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Between the Pages header

Hey, there!

I’m kicking off a new series of weekly blog posts under the heading Between the Pages. We’ll be taking a look at precious gems of Truth found in fiction and film. Each week, we’ll talk about some of the novels, characters, films, and other forms of story that have left an impression on our hearts, or have impacted our lives in some way.

Bridge-to-Haven_3001I recently read Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers. It’s a beautiful allegory, and it doesn’t take long to see how Ezekiel and his son Joshua—a carpenter—symbolize God and Jesus. How a fast-talking charmer deceives and lures the main character, Abra, away from those who love her and into a path of ruination. How quickly she becomes enslaved, and how, with every bridge she burns, she feels more and more separated from her father. How unforgivable and unlovable she believes herself to be.

It’s a powerful and painfully raw story. But life is often painful and raw. Gritty. Enslaving. And the consequences of our choices often hurt more than we ever anticipate. But to me, the most heartbreaking consequence isn’t Abra’s lost innocence or the degrading enslavement she finds herself in. It’s the assumption she is too far gone, and her bitter resolve to keep running away from God and never look back.

sad girl bridge

Have you ever believed a lie like this? Felt you’d burned too many bridges? Believed that God is fed up with your repeated failures and you might as well just give up? We see God through human eyes, and assign him human qualities, such as impatience, resentment, frustration, etc. Even the enemy of our souls, the father of lies, knows that God will not write you off, let you wander off, lost and alone.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  Luke 15:3-7

Jesus leaves the 99 and goes out in search of the one, his precious lost lamb, his beloved. He won’t force us to come home, but he will climb every hill and ford every stream and beckon to us, show us there is no place we can go that he has not already gone, no place we can hide that he is not already there.

The idea of leaving loved ones behind and believing oneself beyond redemption runs through my next book, Wings Like a Dove (Dec 2019). We’ll talk more about Anna’s story soon.

But in the meantime, let’s talk about burned bridges.

  • Have you ever burned a bridge with someone in your life? Left a trail of burned bridges? 
  • Have you ever felt you’d reached a point of no return with God or people in your life? 
  • Have you ever wanted to make amends, but didn’t know where to begin? How did you deal with it? If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
  • What advice would you give someone who feels they are truly unforgivable?
  • What stories or characters have left a lasting impression on you about the relentless love of God?
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white flagAs a Christian, conversion is an endless process for me, mainly because I face a never-ending challenge to become a fully submitted soul. It’s a constant battle to lay down my will, surrender my desires for the good or need or comfort of others or simply (and most importantly) put Christ and his will first in all I do. It’s not about becoming some kind of doormat or whipping post, but rather growing a servant heart, because let’s face it, surrender of my will is not my spiritual gift.

I can easily blame my self-focus on being a 150% Introvert, but let’s be honest. I’m wired to think of myself first. I always have been. It probably started in childhood when my mom felt compelled to spoil me by letting me have my own way because life around us pretty much sucked. It probably also stems from abuse that forced my will from me and robbed much from a needy little girl.

As a result, I’ve always been willful and ultra guarded of my will being taken from me, even in small things. Though this has been a long and frustrating battle, I finally realized that Jesus gets this about me. For decades, he’s been patiently challenging, encouraging and helping me lay down my will—in the right ways. Because unfortunately, I think when someone like me learns to guard our will against violation, we can create an iron will and may never experience the freedom that comes from surrendering to Christ.

Though I constantly fight “dying to the flesh”—that part of us that wants to be satisfied and fed, soothed and esteemed—I understand self denial is healthy. Vital, in fact. Maybe through denial of self, in a very small way, we can catch a small glimpse of what Christ has done for us on the Cross.

There’s a story in 2 Samuel 24 about King David whose sin had brought a terrible pestilence on his people. He begged for God’s mercy on them, so God directed him to build an altar on Araunah’s threshing floor. Araunah (clearly not struggling with the same issues I do) was pleased to give David everything he needed for the altar: the property, the wood, the oxen—the works. But David refused the gift and insisted on buying the man’s property and all the supplies he needed, saying, “I will not offer burnt offering to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.”

I’m reminded how easy it is to look at Christ’s gift of eternal life and his death on the cross without fully appreciating what it cost him. I don’t know if I will never fully appreciate it this side of heaven.

In the meantime, I lay down my will here and there when Jesus nudges me to let go or relinquish my plans or my comfort or convenience (more often now than before, so see, I’m making progress). And when I do give it up, I sense his pleasure. I also find, again and again, that though my flesh may grumble for a moment, the surrender is neither painful nor pointless. With each surrender, I find myself a little freer in my soul, a little less chained to my willful flesh, a little closer to Jesus, a little more like him.

And when you get down to it, that’s all I really want.

