Monday, November 5, 2012

Love Wins!

"What?!! She's bringing her foster baby??  You're kidding!"  Not what I wanted to hear.  How could she ruin our coveted annual girl's weekend?  Babies and bed and breakfasts don't mix.  Why would she do that?  Karen says because the baby won't let anyone else comfort her.  In her short two years of life, she's had both arms broken and her bottom badly burned by the man called to cherish her.  My friend's introduction to her occurred in the crowded halls of Parkland's burn unit.  Doctors called the scalding pattern, "classic."  Others refused to foster her.  Her blisters repelled them.  Her wounds too deep.  Her skin too dark.  But my friend said,"Yes."  Yes to tears.  Yes to stares.  Yes to love.

When they arrived at the house, the baby seemed overwhelmed.  Too many new faces.  She clung to the folds of my friend's shirt.  Wide eyed--beautiful eyes--but tinged with terror.  Slowly her soul began to thaw, and she relaxed.  A smile escaped.  Did I catch a sparkle in her eyes?  And then this lost and rejected toddler said one word that tore through my mind like a knife-- "mama, mama--please, mama." 

"What?!!  She's not your mother, don't you know that?  You shouldn't call her that!  Can't you see she's one color, you're another?  Don't you know you don't carry her name?  You're only a foster child.  You don't belong--" came spilling out like blocks falling down onto the floor of my mind.  What is this about? I ached.  Why do rights, fairness and truth rise up in me?  Why do I feel that baby needs to know she's not home?

I think I hear loud echoes that whispered, "don't trust baby--it's not real.  It won't last.  You're fooled.  Keep your guard up.  You're not safe!"  Yet with every smile between them, every tickle, every laugh that escaped, the two of them shouted back, "She is mine and I am her's!  No scars, no wound, no color, no different origin can keep us away from each other."  What was so profoundly between them was bigger than anything that had gone on before them.  The baby's need to connect consumed her fears, her position, her memories of her own mother.  I rried to imagine this sweet toddler pointing to her dark skin, her ugly keloid scars proclaiming, "can't you see them?  This is what's most true about me.  Hold me at arm's length.  I don't get to call you mama.  I haven't earned the right."

That weekend I witnessed a miracle.  Love wins.  Love triumphs.  Pains and past recede.  She GETS to.  She gets to call her "mama."  She CAN relax.  She doesn't have to heal herself first.  She doesn't wear the label of "foster."  She doesn't carry any of the shame.  None.  She is her mama's daughter.  As light danced between them, my wounded soul gently warmed.  Thank you beautiful baby for giving me the gift of belief.  Belief that in my Father's arms, I truly am home.  Love really is bigger--what's between us overwhelms what went before us.  I can relax.  I am very much loved.  I am fathered.  I can leave behind what failed before.  I CAN live my rescue.  I get to!  And so do you.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Footprints with a Twist

I received this story several years ago from Lana Bateman.  I still love it!

Imagine you and the Lord Jesus walking down the toad together.  For much of the way the Lord's footprints go along steadily, consistently, rarely varying the pace.   But your footprints are a disorganized stream of zigzags, starts, stops, turnarounds, circles, departures and returns.  For much of the way, it seems to go like this, but gradually your footprints come more in line with the Lord's, soon paralleling his consistently. 

You and Jesus are walking as true friends!  This seems perfect, but then an interesting thing happens: your footprints, that once etched the sand next to Jesus', are now walking precisely in His steps.  Inside His larger footprints are your smaller ones; safely you and Jesus are becoming one.  This goes on for many miles but gradually you notice another change.  The footprints inside the larger footprints seem to grow larger.  Eventually they disappear altogether.  There is only one set of footprints; they have become one.

This goes on for a long time, but suddenly the second set of footprints are back.  This time it's even worse!  Zigzags all over the place.  Stops.  Starts.  Deep gashes in the sand.  A veritable mess of prints. You are amazed and shocked.  Your dream ends.

Now you pray:  "Lord, I understand the first scene with the zigzags and fits.  I was a new Christian; I was just learning.  But you walked on through the storm and helped me learn to walk with you."
"That is correct."
" . . .and when the smaller footprints were inside of Yours, I was actually learning to walk in Your steps; I followed you very closely."
"Very good.  You have understood everything so far."
" . . . and when the smaller footprints grew and filled in Yours, I suppose that was becoming like you in every way."
"So Lord, was there a regression or something?  The footprints separated,and this time it was worse than at first!"
There is a pause as the Lord answers with a smile in His voice:
"You didn't know?  That was when we danced."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Drawn Away

Just as a prism of glass miters light and casts a colored braid, a garden sings sweet incantations the human heart strains to hear.  Hiding in every flower, in every leaf, in every twig and bough, are reflections of the God who once walked with us in Eden.  --L.B. Cowman
"I will come again and again for you.  Bounding over the hills like the great Shepherd from Hinds' Feet.  I call you hungering with fire!  I will set you ablaze my diamond fire.  You are that prism!  catching My light, casting a colored braid that twists and surrounds those I love.

