No Ear Has Heard, No Eye Has Seen. . .

First, let me say “thank you!” for your responses and questions surrounding the blogs.  It is really nice to know that when you send something out in the big internet cosmos there is someone live to catch it. And in answer to a one of those responses, I want to encourage us all that journeying with God is not “doing better,” but trusting, waiting, asking for more. Then believing when God begins to answer our frail prayers. The change to come is not on our shoulders, but on His mighty, loving, transforming shoulders.

Our job is to believe. His job is to transform.

Second, I finally found that verse that the Lord had been poking me about. It goes along with this hope of growth, change and transformation. It is in 1 Corinthians 2.

However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

What God has prepared for those love him…When you think about your 2010, ask the Lord to show you what He has prepared for you. And then claim the promise for Ephesians 2: 10. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

Did you catch the subtle nuance?  God has already prepared these good works, as in, past tense, done, completed. So that we can walk in them. Not run, panic, scramble, but walk. Walk with Him in the goings of our day to day life. There is a resting here, a peace.

Want me to really blow your mind?  We are God’s good works.

You and me, right now. All of heaven looks at us and sees who we are, who we are becoming and looks back to the Father and declares, “Good job. Well done. Nice work.”

Resolve to love Him more. Everything else will follow this one thing.

Eye on the Prize

“Count them happy who for their faith and their courage endured a great fight.”

This was inscribed on a Charleston statue in honor of the Confederate defenders of Ft. Sumter 1861-1865. But when I read it, I didn’t only think about blue and gray uniforms, or redcoats and colonists, or Yanks and Brits against Nazis.

I thought about being “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” as we endure this great fight of faith. It is a battle. It does require courage and faith. And, if rightly grounded in truth, it does make us happy, even when it costs us our lives. But what are we fighting for?

Hebrews 11:1 says faith is believing in things hoped for, and evidence of things yet seen. So we do well to KNOW what we are “faithing.” What is it that we are hoping for, what unseen thing are we banking our whole lives on?

Sure the church answer is, “heaven.” But that sounds almost a little too scrubbed clean. Too far off. We need something that is up close and personal. As close as a bullet whizzing past your head. Certainly in those sweat-soaked, heart-pounding moments, you have to KNOW what it is you’re risking your whole existence fighting for.

“I have come that they might have life to the full,” Jesus declared. And when He said it, the impact was as rousing as a mud-soaked soldier lifting a tattered flag and yelling, “FREEDOM!” What we battle for is Freedom. Freedom to live in Christ in all His fullness. Unhindered. Not one day, but Today. His power revealed in us to love, to heal, to live as He did. Christ in us is truly the hope of glory that we live and die for.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2

Thoughts to Ponder

I have been pondering the daily of living.  About how we get sucked dry, sucked into drama, suckered by distractions instead of Living full out in our strengths.  My favorite Bible teacher, John Dee, calls it reality with a little “r”, as opposed to God Reality with a big “R.”  He says that the Big R is much more real than the little r.  So I want to be conscious of that and press into God Reality without getting stopped by the daily junk. But how do we do that?

If we are not careful, we will become like hamsters on wheels trying to figure out how to do life full out and still get laundry done. (Can I get an “Amen, Sister”?)

Still there is a focused living that Jesus did so beautifully.  He knew what He was about. Um, that would be saving the world. Yet He was so connected to His Father, so empowered by the Holy Spirit, He didn’t have to freak out in the day to day. And when He got tired, He “withdrew to a solitary place to pray.”

Even as I write this, I know that is what I need.  Time with God.  Nothing will bring more big R Reality to my life that time in His presence. How about you? What reality are you living in today?

I’m off to find a solitary place, right in the middle of my daily drama. Come Lord Jesus.

The Seasons of Loss

God is teaching me a lot about loss right now. Right here at Christmas, when the focus is on getting — getting gifts, getting decorations up, getting together with loved ones — I am living through different kinds of loss. Charis losing her front tooth. Losing my time. Losing a dog. Tucked into each of these losses are good lessons, but they are bittersweet.

Charis is now officially without two front teeth. I must be getting sentimental in my old age, but it marked more than being able to sing the “All I want for Christmas” song. She is growing up. The baby of her is almost gone. I looked at her and thought, “Childhood is passing so quickly.” And there is a spiritual picture in losing teeth — moving away from baby things to maturity, from temporary to permanent, from milk to solid foods. I am forced to ask: Am I investing in the days I have with her? I found myself praying, “Lord, help me to relish the moments. Help me to savor her as she lets go of childlike things, and to not miss these vanishing days.”

Birthdays, though wonderful, are a kind of loss to me. They mark a passage of time. I always do an evaluation of where my life is to date. What am I doing with my time? Am I moving forward in my life goals and dreams? Have I allowed another year to be sucked away by distractions and excuses? Now more than ever, I am seeing that my time is a gift. My energy and health are gifts. But they are like seeds that can only be sown in certain seasons. I don’t want to lose the seeds to neglect.

We had to put Pearl, our Great Dane, down. She was nine years old, which is old age for these gentle giants. But age didn’t ease the how, why, and when questions, the second-guessing, the wishful thinking. When your dog weighs 150+ lbs, your options are very limited. But her frailty didn’t lessen the bitter decision.  Finally, one day when Salem and I were both trying to lift Pearl up to help her outside and failing miserably, Charis’ voice hit home. “Mom, it’s just time. It’s time to put her down,” she said quietly. Just like that, I realized that my avoiding the moment wouldn’t stop the moment. The loss was inescapable.

