What Do You Do With a Partial Miracle?

Faith_Future_7x5It’s been two years today. September 15. Something happened. It didn’t happen at church. It didn’t happen in a prayer circle. It didn’t happen at an altar. It didn’t happen in a hospital room. It happened at my kitchen table. And life as I knew it changed with the unlikely and unexpected words, “God is a good gift giver.”

Oh, I had been praying prayers for five years. Desperate prayers, pleading prayers, faith-filled prayers, expectant prayers, commanding prayers, binding and loosing prayers, tearful prayers, scripture prayers, healing prayers, walking around prayers, on-my-face prayers, disappointed prayers, joyful prayers, thankful prayers, justice prayers, frustrated prayers, angry prayers, ultimatum prayers, confession prayers, petition prayers, laying-hands-on prayers, curse-breaking prayers, surrender prayers, worship prayers. Just lots and lots of prayers. For five years.

And, honestly, things seemed to go from bad to worse for my son–the object of so many prayers. The autism gap was getting larger with each passing year and his words had all but disappeared while stranger behaviors replaced them despite intensive therapy and thousands of dollars spent on everything we could reasonably grab on to try to help this child. But I had no doubt that God was doing something in me to heal wounds and give me strength for the day, or even the hour. So I continued tripping in His direction. You do all you can possibly do, and there are just some chasms you cannot possibly fill yourself.

Something Happened

I am here to testify, though, that when you pray, something is supposed to happen. Without expectation of an answer, prayer kind of loses its meaning. However, it totally surprised me when something DID happen. Josiah and I were alone, sitting at my kitchen table–well, let’s use that term “sitting” loosely, as I spent most of my time pulling him back to sit at the table–and we were doing a Rapid Prompt Method lesson. It’s the only thing that had worked to show Josiah was “in there” and was paying attention. It was just a matter of trying to open up communication that was locked away in severe autism’s solitary confinement. I thought I was teaching him to spell. I wasn’t really even doing the method totally the right way, as he seemed more excited about his iPad than poking at letters on a board. However, after a year of this, he finally had shown he could spell a chosen color for himself like “red” without me giving him the answer. That inspired hope in me to keep working at this.

So, we were at the table. I was reading from the Children’s Bible about when Jesus healed the blind man. I said, “Jesus healed the blind man. What did Jesus do, Josiah? Did He h-e-a-l (heal) the blind man, or did He p-l-a-y (play) with the blind man? Heal or play? I ripped the paper in half with each side having a choice, tapped on each choice, and he chose heal. “Okay, let’s spell heal.” He wanted to do it on his iPad, but still needed some steadying to work across the alphabetical screen. He pressed on G, then O. I just thought he was totally missing it, but then he spelled his very first independent sentence: “God is a good gift giver.” What happened after that was pinch-me-am-I-dreaming amazing. He types with his pointer finger, “God is very capable.” I swirled, swooned, dropped to me knees. How is this child writing these things? He can barely come out with the color he wants.

That is one occurrence, and that is enough to jolt a person (a person who is not on any drugs, and–last time I checked–perfectly sane), that God supernaturally stepped in and did something. It wasn’t even when I would say I was at some kind of optimal faith or anything. Sincerely, I had been growing weary in well doing. But something happened!

So, I thought by Monday morning, everything would be different! This was the breakthrough we were looking for. Thank you, God! I had spent the weekend with Josiah catching up on what his favorite everything was. He was answering my questions. Remember, he is just shy of seven at that time, and we had never had a real conversation. It was glorious! So, we get to his therapy center on Monday, and I tell them about what had happened. I’m so excited. And I say to Josiah, “Let’s show them.” And he won’t do it. They look on at me in pity and puzzlement. I can’t believe it.

Surely that would all change, though. I mean, God had stepped in. There was no question. And I kept seeing the most amazing things in front of my eyes happening. In private. Josiah was writing things that took my breath away. In private. He knew things and explained things I didn’t know, nobody knew. In private. Oh, and on park benches, in malls, in museums. He wouldn’t do it for his therapists and teachers in school settings. Try and try, and the shift wouldn’t come that could help him learn and discover in the outside world. So frustrating.

So Much Has Happened

These have been two of the most incredible years of my life watching the world unfold in front of my eyes through a child that is so tuned to spiritual things. Volumes of pages and hours logged and stored from iPad conversations, everything from funny observations, simple needs, to the most profound poetry I have ever read, and the most advanced concepts I can’t even fathom to think. Mostly, about God, Heaven, Jesus, healing, peace, and life. Mostly, it’s perspectives that confirm what is already true, but generally hidden somehow as we go about our lives focused on this dimension.

Josiah asked me to start a Facebook page called Josiah’s Fire in April of 2013. I didn’t know he knew what Facebook was. He typed one day, “I give you all of these quotes and share things with you. It’s nutty to me that you never share them on Facebook.” Well, son, it’s because I’m afraid people will think I’m nuts, if I’m honest. This makes no LOGICAL sense! And yet, I cannot deny what is actually happening.

But what happens when reality–as in, it’s really happening–actually collides with reality–he’s still restricted by big fat autism in about every way possible? Something supernatural is interacting in our lives–you can doubt it, but I have NO doubt. It’s not just theory; it’s real. I’ve seen way too much to doubt. But, I have to be honest, I am shocked that my son is not healed from autism. Why would God only do a partial miracle? Surely He knows that would mess with me. To an onlooker, Josiah is not different than he was two years ago. But everything has changed, and everything has stayed the same. How can that be? What do you do with that?

I Want More to Happen

I have had two years worth of miracles, really. Truly, impossible things have happened and much of it has revolved around these words from and through Josiah. To know what your son is thinking, and to even get him to be able to tell you that there is rock in his shoe, is a blessing when you didn’t have it before. You might think that I would be happy and content with what I got and what an outlet it was for him, finally. I mean, how many people get even that? However, have you ever considered the challenges of having only a “partial” miracle? And from that miracle, you are getting pictures that God is really true and really, really good?

Over the past two years, I have learned much about the nature and character of God. My perspective has changed on so many things I believed as a good, Christian, studied-up woman. Lest you think I’ve lept to a different doctrine, I haven’t. What I’ve realized is that the God of the Bible IS the God of the Bible. And that Jesus IS who He portrayed Himself to be. And the people in the Bible were real like you and me. The only thing that set them apart from the rest and put them in the book is that they believed the unbelievable, improbable, bizarro things God said.

It’s simple really. Despite what the facts and the senses and reality portray, God’s supernatural order is supreme over natural order, and He can change things. And, not just by changing your behavior. He can change things that you and I can’t change no matter how awesome, or good, or deserving, or smart, or determined we are. The things that only He can change are truly the “impossible” things. But He wants to partner up with you to change them. You can knock off making poor choices yourself. Some of us truly are facing something that cannot be solved on this planet by anyone. When there is no other choice, you pretty much have to believe for a miracle, or God is not who He says He is to you. And, in my experience, that ends up makes for a crappy relationship if you feel you can’t trust Him. Been there, done that.

Faith is not a feeling, and it’s not just based on your will to persevere with a smile, bless God. But faith without healed feelings is very difficult to set into motion as well. At the end of the day, faith is supposed to produce something if you’re legally pursuing that promise, that is just divine law. But don’t let anyone get you all jacked up in your thinking about not having enough faith if xyz didn’t happen or isn’t happening. That only makes for “constipated” faith. There are some things we just don’t understand and don’t have a good answer for. God is not in the business of withholding from us until we satisfy the right formula for His liking. It’s different than that.

What is Fullness, Anyway?

Last time I checked, autism falls in the “impossible” category. Check, that’s a qualifier for a miracle. Now, I know people pray and believe for miracles and they still don’t happen. I have been there. It’s painful to believe and then what you’re believing for doesn’t happen. I really wish I had some answers for that. But I do know that to reduce God’s abilities down to match our experiences is to stop the pursuit of His kingdom coming down here altogether. His will doesn’t always get done on earth as it is in Heaven. That’s just a fact. But I’m still supposed to pray, believe and grab for it to come down into this space because He loves us and cares about our problems. He doesn’t know how to be any other way.

Just when I think I should start being content with a partial miracle, and that I should maybe let go of my desire for a full miracle, God in no small way reminds me of what “fullness” means. Two verses keep coming up:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

What is “full” life? Can my son have it? Can we have it, God? Should I even dare to want to have it, or is that being spoiled and entitled and ungrateful? Is “full” life just a theoretical, hereafter kind of idea, or is it for right here and right now? Don’t get me wrong, people can have difficult circumstances remain in their lives and still have a full life. People can have bad, final things happen to them and come out having a full life. God restores! But what does a person like me do when I have seen a partial miracle and my desire is to have a full miracle? I am fully willing to steward the implications of this miracle coming to pass, which I think has been these two years in the making.

As a nice, midwestern girl and minister of the Gospel, I have had to wrestle with the question, “God, can we have this full miracle? Is it okay to keep asking and pressing for that? Or, are You tired of me wanting what You said Jesus already provided for me with both His back and His blood?”

Well, all signs that I can find in the Bible and from some pretty interesting revelations point to yes, I can keep pressing. Perhaps the question is less about if He wants it, and more about if we want it. Presumptuous? I don’t think so. Break down that verse of Proverbs 13:12 in the Hebrew and it means this: Hope (an expectation that something should happen) deferred (prolonged, removed, delayed, drawn out) makes the heart sick (worn out, weak, grieved, wounded), but a desire (a longing, delight, pleasure) fulfilled (accomplished, furnished, satisfied, wholly completed) is a tree of life (fullness and richness, giving all that makes living a blessing).”

