The Woman Speaks

Women are not to speak in church at all. Women are definitely not allowed to teach men anything. The only males they can teach are little boys. Once a boy hits puberty, he can no longer have a woman teacher in Sunday School. He is a man now. This same boy can be taught in public (or private or Christian) school by a woman and no one loses their mind. He can have women professors in college. He can have a woman boss. But in church, man reigns supreme and women need to just shut the heck up.

This is biblical, right? I mean, right? It’s what Paul writes, isn’t it? And we all know Paul is like next to godhood. His writings in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 3 dictate the silence of women, at least that is what I have always been taught. I’m sure many of you have as well.

Let women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says, and if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man but to remain quiet.

I Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12, respectively

These passages have no doubt been beaten and belabored to death in recent months. But please, allow me to throw my hat into the ring as one late to the party. Let’s talk about church first, shall we? Let’s define it biblically, okay?

For where two or three are gathered together, I am there in their midst.

Matthew 18:20

This verse in Matthew comes just after Jesus tells the disciples how to deal with offenses done against them. (You can read it all in Matthew 18:15-20.) Church is not a building but it is the whole body of Christ. It is comprised of individual believers. Anytime believers meet together it is church. So anytime believers have a meal with other believers it’s church. If believers meet out shopping or going for a walk, at a concert, etc it is church. But we don ‘t live like that. We live as if the church is simply the four walls of a building with Church in the name. “I attend this church. Which church do you attend?” So we translate this passage in light of that viewpoint. Women cannot talk inside the four walls of a church.

Except even this is not practiced truly. Women speak inside the church walls all the time. Women speak to men inside the four walls of a church all the time. And no one bats an eye. Women speak and teach in the church. Children and women only. “Because that’s what the Bible says.” I beg to differ. I am not intelligent nor eloquent enough to lay out the reasons. But I will show what Jesus has been revealing to me about Himself and His dealings with women.

Jesus revealed Himself to women first on many different occasions and in varied ways. A real quick rundown of some.

  • Mary heard from the angel, Gabriel before Joseph. God chose to reveal Himself to a woman before revealing Himself to her betrothed and before revealing Himself to any in Israel.
  • Jesus chose to reveal His identity as Messiah to a woman before revealing it to the disciples. He told the Samaritan woman, “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:26) This was after speaking with her and bringing the conversation around to church and worship. She confessed to hearing the rumor of a promised Messiah who “will declare all things to us” (John 4:25)
  • Jesus chose a woman, a woman who had been demon possessed, to first reveal Himself post-resurrection. According to His plan and purpose, Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb early on the first day of the week. She saw the stone had been rolled away and she hotfooted it back to town to tell the disciples. She was the one who followed Peter and John as they entered a footrace to the tomb.
  • Jesus chose Mar Magdalene to be the one to look into the tomb after Peter and John left. (Left to go find the resurrected Jesus? Nope. They left to go home.) He chose for Mary to see the angels and then turn around and see Him. He veiled her understanding until He spoke her name.
  • Jesus chose Mary Magdalene to be the first apostle. She saw Him first post-resurrection and she was the first one He sent. And where did He send her? To give men a message. But not just any men. His men. Men who had faithfully followed Him throughout His ministry. The message she was to give them? In short, she was to instruct them. Jesus could have shown Himself to them. He could have appeared at the tomb behind Peter and John and told them to go back and tell the other disciples He lived and where to meet Him. But He didn’t. I can’t emphasize this enough. He purposely chose a woman. He purposely sent her out. He purposely sent her to instruct men, His men. Believing men.

So let’s go back to Paul. He writes, what I believe is at least tongue-in-cheek, that women are not allowed to teach or even talk in church. He even says “just as the Law also says.” The Law meaning, of course, the Mosaic Law. Only the Mosaic Law does not say this. Anywhere. It’s not there. I believe it was considered a law at the time in the church. This was not a law handed down by God, but rather was a law handed down by men. It was, in short, tradition that had morphed into another law that governed behavior.

