Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When Words Chill Blood

Her words made my blood run cold.
She looked in my eyes as she took my hand --- and with such brokenness of heart she said, "i thought i had weighed what it might cost if i did this thing for the Lord, i thought i was prepared for whatever it would require of me or take from me. But i was wrong. It cost me much more than i ever imagined possible."
I asked, "But, if you had known then what you know now --- remembering the good that has come ----  wouldn't you have still obeyed"?
"No", came her whispered response ... "i would not ..."

It has taken me weeks to get past her words.
They caught in my throat and put lead in my steps.

When standing on the edge already, the edge of what is familiar and "doable", it can take breath from lungs to hear another speak so sadly of their beyond the edge world.

I've rolled it over and over with my Abba.
God - will you bless obedience? Will you care for those most dear to me, even as i remove my presence from them ---- according to your guidance? Self-righteous thinkers might foo-foo even the thought of the question. Goodness knows --- i have scolded myself for placing the words before the One who parted the Red Sea and breathed life into a dead man.
But, as my bare feet land on reality road ---- there is no allowance for soles of pretentiousness or piety.

He, Yahweh, says to me ---- "ask... there is no question you could form with your human, cracked clay lips that would be too ominous or disappointing to me donna..."

And so i have asked --- with great brokenness of heart and humility in my need.
"God, will you carry those who came from my womb? I know you will Lord --- yes -- it's what i declare everyday. They are yours - you only loaned them to me for my vapor-like days. But Lord --- as i step away from the air around them --- will you really protect them and cover them? Will you bless them and become their mama near by when they close their eyes to sleep at night? They do not need "me"--- (getting to be a part of their lives is just a pure pleasure to my heart) --- but they will always need YOU God. I know this, it is You that we all need.  -- Oh Lord --- will you not allow the enemy to harm them? Forgive me for letting her words pierce me so deeply. She implied that serving You meant i would be serving my children up to harm --- because the enemy would be angered over my obedience. THIS IS NOT TRUE. I know this is not true. But God -- it makes my heart slide up in to my throat. Be patient with me God. Help me lay them in your lap as my feet carry me far from them. It's what my head tells my heart to do --- but my heart struggles sometimes. They are safest in your lap. They are yours."

One sits in classes, learning to counsel those who are hurting. But he wonders sometimes if that solid path is where his feet need to be resting these days. Far away lands seems to call to him --- he wants to "live" large ---- not small. Guide him surely Lord --- to be where YOU have purposed for him to be. The "safe" mother's heart wants the sure path. But if you Lord are calling him to something else --- will you guide him without question, carry him through, and pour some extra peace-filled-courage in this knee bent mom.

One sits in classes, learning how to use colors, lines, shapes, and designs --- creativity flows from you through her --- it's beautiful what you create in front of her. She dreams of her days ahead, a wedding ring on her finger, babies in her arms. She talks to you almost constantly -- she hears you talking to her. From the other side of the world --- many moments will be missed as she glows in the days ahead. But you Lord, will be with her every moment, and you will be the One who places the sparkle in her eyes. May she find herself surrounded by those who will soften the air around her with love and kindness ---- always.

One sits in class, taking his last final exam of high school. Thank you God -- he graduates next week. This one you have allowed to join us for a time in Kenya. Thank you for that soul-deep-gift. You knew we might not be able to breathe without one of them near for at least a time. You've carried him through these 18 years -- you love him deeply. He's faced the temptations that come to young people these days. You've loved him no matter what. Please make him stronger in your ways as he moves into the days ahead. Oh God - please carry him surely into the place you purposed for him, when you were knitting him together. May the obedience of his parents be used only to propel him more surely on his own path with you.

When we are in a hard season, it's right to be honest --- but it is most important to remember that the sun is still shining on the other side of the dark clouds. Giving too much weight to the hardship only gives it power. Our Father is so good to us. He warns us --- "in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world"... John 16:33
That verse begins with these words ----- "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace."  Peace ---- in this world --- from my Father --- no matter what ---- 
Even if my world is rocked by ----
A- the dreaded diagnosis of Alzheimers?
B - Bankruptcy bashing my home
C - the test results show the lump is Cancer
D - Divorce defines the death of dreams
E - Explosions bring down buildings and shatters lives
In this world we will have trouble ----- not because God is careless or inattentive or absent or uncaring. Trouble comes because we live in a fallen place. 

