Friday, October 21, 2016

Grace Once More

January 31, 2012

Keith and I are both sort of restless these days. We're waiting on so much.

We're waiting on his official orders for the new job, for one thing. It has to get processed like a move to another post would be, so it could be a few weeks.

Until then, he continues in his current position. Though he hasn't said anything, I think that kind of transition period is difficult.

Realistically speaking, it's probably going to be a rough transition all around. During the interview, the man told Keith that there had been some shady stuff going on in the program before, so they cleaned house.

That's why the position opened up. He also told Keith that about thirty percent of the people in the program were just sitting the system.

We encountered that once before, actually, back in Kentucky, and it burned Keith up. I can't even describe how angry that made Keith. He still talks about it.

So, this new job is going to be emotionally challenging. But I think Keith is the perfect guy for it, because he's strict, demanding and yet he'll arrive an hour early just to coach a guy who needs help, like running with him two miles every morning so he can pass his P/T test. Every time he's in an army school he ends up helping everyone else with the lessons and setting up practice tests for them.

Also, we're waiting on the tax returns, though that could get dropped into our bank account any time. Until then, it's like a large, tangled mess blocking the view forward, toward adoption.

Wait, wait! It arrived! Oh my goodness, so exciting!

Wow. We just paid the truck off.

I think this might actually be the year we start the adoption process. It's almost hard to believe.

January 31, 2012 Unpublished

I had a whole tangle of weird dreams last night and my spirit felt dry and empty.

I kept finding nothing but what felt like shadows.

Then I would remember: trust.

Remember what you've learned, and put it into practice.

When going through the dry and bewildering, trust Jesus. Because He is there, and good will come of it.

He keeps telling me this, over and over and over again.

I'm here, Jesus whispers to me. Always.

I woke in the morning and Jesus was there.

I am always here, He told me, yet again.

How is it that His patience with me never runs out? I am like a fussy toddler that refuses to be put down.

In the morning, I collapsed in my chair and put my face in my hands and just rested in Him. My thirsty spirit drank in the presence and love of Jesus.

I poured out all my need and longing and fears and doubts and questions.

What is normal life? What is it to be a Christian?

I don't know these things.

I know the things I was taught, and I know how they didn't work.

I know the things I am learning, but that's all they are- they are things I am learning.

I'm still learning how to put them into practice.

So often I just want to tear through these paper layers of perspective and lay hold of what is eternal.

After many years of pushing away all my confusion, I'm bringing it all up.

I'm deconstructing my old Christianity, with its fences and broken thoughts and half understood beliefs and superstitions.

Deconstruction is a messy process. Sometimes it feels like I'm moving backward.

But I don't want the empty forms. I want Jesus.

I want to meet with God face to face.

Seek My face, God said to my heart.

Lord, Your face I will seek, my heart responded.


I went for a walk.

"I want to learn from You,” I confessed.

I felt Jesus put His arm around my shoulders comfortingly.

I wasn't taught of men, Jesus told me.

At first I thought, that's wrong, because I thought I remembered that all young Jewish boys were taught. But then I remembered this passage:

"The Jews were astonished. They said, How is it that this Man has learning [is so versed in the sacred Scriptures and in theology] when He has never studied?

Jesus answered them by saying, My teaching is not My own, but His Who sent Me."
-John 7:15-16, Amplified Bible

Peace filled me, and I walked along with a much lighter heart.

"I don't want to find You in the things of this life," I complained to Him, later on. "I want to find just You."

But I am in the things of this life, Jesus reminded me, with loving humor.

And I saw, all over again, the glistening stream as it poured over the slabs of rock, foaming and rushing, and the oak trees, covered with green ivy, and the squirrels that ran rustling over the dry leaves.

I remembered all over again that He created it, is in it all, and holding it all together and that it all speaks of Him. I had to laugh.

And I am in you, Jesus added, lovingly, and tears welled up into my eyes at the simple joy of it.

My life won't always be like this. This is just a season. Jesus will guide me into the next phase of my life when that time comes.

Motherhood, for example, should tip me right out of the realm of the theoretical and into the immediate and practical.

One day, I won't have to remind myself that house cleaning is to worship God, and cooking dinner is worshiping God, and that in the very act of living my life, I am in the presence of God.

I’ll simply live in it.

One day, I will remember that every person I meet is a chance to love and learn thereby.

One day, I'll wake up and realize that I am in living in God every moment of every day and that my whole life is His story.

February 1, 2012

I figured something out yesterday.

In a burst, in His timing, God comes, He speaks, He moves in my heart, and my heart understands it.

But, my mind has no idea what's going on and immediately starts scrambling around trying to make sense of it, and sometimes this takes me backward.

For example, recently I was trying to make this distinction between the stuff of life and God. This meant that I was constantly categorizing my day. Some things went into the desired "God" bin and others went into the unwanted but necessary "stuff of life" bin.

I wanted to be near the "God" bin all the time, but that annoying "stuff of life" bin kept getting in my way, which yesterday had me frustrated to the point of tears.

Finally, I called my dad, because I had to tell someone about how frustrating this all is, and he is a great person for that sort of thing, and then I went for a walk and got a new perspective.

I don't think there's a meaningful distinction between the life we are living and worshiping, knowing and loving God.

I think I knew this, but I guess I had to learn it all over again.

The second thing I learned was about the power of gratitude.

I'm not quite sure how this dawned on me yesterday, but for some reason, I started thinking in a new direction regarding gratitude and faith. I think I read something somewhere, another blog or something.  (Probably Ann Voskamp)

See, there's always been this part of me that doesn't believe a person is supposed to experience God in the way I do.

Therefore, my mind reasons, it cannot last. Sooner or later, I must go back to normal, which is feeling distant from Jesus and never hearing His voice or feeling His love and affection.

Increasing, I wonder if that was never meant to be "normal," but that's a blog for another time.

So anyway, because of this fear, my relationship with Jesus was plagued by a kind of persistent insecurity.

Yesterday, it occurred to me to thank Him for what is true, instead of anxiously reaching out for evidence that it was.

And, wow!

That was revolutionary.

Gratitude opens the heart right up to the presence of God.

It turns out that faith is all bound up in things like love, gratitude and joy. Faith is not apart from these things.

Last night, I was thinking back to the beginning of this whole journey, and how, on the second day, I went to Wal-Mart and was so deeply troubled by the upwelling of religious arrogance that I felt in me, in the presence of Jesus.

I remembered how I had struggled with the fact that Jesus was not suddenly and completely taking that out of me- He wasn't going to suddenly transform me as though snapping His fingers.

I had to learn to trust Jesus and His timing and His grace and His leading.

In fact, it was that night that Jesus gave me this passage, to explain:

"Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We're free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of His face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him."

-II Corinthians 3:16-18

As I lay there thinking this over, Jesus spoke to me.

Look how far you've come with Me, He said quietly. I felt His presence as though Jesus had come down close to speak to me.

Joy immediately filled my soul. "Jesus!" I cried. "So far! So incredibly far! Because You are faithful, always faithful! And You are the most faithful when I am the most confused."

I will continue to faithfully guide you along, all the way along into eternity, Jesus assured me.

"Always," I acknowledged. My heart was too full to speak anything more.

This morning, my little calendar says this:

"Sing a new song to the Lord,
for He has done wonderful deeds.
He has won a mighty victory by His power and holiness."
-Psalm 98:1

February 3, 2012 Unpublished

I have a great deal more joy in my life now and I have a much better sense of humor. My identity in Jesus doesn't hinge on whether or not I can produce anything of myself. My identity and place in Him no longer has anything whatsoever to do with what I can or cannot do in myself.

Oh, oh, oh! What a scary thing to declare! Watch out! If I no longer have anything to prove, than that must mean I'm going to head out and sin!

I remember when I used to think like that. What an unfortunate thing to think.

The only reason why I could think like that was because I didn't know Jesus very well. Without the true joy and love and life and freedom that is found only in union with Jesus, the false image of sin will have a very unfortunate pull.

Letting go of the law and embracing Jesus kills sin because you never, ever want to do it again and all you want to do is please Him and you learn that to please Jesus, you must surrender to Him in trust. It's not something that has anything to do with cognitive knowledge. It is experienced. But it's so frightening, that leap, that letting go.

(The grace of Jesus is like a peasant girl who grew up in the back field and sheds, spending her whole life in hard labor. She saw the King go by once, and his strength and honor drew her, but she doesn't even dare to dream of him. Then she's summoned to the castle and he marries her. Now she doesn't live in the back field, she lives in the castle, but she's so overwhelmed that she still sleeps in a corner on the floor. Everyday, she is appalled at her bad habits, habits she barely realized she had before. She realizes that has no idea how to talk, or walk, or eat. She doesn't even want to leave the room and she tip toes around the hallways, hoping even the servants don't notice her. The only thing that keeps her from giving up entirely is that the King loves her, and he tells her so, again and again, and that he married her. He bound himself to her with an unbreakable covenant of love, so she knows he won't give up on her, because it's forever.

(Will this girl say to herself, "Oh, he has married me for better or for worse, now I can run back to the pig pens and roll in the muck?" Will she not rather fall at his feet and then spend her whole life trying to express her love and gratitude toward him?)

But what about the scripture that says faith without works is dead?

I know, that used to really puzzle me, too. But now it seems self-evident.

Of course faith without works is dead. You simply cannot be in union with Jesus and not produce fruit. It will almost happen despite you. It will begin to happen so slowly you don’t notice it, and then you see it- there is patience when you did not have it before, and there is compassion, and there is mercy, and there suddenly you are reaching out in love toward someone.

How is this happening, you may wonder? It’s because you are growing in Him.

(The first fruits grown might be godly sorrow leading repentance as the Holy Spirit begins to move through our hearts. It might be humility, as we come to terms with how little we did on our own and how difficult it can be to trust Jesus. This might lead to offering forgiveness, mercy and compassion to others to whom previously it had been withheld, when we realize how much we need it ourselves. Those were some of the first fruits for me. This might seem like a poor harvest of works, but don’t give up. Lay the first fruits on the alter and trust Him for the rest of the harvest.)


[I went on to say] Although we ourselves (you and I) are Jews by birth and not Gentile (heathen) sinners,

Yet we know that a man is justified or reckoned righteous and in right standing with God not by works of the Law, but [only] through faith and [absolute] reliance on and adherence to and trust in Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). [Therefore] even we [ourselves] have believed on Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law [for we cannot be justified by any observance of the ritual of the Law given by Moses], because by keeping legal rituals and by works no human being can ever be justified (declared righteous and put in right standing with God).

But if, in our desire and endeavor to be justified in Christ [to be declared righteous and put in right standing with God wholly and solely through Christ], we have shown ourselves sinners also and convicted of sin, does that make Christ a minister (a party and contributor) to our sin? Banish the thought! [Of course not!]

For if I [or any others who have taught that the observance of the Law of Moses is not essential to being justified by God should now by word or practice teach or intimate that it is essential to] build up again what I tore down, I prove myself a transgressor.

For I through the Law [under the operation of the curse of the Law] have [in Christ’s death for me] myself died to the Law and all the Law’s demands upon me, so that I may [henceforth] live to and for God.

I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

[Therefore, I do not treat God’s gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose]; I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate and nullify the grace (unmerited favor) of God. For if justification (righteousness, acquittal from guilt) comes through [observing the ritual of] the Law, then Christ (the Messiah) died groundlessly and to no purpose and in vain. [His death was then wholly superfluous.]
-Galatians 3:15-21

In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off].

Notice, it is I, Paul, who tells you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no profit (advantage, avail) to you [[a]for if you distrust Him, you can gain nothing from Him].

I once more protest and testify to every man who receives circumcision that he is under obligation and bound to practice the whole of the Law and its ordinances.

If you seek to be justified and declared righteous and to be given a right standing with God through the Law, you are brought to nothing and so separated (severed) from Christ. You have fallen away from grace (from God’s gracious favor and unmerited blessing).

For we, [not relying on the Law but] through the [Holy] Spirit’s [help], by faith anticipate and wait for the blessing and good for which our righteousness and right standing with God [our [b]conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action, causes us] to hope.

For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.
-Galatians 5:1-6