How We Grow

I was at a high school reunion a last month. Fifty years later almost all of us were recognizable–the women more than the men! It was crazy. We all had added wrinkles but for the most part we all looked the same as we had. We went to a small school so we had known each other fairly well.

What I noticed was that eyes were different. One set told of allergies, but the look was the same, just more confident and secure. Most eyes told of more security, more sense of self, less needing to hide. One set showed new peace, one, bitterness, coming out of similar situations. Almost all of us had been through a divorce. All of us through death of at least one parent. I think all of us have children.

It was so interesting to see the choices of how we had related to life happenings. We had all suffered, and come through different, but I was so grateful to see that for most of us, our faith and self was in tact.

The five who still had intact marriages (two of them married to each other) had suffered too, but seemed more settled, more secure, and they hadn’t let their looks go either. That was good to see.

When people asked if I was married, I said “presently.” And they all were understanding. Most of them were eager to hear about my writing, and eager to share things that were exciting to their understanding of God, It was a great time, especially enhanced by getting to be with my three sisters too, and a close friend on her birthday!

It was a great reminder of how we grow. Not grow up as in age, but grow in attitude. You’ve probably heard you just get more like you are, so when you are old if you were self-centered or angry, you are more self-centered and angry as an old person. Time doesn’t necessarily modify that. However, experience can. It depends on our choices.

The past two days we’ve been dealing with fires here again. On either end of our city, and the wind has been in our favor. We feel so cared for, so blessed, but I wonder. What if we had been one whose home had burned? Would we feel cared for and blessed then? Would we choose to feel unloved? abandoned? bitter? It’s so easy.

Or would we choose to feel honored because God trusts us to go through something so hard? When we choose to go through something hard gracefully, trusting in the goodness of God, we grow.

We also have parents who lost college-age children this week in a random mass shooting here. That has to be the hardest experience of all. I don’t know if you can go through it with grace. I hope I don’t have to find out, but I know God can carry you at really difficult times–They have done it for me. I experienced it when my little brother died at 22. And my parents did well, as far as I could tell.

All of us will go through pain here. It is the nature of the turf. But if you know God is filtering your experiences because He knows what you can and can’t handle, it makes it so much better. Pain is pain, no matter, but how do you choose to see it? How do you choose to understand it?

Victor Frankel wrote about surviving concentration camps and said the people who got through it are the ones who can assign meaning to it. They can come through without bitterness. He did, and made a great contribution to psychology in Man’s Search for Meaning- a very readable book.

I watch my daughter and am amazed at her resilience! The things she goes through with a great attitude! It isn’t just her personality. I know her. It definitely comes by choice.  It’s how we grow.

I know we are caught in a war between good and evil. I also know good is going to win. (I read the end of the book.) God, let me be one of those people who takes what comes as You trusting me to speak well of You no matter what. I want to take the honor and give it back to You. You’ve honored us with vindicating Your character–claiming we are capable of knowing You, of suffering and still loving. And You will win. I want to choose love.

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Tribute to My Daughter

My daughter’s birthday is today. So this is for her. She has blessed my life so much. Her life hasn’t been easy but she shows that easy isn’t a requirement for goodness.

All of my children had a rough beginning. Two of them were given up at birth and their adopted mother died of cancer. That is hard.

And another kind of hard is thirty-nine years ago today I was in labor all night. She was born at 5:03 a.m. My daughter’s hard beginning was her father being in and out of her life from six months old, finally leaving when she was four.

I made sure she saw him every summer from 7 on, and don’t think I would do that again, but at least she knew him. So when I told her later, “It’s not you, it’s him,” she had some frame of reference to believe me. He was never good at being constant, and has left her with a huge daddy-sized hole in her heart. But she has done well to fill it with God, who heard my constant prayer and has done a lot of fathering with her.

Yes, she had a rough adolescence in places, she made her mistakes as we all do, but I tried to stay emotionally connected (even though I’m not good at that) and I did model a relationship with God. I am so grateful she caught it. So grateful she knew where true help comes from and went after it. Her first marriage wasn’t easy, but she tried hard. When it came apart she did her utmost to keep life as stable as she could for her three boys. She depended on God and He carried them–she saw many miracles of provision.

And you can see they caught God from her–a year later they were praying for six months that their friend and neighbor would become their dad and he did! It’s a great story, but it hasn’t been easy, blended families never are.

Our relationship hasn’t always been easy either, but as she said not long ago we definitely have a bond between us. I am so grateful for her love and what I have learned from her. She models a true walk with God. She consults Him continually, and she listens! No, she isn’t perfect, but as she says the pain and mistakes keep us real.

From the time I took her home from the hospital, I loved her in a way that I didn’t even know was possible. And for the first time I really “got” God’s love. She couldn’t do a thing and yet I loved her wildly. I had thought love and performance went together. I knew better, intellectually, but it was in my DNA. This is all fresh again because she just had a daughter this year who looked just like her mother when she was born. It was almost shocking!

Among the best gifts she has given me are her love, trust, and truth. Sometimes that last one hurts, as when she told me I wasn’t sweet. I had a visceral reaction. Her response to it, “Mom, you know you aren’t sweet. You are a lot of great things, but that isn’t one of them.” That one took me a few days, maybe weeks, to process. And there have been others since.

I value her friendship, clarity, honesty, ability, and her love. There isn’t a lot of sweetness between us, as she says I’m not good at fluff. I’ve never had much use for it. So I wanted to write this for her as a bit of fluff, because I don’t say things like this often, obviously not often enough. I thought I did, because it was more than I got. But I’m getting a picture of the kind of mother I really was. (As opposed to the sweet one I was in my head.) There is pain and salvation in truth.

I am grateful for you, Babe, so grateful for you. I pray the bond  between us continues to grow with warmth and sweetness. I am so proud of the beautiful woman you have become–beautiful inside and  out. And I still love you wildly.

 

 

 

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You Aren’t That Important

(Started writing this over a week ago.)

Yes, I’ve been stalling giving you an update by posting about my writing. But I do have thoughts and feelings, just don’t know if I can make a coherent flow. Everything seems to be intensifying. I just learned last night that my grand daughter is being dedicated and I won’t be there. And I was supposed to buy her dress for the occasion. Of course I felt you aren’t that important. I couldn’t even respond to it.

My husband is unflinching in his intention to get divorced, and yet when I suggested we separate finances, yesterday, to keep things civil, he acted like it was an affront to him and said he might as well get divorced. “I said isn’t that where we are headed? You are the one who wants it. I’ve tried to talk about it.”

I told him I couldn’t believe how he could be so into me before I left (he had done a lot of little things to please me while I was gone) and when we came home he wants a divorce because of something someone said to him. Someone he doesn’t even know all that well. How does one switch off 34 years that easily? I don’t get it. He didn’t even respond. I’m feeling insecure.

Everywhere I turn my focus from God, I’m feeling not that important. I am so thankful that God’s love is constant, that They are unchanging, that Their goodness can be counted on. I read John 1 this morning. I only got half way through it because it was so filling, so rich. I am so blessed! And yesterday was a beautiful day to work outside and just be in Ruach’s presence! If you don’t have that relationship, ask for it. You may need it down the road!

So here it is a week later, today is my husband’s birthday. Nothing has really changed. But normally this would be driving me crazy, and it’s not! I know God loves me, and I believe Richard loves me, he just doesn’t know it now. Maybe he does. He has looked liked he wanted to say something a couple of times but hasn’t. Anyway, I have a plan to celebrate his birthday in a low-key, Richard way. But if he doesn’t want it, I will roll with it and not allow hurt to take me to a negative place.

I did talk to my daughter to find out if she thought I was rude and ungrateful and she confirmed that she did not. I had said thank you to her many times. Whew! That helped. She knows I’m not good at fluff. She had also helped me see I was not good at letting my husband lead.

I was surprised to read in my journal for this time last year that I prayed to let him lead. I thought that was new. Nope, I just lost it. Here we go, another lap around this track. Make me teachable, Lord.

He did let me take him out for breakfast to a place he likes, but after that just wanted to relax at home. It certainly took pressure off of me. I went shopping for a couple hours–a rarity. And then made some healthy treats he would like. It was a good day. But that night he had a headache in the back of his head and didn’t sleep well. I woke up at 2:30, and suddenly felt terrified about a stroke– losing him and our marriage. Fear in the middle of the night will do that.

I got up and asked God if it was from Him, and He said They don’t give fear, but They are not opposed to using the enemies moves when it helps. I went back to bed and snuggled up to him. He was asleep and I fell asleep. It must have surprised him when he woke,  but he didn’t say anything.

I woke up more normal, but I haven’t gotten a clear go-ahead yet to say “I started this nonsense can I stop it?” I know the time has to be right for him.

He thinks his neck is a spasm in the muscle, but he has declined help with it. And yes, I have offered. I’ve learned that’s my love language. I’ll let you know what happens.

