What happened after my snot slinging cry? My new found friend took me under her wing and I knocked 24/7. I was a fragile piece of wreckage. Five years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse had taken their toll. What was left was on shaky ground. I was ready to follow. For the first time in my life I wasn't rebelling.
My friend spent hours with me, which turned into months and then years. She is my best friend the one who lives in Florida. There isn't an end to that story. BUT there was a weaning...of course.
We spent every day together. We went to church together and it was a growing thing but not quite right. Finally at one church she decided that "this is for you", but not her.
Firmly she told me to stay there and meet people. I did. I met the love of my life my sweet husband Jimmy.
I also met the Baptist potluck.
My first sight of it was GROSS!!! I have never felt such revulsion. Junk food everywhere, packaged, processed sugary piles of sweets...gluttony. I was sick looking and my new friend said, "but it tastes so good try some". It did indeed taste good.
Why did I take the first bite? What part of me was ready to abandon all I had learned? For all of my faults diet and exercise were not one of them. I was in the best shape of my life. I was an athlete. I rode a bike, roller skated, went to jazzercize three times a week. I was fit. I had learned about nutrition and I didn't eat food LIKE THAT. Why did I take the first bite?
In Mathew chapter 23 Jesus lets the pharisees have it with both fists. The heading over the battle is called "8 woes". Here is a little of it, listen to the anger.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe (give a portion) mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes, and pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but the inside is full of robbery and self indulgence.
wow what is talking about?
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white washed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
WOW. Talk about show don't tell. Jesus has that down doesn't he?
From the beginning since I was now "saved". I assumed that the scriptures that taught about scribes and Pharisees were about someone else, not me. In fact anytime there was a mention of someone not doing the right thing it wasn't me. I was the good Samaritan, the good soil, the pearl of great price....but there came a moment when I questioned that.
What if I am not good soil? Truthfully don't I let the thorns and briars in? Don't I let the worries and cares of this life take precedence over everything else? If I live like there is no God where is God? If I worry about houses and land, cars and bills, the daily grind of life, what to eat and what to wear; where is my faith?
When I drive by the homeless and look the other way to avoid the sign asking for food, when I throw the mail in the trash unopened with pleas to feed the starving; am I the good Samaritan? Am I loving my neighbor as myself?
I think not.
All of a sudden the Bible began to be a whole new book. I stopped assuming that I am the good guy and started really looking at what Jesus says and I have fallen miserably short. In fact I would go so far as to say I have done it all wrong. Seriously.
I have studied, preached, and explained, all from a distance. When you speak with authority and proclaim and admonish...you are in effect above and out of reach. Just like a Pharisee. I am not too harsh with myself, don't freak out, just listen to me. Do you like being preached at? Didn't think so.
What did Jesus do and how did He do it?
He walked, talked, served, ate and told stories. He connected with people. He showed them with stories the truth about God. He revealed the kingdom of heaven to men. He showed great mercy, he healed the sick, made friends with the outcasts, and lived among them...the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised. Wow he was a freak really; and we would strongly object to his methods. Which is why we are like we are, isn't it?
Did Jesus define following Him as saying a little prayer and asking him "into your heart". so that you could be once saved always saved for repeating a little ditty? Did He say that ever?
Actually he said, " Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Math. 7:13.
Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord ," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is heaven will enter. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform miracles? And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'
Ok alrighty then. I have a little expression when I teach, it's "you can always trust the red letters, that is Jesus talking. These red letters are scary. I don't now about you but I have not cast out demons or performed miracles. That seems like credentials for the upper eschalon of the church and indeed it very may well be. Jesus doesn't call us to potlucks and platitudes. He calls us to pick up our own cross and die daily. Why doesn't He know them? What does it mean to know?
What does that look like in real life?
Does it look like the church?
Does it look like me being all about myself, my plans, my desires,my goals, my vacations, my savings accounts, my all about me agenda? I AM ALWAYS ON MY MIND.....
Why am I talking about this?
