Vignettes of Vintage Love 7.11.14

20140710-223038-81038832.jpg I commented in the last post, “How we steward our singleness will be foundational to how we steward our marriages.” Our marriages are called to reflect our mysterious union with Christ. Should not also our singleness reflect the waiting and preparation The Bride undertakes, as She is being sanctified and set apart for “the One and Only,” Jesus?

Two words that help solidify the cement in a marriage are “exclusive” and “indissolubility”. Our dating culture violates both those virtues. Indissolubility, it’s one of my new favorite words. Admittedly I am a bit of a word merchant, which is a glittery way of saying nerd. Here’s the definition for my fellow word nerds; not dissoluble, incapable of being dissolved, decomposed, undone, or destroyed. I love that, “incapable of being dissolved”. I think the traditional wedding pronouncement says something like, “what God has joined together…” The assurance of successes in the marriage experience can’t be dependent upon what we join together. We are too weak and its demands are too great. The assurance must rest in what He Himself has joined together and what He provides to keep it together.

We, Christians, are adamant about chastising sexual urges but not romantic urges. We expect self-control when it comes to pre-marital sex but not in the expression of the romantic interests and desires that stimulates the sex. Pursue those romantic interests we say, but don’t touch anything, right? We are doing the “joining together” and awakening romantic love before its time. Rather than the Spirit, we let urges, attractions, and the pressures of peers and society lead us in and out of the dating game. We practice exclusive love, shadow a marital commitment and then dissolve the union when we don’t want it anymore. Those vital virtues, indissolubility and exclusivity, become our victims. They weaken with every break up.

Is it such an impossible thought to see a beautiful prospect, bring our romantic desires and interest in them to God, and choose to cultivate friendship until He gives further notice? Is that not what we would be expected to do when those same desires and interests for another surprise us within our future marriages? Why not practice faithfulness now? I believe the grace to remain exclusive in our marriages can grow from a our devotion to pour out our longings exclusively to Jesus while we’re single. Can you imagine how the virtue of honoring one another would grow, how the discipline to not covet would strengthen?

Marital companionship is one of the greatest driving desires of the human heart. What a powerful opportunity for an individual to take advantage of their longings by growing in prayer, dependency, purity, and intimacy with their First Love while they live expecting God’s choice for true love.

 

I know, I know, the obvious question is,

“How do you know if someone is “the one” if you don’t date?

I’m glad you asked. One of my best friends gives one of the best answers,

“How do you know if you do?”

 

to be continued, promise…

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Vignettes of Vintage Love 7.5.14

20140705-100848-36528235.jpgI hosted a small group of singles in my home this past winter. My friend, who took the lead in our discussions, posed a question asking what their experiences had been to be tagged with the single status. Nobody had anything good to report.  They had felt shame, loss, embarrassment, and lots of pressure.  It was the last thing on earth anyone wanted to be.

As I listened behind the grief in their exclamations I heard the tender voice of Jesus whisper to my heart, “To despise your singleness is to despise intimacy with Me.”

I think Paul casts a right light upon this time in our lives, “… if you do not have a wife, do not seek to get married… I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord.” (1Cor 7: 27-32) I understand Paul’s concern here is the persecution at hand and what would be wise within those circumstances. However, I do believe the plea to not live your singleness preoccupied with getting married is also a timeless wisdom.  To live in tension of marital desire and yet free from its concern is but a small window of time we get to offer to Jesus like no other time in our lives.

If you desire marriage, you will never within your life time, get another chance to experience the depths of God as a never married person.  After singleness ends you will have opportunities to experience His depths in marriage, possibly as a parent and or a grandparent, and eventually as widowed if you’re the last to go. These succeeding blessings are equal in value but not experience.  Jesus stands by waiting to give your never married status an experience in Him that provoke onlookers unto a holy jealously. Unfortunately our preoccupation with the lack of a mate makes no one jealous for Him.  Our preoccupation propels us into the company of misery.  All the while, Jesus stands along the sidelines aching to pour out a love into our emptiness that no one else can give in such a time as this time in our lives.

Very few people aspire to grow up to be a never married person.  I think it’s safe to say most of us grow up with a desire to marry.  Rightfully so, we were made for love and to illustrate the mystery of the love of the Bride and the Bridegroom.  Unfortunately, culture works overtime shaming the single status.  When we value what culture values we prostitute the purity of our hearts and eventually our bodies in hunting for mates, healing from the failures, and using the “lesson” to strategize our next approach.  We throw Paul’s wisdom to the wind.  We look at our once in a lifetime opportunity and cash it in for a preoccupation with marriage instead of Jesus. What a waste of our potential to knowing Him in this status.  What a waste of the grace He wants to give to equips us for the holy matrimony He has been keeping in mind for us.

Waiting upon the Lord in our singleness is our once-in-a-lifetime chance to become preoccupied with Him without the added concerns a beautiful romance promises to bring.  It’s our chance to be unhindered in the experience of what it means biblically “to wait’ upon the Lord: kawa; to become intertwined with Him.  It’s in “the wait” where we can be preoccupied with what pleases the Lord, where His love becomes our First Love.  First Love, it makes you ready to love unto death the one He makes ready to love you.

The demands of marriage have been proving throughout the decades of divorce that it is a much higher calling than we’ve imagined.  How we steward our singleness will be foundational to how we will steward our marriages.  If you are preoccupied with “the hunt” because you think you are missing out on something, you are.  You are missing out on Him; The One who loved you first.  He’s the only One Who has loved you unto death and back again.


Vignettes of Vintage Love 6.30.14

photo-9Today I want to share with you a little something I heard in prayer about this time last year…

“The marriage community in the church will not find the fullness of its revival in the repair of marriages and the renewal gender identity alone. What needs to be understood and developed is the original concept of the marriage union: God’s choice. It goes back to the garden where Adam had no choice but God’s choice.”

The “original concept” is why I’m calling this series Vintage Love.  It was God Who arranged the first marriage which reveals the role He desires to have in the matching.  He wants to make the match.  For this faith to grow in us it will be important to keep in mind a rule in biblical studies called the “law of first mention”.  It is the principal in the interpretation of Scripture that states the first mention or occurrence of a subject in Scripture establishes an unchangeable pattern, with that subject remaining unchanged in the mind of God throughout Scripture. 

The pattern God set in motion with Adam and Eve is repeated in Isaac and Rebekah’s story and Boaz and Ruth’s story.  The pattern is, God as Father, arranging the for bride to be presented to the bridegroom.  This pattern is at work now in bringing His choice Bride into union with Jesus.  A principle we can draw out of these 3-way unions of man, woman, and Holy Spirit is this: hunting for romance is not necessary to make a match. 

Is this too high a thought for you?  Is this too impossible a feat to imagine?  I hope so.  If our lives,  including our future engagements, are explainable without the Holy Spirit’s miraculous intervention than we are simply trusting in what we can self-fulfill.

It’s been my experience most people think trusting God to speak and bring revelation of His choice is too constraining on the will.  I disagree.  I say its extravagant grace.  It moves us into the impossibilities we were born-again to experience.  Remember when you were once an enemy of God?  Now you can’t get enough of Him, right?  How did this impossibility happen?  Such impossible love and passion could only have come through faith by what you heard and so can your mate.  It is by faith we live out every other aspect of our lives, yes?

So what’s our real question?  Would He not be faithful to speak to us?  He said His sheep know His voice.  Would He not be thoughtful of our desires?  He intricately wove us together in our mother’s womb.  Surely, He would not be thoughtless to ignore the ways He made us.  He give us our desires and purifies them with His own.  We may know who we are today but not who we are yet to become.  Only He knows that and who is needed to help shape us.

Let’s be honest, our hesitation to fully trust God in the romantique really points to our inabilities not His.

We trust Him so much more with far less important things.  This vintage way of love does something deeper than making a match, it brilliantly confronts what we really think about God’s Fatherhood.  The bible has marriages of His making as its bookends.  I’d say that makes God a romantique at heart.  I believe He can be fully trusted as such.  Like a good Father God wants to give us good gifts.  I really want what He is excited to give me not what I can get for myself.  Don’t you?

Thanks for tuning in! Will see where random takes us next…

 

 


Vignettes of Vintage Love 6.26.14

Re-awakening the blog to express my overgrown faith in the God of the Romantique until such a time it is fully wasted at His feet.  Expect thoughts and posts to be random, brief, unedited, imperfect and incomplete… it’s called thinking out-loud.

I’ve lived in the faith that God alone is big enough and generous enough to bring me into my desire for matrimony.  I’ve reasoned: He is God, He doesn’t need my assistance in the arranging, just my faith and obedience.  He orders my steps and will initiate all things in His time because He knows all things.  Like a good Father I imagine it to be a great joy for Him to give to His kids the long awaited desires of their hearts.  He’s a good Shepherd, faithful to speak to me in the intimate ways He has made me to hear Him.  God is perfect, therefore, His choice will be perfect; perfectly fitted to me with all the delights and imperfections needed to uncover my own.

As of late He’s been challenging me to remove the “it would in His best interest” rational from my request.  He dares me to ask from a pure understanding that He loves giving to me just because I am His and He loves me.

So I’ve pushed through to the core of my of matrimonial desire.  I’ve tried to peel away all the reasoning’s stating what a benefit my marriage would be for the Kingdom.  Its left me to contemplate the simple naked truth of my desire.  Within this large, take-a-deep-breath-run-on-sentence I state my honest claim:  I just want a creative companion of daring faith who is impassioned like me to live out the second half of our lives, married; deeply enjoying who He has created us to be for Him and for one another and spend our days watching people fall in love with Jesus as they encounter what we create together along our way to knowing Him more…. today I see what is the honest motive underneath the noble motive of my desire:

Joy

…and for this one motive I need not repent, apologize, nor justify because joy is Who He is

I am not my gifts.  I have gifts.  I am not a tool.  I have tools.  I am not deserving, He is.  The fullness of His joy comes from the fullness of my joy.  I am His delight.  This is enough reason to expect His goodness toward me. The same is true for you.

In waiting for love I have not waited alone.  He is the only One Who has waited in this faith with me.  We have not waited in vain.  Along the way I fell in love anyway.  I fell in love with Him and I am so freak’n excited to give away to my husband what He and I have managed grow in the waiting.

Truth is, if He never did one more thing for me I will love Him still.  Today my faith is reassured that the feeling is mutual.  He too will love me whether or not I ever do one more thing for the sake of His Kingdom.  Simply because I am His, He desires to give.

Take it for what it is worth for you and Him and see ya next week, maybe:-)  It’s random, remember?


Mourning the New Fasting: Notes for Ren

ec5ac8e0fbde11e2813a22000a1f8f34_5-1Matt 9:14-17

In this portion of scripture Jesus is bringing light to a new way of approaching God; a kind of relationship with God that the prophets back in the day hinted:

New wine and new skins
Himself as a Bridegroom
Mourning will be the new fast

New Skin

To help with context we need a definition on wineskins.  A wineskin was a bag with a spigot traditionally made from goat hide to contain wine.  New wine poured into skins would continue to ferment producing carbon dioxide gases, which exerted pressure.  Fermentation: the conversion of sweet juices into intoxicating wine.  Only new skins had the kind of elasticity needed to expand with the pressure of new wine.  Old skins had no elasticity left in them.  They could not stretch along with patches of new skin making them useless.

