The Groom (love comes third)

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My heart overflows with a good theme… Psalm 45:1

It must have been five years back when I tried to write about God’s love. That’s when I used to send my writings to Jason for his perusal before posting. His input went something like this: “When you’re writing about God’s love it should be, I don’t know, just more.”

And he was right. I can’t remember exactly what I sent but likely, it lacked substance. Experience, even. Because back then, a lot about me remained covered up. There were things I didn’t mention. Stuff I’d completely forgotten or didn’t even realize.

Truth?

I didn’t know the depth of my sin. And dare I say this? If one doesn’t know the depth of her own sin, can she begin to comprehend the depth of God’s love for her? Because it was for that very reason He sent His Son to die. For those sins. And for so long, I just didn’t know…

However, time and experience has taught me God’s love runs deep. Deeper than all my iniquity. And I’ve learned the love of God is fervent. Unending and unconditional. And most amazingly, I’ve come to understand this type of love was first offered to me by my husband.

Jason.

Yes, he’s the one who provided me with my first glimpse of God’s love. And so, in honor of him and our twentieth anniversary (just weeks away), my desire is to try and write about God’s love once more. This time, though, I hope to get it right. Fortunately, I have my husband’s example to guide me.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

I heard a speaker last month. And she was so sweet. She shared she just wanted to be God’s little cup. One He uses every day. And that resonated with me. Because that’s my desire, too. I want to be useful to Him.

His own special cup…

A vessel used for honor, not dishonor. One prepared for every good work (2 Timothy 2:20-21). A vessel ready to be filled by His Spirit.

However, I felt empty for some reason. And cup half full or half empty (depends on one’s perception), my epiphany was that Jesus’ promise remained unfulfilled. Because He said He came in order that I may have life and have it abundantly. To the full. But in early May, I didn’t.

I tell you, I was pretty discouraged. And I sincerely pleaded with God, “Why? Why is the Spirit quenched within me?” Because I knew He had to be in there somewhere. His word says so (Ephesians 1:13).

Only, the Spirit seemed to be grieved into silence. Movement was nil.

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He who believes in Me – from His innermost being will flow continually rivers of living water. John 7:38-39

I think it’s ironic the river banks were flooding in recent weeks. Overflowing with murky waters. The irony being that the living waters had receded inside me. Yes, in May, I’d say they’d nearly dried up.

But God is gracious and He desires to fill me with His goodness. Thus, when I asked why the drought, He answered through the 5th Chapter of John. Stern words. But relevant. And though Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, I knew He was talking to me…

At least last month, He was. For He said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life… but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.”

At that point, it wasn’t just the Spirit inside me who grieved. For I did, too. Incomprehensibly, and despite hours and hours of studying God’s word, it was all clear. The love of God was not in me.

I was devastated. Really. And utterly confused.

Woe to you, (self-righteous) scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and robbery and self indulgence (unrestrained greed). You (spiritually) blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the plate (examine and change your inner self to conform to God’s precepts), so that the outside (your public life and deeds) may be clean also.

Woe to you, (self-righteous) scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. So you, also, outwardly seem to be just and upright to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:25-28

In May, I was confused because I’d been seeking to serve God for many years. Mainly, through writing. The desire came about nearly seven years ago and I don’t think it was of me. No, I believe God’s Spirit moved me in that direction.

However, one year into the writing venture, something came up. A skeleton from my closet. And when I shared it with my spiritual mother, she said something profound. She drew near and said, “God won’t use a dirty vessel.” I’ll never forget it.

Today, I believe last month’s experience was just an extension of that conversation. An extension of when my past first made an appearance. Because that was only the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t know how far there was to go. So deep to dig.

Yes, these past years have been a real excavation of my heart. And the biggest tool for digging has been the writing. The very thing I love to do has served to expose all that was hidden.

See, God has always known my heart. But when I first began to write, I didn’t. And I’m filled with awe that He lovingly gave me a gift by which all He wanted me to see would be unearthed. Because He knew until I did, I wouldn’t be able to serve Him properly. Not until I saw the depravity of my own nature, would I be useful to God.

I wouldn’t serve as His special little cup…

Funny thing, though. Just prior to May, I thought I was pretty much done. That everything had been uncovered. I didn’t realize there was more work to be done.

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Romans 1:29-31

God has a way of bringing things to completion. He has a way of putting things together so that vision is restored. So that the blind regains vision. And for me, May and June served that purpose. For that’s when I began to really see.

It came together when Jason and I went out west. He had a business trip and I was able to accompany him. And since we’ve made no big plans for our anniversary, I told myself this would serve as a nice gift. We’d have time to explore a new state and enjoy each other’s company.

Two days in, I sensed something was amiss. Jason just didn’t seem himself. When I persisted in asking, he grabbed my hand and assured me all was fine. So while he went off to work, I pushed those feelings down and ventured into a new city. Know how I felt when I got back to the hotel? Dirty. I felt sullied by the world.

Oh, the town was nice enough. Shopping and sights to see. But everywhere I glanced, I saw something sad. A homeless man on the street. Then two or three more. As I turned down a not-so-traveled alley, a not-so-nice odor met my nostrils. Finally, I went back to my room.

I was relieved when I got there. I felt safe as I latched the door. I changed into my swimsuit and allowed the sun to bake away my uneasiness. I immersed myself in the water and let the coolness wash away the filth of the world. And then, I simply put the world out of my mind. I thought all was well.

Wash me from my guilt. Purify me from my sin… Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Psalm 51:2, 7, 10

Me and Jason had a conversation a couple of days later. We had an hour to kill at the airport and something unpleasant came up. First, I was critical with Jason. A made a nagging sort of comment that came across as totally condemning. That’s when he told me the truth…

He pointed out my critical comments. He mentioned how I never focused on the positive, I always saw the negative, and further, I felt the need to point those things out. And though he didn’t say the following words, the truth was plain to see.

I realized how condemning I was. How unloving. And I understood that I was acting in complete opposition to Jesus. And the words I’d heard prior to the trip, “You don’t have the love of God in you,” seemed to be underscored by that entire conversation.

For the second time in one month, I was devastated. I wiped back stray tears during the flight. I felt sure I was the reason Jason didn’t seem himself days earlier. And by the time we hit the highway, closing in on our kids, I was undone. Sobs came forth.

Honestly, I was broken over the state of my cold, hard, unloving heart. And surely this was the reason I’d been feeling so empty. So devoid of God’s Spirit. Why He’d been grieving.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Luke 6:45

“All excess is rooted in emptiness.”  This statement was made by Bible teacher, Beth Moore, and I have to agree with her. For my life gives evidence to her observation. See, I’ve come to realize how excessive my harsh judgments are. Too many criticisms. A condemning nature overflows. And why? I think part of this may be my old nature (how I grew up). But mostly, I think the excess is rooted in empty works. Cleaning the outside of the cup, so to say.

Works not propelled by God’s love. Empty actions motivated by guilt or compulsion.  Tasks fueled by empty religion and law, not relationship. And because I’ve placed these conditions on myself (the things I must or must not do), I inadvertently place the same on others.

Unfortunately, this has caused my love to be conditional. Mainly with my spouse. See, if the conditions are met, my love is doled out freely. But if not, I tend to withdraw. I can be cold. This is the truth.

And this is what God wanted me to see…

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Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:10-11

The definition of “comes out” in the above verse is to come forth, to flow forth – of a river. And this is what happened with me. All the ugly thoughts and judgments spewed. What was in came out. Oh, they flowed forth. Just like a river flooding the banks.

See, in years of seeking to serve God, I veered off track. I neglected my heart. And in paying too much attention to my outward, I developed eyesight that focused on others’ outsides, too. Yes, in trying to be approved by Him, I became disapproving of my neighbor.

Unloving of the world.

In the end, I wasn’t set apart, I’d segregated myself. And I wasn’t sanctified, I was sanctimonious. I’d inserted a big fat “self” in front of righteousness. This is what my heart was full of. Which left very little room for God. And His love.

