Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mediterranean villa or bomb shelter?

God has been speaking to me about where we live. Not geographically.... not physically.... but spiritually. Where does He want us abiding spiritually and what does it look like? This is what I think.....

Heck yeah. I think this is what our life in Christ is supposed to look like. 

 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.
Ephesians 1:3
Jesus came to give us abundant life, full of freedom, beauty, and provision that can only be found in Him. A place where we live with Him. A beautiful Grecian villa, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Full of beauty and peace and plenty of space.

I believe that at the very moment of our salvation, this beauty becomes reality in our lives. Jesus comes into our spirits, and brings along with Him all the blessings and provision of the cross and of heaven. Sins forgiven. Eternity secured. But also, a life in union with Christ to be realized and explored. This life is a gorgeous mansion built for two, divinely crafted by the Master Carpenter who desires to share that glorious habitation with us.  But, do we live there? Do we share 777 Glory Lane with Him? What keeps us from our villa? 

Not realizing we have it is my first thought. It is on us all to become students of the Word, willing pupils who study and learn and receive knowledge and revelation about what happened at the cross and what it means to us and our life here on earth. 

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ 
to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by 
bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. 
This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.  
So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us 
who belong to his dear Son.  
He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom 
with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 
He has showered his kindness on us, along with 
all wisdom and understanding.
Ephesians 1:4-8

Not knowing about this beautiful inheritance can keep us from ever moving in to our villa to begin with. A life lived unto ourselves can prevent us from discovering the riches of His grace and all the provisions that come with it. Self-focus and self-effort can result in living conditions that look more like this....

Yikes. The beautiful villa is at the top of the cliff but hidden at the bottom is a bomb shelter. This is what I think it looks like spiritually when we live outside the union in Christ that we were meant to enjoy. The reason I see a bomb shelter as an alternate home is because of the safety it represents. You see, for many years I fought against things that weren't of God. I had to be strong, I had to fight, I had to endure. My days were spent resisting evil, fighting against darkness, protecting my family. It was a lengthy season that required much strength but the problem came when I stayed in that strength too long. While a warfare mentality was necessary at the time, being strong and impenetrable became normal and familiar. I found comfort in the walls I'd built to protect myself. Keeping people out helped me make it through but I was keeping God out too. It was like living in the bomb shelter long after the threat of danger had passed. A bomb shelter wasn't designed to be a long-term residence. But self-protection became the new norm for me because it provided security that I wasn't trusting my Defender to provide. That would require me being vulnerable enough to trust, and I didn't have the time or space for vulnerability. 

Tenderness would try to visit, knocking on my armored door, and I'd say..... 
"Don't have time for you now. Trying to survive here."

Can you understand this? Can you relate? Has life thrown stuff at you that made you send off for your own do-it-yourself homemade bomb shelter kit? Even what starts off as good can keep us confined in a small space. Any strength taken to the extreme becomes a weakness. A friend of mine shared that she lived in hope too long, while her deceptive husband steered their marriage into destruction. As wonderful as hope is, truth was waiting its turn to be heard. I understand that. Making the transition from one mindset to another isn't easy. But seasons change and and we are meant to change too. Jesus calls up to pack up and come on, He has new places for us to explore.

Another example is how we cope with death. It's healthy and normal to grieve the loss when someone we love dies, but hanging out in the camp of grief for the rest of our lives limits us from the abundant life God wants us to enjoy in the villa. Perhaps we are angry and God and blame him for our loss. That can cause us to turn away from Him and try to find comfort apart from Him. There is a difference between crying tears and crying tears to Him, to the One who collects our tears in a bottle. Not releasing pain to the only One who truly knows how to comfort us is like keeping the bomb shelter door slammed in His face.

These are just two examples that perhaps you can relate to. But, it could be anything. Fear. Unforgiveness. Rejection. Unbelief. Pain. Illness. Divorce. Trauma. Addiction. Abuse. Anger.

God is willing and able to lead us out of everything that tries to keep us from Him. But because of the generous gift of free will He endowed humanity with, He will not force us into union with Him. It's our decision. The villa. The bomb shelter. We get to choose.

As one who is learning to leave the walls of self-protection behind and make the exciting trek up the cliff to the villa, I hope your heart is stirred to join me. The more I trust God with my life, my heart and my safety, the more I realize that living life in an tiny enclosure built for one is not so great. I can't move, I can't dance. And dang it, all this battle gear I wear is heavy. I want room to breathe, room to grow, space to dance. My life is way too small when I keep myself safely locked away. I don't want to reach the end of my days and have only measly excuses to offer God when he asks me how I spent my life.

What did you do with the villa I gave you?
"I don't know, God, I never really saw it. It was at the top of the cliff and I was busy at the bottom, staying safe in my shelter."

What did you do with My Son?
"Ahh... uh.... er.... well.... He came by all the time and I waved to Him through the little window of my bomb shelter door but I didn't let Him in."

No. I don't want that. There is too much of God's goodness for me to enjoy in the villa up the cliff. I am willing to open the door and follow My King up the hill. I can trust Him. I will still be safe. The walls of protection have become a Shield about me behind which I am safe. Jesus promises to "contend with those that contend with me" (Isaiah 49:25) so I'll let him do the fighting now. Besides, my gun gets in the way when the King pulls me close. I can lay down my weapon. He is my weapon. He fights for me, confronts evil on my behalf. The battle gear that helped me survive served its purpose and I am thankful, but I can take it off because God has other things to teach me now.  And it's easier to move and climb and hike up the cliff in the linen garment He gives me to wear....

What a joy to find that Jesus has already provided what I need! The safety my heart required was there all along, just on the other side of the door. There is so much provision at the cross that we need only to realize. Jesus' sacrifice took care of everything that would keep us in the shelter. It's already been done. He has done it. It is all waiting for us. If you have received Christ as Savior and Lord, your villa has already been built. Can you see it? Does your spirit draw you to it? The journey is in realizing where our souls are in the shelter, being willing to open the door, and then making the climb up the hill to the palace.  Even then we are not alone. The strong hands of our loving Shepherd-King guide us along. And He knows what to do with wolves that attack and sheep that bite.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

It feels so good and light and free to lay down my defensive measures and just let Jesus do it His way. He now calls the shots as I hold His arm and smile at Him and say "okay, Lord, You lead". Now my spirit "lives" in a beautiful villa and my soul is calm and at rest, relaxing on the terrace while He reveals more love and truth to my heart, or playing on the beach because yes, He is there too. It's a sweet familiar feeling actually, like returning to my first love before the pain of life suggested that battle gear and a concrete cave might be the way to go. I'd forgotten how good a tender heart felt. Years and years and layers and layers of self-protection caused me to forget that I really do love to kiss more than fight.

 We know how much God loves us, 
and we have put our trust in his love.  
 God is love, and all who live in love live in God, 
and God lives in them.
1 John 4:16

This learning to trust thing ain't so bad after all! It kinda feels like.....   
I meet with Him here.

I eat what He gives me to eat, here.

I rest in Him, with Him, here.

And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), 
so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.
1 Corinthians 2:12

Please join me, my darlings, in this journey of laying down the old, dead self and all it's craziness for the joy of "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). Jesus waits patiently outside the door.  He's not mad at you; He loves you. All you need to do is punch in the code. He will take it from there, and you'll never want to live in the shelter again.

For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 
Romans 6: 4-5

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Settler Theology and Pioneer Theology

There are two visions of life, two kinds of people. The first see life as a possession to be carefully guarded. They are called settlers. The second see life as a wild, fantastic, explosive gift. They are called pioneers.

These two types give rise to two kinds of theology: Settler Theology and Pioneer Theology. According to Wes Seeliger in his book, Western Theology, the first kind, Settler Theology, is an attempt to answer all the questions, define and housebreak some sort of Supreme Being, establish the status quo on golden tablets in cinemascope. Pioneer Theology is an attempt to talk about what it means to receive the strange gift of life. The Wild West is the setting for both theologies.

In Settler Theology, the church is the courthouse. It is the center of town life. The old stone structure dominates the town square. Its windows are small and this makes things dark inside. Within the courthouse walls, records are kept, taxes collected, trials held for bad guys. The courthouse is the settler’s symbol of law, order, stability, and—most importantly—security. The mayor’s office is on the top floor. His eagle eye ferrets out the smallest details of town life.

In Pioneer Theology, the church is the covered wagon. It’s a house on wheels, always on the move. The covered wagon is where the pioneers eat, sleep, fight, love and die. It bears the marks of life and movement—it creaks, is scarred with arrows, bandaged with baling wire. The covered wagon is always where the action is. It moves toward the future and doesn’t bother to glorify its own ruts. The old wagon isn’t comfortable, but the pioneers don’t mind. They are more into adventure than comfort.

In Settler Theology, God is the mayor. He is a sight to behold. Dressed like a dude from back East, he lounges in an over-stuffed chair in his courthouse office. He keeps the blinds drawn. No one sees him or knows him directly, but since there is order in town, who can deny that he is there? The mayor is predictable and always on schedule. The settlers fear the mayor, but look to him to clear the payroll and keep things going. Peace and quiet are the mayor’s main concerns. That’s why he sends the sheriff to check on the pioneers who ride into town.

In Pioneer Theology, God is the trail boss. He is rough and rugged, full of life. He chews tobacco, drinks straight whiskey. The trail boss lives, eats, sleeps, fights with his people. Their well-being is his concern. Without him the wagon wouldn’t move; living as a free man would be impossible. The trail boss often gets down in the mud with the pioneers to help push the wagon, which often gets stuck. He prods the pioneers when they get soft and want to turn back. His fist is an expression of his concern.

In Settler Theology, Jesus is the sheriff. He’s the guy who is sent by the mayor to enforce the rules. He wears a white hat, drinks milk, outdraws the bad guys. The sheriff decides who is thrown into jail. There is a saying in town that goes: those who believe the mayor sent the sheriff, and follow the rules, they won’t stay in Boothill when it comes their time.

In Pioneer Theology, Jesus is the scout. He rides out ahead to find our which way the pioneers should go. He lives all the dangers of the trail. The scout suffers every hardship, is attacked by the Indians. Through his words and actions he reveals the true intentions of the trail boss. By looking at the scout, those on the trail learn what it means to be a pioneer.

In Settler Theology, the Holy Spirit is the saloon girl. Her job is to comfort the settlers. They come to her when they feel lonely, or when life gets dull or dangerous. She tickles them under the chin and makes everything okay again. The saloon girl squeals to the sheriff when someone starts disturbing the peace.

In Pioneer Theology, the Holy Spirit is the buffalo hunter. He rides along with the covered wagon and furnishes fresh meat for the pioneers. Without it they would die. The buffalo hunter is a strange character—sort of a wild man. The pioneers can never tell what he will do next. He scares the hell out of the settlers. He has a big black gun that goes off like a cannon. He rides into town on Sunday to shake up the settlers. You see, every Sunday morning, the settlers have a little ice cream party in the courthouse. With his gun in hand the buffalo hunter sneaks up to one of the courthouse windows. He fires a tremendous blast that rattles the whole courthouse. Men jump out of their skin, women scream, dogs bark. Chuckling to himself, the buffalo hunter rides back to the wagon train shooting up the town as he goes. 

In Settler Theology, the Christian is the settler. He fears the open, unknown frontier. His concern is to stay on good terms with the mayor and keep out of the sheriff’s way. “Safety first” is his motto. To him the courthouse is a symbol of security, peace, order, and happiness. He keeps his money in the bank. The banker is his best friend. The settler never misses an ice cream party.

In Pioneer Theology, the Christian is the pioneer. He is a man of daring, hungry for a new life. He rides hard, knows how to use a gun when necessary. The pioneer feels sorry for the settlers and tries to tell them of the joy and fulfillment of life on the trail. He dies with his boots on.

In Settler Theology, the clergyman is the banker. Within his vault are locked the values of the town. He is a highly respected man. He has a gun, but keeps it hidden in his desk. He feels that he and the sheriff have a lot in common. After all, they both protect the bank.

In Pioneer Theology, the clergyman is the cook. He doesn’t furnish the meat. He just dishes up what the buffalo hunter provides. This is how he supports the movement of the wagon. He never confuses his job with that of the trail boss, scout, or the buffalo hunter. He sees himself as just another pioneer who has learned how to cook. The cook’s job is to help the pioneers pioneer.

In Settler Theology, faith is trusting in the safety of the town: obeying the laws, keeping your nose clean, believing the mayor is in the courthouse.

In Pioneer Theology, faith is the spirit of adventure: the readiness to move out, to risk everything on the trail. Faith is obedience to the restless voice of the trail boss.

In Settler Theology, sin is breaking one of the town’s ordinances.

In Pioneer Theology, sin is wanting to turn back.
In Settler Theology, salvation is living close to home and hanging around the courthouse.

In Pioneer Theology, salvation is being more afraid of sterile town life than death on the trail. Salvation is joy at the thought of another day to push on into the unknown. It is trusting the trail boss and following his scout while living on the meat furnished by the buffalo hunter.

Lion and Lamb: the Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, Brennan Manning, Chapter 3, Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, NJ, 1986.3


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rejection without Reason

Rejection. Ouch, it hurts just reading the word. It's a common issue, something we all experience. Some of us are just learning the sting of it, others of us have endured more than our fair share. It's painful. It sucks. It hits us out of the blue, bringing confusion and heartache. But Jesus says....it's normal.

I would have to put myself in the category of those who have endured more than our fair share of rejection. I've experienced it in my closest relationships from people who were supposed to love me. Parents. Siblings. Husband. Pastors. Friends. The most painful and difficult rejection was when I was rejected for no apparent reason. Literally, I did nothing wrong. Which means I did everything right. So, when rejection hit, there was no way for me to fix it. There was nothing for me to fix because I hadn't done anything to break it. My hands were tied. The relationship was hijacked by the other person and all I could do was grieve and find a way to accept it. If there had been an obvious problem that could be addressed, maybe I'd stand a chance at attempting reconciliation. But with no reason or communication, I had no choice but to deal with "I no longer want you".

If you know and understand how this feels let me assure you that you are not alone. I can relate to your frustration. I know the feeling of injustice when we are forced to deal with consequences that result from someone else's actions. Better than me, however, you are in Good Company. Jesus himself was rejected by the very people He came to save. Was He rejected by His generation because He did something wrong? NO. Was He somehow at fault? NO. Was His love returned to him with a "no, thanks" for no valid reason? YES. If it can happen to the Son of God, my darlings, it is gonna happen to us.

If someone rejects my love, my default reaction is to think it's me. That I did something wrong. My heart immediately searches for guilt. There are times though that there is simply no explanation. My forty-two years on this earth have taught me that people can be catty and weird and insecure and selfish and mean and unfair. I have to force myself to consider this when I am standing alone watching someone walk out of my life when I really want them to stay. 

The next time you find yourself in this painful place, and you know that you have clean hands and a pure heart, let me encourage you to celebrate the fact that you are being made a little more like Christ. He understands. He knows the sting. He has comfort for you. Don't doubt yourself. Stand strong. Keep your head up. Turn it to God and ask Him to validate you. Don't let your confidence walk out the door with whoever is rejecting you. These things happen and there can be nothing wrong with your heart. A treasure that can be found in a dark place like this is that in spite of the pain of rejection without reason, you can still forgive and keep loving. Keep doing right. Just because someone does the wrong thing does not mean you have to stop doing right thing. Throw a party for yourself and celebrate your tender heart. Turn the broken relationship over to the Healer. Ask God to restore. He can fill voids of rejection in such awesome, creative ways. Try to consider that there can be all kinds of reasons that people reject us, that have nothing to do with us. Like maybe they don't understand us or don't know what to do with us. Or maybe they are just rejecting God in us. Perhaps immaturity is reigning. Or maybe the timing was just wrong.

You are never ever alone. Humans may leave but God never will. If you feel like you have been deserted for carrying the banner of righteousness, lean back into the strong arms of the cornerstone that was rejected. Feel His hand on yours, lending you strength, holding that banner with you, knowing just how you feel.

"For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me."  
John 5:43 

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

My prayer for you (and me, both!) is that 2012 would bring....

* increased strength and wisdom to face whatever challenges the year holds

* more assurance of God's unfailing love

* every disappointment or heartbreak would cause us to turn to Him for the stability and comfort we need

* blessing, forgiveness and grace would flow through us to every person we encounter

* many wonderful blessings and....

* a year full of LOVE.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

i'm still here.....

Sorry for my lengthy absence! I would never leave you for a month without a good reason.

I had major abdominal surgery to correct damage to my belly caused from birthing four children...one being 11 pounds, 12 ounces...and I am healing slowly. The actual surgery went great. My surgeon (plastic surgeon, who also did a little "work" while he was putting my lower half back together) said he was able to achieve better results than "he thought he'd be able to". The night after the surgery...not so great. Remember how I said I don't always do well in hospitals? That for some reason my body takes offense to medical procedures? That the National Guard of Prayer needs to be called out when a doctor touches me?  Well, it all happened again. I started crashing a few hours into my recovery and have had several complications since.

Tomorrow will be four weeks into my six week recovery. Six weeks? Doctor, that doesn't apply to me, does it??? (Apparently, it does!). I have had a lot of pain, taken tons of heavy duty meds, and have struggled to get my strength back. It's killing to me to take all these medications. I am Miss Supplement. But, I've needed anesthesia, pain meds, antibiotics, muscle relaxers, aspirin, anti-inflammatories, sleeping pills, anxiety pills, and more antibiotics. Ahhh!!! I am going to need a major detox when all this is over!

So, that's what I've been up to. Resting. Healing. Praying. Trying to be a patient patient but really ready to feel normal again.

I am looking forward to a fun fall. Picking pumpkins, celebrating birthdays, walking on the beach, going to football games, spending Thanksgiving with family, and working on a Christmas dance. I don't like having to say goodbye to summer, though. This was a great summer. Here is a video I put together to show what my life has been like the past few months. I hope it makes you smile.

I appreciate your prayers while I continue to heal.