He Wants His Love to be Known

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Photo by Tim Rebkavets on Unsplash

The prince was kneeling before his father, the king.  This was a good and wise king.  His kingdom was vast and his subjects were too numerous to count.  His dominion was full of prosperity and peace.

                “How much like me this son of mine is,” the king thought to himself.  “He has grown into such a fine young man.  He will be wanting to take a bride soon.”

                “Father,” the young prince began as though he had read his fathers thoughts, “I have found my true love. I have come to ask your permission to pursue her.”

                “Very good my son! Who is she?” the king answered with a hearty smile.

                “Her name is Marie.”

                “Marie,” the king’s smile faded. “Her name means ‘bitterness’, and it describes her well.  She lives outside of the boarder of this land, in our enemy’s territory.  Her life has been hard, and I fear that there is very little beauty or joy left in her, even though she is still young.”

                “This I know, father.  I met her once on my way to the Outer Lands.  She was rude to me.  She was dirty and dressed in rags.  Yet there was something about her that has captivated me.  I feel that there is a treasure beneath the filth.  Every night I have dreamt of her, and I cannot forget the haunted look in her eyes.  Perhaps my love could banish that emptiness and transform her from ‘Bitterness’ into ‘Full of Grace’.

                “Son, consider your decision well.  Do you truly think that Marie will be a princess befitting our glorious kingdom?  Will she make a fine queen someday, able to rule at your side?” the king questioned.

                “I know that my choice seems irrational, even reckless.  Presently she would make a horrible queen.  But I love her, Father, with everything in me.  I love her!  I know that I can save her from her life of misery and her bitterness. Please let me try.” The prince closed his eyes and bowed his head, awaiting an answer.

                The king’s deep voice quavered with emotion, “Son, I am so very proud of you.”

The prince lifted his head suddenly. He searched his father’s eyes, the eyes that always seemed to hold the answers. The king went on.

                “You see, Marie was born in this Kingdom and royal blood flows through her veins.  She was meant to be your betrothed.  I knew that she could become a woman worthy of you, my noble son.”

                “What happened to her?” the prince asked with a new passion in his eyes.

                “She was kidnapped at a very young age and carried away as a slave.  She has lived in the enemy’s land, misused and deceived for all of her life.  She may be saved, but there is no guarantee. She does not recognize her dishonorable condition, because she has never known the beauty of our kingdom.  She may become offended by your purest intentions. ”

                The words of the king seemed to ignite a fire in the already love-struck heart of the prince.

                “I must go to her!  Father, I must show her that she is loved.  That she is worthy.  That she is destined to be a queen!  Please Father, let me go into the enemy’s territory.”

                “You must understand, son, that your quest is noble and born out of true love.  But you will suffer.  You will suffer all that Marie has suffered…and much more.”

                “I know,” the royal son replied in a passionate whisper, “Somehow I have always known. But my suffering is a small price to pay for Marie…for my love.  To live here in the glory and abundance of our kingdom without her would cause me greater suffering.”

                The prince paused as if the very thought of a life without his love was too terrible to express. He stood to his feet and raised his voice, “I am ready, Father.  I must go to her!”

                The king stood as well and enveloped his son in a strong embrace. 

“You are right.  You ARE ready.  Marie IS worth the price. I will miss having you here by my side, but I am confident in the future. A future where both you and Marie are reigning with me.  This quest is your destiny.”

The prince thought he saw a tear roll down the strong cheek.  The King continued in a whisper now.

                “This quest…it will cost you everything.”

 

As I watched this scene unfold on the stage of my mind, I knew that my assumptions were changing.

My paradigm was shifting.

My world was transforming.

This prince wasn’t afraid or reluctant.  He was confident and bold.  He was longing to go into hostile territory.  Like a courageous warrior, he was willing to suffer and to die for the object of his love.

This prince was Jesus.

This Marie was me.

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Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

I was the prize that fueled His courage.

I was the treasure that energized His passion.

I was the pearl of great price that He sold everything He had to obtain.

He pursued me like a man pursues His bride. And He found me.  He saved me.  He turned me into “Full of Grace.”

He is still wooing me.  He is still fighting battles for me. I am not yet a queen worthy of His great Kingdom.  He is relentlessly pursuing me until I truly know who I am and whose I am.  I feel Him teaching me His ways day by day.  I feel His patience and His passion.  I feel His delight and His desire.

He is pursuing each and every one of us, but only a few of us are aware.  The rest go about their lives oblivious of the glorious kingdom for which they were born, the love that chases them.

Men and women all through the ages have encountered this love-sick warrior prince.  Sometimes they caught just a glimmer of His smile, just a glimpse of His fiery eyes.  Other times they have been washed by His love, wave after relentless wave until they were happily drowning in it.

Some have written about it.  One such man is Cory Asbury.  I found in the words of his song “Reckless Love” a confirmation of my own experience.

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me

You have been so, so good to me

When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me

You have been so, so kind to me

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

There’s no shadow You won’t light up

Mountain You won’t climb up

Coming after me

There’s no wall You won’t kick down

Lie You won’t tear down

Coming after me

One night I was able to steal away to the prayer room at church.  I got so caught up in my love for Jesus that my words just came spilling out in a passionate prayer.

                “Jesus, you are everything – all we want.  You are the goal, the prize, the destination, the journey, and every step in the journey.  You are everything!”

I felt a small twinge of guilt.  I offered up a silent prayer, “Sorry Holy Spirit. Sorry Father.  I didn’t mean to forget about you.”

Then I saw the Father smiling down on me with pleasure, just as any good father would do while witnessing his son and fiancé being clearly head over heels in love with each other.

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Photo by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash

                “You have chosen well, my son,” I heard him say.

I was shocked to hear this.  I simply don’t see myself the way the Father does, the way Jesus does.

I am so thankful that He will never be satisfied until I do.

I am so thankful that He won’t let me go.  That the fire in His eyes and the burning in His heart will never be diminished.

Jesus is the prince.

I am HIS PRIZE.

YOU ARE HIS PRIZE.

He will never give up us.

If you have never encountered this love or long to encounter it more, listen to “Reckless Love” and ask Him to reveal himself to you. This is a prayer that he has suffered, died, and now lives to answer.

He wants his love to be known!

Oh Nards!

You know when something unexpectedly horrible happens and your immediate response is to let out a loud expletive?  Well, mine is, “Holy CRAP!”

I don’t mean to say it.  It just comes out.  My teenage son is quite offended by it and constantly reminds me that, “crap is NOT holy, Mom!”  I heard Bill Johnson say that if we really understood the holiness of God, we would never pair the word “holy” with the word, “crap.”

My young children sometimes exclaim, “Holy Crap!” when they are upset about something, and I admit that it sounds very uncouth and disrespectful…and they learned it from listening to me!

Ok, point taken!  This is not what should be slipping out of my mouth at inopportune times.  I should have better sentiments in my heart to express.

That same teenage son began to say, “Oh nards!” He would say it very loudly with a smile on his face because it is such a humorous phrase.

I adopted “nards!” as my “swear” word of choice.  Whenever something annoying or dreadful happened, I would exclaim, “OH NARDS!”  It was so fun to say and so funny to hear that I would burst out laughing.  I would amuse myself to the point that the disaster no longer seemed so disastrous.  (As Joseph Garlington says, “If it’s going to be funny later, it’s funny now.”) The children would begin laughing as well.  My husband would chuckle at me and shake his head, wondering what had gotten in to me.

I continued this, “Oh nards!” business for months before I thought, “Perhaps there is some significance to this word that God would want to speak to me about.”

I looked up “nards” on Google and found that it is short for spikenard, a plant used for medicinal purposes.  It is antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory.

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It is also the star of that beautiful Bible story in John 12 when Mary pours the pure nard on the feet of Jesus and the entire house was filled the fragrance of the perfume. The story (or perhaps a very similar but separate story) is also told in Matt 26.

Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table.  But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste?  For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me.  For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.  By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

It was clear that Mary loved Jesus deeply and wanted to demonstrate her gratitude and worship.  Perhaps she had planned this act, weighing what it would cost her to do so and judging that the cost was worth it.  Or perhaps she was so overcome with emotion that she impulsively grabbed her most precious possession and poured it out.  Either way, she deeply touched Jesus and ministered to Him just days before His crucifixion.  She had made a choice to lavish her love on Him despite what it cost her.

When the unexpected happens in my life and I shout out, “OH NARDS!” it is not quite the same as Mary.  When the child drops dinner on the floor or the teenager leaves the bathroom a mess or UPS has Chris work his 3rd 14 hour day, this is not my choice.  These circumstances have been forced upon me, and I have the right to be angry!

Don’t I?

What if I would make the choice to accept the circumstances with joy and worship God anyway?  Then perhaps my, “OH NARDS!” could be turned into the alabaster jar of Mary, ministering to Jesus with my love.

I read one article on the internet that spoke about the extravagant amount of nard that was poured out, probably 11 oz.  Anyone who uses essential oils knows how strong they are.  A few drops is all you need.  The fragrance of 11 oz. would have been enough to be noticed for quite a distance around the house.  If Jesus was to wash in a pool right afterwards, a thousand people could wash after him and leave with the expensive aroma.

Imagine all of that nard being absorbed into Jesus’ skin.  He must have smelled like spikenard for days!  Jesus did say that Mary was preparing him for his burial.  I always thought he was just speaking about the symbolic of the use of herbs in burial customs.  Days later when he was betrayed, arrested, abandoned, beaten, put on trial, ridiculed, whipped, and crucified…

I bet Jesus still carried the aroma of spikenard!  In His darkness hours, He smelled like perfume.  All who came in contact with this simple, poor man from Nazareth would catch a whiff of this very expensive oil.  As the people watched Him take the accusations without fear or anger, they could smell Him.  As they watched Him patiently endure suffering, they noticed the unusual aroma.  It was the fragrance of a King, not a common man.  It was a heavenly smell in the midst of tragic circumstances.

This smell of pure nard would forever be imprinted on their brains as the smell of the most unusual trial and execution they had ever seen.  For the rest of their lives, whenever they would catch a whiff of it, they would remember.  Maybe God could even bring them to the place of faith, recognizing the King and Savior Jesus in the form of a beaten and bloodied criminal.

When I encounter trials that make me want to cry out in disgust, “Why all this waste?!!”  perhaps I should worship instead.

When my husband is suffering with an excruciating headache for a week, unable to work or participate in much of normal life, my mind starts to say;

“Why couldn’t this have been a vacation from work to enjoy camping as a family?  We won’t get to take that vacation now.  Our budget only works if Chris is working.  How long will it be before he can start working again…days, weeks, months?  We are not even sure what is causing the pain or how to get rid of it.  I hate to see him suffering! What a waste!”

I have come to know God better than that.  Nothing is wasted in His kingdom.  He can use any circumstance for our good and for our promotion.  I can trust Him and worship Him in this.

For all of us, this pure nard should remind us that in the midst of suffering, we can love and worship.  And when we worship we release the distinctive aroma of our King…and the atmosphere of heaven.

OH NARDS!

God is ALWAYS better than we think He is

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

This is a famous quote from the Hiding Place, a true story written by Corrie Ten Boom.  She and her sister Betsy had defied the Nazis by hiding Jews in their home.  When their house was raided, the Jews were never discovered in the expertly designed hiding place, but Corrie and Betsy were taken into custody and eventually put into a concentration camp.  Corrie experienced the horrors of a hell on earth.  She witnessed the death of many, including her beloved sister.  Yet she learned that in the darkest pit, God was there…and He was good…so incredibly good.

She came out of that experience more in love with Jesus, more devoted to following Him.  She spent the rest of her life encouraging other people to love Jesus.  That is a testimony that no one can deny.  No imaginary God, no fairy tale God, no boring or religious God could work a miracle like that; placing a life into the crucible of suffering and making it a joyous offering.

I have often pondered Corrie’s life and wondered what I would have done in her place.  It is unlikely that any of us will have to make the choices she had to make.  Yet each one of us will have our own personal hell on earth that we will have to navigate through.

On Thursday night, I heard the stories of five women from my church; each I knew well; each had faced their own crucible.

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Kristi is a wonderful deejay on the local Christian radio station.  She lives in my neighborhood and I sometimes see her pass my house, taking a walk with her little boy in a stroller.  She told how just months after their marriage, her husband was diagnosed with cancer.  Years later cancer was found in her body as well.  In addition, the doctors told them it would be impossible for them to have children.  Her story wasn’t about the seven long years of treatment and tests, sorrow and disappointments.  Her story was about the goodness of God, His healing power, and their miracle baby!

Bobbie is the mother of one of my first youth leaders, and one of the hardest working, sweetest ladies you will ever meet.  She faced breast cancer and multiple cancer scares after that. Does she live in fear?  No!  Her life is full of joy because of her amazing God!

Tiffany was just a junior higher when I met her.  I was in senior high and would sing on stage with the youth worship band.  She wrote me a sweet little note at one of the youth retreats that said something like this, “I see you on stage with such grace and confidence, and I know that God does that.”  Well, my singing voice is not what it used to be, and I have faded into the background.  Now I watch Tiffany on stage worshipping with a clear and powerful voice, singing songs that she has written and recorded, and I am looking up to her in admiration!

Tiffany told the story of suffering a blood clot in her lungs, dying twice, and surviving a surgery that would have killed 499,999 people out of 500,000.  Her story wasn’t about the pain and suffering she had to enduring during the recovery process.  She didn’t complain about the interruption in their lives with two little girls and a newborn baby boy.  She told of how God’s goodness was there every step of the way.  She said, “You can NEVER exaggerate the goodness of God.  He is ALWAYS better that we think he is!”

Sharon was a leader in youth group when I was in high school.  A few years later, I actually saw myself in her wedding album.  She and her husband were honeymooning in Boston.  I just happened to be there on a missions trip with YWAM, and we randomly ran into each other on the street and snapped a picture!  I admired both her and her husband, and when I heard the news that he had left her for another woman while she was pregnant with their second child, I was heartbroken for them.  She was devastated and was a single parent for almost 15 years.  Yet her story is not one of loss and betrayal.  It is a story of learning to love herself, learning to forgive, and learning how much God loved her.  Now she sees restoration in all the broken relationships and just married a man who is better than the very best she had ever imagined for herself.  God gave her more that she had asked for!

Sue is a powerful woman of God at our church.  I first met her when I volunteered to help out with vacation Bible school when I was in high school.  I was assigned to help in her room which was the dancing room.  Each day, four different groups of children would rotate through our room.  Sue led them with a microphone (which she really didn’t need) and tireless energy. I had never had so much fun at vacation Bible school before!

Sue told of her battle with cancer.  She was in so much pain that she wished for death.  She survived the surgery that took out her entire stomach, part of her esophagus, part of her intestines, and her gallbladder.  Her doctors were so surprised, they hadn’t developed a follow-up plan.  Cancer free six years later, she doesn’t moan about how unlucky she was.  She sings and shouts and passionately tells of her beloved Jesus!  She looks like she would explode if she didn’t proclaim her love.

How can this be?  Shouldn’t all these women be bitter and cynical, wondering why a loving God would lead them through the valley of the shadow of death?  All of these women have a real relationship with a real God who never left them for a moment.  In fact He was always right there with them, carrying them, listening to them, speaking to them, and healing them.  He was sending answers, giving provision, working miracles and loving on them until they were filled to overflowing with that love.

This is a God that we just cannot deny.  I pray that you and I will be encouraged to trust more in His great love for us and have the courage to say in our own trials…

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

 

God’s Goodness is Hunting Me Down

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Most if the time, most of us just want to be happy and comfortable.  That is what we look for and strive for and pray for.  That is how we define “being blessed.” Comfortable and happy.

Life is very rarely a comfortable and happy affair.  When the journey leads us to trial after trial, we begin to wonder what is wrong.  Are we on the wrong track?  Why isn’t God answering our prayers?  Does God really love us as much as he says that he does?  Will we ever see our dreams come true?

I love the book, Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard.  I have read it many times and each time, I relate to it more and more.  I find great comfort in realizing that Hannah Hurnard experienced her Christian walk much the same way that I have.  Much the same as every Christian, I suspect.

When Much-Afraid started her trek to the High Places, she knew that the journey would be difficult.  She had to climb the mountains with her twisted, lame feet.  She knew that to ever achieve the Shepard’s goal for her; it would take a bit of the supernatural.  But she never guessed what was in store for her.

The Shepard chose two companions to help her since she was lame and very fearful.  They never left her side and assisted her every step of the way.  They were Sorrow and Suffering.  Instead of climbing into the mountains, the path led the three travelers to the Desert, then the Shores of Loneliness, the Precipice of Injury, the Forest of Danger and Tribulation, the Mist, the Valley of Loss, the Floods, and the Grave.  By the time Much-Afraid had reached the Grave, she was no longer the same girl who had started at the foot of the mountains.  She had suffered much, but she had also spent much time with the good Shepard.  She laid herself and her dreams on the alter.  She could see that she would never reach the high places, but she was happy to obey her beloved Shepard.

She did not anticipate the glorious resurrection that would occur, healing her lame feet and changing her from Much-Afraid to Grace and Glory!  Though it was the Shepard who was her prize, the High Places became hers as well, and it was more glorious than she ever imagined!

I hope I make it to the High Places someday.  I hope that all the dreams that I have carried in my heart come to pass, yet I have laid them down to say that God is enough.

I could lose everything and suffer great tragedy, yet there is only one thing that I can never afford to lose…my faith.  My faith is my life and my hope.  Without my faith in a good Father, I would be dead while I still lived…and then be a dead shell for all eternity.  My faith, which is worth more than gold (1 Peter 1:7), is what God in his infinite wisdom is after.

The trials that purify my faith make it feel as though his goodness and mercy are far away.  Yet his Goodness and Mercy are always following me! God’s goodness and mercy will follow me all of the days of my life. (Psalm 23:6) Follow means to aggressively pursue, run after, chase.  God’s goodness is hunting me down.  At times I wish his goodness would leave me alone and let me be comfortable and happy for a little while.  It is chasing me like a massive hunting dog; pouncing on me, knocking me down, and licking me all over with messy, wet doggy kisses.  I may struggle and mourn and wail.  But it is God’s irresistible Goodness that won’t let me go.   It will not let me stay the way I am now because God loves me too much.

“Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible – terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemishing or unworthy to remain in the beloved.” –Hinds Feet on High Places

Being comfortable and happy would be great…for a short while.  But the purification of my faith is worth so much more.  To become like Jesus and to enjoy a closer walk with him is worth any trial it takes to get me there.  To know his great love for me is my prize and great reward, and it brings a deep and abiding joy.

“Multiplied” is a great worship song for those of us who are being hunted down by his love!

God Needs Me?

“He can do all things without us, but He had chosen to do them through us.” – The Call by Rick Joyner

I was pregnant with baby number eight.  It had been three years since my last pregnancy, and I felt the strongest, the healthiest, the most alive I had ever felt!  That was…until the morning sickness settled in.  It was actually “all day but much worse in the evening sickness”.  I had not felt horribly nauseous during my previous pregnancies, more like continuous car sickness.  How I had wished I could stop the invisible car and just get out!  I was optimistic that this pregnancy would be the exception, that I could say with a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye, “I love being pregnant!”

Just the opposite had happened.  I had never felt so bad!  My days consisted of sitting on the sofa with my eyes closed, trying to feel better.  My children ran around unattended.  Home school, which we should have started a month ago, remained untouched.  My older children did all the chores around the house and kept it running, though not as orderly or smoothly as I would have.  My precious firstborn girl, Areli, carried an enormous burden.  She heard my pitiful pleas all day long.

“Areli, could you make me some eggs?”

“Areli, could you fill up my water glass?”

“Areli, could you see who is crying upstairs, please?”

I tried to be a good mom; but mostly I whined, moaned, slept, felt sick, got sick, and slept some more.  I felt useless and wretched.  I knew theoretically that despite the weakened state of my body, my spirit could still soar high above my circumstances, like an eagle above the clouds.  Yet, after days, weeks, and months of feeling crummy, my eagle had forgotten how to fly.  My mind kept thinking about scriptures such as

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” 2 Cor 4:17

I knew that it was true, but it didn’t help me feel any better.

I thought about my joy in a newborn baby and how it was all worth it.

But it didn’t make me feel any better.

I reread every “Above Rubies” magazines I had ever received to encourage myself.

My mind was encouraged but my flesh still felt miserable!

My body felt like it was not capable to getting up off the sofa and doing anything productive or enjoyable, yet my mind continued to churn, swirling in descending circles.

“I just want to die.  I can’t live like this.  Why do I have to suffer?  Why does God allow me to feel so horrible?”

Pregnancy is such a miracle, a blessing, a gift!  So why did I feel so bad?  My suffering was nothing compared to other women I knew, who kept almost nothing down for nine months, yet my suffering felt like too much for me to bear.

The question I kept asking was, “Is this worth it?” and I knew that it was.  A new life is always worth it.  After a mother is holding that precious bundle, her sorrow is turned into joy.

Then the question became, “How much is a human life worth?  How much pain and sorrow is one life worth?  How much would I suffer for one human life?  Would I get pregnant and do this all again for one more human life?  How much is a life worth to God?  How much suffering did Jesus endure?”

The only conclusion I could come to was this; one human life is worth IT ALL!  There is no limit to the value God puts on a life, no price too high to pay, no suffering too severe.  Jesus suffered more than any of us.  He went through betrayal, slander, hatred, lies, scourging, mocking, and the cruelest execution ever conceived.  He felt the wretched, incurable sickness of the evil of the entire world. And he bore the effects of that twisted iniquity; separation with all that is good and beautiful and holy, his Father.

He said that his suffering was worth it because of the joy set before him. (Hebrews 12:2) That joy was human life, redeemed and set free.  He said that I am worth it.  He said that you are worth it.  He said that the child in my womb was worth it.  If Jesus was willing to suffer for my child, shouldn’t I?  After the suffering of His soul, he saw the light of life (my life, your life, my child’s life) and he was satisfied. (Isaiah 53:11)

I knew that my suffering wasn’t in vain, but I still didn’t feel any better.

“God, give me a vision of this child!  Something to keep me going,” I prayed.

In my mind’s eye I saw beams of life coming from this child and shooting out to the far reaches of the earth.  This child would be a blessing to me and my family, yes.  But he would also have an impact on the entire world!  How?  I have no idea!  But if I could have some small part in sending life to the whole of mankind, sign me up!

Then I heard God’s loving voice.

“Thank you for being available.  Without you, I couldn’t bring this child of destiny into the world.”

Then I felt the peace that only God’s voice can bring.  I felt His gratitude sink deep into my soul until I was saturated by the unbelievable goodness of it. God needs me?  The all powerful God NEEDS ME to be available?  What if I had said that seven children were quite enough, and that there were too many children in the world already?  THIS particular child, with unique DNA from his father and from me that could never be duplicated, would have never existed!  His very individual purpose and destiny would have never been manifested.  His precious personality, which was a dream in God’s heart since before the world began (Ephesians 1:4), would have never been realized.  And now he exists…because of me!  I cannot think of anything more powerful.  I cannot think of any higher honor for God to give me, than helping Him to create something of inestimable value and eternal impact.

I never could say during that pregnancy that I enjoyed being pregnant.  But I could say that pregnancy was when I relied on God the most and sensed His presence the closest and felt His glory the heaviest.  And the moment that precious Babe was born…I could say…

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HE WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!