Beloved Prodigal… (Part 3 ~ Storms To Come)

aviary-photo_131218001068056944Jesus said quite clearly, “Count the cost.”

Believe me—those are words I now hold very sacred.

When Jesus says to you, “Follow me.” He is not asking you to live in a hothouse full of roses. He is calling you to your own cross.

And, your “cross” is not a pretty piece of jewelry around your neck. It is an instrument of torture, suffering, and death. Your cross is a place where Self, with its hopes, aspirations, and dreams are annihilated.

We in the Church throw the word cross around as casually as grace sometimes. But we do people a great disservice if we portray following Christ as only a “joy ride” without the expectation to also wholeheartedly embrace suffering.

The Apostle Paul wrote,”

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” [Gal. 2:20Gal. 2:20
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20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.

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Ponder those words.

If you believe them, you may be choosing to live them out, literally.

Count the cost—because there will be a cost.

His word guarantees it.

And still… I ASKED to be made a woundresser.

Crazy? Probably. Am I sorry? Some days yes; most days—no. And that’s just being honest with you.

I now know to become a woundresser involves a costly education.

One I do not recommend for the faint of heart.

BACK IN “THE FOLD” — MY EDUCATION CONTINUES

As if my past is not enough of a resume, Jesus decides my education needs expanding.

There were more dark storms waiting for me on my horizon; baffling and incomprehensible storms. Storms that shook everything I trusted and believed.

“… everything that could be shaken, would be shaken so that that which could not be shaken would remain.” [Heb. 12:27Heb. 12:27
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27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain.

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I share these details not to look for your sympathy; not to say, “Oh, poor me.” but rather, “Yeah, me too!”

  • I have been through two major health crashes.
  • The first one brought me to the edge of death.
  • I became pregnant at eighteen only to have my twin babies die in utero.
  • Being young, painfully ignorant, and unaware of what happened, I walked around with these dead babies inside.
  • Needless to say, I became extremely ill and almost died. But that wasn’t the worst. Not the pain, or the blood, or even the resulting hysterectomy at eighteen. That hysterectomy was devastating. But the grief and pain that got buried under a huge secret was worse.
  • I was told “a tumor had been removed” and my medical records were then sealed.
  • For over forty years there were memories of events I couldn’t explain. Questions that went unanswered. And grief that had been buried alive. It was the weirdest sensation, being haunted by “feelings” that made no sense.
  • Then there was the ultimate realization that most of your adult life has been based on a lie.
  • My second medical crisis, a misdiagnosed thyroid crash, left me helpless, hopeless, and jobless.
  • There were astronomical medical bills I couldn’t pay, putting me into a medical bankruptcy and wiping out my credit.
  • I have been homeless—twice. Though not “on the street” I have slept on floors, in some very filthy and unsafe places.
  • I spent twelve years building a business, only to hand it off to an unscrupulous business partner who decided he wanted it ALL. I walked away with nothing, believing what the bible says, that fighting in a courtroom is wrong and about as unchristian as it gets.
  • I have been through what I call “a Church holocaust” where I was shunned, though I was never charged with any offense. Overnight I was an untouchable outcast. No one was allowed to speak to me or have any contact with me.
  • You have to go through the horror of shunning to understand that kind of painful rejection. You are emotionally stoned and left for dead.
  • The official diagnosis was: “One of the worst cases of spiritual abuse the Experts had ever seen.
  • Their verdict: “These people will likely never recover, or ever be an active part of a church again.”
  • I have endured a “bully” pulpit, but Pastors are also victims of abuse. The spiritual abuse door swings both ways.
  • My last three churches all had pastors who became embroiled in headline-making sexual scandals. The “holocaust” ending in a devastating church split.
  • Me? I’m thinking, “Three strikes—I’m out!”

God AGAIN—had OTHER plans.

