakers, power holders, adults with an agenda.

And their agenda didn’t include assuaging fear, being a voice for the voiceless, giving a cup of cold water, or standing in the gap for the disadvantaged.

For this, I’m sorry.

Twenty years from now, Miss Jose, you will be the one sitting in the position of power. You’ll be the one making decisions and you’ll be the adult with an agenda. You’ll have the opportunity to put people in their place and try to right the wrong done to you.

Right here, right now is where your agenda starts to be shaped.

Bitterness, anger, retaliation, and hatred will be at your disposal and you’ll be tempted to use them. But I pray you rise above these ignoble motivations.  Despite the fact that you were shown no mercy on August 15, 2013, I pray you know the truth deep in your bones: Mercy triumphs over judgement.

It’s the only way you’ll be triumphant, you know.

The only way to overcome darkness is with light; and the only way to overcome evil is with good.

Mercy is what triumphs over judgement.

This is what I pray for you, that in spite of everything, you will be a mercy-giver.

There’s another agenda you need to know about. While people in that meeting were deciding that compassion is N/A and self-exaltation is the way to greatness, God had an agenda. Indeed, God has a plan for your life. And while I can’t tell you what it will look like exactly or why certain things happen, I can whisper a message about His agenda and hope one day you’ll find it:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

 

Take it up like a life raft, my girl. Wear it around you body, mind, and soul. Let it keep you afloat when judgement bears down and you don’t know how to go on, when you are overlooked and marginalized and marked “unimportant.”

Wear it in your dark hours because no matter anyone else’s agenda, God has a plan too, and His is bigger.

Wear it because mercy WILL triumph…and you will triumph with it.

All our love,

AJ

 

The Coin

 

 

It was eighteen years ago that she gave us the coin.

That was before she accused Dad of running around with a young woman at church. Nearly split the church wide open. Dad came home with a shot gun and the counselor had to intervene and they’ve been seperated ever since.

But eighteen years ago was before all of that happened. Before tongues wagged and hearts broke and tears fell and things were never the same.

We were sitting at the supper table after church, Jackson and I. And Mom, she handed us a Canadian Maple.

“You’ll face hard times together,” she said. “Here’s something for you to put away for a rainy day, for when you just don’t have anything else.”

She slipped us the coin and we tucked it away and for eighteen years of marriage, while we traveled the world over and back again, that coin stayed in the attic, tucked away in its plastic sheath.

Until recently.

Jackson took it out.

He opened the safe where important documents are kept and he slipped the coin out and he looked at it.

“We need groceries,” he said.

I knew what the words cost him. I knew the pain of a hardworking man not able to fund a trip to the grocery store. But I also know something else about him… that walking the path of the Lord’s will is more important to him than anything else.

“The Lord’s going to take care of us,” Jackson continued. “He always has.”

He looked at me as he fingered the coin. The clock ticked and the fridge hummed and four little bodies lay tucked in their beds, oblivious to the choices of their parents.

It’d be a shame to just spend this.” He said it thoughtful. Slow. The processing of a man intent on what’s best for his family.

I thought of the growing grocery list: bananas, bread, jelly, toilet paper, trash bags. I thought of the empty cupboards and the empty bank account and I knew they would stay empty.

I want to invest it,” he says it slow, sure, sacred- like; an act of worship.

 

“What do you think about us selling this and giving the money to feed the Nuba people in Sudan?”

I choke back the tears and say YES! What better way to invest than in another person?

We get down on our knees and pray. “Thank You, Jesus,” I pray. “Thank You we get to be part of this, part of ministering to Your body. Thank You for the chance to give our best.”

The next day, Jackson goes to sell the coin. He returns home with $1500 cash, 15 crisp hundred dollar bills.

My man, he knows how to invest.

 

That Sunday we slip the bills into an envelope and write “Sudan” on it and we listen to the guest speaker, a Sudanese pastor.

“We take trip to Sudan,” he tells us. “We buy grain and take it into the Nuba mountains. My people are starving. They are hiding in caves and are being bombed every day. Life is hard. I cannot forsake them.”

And on this side of the world, brothers and sisters, an entire association of churches, pledge to help. We send two men with our Sudanese brother into the mountains of Sudan.

The mission is dangerous. Sudan is in turmoil and these men are entering the war zone.

The team gets stuck in Cairo. It takes days, then weeks, for the money transfer to go through. The rains are forecasted to begin any day in Sudan and when that happens, they will not be able to travel.

The team encounters one difficulty after another…they get sick, they can’t locate drivers who are bold enough to trek into the war zone, the money still won’t go through…

The team contacts us and asks everyone to fast.

We all feel the spiritual warfare of this mission. We know we battle not flesh and blood.

The call to fast goes out and we stop eating. At dinner time, the kids ask why I’m not having meal with them and I explain about the Nuba people and the need for God to provide a way. Jackson is working late…but fasting. Friends text to let each other know we are in this together.

All over our little town, we call on the Lord, asking Him to move His mighty hand. We pray for our brothers and sisters hiding in the Nuba mountains.

The Lord hears.

I get the message on a Monday morning:

“Team Nuba were able to get up the mountain, get the grain/oil/supplies to the people, and even pick up 500 refugees on the way back and safely transport them to a camp near the border.

Said they haven’t had sleep in 70 hours but they were in very good spirits. Their plan is to get rested up today and start the journey home tomorrow.
PLEASE DO NOT STOP PRAYING NOW!”

 

I fall to my knees and thank God. I ican see those faces, the mommas. The babies. All the blank stares.

But this time, I see the smiles.

It is such a sacred thing to be a part of, there is such a deep intimacy with the Lord. It is an hour before I can even call Jackson with the news.

All day, I break out in random song. When I pick oldest up from school, I excitedly tell him the news and we hoot and holler in the car.

 My Nuba sister is hiding in a cave somehwere with her children. But tonight, she will have food to give them. Tonight, she knows that the world hasn’t forsaken them, her brothers and sisters living in houses with heaping plates…well, she knows we care.

Tonight, she knows that her God delivers.

Jackson eats with us tonight, and he breaks the bread:

“Share with God’s people who are in need.

Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.

And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.

So do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

 

Jackson and I just look at each other.

We both feel it, the pleasure of God.

And as we eat our simple meal, we enter into our inheritance.

And I’m so full, I’m just about to pop.

Come back tomorrow, Thursday, June 21, for an update on the Sudan mission!

 

Invest means “to use, give, or devote (time, talent, etc.), as for a purpose or to achieve a profitable return.”

Sometimes when you need something the most is when you *need* to give it away.

We can spend a life or we can invest one.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8

 

Linking up with Ann today

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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Simply This

Full from a blessed weekend, friends.

Marinating in these truths put to music by Jeremy Camp:

 

Scandalous

lonelyness

 

 

Eric and Woody were looking at me, listening intently, wondering what exactly I had discovered.

I’d entered that dark, cold prison cell with John the Baptist. With him, I’d asked, “Are You really the One?”

I’d agonized.

I’d wondered if I was really His.

I’d doubted God.

I’d done the opposite of what Jesus said the “blessed” ones do.

“My faith was obliterated,” I told them. “I needed to know where that left me. Was I shipwrecked?

“I did a word study on that word ”stumble.”

“It refers to a very specific condition, “to cease believing.”

In fact, one dictionary says it is to “cause a person to distrust One who is worthy of complete trust and obedience.”

It’s what Jesus said not to do to children.

“Furthermore,” I told them, “it is the word Jesus used when He went to the cross. He said all of the disciples would “fall away.” This is the same word He used. See, even the disciples stumbled in their faith.

“And Jesus told Peter, “Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith would remain. And when you have returned, strengthen your brethren.”

