Tag Archives: God’s love

Easter Devotion ~What Have I Done?

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Free clip art from here.

Don’t you realize how patient he is being with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see that he has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to turn from your sin? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance. ~ Romans 2:4 (TLB)

One of the gifts of the last year is a part-time job the Lord gave me as a paid singer in the Soli Dei church choir. Not being raised in a liturgical tradition, I’ve enjoyed the rhythms of the church calendar and being exposed to another style of worship.

Since my husband and I attend a community church with multiple services, most weeks I’m honored to worship at the Lutheran church with my friends in the choir as well as with my family at our home church.

Oh how I love worship music of all styles! I’m as comfortable in my choir robe as I am rocking out to the drums of our home church. I’ve also been known to slip away to a nearby charismatic church to enjoy worship dance or to head to another part of town and enjoy the pageantry at a friend’s Catholic Church. God’s people are everywhere, and there is great delight in joining with them in worship of our shared King.

It is due to this part-time job that I attended the Ash Wednesday service I’ve talked about in the last two devotions. My sweet Jesus also used the music of this job to break through my turmoil and finish the work of repentance in my heart.

The railing I mentioned yesterday was grounded in anger at God. I simply didn’t like how He was handling my life. I was tired of hardship. When He dug up the lie on that Thursday, I didn’t immediately repent. I spent two days thrashing about in confusion and anger. The wrestling with God allowed my processing to take the lie to its deepest places to be more fully uprooted. It needed to be banished once and for all, no stone unturned!

By Saturday morning I was spent.

Exhausted, I hauled myself out of bed for a three-hour Easter music rehearsal. Entering the choir room is entering a beautiful community. And in that sacred assembly of fellow believers with voices lifted in song the same Spirit who inspired the great composers of long ago took their music, reached across centuries, and stilled my heart. It started with Mendelssohn’s healing melody as we sang, “Grant us thy peace so graciously.”* The music swelled to fill the rehearsal space and the space of my soul. Weary of the questioning, the wrestling, my words became a prayer. Oh how I needed peace. Yes, Lord, grant me peace.

My heart then broke with an allegory by Tchaikovsky called “The Crown of Roses (Legend).” We sang, “The boy said humbly; ‘Take, I pray, All but the naked thorns away.’ Then of the thorns they made a crown, and with rough fingers pressed it down . . .” The Lord’s sacrifice is no children’s story. The harsh words, barbed whip, and thorned crown really did pierce His body and soul. And like the humble boy in the song, He allowed it. The God-man received the whip, the scorn, the cross, and succumbed to a cruel death.

But it was Richard Shephard’s “Good Friday Reproaches” the Spirit used to cleanse me of the last vestiges of anger and distrust. Our director, Andy, is committed to communicating the message of the pieces he chooses, and this piece has a particularly emotive refrain. For at least ten minutes we sang two sentences: “My people what wrong have I done to you? What good have I not done for you?”

Over and over those words echoed and reverberated in the rehearsal hall. Andy encouraged reflective word emphasis, dynamics, leaning into the text, making it spark with emotion and meaning.

My people what wrong have I done to you?

What good have I not done for you?

Part of repentance is to feel regret.

I’d been rethinking my life. Struggling to let go of the sin of unbelief and to change my way of thinking. Now I ached with regret. It was as if Christ Himself spoke to me in that refrain, and then the Spirit whispered a line from another song I’d heard. “But tell me now, where was my fault in loving you with my whole heart?”**

I felt Him. “What wrong have I done to you?” He gently questioned. “Tell Me where is My fault in loving you with My whole heart? What good have I not done for you?”

As I sang with my lips I confessed with my heart, “Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus. I’m sorry. You’ve done nothing but love and give. Like a selfish child who doesn’t get her way I’ve ignored Your sacrifice and accused You of not loving me well.”

It’s amazing how tender He is even when He calls for repentance, how even in asking us to rethink our attitudes and behaviors He floods us with a magnitude of love.

My friend, do you hear it too? The heart cry of Jesus, the One who gave all for us? Do you hear Him whisper, “What wrong have I done? What good have I withheld? Where can you fault Me? I’ve loved you with all I have.”

The enemy constantly tries to confuse God’s people and steal their joy. The vile whisper reverberates, saying God withholds from us, that His love is not to be trusted.

But where is fault in the One who spread His arms and gave all?

He left the splendor of heaven

Knowing his destiny

Was the lonely hill of Golgotha

There to lay down His life for me

If that isn’t love

The ocean is dry

There’s no stars in the sky

And the sparrow can’t fly

If that isn’t love

Then heaven’s a myth

There’s no feeling like this

If that isn’t love***

Thank You, Jesus. I am undone by Your selfless love. You have no fault. All is done from love. You withhold no good thing.

*”Verleih Uns Frieden (Grant Us Thy Peace)”, text by Martin Luther, translated to English by Andrew Halladay. Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy PMApprov2-01

**From “White Blank Page” by Mumford and Sons

***“If That Isn’t Love” by Dottie Rambo

(Devotion taken from Soul Scents: RootedSoul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

Soul Scents: Awaken, Book 1 in the series, is free on Kindle today and tomorrow!

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Hanging out in love

IMAG0041Do you ever struggle with loving yourself?

How about believing you are loved? Or if you know you are, believing you are worthy of being loved?

Or I am the only one?

A while back God and I were talking. I hear best with a pen in hand, focusing my scattered thoughts by writing in a pretty blank book. I wrote to Him about how I felt lonely for His attention. “Honesty says I am angry about the times I’ve tried so hard to listen (to You) and heard nothing.”

I felt His response. Seeking to put it into words I recorded, “How many times have I tried to show you my love, and you haven’t listened? How many times have you heard . . . and rejected the Voice, fearing you had fabricated such kindness? How can I reveal to you my goodness, my love, my humor, and my kindness if you continue to fear that Voice? If you continue to doubt that you hear Me? How can I be a Lover if you refuse the sweet somethings I whisper in your ears!IMAG0039

“All my Words to you don’t have to be directive. I want to talk. To be together. To develop intimacy. Remember what I said, ‘I no longer call you servant, but friends?’ . . . You’ve shown me you will serve Me. That is understood. Done. Established. But will you love me, and let Me love you as a Friend, as a Lover?”

I wrote those words last August but they came to mind this morning. Last night I read in my Bible, “Remain in my love,” and I’ve been thinking all day about what that is like.

Wouldn’t remaining in His love be hanging out there, living a life immersed in the passionate belief that my Creator adores me? Letting that truth be the foundation for all else?

I am loved.

In Becoming Myself Stasi Eldredge wrote, “The world does not need yet another woman who despises the lovely person she is. God does not long for another woman who rejects herself and, by extension, Him. The world needs a woman who is thankful for how God made her, trusts that He is transforming her, and actually enjoys who she is. It’s a good thing to like who you are. God likes you!”

And hasn’t that been the issue? Believing that a Perfect God actually likes me? That because of Christ I don’t have to put up a wall to vast love because I think I don’t deserve it, because I think I’m not good enough, lovely enough to be loved like that?

Jesus also said, “Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.”

IMAG0042Remain in what part of Jesus?

His Love.

Could it be that all our dreams of doing good will best produce the desired result if we can only learn to be loved?

To live from that place of being adored by God?

Oh that we may snuggle deep into His embrace believing we are fully loved!

A Little Breathless at the Thought,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

Does God Shop?

If you don’t believe God likes to shop, I’m here to challenge your perceptions.

Or maybe He just likes me to shop.

See last Wednesday was my birthday. I finish a tall cup of nice, hot tea and good conversation with a friend at Starbucks and had a little space between our time together and my next appointment.

Leaning back on the comfy chair I let the joy of unscheduled time wash over me. “What should we do next, God, for my birthday?”

I swear He said, “Let’s see what they have at Hobby Lobby.”

Bet you’ll believe me when you hear the rest of the story.

This whole new family room thing is a bigger deal than most of you know. I’ve prayed for at least ten years to be able to redecorate. I am going to be brave and admit to the world at large that the carpet down there is at least 30 years old and held together with duct tape. So when God brought the resources to give that space a face-lift, well, it’s an answer to years of prayer. (When we’re finally done I’ll take pictures. Promise!)

So back to my story. My birthday. Hobby Lobby. I was drawn to the pictures. Not the little ones. The big ones. And in that department I drooled, then stopped dead in my tracks.

In front of me was a photo on canvas. Not only did the picture invite me to saunter down to the ocean and dangle my feet in the water, the heart of its message communicated exactly what I want my new family room to say.

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Breathe.

Be at peace.

Relax. Be refreshed.

I stared.

It was also the perfect colors to connect that new pewter lamp with the “sand” sofa and the calming blues, greens, and grays of the new paint.

I flipped that sucker over and moaned. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money. “I’d pay half that,” I thought.

With a wistful sigh I continued my wanderings around the store. I resisted the temptation to look at the bracelet charms. I browsed the fabric, a past-time made enjoyable thanks to a grandmother who sewed me dresses when I was a child.

Then I saw it. A sign advertising 50% off canvas prints!

I rushed back to the picture section to inquire. Evidently, the sale was over, but one of the signs advertising it had been overlooked when they were taken down. Store policy said they had to honor the discount! I was told to check out with a particular cashier to receive that amazing price.

I grabbed the perfect candles (also 50% off) to continue with my sand and sea theme and headed to the check out counter.

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The cashier’s name was Joy.

Could it be more perfect?

“Do you want to hear a joyful story?” I asked.

“Of course!” She said.

I poured it all out. How the canvas was the culmination of years of prayer and a brand new look in my family room.

Her wide smile matched my own. “The Lord wanted you to have that picture!” she said.

Yes. Yes he did.

I don’t really know what He thinks about shopping, but I do know we have a Father who loves to give good gifts to His children. He knows our hearts. He cares about the little things.

Happy here in Colorado,

Paula another test (401x192) (2)

 

Naked and (UN)ashamed

Don’t you hate naked dreams? You know the ones. You’re in a public place and suddenly IMAG3123realize you forgot to get dressed. You’re horrified and afraid of being seen.

I had one of those dreams the other night.

What’s really funny is that in my dream there was a young man who upset me. We were in a crowd of people, and he kept doing irritating things. Then he started stripping!

The next scene of my dream I ran upstairs, looking for my father to ask him to deal with the chaos this young man was causing. But before I could find my dad, I looked down and realized that I was naked! I ran and found a sheet to hide in and wrapped myself in it, weeping.

When I awoke from this dream I immediately equated it to my life, especially the stuff I’ve been processing the last few weeks. When I wrote my Tension Tummy post I spoke about how boxes and legalism have hurt me and a lot of other people. I ended with these words:

I’ve had ample opportunity to process legalism and judgment lately. . . My human self comes up with all kinds of wonderful ways to fight . . . Instead I ask God to shed Truth and Grace where it is needed.

Including in the ugly remnants of legalism and religiosity in me.

See, my heart is to be loving and grace-filled, but I never perform up to my own desires. When I am hurt, or worse yet when someone I love is hurt, judgement and legalism are right there, ready to take up space in my attitude.

I think my dream is a reminder that while I am passionate about speaking out against boxes and legalism, I can never do it without that voice inside reminding me that I, too, am not perfect.

I have not yet let go of judgment or stepped out of boxes to the extent I want to. My mind is ahead of me even in the progress I have made. Often my thoughts and emotions don’t keep up with what I believe to be true. Sometimes even my actions contradict the grace I believe in.

I’m a work in progress.

There’s something in the Bible that talks about Jesus giving us robes of righteousness. That is the only answer to my naked problem. My raw, naked faults will be exposed from time to time. Hopefully I’m processing forward and becoming more loving, not less. But no matter how I long to be perfect, I’m just not.

That’s when I remember Jesus never left me naked and exposed. Long ago He gave me that righteousness robe to cover all the humanity I wish the world never saw. So when I feel hurt by my own lack, I look to HIM, to HIS fullness. To the way He cares, forgives, and covers me with the Good that is Himself.

Then I grab hold of His hand and hope I can listen to His Voice in a way that helps me be more loving and less judgmental the next time.

It’s not my desire to take away from anything I said in that Tension Tummy post. I believe those words to be true. It just seems important to say that even in my passion for freedom and against religiosity I have to say, “Me, too.”

I too am trying to find my way out of legalism.

I too have boxes I wish I could step out of.

I too fail at this grace thing, no matter how much I wish I didn’t.

Thank God HE is always there to remind me that failure is not the end of the story. That my missteps are forgiven. That He will help me journey down that road to loving more like He does.