Why Friday made all our days “Good”

“If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD. He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.”

“God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

“We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…a ransom for many.”

“No one takes it from me, but I lay my life down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again….I will love them freely.”

“The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me.”

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God…to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.”

(Today’s morning scriptures from “Daily Light on the Daily Path”)


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


The 3 R’s of God’s Classroom

I hear his story on the radio, on the way to take oldest to school.

His name is Matt and a car accident changed his life. He lost the ability to read.

Every time he sat down to read, he just could not put the words together. “I don’t understand!” he kept crying.

They told him he’d never finish school.

But he decided to try. He submitted himself to a program in which he re-trained his brain to read letters on a page. For over a year, he re-trained.

He had four hundred and eighty something days straight of migraine headaches.

It hurt. He pushed on.

It was hard. He pushed on.

It was agonizingly frustrating, re-learning something a completely different way, when he’d already done it the easy way years earlier.

He pushed on.

He can read now. He graduated with honors. And now he’s pursuing an MBA.

The story comes on a day when I want to give up. I’m oh so tired and the grueling work confuses the mind, sweat stings the eyes.

The story concludes on the radio and the Voice speaks to me: “I told you these days would come,” and I remember nearly a year ago, when He first gave me my prognosis.

I was sitting in the audience, waiting to hear the preacher, thinking the Word would come once the announcements were over. But no, there was one who had something to say and He spoke through that one.

The one had limped down the aisle to the podium, dragging his leg behind him.

His words were just as slow, forced out of a mouth that couldn’t keep up with the mind.

He barely spoke two sentences before he ambled back down the aisle, but in the span of those two sentences our mutual Maker spoke loud and clear, with no faltering and no stuttering. “That’s you,” He told me.

It was so powerful and so out of the ordinary that I told my husband about it that evening. “Yes, I know the young man,” he told me. “He calls himself “Marine 4 Christ.'”

I was so taken by this connection God had made between me and this young injured soldier, that I googled him. “Marine4Christ.” I found the connection in listening to his testimony.

Like Brandon, I am a wounded warrior. Years of abuse and spiritual bondage left me wounded and paralyzed, in a coma of sorts… Dead weight to those who cared for me.

“You are awake now,” He said to me that day as I watched Brandon’s story. “Like Brandon, I’ve redeemed your life too.”

“Now. If you are to get well, you too will have to relearn everything.

Relearn Everything.

I knew it would take hard, agonizing work. Grueling days, hours, moments. Impossible odds. Days when I’d say, “I can’t do this anymore.” It would take a team of people around me who pushed me to do what I felt simply and absolutely impossible.

But if I was to get well, if I wanted to live again, I would have to re-learn the ways of Grace. I’d have to learn how to eat again, how to work again, how to stand up and walk.

I’m still in the classroom. Today as I wondered if I’ve made any progress at all, God showed me that I have at least learned what the 3 R’s are in His classroom, and I’m giddy with the knowledge:

1. Receive- The way to eat is to receive. Receive all of God’s goodness and grace and to do that, one must open up, let go, do the opposite of what comes naturally when one has lived on life support. “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”

Open up, take in, swallow down. Receive.

2. Rest– The work of God’s classroom is to rest, the cessation of self striving and self effort. To move the spiritual body means letting Him be the one to both give and fill the prescription. He is in me both to will and to work.

Resting in God’s Kingdom classroom is not passive! “Labor to enter into that rest…” (Heb 4:11) Entering rest is perhaps the most difficult work of all.

3. tRust– The walk of the godly is to trust. The just shall live by faith. Just as each step is an act of free falling, so walking by faith is learning to free fall through my days, letting God-legs catch and sustain.

This is what it means to re-gain the ability to walk.

On a day like today, I wonder if I’ve made any progress at all. I wonder if I can pick up and just. do. today’s. part. Then I hear Matt’s story and I remember Brandon’s story and I know that like them, I can do it too. My life is redeemed and my Physician won’t forsake me.

And He’s placed me in just the right environment for me to re-learn, with people in my life (especially the 4 children!) who will push me and force me to new limits. I just need submit to His plan and keep practicing.

One day, I’ll be eating on my own. I’ll have full range of movement again. I’ll be walking.

And today? Well today I’ve moved one day closer.

Have a great weekend, dear friend, you who have happened upon this place today…


How to Redeem Hard Seasons of the Past

It’s early morning in February when it wakes me up growling, sends me running to the bathroom and before the hands of the clock travel yet an hour, I’ve been there 10 times and body is spent, weak, empty.

The kids will be waking soon and I wonder how I’ll do it, sick like this.

Loving Husband will get oldest to school on his way in… but I’ve got 3 preschoolers at home.

How in the world?

I lay there feverish, weak, doing all I can to drag self to the toilet…again.

It’s not just the fires of body that burn me up. It’s the fires of hell that burn most: “You are 900 miles away from family that could help. Everyone else has somebody to call on.”

“You never stay anywhere long enough to build lasting, meaningful relationships.”

“You’ll live your whole life like this, no one to call on when you need help. Alone. Isolated.”

“Aren’t you getting tired of  living like this?”

And I fester on what I don’t have, what my kids are missing, all the what if’s, and I give Husband the hard cold summary version of what I’m thinking as I watch him buckle belt through loops at the foot of the bed:

“I know God’s grace is sufficient for this…but I’d rather have someone with skin on to help with the kids while I’m laying here like this.”

It’s horrible. Wicked.

And true.

The summary that has defined the hard places of my life and the places I don’t particularly care for. I’d rather have provisions according to me, not God graces, thank you very much.

I’m ashamed of the wicked truth; but glad for finally uncovering the putrid, because now it can be cleansed.

For days I wonder why? Why do I insist on God meeting needs my way, God doing what I think is best and needed and right?

Do I not know Him? Do I not trust His goodness? Do I not believe in Grace Gifts?

Yes, there is some of that.

But there is something worse. There is a root and a reason why I can’t see God’s grace as better than people with skin on. God uses Romans 1 to brand me, searing the wound, inflicting pain. The beginning of healing.

“For though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God…” Rom 1:21

Yes, that would apply.

I know God…but at times I fail to celebrate Him as God, especially when times get hard.

I haven’t always carried that knowledge of God into my dark places, taken it up like a rope as I’m lowered into the pit, tethered myself to the Light of the world.

I haven’t always fulfilled my responsibility to intentionally honor God in each place.

But I know it now… When I fail to deliberately acknowledge the Truth about God’s goodness when the sick beds of life tell me something different….I become a blasphemer. I “make the Truth about God inoperable.”

I exchange the truth of God for a lie, the glory of God for an image of my own making.

And I think I can do this without consequence??

Isn’t this what clouds my vision and becomes the reason why I can’t see grace in the moment, my foolish heart darkened?

Isn’t this the path to destruction, a choice of my own choosing?

Oh why, WHY,  do I apply scriptures to the heathen without seeing myself in them?

We are each without excuse. (Rom 1:20, 2:1) You, Arabah, You!

The passage convicts me and exposes me and sears me and I thank God for the breath in my lungs that allow me life long enough to come to this point of recognition and for the kindness of God even here to bring me to repentance.

So if this is where I’ve gone wrong, in failing to celebrate Him, to magnify Him, to ascribe lustre, to extol ~ If I’ve failed to hold on to Truth about Him in hard places, then this is where I go back and “re-do.”

It’s right there at the beginning of Romans. We each have broken down at this point. Like it or not, we can’t go on to the Faith of Romans 4 or the Spirit quickening of Romans 8 or the manifestations of the Spirit controlled life in Romans 12 without first passing Romans 1.

This is the  “Go” on the Monopoly board of life.

I know it so clearly I can see it, my own life the map. I see the breakdown…the consequences…the blasphemy…the fruit.

I pick up Ann’s book and oh, how I “get” it, eucharisteo. “For though they knew God, they did not honor God as God nor give thanks…”

I want to move out of Romans 1 and I’ve found the exit.

I’m not on sick bed any longer, but I go back to that place, back to burning fires and throbbing heads. I start listing the graces there. I extol the Goodness of God. I start a list of 1,000 Gifts in my life’s dark places.

1.anti-diarrhea tabs

2. snow days and canceled schedules

3. Husband who took up the slack

It’s been years and years~ a lifetime ~ since the dark places in my childhood. But I go back there. I list the graces. I celebrate the kindnesses of God.

74. Momma combing hair

75. leaves rustling in trees

76. night owl outside my window

77. cows

78. memory verses

79. gingersnap cookies

It’s been many moons since that isolated apartment in Asia where I wondered where God was but I go back there. I list the graces. I see things in my mind’s eye, relive the life, but this time I see it differently.

314. Big Bertha (our wind up alarm clock) …

317. finding cheese, thank you Lord!

318. squatty potties…

339. bicycles and backpacks and walking everywhere

340. backs that bore the weight of packs filled with Good News Films

341. feet that blistered delivering the message

342. the chance to go

Oh blessed gifts!

I’m redeeming my past.

I’m also paving new paths for my future.

I’m walking out of Romans 1, deliberately extolling the Gifts, Graces, and Goodness of God in all things.

Romans 12, here I come.


God Surprises

I knew I was in trouble when I got in the truck with them.

This was not the way things were supposed to go. I was supposed to go visit the new family with my husband. The two ladies were supposed to go visit Amber on their own.

Instead, I was with the two ladies going to visit Amber and what was more, I was to head the visit up. I was the one they were all counting on.

I told them to be ready to present the way of salvation, to be sensitive to what God wanted to do. But I never intended to be the one doing it.

I got in the truck and they chattered away.

I was silent. I was praying.

“Lord,” I prayed, “I know I’m a missionary and I should know how to do this and everyone else thinks I do know how to do this, but you and I know the truth: I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know why someone like me has been entrusted with such a precious message and without You, I will ruin the whole thing.”

We arrived at Amber’s house and I wasn’t relying on myself…but I wasn’t sure my feet had found their confidence in God either. I didn’t feel confident.

She welcomed us in, this woman who has been attending our Bible studies.

We chatted for a minute or two and then I asked the question. “What is God doing in your life? For you to be coming to ladies group, God is doing something and we’d like to help however we can.”

I’m not sure how it all went from there, but she was open. She responded. We talked about the way God works and how He provided for us in Christ.

She told us she had never given her life to Christ and we talked some more. We talked about reasons not to believe Jesus, the costs involved, what it really means. Then I asked her, “Is there anything that is preventing you from giving your life to Jesus?”

“No,” she said.

They turned to me, expecting me to go through the scriptures and lo and behold, I hadn’t even brought my Bible!

We all laughed at the surprises of God, me most of all.

I didn’t have my reading glasses either, and couldn’t make out the words on the page, so I just handed my companion’s Bible to Amber and told her where to turn and she read the truth for herself and cried over the free gift of God.

Amber prayed, joining in this circle of women. She confessed Jesus as Lord of her life and I wondered at how easy it is to go from life to death. How difficult but how easy at the same time. How faith comes by hearing and hearing happens when there is one to share the truth and we each are sent to do that.

Because it started with Him. He authored salvation, made every provision necessary for it.

He desires salvation for a lost world. Let’s make it more real: He desires salvation for that lost neighbor. It is from this birthed desire that He sent me, each one of us. He has given us of His authority and His presence and all we need do is go. We need not make anything happen. He’s already done that. “It is finished.”

We just need go.

Lord, we will. We will.


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.


Them

The switch stung my bare legs, leaving streaks of ugly raised red.

I was marked.

Slash. Slash. Slash.

My cries brought smug satisfaction to the onlookers…these with arms folded, looking for blood.

Her name was Michelle and we were church friends, the kind you only see on Sunday, the kind whose parents compete for spiritual standing.

While the big-people-competitors stood around puffing up after church, we played hide and seek. She pushed me into the pampas grass, cutting scratchy stuff, and I got stuck in an ant bed and it burned like fire and I flamed too and I found her laughing, mocking… and I bit.

There were no questions asked. The teeth marks and pointed finger and cries for justice were all the big people needed to fold their arms and make their judgment.

I had streaked the spiritual standing of my big people. I stood condemned.

I wonder if that lone tree in the church yard was there for that sole purpose.

Training communicates right and wrong. It says, “I love you enough to go the distance, to teach you, to labor long with you, to help you and ground you.”

But a public lashing communicates, “You’ve humiliated me. This is what you are worth. This is your value. My reputation is of more worth than your entire being.”

The folded arms said, “You are a sinner deserving of death and don’t you EVER forget it.”

The message was heard loud and clear, streaking my heart with ugly raised red. I caved under its force.

Two sisters followed me but for some reason they seemed never to get the breaking I got. Maybe they were good. Yes, that was it…they were good and I was bad. Worthless.

When my little brother came along I was nine. I could hardly bear standing by while he was broken. At two, he was still demonstrating his freedom, loved to climb out of bed each night. Somehow he had been cursed like me.

As a parent of four now, I see how frustrating, exhausting, annoying it is, especially with many little ones. But did it warrant a breaking?

Does anything?

One night, to teach him a lesson, Dad took his belt and started in. I don’t know what made me do it, but I counted.

Slash. One…

Slash. Two…

Slash. Three…

I pulled covers up and closed eyes and resolutely kept count.

Slash. Sixteen…

Slash. Twenty…

My heart pounded as I cowered and wondered and felt every one of those lashes across my soul.

Slash. Twenty five…

“He won’t get 40,” I thought. “Even Jesus only got 39, remember? The forty minus the one.”

It was a wild hope, a life-line for my drowning soul.

Slash. He surpassed Jesus. Again. And again. And again.

56 when the belt finally stopped.

The cries weren’t stopped so quickly and something happened inside of me. Something un-conscious and un-willed. Something out of necessitiy, to keep me alive.

From then on, when the belt came out, I would cry and run to Dad and plead, “Spank me instead! Please! He is too little. Please give it to me instead, Please Daddy!”

Years later dad told me I saved little brother countless beatings.

But in my mind it was never enough.

Never enough.

The tears leak out and I wonder how I went from being soft, being willing, being broken, to being blind to my big-person callousness?

How did I lose such truth, the eyesight to see 56 as 56? Cutting words as Deadly Instrument they are? Anger as Weapon? Pressure as Damager?

I should know better. I did then. What happened?

I know what happened. Somewhere along the way, the heritage was passed on to me…the folded arms, the rejection, the rigidity, the condemnation, the un-forgiveness.

Somewhere along the way I followed footprints. Somewhere I knew that If I couldn’t have love, then I simply wouldn’t need it…

{Part II soon…}

“Knowing that you were redeemed from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” I Peter 1:18-19