For The Wounded Ones in the Abortion Battle

Because I know you are out there…

I know that every time you even hear the words “pro life” or “abortion” or “pro choice” you get a pit in your stomach, or lump in your throat, or rush of fear, anger or regret in your heart.

Your worst fear is to be found out. Your deepest desire is to be forgiven, finally. You wrestle with what your parents, pastor, boyfriend, husband, friends said before and after your decision. Or what they would say if they only knew…

You replay the day. Over and over.

You flinch at babies. Or you long for a baby.

You can’t stop crying. Or you can’t stop raging.

You can’t stop hating yourself. Or the father, or person who pressured you, even if that person was you.

You can’t even think about heaven. Because what on earth will you say to your child?

And then there is God…how could he love you now?

Even churches act like your choice is too bad, too big for God’s mercy. Will God punish you forever?

Do Christians even care about the scared, trapped pregnant woman or just the baby?

Sisters (brothers), God’s grace is greater than all our sin. It truly does wash us white as snow. When we sing “Jesus paid it all” it means He paid for that day in the clinic as well.  Not partially, or conditionally, but it is completely covered by His redeeming love.

I pray you will have the courage to begin the journey to freedom.  One of the steps to my own healing was to talk about it. I had to open the door to let the shame and fear out but also to let His breath of cleansing freedom in. God led me to a grace-filled believers who really, really understood the Power of the cross. They spoke truth over me that Jesus came to save the world not to condemn it. (Thank you Nan Sprouse and Pat Gilley.) They cried with me. They grieved with me. They loved me with the eternal Love of Jesus.

Look at John 3:16-18 with fresh eyes:IMG_1318
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

The gospel of Jesus, His desire to make the world whole applies to  you. You are not disqualified. You are not cast out. You are not unlovable or unforgivable.

Truly, as the song says, “God renders miracles of our sin.”

For the wounded ones of the abortion battle…Your child is with God but you are still here with us. I pray that God will lead you to people that will love you into freedom.

The Oil of Intimacy

Oswald Chambers once wrote that some things revealed in the spirit are difficult to convey in words. As I write this sentence this morning, I see now I why God told me to create a picture.  The revelation He gave is a rich reality not intended to be easily digested, or dismissed. It is so profound that He wanted me to experience the supernatural moment, but also to fully appreciate the sensation in the natural. And, he wanted me to take a picture so that I could remember it, and share it. Why?  Because this truth is for us all.  So allow me to create the backdrop of the Masterpiece.

I was lost in worship at church. It was one of those surreal moments when His presence was so strong that people responded by singing, crying, sitting or standing with outstretched arms. It was heavy, soaking, glorious. In a word, we were undone. As I sang, I realized that I kept rubbing my fingers across my forehead. Suddenly aware of how foolish it seemed, I asked the Lord, “Why am I doing this?”

The verse out of Revelation came to my spirit about his name being written on our foreheads. I laughed in my heart and told Him I was rubbing in the name that he had written on my forehead so it wouldn’t fade away.  “What would it say anyway? Jeee-sus?” I asked in a silly sort of way.

“No, that’s my name. That’s not my name for you.” His penetrating response shook off my childishness in an instant.

Now I have a long history with God about names. All through scripture, and today, we see God changing people’s names. He gives us new names, even pet names, to show us our destiny or to strengthen our confidence in Him. It is a huge jump in affection when we faith Him to tell us our names, we receive that name and eventually agree with His new name — his idea of who we are becoming, not what we currently see.

That being said, I asked Him if it was my “new name” written on my forehead?

“No, today it’s different,” He said. So I waited in worship.

Then I saw myself standing in front of Him, my head bowed, a smile on my face, and the word “Beloved” written on my forehead.

“Your name is Beloved,” He whispered so tenderly and then He kissed my forehead.IMG_3499

Tears rolled down my cheek in the natural as I experienced this holy picture in my spirit. I am, we are, Beloved.  Known intimately and received completely by Jesus. Not collectively, but individually.  He holds nothing back from us. He calls each one of us, writes on each of our foreheads His distinctive declaration.  Not a number. But a name, a lovely, awe-inspiring, worship-invoking name.  Beloved. His Beloved.

And then. Then came the oil. After the kiss, I saw the Lord pour oil on my head and I heard, “I anoint your head with oil. The oil of gladness.”

Selah.

To say I was wiped out would be an understatement.  I could hardly speak the rest of the night. The next day I could think of little else as I thanked the Lord for his beauty, nearness, and desire. But He wasn’t done with me yet. He kept reminding me that He wanted me to create a picture. I wanted to protest, but how could I refuse Him?

So I asked the girls to help me follow through on something the Lord had told me to do, even though it sounded crazy! Salem wrote on my forehead and Charis poured oil while Salem took pictures. Can you even imagine the expressions on their faces? But we did it all together. And as I relived in the physical world what I had experienced in the heavenly one, even more love exploded in my heart and spirit.

Can you see this word on your forehead? It is there. Written by Jesus himself.

Now let me show you the verses in their fullness and colorful beauty.

The River of Life
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life,
bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city;
also, on either side of the river, the tree of life
with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month.
The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
No longer will there be anything accursed,
but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
and his servants will worship him.
They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun,
for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Revelation 22: 1-5

To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. Is 61:3

God has used both of these passages in my own life to reveal hope and healing and destiny. But He has also purposefully planted these promises in me so I can give them to others.  It is His heart is for His people. He gives us these truths so that we can walk, no run, no DANCE in the joy of Being His.

After this all happened I was reading a new book and saw the phrase, the Oil of Intimacy. I had to put the book down.

That was it. Precisely.  He pours on me, you, us, the oil of intimacy.

Oil. Produced by crushing and refining. A product for softening, nourishing and healing. A product for burning, lighting, or scenting — anointing.

Intimacy. A result of two hearts connecting in deepest places. The two becoming one flesh. In-to-me-you-see. To know and be known, to love and be loved. Be loved. Beloved.

Can I get an Amen?

I can hardly contain all this as it is…but this morning He reveals two more pieces.  First, this revelation comes on the heels of an encounter that had come the week before where I was left with a hard question of “who will you become?”  He had shown me three different pictures going from devotion to distraction. I have wrangled over the answer and He himself answered His question. I am His Beloved. I am His.

And second, as incredible as it sounds, my friend Chelsi sends me a link to a song this morning. It’s name?  “Healing Oil” by Kim Walker.  Think He is wanting me, wanting us, to soak in His goodness?

So what to do with all this?  Maybe you should have someone write the word Beloved on your forehead and take your picture.  It is very sobering.

Maybe you should pour oil over your hands, or head if you dare. Feel the sensation of the richness, let your spirit and your body agree…His has anointed us with the oil of gladness. It is ours for the taking.

Maybe you should sit in quiet or worship and eagerly desire the presence of God.  He inhabits the praises of His people. So He is eager to be with you as well.

Maybe you should just thank Him. Thank Him for calling you Beloved.

We are His beloved.  Let Him write on you. Let Him pour oil on you. Let Him love you.

A Cry for Humanity

It was a convergence of wrenching heart moments. First came two hard movies within days of each other: The Impossible which is the the miraculous true story of an entire family who survived the tsnumami; and Hotel Rwanda which depicts the incredible true story of a man who saved 1268 Africans during the genocide in Rwanda. Next came this “ah-ha” revelation as I spent the day at Dollywood with my girls and some friends, only to come home to the horror of the death and destruction caused by the Oklahoma tornado.IMG_1050

How does the human soul carry such deep and diverse emotions? How do we celebrate the small victories when the devastation is so great. One family was reunited when 150,000 families had loved ones swept away by the sea. One hotel served as a haven to 1268 Hutus and Tutsi when one million corpses were left after the murderers were driven out of Rwanda.

Dazed and terrified children were pulled alive from school debris while other parents waited and searched in anguish for their child’s dead body to be discovered.

In light of this, my “ah-ha” at Dollywood seems so small now.

But perhaps as I connect all these emotional dots it is bigger than I realized. For the first time, as I entered into the mass of humanity that Dollywood attracts, my eyes and heart were seeing people.

Real people. Not the classes or the accents, not the perfect flesh or flawed flesh, not the beliefs and attitudes expressed through clothing, tattoos, or language, but I saw real people.  The flawless, fake “image” of beauty had no place here. What was real and true and honest was the weary but willing parents holding the hands of elated children. It was the mentally handicapped man who could not stop laughing and clapping his hands because he was so excited. It was the fit and obese, the rich and poor, the educated and hicks, the blasphemers and believers, all standing in line together, screaming together on rides, enjoying their loved ones, enjoying…life.

