Echoes of Peter

The Bible is not just the living, inerrant word of God, but it’s also historic and full of complex individuals who have incredible strengths and glaring weaknesses just as we do. I think there are people in the Bible I would probably like if I met them in the present day, for example Daniel. He must be a fascinating personality with incredible political insight and wisdom; obviously he survived many regime changes and served each succeeding king without managing to hack them off enough to receive a death sentence. On the other hand, I suspect I might not be a big ‘fan’ of Paul because he seems so harsh and intense, so ‘black and white,’ and so darn opinionated. Of course, perhaps the reason I feel like I’d want to kick him in the shins is because of his statements about not permitting a woman to teach and all of that ‘blather’ about quietness and submission…which really informs you more about me and less about Paul. [1 Timothy 2:11-15] After all, Paul MET Jesus in person and what was Paul’s response? To submit to Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Even in the worst of times, Paul never turned aside from the mission that Christ gave him even unto his own death. I’ve never met Jesus face to face although I have felt His direct provision in so many ways and at so many times in my life. And what is my response to reading the message God sent me through Paul? I feel pricked and annoyed! Although I’m guessing an aspect of this response is due to the use of this scripture as a club to subjugate some members of the church by people less interested in applying other portions of divine mandate to themselves, I can safely say my sin nature is intact. I don’t really care to sit and be quiet…ever…anywhere and not just in church. Truthfully though, my impulses and desires are not of importance in God’s divine plan, amen? At any rate, suffice it to say that when I read the Bible, some of the people really affect me on a personal level and one of those people is Peter.

I really like Peter, because he’s ALL IN and he seems to wear his heart on his sleeve. There’s very little delay between thought and word when it comes to Peter and I SO relate to this. Peter isn’t sophisticated, he’s not particularly educated, but he is a man of intense emotion. I also like that he’s feisty! He might have been sleeping when Jesus was sweating blood (idiot) (I totally would have been that person too) but when armed soldiers come to take Jesus, he whips out his sword and chops off some dude’s ear. [John 18:10] He’s a man of action! I also suspect he’s clumsy and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a baseball. Otherwise, he’d have done some real damage and all he managed was to start the trend of gauges and piercings. I’d have loved to hear them busting his chops later around the campfire about his ineptitude with knives, because that’s pretty darn pathetic. I, too, am terribly clumsy and this makes me like Peter all the more.

By the way, a little public service announcement here: I hope you are laughing! Some of these words are written tongue in cheek, so don’t get all serious on me. Oh and while you’re at it, don’t take yourself so seriously either because life is too short. But DO take Jesus seriously; He’s the one who matters.

Peter is bold but he’s kind of boneheaded and so he learns things the hard way over and over again. When he fails, he fails miserably and in public, humiliating fashion. We all know that he swore he would never deny Jesus [Matthew 26:35] only to do so three times at a critical moment during Jesus’ torture and abuse. [Mark 14:66] Jesus embarrassingly admonishes him in public too, over and over again; in the Garden of Gethsemane when he heals the man’s ear; when he tells Peter that he’s a stumbling block and to “get behind me Satan” [Matt 16:23], and most memorably in John 21 when he asks Peter, “Do you love me?” three times in a row. Peter keeps saying, “Yes Jesus I love you!” But Jesus’ point was deeper than Peter’s immediate perception and so he asks him three times with three different commands and finishes by telling Peter how he was going to die. Then Jesus tells Peter, “Follow me!”

Jesus has just asked Peter three times if he loved him, Peter has just learned he’s going to die a miserable death, but Peter is all of a sudden worried about the fate of the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” In this text we discover another notable characteristic about ‘the rock.’ He’s nosy too! ‘Okay Jesus, yes I love you. Yes I’m going to die, but what about John?’ And Jesus basically told him to ‘mind yer business!’ Oh readers, can I ever relate to this! When life gets hard and I get a big ol’ double serving of that special Hilly pie, I want to compare my situation with that of others. I want to find commonality because perhaps I’ve been picked for a special kind of struggle that no one else seems to experience or understand. That kind of isolation is isolating and scary; I grapple with how and why a God who loves me has designated me for this trial.

Over the last number of years, I have struggled with not knowing what will happen next but strongly desiring constancy. Military life offers an extra dose of upheaval by uprooting families every couple of years, but I suppose that everyone’s lives are unpredictable. My problem is that I want to control all of the variables and I detest upheaval. As my favorite TV character Adrianne Monk said in an episode, “I don’t have a problem with change as long as I’m not there when it happens.” This sums me up perfectly! But guess what? Life is going to change and I’m going to have to suck it up and accept that. And here is where I hear Jesus continuing to press me.