I looked into their faces, my own eyes wet. “Stumbling doesn’t have to be permanent,” I told them.

“When it all comes down, it is understanding that He holds onto us. That no matter what evil has been done to us, no matter what dark nights we have seen, no matter the fear and loneliness…no matter our own faithlessness and falling away, the depth of our sinfulness… HE IS FAITHFUL.”

“It is holding onto His character.”

And I don’t know how they understood the weak attempt I made, but they did.

Husband took over from there and explained the love of God and talked for another hour or more, doing much better than I did.

He shared how God was demonstrating His love that very moment, in bringing us all to this same place at this same time, out of every place we could and should be, the globe over…

Yet He orchestrated each of our lives so we could be together, in order for us each to know His hope and grace and speak together of His love.

“He loves you. He wants you to believe it.” And he quotes John 3:16. Such a simple statement, yet so rich.

Later, after we’d hugged Woody’s neck and prayed for them both and slipped a $20 in Woody’s old truck as an expression of God’s love, we left and returned home to our own babes and noise and busyness.

“What did the Lord say to you through all that,” husband asked me.

“I’m not sure yet,” I told him. “I need to think about it.”

I thought about what had happened to Woody.

I thought about what had happened to me, as a child.

I thought about Little Bit and the trauma she has experienced.

I thought about the depths of pain and sin and heartache and trauma.

I thought about what persecution did to John the Baptist and what disillusionment did to the disciples and what oppression did to the Israelites.

In each case, it skewed their perspective of God. It caused them to stop believing.

I thought about all the things that cause us to withdraw and reject and not believe God’s love for us.

And then it hit me.The word for “stumble,” that word that means to cease trusting the One who is absolutely worthy and deserving of our complete trust and obedience.

It’s the word “Skandalizo” in the Greek.

Scandal.

And there He is, reaching deep again and bringing me to my knees. I know what to tell Jackson. I know what it is He wants to say to me.

“It’s not what is done to you that is scandalous, my child. Distrust for Me is the real scandal.

This is what causes heavenly hosts to gasp and cover their eyes and bring hands to mouth. This is what causes those who know God’s nature to hide in shame….when one of us distrusts Him.

I thought of the abuse I experienced as a child…and that the real scandal is that I responded in distrust for God.

I thought about hardship and pain and trauma and rejection and abuse and neglect and poverty and deep suffering the world over…and yet still the real scandal is when our response is distrust for the Holy One.

Because the sufferings of this world don’t compare to the glory of Him.    If we could just see!

And isn’t this why Satan attacks our faith and starts even with the youngest of children? He wants to blind our eyes with pain. He wants to mar our vision with abuse, neglect, and hardship.

He wants us to keep our eyes on our own failures and sin.

He wants to scandalize the One who should never, ever, ever be doubted, the One who demonstrated the depths of His character by entering the womb of a woman…being cared for by sinful man…being vulnerable to other’s sin…then dying at the hands of us all.

Oh yes, Satan wants to establish early on a lifestyle of truly scandalous living…distrust for One whose very name is Love.

I drop to my knees and pray to the Holy One who is worthy. “Oh my God, may I never scandalize You again!”

“Satan has done everything he can to sift me and shipwreck my faith. But You have prayed for me and You are the author and finisher of my faith, Jesus, and You have been faithful to me when I have been faithless. Praise Your Name! Now, Worthy One, may I never scandalize You again.”

And I pray for a man named Woody, a man traveling into a Colorado winter and a painful, lonely death. “May he be saved,” I pray. “May You find him. May his dark, cold prison of death be where he discovers Your faithfulness….Your trustworthiness. May his stumbling turn to faith.”

And His whispered response reverberates deep within: “Strengthen the brethren, my child. Strengthen the brethren.”

