Back Home

Instead, He told him, “Go back home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” Mark 6:19

I heard the above verse at church on Sunday. It was already starred and underlined in my Bible, though, from previous readings. Probably because I was away from home for so many years.

BUT… five years ago, God saw fit to return me to my hometown. My Nativity. And this past Sunday, the last portion really stood out. Report how He has had mercy on you.

Go and tell. Family. Neighbors. Those in my hometown. My friends. And so I shall.

Two years ago, I was seeking a Christmas heart. I set my course for Jesus and found Him. Or rather, He came to me. Right in my bedroom. It was January 31, 2014.

I’d been holding something from my past for much too long. Two incidents. Something I’d done and regretted. But God directed me to Jeremiah 31:20 and I knew in my heart of hearts He’d forgiven me. That was the day I was set free from my sin…

Therefore, My inner being yearns for him; I will truly have compassion on him. 

It’s there in “truly have compassion.” I looked it up and discovered it’s the ONLY place in the Bible where mercy is squared. Twice. Mercy + Mercy. For the two things I’d been carrying.

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See it… 7355 + 7355. Mercy plus Mercy.

That was the day I knew I was forgiven for my past. No doubt about it. And later in the day, God’s mercy was underscored for the doctor confirmed my pregnancy was viable.

There was a heartbeat. 

And honestly, I thought there’d be two heartbeats. Twins. Two for two.

Point being, God had great mercy on me. A sinner. That’s what Christmas is really about. And on Sunday, I heard Him say go and tell your people how I had mercy on you.

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Funny thing about Christmas this year… the above didn’t make the cut for decorating. I’d used it for years but never really saw what it said till a week ago.

“Friends are Christmas”

I was outraged when I saw it. I thought “I’m not putting this out! This is not the reason for the season!” However, after reading something I blogged two years ago, I think I’ve changed my mind. I’ve stepped down off my high horse…

Because though friends are not really Christmas, they should be part of it. Our family and friends should be important enough to share the good news with.

As we read in Mark 6, we should report to them how God had mercy on us. And mercy came down in the form of an infant. It’s what the nativity depicts. Mercy in a manger.

The most humble of beginnings…

Then her neighbors and relative heard that the Lord had shown her His great mercy, and they rejoiced with her. Luke 1:58

https://pamandersonblog.com/2013/12/12/josephs-nativity/

 

Paul Gave Thanks

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Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

I laughed with them. But inwardly, I thought glaucoma.

“Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people- greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me – a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:10-14

Funny thing about my eyes. Seems they’re pretty good about looking outward and finding fault in the world. And yet, they can be totally useless when looking inward… back at me.

That’s where I find myself today. Looking inward. And it was the Apostle Paul’s words that pointed me in that direction. See, we’re on the eve of Thanksgiving and the world at large is feeling grateful.

We give thanks for our full bellies and good health. For the roofs over our heads and the clothes upon our backs. For God’s mercy and goodness and grace. And Paul gave thanks, too. However, his prayer sounded a little different than one I’d utter at Thanksgiving…

I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry- one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. 1 Timothy 1:12-13

The Blasphemer

Paul called himself a blasphemer and the word stumped me in recent days. Because really, what is blasphemy? I just didn’t know so I dug it up. I just had to in light of Paul’s words to Timothy.

Timothy was exhorted to follow Paul’s instructions, to engage strongly in battle, having faith and a good conscience. He then gave an example of two people who rejected these and suffered the shipwreck of their faith. Furthermore, Paul said he delivered them to Satan so that they may be taught not to blaspheme.

And that scared me. Horrified me, actually. Because what does that have to do with me? What in the world?

The Persecutor

To blaspheme is to spurn or contemn (not condemn), to despise and to abhor. Blasphemy is slander, detraction, or speech injurious to another’s good name. To blaspheme is to be impious and reproachful, evil speaking and railing.

Basically, a blasphemer is scurrilous. Calumnious against men. Most especially, impious against God. And let me assure you, I had to look up at least four of these words.

But within these words I discover why Paul gave up some up to Satan. And why they needed to be taught not to do and be all these things. Because blasphemy is so utterly harmful.

