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When you need a Savior with Skin On

redemption on subway

 

 

redemption on subway

 

 

It’s raining when I leave. I say an early morning goodbye to the kids and the hubs and the house to attend first day of  University. For the second time.

Me, pushing 40.

The subway is crowded and my pant legs are muddy and I stand scrunched in a corner next to a man who uses my head as a prop for his morning newspaper.

Somewhere near the Dongmen Bridge it happens. A man standing in car #105513 passes out. I see the crowd move like a tidal wave away from him. Bodies circle around him where he lays collapsed. From my corner spot, I see his legs protruding from the circle of bystanders.

Everyone seems frozen. Unsure? Uncaring? I wonder if the man is traveling alone? Is there anyone here who can help him?

No one steps forward. No one stretches out a hand.

Just as suddenly as his collapse, the man scrambles to his feet and white-knuckle grips the overhead handle bar. A few standing close start to snicker, undoubtedly relieved the ordeal is over. Someone has the sense to give up their seat. He stumbles to sit, sinks back and leans his head against the side of the car.

He’s sitting on the same side I’m on, about 15 feet away and I watch him. He’s young, maybe 25? Then he groans and closes his eyes. We are all riveted.

When he starts to slide down on top of the gal beside him, I know he’s passed out again. She reaches out and tries to push him off but she can’t. She’s holding him up, looking wild at the passengers around her. She’s panicked and desperate and her eyes plead for someone to help.

Not a soul budges. Everyone stands and stares and doesn’t move a muscle.

The man needs medical attention and why doesn’t someone near him make a phone call? Push the emergency button? Yell for medical assistance? Something? I’m just a foreigner, an outsider. I’m no one’s savior.

But I can’t wait any longer. I hoist my bag and push my way through 15 feet of people. I grab him with both hands and gently right his unconscious body. “This man needs medical attention. Where is the emergency button on this subway?”

No one knows. Everyone seems relieved that someone has stepped forward. Like I know what I’m doing. I don’t.

I ask a woman nearby to contact the subway’s security. “I don’t know how to call them,” she tells me.

Why won’t somebody do something?

The man is still out and he’s lost control of his bladder. Urine drips down the seat, puddles the floor. Another stop comes and goes and we’re still trying to get help.

The young man briefly comes to and tries to sit up. “It’s okay,” I tell him. My hands are on his shoulders. He blacks out again.

Where is that emergency button? I keep asking. I finally find the button and press it.

Nothing happens.

I’ve been elected in charge so I’m making the executive decision: “When we stop, someone needs to get off and alert security that this passenger needs medical attention,” I tell the passengers. I’m staying with him. At the next stop, a woman jumps off and starts yelling for security. The train shuts the doors and leaves without her… and without help.

The young man’s face is beaded with sweat. He opens his eyes and looks at me. There is green matter rolled in the corner of his left eye. “We’re going to help you,” I reassure him. My hands still hold him tight. I’m straddling urine.

His body relaxes. “Thank you,” he whispers.

Security is standing on the platform at the next stop. We are able to get the young man off the subway and to the medical station. I see him to safety and continue on to my stop.

It’s still raining when I exit the subway station, the world above oblivious to the cares of a single soul struggling in the bowels below. I dodge puddles and on-coming traffic as I walk to the University. I can’t help but wonder it: “What if it had been me on that subway? Would anyone have come to my aid?”

I’m pretty sure of the answer.

And there comes a time in a person’s life when she senses her own deep helplessness, her raw need, her vulnerability, her sheer isolation. Past our exteriors and our busyness, our smiles and successes and accomplishments, deep in the bowels of the soul, we know we’re depraved deep and broken to boot. And no one is capable of reaching us. No one can bridge the gap. No one can put us back together.

I groan guteral with David, “Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. Psalm 142:4

Surely we all are that young man on the subway.

But there’s something else. There’s another whisper flooding in, giving hope, speaking truth. God’s voice speaks as One who takes notice of man. “I looked, but there was no one to help, and I was amazed that no one assisted; so My arm accomplished victory for Me…My own arm brought salvation.” Isaiah 63:5

And it’s the good news we can cling to, that when there was no one to step in and rescue, God Himself donned flesh and came down to dwell among men. God ate with sinners and He spit in dirt and He asked, “Do you believe?” And He said to the broken, “Your sins are forgiven you.”