Yes, I see you.  I receive you.  You touch Me.  You always have.  Come away with Me.  Stop wrestling with My creation (people).  That is time wasted.  Waste time with Me, the lover of your soul.  Time with Me is never wasted.  It's glorious--and so are you, My little one.  My dew drop.  Sparkle, child.  Reflect Me.  Worship Me--for only I am worthy of worship.  No one else--when you wrestle with them, you're worshiping your own experience and judgments.

So why don't they get it?  get me?  "It's not your story.  Pray for them."

God's holy beauty comes near you, like a spiritual scent, and it stirs your drowsing soul . . . He creates in you the desire to find Him and run after Him--to follow wherever He leads you, and to press peacefully against His heart wherever He is.  --St. John of the Cross

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Joy is the flag flown high
from the castle of my heart
when the King is in residence there.

So let it fly in the sky
Let the whole world know
That the King is in residence there!
--anonymous childrens' song

Ponies and Precious Jewels

Three years ago I traveled to my very own Mt. Sinai.  I journeyed to Redding, CA nestled in a very HOT valley of 10,000 foot piney mountains.  I attended a writer's conference featuring Paul Young, the author of The Shack.  Here's my testimony that I posted on their website:

I hear some people find precious gems in the bookstore at Bethel.  For me, I found out that I am His precious jewel in the bookstore at Bethel!  A friend told me about the conference whose pastor did indeed find a gem on the bookstore counter last December.  I wondered as I went if God had gems and gold dust in mind for me.

Early Monday morning before the conference, God brought me beauty and stillness at the Arboretum and a shining smile on the Sundial bridge.  A gifted musician saw the sparkles on my shirt and sang, "Jesus, you are a precious jewel."  As Abba so often does, He held up a mirror and reflected this praise offering back in my direction.  "You are a precious jewel Elaine, and I love how you sparkle for Me," He whispered to my heart.

After the conference I got in my car to leave, but then I remembered I wanted to buy yet another book.  Deborah behind the counter graciously chatted with me and then offered to pray.  When she took my hand, she bowed her head, then looked at my wedding ring and jerked her head back up.  God projected an image from the movie Aladdin onto her heart's screen.  She saw the lion roar, "Only the diamond in the rough can enter the sacred cave!"  Deborah proclaimed, "You feel like a diamond in the rough.  But that suggests a process yet to be finished.  God wants you to know you are completed.  You're polished and shining, a perfect one-of-a-kind cut.  A God-cut, not man made.  You are so precious to Him, a very precious jewel--a diamond.  He wants you to live in His smile."

Deborah laughed a bit because she worried how I might receive a word from Aladdin.  With tears streaming, I reassured her that I tell my friends if I could be reborn, it would be in my daughters' fairy princess movies!  I thanked her and headed for the prayer chapel.  I guess I wanted an encore.  I sat at Jesus' feet in that transcendent place, and I happened to open my Bible up to Revelation 21.  I don't really know how I landed there.  I caught my breath when I read, "And He . . . showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.  It shone with the glory of God and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel" (Rev. 21:10-11).  Could there be any doubt?

Getting up to leave, I noticed a couple sitting behind me.  I had seen them earlier and overheard that they traveled all the way from Florida.  The man wanted prayer for his diabetes.  I sensed God speaking again, but this time He called me to encourage them.  In the thin air of Bethel's heavenly places, I didn't even question His call to obedience.  I got up and positioned myself outside the door, ready with His affectionate ambush.  They stepped through the door and I declared, "This may seem a bit strange, but Jesus calls you His cowboy, and He's telling you, 'Let's ride!'  But I don't know if He means horses or motorcycles.  I see both.  He really loves you, and He's going to heal you.  Now it's time to ride with Him."

I paused, a bit unsure how my Bonanza word would resonate with them.  I glanced at his wife, tears spilling freely onto her cheeks.  "I know exactly what He means," she said.  "My husband just retired from long haul trucking.  Seven years ago before he got diabetes and almost died, we used to ride motorcycles.  And I loved it best when he wore his cowboy hat and boots!  And God showed me years ago a vision of Jesus and I riding up a mountain on a white horse.  It's time for us to move with Him."

My jaw flew open.  I told them I was a bit new with this prophecy-thing.  Recently when I shared with my church life group that I was a bit bored with my old spiritual gifts of mercy and exhortation, and I wanted to move in prophecy, miracles, and healing, a man sitting next to me retorted,"It's not like it's a wish list you know!"  But before I came to Bethel, a prophet at my friend's church declared that God was about to release His prophetic voice into my life, and a breakthrough for my family would result. 

