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Monday, November 25, 2013

Mercy

 

“… and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, on at the head and one at the feet.” John 20:12

Mercy.

It’s from the Latin, and it means “Price paid.”

The price that I SHOULD pay is one that I could never afford. The sin. The intentional and unintentional sin that has stained my life? Who can stand under it all?

Like Mary, I just wanted to see the One who’d taken all that I had done and had died for it. Naked and bleeding hanging on a cross, and now in a tomb.

I ran towards Him with all that I had and I tried in all the ways that my mind could imagine to get to Him. Church. Being good. Doing. Good.

It could never be enough. Finally, I was just so tired.  I remember just lying there crying. “I’m such a screw up God! I just can’t do it anymore! I can NEVER be good enough for YOU!” 

He waited.  I was alone and isolated like Mary at the well in the middle of the day.  Then He came to me IN my sin, and He said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more.”

Mercy.

When she arrived at the tomb and saw the angels, one at the head and one at the feet itt was the mercy seat. Truly the price HAD been paid.

“one cherub on the one end and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat  he made the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim spread out their wings above over shadowing the mercy seat with with their wings, with their faces one to another, toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim.” Exodus 37:8-9

It was His plan all along. What she was seeing was no longer a seat of mercy made my man, but the TRUE and LIVING mercy seat of God with the bed clothes of Christ as it’s lid and the angels proclaiming His life! Her life.

My life.

The price had been paid and her eyes finally saw and her mind finally understood.

I find it interesting that she was there alone. God could have had a host of angels and every disciple and even the Pharisees to come see that He’d meant what He said! When He first went to her she was also alone, but this time it was different. She’d first encountered Him when her life was steeped in sin and now? Oh now, it was not a disciple or a Pharisee, but a woman who had been forgiven of so much! The price had been paid.

Today He still comes to me. He’s always the same. Full of mercy and ever so gentle. Our relationship is so different, more defined and less tangled. I am less tangled. He causes my heart to quicken when He’s speaking and I know when He’s speaking I’d best listen and act on what He says.

He does not have to speak a word, and yet He reminds me daily that I am continuing to receive mercy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Conversation

 

“Great is the Lord and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.” Psalm 147:5

 

The lady with the purple toboggan.

The single mom who is a C.N.A. and wearing scrubs.

The single lady who was once abused and now living on her own.

They were just shoppers in a store, standing in a line in front of me, hoping to find a few things to help their families along. They were strangers and seemed to have little in common, and yet they had everything in common.

The lady with the toboggan turns to the C.N.A. and says, “Are you a nurse? I could not do what you do. People die! I get too attached. I don’t know how you do it.”

The CNA replies, “It’s just another part of the journey. This life is one journey and the next one is just another part. There might be SEVERAL journeys.”

I could not help it. The words just came from my mind and out of my mouth so quickly that I could not stop them.

“The Bible says, “It is appointed unto man once to die…” there are NOT several journeys. We have THIS life and what we do in THIS life determines our eternity.”

The store went silent. For a moment, as I folded clothes there at the counter, no one spoke. The silence was suddenly deafening.

The single abused woman spoke up. “What did you say?”

I looked at them and they were ALL staring at me. They had arms full of clothes for their families and so there was a commonality, but there was more. This was what God had orchestrated.

I reply, “I said, “It is appointed unto man once to die.” (Hebrews 6). You see, we will ALL die. The question is have you trusted Jesus, and do you walk with him in this life because there are only two options when you die. Heaven or hell.”

The woman in the toboggan, nervous now and trying to hide it…“I know! I need to be in church! I live right across the street and I don’t come! I need to come.”

The single abused woman kept going. She was too curious now.  “What does that MEAN? I have heard it before, but what does it MEAN to walk with Jesus?”

“It means do you trust Him and have a relationship with Him? Do you believe that He died for you and that He lives? Do you believe that He died for your sins and that one day you will be in heaven when you die?”

They all stared at me. Other people in the store shopped, but no one spoke. Everyone listened.

I silently prayed, “Speak, Lord. Show them YOU!”

The single lady again. “Oh, you have NO IDEA what I have done in my past! I don’t think He could forgive all of that.”

My friend was there helping me fold the clothes. She’d had her back to the conversation up until now and it was all that she could take. She turned around…

“No ma’am. You have no idea what I have done in my past!! And He HAS forgiven me.”

Again, they all stood in silence looking at both of us. You could see their minds at work and feel the presence of the Lord so strong that you could have reached out and touched it. 

The abused lady, “Do you KNOW what it would mean if I thought I could be forgiven for all that I’d done?”

I reply, “Yes. I do. I know because I know what it means to ME to be forgiven for all that I’ve done!! All of us have a past.”

Her eyes widened and a look of disbelief.

“You see I have a different past than yours, but I have one! I had to come to Jesus and tell Him that I was sorry for that. I know you have heard the word “repent.” It’s a word you hear in church, but what it REALLY means is to turn around. You have to TURN around from your sinful life and go in the other direction TOWARDS God. You just have to know that He loves you SO much that He died for you and He wants a relationship with you. That “walking with God” that we talked about earlier.”

The abused lady, “Yeah. I have heard of repent. I had no idea what that meant.”

I had the the lady with the toboggan’s clothes folded and ready to go. I ask, “Do you need a Bible?”

“Oh yes! I obviously need to go home and read it!”

I get a piece of paper and start writing… Jeremiah 29:11, John 3:16…

“Read the book of John,” I say.

The abused lady, “I have Bibles. I have read my Bible before, but I don’t understand. I need the service times for your church. I also live across the street, but I am too lazy to do anything about it. I need this. I need to come. I am going to come.”

God and His timing. God’s Word. God’s plan and God’s power. They all wrapped themselves up in a moment in time and people heard the truth in a clothes closet. Were it not for His saving power in my life I would have absolutely nothing to share. His power changed me and I will never be the same. I am praying that His Word and His will for their lives will take hold and He will be given all honor and glory and praise for lives saved and changed once again. Today I stood and beheld the power of our great God and His all powerful Word.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thankful in New Ways

Just like everyone else, as Thanksgiving approaches I begin to think of the things that I am truly thankful for. I have claimed and named the year of 2013 as “The Year the Lord Opened My Eyes” and this Thanksgiving is keeping in step with that theme.

Growing up in the U.S. I have definitely had the idea that I am “entitled” to everything that I have had throughout my life. I mean, OF COURSE we live in that neighborhood! YES, I went to the mall and got the latest clothes from the Gap and WHY DO YOU THINK I wouldn’t have money to go out to dinner anytime I wanted?

So, my thankful list looked like:

1.God

2. my home

3. family

You know? Just kind of what you’d expect.

Now, do NOT get me wrong. I am STILL thankful for those things. There is nothing at all wrong with any of those and they are still my top three. Hands down I am so thankful for them, and I thank God for them every single day!

I guess this year there are just new dimensions. The thankfulness doesn’t just stop with one word of gratitude on a list that anyone growing up in the U.S. might make.

Along with seeing more than I ever dreamed through Africa and the clothes closet I have also read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

 

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and I am quite sure that the way that I see things will never be the same. Praise God, they will never be the same!

You see, my list probably looks more like this now.

1.God- in His infinite wisdom and grace who chooses to meet the needs of people whose hearts are hardened to Him and His Word and who never gets tired of loving me in spite of my selfish heart and my sinful thoughts… His beauty that overwhelms me and the way that He is always, always, always pursuing me.

2. My home- with it’s windows of glass and it’s warmth in winter… with running water than I can make warm or cold and indoor plumbing that I can use whenever I might have the need. For it’s beds with blankets and kitchen with food and for the light that shines through by the light of the moon or the warmth of the lights from the lamps at night.

3. family- for love and arms to come home to. For commitment and dreams shared. For smiles that light up your day and for tears that we endure together. For dinners shared and for days that end in prayer. For those we can lean on and for those who love us through the good and bad, and for lives shared when things get hard.

I have seen some things that will forever change me and I pray that it is for the good. God has ways of working in us when we least expect it, and I pray that this Thanksgiving I am able to pass that on to those that I love.

Lord, work in all of me. Help me to see what I need to see and change me for the good. I love you and thank you for loving me! Thank you, Lord. Thank you!

Friday, November 15, 2013

On Her Doorstep

They came in and sat in a chair near the door. There were two of them and they were tiny. It was obvious that they were sisters and neither of them made a sound. It was cold outside and they sat back to back wearing dirty little jackets. Someone had braided their hair in intricate designs close to their heads. They had beautiful little faces and smiled easily. I loved them from the minute they walked in.

They were with their aunt. “I have not been here in a long time,” she said. “I really need some help. When I shopped before it was for me and my three kids and now… I have three more.” She nodded towards the two sitting on the chair.

Three? I only see two. I say it, “You said three? Where’s the other one?”

“He’s asleep in his car seat in the car.”

I prayed she did not leave him alone.

“They showed up last week with the Sheriff. It was the middle of the night and somebody was banging on my door. I woke up and sat there for a minute hoping they’d go away. When they kept knocking I went to peek out. I saw the badge so I opened the door. There he stood with these two and their brother. He had just taken their mama to jail. All I have is the clothes they are wearing and I don’t know how long they will be with me. I barely have enough to clothe my own children. I have been washing their clothes every night so they’d have something clean each day. I’m trying to keep them clean and fed so they won’t worry. They are so little… just 2 and 3.”

I had to ask, “Where’s their dad?”

“He died. He was my brother. I can’t turn them away.”

I can’t help it. I ask again. “Why is she in jail?”

“I don’t know!!! It hasn’t been a week yet so I hope to get some answers soon. The cop just said she’d given my name and that I’d take her kids.They are babies. I can’t turn them away. They are so quiet and don’t cause much trouble, and I don’t know what they’ve seen. I just need clothes for them. Can you help me?”

We began to search the children’s racks. Finding baby clothes for the littlest one was easy. There’s usually a limit on the items they can take. Today we were just trying to find as much as we could.

She found just a couple of things in their sizes, and she just looked at me. Desperate.  “I am grateful, but is this all you have?”

I knew of a few things that we’d sorted and had kept in the back for when the store got low. I asked if the girls could come with me.

Each girl took a hand and came easily, their hands so tiny resting in mine. I led them to the back room where we had some small kid’s clothes hanging. As I started looking they both stood beside me watching until one rubbed her hands across the clothes like feeling a cloud. “Look at the clothes!” she said. “Will there be something for me?”

I prayed. “OH LORD! PLEASE let there be clothes for them!”

I started holding things up to size them against their tiny frames. I found a corduroy dress with fluffy teddy bears across the bottom. It was navy and it was her size! “I can have it?” she asked. “ I love it! Look at the bears!” She took it off of the small white hanger, rubbed the bears with her small hand and she never let go of it.

“Thank you.” She whispered.

I could not let her see my tears. I kept looking and praying that God would allow there to be more for her… anything for her and her sister.

We were able to find a long sleeve sweater for her sister and a sweatshirt for her. There was an outfit… pants, shirt and matching jacket that both probably could wear. We kept looking until we found several things for each girl.

I asked the girls, “Do you have a toothbrush?”

“No!” they said in unison.

I went to our box of toiletries and I found 2 new toothbrushes and some toothpaste. They both grabbed them and held them in their tiny hands… so excited to have something that was theirs.

Again…”Thank you.” This time they were smiling and they both hugged my neck so hard.

As we made our way back to the front of the store their aunt was anxiously waiting to see what we’d found. It was a start and she was grateful.

I know that a few clothes, a toothbrush, a hug will not solve their problems or bring their mama or daddy back. I can’t help but to think of what might happen to them and pray with all earnest the The Lord will hold them as they already face more in this life than any child should have to endure. My hope, however, for THAT day was that they heard that someone cared and tried to help them make it through.

Fear. Uncertainty. Hopelessness. Hurt… so hard to handle as an adult. Crippling as a child. Passing through life without thought of how choices that we make might effect others… or maybe we are so desperate and we try ANYTHING even if it costs us… our very lives.

ONLY Christ can fill us and make us who we need to be. He alone is able to carry us.. hold us… fill the God sized hole that consumes us. Nothing else.. nothing else.