Tag Archives: prayer

Those Moments

Those moments when you can feel the spirit like the breath of a lion pushing you to the edge of real and tangible, panting and gasping for the supernatural more real than breath.

Those moments when you know what you know by the Divine in you, the essence of truth, the light that hasn’t faded, the rich vastness of eternity telling you what you see with your naked eye….is not all there is to know.

Those moments when prayer ascends like a baby descends. Gripping writhing agony of purpose and destiny. On behalf of another. For another. For life. For hope. For the promise that awaits in the holding.

Those moments when you find your voice is not alone. You are surrounded by a chorus of keening tears lifting  you by the strength of individual sorrow shared in community. Those moments.

Those moments when your faith is something more than a declaration of creeds, it is a life moving in tandem with eternity.  It is real, in those moments when you feel prayer leave your lips and kiss the face God.

9226724_orig

Advertisements

The Impossible Dream

Today we awake to new leadership over our nation. The media scratches their heads, news report headlines ask the repetitive question: “How did we get it wrong?” They say, we were undercover, closet trump voters. They say it was magic, they say it was the silent majority they say…

I smiled as I read the transcript of President Trump’s speech. Dream big and nothing is impossible resonated with my heart. “They” can say what “They” want, we know how this happened.

Daniel 2: 20-22:  Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. 21″It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. 22″It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.…

Romans 13:1-2:   1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God. 2Consequently, the one who resists authority is opposing what God has set in place, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.…

I now turn my heart to our great country and pray that the grace we have been extended will not be wasted.  I pray that we will truly turn to God with whole hearted devotion and learn HIS voice above all others. I pray that we will enrich, equip and launch the next generation to be fearless lovers of an all powerful God.  I pray for Trump, and his family.  I pray for our Vice President and his family.  The transition will be hard, and the journey will change them all, I pray for the better.  My hope is that as Solomon did, President Trump kneels in petition before the God who placed him in office, and asks the perfect question. How do I lead YOUR people.

1 Kings 3:9
“So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

hqdefault

Sifted

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,
 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Luke 22:31-32 ESV

I have been sifted.  I know the Riddler’s voice in my head.

“You aren’t strong enough, brave enough, good enough, righteous enough, you aren’t enough.  No one sees, hears, knows, cares, loves you.  He doesn’t love you…He isn’t even real.  What if this is all a lie?  What if this is all there is?  What if they are right? What if you are alone? How could a good God-”

I know what it is to stare at a black canyon at midnight at 70 mph.  I know what it is to not believe the spark of life inside of me is worth fanning into flame. I know what it means to take my hands off the wheel and just quit.  I know the selfishness of self-absorption.

I know what it is to make grand declarations of allegiance to a Savior I wasn’t so sure I would die for.  I know what it is to wrestle with the whisper of “is this real” and “is there really a God who loves you anyway?”  I know what it is like to run away from the fellowship of hand warming when a babe questioned my walk. I know Peter, he is my brother.

“…but I have prayed for you”

Those words.  Some of the most powerful words to encounter my life became for me a living stone.  A God made flesh, incarnation of love in me reality.  A memorial of the way I was spoken back into existence and caused to stand upon feet firm and solid in faith.   He prayed for me.  My Intercessor asked for me to receive strength to not lose heart. To not give up. To find true faith. He made a way in me to Him in the middle of the dark forest of my wandering. Because he scattered crumbs from the table of his presence I did not die in my rebellion. When I was his enemy, he fed me. He prayed for me.

“and when you have turned again-“

I know what it is like to have sunlight pierce midnight.  To have words form inside of my spirit blast against darkness.  I know what it is like to hear the footsteps of love approach my wretchedness and  transform the hanging ropes of despair into ribbons of grace.  I know what it is to come groping into the light blindly waving my hands in front of my face to catch my stumbling steps, only to feel the steady grip of acceptance upon my shoulder.

“strengthen your brethren”

Can you really heal wounds if you yourself have never bled? Can you give hope when you know nothing of darkness or the pressure of the sieve? Can you lead anyone if you yourself have not turned resolutely to life? Can you teach anyone to pray, having not felt the posture of humility before the greatness of His love? Can you war, if you have never lost?

