Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sabbath Bread {Pearl}

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a pearl merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. He discovered a real bargain—a pearl of great value—and sold everything he owned to purchase it!" - Matthew 13:45-46 (TLB)

[She isn't a Christian artist that I know of, but this song says it so well. How I feel today.]

Lord, You've given me so many gifts of loveliness, so many I could never count, though I do try. But I would let You take it all away if You needed to. But not You. I never want to let go of my grip on You. I'd sell it all for a moment in Your arms, and I'd let go of every treasure this world could offer because You are my true desire. To see Your face. To hold Your hand. Everything is worthless compared to that. 

"Therefore, since you have such a Friend and He invites you to come, why not receive from Him daily? Never go without when you have a God to go to, and never fear or faint when God is there to help you. Go to your treasure and take whatever you need, for He has more than you could even want. Learn the divine skill of allowing God to be all things to you. He can supply everything you need, or better yet, He Himself can be all you need." - Charles Spurgeon [emphasis mine]

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What Happens When Humanity Turns

It's Tuesday, and I need to write about human trafficking, and we'll get there - but not before a short(ish) detour through my random musings this week.

It's a quest to crucify self and pick up daily, even momently crosses when the objective is follow. 

Life and death take on new meanings. I'm living dead, letting His life invade my deadly places and murdering the parts of me that don't line up with Him. He's so very patient and gentle as He asks me again to die. To selfishness, impatience, rage, judgment, coveting, contempt. How can He handle this mess and still call it beautiful? I'm so in love with this King who kills me just to bring me back to abundant life. The life that gives and doesn't take and likes it that way. Life that looks like His mirror and reflects His heart. Cares for those He cares about. Because his invitation to follow was followed by a promise.

"I will make you fishers of men."

And those fisher guys? Yeah, they were radically changed. Their greatest focus went from slimy fish and dirty money to grimy men and filthy women. Messy children and fussy babies. But Jesus loves each human life and His followers do too. And when our focus matches His - following will be easy. Well, in a compelling kind of way, at least.

So, if He had tunnel vision it would have been on these:

"He does what is fair for those who have been wronged.
    He gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free.
 The Lord gives sight to the blind.
The Lord lifts up people who are in trouble.
    The Lord loves those who do right.
 The Lord protects the foreigners.
    He defends the orphans and widows,
    but he blocks the way of the wicked."
-Psalm 146:7-9 (NCV)

(See also Deuteronomy 10:17-18 and Zechariah 7:10-11 and Job 31:16-19, among many others)

Because this is what He requires of those who receive Him:

"He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?"
-Micah 6:8 (ESV)

And if we were to do justice today, it would be on behalf of these. The less-than-fortunate who are treated like throw-aways - these are the ones Jesus says we're fishing for. They're the sick ready for a doctor, the broken ready for His restoration, the dead seed ready to become new life, and His heart breaks for them. Get out your net, because I'm about ready to show you how, Friend. Not because I'm some better-than, but because I want to be one of those close at His heels, doing the following and becoming the follower. And why would I leave you out of that?

"If God's character includes a zeal for justice that leads him to have the tenderest love and closest involvement with the socially weak, then what should God's people be like? They must be people who are likewise passionately concerned for the weak and vulnerable" - Timothy Keller in Generous Justice: How God's Grace makes us Just

So, yeah - now we get to talk about the fight against human trafficking, and I don't have to explain again how this is the same thing as fighting for justice. One life enslaved by another is never just. A life willfully surrendered to The Loving Master is an entirely different matter. So, what will it take to get from this to that? 

1. Pray. Intercede on behalf of the millions of enslaved children and adults on this dying planet and ask God to break your heart for them until you ...

2. Do. Something. Make a change in your life, die to yourself so that another life may live for Him. Not to be sold. Give to an anti-trafficking organization. If you need some direction, try these guys. I have. 

The Exodus Road
F.R.E.E. International
TraffickJam International
Generate Hope Shelter
W.A.R. International
Destiny Rescue

Volunteer at a shelter or safe house. Do a fundraiser in your church or community. Rally behind someone who is at risk for trafficking. Visit a Juvenile Detention Center or Youth Shelter. Foster-adopt a teenager at risk. Go on a mission to a place (you might not have to travel very far) where trafficking is common.

3. Thank God. When He does something huge through you on behalf of the slave, give all of the glory to Him. Die to pride and self and fame. Give it all to Him. He's worthy and you're not. He gets the thanks. Every. Single. Time. 

So what happens when humanity turns from death to life, and then from life to death for Him? 

Love happens. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sabbath Bread {Content with Calvary}

"And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left."
-Luke 23:33 (NKJV)

"I have learned how to be content with whatever I have."
- Philippians 4:11 (NLT)

"Often the bitter herbs of Gethsemane have taken away the bitterness of your life, the scourge of Gabbatha often has scourged away your worries, and the groans of Golgotha have produced unthinkably rich comfort for you. We would never have known the full height and depth of Christ's love if He had not died, nor would we  have even been able to guess of the Father's deep affection if He had not given His Son to die." -Charles Spurgeon

Lord, I have You. Your ransom of my soul is what You wanted to give me. I want to learn like Paul did, the secret of contentment, of joy - wanting nothing more than my Sovereign King gives me. Wanting what I have and letting it be enough. Calvary - Your brutal death and abundant bloodshed to pay for my forever with You - is enough. It covers not only my failures, but all I could ever desire.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How to Give Kids {and our own hearts} Answers When There are None

Franklin Regional School District, the place where both of my Treasures attend classes and also where I work, made national news yesterday - for all the wrong and evil reasons.

We parents reel and look each other in the eyes as we pick up our children from lockdown, and it hurts and hurts and hurts. We're all asking the same question and coming up empty - "How could this happen here?" This empty, answer-less void stabs our souls over and over with only more questions unanswerable. 

"How will I explain this to my ten-year-old?"

"How do I send them back into the place of danger that never should have been called that?"

"Why would any child or adolescent in the supposed-happy years of life turn against his classmates?"

"How does this keep happening in our schools?"

"What do we do with this fear? This terror? How do we declare war on children?"

"When will this ever end?"

My Guy and I watch the news when we can, when the Treasures are normal-resilient playing outside on a sunny spring day, and going to bed, thankfully sleepy. We watch the footage of the boy in cuffs and we both say it in shock at the same time - "Look at him - he's just a baby!"

And it's there again - the void of unknown - the question we can't stop asking. How could this happen?

When four are critical, twenty-two are stabbed, two more hurt besides - and the weapons are steak knives in the hands of a child I'm sorry, but there will be no answering of that question today, and maybe not ever. Try as they might, experts and psychologists and crisis analysts won't come up with anything palatable, much less swallow-able.

And my friends and relatives keep asking me - how are you explaining this to them? 

I suppose the answer is - I'm not.

And while I may not have answers to those questions, that doesn't mean I'm without any answers. I still have Truth, and as we sit down at the dinner table after a day of reeling and tears, I bring it with me - the Word. Because when you don't know what to say, you say what He knows. And you give your Treasures The Treasure He graciously pours. 

We tell them what we know. Evil, wrong, angry choices - it's all here on this fallen globe. We'll not escape it as long as these mortal lungs draw breath. Sometimes the best answers come from our own hearts, so instead of telling them, I ask them. Why do you think people hurt others like this? It's my boy who pipes up. "Anger makes people do stupid things." And who can argue? We look up some verses about anger and sin and evil. He's right. Anger is not sin, but it gives Evil a place for his foot in our hearts. (Eph. 4:27)

More of what we know - people need love. And we have been given it. I ask again, hoping they will find the answer in the searching together. How would God want us to respond here? They both answer this time. "Care for them. Pray for them. Tell them about Jesus." One of my Treasures chimes in with this and I'm breathless. Struck. 

"We need to pray for that guy. It will be hard for people to forgive him."

Of course. It's the answer to everything unanswerable. We pray.

Because when we look into the void and the dark pain, we can see past the cavern to the One who holds the Light. And He has the answers we seek, though we might not get them all right now. 