  • First, because His plan holds the promise that He will never forsake you. (No matter how fierce your storm!)
  • Second, because of His love, He will make a way when you lose your way.
  • I was befriended by one Christian couple.
  • Ned and Maryellen—you were the incarnation for me; Jesus with skin on.
  • They washed my wounds with the word of God.
  • They spoke Light and Love into my life when I saw only darkness, pain, and hopelessness.
  • They “sang” songs of faith to me when I was engulfed in storm clouds of despair and doubt.
  • They gave me back my song when I believed I would never sing again.
  • They were His Lighthouse’s, shining Truth into my storm; reviving my battered faith.
  • Though we have never formally met, I will love them to my last earthly breath.

Which brings me to this place—this book I call, Habakkuk’s Vineyard.

(Perhaps the point and real purpose of it all?)

This “vineyard” has been a barren place for sure—of everything but His Love and Grace.

Because it has been RIGHT HERE that He has PROVED TO ME:

Nothing can separate me from the love of God!

  • Not broken families.
  • Not our own brand of broken behavior.
  • Not broken churches.
  • Not other broken hearts—who just don’t know Him yet.
  • NOTHING. [Romans 8:38-39Romans 8:38-39
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    38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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  • That word is now branded on my soul.

God always has OTHER plans for us. Plans for GOOD—not just calamity! (Jeremiah 29: 11Jeremiah 29: 11
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11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says Yahweh, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end.

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)

Today I am attending a church. (Yes, I do still struggle at times…) But MIRACLE of MIRACLES, I wrote this book FOR YOU, a Prodigal.

Like I said before, “Yeah, Me too!”

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Beloved Prodigal… (Part 2 ~ Resume)

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A WOUND DRESSER’S RESUME


Can you believe it?

I actually asked God to make me a Wound Dresser.

Man!

What was I thinking?

My prayer seemed so spiritual at the time.

I smile and shake my head today—remembering. Little did I understand the mountain of “woundings” that would come with God’s “Yes.” And, this roller coaster… this assignment of His!

QUALIFICATIONS AND PREPARATIONS FOR A WOUNDRESSER:

You know that cute little question, “Got milk?”

Yeah, well my question to you goes like this:

  • “Got a painful past?” or maybe,
  • “Got a trail of tears and broken dreams?”
  • Or, “Got so much guilt and shame you hate the mess you see in the mirror?”

Congratulations, you too, have all the qualities and experience required to be called as a woundresser!

My “prep” for this Calling:

  • I asked Jesus into my heart at seven while at a Christian summer camp.
  • That was the year my mother “bailed” on our family, announcing that she would no longer be responsible for being a wife, or mother.
  • For me, childhood was over. At seven I began my job as the female caregiver of the family.
  • Five years earlier My mother had had an affair with the pastor of our church and gotten pregnant by him.
  • Our family put on a good public face, still went to church, but we were very BROKEN from that point on.
  • Mom simply stated to me years later, “No forgiveness ever asked for. No forgiveness was ever given.”
  • Dad regularly reminded all of us, he would also be “bailing” just as soon as the youngest was done with school.
  • Meanwhile, we lived with their daily battles, and constant threats of abandonment, from the only one, doing any parenting.
  • Like I said in an earlier devotional, I have lived with angry people all of my life. Angry was my normal.
  • Grew up in a fire-breathing church, where I heard about hell and the anger of God, but little about His love.
  • God is just like your angry father… okay, check.
  • Shook the hometown dust off my shoes and went down the prodigal road.
  • I believed God was “out there” somewhere—but He sure didn’t care what happened to me.
  • If my father, who I could see didn’t care, why would a God I couldn’t see care? Check.
  • Lived a wild life for ten years doing my own thing and I’ve got the scars to prove it!
  • There were several car crashes I miraculously walked away from.
  • Years of ongoing depression episodes that had me thinking suicide was my only option for relief.
  • (Yes, you’re right. Some drown. Some are rescued. I don’t know why. Two of my cousins took their own lives.)
  • I, too, have had years of prescriptions for tranquilizers and muscle relaxers looking for any relief.
  • More years trying to drown all the pain in alcohol. I felt like I was the one drowning. But the pain? Lived on.
  • I won’t even go into all the “joys” of living as a “liberated” woman. What a lie that was!
  • At twenty-eight, after another night of heavy drinking, I awoke to find I had passed out leaving candles burning and almost set my place on fire.
  • Realized I could have set the building on fire and hurt a lot of innocent people in the process.
  • This is where I hit the bottom.
  • I made a “private plan” to end my life and be “done” because I saw no hope—anywhere.
  • I grew up in “church”; saw the hypocrisy; wanted no part of that again.
  • I simply wanted my pain to end. If it meant ending me—so be it.

