31 July 2016

Thieves and Treasure

(Journal entry from November 17, 2013)

Last night, I dreamed a dream.

After enduring a great deal of strangeness at a professional conference of some kind and difficulty with platform stiletto heels that could change from purple to gold (the gold looked so much better with my outfit--the strength of relief over that strange detail is so funny to me), I found myself walking up a short hill onto a lawn, coming upon a group of people witnessing a house break-in. Mostly women and a couple of men, one of which I remember clearly as the homeowner, they seemed excited and curious to see the thieves come out of the house and escape; the feeling was of being in a movie theater on opening night. There was a little fear in the group, kind of like faint background noise. And then, the thieves appeared. They had gone through the semi-rural home, gathering every weapon they could find (which were many). When the group I was in realized how well-armed the thieves were, and their clear intent to kill every one of us brutally before leaving the house they now were stripping of everything they saw valuable to their work, we all looked at one another, desperately checking our pockets and searching our minds for something we could use as a weapon. Anything. Several of the group had concealed carry permits, but not a single one of them was actually armed. Lambs to the slaughter, indeed.

The thieves went in and out of the house (not sure why we didn't/couldn't run away--we were absolutely trapped, even though we stood in the front yard, nearly as close to the paved street as we were to the house), and I watched one of them fill a magazine in a smiling, leisurely way, knowing full well he planned the ammunition he lovingly pressed into place for each of us on the lawn. The thieves even had some of us helping them, although I don't remember how. They kept coming and going, sometimes out of the house, sometimes all inside, so confident were they in our captivity.

Suddenly a pickup appeared, driven by a slender blue-eyed teen, a person unknown to me in my waking hours who, in the dream, I recognized as a relative of some friends of my daughters, the sunlight streaming hazily through the dusty rear window around and over her shortish, wispy blonde hair. She had one of my daughters' friends with her, and they got out and headed our way, excited to catch up with me and my girls (whom I hadn't yet seen in the dream, but they had been right there with me). The thieves were all inside; I didn't know for how long. I rushed up to her and grabbed her upper arms, speaking low and urgent through gritted teeth: "Annie, you've got to get them out of here! RIGHT. NOW. Take the girls, and get the hell out of here!" Shocked and terrified by the knowledge of the thieves' promise in my eyes, she instantly rushed her cousin, my girls, and the few other children who were there into the pickup as relief washed over me at her unquestioning, instant action. The door slammed heavily with that particular, metallic sound of mid-70's steel construction, sheltering the children's fragility. Then blue-white smoke rose from beneath her tires as the baby blue Chevy squealed away.

The innocent were safe.

The smoke rose and wisped away on the Chevy's backdraft. And I turned back to the house, the cedar siding and green shingles sheltering such menace.

I stood there, wondering what on earth we were going to do to save our lives. Those thieves wanted their treasure. They were going to take it. And they were absolutely going to kill all of us to do it. And smile.

Then it hit me. We could give it to them.

Turn their thievery inside out, releasing them from the horrific path to get what they wanted. What they were loading up to take away were things all of us in that group treasured in our hearts as necessary for safety and provision. Things. Stuff. Mostly firearms and ammunition, but other things,

too. The idea of giving them up, even for our lives, would be a hard sell to the fiercely independent group of northern folk. But I knew, knew, that giving--letting go completely--was the answer.

I called out to everyone where we milled slowly about on the lawn, and gathered them around me. I knew we all had to agree--for, despite the horror of it, the thieves were going to kill all of us. We all witnessed their crime. And to set us free it would take agreement from all of us that what they took was freely given by the homeowner. Their theft had to be turned into a gift. A gift without reservation, without grudge, without holding anything back. A carte blanche to take whatever they wanted from the house, and depart in peace.

I stood there, the others gathered and watching, and I opened my mouth to speak . . .

30 July 2016

From Psalm 119

“The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy and loving-kindness; teach me Your statutes. You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your promise. Teach me good judgment, wise and right discernment, and knowledge, for I have believed (trusted, relied on, and clung to) Your commandments.

You are good and kind and do good; teach me Your statutes.

The law from Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. Your hands have made me, cunningly fashioned and established me; give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.

Let, I pray You, Your merciful kindness and steadfast love be for my comfort, according to Your promise to Your servant. Let Your tender mercy and loving-kindness come to me that I may live, for Your law is my delight!

Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven [stands firm as the heavens]. [Ps. 89:2; Matt. 24:34, 35; I Pet. 1:25.] Your faithfulness is from generation to generation; You have established the earth, and it stands fast. All [the whole universe] are Your servants; therefore they continue this day according to Your ordinances. [Jer. 33:25.] Unless Your law had been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Your precepts, [how can I?] for it is by them You have quickened me (granted me life). I am Yours, therefore save me [Your own]; for I have sought (inquired of and for) Your precepts and required them [as my urgent need]. [Ps. 42:1.]

I have seen that everything [human] has its limits and end [no matter how extensive, noble, and excellent]; but Your commandment is exceedingly broad and extends without limits [into eternity]. [Rom. 3:10-19.] Oh, how love I Your law! It is my meditation all the day. [Ps. 1:2.] You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies, for [Your words] are ever before me.

How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! [Ps. 19:10; Prov. 8:11.]

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. [Prov. 6:23.]

Accept, I beseech You, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me Your ordinances. [Hos. 14:2; Heb. 13:15.]

Your testimonies have I taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart. [Deut. 33:4.]

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word. [Ps. 32:7; 91:1.]

The entrance and unfolding of Your words give light; their unfolding gives understanding (discernment and comprehension) to the simple.

Establish my steps and direct them by [means of] Your word; let not any iniquity have dominion over me.

Streams of water run down my eyes, because men do not keep Your law [they hear it not, nor receive it, love it, or obey it].

Your word is very pure (tried and well refined); therefore Your servant loves it. I am small (insignificant) and despised, but I do not forget Your precepts. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth. [Ps. 19:9; John 17:17.]

Your righteous testimonies are everlasting and Your decrees are binding to eternity; give me understanding and I shall live [give me discernment and comprehension and I shall not die].

The sum of Your word is truth [the total of the full meaning of all Your individual precepts]; and every one of Your righteous decrees endures forever.

I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great spoil.

My lips shall pour forth praise [with thanksgiving and renewed trust] when You teach me Your statutes. My tongue shall sing [praise for the fulfillment] of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteous.

I have longed for Your salvation, O Lord, and Your law is my delight. Let me live that I may praise You, and let Your decrees help me.”
{Selected verses from Psalm 119 AMP},68,72-73,76-77,89-94,96-98,103,105,108,111,114,130,133,136,140-142,144,160,162,171-172,174-175.amp

28 July 2016

Ask without Fear

Often, when I'm working through doctrinal things, I wonder whether I'm crossing a line, questioning things I shouldn't. And then I think over the last few years, how I questioned the things that I had always thought were unquestionable, things that I had had programmed into me as inviolable and absolutely necessary for salvation.

So far, questioning things in the boldest manner possible had only garnered one--and I mean ONE--response from heaven:

Total, compete, unrestrained, supportive, loving JOY in the courts of Heaven.

So far, every time I have asked questions others think I shouldn't, whether Mormon or Christian, Jesus is so pleased. Every time I wonder and explore ideas and various ways of looking at things, my God sits down with me and is fully supportive as I wrestle through it with Him. 

He IS Emmanuel--God with ME. 

He knows my heart and knows that I ask and wrestle and dialogue with Him and my faith family and His word because I want to know His nature and character and build relationship--build an association--with Him and with Heaven. I ask questions to ferret out any and all broken thinking still left in me. I ask questions to know Him more, and better, so I can walk more like Him as He changes me.

I'm so hungry for the sweet light of Jesus to fill every part of me. I've tasted it, and I can never get enough, never stop desiring to be closer to Him. Not ever. I will seek and knock and ask and press deeper into the infinite that is our God, full of the confidence that I do so as His invited beloved who will be received with every good thing carefully prepared for me.

Don't be afraid to ask. Don't be afraid to approach the throne of grace as boldly as a toddler approaches a parent with a need. Don't be afraid to explore ideas and find out if they're part of Jesus, who IS the truth.

02 July 2016

Acceptance: The Miracle of the Blood of Jesus

I'm perfectly comfortable talking up the space I inhabit, owning the breath I breathe, and choosing each step I take. Those sound like a "well, duh" punch list, but lemme tell ya: I most definitely didn't feel that way before. I always felt like too much, too strong, too passionate, too too TOO everything. And because of that, I was never good enough, because my very nature was not acceptable.

The revelation that Jesus derives TREMENDOUS JOY in my existence, that He paid for all of my mistakes and garbage so He could walk through this life with me in all of the glorious and heart-wrenching mess He ALREADY KNEW I would make, was a revelation of profound love and acceptance beyond my command of language to express.

As far as Jesus is concerned, I am not too much, I am never not enough, and I will praise Him forevermore for that miracle, made true by the power of His precious blood.

Believe Him

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses had one big thing in common: faith. They believed the word of the Lord. Completely. They didn't have the scriptures we do now. But they believed God, heard his voice, and loved him.

Jesus did what he did for one reason, and one reason alone: LOVE.

He loves us! Unimaginably so!

And he wanted to be present with us so desperately that he came, lived, suffered, died, and rose again so he could continue to claim the right to forgive, to comfort, to heal, and to SAVE.

To start, he asks that we believe. Only that we believe. That we believe his word above all else. We don't have to earn his love or presence. We don't have to be worthy of him. He paid the price, with his priceless blood, to make us worthy. To cover our sin with his mercy, to forgive our debt. All so we could receive the feast set before us in the presence of our enemies, so we could sit at his table and be filled and satisfied by our extravagant, generous, lavishly-loving God. It is receiving this untold bounty that changes us, that sets us free and heals us deeply, so we can walk out the work he so desperately needs us to do.

In the Hebrew culture, your actions reveal what you believe. If you say one thing and do another, what you did demonstrated the truth of the matter. It is Greek thought/philosophy that divorces belief from action. (And mind from heart, for that matter.) When Jesus said we only had to believe him, he wasn't talking about lip service. It was a radical invitation to walk by faith--to allow living out his word to transform us into the image of God.

Our God never ceases to amaze me.