Enjoying. Life. Together.

If we truly are but dust, a flower that rises and falls, a vapor that appears for a moment then vanishes, if we truly are to savor every moment…then all these real life stories of great loss must prompt us to ask…are we? Am I? Are we seeing the beauty of God, the gift of life, the sufficiency of Grace, the overwhelming presence of the Spirit in our daily lives?

Because I am concerned, stirred and agitated that if I do not, will not savor it in times of blessing and peace, will I have the stamina and practice to rely on it when the my world spins out of my control?

Thank God today. For your life. For your loved ones. For His Life and Love.

“You lead me in paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake” Psalm 23

 

Awakened by the God of the Ocean

Years ago, I remember reading a profound little book called Gifts from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh.  I was a new Christian, a wanna-be writer and a newlywed. Her book was so deep and so grown up, I missed much of her wisdIMG_1107om the first time I read it.

It seemed surreal that she would leave her family, or could leave it, just to go to a beach to unwind and write. And yet, here I am — waiting, seeking  what the ocean might bring to my distracted soul; here I am yearning for the presence of God. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Like my sister from generations passed, I am disentangling myself from the daily demands of family, work, ministry, and life. They are beautiful  cords that weave through and decorate my life. Yet I confess the tautness and pull of them sometimes knot up my mind. (I suspect I am not alone.) Ann Morrow described a woman’s life being the hub of a wheel with responsibilities and relationships emanating outwards in constant motion. That said, it required so much trust and courage to step out of the circle of motion and to take the time to unknot myself. Oddly, I find it is the very lack of pace that leaves me uncomfortable.

What do I do with my time? Now that I have removed all excuses and counterfeits, what is best done with my sabbathed energies and emotions?

I listen.

Yesterday the word was affection.  We talked about hearts. But not sea shell hearts, although I have found many. He showed me hearts in the sand, hearts outside crab holes, hearts in sea foam, in the clouds, in tree leaves.

The message?

His love is everywhere. Will I simply see it and receive it?

His love is everywhere. Is there anything more present or powerful? 

His love is everywhere. Am I walking in the boldness of a well loved woman?

As I look back on my God journey, I realize my soul was awakened by the ocean. From a child who giggled at first sight, to a twenty-something who stood by the sea and cursed my life for its bitterness and loneliness, to a young married consumed with “what would be one day”, to a wonder-filled diver who explored the glorious underwaters, to a forty-something who realized that I was not alone as I picked through the trinkets of the sea — God had been there, was there, would be there. He is here. Now.

My conversations have changed over the years and the beach trips. This time together, we dream and enjoy and ponder. The conversations are as diverse as the tides that roll in differently every day. One day it is fierce and windy, leaving me breathless and slightly off center;  another day is warm with gentle waves urging me closer.

Every day there are different lessons and perspectives. But always, always is the “voice of many waters”. Always is the rushing energy, the pounding roar, the blue visual feast that stretches out beyond my comprehension. Every day is the welling up in my spirit, in my deepest heart that often goes overlooked or undernourished when I am in the “hub mode.” God is for sure the center of my life, but life itself is draining as “the wheels on the bus go round and round.”

So to pull away, to hear him, to laugh and muse, to tease and argue, to deeply intercede for others in a focused way…it replenishes me in the same way the dry sand hungrily soaks up every drop as the waves wash ashore.

What do I do with so much time with the God of the ocean?
Soak Him in.

Find your place, your beach, your sabbath. Find your spirit again.

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

The More of Marriage: a mini series, part 3

Marriage is a  relational Rubik’s cube

I love this mind-tester.  You keep moving the squares trying to get one color lined up and then the other side is jacked up.  So you spend time trying to get that color matching and… well.. you know the rest. One silly square out of place. Is this frustrating or fun, or both? Am I crazy? stupid? And  of course there are always the “smart ones” who  slam it down completed in 12 seconds or less.  Yeah.  We hate those people.

Marriage can look a lot like this. It’s heart- tester if you will. You work on this part of your relationship and then something (or someone) else gets out of whack. So you adjust hoping to “get it all together” at one time.  Sigh.  And much like the toy, there are the couples who say, “We have never had a fight.”  Yeah we hate those people too.  (Just kidding. Sort of. )

But hope rises with practice. As with the  Rubik’s cube, it takes skill to master the myriad of relationships.  I really thought in our marriage it was just me and Chuck, two sides, two colors.  No problem. In fact, our families were not in our equation of marriage, or so we thought.  However, idea of “just the two of us” got pretty crowded pretty quickly. Turns out  you can’t get rid of your roots. It  was me and Chuck and my family and his family. My friends and his friends. My teachers, enemies, old lovers, and role models, 600px-Rubiks_cube_by_keqsand his as well.  Then you add children. The colored squares just multiplied. Again.

These ghosts of past, present, and future really impacted our ability to connect, trust, and listen to each other.  The way our respective parents would fight, make up, handle money, do God — all that was sitting at the dining room table with us when we were trying to fight, make up, handle money, and do God.

One day in the early years,  this came into full view.  Chuck and I were fighting (for you couples who “don’t” that means the two of you disagree loudly) and he looked at me and said, “I am not your dad. I am not your ex. I am not your brothers. I am not your professor. I am not any of those guys…”
What courage and insight it was for him to lay it out for me so plainly.  I wasn’t  even listening to what Chuck was saying. I had gone into auto-pilot reaction as if I was confronting one of them.

This is true whether you had a great life history or not.  We have been relationally trained by others, for better or for worse. And we have to learn how to relate in a loving way to our mates.  Here is a newsflash.

It takes time to learn to be truly present and listening.

Not recalling old wounds, offenses or disappointments. Not thinking of your to do list or rebuttal. Not letting old triggers cause you to react instead of engage. But instead, really listening to the present need or issue of the moment. Really lending your heart and spirit to the moving parts of the relational Rubik’s cube”— it’s called relationship.  Friendship. Companionship.  It’s not easy but worth it.

Honesty, patience, safety, hope.  These four qualities totally change the condition of most marriages.  They are not something you demand from your mate, but something you cultivate with God and then pour it out on your mate.  It takes time. It takes practice. It takes God.

“I never thought marriage would be this much work.” How many times have I heard this?  Ever tried to work a Rubik’s cube?  That’s a toy. This is for life.

The More of Marriage: a mini-series, part 2

Marriage has shown me my lack of grace, my need for grace, and the reality  of God’s grace.

I have these random memories.  Like puzzle pieces, God put things into place long before I was even aware He was working on me.  One memory is of my arrogant self telling our supposed pre-marrital counselor (snort) that “I am a great catch. And I don’t need Chuck, but I choose him.”  (Poor counselor. Poor Chuck.)

Fast forward to somewhere around year 5 when a wise friend from church asked me what I would do to save my already suffering marriage. I said emphatically, “ANYTHING.”IMG_0972

“Would you quit your job?” he said looking me dead in the eye without flinching. He had nailed my pride,  independence, superiority.  Shocked by the suggested sacrifice, I had to sit squarely and solemnly in the reality of being a liar.  I wouldn’t really do ANYTHING.  I  only wanted to do enough to  make Chuck act better for me.  After a great deal of gnashing my teeth with God, I realized that He could and would do ANYTHING — if my heart was humble before Him.

So I did. It did. God did.   I quit my job and launched my marriage in a different direction.  God was up to something better for me, for us.  My marriage radically changed when I saw my lack of grace for Chuck and I acknowledged  my need for grace to let go of ideas and actions that were poisoning my marriage. It is one thing to say you’re committed; it is another thing to act committed —especially when those acts require sacrifice.  Jesus  knows all about the cost of sacrifice, and it’s why He offers us His loving grace to do it.

From years 10-15,  there are lots of memories and  journal entries of “when Lord, when” or “why Lord why” or “help, Lord help.”

Funny now to think of it all.  I don’t how God carried us, but He did. Every day.  8030 days.  Sometimes we walked with Him. Sometimes He carried us in His arms while we were sleeping, or weeping, or too sick to walk.  Sometimes, He pulled us along,  His firm hand clamped around ours, as we kicked and screamed down the road He had determined. But He was there from the start in all the chaos, dreams, and questions. From the start He was planting life and hope and renewal. And as we went along He whispered…

“Trust Me.”

“Look at Me.”

“Expect Me to Change Things.”

“Believe for Good.”

