I will give you thanks, for You answered me;
You have become my salvation.
The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
From the house of the LORD we bless You.
The LORD is God, and He has made His light shine upon us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will give thanks;
You are my God, and I will exalt You.
~Psalm 118: 21-28
They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the King of Israel!”
I saw Dad’s restlessness when I arrived for my night’s stay in the hospital. He had a look of fear and bewilderment in his eyes. The look that always broke my heart.
After the nurses finished their rounds and things began to quiet down, I changed the channel on the TV to one of those meditative stations the hospitals make available. As the beautiful photography and soft instrumentals drew him in, he began to relax. He watched for over an hour. I’d look at him from time to time and he’d catch my eye… giggle a little… then cry.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so moved before,” he said. “I keep praying the same words over and over, ‘Forgive me, Lord…forgive me, Lord…forgive me, Lord.'”
Some might wonder at his confession, but I think I understood his meaning…
When we are weary, bone-tired, dazed, and confused, wondering if the dark night of the soul will ever end; then, suddenly, we catch a glimpse of His beauty — the wonder of His creation, the soothing sounds of His music — the truth of knowing He is in control hits us.
We are awestruck.
We turn. We refocus. We repent.
He is greater than all our fears. We know He loves us…more.
My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
Rereading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning:
It remains a startling story to those who never understand that the men and women who are truly filled with light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their imperfect existence…
The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us.
As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful to those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed.
God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness…
To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.
“God blesses those who realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them…
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
~Jesus (Matt 5:2; 11:28-30 MSG)
It always hung in our bedroom.
From our first apartment to our last home I used my exquisite wedding veil as a focal point in our sacred, holy place. A hand-made gift of tatting lace with our names and the date of our wedding, alongside our wedding picture, completed the memorial. Throughout our years it was a special place in our home. Many days through many years I lingered by the picture, fingering the embroidery on the veil. Remembering…
Seeing how young we were and so completely inexperienced in life, the photographer captured our joy laced with hope. My best friend played Debussy and my sister sang, “Savior, Like a Shepherd, Lead Us.” My grandfather led us in our vows to one another.
We. meant. every. word.
After the divorce I had no idea what to do with the veil or my dress. I strongly doubted my daughter would ever want to use them; nevertheless, I couldn’t give them away. I still loved Phat. Even after all that was said and done, I knew I would always love him.
Feelings come and go. Love is a choice.
Noticing how dusty the veil had become, I gently washed it by hand. As I did the lace began to fall apart, disintegrating as I pulled it out of the sudsy water. Once I realized what was happening I quickly laid it on a towel and began blotting it dry. I wondered if the tears would ever stop flowing…
When I found my little house and decided to buy it, I had another bedroom to decorate.
I remembered my tattered veil, folded away, as I began calling myself the names I knew I deserved.
That’s when it all came together.
That’s when God spoke to my heart.
He stopped me … (thank You, Lord, for stopping me).
Gently, He told me that I am His bride.
Lovingly, He reminded me that I am redeemed.
Tenderly, He guided me to His word.
I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine!
For the LORD has called you,
Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit…
O troubled one, storm-crushed, uncomforted!
See, your stones will be framed in fair colours,
and your bases (foundations) will be sapphires.
Above the surface over their heads was what looked like a throne
made of blue sapphire.
And high above this throne was a figure
whose appearance was like that of a man.
The One sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones
––jasper and carnelian.
And the glow of an emerald circled His throne like a rainbow.
I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can take new courage,
for we can hold on to His promise with confidence.
This confidence is like a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.
It leads us through the curtain of heaven into God’s inner sanctuary.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul,
a hope both sure and steadfast
and one which enters within the veil.
My tattered veil became a garment of salvation…literally. Through His restoration and assurance of eternal love, I understood I needed to create a symbol of my Heavenly Bridegroom and of His covering for me. I adorned the veil with crystals of emerald and sapphire. I created a bow of colors just like the one I imagined encircling His throne. And now, every night before I go to sleep, I look up at my wedding veil. My once tattered veil. And, I envision the beauty of the One who has loved me without condition.
I remember His holiness ~
His banner over me is love.
~scriptures taken from Isaiah, Revelation, and Hebrews
I was raised to be good and right.
I followed the rules.
I was sure Jesus saved me, but also believed my works kept me saved.
“We come from good stock.”
(No one is good but God.)
“But, we go to the right church. Those other churches don’t understand what it takes to truly be a Christian.”
(God saved you by His special favor when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.)
“I can’t dance. It’s against my religion.”
(Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.)
I once thought all these things were so very important,
but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.
Yes, everything else is worthless
when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
I have discarded everything else,
counting it all as garbage,
so that I may have Christ and become one with Him.
I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law,
but I trust Christ to save me.
For God’s way of making us right with Himself depends on faith.
As a result, I can really know Christ
and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead.
I can learn what it means to suffer with Him, sharing in His death,
so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead!
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things
or that I have already reached perfection!
But I keep working toward that day when…
I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.
No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be,
but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing:
Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize
for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.
~from Philippians 3
Jesus, you know what’s inside of my heart,
When I am coming apart at the seams.
But that’s when my true colors come shining through,
I know that You are the One for me.
A song by Dan Marks, “All That I Need”
Oh, how I wish I had always known this in my innermost being!
I do get glimpses of it, knowing He has been, and will always be, the One who never leaves.
He is the One who will always love.
He accepts me. All of me.
Even the ugliest parts…He has them covered.
He forgives fully and without exception.
I am free with Him.
In Him, I can be me.
(He created me…He likes me!)
My struggle, and possibly yours, is my flesh wanting more.
Why do I keep running to the world?
Why, when deep inside of me I KNOW, He is all I need, do I still look for more…?
When the dark clouds come and bring down the rain,
I know that You will sustain me, Lord.
I surely haven’t always lived that truth.
I have had moments, even years, of living it:
I did get through the miscarriage with His sustaining power.
I did feel His strong hand supporting me through the trials of raising three children.
I was empowered through His strength when illness and homeschooling converged.
I guess that’s why I’m so befuddled with the whys of my most recent years…
…the last five, to be exact.
Why, when I knew Him in victory, did I not hold on to Him in tragedy?
Loneliness, revictimization, fatigue … these are all explanations of what happened within my self … Years of fighting with demons, stuffing the pain, and questioning my illness led to a yearning for relief, a way out of the despair.
That’s when I let go and I let my flesh reign.
I still grieve about it. And, I imagine I always will. He forgets all our sins, but He didn’t give us that ability. When we forget, much of the time it’s an act of denial because we do not want to see the truth of our actions.
Honestly, I don’t want to forget.
I’m okay with the grief.
I’m even okay with the recognition that I did not make a mistake.
I sinned against my husband, my children, and my family.
I sinned against a holy God who gave me the best gifts in life.
I spit in the face of His blessings.
The knowledge of that choice brings me to my knees again and again and again…
Not in self-loathing, or thinking I must continue to ask for forgiveness;
I know He has forgiven me.
I fall on my knees in overwhelming thanksgiving to a great God who loves unconditionally!
So, you see,
I don’t want to forget.
I don’t want to deny what I am capable of doing.
I want to remember the lesson for the remainder of my time on this earth.
And when I get to heaven, then He will wipe away all my tears…
Oh God, help me to remember what I’ve learned.
Your love is all that I need,
All that I need, all that I need.
Your love is all that I need…
All that I need is You.
We must learn to live in the tension between the real and the ideal.
It is in the tension that the beauty of salvation is seen.
~a paraphrase from Andy Stanley
When he said that yesterday, I felt more grace flood my soul than I have felt in a very long while. For someone to recognize the tension between the real and ideal, and then allow for a “less than perfect” reality … Well, I haven’t heard that kind of grace spoken much recently.
Another gracious word from a discussion over the weekend:
Satan calls you by your sin.
God calls you by your name.
And that’s when I remembered, this is warfare.
The names I’ve been called reveal the disappointment others feel toward me.
And the names I’ve called myself reveal my own disgust.
It feels like a flesh and blood battle when flesh and blood people are speaking the words. But, I must remember that we do not war against flesh and blood. Satan can speak through people, without them even realizing they are being used. Remember Peter? One moment he’s declaring Jesus is the Christ and the next, Jesus tells him to “get behind me, Satan!”
It wasn’t that Peter turned into Jesus’ enemy, it’s that he didn’t understand the Father’s plan for Jesus’ life. And in his misunderstanding he spoke.
We do this all the time when we assume we know what God is doing in someone’s life. We imagine we can see where they need to be headed, and yet, only God knows the plans He has for each of us. He is the One working out our salvation for His good will. He is the One empowering us to do the “good works” He has planned for us to accomplish from the foundation of the earth. He is the One who sees all the intricate details of each of our lives and is directing our paths as He sees fit.
Remember, Beloved, when others speak untruths concerning you, when you are “labelled” as they see fit, know that is not My name for you. I call you Beloved. I call you Redeemed. I call you My Child. Stand firm in the armor I’ve given you.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness,
against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil,
so that after the battle you will still be standing firm.
Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness
For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News,
so that you will be fully prepared.
In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan.
Put on salvation as your helmet,
and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.
Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them,
“If anyone wants to become My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.”
(Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)
When we preach that Christ was crucified,
the Jews are offended, and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;
and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be destroyed,
and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.
Since Christ lives within you, even though your body will die because of sin,
your spirit is alive because you have been made right with God.
May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”
Embrace the cross
Where Jesus suffered
Though it will cost
All you claim as yours
Your sacrifice will seem small
Beside the treasure
Eternity can’t measure
What Jesus holds in store
Embrace the love
The cross requires
Cling to the one
Whose heart knew every pain
Receive from Jesus
Fountains of compassion
Only He can fashion
Your heart to move as His
Oh, wondrous cross our desires rest in you
Lord Jesus make us bolder
To face with courage the shame and disgrace
You bore upon Your shoulder
Embrace the life
That comes from dying
Come trace the steps
The Savior walked for you
An empty tomb
Concludes Golgotha’s sorrow
Endure then till tomorrow
Your cross of suffering
Embrace the cross
Embrace the cross
The cross of Jesus