In the last year, our family has experienced some changes that, while mostly good, sting a bit. We’ve experienced lots of separation, moved, shipped a kiddo off to college, and experienced some of those pesky health problems that occur as our bodies age and our minds refuse to recognize the fact. I’ve been frantic about trying to maintain external order and predictability so that I’m calm on the inside. And no amount of effort on my part is enough to give my mind peace that only God can supply but I’ve been expending vast amounts of emotional energy trying anyway. Time and time again, I keep hearing these Echoes of Peter in my life. You see, Peter was trying to be strong enough, brave enough, loving enough, loyal enough from his own fragile human power. He took giant leaps of boldness only to fall flat on his face with a crowd watching. And I’ve been doing those same things and let me tell you, it is exhausting.

What I keep hearing Jesus asking me is, “Deborah, do you trust me?” And I say, “Yes Lord I trust you,” because I’m supposed to trust him and the Bible tells me that I can. Jesus asks, “Deborah do you trust me?” and I say, “Yes Lord I trust you.” but really, I’m filled with panic and doubts about whether I can, in fact, trust him. And I know that even if I choose to trust him in each moment as it arrives, it doesn’t mean that I’m not going feel pain and experience brokenheartedness in the process. Jesus asks, “Deborah do you trust me?” And I say yes, because I have to trust him because there isn’t anyone else I can trust, but I trust knowing that God both gives and takes away and it hurts so much!

God, being a loving God, has His ends in mind and I cannot conceive of them. My little terrestrial blip on this side of eternity is inconsequential from the human perspective. As the Psalmist said, “Your thoughts are not my thoughts. Your ways are not my ways.” Inexplicably, Jesus takes a divine ‘gamble’ on Peter despite his history of leading with his chin. Out of all the disciples, Jesus selects Peter for an unlikely part of church history. In Matthew 16:18 he says “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Imagine what the other disciples were thinking when those words came out of Jesus’ mouth! The very idea makes me want to laugh hysterically.

So Peter, the big hearted, boneheaded disciple is deeply loved and used in a way that no one could have imagined. His life, which was dragged back by the tides of life and crashed upon the shores in a pulverizing action becomes the very foundation for Christians across time and history. I find hope and consolation in Jesus’ restoration of Peter. If Jesus was willing to keep pressing Peter, to communicate with him after such profound betrayal, and then to plan to use a man like him in his divine plan, then Jesus can use me too. The beauty of such an idea brings me to tears. No matter how hard it is for me to trust and to believe, Jesus can use even those elements in my life for his greater glory. What question is Jesus asking you in your life?

I ♥ Simon

“I ♥ Simon” was inspired by a beautiful little baby boy who was born with several heart malformations. Simon and his parents fought to keep him here, but he went to be in heaven after 23 days after he was born. What do we say in the face of tragedy? I don’t have the answers, but I know that God does. He, after all, is a daddy too.The Bible calls us to ‘weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn.’ I wrote this over a period of days as I prayed for Simon’s mom and dad. I hope they feel God’s presence in this very hard time.

Beautiful boy, born with a broken heart,
Simon was first my child, then yours.
Conceived in love, birthed with joy.
All of heaven grieves.
My saints, this great cloud of witnesses, both in eternity and on earth, carry your pain.

Once your womb was heavy, straining with the weight of your unborn son.
Now your heart bears an indescribable weight,
A burden which your arms long to hold.
And your heart, too, is broken.

I am the Great Physician, the healer!
But I walked this earth as a man and bore the anguish of a fallen world.
I felt the sorrow as only one constrained to the boundaries of flesh and bone can,
And in my fragile body, while hanging on the cross, my heart broke
So that blood and water poured forth.

Daughter, I count your tears-not one is lost.
Each silver drop is a seed which falls and grows into the most beautiful grace.
You see, tears are promises that while our spirits groan in pain here,
We will laugh with joy there,
In heaven.

I wait with Simon at your finish line,
All of heaven cheers you on!
Run strong, my daughter,
for your race is not in vain.
And know that not a tear will be wasted.

