Colossians 2:14, is a verse I memorize. It draws me to rusty nails driven into wooden beams, the cross where punishment meant for me was paid for by the Christ, the One who rose on the third day. The verse that translates:
“He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross,” (NLT).
It wrecks me. I can see it. My unrighteousness, my transgressions, pinned against cold shanks, pressed against stained grace.
The Message translates the verse like this:
“When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.”
I am bent, my shoulders arch in hollowed repentance, my sobs lost in Him. This Good News spills over and I think: Blessed are those who find themselves empty, like the tomb ~ an empty tomb, an empty space longing for the King who has risen but who is to come again. A simple space open and available for the pouring out of scandalous grace meant for you and meant for me.
Once upon a time I pressed through the thickness of life, believing I’d figured out how to have a healthy pace. I checked boxes, made to-do-lists when all of the sudden I declare! I ran out of gas, without so much as a warning flicker from my tank.
I decided to conduct a self-inventory, lickety-split.
This is what I found ~ I felt like a ghost of my former self; carved out and dry like the Samaritan’s well. I felt smothered by demands; hollowed by meaningless activities; overwhelmed by child-rearing.
Was I losing my mind?
Was something inside broken?
Then one morning, my Jesus came looking for me in all my sleepy-eyed-mess. Only this time, I wasn’t drowsy to his presence ~ I was looking for Him too.
Suddenly I’m compelled to fall on my face, to bring my body to the lowest place possible with absolute submission in mind. With only a pink-burst sunrise as my witness, my hands fold, tears stack, and head bows.
The One who takes my weakness and carries my disease calls me to pause, to enter His rest (see Matt. 8:17). The kind of rest defined as, “To cease from labor in order to recover and collect strength (see Rev. 14:13).”
I hear the echo of God’s invitation into this place. A place where His rod, His staff comfort me. It ignites my soul like an oil-fire. And I know. His rest is the artery that pumps life-giving rhythm into the arrhythmia of my life.
He’s asking, “Will I join him?
Will I lay down in the grassy meadows and the quiet still waters of the 23rd Psalm?”
I’m asking, “Can I stop?”
Can I stop long enough to sit at his table; to devour His bread?
I review the past couple of weeks like a movie reel. My life had become like a broken sprinkler head swinging out of control back and forth into excessive extremes. I required a new gauge, because I am pretty sure mine had broken! I needed a slower pace, maybe even a sprinkler that pointed in only one direction.
They were things only I could control. I had to choose whether or not to accept the invitation of the Good Shepherd.
Oh yes my sweet sisters I could and I did.
Once upon a time, God revealed to me that without rest:
I just might miss His most spectacular displays of unhindered glory;
I may never fully awaken to His presence;
I may never develop a sustainable pace; and
I may miss God-moments that could further His kingdom.
When we allow God to set the pace, the quality of the run will be less exhausting and much more fruitful.
So how’s your pace today? Remember the pace of your life, is your making and only you can undo it. The grassy meadows and gentle waters await!
I’m not big on reality TV, but there is one channel where I get taken in a bit. If you know me, than you know I love to cook, so of course I’m a Food Network fan! Over the years I’ve recorded favorite cooking shows and competitions. These are reality TV, but I have just considered them not so bad compared to others out there and I learn so much about something I enjoy so much… cooking.
However, there are a couple new shows that I have watched that do cross the line for me. One is called Restaurant Stakeout and while the motive is ultimately good, there is just way too much negative going on before we ever get to the positive side of things.
They basically set up cameras all over a struggling restaurant to see what is happening when the owners are not around and there is always trouble. The several, 8 or 10 or more episodes, that I’ve watched revolve around employees being poorly trained or having a bad attitude for one reason or another and they take it out on the customers or the restaurant owners by not being quality employees. In the end everyone is confronted, including the owners, as to what their part is in this failing restaurant and what they need to do to turn things back around. And the alternative to being a stand-up team player is to just get out.
Sometimes I feel a little for those people, because, well I was a waitress long, long ago, but mostly because we’re all guilty of having a stinky attitude at times. And we’re most likely to let it all out when the “boss” isn’t looking. I’ve thought a lot about my own attitude in my home. When my husband-boss isn’t looking… it’s not always grand. And often enough when my kids are looking… it is out of control.
What impresses the deepest into my heart is the truth that it’s kind of like a “Restaurant Stakeout,” in my life all the time… because God sees all things. And there are no cameras needed when the corrupt attitude of my heart comes bubbling-out, like a pot of water boiling-over, through my words and actions… He’s watching.
I love reminders like Chuck Swindoll’s above that support God’s great Word below because they demand an instant Attitude Check… and I need that.
I think about joy and my disorganized desires pummel me like a rock-sling.
They tangle like threads of twine woven into a fabricated mess. They twirl and twist and suddenly my God-orientation is compromised.
Sometimes, what I believe will bring joy betrays me.
The Adversary presses hard ~ He being the enemy of my joy.
