loosed by love to stand up straight and free

“a bruised reed he will not break,
 and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;”
                                              Matthew 12:20

It’s fascinating.

It’s my third year making this 40-day journey through the New Testament and I’m pure-T astounded at all the things I’m reading for the first time— though it’s surely not the first time.  I’m convinced more now than ever before, that this Word from God we are privileged to hold and read and live from, is always currently alive and timelessly breathing God’s meaning into our lives.

In fact, what I’m discovering this time around is that I’m not simply reading the Bible;  the Bible is reading ME…  and it’s reading God into me and shedding His light all over the place.

It’s probably why I can see her now.

Loosed by Love

Honestly, I‘d never noticed her before… not really. But there she is, in the thirteenth chapter of Luke— a woman bent over, doubled in two, crippled and tormented by an evil spirit… for 18 years.

Eight. Teen. Years.

She was bent over and unable… to stand up straight.
For 18 years, she was there, day after day… Sabbath after Sabbath — bent over and unable to stand… in the church.

How have I never seen this before?  I found myself asking questions like:

     Why did she stay?
What bent her so badly?

     What kept her from being able to stand?
What weight pulled at her so hard that her gaze never left the ground?
     Looking down for so long that maybe… she had stopped hoping to ever see the sky.

And those Pharisees and Scribes– those “Men of God”,  when did they stop noticing her?Did they ever see her at all?  Why was she so invisible to them?

Because here, it’s the Sabbath and Jesus has come to town to teach;  to open the Word of God in the temple– He’s come to BE the Word of God in their midst… in ours.

 Luke says that Jesus,  as he is teaching, notices this poor woman. He sees her. He didn’t have to ask what was wrong; he already knew. He also knew how long she had suffered— and why.

She didn’t even ask. Maybe in her mind, she had come to expect nothing would change about her condition or the way she’d been treated. She had grown used to being bent by this evil spirit and the burden she bore. She had become accustomed to not being able to stand.

Even in her own mind,  she was invisible.

Jesus is there for one day and she’s one of the first things He notices. Calling her to Himself, he touches her and instantly…

She could  STAND STRAIGHT.
Healed and whole, she stood— looking Jesus in the eyes and she praised God !

Of course, it’s a scandal and an embarrassment to the men of the temple and the leader chastises Jesus (God!) instructing the crowd that there are six other days to do this kind of work but the Sabbath isn’t one of them.

Seriously?

Because what other days are there and what better place is there to find healing and wholeness than in the church on the Sabbath? And Jesus tells them so.

Not to mention…. EIGHTEEN YEARS.

 This woman had gone un-healed, un-noticed and un-cared for– being further bent over, burdened and shamed through the negligence of the very ones who professed to know God most… and yet knew Him not at all. They had been so busy with the “work of the church”— maintaining rules and regulations, buildings and reputations, they’d lost sight of the true work of God: worship and witness… truth and mercy.

It’s easy to do.

They’d been reading God’s words, but on this day, the Word of God was coming to read THEM.  Jesus has come to teach. He’s come to set her… and me, and the bent and broken record straight,  giving us a way to stand— whole, again.

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I’ve been in the presence of many such women all gloriously touched and made whole by God. In the hills of Northern Kenya I met Rose. On the dusty streets of Nairobi, I met a former prostitute named Claire*.  Yesterday, I sat in a room with a woman once broken by addiction. And just this morning… I locked eyes with the girl in the mirror… and smiled because she knows.   Because she is known.

As one who’s spent time bent over and unable to stand  I’m here to testify, there is nothing sweeter than being called to Jesus, and hearing Him speak into my aching spirit,Woman, you are loosed…!.  Nothing better than being touched by Him and made able to stand straight again with nothing in my hand but grace upon grace to spend lavishly toward others.

Christian Artist

I don’t know for sure what that dear Woman did for the rest of that Sabbath day when her life was changed forever or what she did on the many days afterward. But I get the feeling that she never stopped praising God. I get the feeling that because she was no longer bent, because she was now able to stand, that she spent the remainder of her life in worship and witness, keenly aware of others who needed the same touch.

And standing… she could see them.
At least, this what I want to do: to see, speak and to touch others with this love of Christ.

So maybe today, you find yourself  “bent”,  doubled in two and unable to stand beneath the weight of your burden. I pray that you can clearly hear these words from Jesus now– saying  “… you are loosed from your infirmity!”  Whatever that may be and then come… stand with me.

Praising Him,Lorretta signature

Linking with Jennifer and Kelly!

Growing Up and Growing Old

Today I invite you to come with me into the back rooms of Lorretta’s mind to the file drawer labeled “Crazy Thoughts and Panicky Moments.” It’s the one right before:”Stuff I Probably Shouldn’t Say Out Loud” and right after, “Things I’d Do Differently if I Could.”

bravely growing older

I don’t know who makes the rules for these things but apparently a new car depreciates in value by nearly 30% in it’s first year off the lot. I googled it. #truestory. The same is apparently true for mobile homes although that doesn’t seem as surprising.

There are days I feel the weight of depreciation –especially when it comes to my writing and ministry. I want so badly for these offerings to hold Kingdom value and to KEEP working miracles in my life. I want them to produce healing miracles in the lives of others as well. Any edgy shard or fragment– I so desperately want God to use. Because otherwise, it seems like a big waste, you know?

Fear of depreciation sometimes keeps me from ever beginning. I get stalled on the water, stuck at the gate, too afraid to move on.  But if I have to be honest, probably my greatest place of personal wrestling has had to do with personal depreciation. Getting older.

Our culture places a ridiculously high premium on youthfulness and looks down on aging as something to be avoided.  As if only the new thoughts, new ideas, new methods or new stories hold any weight or value?!?

Seriously?!?!

Trust me, I’m not looking for the Fountain of Youth. I’m not interested in lipo-anything or the “lifting” of anything besides my Spirit or hands in worship. (Although I did buy some cream the other day……)

Because if I’m looking to hold on to “value” the shaping and shifting of my outer self isn’t where my value lies. Don’t get me wrong;  I still take care myself but I recognize there’s a fine line between “fashionable” and “foolish” and I’ve reached the age where I oughta know better!  KWIM?

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No, it’s deeper than that. See, a few years back I came to what Henry Blackaby refers to in Experiencing God,  as a “crisis of faith”.  A lot was involved in that period of time–there was no singular event to refer to–just a whole host of things got real “muddy” and even a little dirty.

It wasn’t that I doubted or stopped believing or lost my faith in God but honestly,
I just couldn’t see how to sustain it into old age.

Being a teen or young-adult Christian woman, a VBS and homeschool Mom, a “valuable worker bee” in the Kingdom hive– I knew how to do all that and the church has wide open arms in these departments. But growing older and keeping an ACTIVE faith? Not so much.

Then, honestly? I looked around  the Church and I saw very few older women I wanted to become. I saw very few older women involved in much of anything outside their comfort zones or interacting with anyone outside their own age or financial bracket. I couldn’t find many living much further beyond the “been there-done that, complainin’ about it” mentality.

Where were the older, wiser,
warrior women for Christ?

Symphony of life

I swear, I’m NOT judging. But I got …well …TERRIFIED. Because I thought, “Is this IT?!!” Once you turn the corner, round the bend and go over that hill–  then what?!?

God led me gently into that temporary place of wilderness where I learned a whole lot about His purposes for my life at any age or stage.  Among other things, God showed me that how I see this purpose and these next stages of life is a choice. There are some things I don’t get to choose but my attitude is still one of them.

Getting older is inevitable,
being old is a choice
and growing older is the goal.

He showed me something else our entire society–churched and unchurched– seems to have forgotten: aging is a privilege. Like work, getting married, owning a home, having children and a bunch of other things– aging is a privilege not afforded to everyone.  I need to be thankful for the opportunity.

God also helped me to shift my focus away from my self, and to look more lovingly and carefully for the women who could mentor and model for me what these next stages of life need to look like. Not perfectly–but faithfully.

I begged God to send older women who’d understand this need and wow… God placed several fine examples in my midst. These women  challenge my walk and my witness. They listen hard and love me well, honestly share their hearts, hard-earned wisdom and Christ-submitted struggles…and pray–they pray for me and ask me to pray for them too.

I’ve got Jane and Jan and dear Paula, who spent her life on the mission field and whose goal is simply to become a “sweet, little old lady” (emphasis on the sweet!). She doesn’t want to become anyone’s sermon example although she continues to live an active sermon before me and so many others as she tirelessly works and loves missionally right where she lives.

These women continue to inspire and encourage me, spurring me on to the next moments of my next stages of walking with Christ, however long that may be.

The challenge now is to recognize my role in this equation which is expanding in both directions. Because somewhere out there are younger women who need to see what living a real Christian life and growing older with God looks like and some may be watching me and checking my pulse for signs of life too!

I don’t want to fail them… or my Lord.

Something tells me that I won’t if it’s more about God than me. He will be my guide.

“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

God’s Word reminds me that as long as I keep bravely focusing on the Truth with the Word of God as my guide and His Kingdom as my goal,  He will not forsake me–even into old age.

“My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.” Psalm 71

I pray I’m well on my way to bravely becoming a sweet, little old lady too …an older warrior woman for Christ.

Lorretta signature

 *This post originally appeared on LiveBrave.com in April 2013. It’s a word worth repeating here today.

 

 

 

 

giving up

It is finished.

At least for now, this part of our journey to and from the Dominican Republic has come to a close. Now begins the processes of piecing it all together— both the project and ourselves.

I’m over whelmed.

I don’t mean to sound all “hyper-holy” but honestly,  I always return feeling hushed and introspective. My heart is heavier afterward with the weight of a new knowledge and understanding for a new place and people and burdens I know only God can handle.  No matter what project is involved, every mission alters my course in ways that continue to unfold for weeks and months to come.  Each time, the landscape of my heart changes and will never be the same again.

I think it’s the way it’s supposed to be.

giving up

So, I have a confession: Once upon a time… I was THAT short-term missionary.

Earnestly, I went believing I had what the world needs most and my job was to go and bring some Jesus to those poor, lost people who had none. I won’t belabor this point, but I recall some pretty awkward moments culminating in one huge rude awakening.

Truthfully? I’ve never brought Jesus anywhere; He’s always met me wherever I was sent. My role then there and here now is simply to do my best to be Christlike.

Which is never as easy as it seems.

Honestly, these trips have done more to open my eyes and change me with the Gospel I profess, than I first imagined. Maybe because I have to cling so much harder to what I know   that I know    that I know— far more difficult to do outside your own rhythm, routine and comfort zone.    #Truestory

Using these off-kilter places, God impresses new marks on my heart. The fresh and beauty-full moments add color and texture and the more difficult ones apply setting heat to harden them and deepen my character and personality…for His glory— I pray. He uses it all: the people, places, faces, laughter and tears, where shared meals and difficulties become the holiest of communions along the way.

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Scripture leaves record of some of these types of moments— just enough to glimpse the Body of Christ living then from day to day. Life surely wasn’t all fishes and loaves and walking on water. There were bone-wearying storms, uncertainties, frustrations and taxes to pay. There were arguments over who would sit where and who would be serving whom.

Sometimes, I like to think that Jesus’ parables sprung out of these moments. Perhaps, in those quieter times while seated around a table or fireside,  Jesus might’ve thought, “Now is a good time to talk about…” He’d seize that teachable moment, guiding those disciples then— and us now— through the maze and mess we can make of our lives and relationships.

Because they were just human beings—a bunch of guys on the adventure of their lifetime traveling around with— and for, Jesus. I bet they bickered. Felt selfish and self-centered. They surely got ornery and tired and occasionally made each other miserable. Maybe they asked one time too many, “Are we there yet?”    Maybe.

They asked stupid questions, gave stupid answers all while simply doing their best to follow, serve and walk with the Jesus they had right there in their midst.   Glory.  He should’ve fired them!  Instead, He loved them all the more. Forgave them.   Told them some parable stories and sent them to bed.

He knew them. He knows us. Jesus knows how joy may come in the morning but Lawd, help us make it through the night!  He knows how sometimes,   the Mean  just gets “all up over you.”    Even….and especially when you are trying your hardest to keep it together.

Flawless Christ

Like that time … I was writing a Bible study on the Fruit of the Spirit. In the middle of it all, hubby got sick and went down taking my day’s plans with him.  I found myself manning the carpool that night while my “puking-unto-death” spouse took himself to the doctor. I was agitated, highly distracted and the traffic was unusually nerve-wracking.

Headed home,  (full of “fruit” mind you) I’m behind a vehicle sitting through, not one… two, but FIVE green lights. Seriously!?? So I did what any spirit-filled, FruitFULL Christian would do: I laid on that horn like a lunatic. Did I get out of the car to assist? Um….no. (In fairness— it was night-time… but still.)  Then, out steps the frailest, shakiest, most confused and panicky older gentleman…. He’s near tears.  And now, so am I.  He stutters some apology, his son is on the way and me, I’m just wanting to  Die. Of. Shame.

Jesus had to love me harder then.

Then, oh a few months back, after a particularly stressful “wedding thing” I did… a gas station clerk was flat out rude and I found myself  “thanking-her-so-very-much“ saying “God bless you!” in a tone we both knew really meant “Go to heck in a hand basket!”.
Yah. Cuz …I’m beautiful like that.

Sweet Jesus…have mercy on me, a sinner.
Thankfully, He does.

All to say— what I’ve learned to be the single-most important thing I need as I go… or stay.. anywhere really, is GRACE. Pack extra— I’m gonna need it. Sometimes I’ll be doling out heaping helpings to another but most likely, I’ll be slathering it on thickly myself.

Vividly, I remember my very first International mission trip. Remember how,standing at the edge of a cornfield before the gathered congregation, I sang with all my heart, “I Surrender All”.   I meant it.

Now I know that the “All” I surrendered then was simply the “All” I understood at that point. Since then, God has given me more “All” to surrender and I highly suspect there will always be more to come.

Recently, I was asked: “Did you give up anything for Lent?”
Yeah.. I suppose I did.
I just… gave up.

Surrendering this new understanding of All… once again.

It’s where I suppose I’ll continue to end and where hopefully, Jesus through me… beside and before me — can always begin in me .. anew.

Lorretta signature

linking what I’ve learned with Emily.