Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Note to Readers

A note to my readers:

I've lately written about various neighbors to help illustrate God's teachings and God's heart and His work in my life. I think it's time to let you know that care is taken to preserve privacy. The stories are true and the situations represent actual life circumstances and brokenness, but enough is altered to protect privacy and prevent hurt feelings.

As well, I am careful not to reveal my location or our real names on this blog. As always, thank you for reading and for your encouraging comments.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Something About Jonah, Part 4

When we last studied Jonah, Nineveh repented and earned the Lord's favor (Jonah 3:10) "When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened."


On to Part 4 today, Jonah 4: 1-3
But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn't this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Jonah's passions ran hot about the Lord's mercy toward a vile enemy. So hot was he, he felt it better to die than live. Oh, but that is the ugliest of pride! He was refusing to let God be God-- he wouldn't accept God's sovereignty.

The created angry at the Creator. The saved angry at the Redeemer. Oh, but the folly of it all! 

Our passions often corrupt our hearts, to be sure. 

His own nation, Israel, repeatedly refused to repent and Nineveh's quick repentance, in contrast, made the Israelites look all the more proud and evil. Jonah feared what God's favor for the Gentiles would mean for his own people, as though God didn't have enough grace in Him to cover both Jew and Gentile.

Jonah also feared the loss of his good reputation back home. His long-time prediction, that Nineveh would be destroyed, was proven wrong. Would he henceforth be thought of as a false prophet?

Bigotry is at work here, too. Jonah believed that God's favor should be for Israel only, not for Gentiles. We see the same issue in the New Testament with Peter, who at first could not reconcile himself to salvation for Gentiles.

What stands out here as well is how God works through us so often, so perfectly, even in our brokenness. Jonah's heart was hard toward the people to whom he preached. We can safely doubt he preached with any compassion or civility at all. Nineveh responded to God, not to Jonah. Just as when we witness to someone, they respond to God, not to us. 

We mustn't say: "But I'm not an evangelist. I can't witness!" Excusing ourselves from it is a prideful position, not a faithful one.

Jonah 4:4
Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?

Oh, but the Lord is tender toward us! He knows a soft answer turns away wrath. And the hard part? He desires the same softness from us, toward our family and neighbors. He could have struck Jonah dead on the spot, so ashamedly did Jonah behave. Instead, the Lord desires to restore Jonah.

Let restoration always be our goal, and not the feeding of our pride and passions.

Here we have a picture of discipleship in action. Discipleship is hard. It's laborious, slow, frustrating. How many parents are secretly thankful when school starts in September? This isn't because it's hard to keep kids entertained, but because discipling them hour after hour, day after day, is so hard

Discipleship means not accepting that haphazard cleaning job, that prideful tone of voice, that ungrateful tirade. Not accepting, but also not condemning in anger. Instead, we're to put a lid on our passions and restore in love. "Doest thou well to be angry?" We should always ask ourselves this same question.

Teach and reteach. Love and love some more. That's the work God has for the mature Christian, and he will put children, friends, and acquaintances in our path to help us practice.

I am reminded of my neighbor Joanna. She is young and a mother of four, the children having three different fathers. Every week she borrows something from me, whether it be foil to cover a cookie sheet, a quarter cup of milk for mac n' cheese, gas for the lawnmower...whatever. I don't mind helping because each item is so small, and I know how hard it can be for a mother of four to get to the store, and right now especially, since their family is down to one working vehicle.

I heard from her children that they were low on vehicle gas one week. She didn't ask or tell me about this herself, but three days after the kids first mentioned it, hearing that she only had a gallon left, I gave her son a $20 to give to his mother for gas, writing to her that we often have trouble making ends meet, and I know God would want me to help. This was my conviction after praying. To help in their time of need. She works at a nursing home and had missed work due to an illness the previous week.

I didn't ask for any money back, but she wrote back that I was surely an angel and no one had ever been that kind to her. She also wrote that she would pay me back when they got paid, and that she would see us in church that Sunday. I hadn't even mentioned church.

No, they didn't go to church, but she did pay me back.

After their payday we noticed they bought each child a new toy, (the children happened to come over and share their new remote-control toys and Ipod). As well, they spent several hours at the township carnival down the street, which features rides more expensive than the county fair.

The following Wednesday right before I took her son to AWANA, she wrote me a note saying they needed gas money again and could we spare another $20? She signed it "God Bless". She would pay me back in two days when her husband got paid. Her hours had been cut because she has to drive the children do and from their schools. (Though she now works all day Saturdays, as does the husband, leaving the children with the 12-year-old, unfortunately).

The truth is my husband had to count change to get his own gasoline (we had a repair that cleaned us dry). I relayed that we were low on money too, and I was sorry I couldn't help

But later that night, my husband and I talked it over and we wouldn't have helped in the same week they had bought their children new toys and spent too much at a carnival, because that is more mismanagement than shortage. 

When I got the note asking for money, I have to confess: I was thoroughly disgusted. But the Holy Spirit quickly spoke to me, telling me that discipleship is hard and that I needed to have patience, rather than writing someone off because I was irritated at childishness (or lack of money-management training).

The Holy Spirit reminded me that the Lord works with us right where we're at. I need to do the same with my children, and with my neighbors. Where was I fifteen years ago, as a new Christian? And how did I get here, and how will I continue to grow? Because of the Lord's slow, patient discipling. Because of his unrelenting mercy and grace. Because he will never give up on me.

Philippians 1:6
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

My neighbor may or may not be churched. She might know nothing about God. 

This is where she's at: She buys processed macaroni and cheese and corn dogs and makes them for dinner. She overspends and then keeps her children home from school because she doesn't have enough gas money to drive them to school some days. (I'm sure the truant officer will be out soon.) She lets her 12-year-old, whose bosom is already full and mature (a C at least), dress provocatively, prompting the high-schooler boys and 20-something men around here to gawk at her cleavage, unbeknownst to her tender 12-year-old heart, I trust. 

And lastly, this mother lets her 12-year-old watch three younger children.

Prayer and the Holy Spirit will draw my neighbor's heart. God will convict her of each thing, individually, in time, with no help from me. He will also provide the income to make wiser choices, such as different childcare arrangements and different clothing choices for her daughter. 

When she's ready and the Holy Spirit prompts me, how can I come alongside her and teach? That's the question the Lord has for me to pray about. How can I show her how cooking real food will save her money, and improve their health? Show her how a 12-year-old can't be responsible for three younger children? Teach her that the financial stress is at some level, self-inflicted?(Although I'm sure a low wage doesn't help.) The divorce rate for third marriages is 90%, so she may need relationship counseling down the line, as well. Being low-income, or being in debt, is a severe stress on a marriage, to say the least.

I can't wait until I feel together enough myself, to come alongside her and teach. I simply need a willing, obedient heart and a decent control over my anger, my judgments, my passions. I can't look down on her and want to write her off, because she's too much trouble or too far astray.

Beauty from ashes. That's the work of the Lord. Thank goodness He didn't consider me "too far astray" to be redeemed!

The book of Jonah is, among other things, a how-to book on godly discipleship.  

It's hard to swallow, perhaps, but discipleship is the work God has for the mature Christian. We mustn't run away to Tarshish or get too busy for it. If the Lord's worked steadily on us for years, he expects us to extend the same blessing to others, starting with our own children. Using an exemplary measure of patience and love and mercy.

We're not done with Jonah yet, but this is sufficient food for today. 

Prayer Time: Dear Father, thank you for your grace and mercy. Thank you for gently teaching and reteaching. Thank you for the lessons in Jonah. Thank you for the loving example and for the challenge to help others in their search for you, and in their Christian walks. Keep us from being too haughty, too busy, too exasperated, to help our children and neighbors. May we live in gratitude and obedience to you and be about your Kingdom work, acting justly, loving mercy, walking humbly.

In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Neighborhood Evangelism, Oh My

She comes to the door, crocodile tears falling, desperate to have audience with me, the harried mother attempting to get four children to AWANA on time.

A bully at school calls her drama queen and I don't scratch my head when I hear it.

Lexi is soft-hearted and hard-hearted, stubborn and pliable, hungry and starved, beautiful and homely, high-maintenance and higher-maintenance.

And right now she wants to go to AWANA but her mother won't let her. And Aidan, another neighbor of ours and a classmate of Lexi's...his mother will let him come and that burns a jealous whole in Lexi's heart and I can't seem to shut my door on her drama, even though we need to be there in twenty minutes and my children haven't finished their spaghetti and I haven't combed out the girls' wet hair or taken a bite myself.

