Of Overwhelming Love and the Possibility of Creating More Frogs

As I’ve been reading through Isaiah and Jeremiah this week, the concepts of love and forgiveness keep blowing me away. God states all these things that were done by Israel, and that we all have done- not trusting Him even when we have seen so clearly that He is real and trustworthy, turning our backs on Him after He has provided everything we can imagine ever wanting plus some more, looking right in His face and denying that he exists or matters. And, understandably, He is upset about it. Like very upset. He is betrayed, denied, lied to, hurt, used.

Just like any of us would be in similar circumstances.

But He has the power to totally destroy us or turn us into frogs or make our lives horribly miserable or basically whatever He wants. And is totally justified to do so, and sometimes does. (Not the frog part though, I think….lol) And both Isaiah and Jeremiah are full of His threats to do so.

And there a lot of people stop, seeing only the “God of the Old Testament” (who is no different now, by the way….), lots of vengeance and war and things. And they totally miss the point.

Both books are at their heart, a call to repentance and a note of love. I cannot count how many times both books say
“I will restore you”
“Repent and I will enable you to overcome”
“I want to bless you”
“Your country will endure forever and all people will flock to you”
“I love you so much”
And that idea overwhelms me.

Think about it. You have an extremely close friend whom you care for very much. And they go through a hard time. So you give them everything you have- all your food, your clothes, your home. Not just to stay in or borrow. To own. Then they tell you they hate you. Things get bad for them again, and they come back to you, hoping you will help them. So you do. You give them all your savings, even that 401(k) you’ve been fighting to put money in for the last 20 years. They take it, of course, and run off. You don’t hear from them for two years. When you do, they just want more from you and don’t bother to even ask how you’ve been since they last saw you.

And you look at them and say, Yes, I want to help you and I will give you everything I can, but please tell me thank you. I love you, and I want to give you more. And I desire to be closer to you. And I forgive you.

Like that. How can you not love a God like that? How can you not be drawn to someone who will love you despite your open using and abusing of them, who still desires to be with you despite your failings?

Oh, God, how You love us!

When I first started this internship at Hope City, I was wanting to learn how to help others without enabling them. And I am learning that, it’s not about enabling someone or not in their problems. (Of course there are boundaries that need to be maintained. Don’t get me wrong. But I am becoming more convinced that those boundaries are more for that time period when the individual is seeking to overcome their difficulties. ) It’s about enabling someone to love. And the only way that can be done is by demonstrating love, lots of it.

Thank You Lord for the massive love You’ve demonstrated to us in the death and resurrection of Your Son, and the love that You continue to share!!! I am so humbled by all that You do for me.
Enable me to show that love better. Wake us up to our lethargy and wanderings from You and enable us to give as much as we have received from You.

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Of Beautiful Things Hidden in Plain Sight

(Continuing my weekly blog from Hope City, on the things God is teaching me)

“My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places of the mountainside, show Me your face, let Me hear your sweet voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.” Song of Songs 2:14

We are doves, hiding in the Rock of Christ, our protection, our shelter. A dove looks ordinary on the outside, (the Hebrew for in this instance is more accurately translated into what we would call a pigeon) but inside, they are all unique. Take a closer look at any pigeon. See beyond the outward annoying messy bird you may see at first. Look at its feathers, with the pretty iridescent effects, the brightness of its eyes, the beauty of its wings, the softness of its voice.

If the pigeon believed only what the world says about it- nuisance, messy, overpopulated, gross, whatever- it would be unable to see those things. It would not see the great speed and skill which it can fly with, the individuality of it, the greatness of what it really is.

What is your identity rooted in? What the world says, or what Christ says about you?

Hide in the rock of Him. You are safe there, firmly rooted, and will gain the strength to see clearly, to see yourself as He sees you, to see Him with clear, bright eyes.

But, as you do that, make sure that you are speaking to Him, looking to Him. He wants to hear your voice. He cares what you say. The simple trust of a child in your eyes for Him, the ability and humility to ask Him for whatever you need. Those are precious to Him.

As precious as any dove or sparrow.

May God bless you throughout your week, and may you grow in knowledge of the brightness of Him within you, and the humility to be content to look plain on the outside, knowing that He sees your heart.

Of Light and Grace

(I am just completing my first week at a three-month internship at HopeCity, an inner city mission to the homeless in Kansas City, and I am going to attempt to update this blog every week or so to keep all who are interested up to date, as well as share and process the things that God has been laying on my heart.)

“….So that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1Corinthians 2:5

Physically, the shelter is much different than I expected- much cleaner, closer. The neighborhood breaks my heart- the government has pretty much written off the entire area as worthless- there aren’t even any schools, and no one cares if the kids go or not. Poverty and hopelessness keeps perpetuating throughout the generations. . Although it is both a spiritual and physical warzone, we are as safe as we can be, and protected by both others and God. There is much darkness here, but also much light. HopeCity is light, God shines His light here, on us all. We are flooded with people needing food and other things, but many also come to the prayer room, and watching them pray is amazing. There is a ton of grace and forgiveness here, but very well-set boundaries, and a huge culture of honor. Everything centers around Jesus and loving and glorifying Him with everything that we do. The prayer room is easy for me- my comfort zone, and spending 6 hours in there a day is wonderful.

I am learning to not judge by appearances; to see others how God sees. Not that I’m very good at it, but I’m learning. It’s very humbling.

I am learning faith- to have things make the 12 inch journey from my brain to my heart. To differentiate between the truth and the falsehood, then silence the things in me that still doubt the truth.

Lord, thank You for bringing me here, for providing the means for me to advance along this journey that You have called me to, for calling me closer to You. Thank You for laughter, for Your healing. Thank You for Your love for everyone in this neighborhood, and how You love them, even if the majority of the world doesn’t see them. Continue to pour Your Spirit out on us all and bring us through this journey to You and the full life You desire for us. Let my every word bring glory to You.

How to smell like a dog

I was out walking a friend’s dog this morning and noticing how she stops to smell everything.  As in everything.  A patch of grass.  Smell.  A patch of grass two inches away from the last.  Smell.  A crack in the concrete.  Smell.  Oy!  And, while I understand the whole dog physiology of smelling and marking and all that, it’s hard for me, being a human, to understand the appeal of smelling all that stuff.  To me it just looks like a patch of grass or a crack in the sidewalk.  Big deal.  There’s hundreds of both.

 

But then I thought- I’m only looking at it from my surface, 5’2”off the ground perspective, and she’s seeing it from a much deeper, and closer to the ground perspective.  Plus, she’s seeing with more than her eyes; she is using her other senses to figure out what is really there and what has been there in the past.  She’s seeing deeper- or maybe I should say, smelling deeper.

 

And I thought, how often do I do the same with my life, with others, with myself, with God?  Judge from the surface, instead of “using my nose” to really figure out what’s really happening, what the truth is.  That’s hard to do- mostly, I must admit, because it requires time and is inconvenient  to my scheduled busy-ness.

 

But if the things I am reacting to or doing are not based around truth, do they really matter?  They’re just empty fluff.

 

God, help me to see with Your eyes and to take the time to see with truth.  Help me to react only out of love, and to know that what is important to You is always worth taking time for.

The (in?)sanity of buying a field

I was reading more in Sharing God’s Heart for the Poor, and this chapter really struck me about a passage I’ve read many times but never really understood until now, so here is my comments on it, which will be my last blog about this particular book.

 

Picture this- you are living in a country on the brink of ruin, surrounded by armies that are attacking you.  You have no option to pretend it isn’t happening, as God keeps telling you to tell others that it is happening, and your country will fall, along with a lot of the people.  Everyone’s scared, everyone thinks you’re crazy, no one listens.  You lose heart and hope.

Then God does something really insane.  He tells you to buy land that is now behind enemy lines, land that, for all intents and purposes, is useless to you or anyone who is not the invading army.  Your cousin owns it and wants to dump it off on you- you’re the crazy prophet right? Maybe you’ll actually buy it- to get a little money.  And he asks full price for it, to add insult to injury.  And God tells you to buy it!

So what do you do?  You buy it.  Add to the rumor mill of your need for padded walls….

So, the million dollar question is- just WHY does God want you to buy this worthless land?  What’s the point- he’s already told you that you’re going into captivity, with no promise of you personally coming out alive. Why does He keep making you look so foolish?  And, at the root of it, what does the purchase say about God?

It’s all about redemption.

And worth.

And trust.

The land is seen as worthless, but is sold at a premium because it had value to the buyer- and the real buyer was God, who told Jeremiah to buy it.

The land is seen as a dead end, but it is sold under a long-lasting contract, as a long-term investment in life.

The land is seen as something unobtainable, yet the deed is placed where it will last for a long time- until the time that it is obtainable again.

 

Now change the land into a person.

Who the world sees as worthless, a throwaway, God sees as very very valuable and spends everything to obtain.

Who the world sees as a dead end, beyond repair and too broken, God invests into for their whole life, seeking to heal.

Who the world sees as too closed and hurt to ever be touched, God works on slowly, over time, until they can finally open up and be touched by Him.

I’m ashamed to say that often times ‘the world’ includes Christianity.  But, everything God does really does look foolish.  As a good friend of mine says- God really does have a massive sense of humor.  So having a heart of compassion, to see the real value, often times is the ability to step out and look foolish.  And that’s where the trust part comes in.  Trusting that God will make good on His promises of restoration and love.

Just something to think about.  You can read the story here, or look it up and find the surrounding verses too…  J

 

Jeremiah 32:8-17 NIV Now it happened just as the LORD had said! My cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guardhouse. He said to me, ‘Buy my field which is at Anathoth in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. Buy it for yourself since you are entitled as my closest relative to take possession of it for yourself.’ When this happened, I recognized that the LORD had indeed spoken to me.  9 So I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel. I weighed out seven ounces of silver and gave it to him to pay for it. 10 I signed the deed of purchase, sealed it, and had some men serve as witnesses to the purchase. I weighed out the silver for him on a scale. 11 There were two copies of the deed of purchase. One was sealed and contained the order of transfer and the conditions of purchase. The other was left unsealed.  12 I took both copies of the deed of purchase and gave them to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah. I gave them to him in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, the witnesses who had signed the deed of purchase, and all the Judeans who were housed in the courtyard of the guardhouse.  13 In the presence of all these people I instructed Baruch, 14 ‘The LORD God of Israel who rules over all says, “Take these documents, both the sealed copy of the deed of purchase and the unsealed copy. Put them in a clay jar so that they may be preserved for a long time to come.”’ 15 For the LORD God of Israel who rules over all says, “Houses, fields, and vineyards will again be bought in this land.”’  

 16 “After I had given the copies of the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD, 17 ‘Oh, Lord GOD, you did indeed make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. Nothing is too hard for you!  (Copied from theword.net Bible software)

 

Haitian Dance

Someone asked me yesterday, “How was Haiti?”  And I realized I never really talked about it much.  It is something that was both wonderful and that hurt deeper than I thought anything could.  The country and the living conditions were not in themselves shocking to me- I’ve studied enough things about humanity to know what to expect.  It was actually a bit better than I expected.  Which was probably helped by the fact that we stayed in what, even in America, would be a decent, lower middle class home, if small, but in a neighborhood where there really is no American equivelent.

I enjoyed it, alot.  I didn’t want to leave.  The people are so beautiful, the land is beautiful, but so far from what it has been, the art and colors everywhere are amazing.  I am in love with it, and its a lasting love….

I was disapointed how little good my Creole lessons were…. but I am continuing to work on it….  If you know anyone who speaks Haitian Creole and wants to tutor someone, let me know…..

But, back to the subject.  Haiti is a country of contrasts.  It is beautiful and harsh, joyfilled and sorrow, full of dark and light, pain and happiness, poverty of possesions and richness of community, a place where life and death meet and mingle in an unabashed whirlwind dance that consumes all who set foot on the island.  Beautiful dark skin and eyes against white teeth and clay, mud and dry, silence and noise, stillness and movement.  It is indescribable.

Not so unlike my own country.  All that is in America, too, its just more hidden….

My heart aches for the people there.  My mind is haunted by their faces.  And I dream of the day I go back again, to embrace the dance, and to hold close the exquisite mix of sorrow and joy all over again.

None of which says much about my trip, but, like I said, words don’t really fit it….

Can You Smell What I’m Baking?

I love to bake and decorate cakes and other pastries.  I love the processes of designing, watching all the ingredients come together in the mixer bowl, baking it and watching it rise in the oven, molding and forming the cake and frosting into whatever my design is- or as close to it as I can get!  But, one of my favorite parts has to be the smell.  The chocolate-butter-flour-vanilla-fruit-warm sugar smell of cakes and pastries. The whole process would just be much flatter and uninteresting without the smell. In fact, I can spend all day baking, get it all cleaned up and put away, and my husband can still tell, just by the smell in the kitchen that I have been baking.

Similarly, as Christians, we are called to have a ‘smell’.  And we all do- either a good one or a bad one.  A smell is either enticing or off-putting.  And what is our smell?  It is our heart- what we are doing to others- the light that we are showing to others.  The sweetest smell of a dish happens when it is put in the oven.  That is where the chemical transformations take place; where the individual ingredients are changed and made into something new and wonderful.

And we must go through the oven to really have a good smell.  We must be willing to step out of our comfort zone to help someone else; to give sacrificially of our time and lives, in order to complete the change within us; in order to help us to become what God is willing us to be- a sweet aroma to Him, of Him.

It’s not enough to merely know all the ingredients or have them.  A cake batter does me no good before its baked.  It’s just shapeless goo.

A life where this is wonderfully illustrated is in A Radiance on the Gulag, a book about Nijole Sadunaite- a Lithuanian Catholic exiled to Siberia in the 1970’s for her faith.

“Since Nijole’s suffering became known by various Christian organizations in the West, a large   number of believers knew of her plight.  Consequently, Nijole received many care packages while she was in exile.  Although it was against the law, the Communist guards made her pay to receive these packages.  Prisoners in exile had to work and they received a starvation wage of 75 rubles a month.  Their housing cost 20 rubles, and the prisoners were made to pay sometimes over 45 rubles to accept any packages sent to them.  But time after time, Nijole accepted these packages, paid for them, and then re-packaged them and mailed them to Christians in other parts of the Soviet bloc when she believed where suffering worse than she was.  The Communist guards and postal officials could not make any sense out of this.  It was a kindness and a sacrifice that utterly dumbfounded them.  One time, some girls who were members of the Communist youth organization questioned Nijole about her strange behavior.  Nijole replied that she wanted to help her impoverished brothers and sisters in Christ who were suffering.  And the girls asked her, if we were ever put in jail, and you learned of it, would you send us you care packages?  And Nijole replied, “Of course, if I knew your address.”

That is a beautiful, sacrificial love, an aroma that you know even when you walk into an empty kitchen.  It’s a wonderful, freeing thought.  I don’t have to worry whether or not I have the words to tell someone something- all I have to do it show them love.  They’ll know.  If they want to know more, they’ll ask.

Thank You Jesus for the wonderful example of love You are for us, and for the wonderful aroma You are through us!!!  It is an honor to show Your compassion to others.