Posts tagged Jesus
Marriage has shown me my lack of grace, my need for grace, and the reality of God’s grace.
I have these random memories. Like puzzle pieces, God put things into place long before I was even aware He was working on me. One memory is of my arrogant self telling our supposed pre-marrital counselor (snort) that “I am a great catch. And I don’t need Chuck, but I choose him.” (Poor counselor. Poor Chuck.)
“Would you quit your job?” he said looking me dead in the eye without flinching. He had nailed my pride, independence, superiority. Shocked by the suggested sacrifice, I had to sit squarely and solemnly in the reality of being a liar. I wouldn’t really do ANYTHING. I only wanted to do enough to make Chuck act better for me. After a great deal of gnashing my teeth with God, I realized that He could and would do ANYTHING — if my heart was humble before Him.
So I did. It did. God did. I quit my job and launched my marriage in a different direction. God was up to something better for me, for us. My marriage radically changed when I saw my lack of grace for Chuck and I acknowledged my need for grace to let go of ideas and actions that were poisoning my marriage. It is one thing to say you’re committed; it is another thing to act committed —especially when those acts require sacrifice. Jesus knows all about the cost of sacrifice, and it’s why He offers us His loving grace to do it.
From years 10-15, there are lots of memories and journal entries of “when Lord, when” or “why Lord why” or “help, Lord help.”
Funny now to think of it all. I don’t how God carried us, but He did. Every day. 8030 days. Sometimes we walked with Him. Sometimes He carried us in His arms while we were sleeping, or weeping, or too sick to walk. Sometimes, He pulled us along, His firm hand clamped around ours, as we kicked and screamed down the road He had determined. But He was there from the start in all the chaos, dreams, and questions. From the start He was planting life and hope and renewal. And as we went along He whispered…
“Look at Me.”
“Expect Me to Change Things.”
“Believe for Good.”
I know folks married 30 – 50+ years are laughing at me. In that world of marital staying power, I am only a youngster. But if you are under the 20 year mark, you need to know that God’s grace really is yours. It’s not a pithy church statement. It is a divine fact, a gift, an investment. He pours in to us what we cannot manufacture on our own. He never gets tired, frustrated or quits. We might, but Jesus doesn’t.
His grace is always available, and it comes to those who know they need it. Chuck and I have grieved over our hard-headedness and hard-heartedness. Why did we wait so long to humble ourselves before God and before each other in so many sticky places?
Our goal now is to shorten the recovery time. After this many years, we are learning to bypass the manipulation by silence or anger or emotional explosions. We are more eager to get to the heart of the matter…. Really, the Heart of the matter. God’s heart. Chuck’s heart. My heart. “God what am I missing here? I am committed to this person more than I am committed to being right, so give me grace to see what you see.”
Even in those times when one of us was more eager for health than the other, Grace happens. I have found that many times the only reason ONE person is still holding on, is because God’s grace is at work. With so much marital collapse all around, we shy away from clinging to His grace and our vows. Yet I believe it is a sure promise for those who desire to cross the finish line.
Truly, His Grace is all sufficient. For every need, He is there.
The intersection of our social upheavals with Easter could not be more pertinent—more unsettling or perhaps even more hopeful? I have considered both sides. I have listened to the barbs thrown at human beings from both political stances. And I keep coming back to some simple truths. Jesus came to save the world, not condemn it. There is no condemnation because of Christ. But—we are also not in charge.
Jesus came to restore us to the original intent of the Master Designer. He came that we would have true intimate fullness with God. And in the same way that He came that Crucifixion day long ago, people rejected Him. They scorned His way, His blood, His promise. But He died and was raised again — anyway. Despite their protests to defend their sin, He shed His blood and was raised again to make them new creations, to give them more than they dreamed possible.
The same is true today. Despite our arrogant attempts at determining the “way things should be” and doing “what is right in our own eyes” there is a Holy Agenda being fulfilled. It is hope and life open to all. There is just one hitch – we are not in charge. We can choose ultimate love, or not. We can have mercy and peace, or not. We can have all His provision and true satisfaction, or not. He always lets us choose life or death.
Yet it remains that God himself is the one who creates definition, truth and identity. The law doesn’t. The lobbyist with money doesn’t. The person with the most vehement Facebook posts doesn’t (regardless of the mathematical symbol). “In his image he created them male and female.”
I have had, and do have, homosexual friends. I also have friends who are addicts, liars, and gossips, and who cheat on their heterosexual spouses. I love them all. More importantly, God loves them all.
But this is not the sum total of who they are—or who they could be. And He has a better plan than each of these counterfeit identities. We don’t concede to our personal preferences, or even our supposed rights. We begin and end with God’s image. I used to think that sleeping with a guy to get love was “the way things work.” But then I met Real Love, and my preferences changed, my idea of Truth changed. My political stances changed. Mercy does that. Resurrection power does that.
Years ago, with the emergence of gay rights, the buzz from the medical field was not positive. They would say (and still do say) that anal sex is one of the most high risk sexual encounters ever. Why? Because this body part, the original intent of its design, is being distorted.
This is not brain surgery. Talk to a child about our great political issues: abortion, slavery, homosexuality. Killing babies, owning other humans and same sex couples do not add up to them. You don’t have to persuade them. It is simple math. I have taught thousands of middle and high schools students. I’ve seen the results over and over.
Tell them the bare facts: how abortion is performed, how slaves are forced by threat of death to trade their bodies for sex or labor, and how the human body is wired for sex, male and female, and they can come to simple revelations—
I was once a baby, I needed someone to allow me to be born.
Humans don’t own other humans, regardless of skin color, or value as a commodity.
Simple biological plumbing suggests that male and female coupling is in our DNA.
Is any of this popular? accepted? comfortable? No.
But I don’t make the rules. I also don’t set the standard for life to the full.
Just like the Roman empire did not, could not, dictate Jesus’s mission of love, neither can Apple, Amazon, or Starbucks defer ours. I heard two men from opposing sides use the phrase “embrace without endorsing.” I can live with that. I can live with disagreement. What I can’t live with is trying to legalize same sex marriage to make it socially normal or right. The law of God is written on our hearts. The supreme court isn’t. There is a higher law we are to governed by.
How then shall we live? With a heart of Christ that seeks to save, from a heart that loves the world without condemnation but with absolute resolve to stand with Him. There is a great line from the movie Mulan. The enemy Hun invader demanded the Emperor bow before him. His response? “No matter how much the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow.”
God is still on the throne, whether we like it or not. His heart is still for restoration and salvation, whether we receive it or not. The choice is ours, but the earth is His. We are His children, His creation after all. When it is all said and done, mercy triumphs over judgement. We wait for the sons and daughers of God to be revealed.
Sherri Turkle’s TED talk about the disconnect through technology (“Connected but Alone”), really picked at some social norms that are poisoning us. Right after that, a friend came over to have a “face to face” conversation because “My emails tend to make things worse,” she confessed. She just wanted to “see how her words landed.”
It was no big deal, no major issue to resolve. Well — except that it was heart thing. She had noticed her heart and my heart bouncing off each other and she wanted to clarify and comfort me. Hmm, maybe it was a big deal.
Then Salem wrote a paper on the risk of relationships through technology; she challenged that we are tempted to pretend to be human while never actually experiencing true human connection. Somewhere in here God gave me the phrase, “careless words.” It triggered a scripture that has always scared me. “You will be held accountable for every careless word you utter.” Can you see that the Lord is talking a lot about this? In our on-going conversation the Lord is teaching, “What does it mean to use our words with wisdom?”
The icing on the cake was when I saw a message in writing that would never have been delivered in person. Whether text, Facebook, or tweet, if the person delivering that message had to stand there and watch the physical, emotional and spiritual impact of those words, I don’t think that person would have had the guts to say it. Bravado from a distance is a deception.
So I wonder — are we creating a Culture of Cowardice?
Our so-called freedom of expression has, perhaps, unleashed a Jekyll and Hyde personality where we say unfiltered in text, Facebook and tweets, what we would never have the gall to speak face to face. What makes us human is our gift of emotions, our ability to respond, to experience. And yet we shield ourselves from this experience by throwing verbal bombs via technology.
I love the exchange of ideas. I am, in fact, right now, communicating via technology. But as it comes to one on one relationships, human to human, heart to heart, are we taking thought of how our words hurt or heal? Does our smart phone make us emotionally stupid ? or reckless? Or worse, braver than we actually are?
Believe me, human interactions are dangerous. I accidentally hurt a friend recently. I watched her face cloud over, her body tense up and I heard her bitter, angry response. I was so shell-shocked all I could I could say was, “That was not my heart.” But the beauty of that moment was the humanity of it. It was real, ugly, and even scary. We may think it is better to hide behind our devices to avoid some of the relational fallout. But here is the God factor.
Seeing her, experiencing her caused me to look at me, to look to God. If all that happened via text, I probably wouldn’t have blinked an emotional eye. Instead, I have examined myself, gone before the Lord and I have prayed for my friend. Her hurt was a wake up call. I am desperately reminded of how frail we are despite our tough personas. I am immediately grateful that the Holy Spirit is here to comfort and to heal us both. Again and again, I am reminded how much we need to hear that we are Well Loved children of God.
Perhaps, this is our starting point in all communications, even the hard ones. Am I speaking like a Well Loved Child of God? Is the other person being treated like a Well Loved Child?
How can we possibly do this? Only by the true and present Grace of God. He is teaching us to love. “Words are powerful; take them seriously.”
34-37 “ It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.” Matthew 12 The Message
I almost pulled up the plant last weekend out of disappointment. I thought it was dead. After I put it in the ground last fall, I expected it to be one of the first things to bloom this spring. Forsythias are budding all over town and yet mine was only woody sticks. But yesterday, though still looking “mostly dead” there is one small branch of yellow life.