And Paul would know. Because that’s what he formerly was. A blasphemer. And it’s what caused him to persecute Jesus and His followers…

 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, either men or women, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me” Acts 9:1-4

The Arrogant Man

Paul used to be an arrogant man. If a man thought he had grounds for confidence, Paul had more: circumcised the eight day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to the righteousness that is in the law, blameless (Philippians 3).

According to the religious sector, Paul had and was everything. The best of the best. The most religious of the religious. So much so, he murdered and imprisoned those who didn’t do or act as he did.

Like Stephen…

The first Christian martyr.

Oddly, Stephen was falsely accused of very thing that Paul really did. Blasphemy. Seems some hyper-religious dudes incited the crowds to speak out against Stephen, claiming he spoke blasphemous words against Moses and God.

This didn’t sit well with the Pharisees, of course. Nonetheless, when Stephen had an opportunity to speak, he spoke truth which enraged the leaders. They were filled with hate and fury and screamed and rushed at him, throwing him out of the city.

Then they stoned him.

The witnesses laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And this man, Saul, was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man.

But later, he became Paul. On the road to Damascus.

And after he became Paul, he was thankful. Because Jesus strengthened him. It was Jesus who considered him faithful, and who appointed Paul to the ministry.

The miracle, though?

It happened when Paul was the vilest of men. So deeply entrenched in sin. Blaspheming and persecuting and boasting and proud. And murdering. Let’s not forget that one.

But he was Jesus’ choice. A murderer appointed to ministry.

Inconceivable.

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One who becomes stiff-necked, after many reprimands will be broken suddenly-and without a remedy. Proverbs 29:1

A dear friend of mine wondered out loud recently… she said she felt that God has just given up on her and let her go her way. That he was done with her. And deep down, I’ve had the same ponderings.

Because I read the above proverb last month. And it was mid-October when I learned that Paul gave some over to Satan to teach them a lesson. And honestly, I was terrified.

I wondered if this was happening to me…

Because God told me to stop something. Over and over and over and over. But I keep doing the thing He tells me not to. And the thing is, it has to do with Paul’s issues. When he was still Saul.

Paul’s a picture of me for I am a blasphemer. Because I judge and criticize his chosen people. His leaders. Oh, I’d say it began in earnest five years ago when I gained a little knowledge. And honestly, at times, I think I know more than they do. So I become arrogant.

And here I sit looking at others and criticizing, thinking I know best. And because someone sits in the place I feel I should be, bitterness and resentment fill up my heart. All traces of love dissipate in the fogginess of hate…

And because hate is present, that makes me no better than a murderer. It’s just as Jesus says in Matthew 5: murder begins in the heart. So I’m just like Paul when he was Saul. Breathing out fiery threats as I point out a speck I see in another’s eye. And all the while, there’s a huge plank in my own.

It’s blinded me. I’ve not been able to see clearly.

This log of my own…

So the truth is revealed. And I realize it’s not glaucoma, after all.

And so, I regain my eyesight as I dislodge the plank from my eye. And it’s only then I’m able to hear His words clearly. He says, “Pam, Pam, why are you persecuting me?”

Because that’s what I’ve been doing. In persecuting them, I persecute Him. No different than Paul when he was Saul.

The Wretch

I love the story of the adulteress in the Bible. There was a riot and a whole bunch of ultra-religious folk surrounded a poor woman caught in adultery. They wanted to stone her.

But that wasn’t Jesus’ way. Basically, He ignored their railings and rants. Their injurious speech. And when they persisted in questioning Him, He answered simply, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”

And so beginning with the oldest to the youngest, they left. The older ones being wise enough to recognize their own sin first. One by one they left till not one accuser remained.

And Jesus, He didn’t condemn the woman. Just said go and sin no more.

And this gives me hope today on the eve of this Thanksgiving season. Because He says the same to me. No condemnation… He just says go and sin no more.

So by an adulteress woman’s story, I understand Jesus never gives up on anyone. Not me or my friend. We don’t have to think this way again. Wondering if He’ll eventually tire of us… our antics.

