Apr 262015
 

Last night I was thinking (yes, I still think lots of thoughts, I just don’t always share them) about the Azazel goat (first mentioned in the current Torah portion—Leviticus 16). The sin of the Israelites was symbolically placed on the head of the Azazel goat, and then that goat was forcibly driven from the camp.

Because Yeshua is our High Priest in the Heavenly Tabernacle, and because we have received atonement through His sacrifice, we are no longer intimately familiar with the Yom Kippur rituals and the casting out of the Azazel goat. This, our forgiveness through Yeshua, is a beautiful thing that should never be taken lightly. But because we are not familiar with the yearly physical ritual, the picture, the earthly shadow cast by the spiritual reality, because we can’t see it leaving, we sometimes open the gate and let that damned goat right back in.

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I’m the kind of person who can tangibly feel her sins following her around. I often hear goats bleating in the middle of the night. It’s fairly easy for me to forgive other people; the Father has been gracious to teach me. I’ll admit, though I’ve grown in this area over recent years, I still struggle when it comes to forgiving myself.

Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t fully make the connection between what I just wrote and what I am about to write:

I never get away with anything.

Some people get away with murder.

But I never get away with anything.

Case in point, I can still remember that terrible day when I showed up to my private high school in faintly pinstriped pants (almost the required “solid color,” but not quite). Would my rebellion go unchecked? Nope. Why?

Because I never get away with anything!

For a long time I have lived with the consequences of my sins as though my sins were not yet forgiven. But does forgiveness mean a lack of consequences? Does consequence mean that the goat has come back, or is discipline simply another matter? If I ground my daughter for playing games when she was supposed to be taking a test, is she forgiven when she says she’s sorry (and I say that I forgive her) or when her grounding is over?

Of course, I forgive her as soon as she asks. And sometimes, sometimes, I will cancel the consequence because I’m Mom and I do what I want. But what if I did that every time? Would that be in her best interest?

Genesis chapter fifteen is one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible. Right smack in there though is a curious little verse, verse sixteen, that used to cross my eyes:

“Only in the fourth generation will your descendants come back here, because only then will the Emori be ripe for punishment.” (CBJ)

“But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (KJV)

“In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (NIV)

Huh?

In II Maccabees, chapter two, the writer details the horrible defilement that happened to the Temple and the Jewish people around 167 BC. It’s hard to read, especially if you love God’s law. And no, Maccabees is not included in the Protestant cannon of Scripture, but it is historically important (in my opinion).

After the writer speaks of the persecution of his people, he says something I find to be extremely profound, especially in light of Genesis 15:16.

He says this:

“Now I urge those who read this book not to be disheartened by these misfortunes, but to consider that these punishments were meant not for the ruin but for the correction of our nation. It is, in fact, a sign of great kindness to punish the impious promptly instead of letting them go for long. Thus, in dealing with other nations, the Sovereign Lord patiently waits until they reach the full measure of their sins before punishing them; but with us he has decided to deal differently, in order that he may not have to punish us later, when our sins have reached their fullness. Therefore he never withdraws his mercy from us. Although he disciplines us with misfortunes, he does not abandon his own people.”

In other words, God’s people never get away with anything. And this is good. Someday His fist will come down and He will say “Enough is enough!” He waits for the wicked to reach the full measure of their sin; someday He will destroy them completely. Thank God He does not deal with His own people this way.

If you’re living in a season of discipline, as I often feel I am, do not misconstrue His chastisement as a sign of wrath or unforgiveness. The goat is long gone; let it die in the wilderness where it belongs. But be thankful for His mercy that often comes in the form of discipline, because He loves us too much to leave us as we are.

Nov 042014
 

I don’t blog like I used to, and I’m truly grateful to those of you who still humor my occasional tirades and gabfests by stopping in from time-to-time. Some of you may not know it, but in its heyday this blog was decently well-read. Back when I was the eloquent wife of a redeemed philanderer, my inbox was filled to the brim. I don’t think I ever caught up (I just wrote a book). We–my handsome husband and I–were called to the front of our local church to pray for hurting marriages. If you wanted to encourage an on-the-brink couple, you–the evangelical internet–might have directed the wife to my blog. Thousands of you did. ‘Cause we had a testimony. And in case you’re not familiar with the lingo, testimony means “something really bad happened, and then something wonderful happened to make all the bad seem worth it.”

For the past few weeks I’ve been looking again at Abraham’s story. I love Abraham. And I mean him no disrespect, but I love how intrinsically flawed he was. He wasn’t like Noah. The dark splotch on Noah’s record is a night of I-am-literally-alone, loneliness induced drunkenness. Are you gonna say you blame him? But Abraham, Abraham was a witness at his own wife’s wedding, twice, just to save his own skin. That’s pretty hard to live down. And the way I read it, Abraham prayed the way for the Ammonites and the Moabites. He begat a family feud (though we can blame that one on his wife). These are immensely consequential bad days; though, of course, God had a plan for all of the bad days. But despite what might look like a marred record, Abe lived a life of unimaginable faith.

Abraham died without seeing the fulfillment of all that God had promised, but he died still knowing He would see it one day. Faith, not miraculous blessing, is what Abraham’s legacy boasts. Abraham’s testimony is faith for the journey; it is not the destination. If I ever get the chance to really sit down and talk with Abraham (eventually, after a few hundred years, he might have time for someone like me), I don’t want to hear about the day Isaac was born–not right away. And it’s not that I don’t hold tight to the pertaining promise, but there are other things I want to know before I ask about the ram in the thicket. I want to hear about that long, grueling walk to the top of Mount Moriah. I want to hear about the day he told the king of Sodom to take a hike. I want to know what was going through his mind as he readied servants to fight kings. I want to hear about the years he spent waiting for Isaac. I want to hear about Ishmael, I want to know all about Ishmael. And I want to hear about the day he sent Ishmael to wander away.

So please, stop. Stop telling me that God is good because of how He’s said yes to your prayers. It makes a great story: how He saved you from the fiery furnace. What makes it a true, lasting testimony is that He strengthened you to stand in the flames. Yes, God gives us good things, and of course we should tell people about them; but the goodness of God is not defined by what He gives us. Judging God according to His blessings is like judging a parent based on birthday presents. Good parenting is made in moments of disciplining, teaching, training, and late-night heart-to-heart talking. Presents are just bonus.

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So if you’re one of the few still stumbling upon my old posts and gleaning encouragement from my testimony, please glean encouragement from this: I still believe every word. I’m still standing (usually smiling) and trusting. God is good, all the time…

 

 

 November 4, 2014  Christianity, Marriage 6 Responses »
Aug 282014
 

I don’t expect this post to go viral. I know it will ruffle some feathers…maybe even evoke a few tears among relatives who might feel I’m stealing from them or from our history. Still, the carved pumpkin display in front of Kroger today kinda forced my hand in this matter. It’s time to tell y’all the truth—to fess up. I’m not writing this post to persuade you of anything. This is simply an explanation of me and my life and choices.

And no, this post isn’t about Halloween. I never celebrated Halloween, so it’s not something I lost with “my new religion”. I know not celebrating/celebrating Halloween is controversial in itself, and I do understand the potential for community outreach at that time. It would be a loss to miss any opportunity to win souls. As a teen I attached a homemade tract to only the best bars of candy. I still buy candy in case the kids swarm my door; I’m not about to turn a child away. Even still, this post is not about Halloween. This is a much…a much touchier subject than that.

Last year in late December I took my youngest daughter on a date to the dollar store. Wait, let me back up a bit. Last year in early December I took all of my children to the dollar store. They wandered through the tiny aisles while I stuffed pre-planned items into my basket. When we got to the register, I distracted the kids with quarters which they merrily plunked into the gumball machine that dispenses plastic hands. I felt like a big spender that day.

I had five of most things. Of the pinker things I’d grabbed three, and of the bluer things I had two. “Are you filling Christmas boxes?” the checker asked cheerfully. The toothbrushes made that a logical question.

“Not today,” I told her. “Just Hanukkah shopping for my kids.”

Five kids. Eight nights. Less than forty dollars.

There was silence for just a few seconds as she continued to scan my finds. I worried she’d stay quiet forever. I don’t mind silence unless it’s loud. “I’ve been thinking about how Christmas is nowhere to be found in the Bible,” she blurted as if we’d been carrying on a telepathic conversation that suddenly burst into song.

“You’re right! It isn’t!” I said a little too enthusiastically. “But Jesus did observe Hanukkah,” I added with a grin. She smiled back, then she looked down. Her face quickly processed a hundred expressions, and I watched the wheels in her head spin around. I imagined what she was thinking; perhaps she knew that He was Jewish but hadn’t thought of the implications. Then “You’re right. He did!” she said.

Fast forward to late December. Hanukkah was over and it was the day before Christmas Eve. On the way to the store I had warned my daughter, “Now, people are going to wish you a ‘Merry Christmas’. You respond however you’d like, but at least say ‘thank you’ and smile.”

The man behind the register was tall and young. My guess was twenty-five. He flashed a big smile at Miss C, and his eyes twinkled with holiday cheer as he leaned his forearm on the counter. “Are you excited for Santa?” he asked her. She froze with an expression that looked like someone had licked her face, and she stared at me in horror because I hadn’t prepared her for that. “We don’t do…” I started. And “Oh, I’m sorry!” he caught on. We both smiled pleasantly at each other. Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next, however, because then (without even the hint of an inaudible conversation) he said, “What winter holiday do you honor?”

“Hanukkah, we like Hanukkah,” I answered. Then with an exaggerated frown to Miss C, I said, “But it’s over now, isn’t it?” She returned a sillier frown.

Keep in light. Keep it loose. Keep it happy! That’s my motto when it comes to confrontation.

As he continued to scan my purchases (I do a lot of shopping at the dollar store), I stood and wondered why on earth he would assume that I don’t celebrate Christmas simply because we don’t “do” Santa at our house. I grew up keeping Christmas, and there was never a Santa to be seen. There were no elves on our shelves. “Since when are Santa and Christmas inseparable?” I thought. But seeing he was a good ten years younger than me, I figured that he would know. I just stood puzzled until he began to speak again.

“My girlfriend’s family is Jewish,” he said.

That’s when I braced for the worst. I assumed it was an anti-semitic lead-in like, “My best friend is black; so I can insult black people whenever I want.” What he did say was even odder.

“We have kids,” he said (Can I admit I found that a little ironic?). “When she first got pregnant we were talking about the holidays: they celebrate Hanukkah, and we celebrate Christmas. I told her, ‘Your family can do whatever they want, but our kids are going to be Christians!’”

I wore a wide-eyed kind of stunned smile. His exuberance was humorous, and it clearly wasn’t meant as an attack. Worried it might have seemed like an attack, he quickly added with even more spark and passion, “But I believe that we should honor everyone’s beliefs!”

I smiled again.

On the way to the car I kept kicking myself, and I apologized to my daughter. “I’m a Christian. I’m a Christian! Why didn’t I tell him that I AM a Christian?”

She patted me on the back, because she’d heard me say that before. “It’s OK, Mom. It’s OK,” she said. The hardest part of this journey to The Old Ways has been the reaction from my fellow believers. I’ve been accused of denying the One most precious to me—and this accusation has not come merely from dollar store checkers.

 

Jeremiah 16:19 (KJV), says:

O Lord, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, ‘Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.’

 

This is how I’ve spent the past two years: Is it in the Bible? That’s what I want to know. ‘Cause the truth is, we’ve added a lot of things to the religion our New Testament apostles lived…and more isn’t always better. In the adding we’ve lost some precious things that would connect us to our roots. It’s those roots I want to find because I just want to know my Savior. I want to know the road He walked down day by day, and where possible, I want to walk that road now. He’s the only One to have ever lived who has fully preached the Torah. That’s pleroo, the Greek word we translate, “fulfill”. So I want to eat what He ate, serve like He served, love like He loved, teach what He taught, and celebrate the days He celebrated. Where’s the crime in that?

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Will I fail? I know I will fail! That’s why He had to die. But in my trying to honor His ways, it’s my brothers and sisters whom I have made unhappy. I haven’t denied our Savior because I’ve traded Christmas for the day He gave me: Sukkot (Tabernacles), or Easter for the Feast He fulfilled: Passover!

Stories of red, red blood and hearts made white are sweetly told through candy canes. But stories of a tabernacle for a king in the wilderness, a baby king born to tabernacle with the world, and our soon-coming thousand year tabernacle in the heavenly kingdom He’s prepared are so, so much sweeter than that. They’re sweeter because He wrote them. Gospel candy canes and new-birth Christmas trees: He didn’t make that up; WE made that up. That makes it a “doctrine of men”.

It’s in my nature to apologize, and I am sorry for causing offense. I don’t mean to step on toes, and I’m sorry for any walls that my beliefs seem at times to build between us. I hope this post tears those walls right down. I know you’re not upset about the missing Christmas presents from me…I could never afford many, anyway. If you’re upset because you cannot buy for me: you can buy for me whenever you’d like! I’ll still do the same for you. Why should any day dictate generosity? But I think it’s not about the presents. I think it’s not about the tree or the food or the songs… I think it’s about the feeling of being judged, by me or by others, for the way you are choosing to honor your Savior. So as much as I can, I want to put that to rest: I am not the judge.

 

For more information about the history of the holidays and the reasons behind my decisions, please watch this informative teaching (presented by my very own pastor). I only wish I’d known of this resource when I was searching for answers.

May 172014
 

{The original post was written in the summer of 2009. The bold text is new. Most of the advice is for me.}

 

If you’re afraid, don’t be. One of the most often repeated commandments in Scripture is “Fear not!” That doesn’t help? He knows it’s hard…that’s why He repeats Himself so often!

If you’ve ever “lost it” with your kids, repent and start over. And confess your failures to your bothers and sisters so they can lift you up!

If your marriage is in trouble, tell someone. Always. Find an appropriate person (pastor or mentor) and speak honestly and bravely about your struggles. Embarrassment has never healed anyone.

If you rarely have a quiet time, figure out how you can change that. Maybe the mornings aren’t possible for you, but maybe 2:30 in the afternoon is perfect. Get into the Word and read it…preferably from beginning to end. 

If you’re addicted to Diet Coke, just stop it. Try kombucha. Club soda and lime are nice with a little Stevia. So annoying, I know, but it’s totally true. That other stuff’ll kill ya!

If you are one person at church and another person at home, reexamine. Maybe everyone struggles with this to some extent, but I can tell you as someone who wears her brave face in public…not being 100% real is ex-haus-ting. If you don’t like who you are at home, work on fixing that person instead.

If you can’t remember the sermon from last week, find out why. This was my life story until I began to truly fall in love with the Word of God.

If you’re addicted to something you can’t joke about, confess your sins. It’s scary, but it’s how we’re healed.

If you could use a good cry, for Pete’s sake…cry. I think crying is good for the soul (and by “soul” I mean “complete person”).

If you don’t know how to say “no”, learn how to. Start slowly, and pick your battles. It’s good to be a servant, and we are supposed to lay down our lives…but not so that people will “like us”. Make sure you are serving Him when you’re serving them.

If you have stories you’ve never told, write them down. If they’re not worth remembering…burn them. If they are…share them with someone you love.

If you think “the real you” is unlovable, remember that the One who loved you enough to die for you has always seen the real you.

If you hate your body, change your diet. Put on some comfy, non-judgy clothes and get outside for a little while. Remember, the fact that your body is living is the reason you’re here to love the people around you. Thank Him for keeping you alive for today (and ask Him to please make ice cream taste bad).

If you want more than you need, volunteer at a shelter or write a check to someone in need. Getting might be fun, but you’ll keep on needing the “get” because it doesn’t fill the void. Giving, however, that’s life-changing.

If you need things you’ve never asked for, ask.

If you’re not “fine,” tell someone.

Is your hand up?

Now look around the room.

You’re not alone.

 May 17, 2014  Christianity 10 Responses »
May 152014
 

{Originally posted on July 10, 2009. Still true today.}

While Cuddle Bug and I were discussing her smart mouth, she blurted, “I’m Cuddle Bug. I hate things.”

Now, as her mother, I know how untrue that is. She is one of the sweetest, most grateful, most loving children I have ever had the privilege of meeting. But it’s interesting, because we (my Bible study group) have just been discussing the fact that Satan doesn’t come at us saying:

You’re stupid.

You’re fat.

You’re lazy.

You’re a failure.

No, he says:

I’m stupid.

I’m fat.

I’m lazy.

I’m a failure.

He’s trying to convince my Cuddle Bug, at four years old, that she hates.

And that makes me mad.

“Noooo!” I said. “You are Cuddle Bug. You are a child of God! You love the things that God loves and you hate the things that God hates! Is Satan telling you that you hate everything?”

“No,” she quietly shook her head.

“Is Satan telling you, ‘I am Cuddle Bug. I hate everything.'”?

Her eyes widened and she nodded “yes”.

“Oh, Sweetheart,” I said as I pulled her close, “You’ve been listening to the Devil!”

“I’m a friend of the Devil?!”

“No, but the Devil wants to keep you from being a friend of God,” I said.

“But I love God and my family so much,” she replied.

“I know you do, Sweetie. But if we really love God, we have to obey Him.”

“But I hate the Devil, right Mama?”

“Yeah, that’s right Baby.”

 May 15, 2014  Christianity, Mommyhood Comments Off
May 142014
 

{There will be quite a few of these reposts as I take an audit of the theology in my past posts. I’m not changing this one, but it’s particularly relevant to me, today. I’ve been in a bit of a mood. This post was originally published on March 1, 2009, just before Baby Bear was born.}

So, I’m about to have a baby. I’m not threatening labor so you’ll all check in five times a day. The birth really could be three weeks away; I just have the feeling that it’s going to be much sooner. Of course, now that I’m actually ready for him he may decide to delay a bit.

This afternoon I was overcome by anger toward Papa Bear (who was lying down while I was cleaning the kitchen). Doesn’t he know he’s not allowed to rest in my presence!? But seriously, I hadn’t even asked him to help. And when I told him my back was hurting, he responded, “Just sit down, I’ll clean the kitchen later.” But “later” wasn’t in my plan, so my anger burned on.

Am I the only one this happens to?

I’ve spent the past hour or so talking to the Lord about anger. I know that anger is a good thing. Anger is from God, but in our sinfulness we direct it at the wrong things. We allow Satan to use it as a weapon against our souls. My guideline for anger is simple: I can be angry at Satan, and at sin, without losing my cool; any other focus and my peace is gone.

Hormonal anger is a little trickier. I think that’s because it doesn’t seem to have an actual place in our spiritual lives. In my own life, at least, I’ve never found it useful. It’s more like a cloud that wants to move in between me and my Creator–separating me from all peace and grace. I guess that its sole purpose would be as something to be overcome.

Any tips?

For me, the most victory comes when I recognize the problem. Maybe it would have been nice if Papa Bear had jumped up and cleaned the kitchen (unrealistic, but nice), but his inability to act like a woman was probably not the real source of my anger.

What is the source of my peace? 

When the kids respond angrily toward their siblings, we go through a little memorized dialog:

“Who fills your heart with peace?”

“Jesus does.”

“Who fills your heart with joy?”

“Jesus does.”

“Can your sister steal your peace and joy?”

“No.”

“Who can steal your peace and joy?”

“NO ONE CAN!!!”

I have talked in great lengths with my children about their ability to give away their fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). We always choose to “loose it”. The Devil can’t make us do it, and neither can anyone else.

At least, that’s what I tell my kids.

I can and will pray for indescribable peace over these next few weeks. But it’s really God’s decision. I know He’ll give me peace in abundance, but He may not give me as much as I’d like. That is, He probably won’t transform my home into a fairy land of self-cleaning kitchens and self-wiping bottoms. He will, most assuredly, have something to teach me through the struggle.

And I really do pray that I’ll learn it.

 

May 132014
 

{Originally posted on December 9th, 2008}

I’ve been reading post after post lately about the pangs of LBS (Last Baby Syndrome). And I’ve been doing my share of pining too. With one still in the womb, I feel silly even thinking about being sad. And this might not even be our last baby. But then again, it might be. What if this is the last time I am 25 weeks pregnant?

One way or another, whether she has one or eleven, every mother will have a “last baby”. Someone will be last. Sometimes she’ll know it at the time of conception, sometimes she won’t grasp the reality until years later. But the sadness will most likely come. It’s really just a matter of time.

For the past week or so I’ve been consciously trying to identify the source of the last baby sadness. Is it wrong? Should we fight it? Shouldn’t we just be so grateful that they are alive, healthy, and growing that we cherish each new stage?

Well, yeah, I think we should feel that way. But we also have the right to be a little sad.

“And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

God, in His complete perfection, really just wants us to stay little too! Now that’s a vast oversimplification of the passage, but I do think it’s relevant. Of course He wants us to grow and change. He desires us to move past milk to solid food. But there is something in us, as babes, that He wants to protect. And I think that thing is very much at the root of our last baby sorrow.

He wants us to be totally dependant on, and completely loyal to, Him. He wants us to need Him with every fiber of our being.

Today I was sitting with the Lil’ Prince, cuddling in a chair. He started to get down to play, and I laughed, “Oh, where are you going?” He laughed, too, and he and settled back down beside me.

“Come play!” His sisters coaxed.

“No, I’m cud-ling mama,” he replied contentedly.

My heart leapt. “He wants to spend time with me!”

And really, isn’t that the whole point?

 May 13, 2014  Christianity, Mommyhood Comments Off
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