So when my new friend cowboy Chuck offered to pray for me, I accepted eagerly.  "You are a diamond in the rough," he began . . . and now I felt like I was IN a movie!   "But God has made you His perfect diamond, a pure cut precious gem."  Linda exclaimed, "I see it too!  a marquis-cut diamond!"  I don't know how I remained standing.  They continued to pray that God would awaken the dead places quickly within me and release me into His prophetic flow.  "A shifting in the giftings is taking place," Linda said.  I began to laugh after we finished, and I couldn't stop for several minutes sitting in my black rental car.  So this is what a testimony is!

My denoument occurred when I got stranded in Denver due to a delayed flight.  I had a quiet moment at the hotel to reread over my notes from the conference (that's all I had to read; all those books I bought were in the bowels of the airport).  At the first session I had written in the margin of my notes about hearing the guitarist sing that Jesus was a precious jewel.  I looked again and immediately to the right of that scribble I noticed the words, "You do have something to say," spoke Kris Vallotton.  "You need others who see a diamond in the rough!" 

After coming home and adjusting to another altitude, I opened the door to the children's wing at my church.  I have to admit feeling some sadness after being 'ruined for ordinary.'  The door trudged open and before me as far as I could see on the carpeted hallway were silver, sparkling flakes glinting in the light!  "I go before you Elaine.  I have prepared the way.  I AM here and I know your heart--your shining, sparkling diamond heart.   Do not lose heart or grow weary," Abba shouted!  What on earth possessed the children's minister to celebrate the fourth graders' promotion with thousands of foil flakes?  Who knows, maybe he loves Barbie's Diamond Castle too?! 

"Oh Lord, You are my God.  I will exalt You and praise Your name . . . You have done marvelous things."  (Isaiah 25:1)

An Adventure Begins

Picture yourself in an ancient European city-Florence perhaps or Madrid. You find yourself at dusk, wandering through the older parts of town. Narrow streets are lined with dimly lit shops-pawnbrokers, no doubt, alongside various dealers in antiquities, booksellers, curious haunts harboring mysteries from far-off lands. Partly out of curiosity, partly out of a wish to avoid the jostling crowds, you turn into a musty parlor. As your eyes adjust to the twilight inside, you discover aisles crammed with Babylonian trinkets, Persian rugs, suits of armor, Colombian pottery. You browse indifferently among everything old and intriguing.

Then, something catches your eye. Sitting in a pile of forgotten silver urns and incense burners, it might have escaped your notice altogether. But it seemed to call to you, whisper your name. In fact, it is already in your hands. This is ridiculous, you think. You turn the lamp over and over most carefully, looking for . . . you're not quite sure what. Obviously it is from the Middle East, Arabia most likely. What am I thinking? These things happen only in fairy tales.

Something you read long ago-was it in Chesterton?-crosses your mind. "An adventure is, by its nature, a thing that comes to us. It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose." He's right about that, you admit. Alice wasn't looking for Wonderland when she fell through the looking glass. Come to think of it, the four children just stumbled into Narnia through the back of the wardrobe. Anodos simply woke to find fairyland had taken over his bedroom.

But another voice rises within you, urging caution. You've got places to go, for heaven's sake. Don't let yourself get carried away. The voice is full of common sense, of course. But the voice also seems old and tired. From how many adventures has it swayed you in your life? How many dreams left in the closet? "Closing time," calls the curator of the shop. He begins to blow out the lamps. Your heart is racing. Somewhere back in your mind you hear the voice urging you on to your duties. But it is too late. You've already rubbed the lamp.

 While I wasn't lost in a dusty corner of Madrid, I was with close friends at an outdoor market in Helotes, TX.  Betty and I were oohing and ahhing over real antiques--not someone's dimestore junk, but genuine articles like a Lionel Richie record, a first edition Mark Twain, a milk glass vase and lovely cats painted on rocks.  All of a sudden she 'rounds the corner cradling this lamp, saying, "here, this one's calling out your name!" 
Beautiful Jesus, You knew I had read this Eldredge devotional just days earlier.  You know the intense burning in my heart to fall out of the wardrobe into Narnian woods.  You know the pain I carry, some days feeling very crushed and broken.  You astonish me, Lord.  "I see you, Elaine, I really do.  And I have brought you an adventure all your own.  Don't lose me in the cobwebs and the dust of your heart.  I AM sweeping them away and replacing your tears with life and joy.  I promise." 

Bowed low, I am grateful.  I can breathe again.  And I rubbed the lamp . . .