God will never give up on me. What a gift. No matter how many times I screw up – or how royally – He won’t ever give me up utterly. No one can pluck me from my hand.

And the reality is, if He can convert a man like Saul, who later became Paul, surely He can do the same for me. Because we’re really the same, Paul and I.

It’s just his sins were easier to see. Outward. And mine are inward. Some things that only I can see.

So this Thanksgiving, I find I am thankful indeed. And miraculously, I can pray just like the apostle Paul. A man just like me.

I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry- one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant woman.

For this, I am thankful.

And for this, I rejoice.

And oddly enough, the awakening of who I really am, a wretch in need of conversion, coincides with my eye clearing up. Mom gave me some drops and they seem to be working. Looks like the red is receding.

So it turns out she was right, after all. Mom wondered if I’d gotten something in my eye and I did.

It was a speck.

Either that or a log.

Navigating Stones

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“The LORD then said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the disgrace of Egypt from you.” Therefore, that place has been called Gilgal to this day.” Joshua 5:9

The land belonged to the Israelites. God promised it to them and they simply needed to take it. But the Jordan river was an obstacle. So the priests carried the ark of God as they set foot in raging waters. And just as the Red Sea dried up years earlier, the Jordan River did the same. A miracle took place as the entire nation crossed the Jordan. Afterward 12 men were sent back to the middle of the river to take up 12 stones from among where the priests feet rested. Joshua commanded the people to set up the stones, standing stones, as a memorial to the day. And after crossing the river, the Israelites found themselves at a place called Gilgal, which means to roll. For that’s where God rolled away the disgrace of their past. The stones were a reminder. And so, Joshua commanded the people, “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the LORD’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.”

Handwritten notes in my Bible show Gilgal to be “a place of worship, rest, no battle.” Basically, Gilgal is the place I find myself after crossing a raging river that once stood before me like an impenetrable wall. It’s where I find myself once I’ve given up the struggle, allowing God to fight for me. And it’s where I stand in awe and worship because of the might God displayed on my behalf. Gilgal is where I found myself at the end of January. For that’s when I realized I am forgiven. I accepted it and believed it. And that’s when the reproach of my past rolled away. In Gilgal. It was then, after crossing the raging river of my past, that I readied myself to move forward in order to possess the land God laid out before me. But first, a standing stone. Thus, the last blog written as a memorial to God’s activity in my life. It’s there so that when my children ask me, “What does this stone mean to you….” I can tell them.

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And then, last week. A fiery dart or a fiery trial, I cannot say as I found myself facing a new stone. But unlike a standing stone, this one could cause me to stumble. See, I had just sent forth words as a memorial to God. I wanted everyone to know the works of His hand… how He dried up the raging rivers of my past as I crossed over to camp out at Gilgal. And yet, immediately after setting up that standing stone, I found sadness. For I learned a loved one pointed a finger at me for the very thing I had overcome. Unbeknownst to me, a scarlet “A” had been thrust upon my chest. But unlike Hawthorne’s red letter, which stands for adultery, my “A” represents abortion. And I wasn’t even there to defend myself when words were spoken against me. I couldn’t open my mouth in defense for I hadn’t a clue as to what had been said months earlier. And this hurts because it was a loved one who spewed out the ugliness about my past to another loved one. But it wasn’t to build me up. No, it was meant to make me less. The very thing I overcame, my past, was used against me to cast a negative light in my direction. And so, a woman I deeply care for heard something about me from another woman’s quick lips. And last week, it felt as if a rock were thrown at me. A stone was cast in my direction.

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Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. “Teacher,” they said to Him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?”  They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him. Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” John 8:3-11

Today, I find myself at a fork in the road for a decision has to be made. See, in his wisdom, King Solomon said there’s a time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones. And in reading his words, I know there’s a time for everything… a time for every purpose under heaven. And today, I need to know if it’s time. Is it time to hold the stone flung my way, or time to throw it out? And I can keep it if I want to. Oh, I can carry that rock as long as I want… even till it becomes so heavy that it bogs me down and I stall. In truth, that stone can easily push me back into the pit I so recently exited. It can roll right over top of me, if I allow it, sealing the door of my tomb. A rolling stone. Or, I can choose to let that stone roll right on by. Right now. Instead of gathering thrown stones of finger pointing and condemnation, I can gather the standing stones. Like the one I recently set up at Gilgal when my reproach was rolled away. I can choose to cling tightly to standing stones rather than trouble stones. The stumbling stones. The thrown stones. That’s my choice… to gather or to throw away stones.

In order to resume my journey with God today, I have to know how to navigate stones. For they lie all around me. And today, I choose to discard the stumbling stone that so recently rolled onto my path. Rather than trip over the rock that had my past written all over it, I lift my foot high and step right over it. One quick glance backward assures me I successfully made it past the hurdle. And so, once more, I cross what seemed impenetrable. And once more, my reproach rolls away from me. I move forward another step into the land of Gilgal. For I find myself at a place of worship. And a place or rest. No battle is necessary here. And so, once more I’m ready to carry on. It’s time to possess the land the lies before me… navigating stones along the way.

Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise.  They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?”  Looking up, they observed that the stone—which was very large—had been rolled away.  Mark 16:2-5

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB6jhbtDUZE

The Visitation

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…and they will not leave one stone on another in you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”              Luke 19:44

How do you know when it’s time to leave your tomb? How do you know when it’s time to leave the past behind and move forward into your destiny… to embrace a new thing that God’s calling you to? I imagine that answer is different for us all, as God speaks to each one individually. But for me, it was after I recognized the time of my visitation. This is when I knew the time for walking forward drew near.

I consider January 31, 2014 as the day that God came down to meet with me. This was the time of my visitation for He entered my bedroom and met me right where I was. And there was a finality to what He said… “It is finished.” And so, I let go of my past. Finally. I gave up the struggle and accepted reality. Because I realized with certainty that I cannot save myself, which is what I had been trying to do for so long. And I could not rehash my past one more day, expecting God’s wrath to rain down for deeds done long ago. So that day, I just stopped. Everything. I realized the futility in trying to ward off God’s anger by being a good girl. Because in truth, I can never be good enough. Furthermore, His anger was satisfied by the work of the cross, which was completed long ago. And so, on January 31, 2014, I surrendered. I embraced the fact that I am a forgiven woman. That’s the day the old faded away, and the new shimmered on the horizon. That was the day of my visitation.

 “Is not Ephraim my dear son,
    the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
    I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
    I have great compassion for him,”
declares the Lord. Jeremiah 31:20

In January, I came head to head with my past. I decided the time had come for me to really deal with two abortions I had when I was younger. Once and for all. And so, I turned to the familiar pages of Jeremiah because the weeping prophet’s words always seemed to speak directly to me about what I had done. But on the 31st, I saw something new. It was the above verse that caused an abrupt intake of air. Because when I let those words fall fresh, I heard Him. He confirmed everything I had doubted, for He said I’m really His. He said His heart yearned for me. Furthermore, He told me, “I have great compassion for you.” And it was there in that one word, compassion, that I recognized my visitation.

I had two abortions when I was younger. But because I buried that time in the sand and ignored my stuff for so long, it was always there with me. This fed into my fears. Especially when I had my own child. I was so scared for him… that I’d lose him. And then, I had two miscarriages. And in my skewed opinion of God, always working to gain His approval, I wondered if those miscarriages were punishment. I even wondered… two for two. Abortion + abortion = miscarriage + miscarriage. But on January 31, 2014, God couldn’t make it any more clear that I was forgiven. The past was dead and gone. Bear with me…

Jeremiah 31:20 moved me in such a way that I felt compelled to look up compassion in the Strong’s concordance. And it didn’t surprise me to find the word is interchangeable with mercy, as shown by the first picture below. In the second picture, you get an idea of just how many times mercy/compassion is used in Scripture. But it’s that last picture that brings a smile to my face even now. There you see Jeremiah 31:20. And in over 270 entries in the Bible, this is the only time you see it twice. 7355+7355. Double mercy. Compassion squared. I will surely have mercy upon him. But God was talking to me in January. He was extending mercy to me. Mercy + mercy. And that day I really dealt with my abortion + abortion. Because He told me I am forgiven + forgiven. Over and done with for He had mercy + mercy on me. Like He said, “It is finished.” It is finished.

