"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Monday, August 29, 2016

Do Not Despise His Word

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Take a load off.  Sit for a while.  Rest... 

Sabbath is really, really important to God.  Plain and simple.  He makes no bones about it.  His commandment of Sabbath is uber-important.  Reading through the Old Testament, it would be hard to miss this clear theme.

I was struck again with this idea when reading in Numbers 15.  Throughout the Old Testament, God offers, over and over, a 'way out' or an avenue for forgiveness from sin.  In this chapter, He enunciates the pathway for recovery and forgiveness for unintentional sin.  And, then, BAM... right in the middle of the passage, we read about the "Sabbath-Breaker" who is to be put out of the camp and stoned to death.  No restitution is offered.  There was no-way back from THIS sin.  What, Lord!?  

Sabbath is clearly really, really important to God.  I wouldn't even attempt to count how often He reiterates this truth in the Old Testament; but, indeed, He does again, and again.  

In Numbers 15, we are given clarity as to why this Sabbath-breaker is punished.  His sin was deliberate, Scripture tells us.  Rebellious.  He had contempt for God's commands.  "He has despised the word of the Lord." (Numbers 15:31)

But what was he actually rebelling against?  What was He despising exactly?  What was offensive to him... this condemned man?  A day-off!?  For Sabbath is a day of rest.  No work.  A day for worship. Quiet.  Why in the world would he (or we) rebel against that?  

(Now, let me just pause here and make very clear that I believe, as a child of God and one covered by the blood of Jesus, I am no longer under the law.  I know and believe that Christ died for intentional and unintentional sin!  And His blood covers all rebellion, curses, iniquity, and transgressions... and every thing in between.  ...just in case you were worried.   But, that doesn't lessen the reality of God's heart and character being the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. So, I also believe, this conversation is immensely important.)

So, why in the world would this man rebel against rest, quiet and no work?  

Or, more poignantly, what do I resist or despise the gift of Sabbath?  

Ezekiel 20:12 says, "I gave (a gift!) them my Sabbath (note whose it is) as a sign between me and them that they might know I am the Lord (note the why behind the giving) who sanctifies them." 

In Mark 2:27 Jesus reiterates this theme that Sabbath is for men--- a gift.  Made and given for us... for our benefit.  Not a legal law to remain under, but instead a gift to receive.  Or not.  

When reading and sitting with this idea, I was struck by the end of the Ezekiel verse--- I am the Lord who sanctifies them. I looked up the word sanctify and found this definition:  "the state of proper functioning".  In the Webster definition it adds, for clarity sake, "a pen is sanctified when it is used to write"

I wrote down in my journal:  "pens are sanctified when writing.  People are sanctified when used for the purpose God intends---living according to His design. People are sanctified when living with God."  Sabbath is part of our proper functioning as human beings.  Part of our very purpose here on earth is to rest, worship, and enjoy God!  It is what we are made for.  

When I don't live in the rhythm of Sabbath rest, I am living in an unnatural way.  A rebellious way.  It is anti-human to work non-stop.  Sabbath is clearly very important gift from God to man.  

Do I despise it?  Fight it?  And, if so, why?  

Just sit for a while and enter His rest.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Long Journey

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Life is a long, long journey.

Like destinations, there are many lessons that I wish I could just check off my list... and say I "have learned" this!  Been there.  Done that.

While certainly there have been lessons learned; I seem to circle back to 'same-old' places over and over again.

But, the one lesson that seems to be a reoccurring and reoccurring theme in my life is the lesson of "loved". I have both known it and not known it for many, many years.  For, "knowing" and surrendering-to-it are two very different things.

When I began this blog 8 years ago this very theme is clear in much of my writing---I wrote on my "Why Koodaigirl" page:  "I desire to live as loved".  This is still my same desire; and it only grows stronger, deeper, and more profound.  More hungry.

In the journey, though, along with the difficulties and struggles, we also have moments of great victory.  I have been seeing this victory lately in my life.  I can't really say when it began exactly; before time, it feels.  For God has been speaking to me of His love my whole Christian life.  All I really remember from my salvation day (at age 15) was a message about love.  I don't know what else Larry said that day... but, he said something very significant about the love of God.  That day I walked through the door of "loved" and have been journeying inward ever since.

These last months something significant has shifted.  I not only deeply believe, with all my mind, that God loves me (a profound gift He gave me about 10 years back); I now feel His love "poured out in my heart" (Romans 5:5) on a very regular basis.  Where I have felt it here and there for years, I am "knowing" this abiding love.  I am experiencing His love filling me.  This is no small miracle.  My physical healing 15 years ago was "nothing" in comparison to this battle won!

