Cornerstone

chief-cornerstone

In giving honor today,

For all who are fallen –

In remembering who are our heroes

And who is our enemy –

 

In giving honor today,

To the One who fell;

The same One who has risen

And remembering who the real enemy is

 

Let us give thanks

To all those who embody Him

Who stood and stand tall

And transmit His light and grace

 

Those who are bold and courageous enough

To fight when fighting is appropriate

To be living sacrifices

To never hate and always love

 

To those who raise His standard

And rush in to be His hands and feet

Lay their bodies and hearts on the line

Thank you.

"Tribute in Light" memorial
“Tribute in Light” memorial

This is what the Almighty Lord says:

I am going to lay a rock in Zion,
a rock that has been tested,
a precious cornerstone,
a solid foundation.
Whoever believes in him need never be shaken.”
(Isaiah 28:16)

Then Jesus asked them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?

‘The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.’ (Psalm 118:22-23)

I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.” (Matthew 21:42-43)

 

Thank you to John Lewis at Not For Punks for the inspiration for this poem.

Baptism, the enemy and my Protector

It’s been nine years since I took the plunge. Literally.

Nine years ago today I chose to be baptized.

holy-spirit-comforter

I didn’t have to. I was already imbued with the Holy Spirit. I had walked into the arms of Jesus the summer before. But I chose to make a public declaration.

That prior summer, I was walking around a lake having a conversation with Him. He was answering some of my questions when suddenly I had an epiphany. And I knew. And He held out His arms and I walked into His embrace. And over the next four years, the enemy went on the attack.

Oh, I didn’t know it was the enemy. Not until many years later.

But here’s what his attack looked like.

My house was robbed just before Thanksgiving.

The pastor who baptized me left the church because of his pornography addiction.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

A year-and-a-half later I was laid off my teaching* job.

The chemo I took for the breast cancer began to wreak havoc with my immune system.

Was struggling to hang onto the next teaching* job I had when our benefits and salaries were cut and the pastor of the church that owned the school ended his own life because he couldn’t face impending embezzlement charges.

*Both teaching jobs were at Christian schools.

Ah, but I was also rescued.

Although my computer was stolen with all my lesson plans from years of teaching, the parents of my students got together and bought me a new computer for Christmas that year.

While I left that church, I began to dig deeper into the Bible for myself.

After my surgery, the same parents signed up to bring me dinners for a month, collected my laundry, cleaned my house, and organized a fundraising dinner to pay for expenses while I was on unpaid leave for three months. And a secret angel paid my rent for six months.

I moved from the Central Valley, which was at the time the only job open to me, back up to Northern California, where my support system was.

I had taken a teaching job that required a 40-mile commute each way – again, the only one open – and was becoming exhausted. My physical condition was worsening daily. At the end of the year, I was offered a teaching position less than 10 minutes from my apartment.

Incredibly, my doctor put me on permanent disability on Friday morning, and I informed my principal it was my last day – the day before the chaos happened. The following Monday, because the school hadn’t been paying its rent, the teachers walked into locked out classrooms. Apparently, the pastor had been warned three months in advance and didn’t bother to tell anyone. He had stolen money that was meant for teacher salaries and rent and decided not to face his responsibilities.

Other circumstances have occurred since then, and I’m much more aware now of enemy attacks. I’m also much more aware of how the Father works in my life to manifest Himself as Shield, Protector and Rescuer.

I can also more quickly and easily distinguish between an enemy attack and my own foolish choices. Luckily, those become fewer as my crow’s feet deepen.

Thankfully, I have also learned to recognize the voice of my Shepherd. He speaks to me in ways He knows I will hear him.

shining dove with rays on a darkThe Holy Spirit has become my Friend, my Constant Companion, and I have come to trust Him completely. He is the voice of Jesus for me. He helps me understand His words and intent.

He was the One who led me to choose baptism. He was the One who lifted me up through all those attacks. He is the One who continues to light my path in all circumstances. He ensures I’m loved by keeping me tightly wrapped in my Father’s loving embrace.

And nearly ten years after I walked into His arms, He’s still my One and Only.

The Devil Is a liar

Soon the music will fade away, and I will fade into His arms. Through the one thing that I grasp onto, He will take away, to create a deeper, more penetrable relationship with Him. Without even a whisper or a prayer, it was there in my heart. There was no screaming, or crying. I am no longer expecting easy. Crucifixion, circumcision of the flesh, refining and fiery furnaces. We must sometimes spend periods without the things we hold onto, so we can hold onto Him.

It has been many weeks that I have been tempted. Many days the enemy has sought to rule over me. I didn’t move this time. Not because I am strong, but because I am weak and know God will fight for me. Know God has a plan for me. Know I still have so many things I myself have to work on. The attacks, they kept coming… relentlessly. Ahhhh but the sweetness of suffering for my savior. The depth and breath of wanting to get it right. Trying to understand Him and His vast and unending love for me. It is not conditional or political or the like. It does not have a color. It is not romantic or overly dramatic. It is pure like the whitest of snow, breathless and highly addictive. It is the only place I want to be. 

It is amazing the lengths the enemy will go to keep you from where God would have you. And when he can’t get to you through his usual avenues, he inhabits and plays with your mind. How ghastly and disastrous to use your past against you, your weaknesses against you. This time, I didn’t believe him. He used scripture, so did I . I refused to miss the blessings. In a culmination of pure bliss, all of my children were baptized on Sunday. All accepted Christ. All are now covered in His precious blood.

How would I or could I think that the enemy would not go on the attack? For every step we take in righteousness, satan is there to wreak havoc. But this time I stood still, this time my thoughts were, I’ll praise you anyway, this time the answer from my heart was, Lord you have counted me worthy to suffer for your name! And all the while in my soul I was barefoot and dancing, singing to the music that He provided.

Don’t move because the enemy does. Don’t announce your suffering. Know its happening and claim it. Let satan know you’re moving on despite. Act as if. Keep walking. Hurl the Word back in his face. Kiss the precious feet of your savior. He will wipe away your tears.

God must think I’m special, and ready to endure. I am not who I once was. The world, it is a liar. And I know now, there is only one truth.

To Christ be the glory forever and ever Amen! 

Once Upon a Time…

http://www.fromoldbooks.org/OldEngland/pages/1373-Wood-cut-of-a-Knight/Once upon a time, the Lord King selected a willing warrior, and tasked him to protect a valley nestling a lovely village dear to the Lord King’s heart.

“I shall go,” exclaimed the Knight, pleased to be of service. “From what am I to protect them?”

“You will see,” answered the Lord King.

So the Knight donned his finest armor, selected his keenest weapons and stoutest shield , mounted his bravest steed, and set off towards the valley. As he approached from the south, he crested a ridge and found himself high above the valley that opened like a chasm before him. Across the way, at the opposite side, was the northern crest upon which sat mounted a dark figure, also surveying the valley and its inhabitants.

Instantly, the Knight knew that this was his adversary. He knew that his duty was to protect this valley and these people from being harmed by that dark knight opposing him. He watched as the shadow warrior dismounted his own horse and slowly strode pensively along his cliff, surveying the valley below.

The adversary drew out a bow and began to fire arrows of dark fire into the valley. Wherever his darts struck, there was a splash of shadow and destruction, and the sounds of misery or screaming echoed up to the cliffs.

The Knight’s first thought was to attack in return. Drawing his own bow, he fired arrows of light at the enemy. The arrows shot straight and true directly towards the heart of the aggressor. But yet, they would not find purchase. The enemy would duck, dodge, or twist with preternatural speed, always avoiding a mortal strike. The arrows did distract him a bit, though. So that the enemy’s arrows of dark fire were now directed largely at the Knight, making him dismount (not to be so easy a target), and raise his shield in his own defense. The dark arrows were extinguished harmlessly, when blocked by his shield.

Still, the enemy’s arrows rained regularly down on the people, even as some of them sped toward the Knight. As the Knight was forced to raise his shield often to protect his own heart, the enemy took advantage to attack the village. The enemy was quickening his pace by the moment, and his dark arrows were flying at a remarkable rate.

“This is not working,” thought the Knight. “My attacks on him find no purchase, and though it seems that I am safe, the people are suffering.”

The Lord King’s voice seemed to speak gently into his ear, “You are trying to attack him directly. What if you simply defend the people? Your shield will reach beyond yourself.”

So the Knight sheathed his sword, and focused a moment on his shield. He discovered that he could extend his arm towards the village, as he saw where a dart would strike, and sail a shield out through the air over the people. The dart would strike the sheltering shield harmlessly, sparing the people beneath.

So the battle progressed, ever faster, as the enemy rained down arrow after arrow, and the Knight flung one shield after another like a discus to intercept each blow. But as time passed, the Knight began to tire. The enemy was utterly tireless, and the weaker and slower the Knight became, it seemed the stronger and faster rained the arrows.

Eventually (it seemed like hours, though it may have been but moments), the Knight began to lose heart, realizing he could not keep up this pace.

“Lord King, I am failing in my task. I cannot protect these people. I am flagging, and the enemy is too strong. He grows stronger as I grow weaker. Behold, even now, the people are at his mercy…” choked the Knight. For indeed, it seemed that for every arrow blocked, blindingly quick though the battle progressed, still two others slipped through devastating the village like flaming mortars of pitch blackness.

The Lord King’s voice again came to the ear of the Knight…

“This is what you needed to understand, My son. No matter how sharp your weapons, how stout your armor, or how valiant your mount, you alone… with all your strength and training… simply CANNOT stand against such creature of darkness. All of those things can strengthen you, embolden you, give you affirmation of your mission and confidence. But none of that gives you the resources to prevail against such an adversary.”

“What then am I to do? Why did You send me here?” lamented the miserable Knight.

“To protect this village. To guard this valley,” responded the Lord King.

“But HOW, Majesty?” the Knight cried, in utter defeat.

“Ah,” the Lord King replied, as you could almost hear the smile in His voice. “NOW you are asking, and asking the right question. Now… Behold…”

And the Knight felt his body relax, as though a child in the arms of his trustworthy father. His sword, shield, bow, all weaponry fell away from him. His helmet drifted away. His armor fell away. He stood arms wide open, splay legged, in simple white robe, seemingly utterly helpless and vulnerable on his cliff above the valley.

Until Light, indescribable, warm, brilliant Light… began to infuse him from all around. The glow, the joy, the awareness was both unspeakably wondrous, and unbearably powerful all at the same time. He lost all sense of what was happening, lost all awareness of time, or questions, or answers, or even himself as himself. All the Knight still knew was that… he WAS… He IS. The will of the Lord King was his own will, His desires his desires, and His love his love.

His eyes… his eyes were changed and new. His heart was changed and new, and his heart now held mastery over his eyes. He looked outwards, his arms open wide, and all… ALL was light.

He looked downwards, into the valley, and saw with all the love in his heart, the people there. His ears heard their cries, their joys, their pains. And as he noticed their sufferings, as he realized the darts were striking the streets and homes from overhead, he focused on the opposite crest and for the first time noticed the enemy there.

Suddenly, his love for the people, his passion, his care for and heart of protection for them, caused a phenomenal explosion… a blinding flash and deafening report… as Light burst forth with the strength of a thousand suns, filling all the land and sky for just a moment as his love for the people, his protection and care for them, utterly overwhelmed him.

In the next moments, as the echoes drifted away, the Knight (now quite recovered as himself) looked down at the valley and saw all filled with light, with hope, with love, and with joy. Looking opposite, there was no more presence of the enemy or of shadow.

And so, in great peace and satisfaction, he set up his camp there on the pinnacle… to protect and to serve the people evermore. He now understood, no force of arms that he could bring to bear would guard them. But the Lord King… within him, through him, around him… when he focused utterly on His Majesty and HIS love for the people… this would care for the people.

Was he, this mighty Knight, sent here to use his strength to protect the valley?

No. He could not succeed at that.

Rather, he, this mighty Knight, was sent here to acknowledge in his weakness that he could NOT protect the valley, but to provide a vessel and a voice, to make way for the Lord King Himself to do so through him.

He became one of the greatest and wisest Knights in the Kingdom, and lived very happily ever after.

A Line in the Sand

or – Our Three Denials

Line in the Sand

Often, we Christians draw a line in sand around political issues we mistake for biblical issues. Abortion, homosexuality, gun control, Muslims, Israel. Certainly we can find isolated Bible verses that support our position; we quote them often enough. I admit I have.

But I’m here to tell you I’m a red-letter kind of gal. And when I want Truth, I go back to those red letters in my Bible time and time again. And as I reread them and ask the Spirit for clarity to understand them, I continue to see, over and over, the three lines in the sand Jesus drew.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45, Luke 6:27)

As we continue to vilify all who are not like us, treat “them” like groups who need to be condemned, isolated, in some cases obliterated, we act in fear. But Jesus calls us to act in love. He calls us to pray for enemies, whoever we might consider to be a foe, whether a rival, assailant, detractor, terrorist or sinner. We are called to be more than our basest instincts chain us to be.

“I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me into your homes. I needed clothes, and you didn’t give me anything to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t take care of me. They, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or as a stranger or in need of clothes or sick or in prison and didn’t help you?’ ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you failed to do for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do for me.” (Matthew 25:42-45)

Exactly how many starving immigrants do we have to deny from our warm, spacious homes? How many millions of refugees fleeing for their lives will continue to wander in deserts, in oceans with no opportunity for safety? How many hundreds of thousands of children will have to die before we allow the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts from fear to love?

“So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.” (John 13:34-35)

How can we say we love Jesus if we turn our backs on His words? How we can we say we follow Him if we refuse to stand with Him? Peter denied Jesus three times, but that was before he knew what we know. Before the Holy Spirit took up residence in him. Before Jesus allowed him to declare his love three times face to face to repent of those denials.

We need to stop condemning, stop finger-pointing and extend the same loving, grace-filled invitation Jesus extended to Levi the tax collector. And break bread at the same table.

In the face of those lines in the sand, will we continue to deny Jesus three times over and over knowing what we know?