 

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Perspective is Everything–Especially with You and God

The hardest story in the Bible to see God’s gracious tender love is the cross unless your perspective is right. If you see God killing Jesus instead of you, you haven’t gotten it.

The second hardest is God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son. (But then there is the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness.) Honestly, I think I read the Bible too young without an interpreter who really knew God. I grew up scared of God. Growing up in my family helped a little. But besides the love God gives naturally for your children, and my mother’s love for God, my parents didn’t know how to love.

Consequently, I grew up not knowing how to love, and didn’t trust anyone. Not even God. But I was determined to. I just didn’t realize how paralyzed, how frozen and crippled I was. It has taken years to see and admit this. God’s tender love shown in the intimacy of how well he knows me is healing my heart. From time to time They have allowed me to experience Their amazingly personal love in exactly what I needed when I gave Them time, and made space for Them. They have carried me through hard things like death and divorce. Now I prioritize time with Them. I look for Their messages. I crave Their intimacy.

As I began to realize, to heal, to feel Their love, I wanted to write the Bible as a good-God story from a cosmic point of view, with the backstory of the war in the universe between good and evil. In doing this I have discovered that most of the Bible characters didn’t trust God either. I mean, couldn’t Moses have focused on fear a little less? And Abraham! He set himself up for a terrible test because he didn’t trust God!

Abraham’s story is an amazing parallel of Jesus story. Abraham didn’t want to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Neither did God want to offer Adonai.

Abraham’s promised son had a miraculous birth. So did God’s. Abraham wanted to do it a different way. So did God. Abraham learned to trust through suffering. Jesus learned to trust through suffering.

Abraham became sure of who he was in God–a beloved son. Jesus became sure of who he was–the beloved son, Messiah, and then God.

Satan said Abraham wasn’t good enough to be the “father of the faithful” and called for a test of his love and God allowed it. Satan had also said God wasn’t good enough to rule the universe and called for a test of Their love and God allowed it. I believe Abraham’s test was a microcosm, a vignette for us, of God’s test in front of the universe.

Abraham was in agony on the trip up to Moriah, and couldn’t tell Isaac he was the sacrifice until the last minute. Jesus was in agony in Gethsemane with no support, because he couldn’t get his disciples to believe he was the sacrifice until the last minute.

Abraham finally was willing to let Isaac die, and told Isaac God’s idea; Isaac was willing to die. Adonai told Abba and Ruach His idea, and after a while they were willing to let Him die.

Abraham couldn’t feel God’s presence, but God rescued Isaac from death. On the cross Jesus couldn’t feel God’s presence but God rescued Jesus by coming to shorten the agony. It normally took up to two weeks to die by crucifixion. So Abba and Ruach came in a dark cloud to hasten his death to three hours. Their presence is consuming to sin, evil and entropy. Jesus had taken on sin, evil and entropy. If Abba and Ruach hadn’t come wrapped in a dark cloud, everyone standing around the cross would have been killed, and Jesus could have come down. That would have been an amazing rescue, but the universe still would have thought God caused death!

Abraham’s life was a testament to God’s love, goodness and faithfulness. Jesus’ life was a testament to God’s love, goodness and faithfulness.

God’s problem has been demonstrating that death comes in separation from Them, not from Them. BUT Satan was saying, “If you don’t do what They say, They’ll kill you!” And it looked true at the flood. It looked true with Job. It looked true with Nadab and Abihu and the plagues God allowed Satan to inflict on Israel when they lost God’s protection through disobedience.

The trouble is God’s pure, stable, love energy causes death to unstable atoms like ours. They had to figure out a way to be with us and not consume (kill) us. So They gave directions, also called commands or laws, but if people didn’t follow them, they sometimes died. It was hard for people to understand that Adonai didn’t kill Nadab and Abihu, for example. It surely looked like He did!

I am so blessed that someone came to my mother selling The Desire of Ages. She recognized it as a book she had loved as a child but was forbidden to read.  I am blessed that she loved Ellen White’s books, and that I was drawn to The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets. Her books made Jesus real and  opened up to me more and more about the cosmic conflict we were born into. For years I thought if people just understood this. But it wasn’t long before I realized no one would take the time to read their long difficult sentences now.

So I wrote Jesus life as a blog that runs on-line from Easter to Easter. Then came the idea of writing the Bible as God’s story from female, family-systems perspective. Make it fun and easy to read filling in the backstory as Ruach gave me the ideas. Love’s Playbook is the result. I can tell you I didn’t feel able or worthy. I had to think about it for a year or two.  And if I hadn’t remembered two or three prophecies spoken over me 30 years earlier, I probably wouldn’t have thought I could do it. Who did I think I was to rewrite the Bible?

Just God’s beloved.

And so are you. Do the good ideas They give you to do.

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God Has a Sense of Humor

I know because I’ve just experienced it. It’s been a rough week continuing from last week. You’ll remember that after I got out of my detour of three days silence, I didn’t follow God’s direction very well, and didn’t get a great result. But it did break me out of my hold.

However my husband continued with his distance for another six days, and finally something broke inside me. Thursday afternoon about 4:00, almost without thinking, I went to where he was lying on the bed, reading, sat on it beside him and said, “Our 29th anniversary is in a week, so either blow up at me and get it out, or lets get a divorce!” Whoa! that was bold! I thought. And his response was, “Yes, I think its time we bring dissolution to this.” His ready agreement surprised me–like he’d been waiting for me to say it.

I said, “OK, we’ll sell the house, and split it,” and he cut in.

“We can’t sell for six months.” (We just refinanced.)

“I know,” I replied. “But it will take us six months to get divorced anyway. You can go get the papers.”

“You get the papers,” he said.

I actually left the room to go to work feeling light and free. Something moved. We have been so stuck.

At 6:00, my newly adopted granddaughter called and said they were on their way. I had promised to do an interview with her for a class she was taking. I thought it was about careers, but she said she needed my husband too. I was just finishing charting and so texted him; then told her to ask him when she arrived.

He didn’t turn her down, and he came and we recorded an interview about marriage. They were well-thought out questions–a group project it sounded like–thirty minutes of them. How interesting to be going through our whole marriage after we had just decided to get a divorce, answering questions like “What one thing would you change about your spouse?” or “What is the main thing that has kept you together?”

Her mom was holding the tablet, recording it, and afterward they both said,  “That was so sweet! You should have a copy of it!”

It was actually fun. But I felt like an imposter thinking if you only knew that two hours ago…! The interview had an interesting dynamic because I mostly waited for him to answer first, just to see where he would go with it now.

After they left, I wanted to say to him, “Does God ever have a sense of humor!” But for some reason I didn’t. I waited to see if he would say anything, but he didn’t.  It certainly did put in perspective how many people we would be letting down beginning with her.

Since then we have been getting along better. It’s a little weird, granted. We haven’t talked about it at all. I really doubt we will get divorced, but I think God has something up His sleeve. This sounds strange, but I believe He told me to continue like we are going to. It certainly cuts down on control! And it may be the only way we will get rid of 30 years of stuff. I’ll keep you posted.

I wasn’t ready to post this last week. I may not be this week. It’s been better but a little strange. Kind of a good strange. For instance I don’t ask what he wants for dinner. I say I’m making ____ do you want any?

It felt bad not going to the doctor with him, but of course I didn’t say anything. (He prefers to go alone. I ask too many questions. And remember what they tell him.) Otherwise he seemed to act like we were moving past our “fight”(we didn’t have). But one day I said, “I think we should celebrate making 29 years even if we are getting divorced.” He didn’t say anything, but I noticed him step back. One night after we were in bed, I asked what he thought of that, he said he didn’t think so. So I put my hand on his arm and said, “You don’t stop loving someone, just because you can’t live with them,” and went to sleep.

Getting rid of stuff has been overwhelming. I started with the room that would be least disruptive, and in 45 minutes I was overwhelmed. I told God, “You’re going to have to help me. I can’t do this.” And His answer was, “Just take it an hour at a time,” and gave me organizing ideas. That has helped.

But neither of us has gotten any papers. I don’t think either of us want a divorce–it just seemed like a good way to handle an impasse created by crisis. For the first ten years it was his go-to. Since then the D-word has rarely been used.

He finally agreed to celebrate and we had a good day. We actually talked while driving an hour up the coast to one of our favorite breakfast places. We had plans to celebrate today too–we’ll see what happens. There is more freedom, but somehow more responsibility–no obligation. I think I’ll wait to post this till next week.

The day after writing last week I couldn’t walk. My family has a lot of arthritis, but I’m usually not bothered by it except for crooked fingers that get stiff if I eat sugar. This was a flare up I didn’t know could happen! My joint was so sore it throbbed! One of my alternative-health friends texted and said “Hips are supposed to have to do with emotions.” Made sense. We had a talk that day in which he told me that I was rude and ungrateful. When I asked “To whom?” He said my daughter and son-in-law. I was crushed. Soul searching time.