It is also thought that women were viewed as disruptive. Maybe some were. The verse in 1 Corinthians 14 that immediately precedes Paul saying to let the women be silent, addresses an issue in the body. Chaos reigned. Confusion ruled the assembly. Paul writes that “God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” I am not going pretend to have studied the culture of the Corinthian church and cannot speak to that. All I know is context is key.

There is a church I have attended on a few occasions and in this church is a man who is of sound least it appears that way. Before the message gets under way, he is observed quietly speaking with others in the sanctuary, with coffee cup in hand. But once the pastor begins the message this man begins shouting out words and phrases. To be sure, they are “Christian” phrases, but are nonetheless disruptive.

I attended a Christian concert a few years ago. This concert did not take place inside the four walls of a building with Church on the side but it was, nonetheless, a church. The man directly behind me was extremely disruptive. He kept reaching forward to grasp my arms in an effort to make me raise them. He shouted out words and phrases at such an alarming rate and decibel level the musician called him out on it. It did not stop the man. I was preparing vacate my seat in search of someone in charge who could escort the man out when there was an intermission. The man did not return to his seat. It’s possible he left voluntarily and it is also possible he was told to leave. I don’t know. I share these experiences simply to show women are not the always the ones who bring disruption to worship.

Let’s move back to discuss the church. My family often shares a meal with friends from church. This, by definition, is a church. So if women are not allowed to speak in church, any time I have a meal with another family of believers, I cannot speak. I must sit in silence. There could be no “please pass the mashed potatoes” or “please pass the salt.” There could be nothing but silence as the men are allowed to speak. How crazy would that be? But if we are going to be dogmatic about what Paul wrote, we have to take it to this place too.

I have begun praying for Jesus to open my eyes, to let me see Him and read His words with fresh eyes. He has been faithful to do just that. I want to get rid of any preconceived ideas and notions about what the passage is saying and listen to His voice reveal His truth.

One of the most amazing things He has brought to light is simply the powerful role of women, His women in His narrative. He first revealed His identity and deity to a woman. A woman was His first apostle. He sent her to instruct believing men. We have allowed traditions to dictate church life long enough. I want to say this next part with grace but I fear it will come out and sound harsh. Weak m men, men fearful of losing their felt power and authority, have devised this and blinded the eyes of weaker men in an attempt to silence women. Women who love Jesus and are empowered by Him to proclaim His word to men and women. For His glory.


Quiet Time

It was a hurried quiet time this morning. There was no lingering long over coffee and prayers, this was a fly out of bed and hit the deck running day after a very short night. Normally there is plenty of time to bask in the grace and wonder of Jesus, to linger long while sipping coffee, pondering the deep things of Jesus and praying His peace pervades all of everything.

But not this morning. This morning was an I have to get up and out the door by 6:45. Which means I need to be in and out of the shower by 5:30 so Mr. FullCup has plenty of time to get ready himself before leaving for work at the same time. It was also a I still have so much to read before 9am, I better begin as soon as I get out of the shower. And that is exactly what I did.

Life hit me like dominoes. One thing after another. Please, do not misunderstand here, I am not at all saying one must spend copious amounts of time with Jesus every morning or watch out, He’s going to get you! Not at all. Jesus isn’t like that. He doesn’t operate that way. My focus was two-pronged which is unusual and more or less impossible. I knew He was with me, I could sense His closeness, but my thoughts were on what needed to be done now. Right now. This minute. This very minute now. Not in a few minutes, not in a few days but now, right this second now.

You know because you’ve been there too. It’s the tyranny of the urgent and life’s demands stack up like unpaid and unpayable bills. Soon you find yourself running hither and yon, then back to hither in a mad, vain attempt to accomplish something. Anything. You can’t think straight enough to know what the next step is, the next thing is. You’re just so dang crazy busy.

You pray on the fly, “Jesus, help here!” “Oh Jesus, are they crazy? Do they think they are the only one who is making demands on my time? Do they really think now is the time for that? How on earth, Lord, is all of that going to be done?”

You feel the panic and stress rising. You want desperately to drown your stress in mochas but you haven’t the time to get one. You want to go anywhere but here. You’re desperate to run any where as long as it isn’t here. Quitting isn’t just a nice thought, it’s a mind obsession. Fight or flight and you’re picking flight. But your dang feet won’t move, won’t budge an inch.

You battle tears and find yourself losing, thinking, “What on earth good are tears at a time like this? Tears won’t get that job done. They won’t write that article. They won’t read that book. They’ll just make a mess of your makeup. That’s it.”

As you choke back the tears, wipe your nose and eyes for the millionth time in an hour, you suddenly realize, your focus is wrong. Your focus in on what you can do. All of your abilities and inabilities. You see the waves and feel the wind in your hair and you raise your hand as your heart cries out, Oh Jesus! My focus is the waves! I’m feeling the wind, and oh Jesus, I’m sinking fast. Please show me the next thing. Keep my focus on You.

Just as fast He reaches down, grabs your hand, lifts you out, and sets you on a rock. He covers you with His pinions, and under His wings you find refuge and strength. Not your own, His own. In His arms, we are safe and we rest in His life living in and through us. If you listen close, you can hear His sweet voice as He gently sings over your soul, calming your fears and your tears.

He Is…I Am Bible Study Week 5

This is a little later than I normally post these but Jesus was speaking and I had to get His words to share with you.

I’ve been listening to this song the past few days and I really like it. Except for one line. Plumb sings, “Come and consume, All we are. We give You permission….” That line, about giving Jesus permission, just rubs me the wrong way.

We do not give Jesus permission. He is not beneath us, nor is He in our control. He does not stand outside, hat in hand waiting for us to deign to invite Him in. He always works. He draws our hearts to Him. Yes, He stands at the door and knocks, but He is not a gentleman. He goes where He is not wanted nor invited. He gets in our business all the time.

Anymore the very thought of our giving Him permission or allowing Him to do anything turns my stomach and makes me angry. Yes, angry. He does what He is going to do–no permission from His creation is needed nor sought. He is God and His plan marches on to completion. He is not a gentleman, but He is good and kind, loving in all He does.

Our only role–is not that of foreman, granting permission as we deem necessary–but that of surrender. We bow our knees before Him in surrender. He is in charge and is not a gentleman.

Oh Jesus, consume me like a forest fire out of control. Burn off the dead, bring fresh nutrients to the soil. Please set me aflame.

See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but not He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ And this expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude by which we may offer to God an acceptable service, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.

Hebrews 12:25-29

We all want a nice, safe God. One who plays nice with our lives and doesn’t rattle our cage or shake us up at all. We want one that allows our control and strongholds to remain and He sure doesn’t ask anything from us. We want to Him play sweet on Sunday, we want to feel His presence as we sit in church and then bless us as we live in our control and strongholds the rest of the week, calling on Him only when we face something we deem to big for us to handle.

This is not the Jesus–not the God–of Scripture. That God rattles and shakes things. Often the things He rattles and shakes is us, our things. He shakes things up and He shakes us up.

He shakes to remove those things which can be shaken–our sin, our control, our strongholds–in order that those things–His Life and gifts–that cannot be shaken remain.

One thing we desperately need is to be shaken. We must see all our control and strongholds for what they are–a farce and a sham. They are flimsy and no good at keeping anyone with any strength out. Until we surrender to Him and surrender our control and strongholds to the One in Control and our Greatest Stronghold of refuge, He will continue to shake us.

Even after we surrender things will be shaken up, because He must expose and remove all our self-made strongholds. This is why we should pray to be protected from everything except what would bring Him glory. When we pray this, we know in our times of shaking that everything that happens is bringing Him glory, painful though it may be. We can rest secure in Him and watch Him be glorified in us and through us.

So when things start to shake in your life, and they will, trust me on that, surrender. Don’t dig your heels in and staunchly try to maintain your control. Surrender. Lay down your weapons, ask Him to speak to the hurt, the stronghold and then be set free to live in Him.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things  which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

He Is…I Am Bible Study Week 4

Can you believe we’re finishing up our first month of Bible study already? I pray Jesus is opening your eyes to see Him, to hear Him, and to experience Him in brand-new ways.

I’ve been struck over over the past couple of weeks with His very sameness. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change. He cannot change. The way He was before the beginning of time is exactly how He will be after the end of time. There is no shifting of shadows in Him. There is no, “well, I don’t know if He’ll still do it….”.