I know folks married 30 – 50+ years are laughing at me.  In that world of marital staying power,  I am only a youngster.  But if you are under the 20 year mark, you need to know that God’s grace really is yours. It’s not a  pithy church statement. It is a divine fact, a gift, an investment.  He pours in to us what we cannot manufacture on our own. He never gets tired, frustrated or quits. We might, but Jesus doesn’t.

His grace is always available, and it comes to those who know they need it. Chuck and I have grieved over our hard-headedness and hard-heartedness. Why did we wait so long to humble ourselves before God and before each other in so many sticky places?

Our goal now is to shorten the recovery time.  After this many years, we are learning to bypass the manipulation by silence or anger or emotional explosions. We are more eager to get to the heart of the matter…. Really, the Heart of the matter. God’s heart. Chuck’s heart. My heart. “God what am I missing here?  I am committed to this person more than I am committed to being right, so give me grace to see what you see.”

Even in those times when one of us was more eager for health than the other, Grace happens. I have found that many times the only reason ONE person is still holding on, is because God’s grace is at work.  With so much marital collapse all around, we shy away from clinging to His grace and our vows.  Yet I believe it is a sure promise for those who desire to cross the finish line.

Truly, His Grace is all sufficient. For every need, He is there.

The More of Marriage: a mini-series, part 1

IMG_1052Here a few Ah-has about the journey of becoming one.  In light of all the chaos and brokenness surrounding marriage today and in celebration of my anniversary on April 13th of 22 years of marriage to Chuck, I thought this holy experiment warranted a few words.

Marriage helps me become my true self.

Chuck and I were looking through our wedding pictures last night. I wanted to laugh out loud and cry out loud. We had this delusion of change on the horizon.  We talked about how our “love is here to stay” and marriage was forever. We promised we would never change our commitment and passion and drive. We talked a lot about “all we would become” in those early years. Somehow we thought we “knew what we were getting” in each other, but we were woefully unprepared for real life.  “Change” was coming at us like a freight train.

First came the total spiritual overhaul as we became believers the first year of our marriage.  That is enough change to wreck the average couple who is confident of their marital choice. Our entire world system— beliefs, hobbies, friends, work, even politics—was turned on its ear. But this was only the beginning. Then came the awareness of all the addictions, coping, hiding, lying and blaming we had brought into our marriage. Our ideas of relationship were turned to dust.  Change came crashing in as  our selfish  ideas of love could not survive the reality of day to day life with another human being. We  didn’t truly understand our counterfeit selves until we began living with someone who could see who we really were.  Really see. I mean like in Avatar, “I see you.”   God’s presence gave us a supernatural peek into who was really living inside the shells we called husband and wife.  Not only was there more dysfunction than we could imagine, or handle, there  was far more God potential than either of us dared to believe. Twenty two years later,  we stand amazed. How did God do that?  We have a whole new definition of love, worth, and honor.

Another shock was the roller coaster of physical changes.  Looking at my skinny self was hard on my heart. Over the years, I  have gone through a lot of physical changes— pregnancies, weight gain and loss, sickness, etc.  I am grateful that Jesus has given me such freedom and acceptance of myself now.  But looking at our own marriage journey, and those newlyweds around us,  I don’t think people ever talk about the physical changes in marriage.  We dreamed, planned, projected, hoped, and guessed. But all the while we were doing that, our bodies kept pacing forward…toward the grave.  Not to be morbid, but  it is important that young women or couples know,  best they can, that they are agreeing to get old together.  That is a big commitment indeed. Talk about change…

Is it just me? Did anyone else think this wonderful life of change and growth was going to happen and you were going to stay young and lovely at the same time?  Forgive my sarcasm. But.  Marriage leaves no stone unturned. From attitudes to habits, from preferences to insecurities, from needs to longings,  this journey of two becoming one is ever refining. We have learned to change our idea of acceptance, truly receiving each other: for better, for worse.

How did He heal so much? How did He reveal so much? Looking at our wedding photo, I thought to myself, “who are those people?” We are so, so different.  And yet I have never felt more at home in my own skin.  Going through the battles and the victories, the drama and the outcomes  has stripped off so much sin and weakness and has deposited so much grace and mercy.  We are indeed thankful for the God who has let us share in the “unveiling” of a man and a woman He knew was in there all along.

 

 

 

To save, not to condemn

IMG_0475The intersection of our social upheavals with Easter could not be more pertinent—more unsettling or perhaps even more hopeful?  I have considered both sides. I have listened to the barbs thrown at human beings from both political stances. And I keep coming back to some simple truths. Jesus came to save the world, not condemn it. There is no condemnation because of Christ. But—we are also not in charge.

Jesus came to restore us to the original intent of the Master Designer. He came that we would have true intimate fullness with God.  And in the same way that He came that Crucifixion day long ago, people rejected Him. They scorned His way, His blood, His promise. But He died and was raised again — anyway. Despite their protests to defend their sin, He shed His blood and was raised again to make them new creations, to give them more than they dreamed possible.

The same is true today. Despite our arrogant attempts at determining the “way things should be” and doing “what is right in our own eyes” there is a Holy Agenda being fulfilled.  It is hope and life open to all. There is just one hitch – we are not in charge. We can choose ultimate love, or not. We can have mercy and peace, or not. We can have all His provision and true satisfaction, or not. He always lets us choose life or death.

Yet it remains that God himself is the one who creates definition, truth and identity. The law doesn’t. The lobbyist with money doesn’t. The person with the most vehement Facebook posts doesn’t (regardless of the mathematical symbol). “In his image he created them male and female.”

I have had, and do have, homosexual friends. I also have friends who are addicts, liars, and gossips, and who cheat on their heterosexual spouses.  I love them all.  More importantly, God loves them all.

But this is not the sum total of who they are—or who they could be.  And He has a better plan than each of these counterfeit identities.  We don’t concede to our personal preferences, or even our supposed rights. We begin and end with God’s image. I used to think that sleeping with a guy to get love was “the way things work.” But then I met Real Love, and my preferences changed, my idea of Truth changed. My political stances changed. Mercy does that. Resurrection power does that.

Years ago, with the emergence of gay rights, the buzz from the medical field was not positive. They would say (and still do say) that anal sex is one of the most high risk sexual encounters ever. Why? Because this body part, the original intent of its design, is being distorted.
This is not brain surgery. Talk to a child about our great political issues: abortion, slavery, homosexuality. Killing babies, owning other humans and same sex couples do not add up to them. You don’t have to persuade them. It is simple math. I have taught thousands of middle and high schools students. I’ve seen the results over and over.

Tell them the bare facts: how abortion is performed, how slaves are forced by threat of death to trade their bodies for sex or labor, and how the human body is wired for sex, male and female, and they can come to simple revelations—

I was once a baby, I needed someone to allow me to be born.
Humans don’t own other humans, regardless of skin color, or value as a commodity.
Simple biological plumbing suggests that male and female coupling is in our DNA.

Is any of this popular? accepted? comfortable? No.
But I don’t make the rules. I also don’t set the standard for life to the full.

Just like the Roman empire did not, could not, dictate Jesus’s mission of love, neither can Apple, Amazon, or Starbucks defer ours. I heard two men from opposing sides use the phrase “embrace without endorsing.”  I can live with that. I can live with disagreement. What I can’t live with is trying to legalize same sex marriage to make it socially normal or right. The law of God is written on our hearts. The supreme court isn’t. There is a higher law we are to governed by.

How then shall we live?  With a heart of Christ that seeks to save, from a heart that loves the world without condemnation but with absolute resolve to stand with Him. There is a great line from the movie Mulan. The enemy Hun invader demanded the Emperor bow before him.  His response?  “No matter how much the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow.”

God is still on the throne, whether we like it or not. His heart is still for restoration and salvation, whether we receive it or not. The choice is ours, but the earth is His. We are His children, His creation after all. When it is all said and done, mercy triumphs over judgement.  We wait for the sons and daughers of God to be revealed.

A Culture of Cowardice

IMG_0487Sherri Turkle’s TED talk about  the disconnect through technology (“Connected but Alone”), really picked at some social norms that are poisoning us.  Right after that, a friend came over to have a “face to face” conversation because “My emails tend to make things worse,” she confessed. She just wanted to “see how her words landed.”

It was no big deal, no major issue to resolve. Well —  except that it was  heart thing. She had noticed her heart and my heart bouncing off each other and she wanted to clarify and comfort me.  Hmm, maybe it was a big deal.

Then Salem wrote a paper on the risk of relationships through technology;  she challenged that we are tempted to pretend to be human while  never actually experiencing true human connection.  Somewhere in here God gave me the phrase, “careless words.”  It triggered a scripture that has always scared me. “You will be held accountable for every careless word you utter.” Can you see that the Lord is talking a lot about this? In our on-going conversation the Lord is teaching,  “What does it mean to use our words with wisdom?”

The icing on the cake was  when I saw a message in writing that would never have been delivered in person.  Whether text, Facebook, or tweet, if the person delivering that message had to stand there and watch the physical, emotional and spiritual impact of  those words, I don’t think that person would have had the guts to say it. Bravado from a distance is a deception.

So I wonder — are we creating  a Culture of Cowardice?

Our so-called freedom of expression has, perhaps, unleashed a Jekyll and Hyde personality where we say unfiltered in text, Facebook and tweets, what we would never have the gall to speak face to face.  What makes us human is our gift of emotions, our ability to respond, to experience. And yet we shield ourselves from this experience by throwing verbal bombs via technology.

I love the exchange of ideas. I am, in fact, right now, communicating via technology. But as it comes to one on one relationships, human to human, heart to heart, are we taking thought of how our words hurt or heal? Does our smart phone make us emotionally stupid ? or reckless? Or worse, braver than we actually are?

Believe me, human interactions are dangerous. I accidentally hurt a friend recently. I watched her face cloud over, her body tense up and I heard her bitter, angry response.  I was so shell-shocked all I could I could say was, “That was not my heart.”  But the beauty of that moment was the humanity of it. It was real, ugly, and even scary. We may think it is better to hide behind our devices to avoid some of the relational fallout.  But here is the God factor.

Seeing her, experiencing her caused me to look at me, to look to God.  If all that happened via text, I probably wouldn’t have blinked an emotional eye. Instead, I have examined myself, gone before the Lord and I have prayed for my friend.  Her hurt was a wake up call. I am desperately reminded of how frail we are despite our tough personas. I am  immediately grateful that the Holy Spirit is here to comfort and to heal us both. Again and again, I am reminded how much we need to hear that we are Well Loved children of God.

Perhaps, this is our starting point in all communications, even the hard ones.  Am I speaking like a Well Loved Child of God? Is the other person being treated like a Well Loved Child?

How can we possibly do this? Only by the true and present Grace of God. He is teaching us to love.  “Words are powerful; take them seriously.”

34-37 “ It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.” Matthew 12 The Message

 

When New Life Arises

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I almost pulled up the plant last weekend out of disappointment. I  thought it was dead. After I put it  in the ground last fall, I expected it to be one of the first things to bloom this spring. Forsythias are budding all over town and yet mine was only woody sticks. But yesterday, though still looking “mostly dead” there is one small branch of yellow life.

It prompted me to go look at other plants and trees I thought were dead. Sure enough, tiny buds or slightest shades of green were pushing up from the ground or out of brown bark.  Just like the Lord said last week, “Spring is coming.” Hope indeed is pushing tender buds out of cold winter earth once more.

As I pulled dead stalks of  flowers and scraped away mulch and leaves where buds should be, the Lord prompted me to consider the difference between New Life and Life from the Dead.

We love to say that Easter is about New Life. (Don’t even get me started on the Easter Bunny.) But New Life is looking for growth where I planted bulbs last year, or hoping for a positive pregnancy test. That is, we look for new life to come from seed that we have planted.

But Life from the Dead is altogether different. Death leads to decay.  Dust to dust. No one goes to a cemetery and expects to see a living person. No one goes to ashes or corpses and expects flesh or breath. And here rises a much more powerful hope.

We love, and are loved by, the God of the Resurrection.  He is the One who brought life and breath back into the dear, mangled  body of Jesus.  This is the true miracle of Easter. There was no hope left hanging on the empty cross. But when God called His Son back to life, then True Life began. A life beyond the curse, a life full of  truly living hope became ours through Him.

Life after death. Life instead of death. Life over death.

When Jesus came out of that grave, it wasn’t just about forgiveness of sin. It was about the Life that is now possible to us. In us. Through us.

Jeremy Caris said in church yesterday that God’s principle of “what you sow you will reap” is an eternal spiritual law.  And God in His goodness and mercy, “sowed Jesus” on our behalf so that we might reap a life that  is far more than we dreamed possible.

It is a wondrous thing to consider the meaning of Resurrection Sunday. It is a life-changing thing to consider where does my hope come from? And what do I believe God can do in me? Bring New Life? or Life back from the Dead?

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