The profane is transformed by the Sacred, the broken redeemed by a Lamb, the dead given new life.

We have a Savior.

It’s just that in the midst of the mud and the mess and the mundane, we need reminders.  On that muddy walk to University I notice the bottom of my bag smells of urine.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

At the University, I duck into the bathroom to wash my hands. Glancing in the mirror, I’m surprised to see the cross prominently hanging around my neck. I had forgotten I was wearing it. The gold shines beautiful there against the black backdrop of my top.

The cross. God’s message to us, His assurance that everything really is okay.

The cross! I pray the young man and train passengers saw the cross today, dangling from the neck of someone who said, “I’ll help you.”

The cross speaks truth when we’re desperate lost and need to know there’s a way.

The cross is the daily reminder when we’re buried in the daily to-dos.

The cross says when we were without hope in this world … Jesus came.

When we were aliens and strangers … Jesus came.

When we were separated, isolated, excluded from citizenship … Jesus came.

When we were dead in our transgressions and sins … Jesus came.

He hoisted the cross and He bridged the gap and went the distance and He reached out and He rescued the needy. With complete competency and wild devotion He said, “I will help you.”

There in the mirror, I look at the cross against the backdrop of black. In my weakness and inability and failure, smelling of urine and mud, I hear its message afresh: “Don’t be afraid, you little Jacob. I will help you.”

It’s the hope of the redeemed that changes her life. It’s the  truth that propels her onto the streets, into the classroom, onto the subways. The cross changes everything.

We’re redeemed.

 

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

 

When you’re wondering about God’s heart for wretched sinners

Some days you wonder if there is any hope for you…the chief of sinners.

For you… for us… there is today. There is Jesus on the cross, telling us God’s heart for sinners, even the chiefest.

 

Look to Him and live, all peoples of the earth.

 

“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
“Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
“Woman, behold your son; behold your mother.”
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
“I am thirsty.”
“It is finished.”
“Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.”

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

“This is a trustworthy statement and worthy of all acceptance:

Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

I Timothy 1:15

Arabah’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

 

I had to reprimand Little Bit first off. That is never good and it went sour right away and she resisted and told stories and then flat out rebelled.

She got sent to my room, which made us late and I had to drop the school child off while still wearing my sleeping top (thank goodness for jackets) and the two younger children broke the drawer on the armoire while Little Bit and I were doing business.

The house was a wreck, I wasn’t dressed, Little Bit was at odds with me and the day had just flat out started poorly.

I ended up getting what I wanted from Little Bit.. She submitted. I am the mommy.

But as I looked into her hard eyes, I know that I didn’t score a victory.

Why do I keep forgetting that my goal is not to win a battle? My goal is to win the war, the war for my child’s heart and soul.

I’m a bigger fool than she is. I’ve screwed this all up.

We get back from dropping child at school and I get down on the floor amidst the scattered puzzles and jumping frogs and Bingo markers and broken drawer with cobwebs on the back. I call Little Bit to me and look into her eyes.

“Little Bit,” I tell her. “I’m the mom and God made me in charge. It is not okay for you to resist and rebel against me. Mommy has to teach you that you cannot do that…but I don’t know that I did the right thing, baby. Mommy isn’t always sure how to teach you what is right. Let’s pray to Jesus, okay?”

I take her in my arms, knowing her rigid body means she is still resisting. We pray.

“Lord Jesus, please help us. Please help mommy to be a good mommy. Please help mommy love Little Bit and know how to teach her what is right. Please give mommy wisdom.”

Mommy is crying, now…and I’m shocked when I feel little sobs against my shoulder.

Little Bit is crying too.

“Jesus, You are Savior and Redeemer. Please redeem the rest of this day for us.” I speak the words and a flash of lightening cracks through my heart.

It illuminates my darkness.

I wipe Little Bit’s eyes. “Let’s have a good day,” I tell her as she softens in my arms.