God's plan was EDEN.

But now --- even now --- He stands ready to carry us through the "fall".

In America, we grow up thinking --- if i do all the right things, if i perform well, then blessings will be mine and hardships will be averted. This is a false idea. It does not line up with scripture at all. We can avoid some hard things by making wise choices. But no one --- NO ONE -- gets through this world untouched by pain.
So what do we do.
Those of us who know the feel of His touch ---- the peace that passes understanding even in the midst of the furnace ---- we "lean on, trust in, have confidence in the Lord, with all our heart and mind --- and we do not rely on our own insight or understanding..." Proverbs 3:5

I've pondered her words --- i've measured them according to God's Word --- i've laid them down under the blood of my Savior --- and i've found them to be empty.

Truth ---

Disobedience brings discipline.
But obedience will never bring destruction.
So, years from now ----- when someone sits before me with her trembling hands and asks ---
"donna - if you had known back then what you know now, would you still have obeyed God's call?"
Dear God --- may i with sincerest confidence be able to honestly reply --- "Oh yes - oh yes."   

Thank you God for not thinking less of me because i ask ...
Thank you God for growing me even in my weakness...
Thank you God for your promises ---- You love these dear ones far more than i do...
Thank you God for your plans to give us all --- a hope and a future ---- in You.
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

And God --- for the dear hurting lady whose words carried such pain --- i ask You to bring her to the place where she can see you for the good, great God that you are --- fully able to overcome the enemy's schemes --- and to use what was meant for harm to bring about good.  May she come to the place soon --- where she can see "beauty from ashes". Isaiah 61:3 ---   Oaks of Righteousness grow out of the hard times --- when watered by You Lord. Amen.

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Barbed Wire and Bourbon Street

The big horse ran wild through the middle of no-mans-land; running from bombs, bullets, but straight long into barbed wire.

A saddle on his back. A bridle round his neck. But no hand to guide him through.

He became frightened when the turmoil drew near. Breaking free, he ran and ran and ran --- seeking "freedom", he wanted to escape.

But mindless motion rarely leads to a good place.

Dinner and a movie at our home last week found us eating Chicken Almondzini and watching "War Horse". What a great movie ---- telling more than just the story on the screen.

As i watched i thought of so many people who run mindlessly through no-mans-land, surrounded by "bombs", dodging "bullets", but sometimes getting horribly tangled in the "barbed-wire" that clings to them and pulls them down.

Maggie and i drove to New Orleans this past weekend. A special person in her life was competing in a conference championship there for University of Houston. We were there to cheer for her friend and meet his parents. (GA meet CA in LA. Sort of comical when we look at it that way.)

While in New Orleans we indulged in many quiet walks around Jackson Square in the famed French Quarters. Life got sweeter with beignets at Cafe DuMonde. Rain only meant more colors as umbrellas popped and raindrop sounds made the moments more magnified. One day, mid-day, we walked down Bourbon Street. It's raunch could be felt even while we were still 3 blocks away. It was i who suggested we journey down the armpit street of America. Why? When choosing purity, she can best remain strong in her choice for morality ---- when she experiences from a safe distance what immorality looks like. When we walk in the Light ----- just a hint of darkness, can encourage us all the more to cling to the Son.

As we walked down Bourbon street remnants of old beaded necklaces hung from powerlines and lampposts, a reminder of all that had been lost (or given away). Raunchy signs with raunchier pictures framed doorways with invitations into the darkness. Years ago, when i was still trying to figure out what being a daughter of God might look like, i would have walked down this same street with a mixture of curiosity and condemnation. Curious about what could possibly be on the other side of the doorways; judgmental towards those dressed provocatively with dark eyes and marked skin. God has done a great deal of work on me since those days. Oh how thankful i am for His rod and His staff; they have surely corrected me and comforted me. He is the only one in a position to condemn --- He is the One who has paid the price -- because of His deep love.

Maggie and i walked and talked and ached over the pain we could see with our eyes --- in theirs.

So many of the people working on that famous, sinful street ---- are just like the warhorse running through the barbed wire in no-man's-land. They are unbridled. They wanted to be "free" to do their own thing, run where they wanted, do as they pleased. They would allow no boundaries, no rules, no guiding hand on their bridles. And now they find themselves more controlled than ever in tangled bondage; a deep rotting, twisted, cutting, unrelenting bondage. The bondage of lust, liquor, and perversion ----- are just as horrifying as the twisted barbed wire that held the warhorse to the ground. If he moved, he was cut. He could not even manage to stand because of the bonds that painfully held him down.

The horse was held to the ground in the mangled mass of rusted metal.
So many people are held down by the ruthless addiction they wildly ran into as they foolishly ran from the hands that could have guided them to a better place.

After many years of learning and being taught ---- i now walk down places like Bourbon Street and feel such compassion and pain for the bound up hurting people who glare at me from lusty, wounded, angry eyes. It's painful to see ----- it must be terribly painful to live. One lady i passed, was inviting us into a strip joint as she lit her cigarette (or something of the sort). As i looked in her eyes and smiled, she paused and looked back into mine. She looked away and down. My eyes did not miss the hundreds of scars on her upper arm. Cuts, thin scarred slices, where she had worked to feel something --- anything --- . My heart went out to her. She knew, we both knew. I passed on, but i felt my Abba remain with her --- i prayed.

When watching the movie, my heart was so stirred for the wounded, bound horse.
When walking down Bourbon Street, my heart was stirred for the wounded, bound people.

They are the same.
Both ran recklessly into no-man's-land until the tangles of the barbed wire world finally gripped tightly enough they were held fast to the hard, unyielding, dirty ground.
Yes, they are the same --- but --- they are very different.
The horse is an animal with no soul inside ---- while she, the scarred lady, she will spend eternity somewhere. And what she chooses now --- before her last breath --- will determine where her forever will find her. Oh God... she didn't seem to be choosing well... does she know?..?..?

In the movie --- two soldiers come out from their foxholes to help release the horse. A white flag was waved, they had found something more important than what they were fighting over.
In real life --- shouldn't we who call ourselves followers of Jesus be willing to come out of our foxholes, wave the white flag, and reach out to those who are wounded and bound. When we do, if we will, we will surely find something much more important than all the things we seem to be fighting over.

I was convicted as i walked on past the scarred lady. I was afraid --- what could i say to her? what could i possibly do to help her? after all, hadn't she somehow "chosen" to be there? Or, had she just run wild into no-man's-land because of the bombs and bullets that shattered her younger years?
I've talked to Abba about it a lot.
He reminded me of His deep love for her.
He reminds me of His great grace towards both of us.
His call to me --- is to love --- and not judge.
Did she see pure love in my eyes?
I hope so.
It was there for her.

May i never be a "christian" who judges another. But instead may God grow me to the place where His love rests so close to the surface of my skin ---- that all who come near ---- are bumped by grace and touched by love.
I'm still in the classroom --- learning. I'm thinking this class will last until my days are finished here.
But oh how thankful i am for such a patient Teacher.

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Grace in the Barn

My little hands could hardly lift the heavy, long board that held the old barn doors closed. The old building seemed massive to a girl less than half grown. It was a place of adventure with beautiful web covered lines, strong animal smells, dark corners and light beams filled with dancing dust. I loved going into my grandparents' barn, it was a favorite childhood spot of mine. I never went there unless i asked permission first, always certain something in one of those dark corners could bring harm to me. So i always let Papa James know when i was venturing into his massive barn which became my "land far away" right there at home. He never told me i could not go to his barn, but he always warned me to be careful. He would tell me if he had a bull in the stall or if Molly, his great red mule, might be found in her favorite place (back left corner stall). For a little girl whose arms fit just perfectly around his overhauled waist, he knew, i needed to be mindful of things big and powerful that might be startled by a small, barefoot visitor.
I'd struggle to lift the board from the two wooden slats that held it in place. But then i'd pull the heavy barn doors wide to let the light travel through. I loved the smell, the feel, the mystery of the old barn. How many children for how many ages have played in old animal and hay scented barns? I felt a kinship with others who for centuries past had also loved the secretive corners and silent world of the dust covered, web-filled, common man's castle. One stall contained a feed-bin that always filled my mind with visions of a baby Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes. There was something oddly holy about that old smelly barn ---- it held kittens and corn --- hay and calves -- it was a haven when the storms outside became too strong -- it's doors drew the line between where the world could come and where it could not. One end of the long barn hallway was open to the small barnyard beyond. There may have been a door that could have closed it off, or maybe it was just a gate -- can't remember clearly there, i'll have to ask Mom about that one, she will know. But what matters most is the way that open end of the barn framed the light that poured in through it. Walking about on a sunny day in the middle of light and life, can never quite create the same vision as light and life viewed from a place of darkness. Darkness makes Light all the more beautiful. The colors in the pasture beyond the barndoor opening were vivid and enticing. They held a private promise of life and color --- "He makes me lie down in green pastures --- He restores my soul..." Even a little one can feel those words being whispered to their soul long before their ears can grasp them in church.
My grown up mind is revisiting that old barn these days. i ache in a sort of undefinable way for the smell of overhauls and mules, greasy tractor parts and dusty barn stalls. It was a classroom for me. I learned much there. Would anyone ever see grace in a barn? Is it possible to sense the approaching of Abba from inside the hall of a barn where animals rest?
Grace is sufficient ---- HIS Grace is sufficient for me --- it's said in the scriptures and engraved on my heart. Can we weep at the overflow of grace? Are we allowed to? When grace covers what grieves us most, the colors come more true like looking out of a dark barn hall at the gleaming sun-kissed green.
In The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning speaks of grace so well. He writes, "To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God's grace means. As Thomas Merton put it,'A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God. "The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours, not by right, but by sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned--our degree, our salary, our home, and garden, and cool drink, and a good night's sleep -- all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift. 'If we but turn to God,' said St. Augustine, 'that itself is a gift of God'. My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it."

My deepest awareness of myself
is that i am deeply loved by Jesus Christ 
and i have done nothing 
to earn it or deserve it.

The old barn was my little girl picture of grace.

It was there always --- no matter where i went during my childhood days -- the old barn was unchanged and unmoved. It didn't cradle me inside its safe walls because of who i was --- it held strong and wrapped itself around me because of what it was and because of where i had chosen to place myself.
Oh my beautiful Savior, it's all about who HE is and where i choose to place myself.

I stepped inside that old grace barn --- and all the world around me was either dismissed or it just looked different.
God's grace does not come because of anything we may or may not do or say. We are unalterably unworthy. God's grace comes on us because of who and what He is --- no lie from hell can alter the fact of the presence of Abba's grace upon us.

I'm huddled inside the hall of the barn these days.
Wondering at the age old strength of what surrounds me.
I've questioned if i've overstayed my welcome -- will the cradling walls of grace grow weary of my endless need for them?
In my world i'm feeling the powerful winds tear mountains, shattering rocks; ground quaking underfoot and flames turning to ashes what seemed solid and mine. I tremble even as i type --- as surely Elijah did. But as i reach for His Robes again and again and again ---- i peer out of the safe, grace-filled barn hall and listen for the sure gentle whisper of the One called
 El Roi, He is the God who sees me

And even if i'm huddled low, He wafts His robes around me and covers me with His mercy filled grace.

Does He allow me to tremble at the mightiness of it all?
Ahhhhh ---- His grace is sufficient --- even when nothing about me is...

1 Kings 19:11-13 11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” ...

as my El Roi whispers to me, "what are you doing here donna?" my answer comes through tears -- i'm kneeling Lord, low, trembling, but tasting your grace.

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Salty Souls in a Broken World

Two tiny holes, one for each eye. They gush with salty moisture doing much to cleanse and protect. How amazing is our God; He knew our eyes would need to be washed --- He knew...
My tiny tear ducts have been working over time of late, goodness they must surely be tired indeed. In any given stretch of 7 days they will find themselves working diligently at least 6 of those days. Oddly enough, this is quite abnormal for me. I'm not usually a "crier". My normal "mode of operation" is to hold my emotions steady until in a quiet, private place. Then i'll cry with my Abba. I'm a closet crier ---- i prefer tears in solitude.
There was a long season in my earlier years that i lost the ability to cry. For several years, not a tear crossed my crisp eyes. I once asked my Pop, if he thought there might be something wrong with me since the emotions were there, but my heart held them isolated, hidden from others. My wise Pop said something like, "Pray and ask God to give you tears, and He will bring you up out of the dry place you are now in." And so i did. It was still several years later, but the season of dryness left, and tears once again began to flow. It seems that now, my over zealous tear ducts are pouring out the tears they saved back during those dry years long ago.

It's interesting that tears are salty. But more than interesting, it is important to grasp the value, the purpose, in having salty tears.
Why are tears salty?
"Tears are salty because salt heals and kills bacteria. Many infections and germs enter our body through our eyes. They tell you to gargle with salt water when you have a sore throat or an ulcer because the salt helps heal and is a natural bacteria killer. It is a trait designed to protect our delicate eyes by fighting the entrance of bacteria." (answer found at Yahoo.answers)
Salty tears sting a bit more than salt-less tears would ----- but God knew our eyes would need to be "cleaned" and protected. He knew we would see things that needed to be washed away, and it would take tears to do the job. He knew our eyes would need to be protected from tiny particles that would damage them. Thankfully, salty tears stand guard, always ready to flush and cleanse.
Good logical answers for a reasonable human-sized question.

But if we view the same question from a God-angle, we get a deeper revelation about the goodness of our Creator. The Bible tells us that God's children are to be Salt and Light in this flavorless, dark world. How beautiful that our tears are laced with salt; salt that can heal, salt that can protect. And after those salty tears have flushed out our troubles, we are much more able to see the light again. When my heart is heavy and my eyes remain dry ---- the Light is harder to see.
Salty tears help wash a broken heart.
Salty souls need cleansing in a broken world.

This all coming from a lady who would not be called a "crier" by those who know her well. Let me note here that i believe we can overindulge in tears - which leads to self-pity and despondency. In this writing i'm not promoting any such thing. I'm only pondering on healthy tears given by God to bring healing and protection. Without these healthy tears we can become hardened, cold, bitter, disengaged, and find ourselves disconnected from the world around us where God has called us to be His Salt and Light.

This phenomenon of tears flooding my eyes on a daily basis, has captured my attention (it's unavoidable). And so i've dug into God's Word to see what HE has to say about tears. i've learned that my Abba:
-lists my tears on His scroll
-can bring joy after the giving of my tears
-can answer my tearful prayers in powerful ways
-my tears can accompany my seeking of the Lord
-my tears can become a gift to my Savior
-tears can be accompanied with humility in service to the Lord
-Jesus cried out to the Father with tears and was heard because of His reverent submission
-Jesus wept too over love for others

Psalm 56:8 "Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll- are they not in your record?"
Psalm 199:136 "Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed."
Psalm 126:5 "Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy."
Isaiah 38:5 “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life.'"
Jeremiah 50:4 “'In those days, at that time,' declares the Lord, 'the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the Lord their God.'"
Luke 7:38 "As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them."
Acts 20:19 "I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents."
Hebrews 5:7 "During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission."

John 11:35 "Jesus wept."  

 How moved i am to know that Jesus's prayers in Gethsemane were accompanied with tears and sweat mingled with blood. (Interesting that sweat too is Salty). He knew what God was asking of Him, He knew what lay ahead of Him -- and He wept asking if there could be another way. But He was reverently submissive to do the Father's will. He was not punished for having tears. He was strengthened by the Father to accomplish what He was being called to do. Perhaps for our Jesus, just as for us, the flooding out of the tears helped heal what was aching and protected Him from the death filled lies of the deceiver.

Our Mighty Jehovah embraces our prayer-filled tears and strengthens us in our weakness. He responds with joy and life and is pleased with us even if tears cover our path of obedience.

There are many tears these days ----- and there should be ----- 
i weep over moving away from those i hold so dear to my heart --- but i will obey - my Savior's grace says it is ok that my path is tear-soaked for now
i weep for my precious sister - i hold her in my heart, and lift her to my Father -- as she battles against the enemy of cancer -- she is a beautiful warrior clinging to our Abba --- prayers of healing dripping with tears at the feet of the Healer
i weep for the wounded ---- who do not know the healer
i weep for the lost --- who could spend ETERNITY in hell if the eyes of their soul are not opened
i weep for those in bondage --- not knowing the intense pain they cause to everyone around them
i weep for those who love ---- those bound in invisible chains
i weep for the lady i had never met but who died last week --- ending her own life --- she left this place without knowing the Savior --- oh GOD...
i weep for the one who loves themselves more than God --- and demands to be "worshiped" with continual attention 
i weep for the ones who suffer in the hands of evil ---
i weep for the ones who do not care

and weeping for a season, into God's robes and at His feet ---- seems to be the only right response. 
Our Lord can do much --- with our tears and our obedience.

©2012 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe