I. Want. To. See.

Here’s to another Five Minute Friday where I take a one-word prompt and write about it for a brief five minutes. You can join by linking up with a group of writers over at http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday.

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SEE

Blind eyes long to see.

Voice rises, desperate to be heard.

Presses for mercy despite the crowds threatening to silence its plea.

Jesus hears and pauses to embrace this broken.

Drawing beggars to Himself.

Inviting neediness to encounter the All Sufficient.

What do you want Me to do for you?

And door swings wide open for glory to descend and weigh heavy…

Upon me.

The needy and broken one.

 

Lord, I want to see.

No hesitation.

No second-guessing.

Just a plea for sight.

For eyes to be fully opened.

Filled with vision of Holy.

 

All I want this year is to see You, Jesus.

To have my life opened to grace.

To follow You.

To praise God.

And to bring a thankful crowd along with me.

(Inspired by thoughts from Luke 18:35-43)

Giving Voice to the Voiceless

When I awoke to find the following link on my facebook wall this morning, it stirred me to share its message. Although its content is one of heart wrenching sadness, it is reality for thousands of women across the world. Young women like my own daughters. The very thought of my girls experiencing anything so harrowing unsettles me to the core, prompting me to be a voice for those who weep in silence. Alone. Resigned to their lives of captivity. Today I share a cry from Bombay Teen Challenge, a ministry that is effectively reaching into the darkness of one of the largest red light districts in the world. Bringing the hope of Jesus Christ to those who sit in the abyss of Satan’s domain. Giving voice to the unheard cries of daughters, and sisters, and mothers. Rescuing captives; Bringing light to the darkness. One life at a time.

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Beautifully, yet hauntingly written, today’s post is a call to awareness. More importantly, it is a call to prayer and action. May you become a voice for the voiceless as you find your place in bringing hope into this world.

http://bombayteenchallenge.org/2013/07/lane-14-4/#sthash.GdwJlIPp.dpuf

At the Foot of the “Cross”ing Over

“Let us cross over to the other side of the lake. “

Such an unassuming statement.

But it is safe to assume that no statement is unassuming when spoken by the mouth of Jesus. Instead, this particular suggestion to “cross over” was the launchpad for a chain of miraculous events leading to one of my all-time favorite Bible stories.

For starters, a relatively simple journey across the Sea of Galilee turned into a stormy adventure that nearly capsized a boatload of seasoned fisherman. If it weren’t for the calming voice of the Calmer of the Seas, this tale may have taken a turn for the worse and ended with the drowning of the boat’s occupants. Thankfully, God had further plans for this motley crew and delivered them safely to the shore of the Gadarenes (or Gerasenes, depending upon translation).

While the miraculous delivery from a raging tempest makes for a great story, it is not today’s primary focus. My purpose is to draw your attention to Jesus’ interaction with one, lone man. A man so bound by Satan that he was driven to live naked and tormented among the tombs of the dead. One man, held captive by the forces of darkness, banished to live in solitude and misery. One man who encountered a Savior who deemed it necessary to “cross over to the other side” and set a prisoner free.

One man for whom Jesus went out of His way.

And it changed his life.

Forever.

With one word from the Lord, a legion of demons was transferred into a passel of pigs. And a man, once driven insane by the powers of darkness, was catapulted into the light of the Kingdom of God. Transformed by the Shaper of Souls. Destined to new beginnings.

New Life.

While a herd of demon-possessed swine hurling themselves to their death in the lake was what initially drew the attention of the surrounding community, the people were even more startled to see the man who had once been naked and crazed now sitting peacefully at the feet of Jesus. Fully clothed and in his right mind.

Completely. Totally. Healed.

All because Jesus was determined to “cross over to the other side” for him.

Today I am reminded of the fact that Jesus is still in the business of “crossing over.” And I’m thankful that He does so for the likes of me.

I have a Savior who is willing to go out of His way for me, even knowing that He will not always be welcomed when He arrives. And I am grateful. I’m grateful to have a God who sees beyond the external life I portray to others and is not afraid to deal with my demons. Those things that hold me captive. Thoughts that torment me. Worries that keep me awake at night. Anxieties that compel me to act contrary to who I am created to be.

Jesus is purposeful in His dealings with mankind. He does nothing haphazardly. Nothing without divine intent. Even when we can’t see the end from our beginnings. There is a miracle in the making for each one who encounters the Word of God. There is a freedom coming. A day of deliverance.

A time to sit at the feet of Jesus and simply marvel at being a recipient of so much love.

May today be your day of freedom as you encounter the King of the Crossing Over.

And those demons that haunt you? Well, they are in for a mighty big surprise when they come up against the Savior of the world.

I sure hope they like bacon.

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My Life as a Contronym

A friend recently shared a facebook post about the absurdity of contronyms. For those of you non-English majors, contronyms are words that are their own opposites. For example, the word oversight means “to supervise or oversee.” On the flip side, it can also mean “a failure to see or observe.” Hence, the caution which one should extend when hiring an overseer. You want to be sure he fulfills the first definition and not the second.

Likewise, the word cleave can be defined as either “to cling to or adhere” or “to split or sever.” Thus, when one vows to cleave to a spouse, it is important that he or she is referring to the first definition for cleave rather than the second. Otherwise, divorce will be inevitable. How about the word weather? It either means “to withstand” (as in, safely weather the storm) or “to be worn away,” much like a stone is weathered by the elements. How about fast? Is it “to move quickly” or “to remain fixed or unmoving”?

k1989607 Quite a conundrum these contronyms create…

The more I pondered these confusing contradictions of the English language, the more easily it  became to see a resemblance to myself within these definitions.

I am a human contronym.

For as much as I desire to live firmly and resolutely, all too often, I find my life reflecting the values  in which I believe, much the same as a contronym continually contradicts itself. Perhaps you can relate, as well.

For instance, I purpose to hold my tongue and refrain from speaking words that are less than encouraging, only to find myself freely spouting an opinion that would better be left unsaid. I determine to take my thoughts captive only to have them overtaken by anxiousness when a situation rears its ugly head, causing my faith to totter precariously. I set my mind to avoid temptation, yet tumble headfirst into yet another snare set before me. And the list goes on…

And on…

And on…

Just when I am tempted to despair at the thought of ever getting a handle on this Christian life, I find myself encouraged by someone who has shared in the same challenges. One who has faced the same struggles with self-control. Perhaps you have come across a few of his writings in the New Testament, too. It seems the apostle Paul himself may have had a bit of a bent toward “contronymdom,” as suggested by the following excerpt from Romans 7.

This is a segment of Scripture I have personally tagged with the title The War Within:

The trouble is with me.
For I am all too human.
A slave to sin.
I don’t really understand myself.
For I want to do what is right.
But I don’t do it.
Instead, I do what I hate.
I want to do what is right,
But I can’t .
I want to do what is good,
But I don’t.
I don’t want to do what is wrong,
But I do it anyway.
I have discovered this principle of life –
That when I want to do what is right,
I inevitably do what is wrong.
I love God’s law with all my heart,
But there is another power within me
That is at war with my mind.
This power makes me a slave
To the sin that is still within me.
Oh what a miserable person I am!
Who will free me from this life
That is dominated by sin and death?
Thank God!
The answer is in Jesus Christ
Our Lord.
So now there is no condemnation
For those who belong to Christ Jesus.
And because I belong to Him,
The power of the life-giving Spirit
Has freed me
From the power of sin
That leads to death.

In the face of flying contronyms, faith flies freely. The answer to these opposing behaviors at war within is to take them before the throne of grace.

The answer, dear friends, is Jesus Christ. Our Lord.

For those who belong to Him, there are no opposite behaviors ruling higher than His mercies extend. There are no frustrating contronyms that have the power to overcome the life-giving Spirit of the Living God who has freed us from the control of sin and death.

There’s only love.

And that, dear ones, is more than enough.

You have His Word on it.

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The Mystery

Jesus,
You are
A paradox.
An enigma.
A mystery
I see in part
Tho’ I strain to view
The all.

Elusively playful,
Presenting more questions
Than answers.
So satisfyingly baffling,
Giving mere glimpses of the whole,
Leaving me yearning for more.
Pressing forward to piece together
The puzzling combinations of a God
Who completes me in every way,
Tho’ I am broken and powdered
As the dust from whence I came.

Seeing dimly,
I strain to view
The One who knows me fully
Yet invites me still to “Come.”
Open handed, You hold me tightly.
With gentleness, You love me fiercely.
Capturing my heart, You set me free
To walk in liberty by Your side.
Held firmly, yet released
To dance upon the heights,
I run with abandon in broad places.

You invite me to dinner
In the center of the battlefield.
Surrounded by foes,
Yet fully safe in Your care,
I am garrisoned and loosed
With the same spark
Of redeeming love that
Ignited my soul at the foot
Of a blood-stained cross.
With dying breath,
You give me life.
And as I die,
I too can live
This life of Mystery.

Hands placing last piece of a Puzzle

Fully Owned

As I ponder the rapidly approaching celebration of Easter, I find myself feeling a bit melancholy.  I don’t tend to get overly excited about any particular designated day of celebration, and perhaps that is something I should work on. Or perhaps it is simply because I choose to remember worthy celebrations in the moment rather than only once a year when we all are supposed to be grateful together.

While I am a HUGE advocate for remembering and pondering God’s goodness, I find that the holidays themselves often leave me feeling more frustrated than they should. Everywhere I look, I am bombarded by marketing strategies twisting the true meaning of our celebrations. Christmas decorations begin showing up in July and are quickly crowded out by the rush to celebrate that special someone in your life as the colored lights and stockings make room for red-foiled hearts, which give way to colored eggs and brightly-wrapped candies, which are hurriedly replaced with reminders to “remember Mom,” “remember Dad,” “memorialize the deceased,” “celebrate our Independence,” and on and on…

Now before you dub me the perpetual Holiday Scrooge and envision me holed up in my cave like some backwoods hermit, let me assure you that I DO celebrate holidays with family members. LOTS of them. I just don’t get into all the “extras” like some folks do. In truth, I find the greatest celebrations of the seasons generally take place within my own mind and heart, most often in the early morning hours before the mass rejoicing begins. For it is in the quiet of the predawn hours when I am most at rest and able to connect with the One who makes all things worth celebrating… every day.

So before the rush of Easter morning comes, I am declaring my gratefulness to a Savior who came more than 2,000 years ago and comes for me still… moment by moment, day after day, because HE has deemed me worthy of His presence.

I have been rescued from my captivity by a King who sweeps into the very heart of my depravity and despair in order to free me in every way.

And I continue to live in this perpetual state of being rescued. A once-and-done, yet constant, day-by-day, in-this-very-moment ransoming. Saved from Satan’s schemes; saved from the enticement of my own flesh; rescued from death and its eternal consequences.

The Cross of Christ will forever be my mainstay; the blood of Jesus my consuming redemption.

His loving sacrifice swallows my past, leads my present, and propels me toward my destiny of eternal light and life. Hope for today, strength for the journey, and victory made available right now with the assurance of overcoming life forever. And so I present my own offering of love in response to the ransom paid for me…

Here I am.
Just me.
Human,
Fragile,
Needy.
Aware of my lack.
Aware I am in over my head,
Yet drowning in Your love.
Asking if You see me,
While confident You do.
So incomplete,
But completely Your own.
Confronting the truth in me
With the Truth of You.
Reaching,
Finding
Myself in You.
Fully Owned.

May we remember and embrace the fragrance of Calvary’s love.

Even as we live as ones fully owned.

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Jesus, Beloved Groom of Harlot Souls

God’s grace to me means: ____________________________________________

When I read the above statement in a devotional book challenging me to to “fill in the blank” with my own thoughts, I had to pause. How can I possibly define God’s grace? How can I accurately express in earthly words a characteristic of my Father’s presence that is so otherworldly?

And yet, I wanted to put words to my belief. I desired to pen how grace has played out in my life. With words falling FAR short of the extent of His boundless mercies toward me, I began my response…

God’s Grace:

Lavishing the relentless prodigal with unrelenting love, welcoming me home and calling me His own – time after time after time…

Granting His surname to the village prostitute, knowing full-well she will desert Him and drag His name through the gutters of this life.

Giving the keys of His kingdom to the prisoner who chooses to remain captive to her abuser as she scorns the ransom and refuses the gift. Yet still He remains: Jesus, Beloved Groom of Harlot Souls.

And as I penned that final statement, I could go no further. For I believe that the name given to Jesus here is the consummation of God’s grace to me – Jesus, Beloved Groom of Harlot Souls.

While I cannot claim rights to the coining of this phrase that I first read a few years ago in a poem authored by Steven James, I can claim the rights to its fulfillment in my life. For while I have heard Jesus entitled many things, perhaps nothing resonates so clearly within me as this title given to my gracious Savior.

Jesus, Beloved Groom of Harlot Souls.

I realize that some people may find this reference appalling. But to those of us who have dabbled in the world, mouthing words of faithfulness while playing the adulteress and flinging ourselves headfirst into earthly or spiritual prostitution, these words are some of the most gracious and hope-filled words ever penned.

Who but Jesus would continue to remain so kind and faithful to a betrothed who offers herself so freely to the lusts of others? Who but Christ would receive and welcome with such grace one so used up? A bride so addicted to promiscuous pleasures that while she mouths words of repentance, her heart is simultaneously turning to thoughts of treachery. One whose heart cries out for forgiveness with the very breath of betrayal already present upon her lips.

Who, indeed, but Christ.

The Groom of Heaven bends near to bestow compassion upon the very one who holds the nail and hammer meant to pierce Him. And while He releases mercy upon my soul, I tighten my grip and draw back my arm to release yet another blow upon the nail’s head.

Why does Jesus remain so gracious to one so unfaithful as me?

Because He knows my frame. He remembers that I am as dust, that my heart is fragile and turns and scatters with the slightest whispering of wind. He knows my weaknesses, that I am prone to pursue selfishness with the aggression of a starving wolf. And that is why He stays so close to me. Why He leans down with compassion ever near. To keep me from devouring myself.

While I may not have eyes to see His presence, the waywardness of my soul senses a stirring of His nearness and wrestles with my will. Grace tugs against my bonds; mercy beats against the prison gates; love goes in search of the key to free me from the confines of this self-imposed abyss… And all the while, my Savior is receiving the hammer blows meant for me.

That, my friends, is GRACE.

That is the grace given to you.

The grace given to me.

And while it is true that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, Son of God, Risen Lord, and King of kings,

He is also Jesus, Beloved Groom of Harlot Souls – the One Who relentlessly pursues me with His grace.

The One who captivates my heart and chooses me still –

Time after time after time…

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her… She shall sing there as in the days of her youth…
 
And it shall be in that day, says the Lord, That you will call Me, ‘My Husband’, and no longer call Me, ‘My Master,’…

I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.
 
…Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy… (from Hosea 2)

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