Spring Will Prove

I went out this evening and sat for a few minutes in the quiet of the van, stuffing the shopping bags back into their little pouches and folding the ones that didn't stuff so they'd all fit into one bag. It was warm, and the quiet felt velvety in my ears.

Looking out over the yard, I watched the white pines sway in the breeze, gratefully soaked in the residual heat collected by the dark green metal during the brief sunshine today, and yet felt overwhelmed. There's so much to do, so much to do to finish the house in time to finalize the mortgage on schedule, in addition to the heavy load I carry as a wife, mother, homemaker and homeschooler, and the tears came back. I thought of the house, upstairs, of the clutter partying on every flat surface and the dust and dog hair that collects in the corners faster than I've ever seen, anywhere, in my entire life.  My gaze fell on my little Japanese maple, and I remembered planting iris rhizomes from my mother-in-law last spring. 

And God whispered to me, "Go look at it."

I left the soft warmth of the van and walked through the crisp breeze toward my tree. When I drew close, I could see them . . . the tiny beginnings of this year's iris that might (just might) bloom this year. Not all of them survived the transplanting, but there are quite a few new shoots coming up around the base of the tree.

While I stood, looking, I found a few roots that had been pulled up by deer, or cats, or frost heave. Most were mushy and empty, but one felt heavy when I touched it. Picking it up, I found it wasn't completely soft--one end was firm and smooth, with two tiny sprouts starting from it: one root-colored, and one leaf-colored.

I began pulling at the soil with my fingers, and made a shallow trench. Setting it in place, I thought to myself that while the odds weren't all that great, it now had a chance. Irises are tough critters.

I stood and looked at the ground under the tree, and saw the brambles and weeds that were beginning to take over the area we'd carefully cleared, and felt the immensity of the work before me begin to descend once again. I turned away, back towards the house, the discouragement pulling at every step.

Once again, my eyes fell on another gift: a hydrangea that Vern & the children gave me last Mother's Day. It has looked pretty sad all winter, and we wondered if it had made it. God said, "Go look at it."

I walked up to the wire enclosure we put around it to keep the chickens off, and looked down at the uninspiring rags of last year's growth, wondering what I'd see. 

And then, I saw.

Just barely, as they weren't that visible from the top. Little buds, pushing up from the base of the hydrangea amongst the old branches.

And then, looking closer, I saw that those old branches weren't all dead after all . . . some of them were showing green underneath the papery bark, for as the branches swelled and grew inside of it, the dried and brittle covering split. God whispered, "I will make it grow." And I knew it would be beautiful again . . . gloriously so.

As I looked at the rest of the plant, wondering how much had survived, God whispered again, this time in a complete thought without words, that we would need to let the plant grow and bud and leaf out a little, to see what was yet quick, and what was dead. We needed to let that new life prove itself by its growth.

And then would come the pruning.

I stood there, seeing the ravages of winter, and the damage the new growth had done to the protective but unyielding sheathing on what had survived. I saw the upper branches, gnarled and straw-like that would most likely fall under the shears in a few weeks, and God whispered that I was seeing myself.

I've been through a hard wintry season in  my life. A season of trying, and testing. A season that has threatened everything I have ever believed, ever trusted, everything I thought I knew. And now that Spring is returning, one lovely moment and one Spring rainstorm at a time, I'm seeing new growth budding from the parts of me proven through my circumstances . . . the very innermost heart where God lives.

Through that wintry season, He was the Master Gardener. And now, as Spring returns and His plans are coming to life in me, the pruning will come . . . once the dead and dying wreckage can clearly be distinguished from the vital, new, living creature in Christ that He has made me.

It's alternately nerve-wracking and exhilarating. Sometimes I'm pretty sure I know what is good, and what has survived . . . but I'm not always right.

When I came back with my camera, to better share this with you, He showed me the branches of my little Japanese maple, showing the same symbolic pattern as the hydrangea.

Sometimes it's proving to be the larger, more impressive branches that have died back, while the smaller, more tender branches survived.

It's kind of a tangle, really. But this I know: my God isn't just the Good Shepherd, He is the Master Gardener, and He knows a true branch when He sees one. I can trust Him, for even though He will ask for things I have long loved, or in which I have found temporary comfort, He will not ask me to relinquish anything that I truly need to make it back to Him. 

And in that, I rejoice. 

Wandering thoughts on healing . . .

I was in a meeting at a local spirit-filled church last year. A woman was there, who had a broken wrist. I had met her several weeks before, and I knew her wrist was broken. She may have told me how it was hurt--I don't remember now. But I knew it was a real injury. As the pastor up front talked about grace and God's generosity, he pointed to her and said, "What's wrong with your wrist?"

"It's broken," she answered, lifting her wrist with its black brace that I had noticed every time I had seen her, whether out and about or during a drop-in visit where she was staying.

"No it's not" the pastor responded.

"It's not?" she said back, clearly confused.

"Nope. It's not," he said.

I watched her take her brace off, a look of wonder on her face, and flex her wrist. The most amazed look grew on her countenance, and she held her hand up and shook it hard and fast, like you would if you were trying to shake off a big hairy spider.

"It's not!" she said, laughing.

She ran up and down the aisle, so amazed, shaking that hand, smiling and crying. I'll never forget that. The pastor had never met her before. She was visiting family in the area, and is the sister-in-law to one of my best friends. It was real--and such a huge blessing for her, so penitent and broken in her life right then. Healing can happen simply because the Spirit of God is in a place, in power, and a disciple is ready to receive.

Remember people who were healed just because Peter's shadow fell upon them? I don't know if they were waiting for him to come by, or if they happened to just be on the street. I've actually been thinking a lot about healing lately, and about the story in Mark 2 of Jesus healing the man let down through the roof, when he said "But that ye may know that the Son of Man has power to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy), I say unto you, "Arise. Take up thy bed, and walk."

Healing and forgiveness of sins is the same. There's a positioning of the heart that has to happen that would allow both to occur. Maybe it's the same attitude, whether you're thinking of physical healing or spiritual healing . . . that's what I've been feeling like is the case lately. In that case, whether or not the person is seeking healing by asking, I think that nearly everyone who is sick or injured really does want to be healed. The question is whether or not their heart is penitent enough to receive it.

Remember the story of Paul, shipwrecked, who gathered fuel for the fire the sailors had built, and a venomous snake driven out by the heat of the blaze bit him? He shook the snake off from his hand into the fire, and went about his business, utterly unharmed. The sailors were astounded. Paul didn't think anything of it. He was full of the Holy Spirit, and nothing could harm him. I think of an elderly man I once saw in church in the hallway right after having some kind of health crisis, and know he would love to be healed . . . his wobbly voice and the tissue pressed to his eyes spoke volumes. This once tall, strong man, reduced to hunched pain and embarrassment on a metal folding chair, a knot of people around him, helpful, but helpless. I don't know if his faith was such that he could receive it or not . . . so little faith is actually taught, whether in word through action, that it may have been only that no one there even thought to reach out and declare, in the mercy and power of Jesus Christ, healing over him.

I've seen healings take effect at varying speeds, from immediately to a number of weeks. But it happens. Sometimes it's a matter of supplying missing virtue. Sometimes (for me) it's a matter of getting my heart in the right place, so I won't just go off and do something that the Lord really doesn't want me doing. (In those cases, the illness/injury has been a result of my own choices.)

If someone is following the Spirit of God, I think healing will always come to those who are ready to receive it, whether they ask out loud or not. I have a dream of someday, sometime, being sufficiently refined, having covenanted through sacrifice sufficient that I can carry the spiritual gift of healing. Wherever I go, I will hear the Holy Spirit tell me who to heal, and I can walk up to them, look them in the eye, and when I see the recognition in their eyes of the calling from God I carry, say to them my heart and face full of joy, "Be healed, in Jesus' name!"

Someday . . . someday.

And it's going to rock. Because my God rocks.

And He IS Good. :oD

Forgiveness and Healing

I've been told I'm a pretty forgiving person. I honestly harbor no desire to hurt anyone, just to love the way God loves me.  I knocked myself out for my entire life, working so dang hard.  I wasn't really sure of the details of my promised reward, except that it was eternal glory in the world to come, and some measure of peace here.  Joy really had very little to do with it. I followed the five-step repentance process carefully and fully. And even then, I operated with so many wounds, so much fear. After decades, God gently brought me to a place where I could realize those hurts were still there . . . treatment I'd received long ago, hounding and bullying, humiliation and ridicule. He had to expose the pain and make utterly unprotected places that were still weak and raw. It was a fairly gradual process for me, one spread over weeks.  At first, I owned that those experiences had injured me, and spent quite a bit of time feeling second-class, honestly asking my Father "Why me? Why? That really hurt, God, and it still does!" I indulged in old-fashioned self-pity, feeling like most of the rest of humanity didn't have to go through my own particular hellish junk, and it wasn't very fair.  (I know, I know. But that's how I felt, so I'm owning that, too.)

My own mortal patching of those wounds was to protect them with fear, layer upon hardened layer, calcified and chafing. It had become a pain I was used to, my spiritual and emotional operations distorted by this well-known background noise in the same way a limp distorts and hinders a free stride. Words can't quite capture the vulnerability, the utter nakedness that uncovering brings. Then, I had the opportunity to offer them to Him.  He showed me someone who was in the same place I was . . . a young woman, utterly vulnerable in the complete exposure of her pain and her past before God.  I knew her heart, knew her pain, and finally saw my own in its fullness.  And I was undone.

It was only then that He clothed me in His healing, His righteousness, through the intercessory prayer of a woman sent to me by God Himself; one who knew what to do, how to pray, for the place where I was.

And I was made whole.

To you it shall be for meat.

And I, God, said unto man, Behold, I have given you every herb, bearing seed, which is upon the face 
of all the earth; and every tree in the which shall be the fruit of a tree, yielding seed; to you it shall be for  meat.  And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein I grant life, there shall be given every clean herb for meat; and it was so, even as I spake. And I, God, saw everything that I had made, and behold, all things which I had made were very good. Gen 1:31-33 IV

I have often read over these verses, and marveled over how God told man to be vegan. With the fall came predation and eating flesh, (which really, written that way, sounds awful), but I have always loved that, if it were up to God, really, we would all be vegan.

The time I spent as a raw vegan was the best health of my life. I had so much more energy, my body was cleansing and releasing toxins and shrinking to the tune of 2-3 pounds a week. (I wasn't doing any strength training then.) I had prayed and prayed and prayed to be able to be really and truly healthy, to have a deep vitality and strength, and I really felt like that was my answer.  Then, morning sickness hit, and I ate almost nothing. A couple of tangerines a day, and some water.  Sometimes some nuts or a little other fruit. I was just so nauseated all the time that nothing but tangerines even appealed to me.  Finally, one day Vern found me in the kitchen on the verge of tears, and folded me into his arms. And I cried. And as I cried, I realized I was so, so hungry. And thirsty. All I wanted was food and drink. And I didn't feel like I could get any of it down.

It was shortly after that that I went back to cooked foods, albeit gluten-free.  GF seemed to allay most of my hypoglycemia and thyroid issues, and I had such a good time in the kitchen, figuring out how to cook with GF flours and coconut milk, still nearly all vegetarian, but loving pancakes and muffins, brown rice and crackers (and cheese). I still think Henry was built mostly on rice crackers, cheese and vitamins. (And, I should be embarrassed to say, gf cookies and dark chocolate.)

Ever since returning to cooked foods, I have struggled with my health and weight.  I gained twenty pounds in that first month of eating cooked food. And another fifty with the pregnancy. I've only come down about fifteen pounds from my immediate post-partum weight of more than three years ago. I'm much stronger (a fair bit of that shift has been recompositioning as I've spent time in the gym), but I still have so far to go. I've felt, over and over, that I really should go back to mostly or all raw, and I think the time is coming for it.  It's time to see what God's way of eating can do for me for longer than three months.  The last time we went raw, we started just before Thanksgiving. By mid-February, when I returned to cooked foods, I was just under 160 lbs, within five pounds of my all-time adult low, and one pants size away from my beloved size 12 corduroys. And I felt so, so good. It's time to get healthy again . . . whatever the scale ends up saying as I get back to getting healthy, and adding strength, too.

Father, I'm ready for change. I'm ready to do this . . . we designed our kitchen for a raw vegan life, and I'm ready to use it that way. Show me how much to do, how far to go, what you would have me feed my family, and how to get started again. Show me what to clear out of my house, whether physical stuff or spiritual. Renew our minds continually, so we have the knowledge to fulfill Your desires for us. My children need this healing, too; they have health needs that exercise alone won't cure. Show me what they need to be fed, how they need to be fed, so they can thrive, growing into the powerful and humble servants You are calling them to be. And thank you so much for showing me that breaking free and beginning change doesn't mean I won't have to deal with the consequences of my old life for quite a while, and for letting me know that You will walk with me, talk with me, and show me how to handle each resurgence in the best way, in a healthy way. I love you, God of mine, and I can't wait to know You better, and to feel like myself again. In Jesus' name, amen!

Change: it looks like God's love.

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.

They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11 NLT)

You judge me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. And if I did, my judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent me is with me. (John 8:15, 16 NLT)


Christ allowed the Pharisees' own consciences to condemn them. He didn't condemn.

He did not condemn the woman: she stood accused by a horde of those who were SURE they were the righteous ones. But Christ, the truly righteous One, didn't condemn.

It was the "faithful", the "righteous", the law-of-Moses-abiding leaders who accused. Christians today are quick to point out the Pharisees and all they did wrong, but how often do we stop and think: Whose pattern does my behavior match: Jesus', or the Pharisees'?

The only ones Christ spoke harshly to were those who held themselves up as an example. The only ones He ever treated with anything but kindness were those who were robbing the poor in the temple by selling animals for sacrifice at double and triple the cost. In both cases, He was dealing with those who had a hand in actively hindering those seeking God.

I know from sad experience that as soon as I begin to constrain, condemn, or accuse, the Spirit of God is grieved, and flees. But when I take a deep breath and speak ONLY in love the words God gives me to say--no condemnation, no pointing out what seems to me to be sin--then the Holy Spirit can work in the hearts of my loved ones, and they always know exactly what it is that would make God, who loves them so much, the happiest. When I carry the love of God in my heart, good things happen. When I operate out of fear or the idea that I'm on a moral high ground, I'm only serving the enemy.

Gentleness. Meekness. Love unfeigned. Entreaty. Long-suffering. Patience.

If we, as believers, EVER want ANYTHING to change in the LGBT communities, it's gotta happen one understanding, one friendship, one outpouring of God's love at a time. He will speak to them whatever it is that He wants heard. (And heaven forbid I should ever say what that might be.)

I know . . . from unconscionably long, painful, personal experience . . . that the only way for God to come in is for US to get our damning opinions, the precepts and philosophies of our fathers, out of the way. For us to be a conduit for Him, instead of taking His law unto ourselves.  Like to a shell dishabited, only there then can there be place for Him to dwell. I finally met Jesus because I prayed for friends, true friends, and over the course of about two years, God dumped a bunch of radically-obedient believers in my lap. One by one, the love of God they radiated, the reality of Jesus to them in their lives, changed mine.  A couple decades of well-intentioned and pleasant instruction in heart-warming stories and powerful emotionalism couldn't do it.  Only Jesus.

I'm so glad that it's not my place to do anything but love ALL others, to treat them as I would wish to be treated, and leave everything else up to Him.