Friday, March 29, 2013

Spoken 7: The End

When my Bible study students and I talk about Heaven, we're talking about what is Real.  And we are desperate for it.  My very favorite question is "What will we not have in Heaven?"

extra chromosomes
medical tests
hearing aids
wheel chairs
books that remind us who we are and what we're doing
brain injuries
minds that don't know things
speech problems
walking devices
extra voices stuck in the brain

I long to see my guys wholly whole.  To have them be able to communicate what's in their hearts.  To have the mental and psychiatric healing.  To be able to hear and see and understand.

My students... most do not have long life expectancies.   Many, when they start going down hill, they seem to go full speed.  It's heart breaking.  I keep notes about what people say and do and what hymns they like.  I keep them in my "funeral" file.  I hate it.

But, I also love it.  I love the anticipation that so many of them have - especially the older ones.  Especially the ones who have experienced trauma and remember what it was like before.  This earth hasn't lived up to it's promises.  And they are ready for Eternity.

So, yah... we talk about death a lot.  And we talk about Heaven a lot, too.

But we were talking about something way different when J. piped up to ask, "Why did Jesus have to die for me?" This was pretty advanced for J.'s normal comments;  where did it come from in his heart?  Caught off guard, I stumbled around.

Because.  That was the plan.  He knew you would not be good enough to get to heaven.  So, Jesus died to buy your ticket because God loves you.  

It's perhaps the most well known verse of the New Testament, probably the whole Bible.   Maybe we love it because it says so much one little sentence.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
I don't really get it.  I mean - I get it - but I don't GET it.  I can explain the doctrine of it, but how that Truth functions in my emotions, sins, and worship.  There's some disconnect.  And maybe that's what I long for most in Heaven... that all the things that block me from knowing it will be gone.  I can't wait until my sin is finished.  I am desperate to be so amazed by Salvation, that the things of this world do not attract me.  I want to be content when I have and when I have not.  And I want to be confident in the power of the Holy Spirit instead of my own awesomeness.  And when I hear Jesus say that It Is Finished, I am longing even more for the moment when I will be free from this entanglement of the things that distract me.

With my students, I pray that God will grow beautiful fruit from their dependence on Him because of their disabilities.  And me, too.  Me, too.

And I'm going to pray that for you, right now, as well.  Just hat your singleness, though it might feel like a handicap or a disability... or even a punishment or the anti-love of God, it will be over.  Your heart ache.  The lonely nights.  The broken heart.  Those will be gone in Eternity.

Spoken 6: Come, Sit Here

One of my favorite things in the world is decorating tables for dinner parties.  I feel like it's setting the scene for your guests to feel treasured.  Come, sit here.  Join me.  Feel wrapped up in this delightful time together.  But, without people, it's unfulfilled.  No guests.  Empty chairs.  The decor falls flat.  It's like the table decor is only fulfilled when there is laughter and intimate talk, when there are hearts and minds arching over the decor, connecting.

Come, sit here.  Join me.
Sometimes that's the loneliest time for single women.  You love your girlfriends.  You are invested in their kids.  You consider their husbands as brothers.  You really do care for what's going on in their mother/wife worlds.  And you are happy that they are getting to have lunch With The Girls and With No Kids.  And you would give your right arm to be in their shoes.  And somehow you don't fit.

Or, you go to a couples' dinner.  Maybe there's the other single woman there.  Or a single guy who you are not attracted to... or worse yet, one who is not attracted to you.  Or there's just an odd number.  And you are thankful the husbands speak brotherly advice into your life about fixing your car or your patio door.  And maybe they will volunteer to do it.  And it's ok.  It's really ok.

But you wish when you walked into a room, there was someone there that you knew you could saddle up to.  You hate walking in and thinking, who should I sit by?  Where should I sit?

If only someone were waiting there and would put his arm around you when you got close.

If only you could walk in and belong to someone.


It's this word of presentation.  Who gives this woman to be this man's wife?  Sliding a ring on a finger.  I do.  Like you've been waiting to give this - to get this - all your life.  Here you go.  It's yours to keep.  I'm yours to keep.  Forever.

It's words of trust.  Words of hope.  Words of complete confidence.

But, if we say it - if we paratithēmi ourselves to any man on earth, if we give ourselves to any man on earth, we have to know that he will let us down.

So, here goes the "Give yourself to God" speech you knew was coming.  But, it's not a singleness speech.  It's not a get-over-it speech.  It is our only hope.  It might not make luncheons with married friends easier, or the dinner parties less awkward.

But it might change how you enter a room.

Where you sit.  Who you sit by.  If this party/church service/event isn't about you - if it's not about how you feel - but it's about being committed to the Lord, and how He is working in and through you... then, can you see that hurting woman who needs a hug?  Maybe she just found pornography this morning and can't decide if she'd rather it be her son's or her husband's.  Maybe she started her period a few minutes ago, when she was just going to tell her husband she was pregnant tomorrow on Father's day.  And maybe she would never ever tell you these things - but you can see it in her eyes.

Maybe walking in and saying, God, I paratithēmi my eyes to you - my heart to you.  I want to be your salt and light.  Let me walk beside what You want to do and say in these people's lives...  maybe there's a little dying to self that needs to take place.  Maybe there's looking beyond your own broken heart and seeing others' deep need for a love that is perfect and whole and eternal.

Jesus said it.

On the cross.

Father, into your hands I paratithēmi my spirit.

Spoken 5: Natural Healing

It seems the 'natural' movement is bubbling all around me.  Austin loves natural food, natural oils, natural (fill in the blank).  I have friends and family members who are going all natural.  And although I love the idea, I don't love the time or the money involved.  But, man... part of me really desires to be a hippy gardener on a farm that wears big moo-moos and sun hats.  I would be really good at that.  Although, in my fantasy there are never rats, snakes, or sweat involved.  Yes for pigs and chickens, no for dogs and cats.  Yes for the big country kitchen and homemade bread.  Oh, and bee keeping so I can get my own honey.  I really do want to learn bee keeping.   No for the pounds I would amass from all my home cooking and baking.  Sigh...

I did just find a very natural/organic/herb hair product line that I loooove.  That should count for something, right?  But, in the end, my "health" regiment is governed by laziness, apathy and vacations.   I know what is good for me, but I keep on buying non-dairy creamer made with corn.  And bran cereal made with who knows what.

I'm not willing to make the sacrifices I could to be cleansed.

And even in my heart... intentions of spending my bath time looking over memory verse cards turns to reading a magazine.  A sweet time of corporate worship turns into judging hair styles.  An morning of writing my prayers turns into a list of complaints and grievances.  My soul-health regiment is governed by laziness, apathy and vacations.  Cleanse me, Oh Lord.

For one of my physical re-occurring issues, a familiar plant has come up.  Well, familiar in name only.  Hyssop.  It's a strong minty basil-ish herb that apparently makes tea which can heal all sorts things.  But people throughout history haven't just used it internally, though.

Say, if you were going to paint the blood of a perfect lamb over your door so that your first born son would live, you would use a spring of hyssop.

Or, if you were going to clean the blood from a guilt offering, you would use a sprig of hyssop.

Or, if you had leprosy and needed to be cleansed, you would use a sprig of hyssop.

If you were a priest, to be cleansed you would need to burn hyssop.

Or, if you were hanging on the cross and you were thirsty, you'd be offered a drink on a sprig of hyssop.

Jesus's thirst is part of my cleansing.  The selfishness, the bitterness, the pride.  My insistence that I get what I think I deserve.  My laziness.  My apathy.  Momentary vacations that let me worship me.  Oh, God.  The Sacrifice of His son to heal me.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7).

Spoken 4: Bluebonnets

It's bluebonnet season in Texas.  Seriously, I love bluebonnets.  I'm not exactly a song writer, but I wrote a little country ditty when I was in high school called "Bluebonnet Angles" and it pops into my head every time I pass a patch of Texas blue.

I remember making angles not in snow
but in a big field where the bluebonnets grow
behind the church where we went
where all our memories were spent
it's been a long time since then
and I laugh when I think back to when
we were young, we'd always be
but life's changed a lot and I hope you see

I'm sorry for running away
for being selfish - going my own way
I know you needed me, I needed you, too
I hope you realize
I'll always love you...

OK, cheesy, I know... but I think I could sing this song to lots of people.  I need to.  I'm sorry I forsake you.

Realizing this gives me a little more compassion towards the people who have forsaken me.  The people who have unintentionally wounded me.  I bet if they knew, they would be sorry too.  And maybe they do know, but just don't know where to begin.

We have all been abandoned in waves.  We have all been left standing alone.  Perhaps in only incremental waves.  I hope in only little bits. Even those of us who come from intact families, intact friendships, intact churches- we have all been forsaken.  And we have all forsaken someone else.

I have botched all kinds of relationships.  I have hurt people.  I have portrayed lies in what I thought was kindness.  I have puffed up myself.  I've kept records of wrongs.  I have been both greedy and lazy.  Even now I could list the people I need to apologize to - goodness.  I don't even know where to begin.  "Sorry, I was a jerk.  Sorry I was sinful."

And maybe all this forsaking on earth is just another pointer that we aren't - we won't be - forsaken in Heaven.  The heart break of four little words is what I deserve.  Eli Eli lama sabachthani?  My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?  The absolute darkness of being totally abandoned would be my destiny if Jesus hadn't gotten there first.

And in that moment, Jesus found the words of Psalm 22.  When I read through it, I see some amazing things about God:  His Holiness and the way He takes care of His people, how He is paying attention, how He is worthy of worship, how He is sovereign.  And all this in a moment of pure agony.

Surely Jesus knew the whole Psalm.  I wonder if He was praying through it, but only had the physical energy to repeat that one line out loud...

I might never have the opportunity to apologize to the people I've stepped on.  And I don't know that the people who've stepped on me will ever apologize.  But this I know - the forsaking - the abandoning - that was all eternally left powerless.  Because Jesus was abandoned, we will not be.

"I'm forgiven because You were forsaken."1 

Your dad who was not emotionally available for you?  Your mom who kept pressuring you to be skinny until you found yourself struggling with anorexia?  Your fiance who decided he just wasn't ready to commit?  Your best guy friend who told you he was in love with your sister?  The men who have all said it wasn't you it was them?

You might have been forsaken on earth, but please, please know... You are not forsaken in Heaven.  Nothing will separate you from that perfect love.

1. Chris Tomlin's worship song: "You Are My King"

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spoken 3: Real Life

Here He was, rich in agony - physically, mentally, spiritually... and so rich in His provision of love for His mom.  Mom, here's your son.  Friend, take care of my mama.

I hear compassion.  I hear gentleness.  I hear great care.  She had other kids.  Surely they would have taken care of her.  Couldn't she sew?  Or clean?  Couldn't she find someway to live?  Couldn't she make it on her own?  

I know that being single sometimes seems like the bucket of blessings is empty.  That you've been forgotten.   That you've been left behind.  That you've not even had the chance to choose the short-end-of-the-stick.  And even when you hear Jesus's care for His mom, you think - well, at least she got to have a husband and kids...

But can you hear her heart, too?  Do you think she was surprised?  Taken aback?  Here, her firstborn was dying tragically, horrifically - and yet He gave breath to her daily life?  The life of laundry and food and of sweeping the floor?  Do you think these words startled her?  And if she was still treasuring all this in her heart, did it make any sense?

I think I have the temptation to believe the Gospel is all about the good news of eternity.  But, how can it be about eternity if it doesn't have tendrils into today?  Into my daily bread.  After all, Jesus is the same today as He was that day on the cross (Hebrews 13:18).  His love that redeems us for Heaven, redeems our todays for His glory out of His compassion.  Even though He knew He was this close to the place He really belonged, He was was taking care of the less glorious here on earth.

And, I don't want to pass this up.  I don't want to think - yah-yah-nice-of-Him.  I want to see His humanity.  His heart for humanity.  I want to see His fully God fully man compassion.  And I want you to see it, too.  I want you to be overwhelmed with the fact that Jesus reached out to touch people no one else would touch.  That He came to heal the wounds that had no hope.  That He came to wrap His glory around misfits and outcasts and the people who didn't have it all.  And He spoke eternity into their mundane.
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Spoken 2: Paradise

My three favorite places in the world are about 6,000 miles apart.  A hot tub some where a little east of Seattle.  A pool in Cap Haitian, Haiti.  A bike path in northern Italy.  One has a view of snow capped mountains and my new husband.  One has a view of clear water and a book in my hands and my girl friends who know me inside and out.  One has grapevines and Italian grandparents sitting on benches people watching.  One a honeymoon.  One a ladies' retreat with missionary co-workers.  One where I went when I was lonely.  All of them gentle, quiet, sweet.  Still.  And all of them had trees.

I used to think I was a water person.  Which I am.  But I also need growing things.  Or, maybe as I grow older, I need more growing things.

I have had a weird week.  It's had a lot of fun things.  Intense things.  Busy things.  But, I need that gentle, quiet, sweet time of stillness. And I think I might need growing things.

The word "paradise", means a park, forest, orchard.  A place where things thrive. And grow strong.  And I could be safe there.  Safe from my stress.  Safe from my desire to please everyone - which really is the desire for approval.  Safe from worrying or planning or pretending I'm God.

Ah.  That is really what I need a vacation from.  Me.  Me as God.  It's exhausting.  It's somewhat terrifying.  It's draining - on my energy, mind, and people I love.  It's also pretty lonely.

How can I stop this pattern of seeing myself as the one who is In Control of not just my world, but maybe the whole world?  Even when I come across verses like Proverbs 16:13, which basically says that God even controls what numbers you get when you throw the dice, I read past it, and am determined to get the numbers I want.

When will I ever learn?  When will I be at the end of my I've Got It rope?

I think this is really hard for us head-strong ladies who are fulfilled, independent, and capable.  Especially when you've have to do it yourself because there isn't a husband would take care of it.  Especially when you want to make sure that everyone knows you're OK with singleness (even though that ok feeling ebbs and flows).  Even when you are really hoping that what doesn't kill you will make you stronger.

And so, what forms in your heart is an idol of self sufficiency.  I have to do it alone because I have to.  And I have to be in control.  And I have to take all the responsibility.  And this is who I am.

That idol is so hard to break.  So very hard to break.  It's hard because it's functional.  It's practical.  It actually works.  Where does it take me?  To a successful job, a thriving ministry?  To everyone looking up at me?  To being a role model for other single women and living a life worth the envy of women who are married?  To exhaustion?  To bases left uncovered?  To a wall of self-sufficiency and selfishness that cannot be crossed by family and friends?  To a marriage of  non-submission and control battles?

It leads to death.  Because in the end, I am not the god I think I am.

Then there's that guy on the cross, the one on the end.  The one who knew who he was.  He knew he was a sinner.  He knew he deserved to be up there.  And he knew who Jesus was.  Perfect.  Innocent.  And  divine.

We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

And Jesus knew.  Jesus knew all the man's sins.  The hatred.  The pride.  The idols.  And still, Jesus offered this man paradise.  A place of rest and restoration.  A place of letting go and trusting Him.  A place of strength and growth. you will be with me in paradise.

Paradise.  Maybe I need to just sit for a while.  I'll water my plants on the balcony and just sit with them.  And remember that even though I have so many sins, that God, in His perfect, sweet love desires to give me rest.  Forgiveness and rest.  Now.  And Eternally.