We all went together as a family, by choice. We cried and prayed before we took her to the vet. We thanked the Lord for the years, for the great dog that she was. And again Charis’ voice cut through the fog. “Lord, it is just time to let Pearl go. Help us let her go. We love her. And we let her go back to You. Amen.”

The peace that transcends understanding flooded into my weeping heart. After it was over — the vet, the tears, Pearl’s last breaths escaping her body — I asked the Lord to show me the sweet of this bitter moment. And the sweet was in the weeping. We all came home and lay on our bed together and wept. It was the realness of the loss, the realness of the emotion, the realness of death that we needed to experience and be comforted in.

What makes gain so real, so beautiful, is when it laid up against loss. My heart knows joy better when it has known grief. A hungry belly appreciates a meal more than a well fed one. A father letting his son go off to war knows better than anyone the joy of his son’s return. Let God soften and comfort your heart in losses. He is an ever-present help in time of need.

Living the Gospel

As we continue to talk about Rest and the life of God in us, I want to share an excerpt about the power of the gospel.  The author’s definition of “gospel” is not just praying the prayer, but the death-to-life transformation that God has begun and will complete according to the promise through His Resurrected Son.

“In much of the popular writing on spiritual formation there is a tendency to convey a very stunted view of the gospel.  We get the idea that what unbelievers need is the gospel, and then, once they accept Christ as Savior, they move on to “needing  discipleship,” which consists of learning about Christ,  developing the fruit of the Spirit, learning how to have a quiet time, and so forth.

However, the picture that the New Testament gives is remarkably different.

We must remember the description  of the gospel as the power of God for the beginning, the middle, and the end of salvation.  Often we do not really understand all the vast implications and applications of the gospel. Only as we apply the gospel more and more deeply and radically —only as we think out all its truth — does it bear fruit and grow. The key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the persistent rediscovery of the gospel.

All our spiritual problems come from a failure to apply the gospel. This is true for us both as a community and as individuals.”

page 32 of Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered, James C. Wilhoit

Death Begets Death

Normally, we try to look at one real question on Wednesdays. Today, I’m not answering just one question. I’m answering ten! I know this is a loaded topic…BUT one worth talking about since it affects 1 out of 5 women. I was approached by a high school student with these questions and thought I would share my answers.

1. Do you believe abortion is morally correct?

2. In what circumstances do you believe abortion is socially acceptable?

3. In your opinion, is the third trimester too late to perform an abortion?

4. Do you believe abortion can cause depression or mental side effects?
Absolutely. In addition, it can cause nightmares, rage attacks, self-hatred leading to eating disorders, cutting, addictions to drugs and alcohol. Anything to numb the pain. It also causes long- lasting trauma to relationships, something people rarely discuss. This breach in conscience prevents future trusting relationships, especially with men.

5. What do you believe causes the women to have abortion as an option?
Fear. Fear of being alone, of being stuck with baby, of being “fat”, of being found out, of losing their life, of being a bad mother.

6. As an estimate, how many people do you know who have had an abortion?
I know personally 20+ but have counseled more than a 100 women.

7. Under the circumstances, what age is most common related to abortions?
17-25 is my guess.  Middle school girls think having a baby is “cool” and often decide to parent rather than release for adoption. Most occur around end of high school or in college when a woman feels like “she has her whole life ahead of her.”  Funny that the mother’s life has greater value than the life of her unborn baby.

8. Do you believe that the male has a substantial part in the decision process of an abortion?
Ahhhh, tough question. Yes, I do morally now. But when faced with that, I moved forward regardless of his decision.

9. Do you believe that the parents of the female play an important role in the decision process of abortion?
Many many abortions happen with the push of over active parents. They are more concerned with reputation than the value of life and the value of hardship in character building for their child. And many girls also have abortions out of fear of their parents finding out. They are trying to hide the evidence, as it were.

10. Can previous abortions cause emotional problems in future relationships and the start of a family?
I mentioned this but absolutely… Many women I have counseled with “withheld” this secret for fear of rejection from their husbands. So they are grieving in silence. It causes sexual disconnect and all kinds of trauma around having children in the future. “I killed one baby how can I welcome this one,” is the mentality.

Also there is a HUGE medical issue of damage done during the procedure where STDs are spread, damage to the cervix and tearing of the uterus.  Abortion is one of the riskiest medical procedures ever and it has NO medical oversight or accountability.  It absolutely affects the ability to bear children in the future.

A few more comments if I may?
I had an abortion at the age of 18. It was one of the most painful things I had ever lived through, physically, emotional and spiritually.  No one ever told me the truth about any of those things prior to the procedure. But more information is not the answer necessarily.  At that time, we made sure it was never called a baby, so when I found that out, I was doubly horrified. Today, we know it is a baby and call it a baby, but we so undervalue the intrinsic worth of a human being, it causes perhaps more harm. Mom has no value so baby has no value. And so even after abortion, mom continues to suffer from lack of value and worth which often leads to more sex, dirtier partners, more pregnancies, more abortions, etc.

I debated a woman from Planned Parenthood once and challenged her point that she was “empowering women.”  Empowering women is not accomplished by killing women and men, even if they are in fetus stage. Empowering women is to teach them about actions and consequences; sex leads to babies. But also about the overwhelming energy given to a woman when she is taught how to harness her passions and focus them on good and long-term results.  Parenting and adoption is incredibly hard. But they are choices that lead to life and hope and possibilty.

Abortion is quick and final. No life, no hope, no possibility.

Healing is my final point. I know many women who have tried many things to wash away the guilt of the blood on their hands. It has been my experience that only the blood of Jesus has the power to do that. I am not a church lady. But my life was radically transformed when I realized that even though I was a murderer, God still loved me.  It was a long arduous road to recover my heart, but one I am thankful for beyond measure.