Tag Archives: gospel

His Kindness

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The Gospel…

Again…

Please, Lord, teach it to my heart and make me passionate for the real thing.

It’s my strengthening prayer as we move closer to a life-change where someone might actually ask me to give a reason “for the hope that is in me.”

I’m chicken-Christian, no doubt about it.

That whole older-brother (sister) thing is really frustrating.  There’s a verse in the Bible that says that she who is forgiven much, loves much.  Dang it.  I have lived my life in the whitewashed area of the planet / country / city / family, and deep forgiveness is startlingly hard to grasp.  How prideful is that?  Just being honest here…please withhold judgment unless you are a deeply forgiven whitewashed something or other.

Yesterday morning, we went running (jogging / walking / whatever).  Doug and I weren’t talking about deep heart things, but he made a terribly insightful comment that went to my core.  “When someone lies, they are creating an alternate reality for the other person to live in.  So, the other person is living by the rules of a reality that is not true.”

Whoa.  Satan is the father of lies.  I’ve always tended to think of those lies as one-off, temptation-laden, whispery, “eat the apple” kind of lies.  As I considered Doug’s comment, I realized that Satan’s big scheme is creating whole, complete, big-time false realities for us to inhabit.  We’re not usually living in them thinking, “Oh, I know this is a lie, but it feels good, so I’ll continue.”  We’re in there thinking, “This is it.  This is the real deal.  I’ve got to go all out here because it’s the honest framework of life, and I’m here to live it.”  We’re stuck in a whole reality that is not true.  You know, The Matrix. He’s a liar.

Romans 2:14 says the kindness of God leads me to repentance. Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (At hand.  Right here.  Look up. Within the veil.)  It is precious to me to think that God’s kindness in Christ draws me into the light.  He brings me into Truth so that the framework of lies I’ve lived under is exposed as worthless and pointless.  He turns my heart toward His grace so that I can live on the other side of deception.  Live freely in the real Truth.  When His kindness leads me there, when I repent of believing a framework of lies, when He opens the door to a new way, through grace, then I find I am forgiven much.  Then I begin to love much. Then the gospel is His fountain in my heart.

Thank you, Lord, for your kindness that gives us hinds feet for the high places.  For showing us what’s real.  For altering our reality toward Truth.  For Your Jesus.

 

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A Man of Sorrows

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Today, I am afraid.

Yesterday, I found out that one of our friends in Clarkston, I’ll call him “G,” texted my husband to see if we could help him find a job.  My heart tore a bit when Doug told me that news.  You see, this man is a man of dignity, quiet strength, and deep service.  He came to the United States in a state of humility – a college educated science teacher who was scraping to survive in his homeland, coming to my native soil to find a better way to provide for his wife and daughters. He arrived, alone, and got a job at a chicken plant, doing manual labor for minimum wage…living with a family member…intent on supporting wife and children from thousands of miles away.  Within a few days of starting the job, he slipped on a wet floor, fell, and shattered his hip. He is now incapable of working manual labor.  He needs a job and even has skills that are transferrable…but jobs are so very hard to come by.  So, he humbled himself (again) and reached out to my husband, his one American friend, to see about finding a job.  I hurt inside for this brave man.  His dignity is being compromised, and there is so little I can do.

Last night, I felt so disturbed by the juxtaposition of my evening at the private school junior high band concert, with extra refreshments, unbounded optimism, and amazing community. In my heart, my friend G was home in an apartment, hurting in his body, and wondering how on earth he would keep forging ahead – after so many hard knocks and dead ends.  Why?  Why me?  Who knows?  Why is the skinny white lady so charmed, while the gaunt African friend is so pressed by life on this beautiful spring/summer night?

As I drove out of my manicured neighborhood, I remembered Isaiah’s words, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3).  A man of sorrows.  If I follow Jesus, if I walk that path behind Him, will I not, too, be drawn into a path of sorrows?  If my one refugee friend (of…say…5 refugee families in Clarkston who I really “know”) is hurting so badly, and his hurt is hurting me so badly, what will happen to my heart when I know 20 families, or 50?  Will my heart break?  Will I become a woman of sorrows?

I’m not that lady.

I’m a careful friend.  I measure things out so that there is enough for me left at the end of the day.  I give in controlled ways so that I know how to breathe even in the giving.  I don’t want to drown in sorrows that I can help, fix, or mitigate.

Now, I know the spiritual answer.  The Jesus one.  He will go before me.  He won’t give me what I can’t handle.  His grace is sufficient.

I really do believe all that stuff.  BUT.

…What if I fail?  What if I can’t appropriate the grace, the power of the Holy Spirit, the surrender that is necessary? What if I end up bringing something to Clarkston that looks like pity or hard charity or lukewarm relationship because I want a way to define, touch, and then back away from the sorrows that are there?

Honestly, I’m not sure what the Gospel looks like in these places.  My hunch is that it looks much less like “helping” and much more like “friend-ing.”  My hunch is that it is much more process-messy than it is solution-neat.  My hunch is that the “me” part won’t add much, but that the Jesus part will bridge the gaps.  I suppose I  will find out.

But, the fear is not small.

Lord, may my fear of You be bigger.

May my thirst for Your glory and my wonder at it’s fullness eclipse my shame at not being able to fix, solve, or help where the sorrows touch my heart.  If I am to be a woman of sorrows, I pray that I would be a gracious one – holding close to the hem of her Master’s garment.

And, Lord, please provide for my new friend, G, whose dignity can only really be carried and restored by You.

 

Exploding Potatoes

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Yesterday, I exploded a baked potato in the oven for the first time ever in my life.  They were big ones – on special at Kroger – and I was getting ready to make twice baked potatoes.  I opened the oven to check on them, touched one with the hot pad, and BOOM, it went everywhere.  If I had not been so stunned and simultaneously disappointed in myself, I would have marveled at the violence of an exploding potato, in real time. It was cool. Growing up, my mom would reference exploding baked potatoes as the mark of an inexperienced cook.  Those who did not properly poke the potato full of holes had not been “raised right” in the kitchen.  The husbands of those poor women deserved extra sympathy for having to put up with the kitchen foibles of an inexperienced wife, including the possibly even dangerous exploding potatoes.  We must mentor the inexperienced potato ladies so that they are not caught unawares by their lack of preparedness or knowledge.

Just like what mine looked like in the oven!

So, yesterday, when the 875th potato in my baked potato history exploded in the oven, I was thrown back to childhood tight-rope fears.  What if I do it all “right” (I promise I poked that sucker practically to death) and I fall off anyway?  What if the potato explodes and those around me assume I’m inept or feel sorry for the people I love…or try to love?  What if I fall off the tightrope in this move to Clarkston?

Our house goes on the market this weekend.  It feels like I am stepping onto a tightrope this week.  It feels like I could encounter carefully tended potatoes that just up and explode anyways.

We had the boys’ two rooms painted a “neutral color” yesterday, per the advice of a realtor-friend.  The youngest one came home and exploded like a potato when he saw it.  His face got red, his eyes got teary, and he looked for things to destroy in his room.  Several shredded Pokemon cards, an old box, and some tissues later, he pronounced, “much better.”  I knew he would be sad…I was sad to lose the blue on the walls that he proudly picked out by himself at the age of 6…but the explosion part was a little surprising to me, given his usual demeanor and reactions.

Exploding potatoes scare me.

Even at work today, I exploded a bit when I could NOT get a standard formatting issue to work in a PowerPoint I was feverishly working on for my boss.  Those pesky little bullets just don’t text wrap like you want them to when you’re under a time crunch and have to leave at 2:30 for a doctor’s appointment.  For the umpteenth time, the text did not wrap.  I experienced an internal explosion.  “Youmessedup Itsnotright Fixitfast Pullittogether.” It felt like I was wearing a sign, “Warning: Contents Under Pressure.”

A friend said just this morning in an email, “I really have felt that God is reminding me that yes, I’m a mess. He knows that, and once I admit it, it’s a lot easier for Him to do something with me.”

