Meet me at the Cross

IMG_5610

One of the most unifying factors of our Christian faith is the simple knowledge that we’re all failures at it. And directly on the heels of that thought comes another, that God loves me anyway. That failure, that weakness, after all is what drives us again and again to the cross. He has promised that He will never leave us. He’s there in the morning and He’s there at night when I whisper my thoughts before welcoming the great eraser that is sleep.

I am reading Madeline L’ Engle’s book, “The Irrational Season.” In it, she describes how against the backdrop of her faith there is doubt and anger at times at why God would seemingly direct and allow evil things to happen, and yet in the midst of that doubt and anger is the bright ring of hope and assurance that yes, God does know exactly what He is doing, even if she doesn’t always understand His ways.

God is not surprised or threatened by our doubt or our anger because it’s also that same doubt and anger that is also an expression of our faith, for you can’t doubt someone you don’t believe in in the first place. You can’t be mad at someone who is not there.

The fact that we are driven again and again to the cross allows no room in our faith for pride. You can know the Bible backwards and forwards, but until you find yourself driven to your knees in humility at the misery of our human weakness, you will be separated from the world, the people whom Jesus most wants us to help.

One of the most confounding and misunderstood paradoxes of our faith is that even though we fail, even though we are weak, God still considers us Holy. When He looks at us, He sees us washed in the robe of righteousness because of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. That should not make us proud, it should make us more humble. That God would grant us with the stamp of His approval by indwelling us with His Holy Spirit is a staggering thought that must never get old. Our faith and the miracle of it, should never be old hat.

We should wake up each day in astonishment that He has forgiven us yet again. And yet, time after time, I have taken that fact for granted……stepped over it on my way to something I feel is more important. That is why I feel so strongly about giving God the first few moments of our day. It’s a way to say and acknowledge all over again that yes, I am grateful beyond measure for the grace I never deserved.

The Apostle Paul perfectly describes our imperfect weakness here: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” Romans 7:24,25

Are you going through something today that is an extreme test of your faith? Right now, stop what you’re doing and hear God say: “What part of always do you not understand?” Remember when your parents used to say, “What part of no do you not understand?” God has promised never to leave or forsake us and He never will.

Love is in His limits, for He gives us exactly what we need to know in the Scriptures, the rest we must take on faith.

I get like the Israelites wandering in the desert, complaining and grousing despite the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night. Instead, all I can see are the hordes of people contentedly settled in the land He has already promised me. I used to blame them, I used to say, “I would have believed God if I had seen those signs.” God smiles and says, “No you wouldn’t.”

Because if I really and truly had a perfect faith, I would look back at all the times in my 56 years that He has provided for me and never failed to be there for me, and that fact would erase every last fear. And yet, I can truly say that I am getting closer to the goal than I was before.

“but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

It’s a “God Thing”

IMG_5182

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  (1 Corinthians 1:18)

This beautiful cross you see above comes with a story. It’s one I have great pleasure in sharing because it is a perfect illustration of how the Holy Spirit brings strangers together and makes them friends. The maker of this very special cross happened across my blog one day and something I said struck a chord because he wrote a beautiful comment of encouragement which blessed me tremendously. It was one of those “God Things.”

Time and time again I marvel at how the Holy Spirit uses people and circumstances to give us just the encouragement we need at just the right time. It’s happened over and over again and it surprises me, even though I should know better by now. Now I will tell you a little story about how this particular cross came to me. It’s another “God Thing.”

I had expressed an interest in these handmade crosses made by Mark McCullough via his Etsy website which you can find here. Then, right around Christmas time, I get a surprise email saying that one of these crosses was going to be shipped to me as a gift! In the accompanying message he asked if he could share the why and how of the story. I was like, “Hello…..of course you can!” He described how he wanted the crosses to go to three individuals for specific reasons. One of whom was me. Here are his words:

You told me in our first email exchange that you sometimes wondered if you shouldn’t just leave the blogging to others, which is something that I think would be a terrible loss for our world.  I wanted you to have a cross, something like a combination of potential inspiration and an expression of my gratitude.  I know that a cross that comes to live with you will find a way to reach out into the world—that’s what I want for all of my crosses, that wherever they go, they touch someone, somehow, and carry the message forward.

So I knew who I wanted the crosses to go to, but I told everyone that it would be a random drawing, and I felt that I had to honor that. I also decided that I was willing to make more crosses if I needed to, to ensure that these three people each got one.

I wrote all the names on little pieces of paper, folded each one up, and dropped them into a gift bag that was sitting next to my desk.  I wouldn’t say that I actually prayed–more like just a “Okay God, here we go” statement.  I shook it up and pulled out a name.  It was Friend #2, whose father is ill.  I drew a second name—you.  I drew the third name, and it was Friend #1.  It would seem that God approved of my choices!  I sat here at my desk for a long while just marveling at the way it had worked out.

After I read his note, it was my turn to marvel. Here is a man working in his workshop miles away, using his talent and creativity for God’s glory and to bless others, and here is me at my computer hammering out words, all because we can’t stop the flow of gratitude that the message of the Cross brings. It’s all about God’s grace and how it flows through each and every one of our lives, and through each other via the Holy Spirit.

IMG_5183

The pictures don’t do it justice, friends. But each time I look at it, I will think of the hands that fashioned it just the way He fashioned all of us. And how wood from all over the world was lovingly joined together to make one perfect whole. Just the way He longs to redeem not just part of the world, but the whole wide world. The cross is the bridge that unifies all people into one Holy family.

IMG_5181

This little cross giveaway became a much bigger thing for me that I ever imagined it would. I figured that a few friends would say, “Sure, I’ve got a place on the wall. Why not?” I thought the whole thing would be lighthearted—just good fun on Christmas. Mark McCullough (The Cross Maker)

It was a “God Thing” and I am humbly grateful.