I heard you say you love me.

Ben Teej Hands Ring

Ben,

I heard you say you love me when you gave me your jacket when I was cold.

I heard you say you love me when I was motion sick on the bus and you prayed for me.

I heard you say you love me when you were helping me place the goodies I’d brought for the children on the table, and you made sure everyone around us knew I’d brought them and not you.

I heard you say you love me when I was sick and you waited outside the airport bathroom for a long time, and we might have been the only two who missed our plane back to the states, but you wouldn’t leave me by myself.

I heard you say you love me when you prayed with me outside in the cold for the 40 Days for Life.

I heard you say you love me all the times you didn’t correct my misuse of vocabulary but you could have.

I heard you say you love me when you played along with my pitiful riddles.

I heard you say you love me when you prayed before you said you wanted to pursue me.

I heard you say you love me all the times you hold my face in your hand and rub my cheeks.

I heard you say you love me when you said I have cute feet.

I heard you say you love me when you told me the truth about who you are, faults and all.

I heard you say you love me when you let me wear your cloak at the Ren Faire, even when the hem was dragged through the muddy water.

I heard you say you love me when you tied my shoelace for me.

I heard you say you love me all the times you proof my work, and point out corrections in gentle, sweet ways.

I heard you say you love me when you brought Capri Suns and unsalted saltines for me so that I would have something to eat when I had the stomach bug.

I heard you say you love me when you stayed rational when I was irrational.

I heard you say you love me when you made origami roses for me, and that you showed them to me even though they didn’t turn out quite right.

I heard you say you love me when you prayed that I would find my retainer, and you didn’t make fun of me for losing it (or wearing a retainer).

I heard you say you love me when you prayed for Christ to reveal to me that He has already freed me from the chains of my past.

I heard you say you love me when you wanted to join me at the Apologetics Conference I so look forward to.

I heard you say you love me when you stood up for me whenever it looked like anyone was picking on me in the slightest.

I heard you say you love me when you clothed me in mercy instead of exposing the nakedness of my faults to the world.

I heard you say you love me when my church had a mission trip to India last Christmas and you wanted to go (but I couldn’t get off work).

I heard you say you love me when I broke your picture frame and when I spilled water down your side of the table and when I dumped a monsoon of water in your car from the turned-over vase, and you never became angry with me.

I heard you say you love me the times you blow-dry your hair just for me.  🙂

I heard you say you love me when you held my hair while I retched into the airport trashcan.

I heard you say you love me when you brought me plushies and roses and organic chocolate orange candy bars for Valentine’s Day, and my locket.

I heard you say you love me all the times I gave evidence that I wasn’t worth pursuing, and you pursued me anyway.

I heard you say you love me when you ran through the autumn leaves with me.

I heard you say you love me when I was freezing and you blasted the heat in your car even though you almost wilted, so that I would be warm and sleep on the drive back to your parents’ house . . even when you were more tired than me.

I heard you say you love me when you let me pick what to order that we would share to eat.

I heard you say you love me all the times you didn’t raise your voice to me, and you could have.

I heard you say you love me when you answered the phone, even when it was inconvenient or you were tired.

I heard you say you love me when I forgot you were carrying hot coffee and gave you a playful shove, and you burned your hand and didn’t say a mean word to me.

I heard you say you love me when you protected me from the animatronic cows.  😉

I heard you say you love me when you carefully think about my ideas.

I heard you say you love me when you cared that it was my father’s death anniversary and waited to help with any need I had.

I heard you say you love me when you wanted to dance with me at your cousin’s wedding, even if a Slinky would have made a better dance partner.

I heard you say you love me when I tried to help you lead by making you follow, and you were very patient.

I heard you say you love me all the times you say you love my eyes as they are, even though they aren’t nearly, nearly so beautiful as yours.

I heard you say you love me all the times you weren’t satisfied to eat somewhere I couldn’t.

I heard you say you love me when you took me even as a Baptist.  🙂 🙂

I heard you say you love me when you pressed your forehead in mine and you treat me like a helpmate and not a minion.

I heard you say you love me when you swept me up off my feet at the airport even when your back hurt.

I heard you say you love me when you stopped the car every time I needed a bathroom break without once complaining.

I heard you say you love me when you wanted to hold my hand even when it was red and chapped.

I heard you say you love me all the times you’ve talked to me at your lunch break.

I heard you say you love me when you were willing to take me, curved spine and all.

I heard you say you love me the times when I could have thought something better about you, but you were honest about your motives.

I heard you say you love me when you helped me move stuff around in my car so we could both sit up front.

I heard you say you love me when you made Life Chain phone calls for me, even though you don’t like making phone calls at all.

I heard you say you love me when you wrap your arm around me and you’re careful not to lay your hand on my chest.

I heard you say you love me when you said it was all right if I couldn’t come and forfeited the plane tickets because I was sick.

I heard you say you love me when you bought me a study Bible to read with you this year.

I heard you say you love me when you really believed me about the 6-hour wedding.  😉

I heard you say you love me the times you’ve made plans when I come to spend every possible moment with me.

I heard you say you love me when you wrote me that I was the beauty on your journey (from John Eldridge’s books).

I heard you say you love me when you took me mini-golfing because I used to go with my father.

I heard you say you love me when you’re proud to show me to your friends and family.

I heard you say you love me when you walked 3 miles to the airport to see me.

I heard you say you love me when you said you wanted to play Monopoly with me, even if you didn’t use to like it before you knew me.  😉

I heard you say you love me all the times you go around to my side of the car, open the door, and hold your hand out for me to take.

I heard you say you love me when you let me listen to your heartbeat.

I heard you say you love me when you gave up films with bad language because they bother my conscience.

I heard you say you love me in the early morning when I’m not attractive by worldly standards but you still think I’m your treasure.

I heard you say you love me all the times you’ve read Scripture to me.

I heard you say you love me when you draw little pictures for me on the cards you send, even when you really can’t draw well.

I heard you say you love me when you bought my family Christmas presents.

I heard you say you love me all the times you spoke with highest respect for my father.

I heard you say you love me when you brought me pink roses, red roses, tiny roses, bronze roses.

I heard you say you love me when you didn’t tell all you could tell about me.

I heard you say you love me when you bought me gum at the gas station.

I heard you say you love me when I showed up at your small group and you had already purchased a book for me to follow along, even though I would only be there for 1 session.

I heard you say you love me when you wanted to whisper to me even in The Hobbit.

I heard you say you love me all the times you’ve protect me from my own fears through your unconditional love and deep prayers for me.

I heard you say you love me when you asked me to be a part of the ministry God has placed on your heart, the E-Town Passion Play.

I heard you say you love me all the times you treated me better than I treat myself.

I heard you say you love me all the times you’ve been patient when I’ve tried to lead.

I heard you say you love me when you told me I had alfredo sauce on my mouth so I wouldn’t be embarrassed later.

I heard you say you love me when you shared with me the results of your sleep study, and asked me for input on what you should do about the narcolepsy.

I heard you say you love me when you let me drive your car.

I heard you say you love me when you gave me the necklace of hearts in the park.

I heard you say you love me when I was sobbing and you were praying.

I heard you say you love me all the times you waited to be last to hang up the phone.

I heard you say you love me when you held me close when I was frightened.

I heard you say you love me when you stuck with me, all the times mostly anyone else would have given up and walked away, because you held true to your love for me, and it wasn’t based on my performance or even beauty, but on how much you love me through Christ.

I heard you say you love me when you listened to me, all those times, even the times when I went on and on.

I heard you say you love me all the times you’ve placed my problems as more urgent than yours.

I heard you say you love me when you arranged for the waiter to bring flowers, plushies, and locket to our table for our Valentine’s date.

I heard you say you love me when you invited me to watch you play your guitar in worship band practice.

I heard you say you love me when I peeked through the window in the auditorium door at practice and distracted you because you think I’m worth looking at.

I heard you say you love me when you fasted with me.

I heard you say you love me all the times you’ve wanted to hear news about how God is working on my heart.

I heard you say you love me when you brought me coffee in the morning and I threw my arms around you in a big good morning hug.

I heard you say you love me when you paid for all my meals.

I heard you say you love me all the times you’ve praised my hair and touched it, even though it is not especially beautiful in color or certainly texture.

I heard you say you love me when you don’t compare me to other women.

I heard you say you love me when you believed the reality of me was better than the fantasy of who your Cinderella could have been.

I heard you say you love me all the times you’ve protected me and kept us pure for our wedding.

I heard you say you love me when you took me to New York City on Friday-after-Thanksgiving, when I know you hate crowds.

I heard you say you love me when you sent me money for my Compassion children for Christmas.

I heard you say you love me when you started calling me in the mornings, even though you’re not a morning bird.

I heard you say you love me when you read every blog I wrote.

I heard you say you love me when you got us two hotel rooms when we stayed in Baltimore for your cousin’s wedding.

I heard you say you love me when you tried to eat the cereal I accidentally poured milk on, when you hate cereal with milk.

I heard you say you love me when you introduced me to all your family and friends.

I heard you say you love me all the times you’ve gently touched me and kissed my hand and cheek.

I heard you say you love me when you gave me high-fives for being part of the Socially Awkward Team.

I heard you say you love me when you prayed with me at the Christmas Eve service at your church.

I heard you say you love me when taught me how to dance in the park.

I heard you say you love me when you praised the bologna sandwich I made you, when you could have commented on my failures as a cook.

I heard you say you love me when you sent card after card to me, even though cards didn’t used to be something you liked to give.

I heard you say you love me when you hugged my teddy bear.

I heard you say you love me when you cried for my journey with God.

I heard you say you love me when you carried me over the snowy bank on our way.

I heard you say you love me when you rubbed my neck when it was really sore.

I heard you say you love me all the times you’ve stayed up late to talk to me on the phone, even when you were really, really tired.

I heard you say you love me when I said I was unworthy and you said I was worth it.

I heard you say you love me when you built me up with all those texts and facebook messages and emails.

I heard you say you love me when you helped me pay for plane tickets to come out, so I wouldn’t strain my budget.

I heard you say you love me when you started wearing more colors and less black for me.

I heard you say you love me when you listened to my fears and didn’t laugh them off.

I heard you say you love me when you paid to sponsor a child for me in memory of my friend.

I heard you say you love me all the times you’ve let me text you at night when I had bad dreams.

I heard you say you love me when you’ve let me watch you at band on Sunday mornings in your church.

I heard you say you love me when you let me use your phone, and you don’t care if I look at your old text messages to anyone.

I heard you say you love me when you got organic crackers and Dutch cheese cubes for me to snack on.

I heard you say you love me when you wanted me even knowing the undesirables of some of who I am.

I heard you say you love me when you let me write love notes all over your hands.

I heard you say you love me when you let me share your Starbuck’s cup.

I heard you say you love me when you chased the cat out of my room at your brother’s house.

I heard you say you love me when I confided in you and you never told.

I heard you say you love me when you played air hockey with me.

I heard you say you love me when we were on the rock at “deer park” and you gave me your jacket to wear while I sat on my jacket so I wouldn’t hurt my tailbone.

I heard you say you love me when you wanted to save our first kiss for marriage, like I asked, and all the times you’ve helped me keep to it even though you are very tempting. 😉

I heard you say you love me all the times I was bossy and a control freak, and you won me over in your gentleness and the honor of your character.

I heard you say you love me the times you’ve gotten to my house early instead of late to pick me up, because you were so eager to see me.

I heard you say you love me all the times you didn’t answer back hatefully when I said something nagging.

I heard you say you love me all the times you prayed for me on the rough days.

I heard you say you love me when you gave to Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion International, and Rahab’s Rope on my behalf.

I heard you say you love me when we shared shrimp pasta at Olive Garden and you only ate half the shrimp even though I eat really slowly.

I heard you say you love me when you drove 17 hours to see me for my birthday.

I heard you say you love me all the times you’ve forgiven, and really let go, of my faults.

I heard you say you love me when you offered to give me your coat in the cold New York night even though I had a coat, too.

I heard you say you love me when you comforted me even when I didn’t have much or anything to give back.

I heard you say you love me when I was on the floor crying in despair and depression and you, far away in Pennsylvania, prayed in strength and love for me to come near.

I heard you say you love me when you climbed a tree so your friend could take a picture of you to send me.

I heard you say you love me when you sang Somewhere Out There to me while strumming the guitar–and in front of your family.

I heard you say you love me when you cut your hair for me.

I heard you say you love me when you bought supplies for my friend’s mission trip to Ethiopia.

I heard you say you love me when you didn’t blame me for things we both knew were my fault.

I heard you say you love me when you didn’t say a word to my foolish ones.

I heard you say you love me when you see my beauty as unchanging, defined as my image made in God, rather than changing, defined as how I look this day.

I heard you say you love me when you gave me socks out of your backpack at the airport because my feet were really cold.

I heard you say you love me all the times you stepped into my world.

I heard you say you love me every time you hold my hand and our heads meet as we pray.

I heard you say you love me when you shared that you want to be to me like Christ is to the church–and I can see that you meant it.

I heard you say that you love me when you said it, too, but that was the truth claim put to the test by what you did, not the evidence that was supposed to prove itself.

