Celebrating Incomprehensible Love on Father’s Day

King of endless worth,
no one could express
how much you deserve.
Though I’m weak and poor,
all I have is Yours,
every single breath!
(Heart of Worship by Matt Redman)

As a story teller and a follower of Christ, I’m always wracking my brain for an angle—some way to convey what Jesus has done for us. I plan these little stories in my head and ponder how to turn them into THE novel that will show the world the incredible love of God for us.

But none of my analogies seem to have the makings of a truly good read.

I had this idea for a scientist who invents this new species of ants. The ants can communicate—albeit rudimentarily—with the scientist, and his mutation wins him the Nobel Prize and eventually the esteemed position of President of the United States. In some strange twist of fate the Prize winning President would choose to die for his ants, and it would be this tragic loss—the President of the United States gave his life for some insects because they meant so much to him, their creator.

See, it’s silly and weird, and it just doesn’t make sense. I want to somehow drive home the insanity that the Creator Of Worlds came to die for MUCH lower beings. The example of how valuable He is vs. how insignificant we are in comparison is much like the President of the United States willfully giving up his own life to save an ant. It’s a tragedy. A grossly unfair trade.
image
Tonight as I read the lyrics to “Heart of Worship” (above), I thought of another story. There’s this mighty king and he goes out into the humble villages and towns of his kingdom and chooses an heir. For reasons beyond our understanding, he chooses the worthless, one-legged drunk who never worked an honest day in his life. He brings this bum back to his castle and grooms him to one day become king. He makes this worthless miscreant his best friend and closest confidant.

But why would he do that?

For this to be a story worth reading—one with conflict and climax and all the drama we readers love–it has to have more. We want the king to secretly need something from the drunk bum. We want the drunk bum to uncover a plot against the king’s life and subsequently save the king. That’s what good stories are made of! That would make the king’s choice of heir make more sense to us sensible readers.

But it doesn’t make sense.
image

It doesn’t make sense that the King of the Universe chose me. Me who has nothing to give but my broken, unfaithful heart. Then, after choosing me, He came to die for me—a common whore. And I couldn’t do a single thing to pay Him back. He spoke universes into being and created the marvelous complexities of the human body in His own image and legions of angels fall down before Him day and night worshiping Him crying “Holy, Holy, Holy is The Lord God Almighty,” and He left heaven to be crucified because He wants to be close to me.

I have no stories for this. I have no analogies that can make this unimaginable scenario make sense. I have only the response in the lyrics above, “Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is Yours, every single breath!”

I can’t find an analogy that would make you understand this great, great love. There is nothing else like it, and there never has been, and there never shall be. We are fiercely loved and desired by God. THE God. Let us fall on our knees and worship Him because He is so worthy of our worship!
image

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us”

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

So Now I’m A “Car-Girl”

On my way to work this morning I drove past a 2015 flat black, dual exhaust Dodge Challenger. I drooled. I looked with lust. IT. WAS. GORGEOUS. Then it struck me. When did this happen? I don’t even like cars. I’ve never cared a bit about what car I was driving, and I am even less interested in how fast the newest Camaro can get from 0 to 60. Where did this attraction to a car come from? And why did it look so good in flat black when my favorite color is red and shiny?

image

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr……….

Guess who loves flat black. Guess who loves muscle cars. Yeah. It’s Ron. He LOVES them. All through the years he has pointed out cars to me. I remember in the early years it was all gibberish. I couldn’t tell the difference between a Ford and a Chevy. Ron would say, “There’s an old Impala.” Or, “Look at that Chevelle!” And I remember thinking to myself, how am I ever going to remember any of this? They all looked the same!

Ron didn’t give up. Through the last 20 years, he has pointed out spoilers and rims and dual exhaust and big-block engines and fast backs.

I know what all those words mean now.

I was never going to be a “car girl.” I only know, understand, or begin to appreciate cars because I have spent so much time with a “car guy.” So, this morning while I was driving and rubber-necking on the way to work, God showed me a correlation.

I have said to you before that I think one of the greatest gifts God has given marriage is TIME. Time heals our hearts and wounds. Time affords us the opportunity to love more often than we mess up. Time gives us the blessing of faithful endurance through hard times which builds our trust. Time blesses us with the opportunity to build our mates self-esteem by sticking with each other through thick and thin. And, with time, we can learn each other’s ins and outs, loves and interests; and, eventually become well versed in all things Gas Monkey-esque.
image

I think marriage is one big object lesson and here is one very important one:

The longer I walk with Ron the more I like cars.

The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I like wisdom and love and patience and mercy.

I couldn’t help but absorb a love for muscle cars when I decided to partner up with a Forkey. If, early on, I had quit loving that Forkey—quit being interested in what interested him—we would’ve eventually grown apart and I wouldn’t have purred out loud at that sleek beast as it drove past me this morning.

It’s the same with our sweet Savior. If I am not interested in the things that interest the Lover of My Soul, our relationship won’t thrive and I won’t take on His nature. If I don’t work at the relationship, the relationship won’t produce in me godly character traits.

It’s that simple.

By virtue of years with Ron, I’ve become a “car girl.” May more days, weeks, and years with The Savior make us merciful, long-suffering, courageous, holy, loving, gentle, a friend of sinners, heroic, humble, steadfast, self-controlled, gospel-minded, little Christs.
image

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Ohhhhhhhh. Now I get it.

Ephesians 6:11-18 New International Version (NIV)

11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

image

I have this idea for a comic strip or a short cartoon.

Don’t get excited, it won’t be something that “goes viral.”

But I can see it in my head so clearly. It’s me. It’s what I’ve been doing for years; and, here at the end of “Day Five of the Rest of My Life,” it’s a bit tragic to look back on what I’ve been doing so wrong.

I’ll tell you what the comic strip would look like. Try to picture it:

I get up in the morning and the Holy Spirit is waiting there, perched on the side of my bed, smiling as I open my eyes.
“Ready for the day?” He asks.
“I got this,” I yawn and step past Him to go make the largest pot of coffee my coffee maker will perk.

Next slide is me, bulldozing through my day. Each challenge is met with my heart “in the right place.” I’ve got to be awesome for God. Each person I meet, each addition to my schedule, I have pleasing Him in mind. I go at it hard, but frustration, discouragement, and failure are always right at my heels.

Next slide, me falling into bed, exhausted that night. “I did this day for you God. I tried hard. I had a lot of bad attitudes and things didn’t always go well, but I gave it my best.”

Next morning, the Holy Spirit is waiting there again, perched on my bed waiting to get the day started.
“Ready?” He asks, stepping towards the kitchen.
“No, no. You stay here. I’ve TOTALLY got this. I’ll do better today. I’ll show you. You’ll be proud of me, you’ll see!”
I read my Bible like a student cramming for a test. I try to soak it all up quickly and hope I’ll remember it throughout the day. (Are you still picturing it?)
And off I go again. Running around with a Savior Complex, thinking that if I don’t “be Jesus” to each person I meet, I’ll be a disappointment to Him. Gotta be awesome. Gotta be awesome.

Day after day after day after day.

For oh so many years.

Always trying so dang hard to make Him proud. Always feeling like I can’t get past myself. Full of sin; and, after so many years, tired of fighting a losing battle.
That’s where I was last week. Really, really tired of fighting.

“Are we there yet?” I was asking Him. “Can’t you just come back? I’m not a fighter. You know that. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like battle. I want to be done. I’m exhausted.”

Then, late at night (after a long talk with my sister and some really good devotions), He spoke. He showed me that little cartoon in my head.

And you saw it right away, didn’t you? You recognized instantly what took me 36 years to notice about myself. I kept wanting to “be great” for Him. I kept wanting to show Him that I loved Him and that I could be what He wanted me to be. I had it so mixed up.

So, here we are on day five. For the last five days, I’ve been waking up extra early and praying out loud. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never been that kind of “disciplined Christian.” But I’m at the end of my rope. Something has to change and the change is me getting a little less sleep. I’ve been praying first thing, committing my whole day to Him. I’m done leading. I’m done leaving Him at my bedside to go show off. It took 36 years, but I see clearly now that I CAN’T.

I can’t please Him in my own strength. I can’t be who he wants me to be. It’s like I excepted the grace of His salvation; and then, (though I couldn’t have admitted it to you) I lived a gospel of works. I thought hard work was the way to go.

image

These last five days have been so. . . relaxing. So fulfilling. So evident that I can’t be the boss of my own heart. I’ve had less tension and conflict because I’ve been putting on the armor of God each morning. The fight that was flaying the skin from my heart isn’t as hard as I was making it! It was only hard because I was fighting it unarmed and mostly alone.

1.  I’ve been putting on the belt of Truth – asking God to open my eyes to His truth. To see my heart in the light of His truth and to show others His truth.

2.  I’ve been putting on the Breastplate of Righteousness—the piece of armor that covers my heart with His Righteousness not my own. The Breastplate of Righteousness assures me that the Father is pleased, nay thrilled, with me just as I am because He sees Jesus’ blood when He looks at me.

3.  I’m holding up the Shield of Faith that God promises will extinguish all the “flaming darts of the evil one” (and let me tell you: it is working!!! I’ve had NO DARTS for five days. No thoughts about how inadequate I am or how flawed I am or how tired of the battle I am. None! Just by “praying on” this spiritual shield!)

4.  Then I put on my Helmet of Salvation and it covers my head, my intellect, my thoughts with the fact that I belong to God and that Jesus paid my debt. When my thoughts are grounded in salvation, the rest of my day is worship.

5.  Next I put on the Shoes That Are Ready With the Gospel of Peace. I ask God to direct those shoes all day long. I commit to following instead of leading. I ask him to pick my schedule and to be Lord of every part of my day, especially my evenings with my family.

6.  Finally, I take up the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. I’ll be honest with you, I’m just getting started in this venture. I haven’t done much with my Bible yet and I haven’t memorized anything new this week, but I’ve got big plans 🙂

I wish you could see how well it’s working. I wish you could know me well enough to know how tormented I’ve been on and off throughout my life. How bummed I’ve constantly been with how much farther I still had to go. I wish you knew how much my need to be great and unique and perfect has grayed my colorful spirit. My sister Bethany knows. She could tell you about all the long excruciating conversations. “Why aren’t I awesome yet? meh meh meh meh meh…..”

I’m not sure why it took so long to figure this out, and I don’t presume to think that my battles are the same as yours. Maybe you fight different demons. But, if any of you are fighting the demon of needing to be wonderful, needing to be someone or something and feeling like you aren’t, then learn from me. We can’t lead. We can’t be awesome. It’s the best thing we have going for us, our need for Him. He is awesome, and He is sitting by our bedside in the morning just dying to lead us through the day He has planned.

image

I’m going to keep you posted on this. It’s only day five. I feel like I’m just starting out on a new journey. But I feel so relaxed. I haven’t packed a thing and I’m sure I won’t be great at it and that’s totally ok.

Here’s what the Bible translation “The Message” says about our armor:

Ephesians 6:11-18The Message (MSG)

A Fight to the Finish
10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Saint Paul Was A Jerk

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”–and I am the worst of them all.

This verse has bothered me since I was a kid. Some Bible versions translate Paul’s self-abasement as “the chief of sinners.” I have belonged to Jesus for most of my life; and now, at age 36, I only begin to understand what Paul was saying. But first, let me tell you why this particular Bible verse has irritated me for 20+ years.

Let’s look at Paul and his accomplishments. I googled “Paul’s accomplishments” and the first website that came up had a pretty good list. http://www.christianity.about.com describes Paul thusly:

The Apostle Paul, who started as one of Christianity’s most zealous enemies, was hand-picked by Jesus Christ to become the gospel’s most ardent messenger. Paul traveled tirelessly through the ancient world, taking the message of salvation to the Gentiles. Paul towers as one of the all-time giants of Christianity.

Paul made three long missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire, planting churches, preaching the gospel, and giving strength and encouragement to early Christians. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, Paul is credited as the author of 13 of them.

Paul had a brilliant mind, a commanding knowledge of philosophy and religion, and could debate with the most educated scholars of his day. At the same time, his clear, understandable explanation of the gospel made his letters to early churches the foundation of Christian theology. Tradition portrays Paul as a physically small man, but he endured enormous physical hardships on his missionary journeys. His perseverance in the face of danger and persecution has inspired countless missionaries since. Paul was martyred for his faith in Christ by the Romans, about 64 or 65 A.D.

Ok. If that guy was the “chief of sinners,” then I’m totally screwed. Paul didn’t say “I used to be the worst before Jesus saved me,” he said he was currently “the worst.” Do you see why this verse has driven me crazy? Paul was madly in love with Jesus. He gave his life to spreading the gospel and caring for people. He lived for the church. He was killed for the church. It honestly seemed pretty cruel of him to describe himself as the worst of sinners. Obviously he WAS NOT the worst of sinners. Didn’t he know how discouraging that would be to the rest of us? I’m never going to “live up to” Paul; and if he was “the worst,” then I’m in very big trouble.

But I’m getting older. The fruit is finally ripening and I begin, now, to understand. Let me tell you what I’m learning. The thing is, I’ve been striving hard after Christ lately. Harder than normal. Harder than ever before. It isn’t necessarily something I’ve been doing, more like work He’s been doing in me. The word HOLINESS is echoing in my heart and thoughts all day long. “Holy, set apart for special use, make me holy, Lord,” I’ve been praying.

image

When Rosie disobeys me and gets a spankin’ on her cute little tush, she learns that disobeying me has consequences. God has graciously disciplined me since I committed my life to him at age five. I’ve learned that when I sin, I’m less happy. I’ve learned that sin and my fallen nature and Ron’s fallen nature and Chloe’s fallen nature and even little Rosie’s fallen nature are the cause of most of my strife. If my day isn’t going well, you can almost always bet that someone’s sin is lurking behind the scenes. Usually my own. I can look back on my unhappy years of marriage and point to all the sin that made those years crappy.

The Bible says sin = death.

Speaking of God’s Word, let me tell you how much I am growing to appreciate it. It is the basis for everything. It is our truth, our roadmap, our wisdom, our happy ending, our hope, our way of sitting next to Almighty Creator God and KNOWING Him. He wants us to KNOW Him. Do you grasp how amazing that is? Do you fathom how weird that is? Can you begin to appreciate how blessed we spoiled brats are? He – the Creator of the world and universes, the One who speaks and matter is born, the One who designed every incredible detail of our bodies, the One who could speak a single word and put an end to us all, wants our love and affection. That’s insane.

image

So, all of this has marinated in me producing the logical conclusions.

1. The fact that sin makes me unhappy.
2. The fact that I am dearly loved by my Savior.
3. The fact that when Ron and I do things God’s way we are infinitely happier because God is infinitely good.
4. The fact that holiness is hard work (not saving work), but it’s results are peace, joy, satisfaction, feeling adored, feeling complete, knowing what I’ve been made for.

These years of experiences and gradual understandings have brought me to a place where I YEARN to be holy. I’m desperate for more Jesus. I’m addicted. I’m hooked. I’ve got to have more because going without is painful. I AM ALL IN.

image

The results…… They’ve been interesting. Here I am, more focused on Jesus, and His Church and my calling, than ever before and all I do is screw up. Every day! All the time! I’m selfish. I lie. I’m impatient. I’m judgmental. I’m self-absorbed. I’m seeking my own glory which robs Him of His. It’s overwhelming! I’m gobsmacked by how sinful I am!!! When I was lolly-gagging through life with minimal commitment to holiness, I thought I was a pretty decent person. Now, I can’t get an hour through the day without looking my sinful nature in the face these days. What the heck?!

We are all so yucky.

Paul was no different. He had all the same garbage. He fought selfishness, he fought despair, he fought faithlessness, he fought impatience with jerks, he fought sinful anger, he fought pride, he fought all the stuff we are fighting today. The only difference—nay the only advantage—Paul had was he had his eyes opened and he could see it. If it’s in God’s Word, it is undoubtably true. Therefore, 1 Timothy 1:15 assures me that Paul was a jerk.

You’re a jerk.

I’m a jerk.

We’re all jerks. You can continue to dip your toe in the water and stare with eyes fixed on all the world has to offer (you’ll still be jerk even if you’re too distracted to notice) OR you can dive in. You can choose God’s direction, God’s wisdom, God’s restraints against the sick world we live in, you can choose to be HOLY—set apart for SPECIAL USE; and then, only then, will you find peace, joy, deep fulfillment, love beyond measure, and a true mirror to look into that will show you just how much you needed a Savior.

Dear Jesus, burn the jerk out of me and make me look more like YOU!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Power of Time

Ron and I have a favorite song. We listened to it yesterday, snuggled next to each other on the couch. It was the middle of the afternoon, and we had just exchanged Valentine cards and candy. The girls were in the kitchen behind us, and they quieted down as Ron and I held hands and listened to Alan Jackson sing “Remember When” just for us from Ron’s iphone. (munching Swedish Fish and Reese’s Cups)

If you listen to “Remember When,” you’ll know pretty much all you need to know about Ron and I. It’s all there; every step in our lives together. Somehow Alan Jackson prophetically knew. I can’t read these lyrics without crying. Our love story is epic to me.image

Remember When By Alan Jackson
o Remember when I was young and so were you
And time stood still and love was all we knew
You were the first, so was I
We made love and then you cried
Remember when
o Remember when we vowed the vows and walked the walk
Gave our hearts, made the start, it was hard
We lived and learned, life threw curves
There was joy, there was hurt
Remember when
o Remember when old ones died and new were born
And life was changed, disassembled, rearranged
We came together, fell apart
And broke each other’s hearts
Remember when
o Remember when the sound of little feet
Was the music we danced to week to week
Brought back the love, we found trust
Vowed we’d never give it up
Remember when
o Remember when thirty seemed so old
Now lookin’ back, it’s just a steppin’ stone
To where we are, where we’ve been
Said we’d do it all again
Remember when
o Remember when we said when we turned gray
When the children grow up and move away
We won’t be sad, we’ll be glad
For all the life we’ve had
And we’ll remember when
o Remember when
Remember when

“You were the first; so was I. We made love and then you cried. Remember when?”
I remember it well. It was a failure. One of our first failures together. We didn’t “make it to marriage.” Back then, it was a big, flippin’ deal. One of the first screw ups in a long line of screw ups. Telling my parents was painful. I struggled for many years with the “what ifs” of how my life could’ve turned out differently if I had obeyed God’s calling for purity and holiness. Our early years of marriage, that should’ve been vibrant and colorful, were grayed by our teenage failure. A raincloud of guilt followed – no chased – us through our twenties.

“And life was changed, disassembled, rearranged. We came together, fell apart, and broke each other’s hearts. Remember when?”
The lack of holiness in our dating years spawned more drama. We were unfaithful to each other before marriage and somehow we thought we’d leave that all behind when we walked the aisle together. We were dumb. If you lay a foundation on sandy soil, the house falls down when the rains come.

The rains came.

Huricanes came.

Our foundation collapsed and we found ourselves dealing with the pain of adultery. We broke each other’s hearts. Marriage was soooooooo painful. I was not turning out at all like I was supposed to. Raised in a Christian family, I knew exactly who I was supposed to be, and I fell so far from the mark. I hated me and I didn’t feel too peppy about marriage either. wedding confidence
(Look how confident I look in this picture! Ha!)

