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If you’re going through a challenge, this post is for you. Maybe it’s a teen challenge, a fertility challenge, an over-the-edge exhaustion challenge, maybe it’s a health challenge – your own or one you love.

Maybe it’s a financial challenge, a dream challenge,  a broken-down car challenge, academic or behavior challenge, a heart-breaking challenge.

There’s only one rule for further reading: Do Not Qualify Your Challenge, don’t compare, quantify, or measure,  don’t shut off conversation because it’s not the exact challenge. Challenges are challenges – they stretch the heart, stretch faith and hope; they frustrate, hurt and, yes, grow us. In each challenge, God is the same.

As a child of God, though, the course of action is the same, regardless of the challenge: keeping our eyes on the one who can walk us through the challenge, protecting us, helping us, and, at times, carrying us. Whatever your challenge is, this story is for you, too.

In just a few days, we celebrate Easter, the resurrection of our Savior who died to save us – to save us from a life of separation from the Father. He became the forever sacrifice, his spilled blood covering our sin so that our creator, our Father, could look upon us, his children, pull us into his embrace, and walk with us homeward.

December 20th, my husband and I started a journey, where Christmas, Passover and Easter collided and burst alive, bringing into sharpened focus what it is to believe. it. all. And in the believing watch the writer of our story unveil a plot designed to shorten his life before my husband took his first breath.

December 20th, Christmas  time- a mistake just realized. . .

Noticing a discrepancy between his heart rate when kayaking and walking, when my husband went for his annual physical, he was referred to a cardiologist he’d seen the year before. When he returned from the heart visit, he told me there was a problem.

There’d been a mistake.

The tests from the year before hadn’t been forwarded to the primary care doctor – and no one had notified him. Last year’s test results showed severe aortic stenosis. He needed a heart valve replacement. He was only 59 years old.

He came home without a description of what a heart event would look like – or what we were supposed to do in a heart event. I wanted a manual with step-by-step directions. I wanted to be prepared. I felt like we’d been handed a time bomb that could go off at any minute.

I wasn’t willing to wait around. I’m pro-active.  He was in to his primary care doctor in 30 minutes. Surely there was a mistake, we thought. Wrong file? Wrong name? Wrong person? My friend’s 94 year old father’s aortic valve was replaced the year before – this is something that should have been 40 years down the road.

At 4:28 that afternoon, after not hearing anything further, I called to make an appointment with my friend’s father’s cardiologist at St. Thomas Heart in Nashville, two minutes to closing. The receptionist listened to the story – I hung up  with an appointment for two days later with the promise of a referral following.

We weren’t ready to tell our sons – not until further information was accurately gathered and a plan formulated. Besides, it was Christmas.

“Who’ve you told?” he asked, seeing my sheepish expression. Well, my friend who gave me the name of the new cardiologist.

Another friend drove over with a smaller Christmas Tree cookie cutter that evening. When I walked out to her car and she handed it to me, I burst into tears – so two people knew.

Two people God sent across my path who believed in the power of prayer, who believed that God still heals, still does miracles, still answers the prayers of his children.

God knew I would need to keep my hands and heart busy on the day  in-between.  We were surprised but He wasn’t. . . He was already steps ahead of what we knew. . . which is why weeks earlier he’d dropped this idea into my heart to build friendship, to fill my home and heart, to mix, bake and find space for laughter.

I baked a hundred cookies that night, with dough for 50 more. You see, I’d invited a family with as many kiddos as mine over to decorate cookies. . . the day before the cardiologist visit  – cookies to take to a local assisted living at lunch time to share and sing Christmas songs. We cut out more cookies, talked birth order personalities, baked some more, talked spiritual gifts, laughed, made icing, had fun with decorating points, made a huge mess, and delivered the results with Christmas songs and time spent with the residents.

christmascookiescThe new cardiologist diffused the time bomb and scheduled further testing January 2nd to solidify the plan for an aortic heart valve replacement.

Another in-between, another wait. He had complete peace; I baked: my grandmother’s coffee cakes, Christmas cake, majeskas and bourbon balls, Christmas casseroles, and hot chocolate. I measured, stirred, whipped, baked, washed the measuring spoons and cups, the mixer, the pans over and over. . . and kept my focus on the one leading us through this journey. . . . and thankfulness for the reason for Christmas steeped the in-between, the wait, thankfulness the son of the king agreed to come down from his throne, be born a baby in a manger. . .