I return to that flash, that illumination, that powerful word shot through the heart when I called on Him as Savior.

“Today is the day of salvation.”

Oh yes, but it’s true! As long as it is still called today, it is the day of salvation. There is indeed redemption. This day can be salvaged.

If only I can hold on to that!

Like Alexander going to sleep with gum in his mouth and waking up with gum in his hair, and getting his jacket wet, and on and on, so it seems when one bad thing happens, it spawns other bad things.

The day starts off rough…so I’m short with the children, impatient with everyone, critical of friends, insecure about my choices, and it never stops.

It really is a vicious cycle, a trap meant to claim my whole day, bit by bit.

But this, the word of truth. Today is the day of salvation.

I can just stop right here. I can draw a line. There is a Redeemer and He can literally save the day.

No matter how horrible it has been, how terrible my choices, no matter how out of control life has become…our Savior can salvage it. He has given today a name: salvation.

When the tempation comes to cave to the mess, the noise, the chaos, the bad choices, the insecurity,  I have a weapon. I take it up and I speak it out loud and I know that it is true.

The day is saved. I need not wait for tomorrow.

Now if I can just find Alexander to let him know…

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.

“Momma, What’s a Messiah?”

 

 

It’s after we take Communion (we’re from the south. We call it the Lord’s Supper~ smile) that the questions start. “Why are you eating that? Can little kids eat it too?”

We explain the body broken, the blood poured out, and I snag wonderfully on that phrase “which is for you” written in red.

After lunch, I tuck little ones into bed for a nap. “Momma, what’s a Messiah?” youngest daughter asks.

Momma is standing ~ still in her church clothes ~ by the bed and she can’t help but dramatize for two pair of eyes what a Messiah is. I stretch out my arms and swoop down to gather air, like I’m saving someone. “A Messiah is a Savior, a Rescuer, Someone who helps us when no one else can.” I begin.

“You see, sin tells us that we will be happy if we obey it…so we do.” I creep up close to the bed and eyes are watching me, alert. ”Then sin tells us, “HA, ha, ha! You are mine now and you can’t ever get away from me!” Against my will, my hands are tied behind my back and I’m locked up and I struggle but I can’t get freed.

“And sin takes us and locks us up and puts us in prison and we can’t get out and we look for help, but no one can help us.”

“But Jesus saves us, right Momma?” Little voice asks.

“Yes! And then Jesus…the Messiah…He steps up strong and says, “I’ll help. I can do it and I will do it,” and He comes to earth and conquers the prison gates and enters your cell~ yours!~ and sets you free and breaks the chains and leads you out and rescues you. Forever.”

“That’s a Messiah.”

Sweet girl is lying in bed smiling, rejoicing, with her hands covering her face to try to contain the joy, and I exclaim, “That’s why we sing, “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

Who can help but not burst out with joyous clapping and isn’t this the most glorious news you have ever heard?! We have a Savior! We have a Messiah!

When we are done clapping and praising, she says, “Momma, when I wake up, I want to talk about this again.”

“So do I,” I tell her. So do I.

This Labor Day, we are celebrating our Wonderful Savior, the One who makes it possible to cease our labors and rest in His redemptive work. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

I am… I AM

 

 

When I awake, old voices haunt.

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

I’ve hardly a chance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I AM,” God said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am a mess up… I AM in control

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

I am unable… I AM able….and willing!

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

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

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

Here I will stay.

 

Why Friday made all our days “Good”

“If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD. He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.”

“God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

“We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…a ransom for many.”

“No one takes it from me, but I lay my life down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again….I will love them freely.”

“The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me.”

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God…to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.”

(Today’s morning scriptures from “Daily Light on the Daily Path”)

How to Make the Bitter Sweet

“I’ve got a big ol’ steel cup of bitter,” she told the ladies group.

“Five kids, homeschooling, a controlling husband, a home based business. The demands never end and the resources are never enough.”

Another spoke up and shared her waters, the lot she’s been given, the bitter she can’t get down.

Who hasn’t come to the waters of Marah? Bitter waters aren’t potable. Our human condition cannot stomach such.

The ladies in bible study all turned to look at me, like I would have some answer for them.  Um… blank. I was thinking of Marah and I mumbled something about Exodus 15 and grew silent, hoping someone else would step in and take it over. It’s all I had.

I went home and looked again at the place Marah, where God “tested” His people.

I’d seen it in my own life; I’d heard it from the ladies at group; and now here it was in the scriptures: we come to the bitter and ask, “What are we to drink?”

The question implies we anticipate a change. This water hole isn’t going to cut it, surely God is going to take us down the road to a new, fresh, clear place where we can drink and be satisfied.

We expect God will make things better by changing location, circumstances, or by giving a quick fix.

But He doesn’t.

“…the Lord showed him a tree…”

He shows us “the Tree,” the wood that when brought to bear on the bitter turns it to sweet.

But oh, wait a minute.  I’m seeing something here. It was at the bitter waters that God revealed Himself as “The Lord, your Healer.”

Surely it is the bitter of life where God makes Himself known to us as The Great Physician as well… if we can get past asking how our needs are going to be met and let Him do what He does best.

The Physician begins by “testing” us.

“…and there He tested them.” (vs.25) The Healer gives His people a stress test!

The waters of Marah are a test to determine our condition. Here, our Healer God evaluates our health and exposes the hidden.

Have your bitter waters brought out complaining, grumbling, negativity, and short-sightedness in you?

{Ouch. That stress test hurt.}

That’s okay, because He isn’t done yet.

Next, the Physician gives a prescription.

“There He made for them a statute and ordinance…” (vs 25)

When I reached the words “statute” and “ordinance” I got down on my knees in astonished praise. Statute means “a prescription, a specific decree.” Ordinance means “a decision, the act of deciding a case and giving a proper, fitting, customized plan.”

God tested His people with bitter waters to determine what the proper RX should be.

The lasting prescription He gave was the cross, the wood in the water.

So blown away was I by this that I googled it to see what else I could find. “What is the statute God gave in Exodus 15:25?”

I asked this of a computer.

This is what came back:

“The leading of Israel to bitter water, which their nature could not drink, and then the sweetening or curing of this water, were to be the statute (the Rx) for Israel by which God would always guide and govern His people, and a judgement (a decision, a custom fitted plan) inasmuch as Israel could always reckon upon the help of God and deliverance from every trouble.” Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the OT

Right there at Marah is where God, the Great Physician, revealed His prescription for bitter waters that can’t be stomached. When I am facing a moment in my day when I just. can’t. get. this. cup. down….there is a solution.

I can apply the Cross.

God doesn’t lead us to another water hole to drink from. He shows us how we can drink from any water hole, praise God! no matter how bad it’s waters are. He tells us, “I’m not changing a thing, I’m giving you a lasting ordinance, a foul-proof way to make your bitter waters sweet.

Two and a half weeks later,  I’m reading Galatians 6 and Paul says, “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross…” and my ears perk up and my heart opens wide and I can’t wait to see what Paul has to say about the Cross, that beam of wood that makes the bitter sweet.

“…through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”

It’s what Paul says next that astonishes me most. “And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them.”

Is he talking about the regulation? The lasting ordinance? THAT rule? The Exodus 25:15 one?

The Cross changes everything. It makes the bitter sweet because absolutely nothing is “old.” Behold, all things have become new!

The Cross gives Purpose. I am dead to ordinary. I am dead to meaningless. I am dead to empty mundane tasks. Everything is new and full of purpose. There is no ordinary. Whatever I do, it is eternally significant.

The Cross gives Presence. The Cross is the Bridge by which I leave the ordinary, the bitter, and enter the Divine Sphere. I am dead to the world and alive unto God. I have access to Divinity at all times.

The Cross gives Power. It is not about me “doing” something, like circumcision of old. It is simply living by the rule that I am indeed a new creation because of the cross of Christ. I am not helpless. The Cross is the “power of God.”  (see I Corinthians 1:17-18)

It is not something to be understood with the head, but accepted with the heart.

“Even so, consider yourselves also dead to sin, and your relation to it broken, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11

The 3 R’s of God’s Classroom

I hear his story on the radio, on the way to take oldest to school.

His name is Matt and a car accident changed his life. He lost the ability to read.

Every time he sat down to read, he just could not put the words together. “I don’t understand!” he kept crying.

They told him he’d never finish school.

But he decided to try. He submitted himself to a program in which he re-trained his brain to read letters on a page. For over a year, he re-trained.

He had four hundred and eighty something days straight of migraine headaches.

It hurt. He pushed on.

It was hard. He pushed on.

It was agonizingly frustrating, re-learning something a completely different way, when he’d already done it the easy way years earlier.

He pushed on.

He can read now. He graduated with honors. And now he’s pursuing an MBA.

The story comes on a day when I want to give up. I’m oh so tired and the grueling work confuses the mind, sweat stings the eyes.

The story concludes on the radio and the Voice speaks to me: “I told you these days would come,” and I remember nearly a year ago, when He first gave me my prognosis.

I was sitting in the audience, waiting to hear the preacher, thinking the Word would come once the announcements were over. But no, there was one who had something to say and He spoke through that one.

The one had limped down the aisle to the podium, dragging his leg behind him.

His words were just as slow, forced out of a mouth that couldn’t keep up with the mind.

He barely spoke two sentences before he ambled back down the aisle, but in the span of those two sentences our mutual Maker spoke loud and clear, with no faltering and no stuttering. “That’s you,” He told me.

It was so powerful and so out of the ordinary that I told my husband about it that evening. “Yes, I know the young man,” he told me. “He calls himself “Marine 4 Christ.’”

I was so taken by this connection God had made between me and this young injured soldier, that I googled him. “Marine4Christ.” I found the connection in listening to his testimony.

Like Brandon, I am a wounded warrior. Years of abuse and spiritual bondage left me wounded and paralyzed, in a coma of sorts… Dead weight to those who cared for me.

“You are awake now,” He said to me that day as I watched Brandon’s story. “Like Brandon, I’ve redeemed your life too.”

“Now. If you are to get well, you too will have to relearn everything.

Relearn Everything.

I knew it would take hard, agonizing work. Grueling days, hours, moments. Impossible odds. Days when I’d say, “I can’t do this anymore.” It would take a team of people around me who pushed me to do what I felt simply and absolutely impossible.

But if I was to get well, if I wanted to live again, I would have to re-learn the ways of Grace. I’d have to learn how to eat again, how to work again, how to stand up and walk.

I’m still in the classroom. Today as I wondered if I’ve made any progress at all, God showed me that I have at least learned what the 3 R’s are in His classroom, and I’m giddy with the knowledge:

1. Receive- The way to eat is to receive. Receive all of God’s goodness and grace and to do that, one must open up, let go, do the opposite of what comes naturally when one has lived on life support. “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”

Open up, take in, swallow down. Receive.

2. Rest- The work of God’s classroom is to rest, the cessation of self striving and self effort. To move the spiritual body means letting Him be the one to both give and fill the prescription. He is in me both to will and to work.

Resting in God’s Kingdom classroom is not passive! “Labor to enter into that rest…” (Heb 4:11) Entering rest is perhaps the most difficult work of all.

3. tRust- The walk of the godly is to trust. The just shall live by faith. Just as each step is an act of free falling, so walking by faith is learning to free fall through my days, letting God-legs catch and sustain.

This is what it means to re-gain the ability to walk.

On a day like today, I wonder if I’ve made any progress at all. I wonder if I can pick up and just. do. today’s. part. Then I hear Matt’s story and I remember Brandon’s story and I know that like them, I can do it too. My life is redeemed and my Physician won’t forsake me.

And He’s placed me in just the right environment for me to re-learn, with people in my life (especially the 4 children!) who will push me and force me to new limits. I just need submit to His plan and keep practicing.

One day, I’ll be eating on my own. I’ll have full range of movement again. I’ll be walking.

And today? Well today I’ve moved one day closer.

Have a great weekend, dear friend, you who have happened upon this place today…

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