You remind me a little of God in that . . He says He loves us . . and He puts His love for us to the test by all that He does for us.

He does not flatter us with a false love, but rather He walked down dusty roads and healed real people with ugly problems, many of whom probably smelled bad and had utterly no importance in their society whatsoever.  In the summit of His love, He closed His eyes in death so our eyes could open to Life.  He exposed His back to torture so that we could stand upright before Him.  He received nails into His hands and feet so that we could reach for Him and dance for Him.  He tasted bitter sweat and vinegar so that we could taste the sweetness of friendship with God.  He shut Himself from even His Father’s Presence so He could break through the door holding us back from entering that Presence.  He gave His last breath up so that we could breathe forever in Him.  He lay in death in a tomb of cold and stone so that we could lay in life in the sanctuary of His arms of power and grace.  He rose and proved He had the power to rescue us; but He’d already died and proved He had the desire to.

You, like me, are imperfect and leaking out failures, disappointments, missed opportunities, and downright evil from the hopelessly corrupt nature of sin within us.  But you, through Christ, are more than just that.  You, like me, are the becoming-holy new creation pouring forth love, hope, kindness, graciousness, forgiveness, and mercy.  I see in you a foretaste of the Presence of Christ.  Not that you are divine or that anything about you is worthy, but that you have given God your life so He can bust apart your old sin nature and pour into you the nature of the likeness of Him.

It is in that likeness of Him that I see another glimpse of how much He really loves us, for Him to send a compassionate-because-of-Christ sinner to my side to love me when I thought it was impossible for any earthly man to do so.

You are an earthly reminder of my Heavenly Boaz.  I am reminded that the love of God is beyond me, beyond my ability to disqualify myself from it.  I see how He loves me, even now, when there is no deserving way.  I am reminded of His undeserved and everlasting grace, poured out for anyone who will fall at the foot of the cross and cry out for Him.

I still and yet cannot wholeheartedly believe God has meant for you to be the romance of my life.  How that I, a wretched beggar picked up off the streets by His nail-scarred love, should be treated as a princess in His Kingdom, the beauty of a Kingdom only outmatched by the beauty of the King Himself?

And then I remember that my squeamishness over this temporary grace of you is in direct contradiction to my acceptance of His eternal grace of Himself!  How is it I should expect that a King who would die for me would not dare give me a smaller gift from His Kingdom?

I still hold that, should you ever find someone more worthy, or should you ever wake to the realization of my unworthiness, I release you with great wish (though a broken heart) that you find the princess God has for you in this Kingdom.  I should not be able to say one word if you would give up this beggar for a far more lovely maiden.

But should this, should this be the case that–though you are free to choose anyone in God’s Kingdom, and though hundreds of thousands of girls there outmatch me–you should still, of your own free will, find it in your heart to choose the least worthy, and reach for me . .

I want you to know that I realize what you have done,

and I have heard you say you love me.

Thank you for showing me, in how you’ve surrendered yourself to God’s love, a faint ‘glimmer of a glimmer’ of the unfathomable attitude Jesus Christ has towards me–and all of us.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,

he did not think of equality with God

as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;

he took the humble position of a slave

and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form,

he humbled himself in obedience to God

and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

(Phillipians 2:3-8, NLT)

“But you didn’t write Narnia!”

Last night, got a funny reminder from Ben about the nature of authority.

In a blog I’d written on a Narnian scene–from the Silver Chair, actually–I said fauns have “little deer hooves”.  Ben, my freelance (a.k.a. unpaid) editor pointed out to me that fauns are actually half goat, not half deer.

Feeling a bit belligerently playful, I answered that how did he know what kind of an animal a faun is?  A faun is a make-believe animal.  He answered that they are make-believe, but they are still defined as a particular thing.

I responded why couldn’t I change the particular thing they were supposed to be, since it was make-believe anyway?  He replied that, make-believe or not, the fictional word means something precisely.  I replied that it was an imaginary word in an imaginary book and I could interpret it any way I wanted.

He answered, “But you didn’t write Narnia!”

After laughter, I had to admit, he had a point.  I could take my half-deer “fauns” to my own book, but I couldn’t replace Lewis’ fauns with them in Narnia.  To do so would be to write my own story.  I might not like that fauns are half-goats, and if I write my own story, they might be half-deer instead, but it really has no bearing whatsoever on Lewis’ story.  I can’t take what he wrote out of it and interject what I want.  To do so would be to rudely plagiarize from his work.  If I want fauns to be half-deer, I need to write my own series and leave Lewis out of it.

In a bit of a way, this reminds me of people who try to do the very same thing with God’s work, with an important note: God’s work is not make-believe–what God speaks into existence exists.

Since God created the universe and wrote His Word, they are His intellectual property.  Being born on His world does not make us co-authors with Him.  It actually makes us characters in His story!

God didn’t, however, make us in the way that Lewis made Narnia.  In Narnia, the characters only extend as far as he wrote them, and can only do exactly what he says.  In God’s Word, humans have free will.  Though we are in His story, we are not bound to love Him or obey Him.  We were not made by God the same way that He made gravity or the weather or the planets or the stars.  These forces obey His will and have no mind of their own.  But He gave us a mind of our own, and we can write our actions as we choose.  He has even given us dominion over the earth.

What we cannot do, however, is make new rules for anything He has not given us dominion over.  For example, we cannot change what He has spoken.  His Word, whether we agree with it or not, is completely off-limits to our meddling.  While I can possibly take the work of an earthly author and shamelessly plagiarize from it or revise it as I wish to make it as I want, I cannot take the work of the Divine Author and do anything whatsoever to it.

Just as I cannot go up to gravity and say, “Gravity, stop working for a few minutes and let me float!”, I cannot go to God’s Word and say, “I don’t like this part–here’s how I’d change it.”  I’d actually have a better chance of changing gravity.  That’s because gravity is part of a perishable, fallen creation ruined by our sin.  God’s Word, however, is perfect and eternal–He says so!

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NIV)

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4, NIV)

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20, NIV)

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13, NIV)

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. (1 Peter 1:23, NIV)

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12, NIV)

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. (2 Timothy 2:8-9, NIV)

I am created, and I cannot write a different story for the Creator to follow.  I didn’t speak this universe into existence and therefore I cannot change the rules of anything the Creator hasn’t given me dominion over.

In the same way, only even more serious, I didn’t inspire God’s Word and therefore I cannot change so much as a letter of it.  Only God, who inspired His Word to be written by various men and through various ages, can determine what is written there.

If I want to write my own way to live life, I need to start my own story.  Of course, in doing so, there is far more of a problem than me picking up a pen and trying to compete with C.S. Lewis.  It goes back to what else God created: me.  Since He created me, I belong to Him, and I am in high treason if I go against His Word and strike out on my own.

. . What I’ve shown so far is that I have no rational reason or power to go against God’s Word.  What I haven’t shown is that I also have no moral reason.  But this is the most important reason of all!  This is the very greatest part about God: not His power, but His love!

The most important reason as to why I cannot go against God’s Word is because it is good and it is Life.

The reality is, we can edit a sinner’s work because it will contain errors.  We can tell finite fallacious beings, for example, that they thought a faun is half a deer when it is really half a goat.  We can make a sinner’s work better with the right improvements.

What we can’t do is edit God’s Word to be any better that it already is, because it is best already!  He is all-knowing, all-wise, and, best of all, all-good God, and so everything He writes is exactly the way it should be.

It might not always seem like everything in God’s Word is good to you or me.  But what we have to recognize is that we are not only finite, but we are sinners.  Our judgment has been tainted by sin.  We are dishonest judges of God’s Word, bribed by Satan to make attacks against it.  Instead of committing the fallacy of Eve, and distrusting God, we need to trust in His nature and devote ourselves to His Word.

God could have asked us to do this just because He is our Creator.  But He didn’t.  God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we would be forgiven of our sin and live forever with Him.   God’s mind is not like our minds.  If we made creatures that caused us unimaginable grief and would cost us the very most precious sacrifice we have to give, we wouldn’t give it.  We’d destroy them, eternally damn them, and start over.  So I’m so thankful that God is not like me.  I’m so thankful that His Word doesn’t conform to my standards.  If it did, it wouldn’t be the map to salvation that it is.

The next time you doubt or question God’s Word . . remember that He’s the Author, and you’re not . . but don’t just stop there.  Remember also that He loves you–enough to give you the free will to reject Him . . and enough to die to redeem you, if you will trust in what He has written.

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:8b-10, ESV)

I Surrender to You

This song I heard for the first time a few days ago (as far as I remember) and has become one of my most favorites.

Lord, you live in me

You’re my best friend
You’re the King of kings
The beginning and end
Now that You have my eyes
I see Your Spirit inside of me
All that I am is for You
My Savior
I live by Your word
And surrender to You
Here where I stand in this moment, Father
My spirit has been renewed
I surrender to You You hold the key to my life
In Your loving hand
Always by my side
I offer all that I am
So glad I realize
You are the truth and the light
In my life

Everything I need I find in You
I believe Your promises are true
I will lift my burdens up to You
Your loving grace will see me through,

I surrender to You.

–Jeremy Camp, I Surrender to You

 Let not Sin therefore reign as king in your mortal bodies, causing you to be in subjection to their cravings;  and no longer lend your faculties as unrighteous weapons for Sin to use. On the contrary surrender your very selves to God as living men who have risen from the dead, and surrender your several faculties to God, to be used as weapons to maintain the right.  For Sin shall not be lord over you, since you are subjects not of Law, but of grace. (Romans 6:12-14, Weymouth NT)

 

Grace dance

Last July, God brought to me another medley in His dance.

In Guatemala, I met someone from Pennsylvania.

That might sound kinda weird and, if so, it’s a good precedent for the Socially Awkward Couple.  If you have ever been worried that you were too unlikable and awkward and strange for anyone to like, worry no more.  I am evidence that you are not.  🙂

Somewhere underneath a waterfall, in a galaxy far far away . .

Ben and I actually first met in the Miami airport.  We were not friends and I did not want to get to know him.  He was cross-stitching, and that seemed very strange to me, and he was wearing all black, and that seemed probably stranger.

The first couple days of the trip went by like this: Any time Ben would sit by me, I would not want him to, but I didn’t say anything, because I have been raised polite.  I didn’t talk to him much . . but there were a couple things that caught my attention about the quality of his character.  Nonetheless, there was no way, no how this was happening.

–But I was intrigued.  Every day, on my way to breakfast, I passed him at the waterfall.  He had a look on his face I couldn’t read, and impossibly gorgeous eyes.  I knew he listened to music on his iPod and scribbled notes by the waterfall.  I took him for the poetic type.  That was nice and all, but I went on and had my breakfast.

One day, I couldn’t get into the computer room at our hotel.  There were only a couple computers, and they were all taken.  Ben volunteered to let me use his computer to email my mom.  There was something just the slightest bit interesting about him.  But I didn’t talk much, and he sure didn’t talk much :), and that was that.

The next day, after a visit with children we sponsored through Compassion International, we had the rest of the day at the hotel to lounge.  Swimming was the big event, but I didn’t have my swim suit.  My roommate was journaling, and so I decided to go around the hotel and take pictures.  I invited Ben along.

It seemed that whatever major we talked about on that walk, we did not agree on but were in flat-out opposition.  I saw this as going nowhere.  End of story.

The next day, one of the older men in our group came to talk to me about Ben . . had I given Ben a look?  I went out of my way to tell everyone who was listening that we were definitely not going to be a couple.  I was not interested; I was not open; and can we not talk about something else?

The rest of that day, I thought a little about it.  It became a bit less wild an idea.  That night, the last night of our trip, at the dinner table, I had two choices.  I knew my two choices mattered.  I could choose to sit in between two of my girl friends on the trip, and leave no room for Ben, or I could sit with an empty seat, and anyone could fill it.

I decided to sit with an empty seat, beside one of my good friends, and see what happened.  It surely wasn’t very likely he would sit right there.

But he did exactly that.

I was a bit flattered, but not serious.  This seemed very unlikely.  From what I knew about him then, I felt that other than the life-changing commonality of our faith in Jesus Christ, we had nothing or nearly nothing in common.  I didn’t even know his testimony at that time, but I imagined he was probably a believer to be going on a mission trip (although of course, I knew I’d have to get to know his heart better as he’d have to get to know mine).

We talked that night, and I don’t know about what, other than that South American sodas use real sugar.  At first, I mostly talked to my girl friend on the right side of me.  But as the night slipped away, I talked to Ben, too.  It was very loud in the restaurant, and not the kind of place to get to know someone.

Our group had a testimony time, and I got up and shared a little about myself and my experience with my child I’d gotten to visit.  I sat back down.  I could see from Ben’s suddenly alert posture, and his bulging eyes, that he was going to get up and say something too.  And I figured he was doing it pretty much in the same way a peacock flares its tail feathers for the peahen to see.

Sure enough, he did get up and share–even though from what little I knew about him, I knew he was going against his disposition to do such a thing.  I was impressed.  Later, during a ridiculous maraca dance, he got up after my Sandra Boynton ballerina dance and did his own dance–it reminded me of headbanging from the early 90’s.  I was even more impressed.

On the bus on the way back, we sat together.  We talked.  I started thinking maybe we did have a little in common.  He prayed for my motion sickness on the bus–not something just anybody would do.  And the thing was, he prayed quietly, and I wouldn’t have known what he was doing, but when he didn’t talk to me for a moment, I realized this was it.  He was amused and compassionate when a piece of debris hit the bus windshield and I screamed (and woke all the nappers on the bus up)–I have an embarrassing startle response.  I don’t even remember when, but sometime that night, he gave me his jacket.

I realized I had his jacket on when I went back to my hotel room.  I thought about returning it to him, but I still wasn’t sure.  Could this really be happening?  I decided to keep the jacket until morning.

In the morning, Ben was extremely tired after several nights of little to no sleep.  We had to wake up at 4:00 I think or 4:30 to make it to the plane on time.  He sat across from me in the lobby.  I gave him the snacks out of the provided packed lunch box that I didn’t want.  That was me starting to flirt.

I also tried to get him to buy me a hummingbird key chain at the airport, because I didn’t have the cash to buy it, but he didn’t pick up on the cues.  On the plane, we had separate seats.  I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen.  He was so tired I couldn’t pick up on any interest at all.

We stayed together through the passport line back to the U.S.  We ended up being the last two through the line, and everybody had left except two of the mission trip leaders.  We found out we were on separate airlines for our trips home, and I figured if we didn’t eat lunch together, we weren’t meant to be together.

We didn’t eat lunch together, but I didn’t feel the closure I’d hoped.

Over the next couple days, we texted a bit.  I called once.  Ben didn’t talk much on the phone.  I doubted he was very interested in me, or that we had enough in common to even remotely make this work.  But I still didn’t totally outrule it.

Was he serious?  Was I wasting my time?  I decided to give it to Ben straight and find out.  I texted him a clear message asking him his intentions.  He replied that he would pray, and it didn’t sound promising at all.  I don’t know why prayer didn’t sound promising, but I guess it seemed more like a phrase I’ll pray about it than a really I’ll pray about it.

After a night teaching a VBS-like program at my church, I found myself fairly upset.  I turned on the radio and listened to Addison Road Won’t Let Go on my way home.

That even when my heart breaks, everything’s shaken, I’m left alone in the rain, You won’t, You won’t, You won’t let me go!

–Addison Road, Won’t Let Go

I smiled and realized that whether Ben liked me or dumped me, God has never let me go and His love is totally sufficient for me, even if no boy on the planet ever winks an eye my way.

The next day I wasn’t so great, though.  I am a very fragile human being like any other, prone to relapse and self-pity, and I stayed in my pajamas and pouted.  I didn’t know why I felt so depressed, but I did.  It was as if I’d really wanted Ben to date me, when I hadn’t felt that way at all.  I didn’t get what was going on.  We had so little in common, anyway.

And yet when he texted me and asked if he could call, I felt myself slump into grief.  I almost knew he was going to say it wouldn’t work.  I didn’t want to hear his voice reject me.  I didn’t know why it mattered so much to me, but I just didn’t want to hear it.  I told him to just text me, that I didn’t feel up to talking and hearing bad news.

Through a tangle of texts, I started realizing he was not going to tell me he was ready to dump me.  He called me up and read to me a proposal to pursue me.  He had really prayed about it, and he had decided to go forward.

Well, I got up, traded my pajamas for real clothes even though it was already evening, and listened to Me Without You by Tobymac.  No, not me without Ben, but me without God.  

“I’d be packin’ my bags when I need to stay . . I’d be chasin’ every breeze that blows my way . . I’d be buildin’ my kingdom just to watch it fade away . . it’s true! . . that’s me without You.” 

–Tobymac, Me Without You

God really has changed my life from one of madly stuffing suitcases full of nothingness and running away from everything good, only to follow after every breeze of desire, stone by stone constructing a castle out of make-believe that couldn’t even stay upright in my own head.

Within a few days, I felt a need to start fasting and praying about Ben and I.  I wanted to seek God’s will in this.  What did He really want for us?  I fasted evenings–I didn’t know if Ben would join me, but when I told him I was going to, he did.

What I came away with was an overwhelming desire to pray for Ben’s life within God’s Kingdom and on God’s quests.  Whether or not Ben pursued me, whether or not we became a couple, the biggest blessing I could pray for his life was to experience God in a day-by-day, moment-by-moment way.  I got down on my knees and prayed for God’s Spirit to be poured out on Ben.  And I had a confidence that God would answer.

But I was sure surprised when He really did.

Whether or not Ben should continue to pursue me, whether we should be together or apart, whether I should ever hold him in my arms or not . . none of this is one bit as important as the gift of what God is doing in Ben’s life.  In all of my life, I have never seen such a miracle from God, except in how He has changed my own life.

As it turns out, God has gifted Ben and me with the dance of grace.

And we might even dance it together.

Our favorite “together song” is Lord of the Dance.  Ben is a Medieval knight born in the 20th century.  He introduced me to the song–he had it in his random list of songs in his car–and I loved it from the first time I heard it. 

“I am the Lord of the Dance,” said He.  “And I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you all in the dance with Me.”

–Sydney Carter, Lord of the Dance

God really is the Lord of the Dance.  He leads me in the dance of grace.  And He has maybe even given me a partner for the dance.  I feel unworthy to accept the invitation out on the floor.  And yet I find His grace so irresistible, His song so sweet, that I can scarcely help but to leap from the sidelines and join in.

Shout praises to the Lord!
    Praise God in his temple.
    Praise him in heaven,
    his mighty fortress.
 Praise our God!
    His deeds are wonderful,
    too marvelous to describe.

 Praise God with trumpets
    and all kinds of harps.
 Praise him with tambourines
    and dancing,
    with stringed instruments
    and woodwinds.
 Praise God with cymbals,
    with clashing cymbals.
 Let every living creature
praise the Lord.
    Shout praises to the Lord!

(Psalm 150, CEV)

Snowballs in the forest

Do you know how sometimes in fiction the characters, setting, and events are so contrived that something splendidly outlandish happens at the precise moment required for the best reaction possible?

Probably my most favorite of those moments takes place in C.S. Lewis’ Silver Chair.  The following is a creative retelling of that moment.

The children and the marshwiggle have been miles and miles underneath the earth . . having plunged deep into a pit in their escape of man-eating giants and their hunting dogs . . and having met odd underground creatures and being taken captive by order of the serpent queen . . and having freed the nearly mad prince of Narnia, the prince who has been lost for years and years underneath the ground where no mortal Narnian knew to find him . . and after the marshwiggle not putting up with any witchcraft nonsense from the fierce serpent queen . . and after they have slain the serpent queen . . and after the underground began to crumble and shake, all the queen’s witchcraft becoming undone . . now the children, marshwiggle, and prince all fleeing the destruction of the quaking underground realm . . and now all the odd underground creatures, freed from the serpent queen’s spell, leaping down into the deeper caverns where they are really at home . . the deeper caverns with rubies and sapphires you can eat, and rivers of flame, and iridescent gems as big as you please . . and after the children, marshwiggle, and prince decline an offer from one of the odd creatures to explore the deeper caverns (after declining only at the insistence of the child Jill, who does not think it wise to take tea with the underlings in their deep down home even as the crevice to their deep down world closes, not to mention the disastrous flooding of the upper underground world as it all collapses in on itself) . . and at last now at last they have at last come at last to what they hope at last might be an escape hole . . and now the boy and the marshwiggle and the prince boost Jill up . . and now they want to show the lost prince back to Narnia before his father dies . . and whenceupon here and exactly now Jill pops up through the hole and is hit square in the mouth by a snowball.

–As it turns out– the forest creatures in the glorious above world of Narnia are participating in an interpretive snowball dance, the fauns gracefully clopping (I imagine it rather as river-dancing) amidst the dwarves . . and the dwarves throwing snowballs back and forth in as complicated-as-you-please pattern of arching, lobbing them from one dwarf to another, precariously close to all the fauns . . and the fauns fearlessly twirling with their little goat hooves, twittering through the snowy grass . . and the tree nymphs singing along . . and the dwarves still pitching snowballs in their mysterious pattern and still-of-yet not hitting a faun . . and here Jill finds herself–or rather her head, as she’s peering out of the hole–in the midst of it all.

Well, what a way to crash into Narnia!  How splendidly outlandish that it should be during the once-a-year first snow winter dance of the fauns and dwarves, with all the forest animals (including lots of wonderful bears) watching on.  So of course Jill can’t say anything because the snowball is in her mouth, and she’s quite taken aback anyway . . and of course the others (prince, marshwiggle, boy) still underground assume something very terrible has happened to her (especially the marshwiggle presumes something very terrible indeed) . . and of course the snow dance is very officially crashed by the unexpected guests who come pulled up out of the hole by all the talking animals . . and of course the prince is rushed to see his father . . and of course he does . . and of course the children get something warm to drink and blankets piled high and a royal tent for a great sleep . . and of course the dwarves stop throwing the snowballs.

I want to be there.  Coming up out of a hole from a dark underground rule reeking with spell and deception . . to snowballs in a forest (and with the fauns and dwarves and wonderful bears).  I want to be there, and I want to see it all, and I want to add to it.  I want to meet every Narnian creature and shake all their paws and meet a few kings and queens and especially enjoy tea.  I want to hear the silver music and see the snowball trajectories and climb the majestic mountains and twirl around with the fauns and try to make sure they don’t step on my toes with their hooves.

I want the splendidly outlandish thing to happen to me.  I long for adventure–open adventure, not a story already fully written, but a never-ending chapter whose pages go on and on, each one more rich and satisfying and surprising than the one before it.  I want not only to get to hear about the adventure, or even only to tell about the adventure.  I want to be in the adventure.

Am I alone in this?  I don’t think so.  Your longing might not be for snowballs in a Narnian forest, but I bet you have a dream of an adventure where you’d like to be.  It might be in a book you’ve read, a movie you’ve watched, a game you’ve played, or it might even be something in your head that you wish you could make happen.

The longing for adventure is so a part of us humans that we can scarcely oppress it enough to rid ourselves of it.  We are nearly incurably curious beings.  We seem born with a hunger to explore.  We seek out quests of make-believe as children with no one needing to teach us how, only give us time to play.  As we transition from childhood to adulthood, our minds still drift to the ache of adventure.  We thirst for purpose.  We long for that splendidly outlandish thing to happen to us.

But no matter how much make-believe we saturate ourselves with, no matter how much time we inundate ourselves with daydreams, we never feel we quite get what we are stretching so hard to reach.  We long for that next adventure, that bigger adventure, that better adventure, that real adventure.  We, like Bilbo, find ourselves always “quite ready for another adventure.” [1]

God is that adventure.

He is everything you would long for, if you knew how to long for Him.  He is everything your heart would seek, if your heart knew how to seek Him.  The deepest ache that no fantasy can fill is reserved for the reality of God, and will be left empty in your core until you invite Him in.

You cannot in all your imaginings get yourself to Him, because He is not make-believe.  No wishes can beckon Him, no spell can call Him, no imagination can define Him.  He is the real conception of the happily ever after.

God is the real conception of the happily ever after.

He Himself is the adventure you have been waiting to discover.

For the Spirit that God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God’s children, and by the Spirit’s power we cry out to God, “Father! my Father!” (Romans 8:15, GNT)

______________________________________________________________________

Scripture taken from the Good News Translation – Second Edition, Copyright 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission.

Photograph by Alex France, profile on http://www.flickr.com/photos/alexfrance/3177786516/in/faves-64933655@N03/

Photograph is under Creative Commons License.

[1] From Lord of the Rings: Return of the King by New Line Cinema.  Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson.  Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, Lord of the Rings: The return of the king.

Never free?

Saruman says of Grima, “He will never be free.”[1]

He is so right.

He is so right because Grima believes him.

It’s a wretched, awful day for Saruman and Grima.  Their orcs have died in the torrent of water the Ents set loose.  The steel-like, impregnable-looking tower has lost its appeal now that it is sitting in water and guarded by an Ent.  The wicked Sauron who they swore allegiance to is no where to be found to help them (of course).  And conjuring Saruman and minion Grima are left to die whichever way they choose.

Saruman is in a determined craze to either get Gandalf to worship him (not happening) or bring as many down in his death with him as he can.

Grima, on the other hand, is totally terrified of what has happened.  He has the sense to realize Saruman has gone totally nuts in megalomania craziness.  He also has the sense to realize he has not one hope of escaping death.

Trapped on the top of a formidable tower with no way down, Saruman and Grima are confronted by Gandalf and King Theoden.

Gandalf offers Saruman a chance for life, and he has no desire for it.  To top off the impending doom, Saruman’s staff–his last realm of power–is snapped in half by Gandalf, who was once subordinate to him but now has greater skills.

Grima has been silently waiting his own death as Saruman raves madness down to Gandalf.  But then something happens that Grima does not expect.

King Theoden offers for Grima to come down.

“Grima, you need not follow him.  You were not always as you are now.  You were once a man of Rohan.  Come down.” [1]

Grima can hardly believe what he is hearing.  For a moment, he begins to consider what King Theoden has said, as Saruman continues his stupid ranting.

“Grima, come down.  Be free of him,” King Theoden says. [1]

To which Saruman says, “Free?  He’ll never be free.”

Have you ever felt like Grima?  Have you ever felt like your alliance with darkness has caused you to be on the top of an impregnable tower that you wish you’d never entered?  Does your sin ever make you feel as though there is no going back, that God wouldn’t take you in no matter what you did, no matter how hard you begged?

Rather than come down, Grima tries to free himself of the wickedness he’s become captured by, and the result is he dies.  Only after he stabs Saruman repeatedly does he realize it was not Saruman who destroyed him, but himself.  Grima destroyed himself–and he dies knowing that.  Had he but come down, he could have been free.  Even if he had not made it down, even if Saruman had killed him after only one step, he would have died having been set free by King Theoden’s words.  He would have died a man of Rohan.

There is no way that you can defeat your own sin.  There is no way that you can slay what has been haunting you.  In the end, all you can destroy is yourself.

It seems too simple an offer to simply come down, and yet King Theoden has every authority to offer this.  Grima is his subject.  He has rebelled and was owned by Saruman, but Theoden’s alliance has conquered Saruman, and Grima is once again Theoden’s subject.  Grima has a single choice to make.  It is the only decision which can change the course of his life.  He can either be free, or he can die Saruman’s subject.

Grima dies Saruman’s subject, and yet he came so close to not doing so.  But coming close isn’t enough.  He doesn’t take the freedom, and it turns out to be his last chance.  He is forever bound as Saruman’s subject–his treacherous subject–but his subject nonetheless.

Why didn’t he come down?

If you feel hemmed in by your sin, I could ask you the same question.  Why don’t you come down?  I could ask myself the same question, because I went for years feeling frightened and further and further in debt to a God I knew I could never pay.

God is like King Theoden in this story, because He offers us the chance to come down.  We were once His subjects, and He wants us to be His subjects again.

In the Lord of the Rings series, Grima is directly responsible for the murder of Theodred, King Theoden’s son.  Yet King Theoden chooses to extend his scepter of forgiveness towards Grima in an act of unmerited love.

Did you know that J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t come up with this idea?  Our God, the Great I AM, sent His Son, Jesus, to earth, and we killed Him.  Even though you and I were not there at that time in history, by the evil in our hearts we would have done the same as the people who crucified Him.

But this is where the story takes a sharp turn from Tolkien’s.  Theodred certainly did not choose to die for Grima, nor would Theoden have ever sent his son to die for Grima.  But did you know that God the Father chose to send His Son to us, because it was more bearable to the Father and Jesus for them to suffer the agony of Jesus’ death than for you and I to be lost forever? 

Just think about that!  Just think about that!

Jesus willingly went to His death for us, knowing exactly what He was doing.  He even knew that many of us wouldn’t turn to Him as soon as we hear about His death for us, but we would continue sinning for a long time before turning to Him!  Have you known about the cross of Jesus for a long time?  Do you think you’ve known about Him for too long for Him to forgive you now?  That is simply not true!  Like King Theoden extended grace to Grima even after he razed most of Rohan with his sin and killed even the weak, elderly, and children by his actions, God is still willing to extend His grace to you.  Will you accept it?

The price God paid to bring us back is the death of His Son.  Think of how heavy this price really was.  No one can imagine paying it!  But ask yourself this, very seriously: If the only way the price of my sin could be paid was by God sending His Son to die for me, then what will happen if I am faced with paying for my sin myself?

We cannot escape our sin by remorse, acts of penitence, good works, or even killing ourselves.  None of this will pay for our sin.  Only the Son of God, who is eternal and has the ability to take infinite suffering on Himself in a finite amount of time, could pay for our sin.  Do you want to take the penalty for your sin on yourself?  Can you bear it!?!?

Remember, God the Father chose to send His Son to us, because it was more bearable to the Father and Jesus for them to suffer the agony of Jesus’ death than for you and I to be lost forever!!!

I know, I fully know, I cannot bear the penalty of my own sin.  I cannot even bear the thought!  It is enough to drive us mad to think of paying for what we cannot pay.  Just as Grima, trapped on that tower, had no ability to replant crops or rebuild houses, we cannot make up for our sin.  But the worst of all is, Grima could not bring back the dead, and that is what he would really have to do to pay for his sin.  He would have to raise the people back from the dead whose lives he cost.  And he knew he could not do it.

You may say, But I have never killed anyone.  But you say this because you don’t understand the consequences of sin.  Sin always brings about death.  Your sin and my sin causes destruction on this world that we are not even capable of understanding the full ramifications of.  To get a better understanding, just look at Adam’s sin of disobeying God once.  That doesn’t seem so serious, right?  But Adam’s one sin brought about all the havoc we see in the world today, like illness, injury, natural disasters, wars, murders, terrorism, and death of every kind.  Adam’s sin had a domino effect on the world.  And that was just one sin.

Do you think you have sinned, even once?  The Bible teaches that if you disobey God even once you have sinned and are guilty before Him.  We all know in our heart we have done this–many times.  I know there is no way I can make up for my sin.  I, like Grima, have done things I cannot pay for.  Even if I could imagine in my head that I could somehow plant new crops and build new houses, I could never raise the dead.  We might be able to make restitution on a superficial level, but we can never make up or pay back the depth of what we have caused by our disobedience.

The joy of my life is that I did not choose as Grima chose.  I asked Jesus to forgive me and be the Master of my life.  All my sin is paid in full–from birth to death.  I have been totally pardoned.  Unlike Grima, I chose to come down from the tower.  I am no longer Satan’s property.  I belong once again to the Kingdom of God.

Even though my joy for myself is indescribable, belonging to God means that He gives you a heart of love for others.  I know that I have come down from the tower, but I can’t simply stop at that.  I recognize that there are millions who still stand on top of that tower, totally hopeless and either believing there is no way down or not even realizing that they are trapped.  If you are one of those who has not made it down from the tower yet, I challenge you to receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior.  Satan will fight hard and long against you.  He will try to incite you, as Saruman incited Grima.  Satan will try to incite you against God or against me or against yourself or even against himself (Satan), but what he will try everything in his power to stop you from doing is from coming down from your lofty Hell and accepting the free Gift of Jesus Christ.

Come down, right now.  Come down and be free.  Satan can’t make you stay on that tower.  He can only try to make you think he can.

“I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” (Jesus, quoted in John 8:34b-36, HCSB)

[1] Lord of the Rings: return of the king, extended edition script, New Line Cinema.  Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson.  Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s book, Lord of the Rings: The return of the king.

Old Testament Law

I’ve always looked at Old Testament laws as harsh–but at the core, the heartbeat of the law was love, and love towards the most vulnerable: widows, orphans, foreigners, the poor, the one on trial, and the neighbor.

“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Matthew 12:29b-31, NLT)

Autofill

Have you ever used the “autofill” feature on your computer to enter data?  Sometimes, my computer saves data for those internet forms I fill out.  There are even programs that can “hold” your information for you, so instead of saving the information on the internet or your hard drive?. . they save it . . in an encrypted site, maybe?  To be honest, I don’t totally get how it works, so I can’t sound totally intelligent about it, but I think I’m on the right track.  😉

You can direct your questions about the process to Ben.  He’s my IT person, except that he tells me when I need help with something on my computer that that’s not what he does.  I would tell you what he does, but then I’d have to tell you about the whole conversation where he spent many long minutes trying to explain, and we talked about how electricity gets to computers from the sun, and how a machine can follow instructions when it isn’t actually thinking about what it’s doing, and how Ben kept getting this certain tone in his voice when he is heavy with laughter but holding back.

Anyway, here is something valuable I know about autofill without consulting Ben.  That is, if you type in something wrong, and the autofill form picks it up, it keeps remembering it wrong.  Whenever you start typing in the first letter or so of the entry, it will offer to fill in the wrong information.

For example, suppose that I forget my name is Teej (well, my nickname I go by) and I accidentally type in Tarantula instead.  If the autofill picks it up, then the next time I go to the site to type in my name, as soon as I hit the T it will offer Tarantula.

Fortunately, I have never had that problem, but I have accidentally mistyped a credit card number or password.  Then the site remembers the wrong information, and every time you go back, it tries to “help” with incorrect stuff.

Today, I was dealing with this very issue.  And, actually, that incorrect autofill is a lot like what goes on inside our heads every day, and we don’t usually even know it!

The Bible teaches that, because of sin, we all have wrong ideas in our head.  Our autofill is incorrect.  Every time we try to think about any given topic, the wrong things we think we know keep popping up.  It is so prevalent that, if we’re on “autopilot”, the wrong information will steer all of our thoughts, words, and behaviors.

Only God has the power and clarity to change the incorrect “autofills” in our heads.

When we read God’s Word with a willing heart and submission to His ideas, the incorrect notions we have come to light.  Sometimes, though, we bring incorrect autofills with us to God’s Word and we don’t even know it.  That’s why it’s important to be a part of a community of believers, to discuss God’s Word with them or read or listen to what they have to say.

Listening to older, wiser believers, discussing ideas in small groups, and paying attention to pastors and church teachers are all ways God erases our wrong autofills and gives us the wisdom we need to live alive and experience Life (Jesus Christ).

It’s critical to know, though, that the Bible is the ultimate test of authority.  Anyone who tries to teach something that is against what the Bible teaches should not be trusted or listened to, no matter who they are.

Have you ever noticed that you can’t get very far on bad information?

Today, when I was trying to use my debit card, the form wouldn’t accept my payment because the autofill remembered the wrong number.

No matter how many times I tried that number, or how persuasively I talked to my computer, or how much money I offered my HP Pavilion to let the transaction go through, it just wouldn’t have done it.  The number was incorrect information, and the computer has been programmed (by smart people like Ben) not to accept information that doesn’t check out with the banks.

In a bit of the same way, we can’t get very far in this life with bad information.  Without God, everything inside us will fail to work.  The phrase inside us is very important.

On the outside, we can be so rich we carry a little dog around in our purse and stores don’t say anything about our pet when we come in to shop.  We can be so famous we have look-alikes impersonating (and making fun of) us on late night TV shows.  We can be so successful we win Olympic medals and Emmys and Oscars and NFL rings and most handsome/beautiful/interesting/nicest-tie/cutest-hair-bow person-of-the-year awards.

But on the inside, nothing will have taken place but failed and frustrating transactions.  Everything becomes as “meaningless” as Ecclesiastes talks about.  Only God can give us the information we need to change our in-the-rut no-purpose lives set on death and destruction.  That’s why Solomon talks about “everything done under the sun” as being worthless–only God from above in the Heavens can give us the information we need that will bring purpose to our lives[1].

So I came to hate life because everything done under the sun seemed wrong to me. Everything was pointless. [It was like] trying to catch the wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:17, GW)

It is impossible for us to override incorrect autofill forms by using the same incorrect information (our sin nature) over and over.  We need the new information that only Jesus can give us.

Jesus, who is God-in-human-body, died to pay for every failure of holiness we’ve ever had–every time we submitted a thought, word, or action with incorrect information (and, without God, that’s every time–so Jesus forgives us of everything we’ve ever done before we knew Him).  But His death is only good for those who receive it.

Look at it this way.  If I keep typing in the wrong information over and over, I’m never going to get the result I want.  But suppose I know the correct information, but I don’t change what I’m typing.  It didn’t help me any, did it?

Of infinitely greater importance, Jesus’ death only helps someone who admits their sin to Him and accepts His payment for all the damage their lack of holiness (the correct way to live) has caused.

If we do admit our lives have been all wrong without God and that we need Jesus to forgive us, we can begin again as though we’d never committed a single sin!  And because Jesus teaches us how to correct the bad autofills in our lives through His Word, His people, and His Spirit in our lives, we can experience a new life altogether–a life where the inside of us begins to work!

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:16-20, NLT)

It’s important to realize the phrase inside us is still very important.  God teaching us how to rewrite our old, sinful ways of death for new, holy ways of life doesn’t mean things on the outside of us will start going well.

It doesn’t mean our spouses, children, in-laws, friends, bosses, and so on will change.  They have to call on God to correct their autofills, too.

And it also doesn’t mean that our bank account will be full or our shell (body) will be well.  But it does mean that the inside of you will begin to work right.  You will begin to understand love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.  (See Galatians 5:22-23)

As God rewrites the autofills in your life, you can expect everything bad about who you are to change (but you will not reach perfection until He gives you a new body free of the sin nature and you are face to face with Him at last).

Now you will begin to experience the joy of success of the inner self, success made possible through Jesus Christ.

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love — the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.(Colossians 3:12-17, HCSB)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26, HCSB)

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[1] Idea from Ravi Zacharias

Have you ever thought of death as justice?

It is.

But that is not the end of the story.

Beyond the Grave

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28, NIV)

Thoughts on the Christian’s wanderings

From Ben’s penning,

So much of our lives are wasted running back to our old father, Satan, like a dog returning to its vomit (as Proverbs says).  There is no good there, and yet how do we not see that in the moment?

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness. (Proverbs 26:11, NLT)