And the church is eight minutes away.

As I listen to her sobbing and her begging, it's all I can do to keep my tone even. My demeanor controlled.

My son is not unlike her and I know she doesn't choose this drama. The Lord has her crying and begging at the right house because even as she stretches my patience daily, my heart aches for her.

I'm no stranger to begging myself, as my Heavenly Father will attest to. And drama? I can dish that up too.

I long to wash her dirty, disheveled hair and trim her bangs. I long to have the money and time to peruse thrift stores for her like she were one of my own. She's ten and her clothes are too tight, too short, and her tops resemble camisoles.

"Maybe your mom will let you go next week", I offer in desperation.

"I won't be here next week."

Never mind that this is a lie we've heard before. What she really wants is for me to defy her mother and drive her to AWANA anyway, I suppose.

Finally, I do get our front door closed and Lexi does leave the premises and I do get the crew to the church on time. Sort of...if you consider that the teachers ran late.

On the road there, I remembered. For six and a half years there were no neighborhood children to play with and we prayed for friends. Now, as new children show up weekly from various streets and the yard resembles a school playground, I wonder at my naivete.

Boy did I have it good before.

For neighborhood children? They resemble the world in all its brokenness. And me? I'm redeemed but really just as broken and what was God thinking in making my home this hubbub?

Most days I'm so spent by 4:00 when these kids come knocking, I want to lock the door, slump down and hide.

All these kids know we're homeschooling, church-going Jesus freaks and how can I possibly shine for Jesus when the dinner and bath show must go on as planned and doesn't God know the witching hours are hard on my nerves, anyway? How do I add the dance of playground referee while draining my spaghetti, washing preschooler hair, and setting a nightly table?

I don't know God, but I trust you?

Tonight was AWANA missions night and a missionary from the Ukraine asked us to pray for Ukrainian children because their daily realities are dark and painful, lonely and loveless.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The spiritual poverty in the Ukraine is as shocking as the physical poverty in Kenya.

Ukrainian children are expected to be married by eighteen and to have their first child in their first year of marriage. By the third year of marriage eighty percent of them divorce.

And that child they had in the first year? He becomes inconvenient as another spouse is sought.

So they drop the child off at an orphanage. Extra baggage.

I'm listening and ready to cry at the darkness in another mother's heart, all those miles away. How could she? Atheist or not, how could she?

I look over at Aidan, my neighbor boy sitting across the church pew from me, listening to this same story. I brought him in my old, rotten, 220,000 mile van, to this church, after praying for two years that my witness would be strong.

I thought of the darkness in the Ukraine and the darkness on my street and I realized something.

I don't have to be ready at 4:00 when the children come knocking on my door. I don't have to be all smiles, ultra-controlled, full of stamina and patience. I'm not on display. My lifestyle is not on display. My children are not on display.

The God of the Universe, He's on display And he'll do just fine, whether I've had a good day or not. He doesn't need me, but he'll use me, brokenness and all.

Tomorrow when they come knocking, my nerves might not be ready but my heart will be. Before Christ plucked me from a dark, hurting world, I was a dirty sinner like the mothers in the Ukraine who drop their firstborns off at orphanages. I want to think I was better, but I wasn't. I was lost, hurt, confused. I wanted my own way and I desperately needed the Light.

While we were sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Prayer Time: Dear Lord, thank you for the cross. Thank you for the glorious life we have in you. Help me to say yes to playground referee and to lost souls. Shine your Light from my home, my porch, my yard. May all these children burn to ask about you. Give me the patience, the right words, the right prayers. Help my children to grow in you, to tell about you, to uphold you. They are in a battleground now, Lord. Protect their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and may they say yes to evangelism. Yes to putting others above themselves, yes to the Gospel-driven life. Shine, Jesus, Shine.

In Your Son's name I pray, Amen.

photo source

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Walk With Him Wednesday: Practice of Suffering

Ann Voskamp, every Wednesday, hosts a link-up about  spiritual practices that draw us nearer to His heart.
The assignment this week is: The Practice of Suffering…What does it mean to pick up a cross? How do we walk through hard times? How do we participate in the sufferings of Christ? We look forward to your Scripture study, stories, encouragement….

