Monday, July 30, 2012

whose battle is it?

I'm a soldier who fights with love instead of a gun or a sword.

And most days my weapon doesn't look very effective in the face of gerder-cide and suicide and homicide.  Lives and souls hang in the balance and I'm desperate to know I can still fight back.  Because who wants to be defenseless when life is so dangerous?

Last week I was wrecked by an article about the plight of women in India.  Then I was ruined by a trailer for a documentary about girls in China and India.  Literally, I could not stop thinking, crying, praying, and wanting to fight.  I think it's the activist in me.  I've always been like this.  I hope it's the way He made me, and not some outside expectation. 

Six months ago if you had told me I was going to battle I would have thrown a tantrum and said "I'm  not healthy enough - I'm too broken, too wounded, too hurt.  I just can't."  I've spent the last six months in emotional rehab.  Jesus has opened my heart and performed light-shining surgery.  I can't even begin to express how much I needed it or how thankful I am for it.
I'm ready for battle. 

This morning I fight with the weapon of prayer as a dear friend grieves over the suicide of a close friend/co-worker/prayer partner.  I cry with her and for her and my tears are arrows piercing the enemy of our souls.  Because My God sees my tears, and hears my prayers and sees these weapons of love that slice through evil and move His hand to action. 

Because this battle is not mine.

David answered, "You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel's troops, whom you curse and mock. This very day God is handing you over to me. I'm about to kill you, cut off your head, and serve up your body and the bodies of your Philistine buddies to the crows and coyotes. The whole earth will know that there's an extraordinary God in Israel. And everyone gathered here will learn that God doesn't save by means of sword or spear. The battle belongs to God—he's handing you to us on a platter!"  - 1 Samuel 17:45-47 (Msg.)

God owns the fight and the war and the battle ... and the victory.  It belongs to Jesus.  It's His.  With great honor and hope I get to fight on His side.  With these seemingly-feeble, yet authentically-powerful weapons of love.

Yesterday a missionary shared with me that she doesn't worry about the money because, "that's God's job.  It's my job to love people.  If He wants this thing funded, He'll provide for it." [I'm somewhat paraphrasing, so forgive me - I'm pretty sure that was what she said]  Basically - it's His battle.  We get to be in His victorious army.  We have the privilege of fighting for the One who wins.

He is Sovereign, even when it hurts and even when I'm shaking in my gospel-shod boots.

Lord, give me courage to fight with love.  Give me wisdom to know good war maneuvers against that enemy whom I hate.  Give me the power of Your Spirit.  I trust that You've got this.  Yes, this too is Yours.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

a model of forgiveness

In a world of atrocities we beg for relief.  One painful blow after another leaves our hearts battered and bleeding and we wonder how much more tragedy our land can take before humanity implodes.  Be it movie-theater-shootings, trafficking of young girls, cholera-infested drinking water, or the many other crimes men and women commit against fellow beings, the pain remains.  Compassion floods and bursts the dams of our hearts, and we cry out in anguish "No more!"

Another flash across the screen and my mind can't help the thoughts streaming across my brain.  Can it get any worse than this? One of my biggest fears is not only can it get worse, but it will. 

And with what can I arm my soul against such warfare?

I long to take up the same weapon of my Savior - forgiveness...

 Today is the day after James Holmes opened fire on innocent movie-goers in Aurora, Colorado.  I suppose a journalist would add the word allegedly into that sentence somewhere.  I suppose I'm glad not to be a journalist today.  Not because I desire to use words carelessly, but because I want to use them generously, and also because this post serves not to accuse, but to explore.

Could we explore the potential of this life for one moment? ... Murder, arrest, trial, judgement, sentence.  Families of victims could call for the worst for him.  I know I'm not the only one who googled whether or not Colorado holds the death penalty.  And of course one could argue that if he got the worst, he'd be getting what he deserves.  

So why do I find my heart hoping for a good, strong, bold, compassionate prison chaplain for this man?  Probably because I put myself in his concrete boots and hope that someone would love me that much if it were me.  Because I too am a murderer.  

"But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person" - Matthew 15:18-20a (NIV)

“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell." -Matthew 5:21-22 (NLT)

I don't find it strange that what I'm reading in my time with the Father the past few days is the story of Joseph and his evil, murdering brothers.  Joseph, who honored God and walked with integrity, and found that what resulted was more and more persecution - over 20 years of it! In the end, however, his revenge weapon was nothing short of complete forgiveness.

"But Joseph replied, 'Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.' So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them." -Genesis 50:19-21 (NLT)

Am I God?  [tell me you don't love the beauty of this rhetoric]

Clearly I am not.  Not the Judge.  Not the One who decides - about Mr. Holmes, or about the sex-buyer of children, or about a careless UN worker defecating cholera into the stream, or even about my own murderous heart that defiles me over and over.  Thank You, Lord, that I am not You nor in Your judgement shoes.  I really couldn't do it.

I think of more models of forgiveness this morning, with the likes of Joseph.  I ponder over Corrie ten Boom, who actively chose to forgive horrors against her unimaginable. (This quote from The Hiding Place is a bit lengthy - thank you for your endurance today.)

   "It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck.  He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time.  And suddenly it was all there - the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie's pain-blanched face. 
   "He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing.  "How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein," he said. "To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!"
   "His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
   "Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them.  Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
   "I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand.  I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity.  And so again I breathed a silent prayer Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give Your forgiveness.
   "As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened.  From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
   "And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His.  When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself." [emphasis mine]

And one more model comes to mind in light of recent tragic events - the sister who forgave her brother's murderer, Karla Faye Tucker.  In June of 1983, she and Danny Garret killed two people, one - a man named Jerry Dean who had a sister named Peggy Kurtz, a follower of Christ, who, with her church, prayed for the salvation of his murderer(s) the day after they found the bodies.  And when Karla and Danny were apprehended over a month later, Peggy (who had known Christ for less than a year) began to pray for forgiveness.

"I didn't want to be consumed by hate. So, I told the Lord that now that I had a face to put to the crime, I still chose to forgive, and that if He made it possible, I would tell Karla. ... I wanted my mind and my heart to be filled with the Word of God. I had to take every thought captive. It's obedience to Christ. I could not let my mind become absorbed with the details of the crime.  Instead I began praying every day for their salvation. I knew God could change them ... You know where the Bible says we are to 'lay up treasures in heaven'? We usually hear those verses used in reference to giving money to God's work. But the Lord showed me that forgiveness is a treasure!  So being able to forgive in spite of this hurt in my heart is something He calls a treasure. It's His treasure of amazing grace. ...  I will get to know her, in heaven. Then we can share all we want and neither of us will have to feel any of the pain of shed any of the tears." [Karla Faye Tucker: Set Free by Linda Strom]

Karla Faye Tucker was introduced to Christ very early in her incarceration, and gave her heart and soul to Him even before her trial began.  She lived proclaiming His salvation and grace from 1983 until February of 1998 when she was executed by lethal injection.  Though she appealed the death penalty on the basis that God had changed her, inside and out, she was denied and subsequently surrendered her mortal life for an eternity with Him willingly.  Her life still shouts the greatest glory to Him - His great power to change a human being.

And so, Lord - today I pray for Mr. Holmes.  I ask for You to place a chaplain or other spiritual guide, may it be another prisoner or lawyer, or whomever You may choose to use for Your glory.  I ask that You do what You do best - forgive and change. There is no other source of such treasures, and nothing more amazing to our human understanding than Your power to turn a life from darkness to light.  May You receive thanks and praise for what You will do.  Even in the face of tragedy and fear, today I choose to trust You.  Because I know You can.  The love and forgiveness needed by the victims and families must come from You and You alone.  His eternal forgiveness and salvation are Yours to give.  I pray that when You do, his hands will be open to Your grace.  Thank you, Jesus for your greatest model of forgiveness.  I desire to follow it.


Friday, July 13, 2012

pursuit of different

Sometimes it feels impossible to live here in the mire and not become it.  Sin invades and pervades and we forget our identity as citizens [Philippians 3:20] of a place with no mire.  I see hypocrisy in faces I never thought possible of such filth, and then the mirror is turned and my own face is even more disgusting.

And more than so many other pursuits, I want to be different.

He says that I am.

"Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come."  - 2 Corinthians 5:17 (GNT)

“Praying means breaking through the veil of existence and allowing yourself to be led by the vision which has become real to you.  Whatever we call [God], we repeatedly assert that it is not we ourselves who possess the power to make the new creation come to pass.  It is rather a spiritual power which has been given to us and which empowers us to be in the world without being of it.” - Henri Nouwen

And herein lies the turmoil of cross-bearers, of Christ-followers: it will indeed take our entire lives on earth in pursuit of holiness, failing along the way and needing more grace, to finish the race well.  Falling is a part of the Way to Him.  

