The Day I Lost my Sam

It’s funny how in losing something, you find something else. Like when you’re looking for your lost earring under the dresser and you find that lego piece your son needs or paperclips or cut toenails. Gross. Who finds cut toenails under their dresser? Definitely not me. Or maybe me.

Anyway, one afternoon at our house, we were all outside enjoying the weather, except Sam, my 5 year old. He was in a really grumpy mood that day and stayed inside. I was out reading and something  told me to go check on him. I went in the house and couldn’t find him anywhere. I looked in all his favorite hiding spots. He’s notorious for falling asleep under his bed. I looked in all the cabinets, the basement, no Sam. Screaming his name, no Sam. We looked outside, called neighbors, drove through the hood, no Sam.

I started to panic. Sam is such a fireball, I just knew he had marched outside, in his grumpy state, and took off across the street to the baseball field where he had been picked up by some pedophile who had taken him to Florida. Sam is really beautiful, with curly blonde hair, blue eyes, and a gorgeous smile. Of course a pedophile had taken him to Florida! How do I request an amber alert?

I went down this path of thinking because for some reason I have always assumed God would take Sam from me. I have always thought I loved him a little too much, held him a little too close, lingered a little too long. He was the baby, the last one. The last of everything and his birth took all of my everything, so I have kept him really close.

Growing up, a woman in my town accidentally backed over and killed her 5 year old with her minivan. This tragic event really rocked my small town and we always heard that the little girl was just an angel who came to visit. I’ve wondered that about Sam. He is this precious thing that I can’t quite explain. He’s full of passion, good and bad. He will make your heart feel like it’s going to explode with love one minute and then the next you want to hang him by his toes. Yes, I have threatened him with toe hanging.

So, I decided on this drive around the neighborhood that it was time for my angel to leave, that I had gotten too close and God might want to teach me a hard lesson. God doesn’t work like that by the way. I was just in panic mode and weird thoughts were in my momma brain.

As I’m driving, a neighbor who was on “Sam patrol” calls me. “They found Sam!” “What, Where?” Surely it was on the busy road across the street, or hiding in a strange neighbor’s backyard. “Under the blanket on the couch!” she says.

Huh? My sweet little treasure, underneath the blanket? Why didn’t I just lift up the blanket? I walked by it several times in my search. I ran in the house, and saw the crumpled blanket on the couch. I lifted it up and there was my Sam, curled in a ball, dead asleep. Sweaty blonde curls covered his forehead and his bunny was under his arm. I just sat there, relieved and a little nauseated. I kissed his salty cheek and took a really long look at his perfect eyelashes. My Sam, my treasure, was there all along. There on the couch the whole time I was yelling “Sam!” franctically right beside him. All the screaming and panic, and he was so close but I couldn’t find him.  He slept thru it all.

All twenty minutes of my panic. Did I mention it was only 20 minutes? It felt like years. I had gone down so many rabbit trails of death and despair in only 20 minutes. I had cried out to Jesus in the car and decided this was going to be a lesson for me, take my child and make me grow. Weird momma thoughts again.

This moment feels familiar to me. I think of other treasures hidden that I’ve found. Precious treasures that God has been revealing lately. Some have been hidden 20 years but to God it probably seems like 20 minutes. Isa. 45:3 says, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel.”

I feel like I have been a treasure hunter lately. Lora Croft maybe? No, she was a tomb raider. I wonder if she found treasure on the way? I definitely wish I looked like her, man, her abs and biceps.

Anyway, I’ve been in this season of finding all these treasures. They have been there all along, but I was running around screaming, panicked, freaking out. Why couldn’t I just lift up the blanket? These treasures were there but were just covered up by the darkness. Darkness the enemy and my own flesh created. But God in his goodness has just lifted up the blanket for me. He’s good at that you know, lifting up blankets, uncovering treasure, removing darkness.

My freak outs looked a little like this: “What if no one sees me, what if no one cares about me, what if I screw up these kids and this marriage, what if I’m all alone, what if they hate me, what if I miss You?”

“The Great Freak Out” has been a bunch of what ifs. I’ll capitalize it and caption it because it deserves it. It has been a season, a long one, “The Great Freak Out.” Like The Great Depression but over my soul. Those “what ifs” have buried my treasure, increased my doubt and stolen my rest. Treasure has been there all along, I just had no idea, I was missing it. I still haven’t uncovered it all but I know Jesus put treasure in these jars of clay and wants to reveal it.

Did you know you are a treasure? Scripture tells us we are his masterpiece, the apple of his eye. We are someone worth fighting for, worth treasure hunting for. God gave up his own treasure, His son, Jesus, for us. What needs uncovering in your life? He’s good at lifting blankets, you know.

Lessons learned from Dad

Before school, on cold mornings, my dad and I would sit on the kitchen floor, next to the vent, and eat peanut butter and jelly toast. Mom had to be at work early, so dad got us ready for school. He loved sitting near the floor vent to stay warm. I don’t remember what we would talk about, I just know this was our thing and I loved it. Dad and I had a few things that were special to me. Most Sunday afternoons he would put blankets on the family room floor with pillows and ask me to take a nap with him. He also loved having his back scratched and his feet rubbed. These are sweet memories of my childhood that I’ll hold close. As I grew up, we grew apart, I guess like most teenagers do with their parents. I moved away to college then got married. However, things changed when he got sick. We have always had a special relationship, but I believe we grew closer in his final days.

At the end, we sat in hospital rooms a lot. We didn’t have peanut butter and jelly toast, mostly jello and bland hospital food. We didn’t eat together in the end, but I was able to feed him. We didn’t get to nap on the family room floor but I was able to rest with him and watch him sleep in his hospital bed. I was still able to rub his back and his feet, only his limbs looked older and tired. I’ll never forget one moment with him at the hospital. We were alone before he went into a procedure for his failing liver. We prayed, we hugged and I rubbed his feet. A precious moment with one of my heroes.

Dad is one of my heroes because of how he handled what he had been given. I don’t know who gave it to him, God, the fall of man, or just life. I can’t answer that, but he handled it so well. He endured suffering beautifully to me. What I saw when we were together inspired me. He endured more suffering than any other human I know. Those details are too hard to share or even remember. But through it all, I saw him glorify God. Every time he was in the hospital, he would make friends and share Christ. I told him to stop or God would just keep him sick to spread the gospel. He had a ministry of suffering, at least, that’s what I began to call it. His legacy was made known at his funeral, when doctors and nurses were present. Friends had flown in and the chapel couldn’t hold all the guests.

I have recently processed some of my grief over his great struggle and sickness. Wondering why his pain had to be so excruciating and what I thought was a shameful end. A friend asked me, “What did you see in his soul during all the pain?” Well, I couldn’t answer right away because I had missed his soul, because I only saw his physical pain. After thinking on this, I know that I saw his soul transform and grow closer to God. Our relationship became more tender, he became more sensitive, his faith seemed deeper. These days, I am choosing to focus on the beauty of his soul, instead of the sadness of his decaying body.

I am realizing this is a valuable lesson, to focus on souls instead of bodies. How hard is this, when someone walks into the room, to look past their body and see into their soul? God is so good at this. It takes eyes like God to do this, to have soul eyes. Ephesians 1:8 encourages me, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know.”

Somehow our world has this backwards. Our bodies have become idols, while our souls are starving. Starving for God, for His spirit, for rest. It’s really a tragedy to only feed our body and not our soul.

I’ve been focused on bodies too long, ignoring the health of my soul and missing the souls around me. That was the problem with dad, I was so focused on his body and the pain he was in, so I missed the transformation happening in his soul. It seems there is a lot in the Bible about pursuing soul health before body health. Our bodies are guaranteed to decay and fail us, but God guarantees the health and healing of our souls. Psalms discusses souls quite a bit:

Psalm 103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul.

Psalm 63: 1 O God, you are my God, my soul thirsts for you.

Psalm 62:1 For God alone, my soul waits in silence, from him comes my salvation

Psalm 42:11 Why are you casts down, O my soul, Hope in God.

David, who wrote many of the Psalms, seems to be onto something here. David was a tortured soul. He endured much hardship: he was an outcast, he was alone, he was a shepherd, he was a king, he was a murderer, he had an affair, he was anxious and depressed, but most importantly he was a lover of God. He was madly in love with his God. I believe that is why he writes so much about the soul. He knew only God could meet his needs and restore his soul.

Paul understood this too. He was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, and alone. In prison for preaching the gospel, he asked for prayers to preach more boldly. His body only served as a house for him to glorify God through. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:16 “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

That’s it, that’s the secret that Paul and David and maybe my dad knew. They had come to a place of seeing their failing bodies as just a house for God’s glory, not an idol to be worshipped or adorned. I am so guilty of this, I’ve been confused, tricked even. Instead of seeing the treasure inside, housed by a jar of clay, I have chosen to preserve and adorn and elevate my body above the eternal gift I have. That’s the lie I have chosen, the apple I’ve bitten into, to choose the value of my body over the value of my soul. And I have done it with others too, placing their outsides in higher esteem than their insides, the insides that house the potential for glory. That’s a sad and screwed up trade, the flesh over the Spirit. God have mercy.

How did this happen? The enemy is very cunning and has provided all the resources in the world to distract us. Let’s refocus and see what God has to say:

1 Corinthians 15:22, 53 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. For our dying bodies must be transformed into something that will never die.”

1 Timothy 4:8 “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

Ask God to give you soul eyes, to see past the physical and into the eternal. Is your soul starving, weary or tired?

Psalm 116:7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

Thoughts on Friday Night

Watching that sweet girl dance her heart out to worship music, her red hair and striped socks, just twirling, twirling. There was a spirit about her dance, like the Spirit had invaded her space, her body, movements that pleased God and all who watched. This little girl who prayed for us, thanked God for us and for cheese and shoes and her mom’s health. We sat in awe. She asked her mom to join the praise dance, but mom refused, maybe too aware of others eyes. Aren’t we all too aware of others eyes? Aren’t we all just girls that want to twirl and wish we weren’t so self aware? We sat in this circle in this restoration house. All feeling more restored once we left.

Some of us from the rich side of the tracks, some of us from the wrong side of the tracks, some of us with scars on our arms from the tracks of the poison, some of us with scars on our hearts from the tracks others had left. We sat, all different, with different clothes, some fancy, some borrowed, we sat, all different, with different stories, some quiet and sad, some death defying, but yet all the same. All women who knew brokenness and joy, who knew the Savior, who knew something holy was happening in our midst.

We told our stories, our times when we knew Jesus best. We listened to others stories, some who met him in a jail cell, some who met him at vacation bible school, some who met him strung out, overdosed in the back seat of a car, some in the dark night of depression, the dark night of the soul. But the same Jesus was reaching down into these different spaces loving no one any more or less, redeeming the rich and redeeming the poor, redeeming all of us from the poverty of our souls.

We are all on the wrong side of the tracks, even if we have designer clothes and gas to put in our car, even if our kids live in other places, even if we drink too much, yell too much, spend to much, even if we are covered in tattoos and our teeth have fallen out due to the meth we ate, we are all on the wrong side of the tracks if we haven’t met and fallen in love with the Savior, the Rescuer, our Jesus.

And He speaks to all these different hearts and sees us all as daughters, worthy of a crown, worthy of his death and his blood. These women, these broken bodies that hosted us, they spoke of Jesus like a friend, they know him in a way many will not because of the darkness they entertained and they darkness they danced with. The light that was stolen from them due to empty bank accounts and cruel men and forgetful parents. I’ve had light stolen from me too, yet my bank account is full and I’ve been loved by a gracious man and had loving parents.

How is it that we can all be lost no matter what side of the tracks we come from? How is it that a room of such different women can talk and cry and love and pray so hard in only a few hours of meeting each other?

Only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only a God so good can move in a room and bring unity and laughter and grace when the food is bland and the heart is weary. Don’t you want to serve a God like that? A God that can remove boundaries and prejudice and assumption and judgement and bring love and peace and break chains and heal hearts.

He’s waiting on you, he’s drawing you in. No one loves like him, no one will scoop you up and hold your heart and heal your wounds and place you in a circle with women that are nothing like you yet, you are all the same because of the death of his son.

Because of the blood that was shed we become one, one body, one spirit, one heartbeat for the world. Why would you not join this bandwagon and say yes to the unity of the broken and beat up? Have you been broken or beat up? Are you from the wrong or right side of the tracks? Either way, you need him, you need a redeemer, a restorer, you need a reckoning, and a replacement for your tired and weary heart. You need a God that you can twirl for, be completely unaware for, isn’t it about time?

The Good and the Bad

It’s good when eyebrows grow back due to a skin care experiment that removed too much facial hair. (It happened to a friend.)

It’s good when your best friend forgives you when she shouldn’t and you don’t expect her to. And then she just loves you like always because that’s all she knows to do.

It’s good when those lilies you divided (like you thought you were a gardener) come back and surprise you come spring time. I guess those garden prayers work.

It’s good when your kid remembers your prayers over him for courage and recites the verse you have begged God for countless times during the night.

It’s bad when you spend your monthly cash on wrinkle cream and lip gloss and there’s not enough money for haircuts or broccoli. Who needs haircuts or broccoli anyway.

It’s bad when you lose the earring your dad gave you for Christmas and then he dies and you just want something special to remember him by.

It’s bad when you lose yourself and your confidence and think you have to be someone you are not and you are 40 but it feels like high school again.

It’s bad when your kid finds out his best friend has parents who are divorcing and there’s a move coming.

It’s bad when you miss the eyes of your loving spouse because your eyes are focused on other things. And you wish you were different or better, instead of loving just you and that makes you think he should be different or better. Even though he loves just you.

It’s good there is a God out there that is patient and kind and sent a book of wisdom to guide us. It’s bad when we ignore it and try to figure things out from social media, our neighbors and Real simple magazine.

It’s good when you have the resources to love and serve the former addict and prostitute at the local ministry on Friday nights. It’s bad when you completely forget there is a need because you are online shopping for a new outfit for the party next week.

It’s bad when you sink into an emotional hole of lies telling yourself you could do better, be more, work harder, eat less, tighten up, weigh down, smile brighter, stand straighter. But the hole is so deep it takes two days to climb out.

It’s bad when the man you think is going to save the world dies and is buried and the next day nothing happens.

It’s good when he rises on the third day and appears to you and you choose to believe, even though it may cost you your life.

It’s good he sent us a Holy Spirit that whispers, “child, your value is tied only to me, not your status, your behavior, your appearance, or your performance.”

Thank God for the good. Thank God for the new morning, a chance to start again, redemption. Thank God there was a resurrection and there will be a reckoning and a restoring.

Thank God he makes all things new, even those crazy, unthinkable, unspoken places that we are afraid to say out loud because what if they knew places. Those places we can only entrust to him, those are the places that feel the worst that seem so bad but he is a good good father and those are the places he loves to step into best and show off.

Show off in me Jesus, in the baddest parts.  Would you just be so good?

 

 

 

 

Being Present

I went into Mack’s room a few days ago, saw his scrapbook on his dresser and sat down to look at it. It was full of fun summer pictures. When Mack visits my mom, they scrapbook together, such a sweet thing between the two of them. As I looked through his book, I found myself crying and feeling regret. I had nostalgia, but also regret. You see, I missed a lot of the moments in the pictures because of my expectations. Expectations have really ruined a lot of things for me. I don’t ever remember resting and taking in these scrapbook moments. I remember wishing the boys were behaving better, they weren’t so messy, so loud. I remember wishing I looked better in my swimsuit or that I was a better mom. I remember wishing I wasn’t so tired all the time, wanting the boys to stop fighting. I wanted the birthday party just right and the wet, messy kids to leave my house. Because of all these expectations, I missed it. Looking through the scrapbook I saw it. I saw the smile on Mack’s face as he went down the zip line at camp. I saw the soap bubbles all over his angry birds swim suit from the massive slip n slide covered in Dawn. I saw the watermelon seeds and stains on Ben’s face after a hot summer day at Gigi’s.

As I lay on his bed this morning in a quiet house, I did not miss the dust on his nightstand. There it was, and I had just dusted a few days ago. Frustrated, because dust shouldn’t be there after I just cleaned it, another expectation not met. Dust that will always be there, but pictures of memories that are gone. And I missed them. I was not present. I know God redeems all things, and I am a good mom, but I am sad. I have regret. Expectations can ruin things. They keep us hoping for more while missing the good in front of us, the great that surrounds us. My boys, my family, sweet memories I cannot get back. Thank goodness my sweet Mack chose to scrapbook with his Gigi.

I was reading in Matthew 9 and there was another story of expectation and a missing. While reading, I saw this ribbon of love as Jesus walked through his days, calling people to follow him, eating with them, healing them, just loving those right in front of him. He didn’t miss them. It’s so beautiful. He calls Matthew, the tax collector, out of his swindling to follow him and then they have dinner together. He calls a bleeding woman out of her hiding and heals her. He then calls her daughter when no one else would even say her name. He raises a man’s daughter from the dead. The funeral music was already playing and he just breathed life in a dead girl. He heals two blind men who chased him into his house. He didn’t ask them to leave because he needed a break, he just healed them. He didn’t miss them. And he just keeps going, spreading his love, seeing the people right in front of him. Not thinking ahead to his death, or his glory in heaven after this hard season was over. He was present and miracles were happening. He had no expectations of these people or even himself. He knew he belonged to his Father and that was enough. He just loved what was right in front of him. I don’t think he had regrets.

Maybe being present is a breeding ground for miracles. Maybe expectations cause us to miss the miracle.

Of course the Pharisees were there to judge and criticize. They had lots of expectations for him, for themselves and everyone else. And they always missed it. Expectations can ruin things. These men had the living God right in front of them and they missed it. They did not miss the dust however. Dust is really all they saw. They saw the rules to follow, the chores to be done, the expectations not being met, and they were angry. And they missed the miracle, they missed the Savior. They couldn’t see the ribbon of love he was sharing, the healing he was offering. I believe some of them may have looked back when it was all over and they had regret.

I don’t want to miss it anymore. I don’t want to miss the grass stains, the smell of dirty boys, the sand in the back of the car from our beach trip. Sam just woke up and walked in holding his Bible. He said, “Mom, do you know who is my faborite friend? It’s Jesus because he made all of the people and he came down here to be with us.” That’s it. Sam is not missing it, and he got it right. Jesus just came to be with us. That’s where the miracles happened, when Jesus was just being with people. Immanuel- God with us.

Mary just sat at his feet, while Martha was worried about the dust. I wonder if Mary knew Jesus was leaving soon, is that why she sat with him, wasted that perfume? The dust would always come back, always be there, but Jesus would not. Is that why Jesus loved so hard? He knew he was just here for a short time and he wanted to love and touch all the people he could.

What if we did that? What if we lived like we knew we only had limited time? Loved Jesus with all we had, sat at his feet, taking him in, not worrying about the dust for now. What if we loved people like that? Knowing we only had limited time with them, just being with them, noticing them, loving them with no expectations?

Just being with people is where miracles happen. I don’t want to miss Jesus. I don’t want to miss the people he has placed right in front of me that I can love, and maybe offer some healing to. I want to just be with them and just be with Jesus, just sit at his feet. I don’t want to just see the dust and be frustrated. Expectations ruin things. I want to be present and look for miracles, maybe be part of God’s miracles. Don’t you?

Easter is coming soon, what a perfect time to be present at the feet of Jesus, to be present while surrounded by the ones you love. Easter is when the greatest miracle happened, the resurrection of Christ. Be present, focus on Him and those around you, and look for a miracle.

We are the temple

I woke up early this school morning and put on my pink and white striped slippers and my red robe. They don’t match and they embarrass everyone, but they are my favorite, so the ridicule is worth it. I had another 30 minutes before the boys were up for school, so I started the coffee maker and sat down with my Bible. I have found at the age of 40 that just 30 minutes of Jesus and coffee all by myself goes along way. My Bible opened in 2 Chronicles 1 because I had randomly placed a tie dye spin-art paper there that one of the boys gave me, so random. We are so random at my house with striped slippers and spin art, and 3 dirty boys and I love it.

I was still groggy and thru blurred eyes, I could see the chapter title was on Solomon. I like Solomon and his story of gaining wisdom, so I started reading. This reading felt very familiar, like my childhood Sunday school Bible lessons, but it did not stay familiar for long. I begin by reading that Solomon hears from God in a dream and can ask for anything he wants. As a child, I loved this story because it felt like Solomon was rubbing a lamp and the Genie came out offering 3 wishes. Solomon asks for wisdom to lead God’s numerous people. God gives him wisdom and riches too. Such a great story. I so wish I could rub a lamp like this one. Anyway, after a cup of coffee, I have about 12 minutes before crazy and I decide to keep reading.

Moving into chapter 2, the text becomes less familiar to me, it is sort of like I have new eyes, like it’s a new story to me. I read that Solomon decides to build God’s temple but he is overwhelmed and humbled by the task. Solomon hires master craftsmen and artists and constructs the most elaborate and beautiful home for the Living God. The details are all throughout Chapters 2-4. Once completed, Solomon has a celebration to dedicate the temple. 6:18 struck me, “Will God really live on earth among people? Why even the highest heavens cannot contain You.” Did Solomon have any knowledge of his prophetic words? Did he have any idea the words he was speaking would come to pass, that the Living God would come to live on earth among the people, and eventually come to reside inside His people?

I get the boys on the bus, and then jump back in. I should put on real clothes and ditch the red robe, but this is just too good. In chapter 7, Solomon prays and when he is done, verse 1 states “fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the burnt offerings and sacrifices and the glorious presence of the Lord filled the temple.” We see that this flaming glory was so great that the priests could not enter the temple and the people fell face down worshipping God. In chapter 5, we learn that there were so many sacrifices on the alter they were too many to count. Take note, this fire of God was so overwhelming, so incredible, that it consumed all the sacrifices, held back the priests, and forced people on their faces. After this encounter with God, then temple is dedicated and set apart for God.

So why would this passage about construction keep me, with my groggy eyes and ugly slippers, so enthralled? Well, I was overwhelmed by the correlation between the story of this temple and the fact that Jesus came and chose us to be his temple, the place where he wanted to reside. After reading of the magnificent furnishings and materials and art that was used to house the Creator of the Universe, he left it all and chose us. HE CHOSE US. WE ARE NOW HIS TEMPLE.

Why, why would he do that? Why would he leave his glorious temple, his glorious heaven with all its riches and reside in these jars of clay? These broken earth suits that wound others and wound him? I am overwhelmed at His choice and it doesn’t make sense. But he did it. He wants to make a home in us, he wants all of Him, with all His glory and power, to reside in us. The same power that consumed those sacrifices on that alter, and held back priests and forced people on their faces, resides in us, if we choose to let Him. The same power that raised Christ from the dead resides in us, if we choose it.

This is shocking and somewhat irreverent isn’t it? That a glorious king would defame himself for those he loves. That’s why, isn’t it? That’s why he did it. For love, incomprehensible love, love that would leave a throne and live as a nomad, love that would leave a banquet table and eat with sinners, love that would leave perfection and touch the dirty and unclean, love that would leave the side of his Father to die a lonely, sinners death, love that would trust his precious gospel to us, love that would reside in a broken piece of pottery.

Scripture is very clear that this is true: Ephesians 2:20 We are HIS HOUSE; v 21 We who believe…are becoming HIS TEMPLE; v 22 we are joined together as part of this dwelling WHERE GOD LIVES by his Spirit.

Eph 3:17 And I pray that Christ will be more and more at HOME in your hearts as you trust him.

Now that we see that we are his temple, we can also experience the powerful filling of the temple that Solomon experienced. This filling is the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit entered believers in the form of fire in Acts at Pentecost. This fire is available to us and is just as powerful as what the people experienced at the temple, it consumes things, and holds back the enemy and puts people on their faces. We just don’t realize we have access to it and that is a problem. Why would God choose to live within us as his temple and not be powerful? It’s as if we think that power is a thing of the past, not for us. But now, he is ever powerful. He said to his disciples that it was better that he leave and send us the Holy Spirit. Even today, even in this jar of clay, he is ever powerful.

Ephesians 3:19-20 “May you experience the love of Christ, then you will be filled with the fullness of life and the POWER that comes from God. Glory be to God! By his mighty POWER at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope!”

Power friends, just like in Solomon’s temple! Do you see the correlation? The temple was built, Solomon prayed, the fire of the Spirit filled the temple and then it was dedicated, set apart. This is what is available to us today! We are his temple, filled with the Spirit and his power, and set apart. In Ephesians 4, Paul talks about our dedication, being set apart for Christ. 4:1 “I beg you to live a life worthy of the calling.”

I have been in church for a long time and heard about the temple many times. I have also heard that I am his temple, but today was different. My heart heard it, as if for the first time. I am his temple, he chose to reside in me, and this changes everything. Despite my humanness, my sin, my brokenness and flaws, God chose me as his temple, he chose me as his home. Friends, if we could just grasp this, just get this, things could change, lives would change, the world would change. God left it all and chose us. We house the living God inside of us, we are the temple of God. If we believed this, how would our prayers change, our behavior? Our faith, our relationships, our choices?

Solomon says in 2 Chronicles 2:6 – “But who can really build Him a worthy home? Not even the highest heavens can contain him.” He decided we were a worthy home! How would we see his heart for us if we truly believed that we were worth it? We were worth him leaving glory! We were worth the cross! We were worth the suffering! So worth it that he put all his treasure, all his love, all his power in us, these temples!

So let’s live and love like we are worth it!

Ephesians 3:19 “The love of Christ is so great you will never full understand it.”

Psalm 107:43 “Ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.”

Redemption

I saw something really beautiful happen today. An old, hurt place in my heart was brought back to life and I heard God whisper, “I can redeem all things.” I sit down most Wednesdays to write, and I knew he wanted me to write about redemption, to be redeemed.

To Redeem: to gain or regain possession of something in exchange for payment, to fulfill or carry out a promise, to compensate for the bad aspects of something, to buy back or recover, to obtain the release of or restoration of

Redemption is not just a saving from sin. It’s Christ going back to those places that were destroyed or wounded and regaining possession of them, recovering and restoring them.

I have these college buddies who have an amazing house flipping business. The wife sent me before pictures of a home they renovated. It had trash in every room that was four feet deep. They went in with masks and bags and began their redemptive work. Several dumpsters were parked out front to collect all the garbage. I was able to physically see the finished home one afternoon. It was such a peaceful home, with a beautiful front window that shown light through the whole house. My friend told me the window was original to the home. Most everything else had to be reconstructed but the window stayed. I sent her a message stating that their business was like the business of Christ, restoring things, redeeming things so the light can shine through.

When thinking on redemption today, I remembered Rahab. We find her story in Joshua 2. It is a fascinating story, one worth your time to read. Rahab is a prostitute living in the city walls of Jerico. Jerico is on the route of the Israelites path to the Promised Land. The Israelites are wanting to know about the enemy in the land ahead of them, so they send 2 spies to check things out. These 2 spies gather information from Rahab. She puts her life in danger by hiding them, giving them information, and lying to the authorities about their whereabouts. We later see that because of her courage, she and her family are spared in battle. The great story of redemption here is in Rahab’s legacy. We find in Matthew 1:5 that Rahab’s courage spared God’s people and she married and became the great grandmother of King David. We know our Redeemer, Jesus, came from the lineage of King David.

So we see that out of a woman, who entertained many dark things, came redemption.

In reading Rahab’s story, I realized that her home and the Jordan River were both on the path to the Israelite’s Promised Land.

Commentaries state that the Jordan River has very swampy conditions, 27 rapids, intense heat, and wild animals causing it to have no traffic. The Jordan was up to ½ mile wide in some areas and from 5-10 feet deep during flood stage, when the Israelites needed to cross. Joshua 3 tells the story of God parting the waters so the Israelites can pass through.

So we see that out of a river, full of dark things, came redemption.

As I think on the Jordan River, I imagine it was a wild, overlooked, and mostly avoided place. Maybe a little like Rahab’s home?

Can I compare Rahab to the Jordan River for a minute? I know that she was probably avoided (except by broken men), lonely, and overlooked because of her occupation. The Jordan had no visiters and was avoided because of it’s muddy conditions, heat and wild animals. Do you see it? What irony? God used a broken, worn out woman to rescue his chosen people and prepare the way for his son. God used a swampy, uninhabitable river as passage for his children and to baptize his precious son in before he sent him into ministry. God redeems things, people and places that no one else wants to use.

No one would place a perfect, royal baby in a dirty barn, but God did.

No one would choose a murderer to spread his precious gospel across the world, but God did.

No one would birth his chosen people through a barren woman and her old husband, but God did.

No one would sit and have dinner with the dirty, shame-filled sinners but God did.

No one would get baptized in dirty, muddy, insect and gator filled water, but God did.

No one would use a prostitute to bring forth a king, but God did.

No one…But God.

God is in the business of redeeming things. He redeemed this wild river to save his people. He redeemed this broken woman to save his people. He will redeem anything to save his people.

Rahab and the Jordan River were both on the path to the Israelites freedom, the Promised Land. They were both on the path that led to the Messiah, the Redeemer.

What wild, broken, lonely place is on the path to your Promised Land? Your freedom? Your Redemption?

What does God want to redeem in you? He can redeem anything. I can see it in my own life. Places I thought were too far gone, that would never change. Places that were too dark, too overlooked. He looked right into them and breathed life. He rescued them, redeemed them.

Psalm 107 is a hymn of redemption.

Psalm 107:2 “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story- those he redeemed from the hands of the foe.”

Here is what I saw today in Psalms 107:

The actions/response of God’s children                               The actions/response of God

They were wandering in the wastelands He gathered them from distant lands
They could not settle down He settled them
They were hungry and thirsty, losing their life He satisfied their hunger and thirst
They cried out to God He delivered them from their distress
They sat in darkness, prisoners in chains He brought them out of darkness

and broke their chains

They were tossed by the sea He stilled the storm to a whisper
They cried out He answered them in their distress
They were broken He turned parched ground into flowing springs

Psalm 107:43 “Ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.”

He is whispering, “I can redeem all things.”

Full Coverage

This morning at the bus stop I was talking with one of my buddies about bathing suits, Cause that’s normal at 6:50 am, right? She works at this really cool store that sells great swimsuits, and I was telling her about one I had purchased. It was labeled “medium coverage.” I thought that would work since my booty feels about medium. Well, apparently it’s not. I told her this suit was not medium coverage and was little all over and barely covered my, well, you know. And I can’t go around showing that, so I had to buy the “full coverage” bottom. We laughed and said that turning 40 has caused us to need “full coverage.” Nobody should wear “little coverage” any way. I have 3 boys and a husband and they all need you to be fully covered. I went back inside, still laughing and had a thought, “there are other areas of my life where I need full coverage.”  I don’t want medium or little coverage when it comes to my insurance. When that car hits me, I don’t want them to say, “unfortunately, Mrs. Mcleod, you only have a little coverage. Here is your new bike.” When you play football, you definitely want full coverage, so you don’t get your guts knocked out of you. I love that word, guts. My dad always said “guts” instead of stomach. Makes me laugh. I guess I was meant to be a boy mom. Anyway, you get what I am saying, when it comes to booties, insurance and football, full coverage is a good thing.

However, full coverage is a great thing in our spiritual life. When Jesus died, he didn’t just cover us a little. We got full coverage, complete. His blood covered it all. This morning in church, the pastor spoke of Jesus’ unlimited coverage. Under the old covenant, sacrifices had to be made regularly. Jesus fulfilled the new covenant once and for all. His death, his blood, his resurrection covered all sins and it only had to be done once. That’s full coverage.

I’ve been in a season of doubt with the Lord. For some reason, I can’t seem to remember or see all he has done for me and I can’t seem to realize his provision around me. A friend said it’s like I have scales on my eyes. She can see God’s hand on my life, but I keep missing it. In fact, she said, “I am coming over to pray for you.” She shared lots of insight and one thing she said has stayed with me. “He’s got you covered, Kimberly.” She listed all these experiences I’ve had, good and bad, and she reminded me of God’s covering during these times. She sees it, why can’t I?

1 Cor. 2:12 says, “God has actually given us his spirit so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.” Sounds like I need a little more Holy Spirit so I can know what God has given me. Full coverage friends. It’s what he has for us.

Jesus didn’t die so we could just get a little forgiveness. God’s gift to us in Christ wasn’t a little or a medium gift. It was his full gift. Ephesians 1:7, “He purchased our freedom through THE BLOOD OF HIS SON.” God gave all of himself thru Christ, all of his life, his only son. He left his throne and glory to come to our earth. That is a full coverage gift. Why would we ever doubt that he has us fully covered or that he fully loves us? Why would he give us such an extravagant gift to only protect and love us a little bit or a medium bit? We got the full amount of his everything, the best.

And because of Christ’s full and complete sacrifice, we get full access to all God has. Ephesians 1:3- “How we praise God who has blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ.” Who do we belong to? THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD. Scripture says we belong to him. When you take your kids to the park and you see a bad guy lurking in the trees, do you just say, “Well, I’ll just watch my kid a little or maybe a medium amount. No, you grab your kid, get in your car, drive away and call the police. Full coverage. Well we belong to Jesus, so he’s got us fully covered.

One of my boys really struggles with fear. He doesn’t like to be alone and really hates to go to bed in the dark. We had struggled with this for a while and I was just out of ideas. Then I remembered the verse, “He will shield you with his wings, He will shelter you with his feathers.” Some versions say he will cover you with his feathers. I told this verse to my little boy and we prayed it over him every night. He loved it. He loved the thought of God wrapping him up in feathers and wings. Beautifully, fully covered in glorious, holy, perfect feathers. This same passage says, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest.” I know that God’s shelter is perfect, complete. There are not holes in the roof and boards popping off. His shelter provides full coverage.

John 10:10 says, “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” He didn’t come for us to live a little life, a medium life, but a full life. Know that all his blessings are available. He is so generous! With God we receive every spiritual blessing, all of his inheritance, all of his treasure. Not a little, not medium, the full amount.

Do you know this? Do you believe this is for you? It is true, so just bring him everything, your hurts, your doubts, your questions and just rest, knowing you are fully covered. Covered in his perfect grace and love. All because of his blood.

 

Trust Issues (Part 2)

So here’s the rest of the story. I guess I am not the only Mcleod with trust issues. Sweet Sam struggles to trust that I know how to make a bed.

Sam, fresh off the Ipad, is frustrated because I interrupted level 7 on some game and asked him to make his bed. He’s whining and falling down, telling me he can’t make the bed. Despite my offering of a “check” towards his allowance, he’s convinced he cannot complete this task, begging me for help. I become frustrated and say “I won’t help you with this attitude” and walk out the door. Down the hall I hear, “Is that what I say to you when you ask for help?” I was shocked that I heard Him so clearly. I turned around and headed back to Sam’s room. I offer to help Sam and begin to go thru the steps for making his bed. “First you pull up the sheets, then you pull up the bedspread.” He grunts again, “I don’t do it that way, that won’t work.” I am tempted to walk out again. But I hear the Spirit again, “Just stay. I don’t leave you when you want to do things your way. Just stay and be available.” I usually don’t hear Jesus so well so I am definitely sticking around for this. So I tell Sam, “I will stay here and you let me know when you need help.” So once we get the bed made, all that is left are the pillows. I tell Sam, “Just put on your pillows and you will get your check.” Well, he says he is afraid to be left alone because his light switch has a timer and turns off after a few minutes. The builder put in this stupid timer and the lights do cut off after 5 minutes of being on, so I know he is genuinely scared. I hear the voice again, “Just stay. I never leave you when you are afraid.” So I stay. As Sam is putting on his pillows, he is still whining, this time about his superhero sheets. “I hate these sheets, I don’t like superhero’s anymore. I want new sheets.”  Exasperated I vow, He’ll never get where he is going, never be able to sit down and rest. No, I didn’t really say that. That is from Hebrews 4! That’s what God said to the Israelites! I just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.

I realize this must be what I sound like to God. “I don’t want this body, I want a different one that is wrinkle free and more toned. I want my kids to behave differently, why are they so strong minded and opinionated? I just want new sheets.”

God has a goal for me with a reward at the end, his rest. Just like I had a goal for Sam with a reward at the end. But the path to get there was frustrating to watch. All Sam had to do was listen to me, follow my steps and the reward was his. This was such an amazing, simple illustration to me this morning. God was showing his heart and my heart to me through super hero sheets. He never leaves us on our path, he never left Abram or Jacob or the Israelites, or any of his children, despite their restless journey toward his path of rest.

Gen 28:15 “I will be with you constantly until I finish giving you all that I have promised.”

However, we see in Hebrews 4:1-11 that the Israelites didn’t enter God’s rest because of their unbelief (vs 3, 6). I have a choice, we all have a choice. Sam had a choice. We either believe God and trust his faithfulness, entering into his promise, or we doubt and suffer.

