Yup. Here I am again, after several months of silence. There’s a reason or five for that, which I will explain – but not now. Now I want to muse on something other than myself…
I am in awe of God’s creation. As His Warrior Princess, I can be nothing less than in total awe of Father’s handiwork. I love walking out on a summer’s evening when the sky is clear and watch the sun sink into the horizon. The stars come out one by one, and it comforts me to know that Father knows each of them by name. Don’t believe me?
Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. -Isaiah 40:26, NIV
The next time you observe the starry host in a velvet sky, remember that their Creator knows each one – each one – by name. He named them – of course He knows them by name! This is why he is able to bring them out one by one. How amazing is this, right? Each star gets its own moment in the spotlight, lol!
And what about those mountains, hills, and trees forming their own worship team? That is mind-blowing if you allow your mind to muse upon the truth of these verses.
More later. Something has happened to my laptop. Must have something to do with dropping it…
So I was reading Matthew 5 today, and my eye glanced up to the top of the page where Kevin had written “…those having seizures.” It was the end of Matthew 4 where he was describing Jesus’ ministry which included the healing of many specific kinds of illnesses which included demon-possession, paralysis, and seizures. Kevin had underlined “those having seizures” along with “he healed them.” I couldn’t read anymore after that because I felt that surge of emotion, that mix of grief and anger and confusion and longing, and just started talking to God. I asked the same question I ask Him every time: why Kevin? Why then? Where was the healing?
Then He answered me – again: “He is healed.”
I started thinking about Enoch – how he walked with God, and was no more because God took him. I know that Kevin died, just as everyone else on the planet (except Enoch & Elijah) has ever died. But really, he was taken by God in much the same way. Through his seizures (at a conference in Boston he seized while he was speaking, and said “His strength is perfected in my weakness” just before he went down), his apparent recovery, then the last weeks of his life, Kevin was walking very close to God. Two weeks after his 51st birthday, God took him. And he was no more.
Why this thought brought me comfort in that moment, I couldn’t say. I guess it’s just a reaffirmation from God letting me know He’s “got this.”
Ever have one of “those days”? The day here in NorthEast Ohio is as gray as that photo of self. No joke. It really is. Here is proof from my back door: Yup. Untouched photo. NE Ohio on 26 January, 2011. Seeing is believing. (I feel like Dorothy in her Kansas farmhouse before the cyclone took her to Oz!)
This is a fair analogy of how I am feeling today. I have been spending the last couple of weeks working on the set for a show my son is performing in. My back has been giving me some trouble and I couldn’t sleep last night because of it, so I decided to play it safe today and rest.
Why did I do that? I’d rather endure physical pain being creative than sitting here in the house – fire, coffee, cats, and all – wishing that I could expunge this grayness from my heart. Even my usual trek through Psalms isn’t helping much. Even the settings on my computer are gray! (Now that’s just funny!)
I spent some time cleaning and purging, with a load in the washer and a load in the dryer, knowing that if I am still feeling gray by the time I have to pick my son up from school at least I will have accomplished something useful. I feel pretty purposeless, so if I clean and cook and run errands and do things for my family I at least know that I am doing something right.
It’s just… one of those days.
…I never stop thinking of my husband. Because I never stop thinking of him, I never stop missing him and the hole in my soul is never filled – it never will be. Losing him will leave me empty until the day I die. That is simply a fact. My life is forever changed. I am left to deal with who I am now that he is gone, and I am discovering that who I am was very much wrapped up in who he was. Any other widows out there feel like that?
Check this out. The Word of God tells us what we were created to be in Genesis 2:18.
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
All throughout Scripture, the role of a godly woman who follows God exclusively is defined in light of being a wife to her husband, a mother to her children, and a woman who extends her hands to those in need, while always submitting to godly authority. Well, I spent nearly 25 years learning how to be a “helper suitable”, and just when I was starting to get it, my services were no longer required. I still have other responsibilities, to be sure, but that was my primary role aside from following Christ (which involved being a “helper suitable”). Kevin and I were so one flesh and one mind that being severed from him leaves me with this sense of living in limbo, floating in that nebulous land of What Do I Do Now in the city of Who Am I.
That won’t do. Not for this Warrior Princess.
So. On days like this, I have to come back to who I am. I have to force myself to see myself as God sees me. I have trouble doing that, because my mind is not like His and my eyes are not like His. I see the pain and the flaws and the sin and the purposelessness, while He sees the white robes of Christ’s righteousness and the destiny He created me to fulfill from before the foundation of the world. A friend on Facebook had this as his status today: “Boy, do I need a lot of Hesed today…”
I admit I had to look it up. My Hebrew is nearly non-existent. Any Hebrew I learned came primarily from Kevin’s teaching – Kevin was one who insisted on knowing God’s Word precisely, and made sure he understood the original intent of the original languages. He taught me to seek out the meaning of words, and never to assume that I knew what words meant. So when I saw this word “hesed”, I typed it in Google search to see what came up. I was thrilled with what I found. Hesed or chesed (חֶסֶד) is one of those hard to define words – evidently, there is no exact translation for it in English. It translates best as “loving-kindness” and “mercy”, as a word used to describe God’s love for His people; the kind of love that is steadfast and never-changing. The closest New Testament translation for it is “charis” or “karis” which means “grace”. The author gives this excellent explanation of hesed:
“The word stands for the wonder of his unfailing love for the people of his choice, and the solving of the problem of the relation between his righteousness and his loving-kindness passes beyond human comprehension.” - N.H. Snaith
[Bibliography - N.H. Snaith, Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament, London (1944) - See http://www.bible-researcher.com/chesed.html for the full article.]
The relationship between God’s righteousness and His loving-kindness “passes beyond human comprehension” is an understatement! I see my own heart, and see how God views His people, and I am blown away. My brain cannot fully apprehend it – the puzzle pieces are too numerous and multi-dimensionally shaped! I am in awe of his hesed, and I stand in great need of it. Some days more than others.
This is definitely one of those days. This Warrior Princess is in danger of stripping off the armor of God and hiding in a cave. Yet because of God’s hesed, I know He will provide what I need, even in the cave. He did it for Elijah – and I am certainly no Elijah! As I am waiting in the cave, I need to humbly accept the provision Father gives me in whatever form it comes – by raven, by whispers, by the hug of my fourteen year old son… Eventually, I know He will give me what I need to emerge from the cave, fully suited up for battle and ready to take on the next challenge. I know that He began a good work in me – it is a good work, fashioned by a loving, sovereign, almighty Father. Fashioned in such a way that the work will evidently be completed without Kevin, whose work is already done. Kevin invested significantly in me, just as a godly husband should – he strove to present me as pure, holy, washed by the Word so that I might stand before Father complete. He did what he could. Now it’s my turn. I have all the tools of warfare I need, like any other child of the King. I can fight the good fight and finish the race as well as anyone.
So on this day, I remind myself of who I am. I allow myself to rest, but not to wallow. And I look forward to the moment when I will be strong enough to put my armor back on and wield the spiritual weapons of warfare.
This week Pastor Greg (this is the man himself) preached a Spirit-filled, stick-to-your-ribs message that I had to re-cap.
After the service I simply said tohim, “The shoe fits.”
The title of his message was “Living With a Heaven-Bound Purpose” and he focused on Colossians 3: 1-17:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. when Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will also appear with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator…” (Colossians 3:1-10, NIV, Emphasis mine.)
I stop there, because this is where I found myself putting on that shoe.
First of all, Pastor Greg pointed out that God’s command was to determine in our hearts and minds to go on His path – His trajectory of glory. We have a new destiny as new creations in Christ, and we are to pursue that new destiny with our hearts and minds set on that and nothing else.
Second of all, we need to “put to death” whatever belongs to our earthly nature. That phrase “put to death” is comparable to “killing an enemy that intends to do you harm” (Pastor Greg Gifford). I loved that. We need to kill those things violently and bury them with no intention of digging them up again.
Yet what do we do? What do I do? I often find myself making those enemies my friends. How can you violently kill and bury a friend?
Tricky. Sin is insidious. Satan and his demons have studied the nature of man for centuries, and they know exactly how to trip us up. Frankly, we make it easy for them. In my case, grief makes me vulnerable. The constant dolor I experience caused by the death of my husband is indescribable. It is a dogged, pounding ache that sometimes explodes into all-out anguished weeping, but generally keeps me on the edge of release, unable to let it go. It is almost like the sensation you get when you are nauseous and you want more than anything to vomit – but you can’t. You would do anything to experience relief from that intense pain, yet there is no release. That is grief. At least, that is the aspect of grief I am now experiencing. I often feel that I would do anything to gain relief and release, even for a short while.
The problem is that what I would naturally turn to would not give me release, but bondage.
In my younger days, before I knew what I believed about God or even if there was such a person, I would seek relief in the ways described in the Scripture quoted above. It worked – temporarily, but it worked. I did not understand back then why the happiness and ecstasy was so short-lived, and why it took more of whatever I was immersing myself in to get back to that place of false peace and happiness. I understand now – now that I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, now that I have been truly freed from the bondage of sin (if I choose to remain free), now that I know what true peace and joy are, now that I know God and seek after Him and His will for my destiny.
Yet even though I know that those sins could so easily trip me up even now, I tend to waver and invite certain “friends” back into my life through my thoughts and what I choose to remain in the movie theater of my brain. It really is rather disgusting, and I shudder to think about it. “As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool returns to his folly,” says Proverbs 26:11 (NIV). A very keen analogy, that. Not much more to be said – Solomon said it best, inspired by the Holy Spirit! I was in the habit of turning to certain sinful behavior for so long, that my first instinct, even after all these years, is to return to my “vomit.” Ew.
So… what to do?
“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these,” Paul admonishes in Colossians 3. I must rid myself of those habits, those thoughts that would eventually lead to rebellion against God. I know that seeking satisfaction and ease from my pain in a parallel universe of my creation will only lead to frustration and bondage. So how to I get rid of this?
I am reading “The Pursuit of God” by A. W. Tozer. If you have never read this book, you must find it and read it, and take copious notes. He wrote it shortly after World War II, when this country was bouncing back and beginning to enjoy great prosperity. Americans were rejoicing in the pursuit of wealth and acquiring “things.” He addresses that issue, especially as it affects the body of Christ; his voice was prophetic. We place many “things” in the throne which only God should occupy in our hearts: money, prestige, creature comforts, happy families, houses, entertainment – these are not bad, but when they take the place of God in our hearts, they become idols. God will have no other gods before Him, and He will tear up from the root anything which threatens to take us captive. That is what idols do – Satan uses our need to worship something to capture our hearts and turn them from the Living God. This was his plan from the beginning.
The way Tozer describes what we must do to get rid of those things is phenomenal. Here is a quote from the Kindle for Mac version of the book I have (I don’t know how to reference Kindle for Mac yet):
The ancient curse will not go out painlessly; the tough old miser within us will not lie down and die obedient to our command. He must be torn out of our heart like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in agony and blood like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our soul like Christ expelled the money changers from the temple. And we shall need to steel ourselves from his piteous begging, and to recognize it as springing out of self-pity, one of the most reprehensible sins of the human heart. (The Pursuit of God [optimized by Kindle], A.W. Tozer, 1948)
Those things will not go peacefully – it is war. They are enemies, and must be expelled immediately, violently, and at an incredible sacrifice of pain on our part. And we cannot simply leave those enemies on the field to be resurrected again – they must be replaced by the healing Word of God, and the actions which He has ordained to be right and good: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love, which binds all the others together; the peace of Christ must rule your heart, thankfulness must replace churlishness, and the word of Christ must richly inhabit you as you “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom,” and as you “sing psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:12-17, NIV)
So, as I journey along this road of grief and pain, I must remember to slay the giants, and plant love, kindness, thankfulness, and music in my heart that praises God. There is no shortcut. There is no pill. There is only this plan which God has clearly laid out for His children, whom He regards as pure and precious. Step by step on this journey, I will follow the plan. I will recognize the enemies in my heart, and violently extract them and put them to death. I will replace those posts which the enemy has taken in my heart with those things which God has ordained for me.
And I will sing.
Recently, I’ve had some internet conversations regarding the challenges of living the Christian life.
Guess what? It ain’t easy.
In fact, Jesus promises us that in this world we will have trouble; but He also encourages us to take heart because He has overcome the world. (John 16:33) It is so good of God to give us a heads-up. We often forget that this world is not the same world He created – it has been defiled by sin, as have we. There is going to be trouble. There are going to be really bad things that happen to us. It doesn’t matter if we think we deserve it or not – life happens. We deserve the same trials and the same opportunities as every other person who has ever walked the face of the earth, starting with Father Adam and Mother Eve. No one is exempt. This world is dark because sin has made it so. No one likes it. Tough. This is the world we live in, and we are the people who live in it. Deal with it.
Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.” (NIV) I cannot tell you how many times I stumble around in the dark times of my life, trying to figure out what is happening, why it is happening, and how I can escape. I don’t think I am alone in this. And so often when we find ourselves overwhelmed by darkness, we try to make our own light.
There is a warning about that.
Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on their God.
But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:10, 11 NIV)
Harsh words from a loving Father? Perhaps. But Father disciplines those He loves. If I never disciplined my children, they would never be able to survive in this world. Lack of discipline makes us deteriorate into a chaotic, tortuous way of life. God is being harsh because He understands what we are up against. So, when I am in a dark place and am tempted to create my own “flaming torches” in order to see my way out – excessive spending, illicit drugs, casual sex, indulgent entertainment, or you fill in the blank – the end result will be torment.
In times like these, I desperately need God’s flashlight. You know – that “lamp” that lights the path where my feet are walking. That word that illuminates my walk one step at a time instead of the flaming torch that shows me way too much and none of it good. I need to simply turn on the flashlight of God’s word and trust that he will remain faithful as he shows me out of the dark place and up to the heights.
I have been in very dark places in my life, and none more frequently than in the last year when the reality of my husband’s death hit me like a Mack truck. In every case, God’s word proved true. When I light my own flaming torches, I get torment for my pains. When I trust God, who lights the path on my journey one step at a time, I receive blessing in such a way that I can pass it on to others.
I pass it on to you now. May you walk in the light of His Word.
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
5 Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks;
foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers;
6 but you shall be called the priests of the Lord;
they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God;
you shall eat the wealth of the nations,
and in their glory you shall boast.
7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion;
instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;
therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion;
they shall have everlasting joy.
8 For I the Lord love justice;
I hate robbery and wrong;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their offspring shall be known among the nations,
and their descendants in the midst of the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge them,
that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61, ESV)
Jesus quoted from this passage in Luke 4, starting at verse 1 and stopping at verse 2 mid-sentence “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” He went on to say, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
I won’t go into the obvious theological implications of this passage – I’ll leave that to the learned theologians who have spent years learning Hebrew and Greek and studied the ins and outs of all Jesus was proclaiming. All I know is this: Jesus came to set captives free. I was a captive. I have been set free. I have been set free for the purpose of setting others free. Isaiah 61 is all about freedom: freedom from poverty (economical and spiritual), freedom from broken hearts, freedom from mourning, freedom from devastation, freedom from shame, freedom from the bondage that sin and Satan has imposed upon the human race. Jesus sets the captives free! He has clothed us with His righteousness and salvation, and He will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up among ALL the nations. One day THIS WILL BE.
THAT makes me want to put my armor on and start fighting, baby. I AM a Warrior Princess of my King. I will not have the privilege of placing my enemy’s head on a stick or kicking his a** into the Abyss, but I will certainly have the pleasure of watching King Jesus do so.
Valiantly, with praise in my heart and a sword in my hand,