His intent is that we find joy in ourselves, our accomplishments more than God. When we press back, Paul calls it a good fight of faith. Maintaining joy in God takes, “work;” or in other words a fight against every impulse for hollow joys.
Paul also calls it a good fight because we are not left to our own strength in the fight. The words of Martin Luther, “Our striving would be losing.”
…as we tread on uneven battlefields of worldly scatter.
John Piper says it’s a good fight because it’s not a struggle to carry a burden, but a struggle to let a burden be carried for us. The life of joy in God is not a burdened life, it is an unburdened life (When I don’t Desire God, 2004).
How quickly I forget Jesus said his burden and yoke are easy, light.
Fighting the good fight doesn’t involve self-exaltation like the southern smack downs over pixie sticks in my middle school used too…
Ahem… it involves self-humbling.
Of course if said person loses the middle school whoopin’ and pixie sticks blast all over the school yard like rockets, take it from me…there is some serious self-humbling!
Sho’ Nuff ….
The fight Paul talks about reminds me that even though I can guzzle the tar out of some pixie sticks and can fold laundry like nobody’s business, I AM WEAK.
And am desperate for the mercy of my heavenly daddy.
At the end of his ship-wrecked, persecuted life Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” (2Timothy 4:7). “Keeping the faith for a lifetime is the result of fighting the good fight for a lifetime. And if faith includes at least the taste of joy in the glory of Christ, then this lifelong fight is a fight for joy—a very good fight,” (Piper, 2004).
Do these two things really go together?
Fighting and joy?
Fighting seems so pressured while joy sounds more relaxed. The fighting part comes easy; it’s the joy that requires the effort.
I’ll quickly set the stage.
Today I’m a parched field with too many wide open spaces. Like a barren land gasping, thirsting for a hydrating solution that doesn’t seem to come.
“Mom, she spit on me!”
Mom she’s picking her nose and wiping it on my seat!”
“Mom she totally licked my homework!”
Ahh, the American dream… kids that spit and lick stuff; white picket fences that chip more than look good; and a dog who packed on the pounds is now doggie-door-challenged.
Yep, us Jesus girls must fight for our joy.
The journey to school is often frustrating but today I notice something in the midst of it all. We stop at an intersection and my eyes lock. I notice the river, sparkling against sunshine rays. I pass it several times a day but suddenly, it looks different.
“My people have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water,” (Jeremiah, 2:13).
God pictures himself as a mountain spring of clean, life-giving water. I picture myself a cistern, cracked sides and all ~ a vulnerable slab that allows more spill than soak. I simply can’t afford to spill, especially on days like these.
I need the water which brings life, calms my thirst.
I long for its smoothness over my rocky, battered soil.
I want to praise the water, keep returning to its edge, point other people to it, get strength from it, and never prefer any drink in the world over it…that’s what brings my God, my fountain, deserved glory. I desire this kind of savoring of my God, don’t you?
On these challenging mama days where joy hides itself behind book reports and fussy children, I will fight. I will duct-tape my cistern if I have to! I’ll do whatever it takes to house this living water deep down, to keep it from seeping through the breakage.
I don’t want this well-water to evaporate and I yell at my kids again. I desire to soak it up faithfully so that my reactions will always point my children towards the water, never away from it. So there I’ll be, sitting at His shore, wading in His water, absorbing all His grace… day after day after day…
I don’t want to sound totally crazy, but… I hear voices.
Yes, it’s true and since I’m being honest, I’ll go ahead and confess that it seems like there are an awful lot of them going off all at once and more often than I care to keep count of.
And it not only makes me sound a-bit crazy, but it also makes me feel a-lot crazy. And I don’t like that much.
You know that mental picture of the devil and the angel whispering in a persons ear. It’s a little like that. But worse… because that flesh-girl is in there too and sometimes I’m not sure who’s side she’s on.
They’re all in there in a brutal match of coercion. Trying desperately to get me to do, feel or believe something.
Something good? Something bad? Something right? Something wrong? Something that feels good, but is bad? Something that feels bad, but is good? Have Faith? Give in to fear? Trust? Resist? Believe a lot of ugly lies? Believe what is True?
And all the voices swirling around in there have an opportunity to posses me. To enchant me and steal me away from one another.
Sometimes I’m without my battle gear. Sometimes in my weakness the flesh-girl loses Faith and joins the other side. If only for a moment.
Yet, it takes only a moment to doubt.
And only just a moment to believe!
Crazy. I know.
But, maybe, just maybe you relate?
And it’s little reminders like the one posted up there that keeps all the unnecessary and wicked voices quiet. Where I can peacefully dwell on what HE says and nothing else.
I need that in the busy that is my crazy life.
You know what mental picture I prefer over the angel and the devil whispering in my ears? The one where God’s angels are raging in battle with the devils minions over me.
Yes, I like that much better, because it plucks me right out of the picture. The one that has nothing to do with it… getting out of the way of the One that has Everything to do with it.
Oh, and, I read-ahead… I know who the Victor is. And, I don’t want to brag, but… He’s a close personal friend.
May YOU be ever so blessed with the Voice of Truth today!
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.