Which came first? The Chicken or the egg?

Which came first? The Chicken or the egg?

A classic, arguable question that can be easily answered if one looks to the Word.  On the fifth day, God created “every winged bird according to its kind.” Genesis 1:21b. So, there you have it – he did not create all the eggs to hatch, but he created the winged bird first.

Who should reach out first when an offense has been made?

A tough question, but also easily answered if one looks to the Word.  Since the days following creation, God has been offended throughout history.  Yet, in love, He reached out with his Son, Jesus; John 3:16 explains – “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son…” – Why? So that all the offenders, of God the Father, could be forgiven and given the ability to go to heaven and have eternal life.  John 3:17 tells us what Jesus was NOT given for: with grace, “God did not send his Son into to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world.

God reached out first and that’s what we ought to do also…in love and in grace.

What kind of picture would humanity be in if God waited for the offenders (us) to reach out to him before he gave his only Son to die?  I know God would still be waiting, because we are naturally a stubborn people, and there would be no hope in this life. But no, and thank God, He did not wait.  HE LOVED US FIRST is what 1 John 4:19 tells us. Not because we deserved it, but because God is mercy.

“We love, because he first loved us.”

There you have it – We, who have been offended, must reach out first in love and in grace and offer continual love and mercy to the one who maybe doesn’t deserve it.

In this action, HOPE will prevail and relationships will be healed, as our broken humanity is healed through the blood & sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  May this New Year be a year of healing broken relationships:  between you and God, and between you and others, in love, grace, and mercy.

New Year Resolution: in HIS face!

 

CORAM  DEO

This is what I aim to stand on as far as a New Year resolution for 2018.

CORAM DEO = in the face of God; meaning ….. whatever I do,

  ….. whatever I say,

is in the face of God – done before Him in full view.

If I claim this one Latin phrase, all the change and goodness that I may desire for my life this coming New Year will then come forth.  If I consider every action & every word spoken is done with Jesus standing right before me, seeing and listening, cuz He is…omniscient and all… there is nowhere I can hide where He is not already there… then I hope that my choices of actions and words will be sifted out and carefully considered before I reveal them.

In essence – my goal is to please the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In this, I will hope to love as I have been loved, accept as I have been accepted, forgive as I have been forgiven, and get ready to be filled with the JOY & HOPE that will spring up!

Like Robin William’s once stood up proclaiming, Sieze the day!

 I stand up and say: CORAM DEO!

Will you join me?

I wish for each of you, a God Blessed New Year 2018 ahead!

 

 

WORD – Part 4: The “F” Word

And now the “F” word:

not four letters, but eleven.

Forgiveness.

***

LIFE.

Loved.

And being love.

“I”, giving dangerously.

and now, Forgiveness.

Receiving it, is freedom.  Offering it, fills up that life to the full.

elizaphotography-053

Forgiveness is like a pry bar, it looses the nails of guilt & shame.

Forgiveness is like a salve, it soothes the wounds.

Forgiveness is like duct tape, it binds the broken back together.

Forgiveness is like a key, it opens the door to healing.

Have you been forgiven and felt the gift of freedom deep inside your soul?

If you acknowledge the Christ as your Savior, you no doubt understand this freedom gift.  When asked, Jesus gives forgiveness both readily and abundantly; free of charge to us.  He has already paid for the price of forgiveness with his life.

Yes, receiving it, is freedom.

Offering it to others is the rest of the story.  Jesus even said that we are required to forgive others, for if we do not, we cannot receive forgiveness from him.

Why is that?

The freedom gift is not one we can keep to ourselves, it is meant to be a shared gift; once we have experienced it, we must freely share it with others.

I think perhaps, it is an example of giving dangerously.

How often should we offer forgiveness?

This exact question was presented to Jesus in the scriptures.

His answer? Forgive a lot…more than we would find easy or comfortable.

Moral of the story? Throw down the stones and hug. Hug and offer forgiveness when someone has wronged you. In this way, you will be healing to another

and to yourself, equally.

In the offering of forgiveness, you gain life to the full!

 

 

Throw Down the Stones

It was in the raised eyebrows and puffed up chests that anger, indignation, and pride in knowing they were “right” was painted across all their faces.

And the man they had come to see, remained calm; I imagine his eyes moist with tenderness.

It is true.

The ones with raised eyebrows were “right” in the sense of the law….the woman was wrong; she sinned.

And yet, the one with tenderness knew what was needed.

He began to write things in the sand.

What exactly did he write? It is not revealed, but it caused the ones with raised eyebrows, puffed up chests, anger and indignation to bow their heads and look away.  In fact they turned away and left, leaving a pile of stones.

For the one with tenderness said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone…” John 8:7b

In the end, the one accused stood alone with the man who remained calm.