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January 31, 2014 was one of the biggest days of my life. For it was the time of my visitation. God came down… to me. And He spoke to me through the words of a prophet named Jeremiah. And today, I’m not surprised to learn that his name can mean Yahweh Loosens [the womb]. For so much of my past was tied to my own womb. But that day, the past lost its grip on me. And unwarranted fears regarding my own womb were loosened. I was released as I released my past. It continues to grow dimmer in my sight. The future gleams brighter. For today I know… I am forgiven.

There’s a story in the 7th chapter of Luke that’s so stirring. It’s about another woman who recognized the time of her visitation. She, too, recognized the mercy God extended to her through Jesus. But the truth is, until January, I always identified with the “bad guy” of the story more so than I did with her. But now, the table’s turned. See, there was a Pharisee who held a dinner party and Jesus was a guest. And this woman entered and wept over Jesus’ feet. She washed them with her tears and dried them with her hair. She kissed them as she anointed them with oil. The Pharisee’s thoughts? Who does she think she is, and if Jesus were really who He said He was, then He would know what kind of woman she was. The Pharisee thought Jesus should shun her. But Jesus had something to say…

Jesus replied to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he said, “say it.” “A creditor had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.” “You have judged correctly,” He told him. Turning to the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she, with her tears, has washed My feet and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing My feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint My head with olive oil, but she has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Luke 7:40-48

For so long, I was a picture of this Pharisee. Because I had been working for forgiveness. And I worked hard (in my own eyes) to be righteous. And so, blinded to my own depravity, I didn’t realize my need for a Savior. Because I thought I was pretty good. And since the bar was set so high for myself, I held it just as high for others. No one ever measured up, including me. And so there I was, a hard, bitter woman who lacked forgiveness in every sense of the way. I hadn’t received it, nor did I have any to dispense. Because just like I worked for it, I expected everyone else to, as well. And so busy was I at work, that I just couldn’t see the truth. I once was blind, but now I see, but it took years for me to begin to see. And that happened only as I lay in stillness, saturating myself with His word. And is was in the tomb of my bedroom where I finally saw the truth. Because I saw Him. And He saw me. And it was then that I knew my need. I needed Jesus. And when I comprehended my need, He was right there to meet me. Just where I was. He came down to my bedroom. It was the time of my visitation.

All this writing… all these blogs… this has been part of my journey. All of this the Lord has made me understand in writing, the work of His plans, by His hand upon me. Thousands of words have helped me understand my own journey. My own transformation. And the forgiveness I’ve received. And so, my past fades as the future becomes bright. Destiny calls out, for she who is forgiven much loves much. And this is the new thing I’ve been seeking. As I leave my tomb behind, God calls me to walk forward into the next leg of the journey, which is love. And as I walk in the love and mercy He’s lavished upon me, I will love much along the way. For this is what happens with a forgiven woman. It’s what happens when she recognizes the time of her visitation.

Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:78-79

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=please+carry+me+home+jessi+colter&qpvt=please+carry+me+home+jessi+colter&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=D80BE9113AAC0B1F00E3D80BE9113AAC0B1F00E3

 

 

 

 

I am Forgiven

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This past weekend was lovely. I gathered with close to thirty women in His name. We laughed. We cried. We shared. We sang. We studied God’s word. And we prayed. Sunday morning we talked about Mary, the mother of Jesus. And as I meditated on her, and thought about Him, my heart was moved. Tears hovered on the edges of my lashes as I gazed at pictures of Him, and for once, I was without words. Afterward, we shared communion. Just us women. And I don’t think communion has ever meant more to me. And I believe that’s because for the very first time, I see myself as I really am. A sinner. And for the very first time, perhaps I really believe it… that I am forgiven.

It was the previous week that God provided a vivid picture of me through my son. He’s been going through a shaky patch, birthed when he began staying after school. And for some odd reason – his faith in me has been shaken. The school actually called one afternoon because my son was in tears, terrified that I would forget him. I was almost speechless. Where in the world did this come from? First, I tried to comfort him. Then, I grilled him. And later, I exhorted him.  But alas, my son remained weepy and attached for weeks. The only thing that consoled him was a note I had written and posted to the refrigerator in full view. It detailed the dates and times and the whens and wheres I would meet my son. This seemed to work.

Finally, when my son’s after school commitment was over, I tossed the note in the trash. I told him we don’t need it anymore. But to my dismay, his little face crumpled up, and tears spurted. He wanted that note back up. But I refused. I sat him on my kitchen counter and peered into his eyes. I cupped his cheek and said, “Don’t you know that your mama won’t forget you? Don’t you know that I’ll always be there to meet you? Don’t you trust me?” And mouth askew, he shook his little tear stained face back and forth to answer. No. And I was stunned for my son told me that he didn’t trust me. And as soon as I helped him off that counter, that little stinker proceeded on his own with paper and marker, and made his own chart for my use. See, my spoken words alone were not enough to boost his faith. He needed written words to give him comfort.

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You know… one of the biggest questions that’s plagued me throughout my spiritual journey is, “Where is the love?” If I am really His girl, then why don’t I feel His unconditional love? And if I were truly His daughter, then why don’t I feel love towards every person I come into contact with? Furthermore, why have I held to a judgmental attitude all this time? And the answer to all these questions, I believe, is really quite simple. I think it has everything to do with what my little boy has been going through. For I’ve been lacking what he lacks. And it’s called trust. It’s called faith. Therein lies the real question, “Do I trust Him?”

Then one of the Pharisees invited Him to eat with him. He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  And a woman in the town who was a sinner found out that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of fragrant oil and stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears. She wiped His feet with the hair of her head, kissing them and anointing them with the fragrant oil. When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him—she’s a sinner!” Jesus replied to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he said, “say it.”  

“A creditor had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. Since they could not pay it back, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.” “You have judged correctly,” He told him. Turning to the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she, with her tears, has washed My feet and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing My feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint My head with olive oil, but she has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Those who were at the table with Him began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Luke 7:36-50

In truth, I have always more readily identified with the Pharisee in this story. But today… today, I finally see a glimpse of me in this forgiven woman. See, I read something last week. Quite some time ago, I participated in a study called “Forgiven and Set Free,” but I had forgotten what was written… “Still don’t feel forgiven? Then believe it. Just believe it.” Ah. Belief. First comes belief. Simply take Him at His word and trust that I am forgiven. Then comes love… the love that seems to have escaped me. For Jesus said, “…her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much.” That literally means, “Her love shows that she has been forgiven.” Later, Jesus told the woman that her faith has saved her. Her faith. Her trust.

You know, I was horrified when my son told me that he doesn’t trust me. He didn’t have enough faith in me that I would be there to meet him. He thought I would forget him, and so, a few written words on a piece of paper gave him comfort. Those written words increased his faith in me. Just as with me, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. And don’t you know that just as much as I comforted and grilled and exhorted my son, God does the same thing with me. Every bit as much as I want my son to believe in me, He wants me to believe in Him. He wants me to take His word for it, just as I expect my son to take me at mine.

Oh, what a picture. A sweet little boy sitting on a counter looking into his mama’s eyes. His little heart broken and shaken. He didn’t believe. And then, there’s me. A little girl sitting on a chair, looking into my Father’s eyes. My heart broken and shaken. I spoke words into my son’s heart, and God speaks the same into mine.  All this time, He’s been saying to me… “Don’t you know that I won’t forget you? Don’t you know that I’ll always be there to meet you? Don’t you trust me, Pam? Don’t you believe Me?” For so long, He must have seen me looking back at Him, mouth askew, shaking my tear stained face back and forth in answer. No, God. I don’t believe You.

But today… today, is different. I say, “Yes, Abba. Yes, Daddy, I believe you! I am forgiven.”

And His daughter will walk forth in love. For my love shows that I am forgiven.

“Ah!” His disciples said. “Now You’re speaking plainly and not using any figurative language. Now we know that You know everything and don’t need anyone to question You. By this we believe that You came from God.” Jesus responded to them, “Do you now believe?” John 16:29-31

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=He+is+with+us&FORM=VIRE1#view=detail&mid=F129ADE72250D5534FCEF129ADE72250D5534FCE

Finding Your Voice

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I’m just a singer of simple songs
I’m not a real political man
I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell
You the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love… Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?                                     Alan Jackson, Country Music Singer

It was in November of 2001 when I first heard the song, Where were you (When the World Stopped Turning). It was during a program… some sort of country music awards… and if I’m not mistaken, Alan Jackson humbly took the stage, hesitant to sing his song. And I’m pretty sure it was the first time anyone heard those lyrics. Today, I was prompted to look up the story behind the song. Through Wikipedia, I learn that Alan Jackson didn’t want to do a patriotic song, nor a vengeful song. And the last thing he wanted to do was to capitalize on such a tragedy. He simply wanted to convey his thoughts and emotions, but words didn’t come immediately. It was on October 28, 2001 that he woke up at 4 a.m. with the melody and opening lines and a chorus going through his mind. And so, still in his underwear, he arose to sing them into a hand-held recorder so he wouldn’t forget them. It was later that morning, after his wife and children went off to Sunday School, that he completed the lyrics. This songwriter didn’t find his voice immediately after the tragedy of 9/11. It was about a month and a half later when the words made their presence known in his heart and mind. And although they delayed in coming to him, it took only one morning to write down what he felt. This singer/songwriter had a voice and he used it. And through it, he has touched countless lives.

You know, in reflecting on that tragic day, another song comes to mind. It’s called One Last Time by Dusty Drake. I was sitting in my cubicle at The Pantry Inc., located in Sanford, NC, and I started humming along mindlessly as I worked. I thought the song was about a man leaving his wife. But then, a line cut through my work induced haze… “as the pilot tried to pull out of the dive. One last time.” That’s when I understood. This song wasn’t about a domestic argument, but rather, the song depicted a man who risked everything on United Airlines Flight 93. The song was about the plane that crashed in a field on 9/11. And there, in my cubicle, I was reduced to tears.

See, there’s power in words. And what a gift these songwriters have. How amazing to put together words with music to convey a feeling, an event, or even a tragedy. A songwriter can touch a soul and move someone to want to be different. A songwriter has a voice. And that voice can be easily heard.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18

You know… there’s another type of voice. And it’s one that speaks just as loudly, and just as clearly, as the lyrics we hear on the radio. And the voice I’m referring to is action. In truth, actions speak much louder than our words ever will. I’ll give you an example. My friend told me about her mother’s weekly grocery store visits, which fall on Thursdays. That’s her routine, and so inevitably, she encounters the same people at the grocery store. And recently, during one of her routine shopping trips, she was approached by one of the employees working there. The employee asked, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” When my friend’s mother said that she was, the worker asked her to please pray for someone. And so, because my friend’s mother conducts herself in such a way, it was evident to those around her that she was a Christian. She didn’t have to say a word, or yell out, “I’m a Christian,” for her very nature and disposition flew her Christian flag for her. The actions of my friend’s mother must speak very loudly in that grocery store.  And today, I am inspired by that. Today, this is the kind of voice I want to find within me.

In First Corinthians 12:7, we find that God’s Spirit equips us for different gifts, different ministries and different activities. And the purpose of God’s gifting is to produce what’s beneficial. God’s Spirit dwells within us, prompting us to action, for the “common good.” And after this passage, which breaks down those gifts, Paul uses his voice to show the Corinthians a more excellent way. Because although God’s gifts are necessary and good, if that most excellent way is not part of us, then all the works we do are useless. Our voices become loud and unedifying and brassy.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

It sounds simple. Too simple. But today, of all days, may we all find our voices within the language of love. May love, which is heard through action, cry out above the clanging cymbals of hatred and unforgivingness, which surround us. And today, in honor of those who have fallen, may we never forget that more excellent way. Paul used his voice to advance it, and Alan Jackson reiterates Paul’s words trough song. When we hear their voices, may we remember…

…faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us. And the greatest is love…

Love speaks loudly. Can you hear her?

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=9119BCNU