Precious reader, if He did it before He is sure to do it again! It might not be the in the exact same way, but He will do it because He doesn’t change. If He met you yesterday, He’ll meet you today. Since He was faithful to you last week, He’ll be faithful to you this week as well.

Here is the thing that really strikes me about the very unchangeableness of our Jesus.

He’s not monotonous.

Monotony bores me to tears. If you want to see me run, put me in a place I will have to do the same thing, in the same way, every day. I’ll die. I will invent new ways of doing it. I will be so bored I’ll cause trouble for everyone. I’ll talk when I should be quiet, I’ll poke my neighbor, I’ll prattle on and on, long after you’ve shushed me a billion times.

When I leave my house I often try to take a new way to wherever I’m going. Since I’ve lived here for over 17 years, I’m quickly running out of ways to go, but still the thrill entices me.

My man is the opposite. Change is horrifying to him. He lives today as he lived yesterday. He takes the same way to work every single day. And what’s more, he sees no need, has no desire to change it at all. I’m going to admit it drives me absolutely up the wall.

It is comforting however, to know that Jesus never changes. It comforts because we can know that as He loves us today, He will love us tomorrow. He will never love us more, never love us less than He does right this moment. He will never know us more, never know us less than He does right this second. He will never stop loving us, or knowing us because He doesn’t change. As He is right now, He will always be.

He will reveal different facets of Himself and we plunge deeper into Him, His heart and His life. But He, His heart, His life, His character, His character remain the same forever. From forever past to forever present to forever future, He remains the same.

Man changes. But our God remains steadfastly faithful.

He will continue to grow us, to change us, to teach us, but He will always remain our Faithful God. Through the shifting sands of time He is steadfast.

Remember that! Never forget.

Here is the link to the next month of Bible study.

He Is…I Am Bible Study Week 3

Can you believe we’ve completed three weeks of our study into our identity already!?! I would love to hear what you have been learning, please consider leaving a comment so we can rejoice and celebrate with you.

Jesus will never love us more, He will not know us more than He does in this exact moment in time. It is also true that He will not love us or know us less than He does in this precise moment in time. There is nothing we can do to stop, thwart, or change His love for us. He will never stop loving because His heart never changes.

As Jesus is right now, He will always be. He will reveal different facets of Himself and His life; but He will remain the same. His heart, His character, His love does not shift or change. He remains the same forever, from forever past to forever future He is steadfastly faithful.

We are often so quick to think other people bring change and growth to our life. We think they make us flourish in ways we hadn’t before. We think, “Man, since this person has been in my life, I’ve acted differently.” Ergo, it’s the person.

But all growth and lasting, noticeable change comes only from Jesus. As He breaks–shatters–the strongholds, we are changed and that change lasts. He will continue to grow us, to change us, teach us but He will remain the same. He will never be surprised by anything, He will never know more or less than He does because through the shifting sands of time He remains steadfastly faithful.

When I look back over the last year I am amazed at the changes in my own heart. Most of them have been subtle, yet sublime, internal changes that are not readily noticeable. I haven’t experienced a sudden, remarkable change. One cannot point to a time and say, “One moment you were this and then BAM! You were like that!”

His truth has been cemented in the marrow of my soul. Things I had heard, things people had tried to teach me have been understood because of His love, His faithfulness. His truth has moved from an intellectual pursuit, staying all in the mind and never reaching a behavior-changing heart level, to being dropped and cemented in my heart and is now a truth lived out because Jesus’ Life lives in me.

He showed me the high price of surrender is not near as high as the cost of remaining in and with an illusion of control. Surrender to Him and His life is always worth the cost. Always.

So many times we fear a loss of who we are if we surrender to Him. We fear we will be a nobody, we will have no identity. We are afraid we will be an empty cup. We will have no life, we will be a nameless, faceless person in a crowd. We fear this because our identity is wrapped up in who we are not. We think we are the life, we think the cup makes the coffee great, not the coffee making the cup great.

Our identity is not in who we think we are. It is in who Jesus says we are! Our identity is not lost when we surrender who we are not to Who He is, it is realized! Only in this freely surrendering our identity to His truth are we changed and enabled to walk in our high places with Him.

In this surrender we see ourselves as we are–His–and that frees us to see others as they are, and allow them to be who Jesus created them to be. We let go of any illusion of control that says everyone must be just like us or they are wrong. It frees us of the trap of comparison. It frees us from so much self.

Shoot, it just dang frees us. From us. To Him. And that is true freedom.

He Is…I Am Bible Study Week 2

A number of months ago there was a fire in the building next to their favorite Mexican restaurant. The restaurant was not completely destroyed in the fire but it did receive considerable smoke damage and so it was forced to close until repairs could be made.

I think this restaurant was one of those small, family-owned Mexican restaurants, that I picture in the seedier parts of town, but knowing them it wasn’t. Well, it probably was a small, family restaurant but not in the seedy parts of town.

All these months later the restaurant is still closed, repairs are being made slowly as time and funds allow. In the cleverest of stunts to be sure they were not forgotten they did a pop up restaurant. Limited menu, limited seating, limited time. We were there, standing in line with the rest of the crazies just wanting a taste of this iconic establishment.

They brought a couple bowls of chips and salsa, then just before our meal arrived the brought a bigger bowl of chips and what at first glance was a larger bowl of salsa. I thought it interesting, wondering why they brought the large bowl out last.

I wondered until I tried it. Then I realized this was not just a larger bowl of salsa, no, not at all. This was a bowl of sin-filled, and sinful, cheese sauce. The likes of which I’d never had before and likely won’t ever have again.

In the words of Lorelai Gilmore, “I want to take a bath in that sauce!”

My first taste was innocent, I was unaware of the cheesy goodness in that bowl. My next tastes were not so innocent. I took those knowing very, very well what it was and exactly what it would do to me. And I ate it as if I hadn’t eaten in months. I gorged myself on those chips and that sinful cheese dip.

And so it is with all of us. Believer or not, we sin. Sometimes it’s an innocent “oops”, we simply didn’t know, didn’t think. It’s still a sin, it still sent Jesus to the cross but there was no malicious forethought. Then we continue, because it tastes and feels so good. We know the consequences will not be good and we will regret it in five minutes so we keep eating it, keep trying to keep the consequences away. Until later that night, or the next morning when our over-indulgence has caught up with us.

Believing in Jesus gives us choices we didn’t have before. Before we are In Jesus and before His Life-Giving-Spirit indwells us, we have no choice to sin. It’s our identity. We are a sinner. But then Jesus comes in, places us in Him, indwells us, and suddenly we have a new identity, a new nature. New choices open up to us in an eyes-wide-open-in-wonder-type of way. Jesus now calls us saints.

If we are called saints,set apart ones, holy ones, how can we persist and insist on an identity that says we are a sinner? That the old identity, controlled by the enemy–who longs to keep us enslaved to do his bidding and not walk free as the creation Jesus says we are.

To say we are both “saint” and “sinner” is to be a schizophrenic Christian at best. A sinner will not produce good fruit, a pond will not give salt water.

A saint/sinner identity means you live a life of both blessing and cursing all at the same time. This is not possible! You either walk in your new identity of saint of your old identity of sinner, not both.

You are–if you are indwelt with the Breath of Jesus–a saint who sins, not a sinner who saints.

How can a Holy God live in something contrary to His character without changing the vessel He lives in? James 3:10-12 is speaking specifically about the tongue but I think it applies here since the tongues only speaks what is in the heart and mind.

Every sin is a choice, whether made consciously (like my continued eating of the cheese), or unconsciously, we make the choice to sin and sometimes our sinful reactions come out because we don’t realize how dead our old self is. We have choices in reaction and response. We cannot serve both God and satan, the Savior and self. We must choose one. We cannot justify our sinful choice with “that is just how I am. It’s who I am.” We have choices in our behavior, often we are ignorant about it or just too lazy to make the hard decision to change.

If Jesus calls us saints, why do we say we ain’t?
If Jesus calls us friends, why do we continue to try to make amends?

If Paul referred to himself as a saint, why do we think we are different than he was? What makes us so special to get to keep the sinner moniker when he discarded it?