She, the accused, was forgiven – not condemned.

He, the calm one, offered love and grace, and spared her embarrassment and punishment.

He, the man with tenderness, is Jesus.

****

Friends, fellow lovers of Jesus…

Let us not be the ones with raised eyebrows.

Let us, as a church, throw down the stones.

Let us be like Jesus and offer love and grace first.

Because Jesus did that for us when He first loved us and took up the cross and hung there to die for us – the sinners – who deserved punishment.  The only stone he moved was the one that He rolled away as He rose from the dead -making way for us to join Him in heaven one day.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

“And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.…” Luke 24:2

“He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” 1 Corinthians 15:4

“I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3b

This is Truth.

This is the gospel message.

Jesus was born. Jesus died upon the cross. Jesus rose to heaven. Jesus is coming back to get us.

****

And what do we do now?

“He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27

We love.

And we get our strength to love as we trust in the hope which is given to us by the Living Savior, Jesus Christ.

We love God. We love others.  

That’s what we are to do now.

THIS is what is needed.

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?

Did you see the mother in the yellow dress rapping her son upside the head today on the social media?

Or maybe you saw the visions of police lining the Baltimore streets like a wall in their suits of armor and shields?

Screaming and running and ducking and smashing and chaos pushes the fear and the anger up, and up, and up to explosive levels.

Which side are  you on?

109

Disdainful outcries rumble as family members and co-workers give their two cents on the horrible events of the day.

“What is happening to this country?” 

One thing is for sure: it is nothing new.

What happened in Baltimore has happened throughout all of history before; and I am NOT talking about racism.

I am talking about the human condition.

Take a moment to look back to the earliest days recorded in the time of Genesis; one brother against the other brother because of a dark heart full of uncontrolled anger….a “who-is-better-than-who” situation.

The result? Murder.

“Who-is-better-than-who” has been done a lot in history….resulting in wars and crime and divorce and all levels of arguments.  It is the condition of natural sin; otherwise known in religious circles as the “sinful nature.”  The human condition is sinful nature.

Will it ever change? Can it ever change?

To be honest…. not as long as we remain humans on this earth.

Lucky for us, however…there is a remedy.  And it begins with each one of us.  And it begins in the heart.  It takes a heart deciding to believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior; deciding to follow Jesus and His ways. Putting off the old and putting on the new – being transformed with a new vision of life and who we are in it.  The Scriptures instruct us:

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

“…put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph. 4:22b & 23

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Eph. 4: 31 – 32

Yes, it begins with us.  It begins with being humble (us) and it begins with forgiveness (Jesus’ toward us).

The side to be on is Jesus’ side.

110

In Christ, we can forgive. In Christ, we can love.

And we know because we are told, that The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1Peter 4:8

Pray and forgive; Pray and love….in our homes, in our workplace, in our communities.

It is not about race, or justice, or anger….or “who-is-better-than-who.”

It is always and forever will be about the heart.

111

Total change for our human condition – the sinful nature – comes when Jesus returns to take up His own into heaven. Until then, we have to persevere and keep our hearts and minds focused on Jesus’ side.

So, dear friends, hold on and claim hope because, “hope does not disappoint.” Romans 5:5a.

The side to be on is Jesus’ side.

Tears in the hearing.

Bill day.

It always begins with bill day.  But it has been getting worse and worse.  Like many, there is just not enough money at the end of the payday to make good on all the debts incurred over the past several years.

Debt is like a snowball; it starts out small and it is relatively easy to push around, but the more and more it is rolled, the bigger and bigger it gets until it is no longer able to be pushed because of its size and weight. Well, here I am, nearly crushed by the weight and size of my debts.  And I panic at the thought that I am unable to write a full tithe. I am sick to my stomach.

Guilty.

I am sick to my stomach with guilt. I feel the weight of my sinful actions upon me. I feel unworthy of His blessings.

That was Friday past.

Fast forward  to Sunday morning.

The songs were sung and the offering collected and the Scripture reading was read, in order, as usual. But unusual was my hearing. Unusual was my response. Never before in my twenty four years of listening to the Word being read, did this happen to me!

Welling up inside, my mind raced, whaaaat is this?  Warm trickles overflowed and I could not stop them.  I had tears in the hearing of God’s Word.  There was no new speaker emoting with fevered preaching.  There was no moving testimony reaching into the memory core of like experience.  It was just the familiar voice of our assistant pastor quietly and evenly reading. The Word alone triggered my tears.

Tears in the hearing.  God was speaking to me.

God’s Word is powerful.

God’s Word is alive.

The Holy Spirit filled me to overflowing and I was saturated in the love of the Father; enveloped in the arms of Grace. My Guilt was absorbed by the Word and I found myself being forgiven. Accepted. Loved absolutely.

In the very moment!

Since Friday, I had been carrying the weight and since Friday I had been desiring forgiveness for my failing. Loving the LORD, I hoped.

And the Words were read and received:

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much.” Luke 7:47

The welling up began with the woman standing behind Jesus weeping (Luke 7:38).  That was me, in my imagination, I related. Since Friday I had been weeping in my heart over my sin; the sin of not trusting God for so many things.  The sin of thinking I could do it all on my own; of pride.

Broken and repaired simultaneously, the tears rolled and fell.

The unusual is that in the innermost depths of my heart, I came seeking.  Days before I had been consciously seeking. Loving, and with hope, I entered the sanctuary.

God knew that.  And He met me with open arms and spoke right into my very soul.

What an awesome Father is He!

Praise His Holy Name!

My Bucket List: Dance Naked

People have lots of interesting and unexpected things on their bucket list.

My Bucket List: dance naked.

Now, before you go getting the wrong idea about me, let me assure you I mean this in the purest sense. Nakedness is alluring. It calls with primal intrigue. There is nothing like nakedness.

Nakedness calls from deep and long ago. Rightly made, it was the suit intended for us; each one of us fits our naked perfectly. The beginning and at our beginning

Remember the giggles?  We twisted and squirmed from our mothers grip. We escaped naked, running across the green grassy yard squealing?  Maybe we were sixteen months or so…. remember the delight?

Of course not.  Our minds do not recollect, yet our body memory does.  It is the burst of innocence striving to be free; the joy of being as we were intended.

No bondage. No concerns that weigh us down.  No shame. No hesitation to express.

Yes.  I long to know it.

 So far, the only thing on my bucket list is to dance naked. But I am not talking about the physical naked.

Like I said, I am talking about naked in the purest sense.

Spiritual nakedness is my desire.

Keeping it real. Raw. Authentic before my God.

Base.

David, the one called a friend of God.  The David who killed Goliath and then much later became a King.  That David kept it real.  He Stood. Fought. Hid. Wrestled. Whined. Shouted. Cried. Fell. Served. Sinned. Sang. Pleaded. Praised.

And Worshiped God….

as if naked….he danced before the Lord.

He was naked of pride. Naked of self.  Naked of distraction.   But clothed in humble.

Stripped and uninhibited before God, he danced in worship, offering himself completely to the LORD in praise.  “David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might.” (2 Samuel 6:14)

Yes. This is my bucket list.

To keep it real before God.

To be naked of pride. Naked of myself.  Naked of distraction.  But clothed in humble.

*****

Forgiveness, cleansing, and filling precedes the naked place:

Forgiveness of our sin;

cleansing of our hearts;

and filling with the Holy Spirit.

Pick a Psalm, any Psalm, Psalm 51 seems clear….I love the Psalms!

Loving the LORD with all my might, I too hope to be caught dancing, as if naked before my LORD….

One day, I HOPE to cross it off my bucket list.

Meditations on a Swing Set

Gazing out at the snow covered swing set in my back yard

a string of thoughts

was set into motion.

Child’s play. It is all a prep.

A revving up to the heart break of parenting.

Do you remember?

044

The two year old struggling to get on a swing….?

Chuckling, a twitch of heart pang feels for the child who has no skill yet.

The three year old who sits and calls to you: “Push me!”

Smiling, a sympathetic heart watched as the child attempted the swing motion with uncoordinated thrusting back and forth that resulted in no momentum at all.

Now the child can push himself. And he swings with oblivious abandon.

No chuckles anymore, fear has come. We hear the thud and then the cry; he fell off the swing….clocked his brother in the crossing…and the two collided.  Heart aches.

Higher and higher the swinging goes.  The poles rise up out of the ground and slam down into the ground again.  A warning is given.  But it falls on deaf ears.

The heart hurts.

Cringing accompanies the fear now and a rehearsal recalling the quickest route to hospital is begun in the mind.  And the eyes continue to watch…

He jumps off and exclaims, “Geronimo! Look at me!”

The heart skips a beat. Maybe two.

This time there is no run to the hospital.  This time.

A revving up.  A prep for the heart ache in the raising of our children.

My heart has swelled with feeling and sympathy.  My heart has ached, and hurt, and skipped many a beat.

Then and now. Even more now.

The swing set has been replaced by a bigger play on life.

What to do?

Then I thought, Apply the lessons to me.

I am the child and my God is the Father.

At times…

Why do I pursue life, on my own, without Him?

Why do I  thrust myself forward and back unproductively?

Why do I pump harder and harder without attention to my surroundings?

Why do I turn a deaf ear to the warnings of my Father?

