The red letters

000red-letter-bible We’re studying Matthew’s gospel around the table in the corner room lately.  Its been eye-opening, to say the least.  It’s intriguing to me to compare what the Church says about things (like dancing being unacceptable), and what the Bible says: And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. (2 Samuel 6:14). David was favored of God and while his wife didn’t like his behavior, we have every indication that God did.  The last time I danced scantily I was around ten years old and in a hay mow with my girlfriends. It was hot summer time.  We giggled, as we twisted to the tunes of Elvis Presley and Herman’s Hermits.  I have never shed my outer clothes and taken to the streets to scream and shout, though.  Can you imagine? I shudder to think of it. My life with Jesus doesn’t always resemble the church’s image of what it ought to be, I suppose.  It does, however, resemble the image of failed humanity in communication with God represented in the Good Book.  One of the great things about reading the words Jesus said is that you get a sense from them what a great guy he is, and how far afield of church-y convention he operated during his days here.  I’ve found Him to have a wonderfully humble spirit, and a gentleness with the least of these that some churches lack.  He took time away from his urgent mission to the Jews of his day to bind up broken limbs and lives with the touch of his God/Man hands.  Those hands would later be punctured with spikes and bleed freely on middle eastern soil, but before they did, He used them to touch, caress, comfort, sooth, mix medicinal mud packs for blind men, and lift sinful women out of dusty obscurity. Women who lived long days in dark places found Light in Jesus’ touch, and forgiveness in his heart.  He loved women in all the right ways.  Sometimes this life is hard.  Sometimes church rules are difficult to understand.  Sometimes, people are prickly, especially those people who care a little too much about church rules and not about hurt feelings.  It’s true of us all, I suppose.  I know I can have the propensity to get myself all tangled up in doctrine and forget about doing the next right thing, that thing that blesses another and has them in mind.  It’s when we forget to notice how hard we’re being on ourselves and others that pain comes calling and we start looking for options.  The red letter gospel comes through for us in those times. I’m reading Mark Buchanan’s book, Your God is Too Safe.  Mark believes that our wounds are healed by Jesus’ wounds.  Think about that.  It’s written about in the Bible over and over again: His scarred hands touch our scarred bodies and we are healed.  Buchanan also suggests that it is our wounds, themselves, that make it possible for healing to take place.  I think he’s right.  Whenever we are broken and we turn to Jesus for comfort, we find it.  In this way, the wounds that make us desperate for healing become the very things that make that healing possible. Our wounds drive us to God, and he never turns away. Matthew 12:18-21 says this:

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.  He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Isaiah spoke those words long before Jesus ever walked the streets of Jerusalem, or left the holy city to meet with his disciples in the wilderness of Judea.  I’m so thankful he did.  When I was ten, or twelve, or whatever age I was back then and dancing in the hay mow, I was barely awake to my faith. Jesus had only recently nudged me for that last time, whispering to me, “Its time to wake up…time to come home.”  Until then, I had searched my whole young life for a strong silent type, who had confidence in himself and wasn’t afraid to use it to bless others.  Finally, I’d found him.  We are getting re-acquainted during this study of Matthew’s narrative.  I’m discovering anew what an amazing man I partnered with all those years ago.  I’ve never been sorry about saying YES when he asked me to dance in the spirit of joy at salvation.  I’m more thrilled now than I was then to have Him as my dancing partner.

This red-letter study is awakening new understanding in me every time our lil group gets together.  Those individual in the corner room have become my church within a church, and I’m grateful and honored to know each one of them. They’ve impacted my life in a hundred different ways, and Jesus, a gazillion more.  I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart because of my association with him, and I am, yes, I am, happy all the time.

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Great Gifts and Holey Purses

She brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Encourage one another… 1 Thess 5:11

Are you one of those folks who has a coin purse with holes in it and moths flying out? Me, too.

The good news is that we are in good company in our meagreness.

Joseph and Mary didn’t live in some swanky high-rise, and they didn’t drive a Mercedes. They didn’t have hundreds of servants, or houses, or lands. They didn’t even have a pop-up tent or tee pee to take with them when Roman law required them to travel far, close to Mary’s celebrated labor day. All Joseph had with him was a pregnant wife, a meager donkey, and enough supplies to get them where they were going. It wasn’t a fun trip for either of them, and I’m pretty sure they were both anxious about Mary’s condition and the comfort of that gift of life she carried in her swollen womb.

Enter the cattle, those merciful four-legged friends who willingly came to the rescue for the wee one born among them.

While it was people like you and me who allowed Mary to lay down distressed in their stables, it was the cows, horses, sheep and donkeys who gave up their feed trough for baby Jesus, and warmed the stalls and filled the air around his birth place with earthy aromas, the gift of a glowing Papa God who is all about creating simple bliss.

That barn was the perfect place for the perfect Child to begin serving mankind in perfect obedience.

Ask any farmer or animal lover how they feel about that manger scene and you’ll get a big smile in return. This was the place God choose for the Savior of all humanity to be born. Praise Him, he doesn’t need gold or silver to impress. All He needs is a willing spirit– a gift each of us can give today.

This morning, as you go to our Father in prayer and remember others in need, please thank God for the little joys in life. The joys of peace, comfort, assurance of His love for you, and that you don’t need to impress anyone.

If a manger doesn’t signal God’s love for humble humanity, I don’t know what does. Thank Him and praise Him today for that symbol and the gift of salvation God granted that glorious night His only Son was born. Thank Him for all He does. He’s worthy, and greatly to be praised!!

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Love Matters

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.1 Cor 13:1-3

Encourage one another… 1 Thess 5:11

Knowledge puffs up, while love builds up.

Isn’t that the truth?!

We can know many things and accomplish many goals, but if we have not known love or given love freely to an other along our way, we have missed the main objective of our journey in this life. Without someone to love or the gift of being loved, our lives seem empty and useless, and so they are. Love is the one thing no one can do without. Oh, we can exist, have our being here without love, but we cannot really live without it.

Love welcomes us into this rough world.

Love sustains us so long as we are here.

Love binds wounds, heals hurts, builds confidence, and chases the blues away.

Love makes it all worth while and sheds many tears when our time in this place is done.  Love saves us.

Jesus’ love saves us!

It’s hard to wrap our minds around this love thing sometimes, because our natural selves are so self-centered, but Scripture says that although we may be eloquent of speech and able to offer persuasive arguments, that won’t save anyone, not eternally. We are blessed individuals, so we may have unusual insight and even the gift for discernment. We may be great starters, or people who absorb knowledge like a sponge, then make sound decisions with that knowledge. We may be folks who understand mystery and handle it appropriately, even shrewdly. We may have unending faith in God, so much so that things happen when we step on the stage of life. We may be willing to sacrifice everything we have for the gospel, and that’s good, but if we do any of this devoid of loving motives or by means that push and pull without loving and affirming, we have accomplished nothing of lasting value. Worse than that, we’ve missed the whole point of service. Service loves, then acts, always with the benefit of others in mind.

Today, in your time with Papa God, would you ask him one question: What could I do in the next 18 hours that would bring a greater gift of love to this world?

Prayer Changes Things!

Be God’s Change Agent today by acting in loving ways.

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Joy thru Service

I slept and dreamt life was joy, I awoke and saw life was service, I acted and, behold, service is joy. Tagore

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10

For those who have a servant’s heart, joy comes in helping others realize their dreams. It comes in standing alongside others as they struggle, even if there is nothing we can do to lessen their burden beside this act of togetherness. Joy comes for the servant when he or she is able to share the burden another has, heft the load for another, or give quiet and confident witness to hard times, providing what he can to ease the pain.

God wills that we would serve others, and in so doing, He blesses us.

It’s funny how service works.

We think in our logical minds that giving more will deplete our reservoir, but in actuality the opposite is true. The more we give, the more God gives us to give, so that in giving, our resources increase.

So much of God’s world is topsy-turvy compared to ours.

What we see as loss, He sees as gain.

What we see as pain, He sees as progress.

What we see as bankruptcy, He sees as a new beginning, free of all those things that fettered us for too long.

Once we quit worrying about what we have and don’t have, He frees us to see the value in giving up everything to have Him.

Hallelujah, what a Savior.

Today, is you are weighed down with troubles or burdened by the harsh nature of this world, move into servant mode.

Don’t fix others. Fixing is for God to do, alone. But when He sends someone with a problem into your back yard, support them.

Listen to them.

Stand alongside them.

Their dreams for their life may be different from yours, but that’s okay. We don’t have to figure out their lives, or make things go well for them.

Ours is only to serve.

Pray for God to increase that servant’s heart among us today. Pray for stony chests to give up the fight to have more. Pray for opportunities for service to come to us, and pray that when they do, we will be ready: to love, to hold, to hug, and to serve.

Prayer Changes Things!

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…because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
because of your father’s God, who helps you,
because of the Almighty, who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
blessings of the deep springs below,
blessings of the breast and womb.
Your father’s blessings are greater
than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
than the bounty of the age-old hills. Genesis 49:24-26

Encourage one another… 1 Thess 5:11

Why was Joseph’s life such a success, despite his time spent in a cistern, in slavery, and in prison? Because the Lord knew Joseph.

Almighty God was the source of all blessing for Joseph. It was because God was with him that he experienced so many blessings.  Joseph’s God is that same God who blesses us every day with skies above us, earth below us, water to quench our thirst, and clothes to cover our backs. Not only do we enjoy these things, but we are also given food to eat, cars to drive, houses to live in, churches for worship, and friends to help us feel comforted, encouraged, and nurtured along our path.

Joseph had to go without many of the comforts of life while he served an unjust sentence in prison because of a wanton woman, but he never lost sight of the God who held his life in his hands.

Joseph served where God placed him, and he was thankful.

Today, may it be said of us that we are thankful for the blessings of God in our own lives.

Are things sometimes tough for us? Yes, and so they were for Joseph.

Are people sometimes vicious to us? Yes, and so they were to Joseph.

Do we sometimes feel like we are forgotten, overlooked, or left to peer through windows of blessings others are enjoying but not us? Yes.

Today, though, we can choose to think differently about what is happening in our lives. We can choose to see the grace that God is providing in every blessing we enjoy.

We can be joyful, no matter the circumstances.  Joy is a choice.

Instead of lingering with the pain and disappointment, we can choose to trust that God is here, with us, in our pain. Perhaps unseen, but here nonetheless.

That’s what Joseph did. He thanked God for his life (which was only spared because of God’s blessing and calling), and he went to work serving others through his pain, realizing that God allows pain into our lives  because it serves a redemptive purpose.

What purpose?  Only God knows these things, but I can tell you that asking is time well spent.  Don’t try to hard to make the answers come when you ask, some answers come in whispers while others take weeks or months to arrive. If you do not hear God shout the answer, remain quiet and confident in the whisper and it will come.  There was plenty to keep Joseph occupied once he made his mind up to serve God where he was and with the life he’d been given. The same is true for us.  Just do the next right thing, and trust God with the timing in your life.

Today, if you are struggling to find God’s blessings in your circumstanced, look to Joseph, and remember that God has promised never to leave you, nor forsake you, which means He is there in the pain with you. He always will be. Never forget that and never surrender to the fear that is likely to accompany ever trail in life.  This, too, shall pass…

Don’t give up before the miracle happens!

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Dear Soul,

Resentment is a choice.

In the style of Ann Voskamp, author of, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, I’m posting this letter to my soul today. I hope you can relate. If you can and you want to talk about your experiences with resentment(s), leave me a comment and we’ll begin a conversation (but not here). If not, then just try to be a little more patient with yourself and others you hold resentment toward today. I believe patience and prayer fix a lot of what’s wrong in this world, along with love, so I’ll be moving in that direction in the days ahead.  Just sayin’.

Some of what I’m about to write may sound narcissistic to you, or just plain weird.  If it does, that’s okay, but if revealing how I’m processing this journey with Jesus will help even one woman to be stronger, the chance that others might misunderstand what I’m trying to communicate is worth the risk.  We’re all in this together, right?  Time we started supporting one another, warts, neurosis, and all. 

Dear Daughter of Eve:

Thank you for serving yesterday. What an awesome hour of grace; you handled your part of it well.  Thanks for sharing your gift with others. You always give your best and I appreciate that. Thanks for being vulnerable with your classmates. Thanks for studying up, showing up, and staying upbeat in those moments when we meet together. What an interesting discussion we had. I could have stayed for another hour, at least. I learn a lot from this group….from our discussions about spiritual things. Thanks for making this a priority.

I’m reaching out this morning to nudge you about that resentment list we talked about last week. Not to bug you, but to encourage you to do some writing about those things we discussed then. I’ve been thinking and thinking about the struggles we admitted to in that time together.  Do you know that it helps me when I share my thoughts with you?  It does.  It also helps me when I’m dealing with matters similar to what we discussed last week to capture them on paper, so I want to recommend writing to you today. There are several ways I have written about my resentments in the past. I find that while it is sometimes helpful to talk about these things with others when I’m done writing, when I first begin writing my feelings are often raw and wild, so I like to keep them just between us. Later, when I’m ready, I share what I’ve written, or not. Whichever works best to bring me serenity and peace is the best course of action.

I write, because I find writing helps me to focus better on the exact nature of what’s going on with me. And because I’m not required to share what I write with anyone and my feelings remains anonymous, I can be completely honest. Yay, what a relief!

In the past, I have used all of the following styles of writing to help me work through resentments and periods of jealousy, that just happen to be my particular wart of choice, ugh.

When I struggle with resentments, I:

Write a God letter, making sure to “cc” Jesus.

Write a blog post, avoiding the use of specific names or circumstances, but addressing principles that frustrate me.

Write a poem.

Wrote a song.

Write an article for publication.  I’m not the only one who fights resentment, it seems.

I have written a letter to someone specific, and then burned it or thrown it away, or shred it, or stomp it into powder; point being, I’ve destroyed it so as not to hurt others with “my stuff”.

Writing helps me, and its cheap therapy.

When I write, I get “it” outta my system. Writing also helps remind me that when it comes to troubles, there is a beginning and there will be an end.

Hallelujah for the end of troubles!

When I write, I’m able to better see where God is working in any given situation. Sometimes I don’t see that until I begin to write about what’s going on with me.

Finally, writing helps me realize my part in the situation, which is really the only thing I can change about any resentful feelings I have. I only have power over me. If I am contributing to or feeding the resentment, I can change course, and praise God for the pain and what it is teaching me.

I can praise Him for the experience and what it is teaching me.

Ann Voskamp is famous for her praising ways.  It really does help. 

Every day I have the choice to thank God for molding and shaping me in ways that will make me more effective in the future.

I can choose to express gratitude for Him putting me in situations that teach me humility and self-love, and how to be proactive.

I hope I have not overstepped boundaries by sending this to you today. Part of what God is speaking to my heart on a regular basis is that we sisters in the Lord need to confess our weaknesses one to another, and seek support from each other in order to heal and grow. You have helped me do that this past year. If I could help you now, it would make me glad of heart.

I care about you, and I can so relate to the resentment thing.

KNOW I am praying for you today and I love you. God will find a way for you, and when he does, peace will come with His answer.

Keep looking up.

Keep trusting Him.

Keep seeking that answer.

Don’t give up before your miracle happens.

God wants us women to be strong and stay strong, so that we have the strength to help others. Be strong in Him, and in prayer and asking.

He hears, He cares, and He answers.

Hugs, L

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Childlike Prayers

When was the last time you listened in as your child prayed?

It’s amazing the things they say when their talking to their Papa in heaven, isn’t it?

The apostle John found it just as amazing to listen in on the prayer Jesus prayed for all believers when he was with us on the earth. Not only did John listen, he wrote it down so that we could experience the same sense of wonder. To get the full impact of what Jesus asked the Father to do for his apostles and the believers beyond that small group, check out John’s gospel today, Chapter 17. I think you’ll be amazed at what you find there, especially when you realize that this prayer is all about YOU–that faithful one who continues to follow Jesus no matter what the world is doing.

One of the greatest gifts we’ve been given by Jesus is inclusion.

Inclusion in the family of God means we will be and are always victorious, no matter what experience might tell us, no matter how we feel today, and no matter what we see when we make comparisons between us and others.

Inclusion means that we are always covered, just like the Hebrews were covered in the desert; we share their protection, provision, and proximity to God today.

Inclusion means that we are able to draw strength from each other, as we confess our burdens to each other and to our Holy Savior.

Inclusion means we are no longer on the outside looking in, so long as we seek to serve Christ with our whole heart, mind, strength, and soul. We are included in the blessings–just as He prayed we might be–and we never have to “go it alone” again. Never!

Praise God!

Today, thank God that you don’t walk alone.

Praise Him for being very near, especially in the tough times.

Share him with others who likewise struggle with sins, habits, addictions, manipulations, misunderstandings and pain.

Be mindful that the victory will be yours, and that this present struggle is temporary, always temporary. There is a day coming when the Son of God will shine and rise and declare the pain over! Done! Finished! Demolished!!!

Praise God for all His blessings, and remember, Prayer Changes Things!!

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