A revelation that back in the beginning instead of being transformed I picked up new junk. I dropped the behaviors that I was told to drop. Don't smoke, eat or chew; or go with boys that do. Without inner transformation of the soul dropping one list of don'ts results in picking up a new list of do's. My new list had food. The new list had only one acceptable vice gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins.
Here I am. Asking and still knocking. Seeking, fasting and requesting deliverance from this most deadly sin.
I no longer want to be a tomb full of dead men's bones. I am seeking the narrow gate. The good news is that transformation HAS INDEED been happening since that first morning on my living room floor. Step by step Jesus has been guiding me and teaching me. But now He is taking it to anutha whole level. Jesus wants to bust out of the "religious" box and take over me life. I have been just wrecked lately again, coming to the end of myself again, and realizing that the greatest gift is LOVE. Not man's love, God's love....He loves us.
I have been singing, "I want MORE of YOU God!!! I have been asking ,"BREAK every chain"!
I have been admitting how I fail, "Help my unbelief". I want to be so radically different so full of God's love that it is irresistible. I want to be a light in a dark place to share the love of God.
God is answering.....to be continued....
Friday, July 18, 2014
But this...is me. Half the weight I am now.
I have been praying some short and powerful prayers. Prayers I mean with all my heart...like; "I want more of you God---BREAK every chain".
Who is Jesus anyway and WHY did He come?
Jesus was authentic, accessible and vulnerable. He was constantly coming against the authority of the religious of the day; the Scribes and the Pharisees, the makers of rules of men. He called them a lot of names; snakes, vipers, tombs full of dead men's bones, sons of hell, the blind leading the blind. Not exactly politically correct. His courage to take on the phoney was without limit. He asked a lot of questions. Jules Verne said something about questions and men, that once asked it has to be answered even if it takes a hundred years. Something like that. It seems that really good communication happens when we ask questions. People feel valued when we ask them questions about themselves. They are valued when another person stops thinking about themselves long enough to consider what is going on in the life of another. Does asking questions then also work for us about ourselves? They might.
I have been asking. How did I get here? Simple question really, but the how lead to a why and a when and there you go we are off onto 17 rabbit trails of inquiry. I have been thinking a lot lately because I haven't been eating. I have eaten a little. Some days I have eaten nothing. It is AMAZING how much of our lives revolve around FOOD.
Last week we had a little get-together with the women who come to my church. I had invited my friend Amy Lancaster from We Will Go to come and visit with them. Originally we were going to have a retreat but no one wanted to sign up except the leadership. That was a reality check. How effective are you at leading if no one wants to follow? I go to We Will Go every week most of the time. It's a revolution in the heart of inner city Jackson what we call in the south a "hood". It's a revolution because it's people living like Jesus, talking like Jesus, being the hands and feet of Jesus and changing their world; one precious person at a time. Most of the time those precious people are drug dealers, crack heads, thieves, prostitutes, homeless, and stinky. The affluent refer to them as the outer circle or fringes of society. Jesus called them sick. Those are the people he chose to hang out with. He included tax collectors which was very generous of Him don't you think?
At my little party Amy shared how We Will Go started and how God unwrapped the whole thing one step at a time. None of it was really their idea, it was all God. He orchestrated everything. It took incredible courage to follow Him into the hood. It's cleaned up now to a fairly "safe" level, 7 years ago it was deadly. It was as rough a ghetto as you can imagine when they moved in with their little kids. An amazing story you should hear the whole thing sometime...but to cut to the chase I want to get to one particular part. Amy said from the very first night people knocked on their front door 24 hours a day they knocked and they asked.
To demonstrate she knocked on the arm of my rocking chair and I was transported back into time.
I met her at a hair appointment. I was a traveling hairdresser. I had arrived at an elderly clients home and she had a new sitter. We introduced ourselves and I went about washing and rolling my customers hair. When I put her under the dryer we began to talk. ACTUALLY I began to talk because this woman was lit up. Not like drunk, like light....real light. I was thinking in my head, "Is this an aura"? What the heck? As I looked at her I began telling her all of my horrible secrets, you see I was living a lie. My family thought the wayward black sheep had finally married and was in a good situation. Everyone was so proud of me. I made a lot of stupid decisions starting in high school and one after another led me to nothing but trouble. I am not sure why. Someone could say it was my parents divorce or yada yada yada, but NO I was simply stupid, irresponsible, and heartless. I followed one code of conduct, if it feels good do it. No thought to anyone else ever. I hurt a lot of people. When I got married and actually had 2 jobs my family was ecstatic! But behind closed doors I had married a son of satan himself, an evil man who hurt us. I was ashamed of it, so ashamed that it was a secret no one knew except those who were tortured behind closed doors.
Sitting in front of the lady of light I couldn't shut up, I started crying and telling her everything. I told her I was in trouble, really bad trouble. She listened. I am not sure what I would do if someone did that to me. What would you do? Really? Don't most of us RUN as fast as we can from STRANGE crying people?
She worked for an agency. She could have said nothing. She could have asked for a job transfer to get away from me. She could have told me I was a disturbed person who needed counseling. She could have called the cops! She didn't chose any of those options. She chose to follow Jesus into an unlovely, wretched woman's life. She said, "You need God".
So simple. Some folks do say that religion is for the weak, the opiate of the masses and all that. I remember. If I would not have been so broken, so frightened and so sorry I probably would have scoffed at her. I had a taste of religion as a child and really wasn't looking for that. I was looking for a RESCUE.
I went to her church. I wish I had a picture of us. I have one in my head. Having gone to church I knew we needed dresses. I didn't own one so I went to the Salvation Army and bought a little red calico cotton dress someone had made for $3. It had short sleeves an empire waist and some piping. I thought it was cute in a Little House on the Prairie kind of way. The girls had on cute outfits their clothes extended beyond jeans and t-shirts. I showed up in that, bra less and in flip flops. Early on being a single parent I discovered that underwear was expensive by opting out we had more to eat. I could have it then, but had decided it was a waste of money and stupid. So much for reasonable thinking. There we were in a church. The music was kind of fun but it made me want to cry. Then a man stood up and began talking. He was pretty passionate about his subject and unbelievably WE were his subject!!!
Have you ever had an experience where someone you don't even know is describing your life like they have been spying on you?
It was freaky. We looked at each other with the deer in the headlights eyes. One of the girls whispered to me, "How does he know"? I shook my head no. I didn't know the answer to that question.
Once a question is asked.
Do you remember, "Question authority"? Now it seems like we have flipped to never question authority but that is a rabbit trail for another question.
How did he know? He didn't. He didn't know us from the man in the moon but GOD did. It was God who was showing us their were no secrets. He laid everything out open and bare. I was shaken. They handed me a visitors packet and I went home. I don't remember anything about the rest of that day. I have a feeling I was just going through the motions on auto pilot. It was the next morning when I picked up the packet and started reading that everything fell into place. I read a tiny booklet. It had some pictures that showed a man's life without Jesus portrayed as a circle with the man in the center chaos all around. Then a contrasting circle with Jesus in the center and order around the circle.
I turned the page.
Another picture. Two cliffs facing a deep ravine, the bridge across was a wooden cross lying on it's side. Darkness on one side and light on the other. The journey from one side to the other could only happen by crossing that bridge.
It clicked. I got it. As tears started flooding my face I went into my living room and got down on my knees and began to talk. I poured out everything. All of my regrets, all my shame, all my fears. I don't know how long I was there but it was a long time. My eyes were swollen and I had been slinging snot when I got up. I wasn't pretty but I got up from that floor reborn.
All the things that happened after that could fill a book. This has turned into a lengthy introduction! I was talking about something else all together really, remember? I started out with how did I get here? Twice the size of my true self. I couldn't answer the questions without setting the stage because this was the turning point. When did I get off track? How did it happen? How am I getting back on the track?
Jesus simply said "Follow me". He spent a lot of time "dissing" the rules of men. Outward form of godliness without inner change. He hated the lists of rules, the do do do and don't don't don't. Jesus came to transform not conform.
How do we follow Jesus then? Not like I did.
After thirty years I realize I have been doing it wrong.
to be continued....