Just praying how to proceed–is confrontation needed? Our reading in my small group this week was all about giving thanks in everything. I started there.

 

 

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Amazing Robe–how sweet the Grace

 

I wrote this 5 years ago. Thought of it the other day, and found it. Love it.

Imagine a church as a storefront with a huge window that boasts the most beautiful, amazing piece of clothing that was ever seen.

It’s flowing like a robe, but advertised as the one piece of clothing you will ever need. It fits every one who puts it on perfectly from head to toe. It moves with you, never impedes movement, never in your way, breathes, is always perfect for the climate you’re in–cool in summer, warm in winter, and more cozy and comfortable than your old faded cotton pajamas.

And the look of it–no one can describe it. But no one ever gets tired of looking at it. It looks soft and inviting, yet regal and stately. It shimmers and sparkles but is never gaudy or obtrusive, never shouts look at me! It always looks appropriate, never dowdy, and never embarrassing.

When you’re wearing it, people look at you; you see in their eyes You look terrific! They smile and say, “Love that outfit, you look so good in it.” as though you’ve never worn it before. EVERY time! In fact they look at you again and again as though they just can’t look at you enough. When they invite you anywhere, they say “Wear that robe thing.” They never get tired of seeing it.

People ask, “Where did you get that?”

And you always answer, “A friend gave it to me.”

“Really?” They ask. “How could I get one?”

“You just have to ask,” you say. “Just have to be his friend.”

“But can I buy one?”

“No,” you say.”He doesn’t sell them.”

“But surely for the right price…” they counter.

“They aren’t for sale.”

“Not even for a million dollars for one robe?”

“Not even a billion for one robe.”

They look at you like you’re crazy. So you say, “They are priceless. There isn’t enough money in the world to buy one.”

“But they’re a gift?” they are almost sarcastic now.

“Right” you respond.

“And I can get one? Is this guy like impossible to like or something, that he bribes people with these clothes?”

“No, he is actually the nicest, most caring, most helpful, most respectful, most encouraging friend I’ve ever had.”

“Ok, then what’s the catch? Nobody gives something of value for nothing.”

“I already told you, you have to let him be your friend, let him love you.”

“Ah, so that’s it. He wants to control you. Buy you with that robe, so he can own you and do whatever he wants with you or to you. Your his love slave.”

“No, it’s not like that. He really just wants you to be your best self. As I said, he wants to be your best friend. He wants to love you into your truest self. That’s why he gives you the robe. It makes you look your best, feel your best, do your best. It covers all the things you don’t like about you, all the scars you have. It makes you beautiful because he wants you beautiful and happy and free, strong and able to love.”

“Wow!” they say, heads shaking. “Wow! Tell me more about your friend.”

Is this overstating the graciousness of God? I don’t think so. This is how I see it–how I see Him and His gift of identity.

I haven’t fully experienced it yet, but I “get” more and more of Him.

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Blog on Its Ok to Say No

One of my friends posted this and I liked it. So pulled the main points to put here for you. If you already got this, I apologize. Problems with face book…

“What happens when someone you love, someone you want to please or maybe even someone whose anger or frustration you fear, wants you to do something that you do not want to do? I do not mean the kind of need or desire that will call for sacrifice, effort or even discomfort from us, that we don’t “want to do,” but is something we still choose to do out of love, duty or the desire to help. That is life giving and good. Great relationships, families, friendships and businesses are only built when people can get beyond their own self-centeredness and sacrifice for the greater good and others.

The situations I am talking about are the ones where you truly do not want to perform that particular gift of time or energy. It is not something you truly want to give. It is a request to which your real, heartfelt answer, is “no.” What happens inside?

Here is the psychological test: when you know your answer is “no,” do you begin to scramble for a good reason to justify your “no”? Do you have an internal pressure to find a good, acceptable excuse? Like a parent’s note to the principal’s office?

The pressure to “justify” literally means the pressure “to show something to be right.” Think about that. Why does this person have that psychological authority over you, to see if your reason is “right” or “wrong”? Certainly if a judge orders you to appear in court, she has the authority to do that, and if you are not going to be there, you do have to “justify” your absence, or there are consequences.

