Who am I before God?

Today I had the honor and gift of being able to sit in the comfort of my home while listening to some awesome Bible preaching and teaching.  My Church set up the Resurgence Conference for free online streaming.  I was giddy this morning for what I would learn.  I was overwhelmed at the sight of so many Jesus loving individuals packed into my church …singing ….praying ….learning …living …and worshipping together.  It was an awesome sight to see the pews packed.  It actually brought tears to my eyes …because I want to see that every Sunday.  And today was a Tuesday.  A day generally not packed full of church goers.  I was in awe of my God blessing me with a sight I always want to see.  It truly was amazing!

What I took away from today amazes me more.  It isn’t something I have really thought of.  All the Pastors who spoke today touched on it spoke into this feeling inside of me, but it was brought home by Pastor Greg Laurie.  Is who I am when I am all alone with God the same person I am when I am around others?  The answer is no.  I am not the same person I am around my family that I am around my Community Group.  I am not the same person I am around my Community Group that I am every Sunday at my Church.  I am not any of those people when I am with only my husband.  And I am still not that person in any of those situations then when I am alone with just God.  I’m just not.  Oh sure I could give you a list of reasons and excuses to “sanatize” my choices.  But I am not going to.

As Pastor Crawford Loritts spoke of today I need to move away from that dissection and set my feet to the path of what I am going to do about it.  How can the awesome and redeeming power of the Gospel shine it’s light through me if I keep putting Yahweh’s lamp beneath a bucket?  So I am going to start with today.  By God’s sense of time this is the beginning of my Wednesday.  And I was blessed with spending the beginning of my Wednesday listening to the teaching and preaching of my Pastor Mark and Pastor Crawford a second time through with my husband.  It was a good start to my day and I find myself at peace with what the dawn will bring me.  And trust me when I say that very rarely is the case.

So who am I when I am alone with God?  At first I thought it was that I am more confident when I am alone with God than when I am around other people.  Because I often feel a mile behind everyone else, completely out of place, and the only platypus among a flock of swans.  I’m not even the same species.  So as I allowed myself to sink into this self-professed confidence before the LORD I quickly come to realize I am not all that confident.  I question myself before and around others, and even when it is just me and no one else can witness my pride …it isn’t displayed in confidence.  It is displayed in second guessing myself, doubting myself, condemning myself, beating myself up …and staying completely focused on myself rather than focusing on the very real and obvious fact that I am an infant in my faith before a timeless LORD who knew all of my sin before He laid the foundations of the world.  That’s intimidating.  It is also so completely loving and humbling that He went ahead and made me anyway just the way I am.  I can’t really wrap my mind around it.

If the last paragraph didn’t give the answer away I’ll say it plainly.  When I am alone before God I am a mess.  I realize that in most of my online social media stuffs that I am involved with I always mention that I am broken, but I don’t think I act that part out.  I keep it hidden because it makes me vulnerable and real and imperfect.  Granted I know everyone knows I am not perfect …but this is a whole other level of imperfection.  I am broken because I am a sinner …yes …but the shattered pieces of me go much deeper than what I allow anyone to really see on any sort of consistent level.  I know we are all broken from the start, when we are being knit in our mother’s womb.  I know that, and I don’t want to try and play the ‘who is more broken’ game with anyone.  I am just saying, and letting you know that my soul … my very core …is shattered to countless pieces in Jesus’ dust pan.  I know I have only allowed Him the briefest moments of times to begin gluing my pieces back together.  I know that every day that passes more of His glue will bind me together with the stickiness of the Holy Ghost.  Just run with that analogy, bypass its flaws.

I am in pain.  In an obvious way physically.  I have told some about the constant level and degree of pain that I live in.  When doctors ask about a pain level between 1 and 10 …I live normally at a 7.  When I sleep it jumps up to an 8 due to the fact I am asleep.  So generally I don’t sleep well.  It isn’t restive.  Every moment of every day I am in pain.  It isn’t a discomfort.  It isn’t bothersome or annoying.  It isn’t mild.  It is burning, stabbing, real pain.  And if you look at me it is doubtful you will see that pain.  It might show up briefly in a wince, but generally people don’t realize how much I hurt.  I don’t want you to know.  I go to great, exhaustive lengths so you don’t know.  I hurt.  All the time.  Even when I am smiling, laughing, singing, and lifting my hands to worship LORD …I am in pain.

The fact I am in pain is not the problem.  It is just how can you see the redeeming power of God for this pain, through this pain, and because of this pain … if you don’t even know I am in pain in the first place?  Hiding this thorn isn’t allowing the light of the Gospel to shine through those gaps and cracks.  Don’t worry I am not about to start whining around everyone, nor am I going to constantly complain.  I just know I need to start exploring the ways of shining the light of Christ through the lens of this agony rather than covering it up.  I know I will need to pray about this a lot, and actually talk with the LORD about this …rather than just at Him because of it.  He had the solution in an eternity before today.

My physical pain was the easy answer.  It is the low hanging fruit.  A piece higher up has to do with intimacy.  Oh I tell people I suck at it because I have absolutely no idea what it looks like and I have never really had living examples of it around me.  The part that people don’t know is that I still have PTSD.  The LORD has redeemed some shallower areas of this, but I haven’t really begun to explore the deeper side of the PTSD pool.  I’ll hug people hello, because that is a greeting.  But a strange man, or a man I am only acquainted with, better not come up to me and touch my arm.  If that happens no one will know it…..but inside I am freaking out.  And it doesn’t always have to be a man.  Touch, in general, I am not very good at.  Being married has exposed this problem in so many ways.

It is so obvious when it is between me and God that when I go out of town with my mom …and we share a bed to sleep in …I will sleep on the edge, corner of that bed so as not to touch her in my sleep.  I get on the verge of anxiety attacks if while we are laying there and the outsides of our arms touch very lightly.  Comfort be damned.  And that’s my mom.  I don’t think anyone realizes that every Sunday at my Church is a miracle of God because if it were any other space, any other place, I would be uncomfortable and looking for my way out.  And I would never go back, much less volunteer eagerly and willingly to associate with random people.  Every Sunday is a miracle in my bucket sheltered world that I can go to Church for hours, being around strangers, and feel at ease and protected while I am in God’s house.  I am in God’s house with God’s people enjoying God’s company learning God’s word.  If you take God out of that I would never go back a second time.  Trust me on this.  But how would you know this.  How can I portray that in a way that isn’t all about me, but about all of His light shining through those shattered parts of me?  And I don’t have an answer for that.  I will pray about that.  I know the LORD has the answer already.

So I am in physical pain, in PTSD to the point where I close my eyes if a commercial or image comes up involving tidy whites.  What else?  I hunger for His word, I hear His commanding voice, and I tend to ignore Him.  I won’t do this in front of others.  Before others I keep up appearances.  I listen to God, I do what He tells me to do, and I portray a somewhat sedated, rebellious, obedience.  Before other’s I choose Him.  But when it is just me and God hanging out …most of the time I will choose myself.  When I am alone with God I sit there in complete disbelief …confused …horrified shocked awe …at how shattered I have become.  I am overwhelmed by my mess.  I am at a loss over the loss the LORD and I look at in the parts of me that have become nothing more than a fine powder …dust.  And yeah, some of that is my sin …but some of that is just bits of me.  Bits of me I lost.  Core elements of me that just don’t work any more ….and so I don’t know how to function as me any more.  I know that the LORD has it all and that I am a new creation …but how does that new created me work, function, and exist?

I sometimes think I knew the answer, or answers, so I try to forge ahead.  And as a lot of my friends have babies and toddlers …my actions remind me of the baby who tries to craw for the first time…but still can’t figure out how to get their knees beneath them.  I would like to say I am a toddler learning how to run …but more often than not I am the babe who still needs to learn how to support and control my own head.  Because I don’t do that very well.  I don’t take every thought captive to the LORD.  I don’t pray on my knees as often as I should.  I don’t read my Bible as often as I should.  I don’t focus on all things that are true, good, and holy from the LORD.  I fill my head with crap, false gospels preached in TV series, or movies, or games, or books, or ect….and if I don’t control my head how can I possibly guard my heart?

Before God I am broken.  The puppet strings of the world have been cut …but that is still the habitual way, the normative way, I know how to move.  I exist beside the LORD looking at the shattered mess of me in horror ….and I don’t know what to do.  I know Jesus is where I need to start.  Jesus is my start, my middle, my end, my energy, my reason, my salvation, my joy, my motivation, my prize, my portion, and my support.  Just to name a few.  Before others I know I put on the front and face of this is who I am, this is my personality, this is where I am from, and this is what I do.  When it is just God and me …I feel less defined and more like a blob.  I am undefined as I set myself to the task of knowing deep in my core …in the spaces inbetween all the shattered pieces of me …who the LORD says I am and how He defines me.  I am learning those truths in the Bible, in the teaching of the Gospel, in the testimonies of the people around me …and I know it is true in my head.  I need it to sink and cement itself in the empty spaces between the pieces of me.  I need to sit, and think on it.  I need to take the time to sit with Jesus at His feet to chew on His words.

I don’t know if any of this makes any sense.  I hope I’m not writing in circles, because I am good at that.  I just wanted to get these thoughts down.  Because good men of God spoke into my life today.  The LORD spoke to me through them.  He made me who I am before Him …and I need to allow His glory, His light, His redemptive power, and His grace to shine through my mess.  He doesn’t want me to sweep it all under a rug or the bucket just because others come around.  That doesn’t glorify God.  It glorifies me.  I’m broken.  I’m a mess.  Jesus is the neat and perfect one.  And only Yahweh can shine light through the murkiness of His followers.  It doesn’t make logical sense.  It seems foolish and folly.  But the world in its wisdom does not know God.  We can’t shine a light through dirt and murkiness.  That is a miracle.  Only the power of the LORD can do that.  Because He is that awesome.  And only HE is that good!

Let God Be True

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

 (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

                I was pondering this verse today.  I have heard it before but I had never really studied it or given it thought.  It was one of those verses that I passed by, going “Yep, that’s true.”  And I never gave it a second glance.  So today it was odd that I looked at this verse and studied it.  I know this is a verse, now, that I will not forget.  I will know right where it is.  Today, as I sat out in the sun in my yard, with my Bible in hand, and a pad of paper, I had an Ah-ha moment.  And it came in a way I didn’t expect it to.

                I have spent so much of my life steeped in false religions.  I was a practicing pagan.  I fully embraced eastern religions and ideas.  I had well over $2000 in books about Druidism, Wicca, Tarot Cards, Hinduism, Buddhist Philosophy, and witchcraft.  I had spent many such days, out in the sun, worshipping the sun for its heat, praying to the wind that caressed my face, and sitting in the stew of the earth, the tree spirits, and the dirt beneath my feet.  But today was different.  And the reason it was different was because of 2 Timothy 3:16-17.  In all those books, all those ideas, all those blended faiths, I only ever had the vaguest grip of truth.  All those truths could be blended, edited, or mixed together like some cocktail.  But those two verses really changed things for me today.

                Today I felt capital T Truth.  This Bible is His work, His creation.  And as the first chapter in the book of Roman’s points out I had spent all that time worshiping created things rather than my Creator.  In my old life I needed all those books.  Now I only need this one book.  The LORD said He created the sun so as I enjoyed it’s heat I did so in fellowship, being created myself, knowing that the Lord was there with me, enjoying the heat.  His hand guided the wind across my shoulder.  His mouth brought into being the tree to my side and the dirt beneath my toes.  These are His gifts to me, to us.  Those moments today aren’t there to be worshipped, they are there to be enjoyed.  And they all glorify Him.  And if all these things I used to worship glorify God …. Shouldn’t I, who was made above and apart from all of it (according to Genesis) glorify God as well?  So why am I not?

