Open the Box

It’s time to take God out of the box. We don’t do ourselves any favors by keeping Him there. He isn’t limited by what we don’t see. We are limited by what we don’t believe. Lately, my faith has been tested. I’ve been introduced to the prophetic, interceded with the tongue speakers, and covered the feet of the spiritually slain. I don’t get it. I haven’t experienced it, but to deny it is God, well, that just crams Him back into the box I’ve rebelliously fashioned. God is beyond our understanding, He works outside of our comprehension, and He moves outside of our line of sight. For that we should be grateful!

Let me introduce you to Gloria. Gloria doesn’t put God in a box, mostly because He’s never fit in one and secondly, because how she came to know Him. Do you ever question if God loves sinners? Gloria doesn’t have to. See, Gloria was introduced to God, to the Spirit of Almighty God, high as a kite and drunk. And it all started with a question, “How you gonna come to me like this?!” See, she’d just gotten a call, from a Christian couple that wanted to help her out financially, but first they wanted to pray with her. So Gloria, not wanting to show up looking like she was three sheets to the wind, “prettied up” and met up with them, and obediently she prayed. But, something happened while she prayed. A song welled up from her chest and broke through her drunken haze and resounded in the air. She admits that she didn’t know what it was, or where it came from at first, only that it was, but as she continued to sing, a high like she had never experienced before hit her. Euphoric, we’d say. “Like that first hit of crack,” she explained. “You know, when you take that first hit, it feels so good. It takes you to this place you ain’t neva been, but what you don’t know when you get it is, you ain’t eva gonna get it again. It’s what makes crack addicts addicts. They still looking for that first high. But it ain’t comin’.” I had no idea what she was talking about. I hadn’t had that first hit, and up until that moment, I’d never talked with someone who admittedly had. She confessed that she found it strange, but she instinctively knew it was the Spirit of God. She left her friends place amazed and encouraged, because crazy as it seemed she had met God.

I know, our God in a box wouldn’t meet a junkie in the midst of her high. He would wait, until she was sobered up or reaching out and singing “Just as I am” in church right before an alter call. You won’t convince Gloria of that. Her testimony continued, “So when I got home after that prayer and that crazy moment of high with Jesus, I came down and said, ‘God, if that’s You, You gonna do that again?” She was skeptical, but she sat in her room, completely dark, and started talking to God and sure enough, the Spirit hit her hard, just as intensely as before, just as beautifully, just as amazingly. She shook her head in the that part of the retelling of her story as she obviously felt that thrill all over again, “And I realized then, that wasn’t like any high you gonna find on earth…that God ain’t about giving one time hits and it’s over. That high was available to me at any time I asked, because my Jesus loves me.”

It’s taken me a few days to process this testimony. It has taken me some time to wrap my arms around this God, so different from the One that I’ve grown up with, so different from the box labeled “Acceptable experience”, so different from the stories I’ve heard in the past. But as always, the proof of God is the life that is changed. Oh my beautiful Saviour, is Gloria a life changed! He might have met her as a sinner but He saved her to be more, and she hasn’t disappointed Him. See, my story of being saved at six and journeying through life and experiencing God at every turn might be enough to soften someone’s heart for Jesus, But a crack addict, a junkie, a soul desperate for the next fix, they need Gloria’s story. They need to hear that when we sing “Just as I am” we really mean wherever and whenever that might be. They need to know that God doesn’t wait for them to put on some respectable clothes and clean up, He wants to clothe them with grace and mercy, a wardrobe that withstands the test of time. They need to know that God isn’t sitting in a box somewhere waiting for some pious, religious person to deign to release Him on the masses. He is real and reaching and calling to them “Come.” He isn’t limited by our boxes, but we limit the True Life He gives when we relegate Him to one.

It’s time to open the box, for His sake, for Gloria’s sake, but most of all for YOUR sake.

Monday Mourning

Someone once said to me, “I pray for you harder on Mondays. They seem to be really tough on you.” He was right. They are, and I’m not 100% sure why. It’s like the spirit world collides with my emotions and suddenly I’m very aware of the sorrows and hardships around me. Sometimes I get the hard hitting news on Monday, and sometimes I feel the pain of sorrowful news I will receive at the end of the week. I’m not sure why and what it is all about, but I know that I always find myself on my knees and interceding on Mondays.

I wish that I were a more entertaining writer, that my content was light and airy, but the truth is, I write when I am burdened. See, I learned this method of processing from David. I figure someone who was King and was tagged as “One after God’s own heart” must have some wisdom in how he vented. David would get upset or sad or mad and he would run to God. He would let him know how he was hurting the source of his pain and his desire for resolution and as he sang, or played, or wrote, God revealed the Truth. He does the same with me. When I get hurt or or hurt for others or feel the pain that has no name or sometimes origin, I run to Daddy God…and I pour out my heart to Him, and as I write He speaks.

This Monday was no different. He met me with one amazing message. He met me in my shower with tear stained cheeks and shaking shoulders prostrate at His feet with one and only one word. It hit me so hard it literally took my labored breath away, and I wailed with the revelation of it. It was simply this – LOVE.

We don’t get this. We really don’t. We can’t see this amazing, all consuming love because our pain overrides it’s truth. He loves us! Not with a fickle human love that ebbs and flows with emotion, but He has for us an eternal love, an enduring love – a love that always hopes, always believes, never fails. It’s an extravagant love, and our circumstances do not change that. He gives and He takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!

It’s hard to swallow at times…in the ICU watching your loved ones labored breath, asking “WHY??” When you get the news that your loved one is dead, dying, or not expected to make it, or you find out you’ve miscarried, or your unable to have children, or your child has been molested, or your son is an alcoholic, or your daughter has cancer, or you’ve lost your only friend, or your husband filed for divorce, or your teen ran away, again, or you discovered a lump…whatever it is where we find ourselves begging, pleading, searching, needing…we must always remember that He is Love.

We must believe that He is with us even in the pain of it all. We must believe that He has the power to turn tragedy into beauty. We must trust that He can make all things new. We must cling to His promises. We must realize that nothing is impossible with Him. We must have faith that He is Who He says He is. We must believe that He hears our prayers, He feels our pain, He knows our hearts, and those groans that we cannot express find expression through His Spirit. We must.

I have heard His heart tonight…I have cried human tears for His superhuman sorrow, and what I have felt in my own little community and world, is but the tiniest fraction of what He feels and knows and breaks His heart the world over. Our God is vulnerable to our emotions…we see testament of this throughout the Word of God. We move Him with our expression and what we feel does make a difference. He cares for us. More than we will ever know. More than we can ever believe. He cares and He loves us. It doesn’t mean our afflictions go away…it means He is our Hope, that there is beauty in ashes, and joy does come in the morning…even on Mondays.

Everything means EVERYTHING

This evening is bitter sweet. I put my precious husband on a plane for 8 days this morning. You never realize exactly how much you are attached to another human being until they are gone and you cannot reach them and they cannot reach you, and you know that as advanced as technology has become sometimes you gotta feel the distance. That’s when His assurance washes over you, re-assures you.

I was pondering my situation and feeling my loneliness when God reminded me, my husband may be gone but my Groom stands beside me. He does not sleep nor slumber, He watches me knowing that I am His. Everything is His. Psalm 24 reminds us that all the world is His and EVERYTHING in it. Everything means EVERYTHING. It means the man or woman that want nothing to do with Him. It means the little bird in the tree waiting for his mother to return that only God can see. It means the orphaned child that somehow knows he or she is loved. It means the family that has just said their final goodbyes to the one they love. It means the magnificent flowers in the jungle that no human eye will ever see. It means the ocean roaring with life to pick up the surfers waiting for the next curl. It means the little girl sitting at the window watching the rain wondering if she will ever live happily ever after, and the woman in her thirties sitting on her bed with tearstained eyes fearful that she won’t. It means the baby struggling for breath in the NICU and the man finishing his final lap of a 10 hour marathon. It means the grass of the field and the butterflies that flutter, the cow that moos and the mouse that squeaks. Everything means EVERYTHING.

Everything means my precious husband, tired from a plane ride and expectant for the week that comes. It means my daughter who has already sent three texts because it doesn’t matter that Daddy won’t get them, she’s going to send them. It means me… the tired, lonely wife that even in her longing for the love of her life, knows the comfort only my First Love can give. It means you…who ever you are, reading this right now.

Everything means EVERYTHING, and we can rest assured that we are His.

Fool’s Gold

I’ve been pondering Matthew 25 today. Specifically, I have been dissecting the parable of the talents. It’s an interesting story to me –

Basically this boss is going on a trip. Before he leaves he bestows his servants with a portion of his wealth. The first guy he gives a considerably large amount, five bags of gold (in the Message). The second guy he gives a moderate amount, three bags of gold, and the third guy gets the least, one bag of gold, which in the scope of things is still more than he would have had. The master goes away and leaves them to their business. After a while, he comes back to find what his servants have done with what he gave them.

The first guy, the one that was given the most, comes and proudly shows the master what he has earned…he’s doubled the investment! The master is thrilled and says that he will be given more and he is welcome to join in the happiness! The second guy also cheerfully hands over his doubling, and the master again rejoices and tells him he will give him more, and he’s also welcomed to join. Finally we come to the last guy, the one who was given the smallest amount, and here is where I want to sit awhile because a lot is found in this account.

I want to look at the character of the man. This is where the reaction of the master lies, I believe. The master turns to the third man and asks, “And what have you to give?” The guy goes immediately on the defensive. “Well, first of all, ALL you gave me was one bag of gold.” The insinuation here is, “You didn’t give me much to work with.” But, his audacity doesn’t end there; he continues, “And I know that you are a mean and hard man and that you aren’t fair in your dealings, so I was afraid.” Can you imagine the master’s formerly understanding face by that point?! But he continues, he finishes digging his grave by telling the “hard unyielding” master that because of that fear, he dug a hole and buried what he had, and probably with a smug look, the fool hands him back the bag of gold. The tone of the master completely changes. He is described as “Furious!” (Well, wouldn’t you be?) He looks at the guy and says, “Are you that foolish and lazy?! If I WERE such a master as you’ve believed, to do the unfair things of which you’ve accused me, at the very least you could have taken this gold to the bank and at least returned it to me with interest! But you were lazy and you were foolish and you have no part in my Kingdom!” Ouch.

Do you wonder what Servant 1 and Servant 2 are thinking as they over hear this? I do, because, we get a glimpse of their character, too. The first guy was excited about two things: he was grateful for the money, and he eagerly went out and invested it. The second guy, though given less, is just as excited and eager. They didn’t seem to bicker over what each of them had; they simply and eagerly took what they were given and put it to work – not for themselves, but for the master. There was never a doubt as to who was going to receive the reward from that investment. They know the master is coming back. They know they have been entrusted with his wealth, and they know that whatever comes of it belongs to him when he returns. They never question his character or his motives. They don’t try to make him out to be “unyielding or hard.” You get the idea that they want to please him. They are grateful for what they have been given, and they want him to see that they are good servants. And, He does.

The correlation with this story Jesus tells us is that this is a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus is telling this story to His disciples in an attempt to get them to understand what is coming and what is expected. This is where we come in. This is a lesson for all of us, and today, this is what I am learning.

First of all, the amounts given weren’t the issue. The man with five and the man with three bags of gold were given the same reward. Secondly, we all know that the master is The Master…this is Jesus. He is gone on a journey, but He will be back. (Please try not to picture him on a motorcycle with shades and a Swartzenegger accent as you read that.) And finally, we, like the servants, have all been entrusted with His wealth, and we will be held accountable for what we do with it.

Now, let’s look at this parable in today’s terms. Upon Jesus’ departure He left us the Holy Spirit Who gives us gifts. Jesus tells us that these “gifts” are the Father’s that are imparted to us. Our gifts vary, as do their quantities, but each of us is left with something. These gifts are to be shared and extended, multiplying the Kingdom of Heaven, increasing the Master’s wealth. Let’s look at the two servants that are rewarded. What did it take? First of all, they received the gift and happily put it to use. This would be like the children of God that have multiple gifts of the Spirit. They eagerly use these gifts, doing good, and sharing the abundance and encouraging others to do the same. They enjoy the gift and don’t fear the outcome, fully trusting that He Who entrusted it will bless it. This is a beautiful picture of how God wants us to use what we’ve been given – freely, selflessly, eagerly, fearlessly.

The next picture we get is of the “lazy and foolish” servant. This is the child of God that is fearful and skeptical. This is the child of God that fears not only the Father and what He might require of them, but this child also fears the gifting. Perhaps he or she questions the worth of what they have. Perhaps they look around at others and think, “Look what all they have, and all I have is this. I can never do that. So I will do nothing.” Fearfully, they bury that gift, saving it for themselves to eek out the smallest bit of favor from God. In the end, they will find just like the servant did, that there is no reward. God wants us to take risks. Risks say, “I trust You.” Risks say, “I’m not 100% sure I can do this, but I’m 100% sure You can.” Risks say, “Even if I die trying, it’s still worth the investment.” Fear places blame. Fear never even attempts. Fear hides and buries what could make a difference, and fear doesn’t increase the Kingdom.

So which servant or child of God will you be? It doesn’t take much. Even a smile can yield a return… it isn’t for us to determine worthiness or wealth. It’s for Him to decide, and if it is a gift that He has entrusted to you, it’s a gift that has a purpose. “To the one that is faithful with little, much more shall be given.” Let this be your motivation to be a faithful, eager, trusting servant. After all, it’s not about what’s in it for you; in the end, it’s all His, and if we are faithful, when He comes back, we will get to join in the happiness.