But in relationships, there supposedly is no “judge,” but only people who freely give love, time and energy to each other. So how is it that a simple “no, thank you, but I am going to miss that dinner,” can immediately internally marshal emotional resources to “look for a good reason,” to make it a “right” decision? Why do you have to “justify” your “no”? No is a complete sentence in its own right.

Love respects freedom. Love thrives in freedom. Love requires freedom.

In the best relationships, “no” certainly might be questioned, and it might reveal some problem, but usually is not “judged.” There is a big difference. When your “no” feels like it is subject to judgment, and you feel like you need a good “excuse,” let that be a signal that you might have a lack of freedom. Then, take the second step: do something with the test results!

When your doctor gets a test result that shows an issue, he or she has a discussion with you. So, in your relationships, it might be time for a good conversation: “Sometimes, I feel like it is not ok with you if I want to say ‘no’ to sex, or to some event or the way we spend our time or money. I don’t really feel free to say ‘no,’ like I truly have a choice. I want to talk about that to see if that is in my head, or really in our relationship, because I want us to have the freedom to say ‘no’ to each other and have that be ok.”

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We Do it to Ourselves

I got upset with my husband on Wednesday for leaving without telling me, when I was waiting for him to have our time together. Actually I wasn’t mad, I was shocked and then hurt. But I determined not to let it bother me. Not to give it any energy.

It didn’t go that way. I had a rogue thought I should accept his message to act like he isn’t here, and I’m afraid I liked it and gave it too much attention. Then I got caught in a situation I wasn’t prepared for. I was putting clean sheets on the bed and he came and helped me. There were no words between us. I didn’t know what to say so I said nothing. And then, of course, I kept to it. (I know better than this.)

But it was fed by what I learned at the end of my hospital stay, that he gets upset when I don’t let him lead. Ok so let him lead in this one.

You can see how quickly it goes downhill. More like in the ditch.

By that night I was under condemnation. Because I had felt God’s approval to my first thought, but couldn’t stay with it and veered off-track. I didn’t think what I was doing was healthy or what He wanted, and I kept thinking about Joshua (which I just finished) and all the times Israel missed God’s preferred will because they thought they needed to fight. They couldn’t imagine His way, so He let them do it their way.

The condemnation feelings (lies) I did catch. I know condemnation is a lie! Finally. (Roman 8:1) So I didn’t listen to my feelings, I just ran to Him and said, “I feel like I’ve let you down, but I don’t want this to come between us.  I don’t ever want anything in between us! So here I am surrendering to You and Your way.”

Immediately, the feelings of condemnation and separation lifted and I felt His smile. He gave me an idea of what to do that night and I didn’t do it perfectly (I forgot I’d written down what to say and it would have been better!) But I did manage a poorer version without the results we had hoped for. However, now there is an opportunity for him to lead. And me to learn how to follow!

We don’t have to let feelings of condemnation come between us and God. Those feelings aren’t from Him. I was so grateful to see I had learned that!

The other thing I learned through this (more is coming I’m sure) is that my love language is trying to “help” and take care of people. Many times it’s not in the way they want to be helped, and often feels like control (and our marriages could benefit from living with less attempts to control each other.) So I asked God for a new love language and He graciously said “Pick one,” and gave it to me. Now I’m anxious to see it manifest. It shouldn’t be too hard to adjust to if it’s a gift. And God graciously showed me I had already experienced it in the hospital.

So why am I sharing this? (It feels a little like the dreams I used to have of getting to school without clothes on.) Shame grows in hiding. If you hate shame and don’t want to live in it, share it with someone. It’s good for us to know that we are all the same broken beings. It isn’t something we will ever grow out of. We will get better, the closer we live with God and follow His ways, but we will still get caught in our ways, still fall on our faces. We aren’t ever going to be perfect on this planet. That should help us step out of discouragement at our performance; and step out of shame.

This is why my new book on Joshua and Ruth has the subtitle My Laws Will Keep You. God’s law was meant to be a comfort to us, a helper, a protector. This really comes through in the book of Ruth, a tiny but beautiful love story. Most of us haven’t seen His law this way, but in the Greek of John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love Me, My laws will keep you.” Doesn’t that just make sense!

 

 

 

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The Power of Presence

There can’t be many feelings worse than going across country to help someone and becoming the one needing help! Especially when you are the mother. But that is exactly what happened two weeks ago.

My daughter was suffering from diverticulitis and post partum both aggravated by her 7 month old adjusting to a new bed  and waking up every hour all night. So I went to help. I didn’t do much but laundry and make breakfast one morning, gaining her an hour of sleep. Oh and maybe helped her pain with a few essential oils I brought.

But as Providence would have it she had started antibiotics that day and another product designed to promote gut health, and when I fell apart she was feeling better. I arrived on Tuesday evening and by Thursday evening had some swelling in my mouth and the beginning of a “soft lock” on my jaw. By Saturday it seemed to be improving and then bam! Sunday morning the left side of my face was really swollen. By Monday I could hardly talk and canceled my  flight for the next day.

Tuesday my daughter took me, with her two toddlers, to a dentist who after an hour referred me to an oral surgeon. So my daughter took me there; and after another hour, he said I needed to be hospitalized and should go only to Chapel Hill ER because they were the only ER with an oral surgeon on call. My son-in-law met us and took me the additional 30 minutes, so she could take the little ones home.

I was so grateful, yet feeling like such a bother and so disappointed in having to go to an ER. I could see hours of waiting ahead, and I had already filled out an hour’s worth of paperwork at the first two places. And the pain in my ear and throat were growing. An abscess from a cavity hidden under a filling, caused by the plane ride?

Was I surprised! From the time we arrived at the ER in Chapel Hill to the time they had me triaged and out of pain was 15 minutes tops! It was amazing to me–especially as busy as they were! They even had my son-in-law fill out the paperwork while they were tending to me. He stayed there until they admitted me which was five hours later! They did a CT scan to see if I needed surgery. The halls were lined with people on gurneys because there were no beds.

My son-in-law called my husband on his way home and told him he needed to come–I was having emergency surgery the next day.

And he came! It was a huge inconvenience to come, but to do it making all the arrangements in a few hours was truly taxing on him. He got very little sleep that night. But he came. And Jeremy (son-in-law) picked him up at the airport and brought him to the hospital (another couple hours investment), where he slept on a hard couch and stayed with me two nights till I was released.

That was very cool. And I learned about the Advantage of Weakness. I brought that book along to edit so I was looking at those words all the time and being reminded that there was an advantage here. It was helpful to rest in weakness and allow them to take care of me. The staff was amazing. They made me feel like I was their only patient, and it brought up so much gratitude in me. Other than side-effects of medication, it was a really great experience. I have never felt so special. They didn’t feel like they were doing a job.

But the thing that has really impressed me is how powerful presence is. Yes, all of my loved ones were really inconvenienced by me, and  guilt slightly taints the “cared for” feeling. But they were all kind about it. And having my daughter do the helping because I needed it was humbling. Having someone drop work and just stay was amazing. (They even made the trip again so I would have visitors! How sweet!)

The knowledge that someone has traveled across country just so you won’t be alone was almost overwhelming. All I keep saying is “My husband came. He came!”

That was also amazing because my grandsons had been praying he would come… and God got him there. I teased them saying God knew I would be willing to suffer to get him there. And I was. But I gained so much in the “suffering.” So much recognition of value, love, and care. And also education about the important things in life. I could have easily lost mine last week–that’s what many people have told me. I never had any fear, though. Once we got to the ER, it was so obvious to me that God was in control of every detail. Peace is feeling His presence. He stayed too.

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Lessons from a Lovestory

As promised, the message of the story of Ruth: the last chapter of book 7.

Ruth’s double-layered love story is truly about Messiah being our Goel, our kinsmen redeemer, who will do whatever it takes to rescue us and marry us in an everlasting bond of vowed love. God doesn’t waste stories.

Just as Ruth and Naomi need rescue from poverty, and their family inheritance needs restoring, so all of humanity requires rescue from Satan and restoration from the Law of Sin and Death. (That story is in Love’s Playbook episode one.)

Why do we need rescue? Because Adam gave up his dominion and sold all of us into slavery. And ever since then we are all born broken. Jesus’ stories would make it seem that we are the only ones in the universe who are broken and under Satan’s rule.

We want desperately to believe we are good. And half of each of us is good, but we have dual natures. However, it can take a lifetime to see your dark side clearly. Hiding our brokenness is the greatest temptation for Christians and people wanting independence.

The effect of sin on humans—all humans—is ruin and death, and sin is nothing more than separation from God and Their way. As J. Vernon Magee says, in his book, In a Barley Field, “The practice of sin is fatal to man.” But why?

Our brokenness gives us two natures—as Paul says in Romans 7—and   our evil nature likes being independent. It comes naturally to us. We like doing it our way, and taking the best for ourselves. We love ourselves to death. Except it isn’t really love.

True love is God’s love and it sets me free from slavery to me.

We don’t even realize that we actually became slaves of Satan.

We didn’t sell ourselves. Adam sold us. But God, in the Garden of Eden, didn’t give us over fully to evil. They made sure we still retained Their nature as we acquired Satan’s evil one, (see Genesis 3:15). So we are self-focused, but we are also conflicted. God guaranteed we would still long for love and goodness.

We need to be restored to wholeness and brought back into the presence of God in a loving relationship. With respect to the universe, we need a goel, a kinsman redeemer to redeem us from slavery and death; give us back our property—our true hearts and our lives.

And God provided one: “You shall know that Adonai is your Savior and your Goel, the Mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 60:16) I learned from Magee that Isaiah uses “Goel” more times than the whole rest of the Bible. (No wonder I love that book!) Add to that Hosea 13:14 “I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be your plagues; O grave I will be your destruction.”

The first requirement for the goel is he must be blood relation. If he isn’t he can’t redeem the person from slavery or buy back his property.

Adam’s property went to Satan as the new owner of our earth because of Adam’s forfeiture and must be redeemed, same as Naomi’s field. We came under the law of sin and death and our family line was finished. But under God’s law the rental price until Jubilee could be paid to the present owner to redeem the property and the family-line could be re-instated by the next of kin. He wasn’t compelled to do it, but he was allowed to.

Adonai chose to become our Boaz, our goel, out of love for us. I think there was a closer kinsman in this story just so we would see that Adonai wasn’t compelled to come. He wasn’t “sent” to redeem us. He chose to come because He wanted to. In fact, I believe, as shown in episode one, that it was His idea to become Jesus our Kinsman Redeemer. Abba and Ruach painfully agreed to allow him to come.

And since that meant He had to become our blood relation, he had to be born human, under the law of sin and death, just like us, one of Adam’s sons, to raise up his family line. That is truly how They gave us his blood, because “the life is in the blood,” so he became a blood relative and gave us life.

It is in Genesis 3:15 where Adonai says to Satan, in serpent form, “I will put enmity (Hatred) between you and the woman and between your children and her children. It (their hatred of evil/their choice against evil) shall bruise your head (destroy you) and you will bruise his heal.” (Jesus will forever maintain his  glorified humanity. “He is not ashamed to call us brothers.” Hebrews 2:12) He promised to be our Goel in Exodus 6:6 “I will be your Goel with My stretched out arm.”

God gives us His name, life, and blood as Boaz gave Ruth his name and his life and blood to have a child and raise up her husband’s family name. In this story the goel, as a near kinsman, had to marry the widow of the deceased to raise up the family name. In our world God’s Law is the deceased and God’s church is the bride who marries the Goel to raise up His name (His law, reputation, character). If there was a widow (us), there could be no separation of person and property. You had to marry the woman to get the property. (Isn’t this cool!)

Satan’s power over us was in claiming the power of death (Hebrews 2:14). So Jesus went through death as a son of Adam, and gave us his life and blood to raise up humanity as whole again (no evil—no conflict, no brokenness.) And “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:11-12, Hebrews 2:10-14)

And two more things this story explains: atonement and redemption. As Magee explains, God redeemed Israel from Egypt, but at the Red Sea they were only freed slaves. It was after He showed his power in opening the water and bringing them into the presence of God walking through the sea, that they were “baptized” and given new hearts to worship.

This story also explains the temple tax that was the price of redemption in Leviticus. Whenever Israel was numbered, Satan must have claimed it signified that they were depending on themselves, and claimed the right to them—to send a plague. So whenever Israel ignored God’s way and did their own thing, depending on their own strength or numbers, Satan would send a plague, or at least he tried to.

To protect them, God had each individual pay a half-shekel to redeem himself because each person must cast his own vote for Adonai, and that was the way they did it. It made atonement for them—or showed they chose Adonai as king.

I never understood the temple tax making atonement before this story! Atonement is at-one-ment—oneness with God (Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17). It wasn’t much money and was the same for everyone, but it showed each individual’s choice for Adonai as king—a poll tax.

Redemption gives us restored sight to see God as good or worthy of love. (Redeemed beings sing “He is worthy” all through the book of Revelation.) Redemption is restoration.

My favorite quote shows redemption in contrast to our slavery, “Subjection to God is restoration to oneself; to the true glory and dignity of man.”

It’s good to be God’s because that makes me truly me—unbroken and restored to wholeness. That gives me true freedom. His laws keep us safe, protect our freedom, and keep our true selves intact.

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