Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Passion and Purity

Elizabeth Elliot's "Passion and Purity" is the most recent book to be placed on my "finished" bookshelf. Talk about a tear jerker and a heart changer - this book has revolutionized the way I look at all things relationship, not only with men but also with Christ. Elizabeth shares the story of her late husband, Jim, and her courtship and eventual marriage (after 5 years of periods of separation, silence, waiting, and finally answered prayers). It seems so foreign to me for someone to wait 5 years for a man to finally figure out that the woman looking him in the eye is his wife. But the reality is Jim was called to the mission field and felt that the Lord had called him to a life of singleness so that he could focus his time solely on Christ. But little did Jim know that God had different plans for him, in the person of Elizabeth - a woman well suited for the life ahead with Jim.

As the book ends it leaves the reader with quite a few statements that rocked my world, one of which said, "Do our transgressions disqualify us for the Christian life? Quite the contrary. Jesus came into the world specifically for us who blew it, not for those who 'need no repentance.' He was wounded for our trangressions..."

This passage brought me to tears as I looked back on my own tainted past of impurtity. For years I've felt that my past transgressions were beyond the grace of God - that I somehow destroyed His love for me based on my mistakes. However, one of my dear friends reminded me recently, "we have such a tendency to think God is some mean, controlling Father that doesn't want to bless His children, when quite the opposite is true."

A simple reminder, but so difficult to set into our hearts. I don't understand how I can keep messing up and still have God stand beside me with open arms saying, "I forgive you. I love you, now let's move on." Moving on and letting go is so difficult, yet so incredibly freeing. Realizing that I can't change the decisions I've made and knowing that yes, I've hurt not only myself, but my future husband, strikes me to my core. But God's grace is big enough to redeem even the slimiest of situations -

"my grace is sufficient"

"even though I'm not pure?"

"my grace is sufficient"

"even though I've hurt people?"

"my grace is sufficient"

"Even though I often hate myself for what I've done?"

"My grace is sufficient for EVERYTHING - regardless of who you are or what you've done. My grace is sufficient for it all. Trust me - I love you."

Another section of the book talks about boundaries in relationship. What amazed me the most was the tender honesty of Jim and Elizabeth throughout their relationship. They steered clear of everything physical, even a hug was deemed "difficult" at times. They spent 5 years, rarely seeing other, writing letters, and when they did run into each other there was no physical contact- no hand holding, no kissing, rarely a hug. "Are they for real?" we ask. But in all honesty, I think they had it right on.

In my own experience, I can wholeheartedly say that being physical with someone only causes heartache. And the more physical we are with someone, the deeper the bond, and the more it hurts in the end. We go through the stages of "why did I do that?" or "how could I let this happen again?" to beating ourselves up over our mistakes. And again we're reminded, "my grace is sufficient for you."

"If virginity is to be preserved, lines must be drawn. Why put yourself in any situation where the lines may become smudged or obscure? Why take the risks? Why accept the pressure of tremendous temptation when you can easily avoid it by refusing to be anywhere where compromise is possible?"

Call me old fashioned, but I 100% agree. Draw the lines and stick to them. WAY easier said that done - but totally worth overcoming the temptation and completely worth the wait. It's in this statement that I see the reflection of Romans 7 so vividly: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." And the reminder in Romans 8 of our bodies being living sacrifices - living temples of the Holy Spirit that we shouldn't contaminate but be used to glorify God. It's for this reason, and many others, that new lines have been drawn... strict lines. Will it be easy? No. But that's where God's protection and grace comes into play - Inviting Him into the relationship even before it begins.

So I leave you, dear readers with 2 things:

Purity = freedom from contamination, from anything that would spoil the taste or the pleasure, reduce the power, or in any way adulterate what the thing was meant to be. It means cleannes, clearness, no additives, nothing artificial - all natural.

"Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things avove it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all... in fact the state of being in love usually does not last... but of course ceasing to be 'in love' need not mean ceasing to love. Love... is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforcced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God. Being 'in love' first moved them to promise fidelity; this quieter love enables them to keep their promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it." - C.S. Lewis, Mere Chrisitianity

Love, therefore, is a choice...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wait... Patiently.

"95% of the Christian walk to maturity is waiting" - Catherine Harris

Waiting. Hopes up, oh wait, just kidding... wait again. Life seems to be a neverending waiting room where anticipation grows and fear definitely looms. Recently, a dear woman of wisdom shared with me the above quote... and boy was she right! The Christian life seems to be a by-way of waiting. We see it with David, the promised King of Israel as he hid from Saul for years though the throne was rightfully his. We see waiting in the story of Esther - a woman thrown into the unknown and scary world of a rather impetuous king. It's in the life of Jeremiah the prophet, who was called by God at an early age to be God's liason to His people, and it seems things never really let up for Jeremiah til the end of his life.

Life is all about waiting. But the growth comes with our response to "wait... patiently".

How often do our minds seem to race faster than our hearts? It seems we make rash, spur of the moment decisions based on emotion rather than careful pondering with the Lord on the issues at hand. And the more we run through this life independently of Him, the harder we fall when He does finally get our attention. Invincibility is not a virtue. Rest is. Being able to rest in the midst of turmoil and "what if's" is flat out miraculous. When our minds get the best of our hearts and fear suddenly sets in, the panic and the worry begin.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." - Phil. 4

That dang spirit of fear. The best acronym I've heard for fear thus far is "false evidence appearing real". One little thought crosses our mind and then that thought is lead to another, and soon enough we find ourselves stuck in a web of worry and deceit. We're convinced that something bad is going to happen or that God is simply not big enough or powerful enough to meet our needs and desires.

False evidence...

So when those looming worries swarm our minds, one way to minimize it is to think, "okay, best case this happens, worst case this." But maybe an even better way of fighting the fear that so easily entangles our lives is to reject the spirit of fear's power in our lives and ask the Holy Spirit to overwhelm us with peace and to replace the fears.

The other day I did that little exercise asking myself, "what are my worst fears?" Among the list were financial worries, relational worries, worries about family and friends, and even worries of failure and disappointment. So there sat my list... everything I was afraid of staring me in the face. "Okay," I thought, "so worst case scenario these things happen... now what?"

"Trust, my child"

"Who? What?" I said

"Me. Trust me, everything is going to be alright. I'm big enough to overcome the fears, I'm big enough to accomplish this and so much more."

"okay.... how?"


"How long?"


Now that one got me. Patiently. It's always easy to trust someone or something when you see results pretty quick, but when you get 2-3 months or even years down the road of trust it seems that the line begins to blur and that He's no longer there...

"How long, Oh Lord, must I wait?" - King David, boy did he know the frustration of waiting!

And the road to trust is daily self-control, it's lots of prayer, lots of journaling, lots of simply waiting in His presence. And the best reminder of all is that even those times when it seems He's not there when we pray or read or seek solitude with Him, He's still at work in our hearts. For it's the times where it seems that nothing is going on that the 95% of the Christian growth is happening... because all things will come "...together for good".

God is all about the good.

God's distance or allowing us to walk through valley's along the road of life is not his way of punishing us. No, it's His way of disciplining us. And punishment and discipline are not one in the same. Punishment is "you screwed up, now there are consequences", discipline is "rerouting one's direction to a better goal".

God is molding us in what seems to be the "darkness" of the valley, but His light will soon radiate and show the growth that's happened along the way.

And when it seems that all hope is lost or we feel completely defeated, Oswald Chambers reminds us, "The vision that God gives us is not some unattainable castle in the sky, but a vision of what God wants you to be down here."

He reminds us, "Ever since God gave us the vision, He's been at work."

So friends, don't lose hope, don't give up - for the race is nearly over, we're just a mile from shore. Don't quit over doubts and questions, for there's something you may learn. Don't quit for you're not a failure, until you fail to try.

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace" - Isaiah 55

Peace in His presence.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

But have not love...

"I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.

Love doesn't strut,

Doesn't have a swelled head,

Doesn't force itself on others,

Isn't always "me first,"

Doesn't fly off the handle,

Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn't revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies." - I Corinthians 13

Love is sacrifice. Love is killing pride, defeating selfishness so that other's may be blessed.

Sacrifice - to surrender or give up something of value.

As a culture, we seem to value ourselves more than anything else. We're the godheads of our own lives. If it's not good for me, then it's good for no one. Where once there was generosity, now there's hoarding. Where once there was care for the downtrodden, now there's only judgment.

How often do we even think of sacrificing for someone else? How often do we even see the needs of our neighbors?? And how often do the very people that need love the most get the least?

Failure to sacrifice, failure to love often equals a miserable life. Some of the most angry, depressed people, are also the meanest, most self serving types. This, my friends, is not love.

Love is the epitome of good. Love is the epicenter of true joy and meaning in life. And we must always remember - God is Love.

If we're meant to be more Christlike in our lives, shouldn't we focus first on the things listed in I Corinthians 13? Because if we gain the whole world, yet have not love, we've failed.

Love is the beginning. Love is the end. Love is the basis of everything.

Faith, hope, love. The greatest of these - LOVE.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Daddy's Day

My dad turned 61 today... or I guess it's now yesterday. As I called him this evening to sing "Happy Birthday" I started remembering the birthday's of his that I'd been a part of. But one sticks out in my mind... it was 14 years ago yesterday, my dad turned 47.

Now this wasn't just some regular old 47th birthday. No, this one was special - unique, if you will. For my dad was a miracle walking that day. 5 months earlier, on February 16th, I received a phone call from Harborview Hospital in Seattle (the #1 trauma unit in the Pacific Northwest). I was 10 at the time and home alone but apparently sounded like an adult as the nurse on the other end of the phone said the words:


Dead on arrival?? I learned that my dad had been in a serious car accident where a trailer's hitch had literally crossed the highway and made it's new post in my dad's brain. I hung up the phone, shocked, scared, nervous, and just plain freaked out. Then something came over me... a sense of peace and protection, and there I sat, in the middle of my kitchen floor with dear, sweet Dooly bear and I asked Jesus into my heart.

I knew life would not be easy, whatever the days ahead held for me. But I certainly wasn't prepared for taking a man and training him all over again from how to brush his teeth right down to how to butter toast. My dad lost a chunk of his frontal lobe, his memory station and anger management portion of his brain were gone - erased. So anything he learned he learned 15 times until it became hardwired into his memory. He learned to walk again. He learned to talk again. He learned his ABC's and his 123's. He went from being a vegetable to being a miracle in a matter of a year.

One year.

That's what the doctors told my mom, "he has 1 year to gain everything he'll need to survive and you'll be lucky if he's able to function past the age of a 6 year old". My mom responded with, "that's not an option - so you get me the best doctors, the best rehab, and I will make sure this man functions fully again."

Now I could say that this rehabilitation was a walk in the park, but it certainly wasn't. It was hours of fighting my dad and parenting my parent. It was days of worrying about whether we'd have to file for bankruptcy or not. It was months of literally living in my mom's van doing homework and running dad to and from appointments. It was a year of living hell.

But you know what? Despite the struggles, despite the pain and the abuse that came along with the missing anger control center- I wouldn't change it for anything. For that one day changed my life, not only by humbling me but also by providing me with the One and Only peace which transcends all understanding. That day brought me my sweet Jesus...

And I remembered today the truth of James 1: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."

Perseverance started when I was 10 years old. Adulthood beckoned me to stand up and lead that day. One moment a child, the next a woman. Did I consider my trials and pain as joy at the time? Absolutely not. However, God has this funny way of making us realize that joy is the best answer to extremely difficult circumstances.

I still don't quite know how or even why my dad survived that accident. But I do know one thing... that man is a walking testament to the Mighty Power of God - he's a walking miracle. So today, I celebrate a man that I sometimes don't understand and often overlook. And I celebrate my Heavenly Daddy reminding me of his grace and mercy each July 1st.

Happy Birthday Daddy... though we're far apart on so many levels I'm still grateful for you and for the experience/wisdom I've gained through it all.

61 years and still going strong - my Miracle Man.