How have I caused my Father heart ache?

Is not my Father also looking down with a heart chuckling feeling for me; Does His heart not ache, and hurt, and perhaps skip a beat as He has had  to watch me stumble along in my way?

And yet.

He is patient.  He is compassionate. He is ever forgiving.

Mercy and Grace are poured out upon my walk with Him.

And so too should I be.

God, my Father, is a lover of hearts,

a changer of hearts.

Hearts are HIS main concern!

And so too should be my way.

So I continuously turn my heart back to Him and pray.

Forgive me LORD, for all I have done to cause your heart to ache.

LORD, grant me the gentleness of heart to offer mercy and grace to my children.  May you give me your wisdom in guiding them.  Help me to be patient and compassionate and forgiving. 

Even when my own heart is breaking.

There is HOPE in the cleansed heart….HOPE for the changed heart…

all for the Glory of God!

HOPE!

“I’m Outta Here!”

“I’m Outta Here!” she screamed,

uh…errr…I mean, she emphatically stated with a controlled but loud voice.

Dreams of buying a wee little house far,far away, tickled and fueled her imagination. Feeling under appreciated, worn down, used up, and surrounded by all who seemingly just take, take, take. Over burdened, over stressed, and no where to go.

And don’t any one ask, “What’s for dinner!”

She.  That’s me.

Can anyone relate?

It was cold and a fresh dusting of snow littered the ground. I walked at a pace that rendered me out of breath.  Down the hill.  Up the hill. Trudging into the woods to sit upon a deserted stone wall.  Not too far.  I could still see the road. Camouflaged.

029

Stillness. Quietness. My own sighing pierced the air. The rhythm of my breath restored to normal and I gazed numbly.

What to do.

006

I left.  I really did. Albeit just four hundred yards from the house.  I left. I did the “outta here” move.  Enough was enough.

What to do…..

Luke 5:16 came to mind: “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

So….deciding to divert my numb gazing, I closed my eyes and listened to the woods; the rustle of a critter under the leaves, the creaking of two thin branches rubbing together in the breeze.  027

Then, I prayed.

I prayed forgiveness for my harshness.

I prayed forgiveness for my selfishness.

I prayed forgiveness for my unwillingness.

I prayed for help.

I prayed for strength.

I prayed for a right attitude.

Opening my eyes and lifting my head, I was ready and I began my walk out of hiding and into the open space leading home.

037

No emphatic words went before me.

In quietness I entered the house again.

Jesus often withdrew.  Often is the key word.  Perhaps, that needs to be my key word. Often.

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places.  Lonely is a necessary good place; free of demands and distractions.   Perhaps that needs to be my necessary good place too.

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  Yeah. That part about “and prayed.”  I so need to do that more OFTEN and in the LONELY.

If Jesus needed to do that…  How much more I surely need to do that.  

What about you?

Praising God for the HOPE that is restored in prayer!

004

Okay, I admit it.

A wee little house far, far away still tickles my imagination…..(!)

Tuesday Tidbit: Got the Advocate?

Perched in a usual spot

with expectation of a calm eve,

the start of the storm rolls in with a low rumble…

the smallness of it’s voice is disregarded.

Like a whip cracking alongside a steed

the voice increases with defiant stabs

and wounds the trusty bonds.

Creating a tumultuous clash at the footing of the landscape

the voice,

like a lion,

braces with a roar and frantically paces in his cage.

Stripped of fight

the decision to step aside leaves the door open

and the owner of the storming voice

carelessly tosses aside the heart that loves even still.

Left in the aftermath lull

there is little to do

as emptiness fills up the vessel.

Numb and distraught and confused

the dust settles.

The words refuse to come but the soul wails!

The Advocate quietly and assuredly arrives

speaking in earnest He gathers the weakness up and brings to mind

all that was taught and recorded.

The heart is revived

and is able to stand at the threshold

ready to give and receive the mutual embrace.

The storm transformed

returns the young voice,

while mercy and forgiveness and love 

remain.

***************

Are you the voice of disaster?  Or are you the heart that is wounded?

Are you the one who needs transforming or the one in need of restoration?

Perhaps you have had a season in both situations, over time…?

In moments when I am desperately seeking and not knowing what to do or what to say, left in the aftermath —  I am thankful for the Holy Spirit who was given to me.  The Advocate – the One who supports and stands up for me – comes and teaches me and gently reminds me of all Jesus taught.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26

He strengthens my heart to persevere and stand able.  Able to both give and receive mercy, forgiveness, and love.  Just as Jesus taught.  Just as Jesus did.

Today I remain, perched in a usual spot, full of peace

as I have been ministered to by the Advocate.

Got the Advocate?

***************************************************************************************