The Solution to your suffering is not what you think it is…

window church crucifixion church window

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So Truth for me came as a shock. I grew up in a well meaning Christian and Bible following home and Church but I believe there was a message given (without malice) that if “we all just come give our hearts to Jesus, everything will be good!’…

And we who have lived very long know this is absolutely untrue. Being a preacher’s daughter I went to tons of youth events, revival, camp outings where this was the mantra.

I believe what these well meaning loving people were saying (be it naive) is that we all are in need of a Savior for we are born enemies of God and  dead in our sin without him. They were trying to present the Gospel but they left out one important Truth…suffering.

You see, the young girl who gives her life to Christ at your youth camp still goes home to her alcoholic mother when all is done. The boy on the football team that everybody loves still goes home to a Dad who tells him he is useless because he isn’t starting quarterback. So what occurs is the seed of their “moment” with the Lord (which I believe can be real but often is not) falls on the rocky, painful  soil and is quickly plucked away by the pain of this world!

I believe that Truth is a person. Truth is the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus even tells us he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The Truth is not pretty and tied up all in a bow. The Truth is not a Hallmark movie.

The Truth is a snot slinging, earth shattering  cry of repentance and pain and sorrow into a bloody, brutal battle and only Truth can win that sin battle. Only Truth has the Sword of the Words of life and that sword must pierce you right where you are but know this He, Jesus, Truth suffered more than your mind can comprehend. He despised the shame, our shame. He scorned our sin that he would have to hear for us to live in the presence of the Holy One! Truth got slaughtered and hung on a tree for us!

So if after you accept Christ you still have your alcoholic spouse, or a son on drugs, or a daughter date raped and pregnant, or a Churc that hurts you, or a failed missionary vision…you see where my heart is going here…people Jesus came to save us from these messes we have made that have caused Him so much suffering. Life without Jesus is NO LIFE AT ALL but make no mistake Life with Jesus is the Way you get through the suffering of your broken sinful life and gradually you realize the suffering is how you really know who Jesus is and that your suffering is nothing compared to the Matchless Glory of His Grace! Do not be surprised by suffering friend. Follow closely beside The Christ, who is the Truth because he has walked this path before us. Follow Him.

 

Kneeling at the idols of burning dreams…

man kneeling in front of cross

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No I didn’t worship as the pagans do or did I? That realization was a rude awakening for a girl raised in the knowledge of Christ and the Bible. Hey, those false, other gods had nothing to do with me or did/do they?

I have always been curious and believe I now know why John the Apostle wrote in the last verse of his book “children, be aware of idols.”

I have read and read that Gospel of John’s and that verse always convicted me.

After bowing down to man made works (supposedly for God), after walking many miles in my journey with Jesus I have come to know that everything and everyone put before God in my life is an idol. Sounds simple yes but it is gut wrenching because my idols come in the love of grandchildren, love of admiration, love of being right, love of caring for the sick, the love of (fill in the blank)…

As a young woman I believe my idols were rooted in the identity given me by birth. Later I believe my idols were turned to the insecurity of fitting in so I would do what everyone else was doing. Just to fit in. I could list them all but the one in my older years that finally got my spiritual attention like no other was when my first grandchild was born. Oh how God has lavished his love upon those of us who are given grandchildren!  It is a good reward undeserved but  I began to put that love above everyone and everything. I didn’t even realize how deep I had waded into that “good” idolatry.

But God… in his purity and fury thundered through to me one sleepless night as I was telling him that he felt so distant lately. I had taken a gift of Joy and great love and delight and turned it in to a god!

How could that be I said? I am following you Lord. I felt His Spirit say, “if you follow me then you must put no other gods before me…”

So I knelt down before my Lord had one of those snot slinging, sobbing moments of repentance…

Paul wrote, “for what do you have that you did not receive? If you received it then how can you boast about anything?” 1 Corinthians 4:7

 

Oh how all the Kings have fallen

war chess

Photo by Gladson Xavier

Oh how all the Kings have fallen

From their high and lofty thrones!

The white Knights are soiled with black death

none of them call upon Almighty God!

All the people lie constantly so the innocents die

Their evil makes a mockery of Almighty God!

 

Oh if only they would cry from deep hearts

and give up their ego and selfish ways!

I, Almighty God have made a way to redeem them

Only I have saved them with my own right hand!

I desire mercy and compassion above all else

I, Almighty God have spoken for all to hear!

Fiddler

wood music classic sound

Photo by Pixabay 

 

Part of me just won’t show  

what she needs or what she knows

The anger lies beneath the wind

the fury stirs it up again

 

What did I think would happen

what do I have to lose?

Turn my mourning into dancing

 I put on my high-heeled shoes

 

I can’t drown my sorrow

breathe through the smoky haze

I don’t want to work tomorrow 

but the Fiddler must be paid.

 

 

 

 

Jars of Clay…we were enemies of God

blur broken ceramic clay

Photo by Fancycrave.com 

 

The heavy burden of baggage, the relentlessness of clocks. No none likes to see something break. It would not be normal if we liked to see something or someone break yet we are all broken. The day we are born we begin the journey into decay. Some see this as morbid. I see it as part of the “fall” or disobedience. The brokenness that had to be reconciled. The healing that had to happen in such an earth shattering, heaven and hell kind of way. Complete light and complete darkness collide and God’s light wins.

Everything about us, our appearance, the miraculous functioning of our bodies and brains are designed. Some of us dress plainly. Some wear costumes of bright plumage. Some of us are Primary clay. Some of us are transformed by miles of rain, wind, and ice.

I was once broken but have been transformed into his marvelous light.

 

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of  your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.  Colossians 1:24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can look for me…

white peonies in clear glass vase centerpiece near a white ceramic mug closeup photography

Photo by Dominika Roseclay

 

You can look for me on the streets or home

my footprints are there but I may be gone

There is a scent of rose and a south wind breeze

a slight Texas drawl and a gospel hymn…

 

They say no one knows where they belong

without a doubt I know this is wrong

For every step taken must be redeemed

this journey’s path is  seldom what it seems…

 

You can look for me in this Texas town

where all my roots lay deeply in the ground

A sense of strength and a southern swag

and a Gulf Coast pull that calls me back…

 

You can look for me on the streets or home

Some familiar paths and some still unknown

You will hear my laugh dancing in the trees

 the cottonwood’s shade as the church bells ring…

 

 

The Night Heron

grey heron reflection on body of water

Photo by Leigh Jeffreys

She said what she first noticed was that images were spinning around her frontal lobe like those old 1950 children’s lamp shade night lights. As the lamp would spin around different nursery rhyme stories would glow in the dark. This is what she noticed first.

These scenes of life from childhood to ancient-hood would spin in her mind but then she would immediately forget what she saw. She said it was tremendously frightening at first.

She said with in a few months the the children started coming more often. Telling her what she should do more often. She just smiled and ignored them and worked in her garden. She managed dozens and dozens of tulips and daffodils around her large home built with field stones.  A beautiful home that once was in a country meadow but with human progress was now in the middle of a large city neighborhood. She said she loved to prune the bulbs and separate them each year. She used her little garden mat for her creaky knees and wore the hat which was her Mother’s. She said her Mother bought the hat in China where her family were missionaries until the Communist kicked them all out of the country.  The hat was perfect for long days in the Texas summer and was constructed so well that it looked as good as new instead of forty years old.

I would drive by her house every day on my way to work or to the market and everyday she could be found in her garden. I often stopped to chat.

One day we were talking and she said, “you know children can never know their parents young. That is why it is so hard for them to understand them as adults. They have never seen me run a relay race like a gazelle or fight with my sister. They have never seen me with skinned knees and pigtails. They surely cannot picture me as a lovely teenage girl going on her first date much less enjoying a healthy sex life at least until they were born! I also think they have forgotten that their Father always brought me tulips and daffodils our wholes lives together.”

As fall approached I would see her out there tending the bulb garden with her head bent over and her knees on her mat. It gave me a sense of comfort I think.  Then, of course, that inevitable day came when I did not see her for a week or so but had been too busy to stop by. The next week I saw a for sale sign in the front yard and stopped.

I was surprised when a nurse aid let me in and I knew this must be a bad sign but she was actually looking quite spry. I noticed when she stood up that her back was a tiny bit bent like trees whey they finally wear the shape of the wind. We sat together in some worn but comfortable chintz chairs by the front window. The gray-blue light of winter slanted through the stillness. She said, “Death’s cruel pluck is coming.” She was right.

By spring she was gone. By summer the children sold her house and the lot behind it. The new construction destroyed every single tulip and daffodil. All the lot taken up by a McMansion. They didn’t tear down the beautiful stone house but to me tearing up the garden was the cruelest act. I wonder if the children had no idea what it meant to her. I wondered why they did not see the hours she labored and loved in that garden. I wondered a lot of things.

The last time I saw her she talked about how the night Heron with it’s silver soft plumage was the most beautiful in all the marsh. She said she that the Heron had been visiting her each evening in the shadows of dusk. She said she was stuck in a memory of growing up on the Bayou of Houston and couldn’t remember a lot of things about being an adult.  The last thing she said to me with a gentle smile on her face was, ” thanks for coming to visit me Mama. I will see you soon for good.”  I just smiled and told her goodbye and thanked her for the beautiful tulip and daffodil garden.  She waved and I was gone. She was gone too.

Every time I drive by the property I go through a run of emotion from anger at her children for what seems carelessness to realizing I am not their judge. I feel sad that the beautiful tulips and daffodils no longer dance there in the breeze. I remember her smile and think of the Night Heron. I picture her in heaven with her Chinese hat on bent down on her knees with her mat working in God’s garden.

You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of the aged, and you shall revere your God. Leviticus 19-32

 

I like stillness best…

turned on grey table lamp

Photo by Dorran

 

It is the end of the day and evening twilight has gone. It is that time when quiet lay like a mantle of fresh snow over my world. It is that moment when I seek rest for my mind and soul and prayers of thanks for this day are said. Of all the wonder this life brings as I grow older I have come to love “Stillness” best. Stillness when I rock my grandson to sleep or one of them tells me in child like whispers of faith an imaginary story or how they see the world. Stillness when my husband lay beside me and we read our books and hold hands. Stillness where I collect my thoughts, my dreams, my joy, and my sadness and I string them like beautiful pearls and give them back to God. In stillness I feel His peace and protection over my daughters and their families and dear loved ones in my life. Stillness where I let grief and hope arise together like an entwined tapestry and lay them at the feet of Jesus, the One in whom I put all my trust. Yes, I believe it is fair to say that in getting older of all the wonderful sounds of life I have begun to love “stillness” best.

“You cannot find the way of the Cross. Jesus must lead you there…” Martin Luther

mountains nature arrow guide

Photo by Jens Johnsson

Oswald Chambers says “The Cross of Jesus Christ was the greatest and most profound collision of God and Sin”. In my sixty-three years of life I am still often astounded how I cannot grasp all that The Cross of Jesus means to those who choose to follow him. For you see it is a choice. Jesus never pushes himself on people because He knows that to be his follower there will be a cost.

In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Meditations on The Cross, I found myself pierced in the heart at my lack of true discipleship. Oh, make no mistake I am a born again child of God, regenerated and adopted into the family of God through Jesus’ blood shed for me however, having knowledge of that and thoughts and plans of my own on how that should go and how that should look I am learning to abandon.

In Bonhoeffer’s book he quotes Martin Luther and this quote absolutely “gutted” my spirit and has also transformed my idea of what following and obeying Christ means…I really don’t have the words to express what I have realized.

The Martin Luther quote, “things must happen not according to your own knowledge but rather immerse yourself in the abandonment of understanding and Jesus will give you true understanding. You cannot find the way of the cross. Jesus must lead you there like a blind person. Not the work you chose for yourself, not the sufferings you think up for yourself, but what comes to you contrary to your choosing, thinking, desiring, that is where you must follow, there He is calling. There you are the pupil, there is where your teacher, your Savior has come and is found.”

“So, this Great Collision between God and Sin, this collision absorbed by the heart of God is what the Cross of Jesus is. The world shook, the foundation of hell and death were defeated forever.”  Oswald Chambers

 

What the Cross is NOT is an act of martyrdom, in the sense that there is no “defeat” on Jesus’ cross. Only victory with the greatest price paid that eternity past, present, and future has ever known. The Cross is the central event in time and eternity, and the answer to all the questions of both. Nor is the Cross of Jesus something that “happened” to Jesus. He came for this exact purpose when he made His covenant between the three persons of the Godhead to become flesh and dwell among us.

Oswald Chambers says, “The Cross of Jesus is not “a” gift from God rather it is THE Gift from God! The Cross of Jesus is the literal act of God’s Holy judgment on Sin.”  Most Christians are familiar with these words but I tell you when I pondered on Martin Luther’s quote above regarding Jesus leading me like a blind person to His Cross, bearing my own cross of sin, selfishness, and vain knowledge I was undone!

In an ongoing study but now a  conclusion to this small putting together of words that cannot satisfy what I am trying to say,  The Cross is not the horrible end of a pious life, but stands rather at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ. Every call of Christ leads to death of self with the promise of eternal life in Him. You cannot know the way of the cross. I cannot make myself a disciple of Christ with my own knowledge, my own pursuits. It is only in following Jesus to His Cross that we will know the “Power of His resurrection” and eternal life. Lift up the mighty shield of faith for there are battles daily in this world but Jesus the God/man Redeemer of all is leading the way!

 

Oh what a Collision of God and Sin, my sin happened on the Cross of Jesus. The Cross of God. Oh my soul rejoice for the Joy of my Salvation has been restored!

 

(Credit to Oswald Chambers and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, and the Holy Bible.)

 

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the mourning is in the small connections to ordinary things

adult affection baby casual

Photo by Pixabay

The mourning is in the small connections to ordinary things. The smell of her hand cream and her talcum powder…

The crinkle of his skin in the corner of his gray-blue eyes when he smiles. The silly songs he  sang to wake me up each morning and the silly nicknames he called us to show His love…

The struggle, the grief, the mourning  is not between ourselves and others. It is within ourselves and lay between the longing in our souls and that which is ordained by God himself…

Between the body and its desire and between the mind and its necessary vital need of renewal…

These connections are learned at a very young age, as a babe already knows the scent of his mother and the lower tones in  her father’s  voice …So it is that these ordinary simple connections… are in reality the sound of Joy’s voice  like a warm spring rain…

These are the gentle paths of mourning that ease us into grief. There is no fear in mourning for it is a connection to our Maker…there is no fear or reason to “get rid” of grief.  For without the mourning there is no comfort. Without the sorrow there is no relationship and without grief there is no Joy.