Thus, His Spirit was quenched. Grieved into silence…

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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. John 3:16-17

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The trip Jason and I took in May turned out to be the best thing. It afforded us an opportunity to talk. And through the conversation, I got a good look at myself. Through my husband’s eyes.

I really didn’t like what I saw.

But you know, I got a good look at Jason, too. My beloved. The man I’ve shared my life with for almost twenty years now. And you know what…

I liked what I saw.

Because he seemed to house the very thing I’ve been lacking. There in Jason’s eyes, I saw the love of God peering back at me. And though he spoke firm words, they were not condemning. Just truthful. And even as he said them, he grabbed for my hand. He offered me his love.

A love that reflects God’s very own.

Knowledge [alone] makes [people self-righteously] arrogant, but love [that unselfishly seeks the best for others] builds up and encourages others to grow [in wisdom]. If anyone imagines that he knows and understands anything [of divine matters, without love], he has not yet known as he ought to know. 1 Corinthians 8:1-2

It’s funny. God filled me with words. I think it’s because I spend hours and hours poring over His holy Scripture. And I’ve done my best to convey what I glean from that time. Jason, though, he’ll have none of it. He calls me on it. He tells me when the godly words I issue don’t line up with my actions.

And I find it funny when I compare the two of us. Me spending hours and hours in the Word. Jason taking a few moments in the morning before work. This was the comment I made to him in that airport. Something along those lines…

See, I didn’t think he was being “spiritual” enough. Not spending enough time with God. Actions speak louder than words, though. And how true it is that our lives are living letters, known and read by all. For Jason reads me daily and I read him, too. And simply, he is a love letter.

Just like the one God wrote for us through the life of His Son.

See, when I first came to Jason, I was dirtied by the world. Like a doormat, people had wiped their feet all over me. I’d been cast off. Unwanted. But rather than feeling the need to turn aside and close the door to me, wiping away the dirt, Jason did the opposite.

Unfathomably, he wanted me. He accepted me as I was. And when my past came to light, he opened his arms wide. He hugged me. He loved me in my filth.

Dirty vessel and all.

And this is just how God loves us. Clearly, He shows and proves His love by the fact Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). In all our filth.

And this is the kind of love I see in Jason.

May He grant you out of the riches of His glory, to be strengthened and spiritually energized with power through His Spirit in your inner self, [indwelling your innermost being and personality], so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through your faith. And may you, having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love, be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints (God’s people) the width and length and height and depth of His love [fully experiencing that amazing, endless love]; and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself]. Ephesians 3:16-19

I want to love Jason better. Today, I have hope and faith that I will. See, there’s this little rhyme kids sing, but I think they have it backwards. It goes: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes so-and-so with a baby carriage.” And in contemplating all the years with my husband, I think there’s a better order.

Because surely love comes third. At least with me, it does.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I loved my husband when we married. The best I knew how. But in truth, I couldn’t love him properly. Not fully. Because I tend to be selfish. And unfortunately, I’ve been so full of my junk, not much room was left for God’s love.

For way too long, I was incapable of loving the way He does.

But fortunately, life happened. First came marriage. Then came babies. That’s when my selfish nature was brought to the surface. Over the years, other things were uncovered. And as I empty those parts of me, the cup that I am gets cleaned on the inside.

A clean vessel.

Yes, as I empty out what doesn’t belong in my heart, God’s Spirit flows. And His love fills me. Thus, I say love comes third…

First comes marriage, second comes babies, and third comes love. His love. The love of God in me. And this is what I plan to give Jason for our twentieth…

A heart full of love. A heart capable of loving him the way he deserves to be loved. Unconditionally and fully. A heart that loves him the very way He’s loved me all these years.

Just like God does.

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In this [union and fellowship with Him], love is completed and perfected with us… 1 John 4:17

2 Timothy 2:21 is one of my favorite verses. It says: Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

That word for prepare is the same one used in Revelation 19:7. The Bride has made herself ready. And it’s the same one used in Luke 1:76, describing how John the Baptist would prepare the way for the Lord. The definition, metaphorically, is drawn from the oriental custom of sending on before kings on their journeys persons to level the roads and make them passable (Strong’s Concordance).

Wow, does this speak today. See, I’m cleaning the inside of my cup. In a sense, I’m making the road passable. I’m preparing the way. And it’s this action that allows the Spirit to move freely upon the landscape of my heart.

Further, I have great hope for I know Jesus is coming. The Groom will surely come for His bride.

But as for today, I continue to clean out my heart. Whatever He uncovers, I try to remove. Layer by layer. All that inside stuff. In doing so, I prepare the way for the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

The filling of me.

His little cup…

My cup runneth over. Psalm 23:5

Yes, I am a vessel made to be filled by God’s Holy Spirit. In this total consummation, I find abundant life. It’s the path I travel to my happily ever after. Feels just like a wedding…

See, an engagement of sorts took place when He promised me His Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). And because of His word, I am made clean. A bride without blemish. As I was presented to Christ, He lifted the veil (2 Corinthians 3:14). And because we are joined together in holy matrimony, the union of God’s Spirit with my heart of flesh, God deems that no man separate us (Mark 10:9)…

Yes, what God has joined together, let no man tear asunder.

And in the fashion of earthly weddings, a pronouncement was made. A voice thundered, I now present to you the bride and the Groom.

However, another proclamation was made. It’s one I needed to hear. For my God said, “Do not call anything impure that He has made clean (Acts 10:15).” And this is what I am today.

I am clean. Inside and out.

And oh, how my cup runneth over with the love of God.

Yes I, the bride, have made myself ready. I am prepared for every good work. Fully prepared to love the world. And my people. Most especially my husband, Jason. For indeed, He’s the one who showed me this type of love in the first place.

Somehow, with him, love came first.

And his love guides me.

We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19

 

 

 

 

Proof of Life

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I used to be Pro-Choice. Pro-Abortion. And to follow up with words that are sure to offend many, I chalk that up to ignorance. I chose not to know. I was uniformed and chose to stay that way. I made a decision that would affect the rest of my life without investigating what was actually taking place inside my body. But today, because I’ve birthed two babies, I know something significant about the 18th day. For that’s when the heart beats. And by 21 days, blood whose type is different from that of the mother’s, is pumped through a closed circulatory system (J.M. Tanner, G. R. Taylor, and the Editors of Time-Life Books, Growth, New York: Life Science Library, 1965). That baby has its own blood type. Individual from the mother. That baby has a heartbeat… isn’t that proof of life?
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And because it’s February, I ponder another sort of heartbeat today. See, this month is significant for it’s the month of my birth. Spiritually speaking, I turn eighteen this year. I suppose that means I should technically be an adult in God’s kingdom by now. Because in the winter of 1997, I became His child. Eighteen years ago. But for so long after becoming His, I doubted I actually was. Today, I chalk that up to ignorance. Because I chose not to know what was actually taking place inside my body. And in my spirit. And in my heart. I chose to stay uniformed. For years and years.

But after 12 years of wavering and doubting, something happened. I felt a thudding in my chest. It was my heart. But this was a new heart beat… a pounding so hard, I could feel it throbbing through my ears. And inexplicably, I was moved to act. Prompted by God, this heartbeat was followed by movement. Physically. Just like the babies that grew within in my womb, I did the same. The miracle, though, is this happened outside the womb. Proof of life. Proof that I was actually His. Proof I was alive in Him.

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So today, I ponder the importance of February. A month of more than one birthday. Or anniversary. For it begins with the conception of my new life in Christ 18 years ago. Followed up 12 years later by a heartbeat. His heartbeat inside me. Proof of life. And then after another four years, this blog was birthed in February. Two years ago, I began to pour out my heart for all to see. Some things written can only be explained by God. Because it was stuff I had covered up for so long. Old stuff. Despite my intentions of keeping some things hidden, they bubbled up to the surface anyway. Unexpectedly. Prompted by Him. God. My Creator. My muse.

And so, here I am today. It’s my spiritual birthday and I ruminate over all these things. And you know… it occurs to me that this blog has been kind of like a sonogram. Because for two years now, it’s monitored my spiritual movement. Everything’s recorded. My ups and downs. My progress. My heartbeat. Time spent developing in His womb. I can observe the labor… when pangs came closer and closer together. That was the time of my delivery. See, it was just over a year ago when I was delivered from my past. I felt reborn. Shiny and bright. A new creation.

So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away–look, what is new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

So here I am in the month of my spiritual birth, and I consider my life up to this point. And what I do. And why I do it. And the blog is one of those things considered. Why write? Two years ago, it seemed clear to me. And I marvel at my words and my conviction…

Yes, I am a regular woman called many things. But the most important title I have? Child of God. I am His child. And although I became His sixteen years ago, I am just now learning what this means. And that’s the whole purpose of this blog. Because if I am just now figuring out the basics so many years later, I just have to wonder… are there others like me? Ordinary we may think ourselves, but I am starting to see, life does not have to be that way. Our lives can be extraordinary, and yes, interesting. Because God is in our midst! February 2013

God in our midst! I wanted others to know what I did. To experience God like I had. To feel what I felt. God in our midst. But today, I see things a bit different. See, rather than Him being in my midst, I feel as if I’ve been in His midst. I’ve been in Him. In Christ. In His womb. He’s been making me this whole time. A new creation.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Yesterday I came across a picture. As always, Facebook is a fount of information. But I have to say, this picture stopped me in my tracks. It was breathtaking. Well, at least to me. In truth, some will be offended by the following image. But I find it beautiful. Stunning. Because it is the picture of new life.

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This picture shows truth. New life is messy for a baby doesn’t come out of the womb all clean and smelling like powder. And the thing is, it’s the very same with us spiritually. For God’s children don’t come out of His womb all clean and smelling like a rose. In fact, they come out quite messy. They need cleaning up. And the process can be lengthy. For some, it can take years. Like with me. See, I was His child for seventeen years before I felt new. And clean. Shiny and bright. The making of me took place over a prolonged period of time. And in fact, He’s still making me…

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It’s through these February musings, I understand what a gift my daughter Annabelle is. In more ways than one. See, her middle name is significant. In fact, I’m quite sure God’s the One who blessed her with the name of Wynn, which means holy, blessed reconciliation; joy and peace; fair, pure. And in blessing Annabelle with this lovely name, He in turn blessed me. Eight days after hearing her heartbeat. Eight days after encountering His grace with regard to my past, I received a new name through the daughter I carried in my womb. Annabelle Wynn. Blessed reconciliation. She became my proof of life. Confirmation that I am in truth His baby girl. Just as much as she is my own. I carried her in my womb and He carried me in His. God in my midst? No, for it seems as if I were in His midst instead. For He’s been all around me this whole time. Encompassing me. Making me over. The created by the Creator. A new creation.

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Today, I’m pro-life. But not just with regard to abortion. See, I’m pro-life for Christian babies, too. The ones who are still developing in His womb. See, the process can take some time. Labor can be such a prolonged effort. And as for me… His eighteen year old daughter who has grown at least a little since first becoming His… well, it’s my job to be patient. To be kind. To be encouraging. While others are waiting for their proof of life, I must not judge. And point fingers. Because if I’m not careful, I could kill a developing babe by my thoughtless words. Without realizing it, I could snuff out the new life He’s creating in the person right next to me. Because His babies take time to develop. And just as God continues to make me, He continues to make them. His creations. Because that’s what He does… He creates.

Six days it took God to create the earth and all that’s in it. On the seventh, He rested from His work. And then, there’s the eighth day. The eighth day is significant for me. It happened last February. That’s when He confirmed I was His baby girl. It’s when He gave me a new name. And He used my own baby girl to do so. Annabelle Wynn became proof of life for me.

See, we’re His children… beautiful in our wonderful mess. For in time, He cleans us up. And before we know it, we’re made new. Shiny and bright. Glorious. Reborn in His image.

So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth… Genesis 1:27-28

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=7G7PD7NX

 

Just Jesus

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Today, I contemplate words. The word of God vs. words of men. God’s way or man’s way. See, there are just too many directions to go in life. So many opinions and traditions and denominations. Choices. And as time marches on, man’s words begin to mingle with God’s word. His word is not so clear amidst the noise pollution, and so, we become confused. Which way’s the right way? Before long, we may find we’re headed in the wrong direction. At least that’s been my experience. Until recently, I think I was going the wrong way… following man’s ways instead of God’s. And so after hearing too many voices for way too long, I longed for simplicity. I decided I wanted out. I rejected the words of man in favor of the Word of God. It’s His voice, His word, I chose to follow. I looked to the Word of God… to Jesus. That’s the way I decided to go. That was about four years ago.

He wore a robe stained with blood, and His name is called the Word of God. Revelation 19:13

Suppose there were only one way like in the book of Acts. For the followers of Christ were referred to in that manner… they belonged to the Way. Jesus even said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” So then, if He is the way as He proclaimed, He’s the only direction to go. For His path leads to God. And so today, as I contemplate the Word of God, I contemplate WWJD (what would Jesus do). I realize I should never let those letters flippantly escape my lips. Not unless I’m really willing to trod His path. And not unless I’m truly willing to imitate His ways. And so I ask myself, am I willing today? Because really… WWJD? The cross, of course, is what first comes to mind. He hung on a tree, for me. And though images of the crucifixion portray Jesus wearing a loin cloth, in actuality, He probably wasn’t. He was likely naked for all to see as He was lifted up. He was vulnerable. Exposed. He wore one thing only that day… it was sin that covered His nakedness. The only piece of clothing draped across His body was a robe of blood. Tinged by a spirit of despair, its color was dark, stitched together by years of past, present and future sins. This is what my Lord wore upon that cross. My sin.

After crucifying Him they divided His clothes by casting lots. Matthew 27:35

And so I again consider WWJD. Am I willing to do what He did? Will I allow myself to be naked before my fellow man? Will I be so vulnerable? So exposed? Will I strip down to my true self baring my soul in view of many while donning only my garment of sin? Can I be so bold? Because this was His way. And if I dare call myself a follower of Christ, isn’t this the direction I take? For He calls out, “Follow me…” And He is the Way. The Truth. The Life. His way is the only way that leads to God. And so, leaving the voices of others behind I hear Him. And I find the answer is yes. I’m willing. There shall be no pretense. This writing is my attempt at transparency. This is how I abandon all other ways, all of man’s ways, in order to follow His way.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

When Adam and Eve trod this earth, they were naked. And nothing separated them from God until that fateful day of the apple. It was this event led that led to a new thing… playing dress up. For God’s creation sought to cover up their sin. And so, Adam and Eve were the first play the game. Although placed in Eden to dress the earth, they dressed their bodies instead. Adam and Eve made a choice to travel the path of sin, and so entered their vulnerability. They felt exposed and did what was natural… they tried to cover up their deed along with their bodies. Fig leaves were used to hide their nakedness. And ever since then, that’s what the human race has been doing. Playing dress up to cover the truth. Using fig leaves, or masks, to hide our sins. And over the centuries, we’ve become masters in the art of deception. And of pretense. Of imaging. Pretending. And playing dress up.

Me? I learned to play dress up as a young thing. That’s because I wanted everyone to like me. And so I changed myself to fit in with my surroundings. Like a chameleon. I learned the art of deception early on in that I pretended to be whatever I thought someone wanted me to be. I strapped on a mask at five years old, and there it stayed till middle-age. In truth, I never knew the real me till I was forty years old. And that’s because I was always trying to be someone I’m not. But see, there’s a danger in practicing deception, or covering up, or wearing a mask. Eventually, you come to believe the lie. And what amazes me the most is that this carried on while I was in church. Perhaps even more so for church was a new venture for me. It was a new path and there were so many voices. So many opinions. And so, I tried to imitate what I saw. At first uncomfortable, I adapted. I did what came natural in that I strapped on a good-girl church mask and walked forward. Basically, I played dress up. And over time I began to feel good about me and all that church stuff I was doing. As the years progressed, I simply forgot about the old me. The real me who lie beneath the mask. And in my own mind, I came to believe I was exactly like the part I was playing. My mask portrayed a sinless, perfect, godly woman, and eventually, I believed I was just that. Sinless. And perfect. My costume was just too convincing.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

Basically, I believed a lie. I was such a good actress by the time I reached my late thirties, I fell for my own act. And the perfect, sinless, godly woman I portrayed to be had no need of change. I had succumbed to the art of deception. I thought I was just who I projected to be. And thus, I was totally blind. And thus, I was totally covered up, masked up and dressed up. Nothing about me was real. The worst was when I began to condemn others. See, I had adapted to man’s mindset… not God’s. And so, I weighed people by my own set of scales (faulty ones) and by what I could see (totally blind). I would look at someone and judge them in an instant just by appearance. But remember, in my own eyes I was sinless. And perfect. And because I felt so good about me and the things I did, others usually fell short. See, the mask I wore obstructed my view. I could no longer see what was actual because fake became my reality. And because I came to believe I was just like the part I had been playing, there was nothing for me to feel conviction over. I was so righteous (self).

But alas, after too many years of too much pretense, I knew there had to be more. Roughly four years ago, I began to long for something deeper. Something real. Something authentic. Finally, I wanted to really be who I professed to be. A follower of Christ. And after years of traveling my own way, man’s way, I decided there had to be another way. Which happens to be the Way. The Word of God. And so, as I stepped onto His path, I slowly began to tune out the voices of others. Over time, I began to hear Him. The Word of God. And ever so slowly, the way became clear…

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. Job 1:21

What did Jesus do? He was born. A naked babe birthed from his mother’s loins. And when the time came, Jesus began His ministry. He said to repent for the kingdom of God had come near. But also, He said that He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. Simply, He calls out to those who are going in the wrong direction to come and follow Him in the opposite direction. For His way is the right way. But what’s key is only sinners can hear Him when He calls. The self-righteous totally miss Him as He walks by. Because in their eyes, they’re already righteous. They’re already on the right path. Blinded by their own masks and deafened to conviction because in their minds, they’re perfect. And sinless. And up till a couple of years ago, this was me. This was the mask I wore.

But today I see. For light has been shed upon my path and I know the way to go. But before I do so, there is one requirement. Honesty. I must not pretend. To walk His way, the mask has to come off. Because His way is the way of transparency. Of authenticity. There’s no room for playing dress up when you travel the path of Jesus. And so, that’s what I do. I lift off my mask and strip off my play clothes. And what’s left behind is only me. Just Pam. And when the pretend perfect is removed, all that remains draped across my body is a dark robe tinged with the spirit of despair, woven together by years of my sin, stitched by decades of transgression. Unmasked, and naked, this is all I have left… my gown of offense. And I feel vulnerable and exposed. Naturally, I want to cover up. But He says no. Because this is my natural covering. This is what He wants me to see. Because the robe of sin that covers my own body is the very one He wore, and bore, on my behalf. This is what Jesus wore on the cross as He died. In His nakedness, He wore only my iniquity.

Naked Jesus came into this world and naked He left. And He calls me, a sinner, to do the same. He calls me to be naked. Because when I’m so bold, or so vulnerable, as to strip down to my true self in plain view of everyone, people will see me. Only me. Just Pam. And that’s what He wants. Because when all the pretense and the pretend and the masks are thrown out, I’m real. And He’s real. Finally, I am who I proclaim to be. A follower of Christ. And this act alone makes me more like Jesus than anything. My nakedness. Because when all else is stripped away, I allow Him to dress me the way He wants to. He exchanges my despair for splendid clothes as He wraps me in gowns of salvation and robes of righteousness. And the miracle is that over time, I naturally will become more and more like Him. Simply by walking His way – the Way – I’ll transform. Eventually, there won’t be much of the old me left at all. Instead, there will be only Him. And as the years progress, when people look at me, He’ll be who they really see. Not me. Just Jesus.

She was permitted to wear fine linen, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. Revelation 19:8

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Wayward Daughter

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“All this,” said David, “the Lord made me understand in writing, by His hand upon me, all the works of these plans.”              1 Chronicles 28:19

We’re each one different and He speaks to us in individual ways that we can understand. For me, it’s writing. His hand upon me, opening my eyes to see His words etched out by my own hand. A placement of Scripture here in a notebook, and a timely word from someone there, blending together to produce an awakening in my mind. And then, the ah-ha moment. For I once was blind, but now I see. It’s not for them, it’s for me. I had to see all this. Three years to clarity. Beginning with a journal in the Spring of 2010. At first, sparsely made entries with a timid strokes graced the pages. But over time, blue and black ink markings became more deeply inscribed. Some passages underlined so vehemently, the markings can be felt through to the back of the page. Passion and emotion poured out onto paper.

Then came a blog. So much inside to be released lest I burst into flame! And thousands of words poured forth in such a short time. It’s been seven months now. And over the course of time, I began to ride high. Because God revealed Himself to me. To me. And I gained knowledge. And so, up I traversed. But then I’d fall. Only to get back up, and move onward and upward once again. I climbed higher and higher, and felt better and better about myself.

It was in August when a verse came to me. As I ascended the steps of my church, I thought, “A woman shall encompass a man.” It wasn’t even an hour later that we were directed to Jeremiah 31. The verse I had thought of just that morning stared right back at me from the pages of Scripture. And so, I chalked it up to a God moment. I reveled in the thought that God revealed Himself to me. To me. I felt elated and thought that perhaps He was sending me encouragement in that His eye was directly on me. He could see me. But, now, I don’t think it was encouragement. In fact, I think it was a bit of a chastening. Because had I taken the time to read the verse in its entirety, I would have seen what I should have…

“How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth– A woman will encompass a man.” Jeremiah 31:22

A God moment, in deed, for He did see me. And He was, in fact, speaking to me. But in the Pharisaical manner I had adopted, I saw only the good. In my arrogant high, I thought God was encouraging me… not chastening me. Furthermore, I neglected to see that He was instructing me in the way I should go through the verse immediately preceding…

Set up road markers for yourself;
establish signposts!
Keep the highway in mind,
the way you have traveled. Jeremiah 31:21

No, Jeremiah 31:21 didn’t mean a thing to me then, for I thought I was going in the right direction. It wasn’t until everything came to a screeching halt that God’s word spoke to me. Because I had stalled out… I was stuck, so to speak and could not move forward despite my best efforts. And it was around this time that I heard in my mind, “Not another step.” But alas, I figured “not another step” simply meant that God was telling me to sit tight until He provided a way for me to move forward. But oddly, deliverance was delayed. And so, I eventually remembered what I was supposed to be doing. Months earlier I knew I was to go through all of my journals, using them to set up markers for myself. This was the way I had been traveling, but eager steps forward slowly halted to a standstill. No further progress had been made. Not until last week, that is. That’s when I finished what I had started so long ago.

And God tied it all together for me this weekend. His hand upon me, a verse on a piece of notebook paper, and a timely message provided for an ah-ha moment. Because as I read about King David’s great sin with Bathsheba, a light was switched on. See, David sinned… but then he seemed to have just carried on with his life. It was some time later that Nathan the prophet came for a visit and told David a vivid story. The story was about a rich man who took something from a poor man and it was the very picture of what David did with Bathsheba. However, David was blind to his part in the story. Instead, he was incensed. He burned with self-righteous anger as he proclaimed, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die!” David was indignant that a man would show no pity and do such a thing. And in the way of a Pharisee, David neglected to see himself in this story.

Do you think David was surprised when Nathan said, “You are the man!” I do. I think David was very surprised. I think that perhaps he had forgotten what he did. I believe that what took place with Bathsheba brought him low (his child died), and he was on his face before God while the child still lived. But then, his life carried on. I feel he may have traversed upward and onward, leaving the past behind. I think that perhaps his great sin diminished in his memory as days and weeks passed by. But, I wonder if David came to a stopping point. I wonder if he arrived at a point in which he could not seem to move forward with God… for how could he with all that lie deep within the recesses of his heart? And so, Nathan arrived with a timely message. Was it when he heard, “You are the man!” that his heart was pierced? Perhaps, this is when David penned Psalm 51… his heartfelt Psalm of confession. For when he saw a picture of himself, he was sorely grieved by his sin and had to confess.

You know, the last blog I typed up just before digging into my past was called “What Remains.” And I felt pretty good about it. I thought I was talking to other people about the divisiveness that stirs amongst God’s people. So high was I that I could not see myself in this piece. In the way of a Pharisee, I could not see that what was written was in itself divisive. Indignantly I sat, pointing a finger through every stroke of the key, judging another soul for a bumper sticker she chose to display. Smugly, I tapped out a message about remaining love, but failed to see that my message was not prompted by love. Instead, it was somewhat divisive and a bit self-righteous. I received a comment on that post, but didn’t approve if for a while. Frankly, I am just not as deep as the commenter, and for the life of me I didn’t know if I fully understood her meaning. I was troubled by it, though… was it an encouragement, or was it a chastening? Today, I lean more towards a kindly rebuke.

See… for me, it’s writing. He speaks to me, His wayward daughter, through His very words placed on notebook paper. A verse here, and a timely word from a person there. And then, the ah-ha moment. The blinders removed, I can see. And today, what I hear is, “You are the woman!” And so, not another step takes on a new meaning. Not another step means no moving forward till I get this one right. Because this one I’ve been carrying for way too long. My heavenly Father has spoken and He says not another step until I can leave this one behind. Once and for all. And with all my heart, I believe this time, I will.

For I believe I can hear Him calling. I think He’s telling me, “Carry on, My wayward daughter…”

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

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Out, damned spot!

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My husband came home with this bar of soap months ago and I was immediately captivated by what the label promises, for it’s a stain remover. According to the directions, you wet the bar, bring it to a lather, and then rub the soap directly on the stain. After washing, I imagine clothing will come out of the wash as white as snow… all traces of the dirt and the grime gone. And in contemplating this soap’s cleansing power, I’m not surprised that a play I watched (at least twenty-five years ago) surfaces to the forefront of my mind. The venue was Folger Theatre, the play was Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and the line that stuck with a fourteen year old girl… “Out, damned spot!”

Today, I have to wonder if Lady Macbeth would have profited from use of this bar’s cleansing agents. Do you remember her? She was the wife of Macbeth, a brave Scottish general. But unfortunately, Macbeth sought wisdom from three witches. They proclaimed that one day Macbeth would become King of Scotland. And so heady was the revelation, that Macbeth was overtaken by his ambition. His wife, Lady Macbeth, spurred him to action as she exhorted him to make it happen. And so, Macbeth killed King Duncan. He took the throne for himself. And so, naturally, both Macbeth and his wife were overwhelmed by a guilty conscience. Because trickery placed Macbeth in his kingly role, he ended up killing again and again so that he could keep his lofty position. And so, through this dark tragedy, we witness Macbeth and his Lady escalating to the heights of arrogance, falling into the depths of madness, and ultimately, their lives culminated in death.

Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene was a powerful display. See, her guilty conscience plagued her even in sleep, causing her to roam about through the night. The defilement from deep within her bubbled forth as she cried out during slumber… “Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One; two: why, then, ’tis time to do ‘t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him? The Thane of Fife had a wife; where is she now? What! Will these hands ne’er be clean? Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! Oh! Oh!”

No, I don’t believe a bar of soap would have helped Lady Macbeth. For it wasn’t simply the issue of blood on her hands. Because that blood, that damned remaining spot that clung to her, was just a tangible display of what lie deep within. The issue was her heart, for that’s where her demise began. A seed was planted. A seed that promised loftiness and headiness. And as ambition grew, the roots of self-seeking went deeper. And then there was fruit. Lady Macbeth thought her family deserved to be in that role. Her husband was meant to be king and she was meant to be queen. And she was willing to do whatever it took to get there. And roots deeply entrenched in her heart bore the fruit of arrogance. And self-seeking. And lies. And deceit. And trickery. And ultimately, murder, which was conceived in her heart, became her reality. And the guilt consumed her.

No, I am not surprised that Lady Macbeth was brought to mind this morning. Because in reality, my heart bears the image of hers. For hate, which has clung to the outer recesses of my heart is, in truth, no different than murder. In God’s eyes, murder and hate are one and the same. It’s the way of Cain and the way of Esau. It is sin.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. Matthew 23:27

Journals. I read through fifteen of them last week and everything is in there. Again, and again, and again I saw the plague of my own heart. And when faced with the evidence (the handwriting on the wall so to speak), I just have to say, “Out, damned spot!” When I see in truth that which has stuck with me for at least three years (and in reality, so much longer), I just have to cry out, “Out, damned spot!” But it’s not Purex soap that will remove that spot. For soap will only clean the outside, making for a pretty appearance. And it appears that I’ve been doing that for so long… cleaning up my outside, with a plastered on smile, but neglecting the weightier, internal matters. I’ve been like a whitewashed tomb, whiting myself. Just like the Pharisees. They washed their hands and their cups, but their insides were black as night. As dark as death. Whitewashed tombs.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:7-12

No more. For I am dog tired and bone weary of the way I have been for so long. And you know what… this time I have hope. Real hope. Because last week was cathartic. It was cleansing. It was purifying. Last week was a time for me to address the real issue. I got down to the heart of the matter, for it’s a matter of the heart. And this morning, I knelt broken before Him. For I know my sin… and I know what I am. I am a sinner. But the hope is… I know who He is. And it is only through Him that I can be made clean. Only through Jesus Christ can I be made as white as snow. Without the soap. Because for the deeper, internal cleansing, we need His blood. His blood washes our hearts. And because of it, we can say, “Out, damned spot!” And with full assurance, we can know that He’ll remove that stain.

“What a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charged.

Do breed unnatural troubles;

infected minds to their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets;

More needs she the divine than the physician.

God, god forgive us all!

Look after her; Remove from her the means of all annoyance, and still keep eyes upon her.”

                                    -Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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In the light

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From one man He has made every nation of men to live all over the earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live, so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. Acts 17:26-27

I’ve written extensively about the Summer/early Fall of 2010. Because as far as my relationship with God goes, that time period was a turning point. And all the years leading up to then brought me to that appointed time and place. It was in Pinehurst, NC, when I really turned to Him. Heart, mind and soul. It was a time when I sought God fervently. I threw myself into His word desperately seeking God. But alas, I turned away too quickly. And here I am today. And now, in my new boundaries, I again am desperately seeking God. And so, I live out Acts 17:27. See, in reaching out and seeking God, I found Him. And the truth about God & me is… well, in finding God, I also found myself. Because I approached Him, and I stepped into light. His light. And so, everything exposed by the light is made clear, for what makes everything clear is light (Ephesians 5:13). In seeking the truth about God, I also find the truth about myself. Thus, darkness.

Micah 7:8 is such a beautiful verse. It moves me. BUT, if I go just a bit further – things become clear.

Do not rejoice over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will stand up; though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light. Because I have sinned against Him, I must endure the LORD’s rage until He argues my case and establishes justice for me. He will bring me into the light; I will see His salvation. Micah 7:8-9

Yes, there lies the truth about my darkness. There lies the truth about God & me. And isn’t that the whole point of this blog. Telling the truth. For whatever He tells me in the dark, I shall speak in the light. Whatever I hear in a whisper, I shall proclaim on the housetops (Matthew 10:27). See, I can color it any way I want to… issues, patterns, habits, strongholds… but when it comes down to it, a sin by any other name is still a sin. This is what has been revealed to me… in the dark. All of this is beginning to make sense now. In February, start a blog (me… a blog… crazy!) And I thought that perhaps the blog would be what I had previously written… that they may know. But soon into this writing endeavor, it was clear that I had to look back. I had to go the way I came… and not that they may know, but that I may know. That I may know. The truth.

Set up road markers for yourself; establish signposts! Keep the highway in mind, the way you have traveled. Return, Virgin Israel! Return to these cities of yours. How long will you turn here and there, faithless daughter? For the LORD creates something new in the land – a female will shelter a man. Jeremiah 30:21-22

Yes, go back… the way I traveled. And that’s what I’ve been doing. Retracing steps… the steps that led me to Him in the first place. And what I see clearly is perpetual sin. See, when God shows you something about yourself – over and over and over and over again – that you should turn from, but you don’t… well simply, that’s sin. That’s dwelling in sin. And it’s a choice. And my life is proof positive that the result of choosing sin is darkness. How funny. How often I’ve written about the darkness and depression that surrounds me, and holds me, but I just didn’t know why. Well, He shows me. He has shown me. Over and over again. Through His word. And I can turn this way and that until finally, finally… I relent. And then, I repent. There’s that word. A touchy word, right? No one wants to hear it. But, it’s what the prophets of old proclaimed. It’s what John the Baptist shouted when he prepared the way for Christ, and it was the first thing our Lord and Savior preached when He began His ministry. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near! How lovely to hear that it has come near. He is near, God is near. For in Him we live and move and exist (Acts 17:28). It’s in the 17th chapter of Acts that I read, “God now commands all people everywhere to repent.”

Darkness, desert land, dry land, wilderness wandering… yes, I can color it any way I please, but if I want to tell the truth about God & me (and I do), then my darkness comes from my sin. This is my truth. But as the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned.” Yes, morning has broken on my path, and all things are made clear. And I am tired and weary. So tired… of myself. He’s told me over and over again, go beyond me. And yet, I’ve stayed right here in my own little hole with perhaps a little too much introspection (it can make you selfish, you know). And I’ve still not turned to Him… to what He’s told me to do. And so, there lies the key to my darkness. It’s sin. And I am ready to turn from it. Because I don’t want to dwell in the darkness anymore. And this is what repentance is… turning from what you know you shouldn’t do (the darkness), and turning to Him and what He says to do (the light).

It was not long ago that I thought, “a woman shall encompass a man.” It’s referenced above (Jeremiah 30:22)… “A female will shelter a man.” This is Jesus. Mary carried Him in her womb, and he was birthed into the world. God in the form of man. And the Son of Man walked perfectly… a blameless man. He was tempted in every way that we are, and yet, He knew no sin. And yet, He took on all sin. That’s the whole point of the cross. The cross is the biggest turning point in one’s life, because it was there that Jesus took on the sin of the whole world. He died for that sin so we wouldn’t have to. And do you know what happened? From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. As Jesus hung on that cross, cloaked in our sin, the darkness covered the land. He cried out, “My God, My God, why have forsaken Me?” See, God cannot look upon sin. But then, when Jesus finally died carrying our sin to the grave, the veil in the temple was split into – from the top to the bottom. It was this veil that separated the priests from the Holy of Holies. It was that most inner sanctuary of the temple that housed the ark of the covenant, and the mercy seat. It was there that God’s presence would appear. But, upon Jesus’ death, the veil was split. In so doing, through Jesus, we have direct access to the Holy of Holies. And His light.

Jesus took our sin to the grave. And we can be forgiven that sin. But first, we must turn from it. We must repent. In so doing, we exit the darkness and enter His light.

“This, then, is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.” John 3:19-21

There’s a heartbeat…

Most of us have seen the dramatic scenes in movies… there’s a traumatic event, and someone ends up lying on the pavement. A person hurriedly approaches the lifeless form, and then drops to their knees to help. An ear is pressed to the chest in expectation… surely it will be there. And then yes, we hear the proclamation. We find there is hope, for “There’s a heartbeat.” And it was yesterday in Sunday School that I realized this happens in a spiritual sense, too. Because I felt the very same. I felt a quickening of my heart that made it’s way to my ears… the kind that thuds all the way through your body… the kind that lets you know that God is in deed there with you. It’s the kind of thudding that comforts you… because it lets you know, “There’s hope, for there’s a heartbeat.”

I don’t know who’s stuck with me for the duration of this blog, but if anyone has, they have seen a rollercoaster of a spiritual journey in just a few short months. In a minimal amount of time, my life has depicted both highs and lows. It’s a life that’s reflected fullness of faith. But then, perhaps some doubt peeked through. There have been mountaintop experiences where there is fullness of life. Only to be followed up most recently with a darker period. See, I had fallen deep into a pit of gloom… surrounded by sadness, loneliness, and well… just plain depressed, I guess. I felt silence on all fronts and couldn’t quite say why. And honestly, for a short while, I felt as if God were absent. It’s as if His presence were no where to be found. Until yesterday, that is.

Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God. I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me. The LORD will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night- a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:5-8

It was yesterday morning when I began reading the book of Esther, and something stood out. See, there was a king who issued a command to his queen. He commanded that she come before him, but she refused. And when he sought counsel from his wise men as to what he should do with his queen, the wise men said this, “Vashti is not to enter King Ahasuerus’ presence, and her royal position is to be given to another woman who is more worthy than she.” This caught my attention as I glimpsed a nugget of truth here. But I had to tuck it away until later because it was time to get ready for church. It wasn’t even a half an hour later that I declared to my husband that I was through with something. There was a nagging feeling that had followed me for quite some time, but I always pushed it down deep. Perhaps down deep into that pit of gloom that I found myself. But yesterday, I made my decision. Enough.

And so, an hour later in Sunday School, I was surprised by a deafening thud in my chest. Because that roaring of my heart hadn’t made its appearance for so long. And oh, was it ever music to my ears. Because that bump, bump, bump was the Holy Spirit. He touched me yesterday morning. And I so needed to feel His touch. See, I’ve been sad and lonely. I’ve been feeling separated from everyone and everything, but most importantly, I’ve been feeling separated from God. I’ve been sulking in a deep pit of gloom… but thankfully, it doesn’t matter how deep I go, He can still reach me.

It’s true that I went down for a time, but God didn’t let me sink too low. He called to me while I was in the deep, and so, I learn that He is really is faithful. Even when I’m not. Because He reached down and touched me. And as Psalm 42 proclaims, I find that He is in fact the God of my life. Because He spoke to me through His word and His touch. See, I made a decision before I left my home yesterday morning. It was a nagging thought I had carried with me for over a year now. But I kept pushing it down. And my realization yesterday morning was that God told me to do something over a year ago. But I procrastinated… why, I was just like Queen Vashti, who refused to do the bidding of King Ahaserus. My King gave me a command, and I rationalized it away for so long. And so the truth of the matter is, I’ve been living in sin. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin – James 4:17. All the silence… all the loneliness… all the depression… could this be the root of it?

There is no soundness in my body because of Your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my sins have flooded over my head; they are a burden too heavy for me to bear. Lord, my every desire if known to You; my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart races, my strength leaves me, and even the light of my eyes has faded. My loved ones and friends stand back from my affliction, and my relatives stand at a distance. I am like a deaf person; I do not hear. I am like a speechless person who does not open his mouth… Psalm 38 (various verses)

I try to write out a Psalm a day. It doesn’t always happen, but when I do so, I pen them in order… one right after the other. And the above happens to be my Psalm for today. In my Bible, it’s referred to as a Prayer of a Suffering Sinner. And so, I see the truth about God & me. It’s my sin that weighed me down, it’s my sin that caused the separation from God, and it’s my sin that caused the silence. And sin that I carried for too long caused the light of my eye to fade. Why, it extinguished my very life. But He is the God of my life, so there is hope. Because although sin may have flooded over my head and pushed me down deep into a pit of gloom, God was right there with me. For His Spirit resides in me. And it was the breakers and billows of His living waters that swept over me. Deep called to deep in the roar of His waterfalls, and He spoke to me through His touch. And with His ear upon my lifeless chest, I heard Him as He proclaimed, “There’s hope, for there’s a heartbeat.”

The Eve of Destruction

Today, I wonder about Eve. What must she have felt like? She started off well, right? She walked in the garden not just with her mate, but also with God. And as she walked with the God of all creation, she knew no shame. Because she was innocent. But, Eve made a mistake. A big one. And it was through her mistake that sin entered the garden. And I find it ironic that Eve, whose name means “life” or “living,” also became the mother of death. Because the wages of sin is death, right? Eve, who was the mother of all living, actually became the Eve of destruction when she made her error. How in the world did this this woman feel?

Did Eve realize as soon as her teeth broke the skin of the forbidden fruit that sin just walked in? Did she feel sick as the sweetness of the fruit slid down her throat? Or did she become soul-sick after she gave it to her husband to eat? Did she feel fear when she realized she did the one thing God told her not to do? Or did she fear later, when God came calling and she hid? Did shame introduce itself before or after she ate? Or did she feel its full impact as her husband said to God, “The woman that You gave to be with me – she gave me some [some fruit] from the tree, and I ate.” Genesis 3:12. Perhaps she didn’t feel the full gravity of her error in judgment until she answered God. She said that she had been deceived by the serpent… did God surprise her by the severity of His punishment? He said, “I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children in anguish. Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.” Not only that, God said to Adam, “The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.”

The Garden of Eden… that garden of delight… was no more. Because sin walked in. Because Eve did what she knew she shouldn’t, and because Adam followed her lead, it cost them dearly. Life as they knew it was changed forevermore. Eve was deceived by the serpent, and after being tempted, she found that what looked good was not. Because what looked good led to the fall of man… it led to the eve of destruction. And ever since that day, sin has abounded on the earth. Look around, and what do we see? The news is filled with story after story, one more heinous than the next. Today’s headlines shout, “Police arrest boy, 12, for stabbing his eight-year-old sister to death at home.” Sin gave birth to violence and destruction and it blazes an ever widening path. Did Eve have any idea what was to follow? Could she have known the impact of her mistake? She must have, because she gave birth to Cain and Abel. Her own son killed the other. Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground… and it hasn’t stopped. Blood spilled upon blood. Ever deepening.

I hope that Eve knew the truth. The other truth, that is. Oh, she knew the reality of violence. But I hope Eve realized her true worth and how much God really loved her. Because although she bit into the fruit, and gave way to sin, God didn’t love her less because of it. And despite her costly mistake, He still provided for her needs. And here’s the best part… God in fact said the woman would have pain in childbirth, but there is hope in simply that. The hope of childbirth. Despite her grievous sin, Eve, the first woman, got to have babies. And with each child, there is hope. It’s the woman who experiences a baby as he grows in her womb. It’s the woman who quickly forgets the agony of delivery, when she hears her newborn’s first cry. It’s the woman who knows the closeness of a babe at her breast, drinking in what only she can offer. It’s the woman who gets to be the mother. What great mercy God showed to Eve, the very first woman, in making her what she was… a mother.

This morning, I read, “For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth— A woman shall encompass a man.” Jeremiah 31:22. This intrigued me, as I have been contemplating God’s plan for women lately. I have felt downcast, and well, quite frankly feeling less than… if you know what I mean. So, I just had to know what this “new thing” is. What exactly does God mean by saying, “A woman shall encompass a man”? “Encompass” has several meanings, and with each version of the Bible, the verse reads differently… shelter, compass, surround, protect, guard, and return to, among others. So, what? A woman will shelter a man, protect a man… what was God saying here? And as I began to see, I just have to wonder if Eve, who lived so long ago, knew the promise of this statement.

It may be true that sin entered the world through the fall of man, via the mouth of a woman.  And though this stigma may trail after woman, it doesn’t have to be that way. Because the fact is, God chose women to have babies. That’s part of His plan. And because of God’s mercy and grace, it was through a woman that salvation made entrance into the world. By the hand of God, a virgin conceived. And the baby Jesus grew inside that young woman’s body. He was protected in her womb. See… Mary, the mother of Jesus, encompassed The Man. She surrounded Him… she sheltered Him… she guarded Him. And our Savior and Lord was delivered into this world through a woman. And it’s by Him that we will can all truly be delivered. Praise God for that.

Ironically, although Eve’s name means “life” or “living,” the dictionary gives the meaning as evening, night, sundown… basically darkness. And although the world looks that way now… dark and scary… there is hope. See, the dictionary also gives the meaning of “Eve” as: the evening or day before a special day, or the period immediately preceding. See, as dark the world seems right now, we are in fact living during a period immediately preceding something special. That something special is the Day of the Lord. And so we find… in more ways than we realize… we are truly living through the Eve of destruction. But we know the other truth… the real truth. We know the hope of a Child.

He who testifies of these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:20

History repeats itself… or so I’ve heard.

History repeats itself, right? A popular saying that originated from I don’t know where, but I’ve heard it from more than one person. So it must be true, right? Yes, history repeats. The newest saying I’ve heard more than one time is insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but hoping for a different result. Well… if that’s true, then quite clearly, I’m insane. Because after reviewing my journal from 2010, and comparing it to where I am today, I am doing the same thing again and again. And no surprise, the end result is always the same. The most damning piece of evidence was laid bare yesterday morning. The truth is, I hurt my son. It wasn’t a big hurt, but when it comes down to it, a hurt is a hurt – big or small. It happened during the mad dash of getting ready for school. Time just got away from me, and I cut it so close that I had to dress my son. Because bless his little soul, he only moves at one speed called “taking his time.” As I hastily pulled up his jeans, I felt resistance but tugged anyway. Well, his little foot was caught and it hurt him. And so, because I neglected to manage my time, I caused my son pain in the ensuing madness. And honestly, I think his feelings were hurt more than anything. Obviously, I felt like the worst mother in the whole world. And do you want to hear the most awful part? It was a couple of hours later as I perused through my old journal notes of September 15, 2010 that I realized this wasn’t the first time I had done this.  I read my own confession: “rushed and hurt my son.” It’s a fact that I had the same encounter with my son two and a half years later. Thus, it is a proven truth… history does repeat itself. I felt like a terrible mother then, and I feel like one now. And because I am doing the same thing over and over again (rushing in the morning, but hoping for a different outcome), some would classify me as insane. And I would have to agree with them.

If I’ve learned anything in my journey with God, it’s that there are no coincidences.  And when He wants you to see something about yourself, He’ll bring it right to you. He’ll show you a picture of yourself that you cannot deny. My reflected image came by way of a piece of pottery of all things. It’s the bowl I described in “A Bowl Girl.” I realize that I am the bowl. Just not as it is in its present condition. In no way do I resemble that bowl as it rests on my countertop reflecting rays of light. No, I resemble the bowl as it looked some months ago… when it was high and lifted up on the top of my fridge, collecting so much dust that even if the light had reached its surface, it wouldn’t have glimmered at all. Yes, I am just like that bowl when it was on display… just like a Pharisee. And so, I cannot say I was too surprised when I found notes in my old journal that could have been written by my own hand today. Everything that’s happening in my life today is mimicking what took place then. Again, it is proven… history repeats itself. Because I am struggling with the same thing over and over again. As always, same outcome. This is insanity.

Yesterday morning, I wondered about my being a Pharisee and a hypocrite. Because I had confronted that particular issue last year. And through reviewing my very old journal, it appears it was my struggle two and a half years ago, too. And until this past week, I didn’t really think I was a Pharisee… again. And as I ponder my past, it becomes clear how I arrived to today… to insanity. See, I am a legal assistant and work for a lawyer. The law is important. I’ve always been a rule-follower at heart. Even as a teen and young adult (when I got into things I shouldn’t), deep down I had fear because I knew there was a right and wrong. My fear was that I would get into trouble for breaking rules. And so years later, after I became His and when I finally came to a point in which I was desperate to know God, I sought knowledge. Basically, I wanted to know what His rules were. Because rules I could follow. And although seeking God’s law is not a bad thing, it can be dangerous for someone like me… a rule follower. Because acquired knowledge can cause someone like me to become arrogant and a know-it-all. It can cause someone like me to be prideful. From experience, I know one can begin adhering to one’s own set of scales of justice. And woe to anyone who falls short, because judgment will follow. I know, because this is exactly what happened to me then, it’s what happened to me a year ago, and apparently, it’s happened to me recently. I cannot deny my own handwriting. And so there’s no denying that I am a modern day Pharisee, repeating the history of Pharisees (religious leaders) from long ago. My attitude no different than theirs, and this is insanity!

Pharisees knew the law better than anyone else, and they followed it to the letter… but, their heart’s were unmoved. Pharisees lacked mercy, and when they came face to face with Jesus, they didn’t know Him and His righteousness. Because they had their own self-righteousness. And this is what Jesus had to say to or about them: they trusted in themselves that they were righteous, they despised others, they exalted themselves and thus were abased, they were those who justified themselves before men (but God knew their hearts), they were lovers of money and turned their noses up at Jesus, and they held to what was highly esteemed before men (but was, and is, an abomination before God). A Pharisee knew God’s greatest commandment was to love God above EVERYTHING, and to love his neighbor as himself… but he wanted to clarify and dispute and test Jesus and justify himself. The Pharisee said, “And who is my neighbor?” It’s evidenced that he knew the correct answer when Jesus asked “who was neighbor to him who fell?” The Pharisee said, “He who showed mercy on him.” But head knowledge does not always reach the heart.

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:10-14

You know, in Jesus’ day, the Pharisee lacked conviction. Because in his eyes, he did no wrong. And it was two and a half years ago when I asked the question within my journal, “Am I a hypocrite… a Pharisee?” One of the most condemning phrases I found to confirm my suspicion was “lack of conviction.” At that time, I knew I judged people. And yet, rather than feel bad about it, I felt justified in my thinking. Because I thought they didn’t measure up. Remember… the Pharisee adhered to his own set of scales.

Like a Pharisee, I know God’s commands and can follow all the outward rules. I can appear very devout, but what about my insides… what about my heart? Like a Pharisee, I am often unmoved, unloving and unmerciful. I’m just like that bowl I kept way up high on the fridge. It was there for display only… cold and hard to the touch. The bowl didn’t know it was useless up high. The Pharisees didn’t know they were useless to God either. And until now, I thought I was. But, history repeats… it’s insanity.

When I was a young girl, my grandfather, Eddie, used to call out to me, “Whoa, Pam!” Sounds similar to what Jesus called out to the Pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Maybe Eddie wasn’t simply calling to me after all… perhaps God gave him insight as to what my future held, and just maybe he was calling out warning instead, “Woe, Pam!” The good news is, whether then or now, I’ve been warned. Because today is the day I see. And the truth is, it’s not at all about history repeating itself… or being insane. Quite frankly, it’s called lack of repentance. It’s called choosing to live in sin. Because to him who knows to do good, and doesn’t… it is sin. In His mercy, God showed me then, and again today. I can no longer deny the truth of what I am… a hypocrite and a Pharisee. This was true two and a half years ago, it was true a year ago… and it’s true again today. I’ve been doing the same thing again and again, hoping for another outcome. They say that’s insanity but today I know better. And the good news is, history does not have to repeat itself. He gives us the choice. And so, I know what I must do… it’s time to stop the insanity… it’s time to REPENT.

Here

Here is a condensed testimony of what’s happened, and what I believe is happening, through God’s amazing plan.

First, the truth… No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. John 6:44.

February 1997. I became a child of God, and yet I stumbled about for years without going deeper than the surface. I went through the motions (if I went through them at all). September 2004. I came to Pinehurst, NC, and I joined a church. I heard God’s word, and my faith began to grow. However, I moved away for a year. August 2008. I moved back to Pinehurst and joined the same church. I had one full year of pure Bible study and prayer before getting busy. My faith was established and I was full of belief and expectation. Spring 2010, I received a promise through God’s word. I was certain He gave me the following words and knew that He would send me back to my hometown… a place that I had elevated to my very own promised land.

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. Jeremiah 29:13,14.

Summer 2010, I did just that. I began to seek Him with all my heart. By the Fall, my search for God was in sincerity. And then it happened, He sent me home. I was settled in my hometown by Spring of 2011. After a while, I climbed a mountain with God, but tumbled down so, very low. Which brings me to today. I am here, in my very own promised land on earth, and I’m still diligently seeking God. It is here, in my hometown, that I have found more of God than I ever could have imagined. My question? Why the wait? Because the truth is, God is the one who draws us. Why, if I became His child in 1997, did He wait so long to draw me to Him? Why has it taken sixteen years to get here? My search for God began in earnest close to three years ago. So why now… and why here?

January 2013. I received my answer. I have a new promise from God… and all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. Exodus 34:10. This is why now, this is why here. I am among my own people, and some of them may need to know just how big a God we have. I myself need to know. And so, God, with His complex plan worked out all the minute details to bring me to today and my indwelling of my homeland. It’s here that He will do His biggest work in me. Here, among my people, God will transform me… and they shall see. They will know that He is the LORD, for I am the branch of His planting. Here.

And so the transformation has begun. First, confession. HUGE confession. And then, He said get a new spirit. And now, God says, get a new heart… “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart.” Ezekiel 18:31. And oh how I want that new heart. Because for years, my heart has been so hard. As a young girl, I was so tender and senstitive. Why, I would cry if someone looked at me funny! But over time, that heart of mine became calloused. It started when sin came knocking. Oh, no doubt, I became God’s child many years ago, but inside there were hidden things. Darkness that I didn’t lay down at the cross, but rather carried in my heart, tucked away and out of sight. And it’s been killing me, a slow death by way of a hardened heart. Because my heart became so calloused and cold through the years, it really served no purpose other than to pump blood through my deadened body. Essentially, I was of no use to God, because my heart was as hard as flint. But several years ago, things began to change… I began seeking Him with all my heart. And so He drew near to me… but only so near. Before drawing me further into His presence, He had to first clean me up.

And that’s what He did… He told me that He desired truth in the inward part. And it was in my hidden part, that He made me to know wisdom (Psalm 51:6). And after many years, I acknowledged my transgressions to Him. I confessed. Because He tells us to empty our hearts of detestable things and abominations. And then the miracle will happen. God will give us new hearts. But we have to do our part. We have to pour out our hearts before Him, emptying it of hidden things (Psalm 62:8). And then, He will remove the stoney heart out of our flesh, and He will give a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19).

I am amazed with God. I am amazed at How He works things out. See, I left home at nineteen but returned as a new creation. I came back as a child of God. And in all my years away, God could have drawn me to Him if He so purposed. He could have brought my dark sins to light while I was living elsewhere… but He waited for the right time. He drew me to Him several years ago, and that’s when my true search for God began. I sought Him with my whole heart, and now I’ve found Him. He’s restored me to the land He banished me from… my homeland. It is here among my own people that He will sanctify His great name. My people shall know that He is the LORD God, when He is hallowed in me before their eyes. Here, He has sprinkled me clean. Here, He has given me a new heart and put a new spirit within me. Here, in my own land, God has taken out my heart of stone, and here in my promised land, God has given me a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36.

God is doing a work in me. He’s waited for the right time so that I could become brand new right before my own people’s eyes. It is here, in my promised land, that I will experience the victory God has promised me, through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is here that I will await the next miracle… for it is an awesome thing the He will do with me. Hallelujah and Amen.