Answers like Forgiveness. Hope. Love. Restoration. 

The developmentalist in me wants to answer the question in my title for you, Dear Reader. I want to tell you if your child is between the ages of x and y, you say z; if she is older than a or b, you say c. And m plus n will equal all better. 

But I can't. Grief has no formula and some questions can only be answered by more questions.

So, I'll leave you with this.: 

Love your Treasures.
Squeeze them tight every day,
Not just the tragic ones.
Give them Truth,
Help them open their hands to It.
Don't pretend you know,
When you don't.
Be there, present.
Look into eyes and listen,
Listen to the heart between the words.
And when the unanswerable hurts,
Bring them to the Healer.

Lord, bring Your answers and Your healing here. Touch lives with hope like only You have. Show us how to love, how to forgive, how to step forward with courage. Pour out Your sovereign comfort as You show us who You are. Please heal these cuts to flesh and cuts to souls. Draw our hearts closer to Yours. Amen

"Commit everything you do to the Lord.
    Trust him, and he will help you.

He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, 
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
 Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
    or fret about their wicked schemes." - Psalm 37:5-7 (NLT)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sabbath Bread {A Long Drink of Salvation}

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,

    “I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
    if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
    I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
    give you a long drink of salvation!”

-Psalm 91:14-16 (Msg)

Oh, Jesus - I know my part. 
Hold onto You with desperate abandon,
get to know and trust you while I'm here on this planet, 
and call out to You when I get into trouble. 
If I'll do those things, 
You'll get me out of every mess, 
bring me into Your promise, 
and satisfy my thirst for more than this flesh can contain. 
I am truly undeserving of a Love this abundant, 
yet I open my hands to as much of it as I can hold. 

Thank you Lord. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Live or die?

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life." 
-Deuteronomy 30:19-20a (NLT) 

The pastor's in the pulpit and his hands wave and dance with his words. He tells us to die, and says he's giving up himself for lent; invites me to do the same. 

Die to this flesh and its endless desires, lusts, prides. Increasing Jesus and decreasing me. 

"This world tells you that you need to 'find yourself.' Well, I did find myself and you know what I found? Yuck!"  Even as he says it, I can't believe it of him, but I know it's true of me. Yes, I've been on a search for me - the real me - and when I found her it was far from what I'd hoped. That woman, that me, she's nothing without her Rescuer. 

This life isn't about soul-searching as much as it's about God-searching. Seek Christ and you seek life. Find Him and you find it all. Forget to knock on His door, and emptiness will be the least of your worries. 

To lay down self and take up crosses - everything worth doing is difficult. 

A teacher at my workplace says it and I know it's true of following Christ too - "If this was easy, everyone would do it, right?"

The pastor goes on about carrying a cross and I'm breathless again with this one - "We're called to carry crosses, not guillotines." We can't crucify our flesh with one quick motion, like a guillotine. Crucifixion was a slow, public, humiliating, painful, lengthy death, that often took days to complete. And this Daily Cross is a process - a painful, long parting with flesh that has no destination short of heaven. Only then will we be glorified in perfection-life. Oh glorious hope!

Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 
-Mark 8:34-35 (NLT)

Sometimes choosing life means deciding to die.

It's hard eucharisteo to be thankful for the privilege of suffering, of dying with Him, but I'm okay with trying hard things. I can be thankful, even for this, because I know obedience is worth it. He is worth it. I know I've failed before, and I'll probably hold on to too much of myself again - but it's in the not giving up where I think He's pleased with His kids. So will you pray this with me too, Dear One?

Lord, please show me the parts of my life that need to be crucified today for Your glory and my good. Give me the strength and endurance required today to lay down my selfish desires and take up my cross for Your Kingdom. Please heal my heart even as I die a little every day, and revive me in Your presence with joy. Show me what You desire of me, and how to obey You more. Make my life a living sacrifice of love to You. You are worth it - worth the pain and every ounce of suffering. I need no other motivation than Your love. 

Quotes from Pastor Lance Lecocq with permission