Monday, August 27, 2012

Look Around Church, You're Beautiful

Last night we had a ladies' event for Sojourn Church.  It was a sweet time of women sharing the work that God is doing in their lives.  We need to be open about what God is doing. I need to know what He is up to and how He is blessing and challenging my sisters and brothers. I need to know because when I witness His extravagant grace in the life of a friend it blesses me and makes me want to be better, to follow Jesus a little more closely. It makes me expect greater things from God.  When she shares the miracle of grace it just spills right out of her overflowing cup and drenches me. 

Proverbs 29:18 was at the forefront of my mind as I was dreaming of what our time together would look like.  It says in the Message "If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed."  One of the greatest problems we have as a body is not paying attention to what God is doing. We are too distracted with all of the mundane, ordinary things in life that we don't have our eyes open to the really important things. We don't have our eyes open to God.  I have been trying to pay better attention to God lately. I have cut off the distraction of most media and am spending more time just noticing my husband, and my son. I am spending more time just enjoying them and being in their presence.  While I watch them play, I am filled with gratitude toward God. He is the giver of all good things. He is teaching me to enjoy the gifts of my beloved family.  I could have missed them. I could have been engrossed in a silly show or tied up on facebook.  Jesus is calling me:  Judy, pay attention to the important things. Notice what God is doing.  Notice that Zack asked me this morning to pray that Jesus would heal his bug bites.  I am so glad he knows to go to his maker when he has a boo boo. Zack is learning about Jesus. I am teaching him, Jeff is teaching him.  It is something God is doing through us. I don't want to miss out on a moment of it. 

Hearing the ladies last night share their triumphs and their struggles just got me to thinking how beautiful they all are. I am amazed that God has let me be on this journey with these women of God who humble and encourage me.  If we didn't take the time to rehearse, to present, to share God's faithfulness then how would I know?  How would I be able to see the fingerprints of God all over my friend if she never got close enough for me to see them?  We need to be honest in victory and in struggle.  We need to realise that God has us in this journey together. We were never meant to take this journey alone.  We are meant to be in community.

Here is my challenge.  Do the extremely strange thing that I do on Sunday mornings.  Look around.  See the church.  Look at the people all lined up in rows and singing their hearts out, or sitting quietly listening to God.  Look at them, and thank God for making them so beautiful.  Thank God for making them a part of you, and you a part of them. Thank God for placing His image on them and creating them to be a light in a dark world.  Thank God for your friends who sit beside you and the new person who slipped in late and is hiding on the back pew.  They are dear to God.  They should be dear to you.  Let God fill your heart with his love for the church.  They are not perfect, sure they are broken, but they are your family, they are God's chosen ones.  They are in that building listening to the words of God and God is speaking to them.  Sweet church,  appreciate each other.  See each other.  Notice one another.  The prayer Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane before he was brutally murdered was for the church. 

John 17  The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
   Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
   So they might be one heart and mind with us.
   Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
   The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
   So they'll be as unified and together as we are—
   I in them and you in me.
   Then they'll be mature in this oneness,
   And give the godless world evidence
   That you've sent me and loved them
   In the same way you've loved me. 

Church, you are beautiful.  Take a look around and let God fill you with love for one another.  You were not meant to try to just barely make it through this impossible world alone. You were meant to journey together.  You were meant to walk in unity with Jesus and those He has called.   Rejoice sweet church, you are not alone.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

He has a Name

The man in Mark 5: 1-20, who Jesus delivered of a legion of demons, he has a name. I never really thought of it before but of course he does. He was born to parents who no doubt named him. He at one point lived among people who tried to help him. There was a man in there, made in God's image, a man who maybe at one point loved someone. There was a man who had lived in relationship and had experienced intense rejection.

When we meet him in the Scriptures he is living in the tombs outside of town. He was too much for the community. They could not control him, even with chains they couldn't keep him from hurting himself or others.  They threw him away.  What to do with a guy like that?  But he has a name...  I never thought of that before. To me, he was always the demon possessed guy who Jesus fixed with a command for the "legion" of demons to enter a heard of pigs.  It never dawned on me that Jesus loved this man. It never even crossed my mind that this man might have been one of Jesus' favourite guys.  Living in the tombs it is super easy to forget about a guy like that, but I think Jesus went to him on purpose, with purpose.  He went to set him free. 

My pastor posted this verse on his website the other day. "Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him." Proverbs 14:31.  It challenges me.  Do I look at the poor as a mass of humanity who we need to give a little spare change and some old clothes without many holes?  Do I think of the poor as just a problem that our society or government needs to handle.  I need to think of folks who go hungry at night as people with a name. They were made in God's image. They are born with his desire for relationship, joy, love, and with the capacity to bring those things to others.  They are created uniquely and beautifully by an all powerful God who loves them no matter where they live in the city.  

Lord God, change my heart for the poor. Let me see them as beloved and know them by name. Let me serve even the least of these that I might get a glimpse of your love and kindness for all people.  Lord, I am poor and full of selfishness, laziness, and pride and all sorts of ugliness and yet when you look at me, you see beauty.  You look at me and smile. You know my name.  You know me.  Thank you Lord, thank you for knowing my name. Teach me the names of the very least of these.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lessons from the Garden

 The fast is over and now it is time to reflect on what God taught me over the past 40 days.  I think my garden really speaks the message better than I could ever capture in words.  You see this scrawny looking tomato plant with it's measly little tomato holding on for dear life to the vine?  That is what I was feeling like before God took hold of my heart. I was not thriving in my walk with Jesus. I certainly loved Jesus and my life was marked and identified by His grace, but I was not bearing the abundance of fruit I was meant to bear.  This plant

and this plant were all started from the same seed packet with the same fertiliser at the  time in a sunsoaked window of my front living room.  They were both planted out in the garden at roughly the same time and experienced the same weather conditions and mostly the same watering.  The big difference between them was the one here was planted in my main garden which received a healthy dose of compost and regular organic Garden Tone to feed it's growing vine.  The tomato above was planted in my kitchen garden which is on a slope. I wasn't able to tend it this year because I had knee surgery and was not able to manage the slope with a weak and healing knee.  It was neglected. It was the same plant, with the same start, with the same "owner" but with very little fruit. That one little tomato is all that is left of a very good beginning.  

The plants that were cared for, watered regularly, fertilised monthly, pruned, and harvested look beautiful, a miracle really.  They were once seeds dormant but full of potential.  Now they fill my table. 

In my fast the lesson of the garden became so clear to me. If I want to really bear the kind of fruit that God intends for me to bear I need maintenance. I  need to be in God's word, but I thought I was in God's word before to be honest. I have always had a regular quiet time.  I needed more than that, I needed to look at my day and see the parts of it that were not producing fruit.  Practically speaking, I needed to turn off the television.  I realised that I had grown lazy with my evening hours. I would have food network on from after dinner until bedtime. It isn't that I cared about it, but it was just noise.  God has claimed those hours, and most of the hours of my day. I am reading books now by people who love him and disciple me in their wisdom. I am writing out of the overflow of God's work in me. I am loving my family better, praying for people more often, and going to where they are to pray for them. I am dreaming dreams that God wants me to dream and hoping hopes He has placed in me.  I am bearing fruit, and it is just the beginning, but sister, it feels good!

This morning I took a picture of this pepper plant. It is weighted by 3 large peppers and because of that it is hanging it's head low, in humility to say this is what I offer, God has broken me by the weight of my fruit.  I want to be like that, I want to have the humility of this little pepper plant, that the fruit that my life bears is beyond me, and my capacity to contain it. I want to walk in that "exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we can ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20)

My excuse for not caring for my kitchen garden was valid in June, and maybe in July, but by the time August rolled around I was just not interested in it any more. Even though I was able to climb up there, I was not willing because it just didn't seem worth it.   We get into times of excuses where we don't invest in God's kingdom and we don't spend the time with him we need to in order to bear fruit.  These times snowball and before we know it we are a puny vine with only one measly cherry tomato that looks out of place hanging on a limb without leaves.  Take a look at your life.  Are you allowing God to fertilise your mind and to water your soul?  Are you letting too many additives to feed your heart that you feel full at the end of the day but with out fruit.  I am pleading with you, let it go, listen to Jesus.  He has so much more for you.

My eggplants got a late start because of some insects that ravaged their tender young leaves, but here it is today.  There is a promise in this little plant, she is flowering. Those flowers will become an elegant deep purple Japanese eggplant and provide nourishment for my family.  There is a promise in God's word, Abide in Him and you will bear fruit.  I can see the flowers blooming already.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Fresh Word

What do you do when you just need a fresh word from God? You get to that place in life where you are stuck in a rut. Your relationship with God and others seems to be going nowhere and you don't know how to revive it. You may be in a place of sadness and you don't know how to pick yourself up by your bootstraps. Like Beth Moore says, you just got to get yourself out of that pit but you don't know where to begin the climb. It may be that you did something completely stupid and even disastrously sinful and you feel like it is over for you, God has probably given up on you, how could he use you now? You need a fresh word from the Lord. You need to hear his voice.

As you can probably tell I am reading through the lives of the patriarchs and God is teaching me so much. What dawned on me yesterday was how generous God was with speaking to Jacob. I don't know if it was that Jacob got into more messes than his forefathers or if God just was being extra gracious, but Jacob got some encouraging messages.

On Jacob's way to Haran when he was running for fear of being murdered God spoke to him. He would protect Jacob, He would protect Jacob's inheritance and He would be present with Jacob. God spoke to Jacob when it was time for him to leave Laban's house. Laban was the father of Jacob's 2 wives and he was controlling Jacob's life. Jacob needed to be free, he needed to have his own land and his own fold. God told Jacob it was time to go, and the added encouragement that God was the one who miraculously multiplied Jacob's portion of Laban's flock. Angels met Jacob on the way to his reunion with Esau, and even greater than that God himself wrestled with Jacob all night long before Jacob would cross that river to the land he was promised. Jacob was terrified about meeting Esau and God met him in his fear, and blessed him.

The incident that absolutely puzzled and amazed me was God's encouragement to Jacob after his sons brutally murdered all the male villagers of Schechem and kidnapped their women and children in retaliation for the Prince”s act of raping their sister. Jacob was filled with fear that the people of that land would gang up and kill his entire clan. They didn't, God instilled fear in the hearts of the surrounding peoples and God spoke to Jacob. He told him to go to Bethel, the place where he met him on his journey to Haran some 20 years ago. Go back to where I met you at first and gave you the promise. Remember the promise. Jacob responded with haste and commanded his people to purge themselves of all of their idols. They did, a time of repentance and cleansing occurred in Jacob's house. They were on the brink of slaughter but God was giving them a way out. God was bringing them to the place of Bethel “house of God”. There he spoke this promise once again to Jacob in Genesis 35:11-12

I am The Strong God.
Have children! Flourish!
A nation—a whole company of nations!—
will come from you.
Kings will come from your loins;
the land I gave Abraham and Isaac
I now give to you,
and pass it on to your descendants.

In my inability to grasp the mind of God I can't understand why he gave so much grace to Jacob and his family. Jacob seemed to be continually in trouble and God was faithful to speak to Jacob and to remind him of the promise through all of the heartache. Jacob had a tradition of building an altar at the place where God had spoken. He stacked stones to remember, this place is holy, this is where God spoke to me.

I have gotten into places where I just needed a fresh word from God. I needed to know he was actually listening to my prayers. I needed to know that He hadn't forgotten me. When I was in Germany I was longing to meet my husband, to know if God indeed had a husband for me at all. One morning, at the end of my rope I asked the Lord to have someone just come up to me to tell me I would marry. I needed the word that badly. No joke, in the locker room at the gym a woman came to me and told me “Judy, you have a spirit of marriage about you, you will get married when you go back to the states, you are too busy right now”. I walked out of there, or maybe even floated out of there amazed. When I struggled over having our first child, God gave me a dream with him in it. The toddler in the dream told me that he would come back and put a note in my pocket. He had blue eyes and blond hair. I told him that he had my eyes, but where did the blond hair come from as Jeff and I both have dark hair. He told me the hair was to remind me that he was from Jesus. My son was born with blue eyes and blond hair.

There are other stories or times in which God spoke to me so clearly in such a way that I just needed to hear his voice. I would say though, that for more than 20 years God has been speaking to me through His word. What do you do when you need a fresh word? Sit down at His word and really let it sink deep into you heart. Pray and ask God to speak to you through scriptures. Ask him to spring the words to life right off the page. Really listen to his voice as your eyes scan the page. God has a word for you. He is speaking. When he speaks and you feel like it is a message brought just for you, build yourself a place of remembrance. Write it down, tell someone, celebrate the God who meets you in your place of need, celebrate the God who lifts you out of that pit. Read his word, listen to it taught, meditate on it day and night. Your heart will be healed by the truth of it.

A Sordid History

Today when I was reading the Bible I noticed something new to me.  I was reading Lot's story and how Sodom and Gomorrah fell under God's judgement.  Lot was given a warning to flee the city by angels of God, in fact they escorted him out with his daughters and his wife.  Lot's family was given a warning to not look back, flee to a small town nearby called Zoar.  Only Lot and his daughters made it to the small town, wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.  At least Lot was safe, but he was so freaked out that he went to live in a cave in the mountains.  I guess he feard God would judge Zoar too (although he was promised God would keep it safe), regardless he was running scared. 
Heading to the seclusion of the cave led to a perverted act by his daughters. They were so concerned they would not have children so they got pops drunk and went to lay with him.  Low and behold, 2 sons are born.  One will be the Father of the Moabites.  This is where I was intrigued.  I know of a very famous Moabite who had long been a hero of mine, her name is Ruth.  Ruth became the wife of Boaz, the Mother of Obed who was the Father of Jesse, the father of David.  Amazing, that puts this incestuous one night stand in the lineage of Jesus. 
Only God would not try to sweep that one under the rug.  He is not at all ashamed by the people in the family line in which he chose to be born. He didn't look at them and see the incest, the rape, the prostitute, the murderer and say forget it, I have to wait and be born into a more righteous family.  Jesus came to one that was a mess.  If a man had written scripture Jesus would have been born to a holy, royal family, or at the very least the less desirable ancestors would have been made to seem little more honorable. Instead he was born into a holy, royal, dysfunctional for generations, real as we are today, family. 
I am encouraged beyond measure.  Jesus didn't hide his sordid ancestral past. He didn't hide the skeletons in his family closet.  We don't have to hide either.  I feel like a mess on most days.  Life at the Webb house is especially messy right now because God has us making some very real changes. We are both wrestling with God and seeking Him on what is best for our family.  I am not ashamed to say it, I don't have it all figured out, but I am encouraged to know that neither did they-- the ones God chose to use, they didn't have it all figured out either. In fact they made some heinous sins, yet in so many ways, God redeemed.  I'm not going to be ashamed of my struggle. I'm not going to be ashamed of my history or my family history. I am just smiling right now, because I am in good company with those who have been redeemed.  Over and over again, we see that God doesn't come to us because of how amazing we are, He comes because He is amazing, He is loving, He is kind.  God gives so much grace.
As a side note...
I called to reconnect the cable so I could watch the Olympics. I just really like so many things about the Olympics. It won't be back on forever, but for now, we have it.  I prayed and struggled with what is God requiring of us in terms of cable.  I have peace about today.  I will wrestle again tomorrow, but only until I sense the blessing of God, then peace...

God's Promises

I love to read God's word because it seems that I learn more and more from each time I sit to read it despite the fact that I have been reading it for about 25 years now.  It makes me think of what JP Thew, my pastor's middle school son, said in church on Sunday, something like this...  I like going to camp and stuff because well I don't know everything yet.  Well I like reading God's Word, because at 39 I just don't know everything yet. I am thinking that at 79 I will be saying the same thing. 
I have noticed in reading the past few days that God gives promises to Abraham, Isaac, and David that are absolutely undeserved, unsolicited, and powerful.   To Abraham he promised a rich inheritance of nations and land and His blessing.  To Isaac he gave a son and the inheritance of Abraham.  He gave David the promise of having a powerful dynasty and that his son would build God a house, aside from the riches and power he gave to David.  I just can't help but think, why? Why would a God who doesn't need us want to give so much? Why would He want to go into a covenant relationship with us knowing that we are so unlikely to appreciate it, and so likely to abuse His grace.  Why would God choose to richly pour grace and blessing on a people who are so flawed and so quick to forget Him?
2 Samuel 18-21 King David went in, took his place before God, and prayed: "Who am I, my Master God, and what is my family, that you have brought me to this place in life? But that's nothing compared to what's coming, for you've also spoken of my family far into the future, given me a glimpse into tomorrow, my Master God! What can I possibly say in the face of all this? You know me, Master God, just as I am. You've done all this not because of who I am but because of who you are—out of your very heart!—but you've let me in on it.
God does it not because of who we are, but because of who He is.  God gives us great and precious promises because of His great love.  He loves to give us good gifts John 7:11 says "So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him."  I was challenged to remember this promise today. I think some days I forget that the fact that I got out of bed this morning, that I woke up at all is a gift and blessing of God. The fact that my house still stands over my head and my son sleeps peacefully in his crib is a gift from God. I forget that my husband coming home to me every day is a miracle of love and grace that only God can give. God is involved in bringing blessing to me.  He is involved today in showering grace and joy and peace.  My life is not always easy. There are so many days that I struggle and ask those questions about why hard times come.  I need to remember today that God is blessing. He is present. 
David prayed this prayer to God after God promised him a long lineage of grace:
25-27"So now, great God, this word that you have spoken to me and my family, guarantee it permanently! Do exactly what you've promised! Then your reputation will flourish always as people exclaim, 'The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is God over Israel!' And the house of your servant David will remain sure and solid in your watchful presence. For you, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel's God, told me plainly, 'I will build you a house.' That's how I was able to find the courage to pray this prayer to you.
 28-29 "And now, Master God, being the God you are, speaking sure words as you do, and having just said this wonderful thing to me, please, just one more thing: Bless my family; keep your eye on them always. You've already as much as said that you would, Master God! Oh, may your blessing be on my family permanently!"
Don't you love David's boldness? He was saying God, do what you have promised.  Do it so others will say that you keep your promises.  I am reminding myself today to pray those prayers to God. Lord God, keep your promises to my family.  You chose us, you redeemed us, now continue to show yourself faithful. Do in our lives what only you can do. Today God, I ask that you would keep your promises and bring about the dreams you have given us to dream.   Protect our house, and let it be complete.

A Famine in the Promised Land

A Famine in the Promised Land

Life was going so well for Isaac. He had a bride who he loved, he was living in the land God had promised. He had 2 sons, a double blessing! He was living the dream, but then God interrupted his dream with a famine... in the land of his God given inheritance. What do you do when there is a famine in the promised land? Where do you go when the place that God has led you has dry and barren earth that crumbles in your weary hand? Your belly is getting thinner and you are longing for some of that delicious red stew that cost Esau his birthright. Why would God lead you to a barren place?

God does brings folks he loves to places of deep longing and real need. He does it over and over again in scripture. He gives hopes and dreams and leads to a place of desolation. Isaac had already walked through the pain of his bride not conceiving for the first 20 years of their marriage. He pleaded with God to give his beloved a son and God came through in double fashion. Now it was a famine, which his father had experienced in the past, but Isaac had not. He had only know the plenty of the land, not it's insufficiency.

I wonder if I can even fathom what famine would look like. I am thinking about how sad I would be if Little Rosies or Tazikis closed, but I don't think that really compares to famine ;). Famine in our world would be when God has given you a longing for something but he is making you wait to see it come to fruition. He does that... He has done that in me many times. Today my longing is for God to complete our family. I believe that God is going to give Zack siblings. I am believing for another son and I even have a name picked out for him. I am believing God will allow us to adopt children who need a Mom and Dad who will love them well, and that God will give us the grace to be that Mom and Dad. I have struggled with God over being able to conceive children. It was 3 years of marriage before Zack was placed in my womb. It has been 3 years since Zack was born. I have a God given dream for more children. But the waiting sometimes feels like it is killing me and the weight of the desire presses heavy on my chest. We went through a several rounds of fertility treatments with shots and everything, spending about $1000 of God's money with no baby to show for it. That was tough because it was a road we felt like God was leading us to go down, so at the end when we saw the road come to no baby I was pretty crushed and confused. The desire to have for children had completely taken over my mind and had become an idol. I wanted to make it happen more than I wanted Jesus. It is hard for me to even write that out. I have been avoiding this blog. I don't want to admit even to myself that barrenness had become a heavy burden that I was trying to carry myself and occasionally asking Jeff to carry.

Last month, when our regimen of shots and IUI did not work, Jeff and I began a fast. I needed to lay my heavy burden at Jesus feet. I needed to remember that he is the reason I live and breathe. He is the giver of all good things, even himself. Today my heart is so much better. Jesus has drawn me closer to his heart. I am at peace, even in a land where the ground seems cracked in the sun, I am content. I had to remember that God has been faithful. He will continue to be faithful. He has sweet plans for my family.

Isaac was tempted to go to Egypt when the famine came. God intervened and spoke to him Let that sink into you heart. God spoke to Isaac. He spoke, to a man, words of comfort and blessing. God reminded Isaac of the covenant He had made with Abraham, Isaac's daddy. He said “Don't go down to Egypt; stay where I tell you. Stay here in this land and I'll be with you and bless you. I'm giving you and your children all these lands, fulfilling the oath that I swore to your father Abraham.... All the earth will get a blessing for themselves through your descendants.” (Gen 26:2-5) God reminded Isaac of the promise.

Dear friend, God will lead you to places of wilderness, bitter water, struggle, drought, famine, and even sickness. He will lead you to places where you have to cry out to him because there is no where else you could possibly turn. He is not leading you there because you have sinned or because he is trying to exasperate you. He is leading you there because he trusts you with that struggle. He trusts you, that you can walk with him through everything he brings to you. He trusts Himself, that He is faithful to provide. God brought Isaac abundant blessing only 10 verses after he reminded him of the promise. Isaac got so rich the people around him were jealous of his stuff. Walk faithfully with God through the darkness of the night so that when daylight comes, and God brings his Son to shine through the clouds and opens up the heavens of blessing for you, you can stand, or fall on your face before him, and let his warmth soak deeply into your soul. You can receive the abundant blessing of God. You can have that breakthrough you have been longing for. When you walk through the infertility, singleness, joblessness, poverty, loneliness, marriage struggles, remember the promises of God. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. He has promised to complete the good work he started in you. He has promised that he knows the plans he has for you. They are for your good, to give you hope and a future. I have a future in Christ. I have a present in Christ. I have a past in Christ. He is blessing. His light will shine in your dark night.

A Seat for Royalty

People are fascinated with royalty. Pictures of William and Kate make front pages all over the world. The camera operators in the Olympics always made a point to show them sitting in the stands watching their countrymen competing for medals. It was these closeups of a cheering Prince and his bride that got me to thinking about how many little girls longs to be princesses, and little boys long to be valiant knights; or at least, how we long to be able to get good tickets to see gymnastics at the Olympics or to see Michael Phelps win his next medal. How amazing would it be to just walk into a venue and all the doors would open right up for you, not because of what you have done, but because of who you are by birth. I bet they never pay for a meal when they eat at the finest restaurants. They probably never have to wait for hours for a repairman to come. They meet all the most famous people. Imagine having tea with JK Rowling, I bet they can do that with just a phone call. Such is the life of royalty.

It looks different from my life in so many ways but there is an element of royalty that is very real in the lives of followers of Jesus. It is our family, and the inheritance we have in Jesus. I was reading about Isaac and God's blessing to him. It was curious to me because God told Isaac he would bless him because of the obedience of Abraham. Isaac's blessing was because of Dad, not his own righteousness, but the faithfulness of his father. It makes me think that we as parents have a responsibility to be faithful to God, and thus our own children will receive a blessing. That is a blog in itself, but not the one I want to write at the moment. At the moment I want to write about the blessing we receive because of the obedience of Jesus Christ, and the birthright that we inherit not because of our own actions, but because of the act of sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross.

On most days, I don't feel very special. I am very susceptible to fear of rejection. I feel like I am just getting by and not really living an abundant life. I forget who I really am and the miracle of the cross that makes me who I am. The truth is that I am a daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I am one called out of darkness and into wonderful light. I am a chosen, beloved child of God. I am more than royalty and the crowns that I wear are more valuable than a diamond studded tiara. I am God's child, chosen before the foundation of the world.

Ephesians 1:3-12

 3-6How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
 7-10Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
 11-12It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.
Long before God laid out the foundations of the earth, he was thinking about me, about you dear sister, God had you in his mind. His decision to redeem you was cemented in His head. His thoughts of you dressed in white brought him joy. Our royal robes are the righteousness of Jesus. Our royal title is daughter and son of the King of all Kings. In this world our heavenly credentials may not get us entrance into the finest restaurants or even football tickets, but in the real world we have entrance into heaven itself. We won't be standing outside the gates longing to enter in, we can boldly enter the most holy place (Hebrews 10:19). We can join that crowd of saints before the throne enjoying God and seeing God in His glory. To see God seated high on His throne with angels and rainbows and precious gems and a mulititude singing “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Rev. 7:12). That spot on the heavenly floor is the best seat in town. I wouldn't want to miss that show for anything. I will walk in there, or float or fly, somehow I will get there, and it won't be that I gained entrance because of what I accomplished. My ticket in will not have come from years of training, it will be from a moment of agony and pain experienced by someone other than myself. It will be because of Jesus.

Beloved of God, take a moment today to just thank God for who He has made you, who He is making you to be, and for the ultimate joy of being in His presence for today, tomorrow, and all of the tomorrows to come. We are dearly loved. It doesn't matter if in the moment I feel the love or not, I am loved. It is true. The love of God does not change like shifting shadows. We are His. Rejoice dear saint, rejoice.

Be Honest with your Man

You gotta be honest with your man. I just keep thinking this over and over again. Husbands and wives can have no secrets between each other aside from the birthday surprise. I know this is open to all sorts of debate and you can probably think of some things better left unsaid, and you are right, there are some things that don't play into the equation. They are mostly things that happened long before you met your man and God has brought you healing and so it is history; but the things of today need to be spoken. We need to trust our husbands with our hearts and so we need to share.

I don't usually talk relationships but tonight I can't help it because I have been noticing something in the patriarchs that was a destructive streak found in all three of the big marriages... deception. Abraham had the big deception with telling folks Sarah was his sister, true, but she was also his wife. That was a deception they were both in on. The lies continue down the family line and it leads to struggle and dysfunction within the family, not just with outsiders. I am thinking specifically of Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Rachel.

Isaac and Rebekah had a beautiful courtship. It was a dream come true where Isaac's Dad's servant, after his long journey finds a well with the beautiful Rebekah about to water her sheep. She offers to water the servant's camels and the rest is history. The servant took her with him back to Abraham's house. When the love birds saw each other from across the field it was love at first sight. Isaac was so happy. They struggled to conceive a baby and then after 20 years God gave them a double portion, twins. They wrestled in her womb and God spoke to Rebekah that the younger would be the one to whom the blessing of Abraham would pass. Here is the part I don't understand. As far as we know, she never told Isaac. You would think that if God speaks to you about something you would tell your husband. Instead, she managed a ruse in which the younger son, Jacob would deceive Isaac into thinking he was the older in order to get the blessing of the first born. The deception led to division in the family and to Rebekah having to say goodbye to her beloved Jacob. She would be dead before he returned from the trip he had to take in order to not be killed by his brother.

Jacob and Rachel had a similar meeting. It was again by a well, perhaps a symbol of God's blessing, that they met and fell in love instantly. Jacob smooched her right there and then. He knew God had given him his beloved bride. They were in love and married. There were all kinds of problems that deception had brought to their marriage, the fact that he had accidentally married Leah, Rachel's sister not being the least of their problems. The thing is that they were close. Jacob loved Rachel and yet she did not trust him. When it came time for Jacob to take his family away from Rachel's father's house she stole Pop's household gods. Laban came after his little idols and Jacob exclaimed that if he found them in Jacob's household whoever had them would die. Laban didn't find them because Rachel was sitting on them with the excuse that she was on her period. Most guys run when you mention the flow, but even more so Laban would not have thought Rachel would defile his trinkets by sitting on them at such a time. Rachel had not told Jacob about her idols. She hid them from her husband and it would not be long before she would die in childbirth. Perhaps her death was God fulfilling the oath that Jacob had made concerning the lost idols. I don't really know for sure, but I do know that Rachel should have been honest with her husband. She should have confessed her sin and asked for mercy, guidance, absolution. She should have trusted him.

I know that when Jeff and I first married I was often tempted to not share my feelings with him. It was almost like there was a voice inside my head saying “don't share, don't open up, hide yourself”. Talk about a destructive path that would have led me and Jeff on in our marriage. I sucked up my fear and pride and shared my heart anyway. I found that in sharing myself with Jeff I let him in my heart. As Jeff is always saying to me “Judy, I am on your side”. He is. Jeff is for me. He isn't perfect and I am not always the easiest person in the world to understand, but it is worth the struggle to be understood. It is worth the discomfort of admitting to failure or to confusion. If you are struggling with something in your marriage or about yourself, your husband needs to be in on the struggle. I often feel like I should be so much better than I am. I feel like I fall short of my expectations so often. Jeff notices my ups and downs. He encourages me and reminds me of Jesus.

I wish I could say this with a louder voice, Don't hide from your husband! Don't let your heart be sick on the inside and look perfect on the outside. Let him in on your insecurities and frustrations. Tell him when God speaks to you! Don't be Rebekah and try to bring about the will of God through deception. Trust God, and trust the man that God has given you to be true to you. Let God's grace, mercy and deep love be the foundation of intimacy in your marriage. I tell you what, if I told you half the things that I tell my husband then you would all think I am nuts. I may be, but my husband knows it, and he smiles, or instructs, or stays quiet to listen. Take that bold step today and practice. Tell your husband what you are rejoicing in, tell him where you are struggling. Stand together at the foot of cross and seek Jesus for His heart and His compassion, and His healing. I love it when my husband just washes over me in prayer. How could he, if I didn't let him in?