Stories that Shine on an Awesome God

Archive for the ‘Forgiving’ Category

Soothing Oil

Entering my trashed apartment was like entering a mind diseased.

Your whole head is injured

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Carpet blanketed in filth –

Kitchen sink smeared with a brown film –

Your whole heart afflicted.

Food rotting in the refrigerator –

Windows broken –

From the sole of your foot to the top of your head, there is no soundness.

Counters and cabinets strewn with debris –

Walls pot marked with myriad holes, screws, and nails –

Only wounds and welts and open sores.

Hundreds of decals placed for hallucinogenic affect.

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Legal eviction had vacated the occupants, but not their mess. They had left that job for me.

I donned gloves and mask, scooped leftover items off the counters, and dumped decayed food from the refrigerator.

In less than six months, two people with diseased minds had turned a pristine, freshly painted, scrubbed and impeccably furnished apartment into a rat’s hole. They were two human beings caught in a trap of disrespect, dishonesty, and low living.

One glance at their mug shot and my son, quite snarkily, had commented, “How did you say ‘yes’ to that face?”

Not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. (Isaiah 1: 5b- 6)

Eight heavy contractor bags later, I was down to the walls. Colored paper, butterflies, and flowers stuck to the sheet rock, the plaster clinging and tearing as I peeled. Bit by bit. Like the thoughts that dinged my brain with each decal ripped from the wall.

Disgust. Bitterness. Superiority. No soundness.

Human hands had pasted each item and pounded each nail into a scattering of holes my own hands would have to patch. My hands, created just like theirs. They were two fellow humans caught in a web. How had they become oppressed?

Caught in a web of its own, my heart was an open sore. I couldn’t clean up their heart or mind, but mine required soothing oil. I was willing.

Stop the meaningless religious rituals (Isaiah 1:7-15)

A prayer. A decision. Thoughts flowed: Compassion. Humility. Cleansing forgiveness. The good things of the land. Plenty of bandages and soothing oil.

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Come, let us settle the matter, says the Lord, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land. (Isaiah. 1:17-19)

Every head, every heart has wounds and open sores. Yours. Mine. Be willing to be cleansed. Know the Holy Spirit’s soothing oil.

A Love that Hides

His heart burned with love and there was no cure. Night and day the glory of it consumed his being. Tortuous burning. White hot and pure. He longed to communicate, to reach out, to touch, and to finally know that he had been heard and perhaps, just perhaps, been understood. The burning never ended and the glory only blinded. Could he love without destroying? At times, with the passing of years, loneliness engulfed him, pulled at his heart, and strung it out into strands of aching flesh. He knew her by name.

“Oh, my darling, my darling! How often I would have gathered you . . . .”

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He wondered, watched, and waited. On sunlit days he left armfuls of flowers on her doorstep.

cerastium-arvense

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On rainy ones, he sent playful ducklings to splash in her pond. Often, he wrote kind, encouraging words and placed them for delivery in the hands of a friend. And the fire continued to burn.

“If for a moment I would go up among you, I would consume you.”

Lyn's Ocean 6

One day in a nearby shop, he purchased a painting of a sunset glowing over the ocean. He wrapped his gift and as he gave directions to her cottage, he glanced toward it and caught a glimpse of a pensive face peeping through the curtain. She had grown aware of his presence. On another day he saw a smile like an angel brightening her window. From then on, he tuned his ear to hear her voice. It came like a siren’s call, like a prayer in the night.

“Please, show me your glory.”

Would she live through the burning? He thought not. His love was too intense. If she looked at the fire in his eyes, if she so much as saw his face, she would shrink from the truth shining there. Better that he and not she be tortured. Perhaps she would feel secure with friends nearby, but it was she who had called, not them. A boundary might help to keep others safely away from their sacred rendezvous. He would build a fence in the valley. The two of them would meet on top of a mountain.

“Set limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.”

Shining rock with flowers

He knew just the place. It was a shining rock of granite kind of place. Fir trees grew from crags with plenty of places to hide. He could protect her there, for he knew of a cleft just her size. Inside lay a rock, smooth for her feet. She could stand on that rock. But what could he show her and how? How much of his heart could he reveal? Love, after all, must protect.

“I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name.”

The day came. The fog lifted in wisps and uncovered the cerulean sky.

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Granite shone in the sunlight. Breaths of the firs’ clean fragrance drifted down. Slowly, cautiously his beloved picked her way up the mountain trail. Her gossamer gown swished over slender toes while bird’s song lilted a welcome. She loosened her shawl. When at last she stood beside the rock, his voice was strong yet tender.

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Look beside you, my darling. There is a place near me where you can stand. There on that smooth rock. Now, while my glory passes by, I will lift you into that cleft and cover you with my hand. Don’t be afraid. Once I pass, I will take away my hand. You cannot yet see my face and the truth that is in my eyes. It is too bright and it burns too deep.”

His beloved complied. He began to pass in front of her with his warm hand, like a shield of protection, over her eyes. At last he spoke the words that had burned for an eternity inside his mind:

“I am your true Love. Your Love, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. I keep this steadfast love for thousands, for you and for all of your friends in the valley below. I forgive their iniquity, transgression, and sin, yet I am honest about such things. Such things have consequences that sometimes linger for several generations.”

His hand left her face and, overcome with awe, she fell upon the rock. When she could finally speak, it was in hushed tones. Tears streamed down her radiant cheeks. “Your love is beyond measure. Please, forgive my reluctance. Forgive my blindness. Forgive me and my friends.”

“Ah, my love. Listen here!” His voice held her transfixed. “I am making a vow to you, a covenant. Just you wait and see. Before long all the people you are among will see the results of my love in you, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you. An awesome thing indeed. Go now. Go back knowing my presence will be with you and I will give you rest.”

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Saturated in love, she skipped down the mountain. She neared the fence in the valley. When she came into view, her friends gasped. Their hands flew to their mouths and they stepped back in horror. Her face was ablaze. She stopped, covered her face with her shawl, and wondered at their fear.

Today my insides burn
I must do something
  I must create
I cannot burn up
I must give the fire some escape
I must create

From my perspective, God’s true character of love fits into math’s Transitive Property of Equations, a =  b = c:
God = A consuming fire. (Heb 12:29)
God = love  (John 4:8)
Therefore God’s Consuming Fire = God’s Love

And it’s nothing to be afraid of!

 

See Luke 13:33, Ex. 19, 33, & 34

All It Takes Is One

Chaos in a Midwestern town. Desperation in the mountains of Iraq. Fear in an Amish community. A politician in Kenya who calls himself Christian wants a law that stones humans of differing sexuality. It may seem odd, but what comes to mind as I read the posts and watch the news is myself as a ten-year old girl on a bright, Tennessee day going to church with my friends.

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It doesn’t take much to make a crowd. All you need is two. We had three.

“Make sure to save seats.” Beverly reminded.

“Be sure to get behind Alicia.” Joyce added with a sly grin.

Spotting the back of Alicia’s curly blond head, I picked up the chorus book from the seat behind hers and plopped down. Stretching out my legs I made certain that my black patina shoes joggled her chair.

She turned to look back. For an instant, blue eyes smiled. To avoid those eyes and my twinge of guilt, I focused on pale, plump arms set off by silky sleeves puffed to perfection. In her lap, dimpled hands clutched a silken purse. She noticed my two cohorts taking their seats beside me and turned around in a hurry.

“How’s our proper little Southern belle?” Beverly whispered loud enough for Alicia’s ears.

“Let me hear that Alabama accent.” Joyce reached out a finger and poked the back of the new girl in town.

We giggled, smug in the strength of numbers. Then we opened our hymn books and sang about heaven.

Image of blonde girl left out

Alicia went back to Alabama, but all through fifth grade our crowd of three grew denser. So tight in fact, that cheating was a breeze. Conniving against school rules was challenging fun. After all, we had each other, a shared identity, The Three Musketeers. Together life was tight. Life was secure.

Immersed in our ten-year old mob behaviors we considered ourselves  holy, just, and good. We had no idea that “The mob takes on a spirit of its own and the satanic is generated,” Or that “The mob becomes capable of evil that would be unthinkable for most people as an individual” as Brian Zahnd writes. We had no idea that Alicia had been our scapegoat, a sacrifice made so that we could belong.

Fortunately for my crowd of three we had a summer break. We also had a Jesus who “never leads anything other than a gentle and peaceable minority.” I have lost track of  my two friends, but I’m quite certain that they have become honest and kind adult women. I don’t know what might have been their moment of truth when the Prince of Peace shone on their hearts, but I know mine. It came in the form of a story.

During that summer break I read through a bedtime story collection. When I finished reading about a girl my age who determined to break away from her crowd even if it meant being called Teacher’s Pet, I determined to do the same. Alone, with only a book and his Light shining inside, I decided to act as an individual.

Image of cross by JeriAnne

I soon learned that “To follow Christ is to differ from the crowd. To differ from the crowd is to be controversial. To be controversial by differing from the crowd is to run the risk of becoming [like Jesus] a scapegoat yourself.” I was misunderstood. I was even called Teacher’s Pet. It wasn’t easy, but I suspect it never is.

It doesn’t take much to make a crowd. All it takes are powerful people bent on crusade. All it takes is a different group fighting their own holy war. All it takes are a few straight folks with an agenda against gays. All it takes is one man and one woman to close down a quiet community’s roadside stands. All it takes is a nation full of self-righteous pride to kill, maim, and destroy. All it takes are three little girls singing Jesus songs to intimidate a chubby blond.