“It Is Well With My Soul”

Horatio Spafford journal

I have always loved the song “It Is Well With My Soul”, written by Horatio Gates Spafford and I’ve known that he penned this hymn after his four daughters died in a shipwreck at sea. While it is known that only his wife survived the event and that Horatio was not on board the ship with his family, it is perhaps lesser known that Horatio had already lost his only son to illness. Horatio had surely been afflicted in a way that Job could relate to. Sometime between the loss of his son and the death of his daughters, the Chicago fire destroyed his real estate holdings. Horatio had lost the ability to provide for his family and then he lost I cannot even fathom the depth of pain; the wildness of grief. Horatio must have often wondered, ‘What next God?’

Sadly, Horatio’s life, at least in our human estimation, did not improve from here. Instead his life was marked by more loss. The loss of another son at the age of four from scarlett fever. Only two daughters survived to adulthood. Ultimately Horatio and his wife moved to Jerusalem and began a colony there. Some argue that Horatio ultimately became delusional and thought he was Christ himself. Much evidence points to a battle with malaria from which he died at the age of sixty.

Unlike so many of us who turn our backs on Christ after a multitude of disappointments, Horatio and his wife KEPT pursuing God. In August of 1882, Horatio wrote in his journal, “Lord, I have always up to this day been holding on to something of the flesh. I crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. Henceforward I live a eunuch for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. I rely exclusively, exclusively on the power and grace of God in [Christ]. I am a miracle of grace! Blessed God how patient thou hast been with me!”

Despite all of the heartache, despite all of the loss, Mr. Stafford was, amazingly, able to declare “It Is Well With My Soul.” Honestly, I’m not sure that I would still have been standing in those circumstances. (I might have been in a corner sucking my thumb and rocking; and wearing a little white jacket that ties in the back.) It seems that Horatio’s relationship with Christ was filled with such trust that he could continue submitting, continue surrendering. And when challenged with more loss, Horatio was able to reaffirm his total reliance upon God in his journal. An entry from Mr. Stafford’s journal in August of 1882 reads, “Lord, I have always up to this day been holding on to something of the flesh. I crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. Henceforward I live a eunuch for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake. I rely exclusively, exclusively on the power and grace of God in [Christ]. I am a miracle of grace! Blessed God how patient thou hast been with me!” Horatio was still able to recognize that he was holding onto a shred of the flesh!

My husband and I were talking about this today. We agreed that sometimes we are waiting for God’s other shoe to drop on our lives. The idea that God bragged to Satan about his servant Job is impressive, but perhaps not something we necessarily we are comfortable with God doing in our lives. Job suffered so much loss. I’m terrified about losing people I love! What does that tell me? That I’m holding on to things and people that aren’t God. That I haven’t fully submitted myself to Him, His will, His way. Ultimately, I have to ask myself if I can say ‘It is well with my soul?’

In this excavation of thoughts and heart, I realize that there is a very big difference between the soul and the body. When our physical lives are rocked to their very core, we come to critical points when we are given the choice to trust God, not just with our lives but with our souls. We can choose to trust God with incredible loss (which if I’m honest I can’t fully say that I do…I suspect that only comes after meeting that type of loss). How are we to handle the death of a parent, worse yet a child, or even a spouse? Devastation is not too strong a word to use when describing grief like that! And yet, death is something we all are on a one way street racing towards. It exists as a sort of black hole that sucks everything into it-all that we can know and see within our current limits. If we can trust God in those darkest moments when our bodies and emotions fail us, and when our broken spirits are separating at the seams from our eternal souls, we come to a point of trusting God with our deaths too. And finally, if we can trust God with the prospect of death, He is trustworthy indeed.

God With Us, Reblogged…

This is originally found on posted Dec 2012 by John Lynch. It’s wonderful!

Immanuel God With Us

Stunning. He was given a name to explain exactly where He is during my deepest need.

He is Immanuel-“God is with us”

He is not a concept, a theory or a theology. He is not a system or a religion. He is not an icon, a figurehead, or a mythical movement leader. He is not an allegory. He is not an ideal. He is not a way of life. He is not a memory. He is not experienced in the past or the future. He is not a static-drenched echo from a far off land. He is not once, or at one time. He is not less real now than He was to those who could touch Him. He is not the property of the pietistic, of any denomination or location. He is not a fable created to make children shape up. He is not here more for those on their game. He is not over there, up there, away from here. He is not withheld. He is not unwilling. He is not less here because we haven’t called on Him enough. He is not a bedtime story. He is not capricious or sporadic. He is not every now and then, or on special occasions. He is not only in the miracle. He is not here because you called hard enough. He is not here because you earned it. He is not ever absent. He has not forgotten. He is not weaker, less able than back then. He is not beyond where your prayers reach. He is not vague. He is not here in spirit. He is not here in a metaphor. He is not here in a riddle or a formula. He is not here by wishing He was real.

He is here. Right now. Fully, completely. He is in you, around you, with you, over you, about you, for you, on time, in the middle of, surrounding you and the ones you love, in complete power, communicating as clearly as any time in history, doing perfectly to you, for you, by you, thinking about you every moment, walking directly into the middle of your worst day, your worst moment, your worst fear, your pain, your loneliness, your doubts, your insecurity, your sickness, your tragedy, your fragileness, your hope, your joy, your peace, your dreams, your relationships, your love, your longing to have your life count. He is here. He is champion and author of every beauty you find yourself longing for. He is the one who stands over you in the darkest hour. He is lifting you up, when you are too exhausted, too devastated, too hopeless, too failed, too compromised, too far gone. He is in this season. He is with you driving alone in the car, pushing a cart amidst the mind-numbing department store music, the hurting ones you can’t get to, the loss you can’t comfort, the change you can’t stop, the party you drive by, the memory of past Christmases you can’t bring back. He is here. Listening to every word, forming answers and intimacy stronger than words. He is here in the music that draws your new nature to the sounds of heaven. He is here in the eternal. He is here, drawing you to the Cross in this very moment, to fall down in awe of the endless love He is displaying right now, to show you the moment of the Resurrection and to bring it into this moment. He is here to protect you from the despair, the condemning voices, the regrets. He is here to stop you from plotting a way out of your marriage. He is here to help you completely find your life after your marriage. He is here to show you the new way, in this new season. He is here to whisper who you are in Him and who He is in you. He is here to stroll the lanes with you, hands in pockets, smiling, with all the time in the world. He is here to declare your worth. He is here to be glorified, enjoyed, trusted, loved and worshipped by you. He is here, to stare at the lights right next to you. Right now, right here. He is here, whether you want Him here or not. He is here in all power, doing exactly right, even when you don’t believe it. He is here in the pain you never thought He’d allow. He is here in the yelling at Him you never thought you’d ever dare. He is here completely, in full Person, for you and you alone in this moment. He is God with me, God with us, God with them, God with the wicked and twisted and vile, all at once. He is with the shivering homeless one, with the starving mother who can’t get out to find food. He is unafraid to be present in a world that questions why He allowed, why He doesn’t do more, why He doesn’t stop it all. He is here and does not deflect our accusations. He is here in our arrogance and self-righteous imagining that we care more than He does. He is perfect love poured out and fused in. He is my new name, Christ in me! He is Immanuel.

He is not here the way we demand. He is here exactly in the way we need.

…and all it takes to experience it, is to trust that who He is named is actually true.

Living a Life of Substance in a Selfie Culture

I’m a military spouse so that often means taking employment opportunities wherever we are, even if these opportunities might not be in my ‘wheel house’ per se. In this location, I’ve been substitute teaching and it has been a valuable experience for so many reasons. First of all, I can honestly say I have walked a mile in the shoes of the teachers. Wow! Their day to day experiences are incredible. The burden of expectations for testing and teaching while having an often entitled audience whose parents will likely blame the teacher if their children do not ‘perform’ is spectacular in all the wrong ways. Today’s teenager arrives at school with their umbilical cord still attached. The other end of the umbilicus is firmly and unalterably secured to their smart phones. They are ‘tweet’ing, ‘snap chat’ting, and ‘sling shot’ting not just at school but in the middle of classes and lectures.

Perhaps even more valuable to seeing what teachers experience on a daily basis is that I now know what my high school age daughter can expect to experience when at school. I remember school being hard, because kids can be mean. Gosh the time that person wouldn’t play with me on the playground in second grade really left an emotional mark, but that pales in comparison to the lives our kids live at school! They literally do not notice one another and many do not even possess the empathy to care. In one extended job, I took attendance daily. These kids had been in class, sitting side by side, and did not know each other’s names halfway through the year! If someone is missing, they weren’t able to help me even identify who that person was and the class only had 30 people in it.

It would seem that we have allowed, even taught and encouraged, our children to be fantastically self absorbed. There is no better example to illustrate my point than the ‘selfie.’ I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable when someone is taking pictures of me in a group and that’s because I, like many women, have some insecurities. The idea of me taking pictures of myself, by myself, and posting them all over the internet makes me wildly uncomfortable. I suppose part of it is that it feels self aggrandizing or maybe a flaunting of myself. And honestly, I like the boundary of people I don’t know being held at arm’s length. I don’t want others to have a false sense of intimacy with me, because frankly not everyone needs to be that ‘close.’

In contrast, today’s teens, young adults, and even the 20-30 year olds are constantly taking pics of themselves. You’ll see a young woman, head at a slight angle, with her lips pursed out in a way that is meant to be sexy and inviting (but which often resembles a duck’s beak). Her hair is to the side in a long mane and her gaze into the camera seems to say, ‘I’m a secret you need to know.’ You’ll see a young man posing like ‘the Biebs’ attempting to wear the swagger that imitates R&B singers who rap about their money and their cars and their conquests all day long. His steely eyed expression conveys that ’15 minutes with me (in the biblical sense) will make your entire life worth living.’ TV shows like ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ say a lot about what we think is important in life. We put ‘self’ first. ‘Self expression’ trumps good taste. ‘Finding myself’ supersedes right and wrong and totally disregards anyone injured along the way. In the pursuit of ‘self,’ the id and the ego and all those things, our children become more frantic and more lost. They are each their own Wizard of Oz, hiding behind a curtain and projecting who they want to be and/or who they want to be perceived to be.

I have seen these kids off screen and my guess is that you have too. They are just as broken but lonelier in a crowd than ever before. Apps allow them to post messages and photos that ‘disappear’ but leave an indelible stamp on their minds. And although there’s an app to keep everyone “connected,” these means of connection prevent actual person to person interaction. Thus, larger and larger distances form between people; we literally cannot connect and communicate effectively any more. Because we can’t communicate and we are hiding behind a digital barrier, we become more alone as we compare ourselves to all of the other Ozzes out there. Our children are measuring themselves against holograms and finding that they don’t measure up. And so they begin to keep secrets from their friends, parents, and even themselves. There’s an app for this too and it’s called ‘Whisper.’ One can go online and anonymously post all of the deepest darkest hurts, longings, and sins. I think our kids truly believe that if anyone knew what was going on inside of their hearts and minds, they would be automatically rejected. And that’s how we lose our children, one by one, to addiction, to despair, and even to suicide.

In live time, high schoolers are falling apart because life’s burdens are too heavy for one person, much less a teen, to bear alone. They go to the guidance office during school when they can’t maintain the illusion because there is little, if any, guidance at home. Many teens are using their parents’ medication, their parents’ alcohol, or illicit drugs to cope with everything they think they have to handle independently. Our schools come equipped with counselors, addiction programs, health care and every other service meant to stop the gaping wound left by the absence of family. As Christians, we need to pause and examine the ‘lay of the land’ and find the lie that we are believing. If ‘self’ is most important, that leaves little room for God, the author and perfecter of our faith. When we relegate the God of the Universe to standing in the corner of our lives, we are effectively saying “No!” to His divine help. Most critically, we overestimate our importance in one way and underestimate it in another. When we pursue personally happiness at all costs, we lose both the reason why we are important (we are made in God’s image and he literally DIED to save us) and the opportunity for true contentment which will never be found in the pursuit of self. When we don’t see ourselves as God’s children and children who are deeply loved by our heavenly father, we don’t feel truly lovable because humans love so conditionally. It’s so easy to project our own shortcomings onto God isn’t it?

So how do we live a life of substance and how do we guide our children to live in a way that is grounded to truth and reality? Most importantly, we must stop and examine our lives and the situations we are in to see if they are Godly. (Please note that as I am writing this I am convicted!) What wisdom are we accepting as truth? Is it ‘truth’ from the world or the truth of the living God? James 3:13 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” Friends, Mommas, Dads, do you see the part where if we are self seeking, then there is confusion? That really strikes a chord within my soul. We have an entire generation of self seeking children, many of whom are modeling self seeking parents, and they are so terribly confused. They are confused about what love is, what truth is, and even who they are! If the God of the Bible does not exist, then our lives have little, if any, enduring value. The result is a muddled, self made attempt to find beauty and redemption in the world made by our Creator. It would be like your house trying to build itself, brick by brick, with no architectural plans and a complete lack of self awareness.

How do we apply the truth in our daily lives, especially as it relates to our kids? I’m still learning. I can say that in our family, our kids do not have Facebook accounts yet (our oldest is a junior in high school). They don’t have social media accounts either although we do have smart phones. This is not because I don’t trust them, rather it is because I do not trust the online community with my children. Hillary Clinton famously said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Friends, parents, Christians…pick your village carefully! Do you want a village of narcissistic, humanistic peers and parents imparting their values to your children? Jesus doesn’t want to lose even one sheep out of 99. I pray that the seeds I am sowing will bring my children and some of their friends into hope everlasting and life eternal. I’m accountable for what I model and permit in our home and when they are 18 and/or paying their own bills, they will be accountable for their own decisions. For the time being, I do want to keep them safe from sexting, online bullying, and all of unsupervised ugliness that can occur. I pray that as they are learning to fly, that they are learning to fly safely in our home knowing what is good and real and true.

Streets of Gold

I have a friend who is in the end stages of an advanced disease. She and her husband have been so brave and honest. They never pretend a lightheartedness that they don’t feel. Instead they focus daily on the very presence of God in their tortured midst. Emails from them often ask us to pray that “we not be offended” as the author Amy Carmichael prayed too. Loving one another hurts because at one time or another people leave, sometimes for their forever home. To be truthful, losing someone else I love is scary to me. I feel frustrated because I feel so two dimensional! I so dearly want to peek over the curtain that separates all that I can see and touch and feel from the eternal dimension. Just a glimpse of streets of gold would be so encouraging. I’ll admit it-I’m the female version of Thomas. Yes, I’d have been the tacky disciple who wanted to see the scars on Jesus’ hands. I feel as though heaven is ‘right there’ but that I’m ill equipped to sense it. Just as I don’t have ears capable of hearing humpback whale song because it’s far too low or the capability of hearing a dog whistle because it’s too high, I don’t have the eyes or proper senses to see and experience heaven…yet. But, I’m small and irrevocably human and, I want that reassurance like a child wants to know that their mother is in the same room. In fact this is one of the more frequent conversations I have with God.

I pray for my friends continually throughout the day. Every now and then, I send an email. I try to be brave and not shy away from the hard topics. I’d guess if I were near death, I wouldn’t waste time on the weather and I hope I’m doing this friend thing right. My heart longs not to add to the grief but in some small way to share it so that it’s less heavy for them.

As I’ve prayed over the last week, little fragments of a poem would zip through my head and I’d catch them with my mental butterfly net. Sometimes, they required a bit of chasing and phrases remained just out of reach. So yesterday I sat down with a prayerful heart to write. This is the poem that I believe God gave me for her. I want to share this so that it might be of comfort to others who are running their races.

Streets of Gold

You’re going first and I can’t yet come to run the streets of gold,
Who could have guessed that precious you would never get to grow old?

As diamonds reflect a source of light and throw rainbows all around,
So you have reflected our Savior’s love across life’s fertile ground.

Each blossom that blooms from the touch of your soul sings of God’s perfect grace,
And when you arrive at your forever home, I imagine the joy on his face.

No one can run our races for us-each step is a battle won,
I know when you cross the finish line you’ll hear, “Priscilla, my daughter, well done.”

I pray that God hastens your journey home so you can be set free,
Although selfishly I know I’ll long for the comfort you have been to me.

The Bible references heaven as a literal place. Revelations gives us measurements, we know about the number of gates His city will have, and even what they are made of. Jesus himself promised, “I go to prepare a place for you.” I’m certain that when she arrives, there will be a chorus of raised voices welcoming her home. All of the hard things that happened here won’t matter any more and she’ll no more dwell on them as I do on vaccinations I received as a baby. It will be like a mist that burned off as the sun arose and it will all be clear. She won’t have a body that limits her anymore and she won’t have trouble breathing. She will be free and I don’t begrudge her that at all! I’m going to miss her until I see her again. THAT’S the hard part because life is full of waiting and uncertainty. But until we see each other again, I will anticipate the joy of running on streets of gold with my friend.

Author’s Note: Priscilla left this earth for eternity Sunday, January 3, 2016. I shared this with her and her husband when I wrote the piece in October. Through it all, Priscilla and her husband chose to find God’s provisions in each day and I never heard a complaint from her or her husband; not one! I have carefully saved her emails so that I still have words from her to reread when I need them. In this way, I think I have a new understanding of the Bible. It is the word of God, His son Jesus, and the great cloud of heavenly witnesses who took great pains to leave us with a testimony of all that He has done, is doing, and will do. I prayed dearly that God would bring her home with signs and wonders and He was so faithful in the answering all of our prayers. Please lift up her husband as he faces a new way of living without his soulmate by his side. But let us praise God that she is finally home and fully freed from a body that was literally a prison at the end of her life.

