In the most unlikely place

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I was sitting in a courthouse of all places –  a courthouse.

The place were laws are made, upheld and enforced. Peering into the reality that what I was about to face -well – it’s wasn’t going to be pretty. I owed a debt. Not a large debt, but one that had gone unpaid. Questions surfaced and attacked my sense of reality – just how had this debt accumulated that I was unaware of?  Why hadn’t this been handled earlier? I had always been a responsible person. Exactly how did I get here?

Perhaps that story is for another day, for what came from this experience is so much richer than how I got here. This story needs to be told, why else would I admit such hard things?

My arrival on the courthouse steps wasn’t this scene from Law & Order or anything significant. When I walked in, not one person recognized me or was there to fight on my behalf. I walked in – alone. As I opened the doors to the crowded courtroom I could hear the judge as he read off the names of people waiting in the gallery for their turn to speak and be heard.  When my case was called, I somehow needed to find my feet and rise up to stand. All eyes from that sea of faces were upon me, gulp, yes me. I knew in that moment, I was no longer alone. I was a part of this plethora of people who hurt, who are broken and have fallen and just might need a new contract on life.

Make no mistake I was there to take ownership and  be responsible for the things that transpired. Yet somehow I realized this debt that accumulated over time, had brought doubt and shame to my own sense of who I am as a person. Who had I become that I let a small amount of money determine  my sense of self and purpose? This is what I truly had to face – not the debt.

Myself.

As the judge dismissed us, more waiting began outside in the lobby of the courthouse. The benches filled up with souls awaiting their turn to speak their story, to tell their tale – and to be heard. I sat among them and as I looked out at the morning sun, I smiled at the beauty of another day, even the hard ones. The benches filled and chatter ensued. Yet I stay enclosed in my thoughts, sitting on my bench all alone, just me. Until.

Until she sat down.

We both looked more alike than the rest of the crowd, our clothes were a bit cleaner, our hair a bit neater and our conversation much quieter. I don’t remember how it happened, but somehow we talked, sharing our stories with one another. I found this such a gift to prepare myself to speak to the lawyer when it was my turn. As our stories unfolded I found our lives intersected in so many ways, our dreams similar and our hopes just as dashed. At one point she leans over to me quietly and says, “you know, you should really talk to the free legal team here, they have really helped me.” As I awaited justice, judgement and punishment, I heard the first whisper of mercy.

Mercy.

I thought for a moment, could this be? My questions were answered as quickly as I posed them to myself. The free legal team was searching me out, they called my name. We met and discussed my case. In fact, I didn’t have to discuss much at all. I walked in alone to the courtroom but now I had someone to defend me, someone who heard my story. Next thing I know I am filling out paperwork and they meet with the judge.

Case dismissed.

Just like that. The wheels of justice turned and once set in motion, they blew right past me. Not only was my case dismissed, it will now be expunged from my record. My name, my good name, is back intact.  My years of hard work and reliability, of consistent payment of debts, restored.   Erased. Redeemed. Forgiven. Like it never even happened.

Mercy.

Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone when it is within one’s power to punish. This is what I experienced today, awe inspiring mercy. It was within the courts rights to hold me to this debt, yet I was freed. I can’t ever express what this has done for me. Not for my bottom line financially, but for my spirit. I tasted mercy and forgiveness and now I am  called to offer the same. Freely I have received and freely I must give.

Parable of unmerciful servant.

“At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Mercy.

I was now walking within this very parable, in God’s story for my own life. Like the man forgiven of his debts, I too had been forgiven. Okay, so I didn’t owe 10,000 bags of gold, but I had a debt, one I couldn’t pay. What would I do? Would I return home from the courthouse, renewed with hope, and show mercy? Or would I be like the unmerciful servant who demands from others more then he himself could give? Could I truly grasp the gift of mercy God had bestowed upon me? I. Couldn’t. Breathe. I needed to stop and take it all in –  and weep.

This wasn’t about money, oh no. It was about me.

About me loving, trusting and believing in God  – and receiving mercy. The most precious gift of all, compassion touching my heart in places that laid bare before Him. Places I didn’t even know existed, but He did.  Remember, I had let money define and determine my value. Money is a currency – but not one of the heart. There is no price tag on our value, no balance sheet that can hold all our debts. No. We are valuable because of His love. We are valuable because of His mercy. We are valuable because we are His.

His.

I don’t know what debts you owe. . What situation you have in your life that might throw you into your debtors court. This I do know, it’s humiliating. But if I had never walked up those courthouse steps, I wouldn’t have been able to experience the incredible mercy of the Living God. YWHW. Perhaps your debt isn’t financial – but you feel it. There is forgiveness that needs to be offered, hope that needs to be restored and hearts to love and encourage to turn to Him.

Just take one step. Let mercy win.

 New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986 

 

God is… love

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God is love.

It’s just that simple – and that complicated.

Love. It is this deep need we have within ourselves. We desire to be loved. We yearn for it. We seek it out and perhaps get a bit desperate sometimes. We search for it, looking all over, as it we lost it somehow. Love – we fall into it, out of it, we give it, receive it, refuse to offer it sometimes and can even give way too much of it.

Love. God is love.

When I think of God, I don’t think of an emotional being, not at all. I think of a spiritual, transformational, powerful, all knowing and ever present being.  I rarely think or contemplate this nature of God, yet the Bible tells us that God is love. One of the shortest verses in Scripture is packed with such profound truth.

He is love and because He is love, we too, can love. God is the author of love Himself. The provider of strength to those seeking it. The giver of hope when you can’t seem to find the way to express it. God is love and it’s His love that can mold us into being love to others. His love works in us and through us.

The greatest story ever told, is the story of love itself.

God loves you, yes YOU –  so very much that He choose to send His very own son, Jesus, to bring us back into relationship with Him. God chose to love us, even when we did nothing to receive that love. God chose to love us  even when we didn’t deserve it. It’s this amazing picture of selfless, sacrificial and devotional love.

God chose to send His son. God chose to sacrifice Him. God chose for Him to be resurrected. God chose to send His Spirit. God chose this plan for your salvation. God chose. God chose. God chose.

Love my friends, it’s not just a emotional feeling or response – it’s a choice. Sometimes we just don’t feel loved. When we don’t feel it, it’s so much harder to choose love, isn’t it?

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:16-19)

God not only loves us, but wants us to grasp how wide, how long, how high and how deep is the love of Christ! This love is so huge! It’s so hard for our finite minds to grasp and yet He calls us to it, Paul said it’s his prayer. The Spirit of the Living God can strengthen your inner being. You can be filled to the measure of the fullness of God. How amazing this love is!

God is love.

Why do we complicate something so beautiful?

Chose Him.

Standing on the Word

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The waves of doubt come crashing in, surrounding me and encasing me in fear. Yes, fear. That thing we dread and we pretend doesn’t happen to us – the uncertainty we can battle each and every moment. Yearning to answer the question – do we really believe? No, let’s get real.

Do I really believe?

Jesus, the Eternal One, the Most High God, my Savior – do I believe, in You? Not just your words, your story, the parables, the miracles and the victory. But YOU. If you asked me to share a Scripture, I could probably quote it. If you asked me to serve on a committee, I may just be able to lead it. But if you asked me to trust you – I would doubt. Oh, I would doubt.

Doubt your love, doubt your care – doubt the truth that you are really there. I look for signs scattered about, of your love and your compassion. It’s like a treasure I seek, a yearning to be filled – that shall never satisfy me.

Ah.

The water rises higher, I gasp to get my breath but I sense the truth you want to eradicate from the depths of my being. You see – it’s me. Me. I am the one who sinks into doubt. No. One. But. Me. No pointing fingers for the reasons for my doubt, only the realization that fear starts – with me.

Will my soul ever be comforted? My heart cease it’s taunting? I crave intimacy I can only find – in You. I have searched for it in relationships – with family and friends, expected it from people who just couldn’t give it, desired it in ways I regret. Yet, with each failed hope and lost opportunity – the waters rose and waves began to lap at my very soul. Experiences became etched together like a tapestry in my mind. My lack of faith kept me still. Not a stillness as in being still with God, oh no. Still – in not knowing what to do – where to turn or how to go. That stillness that immobilizes you, is fear.

My doubt was drowning out His voice.

“Don’t panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” – Isaiah 41:10

It’s Him I need to fill me.

To complete me. To hold me steady. To keep a firm grip on me. It’s Jesus. Him. He wants to redirect the waves and let them gently drift over me. He can allow them to rise, and to fall – cascading and flowing, yet never drowning. You see these waves, they redirect our focus. Sometimes we get overwhelmed by their pull and fight the undercurrent. Other times we are crushed to the ground as the waves pound our backs. As we tread water to survive, we look for places to rest our feet.

On His Word.

Trust. I must trust. I must engulf myself with His presence, His love, His Spirit and His truth. To trust you more Jesus, I need to love me – less. I need to let go of my fear, my doubt and the voices which assail me. That tapestry in my mind may be unwoven, yet it does not have to suffocate me.

Do not panic. Do. Not. Panic. Do not.

I’m with you.

It’s time, He’s calling me and perhaps He’s calling you too. To trust Him and only Him. To let go. Let. Go. GO.  Knowing that He will help. He will give strength. He will hold me and hold you steady. Steady. Not tossed back and forth like the waves. Steady. Firm. Constant.

Stand on the Word and it will lift you above the water. Gasp for breath as you need to. Dive into the waters when you slip. When you are ready, let Him guide you back up to stand with Him. Right back on His Word and into a deeper relationship with Him.

Keep your eyes above the waves. and focus.

On Him.