Monday, November 02, 2020

We Weren't Created to be Separate

Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.

~Leviticus 13:45-46
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

~Luke 17:11-13
A couple of weeks ago my Precept class began studying the book of Leviticus. Our current lesson had us looking at leprosy (among other holiness issues...) and in my study this week, the above passage from Luke grabbed my heart.
Here were these men - afflicted with a disease - living separated, as the law commanded them to do. They saw Jesus, they knew He could help them, but they stood at a distance. The law of Moses required a lot more than 6-foot "social distancing" for those with leprosy. As long as they were unclean, these poor folks had to live outside the camp, announcing their unclean-ness everywhere they went so nobody would accidentally come into contact with them.
Learning the law and the motivation behind it helps me understand the reason it was necessary. But as I read those words in Luke, they stood at a distance, as I thought about those men staying away - desperate and begging for mercy, and as I considered the similarities to what's going on in our COVID world today I couldn't help but hear this phrase echoing in my mind:
We weren't created to be separate.
We just weren't.
We were created for relationship.
Right now, however, although we aren't under laws like they were in the days of Leviticus, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on our ability to be together. We may not be living alone or outside the camp, (Though for some people, that condition is their virtual reality.) but we aren't living with the relationships our hearts desire and our souls need, either. And as I was reading the Luke passage I could nearly hear the pain in the voices of those men as they called to Jesus for mercy. As they begged Him to have pity on them. Because that longing is in my own heart right now.

Is it in yours, too?

I found myself repeating the plea of the ten lepers, begging God to have pity on us and to heal our world of COVID. Because we weren't created to be separate!
And then I could hear Him saying to my heart, I know, dear one. Because I am your Creator. I made you with the need for others. I gave you the desire for connection. The capacity to give and receive love. I know, dear one.
But that wasn't the end of it. Very quickly God reminded me that just as we weren't created to be separate from one another, we were not created to be separate from HIM.
Yet that is just what our sin did. It separated us from a holy God.
Completely broke the relationship we were created to have with our Creator.

But God.

Ahhhhh, but God.
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

~John 3:16
God made a way to overcome the deadly sickness of sin which separated us from the relationship with Him for which we were created. HE did it! Praise Him!!!
In God's unending mercy and amazing grace He sent His Son to take away our sin for all of eternity.
HE had everlasting pity on us.
How thankful I am for the sacrifice our High Priest made for us - once, for all - so we could be cleansed and restored!
And if God was able through Christ to heal our souls of sin, I know HE is able to heal our bodies and our land of COVID-19. Even as I believe He is using this pandemic to humble our hearts and bring lost souls into relationship with Himself.
Yes, LORD, please let it be.

Karen

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

It's Not About the Flag

A couple of months ago a friend and I decided to embark on a journey of trying to understand the racial struggles our country is presently facing. The violence, the division, the discord, and the animosity breaks my heart. I tend to be one of those Can't-we-all-just-get-along? types, who wishes we could simply agree to be nice and love one another. But current history has convinced me it isn't that easy. So my friend and I, we said, "Let's try to understand."
I'm finding out there are a lot of things I didn't know I didn't know.
One of those things is the reality that I wasn't seeing things as clearly as I thought I was seeing them.
In fact, my perception of one particular issue has been radically challenged.
Kneeling during the National Anthem.
Like a lot of other (white) Americans I was angered by professional athletes "taking a knee". I read articles and opinion pieces written by (white) Americans which blasted the athletes for totally disrespecting the men and women who fought for our country, who risked (or sacrificed) their lives to maintain the freedom we have, whose service endowed those men with the right to take that knee. As I read those words and considered the actions which were rebuked by them, I became indignant. How an individual could be so contemptuous was absolutely beyond me. To me, their actions felt like a slap in the face to every man and woman who has ever served our nation in any of the armed forces.
Because that's the narrative I was reading.
It's what I understood.