Vs 1 “God’s promise of entering his place of rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to get there.”

Vs 2 “We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because they didn’t receive the promises with faith.”

Vs 3 “For only we who believe can enter his place of rest.” The message version says “they will never get where they are going, never be able to sit down and rest”

In these verses it is clear that our rest depends on our belief and some of us may not get there. And that should make us tremble.

Vs 12 goes on to talk about the power of God’s word and vs 14-16 talk about the resources we have in Christ. I don’t think they were placed here haphazardly. In order to enter God’s rest, we must know what his word says and obey and trust it to be true. We must also know the advocate we have in Christ to empower us to do so.

Vs 14- “Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him.”

Vs 16- “Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will find grace to help us when we need it.” The MSG says “So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy and accept the help.”

I read this last verse and was undone. I want to get what he is so ready to give me. I want the help. This tired soul needs a break, a break from wanting to be right, wanting be noticed, wanting to behave well and have others behave well, wanting things to be calm, wanting different sheets. I need a good soul rest and He’s holding out his arms saying, “Come to me and I will give you rest.”

Overwhelmed, I prayed this prayer. “I will take whatever you are ready to give, I am tired. I want whatever you want to give me, whatever it looks like. I surrender the results. All the results, I surrender to the path, “Not to us, but to you Oh Lord.” (Psalm 115:1)

That feels good, scary, but good.  That’s rest, not a life without hardship or stress, not an easy path, but surrender, trust, leaving the results and the path to him. That feels really good. Now to live it out. I trust You to help me live it out.

Trust Issues (part 1)

(I believe this post will have more meaning if you read the posts “Pots” and “In Between” first!)

I have trust issues. Big ones, one’s with the creator of the universe. That is hard to say, hard to admit. I didn’t realize it till this year, 2018. It all started in October 2017 when God spoke to me that 2018 would be a season of rest. So exciting, considering the past 5 years have not been very restful. We delivered a baby, bought a new house to hold all these kids, endured a severe health issue, struggled through the death of my father and grandmother, felt the weight of an alzheimers diagnosis and a cancer scare, had some parenting dilemmas and went to therapy, then a job loss, a hospitalization, some more therapy and a few other hard things thrown in there.

Bring on the rest! So I have been waiting on this rest to come, but I just became, well, restless. I was restless for my rest! What? I wasn’t able to pinpoint this restlessness until this week.

Turns out I have trust issues.

Here’s a few: I don’t trust that God will come through without my help, I don’t trust that he knew what he was doing when he chose me for my family, I don’t trust that I’m the right girl for the job he places in front of me. I, I, I. My rest seems to be on a seesaw ride with my trust issues, my doubt. As my doubt increases, rest hits the grass. Doubt has been flying high way too long.

Recently, I’ve been in the Old Testament with Abram and Jacob. I’ve written about big promises God made them and how they trusted God with those promises. But I feel more like Moses and those Israelites that always get the bad rap. Moses questioned the living God many times when he was told to go speak to Pharoah. And the Israelites continued to test and question God despite His clear promise and provision for them. Today I discovered a sermon by John Piper on Hebrews 4:1-11. This passage describes this exact struggle. John Piper knew the church was doubting 20 years ago and spoke to our need for rest. He also discusses how this rest is found through our belief and lost by our doubt.

After reading this passage today, I realized why I’ve been so restless. I’ve had it all wrong. Man, I hate to be wrong!

Apparently, God is offering me a different kind of rest than I thought I was getting. I assumed God was telling me that we were entering into a calm, orderly season where the boys would chill out, my marriage would be stellar, I would have a fabulous opportunity that gave me purpose and attention, money would finally grow on that tree out back, ocean waves and drinks with umbrellas, you get the picture. I assumed rest meant the absence of stress. But God was not talking about this kind of rest for me. He was talking about a soul rest. A rest that is present regardless of what I am surrounded by. A rest that is secure despite my long days, dirty house, fighting boys and marriage difficulties. A rest that comes despite the hurt times when no one sees me and I feel all alone. A rest that stays despite my longing to hug and talk with my dad again or smell his cologne. A rest that is deep despite my fears that a project we’ve invested a ton of money in will never be profitable, a rest that resounds despite my anxiety of not being noticed or applauded for my efforts. A rest that never leaves no matter what is spinning or sinking around me. A rest that is grounded in Christ alone. A rest for all of us

I love that quote above, “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.” It made me think of Abram and that impossible, nighttime promise from God about the stars. I wonder when he questioned God’s promise, what did he do? I wonder, did he look at those stars and rest? I imagine that rest allowed him to keep his feet moving on that dry, dusty ground as he waited for Isaac to come. I imagine Jacob looking at the stars, remembering God’s promise to his grandpa and God’s promise to him at Bethel. I imagine he rested in God as he faced his brother, Esau, not knowing if he would die that day. But he took one dusty step after another, towards Bethel. I imagine Moses, looking at the stars and the great cloud that held the Living God in front of him, resting as he took dusty steps away from Egypt and thru the swollen Jordan River. I imagine the Israelites seeing the stars and the cloud and struggling to take steps of rest towards the land of giants ahead of them. Many of them didn’t make it to their Promised Land because they didn’t choose rest.

We have all been given a promise by God, to rest, to trust in his son, Jesus Christ. What will we do?

Psalm 116: 7 “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”