Team Work

When we pray for someone we love, let’s always go the distance. Let’s build a stretcher to carry them on and fight through the crowds. Let’s climb to the top of the house carefully carrying them to Jesus. Let’s dig through every layer of the rooftop till we see Jesus and can safely get them into Jesus’ presence. See Mark 1-12.

Those we love who cannot help themselves, who are paralyzed by fear or addiction or lust or greed or pain or just the unbearable weight of living in this fallen world, must have someone to carry them to Jesus, the only One who can truly save them.

More often than not, it takes more than one friend to carry someone else to Jesus. If the one we love can’t get there alone, most of us will not be strong enough to carry them through the crowds and onto the rooftop alone. And if we were strong enough, we would surely drop them along the way.

But if we commit ourselves to seeking out others to love our loved one with us, we can get them through the crisis, through their aversion to help, through the lies of the enemy, through the minefields of this world, and carry them into Jesus’ presence.

And then! Jesus will not just heal their disease, strengthen their bones or restore their physical health. He will heal them to the uttermost–He will go to the root cause of the problem and shine His love light on it so they can see down deep where the problem started. With the tenderest love and compassion, Jesus will show them all sins that lead them to fall into the pit from which they couldn’t climb out, where the disease or paralysis or blindness seeped into their body like acid. Seeing the place where they fell or leaped into that pit will hurt their hearts just enough to cause them to cry out to Jesus, asking His forgiveness for having turned their backs on Him before the fall.

And then! Just because they came to Him and honestly asked for His help, Jesus tells them what they most long to hear: “Your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5. Hearing that gives them the ability and willingness to arise, take up the bed of pain and sorrow they had been confined to, and walk home. As they go, everyone they meet will see them and be amazed, knowing who they had been before-paralyzed and unable to walk on their own.

What a privilege to be part of that team! What joy to hear others say, “We never saw anything like this! Mark 2:12.

Amen and amen.

It’s Just Not Fair!

I know that much of life is not fair. I get that it’s how we play the hand we’re dealt and not what cards we get that really matters. But I celebrate when “good” people win and shake my head knowingly when “bad” people get what I think they deserve. I want a fair price for what I buy and for others to treat me at least as well as I treat them.

Equality and fairness as we understand those concepts, however, do not bind the kingdom of heaven. God expects us to obey Him. He is our sovereign creator and we must stand in reverent fear and awe before Him. Then, if we choose to obey in the slightest way, He opens up the storehouses of heaven to pour overflowing blessings into our lives.

His expectation is that we will be perfect as He is perfect. Matthew 5:48. But we’re just humans, how can we ever be perfect?! How is that fair? It is not fair according to the standards of this world. But when we weigh the benefits of simple obedience against the rewards, we can’t help but see that our return is ridiculously unfair–in our favor!

For the simple choice to believe in Jesus as our Savior, we get everlasting life. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

God even invites us to test this principal. He asks us in Malachi to bring all our tithes into the storehouse to see if He will not open for us the windows of heaven and pour out on us such blessings that there will not be room enough to receive it. Malachi 3:10. So the equation here is give a tenth of what we have (which God supplied us with in the first place) and in exchange we get overflowing, uncontainable blessings poured into our lives.  Talk about unfair!

There are many, many other examples of the unfairness of God: to all who mourn, He gives a crown of beauty for the ashes of our sorrow if we only praise Him (Isaiah 61:3), if we bow our knees to Him, He gives us the riches of His glory and strengthens us with might through His spirit (Ephesians 3:14-16), by Jesus’ stripes, the scars He bore for us in unimaginable pain on the cross, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5), and the list goes on and on.

I dare you to find out for yourself. Read the Bible. Find out if God’s plan of salvation isn’t beyond unfair in your favor. Or forget about it and go on with your life looking for fairness and equality there. He left that choice to you as He went to the cross to exchange His life for your salvation.

Amen and amen.

Don’t Hide From Success

Jesus tells us that we cannot keep what He has given us hidden. See Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-27. In these parables, what was given was money. Two of the servants invested that money and made more for their master/employer. One of them hid the money out of fear. The ones who invested the money and earned more were rewarded with even greater authority. But the one who hid what he got, not earning any interest, had everything taken away from him. He was miserable and suffered as a result of his choice.

I do not claim to be a Bible scholar, and I am no theologian, but I believe with great certainty that every word of the Bible has an intimately personal meaning for each person reading it. This personal meaning and application is in addition to the historical context and application to the whole church body of believers. My disclaimer is that I am about to explain how this parable speaks personally to me today, as a 61 year old grandma living in Southern Illinois. My hope is that by reading how this applies to me, you will begin wondering how it applies to you, and most importantly, that it will inspire you to read your Bible to dig deep for the treasures it has waiting just for you.

Now, to the point of this post-what does this parable mean to me? I am like the one given only one talent, and for most of my life, I have hidden that talent. When Jesus used the word “talent” in this parable as told by Matthew, that word referred to a large sum of money. But Jesus knew that by the time this parable would be translated into English, the word talent would much more commonly refer to a person’s abilities, what we are naturally good at. I am not exceptionally good at many things, but writing has always been easy for me, I have always loved to write, and if I had to say that I have a talent, writing would be about the only thing I could confidently identify.

Although most of my career has included writing, I have also written journals throughout my life. Those are definitely hidden back in a closet because who wants to read the angst and hope and details of my life? But more recently, I have begun writing fiction. I have a novel that’s about 2/3 complete, two complete short stories, and a couple of children’s books that I am finishing and trying to get illustrated. I have written a lot besides this blog, but I haven’t made any real effort to get my writing published. Fear of rejection and dismay because I know absolutely nothing about the publishing process except that it is complicated with thousands of choices that I will have to make.

The alternative to trying to publish my writing, however, is either to stop writing, which would be a death knell for my spirit, or to keep hiding my “talent.” Neither is acceptable to me. So, I am praying for guidance from my loving Father through this maze of decisions, and I am committing every part of this dream of publishing to Him.

“Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3 (NLT) In Hebrew, the word for commit is galal. Galal means to roll something away or off, such as rolling a stone off the mouth of a well. As I commit to God this dream and all of the “talent” or gifting God has given me, I thereby have access to the deep wells of His insight, revelation, humor, authority, understanding and love that will insure success. I may not have financial success, or any other kind of success as measured by the world, but what I write will bring glory to God. That is all that matters in the end.

Amen and amen.

Today is THE Day!

When my sons were little, we lived way out in the country, so far that we were the boondocks. On the 30 minute drive to school, I always asked them, “What is today?” They had to answer, “Today is the day the Lord has made. Rejoice and be happy in it.”

Now, the truth is that many of those mornings, I was frazzled and impatient, and the boys were fighting with each other and certainly not cooperating with me. But somehow we got into the car with backpacks stuffed with books and (hopefully finished) homework and lunch bags and (hopefully signed) permission slips. I would pull out of our long driveway and head out on our gravel road toward town and school.

Too many times, I am sure I asked the question through gritted teeth in an angry tone of voice, causing my sons to respond with sarcasm and rolled eyes. This would be one of many reasons that, once my little boys grew up and moved out to lead their separate lives, I have often prayed for God to fill in the gaps from where my parenting flopped.

Still, I hope they got the message that I was trying to learn myself. Whatever the day brings, even when, actually especially when, the day starts out like the worst Monday morning ever, with nothing going right and everything going wrong, we need to acknowledge that God gave us THIS day to rejoice in. We don’t get another one, just today.

And in the words of my beloved friend Phyllis, have a day of your choosing.

Amen and amen.

Deliberate Blindness

The Pharisees met Jesus and saw His miracles

but refused to believe

and instead plotted against Him.

Judas was a chosen disciple

who walked with Jesus.

Too many decide in their hearts

not to accept Jesus as their Savior.

Lord, show me those who don’t want to be saved

so I won’t waste time on them.

Instead, point me to those who are willing,

hungry, desperate, poor,

without hope in themselves

but grasping for straws.

Give me Your word

as a sword to cut through the disbelief

that You could ever save

a wretch like me.

We each receive

condemnation or justification

from our Creator, God,

based on our heart’s response

to the Spirit of God.

So many are willfully, deliberately blind,

totally unwilling to see

Jesus is our Savior.

The most impenetrable darkness

surrounds the one who refuses

to see the light.

In the world today,

we’re building a tower

much higher than Babel;

artificial intelligence

weaving its impervious web

over all but those who choose to see the light.

Just as staring at the sun too long

causes blind spots,

looking only at what we can do for ourselves

too soon leads to eternal blindness,

dead eyes that can no longer see

the glory of God.

Looking inward

to focus exclusively

on our own brilliance

causes our heart to shrink

like a withered orange,

hard, with no more juice left inside,

then like a walnut shell

whose meat is dried to stone

no longer good to eat.

We’re plugged into everything

except the source of life.

Our own batteries

will too soon die,

never to be recharged.

A Fool’s Relief

For a few weeks, I’ve been feeling

that old, too-familiar, worn out

sadness, that sense of being left

behind because I’ve been too stupid

to know which bus to catch,

too muddle-headed to know

where I’m supposed to go,

discouraged because others

won’t come with me

to show me the way.

Then my Friend Jesus reaches out

through eternity to show me, again,

the gem He gave me to treasure

a long time ago:

“A highway shall be there,

and a road,

and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.

The unclean shall not pass over it,

but it shall be for others.

Whoever walks the road,

although a fool,

shall not go astray.”

Isaiah 35:8

That verse always jerks my head up

from looking down

to see the hope dancing in the clouds.

Even a fool like me can find her way,

not because she knows how to go,

not because she’s mapped it out

or planned a thing,

not because of her sense of direction,

because she was born without that.

Only because Jesus has washed me

(EVEN ME!) clean,

I shall not go astray.

Amen and amen.

In the Shadow of the Scroll

Above us still a large scroll casts a shadow, hiding the face of God.

An indictment charging theft and perjury,

taking what is not ours

and declaring what is false in His name.

Charges against a nation and against me.

I have been guilty with many others

of taking credit for accomplishments I never could achieve

without all He’s given me,

and I’ve too often proclaimed God is this and that

only because it suited my purpose at the time,

only to support my justification for doing

what I wanted to do when and how

I wanted to do it.

Since the beginning we’ve all tried to

make God be what we want Him to be.

He created us to have that choice

but never without consequence.

We’re trying again to make a name for ourselves

and build a tower that reaches heaven.

But God won’t allow it now anymore than then.

Unless we’re willing to live under the shadow of His indictment,

we cannot rob Him of glory or say He is who He is not.

Myself, I want to look up

and see where I’ve failed, again,

and cry out for forgiveness, again.

Then, He can bless me

by making His face shine upon me;

warming me with unclouded grace and peace.

Amen and amen.

See Zechariah 5:1-4, Genesis 11:1-9, and Numbers 6:22-27.