A quick thought

Government control is a poor substitute for self control.

Suicide Prevention Week

It is Suicide Prevention Week. Chances are, we have each been affected by suicide in some way. If you are struggling, please seek help! I believe that humans are made in God’s image and that makes you a treasure indeed. God loves you WHERE you are, WHEN you are, AS you are. You deserve care, both physically and emotionally. Your loved ones deserve a life with you in it. Please talk about it with someone; hiding pain wastes a lot of energy and doesn’t help a person heal. I lost my grandmother to suicide when I was 11. I can only imagine the depth of her pain, but I wish she had known that our love for her was bigger than her feelings.

Rejecting Reason, A World Upside Down

One of the things I just love about God, our Lord Jesus Christ, is how steady and rooted He is. The Bible tells us that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Old Testament reiterates that God, the ancient of days, does not change in Psalm 55:19 and in Malachi 3:6 and in many other books as well. The entire body of scripture emphasizes this characteristic of God over and over again. In fact, I do not believe that we can truly understand God unless we fully embrace this aspect of Him.

When we examine humanity, although we are ‘made in God’s image,’ we are fickle and our hearts lead us astray. In no way is this more evident than when we examine the concept of truth in modern American culture. I’ve been so dismayed at how we portray truth in our society. Surely we are reaping of results of not knowing what we believe and why we believe it. We are suffering from self inflicted wounds that are perpetuated by a profound disconnect with reality.

I can remember the first time the idea that ‘truth’ was a personal state of existence whacked me from behind and took me by surprise. Brittany Spears, who was once the Disney icon of what a good girl in America looked like, had started a relationship with a wannabe named Kevin. Naturally, since they were so thrilled with themselves and their new life, they signed on for their very own television show “Brittany & Kevin: Chaotic.” One of the tag lines for the show was, “Can you handle our truth?” This quote identifies the idea that truth occurs in one’s life by fiat (I can personally dictate what is real and true) and that truth is subject to change from person to person. It does not refer to an opinion or a lifestyle. What horrified me even more was that no one in the media or in society stopped to question that concept. Not to be unkind, but whatever ‘truth’ Brittany Spears is selling is the last kind of veracity that I want. But, Americans bought the idea en masse and a veritable parade of ‘personal truthers’ has followed. I am beginning to believe that we accept ‘truth’ or ‘fact’ that is individually based because truth that is independent and external to the individual has become offensive and inconvenient. It doesn’t meet our narrative and worse it shines a light on how shallow and self serving we can be.

Let us examine the idea of Bruce Jenner’s transition from a male to a female and the rhetoric surrounding this issue. First of all, let me first say that each person has different struggles and sadness. I do not want to detract from Bruce’s pain, because it is evidently deep seated and overwhelming. The fact that this incredible, handsome man with all of his talents and God-given gifts feels that he was born into the wrong gendered body isn’t funny; it’s not something to be dismissed. Does he have male genitalia? Evidently. Are there other genes involved in sexual expression and psychosocial aspects of human sexuality? I believe so and genomic scientific evidence does suggest that there are many more genes involved in sexuality than we previously thought. That said, Bruce, like me and like you, is made in God’s image. God loves him right when and where he is. Regardless of our concept of what is real and true and good, this FACT never changes. However, at what point do we in society decide to perpetuate a falsehood in order to show ‘support’ or ‘love’ for someone? Is Bruce really a female? All of the surgery in the world will not change his basic genetic structure. Is it healthy to advocate that a person who has ‘gender confusion’ undergo the gruesome surgery of sex reassignment just to meet their feelings? Feelings are elusive, like trying to grab hold of a cloud, and they change with frequency. Is it healthy to participate in the fascade because we think being truthful might hurt feelings or leave one branded as intolerant? I’d like to suggest that perhaps we have thrown the proverbial baby out and are keeping the bathwater. As a society, we have ‘exchanged the truth of God for the lie…” Society is worshipping the person rather than the person’s creator. This is a futile endeavor

Honestly, we are to expect a frenetic search for fulfillment in the secular community. People who have not met Jesus are longing for fulfillment, just as you and I also long to be complete. What is even more troubling about these ‘new’ (really they are the same lies told by the serpent in the Garden of Eden) ideas about truth is that they are being preached from the pulpits of the Christian Church. Daily, we can see some churches selling the prosperity gospel, for a small fee of course, being preached to the broken. Naturally, turning God’s house into a for-profit model is revolting to an audience of people, many of whom visit the local food pantry just to feed their families; people who really are watching to see if Christians walk the talk. Given that Jesus aggressively addressed this behavior in the temple (Matthew 21:13), we can know that He too is filled with anger about this and there will indeed be hell to pay…literally. On the other hand, we see a gospel of law without love being taught as well. “Well I’m sorry you are in that mess. Stinks to be you and by the way don’t expect help from me!” The tragedy of these falsehoods taught by Christian pastors is that is means that WE THE CHURCH have become the Levite and the Priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan. How saddened my heart is by this! And I’m guilty too!

As Christians, we are not immune to beautiful sounding lies that appeal to our innate, sinful desire to seek self and MY kingdom rather than Christ and HIS kingdom. Again, at what point is it ‘healthy’ to support these falsehoods? At what point do we as Christians stop pretending that this is okay in our churches? Are we also guilty of perpetuating a lie within the church because we don’t want to rock the boat in our own congregations? Surely a church without the truth is much more egregious to God than a lost soul who is hoping to find it in their many travels.

God wants us to want more for ourselves. God wants us to want HIM for ourselves, because in a world where genetic expression, point mutations, and human sin abound, only He is capable of saving us. Truth makes us free. It’s not something that can be found within if we dig deep enough, ‘evolve,’ or ‘find ourselves’ because at our very core is the seed of sin that we were born with. Remember, God is our Father and Christ is the Word. That is, Jesus is the truth, because He is ‘the way, the truth, and the light.’ In Matthew 8:31 Jesus tells his followers, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” I am not the creator of truth, nor are you. We do ourselves and each other a great disservice when we fail to meet falsehood with reason. God himself is reasonable. He does nothing without cause, even if we can’t see His reasons yet.

One of my favorite passages of Isaiah is in Chapter 1. Here are several verses that admonish us:

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Brothers and Sisters, Fellow Pilgrims, Come Let Us Reason Together. Let us approach falsehood with the understanding that we are not immune to buying a lie that can cost us everything, even our very souls. Just as importantly, let us gently, with deep love and kindness, pursue and share the truth in a world that has rejected reason. In this way, let us reflect the light and the love that Christ died to give us. May the Holy Spirit be our companion and comforter along a path that brings us no guarantee of ease. No one can run your race for you, but you will NEVER be alone. Amen.

Reaching for Jesus

Imagine 12 years without being touched. Imagine being excluded from church, the grocery store, birthday parties, and barbques. You can’t be out and about touching people, pets, or even inanimate objects because you are unclean. You can’t share utensils, a bed, or even a chair because Levitical scripture says that even where you sit or lie down is contaminated. You are the unseen and overlooked. People, even former friends, avoid you at all cost.

You’ve been bleeding for 12 years. Twelve long years without Motrin or Tylenol. More than a decade without the benefit of modern feminine products and good soap. You haven’t access to any type of plumbing and you can’t bathe with the women of the village. You have spent every last dime on medical treatments that haven’t worked. As a result, not only are you lonely, you are poor. You are also suffering physically and exhausted from anemia that has plagued you from the result of prolonged bleeding. It’s unlikely that anyone would stop to offer comfort if you could screw up the courage to ask. Surely your condition is the result of some hidden sin. You are among the most vulnerable in society and you would literally kiss a pig on the snout if it would help.

Lately you’ve heard some rumors about a man named Jesus. He’s supposed to be able to heal people and he’s in your town today. The crowds are as bad as Times Square on New Year’s Eve but a determination borne of utter desperation propels you forward. If you can just fight through the crowd (by the way rendering everyone else unclean as you press against them) you can see him. You are a woman amongst a crowd of men and so they press back perhaps recognizing you as “that” woman. You think to yourself, if I get down low and crawl, I can just barely get to Jesus. I can see his clothes. I know that I just have to get to him, even just to touch the hem of his coat. A fire of hope that you’d thought was long extinguished ignites in your chest as you reach out past sweaty, smelly feet covered in dust and dung. Jesus is just barely within reach. One more streeeetch and your finger makes contact with his plain clothes. Instantly, INSTANTLY you know 12 long years of pain and isolation are over. Because this Jesus is a miracle man and every whispered rumor you heard was true!

Based on the woman in Luke 8:43-48