Category Archives: What about the truth?

The Wedding Garment

IMG_20190303_130717982Less than two years ago, a friend and I decided to visit the owners of a local business as a simple act of kindness.  It turned out that the business was owned and operated by a family from India.  Unlike some American-born business owners, this family was very receptive to our unexpected visit.  They did not seem to mind taking the time to simply chat with us, even though we were not purchasing anything at all from their company. We were intrigued by their receptivity, and we continued to stop by a couple of times a month.  Sometimes their young adult son would welcome with us, and other times the owner’s wife and mother-in-law came to the door to greet us.   Ultimately, we met the owner, one of his other young adult children, and one of the grandchildren.   Over the course of that first year, we discussed food, travel, family, ethnic customs, language, challenges, and shopping.  It was clear that they were not bothered by our visits, which we never announced in advance.  We simply stopped by on our way to another regular errand we planned, and this place of business was on our way to that location.  

One evening, the son in the family announced to us that he was getting married in less than a year, and he invited us to the wedding.  Naturally, we were surprised and delighted at the prospect, as we counted it a privilege to be included; after all, we were outsiders with respect to their cultural and religious circle.   The parents then began talking with us about the wedding plans and clearly assumed we would be coming.   We could hardly believe that they would invite us to this momentous family event!   

As the day drew near, the mother made the arduous journey to India to shop for materials for the extra-festive sarees for herself, her own mother, and for a few of the close relatives who required special wedding clothes for the various ceremonies.  She explained how important the clothing would be for the family, and she showed us photos on her phone of some of the exquisite dresses worn by brides, grooms, and their families in India of late.   We were in awe of the bright colors, the beautiful fabrics, and the extravagance of the beading on many of the sarees.

When she returned home from India, we stopped by to visit the family again.   This time she presented us with small, exquisitely woven clutch bags as gifts from her trip.   She spoke of the food she would be preparing and the organization of the various ceremonies in different locations over the course of the wedding week.   These conversations were intriguing to us, as the wedding celebration seemed much more extensive than a typical American wedding.

A few weeks prior to the first event, which was to be hosted by the groom’s family, she presented us with exquisitely designed wedding invitations. Not only were we ourselves invited, but she and her family were inviting our husbands as well (even though our husbands had never met the family!).  Of course, we readily accepted this generous invitation and were excited to witness this wedding!

About ten days before the big day, when we asked whether we should wear short or long formal dresses for the ceremony, this precious woman brought out complete wedding garments for us to wear!   We were overwhelmed at the sight of the sarees and matching tops!   Then she and her mother gladly demonstrated how to put on the elaborately jewelled material by wrapping it around themselves multiple times and how to secure it at the end of the process.  

When the wedding day arrived, we each (predictably!) had some difficulty in wrapping ourselves in the beautiful fabric.  I had to enlist my husband’s help, and my friend’s daughter helped her.  The clothing was heavy with jewels and challenging to wrap properly and tuck in securely.  It was unfamiliar to us, yet we made every effort to ensure we looked appropriately dressed for this very special day in the life of our new friend’s family.

For me, the parallels to my relationship with God were poignant and moving.   In response to the least overture on my part, our Father receives me warmly and kindly.  He draws near to me whenever I cry out to Him.  He calls me His friend when I have done nothing to deserve that status.  He clothes me with a garment of praise and garments of salvation.  His Son shed His atoning Blood for me and  now dresses me in a robe of righteousness, “as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”  (Isaiah 61: 3, 10 NIV)  Jesus  calls me His bride and invites me to the wedding feast.  And, although I may have difficulty learning to wear those garments of praise and robes of righteousness, and I may find it a challenge to walk in my new clothes, I am thrilled and grateful for His overwhelmingly generous provision for me!

The fact that this hospitable mother-of-the-groom decided to call us her friends, though we were foreigners to her culture, and  bought us the wedding garments (mine was red, no less!), when we did not deserve to be included in her family, reminded me of all that Jesus has done for me.  God used a woman from India to demonstrate to me what He has provided for Me through His Son! 

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Father, help me to allow You to clothe me in Your righteousness! Help me to keep the garments of praise and salvation securely fastened, and empower me to walk steadily when I feel I cannot take another step without falling.  Teach me to wear well the clothes You have given me at such a high price to Yourself! 

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A Girl Named Gomer — What’s in a Name?

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Many of us are familiar with the character Gomer Pyle on the old Andy Griffith television series. For decades, I associated the name Gomer  with that type of character — a simple, naive, good-hearted MA.   Because that name was locked in my brain as a man’s name, I always felt sorry for that poor woman in the Bible — a prostitute, no less — who bore the name Gomer, which I considered too masculine (and far from enticing).   I even wondered why God would call a prophet like Hosea to marry a woman with such a homely name!

Studying Hebrew one day a few years ago, I was engaged in conjugating the verb that means “to finish or complete or perfect, to bring to a close.”  That verb is rendered as לגמר (ligmor), and — guess what! — the form of that verb that means he finishes, completes, or makes perfect is nothing other than GOMER!  So, that means that Hosea (a variant of Yeshua or Joshua, meaning he will save) will complete or finish or make perfect his bride!  Hosea the prophet serves as a type of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who completes and finishes His Bride!  What a picture of our destiny as believers in Jesus!

When we read Psalm 138:8, we hear the psalmist declare:  The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.”  The word used for will perfect is none other than yigmor, the future tense of gomer.  Moreover, Paul reiterates God’s promise to complete the work He begins in us through Christ Jesus.  In Philippians 1:6, he writes “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (NLT).

Evidently, Gomer is not a bad name at all!   Do I want Jesus to complete His perfect work in me?   Absolutely!   For that matter, have I been unfaithful to His commandments and character at times in my life?   Definitely!  In that sense, I am no better than the prostitute Gomer in the Book of Hosea.   As such, I welcome the completing, finishing, perfecting work of my Messiah Yeshua, and I myself am more than honored to be reminded that my name is really Gomer, for My Lord is in the process of completing and perfecting me to reflect His glory!  I suppose that, if a boy can be named Sue, a girl can be named Gomer!  🙂

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Who You Are in Christ? — or Who He Is in You?

3ec067fa612c3f1b228316a39260d689-dna-genetics-science-biologyThe past couple of decades, much Christian teaching has revolved around who believers are in Christ and in discovering our gifts.  The logic is that we will be more spiritually fruitful if we understand who we are in Christ and how we can serve in ways that correspond to our spiritual gift(s).  However, while the Scripture does state that “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (I John 4:13, ESV), it also declares that Christ in us is our hope of glory (see Colossians 1:27).  Where we place the emphasis is subtle but significant.  Yes, as believers, we abide in Jesus Christ, and we are positioned in Him for all eternity (according to Ephesians 2:6, seated with Him in heavenly places).   We also have at our disposal a wide variety of spiritual gifts.  However, what is more astounding is that HE, the Savior of the world, abides in us (mere earthlings, and sinful ones at that!).   

Since Christ in me is my hope of glory, He clearly lives in me.  As I serve those around me, I can confidently ask the Holy Spirit to be Himself and to impact those I encounter with HIS Presence (not mine).  As John the Baptist commented, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30 NKJV).  The only way that I can impact people in a Kingdom sense is by means of the Spirit of God.   Surely I can trust Him to express through me whatever gifts He deems necessary and useful in any given circumstance!  My desire is that people recognize Jesus Christ’s Presence in me, not ME talking about Jesus.

After all, God intends for us to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).  Paul clarifies this principle even further in Galatians 2:20:  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (ESV).  We need to be people who carry the image of God, as opposed to people who impress others with our righteousness or religion.   His image is, in fact, His DNA — Christ IN us, the hope of glory (Colossians 2:27).  In fact, in 2 Corinthians 3:18, we read “And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit” (AMPC).  The idea is that we are literally transformed; our identity is changed because of Christ IN us

Therefore, when we face any type of challenge, we do not need to worry about who we are (although we are children of the King of all the universe); instead, we can remind ourselves Who He is in us.   The Lord of Heaven and Earth dwells in us by His Spirit, and He longs to touch the hearts of people around us with His life and goodness.  As I heard Jack Hayford eloquently state in a recent interview, “Jesus wants to be real to you so He can reveal Himself to others through you.”  Jesus Christ lives in us and will make Himself known, both to us and to others around us.

DNA of the Living God, be replicated in me — rapidly!  I need and desire Your transforming power!

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Vision Repair

example-vision1Over the years, I have learned that reality does not always correspond to what I see with my physical eyes.  As a child oblivious to my own nearsightedness, I remember being completely shocked when I found out that what I saw on the blackboard was not actually what the teacher had written.  Many of the math problems I had correctly answered had been marked wrong, as I had copied them incorrectly and had worked the wrong problem. After a seemingly magical eye exam  and acquisition of  a pair of glittery red frames for my new glasses (frames only an eight-year-old girl could possibly find attractive), I marveled at the new view available to me through those glasses.

Over the years, I became increasingly nearsighted but always felt confident in what I could see with my glasses, and — by the age of fourteen — high-powered contacts.  In my early thirties, when I could no longer be corrected with glasses (for some then-unknown reason), I remained nonplussed, as my contact lenses were extremely effective in correcting my vision.  

Even when I was diagnosed with keratoconus in my mid-forties, I did not worry too much, as specialty contact lenses could be ordered to bring the multiple images I saw into focus.   However, I became concerned when I began to experience challenges with reading (rather than only with distance).  It turned out that I was seeing double images on a regular basis and did not even realize it.   My eye doctor had to prove it to me in her office by compelling me to gaze at a series of single images with both eyes open; in every instance, I saw double images instead of single ones.  I was flabbergasted!  She explained to me that the brain has an amazing capacity to compensate for vision malfunctions and override such things as duplicate images.   Fortunately, a simple surgical procedure corrected the double vision issue (but not the ghost images characteristic of keratoconus), and I was up and running again in short order.

More recently, I suffered a retinal detachment and underwent emergency surgery to have it repaired.   Again, what was surprising is that I had no idea that the small blind spot in the corner of my field of vision was due to the retina beginning to detach.   Although I continued life as usual (carrying heavy book cartons, running up and down stairs, hopping on a couple of planes) for over a week, the expanding tear did not reach the macula — for which I am grateful!  When I finally called the eye doctor, she summarily ushered me off to emergency surgery with a specialist.   This procedure, while highly successful, has caused me to experience life with vision in only one eye for an extended period of time.   Whereas vision is slowly returning in the operated eye, it is obscured and quite blurry during the healing process.   

As I reflect on my decades-long history of vision limitations and corrections, I am reminded of how vastly different God’s vision is from ours.   My human vision, even when corrected by brilliant physicians, is still far from perfect.    Moreover, even when I think I am seeing everything well, I have a tendency to automatically compensate for my  vision shortfalls to the point that I fail to recognize my own impairment.   Certainly, using only one eye the past several days has required me to acknowledge my insufficient range of vision and has made me painfully aware of the perils of being essentially blind on one side of my body.   

What have I distilled from these challenges?   I must make a concerted effort to rely on the Holy Spirit to empower me to see people and situations from His perspective, as He sees and understand things that are invisible and incomprehensible to me.   As the Lord explains in Isaiah 55:8-9:   “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (NIV)

Yes, my human vision is miserably inadequate, but God promises to grow me in seeing things His way.  In I Corinthians 13:11-12, Paul states, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

I thank You, Father, that You are Lord of my vision — both physical and spiritual, and You are able to make blind eyes see, both physically and spiritually.  Be Thou My vision, O Lord of my heart!

 

 

 

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The Power of Deception

wisteria1This morning at breakfast, I happened to mention to my husband how much I had been enjoying the beautiful vine with luxuriant purple flowers that adorns our back fence.  Previously unnoticed, it is draping along the top of the fence behind our stand of cannas.   Since purple has always been my favorite color, these blooms have been a delight these past few weeks, particularly now (autumn) when a few other plants have already passed their prime.  To my great surprise, when I asked him the name of that vine, my husband responded that it was an invasive plant that he needs to eradicate as soon as possible, as it will overtake all the other plants in the yard and choke the life out of them.   I was properly horrified!   “How can that be?,” I thought to myself.  

The spiritual lesson instantly registered in my heart:   more often than not, deception initially presents itself as something attractive, innocent, life-enhancing, and even beautiful.  However, as it progresses, it proves toxic and chokes the life out of everything around it.  Its appeal causes us to ignore prudent investigation of how it operates or what effects it may ultimately have on our lives.  After all, if we initially recognized deception as deception, it would (by definition) no longer be deception, would it? 

Although we hardly need to re-visit the oft-cited example of Eve yielding to the lust of the eye, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life in the Garden of Eden,  we certainly would benefit from applying the same lessons to our own lives, communities, and cultures.  Even a cursory glance at the news reports  exposes the rampant hatred, malice, selfishness, lying, and exploitation that run completely counter to Scriptural principles of integrity and personal accountability for our misdeeds.  Our media reflect who we are:  it appears we worship ourselves, our own conveniences, our own opinions, and our sexuality.  We accuse others of the very things of which we ourselves are guilty.   Are we even recognizable any longer as a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles?   

While no one may deliberately purpose in his or her heart to deceive and exploit others (at least not initially), when we fall prey to deception, we find ourselves choking in the throes of our own demise.  What initially seemed appealing, or even beneficial, proves toxic.  This principle holds true both personally for individuals and corporately for nations.   

I praise God that He is the source of hope for me, for my family, for my community, and for my nation.  Jesus is faithful to unmask deception in our lives and deliver us from every darkness.   Repentance is a gift we desperately need God to give us; happily, He gives that gift quite willingly, as He does not want us to perish!  I pray He exposes deception in my life, unmasks anything toxic, and empowers me to repent; He is able to deliver me and heal me, and He is my only hope!  I pray similarly for my country and its leaders.  

Jesus, send Your Word and heal us, and deliver us from our destructions!  (see Psalm 107:20)

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9 NKJV

 

 

 

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I Am Not Your Mother, but…

I love this story about a baby bird that hatches from its egg while its mother is away imgresfinding food.   Greeted by an empty nest, the hatchling has no idea where his mother is or what she looks like.  He consequently sets about searching for her.   When he asks various animals in turn, “Are you my mother?,”  he repeatedly receives a negative answer.  In the end, the little bird is catapulted back into his nest by a power shovel, just in time for his mother’s return to the nest.  Unfortunately, real life does not always match P.D. Eastman’s plot line!

As a mother of five children born over the course of just under nine and a half years, I was thrilled with my little brood.   Had I wanted to have more children, I could have continued that process.  Although I desired to be their mother and wanted each of my own children, I was patently unprepared to parent all their friends and the friends’ friends. After all, I was not THEIR mother!

However, God used one event to completely transform my attitude.   During my fifth pregnancy, a pleasant little boy lived next door us; apparently he preferred our house to his own, most likely due to the availability of multiple playmates.  As the months of my pregnancy wore on, I was lumbering around the house like a beached whale and often needed to lie down for a few minutes during the afternoon.  This neighbor boy would walk home from school every day with our oldest son, run next door to drop his backpack at home, and return to our house until dinner time.  Sometimes he would stay for dinner as well.  He was well-behaved and polite, but, as a responsible adult, I did not think it wise to be asleep while other people’s children were in the house.   One particular day, I was exhausted and desperate for a quick nap;  when my eldest son came through the door after school and made a beeline upstairs, I instructed our second child to please inform the neighbor (when he knocked on the door, which he surely would in a few moments) that I simply could not have him play at our home that afternoon.   A few moments later, I was lying down when the doorbell rang.  Through the fog of half-sleep, I heard child number two run to the door and open it; not one to mince words, he declared, “Go home!  My mom doesn’t want you here!” and proceeded to shut the door.   My heart was filled with remorse at his choice of words.   Nonetheless, as I explained to my son that diplomacy was important, I was also grumbling silently to God that I would’ve birthed a pile of nine-year-olds myself, had I wanted a pile of nine-year-olds.   The Holy Spirit wasted no time in correcting my attitude:   He spoke distinctly to my heart at that moment and instructed me to get up off my bed  when that neighbor rang the doorbell the next day, smile at him, welcome him, and receive him as if he were my own.

From that day on, I did exactly that.  In fact, that little boy was the first of  numerous “sixth” children in our family.  To this day, I treasure fond memories of him (he is now 35!).  Moreover, nine months after that particular day when the Lord so clearly reprimanded me for my attitude, that little boy’s mother died unexpectedly of a pulmonary embolism.  Can you imagine the guilt that would have shrouded me, had I not received this child and made him feel welcome after school in our home?  

I may NOT be someone’s mother from a physical point of view, but God calls me to be available like a mother whenever He sends me someone He has called to be a part of my life.  Everyone needs to be welcomed, included, listened to, and loved.  My sixth children have truly blessed me in ways that words fail to describe — and I consider myself the richer for the experience!  “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!”  (Psalm 68:19, NKJV)

 

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The Orphan Spirit — A Motherless, Fatherless Generation

20160518_170852A friend of mine once commented on the fact that she and most of her friends had never really been parented or mentored as children.  Her words struck me speechless. After all, the people to whom she was referring (including herself) still had two living parents who were part of their lives, at least to some degree.  She continued by explaining that most of her generation were children of parents who had been pre-occupied with discovering who they themselves were; as a result, they had had little time or energy for training and mentoring their children.

As a child born in the fifties, I was raised with traditionally minded but forward-thinking parents who strongly encouraged me to pursue an education and a career (which certainly could include being a wife and mother).  They also modeled a well-developed work ethic and strong moral fiber.  They loved me unconditionally and gave me more than just a glimpse of the Father heart of God.  I assumed my family was typical of most families — yet I soon found out that mine was the exception!

Certainly, my parents were not perfect, nor was their generation patently virtuous. However, during my childhood, there were certain general standards for ethics, integrity, and morality that were well established in our communities.  As a result, when some of us had an itch to rebel, everyone knew it WAS rebellion.  That, in fact, was the whole point:  rebelling against what some young people perceived to be the restrictive, traditional standards of their parents’ generation.   If there had been no standards to rebel against, I am not certain that said “rebels” would have found insurrection so attractive.

A few decades later, our society is increasingly amoral.   Amorality and widespread tolerance of all manner of behaviors, with no boundaries at all, can tend to produce a generation of insecure, unstable, powerless young people who have no idea who they are.  Many of them have no vision, dreams, or goals, and no confidence in their potential.  Perhaps their parents never DID find themselves and were paralyzed in terms of giving their children affirmation and guidance.   Perhaps their parents abandoned them or were patently incapable of caring for them (due to financial constraints, emotional or work-related stress, addictions, etc.) — or perhaps the children left home and subsequently found themselves stuck in a rut and unable to return.

Whatever the specific cause in a given individual’s case, I find we are surrounded by a host of motherless, fatherless children; often these “children” are adults who have no hope, no direction, and no understanding of their inherent value to God or anyone else.  Often they have abandoned any dreams they had as children and have no positive experience with healthy community or family relationships.   Certainly, even those of us with living parents can feel like abandoned orphans, at least part of the time.

What does this observation mean for the Body of Christ?  The Scripture clearly mandates inclusion of the outcast, the lonely, the widow, and the orphan (see Deuteronomy 24:17, 19-21).   God wants us to incorporate them in our families and care for them as if they were our own.   He “sets the lonely in families; He leads out the prisoners with singing;…” (Psalm 68:6a, NIV).   Psalm 68:5a declares that He is a “father to the fatherless.”

In the sea of ministry outreach opportunities, sometimes the best thing we can do is the simplest thing:  be a loving “parent” or “sibling” to one another.   God demonstrated that ministry model when He declared Himself to be our Father; He also said that He, the Lord, our Maker, is our Husband; Jesus is our elder Brother.  The Lord Himself is a better father to us than the best earthly father could ever be, and He loves each one of us as a well-beloved, precious child made in His image.   THAT news should serve as the foundation of how we treat one another, both inside and outside the walls of the our church gatherings:   sometimes people just need a mommy to love them and listen to them, to give compassion and hope; other times, they need a daddy to understand, forgive, and walk alongside them through challenges.  Simple old-fashioned kindness works wonders, particularly when repeated in a relational context over the long haul.

Father, give us YOUR heart for the orphans — the fatherless and motherless children and adults who surround us.   Empower us to bring healing to those who have been disappointed or damaged by authority figures in their lives.  Work miracles of restoration in simple acts of care and kindness as we include one another in this process of discovering true life in You — in Jesus’ Name!

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