Once upon a time…

“Your life is a story.” I feel like the idea of “life story” has become very popular in our culture lately… I seem to run across the idea of “story” everywhere I turn.

I think that culture has latched onto it because it’s *true*… It resonates with us.

However, pop-culture maybe missing a major piece: our life as “story” necessitates an Author… and the Author has author-ity over the story and characters He is writing. Of course what I’m getting at is this: God, who is Elohim “Strong Creator”, is Author and Authority…

This also has the implication that your story is not yours only. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.  Therefore, if you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, YOU and your *life story* were bought at a price… Your story is not your own… it belongs to God, FOR the Kingdom of God and HIS glory.

This means that God not only authored YOU but wrote into your story all the particularities of the street you grew up on, your mother, your father… your childhood abuse… and all the trauma in your young life (although God is NOT the author of Sin- your sin or the sin done against you… this is a mystery, an apparent contradiction that is not explained)- And you have been finding ways of escape- But not through God your Savior.

Trauma and abuse is a part of *each person’s story*. You can’t live in a fallen world where sin and evil reign and be exempt. Evil doesn’t give free passes. Evil has worked to harm you and evil has worked *through you* to work harm in the lives of others.  I feel that often we want to leave the idea of “sin” and personally being a “sinner” as nebulous ideas that we accent to, because it’s essential to “being a Christian”. But have you really wrestled with the anger (hatred) and lust (adultery/ idolatry) in your life story? How did you as a young child metabolize the anger and lust of your primary caregivers? We can’t think that our parents were “sinners needing a Savior”, but that somehow their personal sin didn’t cause harm in our young hearts. Unless your parents were “pre-fall Adam and Eve” and your home was the “garden of Eden” your parents perpetrated harm in your life. The intricacies of that harm, how it became woven into your heart, mind and body, and how Evil came in and whispered lies that you hold so deeply as *truth* (about who you are, who your parents are, who God is etc), and also offered ways of escape and promises of life apart from God… are ALL *key* to your story.

Have you buried your story like the man in the parable of the talents??

 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, … so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ (Matthew 25)

Or have you brought your story into the light before God- for healing, for redemption- and for multiplication of God’s rescue in the lives of others?

You can stop pretending that this life is normal and good- it’s *not*. But you can bring Heaven to earth. Let your life shine- Christ IN you and through you- He is Savior, Redeemer, the One who frees captives, heals the lame, gives sight to the blind.

If you deny (oh you might have the correct “Sunday school answers”, but deny by the way you live or what you *don’t ever say*) that you were ever lost and needed a Savior, or broken, sick and lame, blind… bound as a slave in strong chains (even to your own self-righteousness, ie perception/mask of “goodness”)- then you are denying Jesus in your life- His rescue of you- you are burying your talent (ie gift of Salvation) at risk of being the modern day “church of Laodicea”:

‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. ~ REVELATION 3

I hope you see here in the last verse of this passage, there is a *FEAST*… but this feast is only for beggars… and for the sick and broken made well through Christ.

If God is opening your eyes, maybe for the first time, that you are spiritually lost and broken and need rescue, then His invitation of “Come!!” is to you!!

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” ~ Mark 2:17

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” ~ Luke 4

Forgiveness is War: Part 3

“Forgiveness is a war for your heart, for the person who has done you harm, and for the Gospel. Often forgiveness is messier than the original harm. Will you give it time?” (DA)

INTRO:

This my 3rd and final blog on Forgiveness! I’ll try to make it brief because I’ve covered a lot of ground already. This blog series has been a commentary on Dan Allender’s you-tube video: “Unpacking the Confusion of Forgiveness”. He offers a view of forgiveness that is a *journey* , NOT an event that is something we DO, and “boom” it’s over and we move on with life. (Jesus said to forgive 77 X 7- this indicates the on-going nature!!)

FIRST STEP:

The first step, (discussed in detail in my first blog), is “Naming the wound.” “You can’t forgive what you have not named. Most often the harm is far deeper that what you have allowed yourself to name. Will you face the harm done to your mind, body and heart?” (DA)

SECOND STEP:

The second step, is knowing and experiencing afresh God’s forgiveness toward you. Forgiveness is always a derivative gift. We can only forgive because we have been forgiven. We must see that *we* have an immeasurable, infinite debt that we owe to God for our sin against Him. This is a debt that we can never pay- it demands our eternal payment in an eternal hell. BUT, Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh come to Earth as a man, took our debt upon himself and paid it with HIS own death on the cross. In becoming our substitute, He allowed for our debt to be cancelled before God. For all those who accept this free gift of salvation, we stand as free and an innocent before God.

In forgiving another person, we are called to do what Jesus did for us. We are called to cancel the debt of another’s harm against us. And thus, to no longer seek to make them pay. In this sense, forgiveness is never a minimization of the harm done to us. It is never a “sweeping under the rug.” It is a full acknowledgement that the harm done to you was *great* and could never be paid back in 10,000 lifetimes, but as Jesus did, in a sense, you absorb the reality of the harm, and yet cancel the debt… proclaiming that this person no longer owes you.

THIRD STEP:

Now, we come to the third step. This is what Dan calls “Stepping into the war.” This is a war between Good and Evil… Wherever there has been harm, Evil will come into the picture to seduce your heart with bitterness, with accusations, with a sense of power that is almost impossible to give up. Will you wrestle with the part of your heart that doesn’t want to forgive? “You enjoy holding power, anger… you have become bitter, but it has been *full* for your heart… that is the problem.”

This step takes the nature of the Gospel a step further than “canceling the debt”… The Gospel is about joy, and life… and invitation to a *Feast*… Jesus not only cancels our debt of sin on the Cross, but he invites us into the Kingdom of God as brothers and sisters… God adopts us as sons and daughters into his family.

Taking this analogy to our own process of forgiveness, God is therefore calling us to a heart that wants to bless the one who harmed us. Dan describes the idea of “Turn the other cheek” as NOT passivity and NOT submission to abuse. It is a defiant stand against Evil. “It is as if you’re saying: You harmed me. You think you have power, but I’m not going to run from you…  you can see that your first efforts to control me didn’t work. I’m not going to fight or flee. I’ll stand now to serve you… which is to conquer you.”

Dan also clarifies this “blessing” and “serving” as not a “pleasant sweetness”… He uses a cancer analogy. When someone has cancer, the way to “bless” them is to *burn, poison, and cut them with knives” (aka radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery). Therefore, loving someone who has been abusive toward you means *not allowing the harm to continue*. You must be more MORE committed to *the person than to the relationship*. This means setting up boundaries that the person will likely experience as painful (and may include legal action.).

True love will never leave someone the same, unchanged. Loving someone *in truth* will either turn their hearts more toward hardness, self-defensive and self-righteousness, or it will soften their hearts toward repentance, grace, and God.

Addendum: (I posted this as a reply to a comment, but thought it deserved to be in the thick of the post!)

I was thinking more about how hard it really is to love someone in *truth*… I think we come up with all these reasons why it’s best to sweep things under the rug, “to keep the peace” (but like Jeremiah said, it’s the false prophets who declare “peace, peace when there is no peace”), but really it’s for our own benefit in the moment- to keep our anxiety and shame down… Oh anxiety is so powerful a controller in our lives!! But what really serves the other person is truth and the opportunity to repent and change for the better… I feel like so often we don’t give God the chance to work the unexpected in others.. Proverbs says that the “wounds of a friend” are good… but how often do we really wound each other for good? Are we then being “friends” as the Bible calls us to be?

FOR FURTHER READING:

Dan Allender’s book “Bold Love” is THE best book on Forgivenesss. The last section of the book details this “blessing”: “Loving an Evil Person: Siege Warfare”; “Loving a Fool: Guerilla Warfare”; “Loving a normal sinner: Athletic Competition”; and finally “Bold Love: A sword in the Heart of Death.” 

 

 

 

What a prostitution survivor taught me about joy ~ by Jay Stringer

What a Prostitution Survivor Taught Me About Joy, Part One

By Jay Stringer · November 5, 2015 What a Prostitution Survivor Taught Me about Joy

For the next two weeks, we’re featuring an article from Jay Stringer, an alumnus of The Seattle School (MDiv and MA in Counseling Psychology ‘09) who works as both a licensed mental health counselor and an ordained minister. Here, Jay writes about the devastating, paradigm-shifting stories he encountered working at a community mental health clinic, and about what the people there—including a prostitution survivortaught him about trauma, addiction, healing, and, somehow, joy. This post originally appeared in The Other Journal.

http://theallendercenter.org/2015/11/prostitution-and-joy-1/

 

I hope you take the time to read the full article, both parts. It’s *so* good!! But here are some salient excerpts: 

Without exception, each client had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and some type of chemical dependency diagnosis for cocaine, heroin, alcohol, or meth at some point in their life. For the first time that I can recall, addiction made sense. My paradigm for drug users shifted from a posture of condemnation to a hybrid of relief and lament that they found a substance capable of giving them a brief intermission from all the brutality they had undergone. Those who are traumatized do not choose drugs because they want to be rebellious teenagers or irresponsible adults; they are choosing a chemical that is powerful enough to address the powers of evil that have been unleashed against them and within them. How is it that we have become so judgmental of drug use and so blind to their trauma? **The tragedy, far more than the drug use, is the trauma. Woe to us who forget this.** ….

The angel of the Lord finds Hagar here in this unexpected place and asks her the best questions any friend, spouse, therapist, or pastor could ever ask someone about their life: Where do you come from? Where are you going? The voice of God is curious, and the ears of God incline to hear her trauma…

Hagar is so moved by this encounter and blessing that she is compelled to say, “El Roi,” meaning “the God who sees me.” This is remarkable. It is a stranger, a foreigner, who is the first person to name God in the Scriptures. Although her knowledge of Yahweh is exceedingly limited, Hagar recognizes that this God is concerned with her trauma and will move with compassion toward her.

What a Prostitution Survivor Taught Me About Joy, Part Two

By Jay Stringer · November 12, 2015 What a Prostitution Survivor Taught Me about Joy

In part one of this article, Jay Stringer, an alumnus of The Seattle School (MDiv and MA in Counseling Psychology ‘09), began writing about the devastating, paradigm-shifting stories he encountered working at a community mental health clinic:

“The absurdity and oddness I observed in these men and women were, I realized, not only characteristics of their trauma. They were also estranged because they did not have the access, ability, or desire to bow to our modern idols of capitalism, denial, and power. These gods allow most of us to maneuver our lives away from pain as we settle for surrogate sources of comfort. In spending time with this population, I began to get a sense of something out of a Twilight Zone episode—I began to think that maybe we, the stable ones, are actually the most troubled.”

 

http://theallendercenter.org/2015/11/prostitution-and-joy-2/

Again, some salient excerpts:

One Friday afternoon, I was covering the front desk after our receptionist went home sick when the most unusual woman came through the doors. Her walk, her clothes, and her face—they were all ancient in a futuristic, Star Wars sort of way. She leaned her arms over the reception counter and carefully examined my face for a good ten or fifteen seconds as she chewed gum with the tenacity of an iconic 1980s aerobic instructor.

She stopped chewing and said, “You must be new here. I don’t believe our eyes have met.”

I nodded with a smile and said, “You are correct. This is my third week. What can I do for you?”

She glanced at the clock. “Well I know you are about to close for the weekend. I just need to know where my party is and I will be on my way.”

I told her I had no idea what she was talking about. She looked at me with a bit of irritation. “Oh, of course you don’t know yet—but the city of Seattle throws me a party every Friday night.”

At this point, I was thinking almost exclusively about the appropriate clinical diagnosis for the woman. My internal dialogue went something like this: “Schizophrenia? Possibly, but not enough disorganization. Narcissistic personality disorder? More than likely—who in the world says something like that?”

I chose instead to be playful with my incredulity and asked, “Now why would a whole city throw you a party?”

Delighted, she stood straight up with a strong and playful dignity and proclaimed, “Well, I used to be a heroin whore, but now I’m clean, I’m sober, and I’m beautiful. Every weekend the city throws me a party to celebrate my life. You should come; it’s the best dancing in the city.”

I googled clean and sober parties in Seattle, and sure enough they existed. I wrote the address of her party on a card and she thanked me, spun around, and danced out of the clinic…

After declining another dance party invitation, I retrieved Stacey’s chart to write a progress note from our session. When I opened her file, chills ran through my body. I had read her file before. This was the woman who was sold into prostitution by her mother on her ninth birthday and had remained in that life for over fifteen years.

Stacey’s life and presence remain completely astonishing to me because I’ve come to recognize that she understands more about the nature of trauma, addiction, and healing than I could ever hope to learn. She knows that her lifetime of trauma and decades of addiction were not grounds for condemnation or alienation; she knows that they were the very events that formed her beauty and invited her to dance in the delight of God…

The mission many churches faithfully commit to year after year is one of service to a broken and hurting world. The complexity of this mission is that it often sets us up to believe that brokenness and sin reside mostly out there in the world and not in us. The result is a patronizing engagement with the people we make the focus of our mission or outreach. We refuse to see ourselves as the sick ones, and we therefore live as if we need no physician. A litmus test for whether or not your ministry falls into this trap is to discern whether you understand yourself to be more troubled and in need of the gospel than those you serve…

Christianity is fundamentally a faith in the trauma and resurrection of Jesus. The powers of evil believed their weapons of torture could defeat God, but paradoxically it is the trauma and death of Jesus that liberates the world. If we want to reveal the story of Jesus, we will be asked to confront the traumas that surround us…

But there are other seasons in which the trauma we confront is of our own doingthe recognition that our control has fractured the relationships with our spouse and children; the reality that we have hated ourselves for decades and it now contaminates everything, from our eating to our buying and the very theologies we embrace; of a gender that is responsible for so much of the degradation and violation of women…

The wonder and wisdom of the gospel is that God’s trauma addresses both these story lines. The atonement Jesus procures for us is the announcement that we are sinners who struggle with lust and anger but also the good news that this sin is {no longer} grounds for separation {because Jesus was our substitute in bearing God’s wrath for us, in our place} ; it is the very soil in which the work of redemption will grow forth.

 

Not Quite White

Below is an excerpt from an article in World Magazine, I think is very interesting, because it’s a topic I’ve never really heard discussed before. I found it quite shocking that in the early 1900s, more than 8000 poor white women were sterilized in an intentional government effort to wipe out a group of Americans. (below is the link to the full article)

Poor whites need Jesus and justice too

Religion | Evangelicals tend to focus on urban minorities instead of the largest percentage of Americans living under the poverty line

“If you want to hear crickets in a room full of educated, missionally minded, culture-shaping evangelicals, ask this question: “What are you doing to serve the needs of poor white people?”

A recent seminary graduate, who is white, asked me what he needed to do to prepare to plant a church in a small lower-class town that is 76 percent black and 21 percent white. He was rightly cautious after reading in Aliens in the Promised Land about Rev. Lance Lewis’ call for a moratorium on white evangelicals planting churches in black areas because of evangelicalism’s cultural obtuseness and patriarchal disposition toward ethnic minorities. Since most black communities in the South are already saturated with churches, I asked this young man why he was not interested in planting a church among the lower-class whites in his county. His response: “It had not occurred to me to plant a church among lower-class whites.”…

“Today it seems that “the least of these” includes more than 19 million poor whites who are just the wrong color for gospel ministry and mission. As educated evangelicals turn a blind eye to 41 percent of the nation’s poor, are they more driven by a white messianic narrative than by an indiscriminate love for neighbor?”

http://www.worldmag.com/2015/03/poor_whites_need_jesus_and_justice_too

Blog title comes from a book referenced in the article… “Not quite white: White trash and the boundaries of whiteness.” ~ Matt Wray

On Forgiveness: Part 2

Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ~ Colossians 3:13

This blog series is an exploration or dialogue considering Dan Allender’s video discussion on forgiveness in which he outlines 3 stages (video posted below): 1) Naming the Wound; 2) Remembering God’s Forgiveness toward you; 3) Stepping into the War.

The first element of forgiveness is “canceling the debt that is owed.” As discussed in the first blog, this involves facing the actual nature of the harm done to you (Naming the Wound). You must name your own heartache and your own anger. There is clearly pain involved. The person forgiving is absorbing the debt within themselves- there will be pain and suffering. Forgiveness is a courageous act along every step.

The second element is really an essential prerequisite of the first- it is the idea that *forgiving another is a derivative gift.”~ DA. In other words, you must BE forgiven… and know that it is of a *far greater debt*… in order to forgive another person *of a far lesser debt*.

Matthew 18:23-35
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.
Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’
The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt…

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.

Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’

In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Dan Allender said, “I must see the harm done to me through the reality of what is in my own heart. That there is a *far greater* failure of love pervasively in my life, than what you have done to me.” (paraphrase)

In the story of Isaiah’s call, when he *sees* God and his holiness, he instantaneously falls face down to the floor and calls a *curse* upon himself- “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips.”

Have we been captured by our own uncleanness? … As Dan said, “You have to begin with at least some sense that you are capable of any and all sin…” (Romans 2:1 ~You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.)

Do you know the *anger* and *lust* of your own heart? (lust does not have be sexual in nature, but the idea that “I WILL get what I want”) … How well do you know your own failure of love?… not in generalities, not a nebulous concept… but can you name how you have *used* your own children? The ways you have brought shame into their lives? Your failure of honor and delight in your husband/wife?

It’s only in the backdrop of our own darkness that we can see the glory of Christ… the deeper black we know ourselves to be, the brighter we see Jesus to shine.

“It is not going be a rule or a principle that will get a person to the place where they can forgive.” (other pastor in video clip)

Simply telling someone “you have to forgive so-and-so or you’ll never have freedom in your life” will never be helpful. Please, let’s all embrace that idea… Telling someone they “ought” to feel some way- whether it be forgiveness, or desire, or thankful, or joyful… or to “move on” from their grief and just have more faith… will only produce guilt or resentment… those kind of statements will trigger the cortical brain, which has no power in these matters, except for a thought process of guilt.

Instead the *limbic* brain needs to be engaged… by attachment, which is another word for love… “It is the *kindness* of God that leads you to repentance.” (Romans 2) … “it is His *Love* that constrains us* (2 Corinthians 5:14)… and makes his commandments “not burdensome.”

We will never begin the pathway of forgiveness while we are in a state of self-righteousness… while we are the “Elder brother”… Before we can mirror the welcoming arms of the Father, we must first make the journey from the Elder brother that we naturally are, to be the “Prodigal son”… Only after we *know* the welcoming embrace of forgiveness, and feel it ourselves, can we offer it to another… There is a sense of unity for the prodigal son in the embrace of the Father.

But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. ~ Matthew 6:15

Again, this is not a statement of “Then TRY harder!!” It is an invitation to evaluate your own heart… If you cannot forgive another… then perhaps you have *never* made the journey of the Prodigal Son… or perhaps you need to make the journey again (every Christian needs to each day!). The Prodigal son WILL forgive (a journey of a life-time! 77X7 is an image of infinity)… the Elder brother *cannot*… It’s a matter of identity, not effort.

As I close, I want to emphasize again that forgiveness is not a “one time event” that we *do* and wash our hands … It IS a journey, a struggle… a *WAR*… As American Christians we tend to be so squeamish about “struggle”… We have this false notion that struggle = deficient faith… and “Strong faith”= joyful, peaceful, serene existence (as Kirk Cameron would say, that everyone can see the “Christian” twinkle in your eye!)… Scripture says, that it is the “Good” fight of faith…

*Authentic* faith IS always a Battle.

So please… No shame in the Battle… and please don’t shame your Christian brothers and sisters who are faithfully fighting. Instead, let iron sharpen iron, and we will all have longer, sharper swords!

War and Peace: Christmas 2015

Thoughts for Christmas 2015

This season I’ve been looking at and thinking about passages in Scripture that describe Jesus’s mission in coming to dwell with men.

This is the passage from Isaiah that Jesus himself quotes as his own mission statement:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the **captives** and release from darkness for the **prisoners**, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

This Christmas season I want to explore the tension between the Age we’re IN at present, versus the HOPE of the Age that is promised to come. Here is my premise: We live in the Age of captivity, of prisoners, of darkness… In that sense there is grief, and sorrow… But Jesus came for healing and for freedom- He offers that TO US, and calls us to work *with him* for healing and freedom in the lives of others… The context of Jesus coming is a declaration of WAR on EVIL; the very nature of releasing prisoners and captives suggests that there would be resistance from an Enemy. And we are called to enter warfare with Jesus against Evil.

This is the time we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death”… and as we walk “we fear no Evil”… but we do live in Satan’s realm and reign (Revelation 12, 1 John 5:19: the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.) THIS life is the battle ground. We still live in the period of sin and death… there IS weeping… and there IS a true, deep and grievous wound… We need healing… we need freedom from captivity. And we need to Fight… for our own heart and for others… to be wholly bound to God alone.

Jesus himself said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”(Matthew 10:34)

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. ~ Eph. 6:17

This passage doesn’t even make sense if you’re not at war. Who carries a sword unless they’re at war, and without intent to *kill*?

I believe that God’s people have bought into a lie- that we’re already in the Age of full Joy and victory (part of the lie is that if you don’t *feel* this, then *your* faith is deficient)… we’ve been tricked into exchanging our swords for plowshares before the time.

THIS is the time we are in: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, “I am a warrior.” ~ Joel 3:10 (note: in contrast Isaiah 2:4 is the age to come)

So you might be wondering: okay, where does the Joy and Peace of Christmas fit in to all this?

There IS joy and peace… but it is not based on this world, it is based on the hope and the promise of Christ’s second coming, when the defeat over Evil will be final and when God’s Kingdom will have full reign. We do see smaller (but not insignificant) victories of God in our own hearts and others, that foreshadow that ultimate victory. The joy and the peace is in the beginning of the Battle… that we DO have One who has come to fight on our behalf- to set us free and empower us… Our confidence is in Him, therefore we hold true joy even with the sorrow of this broken world.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. ~ Isaiah 35:10 and 51:11

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow **will turn into joy**. ~ John 16:20

We are called to hold complexity- joy and sorrow; to be childlike in faith, yet a warrior ready to kill.

Jesus isn’t afraid of this complexity. He creates tension, conflict, and complexity and *invites you to wrestle with Him in it all.*

THIS wrestling is true faith.

Be faithful and take up your sword this Christmas.

Oh yeah, and just make sure you’re on the right side of the battle:
Psalm 7:12- If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.

This is the beautiful thing, that even as this is the age of Battle against Evil, it is also the Age of Salvation, when the call of God is “Come!!” and He has his arms of mercy open to ALL who come to him repentance and faith (faith that Jesus took the punishment you deserve when He died on the cross, and offers the free gift of canceling the debt YOU owe of your own blood and death, that instead Jesus paid it FOR you) :

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare…

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” ~ Isaiah 55

Merry Christmas :oD

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. ~ Romans 16:20.

May *you* have your foot on the neck of Evil in the year to come.
Love, Catherine

Ps. If you’re interested in digging more into the topic of warfare, I’d suggest “Waking the Dead” by John Eldridge, and the podcasts from his website: ransomed heart ministries. Also, Dan Allender’s book “Bold Love”; If you’re interested in reading about the basics of faith in Jesus, I’d recommend Timothy Keller’s book “The Prodigal God” and Charles Spurgeon’s “All of Grace.”

Happy 1st Birthday Tirzah! (coming up on August 20th)

Happy 1st Birthday, Tirzah!

In celebration of Tirzah’s first birthday- August 20th, I am hosting an online BABY SHOWER!!

Who doesn’t love a baby shower?? With all the pink, presents, and cupcakes!!

But since the whole world can’t celebrate Tirzah’s life with us in person, I’m inviting you to celebrate her life with us by donating to the Morning Center in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Morning Center project was founded to provide free full-service maternity care to women in urban and under-served areas where quality care is limited and scarce. Memphis, Tennessee one of the most impoverished city in the United States, with near 3rd world conditions as the video below explains. The Morning Center has a full-staff OB doctor, a mobile ultrasound unit and van, and has delivered more than 75 babies!! Their complete maternity care is 100% free for these women. Please please watch the video below. In addition to monetary donations, we desire your heart and prayers for this ministry!

This short video describes their mission: 

Our desire is for Tirzah to leave a legacy of *LIFE* … life for more babies… and spiritual life through the spreading of God’s *free gift* grace: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” ~ 1 Timothy 1:15

This verse will be on her grave stone, and is the message of her life:

John 11:25: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

Please consider giving to the Morning Center in Honor of Tirzah for her 1st Birthday!

Here is the link to my fundraising page:

https://secure.morningcenter.org/np/clients/morningcenter/campaign.jsp?campaign=21&fundraiser=12286&team=21&

Dear Tirzah, happy 1st birthday to the most beautiful redheaded princess ever to be born! We love you and miss you every day! You have forever blessed our lives. We’ll be with you so soon, holding your hands and worshiping together at the feet of Jesus. You’ve taught us to long for that day when we’ll meet our Savior and you. Until then we know that the softest touch of your face was a glimpse of glory, and we can only imagine what it will be like to see the full beauty of your face- to see your eyes and to hear your voice. We wait for that day! For now, we send up 1000 kisses!

Love, Mommy, Daddy, and big brother Jeremiah

“My Beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away…” ~ Song of Solomon 2:10

Tirzah Catherine Knight

August 20, 2014, at 40 weeks

Died of unknown cause

Dear Tirzah, Happy 11 month anniversary!

On Tirzah’s 11 month anniversary, I finally put all her clothes and car seat in storage.

She’s truly gone from this earth and she’s not coming back.

But I *will* go to her… one day.

I will go to {her}, but {she} will not return to me. ~ 2 Samuel 12:23, {King David when his infant child died}

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I feel a true sense of peace and hope, almost a year after her death. I often think of her life verse: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one and come away…” And I know that it was the Lord who truly called her home.

Yet still Death is an Enemy… Death entered the world through sin, and death is of the Evil One. He came to thieve and destroy (John 10:10- The Thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ; Romans 5:12- Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned..)

But now I have learned another secret to deep peace in the midst loss in this life: *Make a mockery of Death and of Evil itself.*

Where, O Death, is your victory?? Where, O Death, is your sting?? 

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ (1 Corinthians 15:55)
For what Death intended to thieve from me- my daughter Tirzah, *Death has instead been *my servant* to return her to me, secured to me* for Eternity!!  And that is the *truest* reality:  eternity in God’s Kingdom. This life is like the blink of an eye and it’s *gone*. Therefore, I have removed from my vocabulary the phrase: “I lost my daughter.”

Tirzah’s death is no “loss”… it is my gain. Eternal Gain.

I speak of her life, her resurrection life… which is the only *true* and eternal life. While I do mourn- for I do miss her presence with me in this life and for now feel the chasm of time that separates; I mourn *with hope*- and that is true hope- based on the Resurrection of Jesus- for He defeated sin and death… He was our Forerunner, and our guarantee.

And now I feel more free than ever to truly live… “For my life [ on this earth] worth *nothing* to  me… *except* that I may testify to the Gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)

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From The Cry of the Soul, by Dan Allender… These words are my very heart:

Death is an imposter; hopeless sorrow, a deceiver. Both pretend to be more true than trust. The Evil One uses death to force the question: “Can you trust a God who lest you and your loved ones suffer and die?”  …
But the sorrow of disappointed desire need not lead us away from God into hopelessness. Instead, it can lead us *toward* God in an invitation to hope.
The laughter of trust mocks evil. And true laughter is a reflection of resurrected hope. We mock evil with expectant tears that do not deny the laughter of the cross.
To taunt death and sorrow is to let tears cut a path in the soul that deepens the flow of passion toward good. It is to sweep deeply while simultaneously savoring the anticipation of the Day of Glory. It is to embrace trust over sight; passion over deadness. Those who weep will one day laugh, and the laughter of glory can be borrowed today to keep hope alive in the face of pain and death.”
Recently, on June 15, Elizabeth Elliott passed from this life into the next. I was gripped by her life and story, along with her first husband, Jim Elliott in a new way. Jim was murdered at the age of 28 by a tribe in Ecuador, whom he, along with his wife, baby daughter, and several other families had come to minister to.(Watch the documentary “Beyond the Gates of Splendor” if you have the chance!! http://beyondthegatesthemovie.com/)

When I heard of Elizabeth’s death, I cried tears of joy and relief for her, mixed with a flood of my own grief… I just imagined how very very long she had waited for that day- to be reunited with Jim… and with her Savior. And I thought, that’s how I’m going to feel…  when I’m old, and probably in a nursing home, getting ready to die, I’ll just think- “finally, finally… I’ve *waited so long*… and now I get to see Tirzah… and my Savior face to face.”

Elizabeth Elliot is a wonderful mentor and example of looking to eternal things, seeking and serving the Kingdom of God in the aftermath of tragedy and death. I pray in some small portion to follow in her footsteps. (She along with the other wives whose husbands were also murdered, stayed to minister to these people, and they all excepted God’s gift of grace and forgiveness. One of the other men’s sons was even baptized by his father’s murderer. A truly miraculously scandalous story of God’s mercy!!)

And now that I am not guarding or protecting my life as precious… I feel that the possibilities are endless and I am excited to pray and watch how the Lord will lead our lives to serve His Kingdom until that day when we cross the River Jordan to the Promised Land.

Tirzah has been my beautiful little prophetess to teach me to “love the appearing” of the Lord (2 Tim 4:8), not the things of this world.

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…and the day of death {is} better than the day of birth. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:1

it *shall* be well with you

In my previous blog, “Are you having fun yet?”, I outlined the journey of hope. Now i’d like to share with you my personal story.

Part 1: Hope

My journey of hope began when Ryan and I found out that I was pregnant with our second baby… and we were *so* excited to find out this baby was a girl!! I had so much fun looking at (and buying!) all the baby girl dresses, hair bows, and little hats. I worked so hard to get everything ready for her. I remember being 9 months pregnant and painstakingly cleaning out the car for her! We had her first little doll, tiny little newborn bonnet with flowers, and tiny little ivory shoes… her crib was all set up and ready with a pink sheet, her doll and little stuffed giraffe, just so perfect. I had started to pack my suitcase for the hospital, and I felt a little silly because I had more things packed for her than myself- I couldn’t decide what I wanted her to wear for newborn photos, or her little outfit to wear home… and i probably packed 10 or more headbands!

Then, on August 20th, at about 9:15 in the morning, the day before her scheduled C-section, our hope was shattered with the silence of the Doppler probe… At this point I wouldn’t say that my hope was shattered completely… If you read my writings soon after her death I was filled with a lot of hope, and thankfulness and faith. In the Lord’s mercy, He showed us His strong presence and goodness in those early days. He knew I wasn’t ready for the struggle. The Hope of our daughter,Tirzah was immediately replaced with Hope in God’s Redemption. So in a sense I jumped from “Shalom” or “Hope” straight to “Shalom/Hope Restored”… and for a time skipped the stages of the true shattering and seeking. (see https://delightofmylife.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/are-you-having-fun-yet/)

Part 2: Hope Shattered

Yet the struggle did come… in God’s good timing. I had created my own vision of what God would do with Tirzah’s death and resurrection. I think that expectation became the new basis for my hope. Sometime around Easter 2015 that vision crashed in on me… and there was a second shattering… I think because this shattering was in the context of loneliness, it was more profound and painful…  . In this isolation, the reality of death felt more raw… the despair so deep it took my breath away… it often felt like I was truly struggling to take one breath after another… I no longer had any taste for life. Did I “control hope by killing it”, in order to escape the pain and risk of hope? Perhaps.

Part 3: Hope Sought

Then as this disillusionment engulfed me, I became a “stranger”. I felt bitter… closed off to people. I suppose the isolation became a self-fulfilling prophecy as I responded with disassociation. During this time, I struggled… a lot with God. I don’t look at this time as any kind of departure from faith. It was like Jacob wrestling all night with Yahweh… and not letting go.

Honestly, I believe the “loosening” began when I read these notes in my old journal: “Things will come to the surface in the worst moments… things God wants me to begin to grapple with. Don’t panic over them (ie. these “dark” emotions” or flea from them), instead, explore them with curiosity, and ask “God, what do you want me to learn in this awful conflict? what do you want me to learn about myself and about You?”

When i read “don’t panic”, it was like a burden lifted from my shoulders and I realized that my feelings of anger and bitterness had in fact caused me a sort of spiritual panic… because “good Christians” don’t feel angry right?? I realized I was like a hamster running a race on a hamster-wheel, trying to just *get rid* of or *fix* these emotions ASAP so I could go back to feeling nice, calm, pleasant… (with maybe a bit of self-righteousness for my perceived niceness?)

In his book, The Cry of the Soul, Dr. Allender says,

If we view difficult emotions as problems to be solved, we will end up looking for answers that will work rather than pursuing a relationship with God… Rather than focusing on trying to change our emotions, we are wiser first to listen to them. They are a voice that can tell us how we are dealing with a fallen world, hurtful people, and a quizzical God who seldom seems to be or do what we expect of Him. Although emotions are generally aroused in a human context, they *always* reveal something about how are dealing with God.

The revelation of reality- outside of us and within us- opens the door to wrestling with God. Encounter with God not only changes our emotions; more importantly, it has the potential to change our hearts.”

Part 4: Hope Restored/ True Hope

For me, wrestling with God meant taking off the mask and breaking allegiance with darkness (ANY area of your heart where contempt has taken root, *EVEN* self-contempt is an agreement with Evil) … Other-centered bitterness had become a mask over my real conflicts… questions we ought never to utter… in the depths of my heart I had begun to question God’s goodness… WHY, oh why did He take Tirzah from us?… Why haven’t we seen the miraculous turning to God in people’s lives that would have in some way validated her death in our eyes?… Why haven’t we had the comfort from community we desired?… God, don’t you see us, don’t you hear us… are you now powerless to ACT?

In Cry of the Soul, Dan says: “We are radically disposed to idolatry, illusion-making, and attempts to secure our lives without bowing before God. Our core problem is not lack of information- it is flight and rebellion.”

Therefore, repentance and surrender before God meant a surrender to honesty with God.

In answer to my honesty, I can’t say that God answered any of my “Why’s???”

But He opened my eyes to see His arms open to me as a Father (they never cease to be open)… revealing His goodness, and tender compassion. And he said, “I *SEE* you… I *Hear* you… and I *accept* you… Your acceptance before me was never based on you being “good”, or “nice” or your day to day performance… I have set my love upon you irrespective of “good” or “evil”, and long ago I covered over all your sins, shame, imperfections with the blood of my Son… You shall *always* know only my goodness…. i have said, (Isaiah 3:10) “Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them.”… And it SHALL be well with you… don’t forget this righteousness is NOT your own… it doesn’t depend on your efforts… Everything I have required from you, I have GIVEN to you through my Son… His perfection, His righteousness is credited to you… Come, rest in me… find rest for you soul.

Romans 4:2-5:
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteous.
And with that, God invited this ungodly murderer and adulterer to sup and dine with Him again. (for all anger and idolatrous turning away from God is as murder and adultery in God’s eyes. See Matthew 5) And as He met with me, He began to turn my eyes back to the only solid foundation of True Hope: the Resurrection. This hope out-shines all others… and is *the only* lens to view our suffering and pain of this life.
In my next post I’ll discuss my victory over death.
 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.. ~ 1 Peter 1:3