Fast-forward a lotta time to a recent day when I came across a series of YouTube videos called, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. My friend and I are reading and discussing books and I thought this video series would be a good addition to our pursuit of understanding.
So I started watching.
Right away, I was impressed by the Conversations. The dialogue and honest exchanges which take place in each episode are very helpful. Some of the moments are raw, and some pull at your heartstrings.
I was engaged and eager to learn.
But then I got to episode 8 and - in spite of my desire to understand - I felt an eye-roll in my soul.
Because it was a conversation with the NFL commissioner and they were talking about the National Anthem protest. And I could not imagine how I was going to become convinced in any way, shape, or form that the situation was anything but utterly disrespectful.
Because that was my framework and perspective.
And I was convinced it was the correct view.
So, imagine my surprise when I heard these two men talking and they started to say, "It's not about the flag." I'm all, What??? Yes it is! It's ALL about the flag. But the more I listened to the Conversation, the more I realized I hadn't seen the reality of the situation. In my skewed view of everything which was happening, I completely missed the heart of the issue.
I am not going to repeat here everything they said there. Instead, I am going to urge you to watch a few videos for yourself.
The first is Part One of the conversation with the NFL commissioner.
The second is a segment from Fox Sports during which three men discuss their take on the Conversation. (By the way, I happen to disagree with the gentleman who thinks Colin Kaepernick was, in fact, focusing on the flag. The statement he quotes, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," seems to me to establish the fact that the focus is on the injustice of oppression.)
And the third video is Part Two of the conversation with the commissioner.
All together, it's a bit more than 30 minutes. So, bookmark it and watch it in pieces if necessary. But, please do watch. We need to have these discussions so we can understand.

Karen

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Come, LORD

That short phrase keeps rolling off my tongue.
Keeps flowing from my heart.
Come, LORD.
Come closer!
We need You!!!


Oh, the need is everywhere. It screams at me wherever I look!
We are in desperate need of healing - spiritual, racial, relational, physical... It keeps going and growing, and my heart aches for God. For His move in our world.
Because all I'm seeing is brokenness.
And HE is the only One I know who can bring wholeness.
I am certain you're seeing it, too, right? The battle between political parties, the racial tension, the fight over how/what history is to be taught, arguments over what history is actually correct, opposition regarding people and policies, and anger towards individuals who will - or will not - wear a mask. In tweets, Facebook posts, television "news" reports, and any of a plethora of online formats it seems everyone is contributing to the clash and deepening the divide between brothers and sisters in these United States.
And it's got to stop. The hostility MUST stop.
We cannot survive - as a nation, or as individuals - like this.

But how? How can we make the changes which are necessary to make in order to heal from our past, and go forward to a healthy future?
It seems impossible.
Because each member in the quarrel believes he/she is 100% correct and their opponent is 100% wrong. And it seems nobody is willing to entertain an idea which has come from the "other side" because, heaven forbid anyone should do anything which resembles compromise or submission.

So we're left at an impasse. Everyone knowing something's gotta give.
But no one willing to give.
And I find myself on my knees, even on my face, begging God to come and heal our land.
No. Our hearts.
We need a transformation of hearts in our land. Because no amount of land-physical-COVID-or-otherwise healing is going to do any good until our hearts have been renewed.
Oh, I want to understand the issues. I'm trying interpret the stories and decipher the positions, feelings, and biases. And I have come across some helpful things. God has allowed my eyes to be opened to perceptions I have not seen before. And I am so thankful!
But while all these things are transpiring in my mind, as I take in the brokenness around me I remain convinced our only hope is a miraculouse work and move of God in our collective hearts.
And so I continue calling.
Come, LORD.
COME!!!

Karen

Thursday, September 10, 2020

When Tears are OK

My daughter came over this morning to pick up a package which was delivered for her here. She was on her way to work, but we had a couple minutes to talk. And in the minutes her tears came. Because she's under stress right now.
Trusting God, but not seeing the way things are going to work out.
Praying and believing He will do what is good and right, but not privy to His game plan.
Certain He knows what He's doing, but wishing it was done.
Yeah. That's where my girl and her husband are right now.
In the waiting.
But even when you have faith, waiting is hard. And sometimes the tears will flow.
And my momma's heart feels her pain.
Their pain.

Yet I noticed a new feeling today when I saw my daughter's tears.
That is, I missed an old feeling.
What I'm trying to say is, it was OK. My daughter's tears didn't cause me to panic. I didn't have an urge to rush in and make everything all better. (I mean, I can't!) Because I, too, trust that God is able. I, too, am praying and believing. Even though I cannot see the end from the beginning, I am also certain He knows what He's doing. And in His perfect time, I am confident HE is going to take them exactly where they need to be.
So I am not feeling the need to fix her circumstance and banish her tears. Rather, I'm going to keep on praying and trusting the One who is at work.
The One who is able.
The One who is writing this story.
The One who is growing my "kids" accoring to HIS perfect plan.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

~Hebrews 11:1
(Is it any wonder I found myself reading about faith this morning, too? HE is so into the details!)

Karen

Sunday, August 23, 2020

HIS Timing: Perfect, Once Again

I wish I could plan things out as perfectly as God does.
Wish I had that knack for knowing exactly when to begin a thing so that details will fall into place just like they should, precisely when they're needed.
You know, like HE did with Mary? Causing her to become pregnant at just the right time so that when she and Joseph were in Bethlehem for the census "the time came for the baby to be born" (Luke 2:6). In that moment years and years of prophecy were fulfilled, according to every detail and God's perfect plan.
Anyway, I'd love to be able to plan things out perfectly like HE does.
Like He did today. Er, June 30.
I mean, I guess I don't know when He started this perfect plan.
But it delights me.
HE delights me!
See, the thing is, I just left part of my heart my son eight hours away from home. That is, Matthew is now living in Houghton, Michigan. A proud new student at Michigan Technological University.
Eight.hours.away.from.home.
No plans to be back in this neck of the woods until Thanksgiving.
The nest is empty.
My heart is working on acceptance.

And as God would have it, this morning my daily Bible reading was Leviticus 23-25:23.
I read about feasts and offerings, and the Sabbath Year.
All fine. Though nothing terribly inspiring or moving.
Until I got to the last verse for the day.

The land must not be sold pemanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and tenants.

Leviticus 25:23
Go ahead and read that again, and tell me if you hear what my mother's heart heard.
I heard, just as the land did not belong to the Israelites - rather to God - so my son is not and was not ever mine. He belongs to God. I am an alien in this land, and simply a care-taker of that precious human being whom GOD created. And if Matthew belongs to God, I can trust HIM to care for him always. Even when he's eight hours away from "home" and has no plans to return for three months.
That sentence - that "final word" for the day - absolutely blessed my heart.
And what made it even better was the consideration of God's hand in delivering it a just the right time. Two months ago I* decided to begin a chronological read-thru-the-Bible plan. I intended to get started on it July 1. But for some reason I* went ahead and began on June 30. Such that, on August 23 (after leaving my son at Michigan Tech on August 22) I would read Leviticus 25:23.
*Only God could move in me to arrange for such a perfect plan. I love that HE knew what I would need. And I love that HE worked it all out.

Whatever you're facing today, I pray you are approaching it with full confidence that God is working out every little detail.

Karen

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Praying for Unity

I recevied this text from a friend last night - who is a principal in a local school district:

Extra prayers please...my head is aching from all the stress of planning back to school. My teachers are very upset, our parents are confused, the students are no longer at the center of decision making, and my admin team is divided.

Besides being concerned for my friend - because I love her and I know she's doing her best and it saddens me that she is going through this stress - I couldn't help but recognize the picture she had just painted of our world.

Upset, confused, forgotten, and divided.

That's a pretty good summary of life-as-we-know-it, don't you think?
Seems to me just about everyone who has the breath of life in them could find themselves in one of those four categories. So as I prayed for my friend - as I asked God to give her grace and fill her with wisdom for each moment and every decision, that He might bring forth unity among her colleagues and in the community - I also prayed for unity in this world.
And I continue to pray for unity today.
Because more and more these days I am seeing division. I see people who are passionate about a position, who have good intentions, who want to see things get better and the world become stronger, who care about people, and who have a good heart. And I see others who are the same in all aspects - except the position about which they are passionate - and the two clash.
Arguing, belittling, judging, anger, and serious division ensue.
And suddenly we find ourselves in a world where fighting is the norm, bewilderment abounds, compassion is missing, and everyone thinks anyone who doesn't agree with them is wrong.
How, I ask, are we going to make any progress in a world marked by these qualities?

I don't believe we will.
I believe the division will ultimately break us.
And so, I pray for unity.
I pray the God who created this world will speak to His creation and transform our hearts. I pray He will give us a vision of what it looks like to love one another, of how we can serve our brothers and sisters, and of how we can live in unity. Ultimately, I believe this miracle will only take place when each one of us humbles ourselves, recognizes our need for God, and submits fully to Him.
Ah, LORD God, will You use the pain of our present circumstances to bring us to a place of repentance, that we might turn away from our own devices and seek YOU instead?

These longings in my heart for us to seek God and become united are echoed in a movement among many Christian brothers and sisters. If you have not yet heard about The Return, I encourage you to visit their website to learn more and to begin praying.

Karen

Thursday, June 18, 2020

HE Listens

So, my van died last Sunday.
Which meant Brian and I were quickly looking for a vehicle to replace it. And this activity made me a bit uncomfortable, because 1) we weren't planning on getting a new vehicle (I mean, we've talked about it randomly over the past several months. But it still felt like a sudden and unexpected purchase.) and 2) I don't like spending large amounts of money. We scoured websites, and debated the pros and cons of various options. And through it all I felt quite unsettled about being able to make the best choice.
Nonetheless, Brian came across a van which seemed like it may be a good fit for us. And we made plans to go for a test drive Tuesday afternoon.
So Tuesday morning I prayed, and I asked God to close the door if this one wouldn't be a good one for us. I asked Him to lead us to the best decision. And I believed He would.
We were in a bit of an anxious rush Tuesday afternoon trying to fit too many things into too little time, and Brian drove right past the exit we were supposed to take. Then we came to the exit we thought would be a good substitute, only to realize as we were on it that it was not the one we thought. Oh, it was marked with the right numbers, but it was a detour and did not put us where we thought we were going. So we found ourselves in a sort-of-familiar-place and figured out where we needed to go. But as we were going there we discovered that the road was closed, traffic was re-routed, and going was slow. (All of this happening while we're under the pressure of getting through with the test drive and back home in time for Brian to participate in a video meeting for work.)
My mind went back to the prayer I had prayed, and I asked, God, are You closing this door? Are these delays and detours Your doing? Are You leading us in this moment away from buying this vehicle? (Because, yeah, sometimes it takes me a few minutes to recognize the obvious things HE puts in front of me.)
So when we finally made it to the place where this van was, I had already made up my mind that this was not the one for us. And after inspecting and driving it, Brian came to the same conclusion. Which was a good thing, except now we had no leads on a vehicle.
Then came Tuesday night, and my participation in a prayer meeting on Zoom. As everyone was gathering and the host asked how we were all doing I let out a heavy sigh, which led to a brief explanation of our dead van and the search for a replacement. During the last portion of the prayer meeting I was asked to pray about my need for a van, then someone else would pray for my need and present a request of their own. And on it would go - each person praying for the need of the person who had just prayed, then voicing their own prayer which would be prayed for again by the next person. It almost caught me off guard when the organizer said, "Karen, will you begin by praying about your van need?" but I was happy to oblige. So we prayed for God's provision of a vehicle.
And here's where it gets really good.
Because another thing happened Tuesday night.
An individual about 20 minutes away from us posted his van for sale. The very make and model Brian was most interested in us getting. And Brian found that listing.
Yesterday morning Brian contacted the would-be seller and made an appointment for us to take a test drive. And I continued praying that God would lead us to make a wise decision.
We got to the seller's house and he tossed us the keys to the van and as we got in Brian said, "Hey, 242!" There was a sticker in the back window which indicated to us that the seller most likely attended a church with which we are familiar, and somehow that increased my confidence that we could trust him. Not that going to a particular church makes a person a "good" person, but it felt like a nudge from God that this was a good thing. Everything about the van checked out, we had a good conversation with the seller, and later in the day Brian talked to him again and made a purchase agreement.
That van now sits in my garage.

The thing is, I know God is so much more than a van-provider.
There are bigger and more pressing needs in this world than how I am going to get from point A to point B on any given day. I get that!
But I was delighted by how clearly God lead us in this buying decision over the past couple of days. As I looked with hind-sight (and as He continues to show Himself in various details) it was so obvious to me that God was listening and leading. And I thought, maybe somebody else needs to be encouraged to pray - trusting and believing that God hears and acts.

If that someone is you, I pray you will boldly approach His throne of grace today!

Karen