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.

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Unspoiled

I drove home from evening church early. The kids had reached their “point” and so I took the little ones and headed home.

I looked for stars, but there weren’t any. It was a night that belonged to darkness. The heavens were muffled with clouds.

I saw something moving in the road ahead and slowed. I approached and saw and my stomach lurched and my heart did too and I felt stunned and sick all at once.

A raccoon, on his back, shaking and trembling and clawing at the empty air, eyes wild…living his last few moments in the throes of death.

Alone in the dark.

On a cold asphalt road.

I know it sounds sappy and a long time ago I closed my heart to being sappy; but since I’ve reopened my heart to life and love and joy and pain, I guess to some I’m considered sappy again and that’s okay…but raccoon dying in such a terrible way hurt.

I felt it inside.

And I didn’t know what to do with it.

I guess I’ve never quite known what to do with pain.

Next morning I read this story of tremendous heartache, and when I pray on knees and tears for this family, I feel it again and wonder, “How do we do this? How do we live in a world of such heartache?”

Do we just pad our lives so that we don’t have to face pain? Do we seek as much comfort as possible so we don’t have to be acquainted with the real, terrible suffering of others? The poor? The oppressed? The lonely? The taken- advantage-of-ed? The ones without recourse in this world?

Or do we focus on pain, isolate it, encase it like a shrine, make it an idol? Do we think that by worshiping it in this way we can keep it at bay, as if it will do our bidding?

What if we can hurt healthy?

Pain tells us there is only one road to pursue: Be an Untouchable.

Put yourself out of pain’s reach.

The pain of rejection…”Be untouched by pleasing people.”

The pain of failure…”Be untouched by not risking.”

The pain of insignificance…”Be untouched by putting on pretenses.”

The pain of desperation…”Be untouched by not putting yourself in that position, whatever the cost.”

The pain of being robbed of dignity, voice, “rights” …”Be untouched by becoming strong. Self-reliant. In control. Independent. Become a person of means.”

The Words come then…”Not untouched, but unspoiled” … and I know that is what Jesus can do.

The simple truth? All of us are guaranteed some pain in this life and I’m tired of being afraid of it, letting that fear curl me up and close me off and I’m ready to know how to hurt healthy.

History, both world and personal, show that we will each be touched by pain and heartache. We can be knocked down by it, dragged to the stake by it, offered up as a living sacrifice on it.

But we can still be unspoiled.

Which do we really want? Untouched or unspoiled?

My friends, I know what my new choice means. I know that pain will come and shake me to the roots and do everything it can to spoil me.

But when choosing between untouched or unspoiled?… well I’m changing from the first choice to the second.

‘Cause Untouched is Impossible.

Untouched is really a deceitful lie, a temptation to curl off and close up and not engage and spend yourself and all you have trying to live a life that doesn’t really exist anyway.

Choice #2? Well it is possible. It can happen. It can be reality even when pain touches, scalds, sears, enters, and scars.

Still, unspoiled.

It’s how the early followers all died…

John exiled on Patmos

Stephen stoned to death

Matthew stabbed to death

Mark pulled in two at the legs by horses

Luke cruelly hanged

Peter, Philip, and Simon crucified on a cross

Bartholomew skinned alive

Thomas pulled apart by 5 horses

James beheaded

Little James cut in half by a saw

James the brother of the Lord stoned to death

Judas tied to a pillar and shot with arrows

Matthias’ head cut off

Paul martyred under Nero

Not one was Untouched. But all died Unspoiled.

It is Deceiver who says, “Oh, see? You must try to live a life untouched! You must fear. You must do all you can to be Untouched. Maybe you can escape it.”

And he is happy to give us his plans of escape, too.

Life and Truth says, “It’s a lie. There is no such thing as Untouched. Open your eyes and you will see. But there is something better than Untouched… It is yours if you want it.”

And I do.

I do.

Youngest one falls and bumps his head and feels pain. I give him the only thing I can and in that moment I get it. I get why deceiver wants to lure us with “Untouchable.”

Pain’s companion is Presence.

It’s what I gave youngest when he felt pain. It’s what we all look for, what we all really need. It’s what makes pain endurable.

It even makes pain worth it. “That I may know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings…”

Presence.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you. When you walk through the waters, I will be with you…” See Is. 43:1-3

Instead of fearing pain, I will seek Presence… For I must walk through the valley of shadows, but I will fear no evil.

I will not be Untouched, but I will be Unspoiled.

For He is with me.


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.