Sunday, December 22, 2013

Into the Arms of Love...

"For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost..."
Matthew 18:11  NKJV
God blessed me.
He blessed me.
He went ahead and blessed me!
I never thought He loved me.
He is so very far above me.
Why would He love me?
Why would He care?
I don’t know the answer.
I only know the question
That was always in my heart.
If God could see me as I am
Would He ever want to be with me?
Would He even know my name?
Would He run as far away from me
As His big God feet could carry Him?
Would He pretend He didn’t hear me
Calling out His name?
Would He pretend that He was occupied,
with fortune and with fame?
With important things,
important people,
I’m sure He has important things to do,
that is why He came.
What is this? 
I see Him stop. 
He’s calling out my name!
He said that I’m the one He came for,
the little lost sheep He’s searching for,
The one that wandered off…
He says He saw me from the start
and tucked me deep inside His heart.
He sees me in my weakness,
and in all my many failures,
In all my ugly sins.
He says He knows it all and loves me anyway!
I can’t believe He loved me
when no one else was there.

He’s bending over heaven
to hear my desperate prayer!

Did I tell you,
He’s my father,
my daddy,
my Hero,
my all?
The One who picks me up and carries me every time I fall?
Have you met my Heavenly Father,
Do you hear Him calling out your name?
He’s searching for you like He searched for me
And loves us both today.
Listen for the whispers that surround you,
That’s the God Who made the universe.
He made you, every little inch of you!
He loves you like a daddy who won’t give up His baby
No matter what they say.
I hope this Christmas finds you running back to Him
And jumping in the arms of Love
Before it is too late.
I hope you hear the Father’s voice,
Singing over you.
I love you,
I love you,
Just the way you are…

Sunday, October 13, 2013

You Took My Breath Away...

"Then the King will say,
I'm telling you the solemn truth:
Whenever you did one of these things
To someone overlooked or ignored,
That was Me - you did it to Me."
Matthew 25:40

Yesterday, you stopped me in my tracks.  I was driving down the street, in a hurry to get where I was going, as always, and there you were.  You didn't know I was watching you.  You were just doing what comes naturally to you.  There you were, stepping out without blinking an eye onto a street filled with speeding drivers who were too self-absorbed to acknowledge the presence of anyone else in the world at that moment.  After all, we had places to go, people to see! An onlooker, watching the scene unfold, might have mistaken the drivers for clones of The White Rabbit, straight out of Alice in Wonderland, murmuring to ourselves, "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date. No time to say, hello, goodbye, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!" Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

You, though, you were something altogether different. You didn't seem to even notice any of us.  You were focused like a laser beam on the object of your attention, the tiny, broken old woman you were running to help.  It was a study in contrasts  You, so young and agile, leaping like a buck across the street to make it to her side in seconds, as if the world depended on it.  She, so frail in frame, she was barely able to lift her head to see you running to her side.  She was inching her way across the street, on legs that were like twigs bent so low they seemed about to break.  The cane she leaned on shook in her trembling hands.  She was scared.  You could see it on her face, wrinkled from brow to chin.  She was the picture of vulnerability.  You, the picture of strength...

I was mesmerized by what I was watching.  You ran to her side, took her arm and wrapped it gently inside the fold of your own, holding her close as if you were protecting something very dear to you. Then you slowed your gait to meet hers.  You didn't rush her.  You didn't condescend to her.  You raised your head and lovingly, gently, respectfully, led her across the busy street.  You stopped the traffic with the witness of your kindness.  You were breathtaking.  Like a child of another time and another place, you gave us all a living lesson in "respect for the elderly," a lost art in our youth crazed, American culture.  You humbled me with the witness of your grace and kindness to this little old woman. 

We were on a college campus that day with students rushing to and from their classes.  You were probably one of them.  But, that day, at that precise moment in time, you became the teacher and we were all the students taking notes from a master.  You were, simply, the best...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

In the Grip of Love...

"And God will wipe away every tear..." 
Rev. 21:4

In the strangle hold of lung cancer, I met the angel of death standing by the bedside of my father many years ago. It was my first encounter with the painful goodbye ritual forced upon me against my will as I struggled to come to terms with the diagnosis of the doctors who gave my father a scant three weeks to live, if that, at the age of fifty-four.

It was in the beautiful month of July. The sun was brilliant and hot in the sky, beaming its rays upon my face when I left the hospital that first day that I knew my father would not live to see another summer. I seriously wondered how the sun could continue to shine. How could people continue to laugh at each other’s jokes? How could everyone go on with life as if nothing had happened? Didn’t they know that the world had just come to a screeching halt inside the hospital corridors where my father was dying? 

I had never experienced anything like it before.  Time stood still for me as I found myself locked in a battle to say goodbye to my father for the last time. 

As a daughter who dearly loved her father, I stayed by his bed as he seesawed back and forth between wanting to live and wanting to die – the pain was just too much for him.  My own emotions rode a roller coaster up to the heights of believing God would hear my prayers and miraculously heal my father, and then thundering down to the depths of despair. There was no mistaking the dance of death as I looked into the eyes of my father who was now begging God to let him die – the pain had overtaken him and robbed him of any instinct to survive.
It was the most painful thing I had ever gone through in my life.  But, even as I sat by my father's bedside, I realized there was a mystery unfolding around me.  Running through our lives was a Hand of Blessing touching us, caressing us, comforting us, meeting us at the intersection of life and death. 

Over the screams of pain from my father and the cries of protest coming from my own heart, I could hear the voice of God, reassuring us, as any loving Daddy would  His child: "I've got you, I've got you.  Don't be afraid.  I've got you..."  We were, mysteriously, overwhelmingly, in the grip of Love...

Gone was any pretense that life doesn’t matter.  
Suddenly, nothing mattered more.
Gone was the silly, meaningless banter of people
for whom this was just another day. 
No.  I hung on every word he said because I didn’t know
 if I would ever hear his voice again.
Gone was my ability to hide my emotions. 
They couldn’t be contained, couldn’t be hidden. 
My love for my father burst out of my heart and
ran down my face, unabashedly,
tear drop by tear drop.
Gone was my taking life for granted ever again. 
 I discovered at the death bed of my father
just how incredibly precious life is
when there are only
a few weeks,
a few days,
a few hours,
or a few minutes
left in the life of a person we love beyond words.
Gone was my childish preoccupation with my own
selfish interest. 
This was my father screaming in pain. 
This was my father in need
as I had never seen him before.
This was my father who was dying…
Those last three weeks of my father’s life, I sat by his bedside and wept, and prayed and begged God to change the outcome.  My father knew he was dying.  But, he never said he did.  When the pain subsided and he had a few moments to breath, he sat on the side of his bed and smiled the most beautiful smile at me.  He told me what he wanted for dinner the first night he would be home.  He told me we would have a wonderful celebration of his homecoming.  Then he winked at me as if to say “it’s not so bad – there’s something wonderful coming!”

When his eyes closed for the last time and his voice was silenced forever, I could still hear him promising me that. I could still see his twinkling eyes smiling at me with love, assuring me that “there’s something wonderful coming…”
I wondered as I watched him take his last breath, where was God?  Why hadn’t He answered my prayers?  Slowly, I began to realize He was the One who took my father’s hand and welcomed him home.
I was so jealous of God.  He threw the homecoming party I had wanted to throw.  He took my father’s hand when it slipped forever out of mine.  He met my father’s twinkling eyes with a twinkle of His own.  He jumped up from His throne and ran to the edge of heaven to welcome my father home.  He shouted so loud I could hear Him all the way in Chicago.  “Welcome home, son.  I’ve been waiting such a long, long time…"  How could I even think of robbing God of His joy...
I will never forget the pain of those three weeks, nor the lessons I learned at my father’s side as he fought the monster of lung cancer that stole his life prematurely. 

But, I will treasure forever the memories I have of sitting by his bedside, loving him back home.

What a privilege to have been there. 

Just to love him one more time…

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Does It Hurt...

To become real...?

Do you remember the beautiful children's tale, the Velveteen Rabitt, by Marjorie Williams?  I am a lover of children's books and this is one of my favorites.  Here's the Skin Horse advising the Rabbit one day about what it takes to become real...

"The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

When I was a young woman and all the hairs were silky and flowing and all the skin was milky white and soft and all the parts were in place and working just the way they were designed to work, I smiled a contented smile and thought that it would always be so.  I looked with eyes of disdain on those poor creatures whose hair was falling out and bones were creaking and skin was sagging and wrinkled.  For heaven's sake, what had they done to themselves to get in that condition?!  Poor, pathetic creatures, were they!  Youth is often like that.  It cannot imagine what old age is like and it doesn't want to find out!

I wonder though, is the Skin Horse telling the truth to the Rabbit?  Are there toys that lose their hair and break their parts and live a long, long time, and never become real?  I think so.  Mostly, I have always prayed, Lord, don't let that happen to me...

I don't remember exactly when it happened.  I just know at some point along the way, I fell captive to the wooing love song of God.  He was calling me to follow after Him - to settle for nothing less, to have a love affair with a Divine Suiter.  He told me the truth.  He said I would lose a lot.  He told me it would hurt a lot.  He said I'd have to trust Him, instead of myself.  He said I would have to leave it all to belong to Him.

I wasn't so sure at first.  I weighed the pros and cons.  I so wanted my way. I was in love with the image of beauty I had envisioned for myself!  Perfection!  A beautiful dancing ballerina that everyone envied!  But then, in the middle of the dance, I heard the whisper of Love calling me again to look for something infinitely more priceless.  "Don't settle for a masquerade," He whispered.  "You were made for something wonderful!  You were made for LOVE."

Skin Horse said it would take a long, long time.  It has.  He said I might get hurt.  I have.  He said I probably wouldn't recognize myself when it finally happened.  I would look in the mirror and wonder who it was that was looking back at me.  He was right!  He said it would take a lifetime to learn to be real.  I'm still working at it... 

Yes, my hair has almost all been loved off, my eyes are almost ready to drop out, I am loose in the joints and I'm looking pretty shabby.  But, the truth is, I don't mind at all.  The One Who promised to love me, has kept me.  He has very carefully kept me...  And I don't mind that at all...

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness."
Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Heartbreak of God...

"Jesus wept..."
John 11:35

Where did you go?

Why did you leave?

Didn't you know I loved you?

Didn't you hear Me calling out to you?

I was pounding on the door,
begging you to open it and let me in.

I wanted to come in and comfort you.

I loved everything about you. 

I had so many dreams I dreamed for you so long ago.

I held you in my hand the day that you were born.

I laughed with you at the wonder of every little miracle I sent
to encourage you along the way.

I wept bitterly when you believed the lie 
that you didn't matter to anyone.

You mattered to Me, My child. 
You mattered to Me...

I screamed at you to turn around and see Me
standing right beside you.

I ran in front of you, begging you to stop...

I was standing right there. 
Loving you. 
Loving you. 
 Loving you...

I never stopped loving you...
Written in loving memory of a sweet young man who gave up on life when it was just beginning
in recognition that God weeps with us over the loss of hope that leads to the tragedy of suicide. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Out of the Darkness...

"and into His marvelous light..."
1 Peter 2:9
How do you describe yourself these days?!  What are some of the most striking attributes you attach to your view of yourself? I would venture to guess that you do not think of yourself as a sunbeam or a twinkling star or a sunrise sparkling on the world awakening from a cold, dark, moonless night. 
Maybe you feel more like a cave that is dark and cold and good for nothing more than to bury the dead Lazarus inside it's lifeless walls.  And yet, it was exactly such a tomb that Jesus called Lazarus out of, and by nothing more than His command, breathed the miracle of new life into a dead man's body. 
Lazarus surely came out of the void of the darkness of death, and into "His marvelous light."  And, because he was as surprised as everyone else to see himself walking around outside the cave, completely healed, he knew he owed the praise to the One who had "called him, out of the darkness and into His marvelous light..."
Lazarus became a living, breathing witness to the power of God to transform darkness into light, death into life.  To call him a "peculiar people" was to put it lightly!  But, I am quite certain, he didn't care what anybody called him.  He had met the One who was the source of everything good and beautiful in his life.  He had met Jesus.
I love the breathtaking description of how God sees us who have come into a relationship with Jesus Christ.  He calls us nothing less than a "chosen generation" a "royal priesthood" a "holy nation"!  If you are anything like me, you might find yourself looking around to see who it is He's talking about!  "Who me?" is most likely my response! 
I don't often feel chosen, holy or royal - do you? I wonder, given the realities of my life, how in the world this could be a fitting description of me?  Surely, God is speaking to someone else in the room!  But, this isn't a god who needs someone else to make it happen.  He is the same One Who sliced through the darkness that covered the earth and gave birth to the glorious light of the sun, the moon and the stars.  Surely, He can give birth to that light in me... 
He can make us into a light brighter than the noon day sun.  He can make us dance like a million candles flickering in the darkest, blackest, coldest, deadest place on earth, sometimes, our own heart.  That is His promise to us.  We have only to take hold of it and believe that what He says He will do, He will do. 
May we be as willing as Lazarus to obey His voice to come out of the cold, dark, death of the tomb that has buried us, into His "marvelous light." May they say of us, when its all over, "Ah, yes, they were a 'pecular' people!"  To the praise of Him who called us "out of darkness and into His marvelous light..."

Friday, July 26, 2013

When You Walk Through the Fire...

"I will be with you..."
Isaiah 43:2
Where does one find the courage to enter the blazing furnace of fire in our lives, screaming at us and taunting us with the threat that we will surely be obliterated by the flames? 

When I read this passage from the Word of God, taken from the Book of the Prophet, Isaiah, I am overwhelmed with the promise of our God.  He says not to even fear, for He is in the fire with us.  We will not even be burned.  There will not even be the smell of the furnace when we emerge.  For He is with us.  He is with us.  He is with us... 
Recently I wrote a post about the Jewish children who suffered unimaginable horrors during World War II.  Facing all the military might of one of the most massive war machines ever assembled, it surely must have felt as if anyone who tried to stand against Hitler and his army would never stand a chance. 

As a student of history and of the Word of God, I find myself fascinated by the stories of those individuals who found amazing courage under fire to risk everything they had, including their own lives, to stand up to the terror and the power of the Nazi War Machine, in order to save countless helpless victims of the evil that had been unleashed in their lives and the lives of their innocent children.

I would like to highlight some of those heroes and heroines for my readers, beginning with the amazing story of Irena Sendler, a young nurse/social worker in Poland, at the start of the war.

Irena was a twenty-nine year old nurse/social worker at the beginning of World War II, when the Nazi war machine invaded Poland and began to unleash their horrors on the Jewish people of Warsaw.  Irena, raised a Roman Catholic believer in Jesus Christ, could not and did not look the other way. 

Finding a way to enter the Jewish ghetto, she used every means at her disposal to rescue over 2,500 Jewish children from certain death.  This was actually far more people rescued from annihilation than were rescued by Oscar Schindler, the real life hero of the film, "Schindler's List".

In her old age, Irena recalled the heartbreak of having to persuade young mothers to give her their children, on the vague possibility that they might be saved from execution.  The great majority of these mothers never saw their children again.  When they asked Irena if she could guarantee the safety of their children, Irena said, no, she could not even guarantee that she, herself, would leave the ghetto alive that very day.  The incredible love and courage of all of these women, mothers and smuggler alike, are an amazing testimony to the ends to which our God will go to protect innocent children that are precious to Him. 

When we are often faced with the challenging question, "Where was God, when the Jews were being murdered in Nazi Germany?" we have to look no further than the eyes of these mothers and this little Polish nurse.  Where did they get the courage to do what they did?  How did these mothers give away their most precious possession?  Where did Irena get the courage to face down her fears and enter the ghetto to rescue them from certain death?  This is uncommon courage, in the face of unbelievable terror.  Without a doubt, I believe it was God, Himself, working through them, just as surely as if He took those children by the hand and walked them out of the fire, one by one...

Irena never forgot the heartbreak of those mothers as they said their last goodbye to their children.  She kept meticulous records of the children's names and that of their mothers, hoping to see them reunited at the end of the war.  Sadly, most of these children never saw their mothers again.  They were exterminated in Nazi concentration camps where their children would certainly have also met their death, without the intervention of this one courageous woman who entered the fire on their behalf.  To God be the glory for the things He has done...

Irena risked it all.  She knew what it was to have the heartbeat of God beating under her skin for these Jewish mothers and their children.  She wore a yellow star, required of all Jews, in order to identify with them. 

I am so humbled when I think of what this amazing young woman did to contend with the powers of evil in her time.  In 1943, she was captured by the Nazis, tortured and sentenced to death for her "crimes." Nothing they could do to her ever forced her to tell them the names of the women and children she had rescued and hidden right under the eyes of the German army.  On her way to her execution, she was rescued at the hands of one of her executioners who had accepted a bribe from the underground Polish resistance, "Zegota", of which she was a founding member.  After her release, she returned to her work under a new name. 

Late in her life, her native Poland finally recognized her work in the rescue of these little ones during the war.  She responded with a letter to the Polish Senate saying: "Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer alive, is the justification of my existence on this earth and not a title of glory."