Reading between the lines we see Jesus cluing them in; the way they had been relating to God was about to expand into a relationship they had not fully considered before. They understood from the prophets Isaiah and Joel there would come a day when God would pour out His Holy Spirit upon all flesh and whosoever would call upon the Lord will be saved. God’s Holy Spirit would not only rest upon their flesh but also penetrate it making them a new creation. It would expand from an outward encounter to an inward transformation.  Jesus would later meet Nicodemus and explain even further calling it being “born again”.

Up to this point the Pharisees and John’s disciples could only enjoy being a forgiven sinner.  Being born-again would expand the believer’s experience from a sweet “grateful I’m forgiven” existence. The old system of atoning for sins and priestly service was about as effective as a patch of new skin on an old wine skin; their joy would only last until the next sin. I believe God had been waiting for ceremony and ritual to exhaust itself and prove what He’d known all along, it did nothing to change a man’s heart.  He’d been holding out for this time in our history to finally open up an all access pass between Him and the ones He loved.

Jesus was setting them up to understand that His plan for a new Kingdom included a new creation; a new breed of humanity was going to take possession of earth.  He was moving them away from a “try harder” religion and into an “all things are possible” joint adventure.  This new relationship was to become an intoxicatingly intimate and empowering companionship with God.

Jesus the Bridegroom

For the first time we hear Jesus address Himself as a Bridegroom.  Up to this point Matthew states references of: Son of David, Christ, King of the Jews, a Ruler who Shepherds, Nazarene, Beloved Son, Son of God, Lord, Teacher, Son of man. I wonder if the Pharisees and disciples heard the prophets words echoing in their hearts:

    • Isaiah 54:5 ESV For your Maker is your husband…”
    • Jeremiah 31:32 ESV “…took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband….”
    • Hosea 2:19 ESV And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.

Considering Jesus as a Bridegroom was yanking on their current perspective of Him. Jesus calling Himself a Bridegroom exposed His deeper interest in them.  His interest toward them was beyond their acts of service and zeal for world domination.  He’s interest in them, like a Bridegroom in His Bride, was love and love at an intimate dimension. By His Spirit, He would soon be moving into them making Him closer to them than their own skin.  Like any noble bridegroom in relation to his bride He would pursue them out of desire.  Like a husband to a wife, He would move into them, taking the lead in their union by going ahead of them in all things.  He would love them as He loved Himself.  He would use His authority over them, not to dominate them but to empower them and elevate them by raising them up to sit with Him as a equally capable companion.

 He was doing a new thing. Companionship with Jesus is two becoming a new creation.  Consider it for yourself. What if this was your invitation to Christianity: The life you’ve managed alone up to this point is about to pass away.  You are going to have to stop considering yourself as single and independent. Oneness with Jesus, like marriage, is a holy invasion of your privacy and independence.  Oneness includes forever living in consideration of another.  Your social circle is going to expand with other kinds of friends and family and recreation. You will no longer be your own.  There are two sides to the companionship you long for: comfort and inconvenience.  Do you really want it?

Fasting: an old idea

Fasting was an old practice of making religious pleas for deliverance from sin. Jesus was about to take care of the sin issue once and for all. It would be after He is taken away that fasting would resume but this time not as a means of attention getting and pleas of mercy.  Fasting would become the new mourning.  In other words a longing to be near Him would become the new motivation to fast. Sin would no longer be their excuse that separates them.  Apathy would be the new danger. His soon coming absence is going to wound their hearts.  That wound is going to awaken a depth of desire they did not know they had a capacity feel for Him.  Soon they would long as though they were sick with love for the One Who saved them.

My initial experience with fasting was much like theirs. I fasted out of desperation for deliverance and intervention.  I would do weekends, a full week, 21-days, I’ve done 40-days twice. What I have learned is that fasting does not earn us God’s attention nor does it motivate Him to act upon your behalf.  He can’t be manipulated.  The truth about fasting is it increases our spiritual sensitivities.  His ancient words become new to us.  Fasting is now voluntary.  It works to make us aware of unholy appetites and violates our dullness with zeal. Fasting is like a bride searching out all things needed to make herself ready to go with her Bridegroom when He comes for her. Today, I fast just because I miss Him

He is the Rock to My Roll

The pressure we feel in regards to holiness is not restriction but expansion.  I have two stories I want to share with you: my experience with fermentation/expansion/conversion: God’s Spirit wanting more room in my life…

Early on in companionship with Jesus I had been pretty steeped into the band scene.  I liked my music loud, heavy, live, gritty, and a bit brooding.  That kind of music gave a voice to the grinding questions and protests against the status quo that pounding in my heart.  As I grew in the knowledge of Jesus I watched many things in my life change from the inside out.  The affections of my heart were shifting and slowly my history with the bands peeled off my walls and shelves and found itself tightly packed into a 10×10 cardboard box in a corner of my room. One day I was listening to a message and the pastor said, “Do not keep a memorial to your past where it cherishes a life without Christ.”  Cherished: where you loved your life without Christ.

He wounded my heart.  I knew that I knew that I knew that 10×10 cardboard box was just that, me cherishing a history without Christ.  I took it out to the burn pile in my backyard. I set it on fire.  It was so condensed it took a couple of hours to burn through.  I watched the flames turn image after image to ash.  Images of what I lusted after.  Images of who I wanted to be so I could be lusted after.  This lifestyle, that put me in danger a couple of times, was a deep affection in my heart.  It provided so much companionship.

Shortly after I remember being fretful over losing common ground with many of those friends.  While in prayer the Lord showed my a silhouette of my most favored companions standing in front of the most tranquil blue light I had ever scene.  He spoke to my heart, “All they need to do is turn toward the light.”  It was such a simple move.  I knew I could continue to go with God in confidence that He loved them as much as I did. I prayed for each of them by name.  One of them is now better known as your pastor.

Now understand, He was not restricting me by wanting to take me out of the world.  His desire is that I would no longer be conformed to its affections and ideals.  I still like my music loud, heavy, gritty, live and a bit brooding.  However the music and the lifestyle no longer answer anything for me; I no longer draw my substance from that place.  He wasn’t calling me out of the world; He was expanding my world and shifting my affections.  I got to embrace Him as a companion.

Pillow Talk

My second example is a little more abstract.  While attending a service at Maranatha a thought came across my mind to buy new bed pillows.  Then an even stranger thing happened, I felt my heart resist the idea as though I had affection for my pillows.  Immediately my thoughts filled with remembrances of all the tears that had soaked those pillows.  It had been a hard five years, those pillows had caught so many of my tears, tears of those kind of cries you don’t cry in front of other people: tears over losing my virginity to a rape and the bitter sweet pregnancy experience that resulted, tears from seeing my sins, watching my dad resent our family as we resented his alcoholism, tears of rejection, deep loneliness, tears of watching my mom die to soon.

If only our pillows could talk what tales of the deepest sorrow they could tell.  They hold an untold history of our heartaches. In a split second He wounded my heart and a cry came forth, “Who is ever going to know the many depths of my grief?” He set me up so perfectly to hear Him, “I’ve collected every tear you’ve shed and I’ve recorded each one.”  It may not be a big deal to go buy new pillows but He set me up to see He how intimately acquainted He was with me. My ideas about us were too small. Never at any point was I alone in my sadness.  Unknown to me we had been making a history together. It’s the wounding of the heart that tears the veil for a greater view of Him  and I got to embrace Him as a Comforter.

It’s Go Month!

Let’s changing our thinking about the pressure of expansion of holiness we feel?  What if we stopped looking at the pressure as a restriction, something we don’t get to do, and more like expansion, something we get to do?  Our relationship with Jesus should be defined by its passions not its regulations.  I’ve got big gifts and I’m having a more difficult time knowing if people want to be my friend because they me for me or they want me for my gifts?  Am I fellowshipping in a suffering of Jesus and it is making us tight.

We can only worship Him to the extent we can see Him.  We can only obey Him to the extent that we can hear Him.  We can only love Him to the extent we can feel His love.  I am a firm believer the more you see Jesus the more you love Him.  The more you love Him the more you can’t live without Him.  The more you can’t live without Him the more you become sick with love.  The more lovesick you are the more you’ll fast just because you miss Him.  You’ll never be lovesick over someone you don’t know.

It’s Go Month, now is the time to make room for more of Him.

Like new wine in a new wineskin some of us are feeling an inward pressures to expand.  He’s been setting you up. There are questions you’ve before the Lord and you can’t get God to say yes or no.  You feel like your skin is going to split soon without an answer.  The answer is Go.

Some of us need to Go and get saved for real, go ahead and call Ren your home, go for that thing that seems to good to be true, go ahead and walk onto the water of a scary opportunity:

  • Be careful what you think to be coincidence may actually be destiny.
  • You hope the answer is no, Go because no maybe on the other side of Go. It was for Abraham
  • If you still have outstanding questions, Go.  He’s not going to give you all the answers up front, He wants to see your faith
  • You have the mind of Christ, Go.  You might be surprised to find out the two of you are actually on the same page this time, desiring the same thing.
  • Do not fear rejection nor disappointment. The disciples experienced both at the Cross of Jesus, did they regret their choice? He will turn it around for your good.
  • You think you don’t deserve it, you’re right you don’t, Jesus does
  • You’re afraid and you should be, its bigger than you. Fear God not your opportunity because it is the beginning of wisdom.
  • What if I’m wrong, what if you are? He’s a good Father and brings correction without condemnation.
  • It’s going to cost me, yes it will:  it will cost you your pride and your comfort zones… you don’t need those things anyway

You are a new wineskin you were born again for expansion, you’ll stretch at the seams but you won’t break.


We Are the 1%: Choosing Life After Rape

“A person is a person no matter how small.” Dr, Seuss

It was Easter morning, 1991, in Memphis, Tennessee.  An unusual snowfall had been forecast for the morning; the first one in seven years.  I was waking up to a great sense of bewilderment.  I couldn’t quite get my bearings.  I felt weak.  My head was pounding.  My insides quivered as though some sort of trauma was settling in on me.  Slowly the fog in my head began to clear as I glanced at the stranger I had acquainted the night before.  He was face down fast asleep on the other side of the bed.  And the events of the previous evening started to rush over me like a torrent of devastating reality: I had just been raped.

Carefully pushing the covers aside, I tried using my toes to shuffle off the torn pantyhose now gathered at my ankles.  I remember staring at the tears in the nylon wondering what on earth has just happened to me?  What has just happened to my life?

I Remember Saying No

I remember saying no. I remember being puzzled at the loss of every bit of my strength.  I remember the dizziness, the extreme lethargy, and the nausea.  I remember pushing back his every advance and slowly becoming weighted down with an unidentifiable helplessness. I remember turning my face away from his and vomiting off to the side and thinking, “Surely he would stop now? Right?”

I remember returning to my hotel room that morning and feeling a deep grief over a new and ugly truth:  I had just been raped of the virginity I had finally resolved to hold back for love.  I remember feeling my heart wanting to harden.  I also remember praying.  Riding home, resting in the passenger seat of my dear friend’s car, with my pounding feverish head pressed onto the ice-cold car window, beneath my shallow breath I prayed one simple prayer over and over again. “Please God, don’t let me hate men.”

For the next few weeks I walked through my ordinary days in bewilderment.  It was like a default mode for me to drift off into places of detachment.  I would have to startle myself in order to check back in and be present again.  I was hoping that if I kept acting like nothing happened, eventually it would feel that way too.  Pieces of the puzzlement eventually came together and I was able to conclude I had been victimized with a date rape drug.  It would be one month later when I would discover one of my faint and drifting concerns would soon become a demanding reality; I was pregnant.  Not only had my virginity been stolen.  It appeared as though my future was next.

I Just Want My Life Back

Before I told my mom about the rape and the pregnancy, I had already made an appointment with an abortion clinic.  Growing up within a Catholic tradition, I was never an advocate for abortion.  However, like a frightened animal that gnaws its own leg off after being trapped, an abortion in the face of rape seemed the most justified choice.

The day that followed breaking the news to my mom, I came home from work to my dad standing on the front steps waiting for me with great anguish and tears staining his face.  After fracturing my father’s heart further with the details, my mom and I told him we saw no other way out of this unjust consequence but to abort.  With great clarity and conviction he spoke the one truth that, surprisingly, set me free: “Abortion is murder.”  I had no idea what we would do next, but it was the first time in a month I felt free to be at peace with the consequences.  That one single statement gave me a new freedom to make a different choice.

Needless to say, after such violation, I wanted nothing more than to just get my life back to the way it was.  Together we figured the next best choice for me and this innocent little life was an adoption.  With my newly-found freedom came a new determination to do what was right and to do my best with what I had been dealt.  We worked the exhausting task of reviewing adoption profiles and interviewing potential parents.  Every profile read like a Hallmark card, every couple appeared deserving, and every interview was terribly awkward.  How exactly does one give away a life anyway?  By the seventh month we chose a sweet yet childless couple from the north for my first baby to be their first baby.

After my nine months were up, I gave birth to the one of the most beautiful baby girls ever to grace this earth.  Her pretty little face was framed by a full head of deep black hair that wisped into soft lil wings from every adorable angle.  Her big, dark, doe-like eyes had no greater purpose than to enchant every onlooker.  Her long delicate frame and long fingers sang of her great potential.  She was perfectly cuddly, perfectly precious, and at one glance perfectly worth the choice.

She was clearly worth my first choice for life and my second choice for adoption.  But she has been more than worth my third choice: to be my own.  Yes, my final choice was to be her mother.  I can’t say the circumstances of my life at that time were the ideal for parenthood, but I can say my life recovered in full the heart felt peace that had been shattered 400 miles back.  It would be my mom who would offer up her own personal freedom to care for my daughter as I worked full-time to provide.  My daughter was not her last grandchild but she was the only grandchild she got the chance to love on before cancer cut her life too short.

 Love Came In

At 26 choosing to parent as a single was a good choice for me, it saved my life and gave me a future I had yet to dream.  Choosing to parent positioned me to cling to a Man who I would later learn had been waiting in the background a long time to love me as His very own.  He was the only Man who actually wanted to take responsibility for us and never gave a thought to what it might cost Him.  This Man brought us both into His family, healed my brokenness, restored my loss, provided for our home, made us believe we were worth love, and encouraged us to dream in the face of so many impossibilities.

This Man just happened to be the very Son of God Himself, Jesus the Christ.  He looked upon our helplessness and without any merit to speak of considered us worthy of His unending love and attention.  Parenthood made me cling to Him and clinging to Him proved to me He was a Man of His word and safe for us to love in return.

It is important for me to note here: for those of us who have made other choices I want to encourage you, He waits for you too.  He waits to love on you in all of the deep and personal ways your heart needs to heal and to free you up in all the ways your life needs so you can live free of shame and instead live your life to the fullest in honor of your loss.

We Are The 1%

We are the 1%.  We are the 1% that demands the right to have a choice to abort in the case of rape and incest.  Yes, we are that 1%.  I exercised my right to choose, and I chose life.  Even more so, I chose life with my baby.

Fourteen years later a young man called to interview me for his high school term paper on abortion.  He asked what I would tell a young girl today who was caught in the same situation?  With so much to consider I managed to narrow it down to this one thing: Choosing life is hard, but choosing life is right.  It’s not just hard to make the choice, it is equally hard to live with your choice–whether it be abortion, adoption, or parenthood.  However, the two choices for life, adoption and parenthood, are the only choices that lead to more life for everyone involved.  Bye the way God is pro-choice and in His great kindness His tests are always open book: “I have set before you life and death, the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.”  Duet 30:19

In cases of rape and incest there is flag of justice that rises to demand a right to self-preserve.  It boasts: “I didn’t ask for this!” “I don’t deserve this!” “I shouldn’t have to suffer for this!”  At the same time, there is another life even less deserving of the injustice than our own–it’s the new life thriving inside of you.

God Had A Dream

Although God does not plan the violations, He does foresee them along with our redemption in mind.  The beautiful innocence growing in you is a dream God dreamed and intricately formed and fashioned a life around.  This new life is the fulfillment of a desire God burns with and has destined to be an answer to a need in this world.  The life growing in you is a life that has been planned to lead you to a reconciliation–first with God, second with your future, and finally, everywhere else it would be needed. When you resolve to choose to heal from the violation, you will be enabled by God to embrace the child independent of it.  You will also be able to embrace the redemption already planned with the two of you in mind.

I am absolutely convinced it is impossible to heal from such a traumatic injustice without Jesus.  I know first-hand that it is impossible to live out your choice without Jesus inspiring and empowering you over and over again.  From the start, every troubling statistic stared me in the face as I dared parenthood as a single woman with a biracial daughter.  I am humbled and grateful to say 20 years later she shows no lack, she has defied all the odds, and she proudly calls herself my trophy daughter.

She was never intended to be a burdensome consequence of that snowy morning in Memphis.  She was always intended to be my joy.

We are the 1%, and we have to tell you that all things are possible for you with God.  There is a longing in every human heart; it is the longing for greatness.  Deep in the recesses of our hearts we really want to be someone’s hero even if it’s it for a minute.  We want to be that certain someone who makes an unbelievable life defining sacrifice that ends up saving a nation, or a city, or a family, or at least one single person no matter how small.  An unexpected pregnancy may not be your choice for heroism.  But it is your chance.

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Kimberly and her “trophy daughter” Andee currently reside in Decatur, IL.  Kimberly is an aspiring writer and speaker.  You can learn more about her and find contact information at Kimberlinez.com

This was a guest blog originally posted by Kimberly Cavanaugh for Britta Menzel at Career Mommy on 6/18/12


Pulling the Shade

Well…..

After 3 years and two site transitions I think I can say that I have flirted with this push-button publishing thing called blogging long enough.  In an effort to challenge my capacities to write out the deep inspirations that abound within I will be pulling the shade on this blog until further notice.

Kimberlinez has been my weak attempt at stirring up the gifts within.  In recent months, as I would consider what to post next, I found myself overwhelmed with a lil condition I like to call TMC; too much content.  I began to find the work of trimming content into blog-bite-size pieces to be a bit disabling.  I believe the time is now here to give myself to a bigger commitment.

As you read this I will be hiding out, working to funnel my writing efforts into the composition of my first full length book.  This would be the paragraph where I would give voice to my insecurities and give my readers all kinds of reasons for them to not expect a lot out of me.  I confess, I do have a dreadful history of not finishing what I’ve started.  However, I think instead I will simply ask you to offer up petitions and supplications with me for this first of many literary projects to come forth in words of power.

Kimberlinez will remain up for viewing. If you are a first timer you can move to the about page to learn more about me.  If you are a regular please know I remain eager to share the good news of God’s jealous love and would greatly enjoy coming to encourage your people groups in such knowledge. Visit the contact page to get something started.

To my readers, thanks for stopping by.  I pray that you have been stirred to greater commitments in relationship to Jesus.  To my commentators, you’re the bomb-diggidy.  Feedback is food to a communicator so I thank you for daring to be heard with me. Lastly, if you are one given to intercession and feel the burden to partner with me in this upcoming literary project a small list of prayer topics will follow the closing.

Much Peace, and Love, and Grace to you all!

Hiding out until further notice,

Kimberly

Prayer topics:

  • Employment transition that best favors the creative, financial, and time management elements needed for this project
  • Enhanced style and organization skill for too much content
  • Honest and original expression that stirs the most holy of emotions
  • Proper grammar, usage, and punctuation
  • Writer’s block dispelled
  • Grace to finish

I Stared

Andee's perspective from the roof-top of Angelus Temple

I was using my imagination to ponder the ancient scene; Jesus was dead. Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, dead and slaughtered and hanging on a criminal’s cross. All the hope and promise He embodied to His friends and family had drained into a pool of innocent blood at the foot of that cross.

I began to wonder, “If I was one of those who loved Him back then, how would I have responded to what I was seeing?” Just when I thought I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like, I was reminded I could.

I’ve stared at a lifeless body before. I’ve felt all hope and promise for happily ever after evaporate at the onset of death. I saw my mother, ravaged with cancer, breath her last breath in my presence. The death rattle had come to warn us. I was knelt down resting my head in her lap like I used to when I was a little girl as I hummed one of her favorite worship songs and held on as she left us.

As we awaited the coroner to certify her death, I stared. I sat in my father’s chair stunned with unbelief and stared. With great intensity I fixed my gaze upon her lap and just stared. I stared at the outlines of her precious body looking for it to raise a breath again. I stared because I had banked everything on all that Jesus had said to us about His love and His power. I stared until the determination to see her raised from the dead gave me an impossible prayer to pray. In my mind there was absolutely no way she was supposed to end this way, so I stared.

I love Jesus. I love that as I am pondering His death today He was simultaneously remembering me. I love even more that He interrupted my imaginations today to prove to me I would have been one of those who had the hope that hoped beyond His death. It was alive in me at my mother’s death and it is alive in me now.

Yeah, I think He is right. I would have been one of the “crazy” ones at the cross who stared. I would have been that one in the group rude with unbelief who stared. I would have fixed my gaze upon his core and just stared. I would have stared at the outlines of His broken body looking for it to raise a breath again. I would have stared because I had banked everything on Him all that He had said to us about His love and His power. I would have stared until the determination to see Him raised from the dead gave me an impossible prayer to pray. I would have been the one who secretly believed there was absolutely no way He was supposed to end this way…

my heart would have been telling me the truth when my eyes couldn’t

I’ve had to repent this Good Friday for loving this temporal life more than the promise of the eternal life. The truth is: life continues after death, not just for those who loved God and relocated to Heaven but for those of us who remain to love God from the Earth. The death we see with our eyes is a death our hearts can hardly believe and rightly so; we were never created to experience death, remember? Happily ever after forever with God was the original idea. Making Jesus the only way out of the sin and through its death back to the Father has been the best idea.

There is life after death my friends, don’t lose your stare … Sunday is coming


Caught in the Act: the Masturbations of Self-help

Love is Better When Two are One

I’m at Renaissance on a Sunday night when Pastor Jeff makes this statement, “‘…let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.’ …To deny yourself is to turn your back on self-determination.”  God continued the conversation in my own heart: “Self-help hinders intimacy with Me; it’s equivalent to spiritual masturbation.”

Shocker?  Not to me.  It actually pointed toward a much greater understanding that started with my mom several years back.  My mom loved Jesus and loved His church. She lived much of her devotional life praying through the tension that existed between the church she saw in the bible and the church she saw in America.  Within the last year of her life God gave her this dream:

While walking up an old country road she came upon a beautiful young woman reclined on the dusty ground, masturbating.  So disturbed by the site, she quickly looked away to Jesus.  He was standing over the woman with pleasures-forevermore resting in His right hand.  She asked Him, “What is this I am seeing?”  He replied, “This is my bride, the church, pleasuring herself.”

True Love

If the love of God is true for us we can be assured it has been scheduled within our destinies’ encounters of suffering in the deep rural areas of our journey here on earth.  In the 15th chapter of John, Jesus gives His disciples insight into their futures.  Written throughout their stories and ours will be repeated visitations of pruning from a Vinedresser who is our Father.  There will be places on the side of the road called Destiny where everything that has made us successful in Jesus will be cut clean from us.  Everything that has been good and effectual and prosperous will be severed, and He will call it an act of His true love.

When the Vinedresser comes, He will cut away the good stuff, the stuff that has been making Him famous through us.  I am not talking about the pruning of sins and weaknesses.  He forgives our sins and empowers our weaknesses, but He cuts off our fruit.  He comes after the stuff that has proven we follow Him (John 15:8).  Perfect in wisdom, He cuts away the very fruit the two of us had been enjoying together.

Pruned, we stand naked before the world with nothing to show for our faith.  Our dedicated lives will look like foolishness and will feel like punishment.  For a time, our scriptural platitudes will stop proving effective in our lives.  Familiar resources will run dry.  Precious relationships will untie from us, and it will be for all the best reasons. This is a mysterious place of prospering. He prunes us fruitless so we will be ready to bear even greater fruit—the answers to “whatever you ask in My name.

To escalate our experience from challenging to despairing, the One whom we love removes what we love most, His presence.  It is at this point we have to be cautioned.  The desperation of the pruning season will tempt us to help ourselves right out of it.  If we do we will forfeit the greater work.  The evil tempter will be waiting to make his move. His plan is to come to this weak and vulnerable place with one goal in mind: to make us unfaithful to the Lover of our soul.

Self-Help Hinders Intimacy

So back to the introduction.  Self-help?  Equivalent to a spiritual masturbation?  It’s simple really.  Our world’s self-help philosophies seduce us to manipulate our motives and our environments promising us that we can lay hold of our own gratification.  That, my friends, is the masturbation of self-help.  It’s within the pruning season we will be relentlessly tempted to turn away from the innermost intimate life we were enjoying in the Vine. We will be tenaciously enticed to stimulate something, anything, to encounter our own worth and secure for ourselves some level of happiness once again.

How can we know a self-help philosophy when we hear it? It is when the wisdom and encouragement we hear in our ears fails to point to Jesus as our source and ultimate gratification. Rather, the reasonings point us back to ourselves as the alpha and omega of our own lives and happiness. In other words, coaching self-interest attracts the selfish ambition already warring within us. We discover justifications of entitlement then draw upon the power of our own determination to perform a work that while it may benefit others, ultimately gratifies ourselves.  Self-help can easily look like success at all the wrong things.

The bible relays that in the last days people will be lovers of self, sensual pleasures, and amusement rather than lovers of God (2 Tim 3:2).  Our airways buzz with the tireless pursuit of happily-ever-after.  This buzz competes for the affection of our souls.  Widely celebrated experts on life and success, those who appear good or even godly, work at genius levels of insight to awaken our selfish ambitions.  They promise that if we give all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength to the American dream, we can have it.  Did you hear it?  Did you hear the enticement to become unfaithful?  They use the very promises we vowed to God to turn us away from our intricacy woven life in the Vine and divorce ourselves from Him.

Helplessness Is Our Great Reward

Jesus told the story of the Vinedresser to infuse us, the beloved branches, with courage (John 16:1).  He doesn’t want us to consider it strange when we lose our fruit.  Pruning is a daring act of love our Father performs to safeguard our hearts from independence.  God calls pruning our reward for being fruitful, and He puts Himself at risk of being misunderstood by us.

Let’s be honest, pruning hurts. There is no way around it.  It is what God calls suffering for righteousness (for all the right reasons). However, if we told another truth we would have to confess our strong aversion to suffering for what is right.  This aversion is currently robbing His Bride of the resurrection power she desperately needs to be effective where she lives.

True Love’s answer to our masturbation of self-help is to move in, closer than our skin, and tenderize us with helplessness.  Our own natural abilities to avert the suffering will be far removed from us. Our abilities to arouse successes and fruitfulness will fail to gratify us. Every familiar source we’ve drawn from in the past to attain happiness will be emptied from us.  Eventually we will find ourselves laid out on the side of our road called Destiny. We will be desperate to “help” ourselves into a happily-ever-after existence that was only intended to build while on earth not climax.

The American church, as an example, seems to be afraid to suffer for what it right.  She suffers endlessly for the wrong reasons of sin and sickness, but she will not move into suffering for what is right.  She will not follow her Lover in suffering the loss of reputation and comfort when following Him is what is right.  She will not suffer the fog of the unreasonable that accompanies the impossible when obeying Him is what is right. She will not suffer personal downsizing and go without when loving Him with her whole life is what is right.

We “self-help” in suffering.  We need to remember that Jesus’ Father is our Father.  Jesus, as a son, learned obedience through the things He suffered.  To love Him is to obey Him and that includes fellowshipping with His sufferings. What do we do with a God who writes suffering into the stories of His own children’s lives for the sake of righteousness?

In the pruning seasons it would be best for us to stop averting and start embracing the helplessness, the loneliness, the emptiness, the disorientation, the loss of reputation, the loss of presence, the loss of hope in a future, the loss of worth, the loss of zeal, the humiliations, and the deep sadness. Pruning is not a time to self-medicate.  If we do, we will numb ourselves from the truly intimate encounter of rising again.

Love Stands by Watching

As we attempt the masturbating of self-help, Love is standing by watching.  True Love is faithful, and He promised to watch over us always.  When the lack of gratification finally exhausts us, His right hand with pleasure-evermore gently extends casting its cooling shadow, and He whispers His most fervent invitation, “abide in Me.”

Andrew Murray said, “The intercourse (in Christ) was not only meant to be unbroken, but most intimate and complete.”  Our saving grace?  We will feel the compromise.  Our past fruitfulness has ruined us for anything less than a full and intimate relationship with Him and Him alone.  We have encountered the divine life that intercourses between our life in Him and His life in us.  Our helplessness will return us to Him and to the one thing that makes our lives worth living: His pleasure.  The masturbation of self-help will be impotent to reproduce the intimate life that we have relished from life in the Vine before.

Why?  The love is so much better when two become one.

Going back to the comfort of a risk-free life is a temptation not an option.  At our weakest points the enemy of our love will pressure us to drop all we’ve been believing for. He will offer every reasonable reason to quit. He will promise immediate relief from the pruning if we would just drop our ridiculous hopes.  Don’t retreat!  Refocus, remember what God has said in the seasons of romance, and hold on.

Yes, the pruning will be too hard.  Yes, it will take too long.  Yes, it will be more than you can handle.  It has to be in order for you to penetrate further into His great grace surging through the Vine.  Don’t despise your new level of helplessness, it will make it possible for the rooting and grounding of your faith to deepen.  Your intimacy with Him will be unhindered and His power will overflow through you more than ever.  From this point on you will not be uprooted by the lengthening and widening of the fruit about to blossom in your life.

When you have been tenderized by helplessness and have endured your losses without offense, He will call you My bless-ed (Luke 7:23).  And you will call Him my Life.


Miss’n My Fruit

Miss'n my fruit

Where does a 4 year-old go to get good?

I was watching a young family pass by my counter over the holidays. Christmas was in the air and this Lands-End-sport’n foursome was on their way to find some treasure. The eldest of the two children was a boy around the age of four. At the moment they caught my eye the little boy had his white knuckled fists pushed deep into his pockets as he was throwing back a little attitude to his folks. The zero tolerance came right back at him and he was told that he had better be good or Santa would not be coming to his house this Christmas.

You could see it as much as you could imagine it. Every objection in him stifled. His shoulders locked. His lips pursed. His coal-black curls tightened around the band of his bright red ball cap as he furrowed his brow. Where does a 4 year-old go to get good?

You know the feeling. You’re a little person with wants and thoughts and absolutely no patience whatsoever. It’s Christmas, you are all knotted up on the inside with anxious wishes for your dreams to come true. Doesn’t anyone know how hard it is to wait 25 days? Doesn’t anyone know how hard it’s been to be good for the last 20? With five more days of being good standing between you and the Christmas wish you are dying for, where does a 4 year-old go to get good?

After all, you’ve only been on the planet for the last four years. The first two years you were incapacitated by poor communication skills, the lack of mobility, and uncontrollable bodily fluids. By the third year all of the above is improving and you’ve become quite entertaining. You’ve also discovered that some behaviors lead to smiles and laughter while others lead to frowns and timeouts. By the fourth year the expectations on your growing intelligence become a little more demanding. Your parents seem to think you have a choice; you can be good or you can be bad. Where does a 4 year-old go to get good?

It has become painfully clear in recent months that I am a nub. My Facebook status keeps asking me, “What’s on your mind?”  The only reply I can come up with is “I am a nub.”  I have been thoroughly and deeply pruned over the last couple of years. I have experienced some brutal losses and most of them undetectable to the human eye. If I were to speak of it in its honesty you may run the risk of losing your religion, so for now I will spare you the intimate details. However, this one thing I can tell you: you can never really know the extent of your dependencies on God until He prunes you into nub. Where does a 40-something go to get good?

Note to self: God rewards our fruitfulness with pruning. It’s only when He fulfills His promise to prune us fruitless can we re-encounter the truth of our own soulish bankruptcies. Apart from Him we can do nothing worth anything, and I mean NOTHING.

On those days I’m miss’n my fruit I’ll wonder in the wilderness of my mind and remember the hunt that little boy was sent on to go find good. I wonder if he found it? I wonder if he found self-determination instead only to discover it doesn’t last very long. I wonder if he found how to work the manipulations of charm to only make himself appear good? Unfortunately the emptiness of that skill won’t be felt for years to come. I wonder if he gave up and resolved to a low self-esteem or worse yet, rebellion? Where does a 4 year-old go to find good?

If and when I ever get the chance to mother another child, to steward the innocence of a young life, I would so cherish those moments when I got to point to good. Only God is good. He stands on the porch of our hearts waiting for our attentions to return Him, declare our bankruptcy, and ask Him to come farther in and be good through us. Such sympathy pressures my heart to wish I had a chance to tuck those precious curls behind that guy’s little ear and whisper, “Baby, go to God. He has all the good you will ever need.”


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