Monday, November 11, 2013

Mourning my shadow, Katrina


The house, like my heart, feels empty.  There should be a pushy little (er..make that big) calico "brown patched tabby with white" shadowing my every step.  She didn't want to be picked up, mind you - she fought it tooth and nail, but I belonged to her and she had to keep an eye on me.

She would wait until the lights were off and I was settled in for the night's sleep time - then she would jump on the bed and head bump me until I petted her.  A loud purr bounced off the walls as she walked, back and forth, within reach/out of reach until she couldn't stand it anymore.  Then she flopped on her back and put her tummy in the air for tummy rubs.  Sometimes she would grab my hand and put it where she wanted a rub, and she purred and purred and purred.

I miss that already.

Because she wouldn't let me pick her up, and because she was 90% fur - I didn't notice when she started losing weight.  Norwegian forest cats are big, they weigh 15-25 pounds full grown and a year ago she was 22.  At the vet's on Thursday she was 11 pounds 12 oz.  How did she get so skinny without me noticing?  How?  It makes me feel so awful, tho she played and head bumped and pushed her way into everything I did up until yesterday.

Yesterday she tried to eat.  She really did.  But when I woke up this morning, the room was full of diarrhea and vomit from her evening - usually I awaken when she coughs up a hairball.  But this was no hairball.  I found her huddled under the bed, obviously feeling bad and hurting.

She didn't fight at all when I picked her up.  Nothing.  A limp 11 pound lump of fur and bone.

I took her straight to the vet to put her down.  My baby was not going to suffer one second longer than she had to.  But oh!  The agony of that little head wobbling until it rested on my arm.  Her body finally relaxed.  Her soft, soft fur still warm (she had the softest fur I've ever felt).

I feel bereft.

The house is so empty.  No Katrina sleeping in all the best chairs, following the sun on the stairs, basking in the warm pools of  autumn sun.  No pushy furry face pushing its way into whatever I'm doing, begging for treats (she ate them when she would eat nothing else.)  She had to touch my hand with her paw to get a treat.  And, reluctantly, she would, then shake her paw as if to dislodge the cooties she'd contracted.

But only after she had smelled the treat to make sure it was worth it.

And if I was too slow, she would reach her paw up and stretch to touch my hand.

When it was time for bed I'd say, "Let's go!" and she would precede me up the stairs, eager for her nightly treat and tummy rub.  I could have the door open (no screen) and she would start for it - and I would quietly say, "No, Katrina" and she would stop dead in her tracks.  Norwegian Forest Cats are half dog, I swear.

I often wonder if Jesus had a pet - I can see, in my mind's eye, a little Heinz 57 pup following his every step on the long walks through the Galilee and up to Jerusalem, following on with love in his eyes and joy in his wagging tail.

And I wonder if, at the foot of the cross, there was one more presence besides the Marys and John.  Was there a wee dog, his head laid on his paws, refusing to leave the cross even when the Roman guards scowled and threw rocks?  No matter what, he would come back. He would stay till the very end.

Always.

I know His eye is on the sparrow.  I know His eye was on Katrina when the kind-hearted vet gave her the pain-ending injection.  It was so quick.  In an instant, the life that made her Katrina was gone.

And all that remained was my broken heart, wrapped in four huge, furry paws and the softest fur I've ever touched.

I welcome your prayers.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Job pt 2

So, we left off with satan cackling and rubbing his hands together with glee, thinking God had taken his bait and he now had the power to mop the floor with Job.

so he plans.  And waits. He takes his time and plots to strip Job inch by inch, the least important to the most important. Making it as painful as he can, building the ripping to pieces of Job's heart in the most exquisitly heartrending manner he can think of, one torturous layer at a time.

He waits until all the kids have gathered for a feast at the firtborn son's house (the firstborn son was considered especially precious because he was the "proof of Job's manhood.")

He waits until the flocks are out in the fields

Waits for the oxen, the donkeys feeding beside them.

Waits for the camels.

Then he begins.

Unsuspecting Job has probably had one of those mundane mornings -morning prayers and sacrifices, a leisurely breakfast with his wife, reports from his foremen on how things are going, perhaps a small walk around the fields, rejoicing in God's rich gifts to him, the fierce Mediterranean sun still shining warm and gentle on his cloak in the early morning, birds singing, frogs croaking, a little zippidy doodah comes wafting over the hills... uh, oops.  wrong movie. but I'm sure the equivalent was in there somewhere, because Job's life at this point truly was idyllic.

Then, suddenly, the needle scratches across the record and the music stops. A messenger (vv. 14 and 15) comes running in - sweaty, disheveled, clothes torn and dust upon his head and breathlessly, sides heaving, blurts out "The oxen were plowing, the donkeys eating beside them and the Sabeans fell upon them like locusts and took them away. Then they killed everyone -everyone!They have slain your servants with the edge of their swords  and I alone escaped to tell you!"

The Sabeans were known for their cruelty, their "slash and run" raids on people, their brutality.  And this time they scored 1000 animals: 500 donkeys, 500 oxen.

As the first messenger finishes his story, still trying to catch his breath, yet another messenger arrives on his heels

The Word tells us "While he was yet speaking" another chest heaving, hard breathing lad arrives to say, "The fire of God fell on your flocks and burned up all the sheep and the servants and consumed them - and I only am escaped to tell you!"

Notice here, satan influences this messenger to say "the fire of God" - he made the lightning so fierce that not even the bodies of the sheep (which could have been used for food and clothing) are left. And the servants used for watching the sheep were most often the younger boys, given their first "job" in the household, early adolescence.  It must have struck Job with sadness at the loss of the boys as well as the sheep.  I was struck by the heartlessness of the attack.  We do well to remember there is no compassion in the heart of the evil one, no holding back.  He goes to the very edge of what God allows him to do.

Just as this news is being told, another comes "while he was yet speaking" to say the Chaldeans, another fierce people, came in 3 bands and took every single camel, all 1000 of them - a tremendous amount of wealth! - and then killed every servant but one "with the edge of the sword" and "I only am escaped" to relay the news. Camels were their transportation - so even if they were afraid the Chaldeans would return to slay them, they couldn't flee.

The word used for "servants" also means "youthful, boys".  These could have been the ones just learning their jobs in Job's household or it could have been the "cream of the crop", young men who excelled at their tasks - his hope for the future. For some, it was undoubtedly their first day on the job, so excited to be trusted by a benevolent master to be learning their work.  Their families anxiously awaited their return at evening to hear all about it, doubling the pain of their deaths.  So the servants Job had left, the ones who did the household chores, may have been grieving  losses right along with Job.

And then the kicker: "While he was yet speaking there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house, and behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee."

Up until this point, Job had listened stoically as his fortunes disappeared with the dust, but the loss of his children pierced his soul.  In verse 20 we read (emphasis mine) "Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped."

All of those things - tearing his clothes and shaving his head - are signs of deep mourning.  He didn't wail, he didn't get melodramatic or angry or rail against God.

He worshipped.

There are times when grief floods the soul so deeply that the heart is overwhelmed. The feeling of loss pierces so deeply and is so deeply felt that the soul itself staggers. Simply to take a breath is difficult.  The heart feels hollow, ringing with the echo of the voice you long for, but will never hear again this side of heaven. In the end, there is nothing else you can do, except to worship the One Who has allowed this to happen and trust through the darkness that He will enable you to bear the pain.  

And so Job falls to the ground and worships.  The word used for worship implies that he fell prostrate before his Lord.

The cry from his heart to the One Who owns his every breath, is wrung from the depths of his soul.  This is a man who knows that everything - every single thing - that we have has been given to us.  And so he speaks that eloquent, broken hearted declaration that submits and blesses, praises and worships, all in a handful of words: (v.21)

"...Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked I shall return thither; the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

And God records of his hurting child v.22: "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly."

Chapter 2

The scene opens again in heaven, where satan puts in another appearance, no doubt disgruntled that his carefully prepared plan to get Job cursing God "to his face" was a colossal failure.  So filled with anger and hatred himself, he couldn't conceive of being plunged into pain and not reacting with acidic anger and brutal rage. 

God's grace enfolded Job.  God's love held his hurting child in a tender embrace.  And it was enough for Job.

But seeing Job in such deep anguish was not enough for satan.

God again praises Job and points him out to satan.  He uses extraordinary words to describe him in verse 3: "...Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God and eschews evil?  and still he holds fast his integrity, although thou moved me against him, to destroy him without cause."

No one with a heart like Job in the whole earth, perfect, upright.

Wow!

What a description!  In the midst of profound suffering, Job reacts in a way that no one else in the earth would.  In God's eyes, he is perfect, he is upright, he is one of a kind and treasured by His maker.

To which satan replies (my interpretation), "yeah, yeah, yeah. so he can stand losing his stuff.  He's still healthy and can start again.  Give him a sickness and lots of physical pain and then he'll curse You to Your face."

So God says, " Ok, you can do anything but kill him."

Notice, once again, that satan is on a tight leash.  He is allowed to touch God's children only in ways allowed to him.  On his own, he would have attacked Job in retaliation immediately, searching for the most painful and long-lasting method of suffering and wiped Job off the face of the earth.  But he can't.

And there is the mystery of iniquity in a nutshell.  Evil entered the world with the infamous bite of the apple.  But that doesn't mean there is open season on mankind.  There is a limit to what can come against us, and we are reassured of this in 1Cor 10:13 (Strong's definition in brackets) "There is no temptation ["putting to proof by experiment (of good), or experience (of evil)] taken you [gets hold of you] but such as is common to man; but God is faithful [trustworthy] Who will not suffer you [allow you] to be tempted [test, assay, examine, scrutinize] above what you are able [can do], but will, with the temptation, make a way of escape [exit. way out], that you may be able to bear [bear by being under, to undergo hardship] it."

Satan, however, being full of hate, can't comprehend how Job can keep from sputtering with rage.  So he immediately goes out and zaps Job with "sore boils [very painful, malignant inflamed spots] from the bottom of his foot to the top of his head."

Then, we are told, Job took pottery fragments to scrape out the boils with, and sits down on the ash heap.  

This tells a lot about his suffering.

The ash heap is the place where the ashes are dumped (surprise!)  But the ashes do not attract flies, and help to keep wounds from being infected.  Later on we are told that Job's boils were filled with maggots.  So walking would be pretty impossible ("from the soles of his feet")
The maggots eat only infected tissue, so they are actually helping Job, but feeling something crawling around in your skin must be a horrific feeling. 

And then we come to the infamous wife, who tells Job, "Do you still retain your integrity? curse God and die."

It seems like every sermon speaks of her with disdain, snide remarks and disparaging words about her ability as a helpmeet.

I think she gets a bad rap.

Here is a woman who has also lost everything.  Along with Job she has watched their fortunes be annihilated - and the young men who worked in the fields die.  And then her children, the joy and pride of a woman at that time, her whole value as a helpmeet, are taken away in one unbelievable moment. And now she has to watch her husband, her beloved, become a crawling mass of pain, being spat on by the worthless men of the town who wouldn't have been even recognized by one of Job's stature before.  He is being tortured by endless and painful boils, crawling with maggots which make things awfully smelly, he probably can't eat much (I can't imagine how filthy he feels, and how do you lift food to your mouth when your hand is crawling with maggots and you are in unending pain?) and to top it all off, he is being laughed at and denigrated as a secret sinner whose sins have finally caught up with him.

I think she simply can't bear to watch it anymore.

And so she tells him to end it. Get it over with.

But Job is faithful and true to his God.  As he later says, "Though He slay me, yet shall I trust Him."

For those of us who are chronically ill, with painful and/or limiting illnesses, Job is an amazing role model.  Like Job, we have no idea what is going on behind the scenes.  But this we do know: God knows.  Each bolt of pain or nausea or weakness is measured by God to the last drop.  Whatever path He gives us has His footprints there where He has gone before.  He is not removed from our suffering.  He spent 6 hours in unspeakable agony, in anguish so deep that His Father could not watch a second longer and turned away, leaving Him totally alone for the first and last time in all eternity.  He knows.  And because of those 6 hours we are assured of a place in His kingdom that nothing can take that away from us.

We have something Job didn't have - we have the Comforter, the indwelling Holy Spirit.  He ministers to us in our pain, lifts us up, intercedes for us with groans too deep for utterance (Romans 8:26.) So there is one thing we will never have to fear.

We will never, ever, be alone.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bad Week

Having a bad week so far.  Please pray for me as I'm not up to typing - big headache and exhaustion, will try as soon as itlets up a little.
thanks!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Shocking discovery!!!

A brief interlude from Job, here.  Something hit me so hard I have to share it with whoever stumbles on this blog.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

That is the first verse most of us memorized after coming to Christ.  A verse we've heard gazillions of times about the sacrifice of Jesus for us.

But I read it two days ago and discovered, to my great surprise and wonderment, that the verse really isn't about Jesus all that much.

It's more about the Father.

I was stunned.  I've read/heard sermons preached on this verse for 41 years and never has it occurred to me that that verse had anything to do with the Father.

I'd heard it so often I just didn't hear it anymore.

It pierced my heart and I immediately repented of the tiny role I gave the Father in all of this, putting Jesus alone at the center.  Actually, they are in it together, but the role I had assigned to God in my mind was because He is so seldom mentioned.  I mean, He is so often maligned as the "God of the Old Testament" - the one that kills whole cities and wipes out everyone in judgement. What we fail to consider is that those population were given hundreds of years to repent.

God is merciful and compassionate, but there is a line beyond which He will not go.  That line is drawn clearly in the sand - and when you defiantly refuse to change, you will be punished.  Why the women and the children, you say.  They are included because of the deep need for revenge in those cultures.  If the women and children were only enslaved, they would hate the people who took their homes and fathers/husbands/brothers away, and the moms would never let the kids forget it, instilling a rabid hatred of Israel in the little ones until they grow up deaf to all reason, raised on vitriolic hatred - as we see happening today in Israel. God wanted to spare His people the influences of their gods and the degradation and idolatry of their worship, which often included sex with the temple prostitutes as part of the whole thing.

We forget that He is also the God of "hesed", often translated as "lovingkindness" or "mercy" or "favor"  It implies a great tenderness akin to the love of (of course!) a father.

It was the Father's great love for the world He had created that moved Him to give His most beloved and precious treasure - His only begotten Son, to save all of us whosoevers.


I was so overwhelmed with my neglect of His glory that I picked up the Touch Bible embedded with the Strong's Concordance ($0.99 from Amazon) and went thru the verse, word by word.  I share the results here. When the definition is in quotes it is directly from Strongs.  Not in quotes means I chose the definitions to share when there were 15 or 30 definitions.  And the surmising done is my own.  So I invite you to join me and learn another facet of the Father's amazing Personhood.

"For".  It's such a small word but has a lot of meaning: Properly assigning a REASON (used in argument, explanation or intensification), because, indeed, no doubt, seeing then, therefore, verily, why. 


"God" means the Godhead,Trinity, God the Father, the first person in the Trinity, Christ the second person in the trinity, and the Holy Spirit, the third person in the trinity, spoken of the only and true God...His counsels, interests, things due to Him.

I don't know about you, and I am deeply ashamed to admit this, but I don't think I have ever truly thought of the Father's counsels, interests, and things due to Him.  What a spoiled self-centered child, who never even tries to think about the things her Papa is interested in, the things that bring Him joy, that He loves to do.  Ever.

It was about this time that I broke down in tears and begged His forgiveness for being so blase' about His Person. Two words and I am undone before Him!

"So" another one of those dynamite tiny words: "in this way, on this fashion, in like manner." 

"Loved": regarding people it means to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.  Regarding things, it means to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing.

"The world" - here I expected "cosmos" or some such thing.  Nope.  Nothing that impersonal.  It means the base of orderly arrangement, by implication, its inhabitants, literally or figuratively, the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family,

"That" - as follows, in so much, wherefore.

"He gave" - deliver up, suffer, yield, to give what is due, obligatory.

"His" - mine own.

"Only begotten" My only child.

"Son" - immediate kinship of male child.

"That" see above definition.

"whosoever" - individually, each, every, any, the whole, every person.

"Believed" - "to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to entrust, commit to, put your trust in".

"In Him" - referring in third person to that individual.

"should not" - a particle of qualified negation, once qualification has been met, expresses absolute denial, God forbid, never, no way.

"Perish" - destroy, die, lose, to put out of the way entirely, render useless.

"But" - nevertheless, nay, rather, yea, moreover.

"Have" - to hold fast, to own, to possess, to hold one's self to a thing and be closely joined to it, used of a marriage. 

"Everlasting" - "perpetual, eternal, forever, without end, never ceases."

"Life" - the state of one who is possessed of vitality, or is animate, the absolute fullness of life, life real and genuine, active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection to be consummated by new accessions (among them a more perfect body) and to last forever.

Phew!

That's a lot for one small verse.

I had always thought it was amazing, but compared to this, I had no idea.

No idea.

It is a testament to the Father's great love for His children, of His great love for Jesus.  He tore His own heart out to make ours live forever.

Putting all of this together, we get :

Properly assigning a reason, the first Person of the Trinity, the only and true God,in this way dearly loved the inhabitants of earth, the human family: He delivered up and yielded His own, His only child, His Son,   wherefore individually each and every person who puts his trust in Him qualifies to never die or be useless, moreover to own and possess perpetual never-ending vitality, the absolute fullness of life, life real and genuine, active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed,and after the resurrection to be consummated by new accessions, a more perfect body and to last forever.

Wow. 

It made me wonder what else I had missed.  

So I went thru the gospels to find out how many times the Father was mentioned that I also did not see.

Another shake-me-to-my-soul moment. 

The gospel of Matthew mentions the Father 41 times (!!)

Mark 6 times, which is about what I expected for all four gospels.

Luke 14 times.

In the gospel of John, the beloved disciple, I expected him to focus on Jesus more, so didn't think the Father would be mentioned often.

John mentioned the Father 96 times.

I was struck by this view of salvation.  The whole shebang is centered in the Father - He instigated it, planned it, and His Son agreed to it.  Suddenly I was alert to how Jesus spoke of the Father, how He always said He did only what His Father did, how He learned obedience by what He suffered, how when the moment came, He pleaded for a change of plans - but set His face like flint to be obedient to His glorious and loving Father.

How hard it must have been for that Father to withdraw Himself from His only Son! To watch the pain, the indignity, the incredible suffering of His Son to the point where He had to turn away - my sin did that.

When Jesus said that everything had to happen as prophesied, but woe to the person thru which the evil had to come, it took on new meaning.  I can't imagine facing an all-powerful God when you just betrayed/whipped/mocked/convicted/crucified His Son.

Woe indeed.

Looking thru the Word I saw time after time where Jesus refocused the teaching on the Father, the Father's love, the Father's desire to heal, to draw His creation back to Himself.  

And then the final bombshell of my quiet time:

Matthew 10:20  speaking of the end times when we are not to try to figure out what to say in court:

"For it is not you that speaks, but the Spirit of your Father which speaks through you."

I never, ever saw that before.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father.

It is the Father's Spirit that is our Comforter, that teaches us all things, that comes along side of us in our pain, that strengthens us and enables us to endure.

When I think of being chosen from the foundation of the world, I think of Jesus.

Or did.

Matthew 25:34 actually says, "Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'"

How could I have missed You, Father?

But I'm not alone.  All thru the gospels Jesus over and over tells his disciples that He is doing the Father's will, working as His Father works, doing only what the Father does, being obedient to the Father.  How exasperated Jesus must have been when Philip asks, that last teaching time, to see the Father and then he'd be satisfied! Jesus replies from John 14:8 onward:

"Have I been so long a time with you, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He that has seen me has seen the Father - and how do you say, then, 'Show us the Father?'"

The obedience of Jesus really shines through as He repeatedly gives the glory and the instigation of His miracles to the Father.  Always He seeks to give glory to His Father, to emphasize the Father's careful planning, revealed in the prophecies over hundreds of years. Always He tries to redirect people to His Father.

All of which I never saw before.

41 years of blindness.

Thank You, Papa.

Selah.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The (Im)patience of Job

Over the next few weeks I want to share what I learned in my recent reading in the book of Job.  Using the Touch Bible with Strong's Concordance I looked up almost every word in the book and learned a lot.

Job is a favored book to many of us CIs.  His unremitting exposure to trials seems to resonate with us for some reason.  And going word-by-word through the book taught me a lot about why it does.  Unfortunately, I don't get online to post every single day.  Sometimes it is a week or two or more between posts.  I'll try to do it more often, but I can't promise.  And there is a lot to cover!

The first word I clicked on was his name.  I never knew that the name "Job" means "hated."

Who would name their child "hated?"

I can't imagine what life must have been like growing up with that name.  Perhaps his rejection by being named "hated" is the reason he was such a loving father to his 7 sons and his daughters.  He would have first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to be devalued - to have one or both parents not caring what happens to you, or actually wishing you ill.  It seems from his attitude, though, that that life sent him into the arms of God - that he found comfort and love there.

Time-wise, Job was a contemporary of Abraham.  The law hadn't been given yet, but Job has a highly developed understanding that sin needed to be covered with a blood sacrifice.  He is in Uz, which was a city somewhere in the Arabian desert.  And he tried so diligently to live a life pleasing to God that the Word describes him as "...perfect and upright..."

"Perfect" here means "one who lacks nothing in physical strength, beauty etc, sound, wholesome, an ordinary, quiet sort of person, complete, morally innocent, having integrity, morally and ethically pure."

Whew!

And "upright" means "straight, pleasing, correct, fitting, proper."

What an amazing man!  His name and treatment caused no bitterness, no anger against God, just a desire to please Him and an impetus towards diligence.

The Word goes on to say "...and that feared God and eschewed evil."  "Eschewed" means "to turn off, turn aside from, depart, remove, take away, put aside, leave undone, retract, reject, abolish."  To eschew evil would mean that he was tempted towards it, but turned away and "left it undone."

So he is a man of great character and moral strength living, as Moses was described - choosing God rather than the pleasures of sin for a season.  And that's just the first verse!!

In verse 2 we are told that he has seven sons.  Seven besides the number, means "the sacred, full one."  So having seven sons to love and nurture was satisfying to Job's heart, filled up the emptiness he had growing up.

And the kids evidently were full of love for each other, getting together often for a feast. The Word mentions specifically that the sisters were included - noteworthy in a patriarchal society where women could easily be undervalued.  Not Job's sons!  They had obviously been raised to treasure family and each other.

Even so, verse 5 tells us that even tho they were grown, Job never stopped wanting to protect them, and sacrificed daily on their behalf, just in case "...it may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts."  "Sin" means "miss the mark" and also "miss oneself, lose oneself, wander from the way."  "Cursed" is a euphemism for "blaspheme."  The word originally meant "to kneel before (adore), to bless, praise, salute".  Interesting how satan corrupts even words, isn't it?

Ah yes, here comes the evil one, twisting and casting aspersions. In verse 9 we are told he comes before God with the other "sons of God", the angels, and instead of worshipping he accuses.  Twisting facts as he did in Eden, he starts in on Job. "Doth Job fear God for nought?" his questions always denigrate God's character.  Always. When a doubt enters my mind - "Can I really trust God to do that?"  - it bears within it the breath of hell, the sure mark of the evil one.

OR the question accuses God's child - that's why Romans 12:10 calls him "the accuser of the brethren", as we see in verse 10:
"Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all he has on every side?"  I can just hear his frustration - oh how he longs to afflict God's beloved! "You have blessed the work of his hands and his substance is increased in the land."  "Substance" means "cattle, livestock, herds."

verse 11: "BUT...(here it comes, the accusation of the brethren) put forth Thine hand now and touch all that he has (note that satan would not be satisfied if God touched one thing - nope, satan wants God to touch all that he has - he will not be content with anything less than a catastrophic action against Job) and he will (not "doubt" not "wonder" not "feel crushed" but) curse Thee to Thy face."  satan doesn't just say "curse You" but adds on all the defamation he thinks he can get away with: "...to Thy face."  In other words, "he will throw away everything good he has learned about You, and hate You so much he will shake his fist and spit in Your face!"

So God says, "Oh yeah?" (my translation) "OK.  You got it."  verse 11: "Behold, all he has is in your power...(note that satan's power is greatly limited; he can touch ONLY what he is specifically allowed to touch, NOTHING more) ...only upon himself keep your fingers to yourself (my translation)"

So satan ran from God's presence chuckling to himself: "Oh, He fell for that one!  c'mon boys, we got some nasty stuff to plan!" (my translation)

And that's where we will leave off for this installment.

Hope you are getting blessed!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The fingerprints of God

The book of Esther was on my mind today.  This is what I got from it - all extra-biblical comments are my own.

For those of you new to the Word, it's a book about yet another madman wanting to annihilate the Jews.

In every generation someone gets the same idea (hmmmm; who could be behind that?  It just reeks of brimstone, doesn't it?)  In our day anti-Semitism seems to be popping up all over.  The evil one hates the fact that Redemption came through the Jewish people.  HATES it.  And continuously tries to make them pay.

Anyway, in the Book of Esther, Hamaan is the villain.  He is wealthy and presumably healthy, but wisdom is far from him.

He is also very prideful.  When he gets the king to decree people should fall down before him and, in essence, worship him, one man doesn't .

He is a Jew.

Of course.

"I am the LORD thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me" is enthroned in the heart of Mordecai, and he will not bow to another.  Not physically.  Not mentally.  And certainly not spiritually.  It makes me wonder where all the other Jews are.  It seems fear induced all the other Jews in Shushan to submit.

Anyway, Esther is a remarkable book - remarkable because it is the only book in the Bible that doesn't mention God - not once - even though His fingerprints are all over it.

Hamaan, inch by inch, worms himself into the king's confidence - so much so that the king gives him, essentially, the keys to the kingdom - in this case, his signet ring, with which every royal decree must be signed.  And Hamaan uses it.

Besides his "worship me" decree, he asks the king if he can get rid of a group of ne'er do well folk in his kingdom that nobody likes anyway.  And he offers to pay a substantial sum to replace any possible loss of income to the kingdom.  Note, however: he does not actually name the people and, because he has the king's trust, the king doesn't ask.

Now, in secular history, from Herodotus, we learn that the king has just fought a costly war against Greece that he lost  - at Thermopolae and Salamis- hence, the kingly coffers are low.  And the good king loves luxury and showing it off.  He ruled from India to Ethiopia and gave a party that lasted for 6 months (!) for all the princes and dignitaries and servants of his vast empire.  They ate lying down, on couches of silver and gold, and the flloors of his dining hall were paved in red, blue, white and black squares of marble, with hangings of linen and purple velvet hung by silver rings from marble pillars. The amount of money that must have cost staggers the mind.  His expensive failure of a war came just after the party, so after a war that had done nothing but drain the royal treasury, money sounded good.  (The loss of income and taxes to his kingdom would have far surpassed even the large amount Hamaan dangled in front of the king, but Hamaan wisely concealed the details - and the king didn't ask.)

Hamaan's pride was so important to him that because of one man refusing to worship him, he wanted to wipe out every one of not only his family but of his people.

Wow.

When Esther invites only the king and Hamaan to her dinner, his buttons pop off his chest. Not only does the king dote on him, his queen evidently does, too!  He must have thought he was pretty hot stuff - invincible.

Except...

That dang Mordecai was the fly in the ointment.  And he still had several months to go according to the time indicated by the dice he rolled to determine the most auspicious date (God's fingerprints) before the Great Annihilation.  How would he ever stand to wait that long?

So in the midst of bragging to everyone he could brag to, he voices his discontent.

Now we see the fingerprints of another place (rhymes with "bell.")

One of his "friends" suggests he nonchalantly build a gallows six stories high (75 feet or 50 cubits) and the next morning (meaning his servants had to work all night long to build it) ask the king to hang (impale) Mordecai on it (an added perk would be everyone in the city could see it and know not to mess with Hamaan!)

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for that conversation:

" Ummm, oh kingliveforever,  there's this guy that bugs me, your favorite pal, and I'd like to eliminate him from my life - would that be ok?"

"So, do you want me to have him executed or tortured or what?"

"WOh!  That's a tough one.  Let me see...." furrowed brow, tapping chin with one finger, "Wait!  Someone built a gallows 6 stories high in my front yard last night - wouldn't that be perfect? I can use that!"

But, alas, Hamaan never gets to have that conversation.

Because during the long night while his servants built the gallows, the king couldn't sleep," either ( it would be hilarious if the reason the king couldn't sleep was the sound of all the hammering and yelling it took to build the gallows!)

Anyway, the sleepless king wanted something read to him so he could sleep (God's fingerprints again) Something boring.  Let's see....I know!  Read the chronicles of the kingdom!

And there, buried in the boring day-to-day stuff of the kingdom was this little gem: (Fingerprint) Mordecai overheard a plot to kill the king, and stopped them just in time.

"Wow!  I don't remember that!  What did we do for this loyal, trustworthy servant?"

"Ummm...nothing."

"NOTHING????!!!!"

"Nope.   Nothing.  Nada.  Zip,"

So while the king pondered this (Fingerprint,) Hamaan arrives in the court, bright-eyed and bushytailed, to ask if that loyal, trustworthy subject could be staked to his gallows.

The king is pondering, pondering, pondering and can't come up with anything big enough to reward Mordecaih

"Is anybody in the court this early?" he asks. (Fingerprint)

Sure enough, Hamaan is - and the king brings him in to ask him what he thinks.

Hamaaan's pride flares like a match tossed on gasoline. "Who else but me could he possibly be thinking of," pops into his mind and honors galore parade themselves before him.

So he comes up with this unbelievably ego-stroking experience, paraded through the city so everyone would realize how important he is!

Oooooh! Maybe he could even ask the king to make Mordecai do it before he hangs him! Perfect!

Only it's not for him.  (Fingerprint!)

It's for (cough gag barf) Mordecai, his arch enemy (not really, but Hamaan has been chewing on this a loooong time.  To him, Mordecai is the enemy.)

So Mordecai rides thru town, his donkey (considered a royal steed - appropriate, no?) being led by the guy who has been seething about him and plotting against him and talking him down and  the whole city knows it. I'll bet more than one person had to turn away to laugh at the mighty Hamaan.

What a blow to his pride!  He covers his head (a sign of mourning) and runs home to tell his cronies what that rat Mordecai did to him today (never mind it was his own doing!)

At this point, I thought, Who else but God could have come up with such a precise hit?  So I said to God, "Good job, LORD!"

Immediately He came back with "I know" - with the intonation a guy uses when they're smirking about something wonderful they did.

I laughed out loud

Then Hamaan has to get ready for the dinner with the queen - his humiliation fresh in his mind.  His ego badly needs this honor.

But....

instead, things go from bad to worse.  When Esther (the king's favorite) reveals she will be executed, too, because of none other than Hamaan, the king is so furious he gets up and marches out to the garden to cool off a bit.  Meanwhile, Hamaan is so terrified he falls down on his knees onto the couch Esther is on to plead for his life.  To the king, it looks like he's gotten so bold he's trying to make out with the queen -  or worse - while his back is turned.

Hamaan is done for.

Meditating on this later, I realize the servants have all been carefully watching Hamaan get his. They've seen Hamaan puff himself up and, as folks with that mindset often do, I suspect he treated the servants as being so worthless that they were only alive to do his will, nothing more.  I don't think he treated them well.

Why do I think that?

When the king comes back from the garden, they already have an executioner's hood ready and the first thing they do is tell the king that Hamaan built an enormous gallows in his front yard last night to impale the very one who had saved the king's life!

I was still smiling about the LORD saying "I know" when He got serious with me.  He showed me that, altho with time and distance  it's sort of funny, that humiliation was an act of mercy.

This was Hamaan's wake up call.  If he had thought about it instead of taking offense and listening to the suggestion to build the gallows, he would have realized what those same friends told him after he was embarassed: now that it's started, you're going down. (my paraphrase)

He had one last chance to think about his actions, one last chance to change his ways, one chance to wonder about Mordecai and where his courage to bow only to his God came from.

One chance to see beyond the humiliation to salvation.

I sobered up quickly.

I spent the next amount of time asking Him to show me if there's something in my life that is sticking in my craw, just like Hamaan, something that is festering instead of bringing it to Him to deal with.

And there was.

Something so inconsequential I couldn't believe I wasn't dealing with it - a moment of hurt feelings, a stray word, a look.  Nothing important.  Simply ruffled feathers.

So I ended up thanking him for my own wake-up call.  And I share here the main thing I learned:

Nothing is too small to bring to God, nothing.  If something is big enough to irritate me, to hurt my feelings, to upset me, no matter how slight, I need to bring it to my Papa and deal with it head on.

Because if I ignore a tiny little crack like that, it will, over time, cause more and more "tiny little cracks" and lead to a habit, an attitude, a hyper-sensitivity that has no place in the life of a child of the King.

And that, dear friends, bears the fingerprints of God.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Wonder and worry and more wonder...

I have been running a marathon (pant pant wheeze pant)

A CI with CFIDS???  Running a marathon??? you say.

Yup.

I have been running the marathon of "give it to God, take it back."

Tho He slay me yet will I trust Him but what if no I will set my face like flint: I will trust You but what about....

Sound familiar?

It is sooooo very hard to stop taking it back.

And then...

We were both exhausted from rotten sleep (or none) and busy days (busy for me, anyway - and genuinely busy for my sil)  So we planned to go to the soup-and-salad place after running one last errand at Costco.

On a Friday night? you say (you're saying a lot tonight, aren't you?)

Yes, I thought of that as we were on our way to the place.  So I prayed out loud, "Father, please find us a place to park. Thank You!"

The last time I was there  a corner space was coming clear, and while I waited with blinker blinking for them to pull out, a fancy shmancy pick-up truck pulled right in ahead of me and flipped me off.

AAAARGH!!

All I can say is, It's a good thing vengeance is the LORD'S - cuz if it was mine, I'd be in prison already.

Anyway, we pulled in to the parking lot and right in front of us, a car began pulling out!!  THANK YOU FATHER!

And then I noticed:

it was the same corner space.

And there were other cars circling....

Give it to God, take it back, trust Him, take it back giveittoGod

I seem to see a pattern here....

So I sort of almost held my breath as we sat there with the blinker blinking - and then....

The car pulled out

-and sat there shielding the space so we could pull in.

Thanks again, Father...

And later I started thinking about it...

And my Papa set me on His knee:

"What's the difference between a parking space at a busy restaurant on a Friday night and provision for you in reduced circumstances?"

"Ummmm... I dunno, Papa..."

And deep in the quiet of my soul, He said,

"Not a thing."

Selah.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

And a little note to my Sponsor

The email today from http://www.aholyexperience.com/ was about Joni Earickson Tada - I have always loved her writing and her ability to strip herself bare before the LORD and yet still have the courage to share it.  She said some things in this blog that resonated deep in my heart and had me in tears.

"Ken opened wide the front door so I could wheel out to the van.
For a long moment I sat squarely in the door frame, staring and taking it all in:
the shade tree dappling our brick path, blossoms bobbing on the crepe myrtle, and patches of sunlight on dewy grass.
It was the freshest of mornings. Oh God, I breathed, If only I could feel as fresh.
After more than four decades of quadriplegia, I’m tired."

Oh yes, LORD, me too.

After 25 years of battling with both CFIDS and FM, I'm tired.  Do I have to keep fighting??

This is the heart of the matter.

Am I required to keep trying to sustain a body that is so weary - sick of the pain, sick of being forgotten  or negated by AB people, sick of watching those I love flash expressions of impatience and distaste at my infirmities - especially when I have to ask for something to be repeated - again - because I don't understand (and my hearing is going, more each day)  My eyesight is also being attacked by the ravages of diabetes - visions of Helen Keller, anyone?  The evil one knows how to attack us at our most vulnerable spot. 

And does.

Often

So her word today struck chords of response in my heart.  I definitely lack the courage of God - the same courage He gave to David when facing Goliath or Saul, the courage to keep going after he'd been on the run for almost 10 years, running from Saul, living moment to moment depending on God.

Yup, I need that - especially when disability insurance folks think you no longer need any income at 65 years of age.  Instant destitute circumstances swallow you whole.  

"But..." 

Don't you just  love how the Bible throws one in now and again?  And it is always "But God..."

What is mine?

"But God, how do I live this way?  But God, wouldn't it be easier if I just won the lottery (that I'd have to PLAY the lottery to win the lottery is a minor point) ...easier  than this hardscrabble existence of penury (I tend to get melodramatic when I'm scared...)  But God, do I really really hafta do it this way?"

Of course His answer is yes.  He has a reason for every single thing He allows our lives From lions at the Coliseum to the sand in my shoe and the ache in my heart - each one is hand-crafted for what He wants to teach me.  And what is that?

What every single angel has said to every single person whenever one was sent by God -"Do not be afraid."  (I think they've figured out that we are prone to it.)

Because there is always fear behind the weariness.  Fear of what could happen.  Fear that I couldn't handle being sicker.  Fear that I may one day wind up in the same kind of wheelchair Joni is in.

Every plane trip, I've had to get to the plane and get to the car in a wheelchair.  And it makes me wonder how long it will be until I can no longer get out of one.

It's not that I'm suffering so terribly - compared to others, it's nothing.  But each grain of sand in my shoe makes it so much more uncomfortable.  It's not just the fatigue - it's the fatigue and the low grade fever and the lack of energy and the joint pain and the muscle pain and the night sweats and the headaches and the cabin fever and being stuck in bed and never having a break and one foot in front of the other for day after day after day after day after day... you get the idea (I warned you I was melodramatic!)

Blah blah blah standard pity party rhetoric.

Did I add that I'm embarrassed by my lack of strength?  

No.  I wouldn't.  Because I'm embarrassed.

So Ken's solution for Joni with a post-it note of C for Christ's Courage is particularly appealing.   A) it costs me nothing and B) I am struck silent by the fact that it cost Him everything - especially to make it available to me whenever I need it (and my heart is accessible enough and vulnerable enough to admit I need it.)

So here is my statement of being:
Jesus, my King, my Savior, my LORD, my everything, I need You.  More specifically, I need every bit of You: Your strength, Your courage, Your love, Your grace, and especially Your sense of trust and confidence in the Father with which to encourage and comfort others (and a celestial sense of humor to deal with the unattainableness I feel just looking at that list.) And I need it every second of every day. Please keep reminding me of that need. Period.
And I am so very very very grateful that you love me through all of my groaning and sighing and pull me up by my collar when I need it.  You really are a God of lovingkindness, hesed mercy.  Thank you for that mercy!
 Amen.

  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Discoveries

I have been getting blessed reading the Psalms and having Strong's Concordance at my fingertips.  Amazing how knowing the roots of words or multiple meanings of words can turn on a light in my heart.

Especially Psalm 139.

It was my mother's favorite Psalm.

v15 "I was made in secret and curiously wrought..."  curiously wrought means "embroidered in variegated colors."

What a glorious concept!

While God was in the process of creating you, individual you, He was hand-embroidering you with the colors He delighted in - your laugh was one color, your way of looking at things, the small wonders of His creation that delight your heart - all were individually chosen and placed just so, like the stars.  And - like the stars - He knows you by name, too.

v16 "Thine eyes did see my substance..."  As the tiniest of 2-celled embryos, God knew you.  He knew who you are, He knew what you would do with your life, every sin you would commit - and He loved you (the quintessential Proud Papa - that's Him!)

"...and in Thy book all were written..." ("members" is not in the original) In other words, I am a full person in God's eyes, all of my attributes are there, I am not just a clump of cells - and like my Father,  I am.  

"... which in continuance were fashioned..." - that is a potter's term meaning "to squeeze into shape."  The Potter was already fashioning my clay into a vessel and, yes, some days I can still feel the squeezing going on ! (incidentally, this is the same term used in Genesis when He formed Adam out of the ground - the only thing handmade of all creation, a hands-on creation by the King of the Universe - that's YOU!)

"...when as yet there were none of them." Before I was even conceived, He had thought of me, knew how He would shape me, what attributes He would give me, and had numbered every second of my life, every hair on my head.

v.17"How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me..." the word "precious" also means "costly" - Yes, my every breath, my every thought is precious to Him - but I also  cost Him His most precious possession, His only Son.  Knowing that more fully than words could ever express, He still chose for me to be created.  Before the foundation of the world He chose me - and was willing to pay the price for that  choice.

Grace, and grace alone.

I will probably never be able to completely comprehend what a privilege it is to be called by Him, to belong to Him, as long as I live on this earth.  In heaven, where I am promised the ability to know even as I am known; will I then understand the cost? It seems impossible to me -  no matter how long I meditate on the cost, I keep coming up with new aspects of the tally - His heart broken, His Son broken, His Son bled like the Passover lamb to "make Him kosher", to tolerate my sin, to equate each sin with the supreme agony of not just the cross, but every second lived confined to a human body - and that for eternity!!! To never again have the freedom of existing without boundaries, He will forever restrain Himself to exist within the parameters of His flesh.  So much, so very much He gave up.  When our Father tore the curtains in the Holy of Holies from the top down (tearing the clothes is a sign of deep mourning in the Jewish culture) He was revealing the broken Father heart that sacrificed everything He valued.  Everything! for me, for you.

Everything.

Grace alone.

Selah.