I know the sound of tempered steel.  I know what it is to be weighed on the proving grounds, and waged in battle.  I know now the treasure of  whom I have believed.  I know the way of narrowness and I have light for midnight. I know the fight of faith is a good one, a noble race run. I am at last able to say, I follow Christ because I know Him.  I know as I have been known.  He lives in me. I live in Him. I know the life I live is not my own, and I know he will finish what he has started in me.  Be of good cheer, He has overcome the world.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 ESV

peter-denial

Kidron Crossing

John 17:26

I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” ESV

And when he had spoken these words, the clock by which he lived his days tolled midnight for his soul and he arose immediately.  The days of “the hour is not yet, my time has not come” were over.  Now was the hour at hand.  Now was the moment when the cup was delivered into his hands. In this place, as the moments of his Passion begin, he prays that love would remain in them.  He knows that darkness can rob a person of love, that tonight the hearts of many would grow cold, and they would betray each other-unto death.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. John 18:1 ESV

To my casual glance this is just sensory details, setting the scenes to come in place and environment, but the wind of the Spirit blows around these words and I am drawn to enter the setting.  Why here?   Why this place?

Because it is family property.  It is a familiar place of suffering in the lineage of our Lord.  David, King of Israel crossed here, barefoot ,weeping and running like a criminal from his own son.  Tears streaming from his eyes, his heart aching with betrayal and loss wondering if he will ever see Jerusalem again he crosses this brook to the Mount of Olives.

Now, The Son of David, crosses this same brook as the full moon of Passover shines upon him.  He too has been betrayed, about to be led from Jerusalem.  He turns his face to this crossing over as the battle to drink the cup the Father has prepared begins.  Deep anguish will pierce his soul, but there is not a company to weep with him.  He is alone.  His companions are asleep.  Above him on the Mount of Olives are two cedar trees, under which according to the historian Westcott, four shops are located where the sale of objects legally pure, and enough pigeons for the sacrifices of all Israel would put coins in the priests pockets.  He writes:

“Even the mention of Kidron by the secondary and popular name of ‘the ravine of the cedars’ may contain an allusion to a scandal felt as a grievous burden at the time when the priests gained wealth by the sale of victims by the two cedars.”

 

The Lamb of God sold for thirty pieces of silver prostrates himself before the King of Heaven for the eternal profit of all who would believe in him.  When the blood has spilled upon the ground and his will is weaned and quiet, He rises to the sound of the approaching mob, and declares his identity with all the authority of son-ship. “IAM HE”!  The soldiers fall to the ground and the Lamb gives himself into their hands.

I leave this passage with questions.  How do I view those who accuse my standing before God?  Do I see them as instruments in the hands of a loving Father crafting in me the quality of son-ship? Or do I like Peter, grab for swords and begin to violently swing at ears, and eyes and noses? Worse yet, do I shrink back from the direct inquiry of my life, denying such close proximity to the radical God made flesh, who threatens every establishment that hinders perfect love?

Oh Father.  Keep me steady as I face my own Kidron.  Hold me close to the cross, let me not be ashamed of the sufferings of Christ, but rather may I glory in my bonds. May I say with zeal and truth in the inward man:  I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…and the life I now live…I live by FAITH, in the Son of Man.

 

Psalm Of The Branch

He said-

 “I am the true vine,

and my Father is the vinedresser”.

She Said-

Hear my cry to understand the dressing of the vine.

The Son who through obedience learned-

“Your will Father, never mine!”

He said-

” Every branch in me

that does not bear fruit

he takes away, and every branch

that does bear fruit he prunes,

that it may bear more fruit. ” 

She Said-

Hear the heart that yearns toward fruit

Teach me the way to drink from the root.

I am the branch, you are the vine

I am the cup  you are the wine.

He said-

 “Abide in me, and I in you.

As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself,

unless it abides in the vine,

neither can you,

unless you abide in me.”

She Said-

Hold me fast to your flaming heart

Bind me close, that I depart

never from your living side

Always, ever to abide.

 

-Christina Dammerman (c) 2014

*John 15:1-4 ESV

vines bordeaux

 

For The Sake Of A Kiss

With the fragrance of oil still in the air, clinging to his beard, perhaps even upon his garments-

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.  And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him. Mark 14:10-11

I come to this passage of scripture with more questions than I have answers.  I am wrestling inside with what feels all too familiar and yet remains slippery and evasive.  I am afraid there is  Judas in me. A clanging of silver desire to build my own empire, my way.  A purse swollen with too much of my own understanding of how the Kingdom of God is to come, now-in me.  I gaze at the ledger of my words and wonder at the zealous pronouncements coming from a heart that is far too distant from the all consuming flame.

Pro 26:23 Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel are fervent lips with an evil heart.

That is, ardent professions of friendship from a wicked heart, however smooth, shining, and splendid they may appear, are like a vile vessel covered over with base metal. -Vines Word Study

Even so, regardless of,  Jesus called Judas Friend

  And he came up to Jesus at once and said,

“Greetings, Rabbi!”

And he kissed him.
  Jesus said to him,

“Friend, do what you came to do.”

Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. Mathew 26:49-50

Before he started his ministry Jesus went up to a lonely place and prayed all night for those that the Father would give him, all of them, even Judas.  Our Rabbi doesn’t ask us to do what he hasn’t done:  Pray for your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to  the ones who will use you spitefully.  I reflect upon my own gathering of leaders and ache with the realization that  far too often I have assembled teams based on personality profiles, and gift mixes rather than the direct counsel of the Spirit of God gleaned from an all night prayer meeting.

Would I choose a betrayer knowing it would further the plans and destiny of God in my life?  Even if I could choose that one, would I love them?  Would I give everything I had in me to them?  Would I pour out my life an offering for them?  Would I wash their feet? Do I trust God’s work in my life, as HIS LIFE, to surround me with the people of His choosing and leave the working of the relationship in His hands to mold, and do with as He please?

The answer echoes clear and final.  No.  I fear being betrayed.   I guard against it.  I have made it a point of counsel in my leading of others, preaching the necessity of : “guarding their hearts”.  I find upon examination, that I have stayed on the fringe of community where it is safer and easier to remain unscathed. Yet, when I examine the life of the one I say I follow, this rule of ministry, and principle of effective leadership isn’t there.

He didn’t withhold affection, correction, counsel, anointing or presence. There is no evidence that he treated Judas any different than the others.  He gave Judas the gift of Himself as much as any of the number who surrounded him desired to receive.  It seems to be Judas’s choice of proximity in the fellowship of the twelve.  Even as it is my choice how close do I want to be?  On the fringe, coming in late because I am busy building my empire?  Or leaning upon His breast asking Him to examine my heart for signs of unfaithfulness…”Is it me, Lord?”

It is fascinating to me that only after the betrayer is identified as one who shared His bread, and told to accomplish what is in his heart quickly, that Jesus gives the terms of the New Covenant to the rest of the community:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

I am His, IF I love. Love even those that bite and wound and maim and in spite of them . I feel His gaze upon me as I sit with the eleven. My eyes staring at the place Judas occupied at the table.

Do you love me? Then love them, as I have loved you.  As I have shown you how to give yourself without reservation even to those who hate you.  Your life is not your own.  It is mine. I paid for it.  I give my life a ransom for many.  YOU, give your life even to those who hate you for my name sake.  In the end, the love of many will wax cold, and they will betray and deliver one another up to be killed…but you….YOU love. Keep on loving, to the end. Follow me and die to yourself. Die to your rights, your justifications, your protective strategies that keep you from getting hurt. Leave them. Abandon them, they will only hurt your relationship with me in the end. Stay close to the flame and learn to burn with truth in the inner most part of your being.  Truth that I have loved you, as the Father has loved me.

 

The-Judas-Crisis

Alabaster Life

Preaching without spiritual aroma is like a rose without fragrance.  We can only get the perfume by getting more of Christ. –A.B.Simpson

 

The devotional today is centered around a moment of pure worship, as Mary breaks the alabaster jar of her inheritance, and “wastes” it in one movement of extravagant, lavish affection. For this great act she is not lauded by the populace, she is despised and ridiculed.  All opinions in regards to her actions seem to be in agreement, except for one. The only One who really matters.

Jesus, the great Rabbi and benefactor of her affection demands she be left alone, and declares something truly radical- that the fullness of the gospel is not proclaimed unless her story is told right along with the Good News of Chris’ts birth, life, crucifixion,  burial, and resurrection.  Yet, how often have you heard her story?  Really heard her story?

Mar 14:6-9 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” ESV

I have wondered at the house of Bethany, the place where Jesus could be “himself”.  The place he frequented more than any other, the place of his friends.  Bethany means date house, or house of figs.  This rings of the symbolism of the nation of Israel which is often called a fig tree.  Perhaps here, he envisioned the true Israel.  A house of welcome for the Messiah, a place of friendship and easy graces. Laughter and study, and food.  True food.

The nation was turning it’s back upon him. Would declare him accursed and deliver him up in a short while, but here, here he was among friends and in that place a woman believed what the others had refused to hear.  He is going to die.  They are going to kill him. In that revelation, she longed to show kindness to him while he was still in her midst, and to give him everything she had, everything she could.  Her love as perfume filled the house where they were sitting and everyone was marked by the fragrance of her devotion, and the declaration of his death-and it made them mad!

Grumblings were heard, eyes were rolled, costs were tallied, some perhaps covered their nose to get away from the smell.  Judas felt his pockets tingle with the loss of such revenue, and they did what most do when they are uncomfortable with someones “over the top devotion”, they accuse her motives.

“Look at how selfish she was, that could have fed a whole village of lepers for a month! Such a shameful waste, such a loss!  Look at it there on the ground…they will never get the smell out of this house!”

Perhaps, that is what she wanted.  To never have the smell leave.  To step into the room and instantly remember where he sat, how he smiled, the words he spoke.  Smell is the greatest trigger of memory, and this moment would forever remind her of her love. It would remind him as well.

I can imagine the beautiful Son of God closing his eyes as the fragrance slowly rolled down his hair, the sides of his beard, onto his shoulders, to his hands, his feet.  Drenching his robe.  Was he in that moment remembering the fragrance of Heaven?  Did he feel the love of his Father in her actions, remember the glory he laid aside, and would take up again?  Did his heart fill with joy at the recognition of this little Eve, this little girl in the garden with her eyes open to the Tree of Life, choosing him, choosing love, choosing to worship in spirit and truth. Doing what she could with what she had?  Did he remember his words to the serpent, and his promise to the woman and know that at this moment enmity was at work, and the battle was raging towards the cross?

Leonard Sweet in his book:  Jesus:  A Theography, mentions this story and makes the statement that Jesus came into this world smelling stable dung and straw but left it smelling perfume.  The fragrance of that oil would have stayed with him through the long night in the garden, through the beating, the crown of thorns, the lashes, the crucifixion.  The aroma of love would still be on him, mingling with his sweat, his tears and his blood.

The question was asked:  “When have you allowed your love and devotion to Jesus to let you do things that other people wouldn’t understand, and might ridicule?  All for the love of Jesus?!”

I close my eyes and remember the fragrance of my devotion, the times when I have abandoned my heart to Him this way.  Intimate times when I have poured out my tears, and my words in longing love.  Delightful moments when I have whirled with childlike abandon in meadows of camas, and weak, humble times when I have lain prostrate before Him.

I remember the sweetness of just wanting to sit at His feet, know the tenderness of His love, hear Him speak to my heart in familiar tones, to just say my name and say his back to Him.  I have been ridiculed, and pushed away, corrected, and chastised for the way my heart is at times lavish in its expression.  It is this story that reminds me of my inheritance.  It will not be taken from me.  He receives my love even if others question my motive.  I remind myself when I find the stiff gazes of the cold religious fixed upon my face, that He is my audience of One.  I live for Him alone, unto Him alone.

My prayer oh Lord is that you break me open and pour me out. That, the devotion of my life would be lavished upon you as oil.  That you would remember me as the joy set before you as you delight in the fragrance of my worship.  Draw me, and let us run together!  Help me tell your story from the place of the fellowship of our hearts.  Make me a Bethany of your presence and may our love burn at the hearth a never ending flame that even death can not quench.

martha-mary-jesus

Blind Sight

I used to be very afraid of the dark. Leaping from the bedroom doorway to my bed, sure there were monsters waiting to grab my ankles from under the darkness.  As I grew older it became a point of pride and a sign of strength to be the one of my friends in our night time capture the can game to venture into the dark, and defend the mound alone. Deep down, I was still terrified, and would tremble at the sounds and imagine all kinds of evil waiting to pounce upon me.  I was never comfortable with the night, until I realized during one of my readings at youth group, that God clothes himself in darkness, and Moses braved the dark, to see the glory of God.  I wanted to desperately see God as a teenager, and so I staged my own version of the Cherokee Indian Rite of Passage hoping that God would meet me in the way he had met Moses on Sinai.