The Jesus who came to save for eternity also came to offer full life, meaning giving all that makes living a blessing. That is “shalom” peace–wholeness, completion. It is the peace that “destroys the authority of chaos.” He certainly wants to do that IN us, but I am convinced that He wants to do that practically FOR us to give all that makes living a blessing. The whens, the hows, the ways are uniquely approached for each of us. Personally, though, I have yet to see that autism itself is a blessing for my son or family. I refuse to give autism credit. My son, though, is amazing!

I guess on this second anniversary of a massive miracle–though in actuality a “partial” one–God has secured me with the understanding that it’s okay to want more, to want fullness. If your heart is content where it is, awesome. Peace is a piece of the kingdom, regardless of the circumstances. But, if desire grips you in the morning, noon, and night for the fullness to come, for justice and mercy to be had, perhaps energy shouldn’t be wasted on wishing that you didn’t want it so badly.

I want the fullness. I will serve God to the end with love, joy, faith and devotion regardless of what I see. Even if Miracle: The Sequel never comes. But I want the fullness of this miracle made manifest. If He started a good work, He says He’ll see it through to completion (Phil. 1:6). I just want to be able to take Him at His word, and not apologize for it.

These are raw, unedited ramblings mostly for my benefit, as two years turns over to approach a third. I feel like I’m 13 months pregnant waiting for this miracle. It’s actually uncomfortable, but I’m going to allow myself to feel it. Perhaps someone else might understand.

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How to Suit Up Little Kids with Big Armor

Pup Lucy stole the Sword of the Spirit!

Pup Lucy stole the Sword of the Spirit!

When I was a kid, I was quite the dare devil out on the concrete-padded playground or freewheeling on my afternoon bike jaunts—where both adult supervision and helmets were certainly not required. Something happened when I became a mama, though. Suddenly, the neighborhood park looked like a series of death traps. Without my watchful eye, I felt my son could be broken, cracked open, bit by a tick or a flu bug, and bullied by a little punk. It’s a jungle out there—and that’s just at the fun places!

If we could peel away the veil of our tangible realities, we would see another ominous battle that rages all around us. We don’t like to think about it, but it’s there. It’s a spiritual battle on an unseen obstacle course, and not only are we in it, but our kids are in it. In case you haven’t noticed, our enemy has no justice system that keeps him away from scheming against and preying on little kids. That makes this mama bear want to show her teeth. And also whimper that I won’t always be right there to protect him.

I have an eight-year-old boy who happens to have autism and currently doesn’t communicate through speaking, so my mommy radar is probably higher than most. But, I have to choose to refuse fear of what “could happen.” Instead, about year ago I started a practice of suiting up my son for the day. C’mon mom or dad, it just takes a little imagination mixed with charades to outfit the family with fashionable and functional divine battle gear.

This is what I say out loud to help my son put on his armor and weapons in under 30 seconds (based on Ephesians 6:10-16):

  • I put on your helmet of salvation to protect your thoughts and to remember Who you belong to.
  • I put on your breastplate of righteousness to guard your heart and emotions as you live rightly.
  • I put on your belt of truth to defend you from any low blows of lies and to tightly secure God’s promises.
  • I put on your shoes of peace that will bring good news onto any ground that you walk on.
  • I put in your hand the sword of the Spirit, which is the living word of God that defends and fights for you.
  • I put on your arm the shield of faith that will extinguish every burning arrow hurled at you from your unseen enemies.
  • And remember, you can move forward because Jesus got your back; he is your rear guard (Is. 52:12).
  • Finally, don’t forget underneath it all you are wearing your all-purpose garment: love. (Col. 3:14).

As he goes out of my sight, I know that by my faith and by the authority I have over him as my son, he has been outfitted with divine protection. The enemy may be ruthless, but I know that there’s no such thing as a junior-sized Holy Spirit. The big, powerful, wise comforting One lives in him, and an army of intimidating angels can be his entourage. And all this goes for us big kids too. So suit up, and if you mamas so wish—add some bling.

Flannelgraphs & the Faithful Versus the Fire

Flannelgraph-WebsiteChurch kids in the 80s experienced a phenomenal 2-D invention called the flannelgraph. Oh, it was a magical board! A young, eager Tahni scooted up as close to the easel as possible as the Sunday school teacher filled the blank landscape with Bible characters of old. Elegant and theatrical in her white, high-collared ruffled blouse, the teacher extracted their felty, folded bodies and ancient architecture from file folders and placed them into the scene with the fervor of a master storyteller. At least that’s how I remember it.

The pace might have been awkward and jerky, but to me it was a feast for the eyes as super heroes of the faith faced the craziest predicaments, and those nailbiters would somehow work out–thanks to the faithfulness of a God. With His big hand coming out of the sky. Or perhaps from some feet poking out under a white robe encased in a cloud.

Oh, you can have your smart boards and your fancy video screens, kids. Flannelgraph was where it was at.

I can almost picture the scene clearly in my mind of the day we learned about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (not Abendego, okay. You know who you are because you also call Chipotle Chipolte and call in the Calvary instead of the cavalry, but I digress). They would not bow down to that big idol that looked a lot like an Oscar award. In that case, they would be thrown into the fiery furnace by the evil king! Dun dun dun.

But, they persisted anyway, and they were put in the fire by the teacher, er um, the guards, but they didn’t burn. Though, I reckon felt is quite flammable. We kids all knew the dangers of simply playing with matches because PSAs were all over that in the 80s. We knew fire was hot and dangerous, but somehow, because of God and the fourth man in the fire, the wonder trio made it! It was satisfying like the end of Scooby Doo to have mysteriously foiled the doers of evil.

I’ve had a profound revelation these days as I read these familiar Bible stories, though. Ready? These were REAL people. Not super heroes. Not cartoon characters. Not fairy tale imaginations. They were like us. Like. Us. Like us?!? I ain’t ever faced a real fiery furnace, but I have had to face the fact that I don’t know that I would have taken it quite as well as Rack, Shack and Benny. But perhaps I should.

James 5:17 makes this point, and you could put any Bible character in there: “Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!” … I don’t know, but I want some of that chutzpah!

So, regardless of how horrible people say America is getting, I personally have not had to face fire, lions, famines, slavery, stonings, whippings, and killers who have it out for me on a daily basis because of what I believe. I’ve instead had to consistently ask myself, “Well, then, what is my life’s equivalent of a fiery furnace, God? And what are these people who were as human as I am trying to tell me through the echoes of time?” It can be just a story, or it can be real and applicable, overflowing with truth. It certainly should influence the way I pray and act in the face of opposition, whatever variety I face.

Some days, I do feel like things get hot. Like, if I could look into the spirit, I would see an evil enemy saying, “If that girl doesn’t stop serving her God, and will not be broken to do things my kingdom’s way, bind her and throw her in the fire. Either she will break from fear, or she will be eliminated, tossed to the wayside because faith began to seem futile.” So my fiery furnace might be the bills, or sickness, or heavy burdens, or some such trial staring me in the face. When faced with opposition, what, then, should I do?

Here’s a little something that a more mature reading of this story in Daniel 3 has been teaching me:

1. You don’t need to answer to the enemy or try to prove anything. King Nebuchadnezzar snickers to the boys, “Who is the God that will deliver you out of my hands?” They just said, “We have no need to answer you in this matter” (v. 16). Slam! Nothing exudes more confidence in the one you serve than not being rattled by the opponent.

2. Take a stance every time that God will, but if not… I’m not sure there could be a better way to go about an attitude of faith because it doesn’t allow for pre-excuses for God or us before we even give Him a chance to act. So, this trio boldly says, “God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace–and He will deliver us! But, if not, we will not serve your gods or worship this idol.” (v. 17-18).

This has reinforced to me to pray toward God’s standard, not to the logical odds for me or against me. This is not even the kind of “que sera sera” if-it-by-thy-will sort of attitude. It is confidence based on God’s character and covenant with us for a full life, and yet it holds loosely to this earthly life because it is not our home. In doing so, even if it doesn’t work out as far as I can tell on this human side of things, I still will have done the right thing, believing that God’s plans are always righteous and holy, and He is always for me and not against me.

3. Keep believing even when in the hallway to doom. Okay, so, it’s one thing to have faith that God will rescue you when you’re in a holding tank, but it’s quite another when you are literally lined up for the big old hot finale of your trial and your deliverer has not shown up. Unlike the flannelgraph showed, the boys were not nicely escorted into the fire. They are basically wrapped up like human torches with a ton of clothing, hands and feet hog-tied, and they are tossed into the ultra, super, hot, hot, hot fire. Somewhere in the hallway to being BBQ, I might have had second thoughts about my stance that God was going to come through for me. Like if Regis would have asked, “Is that your final answer?” I might have paused.

4. It’s not over until it’s over, even if it looks bad. I am having a hard time picturing the boys going from preparing themselves to be ravaged with pain to being loosed and walking around in the fire. That had to have been hilarious as they looked at each other like, “Hey, what??? It doesn’t hurt! We are walking around in this fire and we don’t even smell like smoke!… Hey, who is that guy?” And then an angel (or some believe it to be the manifest presence of Jesus) delivers them because they trusted in Him” (v. 25, 28). There had to be some high-fives. To me, this gives new meaning to being “all in” when we are praying and believing for God to deliver us out of our desperate situations. They trusted to “until,” and never just to “unless.”