Friend, are you stumbling? If you are, I have written you a letter that answers the question “How can my faith be restored?” I’m staying up late at the Lord’s prompting to write this :) It is my joy to share two simple lifestyle habits with you. To access the letter, simply click here. Love and blessings, friend. AJ

{Part I of this story can be read here}

Friday’s Father

It’s Friday, and everybody chants ”Thank God It’s Friday”… with plans for the movies or the mall or the local corn maze if it’s October.

Come Friday night, Husband drives downtown into the setting sun.

This is how we spend many Friday nights. While other teenagers are doing silly things they shouldn’t, and other couples are going on dinner dates, and other families are having game nights in their warm houses… Husband, he parks his car at Juvenile Court and checks his belongings at security and gets ushered past the cold steel doors with the loud clicking lock that rings in your ears.

He goes to talk with teenage boys who’ve given up fun Fridays for gangs, theft, and drugs instead.

He enters the small room and waits. The guard makes the announcement to the boys- turned- men-too-early. Some of them are fathers already, themselves barely into adolescence: “Anybody wanna see the preacher?”

And usually 3 or 4 out of the hundred plus say yes and thank God that someone is there, even if it is only one night of the week and oh, if there were more men for other nights of the week, for these boys who’ve never had a father in their lives.

He never asks why they’ve been arrested. He just lets them share what they want. He’s been a deputy sheriff~ in the past, before the call to ministry. He knows how hard a heart can become and he knows how to help soften it.

He shares how Christ can change their lives. He gives these boys hope. He tells them, “Son, you’ve got to decide what direction your life is going to take. You’ve not had anyone to show you the right way…but that doesn’t mean you can’t find it. Jesus is your answer. He’s the life rope that won’t let you down.”

He shares his story, of how he was going down the same road, getting into all sorts of trouble. Then at 21, God intervened in his life and he surrendered to Jesus and that’s when life really began for him.

And sometimes the boys are ready. They do business with God. Sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they are confused and still searching…but always they listen.

“Preacher, can you explain to me the grace of God?” the boys ask, time and time again.

Husband, he comes home broken.

He aches for the loss these boys have experienced. They’ve not seen or known a father. They’ve not been given the chance to see the Father…and isn’t it through incarnate flesh that we really see what the Father looks like?

So he goes and for an hour or so, he is Father’s hands and feet, Father’s words and touch, Father’s breath and life.

He stretches…reaches…touches…

He breathes hope… and then hopes it catches.

And we wonder what more we can do and why is it always so little?

I look at my own four little ones and I wonder, am I explaining to them the grace of God? Does my life, my responses, my energy, my presence, my availability explain God’s grace? Do they know deep that God is good?

Do they daily taste and see that the Lord is good from the home structure and environment I lay out for them day after day?

Am I a Father-mother to them?

No, this isn’t about bashing myself up for all my failures, for they are many. It is about praying, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name…”

Because to hallow His name means to live in accordance with His character. It means to abide in His love. It means to be the instrument of His nature, to allow His very essence be expressed through me. And we are to live “hallowed” because He is hallowed. We express His very divinity.

So I fall to my knees and I beseech “O Father, Hallowed be Your name!! ”

Husband comes home on a Friday night and the kids are in bed and I ask him how it went and he sits on the couch and says, “I only got to talk to one tonight. They were so busy, so busy. So many boys coming in….”

“But he listened and he asked me to tell him what God is like.” His voice cracks and who can bear such a weighty task of reflecting God’s glory? Us? We are all but jars of clay…

“I think he understood, I really do. I think he saw Jesus.”

And in heaven, a prayer is answered. Grace given to the sons of men, a response to sinners saved by grace. A Name is hallowed and a life is changed and joy, it rises; and I can’t wait to beseech on knees again.

O Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name.

If Life Gives You a Root Canal…Yes, Lord. And Thank You.

3:15am and I’m woken by pounding in mouth.

It’s the abcess tooth I thought was simply leaky filling. “Root Canal,” the dentist told me 3 days ago.

At 3:21, I try to ignore it, attempt to cave to the groggy in my head, but the pain won’t let me.

The darkness seems a welcome retreat and I take up its mantra: “I‘m going to be so tired in the morning.” “I just wish I could get a good night’s rest.”

Immediately I feel the energy sap out of me, like wringing a sponge, and I confess to God, “Forgive me, Lord! I seem to want to live in darkness, but really I don’t. God, help me!”

And I see clearly. The thoughts are a blanket tossed my way, sourced by Darkness itself…and I can refuse the cloak they offer.

There is another way.

So I take up gentleness instead. “Yes, Lord. And thank You.”

The “Yes, Lord” part and I have quite a history. Sometime I’ll scratch it out here… But the “Thank You part?” Well that is fairly new. Because I always wondered what exactly I’m thanking Him for?

When I’m in a fender bender, or a child wakes up sick, or Loving Husband is unavailable to meet my needs, or when I’m in the wrong check out line, {which seems to be a pattern for me, and a 10 minute grocery run turns into a 25 minute one}… I’m supposed to give thanks in all things. But sometimes I’m not sure exactly where to start.

One day I was reading ~repenting my way through would be more accurate~ in Romans 1 and there it was: ” For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, nor give thanks…” Romans 1:21

I realized then that thanksgiving is linked to knowing God, to understanding His heart and intentions.

But understanding God’s heart and glory requires a response: Honor and Thanksgiving. Furthermore, if the response isn’t the correct one, it leads to “futile speculations and a darkened heart.”

My difficulty in giving thanks was, at the core, an issue of understanding God and honoring Him as God, in truth for who He really is.

Honor means to celebrate, to magnify, to esteem and lend lustre to. Honoring God is a deliberate choice to recall to mind what He is and celebrate His attributes.

Giving thanks then, is settling down on the character of God.

This has revolutionized my giving thanks. Instead of trying to muster up gratitude for a blade of grass, I can easily thank Him for His goodness that provides the green beneath my feet, for His faithfulness that sends water for it to grow, for His Spirit that sustains every form of life.

So much easier for me! I get it!

So when the abcess tooth woke me up this morning, my “Yes, Lord. And Thank You” went like this:

“Thank You Lord, for Your faithfulness to me. Thank You that You meet my every single need according to Your riches and grace.

Thank You that Your signature gifts are grace and peace and they are always mine for the taking.

Thank You Lord, for Your unfailing Love and the impossibility of it ever being insufficient.

Thank You that You’ve given me all I need to live godly ~right now~ in Christ Jesus.

Thank You that You’re delighted and thrilled to give me the kingdom…I’ll take that, Lord, I’ll take that….

Thank You for love that stretches to the heavens and a faith that overcomes the world and Spirit-breath that imparts and sustains life; thank You for Humility that washed feet, that rubbed finger in spittle, that spoke, “DO not fear, little flock.”

Thank You for eyes that see ~finally~ and for the chance to be more like all that.”

So Yes Lord. And Thank You.

During Holy Week, When Children are Anything but “Holy”…

I go get her up from nap.

I’m all smiles, she is not.

I ask her to go use the bathroom before coming to kitchen and she does… she goes into the bathroom and urinates in her pants.

When I find her in there, standing in front of the toilet… wet… insolent… I am immediately irritated.

She’s done it to spite me, this child resistant to grace.

“Why did you do that?” I ask her, running on my irritation, leaving the Spirit behind.

She stares at me dark, hard, hostile. Silent.

I step out, overwhelmed by a sudden sense of my own foundations. I grew up in a home where religious parents were never pleased. I believed God was like that too. And I’m suddenly aware of the false god I just might be representing to her.

Of late, my prayer has increasingly become, “Lord, show me how to parent this in a manner in keeping with Your character.”

All my life I reckon I’ve struggled with understanding God. Perhaps I always will… at least now I’m aware of the struggle. In a world of jarred chords and evil strains, I’m letting the CROSS be my middle C.

I leave her in the bathroom to finish while I go outside, pick up toys before I mow. I hear from my Father. “Do you understand Me now?” He asks. “Do you know why I’ve forgiven, not according to your acts of righteousness? Do you understand it’s because of My name’s sake?”

There it is, a beam, and I follow it. Harsh judgment is deserved…but judgment never reflects the true nature and disposition of our God.

Words of displeasure, shame, condemnation, punishment…all of these we deserve for sinning against a Holy God. And He can and should dish them out, teach us a lesson we won’t forget….

Except that those things don’t reflect who He is at His core…gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness.

These things are His glory.

And He is pleased to reveal it to us.

It is in such stark contrast to the punitive version of God I was raised with. Yet for all His right and reason, He desired not to act in a way that our insolent rebellion begged for…but in a way that makes known His glory. So He “demonstrated His own love for us” and acted in a manner in keeping with His own character.

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I John 4:9-10

And in so doing, the true nature and character of God was revealed.

Could this be the root of our parenting questions, our consumption of resource after resource, our apathy for the lost, our search for “the something that’s missing?” This deep confusion regarding the true nature of God?

He is good. He is grace. He is love.

He invites me to bask in it, believe it, drink it, take it and live. Live!

And then He tells me something strong and clear. He tells me to reflect it.

“I’ve chosen you for this purpose,” He says, “and you are to honor Me as I am, as I reveal Myself to you.”

I cannot live the way I always have. With each flash of divine revelation into His true nature and character, I am to make lifestyle changes that are in keeping with His revealed nature. This is what it means to “hallow” His name.

I bend the knees to such a high and noble calling in life. To sanctify His name? To reflect His glory? To be His witness? Me??

I go back in to little girl sitting on toilet.

I hug her close. I look deep into her eyes, I stroke damp hair away from her face. I ignore the odor of urine.

With a heart full of the Glory, I show her God.

 

 

“Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”

“And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the Name of the Lord before you…

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” Exodus 33:18-19, 34:6

 

 

**I am working on a study of sorts to take my children through over the summer. It is learning and discussing the names of God and how we can allow a deepened understanding of Him to change our actions and behaviors.

Although I became a believer at a young age, I had to “start from scratch” as an adult in my understanding of God and I began by studying His names. After several years of study, and seeing it  affect my life profoundly, I deeply desire for my children to “hallow” His name, not just know a bunch of facts about God. This study will take my children through 10 major names, includes daily activities centered around the Name’s meaning, and practical application of the Name to our daily lives.

{Example: The name Elohim, Creator God, meets our deep need for significance, purpose, value, and intrinsic worth.}

I *hope* to share it here on the blog as we go. Please pray if you think of us? I sense the Spirit of God moving in this… You can join in by subscribing to this blog here.

How to Redeem Hard Seasons of the Past

It’s early morning in February when it wakes me up growling, sends me running to the bathroom and before the hands of the clock travel yet an hour, I’ve been there 10 times and body is spent, weak, empty.

The kids will be waking soon and I wonder how I’ll do it, sick like this.

Loving Husband will get oldest to school on his way in… but I’ve got 3 preschoolers at home.

How in the world?

I lay there feverish, weak, doing all I can to drag self to the toilet…again.

It’s not just the fires of body that burn me up. It’s the fires of hell that burn most: “You are 900 miles away from family that could help. Everyone else has somebody to call on.”

“You never stay anywhere long enough to build lasting, meaningful relationships.”

“You’ll live your whole life like this, no one to call on when you need help. Alone. Isolated.”

“Aren’t you getting tired of  living like this?”

And I fester on what I don’t have, what my kids are missing, all the what if’s, and I give Husband the hard cold summary version of what I’m thinking as I watch him buckle belt through loops at the foot of the bed:

“I know God’s grace is sufficient for this…but I’d rather have someone with skin on to help with the kids while I’m laying here like this.”

It’s horrible. Wicked.

And true.

The summary that has defined the hard places of my life and the places I don’t particularly care for. I’d rather have provisions according to me, not God graces, thank you very much.

I’m ashamed of the wicked truth; but glad for finally uncovering the putrid, because now it can be cleansed.

For days I wonder why? Why do I insist on God meeting needs my way, God doing what I think is best and needed and right?

Do I not know Him? Do I not trust His goodness? Do I not believe in Grace Gifts?

Yes, there is some of that.

But there is something worse. There is a root and a reason why I can’t see God’s grace as better than people with skin on. God uses Romans 1 to brand me, searing the wound, inflicting pain. The beginning of healing.

“For though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God…” Rom 1:21

Yes, that would apply.

I know God…but at times I fail to celebrate Him as God, especially when times get hard.

I haven’t always carried that knowledge of God into my dark places, taken it up like a rope as I’m lowered into the pit, tethered myself to the Light of the world.

I haven’t always fulfilled my responsibility to intentionally honor God in each place.

But I know it now… When I fail to deliberately acknowledge the Truth about God’s goodness when the sick beds of life tell me something different….I become a blasphemer. I “make the Truth about God inoperable.”

I exchange the truth of God for a lie, the glory of God for an image of my own making.

And I think I can do this without consequence??

Isn’t this what clouds my vision and becomes the reason why I can’t see grace in the moment, my foolish heart darkened?

Isn’t this the path to destruction, a choice of my own choosing?

Oh why, WHY,  do I apply scriptures to the heathen without seeing myself in them?

We are each without excuse. (Rom 1:20, 2:1) You, Arabah, You!

The passage convicts me and exposes me and sears me and I thank God for the breath in my lungs that allow me life long enough to come to this point of recognition and for the kindness of God even here to bring me to repentance.

So if this is where I’ve gone wrong, in failing to celebrate Him, to magnify Him, to ascribe lustre, to extol ~ If I’ve failed to hold on to Truth about Him in hard places, then this is where I go back and “re-do.”

It’s right there at the beginning of Romans. We each have broken down at this point. Like it or not, we can’t go on to the Faith of Romans 4 or the Spirit quickening of Romans 8 or the manifestations of the Spirit controlled life in Romans 12 without first passing Romans 1.

This is the  “Go” on the Monopoly board of life.

I know it so clearly I can see it, my own life the map. I see the breakdown…the consequences…the blasphemy…the fruit.

I pick up Ann’s book and oh, how I “get” it, eucharisteo. “For though they knew God, they did not honor God as God nor give thanks…”

I want to move out of Romans 1 and I’ve found the exit.

I’m not on sick bed any longer, but I go back to that place, back to burning fires and throbbing heads. I start listing the graces there. I extol the Goodness of God. I start a list of 1,000 Gifts in my life’s dark places.

1.anti-diarrhea tabs

2. snow days and canceled schedules

3. Husband who took up the slack

It’s been years and years~ a lifetime ~ since the dark places in my childhood. But I go back there. I list the graces. I celebrate the kindnesses of God.

74. Momma combing hair

75. leaves rustling in trees

76. night owl outside my window

77. cows

78. memory verses

79. gingersnap cookies

It’s been many moons since that isolated apartment in Asia where I wondered where God was but I go back there. I list the graces. I see things in my mind’s eye, relive the life, but this time I see it differently.

314. Big Bertha (our wind up alarm clock) …

317. finding cheese, thank you Lord!

318. squatty potties…

339. bicycles and backpacks and walking everywhere

340. backs that bore the weight of packs filled with Good News Films

341. feet that blistered delivering the message

342. the chance to go

Oh blessed gifts!

I’m redeeming my past.

I’m also paving new paths for my future.

I’m walking out of Romans 1, deliberately extolling the Gifts, Graces, and Goodness of God in all things.

Romans 12, here I come.

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