Snow Day

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Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 

Psalm 51:7

I am homebound today for the third day in a row. Snow has closed schools and many business here in the Pacific Northwest.  The snow has covered everything, blanketing the good, the bad and the ugly in white. Clean and vibrant white. It is beautiful. I lived in Montana for 25 winters and took snow like this for granted or at times, wished it away.  I remember a scene, though, that stands out in my mind.

Our neighbor had several acres of land and he was fond of vehicles. Broken, rusted, old, new vehicles (trucks, cars, farm equipment) and just pieces of vehicles. Actually, I don’t know that he was fond of them, only that he collected them. His yard and pasture were a veritable junkyard. We didn’t have neighborhood associations then (probably still don’t in that part of Montana) so his treasures could accumulate to his heart’s desire.  Ugly is an understatement and I passed it every time I went to town, took kids to school or came home – there it was in plain sight –  the neighborhood junkyard. Until it snowed.

Snow transformed the junkyard into a glistening, sparkling exquisite collection of sculptures. I would be in awe of the transformation as I drove by. I was surrounded by beautiful snow-covered nature scenes – mountains, trees, and creeks, but this scene seemed the most remarkable simply because of the transformation. Mountains are always beautiful as are trees and creeks, but a junkyard, well, not so much. Until the snow made it a work of art.

I imagine my heart something like this junkyard before I accepted God’s freely offered forgiveness for my sins.  A collection of junk that could only be described as ugly. A collection I would rather no one saw, including me. After accepting His forgiveness, I see my heart more like the snow-covered sculpture I marveled at in Montana. What a transformation!  How awesome to think that my sins have been forgiven, I have been cleansed and now my heart is whiter than snow. Not because I am sinless, but because my sins have been wiped clean. I have a clean and vibrant white slate for a heart and much like the junkyard that was transformed into a thing of beauty, God transformed my heart into a work of art He could gaze upon. He doesn’t have to turn away from seeing my heart because He freely cleansed it for me. He washed it whiter than snow!

What an amazing gift forgiveness is, so totally undeserved. I am so grateful that You saw my ugly, junkyard condition and chose to free me from it. Not just by covering it with snow, but by cleansing me and wiping away my sin from before Your eyes. I need that washing daily. Thank You for forgiving me, for loving me in spite of my sins and wanting to gaze upon me with love and acceptance. Thank You for the blanket of snow You keep me covered in.  Amen.

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Who Owes Who?

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For if you forgive other people when they sin against you,

your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 

 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6: 14-15

My husband surprised me with a new van.  Not brand new, but new to us and 11 years newer than the van I was driving. One day, a father was dropping off his children at work, saw me get out of the van and commented about it.  I told him how my husband had surprised me with it and he said how nice that was of him. To which I added (and I’m not proud of this) – well, he owed me.  The man looked shocked. Let me explain:

For several weeks, we were vehicle challenged. We went back and forth from having two that worked and one that worked and one day, neither one worked. My husband was frantically trying to keep us rolling, working on one and then the other. Most of the time he handled it very well, but then there were times, when, let’s just say, I wanted to run away from home.

Once he determined to give up totally on one, he began searching for another vehicle we could afford. He was back and forth to the car dealership and test driving cars and all during this time, I was under the impression he was getting the vehicle to replace his truck which is the one that died. I say, under the impression, because at this point, we were no longer talking and my opinion was not solicited. The tension in our home was escalating and the cold war between us raged on.  When he finally showed up with this van and said it was for me, I should have been elated, I’m sure, but I was still angry at not being asked my opinion about financing a vehicle. I did, however, drive it and thank him.  But I felt justified in saying he owed me based on what he had put us through because of his stress level over all of this.

So, back to my story, the father says, “well doesn’t everybody owe somebody?”

Of course, the father was right and I felt ashamed of my attitude.  Everybody owes somebody and I owe many somebodies. How gross of me to see it any other way. I have been forgiven of so much by my husband and by God and for me to withhold forgiveness to anyone is well,  just plain old gross. I repented and chose to begin the practice of forgiving others immediately and letting go of anything I may feel they owe me, because I know that what I owe has been forgiven by God.  I say “begin the practice” because I am a long way from accomplishing this feat but I am purposing to do this one day at a time, or one minute at a time, if need be.

Lord, how awesome it is to know that my sins are forgiven; that You are holding nothing against me. As my slate is wiped clean, help me to wipe clean the slates of those that I believe have harmed me. Help me to forgive freely and graciously, just as You have forgiven me. Thank You for my new van and a husband who would work so hard to keep us with transportation. Forgive me for holding his sins against him. I choose forgiveness, help me to offer it freely. I ask in Your gracious name, Amen.

Payment Accepted

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So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.”

Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God.

The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.

 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out.

Hebrews 10:19-22

Message Bible

Need healing? Need restoration? Need peace? Need something you can’t even put into words?

Feel like you can’t even approach God? You’ve been too distant – feel too unworthy – it’s been far too long since you even considered Him as a viable source for anything? Whatever the barrier that keeps you from God, He hasn’t placed it there. The only barrier was our sin, yours, mine, individual sins and collective sins, all of them, the sum total, the past ones, the present ones, the ones you haven’t even thought of yet. Those caused a barrier; but that barrier has come down. They came down when Jesus said, “it is finished”. The sacrifice made to  atone for our sins was made. God was pleased to call our debts paid in full and the barrier that separated us is no longer.

If we believe that, if we accept that, we can walk right up to God – without hesitation. We can take our needs, our concerns, our fears, our joys, our hopes (the ones that are alive and even those that have died) and we can confidently know that we are, as this verse says, presentable – inside and out. We don’t have to clean ourselves up first, we don’t have to dress up or act proper, we just come, as we are, and know that it was God’s desire to have the barrier of our sin removed so that we could come. He paid an incredible price for it. The only thing to be done now is accept that fact and walk right up to God.

The payment has been made; my debt is wiped away. What an amazing gift! I come to You, confident that I am presentable, inside and out, and ask for wisdom. I feel somewhat divided today. Does what I do honor You? Does it please You? I want, I need to know that what I do with my life is Your will and not mine. Would You show me, lead me, help me settle in my heart just what You would have of me? I ask in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Really Jesus?! Children?!

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The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

Mark 10:14-15

Jesus was constantly surprising people by His word and His actions, even His disciples who had been with Him for some time. He refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery, He dined with tax collectors, He touched lepers, He healed all, He fed thousands with a handful of food, He walked on water, He taught with such authority that people scratched their heads in amazement, He claimed to be the Son of God. And here, He has the audacity to tell His disciples that children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Who but Jesus would elevate children to such a place?

Jews at that time would have been taught that the kingdom of God is something you earn your way into and how could a child do that? By their standards, most adults couldn’t do it.   The disciples attempted to shoo the children away,  thinking Jesus apparently had more important things to do. Once again, Jesus surprised the crowds, the Pharisees and the disciples by showing them what He considered worthy of His attention and His kingdom – children.

This is a beautiful story of Jesus welcoming all of us who can’t earn our way in to be able to freely enter the Kingdom of God. The kingdom prepared and planned by God, planned and prepared for us. A kingdom where Jesus is Lord over all. I don’t know what that kingdom will look like, but I suspect that if Jesus is Lord it might look a lot like all of these things He did on earth that surprised people. Loving the least of people, healing the all and the many, dining with the ones society might call unworthy, refusing to condemn those we would gladly point a finger at, opening His arms and His heart to children. Welcoming people like me and people like you and laying His hand on our head to bless us. Wow! I can’t even begin to imagine the healing that flows from His hand when He lays it on my head. Can you?

What a beautiful story this is Jesus of Your love for us all, for me. To be welcomed into Your arms, knowing full well I can do nothing to deserve such a love or embrace and yet…  Words fail me now, I am so touched by the thought of Your kingdom and Your hand of blessing on my head. Thank You. Amen.

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All The Black Sheep

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Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?     

Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

 The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,     

a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him,     

nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over,    

 a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away.    

 We looked down on him, thought he was scum.

But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—     

our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.

We thought he brought it on himself,     

that God was punishing him for his own failures.

But it was our sins that did that to him,     

that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!

He took the punishment, and that made us whole.     

Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.     

We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.

And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,     

on him, on him.

 He was beaten, he was tortured,     

but he didn’t say a word.

Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered     

and like a sheep being sheared,    

 he took it all in silence.

Justice miscarried, and he was led off—    

 and did anyone really know what was happening?

He died without a thought for his own welfare,     

beaten bloody for the sins of my people.

They buried him with the wicked,     

threw him in a grave with a rich man,

Even though he’d never hurt a soul     

or said one word that wasn’t true.

Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,     

to crush him with pain.

The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin     

so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.     

And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

Out of that terrible travail of soul,    

 he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.

Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,    

 will make many “righteous ones,”    

 as he himself carries the burden of their sins.

Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—     

the best of everything, the highest honors—

Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,     

because he embraced the company of the lowest.

He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,    

 he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

Isaiah 53: 2-12 Message Bible

I was the “black sheep” growing up. Oh, no one really said that, at least not out loud, but I knew. I simply couldn’t measure up to expectations. I didn’t mean to fail, to make bad grades, to get in trouble, but as my mom was fond of saying, “no, but you didn’t mean not to either”. I suppose she had a point. I tried to be good, to mean to do right, but…

The good news is, the great news is, the remarkable news is – I have a defender, a champion, a redeemer and He chose to take up my cause and the cause of all the black sheep. Wow! How amazing is that? And because of that, God’s plan will deeply prosper in my life. Who would have thought God’s saving power was meant for the black sheep of the family?  For all of us who couldn’t measure up.  Only God.

Jesus, again I say, what a wonder You are. Had I seen You back then in person, would I look at You and turn away? Would I give You a second look? Oh, how it grieves me that I might have. Even now, I know there are times when I fail to see You and Your life given for me as completely as I should. Help me to see You, to see what You did for me, to embrace all that You have purchased for me, and to share that with others who may also feel like a black sheep, unable to measure up, unable to make the grade, in need of a champion. Thank You for taking up our cause and taking away our sins. In Your name, I pray, Amen.

picture credit: vappingo.com

The High Price of Sin

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I breed dogs. I started with Golden Retrievers way back, I don’t even know how many years ago. Long enough ago, that they sold for $50 and that was a fair price. Then I began breeding Standard Poodles and now Goldendoodles. Like other things, puppy prices have gone up. And down. I’ve made an observation about prospective puppy purchasers. A puppy valued at $1000 is going to bring people who have done their homework. They have researched the breed and other breeds, they have read how to pick a good puppy, they have generally made plans on how they will take care of this pup when everyone’s at work or they go on vacation; they understand that a puppy is an awesome new member of the family and that they have responsibilities for that new member.

On the other hand, when I lower my prices, I get more impulse prospective pet people. They got their tax refund back and the kids want a dog and, no they don’t know too much about Goldendoodles or even what is involved in taking care of a puppy. I am not saying they don’t provide wonderful homes for the puppies, I am just saying they may not have considered the cost, the full cost of that puppy.

I have found that, in general, people value what costs them something more than they value what costs them little.

In the Old Testament, in the book of Leviticus, God established that the price for the remission for sins would be the shed blood of an unblemished male animal. He gave specific instructions on how to handle the blood of the animal; the blood was precious, it was considered the life of the animal. People watching the animal they brought being sacrificed would recognize the cost of that sacrifice and know that that was the cost of their sin. It was designed to make it very hard for them to take the sacrifice lightly, to think that their sins had no cost.

We don’t do that today. I’m glad, I couldn’t imagine picking one of my male, unblemished puppies and raising him up to be slaughtered. But I do realize the cost that would become mine to absorb if I did that and it makes me see a little more clearly a fraction of the cost of my sins. No puppy will be sacrificed to cover mine, mine were covered by Jesus, the unblemished male offered to cover the expense of my sins. It’s easy to overlook that sometimes and think that sin is no big deal, or that some sins are no big deal. But every sin, big deal or not, cost the life of Jesus. When I think of the price paid for my salvation – forgiveness for my sins and healing for my body – I can not overlook the cost because it is a very big deal that Jesus would surrender His life for mine.

Jesus, all I can say is thank You. How humbling it is to think of what You have done for me. And that You did that freely, knowing at times, that I would not count the cost, that I would take Your sacrifice for granted. I am so sorry for doing that. Please forgive me and whenever I start to think of my sin as little and no big deal, remind me of what it cost You for me to be forgiven of that sin, remind me of the cost You paid for my healing. I ask in Your most holy name, Amen.

Let Us Settle The Matter

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“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson they shall be like wool.

Isaiah 1:18

Some time ago, I became aware of the fact that unforgiveness can hinder physical healing.  Fred Luskin, PhD at Stanford University says; “Not forgiving – nursing a grudge – is so caustic.  It raises your blood pressure, depletes immune function, makes you more depressed and causes enormous physical stress to the whole body”.  Ok, I got it. I asked God to show me anyone I needed to forgive and over a few weeks, He did just that. People just came to mind and I made the decision to forgive them. Some were easy, others were not. But with God’s help, we went through the list. I’m not saying I’m done, only that He hasn’t shown me anyone else.  At least not until the other day when He showed me who is most probably the most difficult person I have needed to forgive – me.

Wow! I did not see that coming! I could, however, instantly see the truth of that. I am quick to tell people they need to forgive themselves when I hear them verbally beating themselves up over something they did or didn’t do, but I don’t very often extend that mercy to myself. I wasn’t even sure how to begin. I remember I teaching someone once did on forgiveness and he said it begins with a decision to forgive, not a feeling to forgive. So even if I don’t feel forgiving, I can decide, as many times as I need to, to forgive and if I keep at that, the feelings will come.

So I am choosing to forgive myself. Choosing to accept the forgiveness Jesus paid for. I am settling the matter in my heart that my sins are covered and even though there are consequences to those sins, the stain of the sin is washed away. I am choosing to stop beating myself up for things I can’t go back and change. I am letting myself off the hook for expecting so much more of myself than I would expect of others. I am allowing the healing that comes from forgiveness to do it’s work in my life, my heart, my mind and my body.  And when self-incriminating thoughts come, I am reminding myself that it is settled and I am forgiven both by God and by me.

Lord, I do love Your word and how it shines the light of truth into my life. Sometimes that truth is a little painful to see, but it always brings healing. Thank You for Your word and for Your grace to allow Your word to do its work in my life. Continue to show me when unforgiveness is present in my life, I pray. I choose to forgive myself; help me to remember that when I talk otherwise to myself.  I ask in Your name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

If Only God Would ________________

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Moses responded, “Then show me Your glorious presence.”

Exodus 33:18

Moses had been given the unenviable task of leading God’s people up to the Promised Land. God assured Moses that he would not be going alone, God would be with him and would look favorably upon him. But Moses wanted more. Maybe he was thinking something like, I would do this, I maybe could do this is if God would only __________. Moses filled in that blank with “show me Your glorious presence”.  When called to go through something difficult or stretching, what would you fill in that blank with?  Heal me, make my path straight, make it easier? Not too long ago, I would have filled in that blank with “heal me”. I know now that I need more than that, I want more than that. I also know that obedience to what God has called me to isn’t something that should be filtered through my wants.

So Moses chose to be satisfied with God’s glorious presence. And God protected Moses from the full impact of His presence and allowed him a glimpse of His glory. As God passed in front of Moses, He called out,

“Yahweh! The Lord!
    The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
    I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin…”
Exodus 34:6-7

Moses, being the wise man that he was, immediately threw himself to the ground and worshipped God, asked for forgiveness and accepted the call to lead the people.

I find this interesting. Moses wanted to see God’s power. And what does God do? He gives Moses a brief list of His characteristics. Instead of revealing Himself as powerful and majestic, He reveals Himself as compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, filled with unfailing love, forgiving, etc…

Imagine yourself in a job interview and asked what your strengths are. How I hate that question. Instead of listing your accomplishments and achievements and skills and such, what if you said, I am loving and kind and merciful and slow to anger and forgiving? Think you would get the job? If God had taken that route with Moses, He could still be listing His accomplishments and achievements and skills and such today. But He didn’t. He chose instead to show Moses His lovingkindness and His love and compassion. And that brought Moses to his knees.

My life would be different, perhaps a lot better if I had no pain at all anymore, but how much better would it be if I just allowed the character of God to be so big in my life that I would never fill in that blank with anything other than just knowing God and His love for me?

God, I pray that You would forgive me for all the times I hesitated to pursue You and the things You want for me because I was waiting on You to fill in the blank with one more request from me. When I think of Your mercy and compassion and unfailing love, I too, am brought to my knees. That You love me is more than enough; way more than I deserve. Thank You for Your grace in leading me through this healing journey in Your way and not mine. Amen.

Qualified

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…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. 

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 

 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

Colossians 1:12-14

My son, who is homeschooled, is in ninth grade and the curriculum we chose this year has a built-in grading system. The kind most of us grew up with A,B,C,D,F. This is his first encounter with grades. I never used them because I have such an aversion to them. The first time he got a grade lower than an A, he was devastated. More than once when he got a “bad” grade, he would tear up, push away from the computer and leave the room. It took a lot for me to not trash the curriculum. Instead, I helped him over a period of weeks to recognize grades for what they are – a method designed to help us understand where he needs to develop more mastery of a subject and what grades are not – an assessment of his value or worth.

Grades are part of our lives for good or for bad. Even into adulthood, long after schooling is done, grades enter our lives.  I recently had my evaluation done at work. It felt a lot like being graded. And it was. The evaluation is done only to show me where I need to improve and what I am doing that meets expectations. Knowing this though doesn’t change the barbs that enter my brain for a lower mark. Grades and evaluations are also used to evaluate our qualifications to move on or move upward. I got a raise because of my evaluation. People get qualified for college scholarships for good grades.  This is how things work in our kingdom.

The problems come when grades and evaluations become something we internalize and allow to eat away at our sense of self worth or when they become a source of pride and cause us to puff up.

In the kingdom of God, however, things work differently. I am qualified to receive my inheritance (which includes healing) simply because Jesus made the grade, passed the evaluation on my behalf. I am qualified because He qualified me. When I tend to qualify myself based on my assessment of myself, I recognize quickly that I don’t make the grade and feel disqualified to ask for healing or anything else for that matter. Implied in the ability to disqualify myself though is the reciprocal of that thought – that there is something I can do to qualify myself for His blessings. And that is just plain wrong. I can’t do anything to qualify myself nor can I do anything to disqualify myself except to believe in the qualifying sacrifice Jesus made for me. Then I can boldly come to God and ask for and receive my inheritance.

Jesus, thank You for rescuing me from the domain of darkness and transferring me to Your kingdom where there is redemption and forgiveness for my sins. Thank You that qualifying to be in Your kingdom isn’t based on my ability to perform satisfactorily. Thank You for my healing and for allowing me to share in Your inheritance with You and all those that call upon Your name. When I am tempted to disqualify myself, would You please remind me that You’ve got that covered. I ask in Your name. Amen

picture credit:  amandastaysatchurch.com

Communion

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He personally carried the load of our sins in his own body when he died on the cross

so that we can be finished with sin and live a good life from now on.

For his wounds have healed ours! 

I Peter 2:24

Today at church, we will celebrate communion. It is a time to reflect on what Jesus’s death on the cross means to us. Forgiveness is usually the message that is spoken at communion services, but I have come to think of communion as more that just that (although that alone is reason to celebrate).

Joseph Prince has this to say about communion: “To see God’s grace toward us when we are sick is to see what Jesus did for us at the cross…Beloved, see Jesus carrying your symptoms and diseases on His own body. See Him taking one lash after another until His back was shredded to ribbons. See Him falling again and again under the brutality of the scourging, only to rise again and again for more beating until ALL your diseases were healed! Receive your healing as you receive what His perfect finished work at the cross has accomplished for you!”

We are told to celebrate communion and to remember Jesus as we do. To the disciples that would include remembering all the people He touched and healed and the lives that were changed right there in front of their eyes. To me, it would include thinking back on all the times He has been faithful to His word in my life, the times He touched me and healed me and changed me. It would mean looking intently at Jesus and knowing that all that He took upon Himself on that cross, He took so that I could live free of its power over me.  Free from sin, free from death, free from sickness and disease. Free to enter into a relationship with my Father God without shame or condemnation or a sense of unworthiness.

Today Jesus, as I approach the communion table, prepare my heart to receive all that You purchased for me. Open my eyes to see You more clearly, more dearly, more intimately. Thank You for doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself – be cleansed from all unrighteousness, be healed from all diseases. Today, would You touch my heart, my body, my life in whatever way You desire as I keep You in remembrance as we celebrate communion?  Have Your way in my life, I surrender it to You again.  Amen.