                I looked back at these verses again and read the list.  The next thing that struck me is the words that are not there.  The Bible isn’t for condemnation, criticism, accusation, or guilt.  The Bible is a love letter, which I have heard before.  But today it really sort of hit me that this a letter written by my Abba, Father …to me His eternal daughter.  He is telling me all about Himself, and explaining why this creation ….this creation that I chose over Him before ….is all broken.  Why the world doesn’t work the way He designed it for me.  So I should pay attention.  I should hold it and know it as I hope my child would if I never got to see them….and all they had of me was this love letter.  And His wisdom, His counsel, is so much more perfect than mine could ever be.  So why do I treat it differently?  Why don’t I listen?  And I felt convicted.

                Then, immediately my mind burst open with the Holy Spirit.  God wrote this book through human authors.  Those human authors were not perfect.  They were sinful men, just like me.  They struggled through life, just like me.  But they had moments in time where the Holy Spirit just filled them.  Where the LORD used their talents, and gifts, to glorify Him.  Just as the sun glorifies Him.  Just as Jesus glorified Him.  These men had moments where the Holy Spirit filled them.  It didn’t happen all the time, and it won’t happen all the time with me.  But God used those men who He knew would listen, and knew they could find the words to say exactly what God wanted them to say.  He uses people who yield to His strength and His power and His mind.  All to glorify Him.  So why am I not doing that?  Why am I just content to be impressed with how much He uses others?  Why do I resist, or disbelieve?  He told me in this letter, this letter written by Him, that He would use me for His good works.  Sure, it won’t be the Bible, but it will still glorify Him.  And that is enough, or it should be.

My Mircale

[Jesus said] “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:31-34 NIV).

            This passage has really hit me this week.  Two weeks ago the LORD gifted me with a healing miracle.  I had a very nasty eye disease that would take a long while to clear up.  During the weeks or months of trying to get this condition under control I could develop scarring inside my eyes that could lead to blindness and/or glaucoma.  In the first week alone that I had this condition my eyes got worse and I had an intensely unpleasant migraine because of my eyes.  My doctor was concerned.  I was scared.  The Pastors at Mars Hill Church prayed over me that Sunday, and then my Community Group prayed over me on Thursday.  The following morning I went in to see the doctor.  Much to her surprise, and my own, she found absolutely no traces of the disease in my eyes.  She said she expected them to be worse, not to be completely healed.  I just laughed.  She said the medicine must have really worked with my body.  I told her I was pretty sure it was Jesus.

Following this miracle healing I had to tell everyone, naturally.  I felt so completely giddy inside.  I wish I could say I now have a better understanding of how the woman in this passage must have felt; but I doubt it would be accurate.  I had this eye problem for all of two weeks.  The woman in this passage had been bleeding for twelve years.  For twelve years she suffered.  She was an outcast.  She spent everything she had on trying to fix this problem.  Then in an instant, when she was bold enough to reach out to Jesus … to touch Him … she was healed.  Completely healed.  She was freed from her suffering.

While this is one of my favorite stories in the Bible it wasn’t until yesterday that I was struck sorta dumb by it.  When I first read this verse of Scripture I immediately thought of my eyes.  I did a mental jig with the Holy Ghost, and wiggled in my seat.  Then as I continued to read the “Girlfriends in God” devotional I was struck by my lack of understanding and faith.  I had no doubt in my heart that God could heal my eyes.  But I do have … maybe not doubt … more like a lack of understanding when it comes to a ‘condition’ I have been living with for twelve years.  What surprised me is I had never looked at this wonderful story and applied it to my condition.

For about twelve years now I have been doing everything I can to deal with my condition.  I poured out all my money into going to school to help me better deal with aspects of my condition.  I have kept myself an outcast, refusing to get close to people.  Twelve years ago the man I was in love with, engaged to, decided to do me harm.  I had been in a car accident.  I pinched three nerves in my lower back and crushed my kneecap.  I was in so much pain.  He didn’t want to hear about how sex hurt.  Not even when I begged him to stop.  So for six months he raped, abused, and tormented me every day and night.  The physical therapists couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better.  He was the only one there to help me.  So my abuser would assault me, then help me shower to get cleaned up, then take me to the doctor or to physical therapy, and then he would take me home to assault me again.

This destroyed a good decade of my life.  No one around us knew what was going on.  I had completely checked out.  It took me about seven years before I would check back in.  By that time it was too late to press charges.  And it took several more years for me to really understand it wasn’t my fault.  Sometimes I still slip into that lie.  But because of that abuse I put on a lot of weight.  I thought if I had gained weight he would no longer find me attractive and so he would leave me alone.  After we broke up I kept the weight on because I wanted to keep everyone away from me.  I felt so disgusting and horrible on the inside, it felt appropriate to look it on the outside.  It hasn’t been until this past year that I have been in a good enough place spiritually that I can finally start to work on my weight.  I hadn’t felt good enough inside until Christ.

Now I had become a Christian almost four years ago, but I was dealing with so many other issues that I hadn’t really immediately invited Jesus into this part of me.  I had always assumed I would always be completely broken inside.  My soul is like thousands of tiny shards of glass scattered across the ground.  Jesus and I are just starting to mend those pieces back together.  I went to Redemption Group at Mars Hill.  It was really good, but I fear I might need to go again.  I know I am just scratching the surface of all the ick I have locked away.  I know Jesus has taken away the sins done against me.  I know He takes away my shame.  I know these things, but my heart doesn’t always understand them.

So considering this is one of my favorite stories in the Gospels you can imagine my dumbfounded surprise when I read this devotional by “Girlfriends in God”.  I am freed from my suffering.  My faith healed my eyes.  I know I need to pray for the faith to heal these much deeper wounds.  The wounds that have spread into every aspect of my life.  Reading that verse over and over again my head knows all I have to do is reach out my hand to Jesus.  It is really that simple.  I can’t really explain to you why my heart thumps in my chest dimwittedly.  I don’t know why this concept is so hard to put into action.  I love Jesus.  I want Him in every part of my life.  But I am not entirely sure how to give this to Him.

It’s not like I don’t want to. I just don’t know how to.  This has been mine for so long, and I have been trying everything I can to simply function around people in a normal way as possible.  Most people are completely oblivious to how often I simply want to run, hide, scream, or freak out.  People have no idea how hard it is for me not to scratch the skin right off my hands sometimes.  It is getting better, so much better.  My PTSD is improving.  Since having giving my life to Jesus I haven’t had a single night terror where as I used to have them once a week.  I still haven’t had a good night’s sleep, however, in twelve years.  It is an improvement, but I know I am stuck.

I am working on a journal to walk through what happened to me with the LORD.  I am not enjoying that journaling.  Most of the time I avoid it for as long as I can.  I just don’t want to go there.  I am being stubborn about it, I know.  But I want more of this peace I am already tasting.  I want to be freed of my suffering.  I know a major part of my problem is I cling to the chains.  The chains are all I know for the last 12 years.  I have only known Jesus for almost four years.  I know Jesus is trustworthy, and yet I don’t know why I struggle with it.  I know part of it is shame, and fear, despite the fact I know Jesus took my shame and tells me to not fear.  It is a battle of wills and I want mine to lose.  I pray mine will lose.  I want my faith to heal me.  I want to be bold enough to reach out my hand to touch the hem of His robe.

It was so easy to do when it was my eyes.  It was so easy to trust the LORD with my health through cancer.  I even found it easier to sink into the love of my Savior with the crippling of my ankle/leg.  It is simple for me to trust with physical things.  The deeper things go, the more I clam up, and the more distant I become.  I don’t want that sort of relationship with Christ.  I know He doesn’t want that sort of relationship with me.  The deeper sides to me are no more complex to the LORD than my eyes.  He is fully capable of perfectly mending my soul.  It doesn’t make sense to doubt Him.  I know deep inside I don’t.  I am trying to figure out why these shallower and medium levels hesitate and resist.

Abba, Father I believe, please help me with my unbelief.  Turn this fear filled heart of stone to the trusting beating heart of flesh.  Build in me the trust for my deeper understanding of you.  Help me break  down these walls of fear and years of building.  I know I can’t do it on my own.  Only Your mighty hand, and Your great mercy can safe me from my self.  You are powerful enough to mend our broken bodies.  You are gracious enough to soothe our tortured souls.  You only are worthy of praise, worship, and unfailing trust.  And yet I fail to give you all those so often.  Please help us LORD to be better worshipers of Your glory.  Holy Spirit please soak me in love for Christ, drench us all in love to be the abject slaves of our Savior.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Flipped around Repentance

Oh my soul

Oh my Jesus

Judas sold You for thirty

I’d have done it for less

Oh my soul

Oh my savior

Peter denied You three times

I have denied You more

As the nails went in

I was standing right there

As you breathed Your last

I shook my head and I cried

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my soul

Oh my Jesus

Judas sold You thirty

I’d have done it for less

Oh my soul

Oh my Savior

Peter denied You three times

I have denied You more

And the blood ran down

I was standing right there

And the water poured

I shook my head and I cried

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We’ve destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We have destroyed Your Son

Oh my God, What have we done?

We have destroyed Your Son

As the nails went in

I was standing right there

And You breathed Your last

–          Lyrics to “What have we done?”

This is one of my most favorite songs I have ever heard.  It is one of the most difficult and convicting songs I have ever heard.  Several of the bands at Mars Hill church sing this song.  And when I hear it being sung by so many voices around me … I am overwhelmed by this bitter sweet loving pain.  Because I don’t know if I would have been one of the women following Jesus, carrying His cross, and weeping.  Or would I be a scoffer?  Or in passive defiance of the Perfect Lamb by merely watching what was being done to Him?  I do know I wouldn’t have understood the cup of wrath I have been pouring into my entire life … was about to be drunk to the very last drop by Jesus.

And Jesus didn’t just drink my cup.  If every single sin that will ever be committed was but a single drop into that cup … I can’t even begin to fathom how huge that cup had to be.  Jesus drank every last drop.  He endured the wrath of God.  He did it for me.  He did it for You.  He did it for everyone.  Every last single person that has ever existed and will ever exist.  It is mind blowing.  It is completely scandalous!  The Holy Father, the Holy Son, and the Holy Ghost did all of this out of a love I won’t ever really understanding until I am standing in the presence of the LORD.

I recently listened to a sermon preached by Pastor Paris Reidhead, and he said that through the cross and the blood of Christ is the only way God could get glory out of a human being.  I wanted to argue with him but the stink of my pride in that argument shut me up pretty quickly.  His statement is bothersomely true; which is why my heart cringes and aches each time I sing “I was standing right there”.  It is why I am continually baffled by the love the LORD continues to pour out on me in spite of the fact that we have destroyed His Son.

It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t there myself.  I destroyed His Son with each sin I have committed and will commit.  I drove those nails in every time I deny Jesus because of fear of man issues that honestly mean nothing in eternity.  Every lash of the scourge that tore through His flesh I brought down on Him by willingly walking into and toward as many temptations as I could find.  And, yes, I do know I have been forgiven all of these things and a good deal more.  I know that right now I am hid in Christ before God, spotless and blameless.  I know I am cherished, loved, and a treasured daughter of the LORD.  These are all truths spoken to me from pages of the Bible.  But these heart felt facts don’t change what I have done, or what I still do.

Pastor Paris Reidhead spoke of repentance as well.  He said that most people’s idea of repentance is nothing more than Gospel glossed humanism.  That most people don’t understand the enormity of their sin, the depth of their guilt by a Holy and Righteous God; and, that they only repent and tremble in fear of God because their skin is about to be singed from the fires of hell.  He put it plainly when he said that repentance isn’t about a good person dealing with the punishments of a bad God.  It is about a bad person standing before a Holy, Righteous, and Good God.  That we all deserve hell, because we are sinners and we love our sin.  Every time we sin we have added another drop in that cup of wrath that Jesus drank.

Sure, He already drank it.  But I had never viewed my sin like that.  The LORD knows everything.  He knew how much I would sin.  He knew how much you would sin.  That cup of wrath is precise.  This doesn’t give me free license to carry on as if it is all taken care of.  If I truly love Jesus I can’t.  I don’t want to add any more to that cup.  I want my drops to decrease and not increase.  I am just sitting here so dumb at not having seen something this simple.  The LORD knows what I will do already, but now I am aware of this on a level I simply wasn’t before.  I know I have, but I don’t want to destroy Jesus.  He is my Savior.  I love Him.

Which is why I am really grateful for this song.  I can’t truly repent with all that I am unless I fully understand the weight of my sin.  I need to understand what my sin has completely done to my Holy God.  I know that only being thoroughly wrecked by my sin and failures can I then be picked up by the Holy Ghost to unimaginable heights of freedom in Christ, and drenched in the love of the LORD.  I can’t just take the gift of salvation without lovingly meditating on what this gift cost.  I want to savor every last drop of grace the LORD has given to me.  I don’t want to take it for granted.  I don’t want to see it as something casual or non-spectacular.  God’s grace is scandalous.  And I am thankful for that.

The last thing Reidhead touched on was how we love Jesus.  Do we approach the throne of God with the cross as a bargaining chip?  You know, I’ll take Jesus in exchange for heaven.  Jesus isn’t a bartering chip.  Jesus didn’t die on the cross for my eternal happiness as His prime product.  It is a by-product but it wasn’t the point.  Which is a real slap in the face because I think I have seen Jesus like that before in my life.  Pastor Reidhead then spoke a truth that woke me up, and made me truly examine how I feel about the LORD.  He said that those who truly love Jesus and worship Jesus, and obey Jesus … in their hearts say, “LORD I will love you, obey you, and worship you even if at the end of all things I end up in hell.  If that is where you want me to go.  Because YOU alone are worthy of my love, obedience, and worship.  Because YOU deserve all of me.  Hell isn’t a deciding factor.  YOU LORD are the only factor I see or care about.”

And I had never looked at my faith that way.  Would I still love Jesus, worship the LORD, and obey His laws … if I knew I was going to hell?  Would that change how I feel?  Would His holiness, His goodness, His righteousness … be enough for me to devote myself in abject adoration to the LORD simply because He deserves it?  I would have to say in past times of my life I shamefully say no.  Right now I think I give, and live out, an uncomfortable yes.  I know each day my yes becomes stronger and more comfortable bit by bit.  But this is definitely a lifetime of sanctification to get it there.  It just flips everything around.

I’m not a Christian because of anything I did.  I am saved by the Blood of Christ because I am His reward for His suffering.  He deserves me for the price He paid.  He deserves so much better than I give Him.  God willing, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, I am starting to change that.  Thank you LORD.  Thank you God.  Thank you Jesus.  Thank you Holy Ghost.  I am so blessed.  Undeservedly showered by Your grace.  Thank you.  And please continue to grow in me this vine of You and Your values.  For I am nothing without You and I can do nothing without You.  Amen.

Loved by God; Loving God

“I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” (Leviticus 26:12)

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. ‘“ (Revelation 21:3)

                I heard this verse today listening to a CD by Ghost Ship, a Christian band.  It stuck with me and I began to think about all the times God has spoken these words.  You will be MY people.  I will be your God.  I have heard this saying often enough so I assumed I fully understood its meaning.  I mean of course God will be our God.  He is the only God, so it naturally makes sense.  So instead I always pondered on what it means to be His people.  I have made up lists in my head of all the things I should be doing as a possession of God.  But it wasn’t until today that I was sort of struck dumb by the second half of that statement.  God will be my God.

What does that mean?  And how super huge is that meaning?  When I was a pagan I chose my god.  Since I chose my god it was more of a bartering relationship.  I would pray/worship to my god in return for blessings, protection, healing, strength, love, knowledge, foresight … “fill in the blank”.  Then there was the whole other aspect that this god was lucky enough for me to allow him/her into the story of my life.  I decided their worth and importance.  Yahweh, however, is not like that.  My relationship with the LORD is completely different.  I knew this on the surface, but the Holy Spirit really struck me with a deeper understanding of what this means.

First off, I didn’t chose the Great “I AM”.  I did not hunt down the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  The LORD chose me.  The Almighty God hunted me down.  And I can promise you it was a long hunt.   This very simple statement completely blows my mind.  I mean who am I that the Creator of the heavens and the earth would diligently and personally seek me out?  The God of the Bible wanted me.  He desired me and loved me before I was ever born.  Even though He knew of everything I would do against Him, and in spite of my efforts to defy Him, He didn’t give up on me.  I was chosen to be His daughter.  I am pretty sure the old me would have viewed this all with a great deal of pride.  But now, knowing I deserve wrath, hell, and damnation, I am struck to my heart with bewildered awe.  I feel so deeply humbled by His grace.

That grace is limitless and all consuming.  The LORD doesn’t barter; the LORD loves.  He told me He would be my God.  He told He would be my Father.  There is so much responsibility wrapped up in those two words.  I don’t have kids; I only have cats, and so that is all I can knowingly compare it too.  I get to feed my pets, shelter them, and care for them when they are sick.  I also get to play with my pets.  I get to spoil them with loving affection.  I get to hold them, snuggle them, and shower them with kisses.  The concept that God gets to do all these things with me is mind blowing.  And He loves me in a much more fantastically perfect way.  Sure there are times when my cats need to be squirted with water, or given a light swat; but just because I do either of these things doesn’t mean I love them any less.  Which means God doesn’t love me any less.  My cats are my babies, my treasures.  And I feel uncomfortably undeserving to know and better understand that I am a better, more important treasure to my Heavenly Father.

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37)

I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world.  They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” (John 17:6)

                God gave me as a gift to Jesus.  As Pastor Dave Bruskus said, “I am God’s gift to God.”  Which is pretty WOW.  I know I have never really looked at myself as anyone’s gift to anyone.  God, however, has deemed me so important to Him.  Not only was I a gift to Jesus, Jesus promises to never cast me out.  I will never be put in a garage sell, re-gifted, or taken back to the store.  Jesus is going to keep me.  I am that important to Him.  I am that loved by Him.  The LORD has consumed the story of my life into His story.  Being held by Jesus completely drenches me in His plans and purposes.  If I couple that with the responsibility God has already taken for me I come to realize how much He already engulfed me if I just let Him carry me along.  Saying all this, typing this all out, it baffles me why I resist my LORD so stubbornly and continually.  It’s not my life any more.  I have been purchased, and given as a gift, to Christ by the blood of Christ.  Again, WOW!

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.’” (John 14:23)

                I am just so amazed right now.  I am completely in love with the LORD.  To be loved so thoroughly, cherished so deeply, treasured so fully, and esteemed so highly by the very Creator of well everything … it is just … UGH!  So wonderfully much blissfully heaven!  I don’t know how to put it into words.  And when someone understands this about the LORD, gets that this is how our Almighty Father feels about each of His children … how can you not fall completely in love with Him?  How can I not worship Him?  This makes my heart ache so deliciously.  I love God the Father.  I love God the Son.  I love God the Holy Spirit.

God loves me so much He wants to live in me.  God the Holy Spirit has taken root in me.  I am never forgotten nor abandoned nor forsaken because the LORD lives in me.  He is always with me.  They say home is where the heart is, and the LORD has told me His home will be with me.  His heart is in me, with me.  I understand a little better now when the Bible speaks of the believer living in Christ.  Because Christ is my home; Jesus is where my heart is.  So being a daughter in the people of God actually has nothing to do with the lists I make up in my head.  It is about a loving, covenantal  relationship with my God.  I knew that before, but I understand it a little deeper now.  Thank you, LORD, for sharing Yourself with me!

Raw

“(1) Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him.  (2) And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan!  The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!  Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’

(3) Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.  (4) Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him.’  And to him He said, ‘See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.’

(5) And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’  So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him.  And the Angel of the Lord stood by.”  (Zechariah 3:1-5)

 

God truly does have a perfect sense of timing about things.  Today at Church Pastor Mark did a sermon on sexual assault; basically Chapter 7 of the book “Real Marriage” that he wrote with his wife.  If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it.  Even if you aren’t married you probably know people who are, or you likely will be married yourself one day.  This was a hard and uncomfortable sermon for me.  But timely.  I am currently reading the book “Rid of my Disgrace” by the Holcombs; another highly recommended book.  It deals with sexual assault in the light of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  Again, even if you have never been sexually assaulted I can promise you that you probably know someone who has so this would be an awesome book for you to read so you know what to say….and more importantly what not to say…to someone who is hurting from this.  I will warn you that this book is not an easy read, particularly if you have been sexually assaulted.  I am only able to get through maybe a chapter a week. Right now I am on Chapter 5, which is about denial, and I am really struggling with how much of that I have actually been doing since my assault.

 

So today’s ‘Our Daily Bread’ fit in with the sermon.  It is about taking away the filth of our iniquity to clothe us in rich robes.  Pastor Mark spoke about how Jesus takes away my shame, my defilement, and scorns it on the cross.  To be perfectly honest I don’t fully understand it.  I see the vague outline of it like looking through a frosted over window peering out through a dense fog.  I can see the outline of the cross there, but in light of what happened to me I struggle.  Which is why I am going to be going through a Redemption Group to help me with this.  This idea terrifies me; it makes me want to itch all over.  You see I thought I was past all of this.  I went to a Rape Counselor for about a year and a half just over 5 years ago to deal with all of this.  I thought I had moved beyond it.  That everything was fine.  Only to learn within the first two chapters of reading the book that I probably suffer from PTSD, and that I am really not okay with what happened to me.  At all.  I learned how to function again on a normal standard.  I learned how to check back into this world.  But I have no idea what it means to be healed or not feel the way I feel.

 

The Scripture reading today says that Joshua was dressed in filthy rags.  I know it is common for assault victims to feel dirty or gross.  I feel disgust.  I feel disgusting.  I often believe the lie that the Enemy tells me that my fiancé thinks I am disgusting.  I don’t like to look at myself in the mirror because of that disgust.  I was raped over ten years ago and I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago that I carried this identity from that assault.  It was always just sort of there in the back of my mind.  So when I read that verse in the Scripture I cringe.  It makes my stomach turn because I can imagine what Joshua was feeling in that moment standing before the lord wearing that.  And Pastor Mark hit it on the head today with one of the struggles I have been having.  What was I supposed to do, say “Forgive me Jesus for being raped repeatedly by my ex-fiancé at the time.”  It wasn’t my sin.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  How does that get off?  I can’t scrub it off, trust me I have tried to scrub it off to the point of bleeding before in my past.  I have never been able to ever really feel clean again.  I want to feel clean again.  Which is why I really, really want to go to this Redemption Group no matter how terrified I am.

 

So the devotional today spoke about how Jesus takes away our sin: something I totally understand and am eternally grateful for. But Pastor Mark spoke of something else which I don’t get so I thought to look up what the dictionary definition of “iniquity” is.  Iniquity: 1. Gross injustice or wickedness; and 2. A violation of right or duty, wicked act; sin.  If I use that first definition it helps me to see that cross a little more clearly.  The Angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ, takes away my gross injustices.  All the gross, disgusting, deplorable injustices done upon me that make it impossible for me to look at myself in the mirror…Jesus took away.  My head knows that, but my heart doesn’t understand it.  I want to understand it.  I know that my understanding of it won’t happen overnight.  I know it is something I need to mediate on, prayerfully seek out the Holy Spirit to help me.

 

So tonight I will go to bed with that prayer in my heart for help, comfort, and understanding.  And a new memory verse that Crystal from “Rid of my Disgrace”, was kind enough to share. “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” (Joel 2:25).  God is a good and faithful God.  I believe He will keep that promise.

Meaning and Comfort where I didn’t expect it.

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: (2) Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.  (3) Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. (4) Ram begot  Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshaon begot Salmon. (5) Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, (6) and Jesse begot David the king.

David the King begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. (7) Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. (8) Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehosaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. (9) Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. (10) Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. (11) Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.

(12) And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel.  (13) Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor.  (14)Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. (15) Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. (16) And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

(17) So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generals, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.” (Matthew 1:1-17)

 

The genealogy of Jesus Christ is the first thing written about in the New Testament.  This is how the first Gospel according to Matthew, who was a disciple of Christ and was once a Tax Collector, started out his account of Jesus with this long list of names.  So who cares, right?  The first time I read a genealogy in the Bible I got confused and lost in all the “begots” and strange names I had no hope of pronouncing correctly.  Besides, why should I care?  What does it matter?  What could I possibly get from God by reading through this not so easy list of son of sons? I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the people reading this just skipped over this first passage in the Bible to get to what I have to say about it, or think about it.  Once upon a time I would have done the same.  So I completely understand why you wouldn’t want to read through all of it.

But, I was wrong.  There is a reason for this list.  Genealogy is important to us, even if we don’t admit it.  If it wasn’t important to us web sites like Ancestry.com wouldn’t be in business.  People want to know where they come from, and how far back we can trace our family tree. We like to know what happened. Clicking on those little green leafs to find out some interesting tidbit about an ancestor we didn’t even know we had is always fun and exciting.  I understand, trust me, that this may seem completely irrelevant considering your family tree is very personal to you while the list of names above mean nothing to you.  Those names, however, should mean something to you.

More importantly these names meant something to the nation of Israel during the time this book was written.  Israel had prophecy hundreds of years earlier about the Messiah who would be born of the line of King David.  Matthew is simply trying to lay out his leaf littered parchment on how Jesus is of that line.  This traces the bloodline of Joseph, who is Christ’s adoptive father, all the way back to Abraham who is the father of the nation of Israel.  And I know a bunch of you are probably going ‘whoa, hold on here!’  Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus so why should his heritage matter?  I once, in my ignorance, tried to tote this off as proof that the Bible isn’t always true.  Yeah, I was that person.

Matthew is writing this book with Israel in mind.  According to the Jewish legal system then the bloodline of someone is always traced through the father, even if the child is adopted.  Matthew makes it clear in the next few verses
of who the true Father of Jesus Christ is.  But to help the first generations of Christians talk to Israel about who Jesus is, they needed to know his bloodline.  The bloodline of Israel was extremely important in their history and culture in that time.  The tribes of Israel were split in two.  Each tribe had a prophecy spoken about them in Genesis 49. Each tribe was given a specific place to camp around the tabernacle in their 40 years of wandering in the desert.  Each tribe had a certain order and place when they went to war.  These names meant something to Israel.  A lot of these names play roles in the history of Israel.  So it was important to show the connection Jesus had to the history of Israel, as well as the fulfillment of prophecy in the Old Testament of the Messiah coming from the line of David.

I know this still may seem silly considering this is all about Joseph, and Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus.  Don’t worry, however, as you can find the genealogy of Mary in chapter 3 of Luke.  That genealogy is traced all the way back to Adam.  So why didn’t Matthew do that?  Because Matthew was a tax collector.  He concerned himself with the laws of Judaism which clearly traced heritage through the father, adoptive or not.  Luke was a physician, who concerned himself with the biological bloodline, so he researched Mary’s lineage.  And yes, both come from the bloodline of King David.

Which brings me back to an earlier statement I made, these names should mean something to you too.  A lot of these names have biblical stories behind them.  Their names and stories litter the Old Testament, which was taught every Saturday in the temples during the time of Jesus, and before the time of Jesus.  Those are the names of real people who did real things who affected history.  Jesus isn’t just some made up man who appeared out of nowhere.  He came from real people who lived real lives.  God became a man through Jesus.  A flesh and blood man who had grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.  These names are a promise and comfort God has given to me.  He understands.

Jesus just didn’t appear as a full grown adult.  He started off as a baby.  He had relatives who probably weren’t so nice.  He played as a toddler.  He probably did dishes or helped with the laundry.  Jesus might have even had pimples, or went through the awkward growth spurts where His limbs probably weren’t all symmetrical nor did they grow at the same rate.  Jesus had his voice crack and change in puberty.  Jesus was teased as a child, as a pre-teen, as a teenager, and certainly as an adult.  He grew up as we all have.  Jesus knows, and understands, this process because he has gone through it.  He was a real man born out of real people.

That comforts me.  Heck, I can’t trace my family line back farther than my grandparents without the tools found on a website.  Here in Matthew, at the very start of the Gospel, God said ‘This is how My Son came to be.’  That list of names isn’t just a list of who begot who, it is a litany of history.  It is a name by name version of how Israel went from one man, Abraham, to what it was when Jesus was born.  Each name is a generations worth of reasons why Jesus was, and is, needed. There are 42 generations of fallen, broken people who committed sins just as I have.  42 generations of people who have committed sins beyond my own.  42 generations of reasons why God could have turned His back on all of us.  And 42 generations of the miraculous mercy, patience, and love God has for all of us. God is saying here is a long list of a family who has done almost everything they possibly could to me to make me turn away from them.  And God loves us all enough to then give us the very last thing we could take away from Him.  We murder His only begotten Son, Jesus.

“(18) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.  (19) Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.” (Matthew 1:18-19)

Wow.  Just so we are all on the same page back then being betrothed was just as binding as being married.  Two people couldn’t simply break up after they were betrothed.  They actually had to get a certificate of divorce to end a betrothal.  So this was a pretty big deal.  Joseph, who hasn’t even touched Mary and probably didn’t know her very well, just learned that she is pregnant.  Women back then were put to death if they were not virgins on their wedding nights.  Joseph has every right, as well as the legal backing, to make a public spectacle out of Mary.  He has the right to drag her through the streets, heralding her pregnancy in front of everyone.  He has the right to demand a divorce from her.  He had the right to do all of this, and more.

So what does he have the mind to do?  He considers taking her away from the two in secret so no one will know of her pregnancy.  His first thought is to spare her life, and her soul by not damaging it with publicly humiliating her in front of everyone she has known her entire life.  He doesn’t take her onto various ‘day time talk shows’ to reveal the truth to an audience.  He doesn’t explode in a volatile rage at her.  He doesn’t act in any of the selfish, prideful ways our culture is not only known for but often thrives on as entertainment.  Just consider that.  This is before Joseph knew who exactly the father of Jesus was.

I can only pray for that level of compassion.  I know I often fall short of it.  I let my injured pride, or my own disappointment and pain rule my first reactions to situations.  And to be perfectly honest that isn’t very Christian of me.  For all Joseph knew Mary not only betrayed him, but she publicly shamed and humiliated him by not saving herself for their wedding night.  This was huge.  I can’t even imagine how Joseph actually felt when he found out; but, I can imagine pretty well based on some of my own life experiences.  And I can promise you I didn’t handle any of those experiences with the compassion, love, calm, and care about the other party as Joseph did for Mary.  It really just boggles my mind.  In one verse Joseph puts me to great shame for a lot of my choices in life.  I can only hope, pray, and try so hard to be the same sort of God-loving soul that he was.

“(20) But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. (21) And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’

(22) So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: (23) ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’

(24) Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, (25) and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.  And he called His name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:20-25)

Now just try to imagine one of those nights when you’ve gone to bed with some heavy weight on your mind.  That night you had a very hard time getting to sleep because your heart and soul were just sick with something.  Then, finally, you fall to sleep.  Woot!  Right?  As you are sleeping try to picture the awesomeness of an angel of the Lord appearing to you and solving your problem.  That angel simply laying out how to deal with whatever is troubling you.  How would you wake up from that?  Would you have the guts to believe what just happened?  Would you follow the instruction or advice the angel had given you?  Or would you dismiss it as just an overactive imagination or too much coffee, or maybe even a bit of undigested food?

I can speculate that I would listen, believe, and obey.  But to be honest I might not.  I have had many dreams in my life that lean me one way on a problem I was having.  I have casually dismissed those dreams as nonsense and went in the exact opposite direction.  These situations have rarely ended remotely pretty.  I have learned, thankfully, to start listening to my dreams when God talks to me through them about things.  I, granted, haven’t ever had an angel of the Lord appear to me in all their glory in one of my dreams.  I like to console myself with the thought if I had this happen I would have  listened on all those other occasions.  Which probably isn’t true.  Most Christians these days, sadly, no longer believe that God still talks to us through dreams.

Joseph, however, saw and believed immediately.  I know the Bible doesn’t go into the depths of Joseph’s mindset on this entire thing.  He could have had doubts.  He could have been freaked out of his mind.  He could have had an entire morning devoted to trying to talk himself out of the truth of what he saw.  I won’t know any of the things Joseph thought or did until I am in heaven with him.  The truth is all those reactions aren’t what matters.  Those reactions mark him human, but only one action marks him as extraordinary.  He believed and obeyed.  It doesn’t matter if he struggled with it, doubted it, was angry about it, or freaked out about it.  He still believed the Lord and obeyed.  Despite all his humanness that more than plagues me…he trusted God and obeyed.

If only I could be so devoted.  Joseph was devoted to God.  He was devoted to Mary.  And he was devoted to a son that wasn’t even his.  Joseph had to put himself off of his list of most important people and things.  He had to completely put all his emotions and his wants as a newly married man, aside.  He took care of Mary.  He helped Mary give birth.  I doubt Joseph had medical training in prenatal care or understood the importance of good hygiene.  Joseph was there for Mary, her strong rock, as she went through something no other woman on earth will ever understand.  Joseph had to love Mary for those nine months knowing he could get nothing physical in return.  Which is a pretty big deal back then, and is a huge deal now.  In our society it is a common belief that a mere dinner and movie should earn a romp in the sack with whatever woman they happened to pay for.  Joseph devoted his entire life at that moment to help Mary carry Jesus to term and  deliver Jesus into this world.  It boggles my mind.

In just the first chapter of the first book of the New Testament I am comforted, humbled, shamed, and inspired.   That is a lot of emotions to have balled up into just 25 verses.  But God is good like that.  We just have to look for Him to find these things. He shows us what matters, what is important, and how we should live.  Joseph isn’t mentioned a lot in the Bible.  He isn’t a prophet.  He didn’t write any part of Scripture.  But Joseph, in just a few sentences, sums up what a husband and man should be.  He is a brilliant light of how a Christian should behave.  When I read these few verses about Joseph it warms a seed in my heart about how I hope my husband will be.  I want a man like Joseph.  A man who will believe and obey and trust in God even when all his humanness tells him not to.  I want a man who will show me compassion when the laws and customs of the world tell him not to.

And I pray to the Lord for the love, heart, and strength to do the same for my husband.  I pray to the Lord for the guidance to be all this and more to my Raggedy Andy.  I never really saw Joseph as an example of love or devotion until today.  I am thankful that God, again, has shown me the error in my way of thinking.