“Remember when the sound of little feet was the music we danced to week to week? Brought back the love; we found trust. Vowed we’d never give it up. Remember when?”
Yes, God was GOOD when we were not. God was FAITHFUL when we were faithless. He never gave up on us. He wasn’t nearly as mad at me as I was. He knew. He knew the failures were all more than necessary to bring about what was to come. Ron and I hung on by our pinky fingers and managed to stay in the ring long enough to see what God was doing. He had big plans for these two screw ups! We forgave each other. It took years to “bring back trust,” but it was worth the hard work.

When Ron forgave me – TWICE – for my unfaithfulness, I learned how to love and appreciate him in almost a reverent way. I look up to him and his kindness and his grace more than I could ever explain to you. Ron (and Jesus) taught this fickle heart the virtue of real true sacrificial love. I would rather die than ever bruise Ron’s amazing heart again. I believe I would’ve been a fickle, unfaithful woman no matter who I had married. I believe there was something broken and gross inside of me (sin) that was going to come out no matter what. What if I had married someone who had divorced me (because Biblically, that’s what I deserved!) instead of forgiving me?

“Remember when thirty seemed so old? Now, looking back, it’s just a stepping stone. To where we are, where we’ve been—said we’d do it all again. Remember when?”
I just told you about a lot of garbage. A lot of pain. A lot of doing it the wrong way. You may wonder: why is this their favorite song? Who would want to relive all that? But, friends, I swear to you: Ron and I would do it all again. We have come so far. We have learned so much! We are seeing the fruit of those times of hoeing and weeding. Sitting on the couch, Ron and I could picture it all as it happened. We listened to Alan Jackson croon and we saw the snapshots in our heads. We squeezed each other’s hands at each meaningful verse.

If you could play me a video of those painful days, I would watch them with a smile. The pain is gone. GONE. It was all necessary to make us who we are today. Today we are helping other couples hold on through the pain. Today we heard a testimony from another couple who said, “Since you and Ron started caring for us and our marriage, we are a changed, different couple. We’re so thankful.” Oh my gosh, people. The pain was so worth it. The fire burned out the garbage and the sin, and God is refining Ron and I into gold. Praise JESUS!image

The power of Time. If you will hold on. If you will commit your way to the Lord, He will make your paths straight! If you will hold on through the tough, painful times, you will be blown away by the fruit of that pruning down the road. You (and that jerk or bum or adulterer etc. that you’re married to) will say, “Remember when?” And then you’ll smooch and make out in front of the kids to the sound of their grossed out noises. Ah, the sound of little feet 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Turning A Sow’s Ear Into A Silk Purse

Building Self-Esteem

That diamond on your finger sure sparkles. Its perfect cuts and facets catch the light and draw the eye. Usually, a girl is quite proud of her diamond. She doesn’t mind if you notice (and praise) the precious stone on her ring finger. Most guys are quite proud of themselves for picking out that perfect stone and dropping the cash necessary to obtain both the stone and the lady.image

Your spouse has facets too. Lots of sides. Lots of strengths. And, probably, lots of weaknesses. God has given you the distinct privilege of being your spouse’s sunbeam. You get to choose what you’ll highlight. You can cast the light on your spouse’s best qualities or on their worst. It’s completely up to you where you decide to focus. And that decision will be one that will shape the rest of your lives together.

Self-esteem has been a key issue of development for Ron and I. In the beginning of our marriage, I was never wrong. Never. I didn’t have the self-esteem to be wrong and, quite honestly, none of the Cusatos have an easy time of admitting when they’re wrong. This was catastrophic in our early years.

Ron is one of the most humble men I’ve ever met. He is smart and talented and handsome and kind and wise and funny, but he doesn’t need you to know any of that about him. He doesn’t need anyone to like him. It’s ridiculously healthy of him. Even with a “people pleaser” personality, he knows how to prioritize when it’s important to “people please.” The result of his healthy self-esteem? He’s nice to fight with. He has no problem saying, “I’m wrong and I’m sorry.” (Usually quoting Dirty Dancing, “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong. Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”)

Most of us aren’t so healthy. I know I’m not. I genuinely need people to like me. I fight my ego on a daily basis. I want people to think I’m talented. I want people to think I’m wise. It’s my worst, absolute worst, quality. My most un-Christlike feature. It has led to most of my screw ups and downfalls. I am daily working out the verse,

“Humble thyself in the sight of The Lord and He will lift you up.”

As I laud Ron to you, let me tell you that he does a bunch of things that can drive me freakin crazy. He doesn’t always do what I think a “godly” man should do. He’s his own man; and, sometimes he’s a stinker. When he does something that particularly irritates me, I have the same two options you have. I can get quiet, distant and pouty OR I can practice God’s truth and:

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

Do you want the God of peace to be with your marriage? This verse in Philippians chapter 4 tells you exactly how to procure that Presence. By super gluing your thoughts to only true, pure, lovely, honorable things.

Here’s what it looks like. Your spouse sleeps in on Sunday morning, leaving you to go to church by yourself which drives you nuts because he isn’t sick and it isn’t a great example to the kids and you feel a little embarrassed walking in by yourself.. again… and doesn’t he want to prioritize Jesus like you do??? (Pick your own irritating scenario – as obviously I have a particular one of my own in mind)
image
Now, instead of withholding your affection and smiles from him when you get home, you get off your high horse and remember that you’re no prize pig yourself. You screw things up all the time, too. Your Christianity still leaves A LOT to be desired. You hug that dude (or lady) and you tell him (or her) that he’s the only one in the world for you. You remind him that he’s an amazing dad. That you couldn’t do life without him. That no one else gets you like he does. You build his self-esteem rather than tear it down. When your humanity wants to wring your spouses neck, you think about the things your spouse is awesome at and then you smile at him/her. A genuine, gracious smile of appreciation.

This discipline, like all disciplines, takes a little time to produce results. You can’t start out with one perfect diet day and expect to weigh 20 pounds less by the end of the evening. Diets take long successions of perfect days. (Ok, mostly perfect days.) You will slip up occasionally, but if most of what you say to your spouse for a month, two months, three months is encouraging, kind, and appreciative then something radical is going to happen.

I wanted to clam up and be cold today. I wanted to let Ron know how hard it is for me to respect him when he chooses sleep over Church. Oh how I wanted to! But after long years of learning how to succeed on this “diet”, I told him I loved him. He laid his head down on my lap and apologized. He said, “I need to fix this. I want church to be a priority.” I said, “You’re a great man of God and good at a bazillion things.” Even though I wanted to be disrespectful, I said, “Even if you never do any better at this, I will always be madly in love with you.”

