25 Days of Thankful Day #2: Freedom

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Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned;  that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Colossians 4:2-4

I am most thankful today for the freedom that many courageous people over the years have fought and died for. The freedom to walk around in my own home in safety and peace. To do all the simple chores around the house that I do take for granted. The freedom to pray without fear of someone pounding on the door waiting to arrest me. Freedom to go to work….drive my car…..go to the gym.

Freedom from fear of being kicked out of my homeland.

All over the world there are people who were living and working and enjoying freedom just like me. They were prospering in all kinds of different jobs for which they were trained. They educated themselves to better their community. They enjoyed success. They were raising families. Today they are in refugee camps. Their homeland was wrestled away from them violently, their old freedoms are only a memory. They watched their churches and homes be bombed or torn down and some of their Pastors arrested or killed.

My blogger friend David Rupert answered God’s call and went over to those camps. He went into the danger zone and interviewed many of these people. You can read their stories here on his blog. What they have been through, I can scarcely imagine. And yet, in their eyes you can still see joy, and you can see the bond that can never be broken. Because even though they have lost everything, they have their faith and they have their God and each other.

I so appreciate his courage for going over there to bring back their stories because now when I am going about my day doing what I am still so free to do, I think of them. And I pray for them.

Now it’s not just something that is happening somewhere else, it’s something that’s happening to my brothers and sisters in Christ who someday I will meet in Heaven. I can only hope and pray I would be as courageous and strong as they have been if I were put in the same position.

I truly hope I never have to find out.

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Feeling Empty? Don’t despair……..


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See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19

Many of my days have felt flat lately. I am fighting a battle, it’s like a dragon really. It’s an old battle so I know how to fight it. The dragon I am slaying has to do with tanking hormone levels due to a condition who will remain nameless, due to my age. The battlefield is taking place within my own body, who seems to be betraying me about now. You see, I have always been able to get my weight under control. I have always been able to push my way through with some extra exercise and eating right. The extra pounds would come off and the muscle would form…..I could watch myself take shape without fail. This time a force beyond my control is resisting my every effort.

Then again, I have never been 56…..there I said it. Everyone who knows me, knows I celebrate every single birthday. I have gone into the whys with other posts. And I celebrated this one despite being in the fog, in the mist and malaise of that thing which will not be named. (For now I will refer to it as Voldemort.) For those who never read Harry Potter, Voldemort is the big evil, the one who gave Harry his scar.

This morning started as many mornings over the past year. I didn’t feel that surge of joy that a new day had begun. I had to pray to get up and face it. It’s not that I was depressed, I was just ambivalent about it starting. As I prayed and began to move about my day, God nudged me in that way He has and said……”You know, feeling empty is not necessarily a bad thing, I am an expert at filling empty.”

“Yes, Lord, you are. How well I know it.”

So I started moving, and living and choosing life instead of death. That is pretty much the secret. This is a season which will not last and there is blessing in being empty, for Jesus came to fill all places. There is no place in our heart, mind, soul and body that He can’t fill. So I said yes to blowing off the driveway. And I also said yes to gratitude, for I have blessings too numerous to count.

And I kept on saying yes when I got my fall flag out. And I said yes again when I filled my body with good things to eat instead of junk. And I am saying yes by typing life-giving words onto this screen, because if it’s one thing I know, it’s that God always rewards the step of faith however small. And the step taken with hope, even if it’s not felt right away will sooner or later take root and bloom into feeling just at the right time.

For hope is not something we feel, it’s something we have that’s tangible. It’s alive…..it came up out of the ground with Jesus. Hebrews 11:1 Parallel: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. Now faith is the assurance of [things] hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

So I will continue to beat my body into submission by exercise and eating right, and getting medical help if I need it, knowing that in due time if I don’t give up (and I won’t because I am stubborn like that) I will see results.

I remember like it was yesterday when I had to do this the first time. I had taken my wonderful gift of health and throwing it in God’s face by successfully starving myself and tanking my hormone levels to ground zero. After he healed my mind I had to do the hard work of healing my body. And I had to learn to forgive myself after God and my parents already forgave me for putting them through all that.

I remember getting up in the dark so no one would see me, running in any kind of weather. Those awful blue nylon shorts I wore…..I can still hear them swishing. Then my Dad joined me and we had some good times running together. It a good memory now, our running times. I went from death to life then, and now it’s another kind of passage from a different kind of death into a different kind of life. I guess you could call it the second act.

I can’t wait to see what God is going to do after He and I slay the dragon together.

The story God longs to write

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“Jesus watches us”……. that’s the line that jumped out of my Dad’s letter to me.