Irena lived the gospel teaching from the Book of James:

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless
is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress
 and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." 
James 1:27
In our own times, in our own fiery furnace, may we be found faithful...


Note:  If you would like to know more about Irena Sendler, I invite you to check out the following resources:

Book, "Life in a Jar" by Jack Mayer

Book,  "Mother of the Children of the Holocaust."  This is a biography of Irena, written by Anna Mieszkowska.

PBS Film:  "In the Name of Their Mothers"  by Mary Skinner.  This special aired in 2011.  See YouTube for more information.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

For Such a Time...

as this...

Looking at the faces of this terrified child and his mother, held captive by the insanity of a sadistic army led by Adolf Hitler during the Holocaust, my heart breaks to see the fear and trembling and helplessness of this child and his mother. 
If ever one doubted the potential for evil that exists in the heart of mankind, here is unvarnished evidence in black and white - this is Satan's domain and, when given free reign, the evil visited upon men, women and innocent children is beyond imagination.  Everything that is decent in us protests the existence of this kind of evil.  We simply do not want to accept this could ever have happened to anyone, let alone, innocent children and their mothers.  But happen it did.
Millions of men, women and children suffered the evils of hell unleashed on mankind at the hands of those who enshrined sadism, choosing to use their military might to delight in the torture and murder of the innocents, while turning a blind eye to the terror in their faces and a deaf ear to the screams of their suffering. 
"Anyone who causes one of these little ones to stumble..."
These are incredibly painful realities for us to ponder. It is so tempting to look the other way, refusing to acknowledge that evil exists on this level.  We want to say, this was another time and another place.  It could never happen today.  Or, could it?  What would we do if this kind of evil was visited on us today?  Would we have the courage to take a stand, at all costs to protect the innocent? 
I think we must look into the faces of these children of history and consider what God may ask of us in our life time.  We must acknowledge that evil exists on this level and it is running rampant through the streets of the world we live in today. 
 it would be better for him...
 Children are being kidnapped and sold into sex trafficking, used for the twisted pleasure of sex addicts who care nothing about the pain they are inflicting on these innocent lives.  They are sold into slavery, cast out on the streets by their own parents, beaten and murdered at the hands of those God called to love them.  Do we see them?  Do we hear them?  The God we serve most certainly does.  He has some pretty harsh words for those who neglect and abuse innocent children.
 to have a millstone hung around their neck...
In our own times, innocent children are not even safe in the womb.  Mothers, entrusted with life from the hand of God, rationalize their "right" to end the life of their unborn babies.  Do we seriously think we are better than Nazi Germany when we visit this kind of evil on our own children?  Do we hear what He has to say about those who harm "one of these little ones..."
and be thrown into the sea...
Matthew 18:6
Who are we, anymore?  Do we imagine that because we live in the United States of America, have beautiful homes and plenty of food on our tables, that we are above the Lord?  Do we seriously think we have no responsibility for the modern holocaust committed against our children in our lifetime?
All of this does bring to my mind the call of Esther, who sat on a queen's throne and had all of the wealth of the nation at her fingertips.  When evil came boldly into her house, she was very likely terrified.  Maybe she just thought, why should she risk anything?  After all, she had it pretty good.  Did she really need to identify with all the innocent people that would lose their lives if no-one stood up to the evil being planned for them? 

The Lord didn't offer her an easy escape route to avoid responsibility for what she saw as a problem that didn't directly involve her. 
In the end, she found her courage.  She realized she had been blessed beyond measure by a God who called her to look and see the evil all around her; to hear the cries of her people.  To care enough to risk it all.  Maybe we are under the same call today.  Maybe God has indeed placed us where He has placed us "for such a time as this..."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

His Banner Over Me...

Is Love!" 
Song of Solomon 2:4

I grew up in one of the hottest "love" eras that ever pulsated and sweated its gyrating self onto the TV screen!  That's right - I am a child of the 50s when rock and roll was born and don't you know I was thrilled to twist and shout my little saddle-shoed self all around the dance floor.  If it wasn't the Twist, then maybe the Watusi, the Pony, the Stroll, the Mashed Potatoes...! For those of you who came on the scene long after American Bandstand and Dick Clark had exited center stage, you don't know what you missed! 

My star-struck teenage eyes witnessed the birth of rock and roll, the rise of Elvis Presley and The Beatles, and endless other pop stars who made their fortunes crooning to their young, naive audience about the fortunes of love. 

The Beatles famously advised us all that "All you need is love, love.  All you really need is love!" And of course, Elvis of the blue suede shoes and the scandalously gyrating hips, filled our impressionable, emerging awareness of things sexual and beyond, with the lyrics that made young girls swoon and faint at the very thought of the possibilities!

"Love me tender,
Love me true,
All my dreams fulfilled.
For my darlin I love you,
And I always will..."

While our parents had nightmares worrying about where this rock and roll stuff might lead their young offspring, the offspring themselves imagined themselves taking Elvis up on it and were more than willing to "fulfill all his dreams and love him tender, love him true"!  Could there be anything more to live for than love, love, love?  Love, we were quite sure, was "all we really need."  After all, the Beatles sang it.  It must be true"
It took a few years of life lived in the real world to discover that real love means a bit more than what we fantasized about!
Real love, we discovered, meant getting up every day to go to work to put food in the mouths of the babies that had been born out of the union of our love. 
Real love meant getting up in the middle of the night with a sick child with a temperature that scared us half to death. 
 Real love meant forgiving the one we had sworn to love til "death do us part" when we really wanted to help hasten that death along! 
Real love meant loving our partner when illness or old age ravished their good looks and left them hardly recognizable from the gorgeous hunk or beauty we had married in our youth. 

Real love takes its toll. 

Real love suffers. 

Real love cries.

Real love wants to run.

Real love stays.

Real love hangs on by the fingernails, when all else fails. 

Real love begs God for the strength to go on against

impossible odds.

Real love prays in the darkness to see the morning light.

Real love never, ever gives up on the object of its love.

Real love is unfathomable,



so unlike anything we have ever known before. 

Real love teaches us who we are and who we want to be. 

Real love humbles us,

stretches us,

breaks us,

brings us to our knees...

Real love is the most difficult,

most heartbreaking,

most life-giving experience we have in this life.

Real love is the closest we will ever come to God

in this lifetime...




Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Who Am I...


Anybody out there remember the old game show "What's My Line?"  This may be going too far back for many of you, but, it was a pretty funny game show, with a cast of blindfolded stars who tried to guess who the famous guest was, based on yes/no answers to questions the cast asked each guest.  It was fun to see the confusion on the faces of the blindfolded guests, who could only go by the very limited, one word answers of the guests, to try to guess their identify. 
This morning, I was listening to a gifted expositor of the Word of God teaching on the encounter that Moses had with God in Exodus, as God informed Moses of His discontent with the people of Israel.  "I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people."  Exodus 32:9

The trouble with God is that He always knows who we are and calls us out on it, time and time again!  The Bible is packed with the honest stories of God's people lying, murdering, committing adultery, erecting idols...all the while strutting around calling themselves "God's people"!  It is tempting to congratulate ourselves on how unlike "them" we are!

If I were on the game show, it might go something like this!

Are you a believer in Jesus Christ?  Absolutely!  (God smiles!)

Are you a sinner?   Well - uh - maybe!  (God is still smiling!)

Do you have any idols in your life?  Of course not!  (God is nudging me under my ribs...!)

Do you ever resist the Word of God in your life?  Of course not!  (God is laughing wildly now!)

Do you like to think of yourself as a "good christian"?  Of course!  I'm on firm ground now!  (God is staring at me with those penetrating eyes of His...)

Do you think of yourself as a "stiff necked people"?  Huh?  How dare you!  (God is smiling again...)

Do you keep all of the rules of God's Word?  I don't think I like this game anymore...

Are you a prodigal?  Who me?  Why am I sweating like this?!

Are you a sinner saved by grace?  Yes!  Yes!  Finally!  I thought you'd never get there!  Yes, that's me! 

My God has come very close to me now.  He is covering me all over with His love.  He is laughing with me at the extravagant truth of the Gospel, that even a great sinner like me is saved by His grace! 

That's just the scandalous truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Even a sinner who is standing with her toes touching the door posts of hell, about to cross over, is not too far out of reach of the God who loves us deeper than the deepest, darkest sin in our lives.
I speak from experience.  I am that one that He saved when I thought all was lost...

That is my prayer for you. May you come to know Who it is that loved you enough to die for you.  May you find Jesus.

"And may you have the power to understand,
as all God's people should,
how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is."
Ephesians 3:18


Friday, June 21, 2013

My Close, Close Friend...

Self Pity...

I am often met along the way by my good friend, Self Pity. He came to visit me last night and made himself welcome and so all at home, he almost moved right in! At first, I didn't even notice that he was there with me. He is so soft spoken and sweet to my ears, it is often hard to detect when he joins me at the Table of My Own Undoing.

He comes in discreetly, so as not to disturb my treasured thoughts and just observes with me the tragic events that have, once again, befallen poor me.  But, oh the sweet, sweet savor of the words he speaks to me, when at last he makes his presence felt! No-one, and I mean no-one, seems to understand me better or care as deeply as my good, dear friend, Self-Pity. How grateful I am for his companionship. How much I treasure the wisdom he extols. He seems to know just what to speak to me to make me feel better at those moments of despair!
Like me, poor Self-Pity is so often misunderstood. We share a common bond of this unfortunate experience between us. Perhaps that is why we have come to enjoy each other's company. After all, who else is there who will take the time to listen to the endless list of grievances that tell the story of our neglect and betrayal at the hands of those we thought we could trust?  I propose to you that there is simply no one able and willing to accomplish this work in my life as devotedly and faithfully as my dear, neglected friend, Self-Pity.

He loves me, he loves me, he loves me so! Well, at least he feels sorry for me, and that is almost as good as love, isn't it?! He wraps his arms around me and squeezes me so tight, I sometimes wonder if I might suffocate right on the spot!  He reminds me over and over again how much he, and he alone, understands me like no other!  Why just last night he was commiserating with me in my suffering.  "Once again," he whispered lovingly in my ear, "You have been abandoned in the hour of your need.  And the saddest part is, you have always been there for them, haven't you, dear?  Haven't you always loved them, cared for them, sacrificed for them, given them everything you have?"  "Yes," I answered, grateful for the compassion of my dear, faithful friend in this dark hour of my need.  His words were so comforting to the wounds that he was touching with his long, protruding fingers...Was there something he was rubbing in them, or was that my imagination?  Something white and salty?!

"Thank you for your understanding, Self-Pity" said I.  "No one else even cares.  I am so completely abandoned and all alone... I find it all so unfair.  After all I've done for them - all I've given of myself.  I don't deserve this. Why do you suppose this is happening to poor, poor me?" 

I was beginning to feel an icy wind blowing through my little abode, even though the sun was shining through the windows on my face. I wondered at how the sun could dare to enter into this moment of my despair.  He should be ashamed to shine his light on my face when I all I wanted was to stay in the darkness with my only friend, Self-Pity.  Was that too much to ask...?!

Undaunted by the invading sun, my dearest friend in all the world, Self-Pity, smiled his sympathetic smile and drew me closer still until I felt his breath upon my cheek. "Tell me more", he whispered. "It is I, your closest friend, come to comfort you in the dark, dark hour of your need. Like I have always told you, they don't deserve you, do they? You have been so good to them. So giving. So self-less. Why, you remind me of myself, sometimes! We give and give and give some more. And what do we get in return? A basket of heartache too heavy for anyone to bear. Life is simply so unfair, isn't it, dear?"  He was stroking my wounds now, faster and faster...

"Look at them, all wrapped up in themselves! It's disgusting, isn't it? Do they even give you a moment's thought? Do they care for you the way you care for them? Do they pray for you as you have prayed for them?"  Catching himself, suddenly, I saw a flash of terror streak across his face.  He tried to recapture the words he had uttered, but, as we all know, words flung carelessly to the wind fly away and land wherever they like, never to be recaptured.  

Startled at the mention of my oldest, dearest friend, Prayer, I fell on my knees in worship and gratitude to the God who hears my every prayer and knows my every need.  Tears rolled down my cheeks like rivers that would never stop until they washed me whiter than snow... 

Looking in the distance, over the heads of all the messengers that had surrounded me the moment I had prayed, I watched the scoundrel, Self-Pity, running for his life, naked and unmasked, screaming that he hated me after all, and was happy for all my misfortunes. 

I looked around at all the friends my Lord had sent to comfort me - my dear, true friends, Forgiveness, Mercy and Unending Grace. In their company, I found the gift of healing and danced with the Angels of Joy and Peace around the throne of the King, who knows me better than I know myself and loves me anyway...

"The Lord is my strength and my portion forever..." 
                                                             Psalm 73:26  NIV