Tag Archives: Grace

Women Who Move Mountains: Not The Status Quo!

Women Who Move Mountains kind of blew my doors off. I mean, if you’re looking for the status quo in books on prayer, this is NOT it.

Women Who Move Mountains

Sue Detweiler has written a book with a fresh new approach to an old problem in the church—namely our prayerlessness!

When I read a book on prayer, frankly I am expecting a whole wheelbarrow of “should” and “ought” with a healthy sprinkling of “guilt” thrown in for good measure.

Instead, Women Who Move Mountains takes us on a journey to inner healing and wholeness that comes out into “a wide and spacious place” of new and fresh intimacy with God.

Wow! This is definitely not where I thought this book would lead me. Yet, Mrs. Detweiler seems to believe that it is our unhealed insecurities, wounds, and life-baggage that keep us following God at a distance—and thereby increases our reluctance to pray.

When you think about it this makes total sense to me.

I especially appreciated this book’s down-to-earth, heart-to-heart, “let’s ALL get REAL” approach. She uses simple and honest stories to illustrate clearly why she believes most of us avoid prayer. There are three bonus sections in the back of the book: 21 Days To Spiritual Breakthrough, Guidelines For Taking A Spiritual Retreat, and Guidelines For Fasting.

I think that this is possibly the most “common sense” book on prayer, and learning to pray with power, that I have ever read.

I also liked the fact that Women Who Move Mountains is tailored for group study, but the author’s website also offers a free downloadable journal so the reader can do this book solo if they desire.

SueDetweiler.com

You may get your copy of the book from Amazon or at any other fine book retailer.

I want to thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me this complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my review.

Abandoned Faith: Enlightening & Hopeful!

Abandoned FaithWhen you first look, Abandoned Faith is not a book you expect to be brimming with hopeful strategies. Yet that is exactly what this book delivers! It provides lots of facts with correlating interviews and surveys on millennial’s and the many problems they face.

I don’t usually enjoy reading a book filled with lots of statistics. Yet as I read this one, I began to see how all that information could help parents and churches by giving them the “how  to” in developing an effective prayer and action strategy to reach these kids .

  • Abandoned Faith brings hope to parents  and churches who are despairing over what to do about their wayward millennial’s.
  • It encourages them to release all shame for past mistakes, surrendering their millennial’s to a God who is able to bring them back home to the Faith.
  • It invites them to stand on the irrevocable promises found in God’s Word because He loves millennial’s and He will be faithful to them.
  • And finally, it provides creative ideas for reaching out with real and tangible ways to provide help for our millennial’s.

I loved that!

It’s obvious the authors have a deep and abiding love for these young adults. I appreciated their frankness, and at times, bold and brutal honesty. The ways they addressed the failures of parents and the Church head on. Perhaps it is time for some much needed “tough love.” Today’s Church needs more effective ways of reaching out to our millennial adults. Ways that are relevant to their unique needs. I think this book provides a good starting point.

When interviewing Mark Hall, someone McFarland considers a front line expert on millennial’s, he asked Hall if he was optimistic that millennial’s will be the generation to bring revival to America. He responded, “[Christian] millennial’s love God and accept that Jesus is the Son of God. But they are not in love with the church. They will not give as cooperatively through the church budget as they will a particular cause. They are online givers for the most part but will give where they see ‘fruit.’ Can millennial’s bring revival back to America? If we continue to embrace the exclusivity of Christ, maintain authentic relationships, confront pluralism, and preach the gospel, then yes, spiritual renewal will come. Don’t expect a breakout event like the old crusades where sporting venues were packed out. Expect it to look more like the church in the book of Acts.”

The book of Acts? Wow! Now that statement gives me REAL hope!

My thanks to Focus on the Family and Tyndale House Publishers for sending me this complimentary copy and requesting my review. Abandoned Faith is available now on Amazon.

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Make Mine Broken!

Broken_Vessel_We don’t all view BROKEN the same way, do we?

I think it might be difficult for some of us to connect to those we consider BROKEN if we have experienced “breaking” in only minor or irritating ways.

For instance, if you are pitching a fit because you just broke another nail? Trust me. You and I are on opposite sides of the Looking Glass.

When I say “broken” I see smoking rubble and bombed out buildings in my soul. Yet, even I don’t “see” smoking rubble the same way a woman fleeing Syria or Iraq would, right?

Does that help?

We, meaning we in The Church, can often trivialize people’s pain by our own casual approach to what we do not understand. My “brokenness” may be very different from what you have experienced. You can think you are “aware” when perhaps you are actually clueless. I have often heard well-meant heartfelt messages from those who I believe really did mean well, but there was a kind of authenticity or depth that was missing, simply due to a shallower understanding or experience of the subject.

Unfortunately, what people who haven’t survived gross abuse don’t know can add new wounds to the souls who have.

If you haven’t been through deep and dark water or been on intimate terms with Evil, the deeply wounded and broken will know it, because a crushed heart covered in the scars of an intimate acquaintance with Evil is not something you can head-fake.

I also believe there is a kind of inborn intolerance, an unknowing or condescending heart will reveal. Not to intentionally be unkind perhaps, but simply because of profound ignorance.

I don’t say this to be mean, but I believe it is necessary to know, Hearts that have bled from deep wounds have an internal radar that will register any FEAR or SHAME tactics immediately. You may not mean it to sound that way… (Or you might, depending on your motives?) either way, I just want you to understand where I’m coming from when I ask,

“When have you looked into the eyes of your Abuser and seen the pure pleasure that they derive from inflicting new pain? New horror? New terror? New shame? When have you heard pure hatred screaming at you; seen its face contorted in ugly rage inches from your face? When have you seen them smile as they slice and shred your soul again, intentionally carving new wounds?”

There is Real-Evil in this world and some of us have looked helplessly many times into its cold dead eyes. That is a “knowledge” you can’t fake or forget. And, that experience changes HOW you view BROKEN—and how you respond.

Yes, Christ and the sheer power of His love and grace poured out on His cross, can overcome Evil’s power to make one cringe in terror or run and hide. And yes, forgiveness poured from old wounds will lift the broken and crushed heart, and bring it back to resurrected Life. Absolutely!

But, that miracle of love and forgiveness in itself is no guarantee that Evil will surrender its hold on the Abuser, or that the Abuser will magically choose to change their ways.

The Abuser is also free to choose and many choose to continue their abusive ways. (Perhaps due to their own self-loathing?) I don’t know. I have never understood my Abusers. What I do know is that I have been on the receiving end of my Abuser’s resistant intolerance for love and their entitlement to their own cruelty.

I have loved my Abusers, believing that my love would change them; cause them to make changes in their behavior. It did not. Love for Christ and our devotion to Him does not mean we will be able to reconcile ourselves to those who steadfastly refuse to surrender their hatred and destructive behaviors.

Yes, we must forgive them for their past abuse. Yes, we must pray for our enemies and those who willfully choose to continue to abuse our love and trust. But I do not believe we have to be reconciled to continue in a close relationship or in proximity with those who embrace Evil and refuse to surrender their deep desire to destroy us.

I also believe there are sincere Hearts that have not bled at the hands of that kind of Evil, who don’t understand this. They haven’t seen this for themselves—felt it or heard it—and so they just don’t KNOW.

I used to succumb to critics who would loudly proclaim “broken” as “incapable.”

All those in The Church who are so intolerant, unable, or unknowing, because I thought they were right.

I figured that they knew their stuff!

When those dear souls would criticize my tears; my fragility; my brokenness, I would listen to them.

Believe them.

When they would criticize the broken saying, “You can’t speak, or teach, or reach, unless you toughen up, put on your wax lips, and smile… your gratitude will fix it all.” I would inwardly wince! As if doing all those things hadn’t ever been tried by the abused who also love God and their abusers!

(Oh, please!)

I think those who advocate such simplistic answers have no clue the damage their naivete inflicts.

The abused and broken don’t want band-aids. They don’t work! And I don’t believe the broken want another slick-song-n-dance-schtick of:

“I got it ALL TOGETHER and ain’t it great BEING ME?”

How many times have I heard a speaker “speak to me” just like that, and I would think, “That will NEVER be me.” because I felt too, broken; too much of a mess, and saw no way out of my terror-ridden situation!

Not today. Now I believe hurting people just want real with all its awkward and messy flaws.