5. We have the power to change the decree made against us. This point is the most exciting of all, in my opinion. Verse 28 says some strange words that require further study: “God…delivered His servants who trusted in Him and have changed the king’s word and yielded their bodies…” How in the world can anyone change the king’s word? Because the law according to the pagan Medes and Persians, states in Daniel 6:8 that when a king establishes an edict in writing, it cannot be changed.

How did three displaced Jewish boys change the king’s word? The exact same way we are to change the forces set against us today. We can actually change the atmosphere, change the world, with the way we live out loud. According to one author, to change the king’s word meant to “nullify the law that was evil and directly opposed to the law of God.” That is exactly what Jesus Christ did to deliver us, and continue delivering us even to this day, as we stand on that higher authority in a humble position. As 1 Peter 5:6 says, “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.

6. Make it through a fire and you’ll get promoted. I don’t know how this all shakes down in the physical world these days. Somehow, the king actually promoted the guys with a big old change of heart after seeing what the Lord had done. Regardless, being found faithful clear through to the end of a trial usually spiritually gets you and me a promotion too. You kind of get delivered, with interest.

Now, I’m reminded of this story and am writing tonight as an encouragement to me, more than anything. I feel like too many of us–people of faith, people of God who believe Him to the end–have been facing our share of furnaces lately. And we’re believing and standing to be healed and delivered, but it is so hard to keep up the fight with conviction when the days turn to weeks turn to months turn to years. My heart’s been heavy because I really want there to be more testimonies of beating the fire!

Just this week, there couldn’t have been more people standing in major faith and pressing in for a miracle after a Facebook friend of mine–a minister, a prayer warrior, a mother of 7–had a major bleeding stroke that caused brain death, and finally she died. Why? I mean, because of Jesus, we just are never defeated because He defeated death. But, why didn’t this turn out differently? I struggle with that.

So many of us are getting up every day and facing impossible circumstances and doctor’s reports and saying, “This circumstance will bend to the name of Jesus!” And then it gets worse. For others, it gets better. Why? I wish I knew these answers. Why were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego delivered from a fiery furnace when truly so many Christ-followers were lit up like human torches and martyred for the faith that they would not renounce? I don’t know.

But, I do know there are models posed to us in the Bible, and Jesus was the highest standard–and His is the one worth always shooting for. He was the walking will of the Father, healing and delivering every one who simply came. And there were also average people–heroes of the faith, yes–but, people like us who just prayed and laid it out there with the full confidence that God would deliver them, but even if He didn’t they would still do the right thing. And, on a flannelgraph, or in my spirit, that is what I hope will stick.

 

 

 

L-E-T: The Lost Spiritual Art of Letting

letMy son, Josiah, has autism and he is getting bigger as he nears his ninth birthday. He’s a deceptively strong kid, so at times he has taken to employing the “pull” technique to jerk me to where he wants to go instead of letting me lead him. My physical hand grip on him is pretty tight when we’re out and about, but he is testing the limits of my ability to hold on.

When he was small, if he didn’t listen to my voice, I could scoop him up and make him go where I was intending for us to go. I can’t pick him up anymore, so I have a real need for his impulsivity to yield to my parental directives, or it’s a battle for his well-being, his protection and our ability to simply have a nice time enjoying each other’s company.

And, you know what, Father God has been impressing on me that so it is with Him and His kids. Perhaps we have missed the message of the mysterious lesson of “letting.” L-E-T. It’s a very simple little word, but it’s just different enough from sheer obedience to deserve a closer look. It might just be a key to an enjoyable, life-giving relationship with our God through Jesus Christ.

It might even be a lost spiritual art–the art of letting. The art of doing and getting became so much more en vogue than the art of letting, didn’t they? But learning to let might make for a much smoother adventure welcoming the presence of God into our daily, walking around lives–rather than a herky, jerky one.

Once you start knowing to look for it, you’d be surprised how much that little word let shows up in the the instruction book. After all, just open to Genesis chapter one to find eight creative “Let there be” declarations that God Himself uses to kick off all of life as we know it. Have you ever thought of that? Why would something have to give–to yield–for something else to become? Emptiness, darkness and waters existed, and the Spirit hovered over them to get on with some unparalleled transforming. But the emptiness, darkness and chaos had to give way to form.

To “let” basically means “to allow, to permit, to cause to, to give an opportunity to.” I find it interesting that nature runs on laws to just do what it’s designed to do–the leaves in Minnesota are going to turn yellow in fall whether they want to or not–but people are left responsible for their own “lets.” It’s the essence of free will, of choice. Sometimes we actually don’t like this sort of freedom. We want God to just overpower what we strongly go along with so we can be released from its potentially destructive lure. But He doesn’t do it–unless we LET Him.

So, a question to wrestle with would have to be this: Why don’t we let Him? Why don’t we let ourselves do it His way?

To let is to be given a choice and then deciding to bend to the stronger authority and to the greater impetus. Letting is the attitude exerted from a humbled heart. Humility will concede that it doesn’t have to be my way to be the best, most fulfilling way.

So, let us put on our big kid underpants and see what benefit it might be for us to let God be who He wants to be for us, and also to release a powerful receiver signal to be open to what God wants to bring into our lives. We’re pretty much jolting our souls to yield here. Here are just a few examples:

  • Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Phil. 2:5
  • Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives… Col. 3:16
  • Let the weak say I am strong. Joel 3:10
  • Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matt. 5:16
  • Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil. 2:4
  • Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me. Ps. 103:2
  • Let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no… James 5:12
  • Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18
  • Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul. Ps. 143:8
  • Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Ps. 19:14
  • Let us live up to what we have already attained. Phil. 3:16
  • Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Letting involves a level of trust that has won over our “fight or flight” stress reaction. Perhaps one of the most physical demonstrations of letting was circumcision in the Old Testament. I’m not a man but I’m sure adult males might want to contend with such a procedure. But circumcision was allowing God into the most intimate, vulnerable, private place of covenant relationship with man. But, then God said what He really is looking for is circumcised hearts.

Having a heart that lets Him in to every part is basically spiritual circumcision. Colossians 2:11 says, “When you came to Christ, you were ‘circumcised,’ but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision–the cutting away of your sinful nature.”

I’m evaluating any and all of my resistance, my recoiling, my rebellion, my refusals these days to learn what it is to live a letting life before my God. The same Spirit that hovered over the void in the beginning, hovers over our voids just waiting to create the most beautiful, vibrant things in a life that lets Him. And then, He shows you, and lets you have a try!

And, remember, every time we say AMEN, we are saying LET IT BE SO.

 

 

Why Stuckedy-Stuck Frustration Has to Go

why-should-i-keep-calm-argh“I can do it, and I can do it well,” I mumbled half-heartedly. My college professor tilted her chin to her chest and said, “Say it again, but mean it this time.”

I looked down at the notecard where on our first day of working together she made me write “I can do it, and I can do it well.” I said it again with a little more gusto, but honestly, I wouldn’t come to believe it until much later. I was frustrated. Stuck.

I was a senior in college and a theater minor who at the “I-believe-in-you” prompting of another director was birddogged into performing a two-hour, one-woman theatrical production. One-woman means “all by yo self.” In front of 250 people. No notes. No net. Fully vulnerable. Rehearsal set for six full weeks directed by a talented woman who I both respected greatly and who kinda terrified me. Scary.

Now, I was up for acting the role of this historical character, Zelda Fitzgerald, who was a tragic mix of wit, triumph and mental insanity. But the short parts where I had to sing? And ballet dance? And knit!? I was totally in the red on how to even fake any of that well, and trying to learn it had me a wreck. “I can’t get it!”

I wanted to quit just about as much as I wanted to succeed. But I couldn’t. But I wanted to. But I didn’t. It was one of the best early lessons of my life that I can do hard things.

As Christ-followers, (well, as Americans), what is it that makes us so prone to frustration when things get a bit hard? Weren’t we made to do hard things? Yet I’ve had to fight this. I still fight it maybe a little every day. “God, rescue me, relieve me, fix this… God, why are you doing this to me… I can’t do this… It’s not fair… I’m just gonna quit… Will it ever get better?…” Frustrated. And instead of believing we can do hard things, we are enticed to numb or run from our discomfort.

We have become the most in-debt, overweight, addicted, and medicated adult population in U.S. history in part because we don’t believe we can do hard things, and that we can do them well. Jesus said, “…in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you will have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]” (John 16:33, Amplified).

Jesus has deprived the world of the power to harm me, and has conquered it for me? I just say, “Okay, how do I get me a whole lot of that, Jesus?” Despite trauma, despite marital problems, despite parenting issues, despite financial struggles, despite sickness and depression, despite grief and loss and disappointment—if we get in Christ, we know because He conquered, we get to win.

How do you and I go about living differently if we come to believe that there is not one problem we face—and we’ll still face them—that doesn’t come with the gifts of His promise and His provision to walk through it. But I’ve learned that promise and provision will stop dead in their tracks to get to you if you don’t first surrender your frustration—and your contingency plan to quit.

God works to partner with a “can-do” spirit. That is our offering, and often our sacrifice. As James 1:25 says, “Whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—…and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.”

Dude, Lady Look Like a Disciple!

Belle reading

Do you love Me? Then…

In the beginning of the animated fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” beauty Belle is seen going through the town contending with ‘same old, same old.’ Then, with her nose in a book, she seeks the adventure inside while fluttering, flowing and twirling through the humdrum streets.

Look there she goes that girl is strange no question. / Dazed and distracted, can’t you tell? / Never part of any crowd. / Cuz her head’s up on some cloud. / No denying she’s a funny girl that Belle

Belle cries, “There must be more than this provincial life!” Still, the onlookers say, “It’s a pity and a sin. She doesn’t quite fit in. She really is a funny girl–that Belle!”

I think Belle and Mary of Bethany–the sister to Martha and Lazarus–would have totally clicked with each other. I’d love to hang with the likes of these two women too, all eyes dancing with revelation and passion. Each one saying, “I knew there had to be more! I just knew it!”

In my experience, Mary of Bethany has traditionally been viewed as a devoted women with the priorities to choose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him while her sister whirred busily around the kitchen. Perhaps we think of her plopping down giddily like, “Ooo, tell me a story, Jesus! Scooch over, Peter! This is so interesting! The falafel can wait.”

But look closer at this peculiar woman. This Mary of Bethany. She was a bold beauty–and an intelligent one.

“Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (Luke 10:39). Okay, lest we stay stuck on our picture of cross-legged, hands-on-her-chin story time for Mary, we need to know in Jewish culture what it meant to sit at the feet of a rabbi. You see, Jesus was not some uneducated drifter that sauntered into town. He was a Jewish, learned rabbi, educated in the scriptures and allowed at age 30, like other rabbis, to begin His ministry. To “sit at the feet” of a rabbinical teacher was to be learning from Him intimately as a disciple. Even Paul used the saying that he “trained at the feet” of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). The disciple’s goal was to gain the rabbi’s understanding, to become like him in character, and to eventually teach in the community.

Mary–a woman–was learning as a disciple when and where she could. I don’t know, but if women “counted” in the disciple roll call back then, she probably would have easily pushed the number up past 12. This was not just a lady who had her priorities straight to do her devotional time. This was a woman who straight up was breaking a societal norm big time to be educated like the boys by this Jewish rabbi. She didn’t DO devotions. She WAS devoted. And Jesus endorsed it! Very peculiar, indeed.

This is a time in history when Jewish wisdom literature says that rabbis were supposed to keep at least six feet away from a woman at all times. Not only that, but here was a little nugget for rabbinical disciples of the day to abide by: “He that talks much with womankind brings evil upon himself and neglects the study of the Law and at the last will inherit Gehenna [hell].” Oh, and…“Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman … Whoever teaches his daughter the Torah is like one who teaches her obscenity.”

Jesus basically said a big “so what” to this accepted idea of what a woman’s place should be. And, this Mary–this young, unmarried woman– was so captivated by Jesus that she risked everything to follow Him, and to study under His teaching. In fact, she wouldn’t stay away from His feet.

After Lazarus had died, John 11:32 says, “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus loved this family, and Mary’s deep hurt made Jesus weep. She had that affect on Him.

First, she sat at His feet. Then she fell at His feet. Finally, she poured her earthly picture of worth out on His feet, and then scandalously let her hair caress His oiled feet. What is wrong with this woman? Is she crazy? Is she naive? Is she too emotional? Has she lost it?

Mary takes a jar of expensive perfume–worth around $40,000 in today’s economy–and pours it out on Jesus’ head and feet. We normally will say, “Wow, she must have been just so thankful for what Jesus did to raise her brother from the dead to so extravagantly thank Jesus.” But, wait, what was she saying with her actions that day? 

In those days, for a woman to personally own an expensive possession usually meant it was her dowry and was reserved for her one-day husband. Her entire worth and future was wrapped up in that offering. Once a woman was of marrying age, her family purchased an alabaster box for her and filled it with expensive ointment. The size and the value paralleled the size of the family’s wealth.  

But Mary didn’t reserve her worth to present to her earthly bridegroom; she gave it to her spiritual bridegroom. This was the gesture of a woman asking for Jesus to empty out her attachment to her wordly treasure so she could receive the highest treasure of the world to come. She abandoned her own security to the Worthy One, for He had won her total affection.

As if that wasn’t shocking enough, Mary took her hair from her covering and wiped Jesus’ feet with it. Did you know that for a Jewish woman in that time to expose her hair in public and to any man who was not her husband was akin to showing her private parts? A woman’s hair unbound in public was the sign of an accused adulteress! You see, this was not just a view of humility for her to use her hair as a towel. What was Mary thinking?!?

This type of devotion to Jesus is shocking and rare, even a scandal to grace. The spiritual intimacy she felt for Jesus was so strong that she didn’t care what society or “normal” or even her fellow disciples had to say about it, as long as it would honor Him. Song of Solomon 1:3 points to a lover saying to her king, “Your name—your person—is like perfume poured out. No wonder the women love you.” Mary exchanged her perfume for the fragrance of His eternal presence.

