Stories that Shine on an Awesome God

Archive for the ‘Loving’ Category

Soothing Oil

Entering my trashed apartment was like entering a mind diseased.

Your whole head is injured

IMG_7735

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.

IMG_7738IMG_7740

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.

Water for the Thirsty

image of waterdrop-by-snap

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — Jesus

“Why can’t you be like other girls? They don’t ride bicycles like a boy. And your hair is ugly. Do something with your hair.” Wen’s mother had only been back from China’s outlying countryside for two days.

“Leave me alone,” Wen shot back. “You have never wanted me.”

Who did this woman think she was? She had devoted her life to the government, helping the poor villagers and when her baby daughter, Wen, had not thrived at birth, she had sent her  to the city to be raised by her grandmother.

Rejected. Unwanted. Unloved.

I’m fourteen and she thinks she can now come and turn me into her ideal female. Wen’s young mind whirled in anger. One day she would leave. If she wasn’t accepted by her own mother, why should she stay? Maybe I’ll find love. Somewhere.

The day finally came when Wen left. A college in Japan was her first stop. The dream of a new life thrilled her, but her heart did not know peace. Her mother did not love her. Not really. Would she ever find love? Was there any real reason to keep living?

The students gathered for lunch. While they ate, a Korean classmate sat alone reading from a large book. She read and then she looked up with shining eyes and a face serene.

Wen had never seen anyone’s face so peaceful. It was coming from somewhere inside. Could she have it too? She interrupted her classmate’s lunch.

“How do you look so, so happy? And what are you reading?”

“It’s the Bible, Wen. There is a God who loves you. Did you ever consider him?”

‘A God who loves? Tell me more.”

“Yes, Wen. God loves you. Let me tell you how his son, Jesus, showed the world his love.”

Wen’s thirsty soul drank deep. With her classmate’s help and the help of her classmate’s church, she accepted this God of love as her own. She made her way to a new life in the United States, but her search for love was over. She had found its source.

* * * * *

I too had been searching – for a new hairdresser. I loved my former one, but having just moved, she was a nine-hour drive away. Searching for a new hairdresser is a frightening prospect. I googled and picked a number. Wen answered.

aa

In the middle of a “foreign” town, God gave me Wen. Every four weeks, I go to church, a hairdresser’s shop in a strip mall and settle down in Wen’s pew, her beautician’s chair in front of her mirror. There, while she shampoos and cuts, colors and highlights, we share thoughts on God and life and love. God’s peace shine’s from Wen’s face.

Every four weeks I learn how God has given her the strength to make it in a new country, to leave an abusive husband, and to walk through the land mine of fake Christians who claim friendship. I rejoice that through her, his love has spread back to China in forgiveness and reconciliation. But those are stories for another time.

image of Water droplet, heart ripples“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters . . . . Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love . . . .” Isaiah 55: 1&3

Bought and Paid For

Five-year-old Caleb came into the bedroom first thing one morning clutching his money box. He wanted to show me that he could buy the toy of his dreams.

“You know, Momma, the one where the car goes ’round and ’round.”

Yes, I knew. The one we had told him he would have to wait for Christmas to get. The one that was already hidden away in the closet, bought and paid for.

1269975_69331015

He emptied his box on the carpet beside the bed and sat there surrounded with various coins and dollar bills. They represented his work. He was certain he had enough. He had no idea how much he had, but he had “counted” it and declared, “See, I have enough money. I do. I know I do. Now I can get it for Christmas.”

“But, Caleb, it’s for your Christmas present. You won’t have to pay for it.

“But I have enough.”

“Perhaps, but when you get a gift, a present, like at Christmas, you don’t have to pay. Mommy and Daddy have to pay. Sometimes it costs a lot of money, but you don’t have to use yours. We use our money. It’s free to you.

Christmas Present Wrapped in Gold and Silver

All this time I thought he had understood. All this time he thought he would have to pay. In fact the gift was already his and he, unaware, still counted his money.

I looked down at my pajama-clad son sitting among his scattered coins and saw all humanity.

Like Caleb, we long for the toy. We long to be right with God. We’re certain we’ve worked enough to earn it. Unaware that it is already bought and paid for, we’re certain we must buy it. Yes, it was paid for—at tremendous price, but not with our money. To us it is free. All we must do is be like Caleb on Christmas morning. We must reach out and accept our gift.

I felt like God that morning trying to explain the beautiful truth to His children.

“Little boy, you sit surrounded by money that you consider yours. You forget that you depend on your dad and me to give you that money, and now, what’s worse, with it you would buy a gift that is already yours. Please realize that your money and your gift flows from the same source. Everything is bought and paid for.”

“We’ve got you covered, Son. We’ve got you covered.”

Father-Child-Holding-Hands

Whether you do Christmas or not, please know that there is a God out there who has got you covered.

Covered in love. Covered in mercy.

Right Now!

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! . . . Dear Friends, NOW we are children of God . . . ” — I John 3:1&2

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 . . . .”

toes under dress

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

cerastium-arvense

sainfoin

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.

coniferous-trees

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.

Quartz outcrop

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.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

The Father’s Good Pleasure

“Fear not, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” – Jesus Christ (Luke 12:32)

Image of Dad & Daugher Dance

Once upon a time, living somewhere between the Kingdom of Competition and the Kingdom of Compassion, there was a five-year old, brown-eyed girl who had an eight year old brown-eyed sister. Both little girls were pretty little girls, as little girls go, but the five-year old girl had it stuck in her brain that she might be just a teensy, weensy bit prettier than her older sister. Perhaps a careless adult, dropping a casual comment had influenced her thinking. Regardless of how or by whom this idea came to her, people called older sister a skinny tomboy. People called little sister pleasingly plump. A complement indeed, little sister decided, what with the word “pleasingly” and all.

Older sister rode with Daddy on his tractor all over their forty-acre farm. Little sister much preferred to stay indoors telling stories to her dollies. Older sister never worried much about clothes. Little sister, on the other hand, absolutely adored frilly dresses with lots of lace. Not that she had any, mind you. Most of her dresses were hand-me-downs from older sister or practical dresses that Momma sewed.

image of pink lacy dressThere came a day, however, when both sisters needed new dresses. Summer had come and last year’s dresses just wouldn’t do. Older sister was sick in bed. Momma was too busy to shop, but Daddy had time, at the end of his work, to take little sister to town. Thrilled to the core of her pleasingly plump, prissy soul, she rode off with Daddy.

As they entered the store, Daddy took her hand. “Now, honey, pick any dress you want.” His voice sounded happy and eager to please. She could scarcely believe her good fortune.

A pink dress hung in the window. It had puffed sleeves and a satin sash. It was covered in lace.

“Oh, that one, Daddy. That one!”

Delighted, Daddy asked. “And which one do you think your sister would like?”

Image of Bibbed dressHurriedly skimming over the rest of the dresses, little sister pointed to a plain blue dress with an ugly white bib and not one piece of lace.

“Do you think she will like it?”

“Yes, let’s get her that one.” Her smug little smile came deep from within the Kingdom of Competition.

Needless to say, older sister, tomboy though she was, cried in dismay when she saw her choice.

“I’m sick and couldn’t go shopping. It’s no fair! You wanted to be prettier, so you got me the ugly dress.”

Little sister knew it was true. She now owned a frilly dress that gave her no joy.

Little sister did not realize that there exists an entire world of brothers and sisters who cannot believe that their Father’s kingdom has enough of his favor to go around. They can’t believe that there is abundant love for siblings of every nationality and religion. Like herself, they want all the kingdom’s goods, all the pretty dresses, for themselves. So they spurn and hate the marginalized, the older sisters sick in bed. Driven with fear, greed, and anxiety they accumulate until they will kill to protect their territory. Sibling rivalry keeps them from the Kingdom of Compassion.

Fortunately, little sister found freedom. She began to seek first her Father’s kingdom. It took years for her to understand that the Kingdom of Compassion has no scarcity. Her Father only wants to pour out love, without measure. She is still amazed that it truly is his good pleasure to give this kingdom to her and to all her brothers and sisters. Now, because of his good pleasure, she lives happily ever after.

image of Dad & Daughter on seashore

For deeper contemplation of this concept, little sister invites you to take a few minutes to listen to this podcast.

If you have a story of how you have experienced the Father’s pleasure in giving you the kingdom, please share here.

This is Me and I am Free

“That’s your handwriting,” you say after two decades of no mail.
Terrible handwriting. Too jerky, too tense. I’ve hated it.
But you are glad and now I am a school girl practicing my name.
This is mine. This is me and I am free.
Loops rounding out the tails in letters spilling.
How I form them tells you who I am —
Tells me who I am.
I’d rather write than type.
I’d rather you see my hand working down the line
Caressing the page
Soothing the sounds like musical notes of ecstasy for you to play
And then return with yours.

hand writing

“This is Me and I am Free . . . .”

I was twenty-eight when I wrote those lines. Twenty-eight, with years of wondering behind me. Years of wondering what I would be when I grew up. Not that many people asked. I was a middle child after all, elbowing my way out of the nest packed with three other siblings. Except for mothering, uh, bossing, my younger brother, I was the quiet one trying to live up to others expectations. What I would become seemed inconsequential, really.

In very early childhood there were isolated, yet contemptible acts inflicted on me that I was forbidden to acknowledge. The forced hiding had snuffed my heart’s honesty, teaching it to disown itself.

Well-meaning words that edged me toward denial had also been dropped:
“You shouldn’t feel that way. . . .That’s not what God would want . . . . Just lift the corners of your mouth and make-believe you’re glad . . . . Why don’t you get over it?”

An identity was not easy to come by.

“I am ____________,” was a difficult sentence to finish.

Fortunately, despite it all, I believed in the Great I AM. He knew, without asking, what I would be when I grew up. Throughout my roles of student, secretary, wife and mother, He drew me to Him, letting me get to know Him so that I could know myself.

Then, in my twenty-eighth year, my day of freedom came. I saw my heart’s truth. I walked out of denial. I obeyed Him. Because I obeyed Him, I experienced unconditional Love. It was a Love that I could trust. It was a Love that allowed me to be vulnerable.

So I wrote.

This is me, and I am               free              

All thanks to the great I AM.

 

Have you been freed to know who you are?  Please share how Love has played a part in your freedom.

 “And you shall know the truth,and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

Little Ones to Him Belong

_MG_9068.jpgBWShe knocked gently on the door to the room where strange, unintelligible sounds came from a crib-like bed pushed up against the wall. It was the result of her nursing assistant training, this knocking, even though she knew that she wouldn’t get an appropriate, “come in.”

The sun shone warmly through the windows, caressing the floor in front of the bed. Her nose caught the smell of excrement before she saw the bed’s tiny occupant — bone thin, her only clothes a diaper, half torn off, legs bent, contracted and stiff. Her body lay in an “S” shape with just her arms and hands free to flail around. It was obvious that she had sometimes been able to make her hands work. Dark smudge marks on the sheet and walls proved that; as did the smelly dark material that was under her fingernails and on her belly. A bath was in order. And a bath is what the teenage girl in the striped uniform had come to give.

Laying down her stack of towels, bed linen and toiletries, she remembered tales she had heard from more experienced coworkers.

“Better watch out for that old crow. She scratches and bites. And if she draws blood, better disinfect it immediately. Smears her fecal matter like it’s finger paint. So gross. That’s one we all try to avoid. Despicable!”

Small, beady eyes stared up at her as she approached the bed. “Yaoww!” A guttural howl emerged from a toothless mouth. “Yaoww!”

Turning to the sink, she filled a basin with warm water and started to hum a hymn that she remembered from a childhood of hymn singing. The howls stopped. Sudsy water and soft wash cloths soon cleaned up the mess. The “old crow’s” beady eyes never left her face. Needing to change the sheets, she clumsily turned the thin body, but the wizened head twisted around so that eyes never left her face.

Her music seemed to mesmerize her helpless, fragile patient.

“My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” As she worked, memories of her mother lit her mind. How momma loved this song. “I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name.”

Finishing that song, she gently sang another of her mother’s favorites: “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and grief to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” The eyes from the emaciated body followed her every move. The toothless mouth closed slightly and a soft sort of sound escaped the dry lips. Covering the twisted body with a clean gown, she secured its ties behind the thin neck.

“Do you like to sing?” She smiled into the wrinkled face.

There was a nod. The mouth opened wider. The off-key sound grew louder. Instantly she knew what this bundle of humanity needed.

“It might seem crazy,” she muttered as she grabbed a soft blanket. “The nurses won’t understand, but . . . .” Wrapping the blanket around the worthless body, she lifted it with her capable arms and carried it, like a baby, to a rocking chair in the corner.

While the sunshine made warm puddles of light on the floor, they sat, nestled comfortably, and rocked and sang. Above the regular, “Cer-reek, cer-reek” of the rocker, her young, clear voice mingled with the rasping, old croaking one.

“Amazing Grace how sweet the sound . . . . I once was lost but now am found . . . .”

“When peace like a river attended my way . . . . Whatever my loss thou has taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.”

How sad, thought the girl. Our soul still needs hope and peace no matter what age does to our bodies. She felt the woman relax, almost snuggle down into her lap. Just because she is old and incapable of doing what her younger body did, she still longs for love and a caring touch. Her soul still needs to be well and to be found. God knows who she is and where she has been and all that her life has held. And He has given me this moment to reassure her of His love. What an honor this is.

It seemed appropriate to sing her childhood favorite: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but He is strong.” This too is a weak little one! And Jesus loves her too!

She looked down to watch as beady eyes closed on the upturned wrinkled face. The toothless mouth still moved, though soundlessly now. Carefully she carried the little one and placed her in her clean bed. Then she tucked soft blankets around twisted legs.

Contributed by and co-written with JerryAnn Berry, April 20, 2014

“Listen to me . . . [you] who have been borne by Me from before your birth, carried from the womb and even to your old age I am (S)He; and even to gray hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will save.” Isaiah 46:4

Do you have an experience where you knew God was like a mother, carrying you? Please shine the light of that experience to brighten our lives.

To hear more of a God who, like this young aide, embraces humble servant love follow this link.

%d bloggers like this: