Friday, June 14, 2013

Cover Her in the Storm

I watched her as she stood in the crowd of worshipers.  I sensed that she felt isolated and out of place.  It was as if she were standing outside, watching through a window, as her brothers and sisters in Christ feasted at His table...a table where she should be sitting. All she could do was stare at her chair that sits empty as it waits for her return.  Her tormentor whispered lies laced with hints of truth into her ear.  He numbed her with shots of shame and circumstance.

I could see the battle raging inside of her.  She knew that she belonged there.  She has experienced the love, peace, joy and forgiveness of the King that they were all worshiping.  After all, she is the apple of His eye...and she knows it.  Her spirit was crying out to worship God, but hurt and anger stifled her willingness to show affection for her King.  So she stood by and watched.  Occasionally, her spirit would win for a moment and her leg would bounce to the music.  She stood awkwardly not knowing what to do with her hands.  Normally, they would be raised in worship.  So she clinched them together at her waist, as if she were holding them hostage. 

In the past few months, life has pulled the rug out from under this young woman.  Her world has been shaken.  Her faith is being tested.  She is confused, angry, scared, and hurting.  She wants life to be back as she once knew it.  She watches as foundational people in her life are stricken with ailments.  Some of her friendships have become questionable.  She struggles with the absence of a parent. All that she has believed about her King has come into question.  She's flat out angry at Him.  She doesn't give a rats butt about praying right now.  So she turns to temporary soothers.  Things and people that help her her medicate the pain.  But those temporary soothers lose all their power when she stands in the presences of her Abba Father.

My heart aches for her.  I love her more than she truly knows.  I think of her often.  I love on her every chance I get.  I pray for her and reach out when I feel the Holy Spirit leading me to do so.  I make sure she understands that I get it.  That I'm not trying to instantly fix her but instead I'm walking this journey with her.  I try to balance grace and truth as I speak encouraging words to her.  I want to see her walk out on the other side of this suffering a much stronger woman of God.  I want to sit next to her at the King's table as we worship Him together.  

This young lady has more people praying for her than she could ever imagine.  The enemy wants her to think that she's alone in her suffering.  But if she were to turn around and look behind her, she would see a mighty army of Godly people covering her in prayer...supporting her in battle...washing her wounds with the healing power of God's Word.

One day soon, I will see my sweet friend rise up from the ashes and become an oak of righteousness.  Until then, I will cover her in this storm.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Weeping For Disengaged Members

"He makes the whole body fit together perfectly.  As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love." ~Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)

While getting ready yesterday morning, I turned on the local news here in Dallas.  The first report I heard was of a local fireman that had been killed in an apartment fire in the early hours of the morning.  Stanley Wilson was a 28-year veteran of the Dallas Fire Department.  The raw emotions from those that were being interviewed had a way of reaching through the television and grabbing my heart.  His fellow firefighters were devastated.  They wept as they tried to give a report of what happened.  One of the fire chiefs mustered up the strength to do a press conference, and did it with tremendous strength, dignity and leadership...but his eyes showed the struggle within.  He mentioned that Stanley is leaving behind a wife and two teen-aged sons.  Again, the depth of grief and loss is overwhelming in this case.  As they carried Stanley's body from the rubble, the path from the building to the ambulance was lined with weeping firefighters standing shoulder-to-shoulder and saluting as he went by.  It was clear that Stanley was more than a team member to them.  He was a veteran member of their fire-fighting family.  He held a special place in their hearts and had special skill sets that they needed to function.  Now he is gone and a hole remains.

Immediately the Lord grabbed my attention by reminding me of Ephesians 4:16, that we are all members of the same body.  When one member is lost, the entire body suffers.  He brought to my mind the number of Christians that are lost from the Body for one reason or another.  Often times we fail to recognize the sense of loss and the gap that is created when we lose a member of the Body.  

We have our own special work that the Lord has given us.  When we do that work, we help other parts grow.  The body then functions as it should.  The sense of "family" is strengthened and relationships are formed.  Iron sharpens iron.  Love is shared.  We become each other's advocates.  We strengthen one another's weaknesses.  We fit together perfectly.  Together we share the love of Christ with the world around us.   

Losing a member is difficult.  It's almost too heavy to bear at times.  I have watched some go by in caskets and the grief ran deep.  The thought of not having them here with us is so hard to bear.  So many questions are asked.  "Why, God!?"  "Why now?"  "What are we supposed to do now?" "Couldn't You have stopped it!?"  "Where in the world are You in this!?" A desire to hear their voice or see their smiling face, just one more time, presses its way into our minds almost daily.  We grab on to memories, only to feel them slipping through our fingers after so many years. There's no way around it...Death. Is. Hard.  So we weep over our loss and cling to the hope of eternal life with them.  Praise the Lord that He is so faithful in filling the gap left by the lost member.  He is so good at filling it with just the right person, at just the right time.

Watching a member of the Body remove themselves from their place and walk away is also very difficult.  I have many names that I pray for that have walked away from being a functioning member of the Body of Christ.  Some were veteran members and found themselves trapped, as Stanley Wilson did. Sometimes our first reaction is to say, "Didn't you know better?  Didn't you see the trap coming?  You've been a Christian for over 20 years.  Don't you remember the Bible talking about the enemy prowling around like a lion to devour you?  Why didn't you stay alert?"  The reality of it is that sometimes we all get comfortable or make poor choices.  We've all found ourselves in a trap or two over the coarse of our Christian walk. (Let he without sin cast the first stone.) Maybe our trap didn't completely disengage us from the joints of the Body.  Maybe it simply paralyzed us for a moment or two.  Nonetheless, we have all let our brothers and sisters in Christ down by not being a properly functioning Christian.  We stalled the efforts of being a healthy, growing, full of love Body.

As the firemen wept with sorrow as their fallen member was carried away, we too should weep for those that have been carried away by the enemy.  There are so many non-functioning Christians in the world today.  People that were hurt by other people in the church and no longer trust other Christians.  There are others that are flat out angry at God and refuse to serve Him.  There are others that are just confused.  Others are beaten down by the storms of life.  Some have been carried away by their sin.  Sin that slowly engulfed them.  The list goes on and on of reasons as to why people get carried away or walk away from the Body of Christ.  I pray today that we will all feel a deep sense of loss for our fallen members.  That our hearts will be moved by compassion for them. May the Holy Spirit begin to bring them to the front of our minds so we can begin to pray for their return.  May He put them in our paths and may we show them the love of Christ when He does.  May we stand shoulder-to-shoulder and line their path back to the Body of Christ.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Just As I Am, Without One Plea

I recently heard the old hymn, Just As I Am, Without One Plea.  I can't say that I have ever given the song's lyrics much thought until now.  In fact, I haven't heard the song in at least 15 years.  For some reason, as I was taking down the Christmas tree today, I began to really dwell on the words of the song.  Here they are:

1. Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 

2. Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot, to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 

 3. Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 

 4. Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; sight, riches, healing of the mind, yea, all I need in thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 

 5. Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; because thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 

6. Just as I am, thy love unknown hath broken every barrier down; now, to be thine, yea thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

What a powerful, powerful song when you sort through the "thees" and "thous".  What a perfect picture of how we should come to Christ realizing that we are broken without Him. How He wants us to come to Him as we are, for if we try to fix ourselves we will simply make a bigger mess of ourselves. Just as if I tried gluing back together a vase I broke. What an ugly, sticky, misaligned, leaky mess it would be. The only person qualified to completely restore it would be its Creator.

Our Creator doesn't want us polishing up and making repairs before we come to Him. As the song says, He bids us to come to Him. "Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 His blood will cleanse us...every. single. blotch. And verse 5 of the song reminds us that He will receive us with welcoming arms. He will pardon, cleanse and relieve us. I don't know about you, but I could certainly use some relief at different points in my life. Life is hard, just plain 'ole hard. 

I've often thought about how much easier it would be to live in the "olden days". Have you ever thought that too? I've dreamed of how great it must have been to live a slower-paced life. But the lyrics of this song, that were written in the 1700s, sounds identical to some of the things I've said over my lifetime. "...though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within". "I am poor, wretched and blind." All of us can sing these words with conviction for they describe far too many of our days.  If you're like me, you become weary and burdened by sin, conflict, hurt, the list goes on.  Often it feels as though we're being tossed around in a "storm".  Doubt screams in our ears and fears weigh us down with chains.

His blood was shed for it really, ALL. How narrow-minded we are to forget about the precious Blood of Jesus Christ.  And His love has broken down every barrier.

So that...

Just as I am, without one plea...Oh Lamb of God...I come, I come.  And I praise You for the love and forgiveness I find when I reach Your arms.