There is a story God longs to write on your heart. You may not know it, but your very own life has an BC and an AD attached to it. God has thrown the invitation out and is waiting for you to accept. Salvation is the modern-day miracle of our times. Our redemption story is the single most valuable thing we can offer to a world waiting for hope. A changed life is the single most powerful testimony of God’s glory here on earth. You say miracles don’t happen? Look in the mirror. If you are a Christ follower today, you are a miracle.

As I was sitting in my “prayer chair” this morning I started thinking about the changed lives in my own little circle and then I looked back on my own life and I had to go from sitting to kneeling in a hurry. What grace has touched my life. At the age of somewhere around 13 or 14 I felt the Holy Spirit’s tug and I knew it was a decision I couldn’t put off. Where did that come from? I can still remember the night of my Baptism, the pastor in waders, me looking out to the crowd and giving my profession of faith……taking my place quietly after it was over, wet head and all. And the years after……when He pulled me back from the brink, delivering me from anorexia with that one dream and how the very next morning I ate food again. It was scrambled eggs and we were all crying, Mom and Dad and I.

And I remember Elaine when we first met and how she asked me how I could be so hopeful when she knew my husband had just died. Her life had started out in church but she had left that behind, as many of us do. Her path was diverted and for a while she wandered, but God was waiting to finish His story on her heart; He remembered that little white-haired girl with the flouncy skirts, sitting in her Uncle’s church in the front row requesting songs while her Aunt played “I’ll Fly Away.”

She left a whole life behind when she came to our town, and I never realized at the time how hard that probably was. She was baptized in a river, which her parents thought was crazy, but they were there anyway. And on the way home that night we ran over a carpet on the freeway. To this day we still laugh about it, how it caught under the car smoldering and it was like a Chinese fire drill, everyone bailing out to dislodge it.

I think of my Mom who was raised in church but didn’t know Jesus until around the age of around 35 or 40. When she met Him her life changed forever. Before, she worried about everything and had two bleeding ulcers to prove it. After, she was healed, body mind and spirit. She has impacted many lives by stepping out in faith, introducing herself to strangers and inviting them to Bible studies too many to count over the years.

And my Dad and brother have their own redemption stories too, no less miraculous. My Dad met Jesus in a church he didn’t particularly like……but Jesus is like that, He can show up anywhere. My brother wasn’t too keen on that church either, but on Easter Sunday 1982 he walked down the aisle as I sang in the choir.

My brother’s wife miraculously met Jesus after someone invited her to a play about Heaven and hell. Not long after she went through her own personal hell of chemo and cancer. She gave it all she had, but it wasn’t enough and my brother’s love big as it was couldn’t hold her here either. In that battle, it was Jesus love that broke through in the midst of her pain and said, “I’ll take it and you.” She died with a smile on her face and sings today with the angels.

The heart-breaking truth is: Sometimes the prayers for healing aren’t answered and no one knows why, but the important thing is, we know Who she’s with right now.

The single most important event in your life has either taken place or is waiting to take place.

It’s just three words, “Yes, I believe.” Someone is waiting to hear your redemption story today……….Like the eunuch, they are ready to say yes, they just need the right Someone to put their hope and trust in.

And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. Acts 8:26-39

I believe what I believe…….

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I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

According to Wikipedia, the purpose of a creed is to provide a doctrinal statement of correct belief, or Orthodoxy.  The creeds of Christianity have been drawn up at times of conflict about doctrine: acceptance or rejection of a creed served to distinguish believers and deniers of a particular doctrine or set of doctrines. For that reason a creed was called in Greek a σύμβολον (Eng. symbolon), a word that meant half of a broken object which, when placed together with the other half, verified the bearer’s identity. The Greek word passed through Latin “symbolum” into English “symbol”, which only later took on the meaning of an outward sign of something.

In the year 325 AD a controversy arose whereby Arius, a Libyan presbyter in Alexandria, had declared that “although the Son was divine, he was a created being and therefore not co-essential with the Father, and “there was when he was not,” This made Jesus less than the Father, which posed soteriological challenges for the nascent doctrine of the Trinity. Arius’s teaching provoked a serious crisis.”

The Nicene Creed of 325 explicitly affirms the co-essential divinity of the Son, applying to him the term “consubstantial”. The 381 version speaks of the Holy Spirit as worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. The Athanasian Creed (not used in Eastern Christianity) describes in much greater detail the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apostles’ Creed makes no explicit statements about the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit, but, in the view of many who use it, the doctrine is implicit in it.

On its own, this statement of belief would be only a collection of words, however, since it is rooted and grounded in the Holy Word of God it stands forever as a unifying standard that applies to all Christian Churches. I never recited this growing up as a Baptist but when I visited other churches and they would recite it, I always loved it though inwardly I cringed a bit with the “Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” because I thought I was being hypocritical saying that part when I wasn’t Catholic. But in this case, the word “catholic” is derived from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning “general”, “universal. (Although some Catholics might disagree on that point)

This morning, millions of churches will gather together and break bread over these words. In this instance, we are totally unified despite our different denominations. I found myself saying these words this morning as a awoke, well really singing them. In the 1970s Rich Mullins wrote a tune to these very words and I played it on the way to work yesterday. Of these words he says:

And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
I did not make it, no it is making me
I said, “I did not make it, no it is making me”
It is the very truth of God
And not the invention of any man…….

Amen, dear Rich, you have been living that out with Jesus for years already. I can’t wait to meet you……..

My prayer for today:

“Oh Father, though the streams of culture and the world flow swiftly and changeably around us, Your words are like a mighty rock it swirls around. The world has its eyes turned elsewhere, but ours are forever turned to you. You are the first and the last, and your words were formed long before this world existed and they will stand for all eternity. We thank you that though everything else changes, you never do. In an unsettled world, we draw tremendous comfort from that. I pray that the church will continue be an open door for people coming in from the world battered and bruised and that we in the church might be a conduit for the great love and mercy you have shown to us. You are light in our darkness, without you, we have nothing.” Amen

Why traditional marriage doesn’t need defending

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I was going to stay silent. I thought maybe my two cents really didn’t matter. But then, I kept getting these thoughts and they weren’t going away. Usually the ones that don’t go away turn into blog posts because I feel it’s the Holy Spirit nudging me to speak. I will start with these thoughts:

Marriage is a perfect institution, made up of imperfect people.

Marriage will never go away on this earth because it was instituted by God in the garden of Eden.

Marriage is Holy.

Marriage is a physical depiction of a deeper spiritual illustration of Christ (the Groom) and the Church (the Bride)

These aren’t my ideas, they come from the Bible. That’s why marriage (and when I say that, I mean the traditional kind) can stand on its on. God started it and God will end it as well.

Jesus answered this question when He was on earth.

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you,  ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

So, marriage was started by God and it will be ended by God in eternity. End of story.

Marriage has really taken a beating in our modern society. I have heard it mocked, seen it twisted into all sorts of shapes and sizes and kinds. I have heard cynics blast holes in it, and I have seen people ignore it completely. I have heard the argument that it ruins a good relationship. I have seen people scoff at it and roll their eyes over it. I have seen people marry over and over again until it’s just about stripped of any meaning.  

But none of that taints the perfection or the Holiness of the institution itself.

The thing that concerns me the most about this whole debate is what it means for the future of our nation. For I still believe that a nation that supports a healthy view of the traditional family will remain strong, while a nation that loses its moral fiber will perish. (Think of Rome, for instance)

Those of us who don’t recognize the validity or right of two people of the same-sex to marry will be called all sorts of ugly things. I have already seen it. We will be labeled as hateful, bigoted, homophobic, unkind, and intolerant. Not to mention ignorant.

While those who do support it will be painted as loving, tolerant, compassionate, kind and wise.

Both sides will forget to love.

Both sides will forget that we are all in this together.

And with all this talk of love and rainbows floating across the news feeds of America and the world right now, there is really only One great love worth celebrating.

His name is Jesus, and He came to this world to defeat sin and save sinners (of whom I am chief, right along with the Apostle Paul) He was and is love personified. Love with a capital “L.”

He came down here to defeat sin and death forever, and He had to die a terrible and tortuous death meant for you and me in order to do that.

He even went to hell so we would never have to go there because He doesn’t want us to be separated from Him ever again.

That is the Love I am celebrating today and everyday. And everyday, I am grateful and in awe of His great Grace that continues to cover my great sin.

 That’s a Love worth celebrating.

Lent Day #13: What is Truth?

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Pilate seemed to be haunted with the question: “What is truth?”  He was in fact standing right in front of the embodiment of “Truth,” Jesus Himself, and he still missed the mark. Pilate’s wife, however, had a brush with truth and it terrified her: “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.”

I was asking myself this morning, why is it that so many young people have become disillusioned with the churches of their youth? Why are they so willing to grab at any other counterfeit philosophy, religion or way of life this world has to offer? Even ISIS, God forbid. What have they found so very attractive in the world?

What makes a seven-year old stand in front of a congregation, face alight with truth and knowledge and love of God, to declare their faith and plunge under the waters of Baptism only to abandon that same faith 14 years later?

I don’t think there is any one answer, but a combination of many things, but right now I would like to write a letter to all those young adults out there who think God no longer has any relevance in their daily life.

 

Dear Twentysomethings:

This is Jesus, remember me?

I’m still here. I remember you, even if you no longer remember me. First of all, I just want to say that I miss you, and so does my Father. We see you going about your daily life, with all its joys and heartaches and lost loves. We see how you smile and laugh with your friends, how you are learning so much. We see how you are burning the candle at both ends; falling asleep in class and working that part-time job.

We are deeply interested in all your comings and goings. Each day we try to get your attention in thousands of little ways. Did you see that sunset last night? I saw you look up briefly but I didn’t hear a prayer of thanks. In fact, I haven’t heard any prayers at all. I miss our talks. And remember that heavy rain storm last fall? Those were our tears as we watched you wrestle with that terrible decision. We wanted to help, to guide you. We could have offered a way out but you didn’t ask us. We stood aside as we felt the agony in our own Spirit, even as you told all your friends and family you were fine.

Let me remind you of something about my Father. He is less interested in telling you what to do and much more interested in infusing your life with meaning and truth and total fulfillment. He knows all have fallen short but He loves you anyway. We see your heartache and deep loneliness. We see the tears that fall when no one else is watching.

We know that the world is doing its best to make you believe that everything that looks good to you is truth. That whatever you feel in your heart must be right and that all those things you grew up learning in church were nothing but empty lies and fairy tales written by old men. Things that have no or impact or relevance in your life now.

Let me remind you that the Bible is my love letter to you, inspired by My own Spirit and written in my own blood and the blood of others who died for it. My Word will never steer you wrong, the world always will. There is an enemy out there who would like nothing better than to destroy your soul.

The soul I died to save.

You might think that your life is really exciting right now, but I promise if you really get to know me I can give you excitement and power and meaning like you never dreamed possible. More than you could ever ask or think. I am that kind of God. I am the One who calmed the waves with a word, the One that put this whole thing into motion. I long to take you to the far corners of the universe to hear the stars sing.

But only if you come back to the truth. To the only love that will never let you down. You may feel that your are free right now, but you have made yourself a prison of your own wants, needs and desires. Those can never give you true fulfillment or the peace and rest your soul so desperately craves. We can. It’s never too late to come home.

Our arms are always open. The Lover of your soul, Jesus.

“For although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.”

Lent Day #11: Putting my heart through the wash cycle

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I head out to my car, again for some quiet time. And today I really have nothing, nada, no idea what “word manna” will come down if any. All I have is my inner assurance that something will. I have never done anything like this. It’s like a Holy experiment because I have determined that I will not write anything just for the sake of ticking one more post off the list, but to be silent until I receive something from the Holy Spirit. And like the manna that fell like snow for the Israelites in the desert, words can’t be left over. And neither can they be written ahead.

I open the sunroof and the sound of birdsong drifts in. A mockingbird is singing his heart out from a nearby Mesquite tree and clouds are blowing in. A change is in the air. The wind in the trees somehow mimics the sounds of ocean waves. Imagine that, here in the desert! God brings me the ocean even here. He loves to give us little surprises to see if we will notice.

Slowly I scroll through the Bloglists on Facebook until I get to one that leads further in to this site: www.21martyrs.com and I hear Jesus words and they stop me in my tracks and then it hits me. This is my message for today:

Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that.” Luke 12:4
But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

“Surely not these atrocious acts, Lord.” Then I remembered how Saul looked in approval on as Stephen was stoned to death, before the Lord called him and he was renamed Paul. Ever since I have seen those 21 paraded out before the world, I have felt a searing hate for those with the knives. After all, I am an American patriot. We go after our enemies don’t we? Yes, part of me would love to see them wiped off the face of the earth. And yet.

Don’t I call myself a disciple of Jesus? A follower of the Way?

To forgive the unforgivable, that’s what Jesus did. Even while He was still hanging on the cross. And He calls us to do the same, impossible as it may seem. One thing I do know, everyone who dies for the sake of the Gospel and for Jesus will never die in vain. I believe God is calling us to pray, more now than ever before.

And I believe that these horrific acts that continue to color the ground red will lead to Heaven’s gates swinging open to others that may never have entered in otherwise.

As I sat there in my car listening to the trees that sounded like waves, I felt like my heart was being washed clean. I felt convicted. I felt the tide of hate in me recede just a little bit. I still hate what those people did, and God does too. But Jesus had to go to the cross because of my sin too, not just theirs. For there is no “little sin” or “big sin” in God’s eyes. It’s all the same.

And I know the only way I can possibly hope to forgive the unforgivable is to do it with His power and not my own. And by believing that anyone can be redeemed.

Because I was.

Let’s all pray. Join me over the next 40 days. For further reading please check out what Ann Voskamp has to say below.

http://www.aholyexperience.com/2015/02/the-call-for-the-next-40-days-to-the-nations-people-of-the-cross/