On the other hand, all it takes is One individual willing to surrender to that crowd. All it takes is that One being vindicated through His resurrection. All it takes is that One calling us to forsake the crowd’s evil practice of turning fellow humans into scapegoats. All it takes is that One establishing mercy instead of sacrifice.

All it takes is One.

Image of easter lilies near headstone by JeriAnne

The quotes above are taken from Brian Zahnd’s book A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace.  It’s radical. It’s truth and light. I highly recommend it. For your convenience here’s the link:   A Farewell to Mars

Praise is Where God Lives

Singing Wren 2

“When you’re up against a struggle that shatters all your dreams,”(click to listen)

The lyrics drummed inside my head.

Yep, many of my dreams have been shattered. I often feel overwhelmed.

“Why don’t we keep a praise list,” the man I had idolized suggested. “Despite our dishonesty and our sin and mistakes, God has shown us mercy. We have been given so many indications that He still loves us. When we get discouraged, we can remember those times.”

“When your hopes have been cruelly crushed by Satan’s manifested schemes, my inner music continued to play.

Yep, he’s a snake, he is. A poisonous, deceptive snake in the grass.

“Will this do?” I showed the man, not yet my husband, a piece of construction paper. I had sketched and colored flowers down one side. The rest was blank.

“And you feel the urge within you to submit to earthly fears.” I began to hum.

Can’t submit to my fears or anyone else’s. Can’t submit to the shame in all the gossip that inevitably finds its way here. Can’t! Resist the urge to submit to those fears. Remember, I have deeply repented. I am forgiven.

Massaging my swollen belly, I pressed gently against the life within. Then taking my marker, I wrote in bold across the top of the page: THANKFUL LIST.

“Don’t let the faith you’re standing in seem to disappear,” I hummed louder, remembering that it was my ex-pastor who had introduced me to this song.

I loved its power. Back before I knew defeat.

“I’ll tape this right here,” I stood tall and stepped to the refrigerator. “Right here where we can always see it and add to it. So our faith won’t disappear.”

“Praise the Lord, He can work through those who praise Him,” I opened my mouth and raised my voice.

Can You really work through me, Lord?

The man I loved stood beside me with a pencil. “Remember last week when the tractor and I rolled over in the ditch and I didn’t get hurt? That’s going to be one of our first praises!”

“Praise the Lord, for our God inhabits praise . . . .”  The music crescendo-ed as together we added to our list.

It’s true, Lord! You DO inhabit praise. Whenever, we praise, You are HERE!

Like the lame man healed at the Beautiful Gate, my spirit was walking and leaping and praising God.

Our God is NOT a negative, fault-finding, shaming God who hates the goats while loving the sheep.

He delights in praise, which means He is delighted when we are pleased and praise Him. Which means He delights in praising us!

Praise is where God lives. Let’s stay in His house.

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Perhaps you have an experience where praise has brought God to new light. Please share your experience here.

” . . . thou art holy, O thou that inhabits the praises of Israel.” Psalms 22:3

(I am praising God for my gifted photographer, JerryAnn Berry!)

 

A Dying Moon

Image of Moon thru the windowWith my toddler son’s room dark and the rocker scooted near the window, we watched the moon rise. Its light held compelling mystique. Day or night, he enjoyed searching the sky to find it. In winter when the sky was clear and the moon was full and far away, its beams radiated through the glass in the shape of a cross.

“The moon’s on a cross, Momma! Look, the moon’s on a cross.”

“Mmmm, yes, it looks like it. The window pane makes the moonlight look like a cross.”

“The moon die, Momma, the moon die!”

“Jesus made the moon, didn’t He? And Jesus died on the cross.”

Beyond that feeble answer, I tried to share, with Holy Spirit nudging, the glorious light that shines from that cross. He needed to understand the truth that God loved Him, and every human being, more than life itself.

The cross proved it.

It proved “. . . that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself . . .not counting their trespasses against them . . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:19)

It proved “. . . that the power of God takes the form of death and that real well-being and victory only appear via death.” (Walter Brueggermann)

It proved that the upside down mindset of the Kingdom of this World turns right side up when the Kingdom of Heaven appears.

For what other type of king or president or general would willingly submit to his enemy’s torture? What other type of king would forgive those in the act of murdering him? What other type of king, while dying, would show grace to a thief and promise entrance into his kingdom?

What a King is Jesus! What a Kingdom is God’s!

Such light, such marvelous light.

A dying, moon beam cross holds no comparison.

Has the light of the cross shone in your life? Specifically, how has it shone? Tell me a story of Jesus!

“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” — Matthew 4:16 (NIV)

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