God, however, had another plan.

Like the Apostle Paul, I had my own Damascus Road encounter with God. (See Coram Deo)

He showed up.

I believe, He showed up because He saw one beleaguered girl, searching for love in all the wrong places.

He showed up because He knew I didn’t have a clue about who He really was.

And He showed up because He knew I wasn’t going to come to Him.

In short this prodigal had to be—fetched.

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I didn’t come to my senses like in the story of the prodigal son. [Luke 15] Nope.

In my story, I am like that lost sheep.

The one where Jesus tells of leaving the ninety-and-nine “good” sheep, to go out and rescue the one who has wandered away.

God had to come after me because, just like Paul, I was so sure I knew who God was.

And, just like His Apostle I was certain—God didn’t care where I was, or what I did. So He decided to show up that day and introduce Himself. He barged in on all my “certainty” and shook me up so profoundly, I couldn’t ignore Him anymore even though secretly? I think I still wanted to.

ed22d31b128a5597c4b7d22c5a215a34Instead, He tenderly took this battered old heart of mine and began to teach me about His deep and abiding LOVE for me.

And, wonder of wonders, He also began to reveal how He wanted to take all the broken pieces of my life and use them.

Use them? My life. (It still stuns me!) How could a Holy God use such an unholy mess like me? When I looked at my past I saw only a junkyard—full of broken, wrecked, dreams. But when God looked at me… He saw potential for His purposes.

His Love is mercy wrapped in GRACE—and it is SO undeserved.

And, so amazing!

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Beloved Prodigal… (Part 1 ~ bat Shuvah)

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The road you’re on is not an easy one. (I should know.) I have been down your road.

It is for that reason I wrote this book.

I am hoping it will plant some seeds of trust in that heart of yours.

The Jewish would call me “bat Shuvah”—she who has returned.

I have returned.

  • To my Abba-Father God.
  • To The Church.
  • I am a Prodigal no longer.

Yes, I returned.

But you know what?

I confess (even today) I still struggle to not get discouraged and go over that hill again.

Perhaps that’s because I also have learned—today’s Church can be a cold and lonely place for the wounded and broken. All the disillusioned, angry, and messy-ones. And yeah, it scares me to confess that truth to you.

Truth is, I grew up in a house full of secrets.

In my house?

It was definitely not okay to be wounded or broken.

(That would have been admitting the truth.)

No, appearances had to be kept up at all cost. Illusions were prized far above truth.

I still shake my head today, thinking back, looking at the choices my parents made I wonder, “Why would anyone want to live like that?” Then, I look at how it still is in today’s Church and I realize, not much has changed. People still live lives of posing and pretense.

Perhaps they think it easier… less messy—to just fake it.

But my heart has to ask, “Isn’t that just a waste… to live an unreal life?”

I mean…

“How do you ever become “REAL” without telling your real story?”

6a1d6b965ff0038f17473284a4997d96So, here it is. Mine, with all of its ugly scars, brittle edges, and more than a little healed-crooked, hard won, Jacob-type-leaning, and limping.

I’ve come a long way from that crooked and broken road.

(Been through some fierce storms, too.)

I hope I’ve learned—a little…

And maybe even earned… my place?

To speak to that deeply wounded heart of yours.

 



 


 

Part VII ~ God Of Foolish Things

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I understand the world’s contempt for broken people.