I’m being real with you folks. This really happened to us today. I know you have different problems and different annoyances. I know you might think that sleeping in when your wife begs you to come to church with her sounds like a tiny problem. And I know it isn’t a big one. But, wouldn’t you agree, most of the things about your spouse that drive you crazy could probably be swept under the rug by your love?

1 Peter 4:8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.

image

Isn’t this what we loved about dating? What we feel cheated out of when marriage gets real? When you were dating, you said the nicest things to each other. You stared googly-eyed through rose colored goggles, seeing each other’s finest qualities and kindly overlooking any faults. I say, put the dang goggles back on! I’m not asking you to be out of touch with reality. I’m just saying, you knew he had faults when you were dating, but you chose not to focus on them. Make that choice again because it is absolutely necessary for mutual adoration.

Check out what Paul teaches in Philippians Chapter 2:

Have the Attitude of Christ

2 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Shine Brightly for Christ
12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

The God of Peace is offering Himself to His children. If we will obey Him, (humbling ourselves when it’s hard, thinking the best of our spouse when it’s hard, loving lavishly without complaining or arguing) He will show up and show out.

Ron and I are almost at 15 years of being conjoined. In the beginning, any and every irritation found us picking and nagging and “instructing” each other. As a result, we didn’t feel very lovely in each other’s eyes. We had very little self-esteem with each other. Therefore, we defended ourselves instead of apologizing. We built walls to protect ourselves from each other’s constant reminders of how we were failing. It was dog eat dog.

Since hitting rock bottom and revising our relationship, we’ve spent many years telling each other how AMAZING the other is. There is no one in the world who loves me as much as Ron does. There is no one who admires me more. He has built in me a phenomenal sense of safety and downright fantastic-ness.

Now, when I do something wrong, I feel safe enough to admit to it.

I feel safe enough to humble myself. (if Jesus can do it even though he was perfect, shouldn’t I?) And that humility has torn down the walls of solitude that we built in the early years. I trust Ron with my failures, because no one in the world thinks more highly of me. I’m safe to be human with him and he’s safe to be human with me.

This is why building your spouse’s self-esteem is the most important thing you can do for him or her and for you. If they feel admired and adored by you, fights will become a thing of the past. Who can fight with someone who never picks on them and constantly builds them up? If that person—who is constantly building you up and making you feel like the most incredible human being alive—has a little problem with you, you are quick to want to fix it. After all, you’d never want to lose their devotion when it’s the best part of your whole day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Denying Ourselves And Taking The Narrow Way – The Tiny Door

I gave you a promise in my last post. I promised you that you could have the marriage you always dreamed of – no even better than that – without having to divorce and remarry someone “nicer.”

This promise is contingent on one thing.

You.

It’s not contingent on your spouse being a Christian. It’s not contingent on your spouse changing. It’s not contingent on finances getting better. It is solely contingent on you. If I promise you that my chili recipe is the best you’ve ever tasted, how will you know unless you taste it. I can promise it and you can lean over and smell the pot, but unless you are willing to taste it, my promise won’t work.

You must do this.

A couple may be two people, but a happy marriage starts with one. Only one of you needs to decide to give this your all—to lay down your rights and privileges and give up your desires.

Listen, I know that sounds sucky. I’m aware. It didn’t sound easy or pleasant to me when I read it either. But, be realistic with me here. How’s it working out for you the other way? Are you getting somewhere in the cage? When you score a blow to nose and see blood, do you feel peaceful inside? Do you think one day it will suddenly get better and look like your parents marriage just because? If so, you think wrong. image

There is a recipe for making the best chili. The recipe calls for certain ingredients that can’t be left out if you still want to call the dish “chili.” There are ingredients in a successful, peace-filled, satisfying, delightful, fun marriage.

The first one is self-sacrifice.

It’s the meat in this chili.

It’s humiliating, I’m not going to lie. To get down on all fours in the middle of the cage fight, in front of all those people, and scuffle your big hips through the tiny trap door in the corner is embarrassing. It looks to the crowd like you’re quitting. And, in a way, you are quitting. You’re quitting the pointlessness of trying to throw a kidney punch at your own kidney.

If marriage makes us one flesh, the stupidest thing we can do is fight with each other. But Satan makes stupid look smart. He makes it look important. He makes it look like the only option. Satan is like Nelson in the Simpsons. He’s a bully. He grabs you from behind and punches you in the face with your own fist while chanting, “Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself.”
image

And you are listening to him! If Bart and Lisa followed Nelson around, despite his constant bullying, we’d watch them and say, “This can’t turn out good for them.” But we’re doing that very same thing in our marriages. We’re following the enemy. We’re listening to him. And he’s beating the snot out of us with our own fist.

So let’s be practical. What does it look like. First, some Bible verses:

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

Here are five different versions of Romans 12:10. I couldn’t pick one they were all so good!

New Living Translation
Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

English Standard Version
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

New American Standard Bible
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

King James Bible
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.

International Standard Version
Be devoted to each other with mutual affection. Excel at showing respect for each other.
prefer one another

These next verses are life-changing:

Ephesians 5:22-30 For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.

How ’bout the Love Chapter that someone read or sang at your wedding:

I Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

We can read these verses over and over and over and over but until we put them into genuine, practical use, they are meaningless.

If I love my husband so much I would die for him, will I be mad at him for not getting me flowers on Valentines day? If you love your wife like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, will you call her a Bitch next time she offends you? Nuh uh. Whoa! We’re getting real now and breaking out the B word. I’m just going to assume that if you are here reading these words, you might be at the point in your marriage that swearing at each other during fights is the least of your worries.

So, to keep this reasonably succinct, here’s your homework.

PREFER you spouse.

Every single time you want something this week, put your spouse first. Cook their favorite food. Rub their back or their feet at the end of the day. Watch their favorite T.V. show, even if it isn’t a very Christlike show. You husband or wife can feel your judgement. He wants to watch “It’s always Sunny in Philadelphia” and you give him that pained look that lets him know he’ll never live up to your Christian standards. He feels like less in your eyes. He doesn’t feel respected. “Well,” you say, “he doesn’t deserve my respect.”

Wrong.

Likewise, husbands, perhaps you’re wife isn’t very respectful. Perhaps it’s you reading this blog and not her. It’s you who wants to have a best friend and you aren’t sure how that B word could ever be one. You must love her despite all her flaws. “Husbands love your wives like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” You know, we weren’t the “church” before He died for us. He gave Himself for us “while we were yet sinners.”image

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Hosea. God tells Hosea to go marry a prostitute as an object lesson for all of Israel. Hosea obeys. He marries Gomer (a horrible wife with a horrible name). They have three children together. It takes a long time to have three children with someone. Gomer was his wife of many years. After each child was born, Gomer couldn’t take the heat of being a wife and mother and she’d leave Hosea and go back to prostituting. Each time, God told Hosea to go buy her back. He kept having to use their funds (which I’m sure were minimal being that he was a prophet and that can’t be a high paying job) and go buy her back.

I know you don’t have it as bad as Hosea did. I know your wife ain’t easy, but she’s gotta be better than Gomer. And, just like Hosea, God is making you an object lesson to your children and to your friends and family. If you can love, truly sacrificially love, the woman you committed to love, she will become lovable. God promises this to you. By the way, Hosea’s name means “salvation.” Salvation can only be obtained through sacrifice. But you knew that.

God commands wives to respect their husbands despite their husband’s sinfulness. God commands husbands to love their wives to the point of dying for them. This is where I add a disclaimer: I’m not equipped to counsel extreme situations. If your husband wants you to watch porn with him, that is not ok. That is not what I mean. There are lines that can’t be crossed, even in love. If you’re not safe or your kids aren’t safe or your wife is a bank robber, you should find some professional help. As for the rest of you, LOVE COVERS A MULTITUDE OF SINS.

If you won’t (or can’t) do this homework, I have little hope for you.

This is the meat in the chili. Meatless chili is just beans. Beans is not much substance. The discipline of denying yourself is the substance of a healthy marriage.

This is where I started—where the book “Created To Be His Help-Meet” told me to start. For several weeks, I treated Ron like a king. I oohed and ahhed at him. I put him just below Jesus. I rubbed his feet almost every night and the man LOVED it. I told him how much I respected him and I started noticing all the things he did that were definitely worthy of my respect.

He started to warm up like butter in my hands. He felt so loved by me it invigorated him. He felt so respected by me as I listened to how he wanted things to be done (and did them his way) that he started loving me and wanting to do things my way because he just loved me so much. That’s how it works. God’s wisdom is foolishness to man.

It feels like I’m asking you to be doormat. You’re just sure that if you do what I’m asking, that already in-grateful spouse of yours will just find more ways to take advantage of you. Nope. It’s bizarre. I promise. It will work. Love your spouse for Jesus and because of Jesus and You will win a soulmate and companion that will blossom under your love and will surprise you with each passing day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Happy Marriage or Cage Match Fight to the Death?

The handsome, confident man struts proudly towards his appointed place at the front of the room. His friends and family sit close by, beaming teary smiles in anticipation. She appears at the back of the room and glides like an angel down the aisle. It’s perfect. He couldn’t have found a better match. They couldn’t have picked a prettier day. They are blessed beyond measure. As the Pastor pronounces a blessing over their new life together, they turn to face the happy crowd. Mrs. Perfect slips her delicate hand around his arm and they take their first confident step forward.

In a blink, the church fades away. They walk the aisle together, but the scenery has changed. Confused, they look back and forth between each other and the shouting crowd that fills the seats around them. The confident man’s confidence begins to waiver. The angelic beauty at his side is much less beautiful in the red flashing strobe lights. As they reach the end of the aisle, an announcer’s voice booms over the loud speaker offering the crowd the fight of a lifetime.

The crowd roars, thirsty for blood, and the young man and his bride meet each other’s eyes. There is fear there. What’s happening? This isn’t right. They’re supposed to be enjoying a life of happily-ever-after. How did they get here? Still sure that they’ll be fine if they believe in the power of their love, the new husband guides his young wife through the door into the octagonal ring.

Once inside the floor-to-ceiling caged ring, the doors close with a sickening lock of finality. The crowd fades to a blur behind the metal mesh walls. The gong sounds, and the two lovers square off and begin a confusing life-long duel to the death. Slowly and methodically she will undermine his authority and strip away his pride and honor. He’ll hit back where it hurts the most, neglecting her and making her wonder if he ever loved her to begin with. They’ll circle and jab and circle and block. For too many Christian couples, this “wedding dance” will comprise the next 40 or 50 years. Unless someone goes down after a particularly bad blow and decides to stay down and forfeit.image

Christian marriages, Christian friends, are surrendering to defeat all around me. It’s an epidemic. I’m close to these people, these friends, these loved ones, and I’m watching the fight from a front row seat. God has stirred my heart to fight for the institution He created, because I’ve seen its blessings first hand. I’ve personally won my own cage fight and I have the big gold belt to prove it.

I can honestly tell you Ron and I have figured out the game. We know how to win. We aren’t fronting. We aren’t faking. We began in the cage like the rest of you and we spent the first two or three years circling each other, guard up, looking for an opportunity to leg sweep the other and gouge out an eye.

We ain’t perfect, don’t get me wrong.

This past December’s stresses sent us sparring, and we had a string of Saturdays where things didn’t feel as good as they normally do. Sometimes we blink and we’re back in the cage. But we have had an amazing Trainer. He taught us how to win together. He showed us how to get out of the cage. I’m passing on the secrets. Please don’t take my confidence as pride. We are only where we are by the great grace of Jesus, the same grace that is readily available for your marriage!

I think, as new couples, the biggest problem is that we aren’t trained fighters. And, more importantly, we’ve lost track of the real enemy. We’re just enamored, star-struck lovers thrown into a ring together only to be completely gob-smacked when we realize we’re somehow suddenly against each other. We went in thinking we’d fight together, and then found out how different we are from our spouse. What started out as two best friends joining, became a fight to the death. Like when Captain Kirk has to fight his best friend Spock on Vulcan in a fight to the death because of Pon Farr. They were best friends. They loved and respected each other, but an external force was making them hurt each other and neither of them wanted to. Not a Treky? Moving on…

Can any of you work a spinning wheel? How about a Cotton Gin? Times have changed. We’ve “evolved.” Very few people know how to use these “ancient” machines. Marriage is an ancient machine. It was created simultaneously with the first two people and it works best when used correctly. But the way it was intended to work doesn’t mesh with modern society. It seems “clunky” and outdated when we read how God intended it in the Bible.

All this submission and honor stuff doesn’t gel with us. So we’ve tweaked it. Men and women are equal and separate. Women make their own decisions. Men can cook their own food. “You’re hungry? I’m not your maid! Make yourself a dang quesadilla!” We give little thought to being “one flesh”––one single unit made up of two people who have been permanently fused together.

If perchance you suddenly had need of a Cotton Gin, who would you rather have teach you to use it? Donald Trump or Eli Whitney? Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin. Donald Trump is wildly successful and famous. I think a lot of us would foolishly choose Donald Trump in hopes that his fantastic success would “rub off on us” or mere exposure to him might start us down the road to riches. Do you see the problem with this? The question was how to work a Cotton Gin, but the prospect of bigger, better, and more led us away from the original intention.image

The best Person to teach us about marriage is the One who made it. The back door that Ron and I dove through when we were maimed and lame in the ring was Biblical love. I went through first. I read a life-changing book called “Created To Be His Help-Meet” and it changed everything. We were dying. I hated him. He was a selfish, lazy, worldly, jerk. He never spent time with me. He worked a lot and watched tv in the mean time. We never went on dates. He couldn’t care less about reading his Bible. I rued the day I chose him. To be fair to Ron, my perceptions weren’t reality.

This book, “Created To Be His Help-Meet,” said a lot of other ladies felt the same way I did. The author, Debi Pearl, promised me that there was still hope. She said she had seen it time and again. She promised me that if I would treat Ron like a prince, he’d turn into one. What did I have to lose? We were shot. We had sunk to the lowest of lows. I decided to trust her. Praise Jesus, it was true.

In mere weeks, Ron transformed before my eyes. Maybe it’s more correct to say that I transformed. In mere months we were a different couple. A few years and our strength was solidified. After over a decade of following these Biblical principles, we are leading small groups to help other couples find their way through the little door, too.

I care about you. If you are reading this and your marriage is less than heavenly, I have fantastic news for you. You can have what I have. You can be madly in love with the person you married. This first post is the introduction to a series. I’ll write one a week for the next five weeks. They will be on these five subjects:

Denying Ourselves And Taking The Narrow Way – The Tiny Door.
Building Self-Esteem
The Power Of Time
A Testimony To Change Others And Why The Enemy “Will Make It Rain”
God’s Incredible Ability To Pick The Person Who Will Be The Best For Us (All The While Letting Us Think We Chose That Schmuck)

In the mean time, I’d like to pray for you. If you private message me on Facebook, I will pray for you and your spouse over these next five weeks. I won’t tell anyone that you wrote to me. Stick with me on this friend. I promise you can have the marriage you always dreamed of – no, better than that – without having to divorce the jerk you’re married to right now!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Heart Three Sizes Too Small

The holidays are killing me. I’m running my legs off to satisfy the “musts” in my head. MUST decorate the house beautifully so the girls can feel Christmas. MUST send Christmas cards to friends and family that Must have the baby Jesus front and center. MUST bake tons of cookies to give away. MUST have a present ready for each person I fear will give me one.

And none of it is going well. I baked a ton of cookies, but my blondie bars wouldn’t slide nicely onto their sticks for easy chocolate dipping. My chocolate hardened into something undip-worthy even though I used my double boiler. I ran out of time to decorate my meringues. The cards? I haven’t even started them yet. Tension while we decorated the Christmas tree (Rosie insists on tackling anyone sitting on the floor, Chloe whinny that she’s too short to do the star, Ron tired from a long day at work, Mommy not at all enjoying the people I call dear.) I pulled out a Hail Mary and managed to look peppy and Christlike while we unwrapped the nativity. I oohed and ahhed about baby Jesus and told Rosie how important He is. I’m a great actress.

I’ve been noticing some ugly attitudes forming like a cloud in the back of my mind. Jealous of other people’s flawless looking families. Lonely because Ron has been so busy. Coveting and feeling sorry for myself because we always have to pinch our pennies. Last week I hit the lowest point I’ve felt in years. And it surprised me. Well really, it humiliated me.

I thought I was stronger than that! I thought I had gotten over most of the sinful attitudes and garbage that plagued my younger years. After all, we’re leading a Bible study now because we’ve come “so far.” Then here it all was, back again. With a vengeance. Ron and I spent most of last Saturday snapping at each other and I averaged at least an hour and a half of crying. That’s so not us. We never act like that anymore. What the!

And don’t get me started on the extra poundage. There is NO TIME to diet or exercise. And cheese filled foods call to me this time of year. It’s cold out and I want to eat things. Any things. All things. I completely fell off the diet wagon. With my metabolism—or lack thereof—I have to LIVE on an eternal diet. If I’m not watching what I eat, I immediately start gaining. There’s this never ending fluctuation. Diet, lose a little weight, feel better, eat some cheese, gain the weight back.

I have to live on a diet to maintain happiness with myself and my curvy figure. When life gets busy and I stop paying attention and let the calories flow, I don’t like myself. It is constant. It never ends. And yesterday, God opened my eyes to a parallel.

Likewise, I have to live on a steady diet of focusing on Jesus.

When life gets busy and I lose sight of Him, my malnourished spirit starts being herself. My dad called me Thursday morning to check on me because I sent my parents this pitiful, “pray for me, I’m losing it” text on Wednesday. Since they aren’t used to texts like that from me, they called several times to check on me. On Thursday morning, I told my dad all about the awful person I had become over the last couple of weeks. His words opened my eyes and helped me find my footing. He said, “Of course your acting that way. That’s who you are. That’s who you will always be.”

But God.

Who we are without Jesus is always the worst of ourselves. The only thing good in me comes from Christ my Savior. When I look away from him, those same bad attitudes, those same covetous eyes are going to come back again and again and again. I MUST stay on my diet! I MUST pick up my Bible and feed my soul with the Bread of Christ because it is a proven fact that nothing good dwells in me. I can’t enjoy the holidays with a malnourished heart. Heck, I can’t enjoy an easy day in June with a malnourished spirit.

Jesus is so good. He redeems my garbage every time, happy to have me back at His feet and kindly forgetful of all the yuck I thought about while I was straying. Once I let Him have the throne back, I humbly noticed all of my blessings. My sweet funny kids. My loving husband. My pretty home. And on and on and on. So many I’m crazy ashamed of myself for looking longingly at my friend’s.

I’m back on my diet. (The Jesus one, not the “no cheese” one. I’m going to eat cheese for a few more days….) My perspective is fixed and the holidays hold the promise of precious time to celebrate the King of Kings with my family. And with you. 🙂 Whatever your MUSTS are this season, don’t neglect to worship the One who came to earth to bring us a reason to celebrate.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I’m the Ass!

Exodus 34:20
The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty- handed.