This knowing of God's love... to my mind AND to my heart is a great gift.  A gift I believe He wants to give all His children.

I have to admit it took many pleas from my wooing Lord.  He has used songs multiple time (the funniest was the 80's classic, "I can't make you love me.")  He has used dreams, people, gifts, blessings, and suffering.  And, He has many, many times used His Word.  "Do not harden your heart" was the most recent Biblical phrase that led me to repent of my hardening to His love and His rest---it led me to lean-in and open my hands.  (Why I harden my heart is another conversation to be shared another time!)

After spending the day with Him yesterday and enjoying this love---sitting with it, working with it, eating with it--- I lay in bed last night and had a memory flood into my mind.  It was of our first trip to visit Wales 7 years ago.  When I walked into the house we currently live in there was a sign:  "Loved".  Like a message from His Spirit to my soul, I knew then that it was for me.  He was, yet again, speaking love over me.

So, last night after seeing this memory, I said to the Lord, "Wow!  It has taken 7 years for me to be won over to this amazing love! Wow...You have had to work for me for 7 years like Jacob, Lord!"  

Instantly, I heard in my spirit, something akin to "Longer..."  

Longer, Stephanie.  

Yes, Lord, much longer.  Like Rachel.  I am Your Rachel!!  You worked for over 14 years for me to accept and receive Your love.  

I fell asleep relishing in the fact that I am Jesus' Rachel.  What a blessed thought.

In the morning, I woke remembering it with a smile.  I am the Lord's Rachel.  His bride.   His beloved.

But, even as I write this... right now...the word I heard last night still lingers and speaks.  Longer...  

I have worked longer for you...

"For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight... in love..." (Ephesians 1:4)

A very, very long journey for God indeed.

Another very significant song in this journey for me...  Video... a must listen.  :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azBAF3dObps  *the whole album is awesome, by the way!!  

"I pray that being grounded and rooted in love, you might have the power, with all God's people, to grasp how high, wide, long and deep is the love of Christ and to know that love that surpasses knowledge..."  (Ephesians 3:18)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Over Me

I took this photo a few weeks ago.  I know it is horrible quality.  That is what you get when A) You are me taking most pictures and B)When the picture is taken with movement, low light, and on a cell phone...  but,  I couldn't help myself.

I just had to post it--- because, this picture has been beautifully hovering around my prayers lately.   And, not just the picture... but the true, real, beautiful moment that this poor picture captured.  This tender wedding scene, which I was privileged to witness, has been informing my walk with God.

As the music played gently, this groom danced slowly with his new bride.  He and she were utterly enraptured.  They danced this way through most of the song.  ...this sight speaks of deeper things.

Look at the picture again and imagine the scene.  Then look at the picture with THIS verse in mind...  "As the groom rejoices over his bride, so shall your God rejoice over you" Isaiah 62:5.

So shall God rejoice over you...  

I will sit with this amazing truth for another quiet moment.  I will take a minute to breathe-in this reality again today.  How does God view me?  His church?  ...you?

So shall God rejoice over you!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Claws and Horns

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When God created Adam and Eve, He made them naked.  Utterly and completely naked.

I have been thinking of this today as I ponder and I think about my pride.

Pride can take on so many forms---some more detectable than others.  We all see, hear, and notice the gregarious boaster or the person who is verbally desperate to take credit; that type of pride is shown forth clearly and tastes awful to most onlookers.  But, what about the pride that is a still-small-voice of judgement in our hearts towards others.  "They really should do this..."..."That is so wrong"...."She is so immature"... "I can't believe he said that"... This pride is deep and insidious; causing shame within and without.  This quiet pride of self-righteousness--- the assumption that I am "above" or "beyond" or "separate" from you....  What about this pride?

Father, have mercy.  

Or the kind of pride that is self-indulgent and self-obsessed.  Sometimes masking itself as insecurity or even "humility", this pride leave self as center.  Physical self, spiritual self... either way "self" becomes primary.  We just can't help but think of ourselves---our comfort, our health, our wholeness, and our security.  This pride also gets labeled as "not thinking ever about myself"...because we are "constantly thinking of others".  But, in reality, we are most deeply thinking of ourselves.  For if our children are happy, then we will be happy.  If our co-workers are happy, then they will like me and I will be okay---  All this "service" of others can indeed only be, deeply, about ME.

Father, have mercy.  

Or, the pride that insists (usually internally) on "my" rights.  We might like to call it justice or righteous anger.  But, who, really are we defending?

Father, have mercy on me.  

And then there is the pride that desperately seeks to place blame elsewhere.  Anyone but me!  This pride is desperate to shine the damning light on someone else---anyone else.

I have been thinking about our nakedness:  Human nakedness.  It has struck me that God did not create humans like he created most every other creature--- he gave us no thick skin, no warm coat, no horns, no hoofs or claws, no poison or venom.  We were not given any armor.  God gave us no physical defenses.  We are a deeply dependent and needy beings.   We are vulnerable.  We were, on purpose, created naked.

But, let's be honest...  we really, really don't like this about ourselves!  We have tried from day-go to cover ourselves.  Once our eyes were opened to evil, in fact, we ran and hid and began pointing our fingers "to her" or "him" or "it".  Let me tell you, God, why it isn't MY fault!  Ah... the naked was now shameful.  Shame is such a painful reality of our now-nakedness.

We create our defenses: our armor and claws---of all sorts and colors.  One of our favorite weapons against this shame is pride; for pride is a nice thick shell.  It yells and screams out to the world "I am okay" and "Don't mess with me!" "I have no needs".   Pride...our covering---our claws and horns.

But, indeed, that is not true.  God created us, you and me, naked.  Naked and unashamed is God's heart for us.  For, He alone is to be our shield, our fortress, our strong rock and our substance. God alone is my defense!

Father God, have mercy on me.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Can't Quite Reach It

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There have been many thoughts and lessons from Leviticus lately.  I continue to find myself amazed at God's kindness in His Word and His revelation of Himself.  How often, though, have I also found myself utterly confused in this book?  Sitting with the confusion, turning not away from God in doubt or frustration, but turning toward Him to engage with Him, has been the key to this journey.

A wonderful thought:  don't turn away from God and wonder.  Just turn toward Him and wonder. Stay curious.  Why I don't do this more often in all of life?  Maybe I will now...

It makes sense, right?  If my husband's words or actions confuse me it is best ask him directly about it... not to "make it up as I go" and try to figure him out.  Instead, I can just ask him, "I am confused.  Why did you say that?  I don't quite understand you. Can you say it another way?"  Or, "Tell me more about how you think about this/or that?"  My husband's reply will give me another clue in understanding him, his words and his actions.  

So, why not go right to the source?

Why, Lord, do you say that a baby calf and it's mother cannot be killed on the same day?  What is your heart here?  Why do you one minute command your people to stone the man who blasphemed your Name... and then the very next verse you tell them not to take the life of a human?  I don't get it. What is Your heart here?  Would You tell me more?  

The discussions have been far, wide and deep.  There are possible questions and dialogue within every verse!  Often I don't get an answer; or not exactly.  Instead I might have a thought, another verse, or a clue to more of Him.  And, sometimes, I get "nothing" (or what I perceive as nothing).  I had total silence for days on the calf and cow question!  (smile)  But, that is okay, too.  If my husband can continue to remain a mystery to me after 23 years of marriage---certainly God can and will!!  

Recently, there has been a lesson lingering that I just haven't been able to grasp;  like a floating "answer" or knowledge that is just out of my reach.  With clues and words and sitting for days waiting, I have been asking Him about holiness (in all it's Levitical appearances).  And, the answer to the why and what and tell me more behind all this holiness seems to be dancing right on the edge of my consciousness. I believe God has been whispering, but I can't quite hear Him and can't quite understand what He is saying...  

Until this morning... When I picked up another book.  

What a gift the community of God is to us!  We need each other.  This morning, my brother Larry Crabb's written words reached out and grabbed the lesson that God had been whispering all week to me.  His words in 66 Love Letters were an invaluable help to me this morning.  

This beautiful book is Dr. Crabb's journaling his own journey through Scripture; one book at at time.  Wanting my own, unique journey with the Father, I had decided not to read Dr. Crabb's journal until I finished mine.  I read and finish the book of the Bible, then I read Crabb's journey through that book---my modus operandi for this adventure. 

Crabb's words and insight were like a long arm reaching out to grasp that which God has been saying to me for days.  

It's not for this blog post to write here what God has spoken to my heart. What I will say is this...  I am hungry for more!!  I cannot get enough of God's Word and engaging with Him about His thoughts, His heart and His Self.  

What I do feel compelled to say here is this...  Keep asking Him.  Keep reading.   Give it time and sit with it.  Don't leave the conversation too soon.  Keep wrestling.  And, involve the community you have--- your friends, your spouse, your kids.  Read other good books.  And, keep asking.  He is ever ready to show more of Himself to you!  

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