A Valentine for Jesus

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Since becoming a believer, there have been many occasions that I’ve heard it is not right to go by feelings, or trust your feelings, or your emotions in regards to God and his word. The whole realm of feelings are discounted as unreliable. The key, they say, is God’s word. And since we humans have a mind, will, and emotions, these are no match for Spirit and Word.

I have plenty of experience with emotions, as do we all. However, with a diagnosis of Manic Depression, I may have even more experience with the intensity and unpredictability of emotions and mood. From being super energized and creative and upbeat to the point of madness, to being down in the dumps, weepy, and full of despair and battling suicidal thoughts. I’ve had them all.

But I also have God, and Spirit. And here’s the rub: This business about not relying on emotions with our walk with God is total bunk. It is even gross. If Jesus Christ came to give us forgiveness and access to the Father, and to reveal his love for us that we can have fellowship with him, what on earth would that even look like without engaging our deepest emotions? We are created to love and worship and adore the Creator. We write him love songs, we raise our hands in abandonment and worship, we sing with all of our heart, and we even shout unto God with a voice of triumph! We love him because he first loved us. And he demonstrated his love for us, in that while we were still in our sins, Christ died for us. To find ourselves in his arms after the world has beaten us and tossed us to and fro like a ship out to sea in a great storm, it is only right that we collapse in brokenness and sob our eyes out.  Jesus even said it would happen: whoever falls on this stone will be broken in pieces. (Shattered, crushed, a complete mess!)

And when we receive the Holy Spirit and begin babbling in a heavenly language, caught up in ecstatic praises with rapturous joy, would this be forbidden too? Paul himself claimed to speak in tongues more than anyone, and directed others to “forbid NOT speaking in tongues.”

If your heart and emotions are not in your bible reading, your prayer, your living walk with your living God, you may not have actually met him at all. It is with the heart that man believes unto righteousness, not the mind. You do not educate yourself into a knowledge of God, any more than you can know your mate by reading about him.

So give yourself to your Savior with complete abandonment, with your whole heart, soul, mind, and emotions, and discover what a Lover we truly worship!

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Think it not Strange, Beloved

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The battle is real. But it is not with ourselves. Yes, we are in a fire and being purified. Yes, we are continually given situations to yield or resist. And all the while, we are learning, training, and being disciplined. The Lord disciplines those he loves. We have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. How much more shall we be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?  Our human fathers disciplined us as seemed best to them, but God disciplines us for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.

Now no discipline seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; but afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

The key, the treasure in the fire, is to believe. It is your faith that is being tried.

Satan is strutting around as a roaring lion seeking who he may devour. What does he want? His mission is to get at your faith. Is God good to you? Is God listening to you? Does God care what you’re going through? Is God present? Is God even real?

We are wrestling spiritual wickedness in high places; powers and authorities in the unseen realm. Are we to cower away in despair?  Are we to hide?  Yes! Find the Secret Place of the Almighty and hide beneath his wings and let him nurture you, heal your wounds, and speak comfortably to you. At other times, His Spirit may rise up in you causing you to shout with authority and pray with power and faith and command the powers that surround you to get behind you! (If this has never happened to you, you may want to put on some music and let it rip.) You are shouting to the unseen realm, and breaking out of your puny self-consciousness, similar to the way you have shouted at a sporting event, or a concert. We do not run like someone running aimlessly. We do not fight like a boxer beating the air.

God is busy doing a work in us. Getting us ready for an even greater work. Like David in the field with his sheep, protecting them with his slingshot; killing a bear, a lion, with no idea he was preparing for the job he would be given later. We too are enduring a furnace. And our Lord is allowing the darkness to grow as a thick cloud. But it is for HIS purpose.

For the sake of My name I will delay My wrath; for the sake of My praise I will restrain it, so that you will not be cut off.

See, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, My very own sake, I will act;

for how can I let Myself be defamed?

I will not yield My glory to another.…

Fear not, little flock. Only rest in Him with expectation and hope. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. But you, brothers, are not in the darkness so that this day should overtake you like a thief. For you are all sons of the light and sons of the day; we do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not sleep as the others do, but let us remain awake and sober. Behold, He comes quickly. And his reward is with him!

Jesus Movement

I’m ready for a modern day Jesus movement.  I was picking berries when I began humming to the Lord, “I really wanna see you.  I really wanna know you, Lord,”  and then I got to thIMG_7256e “Hare Krishna” part and I sighed.  John, what’s the deal?  Jesus isn’t cool enough?  I know, I know.  Jesus is not fashionable. What IS fashionable is, “Yeah, yeah, it’s all cool.  Spiritual paths are all leading to the same place.  Isn’t it great to not be tied to any one particular name or religion?  Get out of that small-mindedness and come up higher where we all are one and enjoy the variety of all paths. No one is better than another.  The Way isn’t a person or a name.  The Way isn’t ONE WAY.  No, it’s above it all that….”

The words remind me of something I read in my early twenties in a book on open marriage. “It’s not necessary to commit yourself to one person. Sharing is caring. Grow up, and get over your petty jealousies. We are all just struggling to find our way, and we should love one another freely. Free love is unconditional, and generous, and open. Why would you want to limit your love to ONE person for the REST of your life?” open-marriage1

Here’s the rub. The open marriage idea was kinda gross. And putting Jesus on the same plane as all the other gods is too. The other gods did not carry a massive wooden cross and get brutally nailed to it willingly to take upon themselves what was needed for my redemption. Nor do other gods claim to have created the current universe we inhabit. So, to cheer them all on as equals, and praise them and thank them with a tip of a wine glass, like we are ALL on the same plane, is about as gross as the open marriage idea.

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In the Jesus movement, there is praise and talk of his goodness. There is a celebration of our redemption, our freedom, and our love for our Savior. The awkward embarrassment, and apologetic tones used when discussing God and Jesus are blown away by our enthusiasm.  If you are a Christian, and  behave like a Christian, you can expect to be hated for your Christianity.  And we understand fully, that to love him means we will be hated.  If you are a Christian, but do not behave like a Christian, do not claim that the hatred directed at you is because of your Christianity. jesus2001

I feel a little bad for Jesus. He wasn’t cool, I don’t think. But he had something wonderful that drew people from Roman soldiers, to nervous Pharisees, to the neediest blind, diseased, and lame. Even rich Zacchaeus climbed a tree for a chance to lay eyes on him. So somehow, the participants in the Jesus movement will have to have something current Christianity doesn’t.

 

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Something wonderful, and beautiful like Jesus had.  Love?  Yes. But it can’t be that free love yuckiness that promises freedom only to leave you feeling empty and used. No, it’s got to be the Way.  The Jesus movement that actually follows him, hears him, loves him, and sees him in ourselves and others.  Our Treasure is not cheap.  Our Treasure is costly,  Holy.  And the goal of our love is the prize of His pleasure.

 

 

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Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

When Jesus came by, he looked upat Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

You will be hated by everyone on account of My name, but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.

Oh that men would praise and glorify his goodness in all the earth!

Without Faith it is impossible to please him.

I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

 

 

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The Dark Before the Dawn

The day Robin Williams died I found myself out of sorts. I went for a drive. I sat in my truck by the lake and watched a kingfisher in the rain. I cried. I felt the heaviness of defeat hovering over me like the gray sky above. Not for myself, but a painful sadness for the desperate cries of those who end up taking their lives. The Catholics say that to despair is to sin. It is the ultimate in unbelief. I was suffering the pains of life in this world, with its failures and cynicism. I kept crying, and crying. At one point I was on my stairs, back in my home, when I finally surrendered to deep sobs and crying out to my Lord, “It hurts. Oh Lord it just hurts here so bad. So much suffering!” And then he was next to me; sitting bloody and torn with wounds all over and nodding in understanding. “Yes. Yes it does.” He was smiling, His tone lighthearted. He knew all my pain. And more. So much more. I felt a certain affinity toward Him; a connection.

As I write this I remember encouraging a pregnant woman who was only a few minutes from pushing. Her labor was at its most intense, and almost over at the same time. And she was looking at me with fear and in pain. She was so desperate. And I was smiling at her. Not because I had no compassion. On the contrary, I knew all about giving birth without the help of drugs or epidurals. And I knew it was well worth the effort. And so, she could look at me, and see my faith in her. My demeanor said this was a wonderful thing, not a bad thing. And she composed herself, got down to the business of pushing, and delivered her little girl.

“Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” John 16:21-22

Great Lion of God

by Taylor Caldwell, and excerpt from a novel about St. Paul on this GOOD FRIDAY 🙂

Oh, you have embraced the folly of pride, and how dare man be proud? Of what can he be proud? His history? May God forgive us this blasphemy! You have often spoken of the future. The future is born in the womb of the present, and I see nothing in the present, or in the past that promises glory for man, created by himself. For he cannot rid himself of his baseness by his own effort. It is written that a man cannot earn merit by himself, for he is underserving of merit. History is our witness. Man was not born for his glorification. Scripture teaches us that man was born solely to know and to love and to serve God and nothing else, and in that knowing and loving and serving -alone- can he transcend his nature and become more than man. You have based your hopes on the world, which will pass away and be known no more among the suns and the Pleiades, nor will Orion know her any longer. On this frail orb that pursues her star you think to establish the golden city of man’s reason and man’s aspiring alone, forever and a day. You believe that it will be by the will and design of man alone that evil will be abolished- yet evil is the very nature of man, and immutable. He is a shadow, and on the shadows you would erect eternal palaces and pleasure-ways and advance urbane conversation and peace and what you aver are ethics. You know you are mortal, and in your shallow hearts you deny mortality, and speak of the far future as if you will be there, alive and triumphant! You do not know that future, but you have deluded yourselves that you will be there! Or is your vaunted ‘glory of man in the future’ enough for you, who will be dust tomorrow? ……………

How pathetic you are. Your own deaths in this little time has not been believed by you. You have really hoped you will be part of the future which to me appears terrible, not beautiful. You believe in pleasure, in the day’s tranquility and grace and conversation and the meeting of friends…You deny the resurrection of the dead which has been promised, for you believe that when men are dead they are no more than the beasts of the field. It is evil enough that you have betrayed God….

For peace in your time, and pleasure, and worthless harmonies, and prettinesses, and conversing, and pride and dainty perversities, and music …and dancing girls and money and handsome houses and villas and servants and laughter and strange women and theaters and baths and arenas and gambling and horses and evil little appetites and enjoyments, you have called upon your people not to resist, not to believe in the Promise of the Ages- to obey, to bow down their heads, to submit their necks to the yoke. You have taken God from them and for that you will not be forgiven!

It was your duty to sustain your people with the hope of Messias, to alleviate their hunger with your fortunes, to intercede for them, to nourish their faith in God, blessed be His Name, to exalt them with patience in their tribulations, to turn their eyes to the sun and to the stars, to repeat to them the Promise that has been given to us, to strengthen their endurance. What man will not suffer in quietude if he knows his Redeemer is nigh, and that god has not abandoned him?

Patience

The night I was voted onto the planning board, the chairman took me aside and welcomed me.  He was a relaxed fellow with an easy armchair manner.
“It’s like watching paint dry,” he shared. I nodded.  A slow-moving venture; I liked the sound of that.

Yesterday, Michael held the car door open for me to get in,  and then scraped the near-April snow from the windows and mirrors and windshield.  He was wearing dress pants and cowboy boots and had agreed to come with me to church.  This is the man who I reached out to fourteen years ago with the gospel.  This is the man whose atheism challenged me to convert him. This is the man who I fell in love with, dashing all of my evangelical confidence.  This is the man who made me recoil and stop sharing the good news; for fear that I was not a trustworthy vessel.  And now this man is my dear husband, scraping snow off the car so we can go to church.

Has he been saved?  Not to my knowledge.  Yet twice in the last week I have witnessed him pulling out his phone and sharing scripture stories and trivia with those gathered around the table.  Those listening to his readings are perplexed, thrilled, or a little turned off.  His own father says with some sarcasm, “I think he’s going to fill in for the preacher up there,”  signaling toward the church uptown.

I beam with a smile I cannot hide.

I look back on the years this story has taken to unfold and wonder if it has even begun yet.  He gets in the driver seat and off we go.  My head spins a little thinking of the first conversation we ever had about God.  We arrive at the Catholic Church.  The standing and sitting and standing and sitting don’t deter him.  But the big surprise was the kneeling.  The man knelt down like the rest of us.

This is a little more interesting than watching paint dry.  Even if the pace is similar.

Take This. All of You.

There is a quiet commotion as the people leave their pews and make their way to the center aisle to receive the Body of Christ.  I kneel to pray and the words come:  Give us this day, our daily bread.    The words take on new meaning:

Give us this day, our daily bread.  

A friend recently told me that the priest has to do the communion mass every day, whether anyone comes or not.  Every day.  Our daily bread.

And there it is again.  The Eucharist, the Body of Christ. The Lord our Righteousness. His body, His blood, His sacrifice. And we partakers.  I smile.  Focused on this one thing.  This one thing.

Xaviar Sleeps

Xaviar sleeps
with his lips so full,
his skin amber brown
I watch him
and I wait
and I sigh sometimes.
I know he hears me
he knows I’m here
admiring his locks of thick dark hair
the sharp nose
the chiseled jawline,
the musky breath as he exhales
Intoxicating is my Xaviar
Weary, I kneel
again
To look, to smell, to love, to watch
It’s like a coma
He’s alive in there. I just know he is.
I dream of the day,
when he awakes. When we talk, and laugh, and share.
When the breath of his nostrils
Sounds like a blast
And my whole world is in a moment changed.
By that one rising
That waking up
That beautiful, heart stopping instant
For that I am here
quietly waiting. Matching my breath with his.
Smiling and thankful,
for this time. When I can rest quietly with him.
Admiring his beauty
as he is still, and quiet
and sleeping.

End of Wars

Mother and Son

Planes and bombs

Mothers on knees

Wiping up blood

Weeping  Violently

Over violence

Killer. Mocker. Savage. Fury. Passionate. Evil.

Running wild

Possessing enticing, calling and collecting

boys to men

Bodies defiled. Beauty ruined maimed chopped disfigured

Shrapnel

Blood blood and more blood

Mary weeps, and wipes the place where her Son’s blood was shed. 

Vengeance is mine

Killer will be killed,

Swords beaten into plowshares

While men weep

And mothers finally rejoice.