Lead me, this Good Friday, to the Cross

For forty-plus years, I’d heard the Scripture. I’ve seen movie portrayals of the Passion of Jesus, but several years ago it became real in a way that I neither anticipated nor prepared for. I sat in a meeting and we discussed how powerful it would be to have a cross made that was as close to the one Jesus would have been crucified on. “Can you do it?” “I think so.” We researched the facts and that is what they were, mere facts. Facts about the execution tool used by the Romans in the time of Jesus. We studied the dimensions and I set out to replicate the cross. Replicate the cross that my Savior was hung upon. It was simply a project, until the transformation of plain railroad ties began. The staining, the weathering. The distressing of the wood.  The distressing from being dropped and dragged. The deep imprints from the pounding of nails. The addition of red paint where the stains of blood would have been. It became real.  In all of its gruesomeness and brutality, it became beautiful. When the cross was assembled in the sanctuary it all came so overwhelmingly close. The reality of Jesus broken for me. Jesus broken so that my sins would be forgiven. Standing in front of this rugged cross I had a intimacy with the Lord that I had never had before. I sat with Him in the upper room, prayed with Him in the Garden of Gesthemene. I stood there with Him the day Pilate authorized His death. I walked alongside Him as He carried that cross.  I watched...

Sinners in Need of a Savior

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:3-11 NIV When I met Jesus, I was very much like this woman. Broken. Beaten up by a life of rebellion and bad choices. When I met Jesus, I expected Him to condemn me… I believe this woman expected him to as well. Understanding that I could not accept the forgiveness He offered and continue to live my life contrary to His Word, I chose to follow Him, and “leave my life of sin.” In return, He forgave me, embraced me, healed me, and filled up...

The Strength to be Christlike–in Any Situation

  Do you ever feel like you keep stumbling onto the same sin again and again? So you buck up, make all sorts of New Year’s resolutions, post verses throughout your house, and determine next time will be different. You’ll have more self-control. You’ll learn to hold your tongue–with duct tape and padlocks. You’ll finally defeat the ugly pride monster, which for me appears to be the root of 95% of my issues. And maybe you do, for a period of time, but then, if you’re like me, something happens, and wham! You’re right back where you started. My biggest issue is my tongue, which is crazy, being a writer and speaker who spends a good chunk of my day carefully selecting my words. More than that, I’m a Christian writer and speaker who therefore spends a good chunk of my time selecting my words for maximum eternal impact. If only my mouth had a delete button. Can you relate? The other day, I landed smack-dab in the heat of a conflict, one buried in years of unresolved issues. Initially, I tried so hard to speak the truth in love, to focus on sharing and addressing feelings, and to, well, communicate like the mature Christian adult I aim to be. But I was overtired, not feeling well, and hurt, and filled with much more pride than I’d like to admit. The results weren’t pretty or effective. This morning, as I was praying about the situation, God showed me a couple easy to follow steps that will help me live out who I am in Christ the next time a conflict hits....

You Don’t Know Jack!

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; Luke 6:37 ESV Chances are you see just a peek into the window of the world that others live in and with such limited information it’s time for us to stop and admit that we really don’t know jack! Oh, I know I am going to be stepping on some toes today, my own included. It’s so easy to make a remark and a snap judgement about how someone handles the pieces and parts of their world that others see. You know, how they act with their spouse, kids, job, any or all of these (and many more) are out front for others to “see” and watch. What we don’t know is what’s really going on in that person’s world and why they might have acted or responded the way they did. Listen sweet friend, this is something that I’ve wrestled with for some time now. Here’s the deal, God will not let me let it go. But before I go much further I want to stop and make sure that you hear my heart, please oh please, hear my heart, because my words don’t always say the right thing. You and I have got to stop judging people and start giving out great big whopping dose of grace to those around us. Now, I’m not talking about any situation in which you are physically in danger. If that is happening then seek immediate help. I’m talking directly about the part of us that looks at another...

But Jesus

It happened in the Garden first. At the moment sin entered God’s perfect creation, the first man and woman saw their nakedness…. And they hid themselves. They had believed the deception of the serpent, enticed by the luscious fruit on the tree and the promise of being like God, and they chose to disobey their Creator. What follows is the greatest tragedy in the course of humanity’s existence, as history was forever changed by their decision to rebel. Immediately, their eyes were opened. They saw that they were naked. They were ashamed. They hid. More specifically, out of their desperation and shame, they sewed a covering out of fig leaves to conceal their nakedness. This was their first attempt at concealing, hiding their shame from one another. But they had a greater problem. Hearing the Lord God walking in the garden, they ran for cover in the trees, a second attempt to conceal their transgression, this time from the Almighty Himself. Didn’t they know there is no hiding from their Creator? Surely they did, but that does not stop the desperate from trying anyway. Thus began the art of concealing. It is an art that has been attempted by all and mastered by many over the course of history. We become expert manipulators and chameleons, presenting what we hope others will believe about us, concealing what we hope they will never find out. As children, it is imperfect: the toddler who attempts to sneak out of his bedroom after bedtime; the child who eats forbidden cookies but fails to wipe the chocolate from her mouth; the brother who hits his sister while...

Overcoming the Stink of Shortcomings

While it’s somewhat gross to consider, shortcomings kind of remind me of a dirty diaper.  Both stink.  Both appear nasty. Both are things we can’t wait to discard. And, both are things we would rather pretend don’t exist, than have to address. Just today, I got a little bit too agitated with my 3-year old son for repeated disobedience.  But, this is what being three is all about, right?  They disobey – and then you teach them.  Yet, in this situation, I was fixated on his mess, I was aggravated by his actions and I was annoyed by his faults. I wanted to deny my impatience and sharp words that induced his tear-ridden tantrum. But, no one is there to defend a 3-year old.  God loves my son.  And, he deserves more than a mom who takes advantage of him. So, I stepped back to take a look at my impatience.  It stunk far greater than his little acts of disobedience. If I want to teach love, I can’t do it by being impatient.  I can’t do it without a real hard look at myself. I can’t do it if I won’t surrender my sinful ways and let God’s grace take over. Because much like those dirty diapers, faults will show up when we least expect them  – and when we are least prepared.  They come, they catch us off guard and they can make things really messy – they can ruin relationships. Dealing with faults can be so hard. We may want to address them, but it can feel like giving a dirty diaper a hug, because we have to...

Unauthorized Fire and No-No Lists

God doesn’t always give every particular we might desire to know in the Bible. I hope I’m not the only one who finds herself wondering about the missing (in my view, anyway) details from various Bible narratives. Where did Cain’s wife come from? Why didn’t Jacob notice he was marrying the wrong woman? What was so special about Enoch? Why didn’t Balaam act surprised when a donkey talked to him? Lately, the question that has gotten me thinking is found in Leviticus. What, exactly was wrong with Nadab and Abihu’s sacrifice? What did they do that warranted God’s punishment of them? Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Leviticus 10:1-2 Aaron and his sons had just been given a fairly long list of rules and regulations, if you will, for presenting an offering to God. They knew what to do. But, apparently, Nadab and Abihu didn’t do it. Did they neglect to purify themselves? Did they eat some of God’s portion of the offering? Did they use the wrong incense? What aspect of the sacrifice was violated so severely that it warranted both of them being burned to death by their Heavenly Father? We don’t know, And lately I wonder if the reason we don’t know is because it doesn’t matter. God requires sinlessness—perfection—for us to be acceptable in His sight. In Biblical times, this need was even more pronounced...

What’s The Big Deal About My Dog in an Ice Cream Shop?

My daughter and I sat down across each other, a cup full of ice cream between us. M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, gummy worms, sprinkles, and crumbled Oreos topped our feast. Orange Leaf, our ice cream haven, has become our favorite date place in this summer of 2014. “So what’s your rose so far today?” I reached for MacKenna’s five-year old hand. The soft white lighting reflected off her brown eyes, framed by braided hair on either side. As I studied one of God’s most awesome blessings to me, behind her and to her left, I noticed two ladies. One held a small dog that looked more like a black rat that stared at me with creepy beads for eyeballs. MacKenna grinned and put her right index finger to her closed lips while she searched the ceiling tiles for an answer. “Getting ice cream and spending time with daddy!” She pulled the pile of sweet sensations closer to her, like an adult would to a million dollars. “What’s your rose dad?” Just as I almost replied, I fell in disbelief as one of the ladies strolled through the door, the ice cream dispensers, and lines of toppings, with her Fido in hand. One of the workers stared at her with the same are-you-serious look. I know the same thoughts ran through his mind. This is a business. People eat here. Who brings their dog into a place of business? Who brings their dog to a restaurant? Who puts their dog on the table to eat off an ice cream cup? You will need to leave. The words No Pets Allowed weren’t highlighted...

Call to love

The deck seems stacked. There is no way you can win. One card after another is drawn, each more damaging than the last. Laying them down, you take a deep breath. Maybe now, maybe now my luck will change. Just a bit. Resisting the urge to shred the cards and dump them into the closest trashcan, you decide to stay in the game. With hesitancy, you grab hold of them, remembering the moment you received each one. What cards have you been dealt? Some were given to you, not by choice. Others still are a direct result of your very best efforts. But those cards you hold? They are a part of your story. The beautiful and the torn, they are yours. You keep drawing from the deck, praying for something to change, trying to see the glory among the ashes. There is one calling out, calling you to join him at his table. The cards you attempt to hide deep in the stack, He fully knows. He sees the tape you have used to create order in the chaos. My friend, there is one who has been there, alongside of you, as each card was dealt to you. He knows you. He hears you. He sees you. He has not forgotten you. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-7) He will redeem your story for a Kingdom purpose. Your shame will be trumped by grace....

No More Hiding

She spent her life in isolation, hiding; enslaved by regret and shame. While everyone else gathered together sharing stories, dreams, and struggles, she remained at home. It wasn’t until necessity drove her out that she went, and even then, she’d wait until everyone else was long gone. Because she couldn’t risk a personal encounter. She was known; every sin, every shameful secret, broadcasted throughout her village. For her, being known meant judgment, scorn, and hatred. No loneliness is as intense as the one that comes from being known and rejected. But one day, one Man changed everything. Perhaps you’re familiar with this story, found in John chapter four. We don’t know a great deal about this woman, but we’re told enough to understand the depth of her shame. She’d had sexual relations with men, a lot of men. In fact, when she encountered Jesus, she was actively living in sexual sin. In Bible times, women could be stoned for such acts. I have a feeling she wasn’t fornicating publicly. Rather, I suspect she and her lover did a fair amount of sneaking around. Living a life of deceit, enslaved by insidious and unrelenting guilt. Until Christ set her free. Jesus Christ, the one who knew her intimately, who saw every shameful act she’d ever committed or even considered committing, saw past her sin in the heart He’d crafted, and loved her to her core. Suddenly, her shame was no longer shameful, because she’d been set free. You can hear her freedom in the words she spoke to the other villagers shortly after her encounter. Then, leaving her water jar,...