Thursday, December 22, 2011
Friday, December 02, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Based on Matthew 9:24-34
She had a slow, steady hemorrhage. We aren't told why. I've always heard it presented as a medical condition, but we don't know. Perhaps she tried to abort a baby. Perhaps she continued to choose to live with an abusive husband. Perhaps she didn't have a choice but to live with him. We don't know if her continuous bleeding was the result of some natural consequence of living in a fallen world, or if it was the consequence of her own personal sins. We just know she suffered … and nothing she had tried could cure her. In fact, she got worse.
She was at the point where she would try anything, because she had already tried everything. What she had already tried had caused more suffering, in addition to the suffering of not curing her. Then she heard about Jesus. I wonder what went through her mind. Was she skeptical that he might be able to help her? Did she consider, for just a moment, the effort might be too great to face another disappointment? Did she wonder what additional suffering His methods might cause? It had been over a decade, and she had only gotten worse. After a decade, you begin to believe that things really cannot change. Those beliefs war with hope.
But she was desperate for change. Desperate to live again. Desperate to worship and socialize without the stigma of being unclean. So seeing one more chance, even if it was only a small chance, she chose to take it. She had to do it secretly. A man as important as the Rabbi would never touch a woman like her--would never sacrifice his spiritual cleanliness. And after all, she was only a woman, not someone of importance like the Synagogue ruler He was helping when she came upon Him. Her skeptical friends and family might try to discourage her. She had heard amazing stories … stories that couldn't be true … but if they were … she wouldn't even need to get his attention ...would she?
It didn't take great faith to reach out and touch his robe, it took great desperation and a little faith. It took full awareness of the insufficiency of her own weakness, and certainty that He was her last hope. Bolstered by the stories she overheard as she tried to press through the crowds of people all wanting to see the Master, touch the Master, talk to the Master, she crept closer and closer, pushing back nervousness and restraining excitement. Again, I wonder, what went through her mind? "He doesn't even have to know that I touched Him." "I don't even have to bother Him." "He is enough to heal even a woman like me."
She didn't expect much from Him--no time, no eye contact, no words, not even His own touch back. At the same time, in an instant, she expected the world from Him. Complete healing was impossible ...but she had heard that He revived a dead man. He was One who had done the impossible, hadn't He? Could He do it for her? Would He do it for her? So crawling on her knees through a sea of legs, she pushed into the crowd hoping no one would recognize her and push her away, and she reached out her hand … and she touched the hem of His robe.
She didn't slowly recover. She didn't need an expert opinion. We are told that she instantly knew she was well. She wasn't the only one who knew. Jesus knew too. And although He stopped to look for her … to ask for her … I'm not entirely sure He needed to do those things to find her. He was God, knowing all things, and yet He asked her to come forward. She hadn't taken anything from Him that He was unwilling to give, but He wanted to give her more. She thought that her greatest need was freedom from her physical suffering, but Jesus wanted to free her for more. He wanted to free her to know Him, and to know how much He loved her … loved healing her.
Inching toward Him to touch His robe must have seemed a simple feat as her fear mounted at His question. It would have been so easy to walk away--after all there was a huge throng around Him and even His disciples were urging Him to move on to the Synagogue ruler's home. But just as she knew He had healed her, she knew He was looking for her, and she couldn't run away from Him. So she fought against her fear, stepped forward, and confessed to being the one who had drained Him of His healing power. Had she compromised the possibility of the rich man's daughter being healed? Had she made this esteemed Rabbi unclean? What judgment would she see when she looked in His eyes? Could she look in His eyes? No. She fell at His feet to beg for His mercy. She confessed to being the one who touched Him, in a crowd full of people who were touching Him.
I wonder at what point she looked up at Him. Did she hear His words first, or did she steal a glance, and get to watch as He spoke to her? Knowing Jesus, He gave her more than she had hoped for. Not just healing through the touch of His robe, I like to think He bent down, looked her in the eyes, put His gentle hand on her shoulder and spoke to her with the tenderness of a Rescuer. I know that He saw more than a woman who wanted to be healed from a physical disease, because He pronounced freedom from all of her suffering. No longer would she feel like an outcast. No longer would she feel like a burden. No longer would her draining hemorrhage feel like a drain on all who came into contact with her. She was whole. Because Jesus healed her, she was well, and she could live in joy and peace. She could always remember … she was loved.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Much of what I have been taught about divorce is based on several passages in scripture. It seemed so clear to me when I was younger and even pretty clear when I went through my own separation and divorce. But after a decade of listening to stories from others, of seeing complicated situations, and aching with dear friends over decisions they didn't want to have to make but were forced into, I've learned so much more about applying God's Word to such a messy choice.
I don't want to confuse anyone. I DO believe that God's Word is to be taken literally. I believe that it is the supreme and final source of guidance in any situation because 2 Timothy 3:16 says it is. I think I've just come to realize that as sin compounds and collides with the sins of others, often the clean application of God's Word doesn't seem as easy as it does in simpler circumstances.
I do believe that God never wants divorce--that it is a very last resource to be used carefully by believers in very specific circumstances. However, I also believe that while man looks on the outward appearance, God looks at the heart. I have heard stories of people who divorced under "biblical allowances," and at that particular time it was clear from the way they expressed themselves and pursued it that divorce was not being used for the purpose that I believe God has given us laws--to draw us closer to Him and to reconcile relationships between sinners. I also wrestle with some of the specifics of the few New Testament passages that instruct us on divorce. What does it mean for an unbelieving spouse to "leave"--are we talking physically, legally, or relationally? What about a professing "believer" who leaves, initiates divorce and doesn't repent? How do you know he was really a believer? Are marriage and divorce even things that God has given the state the right to regulate, or is there some higher law that He governs? There are just so many things I don't understand.
So I come to it like this. It is my DUTY as a sister in Christ to confront sin that I see, supporting it from scripture. I do that because I know how dangerous sin is--it is a slippery slope straight to hell, and into an abyss of feeling abandoned by God. Willful and continued sin dishonors God and makes His name which we as believes bear a mockery instead of something of wonder and awe. However, because sin is very, very messy . . . because it quickly becomes complicated, and is compounded by the confusion and consequences of tons of sins committed by all of us sinners, all converging upon each of our lives, there are many times it is hard for me to tease apart another person's specific sins from those of others. Only God can see an individual's heart. I have to trust Him to be better than I am at convicting you and drawing you away from what is devastating.
For those put in the difficult place of considering divorce, my counsel would be first of all to pray FERVENTLY about every decision you make. Pray for Him to close the doors and prevent you from doing something if it is not His will. While godly counsel and submission to church leadership is ESSENTIAL, you must also seek and follow the Holy Spirit's leading, being very careful to try to discern your motives. Because separation and divorce are so emotionally and personally charged, move slowly if you can, and be prepared at any time to wait or stop if the Lord so directs you. DON'T worry about the money or risks if you feel like He is slowing you down or stopping you. Just trust Him to provide or to perform a miracle! I can attest that even though there were a few times in my process that I was very unsure about the biblical legality of what I was doing (although my church leaders and wise friends assured me I was justified), eventually the Lord took the whole thing out of my hands and worked it out so I didn't and still don't have to wonder about my role in the process. Finally seek restoration and repentance at all cost. Even if you don't feel like it, even if you don't think it's what you want, pray for what would best reveal Christ in your life and to the world. It is amazing what God can do to repair our emotions even when we think we are past the point of forgiveness and healing.
One image that has kept coming to me as I've wrestled with this was that our God, who DESPISES human sacrifice, commanded one of His own people to sacrifice his son. Abraham obeyed right up until God stopped his hand with the knife in it. Sometimes God asks of us things that don't make sense with what we know about God and His commands, but He wants us to do what is right, so He will not let us go too far if we are sincerely pursuing what He wants and instructs us to do. It is really up to you and God to try to discern your heart's motives and desires, and to bring them into submission to Him. Thankfully, He is a God of grace and mercy, forgiving us of our sin. Although you will see INCREDIBLE things happen if you totally submit to God, even in those things you do not think you can give or do, He will work out His best for your life even if you cling to some of your own will and make some wrong choices.
Hissssssss . . . I hear the snake. You can be like God! Although that’s what he’s saying, I know that what he means is that I can be God!
Of course imagining life without limits is nothing new. Although the movie applies this freedom to intelligence, we’ve been imagining the limitless life for as long as we’ve faced limits. Lamech boasted to his ancient peoples of the vengeance that would be visited upon anyone who harmed him. Hercules, possessing god-like strength, defied the Greek gods and attained a place on Olympus for himself. Superman walked around Metropolis as Clark Kent by day and as the hero by night.
The problem with our imaginations of limitlessness is that we dream of limitlessness with virtue. Even when Eddie Morra makes a stupid choice to take an unknown pill, to enlist the financial aid of a bookie, to lie, steal, kill to maintain his power, we are convinced it is out of necessity. But we are corrupt. We are from birth battling sin natures fully capable of the most heinous evils ever perpetuated. A limitless life in virtue would be a grand thing indeed, but what would it be like if Nero, Hitler, Saddam Hussein had been without limits? And how quickly would our baser, idolatrous, sinful natures take over were we given abilities without limits?
“Then the LORD God said, "Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!" Genesis 3:22 (NLT)
We view limits as a curse—as something holding us back from all we can be. Is it actually a blessing not to live in sin without limitations?
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Over the years, I have discovered things about myself. One of them is that when the going gets tough, Lisa just puts her fingers in her ears or sticks her head in the sand and tries to pretend for a while that she's a super-crime-fighter or a hotly pursued beauty or a witty entertaining writer. Of course nothing helps you drown out the present reality like . . . well . . . pretending, and there's nothing like escaping to a TV show or game to pretend! Over the last months (or years?) I have begun to escape more and more to my happy places. Sure enough, the pain and uncertainty of life . . . the loneliness . . . was drowned out by a world of living color and sound! Of course, eventually you have to turn the electronic devices off, or you have to try to sleep, and then you find things even worse than you left them. (Amazing how those bills and dishes pile up the more you ignore them!)
While reading the book God, I Need Help some months ago, I began asking myself some very difficult questions. Why couldn't I hear Jesus like author Linda Heaner was able to? Why was my life so unsettled? Was I really following Jesus in spite of my circumstances like I once had, or could I really say that any more? How could I constantly miss or forget all the ways God had provided for our family over the years? Over the weekend, I realized that I couldn't hear God because there was just too much noise in my life. God speaks often through His efforts to comfort us, and while I was drowning out the pain, I was drowning out the comfort too.
With great fear and trepidation, I made a decision. I would fast for a week from all electronic entertainment. No Twitter. No Facebook. No TV, movies, or DVD's. Even my iPod would only be used for music or to check necessary information (like the weather, Bible references, or the news!). I went into it praying heavily for help--I don't have a very good track record for following through on goals I set. I anticipated extreme withdrawals as I dodged any entertainment my kids were enjoying while I suffered the extreme boredom of . . . nothing.
On Monday I got up fully intending to see it through. I had made myself accountable to my boys, and I knew they would be watching to blow the whistle on me. But by the end of the first day, I was amazed at how relaxed I was. Instead of trying to figure out how to cram a half hour of quiet time into my day, I had spent the day talking to God, meditating on scripture, and thinking. Thinking! It had been a long time since I had done that. I confessed more sins than I cared to realize, and began tackling tasks I had been putting off. Instead of finding boredom, when I had "free time" I was suddenly remembering to pray for something, or to work a little on a project I had put off. School with my boys became a delight instead of a chore, and we even ate at the dinner table together one night! It was glorious! It was delightful!
I reentered the world of media with trepidation, planning to limit myself. But now here I am, months later, consumed again by the noise and lights and distractions of a media-infused life. Over and over I hear that still, small voice, wooing me . . . whispering . . .
So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Mat 5:29-30We think of the "big troubles" as hard to handle . . . those things that we find we have to surrender to God because we are painfully aware that we cannot manage them ourselves. But I'm slowly learning that, for me at least, it is the smallest things that are deceptive. I need God in my entertainment choices, in selecting the food I will eat, in how I respond to an angry child. I'm tempted to think I have those things under my control . . . but I don't. I suspect that it is in the little things that the world around me can see God in my life most easily, not that it's always as obvious that He is the one enabling me to be patient, kind, faithful, gentle . . . but it is in the constant evidence of those things in my life, and in their continuation in the crises, where God's character is really revealed.
People often say to me that they don't know how I do it--homeschooling three boys, managing our home, taking care of myself, etc. After almost ten years of it, I don't even think about it being unusual anymore, and I have adjusted my expectations and routines so that the work itself doesn't seem like it's impossible anymore. Additionally my kids have grown to ages that are demanding in different ways, but they are also better able to contribute to the family needs and to offer the pleasure of more mature relationships. God has also been extremely gracious to me over the years, giving me so much support, encouragement, and counsel through covenant family in our church, people who didn't just sit on the outside and watch me try to parent alone, but who joined with me and took upon themselves my hurts, frustrations, needs, and weaknesses. It was such a huge comfort to have moms to go out with and talk to, to receive anonymous financial support when I didn't know where money would come from, or to just hear someone say "You're doing a great job." But while my previous pain was caused by grieving through loss, my new one is one that comes from a continuing lack.
I don't expect God to fill my new need in the same ways, because it is a need for deep intimacy. I ache for connection at the deepest levels--and for the resulting touches, looks, and words that come from that kind of intimacy. The problem with finding this is that you really can't have this kind of relationship with someone other than a spouse. That's what God designed marriage to fulfill! While I have friends with whom I am completely open and honest with, friends who bear the most uncomfortable aspects of being my friend (and bear it well, I might add!), there are natural limits to their availability. They have husbands, children, commitments of their own that I know I cannot be placed ahead of. Typically family might fill this empty place--parents or siblings stepping in to love and care for me, sometimes maybe a little too much--but even my family relationships are newly developing or absent as a result of parents who are no longer alive. [I retained a wonderful relationship with one set of in-laws who are now my "mom" and "dad," and are completely committed to me. However we are still developing family "history" and experience that results in deep intimacy.]
As I pose my questions to God about this new need, His answer is clear. Even in a good marriage my deepest needs for intimacy are only met through Him. I'm really struggling in my relationship with my Beloved lately--surrendering to idols time and energy that should be His, resisting His wooing, ignoring His call for my attention. Again and again, I hear Him gently reminding me that He is the only source of fulfillment. Do I believe it? I want to believe it, but no. My choices haven't changed, so really, I don't believe. The challenge before me is not to change my circumstances, nor is it to wait until God changes them, but to pray for Him to help my unbelief and to fill me with an unquenchable thirst for Him alone.
I've been called to minister to women. Many, many years ago, God placed it on my heart to minister to women, and over those years, I've come to understand that this call takes on lots of different appearances. Whether it is comforting a woman facing a crises like mine, encouraging a mom to minister to her family in the way God has called her, or teaching a Junior High Bible study, I have learned that encouraging women to think and live biblically is an important calling, even if no one ever knows my name.
I've been called to raise three boys, often with only God's help. These three souls are important to Him. Maybe I don't always understand why. In the middle of one of the frequent contests to prove who is the greatest, strongest, smartest, wittiest . . . I often wonder. But these three men-in-training are very important to God and are critical elements to His plan in the work He is doing.
I've been called to be a storyteller. In wrestling with my modest photography skills, I discovered that for me photography is merely another tool to tell a story. Like words, which I love, communicating what God shows me all around me is important to me because it is something God has gifted me to do for Him. I realized it was OK that I don't have mad-skills as an artistic, creative photographer. God has enabled me to use photography and writing to tell stories and communicate His character to others.
I woke up this morning thinking about these things. I felt guilty . . . again . . . for the way I squander my time. And it hit me . . . . I've turned myself into a storyteller without a story. In striving to be whatever I see that other people are . . . in trying to shut out the painful suffering of the lessons God is teaching me (so I can share them with others) . . . I've neglected the very things He has given me to do. So I'm repenting again. Deciding to write again. Attempting to view my meanderings and trailblazings in this land of teenage boys as my God-given wilderness where He has placed me to display His goodness and glory.
Repenting and setting out . . . again.