It prompted me to go look at other plants and trees I thought were dead. Sure enough, tiny buds or slightest shades of green were pushing up from the ground or out of brown bark. Just like the Lord said last week, “Spring is coming.” Hope indeed is pushing tender buds out of cold winter earth once more.
As I pulled dead stalks of flowers and scraped away mulch and leaves where buds should be, the Lord prompted me to consider the difference between New Life and Life from the Dead.
We love to say that Easter is about New Life. (Don’t even get me started on the Easter Bunny.) But New Life is looking for growth where I planted bulbs last year, or hoping for a positive pregnancy test. That is, we look for new life to come from seed that we have planted.
But Life from the Dead is altogether different. Death leads to decay. Dust to dust. No one goes to a cemetery and expects to see a living person. No one goes to ashes or corpses and expects flesh or breath. And here rises a much more powerful hope.
We love, and are loved by, the God of the Resurrection. He is the One who brought life and breath back into the dear, mangled body of Jesus. This is the true miracle of Easter. There was no hope left hanging on the empty cross. But when God called His Son back to life, then True Life began. A life beyond the curse, a life full of truly living hope became ours through Him.
Life after death. Life instead of death. Life over death.
When Jesus came out of that grave, it wasn’t just about forgiveness of sin. It was about the Life that is now possible to us. In us. Through us.
Jeremy Caris said in church yesterday that God’s principle of “what you sow you will reap” is an eternal spiritual law. And God in His goodness and mercy, “sowed Jesus” on our behalf so that we might reap a life that is far more than we dreamed possible.
It is a wondrous thing to consider the meaning of Resurrection Sunday. It is a life-changing thing to consider where does my hope come from? And what do I believe God can do in me? Bring New Life? or Life back from the Dead?
Time to get serious. The WGR class topic of “Appetites, Addictions, and Affections” is really challenging me about why do we want what we want? And why are we rarely satisfied with what we want?
You can watch the classes online for these revelations about desire gone awry and its rescue. But for a sobering affect, I am sharing this photo from one of my summer cleansings.
66. Actually 66 pairs of shoes. There’s a good excuse or story about each pair. Sure some of them are old. Sure some of them are “special occasion” only. Some were from Goodwill, some were gifts. But stilll…66 pairs of shoes? Really?
I made myself pull them all out on the floor and look at them. It was gross. It was excessive. It was gluttony of a different kind. I had a flashback to high school when I had only four pairs of shoes. I had a flashback to my Zimbabwe trip in 2010 when the children and adults had No pairs.
I want to share part of my personal mandate. It was a holy moment when Jesus whispered a secret in my ear of where we were going together. (Only in part you understand, He rarely gives us full detail.) And after a moment of incredulous joy I took a deep breath and said, “Wow, how are we going to that?”
“You must reorder your life,” He said.
That was in December 2011. And in the last 13 months He has continued to refocus my energies and attentions. He has brought books about simplifying, fasting, and letting go. He’s revealed moments of just how deep the affection for “more” really is in my heart. One moment was while we were on vacation. The beach condo we stayed at had a wickedly beautiful walk-in closet. Chuck and I walked in and giggled, “Yeah baby, how about this?” “This is what I need,” I said. “I hate how small our closets are at home.” I have an ongoing battle with my clothes being hung and put away, therefore clothes are often in piles on the floor.
Fast forward a couple of weeks through times with the Lord and some very pointed books about excess. I stood in front of my small but sufficient walk-in closet and I said out loud to the Lord, “How about I get rid of enough clothes to fit in my closet instead wanting a bigger closet for more clothes?” I felt Him nod in happy agreement. Hence the reason my floor was covered in shoes.
Does it sound noble that I whittled my collection down to 33 pairs? Can I actually stomach the thought of that many pairs of shoes even though some of them are only worn once or twice a year? This is just one area of balancing that I am going after.
Here is what I am doing. You are welcome to join me. I am flushing my excess throughout my whole life. We swept our bedrooms, including the girls’ rooms. If I don’t curb my “more” appetites, how will they learn they don’t “need” every toy, shirt, shoe, and stuff, stuff, stuff. They are so much happier now that there is room for “them” in their room, instead of their stuff. Then there are the books, our junk piles, my food choices. (Perhaps, just perhaps, Starbucks and Diet Coke is not a constitutional right.)
I asked a ministry that serves the homeless if they would take our clothes. “Gladly, the homeless wear coats all year long,” she said. I put two coats in the box and was thankful and humbled that I had so many to choose from.
Here is the bottom line. God is asking me, and maybe you, to slough off those “things” that require our time. What do I spend time doing? Is it really necessary? If I didn’t have that, would I live? Would I have more time? more space to think? more energy to be with Him?
Not a hermit mindset, but a free one. More is really attainable. But it probably starts with less.
You can watch the WGR class topic of “Appetites, Addictions, and Affections.” online for more revelations about true freedom.