Stories that Shine on an Awesome God

Posts tagged ‘love’

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.

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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

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

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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.

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.”

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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

From Shame Wringer to Joy Catcher

“I want to praise you without restraint, but my joy has not yet been released. Why, God, Why?” Tears, the only evidence of release, flowed free and full like the words of her longing. “I sense my joy, deep down. What is keeping it there?”

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Beside her, two godly women prayed. “Try coming to joy like a child by singing a simple song of Jesus.” They suggested. Is it even possible to think about coming to joy and at the same instant experience joy? She wasn’t sure. All she knew, as she left the meeting early, was that the women’s prayers were doing God’s work. They had tapped into a deep place.

Out of that place echoed a quiet voice from years before: “God never turns shame into anger. God always turns shame into joy.”

God, after all these years of healing, is there still some leftover shame? You know my heart, Lord. You know what I need.

She fell into bed emotionally exhausted only to wake throughout the night. Each time she woke she was aware of God’s healing presence working within her, as though gentle hands were massaging and pressing far beneath the surface. She felt them. Drifting in and out of sleep, she dreamed:

Dirty water squished out between the rollers on an old wringer washer. Rollers pressed clothing into a tub for rinse. It was as though she were back in childhood, and with a sense of danger, her small hands guided the clothes, helping Momma. She was excited by the challenge. Clothing must be wrung smoothly. They couldn’t be bunched. Not too much could be fed through the turning rollers; only enough so she could gingerly catch and tug the laundry steadily through. All the while dirty water squished from the squashed clothes.

wringer washer with suds

She woke remembering a release bar for safety, just in case her small fingers or arm rolled with the laundry into its pressing, wringing mouth. She remembered Momma’s help with no harm done. She woke, aware of a divine Presence, aware of hands pressing, gently pressing within.

She slept. The clothes in the wringer washer rolled on, leaving the dirty water behind. She woke to the inner press of healing. Lying in the darkness, she sensed that this pressing was squeezing out the last traces of the shame of her life’s dirty water; even the remnants of the sewer water from choices not her own.

She slept and dreamed of lines hung with clothes and sheets billowing, filling with air fresh with the scent of sunshine.

She woke to memories of earlier bedtimes when she buried her joyful face into those sun scented sheets and drew in deep breaths of nature’s fragrance. She remembered drying with towels stiffened by the wind. Their roughness, so unlike soft, dryer-dried towels, had stimulated her skin. For years she had chosen not to own a dryer.

Laundry on line

She slept and when she woke again, anticipation coursed her being. It was an anticipation for the joy that she knew was set before her. Throughout the night, at a subconscious level, her shame had been despised and wrung out like so much dirty water. Shame was gone. Joy and unrestrained praise would come.

With sunlight brightening her bed, she reached for her Bible and listened to her Father speak:

“Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion. Instead of dishonor you shall rejoice in your lot. Therefore in your land you shall possess a double portion. You shall have everlasting joy. For I the Lord love justice.” Is 61:7

We all long for joy. Shame kills it. Jesus endured the cross. He despised its shame knowing there was joy set before him. (Heb. 12:2) When we sense our joy is lacking, we need more of him! We need to claim the truth that he did not come to condemn but to heal. (John 3:17) When we choose to believe that Jesus gives us the right to become children of God (John 1:12) and let him press that truth deep within us, our shame disappears. Whenever we gain a deeper sense of the stain and effect of our sin or as shame raises its ugly head in the words or actions of those who do not love us or our God, we need the truth that Jesus declares.

old washer with womanWe each need him to wash us clean and to wring away all the dirty water of shame. We need to allow the wind to fill our billows with the fragrance of his sunshine! As life slings its mud our way, we need to be released and refilled again and again. If we do not wrangle with the wringer, we will be pressed down only to fly against the sky on his wind, filled with his love, his fragrance, and his joy.

“Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:11

“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11

Release your own shame to the Savior as you listen to Julie True sing “Beautiful Tapestry and I Release.”

Story contributed by JerryAnn Berry. Written by Merita Atherly Engen

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.

Surrendering to a Stranger

JeriAnne's image of a Rose & Jeremiah 31:3“Oh, my poor sweetie,” my husband uses his thumb and forefinger to rub my earlobe in a teasing, somewhat patronizing fashion. “You didn’t know what you were getting into when you married me, did you?” His blue eyes twinkle as though hidden in their recesses are the extreme adventures he has lived and dreamed, like sparks, keeping his soul alive.

“No, I didn’t know. Not everything. I knew what I observed. I knew what you chose to share. I didn’t know you would spring on every word with your sharp, analytical mind, ignore the abstraction and sometimes the context in an effort to stick to the secure absolute. I didn’t know you are romantically challenged, but I think I knew enough. I mean, after all, we’ve known each other since we were children. I didn’t know all, but I knew enough. And stop rubbing my ear!” I lean my head away.

Why did I surrender to the commitment of loving this man?

Simple. I knew him. At least I knew enough. I knew his family. I knew his history of committed providing. I knew his cultural perspective was similar to mine. I knew he had a deep desire for “Diety,” as he calls God. I knew, that through his mistakes, he tries to be honest with himself. That was major. I knew the things that mattered most. I knew enough to trust him. He was no stranger.

I trust my husband because I know him. Because I trust him, I can love him. Because I love, I can surrender.

So often we, the church, get it wrong about God. So often we filter our concept of Him through our religious mores, our parents, and even isolated Bible texts out of context. So often we ignore the fact that God, the Father God, was IN Christ, who is the Light of the World. Like a stranger, we simply don’t know Him.

We won’t ever know all there is to know, but we can know enough to trust.

No one can trust without knowing. No one can love without trusting. No one can surrender their heart without knowing, trusting, and loving.

It’s true in human romance. It’s true in the Divine romance.

  Share an incident in your journey of surrender, of trusting, of knowing the Father. We will all be blessed when you do!

I encourage you to listen to “The Favor of God” in this link. (Direct link to Life Unlimited & then find The Favor of God a bit more than 1/2 way down the list)

“I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3

 

 

 

God in the Ultimates

There was a time when I longed for an ideal, romantic love. My life story seemed to prove that it didn’t exist. Consequently, I thought that perhaps God didn’t exist. My pinpoint of a beam, searching for the truth about Him, grew dim as it swept the darkness.

Finally, like the young woman in The Heart of Rose-Marie, I cried in desperation:

Image of Husband & Wife Holding hands at altar

“God, I’m tired of spiritual limbo. Your way has to work in every circumstance, for real problems. That’s what I want to test.”

My discourse with the All Mighty began:

“So what is faith?”

“It’s naked trust, and I haven’t had much experience.”

“What kind of experience do you need?”

Experience with trusting in the ultimates.”

What are the ultimates?”

Life, death, health, economic security. An ultimate for me is to find my reason to be, who I am, my place of belonging. Another ultimate is to love and be loved. God, for Your way to mean anything, I want it tested in these ultimates.”

From that day on, I began to search for situations where God’s way was tested and worked. I began to interpret my  life experiences through the lens of Him proving His way in my joys and challenges. I began to recognize the genuine, ideal Love that was working in my heart.

I began to get to know Him.

The better I know, the better I can trust. Even in the ultimates.

So, how has God proven His way to you personally, in your ultimates? Especially in matters of your heart. How have you gotten to know Him?

“In him we live and move and have our being.”  Acts 17:28

Gathering Glimpses

image of Sunlight thru the cloudsI’m a writer, and writers, the publishing world tells me, need “platforms” and platforms may be built by “blogging” and blogging Is just another way to help me “find my voice” and finding my voice basically means that I have a “passion” for particular areas in life that fills my writing in my own unique style.

Well, I have a passion. I have a spark that bursts into flame every time my pin light, the flashlight beam of my mind, shines upon a fresh view of The Lover of My Soul. When I open the Word, it’s the promise of that warm inner rush that lures me.  Each morning I open my eyes to a quickening expectation that puts my feet on the floor:  That a slice of this day’s experience will draw me further in to Him. Nothing thrills me more than to discover a new example, a new angle of God’s love at work. Nothing.

Not far from my bed where I can view it daily, is a picture of Jesus Christ in shades of blue and gray. His body spreads across a rock. His strong arms reach out with hands clasped in petition. In tones of agony, he pleads with his Father, his Abba Daddy. He has a voice. In fact, he is the Word. He has a platform. His agony on that rock is my very life.  He has a passion. His every fiber throbs to reveal, in full, glorious light, the Father.

Christ In Gethsemine

I suppose I could have called this blog an eclectic gathering of glimpses of God. Whatever. I simply want to share, with the point of my pen, what my beam of light catches. I want you to share your glimpses, your light.  I have no idea if it will develop a platform. I only hope that it will intensify my passion, and perhaps yours.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:17

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