In the legend, the young Cherokee boy is taken outside the camp, blind folded and led deep into the woods where he is placed upon a stump to sit all night. He is not to cry out, or to move but is to brave the sounds and creatures of the night. In the morning when the rays of dawn break through the darkness, if he has bravely stayed his watch without fear or crying out for help, he is considered a man.  When the blind fold is taken off, he is astonished to see his father was seated on the stump next to him, keeping watch over his son all night, and protecting him from harm.

After reading this story, I decided to brave the night, and test my Heavenly Father’s care for me, with a few modifications.  I only made it to the back side of the pasture, and vowed to keep my eyes closed instead of using a blindfold.  I had waited until the house was very quiet, crept downstairs and out the back door.  There was no moon that night, and the stars offered little guidance as  I made it to the secret spot and sat in the darkness trying to hear something other than my pounding heart.  Once my heart stopped racing I was fascinated by the various sounds and rhythms the night offered.  It had it’s own song and cadence.  I was amazed at what could be heard in the night. Pictures of sounds became vivid in my mind, and a landscape that was so different from what my eyes had memorized during the day emerged.  I was delighted to discover I could make out familiar movements of the livestock, could gauge distance from the way their hooves moved in the dirt, and even the munching of grass hoppers on the timothy stalks next to me was discernible.  I had discovered a new world and it was strangely comforting.  They say that when we lose one of our primary senses, the others senses become heightened.  That night I found I could “see” with my ears.

My thoughts turn to our devotional reading from Mark 10 and the familiar story of blind Bartimaeus.  Is that how he had survived all these years?  He had learned to listen to footsteps, and discern hearts by the way they walked?  Whether the sandal-ed  feet  brought charity or a swift kick to the side?  Which feet to lean towards, which ones to shy from.  We find Jesus thronged with a crowd as he makes his way to the road outside the city, there must have been something about the movement of the feet that caused Baritmaeus to beg answers rather than coins. Who is approaching?  Why the commotion?  What is happening?

And when he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.  And many rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried out the more a great deal, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.  Mark 10:47-48 AS Version

Bartimaeus had likely heard many stories from those who passed his begging spot on the road from Jericho.  How this Nazarene was unlike any man anyone had ever seen. He may have even wondered, “can anything good come from Nazareth?” That is not the city of the prophets, or the great ones. Yet the stories must have come jingling like alms to his heart. A deaf mute cured, a paralytic healed, lepers cleansed and a man blind from birth now sees!  Rumors of the Messiah must have swirled around him awakening hope that He would come to his town.

Something must have taken hold in his heart from the tales of the wayfarers  because Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus with the phrase reserved for the Messiah:  “Son of David” and pulls on the covenant promise of mercy…”have mercy on me!”  He will not be silenced, until the Son of God stands still and asks the dangerous question:  What do you want?  In that moment Bartimaeus’s faith through hearing brings him sight.  ” My Master, that I might see”

Isa 42:6-7  I, Jehovah, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;  to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.

In one moment, Bartimaeus went from the prison of darkness, into the glorious light of Messiah’s love and fellowship.  His mantel of his old life left lying on the ground, we find him accompanying Messiah on the road.  He became a disciple of the Way, a joyful testament to the glory of God breaking in to the darkness of sin and despair. Though he was blind in the natural, he could see the reality of the mission of Christ with his spirit, and he believed! Nothing would silence his cry for mercy.  No matter how many times we was told to shut up, and pushed aside he knew the wretched state of his existence and the Messiah was his only hope. His desperation moves me to consider my own blindness.

How badly do I desire mercy?  How blind am I to the reality of the condition of my heart?  Do I know that I am but a beggar on the side of the road, without the eyes of my understanding being enlightened, that I might see the hope of  the one who calls me to come to Him. ( Ephesian 1:18).  Lord, I ask with the cry of Bartimaeus, have mercy on me…Master, open my eyes, that I may see.

blind-man-healed

Bottle Broke

Mar 10:13-16

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.  But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”  And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.

The encouragement for this time of devotion today is to :  become like a child.”  The text taken from the familiar passage in Mark 10 of Jesus cradling babies, and giving piggy back rides to the toddlers.  You can almost hear the contagious laughter of children echo on the way.

“Come on, Jesus is here, let’s play! Last one to the Rabbi is a rotten egg!”

The verse says he was greatly displeased as his disciples rebuked the parents for bothering the Master with such a trivial thing as holding their children, touching them, and blessing them.  They didn’t get it yet.  It is what we all need. To snuggle on the lap of our Abba.  It is what Jesus came to do, reconcile us, not to a set of traditions or rules, but to the lap of our God.

Psa 131:1-3

  A Song of Ascents; of David. Jehovah, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; Neither do I exercise myself in great matters, Or in things too wonderful for me.
 Surely I have stilled and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child with his mother, Like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, hope in Jehovah From this time forth and for evermore.

David sings out over the kingdom the state of his soul. The place of contentment with his status in life.  His identity wasn’t wrapped up in positions, or titles, or honor. Whether Shepherd or King he had learned to quiet his soul and hope in his God.  He actually uses a very strong word…weaned, to describe his inner state of being.  No longer needing the breast and demanding to be fed when Elshaddi (which means many breasted one, incidentally, signifying the ability of God to provide for the needs of his people. All powerful, all providing) was near, but quiet and leaning for the simple sake of intimacy and companionship.   Weaning is a messy business.

I will never forget the day our littlest one experienced the horror of this reality of weaning.  It is a place of humor and fun now that our little Honey Bee is an adult, but at the time it was traumatic and world shattering.  The Gardener and I were in a hurry somewhere, and our car was packed to the max with car seats, diaper bags, groceries, and the volume was steadily increasing as the contents of her bottle were fading, she was demanding her ba ba be filled, and with one well aimed fling towards the back of her dad’s head, she made her point.  In one lightning move, The Gardener grabbed her bottle and promptly threw it out the window.  “All gone, your done!”

The look on her face has been frozen into my memory and still brings a chuckle to my heart.  Her eyes went from astonishment, to terror to anger in a fast progression. As she grasped the severity of the moment, her little lower lip was sucked under her front teeth, her eyes brimmed with tears, and she was not about to give us the satisfaction of seeing her cry!  She was mad.  But, that was the end of her bottle.  Soon the joys of sippy cups filled with juice, and straws filled with bubbly things replaced the desire for the powdered formula she had clung so tight to, delights that she never would have experienced without the intervention.

Abba knows there are times when we need intervention as well.  He knows that sometimes things, people, ministries, titles, that have become toxic to our growth can be taken away from us slowly, graciously, and at other times they must be ripped from our hands and hurled out the window if we are ever to move to maturity.  But, I have learned that as The Gardener did for the Honey Bee, God does for us.  That night when he tucked her into bed without her beloved bottle, he gave her something more precious than a substitute for comfort, he gave her the tangible presence of his love, the safety of his arms as he read her favorite story and reminded her of what a good, big girl she really was, even if she couldn’t see it for herself yet.

Whenever God withholds something from us, he always gives us himself. He never weans us without providing the place of intimacy and fellowship where we can run like David and learn to lean upon him. Finding that we long for the Giver, more than we do the gifts.  As paradoxes go, this one is pretty awesome in that once we have stopped craving the childish wants, we discover a world of delight has opened for us that we can only attain, by becoming a child.  Not a child of the flesh, but a child of the Spirit.  Leaping into the arms of Christ with simple faith that our needs will be met, our lives attended to because he is the Good Shepherd of our souls brings with it the very keys of the Kingdom.

Father, where I have grasped at power and position and fame of my own making wean me.  Throw out the pacifiers of selfish satisfactions and teach me how to rest upon your breast. Give me the yearning to know your heart above all other sounds, and to sit quietly and wait for the strength that is promised to those who know how to be still.Are-we-alll-gods-children

 

Between The Rock & The Cross

The Crucified Life is the theme of today’s Lent devotional.  As I turn to the familiar passages in Mark 8 I remember my story…OUR story, the Rock and I.

Mar 8:34  When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

I was done with  pretending.  The Gardener and I had duked it out verbally over the current condition of our existence for the last time and I was done.  I was cleaning toilets at the local hotel and he was gardening over an acre of our high desert, wind swept, hillside ranch land for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) we had started as a last ditch effort at “making it”.   It was 2008-09 and everything in the world that I could call mine had either been auctioned, sold, or re-possessed.  Our reputation, credit and place in community leadership was gone.  I was driving to work by the charity of my friends in a loaner two tone Geo Metro he had salvaged from the dump for a hundred dollars.  We jokingly called it the Crack car, thanks to being profiled by local law enforcement as one of the many drug runners to live between our village and the large resort town where I worked.  Working the midnight shift I must have been pulled over by every local, county and state officer around until they realized I was just a hotel maid working the late shift and they would wave at me as I passed their canyon pull out hiding spots.

Mar 8:35  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

I was desperately trying to save my life.  We were less than broke.  Our thriving construction company within a matter of months of the stock market crash went from prosperous to bankrupt seemingly overnight, and somehow it became a muddy mess in my soul about the way abundant life was supposed to work out to those who were serving God with a pure heart.  Evidently I wasn’t or else this wouldn’t be happening.  Obviously, there is sin in my life, and if my husband was any man at all (so they told me) he wouldn’t be gardening he would be flipping burgers or doing what was necessary to -“by GOD provide for his family!”

“God has me here right now honey, I don’t understand it, I don’t know why, but he has me in the dirt.  He has my face down in the manure and the muck, fighting off the rattlesnakes and figuring out who I am and who HE is.  He is breaking this strangle hold I have had on my life, our life…it belongs to Him, we belong to HIM….We are going to be ok. It is going to be ok.”

Mar 8:36  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

I stared at The Gardener standing next to the sink in his ripped up blue jeans, his gloved hands holding his newest batch of seedlings  he had poured hours into coaxing to the surface.  Hours of tending and patience that I wanted, I needed, I felt I didn’t get….I wanted to crush them…I was jealous of plants.  The 800 sq feet of living space seemed to suck the air out of my lungs.  I needed space, my old life had space.  Four thousand square feet of Victorian home space, office space, money space, friends space…faith space. I was done pretending I was ok with this.  I screamed to know why my prayers had not been answered, why we had not been protected, didn’t God take care of HIS own?  We had done it all right by the standards:  Tithe, works, offering, volunteering, missions, hospitality, generosity, good employers,teaching-why were the heavens brass?  It was so silent.  We no longer had a church family to turn to, my closest friendships were shattered, and I had lost my faith.  I felt completely and utterly alone, inside and outside.

” I don’t know if I believe anymore that there is a God.  I don’t know if I believe there is anything else in this life but suffering, and sorrow, and pain and then….then you just die, and you are dirt and worms eat you and there is nothing more…I don’t even know if I can believe you, and really I don’t want to hear about a God who treats his people this way. ”

Mar 8:37  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

The Gardener put his seedlings on the table and turned to me with a fire in his eyes and a set in his jaw that I had come to know meant business.  He pointed to the door and said in a voice that was thick with resolution, and will and faith.

“Get out.  Get out of this house!  March your butt down to that garden, and you sit on that bank and you watch that sprinkler go around until you get an answer to this.  I don’t care if it takes you all night.  DON’T move, until you know what you believe.”

I was shocked.  How dare he talk to me like that and ORDER me to get out of my house!  He didn’t move.  I laughed sarcastically.  “Go watch sprinklers?!”  Yeah, that is the answer.  The room closed in tighter and I needed air.  “Fine.  I’ll go.  Hope I don’t get bit by a rattlesnake, it will be your fault if I die!”  and I stormed out the door, letting the hinges ring with the slam. I defiantly marched to the side hill threw myself down on the bank and dared God to move me.  “Here I am.  The Gardener seems to think you talk out here in the middle of snakes, and grass, and manure..so…TALK!”

Mar 8:38  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

I was ashamed of the way God had dealt with us.  I was ashamed to say I believed in ONE who seemed to throw his children under the bus when they needed him most.  I sat there and watched the sprinklers go around thinking how stupid this was, but it was better than fighting inside.  Click, click, click the sprinkler shot out the cool water, the plants opened their leaves, the dirt received and the process was repeated.

I don’t know how long I sat there watching the revolution of the water but as the hard dirt was being penetrated by the drops of water, my heart was beginning to soften and I was shocked to find tears flowing from my eyes.  A movement to my left revealed the Gardner had quietly entered through the lower gate and was slowly moving among the corn, fertilizing, pulling suckers, stealing glances up the hill to where I was sitting…tending me.  Tending my space.  Guarding me from intrusion so God could rain upon me, interceding for me.  Like the Great Intercessor does.

Something was different.  I looked around and noticed there was something new in the sound of the water falling on the dirt.  Below me in the terrace, the once hard, dry dirt was black with moisture.  I found myself smiling over how wet the plants had become…they received what they needed through no effort of their own. They were planted, tended, pruned and harvested by The Gardener, and they would do what God had designed them to do, bear fruit.  Familiar words began to whisper in my soul:

Joh 15:1 -5

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

“Without ME, you can do nothing!”  I suddenly knew that for the first time in months.

“Ok, I whispered, “what do you want me to do?”

“Die.  Let me have your expectations of who I am, and let me show you the truth.”

I could feel him begin to pry my hands off of my life.  The Gardener had moved up several terraces tending as he went.  He looked at me, and smiled at my teary face.  He knew.  He knew what I was just discovering. Our life was in the garden of our God, and He is the vine dresser, he is the planter and he is the one who enables the yield.  The secret to kingdom living is an upside down paradox of faith.  Lose to gain, die to live….This time between the Rock and the Cross was a gift to me, if I would surrender my life, my will, my rights to my own way and humbly cling to the Savior who made a covenant with me in the sacrifice of His life.  Letting him prune me from my flesh, and grow me in the Spirit.

I felt The Gardener sit beside me in the grass, as the sun was setting behind the hills, casting its shadow across the valley.  He placed his arm around my shoulders and pulled me close.  I loved the way he smelled of earth, and water and sunshine.

“I am so weak. I don’t know how to die! I don’t know how to let go and just believe.”  The Gardener pointed to the trellis at our feet holding the young tomato vines upright.

“He’s got you.  The Holy Spirit will lead you to the Cross.  That is His job.  You just need to be.  Let him do the work he promised to do in your life. Trust Him, He loves you.”

I grew to love our time in the desert.  I found that it is in the desert that God speaks the clearest, and the best place in the world to be is between the rock and the cross.  Here, the good work of the Kingdom is established in our lives.  This lesson in abiding love, in allowing my self to embrace the cross that I might truly live has become a theme and a value in my life.  The wind of the spirit blew around the word abiding and reminded me of it’s picture root.  One of the words for abiding in Hebrew is the word kul (pronounced ‘kool’).  The letters of this word are the kaf   k and the lamed, l. These letters paint this beautiful picture of the yoked life.

The kaf is the picture of the palm, open, releasing, vulnerable, giving, and the lamed is the shepherds staff, which speaks of leadership and authority. Together  these letters form a picture of abiding that means “to be tame for the yoke”.

Jesus tells us in Mathew 11: 29-30 to take his yoke upon ourselves, to learn from him.  Why?  Because. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.   He is our inheritance, and we are the joy that was set before him a Bride and a Body that the Father gave him.  We are to submit our will to his as he submitted his will to the Father.  Jesus was tame for the yoke, abiding in the knowledge that he was the Beloved of the Father, only begotten Son in whom He was well pleased.  When we abide in His yoke, we also have this as our testimony.

Father, help me to stay under the yoke of the cross.  Help me to yield to the pruning and not draw back when you shear away those branches that are sucking spiritual life from me.  I long to present unto you a life of abundant fruit, pleasing and satisfying to your heart. Help me not be afraid of the north winds of life, but use them to stir up fragrant prayer as incense before you.  May the comforting south winds of days of peace not be taken for granted, but may I steward my time wisely before you.

Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; Blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.

Let my beloved come into his garden,

And eat his precious fruits. Song of Songs 4:16

Hus-detail-image-released-to-public-domain-by-its-author