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.

Of Pyramids and Sliced Bread

(continuing my blog of things I’ve been learning at Hope City)

It is a struggle to hold on the truth. Sometimes it seems like everything is yelling at us, telling us that whatever we are doing at the moment is stupid or meaningless. That our lives are wasted, or will be wasted if we do not perform such and such an action. It feels like we need to create a huge, lasting monument of sorts to have any meaning or worth.

I’ve spent most of my life struggling with that. Even when I was a little kid, I felt like I had to be remembered, to leave a mark on others or on things, in order to matter. That if I didn’t build a pyramid, no one would remember me, and I would therefore be meaningless. After all, we all like sliced bread, but who invented it? (For the record, I looked it up, and Otto Fredrick Rohwedder from Davenport, Iowa [shout out to my Iowa friends!] invented the bread slicer, but that doesn’t mean he was the first one to slice it into slices instead of tearing it….) And, who did build the pyramids? The Hebrew slaves? Egyptians? Aliens? Really industrious desert cats? I know which one I believe, but it is a matter of debate I will not go into here.

And even the pyramids are crumbling into dust.

Does anything last?

Is God the only eternality?

I believe that humanity is created as an eternal being. That all humanity is eternal, whether Christian or not. If this is true, our lives have to have a point, right? What would be the point of living on the earth for the 6 months or 110 years we have if that wasn’t so? Is the point just to consume lots of sliced bread and build a pyramid that will crumble in six thousand years, to reproduce ourselves and try to care for-or not care for as the individual chooses to-the earth or the animals or other people? That whole “Be fruitful and multiply” thing in Genesis?

All of those things fade away.

So, there has to be more.

If the only two things that really last forever are humanity and God, it points to the relationship between them being what is eternally important.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” We are commanded by Jesus to love Him and each other.

Loving requires building a relationship. It requires giving of ourselves, not just throwing a bunch of money at an organization, or buying our kid a Christmas gift, or taking the wife out on a date once a week, or reading our Bible every day, or any other action.

Love is a heart posture. A giving over of oneself. A willingness to bleed out all our compassion and hope and help for someone else, again and again. And again. And again.

And, if we love God and man like that, we are building an everlasting meaning for ourselves by not focusing on ourselves, but by focusing on someone else; not caring about the legacy but building it incidentally. Building something that will last forever. “Love never fails”- love is eternal.

And that is even greater than sliced bread.

Of Boxing Rings and Enduring

(Continuing my blog from Hope City. I apologize for the lack of blog the last few weeks- I’ve been battling an illness)
This week at Hope City has been very hard for many different reasons. Hence, all week God has been speaking to me about comfort- how He is the One who holds us up, strengthens us. But, he doesn’t just give us a pat on the back, say a few encouraging words, then tell us to get back in the game. God isn’t a boxing coach that stays on the sidelines. He gets into the ring with us, and stands with us and moves our arms and gives us the strength to fight, to continue.
He comforts and protects us. When everything is chaotic and the bell is about to ring and we’re wanting to give up, and all we can see is our failure to win, He whispers in our ear, “Hey, it’s ok. I’m here. I’ll help you. Trust Me. And, even if you do lose, I’m still here. I still love you.”

I still love you.

No matter what you’ve done in your past. Even if that past is 2 seconds ago. Or right now.

Or now.

He loves you.

And He shows us the truth, if we will take the time to listen, to see. If we will slow down, step back from the distractions and the fight.

Yes, there IS time to step back. To find that peaceful place deep inside where He dwells inside, where He speaks and sings over you what and who you are to Him.

So much boils down to our identity. How we see ourselves shapes the way we live our lives. Always. And the truth is, whether you are a Christian or not, you are loved by God, so much so that He gave up His Son, the only thing he could give, to have a relationship with you and buy you back from the slavery to sin you’d sold yourself into…..
….
Even though He already technically owned us by right-of-creation.

God bought what He already owned.
(oh, God, how You love me. My heart groans under the weight of that knowledge)

So that He could have a relationship with you. So that he could prove to you once and for all that you are endlessly valuable to Him.

So, therefore, we never fight alone. So keep fighting for Him! Keep pressing more into His heart- there is so much He desires for you! He just wants for you to know Him like He knows you- to follow Him because He is the only way to a fulfilled, true life.

He is Lord, and with Him, we are victorious, more than conquerors- we are overcomers!

Anticipating the music of the shrew….

Earlier this week, as I was working the soundboard during live intercession at IHOPE, I began to notice a sound- sort of.  Not really a sound, more like a feeling.  It was a buildup of certain frequencies and feedbacks that are sub-audible level, yet they make your ear hairs stand up.  As I’m standing there trying to figure out where it’s coming from and what to do about it with the awesome, and much more sound-board gifted guy who is teaching me, a level of panic sets into my brain.  What do I do?  The sound keeps building and building and I can feel it gathering into a massive ball of energy that is soon to go very audible and cause everyone to look at me as it finally resolves into a sound not unlike an angry owl with a cold dancing with a rabid cat to music being played by a flute powered by the armpit noises of a gigantic shrew…. OY!!!

 

And then, later, I thought about it and decided that is someone what Jesus’ second coming is like, but without all the owl-cat-armpit noise.  Those really listening can sense His coming, even though it’s not something really heard or seen unless you really know what to look for.  But, that momentum is building, and it will very soon be harder and harder to ignore, until, at last, it will become a huge Presence, and He will call and say “HEY!!!!  You know that thing that’s been tickling at the back of your mind you try to ignore but really can’t?  I’m that thing.  And I’m HERE.  You cannot ignore Me.  You will listen to me and acknowledge Me.”  And just like when the cat and owl start dancing, we will have to look to Him, involuntarily or voluntarily, as our individual cases may be. 

 

And He will be magnificent and amazing and, like the cat-owl thing, totally overwhelming (but much, MUCH more so) I think our minds will break in that moment, no matter how prepared we believe we are for Him, as we come face to face with our Savior.  (Which is my theory of why we so desperately need new bodies and minds RIGHT THEN, which He will provide, if we are following Him?) Whether the overwhelming is good or bad, we have a choice, and I’m so glad I’ve chosen to have it be good.

 

Thank You Jesus for Your overwhelmingness!!  Thank You for Your love and that You will and have made all things right.  You are victorious, and I ache for the sound of Your call.

 

Come Lord Jesus, come.

Blessed amid Chaos

My life looks like a mess right now.  I honestly don’t know how it’s all going to work out, because all is chaos and unknown.

But I am so blessed.  I live with a husband who loves me to the best of his ability.  I also live with a cat who does a wonderful job keeping my head warm at night and giving me the gift of white noise to fall asleep to.  I spend quite a bit of my time with friends, people I trust who trust and love me in return.  I am surrounded by the beauty of snow and winter trees in their bare-branch glory.  I am usually immersed in music that is worshipful to my Savior, music I want to hear and that turns my mind to the larger picture beyond what I can see.  I have the freedom to read my Bible, I have a computer to type these blogs on.  I have clothing to wear, even if it is quite a few years old, or a bit worn-out.  There is a bit of food in the fridge- enough for today and tomorrow, at least.  I have a car to drive that usually runs well, and the physical ability to drive it.

And more than that, if all the above dissapears, I am loved by a God Who will always love me, and Who takes care of my life.  Who sees me and thinks I am important. 

And what could ever be better!?!?!

I AM SO BLESSED!!!!!

 

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)

 

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.