In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul refers to himself as the foremost sinner, or the worst of the bunch. The word translated “sinner” means “despiser of God.” I hardly believe Paul meant that to refer to himself post Damascus road! Peter comes right out and calls us a Holy People.

Holy people can not also be sinful people.

When we call ourselves a sinner, we are basing our identity on what we do. We are not what we do! We are still human beings and not human doings.

Maybe the issue is our feelings. We don’t feel holy so we aren’t holy. We sin still so we aren’t holy. We try so hard to make ourselves holy, because we are commanded to be holy as He is holy. We are commanded to be, we are not commanded to make ourselves be Holy. We are not commanded to make ourselves work hard to be–to feel–but just to be. This means our holiness is not by our own efforts! Be! Holy!

Be holy in Him. Rest in Him holiness that was imputed to you. Take His declaration of your position as holy and be in it.

Be holy because the God in you is holy.

Because He is.

I found an old journal the other day. As far as old goes, it’s not that old, a little less than two years. But as far as life goes, it could have been written a millennia ago.

A mentor gave me a stack of stripes of paper, each one having a name or attribute of Jesus written on it. She instructed me to pick 7 and focus on one each day of the week.

The strips were all laid out and slowly seven were chosen. The ones that jumped out at me, the ones I heard Jesus whisper, “Pick that one!”, the ones that seemed significant.

And really which ones don’t?

It’s an act of Jesus grace that He slowly unfolds and unfurls Himself for us and to us. He doesn’t expect us to fully grasp Him all at once. He knows Himself and our heart so intimately He knows just which facet of His character, His life we need in that exact moment.

And He meets us there with Himself. He always meets us. Always meets us where are, with what we need. And what we always need is Him. More of Him.

We need our understanding broadened. Our scope widened. We don’t love and serve a one-dimensional God, just as we are not one-dimensional people.

Seven little strips of paper. One steno pad full of 100 blank pages. One small, hopeful woman and one Mighty God.

Oh Lord, help me choose. Which parts of You do I need to know more right here, right now?  Which one is first, Jesus? Then second?

Then on down the line, I asked with each one. Until my first month was complete. The steno pad was opened and on the first page, blank, but full of hope and promise, I wrote the week and the day. I recorded there in ink Who my Jesus was and what that meant I am. The verse He put in my mind was penned there too.

And then on each page my heart soared as my hand scribbled His truth whispered on my heart, shouted in my mind.

It’s been two years almost since I started that journal. I have nearly filled those 100 pages with His Life, His Truth.

They’ve been filled with Him. His presence. His grace.

Here’s the funny thing. He is still speaking the same things to my heart today. Two years and He’s saying the same things. Is it because I’ve failed a test? I’ve failed to grasp the truth of Him?

No. His repeated teaching does not mean we are stupid. It shows His faithfulness. His repeated teaching does not mean we’re being punished because we screwed it all up again and failed Him again. It shows His great patience and love. It shouts of His knowing how we are made and the very realness of our enemy.

His repeated teaching is an act of His grace. It shines like a beacon of the Light of His Life.

Dear soul, please take these words with you into your new year. His repeated teaching is not a punishment, it’s grace. It’s His gift.

Christmas through the Eyes of a Shepherd

                         Or He Found Me.

I still can’t believe it happened—at all or to me. I never thought it would happen, at least not this way, or that being the second born son of my family it would happen to me. I had better stop a moment to record what happened to me…the second son of my father—and just another shepherd on the hills of Judea.

“Get up.” Jesse grunted as he kicked my foot in his signal it was my turn to keep watch with the men. I liked the sound of that—with the men. I did not care so much for getting up in the middle of the night. I much preferred sleeping in my comfortable bed on the floor.

I rose slowly, rubbed the sleep from my eyes and waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. I willed myself to stay awake as I surveyed the sleeping forms of my family about the room. I stood and staggered sleepily to the door, once outside I could hear the low murmur of the other shepherds.

I noted with relief and great satisfaction the full moon that hung suspended in the night sky. It is much easier to keep watch over the sheep when the moon is full. When there is no moon it is very difficult to see the wild beasts that would devour the sheep until it is too late.

“Judah, so nice of you to join us tonight.” The men joked at my arrival. It is no secret I’d rather be sleeping at night. But somehow I think after this night I won’t mind so much.

I hadn’t been out there long—just long enough though to realize this was just an ordinary night. I soon lost myself in looking at the stars. “As numerous as the stars of heaven, so shall your descendants be.” That is what God told my ancestor Abraham. I have tried to count the stars but have always given up. There are just too many of them.

As I watch the flock, I dream of adventure. King David had been a shepherd and he became one of our greatest kings, and he was a great mighty hunter. His life was full of excitement and adventure. So far though nothing remotely bordering on an exciting adventure has touched my life. Night after night I sit out here watching the sheep, while I dream of rising up and throwing off the Romans and somehow being big enough, man enough to get God to talk to us again.

Our last prophet died 400 years ago. Since that time we’ve heard only silence from the heavens.

I ponder how I can rise up like David when he killed Goliath—only I would rid Israel of all things Roman. As I am planning my battle strategy when suddenly I am blinded…and terrified.

I fall face down in terror, I assumed all the men did the same because I hear a voice from the area of the most brilliant light I have ever seen, saying, “Do not be frightened.

“If I wasn’t so scared I would say, “Who are you kidding?” But I’m too afraid. I can’t remember ever being this afraid in my life. The disembodied voice goes on, “I bring you great and joyous news. Your Messiah has been born. You’ll find Him swaddled in clothes and sleeping in a manger in Bethlehem.”

Just as quickly as he appeared a whole multitude of angels were singing: “Glory to God in the highest and peace to men on earth.” Then just like that they were gone. And we were left to find it out for ourselves.

We ran as though our life depended on it all the way to Bethlehem. It didn’t take long once we arrived in Bethlehem to find the right manger. He looked like a baby, but not just any baby. There was just something about him, something…just what I don’t know—I’m just an ignorant shepherd boy longing for adventure.

And I think I found it—or rather He found me.

I couldn’t help running through out the town telling everyone I met, “The Messiah! The Messiah has been born! Come and see.”

Oh yes, I might have been longing for adventure but He found me!

© Virginia Garrett 12/23/07

This is another work of fiction, re-blogged for your reading pleasure.

That Sweet-sweet Spot

Yesterday our pastor opened up the service for people to share how they have found sweetness of life in and with Jesus. As those around me shared their thoughts, I cast about in my mind for one. What would I say was the sweetness I have found because of Jesus?

I was in a near panic when nothing really came to mind that I deemed worth sharing. Everything sound like a trite, pat answer. It sounded like I knew all the Christian-ese to make me look superior to everyone else.

But not only that. I’ve been attacked on social media and in my own personal life on planet earth. I’ve been walking a bit wounded and angry. Mostly wounded but the wounds come out in anger. I did not want to open myself up to anymore hurt, anymore angry feelings. I didn’t want to give anyone a chance to tell me how wrong I am about everything.

So I kept quiet. But I also kept praying. Because I really wanted to know and I really wanted to hear it straight from the lips of Jesus. I needed to know like I need coffee in the morning and like I need sleep at night. I needed to know He really loved me and we had a sweetness of relationship.

Because some relationships–dear relationships—relationships I love and need like air—-are still in difficulty. They are still broken. There is a still a very painful, misunderstood silence to them. The sweetness has for a time seemed to go out of those relationships, there is just an almost bitter sweetness to them. Sweet because of what they were and bitter because of wondering if we’ll ever get back to that.

There is one particular relationship that is broken, not beyond repair but still broken. This relationship was, no IS, so very dear to me. In this relationship I found a sweet place of acceptance.

“Hey! We fight like we’re brother and sister – awesome!”
“Why is that awesome?”
“Because it means we feel comfortable enough with each other to be real and argue.”
“I’m sorry I fought with you.”
“And me you.” 

That is also one of my sweet places of life with Jesus, or rather the sweetness of having His life living in and through me. Finally my heart finds a home, it finds the acceptance and place of belonging it has always looked for and eternally needed. I am fully heard, completely seen, always accepted, and so lavishly loved.

It means I have a family. It means I belong to someone. It means I don’t have to look to myself to meet my own needs. It means I don’t have to be in control. It means I’m not at fault for every sin since Eve ate the fruit in the garden. It is that I no longer have to feel condemnation because I can’t and don’t do it all.

The sweetness is this abandoned, abused little girl gets to belong to someone forever. It is knowing fully that even if everyone left me I would still have Jesus and He is enough, even for that.

That luscious sweet spot that says my needs are met fully by someone else and I don’t have to work and manipulate to get them met on my own and in my own strength.

It means I have a whole new life. The old is so completely gone. It means everything is made new. Old attitudes? They’re made new. Old thought patterns and heart attitudes? They don’t affect me anymore. They are dead and I’m, I’m more alive than ever.

The sweetness is I am free. I am free from; death, sin’s consequence, sin, sin’s power, the grave. But I am also free to live! To love. To have joy, peace, kindness.


Why You Are Not A Mess

A few weeks ago I was browsing my Twitter feed somewhat mindlessly reading when I saw another one of those tweets. You know, those tweets that sound spiritual but they just hit you wrong. They might be a true statement at first glance but there is just something not quite right about it.  You’ve seen the statement before, you might have believed it but now it’s sitting on your heart like bad pizza.

There’s something wrong with that tweet. You might not know what, but it’s just not right, not right at all. You try to read further but you just can’t get past it, you find yourself scrolling back up to it and nope, it’s still not right.

You might do this a time or fifty before you distract yourself by doing something else, like the church bulletin for example, or maybe scrubbing the toilet. As you’re scrubbing away this message keeps taunting your mind, you’re mulling it over and over. Your mind is mauling it like a dog mauls a bone.

Then when it hits you, you sit back wondering why on earth it took you so long to realize that the reason the statement seems wrong is because it IS  wrong?

“I am a {hot} mess, yet deeply loved by God.” 

It’s wrong because it is a lie.

It’s like one of those questions on a personality quiz, “are you this and/because of this?” Your answer might be yes and no, or no and yes. One part is very true, but the other part is not even remotely true.

The only part of the sentence that is true is “…deeply loved by God.” That part is truer than true.

As believers in Jesus we are so adept at Christianizing lying to ourselves. We say things about ourselves to ourselves and others that sound really, really good, but are, in fact, really, really bad.  We lie to ourselves because that is what we hear from others. They lie about who they are and who we are. We believe them and so we perpetuate the lie with our own mouths.

People! This should not be.

You might be wondering why I don’t like the statement, “I am a mess, yet deeply loved by God.” I mean, it sounds good, it sounds right. It sounds humble. It sounds holy. It sounds true.

But it isn’t. You see, “I am a mess” is an identity statement. You are telling everyone who you are, and who you are is a mess.

No. Who you are is not a mess.

Why do I say that and how can I say that? I don’t even know you. That is true. But I do know Jesus. I know His nature.

I know He is not a mess. Not even close to a mess. He is the furthest thing from a mess.  And to call yourself a mess is a lie and it denies the power of the cross and the power of the Blood of Jesus that was shed for you.

I know you are not a mess because I know Jesus is not a mess. If you are in Him, His Spirit, His nature, His Life dwells in you. In your flesh, in your sinful state before coming to His cross to receive His grace and His nature freely bestowed on you, you are very much a mess. You are without help and without hope.

But you are not. Because you are in Him.

Do you want to know what else you are?

  • You are chosen. (1 Peter 2:9, John 15:16, Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4)
  • You are holy. (1 Peter 2:9, Colossians 3:12, Ephesians 1:4)
  • Loved and beloved (1 Thessalonians 1:4, Romans 5:8, Jude 1)

This list is by no means exhaustive. You are so much more than you think, so much not a mess. You’re chosen, you’re adopted, you’re declared Holy, blameless, you’re sealed in Him and with Him.

This is your identity! And your identity matters. Because you will walk out whatever you believe about yourself.  So choose now to believe the truth.

And the truth is; in Jesus there are no messes, only messengers with messages. Don’t give the wrong one, to yourself or to others.