But we wish it weren't so.

I had coffee in the hot sun with one of my longest-lasting spiritual guides yesterday.  She has a couple more years than I do [alright, so maybe a couple more decades too, but each day makes her more beautiful to me for the glory of wisdom she exudes].  And what struck me most?  She is still reaching and will continue until her last breath for this - holiness.  Though she hasn't reached the completion of it, she remains undeterred, stretching with open hands for that which He holds in His endless supply of grace. The thing {forgive me, writing professor, I know better than to use that word} indescribable and in some ways unattainable, and nonetheless desired - restoration.

"For He Himself has said, 'You must be holy because I am holy.'" -1 Peter 1:16 (NLT)

This written by Peter, the Rock.  He who denied Christ yet received grace with open hands, when on that same day Judas had also denied Him, but clenched fists around control and self-inflicted payment.  Peter, who knew hypocrisy more than once in the mirror, and yet grew into his holiness garments until the end, wrote to us a reminder to be holy.  

Holy.  Different.  Changed.  New.  Set Apart.  Restored.  

And oh, how I want that.

And so I reach today.  I don't want to be like Judas.  Don't want this mire all around.  Long for my Home and pray that my thirst never wanes for it.  Reaching is draining, wearing, and wearying.  Sometimes I'm not motivated for reaching toward the different-holy.  Those days I need The Personal Trainer of my soul to kick my rear-end hard and drill the vision of heaven into me again.  Or sometimes I need the encouraging words of my Daddy to say He believes in me and wants to hold my hand along the way.  And I love that He knows what will be most effective based on who I am and what I face in that uniquely-needy moment.

"Grow upward, as trees, and seek My face.  Dwell deep, as the lake, and know My fullness and quiet.  And move ever, always, determinedly onward as the brook does; and keep the outflow of your life ever in motion."  - Frances J. Roberts

Holiness requires endless motion.

Lord, I reach.  I stretch.  I push.  I pull.  I move toward You.  Closer to Your Grace.  Nearer to the woman you envisioned me to become before you even knit my genes.  She is holy.  Not holier-than-thou, but indeed holier-than-this.  And though it is not entirely possible without mistakes and hurdles, I don't want to cease the reaching.  The pursuit of that which is different. I know I need Your help.  I ask for it again today and receive it openly.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

why is silence scary?

So, I've been writing here about hands and eyes and surrender and such ... and honestly, I'm not finished yet, so perhaps you'll dig a little deeper with me?

I've been wanting to read a book called With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen for about a month now.  Almost bought it on my kindle, but purchased crafting paper instead with spending money.  Looked for it in the library at home, to no avail.  Searched a few bookstores with the same result.  So, you'll understand the sweet blessing I received yesterday with hungry hands over the desk when I found it at my mom's church library.  And I love it already!  So full of depth, like this one:

"It makes you wonder if the diversion we look for in the many things outside us might not be an attempt to avoid a confrontation with what is inside ... To be calm and quiet by yourself ... requires the discipline to recognize the urge to get up and go again as a temptation to look elsewhere for what is close at hand.  It offers the freedom to stroll in your own inner yard and rake up the leaves and clear the paths so you can easily find the way to your heart."

And how many times have I interrupted the quiet just as it begins because I'm afraid of what I might find in my heart?  Scared of what God might show me in the darkness if I let Him into that place?  It's easy to do ... one of the many perils of fear.

What do I know of fear?  The same thing Eve knew, and Sarah, and Rebekah - "When in fear, clutch tightly to control."  And too many times I've been pushed and shoved to clench these hands around control I could never grasp.  Deceived, though, I remained tight-fisted around an empty lie.  

So when the Spirit leads me through a season of lessons on what my hands do, how can I turn away from Him?   What my hands do in silent meditation, quiet contemplation, gentle stillness must be to open.  Releasing that control I never owned, letting go of fear with it.  And today I'm not afraid of the kind of silence that allows Him access to my yard, and even to the home of my deepest, most vulnerable rooms and closets.

Also in the book, Nouwen writes a story of an elderly woman who clutched so tightly to what she thought was most treasured, a single coin, that it took two attendants to pry open her hand and take it from her (and what I want to ask is, why not let her keep it until she was ready to surrender it?).  She fought and squeezed to retain the worthless, and how many times have I wasted breaths and heartbeats doing the same, when all God ever wanted was ... open hands.

But sometimes it takes more muscles to release.  Or maybe the grasping, taking muscles have gotten strong and the opening muscles have atrophied from such un-use.   

"Please listen to my prayer
    and my cry for help,
    as I lift my hands
    toward your holy temple."

             -Psalm 28:2 (CEV)

As we sit as His feet in silence, may we be readied to open hands, release an idolatrous facade of control, and allow Him into our hearts in order that fear may be blown out of our hands like dust in the wind.  His perfect love will cast out fear, and we will let go.  

Lord, let it be so in me today.  I give you these open hands, turned to You.  If there is something there that does not belong, please take it from me.  I'm not afraid of what You might blow away as chaff.  I'm not afraid of You.  If you would like to put something there, I desire to receive it.  I want whatever  You'd like to give me.  I trust You, I face You, I open to You again today.  In the quiet I choose to release any fear of what might be.  In the adventure silence with You, I want You to have Your way. I surrender

Friday, July 6, 2012


Disclaimer: this one will wander a bit.  

I don't really read the contents of my wastebasket.  Don't usually pay attention to the ashes under my grill.  Nope.  I just toss them.  They are on the way out, and I don't care about them for that reason.  I care about what matters, naturally.  About what's staying, not what's going.

Sometimes the eyes of my soul are in need of focus-intention as well.

"You are not going to be here much longer, and no one spends time or thought on what is soon left behind." -Frances J. Roberts in Come Away My Beloved

Life is fire, and trial by it.  It just is, and some things just are what they are.  There are some things you just can't choose or change, but one thing you can choose almost every time is your focus.  Another is your attitude.

I have a limited number of breaths on this earth.  This heart beats finitely.  Forgive me if I'd like to use them well and spend them wisely.  Focus not on the ashes, but on treasures, on the brilliance of the gold refined, and even higher on the rainbow shining over the fire.

"As we grow in grace, we should see a continuing trend away from sin, replaced by a progression in righteousness." -Ava Pennington

God weaves my reading, and walks me through the path of His Truth again today.  John 21 finishes the words of the Beloved Disciple (and could Jesus possibly love me as much?), about tending and feeding sheep if we really love the Good Shepherd. Focus.  What next, God? "Genesis," He says and points.  Creator. Miracle Maker. Almighty Author and Perfecter.  Reading continues then to the first woman - Beautiful Companion. Helper. First Sinner - taker, grasp-er, holder, in a generational curse of control-clutchers, and here I set begging for the strength to release. Self-control to open these hands and let go.

Daily devotion, He holds my fist in His huge hand and pulls me through lines that read of giving grace.  Reminders that giving is impossible to do with clenched fists.  The top of the page reading from Ephesians 4:29.  No unwholesome talk from lips that speak or thumbs that text, or even words unspoken but communicated nonetheless on my face.  Focus.  And conviction burns hot again but is followed quickly by cooling waters of mercy.  When communication fit by His Spirit to every occasion is edifying, this is when grace is given to those who might hear.

And re-circling back to focus and to what I am looking; to whom I am reaching with these hands freshly opened once again today.  (And why, oh why, Robyn, did you close and clench again?

"The hour of His judgement has come." 

And it is coming so fast, Jesus, and so are You.  Might it even be today? (Sunday's sermon resounds and reverberates of my eternal destination, and no, we're not there yet.  But soon.) With numbered heart beats and lung breaths and hand-releases, this day, renewed, I set my face like flint and vow to use each one for these utmost priorities and laser-focused To-Do's:

He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give Him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come. Worship the One who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” -Revelation 14:7 (CEV)

Nothing else.  Nothing less.

Because why would I spend my life reading the rubbish when I could be opening my eyes to rainbows and opening my hands to grace?

Lord, Jesus show me.  Help me.  Lead me.  Open these hands and fill them with more of You.  To fill my moments with Your will and not with trash.  I don't deserve that.  More importantly, neither do You.  What you deserve is all that I have, and once again, I long to give it back in love.  Teach me to Fear You.  Permit me to give you Glory.  Receive my worship of You alone.