In ancient days if a guy was making and selling pottery, and it came out of the fire with cracks, they would rub a little wax into those cracks so they wouldn’t show.

(I mean, who deliberately buys a defective pot, right?)

I guess people got wise to the practice, though. (People eventually do.) So among the potters, the term “sincere” was born, meaning: Without wax.

Without wax, yeah. I’ll take my books and sermons and songs without all the shiny wax, please. Just give me real.

Remember what Jesus compared the “religious professionals” of His day too? Vipers. White-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones! When He confronted “the money-changers” in His temple, He made a whip and drove them out! It doesn’t sound like nine bars of “smile, smile, smile” does it? No wonder they hated Him. He chose to hang with the nobodies. Sinners. Prostitutes. Tax collectors and smelly fishermen—He sought them out! The Broken. The failures. The outcasts. (Yeah.) The Son of God said to all of us messy-misfits,

“Make Mine Broken!”

The professing-professionals I once knew used to “help me” feel real-unqualified. Told me, “I had to get my act together.” if I wanted to be the real-thing—before I opened my mouth.

What I believe they just didn’t get? Nine miles of bad road is supposed to change you. Rearrange you. Jesus uses UNDONE as a big part His transformation process.

The wilderness-furnace is meant to remove the wax and reveal the cracks—’cause we’ve all got ’em!

I hope anyone who reads my stuff can see ALL my flaws. (They’re there.) Every bump on that bad road I’ve been down has done its worst.

But, when you see my faults and failures, I hope you see one thing more…

I hope you see the glorious Light of Jesus shining through those broken places, because He is The One that makes all the difference, in my faults, and in yours; His Love shining through ALL our brokenness.

So let’s let His word to us, be our last Word:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  1 Corinthians 1:27 NIV

Please remember when someone asks to hear your story:

  • Tell them your story—your way.
  • Keep it simple. Keep it real.
  • People are starving out there for real!
  • And that BIG noise? The one you hear from the sidelines selling “the best wax” that money can buy?
  • Pray for them.
  • Ask God to give them understanding hearts.
  • Then go out there and let His Light and amazing grace shine, baby.

YOU were born, for such a time as this!

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Inconvenient Truth

I used to ask God, “Why?”

I rarely got any sort of an answer so I stopped asking.

(But I confess, I never stopped wondering.)

I’ve heard good Christians tell me that “THE Answer” was that I had to learn to live with all my unanswered questions.

(That didn’t help much either.)

I don’t believe a broken heart is about getting answers anyway.

(Not really.)

I believe mostly it’s about what Ann Voskamp said in her book, The Broken Way—it’s about communion. It’s about wanting someone to come close in our pain. Feel close. It is the aloneness we feel in our brokenness that magnifies all our other stuff.

For Prodigals this is especially acute, for the communion, they most desperately need—is also the thing they most fear.

Where do they go then?

What do you do with your wounded heart, when your once “safe place” has become to you the image of Habakkuk’s Vineyard?

Where do you begin to look for a PLACE of healing and hope and strength to believe again?

Is there such a place?

There are many prodigals who would not hesitate to answer a loud and resounding, “No!” Especially if you are presenting today’s Church as your answer to that Safe Place!

They’ve been there—bought the tee shirt.

They’ll gladly show you the blood-stains, pointing out all the bullet holes!

(What do you say to that one then?)

That Outcast who looks at The Church and sees a carefully camouflaged Enemy lurking there?

Do you say, “Just trust us? We’re different. We’re the REAL thing!”

(And if they’ve heard all that before?)

If they know The Church in their past is guilty of shooting it’s wounded?

Then what?

What if the inconvenient truth is this?

We have met the enemy—and he is us.

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The Gift

Some things matter in this life.

Many things don’t.

Figuring out what does, and doesn’t, makes all the difference in how you finish.

Many of us have had a rough start.

We don’t have any control over that.

But it’s how you finish that will tell your real story.

How will you finish?

We each must decide for ourselves.

What matters; what we choose to care about, that will tell our final story.

Where we invest ourselves?

That will be our legacy.

I have seen people choose wisely and I have seen people choose foolishly. But, mostly? I have seen people choose much less than they could have had.

And that is the saddest part.

The closer you get to the finish line it’s not the what of life, or the where, but the Who in your life, that begins gathering great importance. If you don’t get The Who figured out, and by that I mean, your relationship with Jesus Christ? Trust me; the rest doesn’t amount to a worthless hill of beans.

The Bible asks all of us,

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
—Mark 8:36 NIV

This life is as uncertain as shifting sand in a hurricane.

Eternity?

That’s a very long time, to get it all wrong, living in the FOREVER of mistaken and dismal choices.

This world only gives you one certainty.

God gives to each person the right to choose where they will spend eternity.

No one makes this choice for you.

Only you get to make this decision.

The Bible says, you brought nothing into this world, and you will carry nothing out with you.

I have seen that for myself. Seen people leave as naked and as empty-handed as they arrived. We leave with only what we have sent ahead.

God holds out to you,

  • THE GIFT—of His grace through His Son’s shed blood on a cross for your brokenness and sin.
  • He offers you Heaven and an eternity of joy and purpose with Him.

You can’t have Heaven any other way.

And your choice?

Your choice will stand for all eternity.

Choose wisely caterpillar.

Reach out and take His Gift for you.

 

 

 

 

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My Grace

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Always bring your wings under My Grace.

My wings are Omnipotent.

There is no difficulty you face that I will not have an answer for.

Think of your little wings this way:

One is peace, the other is prayer.

You bring Me your prayers—I give you My peace. And, praise arises from the two. Whenever your peace disappears, come to Me in prayer. We will work it out together.

I AM your refuge—Your safe haven.

When you don’t know what to do, come to Me.

Quiet the storm on the inside first. As you do, you will ask and I will give you all the wisdom and favor you need to deal with your outer storm.

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For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV

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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. 2:20]

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. 12:27 my paraphrase]

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 8:38-39]
  • That word is now branded on my soul.

God always has OTHER plans for us. Plans for GOOD—not just calamity! (Jeremiah 29: 11)

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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Bring Back The Wonder

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“… bring me back LORD, where I first started. I always found my answers there.”

—line from song, title unknown

It was a glorious spring day.

All soft warm sunshine; breezes wafting up from the river.

We were at a private ranch. Somewhere I had previously not visited and even today, could not give you directions to, or explain how I got there.

My memories of that day are selective. But what I do remember? Those I recall here with perfect clarity:

There was this large open field that had to be crossed from where we parked the car, to get to our ultimate destination, which of course was the river. It was to be my day of baptism, and I was nervous. I grew up in church but the idea of baptism? Of me being put under that water? It had always made me very uncomfortable.

In the little church on the corner where I began, there was this tank in the wall, with a large opening to the auditorium down below. You accessed it from a small hidden doorway in the back—narrow stairs leading up to it. The thing always gave me the creeps. I cannot tell you why. I don’t know. I only know that people always seemed to go down into that water extremely apprehensive, and come up spitting and sputtering, and gasping for air if not actually choking.

I wanted no part of it… or baptism. Not if I had to endure that dreaded tank!

Imagine then my dismay when years later, having “come back” to the Church after ten prodigal-years, I find myself in a church I enjoy, but with exactly the same kind of (you got it) tank-in-the-wall! Each Sunday the pastor would invite any of us who had not been baptized to become so. He would stress the imperative of “following Jesus publicly,” and every Sunday I would secretly in my heart say:  “I’m sorry God—I can’t. I just can’t!

I tell you all of this to relate my heart’s absolute knowing of this thing called—the grace of God.

I know you probably hear those words constantly these days.

(Too much—if you ask me.)

Those words have become so commonly bandied about, I think they have lost much of their uniqueness, and wonder.

And it is such a wondrous thing… His grace.

So there I am squirming in church each Sunday. Wanting with all my heart to obey this command to be baptized… yet caught in the grip of this unreasoning fear that will not let me go! Inwardly tormented with a guilty disappointment, that kept me good and trapped between what I wanted to do, and what I dreaded doing.

Oh, but this sweet and knowing grace. This Grace that knows, the who, and where, and why, of each of us. This grace that feels all our shame and embarrassment at our own fears and failing, yet hears our earnest heart speaking its inner longings, and so He quietly goes to work on our behalf.

The month was February, foggy and cold in our valley. All baptisms must be indoors, and in that dreaded tank… which to my wonder and immense relief has suddenly sprung a leak!

All baptisms cancelled until it can be fixed.

(Oh, thank you God!)

The church called for the repair men confident it will be soon fixed.

March comes and the list of people to be baptized is growing longer and longer.

April comes, and goes, but they can’t find the illusive leak. Indeed, every time they fill that tank it leaks water everywhere, and they have to drain it and start all over again.

Now, it was about this time that my guilt and my fear were in locked mortal hand-to-hand-combat. I am happy to tell you obedience and love finally conquered doubt… but the fear and dread remained.

Each Sunday my heart “threw down” with the dreaded tank in the wall.

“I can do this. I can do this.” I whispered to my childhood’s nemesis. “I will do this Jesus. I will.

(Ah, but He knew.)

Knew my fear was pounding me week after week in these secret battles—and winning.

May finally arrived. May! When the valley becomes all sunshine-warmth, and sweet-smelling showers of pink and white blossoms in the peach and almond orchards. May… when the list of those to be baptized has grown to such prodigious proportions that a new decision is finally reached… we shall all go to the river!

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And so, His kind and marvelous grace has brought me here, to this field, walking toward a new and entirely unknown experience… one that is to become one of the most wondrous of my life!

The air is warm, the water only three feet deep, and is crystal clear; flowing slow and lazy. The riverbank is small and narrow; so far out in the country not many people came. Instead our group is few in number and intimate (for the girl who also has a deep fear of public speaking) and so only has to “testify” to a few smiling and accepting faces.

We didn’t have to fall backwards into that horrid tank (as in my childhood’s dreading) but simply get on our knees and fall forward, into that clear sweet water called the Stanislaus River.

I remember I came up out of that river feeling clean—and wondrously free.stanislaus-river

I could see my dad beaming at me from that small group on that tiny wedge of beach, and I could feel my Heavenly Father’s arms wrapped snuggly around my heart, hugging the stuffins’ out of me.

It was all such wondrous grace!

And, for the first time, I knew. This intimate personal love and understanding of God for me—all by myself—with all my fears, faults, and failings.

Such is His Grace!

My heart soaring, I just could not go back home that day as if something ordinary had occurred.

So I headed to the park down the street.

I climbed into a swing, full of all that childlike wonder, and I soared—the way I used to do when I really was a child!

Grace, such a wondrous thing! The intimate and tender love that He has for each of us. Truly, it gives the heart wings as if it really could fly!

I think C. S. Lewis must have been thinking of the wonder of God’s grace when he wrote:

And that is enough to raise your thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex forever will also drown her pride… Perfect humility dispenses with modesty.”  

― C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

 

Tiny Sparrow

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A sparrow on mountain top far, far, away

Turned its eyes to heaven and began to say

Can you really see me God? Hear me when I pray?

Will you reeeally come  –  watch over me today?

~~~

When God’s angels heard, “This foolish bird!”

They gasped… and looked at God.

Would wrath replace His loving smile?

(They all began to nod.)

Surely impertinence like this

Would be met with lightening rod!

~~~

But God reached down and gathered up,

His frightened little bird…

And turned to speak, to angel host,

“Your judgements are absurd!”

Then He placed the little fellow,

Where he wouldn’t miss a word…

~~~

My dearest little sparrow,

I AM the God who hears,

All your questions, all your doubts,

And your every fear;

I AM the One, who gathers and saves,

Each tiny little tear!

~~~

When all gets dark, and you lose heart…

When hopes begin to quail,

When heaven seems like brass to you,

And songs turn into wails…

Remember, I AM watching…

And My grace will never fail!

~~~

Don’t fear what you can’t understand…

What trials and hardships there demand;

For each and every day on Earth,

I hold you… in My mighty hands!

Just trust, that everything’s designed…

According to My perfect plan!

~~~

In all of My creation, whether near or very far,

My eyes behold your greatest need,

… don’t wish upon a star!

But turn your eyes to Heaven,

For I’m watching where you are.

~~~

And if you need Me… I’ll be there!

I’ll take good care of you!

Before you call… I’ll answer;

Open up the skies of blue!

You’re My precious… tiny… sparrow,

What’s that? Ahhh, yes, I love you, too!

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