Generally, the world thinks in terms of black and white; winners and losers.

The Church is supposed to be better than that.

We are called to embrace the teachings of Christ and do as He did.

Instead, we either berate and discard our wounded, or at the very least, we label them as pathetic victims, treating them with the same unfeeling contempt the world does.

I ask you, where is the Christ-likeness in that?

– woundresser

Three Doors

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There are three doors in this life.

Three ultimate choices. (And here’s the deal.) To not choose is to choose the brown door.

We’ll call that door: REJECT.

You can choose to reject everything the bible teaches. Everything a life given to Jesus Christ is.

(Yep, your choice.)

God gives this choice to each and every person.

You can reject Jesus Christ and all the bible teaches, walk away, take the brown door, and continue on down the road you’re on. (But there are consequences.) BIG brown ones, because the bible says that you will one day stand before a Holy God and give an answer to Him for your life. [Matt. 12:36Matt. 12:36
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36 I tell you that every idle word that men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.

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] The choices are yours. Absolutely. The consequences are not. Those kick in automatically for every person who chooses the door REJECT; consequences carved in stone; eternal and unchangeable.de47479819ea8d1bc9abd0008ac2cbae

You are choosing eternal separation from everything Jesus Christ proclaimed He IS:

The second door, the green door, we’ll call: PRODIGAL.

This door “looks good” in the beginning. This door says you can have it both ways. You can have it all. You can be a Christian, but you can live anyway you want. You get to captain your own boat!

It’s the door of compromise. Living with one foot in the world, playing by the world’s rules, and living with one foot in the Kingdom of God; fire insurance all paid up! This door should be labeled MISERY because that’s where it leads.

(I should know. I once took this door.)

Prodigals are people who think they know more than God does about what will make them happy. They believe they have the right to own their own lives, having it their own way.

And many times?

God obliges. Steps back and says, “Okay. Have it your way.”

He lets them, because He knows they are headed straight for the ditch, or pig pen! (Both lousy outcomes.) Outcomes that take them in a great wide circle, which brings them right back to the red door again.

This door we will call: REPENTANCE.

Good word repentance. It means to change your mind. Change your course. Go in a new direction. To choose a different life! There’s only one way to open this door to a new direction: Jesus Christ.

Jesus said:

 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9John 10:9
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9 I am the door. If anyone enters in by me, he will be saved, and will go in and go out, and will find pasture.

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NKJV

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Choose Him? Choose His gift for you? You get ALL He owns, and Heaven, too!

The Caterpillar’s Prayer:

Jesus, I believe You died and shed Your blood on that cross so that Your sacrifice could make me right again in the eyes of God. You are the right door for me. I am asking You, right now, to come into my heart; to rebuild my life. I don’t know much, but I know I need You, and I believe You are the answer I am seeking. Forgive me for all my wrong choices… for the mess I’ve made of my life. I need You LORD. Come into my broken heart and heal me. I’m asking you to. Give me a new beginning. Give this caterpillar wings! No more status quo.

I want Your living water flowing through me!

In Jesus Name I Ask, Amen.

 

The Choice Everyone Must Make

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So we come to a fork in the road.

“Which way from here?” you might ask.

Good question, but my answer to you is another question…

What do you want?

You can stay on the road you’re on. No surprises there. Your ruts are familiar. Comfortable… though perhaps more than a little, ummmmmmm… boring?

No changes required. No truths to confront. Just the same-sameness.

A life that is? Predictable. Tame. Safe?

(Sort of.)

Or, is there another road?

One that leads to the unknown. Nothing but questions. Risky. Lot’s, and lot’s, of changes required. Won’t be easy. (Might be painful.) Difficult—for sure!

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But what waits out there?

  • Challenges?
  • Adventure?
  • Your life’s purpose?
  • Ridiculous-Joy?

Wow… like taking the first leap off the high dive! Scary… but there’s that “something inside” that just has to know if it’s real. Right?

Two roads.

Two different journeys.

Which one will you choose?

I wonder…

 

 

 

 

Part VI – The Possibilities

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“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses

~~~

CODE RED

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I am stumbing through grief again.

“So soon?” my heart whispered.

It seems as if I had just recovered from one huge loss when I got the jarring news that someone I loved dearly had been whisked away.

Gone.

Death always jars me to my toes.

I never get used to it no matter how many times I walk through it.

And I wonder, “Is this the way it is with everyone?”

So here I am again walking through each day in a kind of a gray fog. Trying to concentrate on the next thing; the next step; the next breath; and not doing a very good job of any of it.

My eyes gush tears when I least want them.

My heart overflows with this new empty.

I am lost in a maze of memories I can’t hold back or control no matter how hard I try.

I drift. I flounder.

I reach for answers I already know I won’t find; can’t find, until Jesus and I are face to face.

I scold myself. Telling myself, “This is how it is at your age. Loss will be a regular part of normal now.”

But grappling with that truth doesn’t help much.

The bible warns us, “You do not know what a day will bring forth.”

“Yeah.” I think. “No kidding.”

Like the other day.

We had just had a nice lunch with some visiting family. A pleasant afternoon. Peaceful. Little did we suspect that in just a few short hours we would be sitting in the kitchen reminiscing and the phone would ring with words flashing across the T.V. screen — CODE RED!

I stared at the screen then at the face of my friend as her expression went from happy to grave.

She was listening intently to the message from our caller.

emergency-response-training-9-638Then she hung up and calmly announced, “We have been told to pack up whatever we can and be prepared to evacuate.

There is a wildland fire burning north of here; it’s headed our way.”

We just stared at one another for a moment, stunned; trying to absorb the warning; trying to think. What should we do first?

What do you pack up when you have only moments to decide what needs to be saved, and what you must walk away from, and surrender to the flames?

“You do not know what a day will bring forth…”  James 4:14James 4:14
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14 Whereas you don’t know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? For you are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.

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warns.

(For sure!)

The ONLY thing that is certain in this life is it’s abiding and constant uncertainty.

So let me ask you a question

“What are you going to decide to do with His pearl that we call: The Gospel?”

It is the MOST important decision you will ever make.

Perhaps this is your CODE RED.

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Apart from His blood that He shed on His cross FOR YOU, to cover your sin, so that you can walk into the city of God, a citizen of His Kingdom?

You have no hope of heaven!

There is no other way.

The micro-second you step into eternity your decision and the choice have been made. It will be settled for all of eternity. No arguments. No explantions. No second chances, or do-overs. Nope.

None of us know when death will come knocking at our door.

(None of us do.)

Don’t put this decision off.

Some things can wait.

This can’t.

To refuse to decide — is to decide.

Seasons

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Father—Creation that you’ve made!

Spring’s sweet buds, and Summer’s glade;

Pumpkin’s orange in Fall’s bright pallet,

Forest’s sleep ‘neath Winter’s mallet…

~~~

Your seasons teach me lessons stern;

Lessons that, I needs, must learn;

That all year ’round — these changes show,

I must change if I’m to grow!

~~~

1308a7b0e1add324fa76cc5904cb37a9Why do I fight it? Fists clenched tight…

Why resist with all my might?

…with each new season in my life,

Relentless Change’s pruning knife?

~~~

Cutting away the worn, with cost,

And though I weep at what I’ve lost;

Change will not yeild — but cutting still,

Bids me swallow this bitter-pill…

~~~

‘Tis not the death of Heaven’s dream…492c7237fbdcbe72b996796e66a3ee92

‘Tis not The Father’s heartless scheme!

But Tender Wisdom from above,

Calling him Home…

Because — he’s Loved!

~~~

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And so these tears — this Season’s end…

This bitter loss of Beloved Friend;

I will accept because I know,

Change must come… and you must go…

But never forget, how we loved you so!

For My Beloved Prodigal—free at last, July 2016