Jesus sitting on a rock, looking wistfully into the atmosphere. Sandal-ed feet and in robe and sash. You remember him, right?
His portraits hung in your Sunday School and Vacation Bible School rooms. Dirty blonde hair, blue eyes. Perfectly serene expression.
I remember him, too. He is lovely and pure and holy, but He doesn’t appear to be radical, and I’m pretty sure Jesus was a radical guy.
Two weeks immersed in classes, and am experiencing all of those terms that I make fun of hipsters for using:
Disenfranchised from church as we largely know it.
This message of a grace-based gospel is ANYTHING but boring or staid.
What if the Love of God was bigger than the sins of the world?
It is scandalous in its oozing of mercy, positively radical in it’s inclusion.Where has this message of the Good News BEEN all my life!? Studying the Old and New Covenants, so much comes into focus. So many questions answered.
I find myself undone.
Because if what I’m learning is true, it turns everything upside down.
Sin gets so much airtime. But here’s the rub: Sin is not the MAIN THING.It shouldn’t take center stage?
What if Love took center stage, as Jesus intended?
If it’s true – this grace-based Gospel – then we can do nothing to mitigate the furious love of our father.
If it’s true that the Kingdom of God is within us, we need to stop looking for him elsewhere.
If it’s true, we need to stop trying to invoke the presence of Holy Spirit in our worship. He is already here.
If it’s true (and my Spirit tells me it IS, it’s gloriously, wonderfully, life-givingly TRUE!) then perhaps we should start spreading this amazing news. Gospel = GOOD NEWS.
I’ve been a Christian most of my life, and have never appreciated true Grace and the love of our Triune God.
Not the good news that comes with a disclaimer at the bottom for full legal disclosure. (Has anyone seen my can of “LAW BE GONE? I’m sure I left it right here next to my Self Condemnation Deflator….hmmmm.)
Not the news that Jesus loves you but you’d better get your act together before you try to follow him, or you’ll make us all look bad.
The neat and tidy Jesus of Vacation Bible School is not gazing out into the atmosphere, but at YOU. Right now. He is looking upon you adoringly.
It is finished.
He is here. He is here in this messy, screwed-up, fallen, trainwreck of a planet because he just cannot get close enough to YOU.
He walks among us, inhabits us, throws mercy on us, guides us, cradles us. LOVES US. People really need to hear this, ya’ll.
Yeah, I’m thinking Seminary is really going to mess with my head.
And I simply cannot wait to get to know my Papa better. I hope you don’t mind too terribly much if I blog about the experience here?
A long time ago, when I had retrospectively minimalist problems, I used to read the Psalms out loud in my morning devotion time. Until recently, I’d forgotten how much power is invoked in reading them aloud.
It’s 4 a.m. right now. And it’s me, it’s me, it’s me, Oh Lord…..standing in the need of prayer. I’ve been up all night with gargantuan aches, pains, and the like – that seem hellbent of keeping me awake.
The Bible says that biblical David was a man after God’s own heart, but if you read the scripture, it seems that David was a bit of a whiner at best, and a real drama queen at worst. I mucked up a lot, made a lot of mistakes, and STILL God knew his deep and abiding love for him. I absolutely love Kind David. He GETS me.
Yesterday, I got some medical news that I suspected was coming. I’d warned my mind and body about it (as the symptoms had already revealed themselves to said mind and body), but my Spirit put up quite a fit upon learning what’s going on. Renal issues. Enlarged Liver issues. Chronic pain and more migraines to expect. Fatigue as the order of the day forthcoming. And leg and foot cramps that make you want to cry uncle at the top of your lungs at 2 a.m. (My poor, poor husband, I KNOW he is losing sleep…..)
Oh, and did I mention mental health issues arising from dealing with the stress of all of the above PLUS childhood trauma that has never been dealt with, and a whole lifetime of untreated depression? As I lurch forward in treatment for mental health issues, I’m feeling black-and-blue, my heart beat up badly, and bones and soul, too.
Which brings me back to the biblical David, bitcher of circumstance, beloved man after God’s own heart (is it possible to be both? I’m kind of counting on it….) Like David, I am on the cusp of digging deeper in my faith. Like David, I’m getting ready to clean out my closet and make room for fresh hope.
The Psalms are best read aloud because you can better capture biblical David’s desperation aloud. He is one of my favorite biblical characters because he can slay giants, become a mighty king, loves God with all of his heart, and seemingly and impulsively throw it away for a hot chick in a bathtub. Hey, who am I to judge?
Here is a man who knows frustration. Here is a man who gave us authentic prayer of the highest order.
Pray it aloud when you are at the end of your proverbial rope:
1-2 Please, God, no more yelling, no more trips to the woodshed. Treat me nice for a change; I’m so starved for affection.
2-3 Can’t you see I’m black-and-blue, beat up badly in bones and soul? God, how long will it take for you to let up?
4-5 Break in, God, and break up this fight; if you love me at all, get me out of here. I’m no good to you dead, am I? I can’t sing in your choir if I’m buried in some tomb!
6-7 I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed has been floating forty days and nights On the flood of my tears. My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears. The sockets of my eyes are black holes; nearly blind, I squint and grope.
8-9 Get out of here, you Devil’s crew: at last God has heard my sobs. My requests have all been granted, my prayers are answered.10 Cowards, my enemies disappear. Disgraced, they turn tail and run. Pslam 6:1-10 (MSG
Read this aloud when imploring the Lord, perhaps in times you feel forgotten:
13-14 Be kind to me, God; I’ve been kicked around long enough. Once you’ve pulled me back from the gates of death, I’ll write the book on Hallelujahs; on the corner of Main and First I’ll hold a street meeting; I’ll be the song leader; we’ll fill the air with salvation songs.” Psalm 9:1-10 (MSG)
And then this. Pray it out loud. Pray it so that the devil can hear you. Pray it so that the cells wrapped in pain in your body can know it’s true. If we don’t get healing this side of the kingdom, we get it eventually and in full, and forever! In the meantime, pray it LOUD:
And this after-God’s-own-heart, keeping it 100, plea from an authentic David to God:
“Oh, God, my Lord, step in; work a miracle for me—you can do it! Get me out of here—your love is so great!— I’m at the end of my rope, my life in ruins. I’m fading away to nothing, passing away, my youth gone, old before my time. I’m weak from hunger and can hardly stand up, my body a rack of skin and bones. I’m a joke in poor taste to those who see me; they take one look and shake their heads.
26-29 Help me, oh help me, God, my God, save me through your wonderful love; Then they’ll know that your hand is in this, that you, God, have been at work. Let them curse all they want; you do the blessing. Let them be jeered by the crowd when they stand up, followed by cheers for me, your servant. Dress my accusers in clothes dirty with shame, discarded and humiliating old ragbag clothes.
30-31 My mouth’s full of great praise for God, I’m singing his hallelujahs surrounded by crowds, For he’s always at hand to take the side of the needy, to rescue a life from the unjust judge.(Psalm 109:25-31)
And here, finally, we see the AHA moment in which David sees the light, so to speak. He is at that pivotal place we all need to find ourselves in, in order to keep running that most challenging race set before us:
“Don’t put your life in the hands of experts who know nothing of life, of salvation life. Mere humans don’t have what it takes; when they die, their projects die with them. Instead, get help from the God of Jacob, put your hope in God and know real blessing! God made sky and soil, sea and all the fish in it. He always does what he says— he defends the wronged, he feeds the hungry. God frees prisoners— he gives sight to the blind, he lifts up the fallen. God loves good people, protects strangers, takes the side of orphans and widows, but makes short work of the wicked.
10 God’s in charge—always. Zion’s God is God for good! Hallelujah!” Psalm 146:3-10
Lift up us fallen ones, Abba. We are so tired.
But even in our sickness and sadness and end-of-our-rope-ness, we are are a people after your own Heart!
“What’s going to happen further along down the road?”
“I’m sorry, that’s on a need-to-know basis. Just trust me.”
“Trust me, love. Whatever comes further, I’m already there with you.”
I’m always badgering God about what’s next, even though I know that I couldn’t even handle it if I knew. Seriously, I COULD NOT EVEN. But in some convoluted way, I ask God to reveal to me the outcome of certain things, but the gift of prophesy is not my strong suit.
I am considering this today as I’m struggling with my health issues. I have a rare-ish condition that causes chronic fatigue, migraines, intermittent system pain, and recurrent infections. It’s not going to kill me, but some days I feel like it would kill me if it were more merciful.
Here’s the thing, though: If God had revealed to me that I would do battle with this for the rest of my life, I don’t know that I would have stayed sober. I don’t know if I’d handle it well at all, so I’m grateful for the not knowing.
While I was busy NOT knowing, He went further down the road with me when I wasn’t even looking. The manifestations of His mighty hand over this struggle were being constructed long before I was even symptomatic.
If God had revealed that I would carry this thorn, maybe it would have gone down like this:
“Child, enough badgering! Come sit with me, and I will indulge your curiosity….
“As you grow older, you will feel like your mind and body are falling apart, because they will be – sort of – and you will be scared and tired and frustrated. But I’m working on an infrastructure for your life so that you will be able to carry this yoke…..
“I will bring you a spouse who adores you, and believes you when you are telling the truth about your pain. He will never give up on you, even when you are really sick….
“I will drop friends into your life with EXACTLY this same disease that you suffer from, and they will seemingly drop from the clear blue sky. You will marvel that I took such care to place those perfect people in your life at just the right moments. Lean on them and let them lean into you. They are sent directly from me….
“When you are having a bad day and hurting inside and out, I will scootch right up next to you so close that you can feel my love for you, even through the pain. My Holy Spirit will be IN you, giving you fresh hope, even through the tears…..
“I will give you the gift to write about your experience, so that you can pay this Love forward to others….the ones who are gravely sick but look well, the ones whose labs and tests all come back normal and they feel like they are losing their minds, and that nobody believes them. YOU will comfort and believe them, just as you have been comforted….
“I will give you humor in copious quantities, so that you can not just survive, but THRIVE….
“Whatever comes further, I am already there with you.”
Life is crazy, and blogging about it such a crazy process. Yesterday, I spent hours writing a fanciful and spiritual fairy tale. Today, I’m writing about death and chaos and the ever-widening chasm between us as members of society.
I hardly slept at all last night. I know many of you probably didn’t either. The happenings in Dallas did a number on my already-over active ‘fight or flight’ response. Anxiety was the order of the night, all night. I pulled out every anxiety-quelling practice I’ve ever learned (it’s a very big toolbox.)
The word “Anathema” kept popping up in my head.
Here’s how the dictionary defines it: “An abomination, an outrage, an abhorrence, a disgrace, an evil, a bane. Abhorrent, hateful, repugnant, odious, repellant, and offensive. And what example did the good people of Google use in the definition? “Racial hatred was anathema to her.”
After a fitful three hour sleep full of nightmares, I woke up and posted this to my personal Facebook wall, and I meant every word:
If you are trying to somehow justify what happened in Dallas, go ahead and unfriend me now. Do us both a favor. Hate begets hate. Those officers were picked off by sniper fire as they are protecting citizenry. No, I cannot justify what happened to the innocent black men killed, but here’s the rub:
Not ONE of the Dallas cops was responsible for what happened in MN or LA. Not a single one. An officer is killed every 58 hours, on average in this country.
If we are going to be outraged about murder, let’s be outraged about murder. Period.
The sad state of affairs we find ourselves in as a nation is making my heart so heavy.
I am sad that “All Lives Matter” even has to be a thing. It should be a given.
I am sad for the slaughter of peoples everywhere, including the unborn. Violent acts against another human being can never inherently bring PEACE.
I am sad that portions of our citizenry consider justice and vengeance interchangeable terms.
I am sad that we are a nation more divided today than ever. (And I’m mad that the current administration seems to have perpetuated a lot of that division among Americans instead of uniting them.)
I am sad that my young adult children are already bitter about the state of the world, instead of hopeful.
I am sad that my granddaughter has to grow up in such a time as this.
I am sad because the undercurrent of hatred is rising to the mainstream, and people are dying as a result.
And I’m just just sad, but scared. I talked to God at length in the wee hours of the morning about being scared. And wouldn’t you know, He comforted me quite a bit – and didn’t even chastise me for my ‘lack of faith.’
You see, to my mind, the chaos and injustice in the world is indeed socioeconomic and racial and political , but it is fundamentally a SPIRITUAL problem at the root. The skin is only, well…skin deep.
But the spirit? We are all connected.
I’m going to go out in a limb here, but I’ve got to say it, perhaps at the risk of over-simplifying. I mean no harm in what I’m saying. I have friends of all races and creeds, and I love them all so dearly.
It’s a spiritual problem, and ain’t no way to fix that except Jesus. What we are seeing is the human race operating as its own Higher Power. If you’re not already, please pray for our nation.
It’s the devil’s game to divide us all. He is the author of confusion and the father of lies. It seems obvious that he is gaining a foothold.
Division is NOT the way of the Father. My Jesus is your Jesus. We NEED the intervention of a good and inclusive God, and we need it desperately.
I hated to pull the ‘unfriend’ card on my Facebook account, as it seems on the surface as a divisive action itself. But for the sake of my adrenals and blood pressure, I can’t. I just cannot even, ya’ll.
I see a sick pattern emerging on social media: Are you “Team Black Lives Matter?” or “Team Thin Blue Line?”
I don’t know how this will all pan out. But I am imploring those in my itty bitty blog sphere of influence to consider that what we are doing is clearly not working, and to call on the Almighty to hook us up with some supernatural Shalom here. STAT.
In my flesh, I am not optimistic. There is so much strife and pain and rage.
But in my Spirit? I know ALL things are possible through Christ Jesus.
It’s going to take a miracle. Hearts have to change, not just minds or views or laws. HEARTS.
I’m going to close this out with one of my favorite Mother Teresa quotes: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
“One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.”– Matthew 19:14 (MSG)
By: Jana Greene
In her book “Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith,” Anne Lamott wrote a chapter entitled “A Man who was Mean to His Dog.” She wrote about witnessing a guy being mean to his Golden Retriever at her local beach, and her incredulousness that anyone could be unkind to a dog of that breed. Goldens are the most people-pleasing dogs in the world, just so full of goofy and abundant love. They just want to win your approval.
I witnessed something this morning at the grocery store that may have been the human equivalent, which is even worse.
I live in a coastal town, and here’s one of the Rules of Living at the Beach on any 4th of July weekend: DO NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE. And if you must leave the house, do it at 7 a.m. in the morning before the tourist craziness reaches fever pitch, usually around 9:30 a.m on a holiday.
But I had to leave the house, because I needed some things from the grocery store, so I trekked out early and thankfully there were few people out and about yet. Unfortunately, one of those people was a really upsetting presence. A harried-looking mom (or grandmother? Could have been either) with a darling little tow-headed 3 or 4 year-old girl.
The first time she opened a tirade on the wee one was in Bakery.
“Put that down!” the mom shouted, when the girl reached for a free cookie. “Can’t you just ever do anything right?”
To which the tiny, blonde adorable human being who has the inalienable right to enjoy a free grocery store cookie (it’s in the Constitution) responded with a muted “Sorry.”
I blew it off as a frustrated albeit really cranky mom, and made a note to try to avoid her for the rest of my shopping, which of course resulted in her passing me in almost EVERY AISLE.
In Bread, the girl skipped around the cart while her mother scanned the shelves.
“STOP IT!” the mom commanded.
“I’m just being silly….”
“Well, knock it off. You’re always silly. Its getting really old.”
Ok, now I’m getting angry. Who the hell reprimands a child for silliness? I catch the mother’s eye and give her a mid-grade stink-eye in return. She looks mean. MEAN, I tell you. But I thought she might think twice about berating her daughter if someone gave her the stink-eye.
In Pasta / Rice / Soup, I met them again. This time, the girl was trying to put a tiny stuffed animal she had brought into her mom’s purse.
“What do you think you’re doing?” She snapped loudly. “Carry it! If you didn’t want to hold on to it, you shouldn’t of brought it. If you put it in my bag, I’m throwing it away.”
Let me stop right here and assure you that my mothering skills are completely imperfect and always have been. I try really hard and always have, but I make mistakes. I snapped at my daughters plenty as they were growing up, I know I did. We all have bad mommy days. Snapping at your child occasionally isn’t what I’m talking about. I don’t mean to judge this woman harshly, but as she systematically tore down her child in such a nasty way, I started judging aplenty. Every word she directed at her daughter was full of scorn. I can only describe it as venomous. (The sad thing is that if this is mom at 7 a.m., I cannot imagine how she might treat the kid at 5 p.m. when exhaustion really kicks in, or at 8 p.m. when putting her child to bed.)
I started praying for the girl, who wasn’t even misbehaving in the least – just being a kid. Even on the aisles we didn’t mutually cross, I could hear the mom yelling at her.
When we met up in Frozen Foods, the little girl told her mom “You look pretty.” Anyone could see that this child was trying to win approval, and it was freaking heartbreaking, because her mother responded with “Yeah, whatever.”
Finally, at the checkout, who should queue up behind me but this woman and her daughter. The girl touched a candy bar and her mother loudly said in a seething tone: “You got a hundred dollars? No, you got nothing. Don’t even touch that.”
She didn’t get physical with the girl, but I wanted to scoop the child up and get her away for a while. I wanted to offer to babysit, and invite the girl to come skip around my dining room table and eat candy. I would take her to feed the ducks at the pond near our house, and I would put flowers in her hair and assure her that she IS doing everything RIGHT, and that silliness is a character attribute of the very highest order.
Instead, I smiled and winked at her. She was just precious beyond all description and she smiled back at me – as sweet and happy as a Golden Retriever whose owner had mistreated it. What I’d witnessed wasn’t cruel enough to be reported to the authorities, but it was definitely cruel enough to chip away at the spirit of a beautiful little girl.
Four year-olds are full of glee and “why?” and skipping around. Quite frankly, that age is often the most lovable of the childhood years, the most people-pleasing age, just so full of goofy and abundant love. I continued praying for the girl as I checked out my groceries and put them in the cart. By this point, I’m beyond angry. I am rolling away to my car, imploring God to protect and comfort that child’s wounded little spirit.
And then I had a thought invade my pleadings: Pray for the mother.
Hurumph! I shut that thought down quick, dismissing it on the grounds of righteous anger.
I’m loading my groceries, and again – like an annoying internet pop-up ad, it comes again: Pray for the mother.
What do you want me to pray, God? Forgive her, for she knows not what she does? She knows damn well what she’s doing! But still, as I started the car, God really just wouldn’t get off my back about it, so I prayed an honest prayer:
God, I’m just so mad. I’m mad but I’m asking you to somehow work in the heart and mind of that mother. I don’t know what she is going through, but you do. That meanie is your little girl. Forgive me for praying for her very last, and with trepidation. You were pretty clear about praying for our enemies, and I ask for you to pour your supernatural, unconditional love on her. Show her grace, Lord. And show me grace and mercy too, please. I need it just as much.
Praying for thine enemies is very, very difficult. That’s why Jesus was the only person ever to do it perfectly. It’s especially hard when the aggressor is mean to a child or a dog. I’m working on learning to petition God on the behalf of the jerks in the world, because I’ve been a jerk before too in other ways, so maybe someone was praying for me.
God bless us, every one. Please, God. We need it so.
As some of you know, I was privileged to attend a forum called “The Open Table Conference” in Atlanta over the weekend. There were four speakers there – which is not unusual for a conference – but the unique thing about it as that the attendees were invited to approach the speakers open table-style. No subject too dangerous. No shame in asking what your heart is longing to know. And while I cannot say I ‘agree’ 100% with everything covered (As we say in AA, “Take what you need and leave the rest,) my spirit was incredibly blessed by these men of faith and their transparency, humor and faith. (See below for bios of each of the speakers I quote.)
For this series of seven posts (I’ll try to post one per day…emphasis on the TRY!) I will be weaving my personal experience from the event with what I learned and explored. That’s a pretty important distinction, as I am NO Theologian and can only present what I gleaned over the course of the conference as a messy, curious, and head-over-heels in-love-with-Jesus believer.
*Note that the scripture included in the series will be referenced from the “Mirror Bible,” which often breaks verses down to consider the original Greek or Aramaic meanings and nuances. They are the scriptures that corresponded with what I explored during the absolutely SEISMIC weekend, as they relate to my studying.
As Steve McVey said, “Revolutions are not started by mild-mannered people.
I just love that.
“This kind of hope does not disappoint; the gift of the Holy Spirit completes our every expectation and ignites the love of God within us like an artesian well.” – Romans 5:5
Paul Young (author of “The Shack”) was one of the presenters at the conference. I feel kind of terrible that I have not read the book yet, so lets start this off with a confession. I have not read The Shack. I may be the only person on the planet who has not. But I HAVE watched a ton of Wm. Paul Young’s videos on YouTube, and I AM currently reading The Shack right now. Young is the kind of Christian who reminds me of fellow-believers Anne Lamott and Brennan Manning, meaning – the kind of Christian who really used to piss me off earlier in my faith walk because they were so HONEST and sold out for Christ and that was threatening to me. Radicals! SHEESH.
It’s not threatening to me any more.
So, I haven’t read The Shack in its entirety yet, but I love the premise (which also would have pissed me off in my younger years….God as a middle-aged black woman!? Holy Spirit as an Asian woman!? HERETICAL! Jesus as an Israeli!? Well, okay, I guess that’s alright…) Thankfully a lifetime of grace has smoothed out my sharp edges, and I know God is SOOO much bigger than the box I liked to keep Him in (as if…)
Young’s narratives really did a number on my heart all weekend. They all did, but his especially.
One of the simplest takeaways I soaked in was this: God is not just interested in our Sunday Selves. The Self that we plop in a pew on Sunday mornings and cast off by the time we hit the K & W Cafeteria after the service. He’s just not. He is interested in each one of us in an intimate way – knowing how pointy our sharp edges and embracing us anyway. He is invested in us in the most precious way imaginable.
God gave His Son for us, yes. But here’s what we forget – Jesus volunteered for the job, so great was his longing to draw us close, pointy edges and all.
Another mind-blower was this: Future Tripping – a term Young uses for one of my more badass companions – Worry. Worry is like a bad boyfriend you just can’t seem to break up with, even though he is bad for you all the way around, and full of drama. He’s also a stalker, that one. Like any good father, God sits on the porch with an arsenal to blast his head off, but a really dysfunctional part of me is like, “No, Papa! I LOVE him!” Ugh.
My Sunday Self wouldn’t tell you that. She’s been around awhile and knows how to plaster the Sunday Face on, all nice and shiny. She can worry about a million things at once, even though only approximately 2-3% of her worries will ever even remotely come to pass. She has adapted because she is world-weary.
I think that’s one reason we are told to become like children. Children are not world-weary. They are authentic.
Or as Young says: “We need to learn to become children again – to let go of ‘future-tripping,’ where out of fear we imagine what’s going to happen and waste today’s grace on things that don’t exist.”
Wasting today’s grace. Yeah, I want no part in that. We can also waste grace by being do-driven. Anxiety is also an Unsavory Character. There is a place for good works, but it is not the foundation of our faith.
The venerable Steve McVey also spoke at the event, and he was also amazing:
“God wants to bring us to the understanding that we weren’t saved to do something for God. We were saved so that we might know Him in intimate daily fellowship.” – Steve McVey (“Grace Walk: What You’ve Always Wanted in the Christian Life”)
I hope this series will embrace you, sharp edges and all. And invite you to explore the radical love of a very real Father who doesn’t want just your Sunday Self, but your messy, future-tripping, sinful, hurting Selves.
Other pieces will incorporate subjects like You Matter; Sin – Nothing can Separate You; Hiding Behind the Legs of Jesus; Know that You Know that you Know; Inclusion; and Perichoresis for Dummies – The Triune God.
May you share in the hope that does not disappoint; and revel in the Holy Spirit that completes our every expectation and ignites the love of God within us like an artesian well.
By the way, an artesian well is simply a well that doesn’t require a pump to bring water to the surface; this occurs when there is enough pressure in the aquifer. The pressure forces the water to the surface without any sort of assistance.
You cannot fall short because it isn’t your effort that brings Holy Spirit to the surface.
I’ll leave you with this gem, also by Steve McVey: “When we focus exclusively on the love of God, when we see love as the totality of His being, are we leaving out something? To say yes is to insult Divine Agape. Love is His fundamental makeup. Everything that can be known of Him must be seen through the lens of agape, or we end up presenting a god with multiple personality. Jesus proved that God is pure love by coming into the world.” – (“Beyond an Angry God”)
God bless us, EVERY one!
*Wm. Paul Young, author of The Shack, Eve, Cross Roads, and The Shack Reflections, was born a Canadian and raised among a stone-age tribe by his missionary parents in the highlands of what was Netherlands New Guinea (now West Papua). He suffered great loss as a child and young adult, and now enjoys the “wastefulness of grace” with his family in the Pacific Northwest.
*Dr. C. Baxter Kruger is the Director of Perichoresis, an international ministry sharing the truth of our adoption in Christ with the world. Baxter has a degree in Political Science from the University of Mississippi, and earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree under Professor James B. Torrance at Kings College in Aberdeen, Scotland. Dr. Kruger is the author of eight books including The Great Dance, Across All Worlds, and the international bestseller, The Shack Revisited.
*Dr. Steve McVey is the founder of Grace Walk Ministries, with offices in Atlanta, GA and six other countries. He is the author of 19 books that have been translated into over 15 languages. They include the best selling, Grace Walk and his most recent book, Beyond an Angry God.
Yesterday I fell violently ill, the kind of sick that you crawl on all fours to the bathroom and end up sprawled out on the floor because whats the point of going anywhere else? I couldn’t hold down so much as an ice chip.
It was the kind of sick that you feel you might die and don’t really care if you do. I told my husband, who lovingly cared for me, that the last time I was that horribly ill was the night before I got sober in January 2001. There, on another bathroom floor, I was broken and sick, and wrestled mightily with God.
For some reason, God has chosen to meet me on the floor of a bathroom repeatedly. It’s kind of my personal “Peniel.”
“… But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.
The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”
Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”
The man said, “What’s your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”
Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?”
The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!”
The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip. (This is why Israelites to this day don’t eat the hip muscle; because Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint.)
– Genesis 32″:22-32 (MSG)
There is nothing like being a collapsed heap on the floor and yet still feeling the presence of God. On the verge of going to the hospital, I tried to will myself to be well. I tried to bargain with God. I wrestled him much like I did on January 2, 2001.
I’m not letting you go until you bless me. And he does.
It astounds me that the force that created the entire universe is not too proud to come hang out with me when I am at my worst. Isn’t that amazing? Sometimes a prayer can be a whimper, but he shows up just the same.
And this morning I consumed and managed to hold down some flat Sprite and toast. Glorious, glorious TOAST.
I guess the moral of this story is that God meets you where you are, whether it be on the floor of a bathroom or a regal palace; whether it be a life-altering and radical thing like getting sober, or having a wretched 24-hour stomach bug.
Sometimes, we come away limping.
I don’t know why some people get almost never get sick, and some people are sick chronically, and why other people die from disease. Theology and biology are not my strong suits.
All I know is that if you cling to Abba, you win any which way. Perhaps dying for the believer is not a triumph for disease, but a respite from a race well-run and finished. To see God face to face is certainly no hardship. You’ve still wrestled with God and come through.
The sun came up when Jacob left Peniel. And then right then and there (God) blessed him. Limp notwithstanding.
Today I am grateful for healing. I’m grateful for My Beloved who went above and beyond (as is his way) for me. I’m grateful for my kitty cats who parked out with me flanking each side of my body and not leaving my side (who says cats don’t have feelings?) all day long. I’m grateful for dry toast and flat Sprite.
But most of all, I’m grateful for my Heavenly Father, and his capacity for comforting us wrestlers. I do love him so.
A prayer can be a whimper, but he shows up just the same.