how voting your conscience should seek the common good

I am NOT political.  It is difficult for this lover of words, derived from Hebrew and Greek, strung along in sequential sonnets to think critically about foreign policy, national debt, immigration, social reforms, declining infrastructure, inequality, the 2nd amendment, and the right to privacy encompassing a woman’s right to choose since roe v. wade, etc.  This is not to say that I do not have opinions, even strong unshakeable opinions, but rather that it takes a great deal of effort on my part to get the creative right side of my brain to merge through the corpus collosum of this eight pound sphere of bone and matter sitting atop my frame, with the more analytically inclined problem solving left side.  For the sake of this blog, I will do my best to think critically and exercise the left though I will not comment on most of the above.

I’m not sure that there has ever been more uncertain times in the history of America, but God has something all together different to say to the uncertainty of our hearts at this pressing time:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person  must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:2-8

America is facing what could be her most troublesome trial to date in the history of her freedom, formed within the constitutional pages of liberty, governed under a free electoral system characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges, otherwise known as democracy.

If you are an American…if you have been given rights and privileges such as are uncommon to the surrounding world, but grievously taken advantage of by many who tread this free soil, then you should feel the weight of this massive trial impending America’s future in the upcoming election.

The original meaning of the word “trial” in the above passage translates from the Greek as: “an experiment, attempt, proving.  The trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy.  An enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from desires or from the outward circumstances.  Of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness.  Adversity, affliction, trouble; sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness.  Rebellion against God, by which His power and justice are as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves” (BlueletterBible.org).

It is hard not to immediately recognize words such as fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy, the condition of things, lapse from the faith and holiness…adversity, affliction, trouble sent by God. But the most frightening and significant thing I read in the above definition is “Rebellion against God, by which his power and justice are as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves.”

There is much I could say about that last sentence, we will start there and work our way back.  The rebellion against God in America that has inflicted her with this present trial upon her in this upcoming election, either causing her to fling herself into a deeper tailspin of rebellion, sin, death and destruction or in desperation turn from her transgressions, repent and cry out to the God of the universal expanse that even if He found one….she may find her pardon, is at the root of whether we as American’s can be wise in “voting our conscience.”  Some are comforted by this overused phrase in the last few months, finding it a springboard into an ocean of wisdom as they seek the face of God through the tidal waves of uncertainty and drink up all that He offers to aid them in the upcoming agonizing decision of the soul that plays itself out in the conscience.  Others find the above phrase lacking depth and discretion granting American citizens the permission to just vote whatever feels right, off the top of their heads, without taking the time and effort to wrestle through articles, listen to debates, no matter how frustrating and repulsive we find them, and most importantly to pray and search the Scriptures to find what God would say on this historical scale of checks and balances. Both views are right.

So I will start with wisdom.  I am not a theologian.  I am not politically inclined.  I am a seeker of wisdom and daily cry out for the fear of the Lord.  Here is what I believe He has given me even though this is the last thing I ever thought I would blog about in a million years.

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”  Ecclesiastes 1:9.

The above verse should be of great comfort to us wisdom seekers, after-all, it was penned by the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon. A man who could have had anything he wanted as King yet asked that he might be granted wisdom knowing the weight of a nation’s welfare was upon his shoulders. (See 2nd Chronicles 1:10-11).

So if there is nothing new under the sun, then surely the weight of this imposing trial before us as American’s has not surprised God, nor should surprise us.  The question is not to be “what if…” fill in the blank.  But rather, “what now?”  What can I do now, Lord, in wisdom and trust as I navigate through the messy avenues of my conscience that often lead me astray, but ultimately were designed as a map to lead me to a knowledge of You and your will?

And as always wisdom is found when asked for in faith.

 

“run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note!  Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her” Jeremiah 5:1.

Similarly, we find earlier in Scripture, Abraham pleading with God to spare His judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18. (I would encourage you to read the chapter in its entirety.)  Abraham humbly and boldly goes before the Lord on behalf of the two morally wicked cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, in an attempt to intercede, beg, cry out for God’s mercy to triumph over His judgment. He doesn’t have to go see for himself the wickedness of these cities, there is no justifying their sin, their depravity, their perversion and stark defiance and blatant rebellion towards God.  He knows it exists and he has nothing left to do but, in trembling and fear, approach a Holy God.

“Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD.” Genesis 18:22.

I will give one last example as it refers to having a knowledge of national sin and its solution:

Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.   Why will you still be struck down?  why will you continue to rebel?  The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil…if the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom and Gomorrah…When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings, incense is an abomination to me….I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly…when you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.  Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause…And I said, ‘Woe is me! for I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 1:4-6,9, 12-13, 15-17,6:5.

In the above passages we see faithful servants of God seeking people of justice and righteousness who may be found throughout the land, but they don’t stop there.  They have humbled themselves before a mighty, all powerful, God of justice and mercy and they cry out for the common good of the nation, city, infrastructure of community God has appointed them to, and include themselves as among those who need to repent. So what insight can we glean from these scriptures that will guide our conscience in this present trial?

The wisdom is both collective…and deeply personal. 

  1.  Collectively, there are strength in numbers.   This is helpful to us, as Christians, when we are told that 25 million of us passively sat at home in the last election. Whether this was due to pride, hopelessness, or an unwillingness to seek the common good of our nation because our conscience led us to reason that neither candidate fit our parameters of personal preference in the next
    Commander in Chief, we can see how this rule of thumb in voting our conscience hurt us rather than helped us as a nation.
  2. Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them” Matthew 18:20.  This is a simple solution to the weight of this trial upon our conscience. Are we humbling ourselves and praying together? Are we setting aside differences of opinion, having hard conversations, searching the scriptures to see what God would say rather than what our BIG feelings say, and wrestling these things out together in corporate and private gatherings of prayer?  Are we gathering together and praying for the common good of our nation, our neighborhoods and communities, our governing authorities over legislative branches?  Or have we forsaken the fellowship of prayer and the deep communion with Christ and one another that brings an unshakeable forging together of a people prepared, steadfast and immovable in the greatest commandment to love God first and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  We cannot love our neighbor if we do not seek to love God first and to obey His commands.  When we humble ourselves and pray and gather together to seek the common good of our neighbor we cannot help but vote, even if we elect a fool. 
  3. What is the common good?  Here is where it hits home at the deepest level of our conscience, and thus is why voting your conscience can be good if used in the most basic sense of the word “conscience.” The conscience was designed by God to discern between what was morally good and what was morally evil. Here is a quick definition of the Greek word “conscience,” as found in Hebrews 9:14.  The conscience is referred to as the awareness of the the soul  distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other.   So we can see that the conscience was to be used as a tool in helping to guide our decisions at the most basic level of right and wrong. This wasn’t meant to be difficult, in fact, God wasn’t trying to make things harder for people to be in tune with their consciences. Romans 1:20-32 reminds us that “His invisible attributes…have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world…so they are without excuse.”  What this means is that the goodness of God was put on display for all to see and understand through His creation.  However, the introduction of sin into the world, through our own sinful desires condemned us and made all of us prisoners of an “evil conscience.” We needed nothing less than blood to cleanse them, and not just any blood, but the blood of a spotless lamb; the blood of Christ, the one who knew no sin, to become sin, so that in Him we may become the righteousness of God” 2nd Corinthians 5:21.  And, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrew 9:14.  Since we were able to “perceive” the invisible attributes of God that were morally good, we are without excuse.  I do not mean moral in terms of human morality, though that is but a dim reflection of our humanity as image bearers of our glorious God .  I don’t want to be responsible for clouding your image of the God who is triune, and within that holy circle of three, is at the same time wholly good and wholly love.  He is not the most good, or the most love as if there are limits of these attributes as we assign them to humanity. But rather He is only good and only love even in His judgments. If our consciences, therefore, being cleansed by Christ’s blood are able to perceive God as inherently good, then we can begin to search His heart in terms of what it means to seek His common grace for the common good of this nation.

I am sure I am losing you by this point, but if I could wrap this up. I would tell you to “vote your conscience” if you are a Christian, but encourage you to wrestle with what is morally good and morally evil.  Here are three things that may be helpful in governing your conscience:

In God’s goodness He is:

  1. Pro-life; knitting together each tiny image bearer of Himself (Psalm 139:13-14). He is against every form of murder and for 43 years America has bore the guilt of blood-stained hands and feet in the legalization of Abortion in roe v. wade. Take heed the warning of Proverbs 24:11-12, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.  If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will He not repay man according to His work? If you vote for Hillary Clinton, the blood of the unborn will stain your conscience before a Holy God.
  2. A God who holds the marriage bed between a man and woman in highest honor as a reflection of Christ loving His bride the church. God created marriage.  He is for marriage.  Marriage makes beautiful the laying down of one life to serve the other and together follow the commands of God, to be fruitful and multiply and show the world that as a people who hold true the familial infrastructure created by God, we become a beacon of hope and a blanket of warmth to those who have suffered the breaking down of this institution of marriage and family.
  3. He is a God who hates these seven things: There are six things the Lord hates,
        seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes,feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community (Proverbs 6:16-19).

America, seeking the common good of the this nation under the common grace of God who sends rain on both the righteous and the wicked, means to consciously and critically think through the moral issues of our day that found their origin in a Holy God who has the power to heal and restore or judge our “Rebellion against Him, by which his power and justice are as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves.”

Ask yourself, “Is there a candidate that may hold the tiniest shred of hope to implement the return of America to integrity and virtue?”

A closing personal note to end on…  It is no secret that I could not choose the lesser of two evils in this upcoming presidential election.  In my heart of hearts I saw evil as the driving force behind both campaigns. Both candidates have acted immorally, unjustly, and given themselves over to blatant rebellion against God in their pasts and even in their present standing before Him. However, If I serve a God of life (who Jesus is referred to over and over throughout the scriptures) and who is for life because He is life, and if I serve and love a God who created the beautiful image of marriage in the most sacredness and purity of Christ’s love for the church between a man and woman, and If I know and love a God who desires to restore and heal wicked nations and commands His followers to “seek the welfare of the city He has appointed them to…”(Jeremiah 29:7), in order that they may enjoy the goodness of God and his blessing in that city, then I have to vote for the one who stands for the policies that most reflect God’s heart.  I have to have the wisdom to see that the candidate who has surrounded himself with conservative advisors and spiritual leaders will bring the most hope for America and trust that under those God has appointed to advise him, he will humble himself under the mighty hand of God should he be elected.

If your conscience has been cleansed from dead works, fellow believer in Christ, seek wisdom. Pray together. Lay down your pride, and vote.

Held in steadfast love,

trish

 

 

 

Autumn epode

I seem to come most alive when everything else is dying.

“Day to Day pours forth speech…” and I am windswept, said I.  Swept on Love like gliding leaves on ethereal gales of Spirit breath.  “Where are they going, Lord?” said I.

My eyes can scarcely hold this great canvas of Autumn.

Where in this season death blazes

image image

burning amber, rust, crimson, blood, and currant. I smell and taste colors…nutty maple absconds upward from the blazing death under my feet, still wet with a layer of left over night.

leaves of gold dip and sway on spheres of light cascading through arms of elms and oaks standing unashamed in their appointed nakedness.

“They’re going to feed the earth in its rest” said He.

“I speak and they turn…

They turn and they die…

I breathe and they fall…

They fall and they feed…

preparing the earth for new birth.

image

 

And so it is with those I’ve called, they radiate Me most in dying to self, and going where I appoint them….

low, in service to something greater than themselves…

and when they fall…

on their knees….and pour out their hearts before me, fallow ground in stony souls is made rich in fertility of truth and hope.”

“I am windswept on my way to death, said I.”

 

 

 

Worship

Maybe you left slopped milk on counters from small hands you were rushing…

Maybe your beds laid open in a mess of twisted sheets and hiding socks…

Maybe wet towels and smeared mirrors are what were left to welcome you when you returned…

and empty refrigerators…

maybe ugly words from closed minds echoed their taunts as you walked through open doors and forced your lips to curve…and pretend…

that you wanted to be there. 

But you didn’t.  

Maybe those old vibrations of grumbling moved from simmer to boil in a heart ready to spill judgment and opinion when you saw them…

“oh no, new people up front…I was hoping for decent worship music today….something I can relate to.  How am I supposed to worship to new voices?  Just one more thing to distract me…”

But then…

I wonder if you felt it?  That Voice without sound that collides with all the other voices and leads them out of their labyrinth of searching into His holy center?

Did you get there when a common choir of different backgrounds, and religious rote joined forces of voice to exalt and lift up on high the name of Jesus?

In His lavished grace and richness of mercy did He set you free to worship His holy Name?  In His kindness did He lead you to repentance of spirit quenching distractions and sins lifting the burden of worldy pulls so that your heart rose

to the entrance of the King?

Cuz He was there, you know?   When did you notice Him?  Was it when the multitude of the people sang like never before, Bless the Lord oh My soul?

Did you sing like never before? 

Or was it when the mix of tones and rhythms of joyful sound through soul-knitted love in brothers and sisters felt a collective eager expectation of the One who promised to return for His bride on that glorious day?

Or maybe you felt it when slain love sang to you from a splintered cross where rusty nails broke through His body and a dirty spear tore open his side so holy blood could gush over you…..

and you can’t remember ever feeling so

awakened…and alive.

Maybe you noticed it when fear fell off and shattered on holy ground at His feet in the middle of proclaiming you were no longer a slave to fear…and the pieces of that fear  cowered in shame as all the saints proclaimed a mighty truth and believed it….

for the first time.

Maybe your sea was split, in the echo of a thousand voices, a mix of us and angels right then and there and you were liberated to raise your hands in worship in full acceptance of the valiant promise that…

YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD!

Did you want to scream it and shout it from the mountains?  Did slain love sweep over you like a mighty rushing wind and you couldn’t help but reach higher to our High King of heaven with human hands desperate to touch His heart?

Were you set free from self-preservation, fear of man, and pride as you worshiped with self-less abandon.  The kind that wants every cell to be moved into a motion of worship spurred on by His blood flowing through our veins….

Did His spirit unravel you and you wanted to give way to His pressing presence that gently persuaded you to your knees?  If you didn’t,

will you go there next time, with me?

Can we go there together, church?  in humble worship, before our King, surrendering it all and tossing aside every weight,

worshiping the only one who can set us free to make us

MORE THAN CONQUERORS IN CHRIST!

You are free to raise your hands!  You know you want to!  You are free to fall to your knees because His presence is too much and you just want to wash His feet because your tears are the only language you can find to express your love in that moment..

 

image image image image image imageimage.

Maybe you thought you might shake out of your skin because you trembled at the holy weight of glory resting on us…

Maybe its because you heard His mighty roar calling you home and it struck the two chords of love and fear so loudly within your heart the whole of you shook….to your core.

Oh church!  Be free! lay it all aside, sing, shout, tremble, weep, fall on your knees in the presence of Him!  It is sweet incense, a sacrifice of praise, and it reaches the tender ear of our ABBA Father and He is pleased to come near.

and then…

LIVE LIKE THIS EVERY WAKING MOMENT! Like there is no higher pursuit, no worthier chase….

cry out to Him day after day, More love to Thee, My Jesus, more love to Thee!  Ignite my heart to Thee and Thee alone!  Set a fire in me that cannot be tamed!  Grant thy servant boldness to proclaim your gospel unashamed!  May I live and breathe Hope and Love until my dying breath!

Consume me in your dazzling splendor!  That I may radiate Your light, your heat, Your shining love!

Make me love-drunk in the wine of that great Wedding feast.

Our Beloved is awakening and drawing out our love…

Run after Him and take as many with you as you can!

“So I will bless you as long as I live, In your name I will lift up my hands” ~ psalm 63:4.

“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” ~ psalm 141:2

“Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to Him for the lives of your children…” -Lamentations 2:19.

“Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension” ~ 1 Timothy 2:8

“Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground” ~ Nehemiah 8:6.

“We lift up our heart and hands Toward God in heaven…” ~ Lamentations 3:41.

the gospel for dogs…cuz we all need a Master

I adopted my dog, Ezra, in sin.  No, really…it was sin. Ya see, my faithful pure-bred, tri-colored, English Setter, Luke, had passed away after we had almost reached the ten year stride together. Sometimes blood thickens and stops a beating heart.

Strokes just happen in old age… or any age.  Luke managed to survive three that week before the last one crept itself into his sleep and slowly swallowed up his last breath.

He died on a Thursday….

the floor boards beneath his still body felt warm with his lingering left over heat when I found him like that.  Peaceful, in his bed.  I had visited him earlier in the pitch of the night around 1 am, “Lukey?” His old tired head lifted slightly as he reassuringly peered out his one patched eye, the one that marked him since birth making him the irresistible pick of the litter, as if to say, “I’m so glad to know you’re still here…thank you…” I knelt low to kiss his familiar face, tell an old friend that love and faithfulness had grown sweeter in me over the years we’d been together, and press into hear his heart through familiar fur and beloved dog scent. I told him I would see him in the morning. But the morning brought sobs and instant loneliness.

954-high-school-816

I fell asleep on the couch later that week and dreamt that those old familiar rapid sniffs at the end of a wet nose against my cheek were waking me. But when I opened my eyes he was gone. I begged the goose for another dog.  Luke had been my companion as a stay at home mom for ten years. He and I waited side by side for the kids to shuffle and a bumble through the door every day after tired teachers said goodbye and janitor’s sweeps swayed through halls. Luke was always ahead of me on this.  If I saw him sitting by the door, eyes locked on the cu- de-sac in front of our house, I knew it was time for the kids to arrive. Sometimes we baked cookies together as we waited.  Luke would jump off the couch as soon as he was on to cookie scent, usually at the first mix of warm butter and sparkly granules of sugar.

And so it was too painful to think of baking cookies without two sets of paws waiting to scamper after run away chocolate chips, irresistible deep eyes that could hold a thousand word vocabulary with each blink, twitch and extra fur-skin on furrowed brow rising and falling to the inflections of my voice, right there at my side, in every room, at every hour of the day.

So the rain bird and I set out exactly one week after Lukey’s passing to adopt a dog we had found in secret against the goose’s wishes.  We had kept this one quiet alright, and set out on our journey to fill our aching senses of touch missing silky fur, sight missing ignorant cuteness, smell missing that inoffensive odor of dog that becomes more desired than disdained to dog lovers, and sound missing a language only dog lovers understand spoken and exchanged through howls, yips, growls and barks.

and we found this…

954-high-school-817

pitiful as he was, well, being last and all.  The rest of his siblings had already been chosen, but not Ezra.  Here he remained…caged, all day, every day, having already been returned from a prior adoption that just couldn’t keep him. He had tasted freedom, only to be returned to what seemed to be a hopeless future.  That is, until we set our gaze on him.  He was simultaneously adorable and incorrigible.

Turns out the dog we had researched and traveled over an hour away to adopt, just wasn’t going to make it back to the shelter in time from spending a few days with his foster mom, but if we wanted, we could certainly take Ezra.

Pitiful and playful…lumpy and loveable. If nothing else, I felt like his name was meant for us, Bible lover that I am.  I knew Ezra was a minor prophet, but I didn’t know just what mysterious meaning his name held.  I’m big on meanings of words and names.  They seem to hold foundation and base to the soul behind a name, either steadying it or affirming its proneness to falter. And the original meanings of words, well the richness runs deeper than the sound or use of our language we so often take for granted or unskillfully use.  Words and names give authenticity to what the heart is speaking. If we use them too casually or idly, it’s an indication the heart could use some digging and tillin’ about it, fallow as it is.  If we think…if we pray… before our words have a chance of getting ahead of our tongues and slip too quickly out between the thin space of our lips, they can speak life and truth leaving a legacy about us. A rich, gospel infused legacy.  So this little lumpy guy Ezra, well his name means, “the Lord helps.” I guess that rang true for Ezra that day we adopted him, sinful as it was going against the gooses’ wishes.

I’m not downplaying that sin. With my incorrigible pup in tow, I found it to be more of a grueling challenge than the comfort I was seeking in a new companion. I almost gave up on poor Ezra.  Through tears, I begged the goose’s forgiveness and vowed to continue the arduous task of caring for this lump of nothing but naughty. Five years later, the goose still isn’t crazy about Ezra. The goose complains, “he barks too much!”  I say he is just doing his job, what he was created to do.” But praise God He can redeem all sin for His glory so we are free to live and love in a mysterious swaddling of grace. A grace to care for animals passed on to us through the Creator’s heart, an assignment if you will. Like the first one he gave to the first man, Adam.

And so it is with Ezra…the dog I purchased and adopted in sin, God has used to teach me more about Himself and it goes something like this:

I am Ezra’s master and he is the creature.

I chose him in sin.  God chose me while I was dead in sin (Ephesians 2:5)

I adopted him and I lavish love on him. Heaps and heaps of love he could never earn.  I am adopted (Ephesians 1:5, Romans 8:15) and He lavishes love on me (1st John 3:1).

I loved him from the moment I saw him and knew he belonged in our family.

I provide for all his needs, physically and emotionally. He never has to worry about a shelter, food, comfort,

perfect care… My God supplies all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

Ezra’s eyes are ever on me filled with trust. Yet he still fears me leaving and suffers separation anxiety, even though I will never leave him anywhere like he was left and torn so irreversibly from his mama.  In fact, I reassure him that I love him several times a day. My choosing Ezra was a sort of promise and covenant sealing the adoption. And because of that covenant, I am responsible for Ezra and his needs and comfort never go unmet.

Does this sound familiar, beloved?  It should!  Read Ephesians 1: 1-14 and remind yourself of these heapings of unafforded grace.

When it’s time for a walk all I have to do is say, “are you ready?” And Ezra runs to the door. I always use a lead with Ezra even though he doesn’t wander too far away without one, for safety purposes we need to stay connected. It is for Ezra’s good that he stays on the lead so he doesn’t catch a whiff of something tempting, set his nose to the ground, and ignore all of my commands, while instinct takes him further and further from boundaries of love.  Often during our walk I let the lead lengthen, but that isn’t always good for either of us, you see because Ezra gets easily distracted at all the fun whiffs and smells in the woods and so when the lead is long, Ezra tends to leave my side and wander off on a scent that creates tension in the lead.  He is no longer in step with me and force is needed to reign him in.  Other times, Ezra breaks our pace and rhythm by thinking he has to “mark” every little stem of a weed or bush there is instead of keeping in step with me and our destination on point.

I don’t know if you are catching anything I am writing about in terms of how we are all a bit more like Ezra than we think.  Isn’t it just like us to want to leave our mark on so many things, instead of staying focused on the one thing we were called to?  We just long to be accepted…noticed…remembered….

You see.  Jesus says, I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We need to stay connected to the vine, in order to bear much fruit in Christ, in order to move freely to His rhythm, walking in step with Him.  In order to leave that gospel infused legacy, we need to abide in Christ…stay tethered…  If we don’t, we too, will end up lost in a world of wanderlust, fending for ourselves, outside the boundaries of safe grace we are free to walk in while we keep in step with the Spirit. But just as Ezra has this instinctual and unstoppable urge to follow any scent outside the path, we too, have an instinctual sin nature about us, that is easily distracted and pulls so strongly at our curiosity, that we tend to take our gaze off the Prize and chase after anything that seems to feel or look good here and now.

Scripture commands us to “keep our eyes on the Author and Perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2).  But when we take our gaze off Christ, our hearts are attracted to far lesser things that promise excitement, comfort, success, money, love, fulfillment, even health and wellness, calling to us from the darkened woods on either side of our light-filled path with Christ.  Imagine,

the scent of money

or success,

or sports,

or status,

or an ungodly relationship,

or envying our neighbor or sister in Christ and her marriage,

being nothing more than the straggling weeds Ezra stops to sniff or leave his mark on along the way.

WEEDS! and if the weeds aren’t bad enough…he will stop to sniff out

dead, wet leaves….

the feces of other animals…

and the putridity of a half-eaten, rotting carcass, full of maggots…

These things actually smell good to Ezra!  He doesn’t know that they are bad for him, and can make him fatally sick.

They are deceiving….

And so it is dear fellow follower, if not for being tethered to Christ, we would be off full sprint through deep woods, only to our own folly and destruction.

What grace we experience tension on this tether! The tension ensures us that we are still connected to the Vine and that even though we are sin-driven on scents of deceiving pleasure, fruit will be bore as we become more and more disciplined along our journey with our Master.  And though we may lag behind when the hills are steep, the next go around on that same hill we will have found that we have gained momentum as we go from sniffin’ and a laggin’ to “laying aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Well that’s it fellow sojourners, I hope you enjoyed my gospel for dogs, cuz God can redeem even my sin of adopting poor Ezra against the Goose’s wishes and redeeming it in a story for His glory!

Stay connected!

 

Fat Tears

Fat tears fall harder…

as if they hold more weight…as if they came from a deeper well of stored up shouts and unkind words, silence and washed out wishes…

cowardly prayers dipped in doubt.

Some are yours. You know you stuffed them there. And others dove in before you could stop them right out your closest’s mouth. And together they rose higher and higher inside that pain well sloshing around a bit … unnoticeable as they were… like the lulled sloshing of waves against wet sand making something that had once left its mark disappear.

Like the familiar things that set rhythm and sweet safeness to a relationship. The mysterious things like the arched curve of two pairs of feet that tread miles of shore in step with each other.  Or deepened the imprints of a mattress with weight and heat side by side. Or someone you once knew and have missed every day even when you can’t really remember what you’re missing because what you think you miss is really an unanswered future wish.

sometimes these things get erased in the waves for a while.

Sometimes we don’t hear the sound or notice their disappearance until the big waves finally crash in,

….and so it is with fat tears.  They sort of just come crashing. They aren’t even nice about trickling  out eye corners or sliding down the high bone of our cheeks gracefully as if the destination they were aiming for somehow made the journey more glamorous. No.  Fat. Big. Tears….just fall hard and they fall fast. It’s like they jump off that tiny lower ridge trying desperately to hold them back, but their force is too great. Because if they stayed in that deep sloshing heart-well your spirit would drown. It doesn’t matter where you are when the pain dam breaks.  No, pain isn’t kind to social settings or polite enough to think of those it may make uneasy when they see it. Pain just stores itself up in that well reserved for things I’ve gotten over and things that aren’t supposed to matter anymore, and overflows when you least expect it.  You expected you were over this….

by now.

And you really thought you were.  But the fat ones,

they tell a different story.

image

Do you ever notice how someone else’s joy can deepen your pain? In a way that makes the most mature of us, the ones who have walked with Jesus more years than we singled it, barely wait to be able to see God and ask Him a thousand questions about our suffering. Yet we wait…

we wait more than the watchman waits for the morning  (Psalm 130).

we wait because no eye has seen nor ear has heard any God besides You who acts on behalf of those who wait wait for Him. (Isaiah 64:4).

We wait because there is transformation in the waiting. A glorious becoming…that looks more and more like Jesus as we behold Him…

through fat tears  (2nd Corinthians 3:18).

We wait because it renews our strength (Isiah 40).

we wait because Christ waited and God is long suffering towards us and wishes that no one should perish.

We wait without answers so the answers we were never looking for are found while we wait in the pages of His Word where our eyes fall on words like Hope, and Faith, that hold far more virtue than knowing why now.

We wait because waiting ignites prayer.

And prayer steadies the soul.

And in the waiting we find His faithfulness.  His faithfulness in a spouse who though may not understand us, and may be one of the closests who wounds us from time to time, still lets those fat tears fall..ten years falling and doesn’t seem to tire of them but gently prays to the rhythm of their dropping.

And in the waiting we learn that the joy well goes deeper than the pain well because His gaze feels hotter on us in our pain and His scent is sweeter to us…and we wake to that aroma that is thick and heavy and carries with it the weight of His presence.

Its warmer in the waiting because that robe of righteousness wraps us a bit tighter, and an unspeakable peace blankets us as the Holy Spirit wraps Himself around us like a warm autumn wind.

and in the waiting we once again unpack those heavy burdens, that stayed a bit too long this time, and hand them over to the One  who joyfully exchanges them for heaps and heaps of this thing called grace.

And grace raises our eyes until they are once again locked in perfect Love.

Those fat tears?  I suspect they’ll be back from time to time. Our theme that runs through our story here and now runs broken. But it’s a holy broken woven into a grander story, and it looks more and more like the One who holds every single tear in a bottle,

even the fat ones.