An Awful Lot of Scandal: Part Ib

Jesus with meHis footsteps come on the heels of those whose hands are dipped in blood, in lies, in adultery and prostitution. HIS hands are clean, untainted by any kind of evil whatsoever. But does He strut? Does He take this opportunity, handed to Him on the silver platter of centuries, to rub it in the faces of those less righteous than He?

No.

His pace is meek, His dignity unassuming and humble. He is preceded by men with tarnished reputations and He is surrounded by them as well, but He taunts no one. He does not make a noisy celebration of His own exemplary example. He does not say, “See, this is what you should be like and I am better than you for being so.”

No.

Rather, He does the most astounding thing. He does a thing that the most righteous of human beings have never even contemplated. He takes His exemplary example, His righteous reputation, His flawless life and He walks up to me and says…

“Let’s trade.”

…What?

“You are drowning in regret, swathed in a past that is rife with wrong, more so than with right. But I have come, and walked upright and righteous — see? No stains. So come, let us trade.”

You mean to say…You’ve done all that work of righteousness, not to illuminate and chastise my own unrighteousness, but to trade….righteousness for unrighteousness?

Yes.

His footsteps come on the heels of those whose hands are dipped in blood, in lies, in adultery and prostitution. HIS hands are clean, untainted by any kind of evil whatsoever…

Some would say it’s the greatest scandal, that this King would give up His reputation in exchange for one like mine.

I say it is The Most Beautiful Scandal Of All.

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An Awful Lot Of Scandal: Part I

Heartbroken by NanFe

Heartbroken by NanFe

I have a past that includes promiscuity and adultery. I believe this fact is one of the things that drives me to love Jesus so vehemently. Like He said to Simon the Pharisee, one who is forgiven much, loves much but one who is forgiven little, loves little.

Lately, though, my past has been driving me in another direction: performance-based faith. I’ve been subconsciously trying to “earn” God’s love or “pay Him back” for His gift of Jesus’ life, with my actions. All the while, in the back of my mind, is the belief that I’ll never be pleasing to God because of my past; I’ll never be worthy of His love; He’ll never be able to use me powerfully because I haven’t been able to walk the straight and narrow (like Joseph…or Daniel…). This has been a pretty crippling issue lately; it keeps me from reaching out to the people around me. It also keeps me from fully using the gifts and talents He’s given me to reflect His glory; I figure I’m not worthy, so why bother?

Well. Yesterday, I learned a very, very interesting thing about Jesus’ past.

You know how the Bible calls Him the Lion of Judah? He’s called that because He was a descendant of the tribe of Judah. Do you know who Judah was? I didn’t. I mean, I’d read about Judah before but I never made the connection that 1.) he was Joseph’s brother and 2.) he’s the man that God chose to continue Christ’s lineage. So let me tell you about Judah.

1. He participated in the plan to murder his brother Joseph. (Genesis 37:18-28) Reuben suggested they spare him by throwing him into a pit, rather than killing him. Apparently, Reuben intended to return Joseph to his father later. It’s noted in my Bible’s commentary that Reuben may have been trying to get back in his father’s good graces after having slept with one of his father’s concubines. It seems that at some point, while Reuben was not around, Judah suggested they sell Joseph because “what is our gain if we kill him and cover his blood?” So Judah was the brain behind selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. (That’s only ten pieces less than the price that Jesus was sold to the guards for, by Judas.)

2. Judah’s firstborn son was evil. In fact, he was so evil that God put him to death! (Genesis 38:7)

3. He was not a man of his word. It’s a long story, so I’ll let you read it for yourself, if you like (Genesis 38), but the short version is, he promised his daughter-in-law something and didn’t deliver.

4. He apparently visited the local prostitutes rather frequently; this is how his daughter-in-law was able to deceive him and manipulate him into keeping his word — which also resulted in illegitimate twins!

The Bible is very clear about God’s sovereignty; He does what He wants when He wants through whomever He wants. He is not bound by man’s choices. Knowing all of that, don’t you find it interesting that He *chose* to go through Judah’s line in order to bring Jesus into the world? And get this: not only did He choose to go through Judah, He chose to go through one of the illegitimate twins birthed between him and his daughter-in-law!

If you take a closer look at the lineage of Jesus, there are some other noteworthy characters:

1. “The wife of Uriah” – Bathsheba, the one that David committed adultery with.

2. David himself, an adulterer AND a murderer.

3. Guess who else? That’s right, Solomon, the son of Bathsheba and David!

God, despite being sovereign, did not choose to keep the lineage of Jesus free from scandal. Why is that? Since God is holy and righteous, and since He despises sin, wouldn’t it stand to reason that He would use the most moral and righteous people to bring His Son into the world?? People like Joseph, who despite being sold into slavery by his brothers, did not hold it against them? Why would God CHOOSE to use people like Judah, Bathsheba, Tamar, and David? People with pasts and pretty scandalous ones, at that.

This is the question I went to bed chewing on last night. And God gave me a few insights. But I’m not going to share them with you today because it’s a question worth chewing on and I want you to have a chance to see what God would have you discover through that question. For some of you, the insights seem obvious. I will tell you, there were obvious insights to me too, but God nudged me last night to go deeper and doing so eventually brought tears to my eyes. So I would encourage you not to settle for the obvious. Sit down with God and take it a little deeper.

Mind you, there is not ONE right insight. And you may or may not come up with the same ones that I did. But I *do* think you’ll come up with More Than The Obvious if you give God a chance to speak to you, and I’m positive it will be a joyful experience.

Later this week, I’ll share what I gleaned from chewing on this particular question. I think I’ll even take the opportunity to chew on it some more.

Feel free to comment on this post or send me a message sharing the insights that God gives you. (And let me know if you’d be okay with me sharing them in my next post.)

For now, I will leave you to your chewing. ;)

 

Just Do It.

I’m getting it over and over: do something with your writing. For the last several months, I’ve been getting this message but like a shy 1st grader getting a compliment on her dress, I just smile and nod. In my head I think, “What could I possibly do with my writing? I don’t feel driven to write a book—I barely feel driven to blog!” But the message came yet again today; every time it comes, I’ve felt that little nudge that comes from the Holy Spirit but honestly? I’m waiting for Him to push me. Nudges are so easily mis-perceived, you know? I mean it IS a nudge, it’s slight and barely there, so later I wonder if maybe I was making it up after all…but of course, God gets through all that by nudging me over and over so many times that I start to realize, I am NOT making this up.

Or, like today, He nudges me and then He follows up with another one, a little stronger but not quite a push.

One more person to add to the list of People God Has Nudged Me With. And I had the same response: “Hm. But what? I don’t know what to do…” and then I let myself get distracted with something else. Funny thing was, God didn’t. And since I was expecting Him to let me get away with distracting myself (like He has been the last several nudges), I totally didn’t see it coming:

“Have you walked this path? Deep within the recesses of your soul you know the Lord is leading you to do something in particular. Though the impression is unrelenting, you’re at a significant crossroads in your life.  Should you or shouldn’t you?

I’ve stood in this threshold as well, transfixed by the possibility of what could be yet mired in the fear of being wrong. How will I know this is what I am to do, I wonder. I don’t want to get it wrong.

The thriving Believer encounters this on a regular basis.  But even the Israelites who had the benefit of messages given directly from God, from God’s anointed and from God’s angels still wondered if indeed they had understood correctly.

Zechariah’s response in Luke 1 doesn’t surprise me. The angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, appeared to Zechariah explaining he and Elizabeth would have their long time prayer answered. A child.

What were his first words? “How shall I know this?” I see a lot of me in that answer. It’s rife with doubt and hesitation. And it cost him. He couldn’t speak until the baby was born and named John.

Yet we are called to trust, to a life buoyed by ardent belief. Ebullient faith.” (from http://wp.me/p24pA6-aM)

Okay, so God wasn’t letting me table it again this time. Phooey.

Earlier in the post I just quoted, she talks about how her husband prayed and asked God to confirm it for them four different ways. It was on the tip of my tongue to do the same thing, but I could almost hear God audibly say, “Uh-uh-uh…” and I sheepishly realized I was STILL just trying to find a way to table it; because God had already confirmed it and I knew it.

“Okay God…what am I supposed to do, really?”
Just start writing.
Really? That’s all?
But of course that’s all; I keep forgetting that doing what God nudges me to do is not about pulling off some amazing fireworks display of whatever He tells me to do. It’s not my job to wow anyone or get published or anything. He hasn’t been nudging me to put off fireworks, He’s been nudging me to “do something with my writing” and if I’m honest, I haven’t been doing anything. I put words in my blog when I think I have something worthy of telling the world—and yes, that’s doing something with my writing but that wasn’t what He wanted because it was manufactured and polished. He wants all of my writing, the unpolished, the heartfelt, the what-seems-to-me-to-be-meaningless writing, all of it.

Because it’s not my job to put on a show; that’s His job and His alone because He’s the only One who should ever be ooh’d and aah’d at in the first place.

So I have absolutely no idea where this road is going to take me but I’ve finally made my choice; I’m going to write and I’m going to wait and see what God does with it. And I know that, whatever it is, it’ll be exhilarating cos that’s the really interesting thing about God: when He uses you to bring glory to Himself, He makes it exhilarating and always, always in the end, worth it. Almost always painful, too, but still exhilarating—and the joy makes up for the pain, kind of like giving birth…

So here we go.

Planning Ahead For Looking Back

Every year, I wish I’d done a better job of documenting the previous year. I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, mostly because I don’t trust myself to follow through, but this year, I’m making one: Better documentation of life throughout the year so that, next year, I’m not wishing I’d done a better job of it!

I’m sharing my ideas and plans here for two reasons:

– It might inspire someone.
– I would love—read LOVE—to hear your thoughts and ideas about how you document various aspects of your life.

And now for The Details:

Evernote* has been on and off my radar ever since it first came out a few years ago. I have decided to use it as a hub for my Better Documentation because:
» I’m a geek and I like things in the cloud, rather than on paper. (I can always print it out on paper, if I get a hankering.) Evernote is The Ultimate Portal to “the cloud”. I can use it on my phone or on my PC or via my email from someone else’s PC! (I use Gmail because I also like my email in the cloud.)
» I like to do everything with my phone— (no, EVERYthing. I’m writing this post from my phone [thank you WordPress!] and I’m annoyed that they haven’t yet developed a phone that turns into a car — and also a bed ;)). But when I don’t feel like thumbing it out on my phone, it will be nice to be able to access/add to my notebooks from my computer.
» I can create multiple notebooks and post pictures, videos, notes— even files! —to them. It will be a virtual library of scrapbooks, without the clutter! Evernote also has the handy capability of searching for text within images!!! So if I jot “Dream House Floorplan” on a napkin while at the coffee shop, draw out the floorplan, take a picture of it and upload it to Evernote, I can do a search later for “dream house” and Evernote will find that image! That’s just geeky coolness, even if I don’t end up utilizing that feature much. ;)
» Did I mention you can also share individual posts and/or whole notebooks from Evernote with your friends and family??

So those are the reasons I’m picking Evernote as my primary tool for accomplishing this year’s resolution. On to the good stuff…

The Resolution
1. I WILL take a picture of my family once a week (group or single shots). At the end of the year, I’ll have at least 52 pictures documenting how we have changed in appearance.
2. I WILL write a diary entry every day, no matter how short. I plan to include Weather, Mood, and Highlights from the day. I HOPE to include daily details as often as possible, but realistically, it’s going to be tough enough just getting the basic details down on a daily basis. But the FUN part of all this will be in two years, when I can look at diary entries from exactly a year ago and see what we were doing and how I was feeling (and whether or not it was raining that day too!).
3. I WILL take more pics and videos of the kids!! These will be posted to Evernote with a specific tag so they can be meshed in with everything else but capable of being separated into their own group for easier browsing.
4. Lastly, I plan to have a virtual scrapbook of get-togethers, parties, and other events or special odds & ends. It will contain things like pictures of birthday cards, movie tickets, group photos, cherished gifts, favorite clothing, etc.

Interestingly enough, as I was brainstorming all of this yesterday and today, one of my best friends was apparently having a similar inspiration. She discovered something called a “Smash Book“. You can see a short but very descriptive video of it here: http://youtu.be/_PFsArr4Z1s

Basically, it’s the papery, non-geek version of what I’ll be doing with Evernote— and it’s pretty cool. If you’re not a cloud-freak like I am, or if you like being able to touch mementos, you should check it out. It’s a great concept, and while they sell everything you could possibly need to make one, there are lots of YouTube videos on how to make your own.

So there you have it: my ideas for better documentation of my family’s life in the coming year. Did any of it inspire you?

Please share your thoughts, suggestions, and original ideas because I would love the opportunity to be inspired by YOU! :)

___
*I was not asked to promote any of the products mentioned in this post nor was I compensated for said promotion. The entire post is comprised of my own thoughts, opinions, and preferences.

Everything here is exactly what has been in my brain the last three days. I agree 100% with every single word. It is hope for a dying world—read it and be encouraged!

Power Of A Moment

A text from a  dear friend crashed into my day of Christmas shopping on Friday afternoon.

Her words on my phone relayed the horrifying news of what had happened at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, CT.

The mind reels. How could anyone do  this????

The heart breaks for the shattering loss. Five year olds??? A mother killed by her demented son’s own hand???

The deepest part of the soul cries out for comfort. For justice. For answers that may never come this side of eternity. Why???

I turn on the satellite radio as I drive home, my heart growing heavier as more unfathomable, grisly details emerge.

At one point, I hear a television anchor from one of the 24 hour cable news channels interviewing a pastor whose name I don’t catch. The pastor begins to talk about the pivotal moment of the Fall, when the heart of man became…

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Runs To Meet Me

I’ve been overwhelmed, agitated, moody and mean.
Everything has been “going wrong”. Or it seems that way. Possibly it’s my attitude? But no really, things just keep going WRONG. Wrong = not the way I wanted them to go. They’re breaking or dropping or spilling or not coming out clean. The dog poops on the carpet, babyMan dumps his bowl of mac and cheese on the carpet, the toaster oven won’t toast, darling Bear got the wrong thing at the store…Oh dear, and I FORGOT….I forgot that Thing and it’s super important and holy whoa, now all the laundry and dishes and everything else will fall behind because I have to be on the phone for the next five hours in panic mode…

It’s time for dinner and I don’t feel like cooking. I’ve yelled at my kids entirely too much today. I’m mad at myself for that and somehow, that just makes me yell more. I’m snapping. Snapping at my husband, snapping at the kids, snapping at the dog — whoa, did I just snap at God?? I think I did. :(

Night after night of struggling to sleep, struggling through anger, struggling through frustration, wrestling with anxiety, wrestling with control. Each night, hoping that the NEXT day will be The Beginning of Better…

Today, I woke up. The day was…a day. There was stress and anxiety. Errands to run and missions to accomplish. Discussions on Facebook adding to the steadily increasing sense of Being Overwhelmed. And then something broke. No, it popped.

A revelation in my brain: everything — all of this — can be traced back to my pride. My what? My pride? Really? My pride is that bad?

Like one of those do-it-yourself movie books, where you flip all the pages, my mind is flipping flipping flipping through all the Things and it links them all to one Thing, to pride…it happens lightning fast and That Feeling Of Being Overwhelmed spikes.

I have so far to go.
I’ll never get there.
This journey is so LONG…it’s BEEN long and it’s going to be LONGER…

I’m weary. I have nothing left. I’ve HAD nothing left, for days now. There was a bright spot the other night, while serving my church family but I have no doubt that was ALL Holy Spirit. I have no doubt because I spent the whole drive to church begging and begging, pleading with Him to work through me because

I had nothing.

 

 

I’m in the car and driving, tackling more tasks, eradicating more errands, watching the flip-movie in my mind. I cry out to God. My heart overflows into the confines of the van, a deluge of remorse, regret, repentance. And then…a song. A song plays on the radio and  my focus shifts off of me and onto Him…His creativity. His awesome Mind in creating music, creating human beings, creating voices…beautiful voices, thousands of sounds, millions of melodies…even when they’re just singing about the rain in Africa, they are so beautiful. He is so beautiful in His creation, His people. This is what I had forgotten — enjoying Him. Not stressing out, not snapping, not being overwhelmed — being in awe of Almighty Creative God. This is where my joy is.

And the flood in my van from my overflowing, over-burdened heart turns into a flood of joy-filled tears. My God is so amazing. And so mighty.  And He loves me! And there’s grace! And, and, and…

Suddenly, I realize the journey back wasn’t that long. “God!” I say out loud in my van. “You’re so quick to BE there! I take one step and wow….after these horrid, horrid days and my horrid attitude, I thought it would take at least as many days to retrace my steps and get back to where I’m supposed to be…but I’ve only taken one step and here I am, with You…”

A vision fills my mind, of the prodigal son trudging home. Such a long journey home…so far to go…the winding, dusty road stretches out ahead of him…

…but wait. His father…he’s running! To meet him! And just like that, the journey is over. The son is home, where he belongs.

 

I, too, thought I had this long, terrible trek ahead…by myself…long, winding, dusty…

But I take a step
with tears
with weariness
with full awareness that there is nothing good in me
with full awareness that all the good is in Him and He is beautiful…

…and He doesn’t wait. He doesn’t watch.

He runs.

He runs to meet me.

It’s so fast, that I’ve only realized it in retrospect; no time to have noticed it in The Happening, only time to realize that it happened.

My heart is brighter than the sun, with the revelation that He loves me enough to run. He wants me, enough to run.

I will be horrid again. My pride will rule again. But today my heart is shining.

He runs to meet me.

I will snap again. I will feel overwhelmed again. But I will turn, again…

And He will run…again.

Because some things need to be read by everyone. I rarely re-blog. Rarely. It’s usually sufficient to just post it to Facebook and email it to the people I think it will most likely impact. But today, I read a post that hit me SO PROFOUNDLY so comfortingly, so Hello-Did-You-Forget-You-Are-Imperfect-AND-Loved, I just had to share it in every way possible. God is a God of profound mercy and grace. He doesn’t ask for perfection—He asks that we be wholly delighted IN HIM, deeply in love WITH HIM. The holiness He commands from us will be birthed in that, and then brought to completion by HIS hand. The Bible says so!!!

If you, like me, needed a fresh reminder that God doesn’t just love you—He LIKES you—read this post. If you don’t need the reminder, read it anyway. It’s joy in a cup, the kind of thing you drink even if you’re not thirsty.