Because I can’t seem to forget her face……….

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Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven………Jesus

I sit here after listening, reading, fearing and going back and forth all morning on Facebook and the news. Part of me is so torn. Part of me wants to jump up and down in favor of Donald Trump’s great wall. The part of me that is patriot American wants to drop bombs and use military might to decimate isis (no caps for them). Part of me remembers some of my family who fought against Germany. I also remember my Mom saying they really didn’t know what was happening over there to the Jews. All they saw were trains filled with people on the movie newsreels while they waited for the movie to start.

There is such confusion in my heart and soul and in the heart and soul of the whole world right now. But one thing I know is always true. Certain things will always be right. Jesus lived out a life that said:

Just because it’s safe, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right.

Today would have been my Grandmother’s Birthday. She had a story too, like this little girl. Her family was fleeing Russia and they came to America when she was only six months old. I even found the ship register where they signed in. I know, times were different then. They all went to Ellis Island and got screened and processed, and who knows what else.

And I hate the idea of that evil coming over here, I just hate it. 

But I can’t forget her face. Maybe because something about her reminds me of my niece. And her face is the face of pure innocence. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to ones like her.

In a world where it’s hard to even know who or what to root for anymore, one thing remains. God calls us to love even those who persecute us. There is no wiggle room in that much as I try to get around it. As Pandora plays “Lead me to the Cross” I think of the converted Muslims I heard about in Germany. Churches are filling up, for the first time in years is what I heard. I hope it’s true but I don’t know. I can only assume they are tired of living under a dead religion, they are reaching out for the One who gives life.

But even if they stay Muslim and are in need of help and hope, food and shelter, as Christians can we turn our backs on them, their children in good conscience? Even if some even seek to do us harm? I am asking right along with you…….

Only God knows how this will all go, but one thing is for certain. He will make good come from it.

He always does somehow.

The face of isis is just a new face for an old evil and we don’t even have to pull his mask off to know who it is. As Christians we know how to face down the enemy, the one who only comes to kill, steal and destroy.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

The apostle Paul (when he was still Saul) was dragging Christians out of their homes until he was blinded on the road to Damascus.

Of such were some of you………

It’s time to pray for all of us, to ask God for wisdom. It’s the only place I know where to start.

If you want to put a face on some refugees and here their stories, go here. 

And pray for wisdom, along with me?

photo credit: via David Rupert

 

A Soul Cracked Open

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We tend to think that religion is sitting stiff and antiseptic and a little bored and that joy is laughter and freedom and reaching out our arms to embrace the whole wide and preposterous earth which is so beautiful that sometimes it nearly breaks our hearts. We need to be reminded that Christianity is joy and that laughter and freedom and the reaching out of arms are the essence of it. Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark, Listening to Your Life, October 28

I came away from the news with a blackness threatening to cloud my mind as it usually does when I watch it at all now. Inasmuch as I think we all have a responsibility to know what’s going on in the world, here lately a little snippet goes a long way. It confirms what the Bible says: that human nature still hasn’t found a way of redeeming itself. There is a comfort for me in that, for the darker things seem in the world, the more I am finding true comfort from my Redeemer.  The brighter His light shines.

How can I adequately describe the wild joy in prayer when I least expect it? Or how can I describe faith? It’s like blowing on an ember you didn’t think had any life in it, and watching it as it brilliantly flares from within. Writing these thoughts is almost painful because I want everyone to understand and know the hope that lays beyond all the beauty that is still out there. All the things we see and feel and touch……all of this, even if we can appreciate it, means nothing without God’s Spirit to illuminate it.

Beauty is one of the things God cracks our souls with so the Light of Heaven can get in. 

When I think of all the places I have been and the beauty I have seen it almost breaks my heart for those who can’t see who is truly behind it all. Whose Spirit resides as the backdrop for it all, whose unapproachable Light gleams behind every flame colored leaf fluttering against the sky. One whose breath moved along the waters even before the world began. My soul is cracked open at the wonder of it all. That I am here at all.

Without God, and without His Spirit moving through it, all this beauty is dead even while it lives. And that is the weight, the heaviness we carry in this life, the burden we feel to keep it all going. God invites us to step off the carousel, just for a while, so that we can remember that He has kept it going all along. We feel the tiredness of this world because it echoes our own, but even as we share the burden of it, glimmering at its edges we see the brilliance of that other world. The Promise and the Joy of Heaven in the here and the now.

Joy is where the whole being is pointed in one direction, and it is something that by its nature a man never hoards but always wants to share. The second thing is that joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances, even in the midst of suffering, with tears in its eyes. Even nailed to a tree.

Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark, Listening to Your Life, October 28

Easy to Believe

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It’s easy to believe in Heaven on mornings like this one……

when the air is sweet and the stars are still winking but

just about to depart from sight.

I walk on tasting the day, knowing how sweet and precious it is.

How fleeting each moment and how important it is to think of time how God does.

Like each day is as a thousand years and how a thousand years a day.

Weightless and free and yet bound to this earth.

I walk on and I flush out a dove, startled from her place.

In wonder, I pray in my place of silence

I wonder at how I can cry the tears of the bitter waters of Marah

and in the next breath have streams of living waters to

flush out my sorrow and replace it with joy.

I marvel at my God.

Whatever happens here:

I have at the very most 35 years this side of Heaven

and then a permanent vacation where peaceful waters flow

and there is no crying only endless joy

a ribbon of eternity stretching out further than my eye can see.

Yes, I grab my cup of coffee and settle in my chair.

I can see it from here.

Life After Eden…….

 

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“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Romans 8:22-25

On the way to work this morning, I caught the moon going down. It slipped quietly down through the clouds, a pale peachy color. I thought of our world today and how it just seems that each new tragedy tops the one before. It’s been going that way awhile now. Looking at that moon, I thought, how can there still be so much beauty in such a broken world?

I felt for God believe it or not. I often think of how the world was when He first called it into existence and how perfect it all was. I can almost see it, feel it. It’s a train wreck down here. A bad man pays to have a gentle giant of a lion butchered for what? Cecil didn’t belong to him, I feel like he belonged to all of us. He didn’t deserve that. That would have never happened in Eden.

Added to all this there’s the whole nightmare with Planned Parenthood and the unconscionable acts that go along with it, and our own Government refusing to investigate. There are people all over the world being beheaded right and left. There is war on every front, and the terrible Iran Nuclear deal to top it off.  A little girl goes out on her scooter and never returns home. I was just in her town earlier this year.

It’s just too much.  It’s just too all-encompassing. Which is why I think we so wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon to impune that Dentist, who is now nowhere to be found with good reason. He was such an easy mark. It was such a terrible senseless thing for him to do and now the arrow that pierced poor Cecil has gone all around the world.

I was thinking on the way to work that history has really taught us nothing. I was thinking of how the Nazi’s treated their dogs to wonderful dinners while marching Jews out of their homes into the cold, babies and children and old men and women. They treated them as less than human. All these years later, many of us have gone to the museums and seen the ovens and the trains.

We have tsk-tsked and shaken our heads sadly and said that it will never happen again, and yet right here in America for many years, we have rewarded and paid into an organization whose founder has valued some of Hitler’s very own ideals. Here’s a sample of what Margaret Sanger thought and believed:

The purpose in promoting birth control was “to create a race of thoroughbreds,” Birth Control Review, Nov. 1921 (p. 2)

More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief aim of birth control.” Birth Control Review, May 1919, p. 12 

“The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” Margaret Sanger, Women and the New Race

Sanger believed that, for the purpose of racial “purification,” couples should be rewarded who chose sterilization. The Career of Margaret Sanger, by David Kennedy, p. 117, quoting a 1923 Sanger speech. 

What a society sows, it will reap. And this is where we’ve come. If a baby comes at the wrong time or is not convenient, or doesn’t fit in with our plans, or if it’s not perfect,  it is perfectly acceptable to kill it, even while it’s blissfully tucked away. But God sees it.

It’s the same kind of crazy psychology that allowed a sophisticated society like Germany to go along with an evil it slowly came to see as normal.

I wonder what God thinks. I think He cries,  personally. I think He weeps. I think He remembers how it all started out and how He created it perfect. Not one drop of blood was shed until we decided we knew what was best. I think He wept as He killed the animal that made the clothes that Adam and Eve wrapped around themselves as they left the gates of Eden.

I think He wanted them to know that with sin always comes death, heartache and sacrifice. But He also wanted them to know there was a way back home, and that Way came with the blood of His very own Son. God in the flesh.

There is so much beauty still in the world, sometimes I wonder how there can be. And yet, everywhere I look there are traces of Eden. And hope.

There is a way home. God holds out forgiveness as a gift to all of us who accept it. There is forgiveness for you if you have had an abortion. There is forgiveness still if you see nothing wrong with it. There is forgiveness for Dr. Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil.

And while all of Creation groans, we know it’s only temporary…….just this side of eternity, a new Earth is waiting to be born.

RIP and run free Cecil……..

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:6-9

Casting our care……..over and over again.

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On my recent vacation I took a walk one early morning in the mist by the sea and I found that all along the pathway someone had left stones. On each stone was scrawled a message, or a date.  Some had paw prints and a name, memorial to a beloved pet, and some had Scripture. Part of the wonder of that walk was that those little stones added something. Those stones served as a marker in my heart, so that I will always remember it.

Jesus mentioned stones too as He rode into Jerusalem. “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Those Pharisee’s were such killjoys.

On that walk, those little stones were crying out to me in their own way. Well, it was more like whispers of hope. But sometimes whispers cry out the loudest, don’t they? I wonder about who painted the words on those stones and the rest of them I saw that day. I wonder what cares they had that they wanted to leave there, along that path?

Last night it was one of those tossing and turning nights. I was bogged down in my usual worries that played over and over like a needle stuck in the groove of an old 45. And this morning when I awoke, I decided that I needed to do what this little stone said to do……I needed to cast my care where it counted. To the One who could actually do something about it. And my prayer was simply for God to put the song back in my heart. Just that.

And as I thought back to when I first started my early morning prayer times, I realized that through these few years, my relationship to God the Father has changed. I always talked to Jesus, I always told Him I loved Him, but I never really told God the Father I loved him. Now I do. It’s because of the approachability of Jesus that we can take the blinding Holy brilliance of the Father, even though I know all the Holiness of the Father rests on Jesus as well.

What a perfect plan, what a perfect God.

Somewhere along the line the message has sunk in that God is not out to get me. He already has proven His great love for me even while I was sinning. Even as I disappoint Him again and again even now.

As I open the words to my devotional this morning I read these words:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

Psalm 139:7-12

He is faithful friends……..He is the redeemer of days, and comfort in the night. Every hidden thought, and action is exposed to His Holy light and even then, He draws close. He is not surprised by anything we do. And the great miracle and joy of this life is that He cares enough to make a garden out of the wilderness of my heart. Over and over again.

His words fall like rain on my parched and weary soul.

In the light of eternity, where all will be well forever, nothing is a problem down here.

Celebrating our Differences

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Yesterday on Facebook I made a statement and it was something to the effect of, “I am so glad Jesus didn’t try to put us in boxes and say, this is how you need to look to fit into my group.” Instead, He invites us to come just as we are and trust Him enough to let Him reassemble us from the inside out. We, on the other hand, like to section people off. Especially in church. Single people here, Marrieds here, 50 plus over here. It makes us feel safer I think. Maybe it’s easier than trying to figure out where they belong.

But why do we insist on “pigeon-holing” people if Jesus didn’t? When we try to put people in categories we’re comfortable with it only serves to make them feel bad when they don’t fit into the box we try to force them into. Certain men don’t know one tool from another but are made to feel like they have to volunteer for the “Habitat for Humanity” project. Certain women are great architects and designers but are made to feel like their only usefulness is baking cookies or working with children.

Jesus however, accepted people at face value, He approached people of all ages and walks of life; all different talents and abilities.  He was never put off by people’s differences, but rather met them where they were in every instance. The reason He was so effective was because when they looked into His eyes they immediately saw the depth of His compassion, His holiness, His goodness. And by contrast they saw their own sinfulness and inability to save themselves.

He gave them an immediate solution to their “sin problem.” He offered forgiveness, wholeness, reconciliation with a God they had fallen out of love with.

Last weekend I was playing my Brooklyn Tabernacle DVD…….it’s what I always reach for when I want to get a glimpse of what Heaven will be like. I see all those colors, all those ages, all those ethnicities, all those pasts. I see people, men and women in beautiful suits and dresses, all lifting their hands to the Lord because they remember what He brought them out of. Many have been homeless and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Some have been very successful in their careers and made a lot of money.

Some have the tattoos they got before they were saved, some have the tattoos they got after they were.

But the thing we all have in common is that each of us have a unique and beautiful redemption story.

It’s the life story that God records in each of our books. You know those baby books parents make when their kids are born? Well, God has one for you and me. He has kept record of our progress all through the years. And I think maybe He opens it and leafs through it because I know He makes the additions. And I think He smiles.

And when we get to Heaven, folks? I don’t think we will be prepared for what we are going to see. God is going to restore all things. That means every single animal that was part of His original design will be there. Colors we never even thought of and  beauty this world has never seen.

And every time I watch the news and catch myself saying, “Even so come, Lord Jesus?” I breathe a prayer and say, not just yet. There are still people who haven’t heard. Still more souls that need saving.

Lent Day #38: The heart opens from the inside

 

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“To the angel of the church inLaodicea write:

The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Revelation 3:15-19

I am just finishing up the book, “Heavenly Man” by Brother Yun and I feel the kind of awe and stillness that comes as a result of seeing a people, a church, fully yielded and committed to their Lord and the miraculous things He does through them as a result. When you finish a book like that there is really nothing you can say, except that I felt like I got a glimpse of the real church in action.

Right now, the world is watching real Christianity as its marched across the global stage in its purest and most self-sacrificing form, by following the example that Jesus Himself set. All my life I have been taught that Jesus is standing at the door knoocking on the heart of the unsaved sinner. Brother Yun reminded me in his book that the door that Jesus is standing in front of is none other than the church door. And hearts, like doors, open from the inside. Sobering thoughts on this 38th day of Lent.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Revelation 3:20-22

All I can do is watch in awe as my brothers and sisters all over the world, and many right here on our own soil, are stepping up one by one and saying, “We won’t turn back, no matter how hard it gets, even if we have to pay with our very own lives.”

Sometimes the sacrifices others make seem all but impossible to me, settled as I am in my comfortable corner of life. Other times, the sacrifices are played out in the smaller, more ordinary ways; the everyday choices to do the right thing over and over again, even in extremely challenging circumstances. I guess it’s easy for me to think of Jesus being really impressed with the “Big” ones and chide me for my pithy offerings, but the truth is, He notices things like cold cups of water given in love.

All I can do is peer into my own heart in humble gratitude that He still loves me, regardless of how far too often, my hands still clutch at the world and my eyes are still dazzled by all it has to offer.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.