What are Your Tags Showing: REDEEMED

John 19:19 Pilate also had a notice posted on the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

“Your tag is showing.” The lady behind me whispered at church yesterday, as she tucked the sales tag into the back of my shirt. First of all, let me just say . . . I got a killer price on the shirt! But what do you do when your tags of brokenness are showing?

  1. Hide them
  2. Lie about them
  3. Claim them and laugh
  4. Flaunt them

Everyone was labeling Jesus. They were trying to understand this man who claimed to be both God and man. Was he here to usurp power, or lead a rebellion? Was he a prophet? Yet Jesus cared more about who his heavenly Father thought he was. “This is my son, in whom I well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) He did not hide who he was.

For many of us, others see what we think hidden. They see we are unhappy in our marriage; coworkers are painfully aware of our arrogance; friends feel the draft of our hopelessness. Some just laugh and are grateful that it’s not them suffering those problems. Others lean forward and tell us to hide them better. Still others pluck the tags from us thinking they are being helpful.

I can’t hide the tag of survivor of suicide because it permeates from every aspect of my life. I miss that blue-eyed, dimpled chin young man. I miss his laugh, our conversations, seeing him at college, and all the things that were to come. But in this life we will have troubles. I hope you see, though deeply wounded, I will not back down from living! Be encouraged, our circumstances may tag us with heavy burdens. but no matter how may labels show, the original price on my life has been marked out. In its place are the words: REDEEMED! PRICE PAID IN FULL! BEAUTIFUL! WORTHY! JUSTIFIED! FORGIVEN!

Do you still carry the tag of who you were, or has it been marked out by Jesus Christ? Are you convinced, no matter what tags this broken world tries to pin on you, that you are a son or daughter of a risen king! Murderers tried to tack “King of the Jews” above Jesus on the cross. But, I declare that he was and is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Redeemer and gratefully my Savior. That is a tag I don’t care if anyone catches hanging out of my shirt!

Prayer:  Lord, we have tags showing. May your love redeem all of them and lead others to a saving knowledge of who you are. Amen

Sanctuary, You keep saying that word . . .

Psalm 73 . . .Still, when I tried to figure it out,
    all I gt was a splitting headache . . .
Until I entered the sanctuary of God.
    Then I saw the whole picture: . . . {The Message)

Give me sanctuary! For the past few weeks I had multiple excuses to not enter the sanctuary of God. I have literally felt oppressively hot each time I entered, to the point of feeling faint, and this week I was on the threshold of seizures as a result of my severe insomnia. But each time, with equal grit, I entered the sanctuary anyway!

Why? Because sanctuary is where my thinking is reborn. I’m no longer in the vacuum of my own thoughts and see more clearly God’s hand on my life. I am not alone! Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:10) How differently the aftermath of my son’s suicide would look if I chose to go through it alone.  So many of us, struggling with depression, become echo chambers as we withdraw from any voice but our own. I have had 42 years of playing my own thinking . . . there might be a broken record or two.

So I sing a new song each week, along with hundreds of brothers and sisters in Christ. This Sunday I let the truth of More than Conquerors remind me,  God overcomes every obstacle in my way. I can defiantly proclaim his love, truth, and presence to others desperate for answers. While participating in the sermon–which by the way means conversation–I hear God’s voice. You are not alone. Look around you. Do you think that you are the only one struggling to be here? Communicate your need to me, let me carry your burden.

I encourage you to enter the sanctuary, not out of obligation, but because there is relationship.  I raise my hands to praise, not because I have it all together, or have arrived at some spiritual nirvana! I raise my hands because I am defiant! I have a God who loves and fights for me and I recognize the warriors who surround me.

Find allies in the sanctuary of God.  (Please note, I have been abused by those who called themselves Christians, so I say this with the full awareness that church does not always feel like a place of protection.) But, I have also witnessed the generosity of Christians. I have experienced the provision and good gifts of a God who is not blind to my wounds. In the sanctuary I see that God is just.  We can angrily slam the door on God and Christians for perceived let downs, or we can enter the sanctuary and find our battle never was against each other. We have a common enemy and we cannot defeat him alone. Come to the sanctuary with me and raise your hand in defiance!

 

Lord, I praise you for placing a fire in me to be in the presence of your people. Thank you for the great music that encourages me and lights our way with the gospel of peace. Thank you for pastors that point to your truth and do not lean on their own understanding. Thank you that you raised your arms in defiance to death and teach me to become more than a conqueror! Amen

 

 

Do Not Anticipate

“Do not anticipate.” is the mantra pilgrims hear on the Walk to Emmaus. You do not take a watch, electronic device, or clock. People tell you where to go at the appointed times. It is the weirdest feeling to spend the majority of your life run by all of thee above and suddenly leave them all behind. But, you stop anticipating and begin living in the moment.

Today I realized that I am anticipating July 1st. My son dies that day and since his birthday in May my anxiousness and anticipation has increased. I was overwhelmed by a sense of impending doom. But, WE DON’T HAVE TO ANTICIPATE! If God is enough each day than what comes tomorrow really doesn’t matter to today.

July 1st will come, no matter what I anticipate and it will be whatever it will be. Jesus didn’t pray, “Give me enough bread for July 1st.” He prayed, “Give us, this day, our daily bread.” It is amazing the peace that washes over us when we stop anticipating and become open to God’s will, come what may. What are you anticipating?

 

God’s Signiture Piece

We are not die stamped, manufactured

on the factory floor and manhandled down

the assembly line, only to be discarded if we are

defective.

 

God’s hands took intimate pleasure

in sculpting man and women.

He dug into earth, kneading clay into

his own image. Checking proportions, building

the detailed science of vein, muscle, bone and ligament.

smoothing skin to skeleton with thumbs, chiseling

eyes, curling lips and dipping dimples. When he stepped

back, he was pleased–

And signed his work with his own DNA.

 

 

Accepting the Lifeline: God’s Yoke is Light

Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

If you’re a Christian and His yoke doesn’t feel light, why is that? I used to think a light yoke meant my circumstances weren’t heavy, but clearly my circumstances are extremely heavy. Our yoke becomes light when we know God’s gentleness and humility so well that the yoke is nothing in comparison. Paul touches on the difference of our earthly weight compared to the heavenly yoke, in Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. If my yoke still feels heavy, it is because I am the one still carrying the weight! I don’t know or trust God’s character; giving him full reign of my life. The yoke becomes lighter and lighter when I love Him completely and recognize his complete love for me. Have you ever been secure in that kind of love? Can we accept that he carried our burden on the cross, and therefore, find rest (relief) in the yoke of our savior.

Much of faith is getting to know our master’s character so well that we trust him implicitly. Think of it this way. We are drowning in sin, sin we are doing, and sin that someone is enacting on us. We are exhausted and God has thrown out his life line. We must choose to grab the line before we can rest and allow him to pull us to safety. Now I can keep attempting to save myself, or allow others to pull me under in their misguided attempts at saving me, or I can trust the character of God. This is so much easier when we get to know his character. We read his love note (scripture) over and over. We witness that he has rescued others, we ourselves might have thought hopeless, and we act on his character over and over. I’ll grab the lifeline of the certified swim instructor who has swum the channel! Jesus swam the channel of humanity! He tells us his yoke is light, because he wore the yoke of his father, and knows it to be true.

Observe His gentleness and humility throughout scripture. Don’t discount his love for mankind in the Old Testiment as well as the New. From the birth of creation he has loved and called you by name. We have to decide, will we take His yoke upon us? Will we accept the lifeline and rest?

 

 

Laughing our way to the Cross: Practing Lightheartedness

I take things so seriously and I have been that way from the womb. Cultivating a light heartedness, no matter our personality, is a part of character development. How is that even possible for one as serious and sometimes awkward as me? Well how did Jesus do it?

He partied!

He ate meals with his friends!

He spent time with children!

He was disciplined!

That last one seems out-of-place in our wild life of the party mentality. Disciplined people can be fun to be around? Yes, because discipline lightens our load and makes us more effective in our celebration. Amazing how much more creative I am with a clean desk. Jesus was disciplined without attempting to control the outcome. He retired to a quiet place to spend time with his heavenly father, but if the crowd searched him out, he ministered to them. There is a difference between control and discipline. Control says, I must have things a certain way to function, but discipline stretches, strengthens, and prepares for us to receive our day.

As I am becoming more disciplined in exercise I am better able to be a blessing to my family. Consider the wise words of Elle Woods,”Endorphins make you happy, happy people don’t just go around killing their husbands.” (Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blond) I took her advice. Sunday I was extremely agitated, but after spending forty minutes on the bike trail calmness reigned in my out of control thinking.

Start small 5 minutes. Start with 5 minutes of outdoor time. Love gardening, spend 5 minutes daily weeding your bed. All kinds of biblical lessons there!

Spend time with children. My church has a stain glass window of Jesus on his throne, welcoming little children into his lap. It is easy to see how much pleasure Jesus took in them. My kids wrote me a birthday puppet show last night. They even broke out in song. Love it!

Creation itself throws one big God party! Are we too serious to pause, laugh and celebrate? Life bursts forth with streamers and noise makers every morning I wake up. I am not going to be outdone by the colorful pansies in my garden, or the robin singing his praises outside my office window. My art class surprised me with a cake and sang happy birthday to me yesterday. A gift arrived under my Jonathan tree. Delightful!

How much I value fellowship with you! Even though my “letters” for many of you, come a considerable distance, I still feel a bond with you as we share life together. Some of you I get to break bread with in person. I learn so much, and take pleasure in watching God in your lives. So, throw your streamers! Don’t become so bogged down by the brokeness that we forget that the cross wasn’t the end of the story. Resurrection was God’s invitation, and ALL of us are on the guest list. That is worth celebrating!

The Rescued Rescue

Are we prepared to plant our flags, still crisp and starched

with victory, on

the filthy front lines of humiliated humanity? Tend to

“their” soldiers? And surrender

to suffering, for an enemy still spewing venom as we wash

their wounds?

 

We are ready when we recognize ourselves as

former P.O.W.s. Defeated, and in the ditch of despair.

Rescued by the one who planted himself deep in the flesh

of our territory. Mocked and torn by a crown of barbwire. Tortured

by the enemy, to free us ALL.

 

 

 

 

Valley of the Shadow of Death

(A post from the first days after putting Jonathan in the ground.)

Day 5

Psalms 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

A spur of the moment trip yesterday afternoon to Coco Key Resort, produced a valuable image for Daniel and I to hold onto as we walk through the darkness of Jonathan’s death. Daniel is tall enough to ride the four big slides, and this summer his confidence in the water has skyrocketed. He and I tackled the first one on a two-seater inner tube. After that he was ready to tackle it alone and then moved onto the body slides.

But, he declared from the beginning, that he would not go on the two slides that did not let light in. I have to admit, I had no intention of going on those either. Later, I’m not even sure what prompted me to go on the dark body slide alone, but I did. Maybe I chose the tube because I am already walking through the darkest place imaginable. The slide was as dark as the inside of a cave cavern. I could not see the twists and turns and I didn’t know how long the ride would be, but I knew the light was at the end.

Just before leaving, Daniel grabbed the two-seater and declared that he wanted to ride the dark slide. As soon as we started down I could sense his fear. I declared that I was still beside him, and that the light would greet us at the end. When we exited the pool I told him that this how I feel with God right now. I don’t see him, but I hear his voice, and I’m trying to stand on the truth of his character. In the car the kids asked to listen to their Music Camp CD. One of the songs was “You Never Let Go”. As Daniel listened he exclaimed, “That is like the dark slide! I couldn’t see you, but I knew you were there. I know God is there, and that he won’t let go of me.”

Yes Daniel, and yes reader, God will never let go of you! Through whatever storm or dark place in this life you are going through. Our part is to know that he is here. For me, the only way to obtain that knowledge has been to read about his character in scripture, to pray, and to practice walking in faith. I can’t see where this devastating dark twist will lead, but I won’t turn back, because I know you are here.

Goals:
1. Let others help me today.
2. Work on my song.
3. Find a new copy of Barbra Johnson’s book. (Meet me at half-priced books anyone?)