Q: Have you ever experienced freedom through surrender?

 

For a Similar post on Surrender, see: https://camilleeide.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/if-i-only-had-a-heart/

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Have you ever been faced with a challenge that goes against every fiber of your being?

In the story Like There’s No Tomorrow, a novel I hope to publish, a fictional Bible storybook called Daniel’s Friends Face the Fire plays a key role in the heroine’s journey. Emily is a selfless, caring young woman who has spent her life protecting others from pain and suffering, exactly as she believes God would want her to do. But as the story progresses, she learns she inherited the same disease that claimed her mom’s young life. What makes the news even more devastating is that she’s fallen in love with a widowed man, a man she has helped find healing and a renewed faith in God. A future with this man now is unthinkable. Yet he still wants to marry her. How could she? She has seen how loss of a spouse destroyed her father. She could never contemplate putting someone through that kind of pain, especially a second time.

How could God have the nerve to ask Emily to step aside and let him be God?

In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are forced to choose between standing up for what they believe and losing their lives in the fire, or saving their lives by giving in to a psycho king’s whim. I love their reply: “Our God is able to save us. But even if he does not, we still will not bow down to you.” I admire their courage to not only stand up for God, but to trust his sovereignty and wisdom in the face of circumstances that make absolutely no sense.

Because getting tossed into a fiery furnace isn’t the kind of blessing and provision we typically expect from God.

In this scene in the novel, Emily and two little girls are looking at a picture in the storybook of four men walking around in the flames without being burned. Three of the men are the brave young Hebrew men. The extra man, we realize, is Jesus, standing in the fire with them. Here’s an excerpt:

Hannah looked up at Emily. “Would you be afraid?”

The fiery furnace scene lay open on the floor between them. The three young men must have been terrified, and certainly had no idea how it would turn out. All they knew was to trust and obey God without question.

Would I trust God enough to surrender to the flames and stand firm, no matter what?

God, would you really ask me to do that?

Both girls waited. A pulse-quickening urgency stole over her, as though her answer was somehow forever binding—a test.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.

Emily drew a calming breath. “I think if the Lord wanted me to go into a blazing furnace, he would—” Have to send me a text message. In all caps. “He would go with me and . . . give me the courage and strength I need to do it.”

That’s good, Em. You almost have yourself convinced.

I believe God desires to spare us needless suffering . . . sometimes. But he doesn’t promise a pain-free life. (John 16:33) What he does promise is that when the plan we’re following is God’s, he will be with us and will provide everything we need. Whether that be courage, provision, wisdom, strength, his presence, whatever. He is good, always. His ways are not always logical (to us), but they are right. Always. When we can’t see any possible good in the midst of difficulties, we must trust that he can. We may never see that good thing this side of heaven. This is where faith is so . . . FAITH. So confident, so fully trusting. That God is so good, so beyond us and our abilities. If we could understand, stand firm, or endure on our own, we wouldn’t need him.

Emily must decide if she is willing to put God to the test and surrender her worst fears to him, to take him at his word that he is truly faithful. And to truly trust him to take care of those she loves. Can she relinquish control?

Hmm, I wonder how it ends . . .

Q: Have you ever had to “put your money where your mouth is” when it comes to trusting God? Have you ever gone through a “fiery furnace” in your life and felt God’s presence and strength with you in the midst of it? Do you have a hard time believing that God can somehow bring good from suffering?

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Our baby girl is “Tying the Knot” this weekend. (Yes, I am too young to have a daughter old enough to marry, thank you for noticing.) J & M will repeat vows to one another similar to the ones you’ve heard or perhaps said yourself:

I take this man/woman to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, to love and to cherish until death do us part.

I do.

Those last two tiny words pack a wealth of promise, a lifetime of relinquishing, a commitment to ongoing surrender. It’s a vow to take on another set of sorrows and joys, victories and defeats, strengths and fears. Each person in the union lays down the right to retain his or her separate life and the whims of their previously independent (& possibly self-indulgent) soul.

And the two shall become one.

It sounds like a breaking down of the human will, this kind of surrender to another. If the vow is truly meant, it does involve some tearing down, and it can even be painful. But if endured with selfless love and truckloads of blinding grace, the two relinquished, surrendered souls shall become one, and a far stronger one combined than each one was alone. Not two weaker halves suddenly helpless without one another, but a stronger, combined force able to weather any storm.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

If two become one, what does three become?

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

This isn’t some kind of put down. It’s truth, and it’s a warning, but it’s also a promise. Being united with Christ means he vows to be our Source, our strength, our sustenance, our safe haven.

So when Christ is woven into the center of two surrendered, entwined lives, the three form an unbreakable cord, able to weather every storm of adversity, sickness, trial, poverty, or hardship—without being destroyed.

A marriage of two cords is strong; but a three-cord marriage is indestructible.

J & M: Make Jesus the Center of your marriage. This is our prayer for you.

We love you. God bless you today and each day to come.

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I’m working on a novel in which a woman was recently jilted by a handsome young lawyer. Then when her mom suffers a life-threatening injury, she must help with her care and shoulder the burden of the family business. In the process of all this, she meets a man who shakes her world again for a disturbing reason: he likes her. For who she really is. Not the picture-perfect woman she works so hard to portray to the world, but the frizzy-haired, cosmetic-less, messy life real her. But her real problem is that she only lets people partially into her life. She loves that the new guy likes her—crazy hair and all—but realizes something’s wrong. It turns out she lost the last guy because she never fully “engaged” in the relationship out of fear of exposing an ugly part of her no one knows about.

 

Do you know without a doubt Jesus loves you? I hope so. The Cross speaks of Christ’s fierce love so completely, so beautifully. But do you, like my novel character, have trouble “engaging” in this “sacred romance”?

 

It’s great to wake up knowing I’m completely loved by God. What a wonderful, incredible, awesome feeling. But to be honest, which I must, I find it easy to soak up God’s love and go about my day with a wave and without a backwards glance.

 

 

Picture a bride getting up one morning to find her adoring Groom already awake.

Groom: Good morning, my precious. I love you so much!

Bride: Aw, thank you! You just made my day! I’m going to go post that on FaceBook right now.

Groom: Right now? But I’d like to spend some time with you, without any distractions.

Bride: Oh, right, but I gotta run, so just hold that thought. But you do love me, right? 

Groom: Yes, more than you could possibly know.

Bride: Oh! I just love hearing that! I feel so special right now. Like I could do anything. I’m going to go make plans right now to realize all my biggest dreams.

Groom: Um . . . your dreams include me, right?

Bride: (pouty frown) Well . . . some, but you don’t really expect me to include you in everything I do, do you? I mean, come on. I do have my own life. It’s not like we’re attached at the hip.

Groom: Not only the hip, but at your very core. I’m part of you. You’re part of me. I am the Vine, you are the branch. Apart from me you can do nothing.

Bride: Yikes! That sounds kind of controlling, don’t you think? I’m going to go check Pinterest for new posts about how you love me without any strings attached. I love looking at those.

Groom: Remember the day you said you were giving yourself to me? It was a very touching moment, so beautiful. You couldn’t hear it, but all of heaven broke out in spontaneous song.

Bride: Aw, that’s sweet. Yes, I gave myself to you, but that was to secure my future. You don’t actually expect me to hang around with you all day give up doing what I want to do? I thought you said you loved me. Didn’t know you were going to be so demanding.

Groom: My only “demand” is that you love me. Is . . . that a problem? This is a relationship . . .

Bride: (puffs out a slow breath) Okay, look. I don’t know what you want from me. I talk to you sometimes, don’t I? It’s not like I can spend all my time hanging around with you and talking about you. Everyone would think I’m a freak.

Groom: So you don’t want people to know about us?

Bride: Well . . . (smiling suddenly) Yes! Actually, I like telling people how much you love me. I do it all the time!

Groom: Yes, I’ve noticed . . .

Bride: Wait—you hesitated just now. You’re not having second thoughts, are you?

Groom: No. I love you so much I made the ultimate sacrifice for you. You are more precious to me than you know.

Bride: Oooo! Say it again! I just love hearing that!

Groom: Yes. I know.

Bride: In fact, I’m going to go Tweet it right now!

Groom: (sighs)

Bride: And don’t worry, I’ll be sure to tell someone how you just want me to be happy, although I hear about it everywhere. Those cute little Facebook memes, at the hairdresser’s, on book covers. So I guess most people already know that.

Groom: I want your ultimate happiness, but right now, not everything you go through is about happiness. I want what’s absolutely best for your life, the life I rescued at a tremendous cost. One day, you’ll be blown away by how much happiness I have prepared for you. I am going to knock your socks off—forever. I promise. But for now, I’m asking you to trust me. Watch my lead, follow my footsteps. Come when I call. Sit with me when I invite you. Listen to me; memorize the beat of my heart. Give yourself completely to me and to what I have planned. Will you do that for me, my beloved?

A relationship requires both parties to be fully engaged. He wants this kind of relationship with us. He wants our time, attention, devotion, and obedience – not because he’s self-centered and demanding, but because spending time with him is for our ultimate good. It’s a two-way relationship, not a one-sided, life-long pampering session.

He gives forgiveness, righteousness, love, provision, peace, blessings, wisdom, protection, help, healing, favor, strength through trials, and so much more. What am I giving him? Not out of duty, but of gratitude, of delight in him?

 

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Q: Is your relationship with God sometimes a one-sided romance? How do you “delight yourself in the Lord”?

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The Humble Games

I once tried selling makeup and plastic bowls with burping lids at “parties” to ladies who’d been bribed into attending with obscene amounts of sweets.

I am so not a saleswoman.

I’ve never been good at convincing people to spend their money on some product we both know they don’t need. Perhaps my tightwad practical side is to blame. It’s just that I have a hard time seeing the value of stuff sometimes.

Unfortunately, this inability to see worth carries over into my life, to moments when my self-worth is being questioned or challenged. I have never done well with criticism. I don’t get defensive or retaliate with snappy come-backs. When my worth is challenged, I quietly cave. Probably because, as a kid, I believed put-downs. Every time. Didn’t matter if the person didn’t know me. For some odd reason, I figured they just knew. Put-downs weren’t hard to believe because I could usually see some truth in it.

It’s healthy to be honest with ourselves. For instance, I want to know when I’m being a thoughtless, self-absorbed jerk so I can stop doing it. (Did I just hear an Amen?)

But for some of us, there can be a down-side to flaw-seeking, inward scrutiny.

When burdened with feelings of low self-worth or humiliation, the temptation is to seek reassurance I’m not that bad. I must admit: I am pretty good at listing all the things I know are wrong with me. The problem is the longer the list, the more likely someone will jump to my defense and reassure me I’m not so bad. Not bad at all. In fact, those people usually follow up with a list of all the good things they see and appreciate about me.

Yes, I just realized how pathetic that sounds.

The trouble with such a ploy for reassurance is that I somehow forget there really are a couple truly weak or sinful areas that still need some attention. Throw the baby out with the bath water. Kind of. Okay, that’s a really bad cliché. More like out of sight, out of mind. (Still cliché, but less disturbing.)

So we’re back to square one.

What exactly was it that You saw in me, God?

 

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  (Psalm 139)

That’s just it—it’s not about me. God has this astounding capacity for love that I can’t wrap my brain around. It has something to do with his holy, righteous nature. I also know that Jesus paid a costly price for me. That alone determines my worth. I can’t demure, discount, or play games with that.

God sees great worth in me, not because of anything I’ve done, but because he made me and paid an enormous price for me. Clothed me in a righteousness I don’t deserve. I have a choice: Either cheapen God’s priceless gift by playing the I’m Bad/Okay, I’m Not So Bad/No Really, I’m Bad game while avoiding what I actually need to change, or allow Christ to shine the light of truth into all my motives, thoughts and actions, and purify me—the sinner he paid the ultimate price for without hesitation.

Q: How do you respond to criticism, from others and yourself? Do you get defensive? Take it to heart so deeply that it crushes and you have to toss it all out? Or do you ask Jesus to show you if there is any truth to it that needs your attention?

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The Fourth of July came and went for us this year without explosives. Not even a sparkler. My husband and I just don’t get excited about fireworks anymore since our three kids hit their 20s. (This will likely change when we get some impressionable grandkids.) But with or without explosives, I don’t know if we have ever spent Independence Day giving a lot of thought to our freedom.

In fact, I had to do a little surfing to refresh my knowledge of Independence Day and remember that our colonial ancestors were angry over taxation without representation in Parliament. It wasn’t so much about the taxes, but the principle. The tyranny. The bully who insisted on taking and giving nothing in return.

I appreciate the freedoms we enjoy in America today, and am very grateful for the many who have sacrificed family, health, and lives to make freedom possible. Freedom from tyranny is a good thing.

Freedom from condemnation is also a good thing.

Romans 8:1-2 says:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Because of what Christ did for us, it is possible to be in right relationship with our Maker, and for that I’m very grateful.

I am proudly tyranny free,

thankfully condemnation free,

and reluctantly sugar free.

But there’s one freedom I wish I didn’t have . . .

It’s the freedom to go my own stubborn, selfish way. I often take God and his amazing grace and fresh mercies for granted. I ask, plead, seek, then get an answer and go on my way. Or worse—ignore him altogether and just wander around doing as I please.

Until something goes terribly wrong, or until I’m faced with something I can’t handle on my own . . .

The author who penned the old hymn Come Thou Fount knew exactly what I’m feeling. It’s such a beautifully honest testament to the frailty of the human heart. I’ve included the song on a video below. Take a moment to listen and let the words soak your heart with truth.

I love the last verse. In fact, I am this verse:

O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let thy goodness like a fetter

Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it

Seal it for Thy courts above

Ah Jesus, how quickly I can wander off and lose sight of You. It’s not in my frail-yet-stubborn nature to stick close to Your side, not without Your Spirit’s kind, persistent help. Please bind my wandering heart to You, by Your goodness and sweet grace.

Amen.

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