Deadly Cocktail

I’m addicted to strong drink.

It started when I was not yet five, a wisp of a girl with long hair and stick legs.

They took me to places I shouldn’t have been. They made me do things I shouldn’t have done. They told me things I had no business believing.  And it all felt so horribly good in a dark, evil way, that when the cup was passed, I drank it too.

I didn’t even think.

I just drank and the numbness set in and the darkness wasn’t so frightening and I was hooked.

I never saw the lies for the poison they were, smoothing over lips and tongue and entering the belly. I only saw the relief they gave.

The lies, the strong drink can become a way of life.

And then something comes along that shakes a stick at you, calls intoxication for what it is and tells you that you aren’t the victim you thought you were, you’re a drunkard.

You’ve done gone and made yourself inebriated on the stuff and you can’t stop. You’re addicted and there are no excuses.

Oh, it gets ugly alright.

It’s happened to me. And as I read Judges 6 again fresh, I see the cocktail.

Right there on the pages of scripture, there’s the deadly brew that has ensnared many and it was my drink of choice and it flows free still to anyone willing to try it. It’s the liar’s deadly mix that he’s specialized in serving up to God’s chosen people, people like Gideon. People like me.

I’ve drunk it. Not only that, but I’ve been addicted to it. Maybe you have too? Maybe you still are? Perhaps this post is for us, you and me.

Before God could use Gideon to fulfill His miraculous purposes…before God can use you to fulfill yours… He had to expose the strong drink Gideon had been feasting on his whole life. Isn’t this the way it always has to be? God shows up in our lives and it is interesting to note that what we start saying at that point reflects the stuff we’ve been drinking.

“Then Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles? But the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”  Judges 6:13

Let me stop and ask you, has God shown up in your life and given you a vision for something great, something that you are a part of?

And what has been your response?

You see, Gideon’s response exposed the lies he’d been drinking. His answer to an incredible vision from God wasn’t faith but doubt.

This is the first part of the deadly cocktail: Doubt in God’s goodness.

This lie has many faucets. It doubts God’s intentions towards me. It doubts His Presence. It doubts His provision. It doubts His power. Gideon’s response reflects all these things.  The conclusion of this lie is that “God has abandoned” me.

And if God has abandoned me, I’m on my own.

Herein is the set up for the second part of the deadly cocktail, by which our enemy seals our fate and reduces us to blubbering fools, unable to live and lead the victory that God has granted.

“He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house…” (Vs 15)

The first part of the cocktail says, “God won’t.” The second part says, “I can’t.”

Yes, that’s the strong drink I’ve been addicted to. The “God won’t” and “Surely, I can’t” mix.

The mix that rolls over and says, “This is out of my league, leave me alone so I can wallow in numbness some more.”

I for one have had a belly F.U.L.L of this stuff. There’s good news for bellies and hearts made sick with this!

God’s response to Gideon is pretty astonishing if you really think about it:

“Surely I will be with you and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” (vs 16)

The antidote for the deadly cocktail we’ve drunk is “God will and I can.”

Now perhaps it needs to be said that we can only through Christ who strengthens us and that we can do only what God gives, not what we desire for ourselves. This isn’t a blanket statement to pursue either self effort or self interest.

Even so, God tells us He will and we can, for whatever purposes He has for our lives.

Have you drunk the elixir? Have you caved in to thinking you will never…. (fill in the blank)? That you can’t…..? That God has given up on you or that His power isn’t enough for your situation?

Set that strong drink aside, my friend. Take the bottle and smash it.

Pick up this one instead: “GOD WILL and I CAN” and drink deep.


How to Make the Bitter Sweet

“I’ve got a big ol’ steel cup of bitter,” she told the ladies group.

“Five kids, homeschooling, a controlling husband, a home based business. The demands never end and the resources are never enough.”

Another spoke up and shared her waters, the lot she’s been given, the bitter she can’t get down.

Who hasn’t come to the waters of Marah? Bitter waters aren’t potable. Our human condition cannot stomach such.

The ladies in bible study all turned to look at me, like I would have some answer for them.  Um… blank. I was thinking of Marah and I mumbled something about Exodus 15 and grew silent, hoping someone else would step in and take it over. It’s all I had.

I went home and looked again at the place Marah, where God “tested” His people.

I’d seen it in my own life; I’d heard it from the ladies at group; and now here it was in the scriptures: we come to the bitter and ask, “What are we to drink?”

The question implies we anticipate a change. This water hole isn’t going to cut it, surely God is going to take us down the road to a new, fresh, clear place where we can drink and be satisfied.

We expect God will make things better by changing location, circumstances, or by giving a quick fix.

But He doesn’t.

“…the Lord showed him a tree…”

He shows us “the Tree,” the wood that when brought to bear on the bitter turns it to sweet.

But oh, wait a minute.  I’m seeing something here. It was at the bitter waters that God revealed Himself as “The Lord, your Healer.”

Surely it is the bitter of life where God makes Himself known to us as The Great Physician as well… if we can get past asking how our needs are going to be met and let Him do what He does best.

The Physician begins by “testing” us.

“…and there He tested them.” (vs.25) The Healer gives His people a stress test!

The waters of Marah are a test to determine our condition. Here, our Healer God evaluates our health and exposes the hidden.

Have your bitter waters brought out complaining, grumbling, negativity, and short-sightedness in you?

{Ouch. That stress test hurt.}

That’s okay, because He isn’t done yet.

Next, the Physician gives a prescription.

“There He made for them a statute and ordinance…” (vs 25)

When I reached the words “statute” and “ordinance” I got down on my knees in astonished praise. Statute means “a prescription, a specific decree.” Ordinance means “a decision, the act of deciding a case and giving a proper, fitting, customized plan.”

God tested His people with bitter waters to determine what the proper RX should be.

The lasting prescription He gave was the cross, the wood in the water.

So blown away was I by this that I googled it to see what else I could find. “What is the statute God gave in Exodus 15:25?”

I asked this of a computer.

This is what came back:

“The leading of Israel to bitter water, which their nature could not drink, and then the sweetening or curing of this water, were to be the statute (the Rx) for Israel by which God would always guide and govern His people, and a judgement (a decision, a custom fitted plan) inasmuch as Israel could always reckon upon the help of God and deliverance from every trouble.” Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the OT

Right there at Marah is where God, the Great Physician, revealed His prescription for bitter waters that can’t be stomached. When I am facing a moment in my day when I just. can’t. get. this. cup. down….there is a solution.

I can apply the Cross.

God doesn’t lead us to another water hole to drink from. He shows us how we can drink from any water hole, praise God! no matter how bad it’s waters are. He tells us, “I’m not changing a thing, I’m giving you a lasting ordinance, a foul-proof way to make your bitter waters sweet.

Two and a half weeks later,  I’m reading Galatians 6 and Paul says, “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross…” and my ears perk up and my heart opens wide and I can’t wait to see what Paul has to say about the Cross, that beam of wood that makes the bitter sweet.

“…through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”

It’s what Paul says next that astonishes me most. “And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them.”

Is he talking about the regulation? The lasting ordinance? THAT rule? The Exodus 25:15 one?

The Cross changes everything. It makes the bitter sweet because absolutely nothing is “old.” Behold, all things have become new!

The Cross gives Purpose. I am dead to ordinary. I am dead to meaningless. I am dead to empty mundane tasks. Everything is new and full of purpose. There is no ordinary. Whatever I do, it is eternally significant.

The Cross gives Presence. The Cross is the Bridge by which I leave the ordinary, the bitter, and enter the Divine Sphere. I am dead to the world and alive unto God. I have access to Divinity at all times.

The Cross gives Power. It is not about me “doing” something, like circumcision of old. It is simply living by the rule that I am indeed a new creation because of the cross of Christ. I am not helpless. The Cross is the “power of God.”  (see I Corinthians 1:17-18)

It is not something to be understood with the head, but accepted with the heart.

“Even so, consider yourselves also dead to sin, and your relation to it broken, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11


Injecting Mud

It didn’t  start out that way. It never does.

At first, she just didn’t feel good- ever.

When she talked to family and friends about it, they brushed her off and told her she was fine. Eventually they told her she was paranoid- a freak- “so stop talking about it already.”

She went to the doctor. In his stoic, professional manner, he let her know she was healthy…at least her body was. Her mind?…

The shame and condemnation she began to feel from others for a problem she couldn’t identify began to stoop her shoulders. The messages were sublte: “You’re crazy.”

“Worthless. Nobody believes you. Nobody cares.”

“You’re about as valuable as mud.”

Mud.

Mud. Mud. Mud.

The word became a chain, slipped silently around her soul, and squeezed the color of life from her being.

Slowly. Ever so deadly.

She got a wild idea that maybe she should get some mud.

She did.

Maybe she should put it in a vial.

She did.

Maybe she should carry it in her purse.

She did.

Maybe she should inject it, just a little.

She did.

She began injecting mud.

Anytime she felt worthless, she would inject a little bit, reaffirming her value. “You’re dirt. Maybe you’ll kill yourself and do everyone a favor.”

Her body began to respond to the poisons she was pumping into her system. She lost feeling, suffered from nerve damage. Her already deteriorating health worsened- she couldn’t climb stairs and limped when she walked.

When I read her story in the comment section on a ministry site, my heart almost stopped. How I longed to rescue her from the lies- the poison- that ensnared her!

She was asking for help. Was it too late for her? After all she had done to her body, would God still give her a chance? Could God forgive her?

Even now, nearly a year later, I cry. I’ve asked the same thing. I’ve believed deadly lies- injected poison- and I’ve done terrible things to myself and others and I’m the outcast who is worthy of shame, contempt, rejection. Mud.

And the last lie of them all is the deadliest, intended to be the final blow to the soul: “Even God doesn’t want you.”

But God…

But God…But God…But God!

But God, when we were dead in our trespasses and sins, made us alive together with Christ- for by grace we have been saved.

Maybe you’ve never injected mud. Maybe your spiritual veins are squeaky clean and you shudder and run from the thought of such darkness. Good for you.

But maybe someone reading this relates. Maybe someone isn’t so clean and wonders if God can forgive you?

My friend, He has.

Those aren’t Sunday School words, they are words spoken by the Someone Himself who left the glory of heaven to dwell in dirt. He came down not just to speak those words but to prove He meant them.

He said it. Woman your sins are forgiven you.”

He lived it. “..Forgiving one another even as God, in Christ Jesus has forgiven you.”

He gave it. “In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

He died it. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

And then, just to make sure we got it, He proved it. “He was delivered over because of our transgression but was raised because of our justification.”

Start injecting that, my friend.

Start. Injecting. That.

For you are alive from the dead, raised up with Christ. The enemy came and knocked you down and kicked your teeth out and dealt you a blow that sunk you deep and robbed you of life.

But God stepped down from heaven, took on the form of a babe, reached out with Carpenter’s hands, and rubbed the mud from your face, gave the antidote for mud pumped into your veins. “Live!” He uttered. “Live!”

Do you hear His voice? Does your soul stir awake? The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”

You who are so good at injecting poison, start injecting Life.


Finding Your Voice for Words That Matter

I was in 6th grade when I had the dream.

It was about the roller coaster of life and getting lost in the festivities and how most people who go in to the carnival never come back out.

It was strange, like dreams are, and I’m not saying it was prophetic or even important, but it was after that that I knew I was to write.

I knew written words were to be how I communicated things I couldn’t say otherwise.

So I wrote my first book, in sixth grade.

I’m sure I would have given up altogether because I found putting down on paper what I held in my heart extremely difficult… except that I had found a new friend in this new school, in this new city. His name was George and every day on the bus to school he would ask me what happened next.

He believed in me and my story.  {I’m sure it was a gift from God.}

I reckon I could write a book on how “not” to write…because I’ve tried and tried again and learned a whole lot about what not to do…   And still I wonder if I can write a single post and do it anywhere close to “well.”

And yet I believe we all have words to contribute. We all leave legacy with words. Whether we write words or not, we are each leaving behind a “testimony,” the weaving of threads to form a central message.

“This is the testimony of John…” John 1:19

Testimony means “witness.” We each live a life that is making a theological statement about God. ~~~What does mine say? ~~~

Testimony means “martyr.” We each are giving our lives~ expending them drop by drop, with our time, toil, and tears~ for the “somethings” we value the most. ~~~What do I value? ~~~

John’s testimony was true, his cause was Christ. What can he teach me about words?

 

“This is the testimony of John, when he was asked, “Who are you?”” John 1:19

Words begin with a question. It isn’t so difficult. It isn’t complex or hard to understand. It doesn’t take degrees and influence and platforms and special titles.

Words ~lives~ that matter, find their birth with a single question. “Who are you?”

Why? Why is it so important to know who we are?

Because who we are determines what words we speak. It decides whether our words are Voice or Echo.

Walking in John’s footsteps, we must first know who we are not. “I am not the Christ.”

“I am not Elijah. I am not the Prophet.”

We must know who we are not and allow ourselves the freedom to not be someone else. I am not John Piper. I am not Beth Moore. I am not Sharon Jaynes or Shaunti Feldham or Jane Doe.

That is good. I can’t be me and I can’t speak my words and I can’t live my testimony until I give up on trying to be someone else.

“Who are you then, What do you say about yourself?” John 1:22

 What I say about myself is incredibly important. I must define myself properly. John defined himself by the words that had been spoken over him before the beginning of time, words recorded in the Book.

“I am a voice…” John 1:23

(He found his Words in Is. 40:3)

 When we define ourselves according to Words, His spoken about us, we move from being an echo to being a voice.

Each of us have had Words spoken over us, Words that define us, Words that tell us who we are, Words that give purpose for our individual lives.

~~~Have I identified those words that “belong” to me, that I belong to?~~~

  I do not speak words well.

I do not write words well.

But finally, after doing so many things wrong, maybe I’ve finally started at the beginning: I have identified the Words that belong to me.

I’m letting those Words define me, give me purpose, shape my speech, form my testimony.

And that makes me a Voice, not an Echo.

  How about you? Have you found your Words? Care to share what they are?

  

  

 


Calm. Confident. Committed. (Words to Live By)

Kind Words and Warm Welcomes from the community of sisters take me aback this week.

I understand my girl’s tendency to withdraw better than ever… When you’re not used to a warm, welcoming table…

And I fight a wild urge in me, to get up at the table and act the clown, thinking I’ve got to impress, to prove my right to be here, to make you like me.

Raw honesty.

Insecurity breeds strange behavior, this I know.

I’ve been the outsider most of my life, grown comfortable with it. Perhaps this has served me well in living overseas for years as the “foreigner.”

Except that now I’m in the states on furlough and now you all have noticed me in my corner and you invite me to the table and extend warm welcomes.

“Don’t take counsel with insecurity.” Loving husband has said it to me and I’ve said it to him and we’ve learned how to recognize it and how to help each other fight it.

For doesn’t this tell us not to be ignorant of predator’s schemes and surely Insecurity is a well used, finely tuned tool in his hands.

Insecurity that tells us we have to run and hide. Or to act… the clown, the fake, the reflection of the world around us, the whatever… in order to be welcomed.

Insecurity that tells us we aren’t good enough.

Insecurity that tells us we can’t do THATWho do we think we are?

It is insecurity that tells me I must be a task-master, that the shepherd’s staff holds no power. It is insecurity that tells me I can’t expect truly noble things of myself because I’m just ordinary. It is insecurity that blinds my eyes to what true dignity, true nobility, true strength really is. It is insecurity that tells me I must eat crumbs from the world’s table because I can’t have what God’s special people have.

It is insecurity, the scheme of Satan, that deceives me to what I can truly be. Who I really am. It tells me to act the clown. Be somebody. Prove something.

But like the Babe in the manger, significance has no pretenses. Influence needs no platform. Importance requires no self-promotion.

Will I believe it? Will I believe that I am significant, influential, important?

It is not people who make me so. It is not me myself that makes me so. { I don’t have to make me important! Blessed truth! Freedom! }

It is the precious, priceless blood of Christ that has covered me, stained me with priceless significance and nothing can ever, ever change that.

So the predator uses the only tool He has- deception- and how blind to his ways I have been!

How I furrowed out patterns of insecurity in my responses to little ones… to the opportunities that came my way… to  people and life and to the Voice that kept whispering nobility to me.

No. More.

No more will I settle for the world’s glitz when I can have His Wholeness. No more will I take riches from king’s hands when He can be my portion. No more will I feast on spiritually packaged, man-made food when the Bread of Life can be mine. No more scheming for ways I can make promises come true when the One who promised is Faithful.

No More.

Lord Jesus, I’m not going to get this perfect, but by Your grace I’m not going to take counsel with insecurity. I’m neither going to retreat nor push ahead.  I’m going to keep in step with the Spirit for the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come” and I take my place amidst family and don’t need to act something because I already am. I’m going to embrace this new day as the chance to furrow new habits, forge new patterns, respond in fresh ways. And tomorrow; and the day after that, and the day after…

Today I will live:

Calm. Because I don’t have to “do” it.

Confident. Because the Spirit and the Bride say “Come.”

Committed. Because this isn’t about me. The Person and the cause is beyond myself.


Surely One of the Saddest Things Ever… and the Remedy

I look at her withdrawn, held back, unwilling to come join the rest of us.

I beckon. She stiffens.

Scars from past abandonment, neglect, and abuse hold her like chains to her chosen spot. She will not come.

I see myself in her. I see how I braced myself against warmth because I had believed the lie that I didn’t need it. I see how I held back from love- deep and lavish- because I decided I could do without it. And slowly, a bit at a time, the cold I surrounded myself with seeped deeper into my soul and distorted my vision of the love available to me.

I see it clearly now…that surely one of the saddest things ever is to be deeply and lavishly loved but not have the eyes to perceive it.

What a tragedy, to get to the other side of life and see how one could have lived- as a dearly beloved child of God, sure of His love and unfailing goodness.

How does one miss this? How do God’s people miss this incredible life?

I look at her and I see myself. I see how I did it, how I missed it for so long: I failed to “lay hold.”

“…So that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” Phil 3:12

Just as she is in our household, never to leave, always identified with us, so I am in Christ. He is my brother, my family, and I am in the household of God. He has reached down and laid hold of me (Phil 3:12) and has taken me from the domain of darkness and abuse and rejection and pain and transferred me into the kingdom of the family- His beloved Son (Col 1).

And I can either sulk and hold back and piddle in the corner with my little pet toy, or I can reach out with both hands and press forward and lay hold of that which has laid hold of me.

The remedy for rejection is acknowledging the acceptance offered in Christ.

The remedy for neglect is embracing the love and warmth extended me in Jesus.

The remedy for abuse is running to the table of fellowship with Him, where I am always welcomed, loved, and nourished back to health.

Hiding out in the corner never did anyone any good…except the enemy who wishes to single us out from the rest to devour us.

Surely I must help my precious one learn to embrace the new, push forward to the warmth, and lay hold.

We’ll do this together, she and I. We will learn together how to come out of our corners, how to put down our pet emotions, how to stretch out our hands and open our arms wide and embrace the grace that has been lavished on us.

Together, we will lay hold.


Fully Assured

4:54am and His voice comes softly, awakening me. “Understand what the will of the Lord is.”

I lay under warm mountain for awhile, pondering these words, especially in light of yesterday’s word, “Keep yourself in the love of God.”

I think of how my traditional upbringing taught me to understand the will of God in terms of “Glorifying God” and “Obeying His commandments.”

Surely these are a part of His will.

But His words invite me to find articulation for what He has been revealing to me over a period of time. His will is not primarily the things I do.

For the next 3 days I pour over scriptures, getting Husband’s help using the Logos Bible study software pastors and missionaries use. Slowly, articulation comes.

“Will” is “thelema” in the Greek. It means desire, pleasure, intent. It is what One wishes or has determined shall be done. It is Christ slain before the foundation of the world. In short, it is the purpose of God to bless mankind through Christ.

How skewed we are when we think of God’s will simply in terms of what He desires from us! I must discipline self to think first in terms of His intent towards me.

Ephesians 1 is a gold mine for discovering God’s desire, pleasure, and intentions towards me. His will is “kind intentions” and “lavish grace.”

It is His will to bless me with every spiritual blessing,

to choose me,

to consider me holy and blameless,

to adopt me,

to redeem me,

to forgive me all my transgressions,

to make me the recipient of His lavish grace,

to give me all wisdom and insight into His heart for me,

to give me an inheritance,

to grant me the fullness of His Spririt,

to rescue me from the domain of darkness and transfer me to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col 1),

to reconcile me to Himself,

to make me at peace with Him,

These things I “know,” but thinking of them in terms of His will for me adds dimension to the knowledge and empowers me in new ways.

After three days of searching, pondering, asking, it comes down to this phrase from Colossians 4:12, “Stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.”

This can be breath, blood, and life. As kids wake up and need me and Husband does too and I feel too broken and weak to give them what they deserve, I stand perfect on these words, “Fully assured in all the will of God. ” HE IS FOR ME.

As I dress tired, whiny child, I can do this. I can love and bless and give and pour out, because I am fully assured in all the will of God for me.

As older child grumbles about changing shirt, I can do this. I can take aside and breathe life words into him, exhort him to live up to his identity in Christ as beloved child.

As time presses and stress rises and lunches need packing and dress pants need ironing and children scatter toys, I can do this. I can focus on what really matters and stand perfect, fully assured in all the will of God for me.

Today is going to be a great day.