I was trying to think of how to make this verse relevant for you. It’s important, believe it or not, and it has an amazing lesson hidden in its archaic history. But you can’t learn from it if you don’t care about it or find it valid in your life today. So, how do I convince you that these old words and strange customs affect you now?

God gave this commandment to Moses when Moses was on Mount Sinai getting the Ten Commandments. Boom. Validity! Is thou shalt not murder still valid today? What about thou shalt not steal? Those Ten Commandments transcend history and serve as a religious starting point for more than just followers of Christ. They are ten fantastic rules that have shaped our morality. If the verse above was given in the same dialog between God and Moses, lets assume it also has some powerful purpose.

God told Moses that He (God) wanted the first fruits of Israel’s animals and crops. Why? Those of you who haven’t studied the Bible much might look at this weird, ancient command about slitting animals throats and say, “that’s exactly why I don’t study that Book.” It seems crazy, I know, but bear with me. This is going somewhere.

First fruits were basically taxes. We Americans have the benefit of living in America where we have freedoms that most of the world doesn’t have. Because we are Americans, we pay taxes to help pay for those freedoms and the people who provide them. Our taxes are due to the authority. The authority requires our taxes and we pay them because we belong under that authority. Tada! First fruits=taxes. God asked his people, the nation of Israel to pay a tax that acknowledged and reminded them that they belonged under His protection and His authority.

So the first fruit of every animal and every crop was given to God to thank Him for providing that crop and those animals and those blessings. Today we call it our tithe. We give The Lord a tithe, 10%, of our income to thank Him for His provision and acknowledge that all we have came from him.

But there was a problem. The Israelites owned donkeys and donkeys were unclean meat. They weren’t supposed to sacrifice unclean meat to God. God doesn’t make exceptions though. His law is His law. The donkey’s first born had to be given but God didn’t approve of the sacrifice. So he made a way for the law to be fulfilled. A lamb could be given in the donkey’s place.

Charles Spurgeon puts it so eloquently: “My soul, here is a lesson for thee. That unclean animal is thyself; thou art justly the property of the Lord who made thee and preserves thee, but thou art so sinful that God will not, cannot, accept thee; and it has come to this, the Lamb of God must stand in thy stead, or thou must die eternally.”

He says, “Self, You are that ass.”

We are unclean and the law says that we must die. If a lamb wasn’t given, the newborn baby donkey was to have its neck broken. It seems heartless! A tragedy! I bet baby donkeys are crazy adorable. We’re pretty adorable in our own estimation too. We don’t see things from our holy Creator’s perspective.

We have black sin in our hearts. So much sin that we’ve been lost across a great ocean from the relationship we were originally created to have with our Creator. We can’t begin to swim that ocean on our own. The water’s are so expansive and our muscles will never be strong enough. The separation between sinful us and perfect perfect perfect God is too wide. No amount of effort or goodness on our own will get us across.

But He is so good. He didn’t leave us in this helpless state! A Lamb was provided, God’s own perfect Son, Jesus. He came to earth and lived among us and died a horrible death on the cross to meet the requirement that we never could. Then, in an incredible display of His power and authority, He came back to life three days later—conquering our sin and paying the ransom against us that we couldn’t afford.

He is The One. Your Creator. Your heart’s missing piece. Your fulfillment of every good desire you’ve ever had. Your Brother. Your Friend. Your Captain. Your Life’s Breath. Your Authority. He LOVES you! It’s ridiculous, you know. You were made of dust and cells. You are one sinner in 100 Billion. You do not begin to compare in value to the God of the universe. Him dying for you is the most nonsensical thing that anyone ever did for you.

Charles Spurgeon says any thinking man (Israelite) had to stop and consider which animal they’d rather lose. If the donkey was born a runt, or crippled from its mother’s womb, I’m sure no lamb was given for it. How much more should we consider what was given in our place. Jesus died for ax murderers. He died for child molesters. He died for the worst of the worst. He died for you no matter what sin you have on your ledger and His death will wipe the score card clean. In His own words, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, the sick do. The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was LOST.”

The death of a donkey is momentary. Pain and then nothing. Donkeys don’t have souls. You have been created in God’s image. You are unique in creation because you are eternal. You have a soul that will go on and on and on after death. The Bible says there are only two states we can exist in after this: Heaven (God’s presence) and Hell (the absence of God’s presence). It is only Hell because God is not there. God is light and peace and joy and all things good in the world. Take him away and you are left with only pain and misery and great suffering.

If you won’t accept His death and His authority, you will carry on with sin in your heart. The sin will stand between you and Him on the day of your death like an uncrossable ocean. It will be too late then. It’s a choice you must make now. He’s willing to cancel your debt with the substitution of His perfect sacrifice. If you choose Him now, and bow to His loving authority, You will be saved! Heaven will meet you when your eyes close for the last time! Glory!

But if you will not… If you look to these ancient words and say, “what is that ass to me?”, then you face the fate of the lamest of donkeys. Please, accept my amazing Savior! He is so wonderful! I’m holding out a bazillion dollar prize to you! All you have to do is cash it in!

Adapted from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening for Oct. 15:

Every firstborn creature must be the Lord’s, but since the ass was unclean, it could not be presented in sacrifice. What then? Should it be allowed to go free from the universal law? By no means. God admits of no exceptions. The ass is His due, but He will not accept it; He will not abate the claim, but yet He cannot be pleased with the victim. No way of escape remained but redemption-the creature must be saved by the substitution of a lamb in its place; or if not redeemed, it must die. My soul, here is a lesson for thee. That unclean animal is thyself; thou art justly the property of the Lord who made thee and preserves thee, but thou art so sinful that God will not, cannot, accept thee; and it has come to this, the Lamb of God must stand in thy stead, or thou must die eternally. Let all the world know of thy gratitude to that spotless Lamb who has already bled for thee, and so redeemed thee from the fatal curse of the law. Must it not sometimes have been a question with the Israelite which should die, the ass or the lamb? Would not the good man pause to estimate and compare? Assuredly there was no comparison between the value of the soul of man and the life of the Lord Jesus, and yet the Lamb dies, and man the ass is spared. My soul, admire the boundless love of God to thee and others of the human race. Worms are bought with the blood of the Son of the Highest! Dust and ashes redeemed with a price far above silver and gold! What a doom had been mine had not plenteous redemption been found! The breaking of the neck of the ass was but a momentary penalty, but who shall measure the wrath to come to which no limit can be imagined? Inestimably dear is the glorious Lamb who has redeemed us from such a doom.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized