Join me Friday for more on this subject.
How do I know? he asks, that it is God and not positive words and energy bringing my stormy life peace?
The world can be so ugly that I can’t blame him for asking. His own life stained by the pain of a chronically ill parent and girlfriend. The news filled with grown up gangs who slice off someone’s head just because they hate someone else.
The whole, if God is a loving, powerful, miraculous God, then why would He…
I remember 1000 tiny reasons why, and I’m grateful to have counted, but that’s not how I really know. I remember hearing about the wonders of the universe, the amazement of creation, but the knowing is not found there…at least not for me. I can be talked into science and accidental beauty and perfection as unlikely as they may seem. I ponder if it is community and His Body, but although a thing of beauty, it is not them that brings certainty to my faith question. I think about my well worn, weathered security blanket and question whether it is His Words that bring the knowing? I am getting closer to the Truth, I can tell, but still not quite at my destination of Determined Purpose.
Then I remember dark nights when I wake on my own to a terror more tangible than pain, I remember sorrow so deep that I am certain I am no longer whole but broken in two and memories of circumstances far beyond my control that trap me into a claustrophobic corner. Yes this is how I know.
I know when my cross gets too heavy, when I have failed miserably, when the phone rings and the words I least want to hear are uttered.
I know when the valley seems too deep and the surrounding mountains too steep to scale even on my most athletic and healthy day.
Yes, ironically, these are the things that cause me to know.
Because what am I fighting if I’m not fighting real evil? Who am I struggling against if that evil isn’t personified? And if evil is personified as a Devil then who made him? Sometimes it’s easier to believe in the Devil than it is in God.
And why does the war continue to get more intense? If it’s just the ugliness of human nature, how do we know, really know deep inside,that things can be better, that we can be better?
And most importantly, how am I aware that I am not alone when that terror wakes me, when the television flickers real life horror, when the telephone rings with the worst news ever?
I know because out of knowwhere, He is here. In this room. Right now. In me and around me. He is here when He is knowwhere to be found in the shell shocked world. He comforts, coaches and soothes my battle scars.
I know because I know Him. I don’t just know of or about Him. I know Him. In the ancient writings a husband and wife knew each other and it was the most intimate of knowing, the closest two human beings can get and the fruit of that is a little bundle of perfect innocence. There is a knowing of spirits too and the fruit of it is that of transformation from the deepest parts. A changing from death to life.
I know One who has brought me to a place called Knowwhere, and in the place no thing is as reals as the One who carried me there. Yes there is a place called Knowwhere and here is the knowing. It is entered by grace and kept safe by faith.
I pray that the young man who asked the question has a Grace Day soon. The day he has the grace to believe that he can know. In the meantime, I am grateful for the question because it’s always good to remember why we know…Succinctly, precisely How. We. Know.
I know because He reveals. He reveals because He loves. He loves because that is Who He is. Now I live knowwhere, and it’s just where I want to be found.
I love this song.
It is the cry of my heart.
…except for one line. “I’m not afraid.”
because I am afraid.
and shouldn’t I be?
His voice makes the earth tremble.
He is the Great Judge.
He holds Life and Destruction
and considers them like a chef considers which spice to use.
He says that no man can look upon His face and live.
I only know that God longed to show His people His glory
in a desert far, far away.
But they were too afraid.
And it made Him sad.
I don’t want to make Him weep over my rejection of Him.
Is my fear essentially rejection?
It was for those desert travelers.
I wonder what it takes to be a Moses?
To be chosen to commune with God in a deeper way than the masses?
But did God choose Him, or did He choose God?
Moses, with his asking?
Do I only have to ask?
and then have the courage for the answer?
It is true, I am afraid,
but I think I’d risk that fear to see His glory.
Jacob saw God in the face of His brother Esau.
He saw glory in a common relationship.
He risked death and unforgiveness to see glory there.
Am I willing to seek Him in the face of another?
Jesus saw the glory of Solomon in lillies,
And David has directed us to the stars.
Saying that the heavens declare His glory.
Because the stars sing, you know.
And their song declares His glory.
Does my song declare His glory?
For I am reminded by my sister that I sing because I have a song.
Not because I have the answers.
And my heart cries, “Show me your glory!”
And my Love answers, “My glory is all around you!”
This is a repost…but I don’t think I could write a better description of my life today.
How to be deeply pressed and yet not be depressed.
How to remain under stress and not crack for the pressure cooker that transforms uncooked hard flesh to tender heart.
How to allow the bitter to turn sweet. How?
How to face giants without human companionship.
How to distinguish small still voices swallowed in roaring, raging winds.
How to say yes when it would be so much easier to say no. How?
Jesus, our mentor, has gone before us in every area, this one incuded. Pressed on every side, and pressured by the enemy to turn back from His assignment, he stayed. He stayed unmoving even under pressure that squeezed blood from His sweat glands. He did it for the joy that was set before Him.
And maybe this is how. Maybe we can do it for the joy that is set before us. The promises that seem just beyond our reach.
The lives who might be changed for our unmovable, unshakeable stand. The snatches of Glory in every day life, even in the midst of disappointment.
Those who loved Jesus best thought He would be a rising political force or an influential prophet. How He must have felt their disappointment! He didn’t appear to be the success others expected Him to be. I wonder if He was tempted to be disappointed Himself? But the joy that was set before Him was that of perfect obedience. Obedience that cared not for the whispers behind His back. The whispers of, “What a shame! He had such potential!” Obedience that desired His Father’s will above being understood by those closest to Him.
Though surrounded by His best friends, he was alone, and yet in this solidarity His biggest and best calling was realized. And in this Solitary Refinement the biggest and best of your callings will also be accomplished. So stay, dear one, stay still in the Garden, your most effective days are right around the corner.
Counting under pressure
Three gifts I gave:
Three things loved…
Three things read:
Gifts of faith, family and freedom.
Gifts of red, white and blue…
102. Blueberry crisp.
Three gifts of perseverance.
105. My pastor’s wife whose life speaks loud.
Three gifts of encouragement.
…sharing a playdate with Laura:
and at a new place for writers Unforced Rhythms of Grace.
1: not fit : not having requisite qualifications
Ever feel un or under qualified? Ever wonder, “How did I get here?”
I have. Lately I have often been reminded of my lack of qualification. The pressure of striving to make an “A” in every area of life leaves me feeling like Bilbo Baggins….
“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
Moses stuttered. God asked him to speak.
David led sheep. God asked him to lead a nation.
Abraham was sterile. God asked him to be the father of many nations.
It seems that in order to qualify for God’s work, unqualification is the number one qualification!
There are times that the opposite is true. We feel overqualified. We feel that certain work is beneath us or that we have grown past a season in life. “I’ve put in my time serving at the church,” we might justify. “It’s time for someone else to step in.
over·qual·i·fied adjective \-ˈkwä-lə-ˌfīd\
: having more education, training, or experience than a job calls for
Jesus is the epitome of over-qualification. The son of God came to earth as a man….and He came to serve.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (Philippians 2:5-8 MSG)
When it comes to serving mankind, there can nothing be beneath us.
: to make ineligible for a prize or for further competition because of violations of the rules
But the most difficult station of qualification to find oneself in is disqualification.
Did Joseph’s lack of discretion in telling his brothers his dreams disqualify him from a position which would require great discretion? No! In fact, the consequences of his indiscretion led to bringing him into the very place where he would become the wisest man alive!
Did the fact that Paul persecuted Christians disqualify him from becoming the man who discipled the gentile? History shouts a resounding, “No!”
When God shares with you His dreams for your life, or when you find yourself on a road and accosted by His presence, remember…God prefers the under-, over-and seemingly dis- qualified.
Maybe it’s because through our frailty He is made strong. Or perhaps it’s because when we are forced to depend on Him we are forced to acknowledge His workings in us…
He uses the foolish things to confound the wise. I am certain many have been confounded by my doings. I know I have! I should not be surprised by their accusations and defeating words, or by my own deafening doubts.
GOD’S WORD® Translation (©1995)
God never changes his mind when he gives gifts or when he calls someone
: a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence
It has been often said,
God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
It’s so easy to look at the people of faith in Scripture as qualified when we know the end of the story. But, how difficult it is to see that He has called us qualified in the midst of our own journey.
Sometimes He calls from a fiery bush, while other times He appears as a great light disrupting our plans, but most often He leads by a small, still voice saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” No matter which way calls, know that He who calls you also qualifies you.
Sharing at my friend Emily’s…
“While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight, I’ll fight to the very end!” And these are the words I grew up with. They were spoken by William Booth the founder of the Salvation Army.
My grandparents were Salvation Army ministers, and my parents were entrenched in the fight for racial equality in a very racially tense Chicago at a Salvation Army youth mission. Even as a young girl,…
Won’t you please join for me for the rest of this piece at Anita Mathias’ lovely spot Dreaming Beneath The Spires?
There are been dark times in my life. More than once.
Sometimes I have been blinded and groping in darkness, or a dreary gray, due to circumstances far beyond my control,
but most times I’ve been inflicted by the enemy called self.
There have been times when I’ve lost a grip on grace.
And instead of holding my hands open for more, I’ve clenched tight to what little I have, grasping so tightly that I can not receive gift.
But much of that has changed.
And it’s changed because of one word: Expect.
You see, I’ve always expected. I have had misplaced EXPECTations.
When I’ve EXPECTed the wrong things from the wrong people.
Trying to make them God, and me not responsible for my own future.
And I’ve often EXPTECTed the worst.
Trained like Pavlov’s dogs in a world of disappointment.
But I thought that I’d try my hand at something different.
I thought I would allow myself to have an EXPECTation full of hope in God.
I mean, He always comes through any way, so why not trust Him beforehand, instead of being shocked…
or worse yet, not noticing His provision afterward?
So, I just have to brag on God!
Since I’ve endeavored to be more hopeful and EXPECTant, the following blessings have come to my family:
1. My husband found a job where he is celebrated, has a ton of favor and has a bright future to do the things he most loves doing! (#247)
2. My son, the one who disliked school the most, got straight A’s in college. (#248)
3. My daughter received her dream role as Elizabeth Bennett in the play Pride & Prejudice. (#249)
4. I was offered a part-time position with a home school co-op. (which I turned down) (#250) <—-I’m a quarter way there!
5. My husband got an amazing vehicle from work! (#251)
6. I’ve received two scholarships from two different writing conference’s. Praise the Lord, since there was no way I could attend either without them! (We still are catching up from my husband’s time off of work.)(#252)
7. I received a call for an interview for a job position that would allow me to use many of the stones in my shepherd’s bag. (#253)
8. I was offered yet another part-time job. (#254)
9. I have the opportunity to write for a book compilation. (#255)
10. My daughter received several scholarships for college! (#256)
11. I was called for a second interview for the job position mentioned in number seven. (#257)
12. I was asked to be the first mob victim for a wonderful new project! (#258)
…and I’m sure that there are many things I’ve forgotten. I have chosen to expect that He will lead us through this time of transition, and He has proven to do more than we could think, hope or imagine!
When you consider that I felt at the end of my hope, and wrote this on February 7th, you can see how good God is, and how quickly He can turn things around for those who put their hope and confident EXPECTation in Him!
But I am trusting you, O Lord,
saying, “You are my God!”
15 My future is in your hands.
I had an epiphany doing what is ordinary, even mundane, tonight. We had Easter Dinner 2.0, fine china and all::Ham, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole and strawberry poppy seed salad. When conversation landed and plates were scraped clean, it was time to do dishes. They offered, but for some reason I declined the help. Instead, I started with the glasses and a sink full of almost scalding water capped with Ann’s bubbles, and it came to me. Why not make an event out of doing the dishes? So I blasted Mozart, and lit a candle, and enjoyed the method of it all; the music and it’s repetition, the order of washing: glasses, then plates, then serving dishes, then pans, and finally silverware after changing the water once. And then, I realize that what is usually a chore had become an event worthy of printed invitations and gowns. And He accepted my invitation: the invitation to my Ball of the Dish Washing. The ball where I served my family with the ordinary, only the idea He stuck in my head made it all extraordinary. So we danced in the kitchen, He and I.
and hurray! We’re back with Emily!
Criminals on either side, one bitter to the end, the other humbly repenting.
“Father forgive them for they know not what they have done, do and will do.”
“King of the Jews”
The sign jeered.
Man far from God
God far from man.
“It is not Myself
I am here to save.
It is you thief,
God close to man
Man close to God
In a moment
I remember the first time I gave a man a ride on my back. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, the day the stranger came and took me away. When my master’s servant called out, “What are you doing with my master’s donkey?” The man simply replied, “The Lord has need of him,” and kept walking. For some reason, that was enough for the servant.
When we got to where we were going, there was a Man waiting for us. He smiled at the stranger, put his hand on his shoulder as if He was going to say something and then changed His mind, stroking my neck. And His touch was like the warm sunshine, warm and soothing.
The stranger and his friends placed their coats on me so that the Man could ride on me. We began to ride through the streets and there were people assembled alongside the road as if they were expecting a parade. They were waving palm branches and shouting, “Hosanna! to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest.”
“Apparently, this man on my back is very important,” I thought, “I must be pretty important as well, to carry such a famous man.”
The people laid down the branches at my feet, making the road before me much more comfortable than the usual dry and dusty road. The longer we went, the more excited the people became, jumping and cheering, clapping and waving.
Finally, we came to the Temple, and He dismounted me. After stroking my nose, He went in. Another of my master’s servants came to me and said, “There you are. How did you get here?” He was further confused by the coats draped across my back. “Strange!” he said as he led me to the Temple stables for food and water.
“Who was that man, I had on my back?” I asked a mare who had been alongside the road and was now being groomed in the Temple stables.
“He is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee.”
“A prophet!” I thought. Why would a prophet want to ride a lowly donkey like me?
In the days that followed, I remembered what it was like to carry that Man on my back, His gentle smile and touch. I remembered the honor with which the people were greeting Him and felt warm inside that I should be chosen to give Him a ride.
About five days later, I was back home in my stable when I heard a commotion. I went to look out of the window in my stall. Once again, there were people lined up along the side of the road. “I wonder if the Prophet is having another parade?” I thought out loud. My ears perked up hoping He would choose me to ride on again. The oldest donkey in the stable, Old One, came alongside me.
This crowd was different, although I recognized many of the same faces. They were silent and suspicious. Many men had their arms crossed, or watched stroking their beards. Further down the road, I noticed a Man. He looked like the Prophet I had carried, but it couldn’t be Him. This man had been beaten, and had a crown of thorns on His head causing him to bleed. The drops of blood were dripping into His eyes, and He had gashes of open flesh on his back and legs. But the most obvious reason that I knew it must not be Him was that this Man carried a cross, and even I knew that crosses were reserved for criminals.
“Who is that Man?” I said to the Old One.
“That is the same man you gave a ride to five days ago,” he whinnied.
“That can not be! He was a good man. I know He was. I could tell by His touch. He couldn’t be deserving of such treatment! Especially by the same people who were honoring and praising Him just a few days ago.”
“Nevertheless, it is the same Man,” Old One responded.
“He must have done something wrong, for the people to allow this to happen!” I said. I was surprised at the feeling of shame I had for having carried this man. What would people think? I have transported a criminal, a prisoner?
“There are many reasons people will persecute another man. Often times, it has nothing to do with whether they have done something wrong or not. I only know that this Man comes from God.”
The road passed quite close to my stable, and the Prophet (or was He a criminal?) was almost even with my window now. He stumbled and fell under the weight of the heavy cross He carried. A soldier came and kicked Him, as He struggled to His feet. The Prophet looked up at us, and I could swear He gave a slight smile.
I turned my eyes downward, feeling guilty for my previous feeling of doubt.
I stirred up all of my courage and looked out the window again. With great effort, He lifted the cross from the road.
“But Old One, this isn’t fair! He is a good man. These people, how can they change their opinion of someone so quickly?”
Old One stayed silent, and I remembered how quickly I had gone from pride to embarrassment about my associations with Him.
Just then, a little further up the road, a weeping woman came into the Man’s path.
“I once gave this Man and woman a ride,” Old One reflected.
“You did?” I was amazed that he had never mentioned this before, especially in light of the fact, that I had repeated the story of my ride with the Prophet often in the past few days.
“Yes, I gave them a ride many years ago when I was about your age. This woman was great with child. There were no inns with available rooms that day, and she bore the baby, the Prophet, right there in the stable where I was resting from the long ride. This Man is from God. He is special. There were angels in the room and shepherds came to worship Him. He slept in the very manger I had eaten out of earlier that evening. The stars even sang and worshiped celebrating His arrival. This man is not merely a Prophet, but the Son of God.”
“Can’t we do something? Can’t He do something? Isn’t He known for His miracles?”
“I believe He could do something, but chooses not to.”
“Old One, what will happen if the people kill this Son of God? Will the world end?”
“I do not know,” Old One moved away from the window and laid down with a humph.
All morning, I wondered what was happening to this Son of God. Had the people come to their senses? Did they remember that just a few days before they had been worshiping this man? I also remembered how He smiled at me, even with the burden of His cross, even after I had be ashamed for a moment at having given Him a ride.
Later that day, my master decided to go to the Temple. “Let’s take you out for your first ride,” he said. I guess he didn’t know that the Son of God had already taken me out for a ride.
As we rode toward the Temple, the sky began to darken, and the wind began to blow. Just before we arrived at the Temple, the dust around my feet began to swirl, lightening began to flash. I thought back to my conversation with Old One. Was this the end? Did they kill the Prophet, the Son of God? The ground began to quake. The whole earth was shaking. I began to bray as I lost my balance. People everywhere were running and shouting, “This is the end! What is happening?” Priests ran out of the Temple shouting something about the curtain being torn and that we would all surely die. And then, just as quickly as it all started, it was finished. My master got up and dusted himself off. He checked to see if I was okay, petting my neck. He led me into the Temple stables where pandemonium still ruled the day, and went into the Temple to see if his help was needed.
The servants worked hard to calm the animals. They hadn’t had such a stir in quite some time. About a half an hour later, a strong military horse came into the stables. He began to speak about what he had seen that afternoon. He said that his master was a Roman soldier who had been at that afternoon’s crucifixion.
“Jesus, the Prophet was on the center cross, and two thieves were on either side of Him,” he started.
“One of the thieves,” he continued, “cried out sarcastically, ‘Are you not the Christ? Rescue Yourself and us from death!’
But the other soldier answered him, ‘Do you not even fear God? We suffer justly receiving what we deserve, but this Man has done nothing out of the way.’
Then he turned to Jesus and said, ‘Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingly glory!’
And then Jesus answered, ‘Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.’
And then the sky began to darken and the wind began to blow. The men on the hill tried not to look nervous or frightened, but their scent betrayed them.
The ground began to shake when Jesus cried out, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!’ That is when my master recognized his part in what had happened. He fell to his knees weeping, and saying, ‘Indeed, without question, this Man was upright!'”
The horse paused here, as if for dramatic effect. “My master gently and tenderly helped take this Man off of the cross and draped him over me. He and another man took His body to a tomb. His blood remains on me this moment.”
Some of the Temple groomers had come into the stalls now. They paid special attention to the military horse, combing and brushing his coat, washing the blood from his sides.
“Some say, this Jesus was the Son of God,” one said.
“I fear He must have been, for Whose death causes heaven and earth to respond in such a way? I heard that it was this horse that carried His body to the tomb. It is His blood on our hands.”
“Did you hear that He forgave the very men who killed Him?”
The rest of the day the Temple stable was silent. My master came out later, quiet and questioning. When we got back to the stable, Old One was waiting for me. After I told him the horse’s story, I said, “Old One, those men didn’t deserve to be forgiven. Some of them were the very same ones who had given Jesus the parade a few days ago. They deserve no forgiveness.”
Old One chuckled a raspy old donkey chuckle, “Perhaps this is why He came. To give man (and your case, donkey) the ability to forgive.”
I remembered Jesus’ eyes when I looked through the window, ashamed at my association with Him. They were eyes of forgiveness. Earlier that day, I had wondered if it was the end of the world, but now I had a feeling it was the beginning of a new world. A world for which God cared enough to send His Son to forgive even the worst betrayal. A world in which man now had an example of forgiveness. It was then that I realized that forgiveness changes everything, because forgiveness had changed me.
Written by kd sullivan Easter 2011