Bound on a Train for Glory

I found myself weeping before the Lord this morning as I passionately renounced my most beloved and oldest demon friends for the thousandth time, and then longingly looked back at them heartbroken as the walked away at God’s command.

I cried out, “God, I don’t know why I’m doing that!  I hate them!  I don’t want them!  And a part of me loves them and wants them back already! Help me, God!!! Help me!”

“Worship me,” he whispered. I felt the soft touch of his gentle calloused hand gathering up the tears on my cheeks.

A touch from the Master had already begun to sand away another rough spot on my broken heart. His calloused hand.  A perfectly divine, resurrected body with a calloused hand and a rough, scratchy cheek and coarse dark hair.  

He smelled like sunshine and cedar.

I wept.  Jesus wept.  We wept together for the death of Lazarus in my own heart.  

“Lift your head, weary sinner,” He whispered.

Worship me.

I tell Google to play Lift Your Head Weary Sinner and I worship.  I weep and worship and weep and sing at the top of my lungs. Let the chains fall!  Let the chains fall! My repentance becomes worship.  I worship.

Worship me.

Daddy’s personal playlist for me kicked into full gear.  There is an Anchor played next. 

I kept my head lifted up and I fixed my eyes on the Lord’s gaze.  I’d renounced and confessed and repented.  I’d worshiped. Our eyes stayed locked.  He sees and he loves.  He sees me.  And he loves me.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.
Psalm 139:1-6 ESV

I felt so much relief. The Lord and I were locked in unity.  I allowed Him to keep my gaze, despite my fear and my torment, and He saw me. He saw all of me. 

He has always seen everything in me, every darkness, every fear, and He loves me. 

All those long lost beloved friends of perdition who whisper on the winds of my memories, with their shame and death and suffering, all just disappear into the glorious light. I know my gaze will wander. And I know His gaze wont falter even when mine does.

I don’t have to always understand.  I doubt.  I fear.  I worry.  I am human.  I was born on a train bound for death.  And Jesus loves me.  He offers Himself up to me so we can be one.

And I am reminded again that we are One. Oh, the audacity to consider my fears more terrible than God’s power! His light washes away everything that isn’t light.  

In Him there is no darkness.

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5 ESV

I will worship Him.  

I choose to be blinded by His love for me, bound on a train for Glory instead of death, no matter what familiar demons I hear screaming out the window.

Divine Collaboration

It’s hard to imagine isn’t it?  Divine collaboration.  Sounds like something out of a cerebral mythology thesis.  At least it does to me.  Yet, those are the words that keep coming to mind.  

“Daddy,” I asked. “What do you want from me? What do you want from Your Church?”

With a wink and a contagious grin the size of galaxies colliding, he replied, “I want Divine Collaboration.”  

This is an honorific to Him, I can tell.  It’s a title he likes to pin on all His kids.  We are all his Divine Collaborators. And I could tell He was thrilled that he’d gotten my attention.

Perplexed and definitely curious, I said, “Please explain.”

I am a philosopher and processing with God is something I like to savor.  I want to stew and chew and taste every scoop of insight the Lord ever gives me.  I feel delightfully compelled to savor and digest the nuanced flavor profile of God’s interactions, not just with me, but with his Body and with his Creation. I’ve learned a lot eating at the Lord’s table with Him.  We talk.  A lot.

The other day I was talking to a friend about this tattoo idea I had and all of a sudden I heard myself say, “It’s kind of like this ‘divine collaboration’ between God and me.”  It just made sense to me to say it that way.

I had to smile. There it was again. 

My husband and I took a road trip last month to celebrate our anniversary.  We drove along part of the iconic Route 66 through Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona all the way to the Grand Canyon.  As we drove through high desert devoid of much life and saw rock formations that put modern architecture to shame, I heard it again: divine collaboration.

The land spoke to me as I marveled at the spectacles and grandeur created where infinite pale sky meets striated rocks in various stages of petrification and erosion.  I felt the profundity of time’s endlessness: infinitely changing and staying the same all at once.  I had never felt closer to my Father God, the Creator of All Things than I did in those moments of experiencing his Creation.  His words were clear: this is divine collaboration.  

As I experienced the beauty of God’s world in all its intricacy I began to pray for the people who lived there, and I felt the land speak to my heart about them: these people that God loved so dearly and who had been so horribly abused by the “progress” of European settlers.  I wept and prayed and wept and prayed.  I fell in love with those impoverished and yet resilient indigenous people who continued to hold on through the worst types of adversity.  Serious divine collaboration.

 It’s so much more than just a “good conversation” with Jesus.

1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,a 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,b 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,c being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:1-11 ESV

Even Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped, but he accepted it anyway and obediently emptied himself from fear and doubt and the entitlement of his status, and trusted that His Father in Heaven had his back and they were a team, even if it didn’t feel like it sometimes. 

Jesus humbled himself to the point of death on a cross because He trusted God.

1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1

How can we possibly be like Jesus? Jesus divinely collaborated with the God of the Universe, while considering equality with God something beyond his grasp, and obediently and humbly received and obeyed, even in angst, even in hunger, even in torment, even in fear.  He conquered because he humbled himself and obeyed in perfect unity with God.

Even though obedience made him look like a slave.

So maybe trusting God in obedience isn’t slavery, even if it might look like it is?  Maybe obedience is actually divine collaboration.  Maybe choosing to humble oneself, one can find exaltation in the Living God and be empowered in His Righteousness to be joint heirs with Christ.

14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sonsf of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:14-17 ESV

Divine collaboration: to trust that even obedience unto death will gain eternal reward and glory for God AND you.

It can be unimaginably painful, I’m not going to sugar coat it.  Yet, I know that suffering pays beautiful dividends for those who are willing to learn and grow from it.  Empathy, courage, salvation. It all come from suffering.  Death and suffering are not the end for those who are in Christ Jesus.  We know, because of Christ’s example of trust and faith, that God will be faithful to us as well.  

God doesn’t want mindless robots.  He’s not going to force you to do anything.  He asks.  He always asks, because he loves you.  He offers this divine collaboration to anyone who would accept it.  If you can get over yourself long enough to believe that it might actually be better with God than without, to accept for even just a moment that God is in fact good and trustworthy, you too can have this beautiful title of “Divine Collaborator”.

Divine collaboration means trusting God, submitting to God, and then freely talking to God without fear of condemnation. 

Daddy didn’t get angry with Jesus when he questioned Him in Gethsemane.  He listened.  He comforted.  He strengthened.  And Jesus endured to the end.  He trusted the Father, and on the third day was resurrected from the dead.

Jesus obeyed God and was raised up in Glory.

We have seen the truth of who God is in the flesh of Jesus Christ, and we believe in our hearts through faith, that God raised him from the dead and he will one day do the same for us.  We are saved from death into life and from orphan to first born son. God wants us to be his friends.  He wants unity in love.  Unity in love means divine collaboration. It means trusting that the source of love and life is from God and endowed to his children with generosity.

Divine collaboration isn’t passive.  It isn’t selfish.  It isn’t arrogant.  To walk in Divine collaboration with God is to actively believe in the reality of your shameless and righteous status as a child of God and fearlessly “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Heb 4:16) not just to receive forgiveness of sins, but to be lifted up into glory with God himself and receive wisdom and comfort from Him for eternity.  It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.  

Refuse to be silent receivers of God’s mercy and love.  Choose instead to be Divine Collaborators.  Let’s use the tools we have been given, infused with the Holy Spirit and the many gifts He has provided us, and share our thoughts and ideas with Jesus with confidence. Realize that He’s already decided to “use the foolish things to confound the wise” (1 Cor 1:27) so we can stop worrying about if God really wants to hear from us or not. Trust me, he does.  No, we’re not worthy of it on our own, but we’re not our own if we’ve given ourselves to Jesus.  

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV

Divine Collaboration with one another is equally valuable.  God’s obedient and loving children are a collective force.

We are stronger together as Christ’s body here on Earth. Know that we are all one with Our Father in Heaven by His Spirit.  We should be unified as His image bearers and as walking tabernacles of His Presence.

Let us each humble ourselves and be divine collaborators together with our Lord.

The God of Jacob

The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:7

I have put all my trust in the God of Jacob.  But why the God of Jacob?  Why not “The God of Israel”.  That’s the question I can’t stop contemplating.  When you stop and think about it, something very specific is being magnified in that verse.  It’s the God of Jacob who is my fortress.

Jacob came out of the womb holding his twin brother’s heel.  His mother named him Jacob because the name meant to grab the heel of another person, or literally to supplant or trick someone out of something.  And Jacob’s name characterized him from the beginning.

Let’s look at him for a moment.  What is Jacob known for?  He tricked his brother out of his birthright.  He tricked his father-in-law out of his livestock. He was lied to and treated unfairly.  He was terrified and hid from his brother for years out of fear of retribution.  And then he wrestled with God and demanded a blessing.  

So, to recap: Jacob was a liar, a trickster, a scaredy cat, and a control freak who thought it was perfectly fine to make demands of God, steal from his family, and hide and run away from his enemies.

And it’s the God of Jacob that is our fortress.

Is it sinking in yet?  The God of Jacob is our fortress.  The God of the trickster, liar, coward, narcissist, control freak is our fortress.

I’ve had a lot of conversations with God about how unworthy I am.  I get hard on myself.  I’m overly critical.  I’m a perfectionist that fails at perfection on a daily–no, hourly–basis.  To chase a rabbit for a minute, sometimes I think that the only reason God loves me is because of Jesus.  Seems like a fair statement.  

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

So before Jesus I wasn’t good enough for God.  Right?  Not quite.  

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

So, he died for us while we were his enemies, while we were sinners.  Before He died for us He loved us.  And we know that because of Jacob.  (And a million other people in the Old Testament who were equally awful.)  We know that God loves us before and after our salvation.  

The God of Jacob is our fortress because God made a promise to Abraham and God doesn’t break His promises.  

 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty;[a] walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram,[b] but your name shall be Abraham,[c] for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
Genesis 17:1-8

The next time you think God isn’t with you because of what you’ve done, I want you to remember this one simple fact:  The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  

And who are we?  We are made by God with an offer to accept the rights of God’s promise to Abraham.  God made a way for us (and we know that way to be Jesus) and in that we have salvation from our enemies, even if your enemy is yourself.  

The God of Jacob is our fortress. It’s liberating, isn’t it? 

A Friend of God

People call me a deeply spiritual person.  A prayer girl.  A friend of God.  Someone who is praying continuously.  I’ve been proud of that.  I like that about myself.  And I suck at it. 

I get angry.  I get irritated.  I get frustrated.  People are stupid and most of the time I throw my hands up in the air with aggravation rather than deal with them.  A problem comes up and I try to handle it with love and kindness.  I try to be a peacemaker.  I really, really do.  Yet, I fail at it miserably all the time.  Because people are stupid.  And so am I.

I’m not nearly as spiritual as I think I am.  I’m not near as good of a friend to God as people think I am.  I’m not continually praying, even when I think I am.  I get distracted by emotion.  I get distracted by myself and my circumstances.  I turn into a victim or a tyrant or even a peacemaker and forget to bring God into the conversation at all.  

No wonder I fail miserably so often!

12We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,c encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil.

23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

The other night the Lord said something to me that I can’t stop thinking about.  With all the kindness and tenderness of the sweetest southern gentleman, the Lord asked if I would invite him into the conversation.  The Lord asked me!  Wow.  The King of the Universe lovingly asked me if He could be a part of my conversations.  All of them.  

He didn’t ask me to be quiet.  He didn’t ask me to stop getting frustrated or angry or self righteous. He just asked me if He could be part of my conversations.  No judgement.  No criticism.  Just a gentle request.