Yet, just as quickly as I thanked God for the birth of his son, I was thanking Him for Easter, for the crucifixion and resurrection, for the sacrifice of the unblemished lamb whose shed blood would cover my sin so God would be able to look upon his children – to love, fight, protect, heal each of us, to hear our prayers, know our fears and abate them, save us from Satan’s attacks.

“The sun has finally come, heralding the hope of the Christmas Season! This seeming constant rain and darkness has been a reminder of life without the birth of our Savior – and this sunshine drives home the symbolism of the saving hope He brings and what this celebration is really about! Wishing you and all you walk among the saving hope born of Christmas!” ~ December 24th, Instagram

A couple of challenges ago, I learned not to hold my breath in the wait of a prayer sent out. Breath-holding until the challenge has passed isn’t trusting God. There’s no peace in it, no fully living with a breath-holding mentality. God leaves such precious blessing in the wait of a prayer sent out, but when we live holding our breath, pausing until the prayer  is answered, we miss the blessings. The most important part of living happens in the hard wait, so I breathed in, “Lord, Jesus Christ” and breathed out, “Have mercy on us.” Breathing Jesus in. Breathing mercy out.

Intentional living, intentional loving, intentional focusing on the one who had the map to this journey. . . The Christmas gifts we gave weren’t all spot on. The stockings looked like a slackard elf put them together. Everything seemed a step off except for when my focus  was on the one who held both of us by the hand and guided us.

It was an I Believe Christmas. . . 
run smack into an Easter resurrection. . .

Maybe that’s what everyday living should be – a collision of Christmas and Easter in a come alive way.

lakeleafcWe decided before Christmas to tell the boys on Bucher Family Hat Day, January 1. I think it took a while to process this significant health challenge, to solidify how we were going to walk this forward, and finding the words to use to express and encase this challenge.

At no point did Keith ever doubt what the outcome would be: God had this! He didn’t doubt it for a moment.

My heart’s desire, maybe it’s my mission statement, is to show the boys what marriage looks like as we grow old with God as the center of that relationship. January 1 we were ready to tell our boys, to lead them forward through this challenge as God led us. They were about to realize marriage with God as the center isn’t challenge free but faith full.

Living over 1 1/2 hours from every major city, including downtown Nashville, we experienced a lot of drive time at 4:3 a.m. for the next 8 weeks. January 2 began a series of tests: a TEE, and heart catheterization were the big ones.

His arteries were great. My cooking did not cause the problem. It wasn’t that he’d eaten the wrong diet, not exercised enough, not lived the right kind of life style – whatever that may be.

He was born with a two-leaf heart valve (bi-cuspid), instead of a three-leaf heart valve (tri-cuspid). He was born destined for a life cut short. Our sons will need to be tested eventually.

Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy – he does it slyly, a sneak-thief thinking he can outsmart God: switching three-leaf heart valves with two is just one way. If we put our heads together, I imagine we could fill a book with a list full of ways Satan tries to interfere with God’s kids. Yet, no matter how Satan tries to interfere, God isn’t just a few moves ahead. He’s already implemented the steps for the win.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
   I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
   My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
   Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them” ~ Psalm 130: 13-16

The heart-valve study chooses the procedure for valve replacement: open heart surgery or the TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve implantation). One is very uncomfortable with an eight week recovery, while the other requires only an overnight hospital stay.  The study chose open heart surgery, and within six months was no longer an option. The procedure needed to be done quickly because since last year’s sonogram, the aortic valve was now critical.

A mistake had been made a year before. . . or had it. . .

The birth and resurrection had never seemed so closely connected.

Rummaging through Keith’s top drawer, I found his hospital baby identification bracelets. His mom and dad had no idea they were expecting twins. The story is a sweet one.

Dr. Mahaffey came out to tell Lloyd, my father-in-law, he had a healthy baby girl. Some minutes later he came out again and congratulated him on a son.

“But Dr. Mahaffey, you just told me I had a girl. Don’t you know which? Is it a boy or a girl?” my father-in-law, 25, asked.

“Son, you have one of each,” the kindly old doctor said, at which point, Lloyd slid down the hospital wall in shock.

They still laugh about the audacity of how Dr. Mahaffey charged double for the two: $75 a piece.

Those baby bracelets with the misspelled name, the II signaling he was born second. . . no one ever realized satan had already made a move to destroy that precious life. Satan didn’t yet realize God already had the saving plan.

As we stepped deeper into this “All is well” journey, one by one, God sent people across our path who stopped for real conversation, whose “How are you doing” wasn’t just a hand-off greeting, people who still believed miracles happen, that the power of God overcomes. I also invited a hand full of women I’d written with in the blogging community for years, women with a heart for intercession to pray with us. 

Slowly, a small brigade formed, praying with us for complete healing, for unflagging strength and courage for the journey, to encourage us to keep our eyes focused on the one who works those miracles, who heals the broken places, who has the best battle plans and wins.

This small brigade were the Aaron and Hurs in the hard of the challenge.

So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword” (Exodus 17: 8-13).

These intercessors who believed with us: “All is well!”

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During the pre-tests for open heart surgery, a nodule was found in his lung. The plan changed. Though the PET scan was borderline inconclusive, the pulmonologist thought it was Adeno cancer. An eight week recovery was out of the question. Open heart surgery was switched for the TAVR to be followed by a biopsy followed by lung surgery.

I asked God how I needed to pray. He sent me to 2 Kings 4: 8-37, the story of the Shunammite wife and mother whose son had fallen ill and died. She didn’t wail and tell the world of her challenge, her grief, her fear or heart-break. She just said, “All is well.”

“All is well”  I said as we followed him.

Severe aortic stenosis? “All is well”

Nodule in the lung? Cancer? “All is well”

How are you doing? “All is well”

All is well!

The Passover just collided with Christmas and Easter.

That mistake? It wasn’t a mistake after all. . .

(The rest of the story in Part II: When Easter, Passover and Christmas Collide)

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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. . . and the naysayers said she wasn’t good enough, smart enough, creative enough, worthy enough . . . who said her dream was just that – a dream – and nothing would come of it. . . and the thief called Doubt tried to pick her soul pockets, steal her identity, take away all she held dear, all the goodness that her Lord had seen fit to give her.

“All is well. . . ,” she said as she ran, choking back her despair, unable to see beyond the tears . . . she ran to her Savior, grabbing hold of her Lord. . . and she didn’t let go.”

. . .  and the girl said to the wolf stalking to destroy her and all she held dear, “All is well.”

“What have you to be ‘Well’ about?” asked the wolf, encroaching on her peace and safety, as the wolf shadowed her, threatening her. “I am more powerful than you!”

“All is well,” the girl repeated. “Because my Lord has said so.”

The shadow of the wolf receded as he slunk away; Her Lord was more powerful than the wolf.

winterwell2 2019c.jpg. . . and the girl spoke to the storm that bore down upon her to rip her apart from root to heart, “All is well.”

“That cannot be,” said the storm, a vortex of chaos, rage and coldness, twisting the dirt, roots and limbs of the earth up to the heavens. “For I have more strength than you. ”

“All is well,” said the girl. “Because my Lord said so.”

. . . and the storm for a moment quieted as if deflated, then roiled itself up into a rage, unleasing its full force on the girl, bashing against her like a tsunami to a shore – and the storm saw her Lord, standing between the girl and the storm, protecting her with his gleaming shield – and the storm raged onward, searching for those who didn’t know “All is well,” those who didn’t have the protection of the girl’s Lord to save them.

. . . and the girl spoke to the fever that came quiet and hot into her home, trying to break the life of someone the girl loved very much. . . and the fever taunted her, as she dipped the cloth into the cool water, squeezing out the excess, and laying it on the forehead of the one she loved so, she spoke saying, “All is well.”

“I have come to break your spirit and to destroy your  heart’s desires,” the fever whispered, knowing she alone could not control the army of unknowns that gave the fever its authority to determine life and death.

“All is well,” said the girl,” dipping the cloth into the water, wringing the excess out and gently placing the cloth onto the fiery forehead of the one she loved.

. . . and the fever surged, burning her fingertips, “How can that be? You don’t even know from where I come. You have no wisdom to stop me. Love and determination cannot sway me.”

“All is well,” said the girl. “Because my Lord said so.”

. . . and the fever broke, withdrawing his army of unknowns, abdicating his position of influence to the greater power of her Lord.

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. . . and the girl sat in a quiet moment, time after time, with her Lord, thanking him – that because of him, “All is well.”

We at the Blue Cotton House have been walking through a BIG challenge since a few days before Christmas. I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around how to talk about the challenge – or how to pray about the challenge. It was in my kitchen, as I was cooking through the challenge, that God sent me to 2 Kings 4: 8-36 – and “All is Well” became my battle cry. I couldn’t determine how to write about it until this morning – because it’s not my story to tell but I am a supporting character in the story – and this morning, while a Little Snow came, my husband and I drove to a mountain view where we will build one day – and God showed me how I could write about the challenge – and his amazing grace and saving power. Not long after I finished writing this, we received an answer where the fullness of joy overflowed our home and hearts. There is still a Little Ways to journey to the Challenge’s End, but, let me tell you – miracles do still happen, God makes ways where there was no way, and He will, if you let him, stand with you every step of the way, and, while sometimes when the journey isn’t a journey we want, “All is well.”

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence” ~ Psalm 91:1-3.

“The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my savior; thou saved me from violence. I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies” ~ 2 Samuel 22: 3-4.

“How precious is Your loving kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings” ~ Psalm 36:7.

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in thee” ~ Psalm 84: 11-12.

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Linking with these blogs this week:
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/ Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/ Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/ Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/ Coffee for Your Heart
Mary Geisen/ TellingHisStory
abounding Grace/Graceful Tuesday/
Creativity with Art

Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing MondaysTea and Word TuesdayPurposeful FaithTell His StoryRecharge WednesdayPorch Stories Linkup, Welcome Heart, Worth Beyond Rubies WednesdayEncouraging Word WednesdaySitting Among FriendsDestination InspirationTune in ThursdayHeart EncouragementMoments of Hope Faith and Friends Faith on Fire FridayFresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday

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Father’s Day is bittersweet for me. I rejoice that my son’s have the father I never did – and I realize more keenly what I missed and wonder what I would have been like had I a father like they have. This post is for all the fatherless daughters, whether because their fathers were physically absent or emotionally absent, this is for you.

For these daughters whose father never said, “You are mine, a gift from God, to cherish and protect,”

or wrapped you in his arms to hug away your wounds, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others,

If your father did not  provide security or chase away the night terrors,

or missed seeing you receive your award because he was standing outside smoking a cigarette,

If you missed those Father Words, telling you you were beautiful, filled with awesome gifts – well, every daughter should have a father who thinks she is beautiful.

If your father did not carefully help your mother choose your name and rejoice on the day you were born and every birthday afterwards,

Who did not stand between you and danger,

Who received your shabby chic gifts with careless disregard, saying your handwriting too small to read your stories,

Who never treated you like a princess, or the world’s greatest softball pitcher, or the next Jane Austen because your dreams just never entered his mind.

Never tucked you in or taught you to pray,

Who never said, “I believe in you” when the world did not,

Who left it up to someone else to teach you how to drive a stick shift with manly patience,

Who did not rejoice in your marriage or was there to hold your child in his arms when he was born, to be a doting grandpa who would say, “Don’t talk that way to my daughter, boy.”

Who never said, “I love you,”

If you had an earthly father who did not father you, I encourage you to ask our creator, our Father, our God to fill that empty void, to open your eyes to the true daughter-ship that you have in Him, your rightful place in His family. Brokenness through rejection is NOT God’s plan for you.

“But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour” (Matt 9:22)

God will be that Father you never had. He gave you great gifts that unfurl within you at just the right time He created you beautiful (Psalm 139).

He rejoiced the day you were born and on the first day you sought Him out – “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek” (Psalm 27:8)

He knows the needs you have before you ask him (Matt 6:8) He wants to know what is going on in your life. He wants to hear every rambling word, every detail, every thought written in your heart no matter how small.

He not only takes care of the night terrors but the life terrors as well “I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalms 34:4)

He is a father who not only provides but is like the father who stops by and fixes your sink when your husband’s out of town, who checks in on you when one of the kids are sick. “And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5)

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1)

Stop swinging your arms like a small child fighting someone bigger. You waste your energy. Let Him stand between you and danger. He wants to fight your battles. It is like He is telling you, “Step back, little one. Take deep breaths. Stop shaking. Wipe your nose on your sleeve. Be still. I’ll take care of this for you” (Exodus 14:14).

The first thing I want to do when my spirit soars is to throw my arms around his neck for a massive father-daughter hug that I have spent my life reaching for, believing for. He wants it for me; He wants it for you, too!

Dear Father, I thank you that you called me away from a spirit of brokenness and rejection. Father, there are days here that I miss the tangibleness of an earthly father who loves me, but I pray that you will open my eyes to the relationship you offer me. Open my eyes to how you help me through the day. Help me to overcome what I do not feel or see – but have by faith and hope. I want a father/daughter relationship abundantly alive and real. Replace emptiness with Father Words and Father Memories. Help me to live that. Thank you Jesus your great sacrifice so that your father could be mine, too!

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beachbirdccThe world may ruffle your feathers, but the Lord gives peace to your soul.

“And the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
~Philippians 4:7.

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bradfordpearwinterinstac. . . and the bradford pear blossom survived
the bitter winter storm to bloom
more beautifully
than she thought possible. . . .

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Journaling as I progress though The One Year Chronological Bible:

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another” ~ Isaiah 48: 10-11.

“Announce this with shouts of joy and proclaim it.
Send it out to the ends of the earth; say, ‘The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob'” ~ Isaiah 48:20b

“Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed” ~ Isaiah 49:23b

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JTcross15152“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:19).

A college speech instructor asked my son’s class to name three people who have influenced him. He listed Jesus, Peter and David.  I would have listed my grandmother, who taught me to stand up for what I believe, St. Therese of Lisieux, from whom I learned about an alive relationship with God, and Pastor Eddie Turner, who taught about the power of the holy spirit, speaking faith, who I am to God,  Jesus pursuing and saving the broken sinner.

Who would you have listed?

I bet it wouldn’t have been Judas Iscariot. I doubt he would be found on any list. Yet, possibly, from him we can learn the powerful difference of grace over law – of exactly what Jesus’s crucifixion did for you and me and every broken person between and around us.

I don’t know if I can ever fully understand the sacrifice of God-made-man – the son of the king who gave up his power to save me from a graceless life. I don’t know if I can ever fully understand the burden of the sin he carried on the cross – and the willpower to stay on that cross.

Yet, when I study the story of Judas and Peter, I understand more what Jesus saved me from. I need that understanding to better give thanks as I remember what Jesus did for me. The difference between the two is the difference between how we survive our sin, how we are resurrected with Christ and restored to the Father. About 2000 years ago, two men betrayed the Messiah. One ended up crushed, broken and dead. The other preached the gospel the rest of his life, dying a martyr’s death for his faith, never failing his Savior again.

Let’s lay out the facts first:

  • One night, two betrayals.
  • Both betrayals were foretold by the one they betrayed.
  • One man betrayed for greed; the other fear for self-preservation.
  • Both betrayals happened in the shadows – and both saw the face of the one they betrayed afterwards.
  • Each man repented, recognizing his wrong.
  • One repented to church leaders. The other out alone and wept bitterly.

Both had heard the word. Both had walked with the Lord. Both regretted and repented. One died, and one lived.

What really is the difference between Judas and Peter at the point where they recognized their betrayal? Why does history forgive Peter and condemn Judas? Is it really as simple the difference between grace and law? A veil’s separation of two man’s redemption?

The first difference is what each did about their sin – their weakness – whether it was pride, fear or greed.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two choices.

One sought absolution from church leaders. The other sought Christ.

Judas represents the hopelessness of the law, while Peter represents the grace of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice.

Judas sought absolution through the church leaders. Judas sought repentance, but he sought a go-between. The veil was still between him and Jesus. Judas sought forgiveness, but from the church leaders. He regretted his actions. I don’t doubt that he wept bitterly. I would think a man about to hurl himself to his death would weep.  Under the law, the weight of his sin was unbearable, irredeemable. The church leaders didn’t grant Judas the forgiveness he desired. When absolution was denied him by church leaders, the unbearable burden of his sin led him to suicide.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two choices.

The record of Peter’s story line pauses after his betrayal, weeping and repentance. There is no written record of where he was between the time he wept and resurrection morning. I imagine the grief of his sin equaled Judas’s grief. I imagine he beat himself up for his major fail moment. Haven’t we all had those fail moments? Moments where we betray our hearts, our values, our faith? How can we condemn others when we, too, have failed and sinned?

Peter seemed to not only understand that he was a sinful man, but he understood the need to repent. Peter didn’t seek go-betweens.  The night before the crucifixion, the veil was firmly in place; the law still ruled. No priest interceded for him, and without a priest to intercede for him, there was no absolution.

Peter repented by faith. Just him and Jesus.  By faith, just like Abraham, Noah, Sarah, Moses, Rahab – and the heroes of the bible – by His faith and hope that Christ was the Messiah, before the temple veil was rent from top to bottom when Jesus died and man was no longer separated from God, Peter held on in the darkness of the crucifixion before the resurrection. The burden of his sin must have been overwhelming. After all, the same burden caused Judas to end his life. Yet, the power of faith always proves stronger than the burden of sin.

Have you ever wondered how Peter could have returned to the other ten? How he could take his place – how he could be a rock for Christ’s church? Are you willing to weigh another’s sin? To judge whether one betrayal is worse than another? After all, a betrayer was needed – just as Samson’s sinful behavior was needed to bring down the Philistines (Judges 14:4).

Yet, we find Peter restored to the ten – not meek, not unworthy, not out-cast for his betrayal.

There’s a story I know, of a man who went into basic training in WWII. His sergeant constantly rebuked him as he was trained for  war-time responsibilities. There wasn’t a day, it seems, he wasn’t called into the sergeant’s office for some infraction. Those rebukes stung, yet they had a lasting impact. He told me, “He grew me up. He taught me to be a man. He was a father to me.”

Peter was that way with Jesus.  Peter pushed away Jesus initially, before he was called to be one of the twelve: “”Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)

Jesus rebuked him over and over, “. . . he rebuked Peter and said, Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (Mark 8:31-33).

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt 14:28-33).

“Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start (Luke 22: 31-32, The Message).

Peter, so like the World War II soldier, took those rebukes, remembered and learned from them, and held on to them in the darkest of moments.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices. Both pursued by Christ.

One man looked to his fellow men for redemption and didn’t find it. Who he looked to led him to death.

The other looked to Jesus, the man who had rebuked him, and in the rebuking, taught him. Who he looked to led him to the resurrection and redemption.

How did one survive the burden of sin and another didn’t? Could it be Peter kept his eyes on Christ, kept his focus, his hope in him, though he yet didn’t see, didn’t understand about crucifixion tearing away the veil (the law) separating us from God?

It was a “Faith-is-the-substance-of-things-hoped-for;-the-evidence-of-things-not-seen”  (Hebrews 11: 1) moment.

One was overwhelmed by the burden of the law; one was redeemed through faith by grace, the burden lifted and born by Christ.

That we sin doesn’t surprise God. We are fallible, and in our fallibility, we are only complete and whole through God.

To truly understand the power and grace of Christ’s crucifixion, we need to understand man’s hopelessness and separation from God by the law.

It isn’t enough to say that Judas betrayed Christ. To most, he is a man defined only as the betrayer – and whose death was a fitting judgement against him.

Yet, God saved killers. God saved thieves. God redeemed selfish men. The stories say so. If we leave Judas in the potter’s field, dismissing him, we fail to truly see the power and depth of what exactly Jesus did for you and me. It might only be a veil’s difference, but when the veil separates us from God – it’s the difference between life and death.

Victor Hugo’s novel Les Miserable is a story of two similar characters – one who represents the law (Judas/Javert) and another who represents Grace (Peter/Jean ValJean). Javert sought salvation through the law. Law breakers were irredeemable, unworthy of God’s grace, of man’s kindness, benevolence and second chances. In the end, Javert realizes he had it all wrong. In a life-changing moment, Javert recognized that God redeems the sinner. The revelation into God’s grace also revealed the wrong he had done to so many people. The realization of the weight of his sin overwhelmed him. He could only feel the soul-killing burden of sin’s weight. Having kept is eyes so long on the law, Javert is unable to set his eyes on his Savior and the forgiveness he so readily offers. Through forgiveness the burden would be released through redemption, all because of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Javert didn’t believe it could be for him – and so he threw himself into the river.

Judas repented without salvation hope; the law was his hope and the men who kept the law denied him forgiveness. He is a living example of sinner’s hopelessness under the law. His hopelessness is even foretold:

“For I must die just as was prophesied, but woe to the man by whom I am betrayed. Far better for that one if he had never been born” (Matthew 26:24).

Judas betrayed Jesus, yet Paul killed thousands of Christs (for if Christ is in each believer, then each person is Christ). If God redeemed Paul, would he have not redeemed a repentant Judas? Would he have not lifted the burden of sin off Judas, just like he lifted the burden off Paul? Off Peter?

Under the law, aren’t we all like the Cain crying out:

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden” (Genesis 4:13).

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices.

What we do know is that Peter pressed forward towards Christ. Peter held on to this truth:

 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6)

Despite Peter’s betrayal, he was welcomed back in to the group. We don’t know what he did during those hours after his betrayal and resurrection morning, but whatever he did led him back to Christ, to the embrace and acceptance of the fellow apostles.

Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection gives us a grace over law culture, a redeeming of the soul out of sin culture, a salvation infused with God’s grace culture.

Two men. Two Betrayals. Two Choices. Two Endings.

 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here—he has been raised! Look, here is the place where he was placed.  Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter” (Mark 14: 6-7).

Peter passed the test. He came through – and Jesus was letting him know that he knew, that he was forgiven, that he was part of this new life under grace. “Including Peter”– including you, including me – including all those broken sinners repenting but not believing they are good enough, worthy enough.

There would have been no crucifixion with betrayal, and, without crucifixion there is no resurrection. Without resurrection, there is no grace.

. . . . and that is what we are doing this Easter season: remembering just exactly what Jesus did for us, remembering exactly what the crucifixion was all about.

A tale of two betrayers – and all the difference a veil makes.

Are you looking to Jesus in your fail moments? Do you you believe God’s grace is for you, too – no matter the weight of your sin?

You have two choices – grace or the law. What do  you choose?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

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http://www.missionalwomen.com/     Faith-Filled Fridays
http://arabahjoy.com     Grace and Truth
http://www.janiscox.com/ Sunday Stillness
Porch Stories – http://kristinhilltaylor.com/
Trekking Through – http://www.trekkingthru.com/
Woman to Woman – http://www.w2wministries.org/
Searching for Moments http://www.lorischumaker.com/better-wife/
http://www.richfaithrising.com/    Unite the Bloggosphere
http://purposefulfaith.com/     Cheerleading #RaRaLinkUp
http://www.messymarriage.com/  Messy Marriage
http://holleygerth.com/     Coffee for Your Heart
http://3dlessons4life.com/     Thought-Provoking Thursday
God-sized Dreams http://www.godsizeddreams.com/
http://donnareidland.com   Mondays @ Soul Survival
https://faithadventures.me/ #TeaAndWord Tuesday
The Modest Mom The Art of Homemaking Musing Mondays
Purposeful Faith Tea & Word Tuesday Talk  
 Blessed But Stressed
 Embracing Everyday Glimpses
Fresh Market Friday:  Fresh Market Friday
Dance with Jesus

Da

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MuddysCornFritters

Muddy’s Corn Fritters

Last week, I pulled out an old recipe. It my great-grandmother Muddy’s recipe – her corn fritters. I don’t know why I hadn’t made them in such a long time. For a season, Muddy’s Corn Fritters were a dinner-time staple. . . until they weren’t.

The old recipes, like Muddy’s corn fritters, handed down for generations mother to daughter, from Mary Francis to Sue Eva to Mary Eva to Mary Edna to Linda to me – Maryleigh –  always reminds me of this scripture: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6: 16).

There is comfort in the old ways – in handmade quilts that Nanny made, canning tomatoes and pickles like my husband’s grandmother taught me, in walking the same paths to church on Sunday morning, and meal-time prayers . . . and recipes handed down. The old ways aren’t adventuresome. They comfort and are comfortable.

My youngest son walked in – the one who last Spring had stood in the kitchen telling me, “Mom! You’re slipping. You used to make the BEST breakfasts. What happened? You have only two more years before I’m gone, ” he said, waving two fingers at me, moving into his oration zone. The zone where it’s time to just take a stool and listen because there’s no entertainment better in town. “Mom! Mom! You need to push through. You need to start making all those awesome breakfasts you used to make: the eggs and bacon with ketchup on toast, the chocolate chip pancakes – and those things with the chocolate chips and the stuff that’s in the box with the man in the white wig!”

That gave me pause – who was this man in with a white wig in my  kitchen! Then I remembered.

The man in the white beard is the Quaker Oats man – and, he was talking about my granola bars.

I’d felt hugged and loved in the kitchen that night.  I pushed through the rest of the year to cook up some good breakfasts – with the old and true recipes.

Last week, he walked into the kitchen, saw Muddy’s Corn Fritters and didn’t remember them. The older boys did, though. That inspired look came into his eyes.  He drew himself up into his oration stance. It wasn’t those beautiful corn fritters that inspired him, though.

It was the deep-fryer.

I tried to steel myself against the effectiveness of this son in his oration zone. Really! I did!

“Mom! Mom! You need to make some deep-fried Oreos,” he said, waxing eloquent about the country fair’s deep fried oreos. He felt sure I could make them.

Dazed, I almost regretted enrolling him in a school a few years ago where he learned about logic and its fallacies, Socratic circles and argument development training, and oration.

There I stood with Muddy’s Corn Fritters stacked high on a plate. It was such a good thing – those corn fritters. An old way of doing things – and he was asking me to do something different. Something I’d never done before. Something radical.

Not just radical – I wasn’t sure Deep Fried Oreos was something a mama should  do: Unnutritional Decadence beyond anything I’d ever done.

“I don’t have a recipe,” was one excuse I used.

He found one on the internet similar to the corn fritters I’d just deep fried. I had the eggs. I had the pancake mix. Too late to hide them! Drats!

Really – wasn’t one deep fried dish enough for one day?

“I don’t have Oreos,” was another excuse I pulled out.

“I’ll go get them,” he said. Double Drats. (The silver lining of my son being able to drive himself to soccer practice betrayed me at that moment).

I tried negotiating: “How about I do them tomorrow?”

“You already have the deep fryer out,” he said. “Besides, aren’t you the one always telling me, ‘Don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today.’”

I cannot explain the combination of annoyance and pride I feel when these boys to men of mine throw my words back at me.

Exasperated and wise enough to recognize I’d been out-maneuvered, I threw out: “I don’t have any cash.”

“I have $5,” he said. “Mom. Mom! This is the best time to make them. You can do this,” he said – and he was out the door, triumph oozing.

Drat! Drat! Drat!

I’d made a stew with chuck roast, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and and turnip greens, which they thought were carrots, potatoes and spinach (laughing emojis here if I knew how to put them), and Muddy’s Corn Fritters. Wasn’t that enough?

Did good moms even make Deep Fried Oreos? Words like nutritional negligence, deep fried imprudence, fatuous fatty-liver enabling came to mind.

About 40 minutes later, those Deep Fried Oreos fried and bubbled happily in my kitchen. I wasn’t going to eat one – really I wasn’t. Who wants to fully participate in something they’ve been run rough-shod into, cornered and corralled?

But I wanted to take a photo of what the inside looked like. Just one bite – for the photo.

It was delicious. I ate more than one. It was a beautiful thing.

oreos

Deep-Fried Oreos

Someone I loved had walked into my kitchen on an ordinary everyday with a radical recipe. Maybe not radical to you, but it was decadently radical to me. Radical is not something I easily step in to. As a matter of fact, it makes me want to settle back more deeply into the comfort of what has become everyday ordinary – even if right now my everyday ordinary was once a radical idea (Let me just insert here, 5 sons was a radical way of living at one time. Now it is my everyday ordinary. That would be fun to do – to list what we do today that is everyday ordinary but was once something radical to our experiences).

Those Deep Fried Oreos aren’t a God-radical thing, but God calls us to radical living. Radical living is where we let God take our ordinary and turn that everyday ordinary into something extra-ordinary. As we draw closer to God, God draws us away from comfortable into a different way of living – a new way of living. New things are always uncomfortable. God-new things are worth being uncomfortable for.

Feeding my family is something everyday ordinary. Yet, God wants to turn the dinner table or kitchen counter living into something radical, something extraordinary.

He wants us to feed his sheep.

 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” 

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 

He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” 

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” 

Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” ~ John 21: 15-17

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to talk about living a lifestyle to Feed God’s Sheep by making room for one more at the table. We’ll discuss who our sheep our, our responsibilities to those sheep,  and how to feed them.

Let’s turn the dinner table or kitchen counter living into something radical, something God-extraordinary.

I hope you’ll join me.

Deep Fried Oreo Recipe
(Modified from Lil’ Luna’s recipe my son found)

1 home-friendly deep fryer (size determines how many you can fry at one time)
1 large egg
1 cup Milk
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup pancake mix
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup powdered sugar
One package double-stuffed Oreos or any other cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies. This recipe does not use up all the cookies.

  1. Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. Whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla, and 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a bowl until smooth. Stir in the pancake mix until smooth.
  3. Dip the cookies into the batter one at a time, turning them 2 or 3 times until the tops and sides are fully coated.
  4. Carefully place into the hot frying oil. Avoid over-crowding. How many depends at a time depends on how the size of your deep-fryer. 
  5. Cook until the cookies are golden-brown, about 2 minutes.
  6.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate before serving.
  7. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Feed My Sheep Part I: When Kitchen Living Becomes God-Radical
Feed My Sheep Part II: Living a Lifestyle of Making Room at the Table for One More
Feed My Sheep Part III: Which Sheep are Mine to Feed
Feed My Sheep Part IV: How do I Feed All these Sheep? (When there’s Nothing in the Fridge)
Feed My Sheep Part V: A Heart Looking with Joyful Anticipation

 

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