I contemplated...shall I write about money being scarce, about the washer we bought new four years ago making an awful screeching sound, about the vacuum that smells like an electrical fire every time I turn it on...about all the broken things that can't be fixed just now? How the frustration of it all leaves me feeling lonely, forgotten, hopeless, and how those emotions drive me to Scripture for comfort, because I know in my heart that I do have enough...much even?

But's all too fresh today and could I really take the whine out of the words this soon?

I settled, then, on writing about parenting special-needs children. Children are always a blessing, no matter the challenges, but when a child suffers for whatever reason, a whole family suffers. It's a shared suffering.

How does one walk through parenting years with handicaps constantly changing the rules, the possibilities, the limits? How do you lead a child to a God who allowed their handicaps and chooses not to heal them, all the while pushing your child to overcome obstacles and triumph?

One of my sons doesn't control his emotions, his impulses, his passions, his body. And attention to detail eludes him unless he's indulging a passion. While indulging that passion--such as the search for the perfect pet--he will eat and drink too little and his body will remain tense, his mood intense, his behavior ugly. When it's all said and done, he'll find no satisfaction and he'll be spent, exhausted, irrational...looking for the next "fix"...the next obsession.

His mind, suited for fight or flight, doesn't know how to function without intense stimulation. He will irritate those around him for fun when unoccupied, just to stimulate his brain. A brain that can't seem to rest.

No matter the years on the calendar, he doesn't get any closer to managing himself.

Even in his relationship with God, he has trouble attending to details. The discipline of prayer, of Bible reading---it's all a tremendous fight to let the words, the comfort, sink in and transform. It's as though his spirit as well as his body is constantly restless and on edge.

The whole family, it has no choice but to ride the waves the speed boat--my son's brain--leaves in its wake. Usually we stay afloat just fine, but sometimes we sink in despair and need rescuing.

And always, we wish it could be different.

My son is not unhappy with his brain or with the condition itself, per se. He doesn't know how a normal brain functions so he doesn't know what he's missing. And in certain ways, his disorder has advantages. In fight or flight situations, he excels.

His pain comes from constantly disappointing people--from rarely seeing approval in people's eyes. From taking longer to complete the same arduous tasks and seeing the result look far worse--whether it be handwriting or making a bed. Though in things he likes to do, the results please him and others.

His work ethic is constantly suspect and uninformed people label these kids lazy brats. Or if they are adults...lazy idiots.

As a parent I worry about his future wife, his future children, his future job...about his joy and peace. His disorder is highly heritable--his own father and my half-brother both have a form of it. At least one of his children will probably have it, or worse. How will he cope with a special-needs child when his own brain is different? How will his wife cope with two unique brains in the house, changing the way everyday life looks? Changing the expectations she grew up with for how people react, cope, persevere?

Should my son even get married...and if he doesn't how will he combat loneliness and impurity?

The question Ann asks is really this: When daily reality is achingly hard and there are more questions than does one live? How does one get up every day and want to try?

The answer is glorious in its simplicity. Whereas others have a choice about whether to pursue God every day or not, the sufferer doesn't. Daily life feels too heavy and the prospect of getting up too daunting, without the strength of the Lord.

When the Apostle Paul tells me in 2 Corinthians 12:9: But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me...I get it! I really get it!

Because Christ's power? I have to wield it or I would sink piteously into my bed most days, unwilling to persevere. 

And when my children go to sleep at night basking in warm memories of a good day, I have the Lord to thank. Only Him, for in my own strength I botch our days something fierce. 

Day by day as I walk with him faithfully, the Lord teaches me how to transcend circumstances so that my heart and mind dwell in heaven already...they dwell in the perfection of eternity. When turmoil threatens me, I know the answer comes in adjusting my gaze. I can walk on the water when my gaze is right. And when my gaze lowers, we all sink.

It is a daily practicing, a daily trusting his promises and seeing His glory revealed.

No, I wouldn't have chosen this. My son and my family, they wouldn't have chosen this. The Lord in his wisdom and love, he gave us turmoil as a gift. He's taught me to see it as gift, and how to present it to my family as gift.

And in the end, I love Him more. I trust Him more. I need Him more. I bask in more. I live the truth that less is more.

And as I finish writing this, there are tears. Tears of joy, tears of thankfulness. Tears of triumph. Not my triumph, but His. 

And living for Him...wanting Him to triumph? It feels perfect.

Linking with Ann today, at Walk With Him Wednesday

photo credit

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday Devotions: Comfort From Isaiah 40:1-11

Study with me today, friend? I'm looking at comfort from Isaiah. Whatever your sorrow, whatever your hardship, whatever has cast down your spirit, Scripture and prayer are your answer. We waste so much time looking for comfort elsewhere, when really, the first thing we should have done is get that Bible in our hands. If you don't have a study Bible, look up your desired verses on Bible Gateway and click on "show references". A few Bible commentaries should appear at your right.

Isaiah 40:1-11
Judah's time of judgment has come to an end (vv. 1-2), the exiles will return home via the desert highway (vv. 3-5), the hated kingdom (Babylon) will wither (vv. 6-8), Jerusalem will prepare for the return (vv. 9-10), and God will accomplish it (v. 11). While these words were meant for sixth-century Jewish exiles, like all prophetic words, their meaning is expansive. This scene was reenacted with paradigmatic force in the preparation by John the Baptist for the coming of the Christ, who continues to lead his people into freedom. (These notes from Asbury Bible Commentary)

1 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

6 A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”

9 You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

Copy the last verse and put in on your bathroom mirror:

11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

When I read this last verse especially, I'm reminded that all is well with my soul, with my life, with my today and my tomorrow. Scripture reminds us of God's infinite love and infinite power. It reminds us that "the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God endures forever." It reminds us that our peace comes when we shift our focus from the temporal back to the eternal.

The peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding, it goes away when we take our eyes off of Him. Turmoil in our hearts doesn't feel like a choice, but it is. When we choose to neglect Bible and prayer, we choose turmoil. If our minds are so troubled we can't form coherent sentences, we can pray in spirit and groans. He will understand.

A very good reason, besides our own comfort, to pursue God daily is to aid our witness. We are supposed to be a people at peace, a people of God--not perfect, but redeemed and grateful for it, like the bold, broken woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears, and like the leper who threw himself at Jesus' feet in thankfulness and worship. We need this same heart. This same humility. And it's the Word and prayer that restore us to these humble positions.

We need the Bible friend. We need it.

Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4

Monday, September 24, 2012

Multitude Monday: A Sinful Woman Anoints Jesus' Feet

Jesus Anointed by Sinful Woman Royalty Free Stock Photo

Luke 7:37-49 (Scripture in red italics, commentary in black.)

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 

In ancient times it was common for meals to be public. This house was probably typical of well-to-do homes in the region, built around a courtyard which forms a hollow square. In the courtyard there might be a fountain and a cool garden where the household is partaking of a meal. When an important person came to dine, spectators were likely, though they weren't welcome to interact with the diners. 

Though this event occurred at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, (another woman anointed Jesus with perfume at the end of his ministry) this sinful woman had heard about Jesus the compassionate teacher, who dared to spend time with sinners and publicans. She came hoping to anoint his feet with perfume, despite knowing that her notorious reputation would make her unwelcome in the Pharisee's house. Her faith was great, making her bold, knowing that Jesus himself would not reject her, even if the other guests did.

As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

She did not come intending to cry, but only to anoint Jesus' clean feet. The Heavenly Father drew her (John 6:44) to this place and as she sat before Jesus, the burden of her sinful life overwhelmed her. She began weeping.

John 6:44
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

A guest's feet would customarily be washed by a servant upon arrival and their head anointed with olive oil. Neither of these things were done for Jesus at this house, so as the woman's tears fell, the dirt on Jesus' feet ran and she wiped the dirt away with her hair. Remember that letting her hair down was uncustomary to say the least--a cause of shame even.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Simon had not invited Jesus to dinner to trap him, but merely to get to know him and understand him better. He hadn't known what to make of Jesus and his ministry, previously.

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Just like in our story last week of the Ten Lepers, we find that our gratitude reveals our faith. This woman's faith that Jesus would receive her and have compassion on her, and her boldness in appearing before those who she knew would regard her with disdain, and her tears of gratitude at Jesus' grace and compassion, reveal her great love of the Savior. He who has been forgiven much, loves much.

Only one character leaves with salvation, as we saw with the Ten Lepers story. Not Simon or his other supper guests, not the nine lepers who failed to come back and thank Jesus. The leper who knelt down to lavishly thank Jesus, and this sinful woman whose thankful tears washed Jesus feet, were saved

They weren't saved as a result of their works. Rather, their works, their love, revealed their faith, and their faith justified them. Just as Abraham's faith justified him, and our faith in Jesus' blood justifies, saves, us.

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven...go in peace.”

The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

The woman in this story was unnamed, but presumed to be a great sinner, such as a prostitute. Whenever a character in the Bible is unnamed, the character represents many people. This sinful woman? She is you. She is I. 

James 2:10
Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

It doesn't matter if you were saved at the age of 5, or at the age of 31, or at the age of 70. You have sinned much, like this woman. We mustn't lose sight of that. We mustn't let our tears of gratitude dry up. 

This is especially difficult if you were saved young and never had opportunity to pursue a sinful lifestyle. You may represent Simon if you feel superior to others in this regard. But think of the lifestyle from which you were saved! This not of yourself, but the Grace of God. You would have pursued sin, had it not been for His grace...had it not been for the Father calling you to Himself.

You and I, we can't wash Jesus' feet with our tears of gratitude. Not yet

But what can we do now, to show our gratitude? Can we make it a priority to disciple our children every day? Can we stay in the Word and daily be reminded of our debt...and of our great love for Him? Can we commune with the Holy Spirit every day through prayer, praises, and giving thanks?

Thanks-living. This beautiful story is the most profound New Testament example of thanks-living. For this woman, she forgot all propriety and boldly worshiped her Jesus. She lived her gratitude.

Jesus challenges us to live against culture. To boldly give thanks, to boldly worship, to boldly obey, to boldly be the hands and feet of Jesus to a hungry, hurting world. Answer the challenge. 

Let us remember this woman, whose gratitude and love pleased Jesus exceedingly. 

Prayer Time: Dear Father, thank you for drawing me to yourself, for saving me from my sins. May I worship you with the same boldness this story illustrates. May we all feel the magnitude of your compassion, your grace, your love...and respond accordingly. Let us not be distracted by this world, but really live our gratitude. Keep the arrogance of Simon out of our hearts, Father. Let us walk humbly, act justly, love mercy.

In Jesus name I pray, Amen

Giving thanks today:

~ Husband's hugs and his gentle forgiveness of hormonal mood sins
~ Peter's ready forgiveness
~ Children's prayers
~ Paul's work ethic and diligent piano practice
~ Mary's generous hugs and love
~ Holy Spirit reminders
~ Family dinners
~ Wild grace
~ The Father calling me those 15 years ago
~ daily grace raining down 
~ The Word
~ Prayer partners

What are you thankful for today, my friend?

Giving thanks with Ann today.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Desperate Prayer

A friend hurts and I've prayed. My prayer partners, they've prayed. The hurt goes so deep and things look so hopeless and the peace of God in her agnostic heart, it isn't showing up.

"Show up, Lord! Show up for my friend, knock on the door of her heart and be large you can't be mistaken as anything but the Almighty God."  I shout it in my mind as I hear how discouraged she is, how maybe she should get some antidepressant.

And my day rolls on and I hurt too. I can't believe God isn't showing up. One of the biggest prayers of my life...and no end to the pain yet. God, birth one of your wine-from-water miracles. Let it be now.

I hang clothes and wash dishes and dictate sentences and give out M&M's for proper punctuation. I help with kindergarten journal sentences. I produce sandwiches and fake smiles and all the while, I wonder what He has planned? How long will the intensity last and will it get any worse?

All the Scriptures I know, they are for Believers. How do I comfort a non-Believer when she wants to tune out the slightest of spiritual sentiment? How do I penetrate her heart at all?

And the water bill and the insurance bill, they are late and the math doesn't work out and the kids want to go to the township carnival and I think how, without God, it would all break me. Daily life is so hard but I don't break. I wake up and He carries me and He helps me count blessings. He makes my children hug me at just the right times. He offers grace and love and truth, all for the taking.

And I take it. I open my arms wide and I take the Grace and I cherish the wonder of it.

And my heart aches that my friend, she doesn't have this. She doesn't know that God will provide and His math is a foreign eternal kind. She doesn't know that grace will rain like it's forever spring, and your bra wire could be sticking into you the bra is so old, but it won't matter. Because in Him, the temporal remains temporal.

She doesn't know any of this. And please God, tell her? Penetrate her heart with Truth as only you can. Show her that life can be hard, really hard, but in You, there is Peace. 

Two of my prayer partners, they are sure You are working. Their confidence astounds me and maybe I'm too close to it? Give me the same confidence, Lord? Make me so exude this confidence that my belief is contagious?

In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Multitude Monday: Ten Lepers


Luke 17:11-13 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

Lepers were outcasts, not allowed to approach others because they were considered unclean. Thus in this passage the lepers called out in a loud voice from a distance. "Have pity on us (mercy)." Their faith was great, for they believed that even from a distance, Jesus could clean them.

Their very condition was thought to be a result of sin--a sign of displeasure from God. When people got close to them the lepers were required to call out and warn of their unclean condition. Moreover, they had to live outside the city in leper camps. Because leprosy was thought to be a mark of sin--and Jesus came to save sinners--Jesus took the time to heal all the lepers he encountered.

Luke 17:14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

Their healing then was not direct, but a reward for their faith and obedience. If they refused to go to the priests until after they were healed, or if they refused to go at all, they wouldn't have experienced this miraculous cleansing. The Scripture says, "and as they went, they were cleansed."

They all noticed the miraculous change in their condition, and nine of them went directly to the priests to be pronounced clean and be on their way to a changed life. Think of it. They were considered not only unclean, but offensive to God. Think of how transforming their healing was. They could live a whole new life--as though they'd passed from darkness to light in an instant.

Luke 17:15-16 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

At first glance this passage appears to be a simple healing passage. But other miracles emphasize the healing itself, rather than the reaction to it.  This passage is included in the Bible, and Jesus, in fact, went this way so as to encounter a Samaritan, to make this lesson all the more notable. God wants us to pay attention here. Jesus is passing between Samaria and Galilee, moving east to west, near where Samaritans would reside. Samaritans not being Jews, they wouldn't be expected to have faith in a Jewish healer, much less to give thanks in such a lavish way.

Luke 17:17-19 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Of the ten lepers, only the Samaritan is rewarded with: "Your faith has made you well." His gratitude revealed his faith. He was not only healed of leprosy, but gained salvation as well.

Let's look at the numbers here. Jesus is saying that 90% of us fail to praise God. He's also saying that the least likely to give thanks and praise, are the very ones who do. Is it the poor and needy who remember...who rely on God for everything and intrinsically understand from Whom all things come? But those doing well on Wall Street or Main Street, their tendency is not only to forget their thank yous, but also to regard their success as self-made. 

What comes to mind is this then: What is a true blessing? Is it a fine job, a fancy home, well-dressed children in private schools, the latest gadgets and money in a savings account? Is it excellent health and money for the best gyms and organic foods? Or is blessing that which continually draws us close to God--cements us to Him, even?

We are all Lepers before God. Our need is great. And Jesus' blood and suffering? It gave us a whole new though we passed from darkness to light in an instant. Jesus died, the curtain tore, the earth shook--and suddenly, we are allowed in the presence of God. We are acceptable, made clean by the blood of Jesus...receivers of the New Covenant. 

Wow! Just wow. Let us not be one of the 90% who fail to understand the magnitude of the cross...the magnitude of our healing. 

Instead, let us be like this Samaritan leper, and like King David, who were both lavish in their praise and thanksgiving:

1 Chronicles 29:10-13 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
“Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.

Giving thanks today:
~ For God's deliverance (Ps 35:18)
~ That He is loving and faithful (Ps 52:9; 107:8)
~ That he hears my cry (Ps 118:21)
~ For other believers and for the testimony of their faith (Rom 1:8)
~ For the gift of salvation that enables me to avoid sin (Rom 6:17)
~ For delivering me from my tendency to sin (Rom 7:25)
~ For the spiritual gift of being able to address God (1 Cor 14:18)
~ For resurrection hope (1 Cor 15:57)
~ For testimony, deliverance and victory in the midst of persecution (2 Cor 2:14)
~ For other believers (Phil 1:3; Col 1:3; 2 Tim 1:3; Philem 4)
~ For those who respond to God's Word (1 Thess 2:13)
~ For being able to serve others for God (1 Tim 1:12) 
~ For God's attributes (Rev 4:9).
~ For IVP New Testament Commentary, for the reference verses above
~ My Peter suffered a scary bicycle accident at an abandoned tennis court (ran into a taut rope at good speed and fell backwards off his bike). I'm repeatedly dressing several abrasions and his abdomen is quite sore, but he had no internal injuries and he was wearing his helmet!
~ Though it looks like Beth will need the cancer drug methotrexate to stop the damage in her JRA-ravaged joints (swelling level is unacceptable on just the naproxen), I know God will be with us every moment of the ordeal. 
~ mashed sweet potatoes
~ homemade pumpkin bread
~ decadent fudge tracks ice cream (the perfect thing when you're 10 years old and sore and stiff from a bike accident--an accident in which you failed to see a taut rope until it was too late because you wouldn't listen to Mommy about wearing the glasses you need for distance.)
~ God continually reinforces to Peter that things won't go well for him if he doesn't obey his parents in the Lord. These lessons are far less painful now than they will be as an adult, when the stakes are higher and he must obey God to stay out of trouble, not his parents. 
Now, giving thanks for the "blessings" that keep me cemented to God:
~ chronic migraines
~ two in the home with ADHD
~ one with a chronic disease
~ being low income

~ few Christian relatives
~ no respite from work, other than my worship and my writing, which certainly save me and bring me joy, along with that handsome, sweet husband and my handful of sweet, rambunctious blessings.

Friends, what are you thankful for today?

Linking with Ann today and other thankful ladies.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday Devotions: Your Legacy


How does your house look this very second? Be honest, now. Does everyone have clean underwear and socks in their drawers and a clean towel for bathing tonight? Is dinner planned and you have meat thawing?

Now I have an important question for you. Your answer to this one reveals more about you than whether your children dig their socks out of a huge pile of clean clothes, or retrieve them from a drawer.

Have you opened your Bible since last Sunday's church service?


Paul’s Charge to Timothy
2 Timothy 3:14-17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. source

Friend, I know the draw of a clean, orderly house...the draw of free time and a good book. The constant pressures of motherhood overwhelm the best of us.

But think of your last day on this earth. You, at your deathbed, surrounded by your loved ones. It could be next year or after your eightieth birthday. We never know. At that point it's too late to alter your legacy--to reshape it to leave a more pleasing taste in their mouths. Sure, you can apologize for this or that transgression, but the habits and values your lifestyle highlighted, they will shape your children and their children--they will define your legacy--forever.

Make a list of your habits and values. Do your habits line up with your values? If not, what kind of legacy are you forging? One that will give you peace on your deathbed?

The Lord can redeem so much. He makes beauty from ashes. But once you've reached your deathbed, he can't alter your legacy.

Start today with daily habits that will forge a priceless legacy: daily prayer and Bible reading. They will transform you first and then each family member. For your changed heart, your gentleness and self-control, will shine so brightly everyone around you will want what you have. This isn't an ideal, but truth. The Word remakes us. If you read it daily, and pray, you will not be the same person even 30 days from now.


The Holy Spirit will be your constant companion and you will want to listen to Him. You will have the courage to live contrary to culture.

Nothing will impact you and your family's lives more than a daily chasing after God. Nothing will make you what you want to be--not a diet, an outfit, a title, a bank account balance--nothing. Your heart and soul were created to worship the One, True, Living God. Live out your true destiny.

Forsake that Bible, that prayer, and you'll worship everything but Him. Satan promises.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Solve Our Children's Book Mystery?

Our local library is having a contest to see who can guess all the featured storybook characters. The tracings are not colored--just the basic shapes traced on black construction paper. All are very popular characters, such as Curious George, Olivia, Paddington Bear, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, The Little Engine That Could, etc.

We are really stumped on one of them. It features two characters together: one that is either a small cat or possibly a mouse with ears on top of the head, shaped more like a cat's ears than mouse ears (triangles on top of the head, close together), and another character, much taller and rounder, who has a weird, large hair-curl or other outgrowth thing sticking out the front of the head--about at forehead level I think? Can you guess which storybook these two characters might be from? Most of the books seem to be preschool or lower elementary age.

Thank you!