I know I don’t invite Him in because deep down inside I think I’ve got it all figured out.  Either that, or I think He won’t like what I have to say, or He’ll stop me from having a voice at all.  He’s the Creator of All Things.  He doesn’t need me or want my opinion.  

What a filthy lie. 

The truth is, the God of the Universe made me in His image to be His friend.  And He loves me!  He doesn’t want a silent slave.  He wants a full fledged son with all the rights of inheritance He has given His Son.  All of it.

And He had to ask me to invite Him into the conversation.

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15

Jesus, I confess that I’ve not been very good at inviting you into my conversations.  I’ve tried to figure things out on my own.  I’ve lived huge parts of my life only letting You in occasionally.  And I didn’t even realize I was doing it.  So, I’m sorry, Lord.  I’m sorry for not inviting You in.  I took Your forgiveness and neglected Your wisdom.  Please forgive me.  Help me to do better.  Destroy my fear and insecurity.  Destroy my arrogance and any power I think I can manage without Your input.  It’s all Yours, God.  Every bit of who I am You designed.  It’s Your DNA that made me.  Will You show me how to invite You in and still be me?  Will You show me what freedom in sonship looks like?  Will You teach me how to be in You more fully and trust You more deeply so that You are always a part of my conversations.  Always.  I love you, Jesus.  Help me act like it.  Amen.

A Case of Stolen Identity

The world has gone nuts over the Covid-19 virus.  Our homes have become quarantine zones: a refuge from a suddenly terrifying hostile environment beyond our walls.  Hand-sanitizer, bleach products and toilet paper have disappeared off grocery store shelves. Everyone can tell you that you need an N95 respirator mask, but good luck finding one.

Everyone has become some sort of apocalypse prepper.

Every conversation is about this virus.  The news is all about how bad it is, or how bad it isn’t.  We’ve heard every statistic about the R naught value, fatality rates, countries infected, citizens at risk, complication rates, and on and on.   Have you seen some of those graphs!?

You have to be a mathematician to even understand it. 

What about social distancing?  It’s really just a fancy term for becoming a hermit.  Are you a loner? No? Well you better lock yourself in a closet, because you are now!  Or at least you better be if you’re listening to the preppers and the mathematicians. Stay away from people!  If you smile at a stranger you might get infected!

Solitary confinement is the new social butterfly in town.

Public gatherings are a thing of the past. Jimmy Falon is doing monologues from his living room.  My daughter’s high school graduation? Cancelled. Disney World? Cancelled. And you can forget about sports. Cancelled, cancelled, cancelled.  

Social media and Netflix here we come.

Then there’s church. Pastors are running around trying to solve this problem of not being able to congregate their congregations!  Live streaming sermons. Small groups? You guessed it! Mostly cancelled. We’ve got Zoom calls for prayer meetings. Praise and worship on Facebook live videos.  Long distance everything. We must have no human contact. What have we become?

We’ve become isolated and frightened mathematicians, with a special emphasis in the pseudo-sciences, desperately mumbling conspiracy theories and hoarding toilet paper like doomsday preppers with no N95 masks and nothing but a box of Cheerios in our cabinet.

Can I get an amen?

We are in a war with the world over our identity right now. We need to stop allowing Covid-19 and the complications there entailed, to define who we are! 

I’ll admit it, I’ve been an anxiety ridden mess.  I’ve been talking to the Lord about it and He’s been gently reminding me of who I really am.  I am a daughter of the King of Kings, yes, and I’ve never lost sight of that, but I’m also so much more.  I’m a warrior woman. A preacher. A worshiper and a prayer. I’m a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a friend.  I’m an encourager and a writer and a speaker of truth. I am alive in Christ and I don’t have to be afraid.

Has your identity been stolen from you?  

The enemy is doing his best to throw you into fear.  But fear doesn’t have to be who you are. Go ahead and let it be a feeling, that’s fine, that’s normal, but don’t let it rule you or define you.  

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

God is with you, and He’s got this.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8