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.

Roe v Wade

People are freaking out. Roe v Wade has been on the books for a long time. It’s scary to see such a huge change in our government laws. And it’s easy to begin to question the safety and ramifications of that change. We conjure up images of doctors of questionable character wearing blood soaked aprons performing back alleys procedures with a rusty hanger. Or at least I do.

And yet, I hold out hope that there are still enough “strategies and freedoms” in place in our government to protect women and their reproductive health AND protect the lives of the unborn people. The unborn have all of their “rights” ripped from their tiny little grasp before they have even had a chance to take a breath.

There is too much nuance regarding this issue, and Roe v Wade’s decision has never been our source of truth. As followers of Christ, we can put our hope and trust in Our Savior Jesus to manage all of these issues, and protect and honor the sanctity of all life, whether or not we are aware of how He is doing those things.

Reproductive rights are equally as important as the lives of the unborn. We get upset because we get pulled into absolutes, and this is never going to be an “absolute” situation. 

There are times when abortions are necessary, and their are times when abortions are just convenient birth control post coital contact. There are times when giving a baby over to abortion is best for all people. And there are beautiful times when God can use a tragedy, a mistake, or a lapse of judgment to provide life and beauty to a situation that had only darkness just by allowing an unborn child to live.

It’s complicated. Life is complicated. And God is still on His throne. We will survive this. We can trust God. We KNOW we can trust Him, so we can release our fear and insecurity over man’s choices. We don’t have any control over them. 

We can use our voice to be heard and be seen, and hopefully reflect Our Lord Jesus in the process.  We also cannot keep others from expressing that same right. And God’s hand of judgement and protection is outstretched still. He gives and He takes away. And we can trust Him with that.

I’ll leave you with this passage of scripture from the book of Romans, Chapter 8, English Standard Version of the Bible, with sub headings removed. 

Romans Chapter 8

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

12 So then, brothers,[e] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[f] of God. 15 For 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!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and 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.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience

.26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In My Mind

In my mind.

Rubbed raw and brutal like burlap and salt on exposed wounds.

In my mind they fly

A tumult of debris in the hurricane of yesterday

Rubbing raw moments when hope was abandoned, when love became a tiresome and deceptive fear

In my mind.

When sex was rage and pain and blood and fear and loss.

No innocence left at five years old when hope was not a word I knew

In my mind. I listened and cried and waited.

Steel wool scraping away the rust of abandoned steel, twisted metal, fortune lost, potential extinguished.

In my mind where yesterday and today and tomorrow are jumbled together in frenzied footsteps and screams in black night.

Rubbed raw cheeks, burning eyes, a snow bank, a motorcycle, a tent

In my mind blowing away like glowing embers from a campfire, faerie dust fantasy.

In my mind so many words I do not know,

Pictures painted all at once with watercolors that run together and blur everything to numb dark and muddy gray.  Nothing but a stain.

In my mind.

Enter age like dried flowers, beauty and fragrance gone to memory, tight and lost and distant.

Blank pages filled with dark smears of tears and rage and fire.

Thick legs hold up what horror has melted like pure white snow into mud.

Pale body, mottled with scars, carries jagged stones in its fragile shell.

In my mind this sack of skin and blood and tissue and bone, leaking and torn and putrid, burned.

Worn down to sackcloth and ashes, mourning life lost.

In my mind a life fully spent, waits to finally, blissfully come to its end, come crashing down, come undone, come home.

Wicked thoughts despised, repressed, regressed, rubbed raw.

Through a glass dimly.

In my mind I tried.

Eyes of fire burn it down. No more raw, splintered metal.  No more rusted ruin extinguished, thirsty.

I am thirsty, in my mind.

Rubbed raw revelation, trickling down in a miniscule sliver of silver water that flows from within the pound of flesh fulfilled.

In my mind these heavy stones, these lumps of pummeled appendages grasping and scraping and wheezing

Cough one more breath as I lay dying.  Heart compressed into diamonds as many as the stars in the Heavens to share.

Forever treasures feasting, filling, finding one more breath again and again. One more drop of blood to move through this not quite corpse.

In my mind.

Champion’s crown of victory revealed in final breaths that never cease.  Always one more. That trickle of silver gleaming diamond water that grows and feeds and fulfills.

Sustain this bag of bones and flesh and blood.  Permeate.  Initiate.  Exonerate.

In my mind. Abundant life. Words on pages intangible.

Rubbed raw, relentless, but still one more breath.

Always one more breath, oh Breath of Life, oh River of Living Water.

I drink and drink and drink and life unfolds from this lump of mud and decay and death.

In His mind I am healed, refined, undaunted, vigorously restored, courageous, resplendent.

And in my mind, alive, renewed, I dance.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Cor 4:7-11 (ESV)

My earthen vessel isn’t cracked, it’s smashed.  It’s smashed to dust. And I admit that for a long time I thought there was surely something wrong with me. I felt victimized. I felt wronged.  It wasn’t fair.  It wasn’t right.  I’ve been abused.  I’ve been ravished.   I’ve talked to God about it a lot.  

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 (ESV) 

If He’s the potter and I’m the clay, then why do I feel like dust? 

Did you know how dust becomes clay?  

“Clays form from millions of years of mineral erosion. Mountains break down into boulders, boulders into rocks, rocks into pebbles, sand, silt and eventually, when the silt reaches a certain size of fineness, an amazing transformation occurs. Instead of just being a loose mix, the fine particles manifest an attraction for water and each other at a molecular level. Clay can be thought of less as a material and more of a behavior, the phenomenon of very finely eroded minerals to agglomerate.” (Webb, Patrick “From Dust We Come: A Look at Clay.” Traditional Building. Feb 14, 2017 https://www.traditionalbuilding.com/opinions/a-look-at-clay)

Today as I began to write and lament about my suffering, the Lord reminded me of a vision he’d given me a few years ago. I saw a beaten and battered up old vase sitting on a pedestal.  Light showed through the cracks and broken places and cast an intricate pattern of spider web designs across the walls.  The room was lit up by them.  

The vision could have ended there for me to know that God was working and making beauty from my brokeness, but God had more to show me.  A huge sledgehammer suddenly came down and smashed the vase, but instead of extinguishing the light, an explosion of vibrant colors filled the room. The walls around it could not contain it, and they crumbled into dust as the light and colors filled the world outside with unimaginable beauty as far as the eye could see.  

As I recalled the vision this afternoon, I heard God say, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

There’s my dust. 

I thought back to the Garden of Eden.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust was a consequence of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had warned Adam and Eve about it, but they didn’t listen.  

Yet I know I’m not suffering the consequences of my sin because I’ve chosen to eat from the tree of life through Jesus instead of the tree of slavery to my own debauchery.  My consequences got paid for on the cross. 

What I’m carrying are the marks of an enemy who hates me.  He hates me because I chose Jesus instead of death.  I chose to eat from the tree of life.  I called BS on the serpent’s lies. 

I think of Jesus, and why He chose to go the cross, and why He called His disciples to do the same.  “And he (Jesus) said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23 ESV) We saw Jesus carry His cross. He couldn’t even do it by himself, he needed help!  It was excruciating, horrifying, and brutal. But necessary.  

Jesus came in the flesh to show us that the pain of this world and the death that it brings doesn’t have to be eternal.  He came to show us that we don’t have to suffer the consequences of Adam and Eve and their bad decision.  We can choose for ourselves to take the fruit of life offered by Him. We can choose life. 

It’s a necessary step, suffering.  It’s the consequence of an evil serpent throwing a tantrum because Jesus has offered us eternal life. Jesus knows that road well. He faced those consequences, too.  He did it for us. He submitted to Satan’s tantrum and said, “Give me your worst!” and Satan obliged Him.  

Jesus’s life wasn’t pretty, and it ended brutally, but resurrection followed!  Jesus gets the last word.  Jesus is the Word made flesh.  And the Word cannot be overcome.  It is life and it is beautiful, and he carries the scars on his own resurrected flesh just to remind us of that.  What a gift.  I’m so thankful for it.  

If I’m to follow him in all things, then I must be willing to accept the crushing with the hope that it will bring resurrection life.  Not because God hates me, but because the world does, and God is not content to let me suffer in vain.  There’s got to be beauty that comes from it, or there’s no point in living at all.  

Jesus showed me that because He experienced it.  He laid down his life willingly so that I could see that all the suffering the enemy could throw at me in this world would not be the end of me.  Because He conquered death, if I follow Him in life, I too shall stand upon the wreckage of death and proclaim eternal life through Him who saved me from it!

Ashes to ashes.  Dust to dust. Dust to clay. Clay to life in the Potter’s capable hands.