The gospel is both a narrow door and a spacious place.  I believe God is showing me that it is a narrow door in the sense that the ONLY way to the spacious place of grace is through the cross.  Jesus went through, crossed over, opened the door.  The cross was God’s best plan, and when I try to usurp His best with my own effort at good, thinking that my “narrow way” of getting it all right will lead to spacious places, I end up squeezing myself into smaller and smaller soul-spaces, so that things like exploding potatoes feel like judge, jury, and verdict on my inability to get it right.  When I enter through the narrow door of the cross; when I surrender and believe rather than redouble my efforts; when I deliberately step off of the tight rope and through the door, I discover the spacious place on the other side. When I surrender and believe, I can explode and still laugh.

Lately, I have been enjoying Proverbs 31.  Women love to moan about that chapter, because it feels like a tight-rope that could lead to explosions, I think.  But this week, as I’ve pondered the mother who was giving advice to her son, I hear her saying, “Son, find a cutie pie who messes up but still believes.  Find a lady who stands tall because she believes rather than because she tries.  Find a partner who laughs…a lot…when things explode.”  Proverbs 31:25, “She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.'” (NIV)

I’m quite positive there will be explosions in the weeks to come.  I pray that I fall off the tight rope laughing, secure in the grace below.

Life as a Stranger

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On Thursday morning, I went into our 11 year old son’s room to say good morning. I was out of town last week, and I had not seen him since Monday, so I was looking forward to a hug and a quick catch up on his week.  In the moment, I was taken by the sweetness of his messy hair and his boxer-clad, man-child self.  I was hoping for a meaningful answer to, “How has your week been?  I missed you!”  He was barely awake when he answered my question with, “Mom, I need a new crossbow.”

What?

He needs a new crossbow – just like I need a haircut.  His 11  year old reality is one of slaying Siths and monsters and bad guys with his wooden sword, his wooden shield, and his marshmallow blaster crossbow (a gift for selling the most magazines as a Cub Scout.)

The arsenal

I have been musing on his cute comment since then.  Thinking about how our view of reality is what really shapes our perception of needs and desire and truth.  His current reality is that he cannot slay the bad guys until he can procure a new crossbow.  It’s very important –  he needs a new one.

Living as a stranger is something that makes us question reality.  After college, I moved to Japan with my first husband.  We both taught English there.  He knew quite a bit of Japanese, but I knew none.  Before I moved, I had a vivid dream that I was already there.  I was driving through the mountains and all of the landscape looked like the illustrations in a Dr. Seuss book.  Vivid colors, shaggy creatures, and twists and turns that defy gravity.  Life there sometimes felt like that Dr. Seuss book.  I was college educated, but could not even decipher the phonetics of the strange alphabets (they have three) to try to begin to be literate. I felt like a three year old in preschool.  I am a small person – only 5’2″, but in Japan, I was the tallest woman on the morning train into the city almost every day.  I felt gargantuan.  I am a good cook, but it was impossible to buy the ingredients to make anything recognizable because they were all so foreign to me. (One day, after an intense search for  Worcestershire Sauce, I proudly dumped Oyster Sauce into my dish and ruined the whole thing.)  My repertoire was reduced to eggs, apples, and white bread.  I was a stranger. It was confusing.

Living in Japan felt like I’d been transferred to a place where none of the rules or assumptions held.  I KNEW I was a short, well-educated, good cook.  But, none of those rules seemed to hold in my new environment. Which version of reality was true?

Don’t take advantage of a stranger.  You know what it’s like to be a stranger; you were strangers in Egypt.”  Exodus 23:9 (The Message)

“[Jesus said] I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” Matthew 25:43 (NIV)

God came as a stranger.  The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we did not recognize Him.  There must be something important about having the mindset of a stranger, if God Himself came to our earth as one, and if He placed His covenant people in a strange place for 400 years – long enough for the memory of “stranger-ness” to stick.

When we begin to see ourselves as strangers on earth, we begin to tune in to the “alternate reality” that is the Kingdom of God.  When we see ourselves as strangers on earth, we begin to wrestle with the question of, “what’s really true?”  When we are strangers, we remember the battle is not against flesh and blood.  When we are strangers, we remember that it is best to lay up treasure in heaven.  When we are strangers, we begin to grasp that grace and truth are two ends of the same continuum.  When we are strangers, the last is first. When we are strangers, we lay down life to discover it.

Thank you, God, for Clarkston – where I can be reminded that I am also a stranger.