Let Him Interrupt

His boy was finally home. The lost son had appeared around the bend. The dead – was now alive. It was celebration time! What a scandalous story of mercy, the Prodigal Son. This son as-good-as spit in his father’s face, asking for his inheritance early, left home and spent it in no time – frittering away his portion of what his father worked hard to earn. It wasn’t his remorse, actually, but his hunger pangs that drew him back home. Jesus tells the story with precision and purpose recorded in the gospel of Luke.

I am focusing today, on just a couple of moments in it, where he is sitting in shame and pig slop, considering the worst case scenario vs. the best. What to do. Do I dare return? If so, what would I have to say for myself? I’ll pick up the scripture in verse 18 of Luke 15, where the young man is thinking and planning it out:

“I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”

This is human reasoning. First admission. Confession. “I have sinned against God and against you.” And then there is an equating of that sin with a real felt unworthiness to continue as being counted a son, or heir. “I am no longer worthy of being called your son.” And his third statement is one of working to be accepted and to earn his keep at his father’s estate. He begs to be allowed to work there. “Please take me on as a hired servant”. Our equivalent of “Will Work For Food”.

It’s human nature to think you are unworthy of his goodness, his mercy, his love. Especially just after you’ve royally messed up. I urge you, let him interrupt you as you pray and reason. Let him stop you mid-sentence. Right there. And not allow you to finish your thoughts  – your “Please take me back, but only use me to serve you.” Your… “I will do all I can to please you God.” Your “I will read my Bible every day, now.” “I will volunteer at church consistently from now on.” “I will keep my promises to you.” “I will pray more.” “I will stop wasting time, money – my life.” “I will…”

What have you prayed?

Let’s pick back up in the story where he finally comes home – in his dirt and stench, with nothing left but poor reasoning and plans:

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.[a]

And that is as far as he got. Because his compassion-filled father interrupted before he had the chance to say what he’d rehearsed in his mind – before getting to the big pull – what he thought would be the kicker – the deciding factor: “Let me work for you as a hired servant.”

But the good father interrupted – to speak to his servants, actually. The option, the plan his son had to work – to perform for a wage for his provision – was never even voiced, and certainly never considered:

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

May I suggest, that the Father – our Father in heaven – longs to interrupt your “I will…”‘s with his, “Quick!…” Notice in the passage above, where he interrupted. His son’s plan was:

1. confession 

2. declaration of unworthiness of son-ship 

3. proposition to earn his wage in order to eat

The father in the parable interrupts after #2. But make no mistake. It’s not because he agrees with #2 and just cuts him off before he gets to #3. He addresses the unchanging of his boy’s status as son first thing, when he says, bring the finest robe and get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. These were signs of this time, of dignity, wealth, authority and family identity. Of belonging, and the position of son, restored. And if that wasn’t implication enough, I see him (yelling excitedly over his shoulder), “this son of mine was dead and now has returned to life!” “This son of mine.” Well, that settles that. The father would never disown his son. No matter what. Nothing would change the relationship at least on the part of Dad. His love and bond were too strong. Even stronger than before!

So that leaves one element in the speech of the squanderer left unaddressed by his dad, #1, the confession of sin.

I believe that was intentional too. No need to bring up the sin and betrayal. To say, “I can’t believe you even bought prostitutes.” No need to talk about it at all. His son brought it up. That was all that needed to be said. Nothing more, nothing less on that. Perhaps because there really should be a humble admission – an honest confession.  But when that happens, it is usually evidence of a heart and mind already changed. Repentance. And that is the starting point for all renewal. All restoration. No need to take him by the arm, walk him back to the pig pen and rub his nose in the nasty pods. There was already repentance.

I know as a parent, I’ve been guilty of doing just that – bringing up the past – dragging my child through the details, even amidst an obvious broken and contrite heart. Why? Many times, I’ve even implemented some made-up punishment vaguely related to the wrong. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s my attempt at making sure they know the “depth” of wrong done so they aren’t tempted to go there again. But God is changing me. He’s softening my heart to be more like his. To reflect more mercy, more empathy. More like the father in this parable. It’s been slow, but I see some change.

If you read the rest of Luke 15, you’ll notice his son never bringing up the proposal again. Never bringing up the betrayal committed, the dishonor or the unworthy feeling he had still being considered a son. Because what his father said when he interrupted – this was the new narrative. This was truth. Identity. Significance. Purpose.

Whenever the voice of guilt turns to condemnation, or when your inner voice is declaring unworthiness of being a child of God, but only worthy to serve…

Whenever you feel like you need to perform for His approval, or work for a perceived view of your right standing, or keep doing more, more, more for His provision and sustenance, I implore you ~ repent. Change the way you think about Him.

Let Him Interrupt.

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A Bray Say… conversation about heaven

So what does God do up there all day? Sit in his chair and play video games?

-No silly. I don’t know…the Bible doesn’t say exactly. I guess he listens to prayers, heals people, speaks to us though his Holy Spirit, and pretty much controls everything…

… (we talk some more about sin, the sea of forgetfulness & God not counting our sin against us when we repent)…

Adam & Eve had it perfect. Everything was fine. Until they put clothes on.

-They put clothes on cause they were ashamed. Everything was different after that. Because of their sin, we all have the tendency to sin & feel ashamed & Satan tries to make us think wrong thoughts about ourselves.

I’ve done that before, and he even tried to make me think some stuff about myself that wasn’t true and then make me think that God was the one telling me that.

-Yeah, he does that. But don’t you believe it. God would never tell you you’re stupid, or a jerk or anything else, especially after you’ve asked him for forgiveness for something. If you hear that, know that it is always Satan.

I hate Satan.

-Me too. Ya know, before Adam & Eve believed Satan about that fruit & sinned, the world was perfect. We’ll never experience anything like that kind of perfect world again until we get to heaven.

There’s gold everywhere there. I think I’ll cut a big chunk out of a street when I get there and chuck it down to earth for the miners.

Will we all be like the same?

– I think we’ll have the same spirit, but we’ll have glorified bodies. I think we’ll be able to even walk through walls.

Coooool…

I call robbing a bank!

 

I May Not Have Much of a Following

…but that’s totally ok with me. Last year I wanted needed people to subscribe to this blog. I used to have a need for people to like me or my writing so much that they kept coming back for more…of me. I used to desire a following. But in the last 4 or 5 months, that desire has been slowly dying. Once in a while, it’ll take a random gasping breath (like in the movies when you think someone’s dead, but they’re not), but those are probably days I’m hungriest for attention, affirmation & assurance that people like me. Well, guess what;  it’s not about me. I guess (or really hope) that means I’m sort of dying to myself. 

I was never called to be liked. I was never whispered to by God to have a blog with a huge following or have tons of friends. I’m not much of a leader. I don’t even think I was whispered to by God to have a blog. I do know that what I’m called to do is follow Jesus, and if my living, singing, working, writing…  will help anyone else follow Him too, I’m doin’ what He wants of me.

I’ve been convicted this week of spending too much time & energy consumed with technology. Technology’s not a bad thing. I use it mostly to keep in contact with people I care about. But it dawned on me that I still must have this huge “need”, especially since moving 2k mi. away from family last yr., to KNOW and to BE KNOWN. Maybe it’s a girl thing. Maybe it’s a human thing. Yet I’m constantly thinking of how I’d love to get away by myself…well, with a good cup of joe & some quiet time with God.

I was thinking the other day, that I could seriously do some damage (in a good way) by using my time & energy to direct people to Jesus – with that same technology. Instead of feeding my own hunger for acceptance & contact, I will start redirecting…

…and maybe some who (by design) stumble on my sites in the future, may come into contact with and accept the God who created them – a God who is crazy about them.

Yeah, I may sound like Ms. Spiritual at first; my site rating might drop to like 4 million, but I don’t care. What people need (including me) is not another “friend” added to their contact list…or another shallow conversation.

what people need is grace. 

to hear the truth.

forgiveness.  

unconditional love.

a touch when you are hurting.

…all in the form of a Man & His Words.

raising the bar, pt.3 “confrontation”

matthew 15:18

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. if he hears you, you have gained your brother.”

raise the bar:

i thought it was pretty noble to forgive those who come to me after they’ve offended me. even more so if they never asked for forgiveness out right. but this passage says essentially that if i’m offended by someone’s actions toward me, i don’t wait for him to come a-knockin’ Continue reading

a scripture & more

isaiah 65…and me

1“I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help.

i didn’t ask because i had too much pride to. i thought i could handle my bad habits and secret sins and stressful days without any help, from anyone. or i was too ashamed to talk to you about it.

I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name.

I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me.

i know. you could’ve delivered me. but i was too busy. too wrapped up in my own selfish wants. instead of you, i looked for other things to sustain & calm me, even for a minute ~ a hershey bar, a latte’, a “comment”, sex, a new purse, an insanely good musician, my own family, gossip…

2 All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people.

i know. my Bible next to the couch laid open with promises and grace and truth to find again. to rediscover. it was right by my son’s pirate treasure box. that was fitting. i remember the prodigal son. such a powerful image of open arms.

your spirit whispers in my ear all the time.

3 All day long they insult me to my face by worshiping idols…

i look in the mirror & i think i actually make self image & body image my idol. as well as public opinion. some days, the computer or movies can willingly & easily take your rightful place

5 Yet they say to each other,
‘Don’t come too close or you will defile me!
I am holier than you!’

like sunday morning in church when i thought that black usher was looking me up & down, but he was probably just looking to see if i needed a Bible or bulletin. i don’t want people that aren’t like me to invade my personal space. at times i think i’m somehow holier, without a word exchanged.

“holier”. if i drift from reality, i can actually convince myself that my good deeds & gifts to charity are worth holy-points to you, kept on a celestial dry erase board

These people are a stench in my nostrils,
an acrid smell that never goes away.

forgive me. please forgive me. you are my first love. your worth to me is greater than any of these things. i do need your help to react to everyday life, even the good days.

i see you. i call on your name. i run into your arms. i want my life to be an offering, one of a sweet smell that never goes away. i love you.

shoplift a heavy burden

it was a rush. my mind would go a hundred miles an hour (to keep up with my heart) as i walked the isles of the store. it could be any store…or house. it could be any thing. lipstick, underwear, a toy for my son, a ring, a birthday gift, a grape, a coke…you get the idea. my objective was to try & find a way to get out of that store without paying for it…without a soul noticing it was gone. it was kind of a ‘lets see how far i can push the limits’ game i played. the anxiety was actually exciting while i shopped. maybe since i never really went thru a drinkin’ & druggin’ phase, this was my version of a “high” i missed out on. the pinnacle was always at checkout. i thought if i got past checkout, i’d probably be safe…beyond suspicion. sometimes i’d use coy conversation & flattery to distract the cashier. i was dang good.

rolling cameras, electronic machines, magnetic strips, return policies ~ i thought i could beat them all. for example, if i got hungry, i’d head over to the protein bar section, open one up, eat it slowly while i ‘shopped’, as to not seem paranoid & then leave the wrapper on the bottom of the cart at check out. if they asked, i’d say, ‘oh, that’s just garbage’. a thief and a liar.

sometimes i’d be at home, bored w/an overdrawn bank account & have an intense desire to shop…or should i say, attain something new. once the urge got in my brain, it was like nothin’ could stop me. i’d take little items easy to hide in my purse. if i didn’t have the money (i read shoplifting rarely has to do with the lack of money), i’d think, ‘there’s got to be somethin’ around the house i can return. then w/that cash or credit, i can buy something else.’ i’d frantically search the house for items or search my purse for a good receipt & then look for an item listed on it. in essence, i used the socially acceptable & legal right to return things, so as to justify it. i’d take back all kinds of things i’d had for up to 9 months, clothes worn & washed countless times…i’d literally break things, un-stitch a hem to make it seem defective, even hot-glue a plastic price-tag loop back onto a garment so it looked never worn.

one time i even returned a dress jacket i gave to my husband for his birthday. it had a small rip in the armpit & i made it bigger, stating it was defective. originally i paid $29. @ fred meyer…& i got credit for it, but not before several cashiers looked at it with an ‘oh my god.’ examining me & then the botched receipt (another trick i was fond of ~ i’d make the purchase date illegible w/water stains or just just rip it). they had a small debate team meeting as i stood there with a long line of people behind me. yeah, it was embarrassing. am i really writing all this? my gosh, it still is. but at the time, all that was worth a $13. gift card to me so i could get something new. to this day i can’t believe it ‘worked’. in fact, to this day, i can’t believe i was never caught.

i watched a dr. phil called, ‘can’t stop stealing’. i completely related to this woman. only she’d been arrested 4 or 5 times & was still addicted. he basically used her kids’ innocence & the threat of prison to scare & shame her into accepting the gift of cognitive therapy he offered to pay for “in her own home town”.

it was far from a message of grace & forgiveness. now that’s a real gift.

i thought getting caught just one time would break me. the sheer humiliation of being hauled off in from of my toddler while he waits for his daddy to come for him…or the thought of being handcuffed in public…it still scares me. but that’s not what helped me stop. dr. phil’s guest made me feel less alone in my addiction, but that wasn’t it either.

i read that confessing something to God with your mouth – it cleanses & saves you. confessing it to someone close you can trust is what starts the healing process. i believed that. i finally told my husband last year, then later my mom, that i had struggled with this compulsion for several years. like food addicts who have to eat to live & are therefore continually faced w/temptation to overeat as they stand in front of their fridge, i had to shop for necessities & groceries weekly. the temptation was always there.

but after confessing to God & someone who could hold me immediately accountable, my urges to “lift” started…lifting. when i’m tempted to steal (yeah, i’m still tempted), i ask myself, ‘self, why!?! do u need that? what kind of example are u setting? would it be worth getting caught? do u think you’re more special or entitled than others who actually pay? get over your…self.’ or i’ll just say a simple prayer for the strength i need; recalling that there’s One who promises to supply all my needs, when i need them. sometimes i don’t do either, & end up taking something anyway. the last thing i can remember lifting was a birthday card that played ‘who let the dogs out’ when you opened it. angel had used it as entertainment while @ wal mart, even during self-check out. that was 3 or 4 months ago.

i’ve been thinkin’ about it lately. my reasons for doin’ it & for me, it comes down to three things ~ not trusting God nearly enough, refusing to die to my selfish desires, & clutching a perverted sense of self-entitlement.

today as i type this, i am nearly free of that issue. not because i tried hard, faithfully attended a 12-step klepto program, or was caught in the act. instead, thank God grace was poured out on me.

before it got worse, i was shown in my heart how confession & reliance {on strength greater than my own} can join forces to really change a person ~ from the inside out.

fathers, sons, love & forgiveness

wait! this one’s a long post, but it’s a good thinker, hang with me here!!

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. – Gal 4:4-7 (NLT)

i love how God sent his Son to earth, spoke to him as his Son, & treated him as a Son should be treated. now we have the awesome privilege of making that comparison with our own children. we can see so much more clearly how to parent our own, and even more importantly, how to view ourselves as the precious, priceless children of God we are. when we hurt ourselves, are hit w/sickness or feel pain by another (in any way), he is immediately there to pick us up, squirt some bactine, give us a bandage & a hug if we will dare to reach for him. ok, not literally, but at least thru the body of Christ if you’re plugged in somewhere & absolutely thru His Word. but so often when a natural father disappoints, we attribute those failures and faults to our heavenly Father. why?!?! i guess doubt creeps in…squelching our faith in any kind of father figure. with every shattered hope, from sexual abuse to never receiving a hug; from an unfulfilled promise of a phone call to a no-show during the birth of your daughter, comes an opportunity to do one of two things. either

a.) build walls of protection to no longer “feel” hurt (which like denial, never really works) or

b.) dare to reach with faith as a child in a desperate state, for our Father in heaven.

hmmm…case in point ~ it’s 2:18am & my daughter, who’s fighting a fever & goopy droopy eyes just woke up crying. it was only natural for me to get up at the sound of her cry and go to her, give her medicine, pray & rock her in my arms. i wonder…how much more does our own Creator & Saviour long for that closeness every time we cry.

i’m learning (from books by john bevere & also nancy missler), that a danger in building protective walls is while they seem to keep hurt out, they also keep love in. in order to love as God does, unconditionally, we h a v e to make ourselves vulnerable. if we hold anything against them, we for our own growth need to say to our earthly father figures (if only in our minds), ‘you may have wounded me. it’s not okay, but i will still love you, because now that i am a child of God, i aim to love as he loves. completely opposite of natural love…it is this new agape love. the kind that is not selfish. expects nothing in return. gives until there is nothing left to give…& wants to then give more. nothing you can do can weaken…or strengthen it.’

it’s really hard for me to understand this love. the more i think about it, the more i want to crouch in a corner & hide. it seems like just about everything i do has some kind of ulterior, self-seeking motive. i used to hate the phrase ‘oh, get over it’, but it’s starting to become my friend these days. i so don’t want to be that easily offended person people talk about & tip toe around.

because we let the sins of an earthly father figure offend us to the point of resentment, trust seeps out the cracks & our love grows increasingly hard. as the Bible puts it: “and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (matt. 24:12 KJV) what an image this scripture conveys! like candle wax when the flame is snuffed out, the surrounding air within minutes begins to harden it. we are surrounded by iniquity like air. but this says to me that only when i choose to overlook an offense, will my love remain soft, vulnerable, and of God.

He is that burning light that feeds my love for others, every day. i wish i could love, serve, speak, parent more like him…but i’m so glad that he sees my progress thus far, and accepts me as i am.

praise you, God.

“Instinctively we try to be like our God, and if He is conceived to be stern and exacting, so will we ourselves be. The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure.

The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul.

He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is.”

– A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) from The Root of the Righteous.