Do you know what Jesus had to say about this bizarre behavior of this woman who wormed her way in to being taught, trained, and discipled like a man and then came before those men to be as feminine as she could in a way that was only to be reserved for a husband? He said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me… Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Did Mary of Bethany know she was also anointing Him for burial, the sweet scent lingering on Him as He sweat blood in the garden and laid His skin open through His bloody crucifixion? We don’t know. But, I kind of think she had a revelation and that she did know. None of the male disciples would accept or try to understand the clues Jesus gave that He would be dying soon. They were still picturing Him as a great leader there to restore their physical kingdom. But, I think that woman, that Mary of Bethany, listened hard and studied hard and knew what Jesus was saying was going to happen.

While Jesus had to ask Peter several times, “Do you love me?,” only to go on to deny that he was a disciple of Jesus’, surely Mary of Bethany risked not only her reputation but her life to say in no uncertain terms that she was a devoted disciple of Jesus. It’s the women who discerned. It’s the women who anointed. It’s the women who stayed until His last breath. It’s the women He appeared to first after He was risen.

Why has history told women to “do” devotions rather than to be devoted? Jesus invites all to the table to engage both spirit and truth like Mary did. Feel. Listen. Study. Learn. Love. Teach. Do.

Lest you think this is a post just to simply rah rah women, and is not meant for men and women alike, let me say that Jesus calls the Church His Bride. Collectively, Jesus seems to be looking for some female qualities out of His Church to partner with. Perhaps Mary of Bethany is an example of what extraordinary beauty He is looking for. How about stand out from the crowd in carefree humility to not only think on Him, but to also demonstrate love for Him in boundary-pushing ways?

Where religion is “same old, same old,” an intimate, head-over-heels relationship with the lover of our souls is a bit more peculiar looking. There is more than this provincial life.

How to Catch the Mouse in Your Soul House

(Re-blogged from Eagle Brook Church blog.)

M2230003-750x500Not long after my husband and I became first-time homeowners, we received our first unwelcome guest. I just bopped downstairs to get my clothes for work one morning, and there it was. A mouse! Or a rat? Or a mole? I screamed. It looked at me, collapsed its little contortionist self and ran under a door.

A rodent was loose in our house. Eek! What were we going to do about it? These are the sort of things that moms and dads take care of. We were ill prepared for the responsibility of ousting this vagabond.

My husband was not as supportive as you might think. He threw down a box and said, “Try to trap it with this.” In the meantime, my defender headed to Kmart to buy traps. I stuffed a towel under the door hoping to keep the vermin from escaping, and kept watch.

My rescuing knight returned with $22 worth of traps. A regular snap trap. An inhumane sticky trap. A humane catch-and-release trap. And I’m-so-thirsty-I-could-die Decon. Perhaps it was overkill because the $1.98 old-fashioned snap trap did the trick—and in short order.

The point is, we were not going to let that pest stay in our house! It would not be allowed to live with us while we were wondering if it was multiplying and eating our food in the middle of the night. As long as it was loose, it was destroying our peaceful abode. Acting fast to capture it was a no-brainer.

Now, think about this—what if we responded to the pesky thoughts that sneak into our soul houses with the same sort of urgency? Our soul is the structure for our mind, will and emotions, after all.

Tuning to notice the sounds of strange scratching and rustling in our “renewed” minds should likewise signal that we have to act quickly. When our peace is disturbed, we’re not really letting Christ be in control of our circumstances. And we can’t hear God’s voice very well when we are plagued by that runaway fear, anxiety, insecurity, or violation of our space. Yet, how often do we resign ourselves to living with those intruders, or simply trying to ignore that they are there?

2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

You see, one thing we can know about God is that He promises to guard our hearts and minds with peace (Phil. 4:7). Peace sets a standard that is virtually tangible. The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom.” Shalom is not the absence of conflict, rather in the Hebrew, peace’s definition reads like this: “to destroy the authority of chaos.” Christ, Prince of Peace, destroys the authority of chaos so we can be settled and whole. But we have to live like we know that He provides that right for us.

Just like when a mouse gets in your house, uninhibited thoughts and lies will pull focus, and that chaos will try to control you. We can’t let these thoughts bed down alongside the truth of God’s Word. That’s a contradiction of interests. We have to learn to urgently say, “No, God’s peace rules here because Jesus Christ is the law and I’m his sheriff in these parts. Destructive thought, you’re not running loose here.”

What is rustling in your mind these days to get you all worked up? Don’t ignore it. You have the responsibility to capture it, cage it, oust it. First, secure and order your thought space and when that is done, practice doing what Philippians 4:8 says to: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

And, just for fun: One of my favorite ads–watch to the end to see why!: