Accepting Bridges, Instead of Walls

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God has called us to build bridges and not walls.  The whole story of Christ’s life, testifies to this.  During his ministry, Jesus broke down many walls of separation.

For example:

  • Jesus was a Judean Refugee living in Egypt.  (What if Egypt had built a wall?)
  • Jesus had many women disciples. (Gender Wall)
  • Jesus praised the Samaritans, whom the Jews considered dogs. (Race Wall)
  • Jesus spent his time with sinners, instead of the religious. (Religion Wall)
  • Jesus admonishes the poor, instead of the rich. (Status Wall)
  • Jesus proclaimed Grace instead of Law. (Rule/Regulation Wall)

Jesus leveled the playing field, where all are equal, and He calls us to do the same.

For He is our peace.  He has made us both one body, and has broken down the hostile, dividing wall between us.  Ephesians 2:14

 

Daily Prompt: Acceptance

 

My Soul To Take

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Painting by Florence Kroger

 

Oh, that God would mold this clay,

nothing but dust, dirt and decay!

And yet, in me, He saw some worth;

He sent his Son, from Heaven to Earth.

To lay down his life, upon the cross,

to thirst, and bleed, and suffer loss.

And so for me, His Glory awaits;

one day I’ll walk, through pearly gates.

So nothing to fear, because I am free;

His rod and His staff, they comfort me.

The shadow of death, there is no escape,

But God’s in the valley, my soul, to take.

***

As a tiny girl, often, my mom and I, prayed the prayer, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.”  I was always comforted by this bedtime ritual.  As an adult, when I think on the memory, I find I am blessed just as much now, as I was then; perhaps even more.  Thus was the inspiration for this poem.

“Mama, thank you for the foundations of strength you’ve given me.  I am a better woman because of you.”

now i lay me down

(Daily prompt: Luck)

Luck has nothing to do with my spiritual life.  It is orchestrated by the hand of God.

 

The Lord is my Shepherd

When, blessings like a river, swarm.

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“The Lord is my shepherd.”  And thus begins Psalm 23.

King David is the author of Psalm 23; however, as much as we Christians would like to believe, David was not the first to pen the idea of God as shepherd.

History tells us, this metaphor, of comparing god to shepherd, was common place within the Eastern world.  For example:

  • There was a song written about Marduk, patron deity of the city of Babylon, during the early 18th Century BC, describing his care for the weak like a “benevolent shepherd.”  
  • Another song written of Shamash, Mesopotamian sun-god, proclaims, “You shepherd all living creatures, together, you are the herdsman, above and below.”
  • Hammurabi (c.1750 BC) claimed kingship by providing “the people with pastures and watering places, having settled them in peaceful abodes.”
  • A phrase, which closely parallels Psalm 23, was found inscribed upon ancient Samaritan text and it reads,  “A man’s personal god is a shepherd who finds pasturage for him.  Let him lead him like sheep to the grass they can eat.”

Some Christians, learning of this, may feel it weakens David’s writing, but I feel quite the opposite.  I’m sure David, a learned man, was aware of such comparisons; therefore, when he chose to liken his God to that of a shepherd, he, in essence, was elevating his God, Yahweh, above all other gods.

David spent many of his younger years, tending his father’s sheep.  The book of II Samuel, speaks of two incidents where David had to kill a lion and a bear in order to protect the fold.  David understood the lambs were vulnerable, and without his protection, they would most likely die.  Knowing this fact, when he wrote Psalm 23, he visions himself to a lamb, that is dependent upon the shepherd, and for David, this shepherd could only be Yahweh.  David humbled himself, and placed his entire well-being, within the hands of God.

I love how David makes Psalm 23 personal.  He could have written, “The Lord is a shepherd” and that would have been true, but instead he writes “The Lord is ‘my’ Shepherd.”  By that simple two letter word, David sheds light upon his close relationship to God.

I believe when we read Psalm 23, God desires of us, to make it personal.  He wants each of us to slip our identity within this passage, and when we do, this ancient scripture becomes alive.  We like, David, can proclaim a personal relationship with God, and when we are able to do that, God Himself walks with us.

Oh, what peace and joy this brings!

My Daily Prayer:

Lord, you are my Shepherd.  You care about everything in my life, even unto the minutest detail.  Help me today to ponder this thought.

When I’m tired, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will feel rest.  When I’m afraid, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your protection.  When I am lonely, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your presence.  When I am guilty, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your forgiveness.  When I’m down upon myself, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know I’m enough.  When I feel unloved, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your love.  And in that time, when I face death, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and I will know comfort and peace.

Lord, thank you for this day, you have made for me.  Help me to live it, with my hand in yours.  Help me, to be a blessing, to those you bring to my path.

In the name of Jesus, my savior, I make these requests.  Amen

***

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  — Jesus

When blessings, like a river, swarm

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(Information about comparisons of gods to shepherd was taken from the NIV Study Bible)

 

 

 

 

 

Grace is Found in Hues of Gray

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Recently, I had a family member express concern for my soul.  Their reason?  I’m a lesbian.

Now, first of all, I realize their concern is an expression of love, but I also know, they fear if they fail to warn me, then my blood will stain their hands, at the great white throne of God’s judgement.  I know this because, I too, once held to such belief.  I am aware of the almost unbearable pain this causes, and it makes me sad.

After a lifetime of being taught this, it ceases to be an opinion, and becomes a way of life, which is extremely hard to escape.  Everything in life, is governed by the philosophy of black and white, cut and dry, leaving no room for debate. There are no hues of grays, it’s either wrong or right, irregardless of what modern technology or science proves different.

For example, I Corinthians 6:9-10 names a long list of characters who have no hope of heaven.  Listed among these, of course, are homosexuals, but also listed are people who covet, adulterers, thieves and drunkards.  There’s a significantly longer list, found in Romans chapter 1, and it contains, people who envy, people who gossip, people who are proud, and even people who are disobedient to their parents.

May I be so bold as to say, everyone in the world, falls somewhere within these categories.  So, if taken literally, no one, it seems, should ever make it to the pearly gates, but that, my friends, is the point; and this point, is often missed because the reader becomes side tracked by the mention of the “sin” of homosexuality.

The point is, no one, absolutely no one, is worthy of Gods Kingdom.  To stress this, Paul in the same book writes, “There is no one righteous, no, not one…for all have sinned…”

Thankfully, the book of Romans doesn’t end upon this dire note, but instead it points the reader to one person:  Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ, and what he means to all of mankind, is the sole emphasis of the whole book of Romans.  If you read the whole book, instead of picking scripture here and there, the conclusion is made that we are all “… justified freely by God’s grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith without the deed of the law.”

Now, having written all of the above, I am aware there are arguments to be made.  My fundamental and evangelical friends pose some valid questions about homosexuality and sin in general.  I truly want to address these; however, that is another blog for another time.  To be honest, more than a blog post…a series.

In closing, I just want to say, as a gay-christian, (no oxymoron) I choose to live by grace.  Grace is a world of unanswered questions; a world full of wonder that drives us to seek answers. We become scrappy Christians, who wrestle and grapple to find answers, but at the end of the day, we still have to say, “I don’t know” and because of grace, that is okay.  Grace is, not knowing the answers while resting in peace.

In the past, the accusations, from well-meaning Christians-family and friends-would anger me and set me on the defensive.  I would think, “How dare they judge my relationship with God?”  That’s not, so much, my reaction anymore, instead, I am saddened by the fear, I know they feel.  I wish, there were a way, to draw back the curtains of my soul, so all concerned, could witness my relationship with God.  This, I know, is the only thing that would lay such fears to rest.

 

Obvious Mercy

A Conversation with God 8/25/16

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Gracie, hoping more spaghetti squash seeds fall to the floor.

Me:  Well God, I woke up this morning to three big piles and a puddle.  Had to steam mop the floors-of which- I finished the living room, kitchen, dining room, and hallway-ALL- before 7:30 this morning!

God:  Some days are definitely better than others, but…

Me:  Yeah, and some nights are better than others too!  Gracie barked most of the night.  I had to get up and take her outside at least 3 times…  pfhh…probably more than that…I don’t know, Lord…I kinda lost count.  Corinne and have nick-named her Monster.

God:  During those times, whisper my name and…

Me:  Well, I kind’a recollect s…s..saying your name, but… it may n..not have come out as reverently as I would have liked…I’m sorry, Lord.

God:  Lisa, because of my Son, you are forgiven and I will think of it no more.  Remember when I said, “As far as the east is from the west, that far have I removed your transgressions…?”

Me:  Yes Lord, I remember King David writing that.  He sure had a load of sins…huh, Lord…?

God:  None less than yours…

Me:  Yes Lord…I’m sorry.

God:  You see, Lisa, it’s not about the sins you commit-sin is sin-and all have sinned.  The most important “take away” here is that Jesus died and rose again, and because of that your sins are forgiven.  I would much rather you dwell upon Christ and what he’s done, than upon all the mistakes and “bad things” you’ve done.  My mercy is gracious and plentiful, and I want this to be obvious and personal for everyone.

Me:  Lord, thank you for your mercy.

God:  It makes me happy to forgive my children and my arms are always open….regardless of what they’ve done.

Me:  (bows head)  Dear Lord, what a wonderful thing Jesus did for me.  Thank you, my Jesus and please help my mind to rest upon You all day today.

God:  I will help you, Lisa…remember my Spirit goes everywhere you go.  That means I am an ever-present help…ask you shall receive.

Me:  Thank you, God.   Um…God….

God:  Yes Lisa?

Me:  It sure is a lot of work taking care of a puppy.  Do you think I could, maybe…um…lose some weight?

God:  Hmmm…not if you keep eating the muffins that are meant for the  JMU students.

Me:  Oops…guess you saw that the other night…

God:  Remember, I –am- with you always.  (God smiles)

***

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.

 He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.

 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

 As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.

 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.

 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting

Psalms 103:8-17

***

Written for participation of today’s daily prompt:  Obvious

 

A Quiet Place

A Conversation with God 8/18/16

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Beth, my daughter, looking out over the Shenandoah Valley.

Me:  God, my world is too noisy…sometimes I just want to go to the moon!

God:  You don’t have to go all the way to the moon…just rest in your quiet place, it’s always waiting for you.

Me:  I would but I don’t know the way.

God:  Well, that’s the beauty of it, you don’t have to go anywhere because it goes everywhere with you.  You’re always standing by the door.  Just open the door and walk inside.

Me:  Huh…?

God:  My presence is the resting place and your awareness is the door.  When you become aware of My presence, in any given moment, there is peace and an extra boost of energy to carry you through.

Me:  God, it’s so incredible that YOU, the God who created all, lives inside me.

God:  I know it’s hard for your human mind to understand, so don’t even try…just rest in knowing, with me, all things are possible.

Me:  Thank you Lord.

God:  Faith is the key that opens your door of awareness.  Believe me and I will meet you there.  In our secret place you’ll rest in the coolness of my shadow.  I will gather you as a mother hen gathers her chicks and you will rest under my wings.

Me:  What if there’s no time?

God:  Even in the briefest of moments I will give you strength…just say my name and know I’m there.  Quote my word in your mind, that always helps too.

Me:  Thank you, Lord.

God:  Remember, you’ll need many rests through out your day.  So, open the door and come inside, often.

***

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty…
 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge.  (Psalms 91:1,4)

Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”  (Mark 10:27)

Yes Lord…but…I’m Gay

A Conversation with God 8/11/2016

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Me:  God, as I tarried in your garden, I heard the words of a verse that has given me comfort for many years.

God:  And what words are they, my child?

Me:  They go something like this… “…everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and those who come to Me I will by no means cast out.”

God:  Ah yes…I remember exactly when they were first spoken.  My Son was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum the very day after he had fed a great multitude of people some fish and bread.

(God pauses in thought)

God:  Seems like yesterday…

Me:  Uhm…I’m not quite sure when He said it, but those words have meant a lot to me in my life, even from early on.

God:  Tell me, child…how have they comforted you?

Me:   Well, sometimes I feel I’m not good enough…I mean, it seems I mess up all the time.

God:  All my children stumble…you are no different.

Me:  Yes, Lord…but…I’m gay…

God:  I know all things, my child.

Me:  Uhm…yes Lord but I’ve struggled with being gay since a little girl.  I kept it a secret from my family because I thought they wouldn’t love me if they knew.

God:  That could well be the case with man but with Me, there are no secrets and with Me there are no limits to my love.  I love you with an everlasting love.  I have called you, Lisa and in faith you came to me and believed.  Neither I nor Jesus will ever cast you away…and no one can ever pluck you from my hand.  My Son’s words were true thousands of years ago and they remain true today.  Trust me.

Me:  Yes, Lord…but…I’m gay…

God:  Lisa, I knew it before you knew it and still my words beckon you to come and drink freely from the water of Life.

Me:  Yes, but others say…

God:  But, what do I say?

Me:  I know Lord…but…

God:  My child, I called you and you came.  Remember my words, “Whosoever, shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.”  Lisa, whosoever means you, too.  Nothing can ever separate you from my Love.

Me:  God, can it really be that simple?

God:  I made it simple because I want all to come to me.  I loved the whole world so much that I gave my only Son, Jesus, and whoever believes in Him will never perish; instead, they will live forever.  Lisa, Jesus paid a heavy price to secure your salvation and because of what He sacrificed I will never no never turn you or anyone else away.

Me:  Lord, how can I even begin to thank you.

God:  Well, I never grow weary of your thanksgivings and praises.  They make me happy.  So go, live your life in grace and share the good news of my love with everyone.  ALL are welcome…no ifs, ands or buts.

(God smiles)

Me:  Lord, take my life and let it be all for you and for your glory.  Glory to you forever!

***

And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. Revelation 22:17

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.  John 6:37

 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16